The four of them sat around the fire and discussed the attack and their plans for future encounters. They had disposed of the four bodies in the river that ran rushing beside them, its quick flow taking the corpses far down stream.
“What a nice welcome Harad has given us. Is that what we have to expect for the rest of the journey, Master elf?” Gimli grunted, aggravated, returning the massive axe to its resting place beside him.
Legolas looked over at the impatient dwarf and replied, “They were just bandits, angry men looking for money and supplies. They hoped to take us unawares.”
“You think they were alone? There couldn’t be more with them, could there?” Elboron queried his grey eyes dark and grave.
“I do not believe there were more, Elboron. It’s possible, but I doubt it.”
“Still, we should be wary.” Elboron added.
Morelen sat silently beside Legolas, her gaze lowered to the ground.
“I was so terrible…” She said angrily to herself, so quiet that even Legolas had trouble hearing her.
“You did fine,” Gimli interjected, his beady black eyes twinkling in earnest.
“No.” She shook her head. “If Legolas hadn’t returned and shot that man, I would be dead.” The word echoed menacingly in her thoughts, the reality of it frightening her more than she could say.
Legolas looked at the girl beside him and gently stroked her hair, attempting to console her. He knew she would make this out to be worse than it really was, and he needed to remedy it, fast.
“I was pathetic. I know the sword, and yet I stumbled like a helpless maid at the attack of that bandit. I should be dead.” She clenched her teeth as her dark hair obscured her face.
Legolas replied seriously, “You were just caught off guard. Morelen,” He paused as he looked at her fuming expression, “perhaps, it would make you feel better, if we practiced the sword today? I think everybody needs to brush up on their skills a little. What say you?”
“Practice? Legolas, please…let’s just pretend this never happened… ” She looked quizzical and exhausted.
As if this can fix my stupid mistake!
“Come; take up your sword, Morelen. Now.” Ordered Legolas firmly yet kindly, his voice strong and commanding.
The man and dwarf eyed Legolas for a moment, trying to read him, but agreed reluctantly.
“Aye,” Gimli said, “we could all use a little work.”
Legolas stood from his seat by the fire and unsheathed the sword that hung from his belt, its Elvish quality obvious. “Come now, Morelen, unsheathe your weapon. You too, Elboron.” He motioned to Elboron who sat quietly beside Gimli.
Elboron looked annoyed and irritated at being ordered by the elf, but reluctantly acquiesced.
The elf’s first thought was to make this somewhat fun for the girl, hopefully allowing her to let the past die. He did not wish this incident to drag her down, as he knew it certainly would. She had nothing to fear; Legolas had once been her tutor years ago and he knew her skill well enough to know that she would be able to defend herself, if the need arose.
Legolas tossed Elboron his sword and he caught it with one hand, unsheathing it and brandishing it with competent skill.
“Now, this is what I am going to do. Because I want both of you to learn in the same amount of time, I am going to have you spar with each other so that I may comment on your technique and save valuable time.”
Morelen and Elboron avoided each other’s gaze, not openly objecting, though their eyes remained firmly on their own blades.
Lachring, Morelen’s weapon, was a little smaller than Elboron’s, for hers was made by the last Elven smiths to leave Arda at the request of the King and Queen. At the end of Lachring’s hilt was a single jewel of dark blue, the color of the sea after a storm; her favorite color. It looked much like an Elvish sword, slim yet deadly, simple yet effective. On the blade was etched flawlessly in Sindarin, at the request of her mother before its completion, “Gûd torthon nîn daedheloth,” which in the Western tongue means, “Foe of my wielder; fear!” She turned the sword over in her hands and her gaze lightly brushed over the elegant, flowing words. For some strange reason they had always given her strength, comfort, even if she wasn’t using the weapon.
Beside her, Legolas moved through an intense yet utterly graceful form of dodges and parries, stabs and twirls, the expression on his face remaining completely blank. He was quick and agile, like a cat, and Morelen seethed quietly at how easy he made it look.
