“Make way for the king! Make way!”
The call echoed above the shifting of leather harnesses and the rhythmic clink of metal as Legolas glanced over the ordered rows of tents, from his perch upon Arod’s cream white back. Men of Rohan gathered here to Dunharrow, many clad in cloak and helm already, were scattered about, their faces written in grim and weary need as they saw to their various duties.
“The king is here!” voices called here and there, as the warriors of Rohan glanced up from their tasks toward the king’s column as it trotted through the center of camp
“My lord!” a voice called out from among the shifting ranks of men and horses, to which Théoden raised an acknowledging hand.
“Hail to you, sire!” another called, the greeting returned by a lift of the king’s hand.
“Grimbold, how many?” Théoden called to a man who stood among the tents, his face furrowed by many years, though he stood tall and straight as the young man beside him, a beardless youth, hardly more than a boy.
“I bring five hundred men from the Westfold, my lord!” the man called to him as the youth at his side, drawn up in all his young courage, offered a brief bow at the king’s passing.
“We have three hundred more from Fenmarch, Théoden King!” another voice called.
“Where are the riders from Snowbourn?” Théoden called.
“None have come, my lord,” a man’s voice called.
Legolas furrowed his brow as Arod trotted through the camp, his eyes taking in all that surrounded him, seeing the desperate hope that touched the eyes of these men, who rose from their tasks to watch their king pass toward the high mountain, whereupon sat a high hanging valley, reached by a steep trail that rose from the valley floor, cutting back and forth across the face of the cliff in many switchbacks.
A breath caught in his lungs as his eyes lifted to the high mountain. Against the back of the bayed cliff that edged the high hanging ledge, the great mountain split, as if a giant axe had cloven the mountain in two. Legolas narrowed his eyes. Something about that high mountain pass brought a chill coursing through his heart-,
But he dropped his eyes away again. His heart was too weary to draw his worries and his thoughts away from Lalaith, and from reaching Minas Tirith as quickly as he might. And he turned his thoughts upon her, banishing the cold unease he felt away to a shadowed corner of his heart.
With Gimli at his side, Legolas strode through the tents set here upon the high windy ledge of the mountain, having left Arod tethered with a row of other horses near the king’s tent. The usually brave, sturdy creature had been nervous, stuttering his steps, and lunging briefly after Legolas when he and Gimli had turned to leave him, almost like a frightened child hesitant to let his father leave him behind. Legolas had been reluctant to leave the faithful horse in his fright, though he knew he must, if his questions were to be relieved. Legolas had left Arod with a few soft words, and a gentle pat to his throat which had softened the horse somewhat before the Elf and Dwarf went seeking out Éomer, the king’s nephew.
Legolas caught sight of the king’s tall nephew bearing a hefty saddle in his arms as they came from beyond the billowing side of a tent, the horses here as jittery here as the ones they had left behind. Éomer acknowledged them with a glance as they strode near, setting the heavy saddle over the blunt end of a wide stake pounded down into the ground, and turned to greet them with a somber look.
“The horses are restless,” Legolas breathed, stopping before the heir to Rohan’s throne as Gimli shuffled to a halt beside him. “And the men are quiet.”
“They grow nervous in the shadow of the mountain,” Éomer returned in answer, lifting his brows as he glanced toward the misted cleft in the cliff which Legolas had noted earlier, a space no wider than that which could fit a horse and its rider through. Legolas glanced where Éomer indicated, his earlier trepidation returning now from the hidden corners of his heart.
“That road there,” grumped Gimli beside him, leaning over the head of his axe, and nodding toward the narrow pathway. “Where does that lead?”
“It is the road to the Dimholt,” Legolas softly blurted as the thought struck him, and a heaviness clouded his heart at the legend his father had often told him of as a child. “The door under the mountain.” There hidden in the caverns of the mountain was the dwelling place of the traitorous souls of cowards and deserters, oath breakers doomed to walk the world in a living death in punishment for the pledge to Isildur broken, their souls sundered from their bodies, though unable to fully leave the realm of the living.
“None who venture there ever return,” Éomer answered back, casting a heavy glance toward Legolas. “That mountain is evil.”
