The next morning, Legolas rose at dawn, leaving Gimli sleeping. He went to find his father and give him the news that he was not home to stay. When he returned, Gimli was up and waiting for him.
“Well?” said Gimli.
“Well what?” Legolas asked straight-faced as he sat down on one of the elegantly carved chairs.
“You know very well what. How did the talk with your father go?” Gimli retorted, inwardly laughing at the elf’s wide-eyed, innocent face. The Elven-prince grinned wryly.
“Not that well. Before I even walked through the door, he demanded to know what I was doing with a Dwarf. Gloin’s son, at that. Even I thought that his old anger at the Dwarves for what happened so many years ago in the quest against Smaug had diminished.
“The Dwarves have traded gems with your father, and been very courteous,” Gimli said, slightly angered.
“Old prejudices do not easily go away. I told him of our errand, and asked if he could spare a score of the Elves to accompany me. After a bit of persuasion, he agreed to send some of my kinsfolk with us. He fears for our safety, so he sent a number of our best warriors.”
“Why, have the Orcs grown in numbers?”
“Nay, the Wargs have greatly multiplied. Our folk here have battled them often over the past years, and last month three of our kin were lost.”
Gimli growled and felt for his axe. “If I see a Warg on our journey my only response will be of glee! My axe has not felt the joy of battle for too long. Who is accompanying us?”
“My younger brother Maedhros, for one. That took a deal of persuasion.” Legolas shook his head. ” My father can be very stubborn when he has a mind to.”
“Like you,” Gimli snorted.
“You’re more stubborn than us both put together, Gimli. There’s nothing you cannot do, once you put your mind to it. Now come, we will go out, and you may meet others. And I shall show you Greenwood the Great.”
“Very well. But I shall take you through every nook and cranny of my home when we reach it,” Gimli warned as they left the room.
Three weeks later
It was two hours before sunset. Twenty-six elves and one dwarf were journeying through the forest, under the shadows, and, amazingly enough, were not fighting, arguing, or otherwise at odds with each other.
Legolas was worried. They were about a day and half’s journey from Lake-town, where they had stopped for the night, and all had seemed well there; but now there was a sense of something evil hanging in the air.
Gimli, too, was increasingly uneasy. He could sense the same thing, and it put him on edge.
“Gaurs!” hissed an Elf suddenly. Instantly Legolas had an arrow on the string.
“What is it?” Gimli growled, drawing his axe.
“Wargs,” Legolas replied, scanning the forest around them.
“Do you hear them? How close?”
“I can feel them in my blood,” Legolas replied. “They are very close, but there are not many of them.”
“One is mine!” Gimli said loudly. Legolas, in spite of his discomfort, had to smile.
There was a loud snarling, and out of the bushes on their left, four Wargs sprang suddenly as one. Legolas wheeled, firing an arrow into the throat of the first, and another elf shot the second, only to fall as the third leapt onto his chest.
Shouting a battle cry, Gimli leapt forwards, swinging his axe. The blade neatly split the Warg’s head in two. Gimli turned to attack the fourth Warg, but already three arrows had found their marks, and it fell dead.
Then, from behind, five more Wargs leapt. They were met by a stream of arrows. Four fell dead, but the fifth turned and raced away through the trees. Legolas sent a swift arrow after it, catching the Warg in the leg, but to no avail. In a moment it was out of sight even to the elves.
“Yés uva cel utuv í gaur. Hain uva tùl a lo rimbë.” Maedhros said to Legolas with a deadly certainty. Legolas nodded and took the lead. “Forward!” he cried, and they set off at a great pace.
“What did he say?” Gimli asked, panting as he ran alongside the Elf.
“The last Warg must have gone back to the den. They will attack again, and in greater numbers.”
Gimli growled. “I would that I had a hard rock at my back, and room to swing! But in this darkness I would find Warg-killing hard.”
“There is a cave not far from here, about an hour if we go swiftly,” Legolas said. “If we reach it, we may hold out long.”
“A cave! It does not compare with the caverns beneath Helm’s Deep, I’ll warrant.”
Legolas shook his head. “Nay, but it is strong, and we can light a fire there.”
“If the Wargs are smart, they would do better not to come near me. I am just getting warmed up.”
“Good,” Legolas said. He fell back until he was beside his brother once more. Gimli could hear their hushed voices conversing in Elvish.
Twenty minutes later Legolas was beside him again.
“Even so, we must quicken our pace if we are to reach the shelter of that cave ere the Sun goes down. Already she sinks toward the Mountain-top. Hurry!”
They reached the cave a bare half-hour before sunset. Pulling inside the cave, they prepared as best they could for the inevitable Warg attack. They fortified the entrance with what rocks and wood they could find, leaving slits for the archers of Mirkwood.
Then they waited. And waited.
“I wish my father were here with some others of my kin. We know these Wargs-perhaps better than you Elves do. But he is not, and so we must do best we can.”
Legolas said nothing.
Yés uva cel utuv í gaur. It will go find the Wargs.
Hain uva tùl a lo rimbë. They will come in a great host.