“Now, Morelen, what was wrong with my technique just then?” He said after he had finished, looking to her, breathing easily as though he had just done something simple. She would be sweating profusely and wheezing if she had attempted what he just did.
She looked at him, trying to figure out what he had done wrong there.
Why does the elf have to quiz me over this? Let’s just spar and get it over with!
“I know not, my lord.” She answered honestly, her eyes still fixed on Lachring.
“Elboron?” Legolas looked to the man beside her expectantly.
“Your footing on that last parry was incorrect.” Elboron said quietly, his eyes not meeting the elf’s.
Legolas tried to suppress a grin as he replied, “How so?”
Elboron paused, chancing a quick glance at Morelen who seemed to be furious about something.
He restrained himself from shaking his head in confusion.
“Your left foot was too far forward; if the opponent had hit you hard you would have lost your balance. Although I highly doubt you would have.” He alluded to Legolas’ uncanny ability to keep his balance.
Eru, the elf can walk across string! He’ll never lose his balance.
“Excellent.” Legolas nodded towards Elboron. “Morelen, I asked you this knowing you would not be able to answer. This is the thing you must work on, and rarely do people recognize their own mistakes. Your skill with a blade is exceptional, Morelen, but you know that our weaknesses lead to our ultimate downfalls.” Legolas looked grave, but encouraging at the same time.
Morelen nodded, trying to take in his advice willingly, knowing that he had been fighting with a sword before she was even born.
“Come here, Morelen. We will spar, momentarily, both for your benefit and Elboron’s.”
She shyly walked over to the elf, holding the hilt of her sword tight, her knuckles turning pale. She relaxed herself, trying to be open and aware of all that was around her.
Before she could think Legolas attacked with lightning speed, sending her reeling backwards. She regained her balance and lowered herself to the ground for stability, fending off the elf with all the knowledge she had gained.
“Keep your feet! KEEP YOUR FEET!” Legolas shouted to her smoothly, though she was breathing heavy already.
“Good!” Legolas said, looking down quickly to see if her feet were where they were supposed to be.
Their swords clanged loudly and after only a few minutes of this, Morelen’s arm burned and became heavy as a rock, her speed decreasing.
He was hitting her hard, harder than he ever did during their earlier tutelage, and she wondered at this. She tried to take advantage of it, and instantly she saw her opportunity. Although he was quick, for some reason he was delaying after particularly intense blows, and she saw the openings he left after this. He jabbed with inhuman force and she dodged it, just barely, and tapped his side with the blade.
Speed had beat out strength.
Abruptly, Legolas stopped his onslaught and stood straight, his sword hanging by his side. “Well done. You are terribly quick, but unfortunately I think you are faster than your feet.” He grinned at her and she laughed, silently berating herself for not practicing more in the wild while she could. She was so out of shape!
“Now Elboron, do you know why I lost just now?” He stared at Elboron with those incredibly icy blue eyes, piercing and knowing.
Elboron looked to Morelen and then to Gimli, then to Legolas. He had no clue.
“I…because…No, my lord, I’m afraid I don’t.” Elboron chuckled softly, shrugging his shoulders.
The elf smiled. “That is well, for this happens to be your biggest fault. You fight with incredible passion, man, much like your father. But, like him, you must learn to balance speed with force. Just now, I attacked Morelen incredibly hard, and she was able to catch me. Remember, the price of force is your agility, your speed. She found the opening and took it.”
Elboron nodded, trying to soak up the information the elf was giving him.
Gimli sat on the side, smiling mysteriously. His pipe was in his mouth and the smoke wafted in a small cloud above him.
So, one has what the other lacks. The dwarf thought to himself merrily. Speed is the undoing of brute strength, and power can overtake imbalance. Each holds what the other does not…how very interesting.
“With this information, you will attempt to rectify these errors of yours by sparring each other. I will watch, and give you criticism.”