He turned away then, making for a small group of his men, and Gimli started away as well, striding toward Aragorn who stood near one of the worn wedges of stone thrusting here and there out of the earth, peering down the narrow misted path, as if entranced. Legolas narrowed his eyes, following the ranger’s gaze, through the mists that flittered about in the narrow gouge between the rocky slits of stone.
What was-? Legolas drew in a slow breath and narrowed his eyes at what Aragorn seemed to be watching, a half unseen image of-, what appeared to be the misted shape of-,
“Aragorn,” Gimli blurted, clapping his leather gloved hand upon Aragorn’s arm. The ranger spun suddenly, and the misted figure vanished like smoke upon the wind.
“Let’s find some food,” Gimli grumbled, and in spite of the heavy unsurity that settled now upon his heart, Legolas could not help but smile at Gimli’s words. In truth, now that he thought on it, food would do him well, and he strode toward the ranger and the Dwarf as Aragorn turned his gaze from the cavernous pathway, a troubled look furrowing his brow.
The sky was a bed of black silk, scattered the bright specks of unnumbered diamonds overhead as Legolas sat half reclined against Arod’s saddle, his fingers woven together across his chest as he contemplated the beauty of the stars, though none of them could equal in beauty the daughter of the one who had kindled them. He sighed, smiling briefly at this thought as his mind turned now upon Lalaith, hardly noting the intermittent snorts and wheezes that came from Gimli nearby who lay curled upon his ground blanket, having also chosen to make his bed under the stars.
Alone now, watching the bright specks of stars within the blackness above him, Legolas found himself missing Lalaith with an ache that penetrated to his bones as deep as any physical pain. Would that they were together, Legolas thought to himself. Would that he could fly to her as swiftly as the wind, and protect her from all that would do her ill-,
“Greetings, son of Thranduil.” A somber voice, strong in spite of the weariness beneath it, interrupted Legolas’ thoughts, shattering his half dreams, and jerking his sight away from the diamond stars. The softened, melodic tones of his own tongue he had not expected to hear in this place, and he leapt to his feet, taking in the cloak enshrouded figure who stood before him. One of the guards of the Rohirrim stood near, waiting, with the reigns of a familiar looking steed resting in his hands, Asfaloth, the swift footed steed from Imladris as the shadowed figure cast his cloak back for a brief moment, revealing his stern, somber features.
“Lord Elrond!” Legolas breathed, his mind casting about in wonder at what could have brought the lord of Imladris here as he offered a stiffened bow toward the shadowed figure.
Deep were Elrond’s eyes, incomprehensible in their depths. They were fraught with urgency, though a narrow smile of greeting pulled at the corners of his mouth as Elrond stepped toward him and clapped a hand of greeting upon Legolas’ shoulder.
“It is good to see you, my young prince,” Elrond returned, his voice quavering slightly. “The sentries have told me of all that has befallen Lalaith, that she has gone now to Minas Tirith with Gandalf, and young Master Took-,”
Elrond glancing upward, his eyes shining with a brief touch of moisture. “Would that I could journey there with you, or at the least send my sons, but-,” he tightened his jaw fiercely. “Elrohir has taken a journey of great import to the Golden Woods, and Elladan has stayed with his sister. For-, Arwen is not well.”
Legolas drew in a deep breath. Though the Lord of Imladris said no more, Legolas could sense there was more than what he chose to say.
“Once I have sent Aragorn upon his task, I must return home with all speed,” Elrond returned.
Legolas tilted his head briefly in question to which Elrond lifted from beneath his cloak, the concealed hilt of a sheathed sword.
“That is the hilt of Narsil-,” Legolas whispered fiercely. “Broken ere I was even born-,”
“It has been reforged,” Elrond murmured, shielding again, the sheathed sword beneath his cloak. Aragorn would be the one to unsheathe it, heir of mortal kings as he was.
“I have come to bid Aragorn to fulfill his destiny,” Elrond murmured softly.
Legolas drew in a deep breath at this and felt the sudden weight of that thought settle on him, comforting and yet disconcerting at once. For even before Elrond spoke, Legolas suddenly understood the purpose of the great Elven lord’s mission. Legolas glanced up swiftly, finding Elrond’s eyes through the shadows of his hood. “You will bid him take the Dimholt road.”
“Indeed,” Elrond murmured somberly.
