They had almost entered the borders of Gondor. They were just south of Emyn Muil, and camped for the night. The dwarves had pointedly stayed on one side of the small clearing, and the elves were on the other. Nori and Frerin were gathering firewood, as the nights had gone chilly; Maedhros and another elf named Silvad were hunting; and Legolas and Gimli were conversing by the riverbank.
“Do you feel it?” Legolas asked. “There is evil near, but not Wargs.”
“Yes,” Gimli replied slowly. “Orcs?” Legolas shook his head.
“I don’t think so. Aragorn said that the Orcs were wiped out along here.”
“He could have been mistaken,” Gimli retorted. “There isn’t a foolproof way to be certain that all the Orcs have been wiped out. There never is. Orcs have a way of finding nasty little holes to hide in.”
“I suppose,” Legolas mused. “We must stay on our guard. Especially from twilight till dawn. We should alert the others, in case they have not also felt it, and tell them to have their weapons at the ready.”
Gimli stood up decisively and began to walk about the camp, speaking in a low voice to the dwarves. Legolas did the same with the elves, and when Nori, Frerin, Maedhros, and Silvad returned, they were also warned. No one got much sleep that night, but there was no attack, as was half-expected by all.
That day they walked at double speed and covered nearly thirteen leagues. Again, they built a large fire, as much for protection as for heat, and waited. Legolas, Gimli, Silvad, and Nori, all old campaigners, slept, but lightly.
At midnight, Legolas sat up straight. He had not heard anything, but a sudden sixth sense of approaching evil made him leap up and strain his eyes against the darkness. Gimli was at his side, listening intently. He could barely hear a few soft footfalls, and almost dismissed them as an elf’s. Then Legolas dropped to the ground and pulled the dwarf with him as arrows whistled over their heads.
Legolas immediately turned, and, crouching low to the ground, returned the favor. The whole camp was alive now, the elves shooting at barely-seen targets and the dwarves lying beneath the line of fire, with arrows whistling overhead, waiting for a real attack.
It came, all too soon. Almost fifty Orcs charged them. The Orcs had stopped shooting for the charge, but the Elves continued, despite the rapidly approaching horde. They were in their element, bowstrings singing as they fired speedily and with easy accuracy.
The dwarves were little more than blurs of cutting steel as their axes whirled and cut into Orc-armor and bodies. Gimli stood beside his cousin Frerin, laughing as he shouted. “Khazad! Khazad ai-menu!”
Legolas tossed his bow to the side and pulled out his long white knives, slicing through the throat of an Orc as he leaped forwards to stand between Gimli and Maedhros. Orcs were falling like leaves wherever he looked, and no elves or dwarves had yet been wounded. Then another wave of Orcs struck.
Over threescore of them charged, and broke like water upon a dam. They broke, but not without some damage to the dam of dwarves and elves. Nori, upon Maedhros’s left, was attacked by five at once. He beheaded two with a sweeping stroke, but was tripped by an Orc-scimitar. An Orc loomed over him. Nori jerked his throwing-axe out of his belt and hurled into the Orc’s stomach. He began to rise, but was hit from behind by an Orc’s blade. His dwarf-mail luckily withstood the blow, but it knocked him upon his face.
There was a growl in Orc-speech from behind him, and he tried to turn, but a foot was planted solidly upon his back. Nori heard the whistle of a swinging blade – but there came, instead of the blow he expected, a scream, and the weight upon his back suddenly lifted. He rolled over and rose, expecting an enemy, but instead he saw Maedhros, who jerked his knives out of the throat of a very large Orc and grinned at him before whirling to dispatch another Orc–the last living one upon the battle field.
Nori glanced around. About him were littered many dead bodies of Orcs. No serious injuries had been sustained upon the part of the defenders, though some minor wounds were in evidence.
“That was interesting,” Gimli remarked as he stooped to retrieve his throwing-axe. “Anyone up for some more?” Legolas turned and fixed a withering stare on him.
“I suppose it was a bit on the tedious side, especially as we have to dispose of all these filthy Orc-bodies.”
Legolas shook his head and laughed.
“How many did you get this time?”
“Sixteen,” he replied nonchalantly. “And you?”
“Nineteen,” Legolas laughed. “I have beaten you again, Master Dwarf.” Gimli snorted.
“Only because you use that bow of yours ere the proper fighting begins. Now, if you just once actually fought…” Gimli let his voice trail off suggestively.
“You say that in jealousy of my superior fighting skills,” Legolas retorted easily. “And my shooting is just as proper as your throwing-axe is. Once you forego the use of your throwing-axe, I may cease shooting. Until then, I shall continue to use my bow.”
“Superior fighting skills?!?” Gimli repeated. “Master Elf, what you speak of as `skills’ are immensely inferior to my own fighting abilities.”
“You are sadly deceived as to your capabilities, my dear stunted friend,” Legolas said, straight-faced. The others were looking on in amazement at the light-hearted teasing and insults that would have different members of the two races at each other’s throats by now. “However, I may assist you in building up your pitiful techniques into some type of skills worth the title, if I can find the time.”
Gimli sighed pityingly.
“I am afraid there will be no time for you to spare, my immortally proud friend, or myself for that matter. You shall be too occupied in getting into trouble, and I in saving your sorry hide.”
“I believe you have got the order backwards,” said Legolas amiably. “You shall be too busy getting into scrapes and I in rescuing you from your own folly.”
Gimli rolled his eyes expressively and turned away. It was the general opinion that Legolas had won this round of the verbal war, and also that the Orcs should be properly disposed of ere they began to stink.