Legolas walked past Elboron, preparing to take a seat next to Gimli but before he did, he murmured quietly so no one else could hear, “Take care, Elboron, never to make the mistake of underestimating your opponent.”
Elboron tried to hide his expression of disbelief.
How the hell did he know that I was just thinking…that she seems to look awful fragile…?
He shook it off and wandered over to her, her athletic form relaxed and loose.
He held out his sword and bent his knees slightly. Power and speed, power and speed, Elboron repeated in his mind, trying to remember what the elf had told him.
He stood there patiently, because he assumed that she would take the first attack. When she continued to stare at him with dark, scrutinizing brown eyes, he decided to take it instead. Attacking full force he sent his blade down on her with terrible strength and velocity. Their swords met and the clash of metal against metal sent a piercing shriek through the woods, deafening them for a moment.
Stay calm. Move your feet, left, right, shuffle… Her mind whispered instructions in her ear while Elboron attacked her as though she were a snarling orc, rather than a woman.
Suddenly these thoughts were stilled as she felt a slight pain in her hand. She looked at it and saw a drop of blood. Her blood.
That son of a…HE HIT ME!
Elboron smiled at her disbelieving expression, her face turning from the cut on the back of her hand to his roguish grin.
She lashed out at him with frightening agility and he just managed to deflect the blow while stumbling backwards, his face stunned at her sudden burst of anger and power.
Gimli looked on from the side and stifled a laugh, holding on to his pipe.
“Come on now, Morelen, you’re quicker than that!” Legolas coached her from the side, shaking his head and elbowing the dwarf expertly between the ribs, grinning himself at Gimli’s quick intake of breath.
“Take it easy…” Elboron managed to say between gasps, trying not to grin at her sudden ferocity. He could not say that he was not enjoying her look of absolute focus as she tried to return the blow he had so recently bestowed upon her.
This distraction proved to be his ruin, for suddenly he was stopped as she nicked his elbow, causing a small patch of rich red liquid to seep though his white shirt.
Her look of mischievous pleasure set his blood boiling. He attacked again and her brow was furrowed with concentration, trying to keep her feet with the rest of her body.
“Not too much power, Elboron. Don’t let her get to you…” Legolas cautioned, though he highly doubted Elboron’s paid attention to his warning. The boy had let her get under his skin, just as she had him. They were about ready to kill each other.
Too competitive, these two. Legolas marveled, hearing Elboron make a growling noise as he aimed his sword towards her neck.
Morelen screamed out in anger as he slashed at her arm but was deflected, just barely. The blow sent her staggering backwards until her back smacked against a wide tree just behind her. It took the breath out of her and Elboron jumped at the chance.
He ruthlessly crushed her against the tree, hoping she would lose her grip on the blade, which she did. It hit the ground with a loud clang, her clammy fingers grasping in vain for that familiar weight of the hilt against her palm. Elboron quickly glanced down at the ground to make sure that she had truly lost her weapon and when he confirmed that she had, he felt an overwhelming, unexplainable surge of pride at this feat.
She gasped at his sheer strength and rage; it felt as though he truly wanted her dead.
Elbereth, he is too strong…Her jaw was clenched in defiance and their faces were inches apart, their chest heaving as they took in as much air as their lungs would allow.
Humans, thought Legolas, shaking his head gently, a wise smile lighting his flawless features.
She stared at Elboron, his metallic grey eyes stinging her resolve.
A wide grin spread across his face and she found herself smiling too, although she fought to prevent it. His eyes made her feel terribly uncomfortable, as though he could see through her, straight to the bark of the tree that dug into her back.
Staring at her, he murmured, “You give up yet?”
No! I will not lose to him a second time.
She sighed and decided to return the arrow he had shot at her many days ago, “When will you learn?”
The grin vanished from her face and she kicked him hard, pushing him back, giving her enough time to retrieve the fallen sword. He ran for it at the same time, but she was quicker. With a flourish, she attacked him more fiercely than she had done before, if that was possible.