Legolas dropped his eyes for a brief moment. “The dead awaken,” he murmured softly, remembering the ancient prophecy. “For the hour is come for the oathbreakers.“
Elrond sighed and nodded at these words. “The words of Malbeth, the seer, shall be fulfilled in Aragorn.” He swallowed stiffly. “I must take my leave of you, now. Fare well, young Prince.” He paused briefly, his jaw twitching slightly. “And send my love and my greetings to Lalaith, when next you meet her.”
“I will, my lord,” Legolas returned, with a slight bow of his head as Elrond pulled his hood once again over his face, and turned toward the armored guard.
“Forgive my delay,” Elrond murmured mildly in the Common Tongue to the Man. “Lead on.”
“Yes, my lord,” the soldier murmured with a bow, and turned away, clutching the reigns of Asfaloth with Elrond following his lead, toward the door of the king’s tent.
“I will present you before the king, my lord,” the guard murmured reverently, “and then bid Lord Aragorn come to you.”
Elrond nodded silently to this, as the two men disappeared within the tent, the sentry’s muffled voice announcing Elrond’s presence.
“Er-,” behind him, Gimli’s snoring was broken abruptly as the Dwarf shook himself awake, and sat up, as if dazed. “I just had the most odd dream, Legolas! I dreamed we had taken that haunted road-,”
“Come, Gimli,” Legolas urged, striding to him, and offering him his hand, jerking the Dwarf quickly to his feet. “We must go and ready Arod.”
“Ah, what?” Gimli shook himself. “Why?”
“Because-,” Legolas’ words trailed away as he turned to see Aragorn’s shadow striding sleepily after the guard who had bidden him, toward the king’s tent. “Because Aragorn will take the very road of which you have dreamt.”
Gimli blinked. Gimli stared. His mouth fell slightly open. “How do you know this?” he demanded.
“I will explain everything,” Legolas returned with a short smirk. “But come, quickly. He may try to leave without us, wishing to spare us the weight of his duty. But we will not let him, will we?”
“Mrrrgh,” Gimli grunted, a grin peeling across his mouth beneath his beard. “The lad’s not going to be able to lose us, even if he wished to.”
“Indeed not,” Legolas grinned. He clapped his hand upon Gimli’s shoulder, and turned him toward the line of horses where Arod stood, his cream white coat shining like silver in the wane light of the stars.
Aragorn, his heart heavy, led Brego quietly through the lines of tents. He had just left Éowyn weeping quietly, a thought which did not rest well upon his thoughts. Such a noble, brave maiden deserved happiness. Would that her eyes could light with joy once again, for if any woman upon Arda deserved happiness, that noble, brave maiden did. Would that there was some man in this world who could awaken the great love of which her young heart was truly capable-,
“Just where do you think you’re off to?” an unexpected voice called from beside him, and Aragorn turned, a determined breath swelling in his chest. The danger and the road he was to take, was his task alone.
“Not this time,” he returned, shaking his head. “This time you must stay, Gimli.”
“Hrmm,” Gimli muttered thoughtfully leaning over his axe as the soft plod of other hooves drew near, and Aragorn turned to meet Legolas’ eyes as the Elf smiled mischeviously at him beside Arod’s head, the cream white horse already saddled and bridled.
“Have you learned nothing of the stubbornness of Dwarves?” Legolas grinned.
“You might as well accept it. We’re going with you, laddie,” Gimli grumbled, to which Aragorn could do little more than draw in a reluctant sigh, succumbling willingly to defeat to his friends.
Their departure was creating no small stir, Legolas noted, as their mounts drew near toward the shadowed cleft in the cliff. And he worried for the Rohirrim briefly, the eyes of the Men following them with questions. They clearly did not understand Aragorn’s departure, especially on this, the eve of battle. But Théoden was their king, Legolas reminded himself. He would lead them well.
His thoughts turned back upon his own duty, his heart growing shadowed as the darkness of the narrow pass closed over their heads.
“Lord Aragorn!” a young soldier called from behind them. But they were already swallowed up within the shadow, and the voice was faint, dying away among the rocks and stones of the dark cliffs that now surrounded them.
I’m taking a vote. Who wants to see Legolas’ Crazy-Elf moves on the Oliphaunt?
Also, who wants to see Denethor get wacked in the face with Gandalf’s staff?
If you would be so kind…