“Ahh, you want to go down in flames and glory, I see.” Elboron chuckled as he parried her blow, their swords grating against each other, emitting fiery sparks that shot into the air.
“Who says I’m going down at all?” Morelen asked him as she caught the hem of his shirt and heard it tear, exposing a small portion of his muscled chest.
“Quit your chattering and finish this up, would you!?” Barked Gimli, the smoke from his pipe slowly finding its way up to the tops of the trees, as though it floated up from the chimney of a brick house.
Elboron flashed an angry glance at the mumbling dwarf, but Morelen was not so easily distracted. She pushed him back farther and he tripped over a small rock covered in soft moss.
“Low to the ground, Elboron. Keep your feet!” Legolas laughed as he ordered about the young man.
As the two of them backed farther and farther, they were so focused on their techniques and getting the other to surrender that they completely forgot about the rushing river behind them, and the small ledge that led to its icy waters.
Morelen suddenly noticed it as she was pushing him backwards, and she jabbed quick. It was enough to knock him off balance, and for an eerie moment they stood there thus. The world went silent and as he lost his footing, he attempted to steady himself by grabbing hold of her sleeve. For what seemed like an eternity they stared at each other as the reality of their situation came crashing in on them, black eyes connected to grey. She tried to back away but his grip was iron tight as he brought her into the water with him. They hit the surface with a loud splash, sinking deep its cold depths.
Gimli jumped up, looking down at them and laughed hysterically, tears coming from his eyes. The pipe fell from his mouth and his laugh was completely uncontrolled as he dropped to the ground, weeping as he laughed. Legolas stood up and looked into the water to see two dark circles bobbing towards the surface.
The two of them came up sputtering and gasping for breath, flailing around in the chilling waters. Once they saw each other, their expressions of surprise turned into ones of revulsion.
“What the – what’d you do that for? THIS WATER IS FREEZING!” Morelen screamed at the top of her lungs after she had removed the clinging hair from her face, her quivering lips turning dark blue. They flashed each other glances of absolute loathing across the shimmering water, both shaking uncontrollably from the cold.
“You SAW the r-river and you t-tried to push me in!” Elboron retorted, shivering. “I thought maybe you’d fancy a little swim too.” He smiled at her scowl, glad he was able to avenge himself.
“Easy now, children.” Legolas chided, his grin teasing. “This is a wonderful way to get yourselves sick.” The two were too busy sending daggers through their glances to hear Legolas’ purposefully condescending statement.
Morelen was able to scramble up the side of the muddy ledge by grabbing hold of roots that sprouted from the side, but Elboron couldn’t get his footing. Her teeth chattered loudly as she reached the top into the welcome arms of Legolas and a laughing Gimli.
“A l-little help, here?” Elboron said, his shoulders moving with the intensity of his shivering.
She thrust out a hand to him immediately, without a second thought. He stared suspiciously at her and said, his voice completely serious, “If you l-let go, I swear I’ll
b-bring you in with me.”
“I won’t let go! Elbereth, just give me your hand!” She sighed, exasperated, as though he had no reason in the world to fear her treachery.
He squinted and finally decided she was trustworthy enough, grabbing her forearm. She pulled him up without too much trouble, until they stood toe to toe, staring into the other’s face once again, a look of irritation in their eyes that seemed to cover another, less decipherable emotion.
I have to stop making a habit of this. Elboron remarked in the privacy of his thoughts as he forced himself to turn away, removing the tunic that clung to his chiseled chest as it was making him colder.
Morelen turned away from him and Gimli handed her a fuzzy blanket. She shot him a sidelong glance as she made her way to the beckoning warmth of the fire, her jet black hair sticking to her smooth cheeks.
Legolas looked at them and remarked humorously, “Well. Wonderful technique!”
Hey guys! I am sorry this chapter was so long…it just couldn’t be helped. Hope you like it though! 😀