Legolas sat atop the black stallion Eleifaun, and knocked Aurseldo off Aearfaigli, his mare.
“Ouch! You could have warned me you would push me off!” he grunted.
“Do you think whoever’s trying to kill you is going to tell you if they want to push you out of your saddle or not?”
Larkarusse snapped. “Be serious! Come on, if you keep practicing, I might let you use a real sword; maybe even your own.”
Glaring at the blademaster, he pulled himself, picked up the wooden blade and got back on his horse.
“Now,” Larkarusse said, “get off the horse, and fight your brother and me on the ground.”
“Both of you?!” He groaned.
“Get off the flaming horse . . . NOW!”
“Yes, sir!” Aurseldo jumped so quickly he almost fell.
“I want you to run straight at me.” The teacher said.
“Run at you?” Aurseldo asked.
“Wake up, boy! That’s what I said! Now do it!”
Aurseldo ran, his arms raised over his head. Larkarusse pivoted to one side and landed his wood in Aurseldo’s ribs. Gasping for breath, the boy’s glare could have frozen the sun.
The mentor pushed his shoulder to make him sit. “That is a very important lesson. Never expose your torso, or your back to your opponent unless he’s stone dead. Always remember that. Even when you’re wearing armor, remember that.”
He cleared his throat. “All right, try again!”
* * *
Black stone. The entire room was made of it. It was huge. Pillars as big around as the most ancient oak supported an arched roof of even more solid, black stone. Eighty Men supporting each other on their shoulders would not have been able to touch the ceiling of that room. And it was freezing, a deadly cold.
Morihondo did not feel the cold. He was busy dragging a table out of a shadowed corner. The altar was made of the same cold, dark stone as the rest of the room. Arathorn gazed, lost in the enigma of craftsmanship.
“What is it?” He breathed.
“What’s what?” Morihondo asked.
“This stone! What type of stone is it?” He asked impatiently.
” It is called orsarna; Heartstone, or the Heart of Stone.” The Elf replied calmly.
Arathorn gaped. “How did you come across it? I have only a shard, and that came from the First Age!”
“Remember, lord,” Morihondo explained. “I, too, come from the First Age. I had this built when I was young and my mind was filled with ideas for the world. Ideas for making the world better.”
They stared at each other for a moment, then burst out laughing.
* * *
Aurseldo flopped down on his bed, the couch sagging under his dead weight.
“Can’t I just go to sleep?” He moaned.
“I thought you wanted to see my sword?” Legolas said.
His brother sat up straight immediately. “Now?” he asked.
Legolas grinned. “Now,” he said.
The vaults were huge, nearly encrusted by the weapons it held. Swords, bows, mail, plate armor, helms; all could be found here. Both stared at the arms, wondering where it had all come from. Legolas stood, thinking hard. “Where did they put it? Ah, yes, I remember!” And he dragged Aurseldo to the back of the room.
Under a pile of mail, two helms, a heavily jewel encrusted axe, and six boots, the Elf dragged out an immense box. More of a chest than a box, really. In sharp contrast to the rest of the room, it was made of wood, inlaid with filigree scrolls of silver, dipping and looping gently. A simple silver clasp held it closed. Surprisingly, the hinges moved smoothly, the lid weighing little more than a dove.
Light caught on silver, hurting their eyes. No gems were inlaid in the hilt, and the blade shone with a cold light. Legolas hefted it out of the box, rounding it smoothly in an arc over his head. The moment he had touched it, the blade began to burn with a blue-white flame; a flame that gave off no heat, that scorched no hand.
“Niquefenume– the Snow Dragon.” Aurseldo said quietly. “I see now why you named him as you did. It suits him.”
“Yes. It looks innocent, doesn’t it, when it’s not stained with blood?” His brother said sadly, weighing it in his hands. He closed the box and sat on it. A frown covered his face.
“Legolas? What’s wrong?” Aurseldo asked, wanting to make his brother feel better. He had always been able to make Legolas laugh by doing the smallest things; like dropping his bow, then hurriedly picking it up again.
Legolas came out of his trance. He had been thinking about something he wished his eyes would forget, but not his heart.
It was cold. Windy and cold, Summer was usually like that in the North. The Elves behind him marched steadily, faces grim. Some were so young he didn’t think they knew what they were doing. He turned back to look ahead of him. The banner snapped in the wind– a crescent moon crowned with a star. The Orcs trail showed clearly in the mold of the forest floor. He dismounted and told his warriors to halt. He placed a hand on the trunk of a great beech, feeling the spirit of the tree rustle and swarm beneath his fingers.
He shouted to his army, “They’re headed east! Whoever’s riding, give the horses a rest and keep moving!”
Silently, without a word, the fighters moved past him and marched in unison, chanting a battle cry. After remounting, he passed between his troops, giving them water. When he came to his last warrior, he gave him the water skin, which he took gladly. “You’d better be bloody careful lad,” the veteran said to him. “flaming Dark Lords don’t jest for long. Be glad you don’t have a wife, boy, they’re bloody impossible to control, until you go and flaming die on them, then they’re all flaming tears when they plant your Tree.”
“I am not happy, sir,” he replied. “My wife is here, fighting with me. She is my banner-bearer for now, but she is strong, and fearless. That is the only reason I let her come. I fear more for her now than I have yet in this Second Age. Who knows how many more Ages there will be,” He mused, “before the Dark prevails over the Light. Who knows if there shall be a Third Age? Who knows–”
He trailed off, grinning to himself. “What a hopeful Captain I am! Encouraging his troops the whole time!”
“Lad,” the older Elf said in a serious tone, “I want you to promise me that I can die for Elennoorie, not for you. And that you die for your wife, not for us; we can take care of ourselves, we can. You have a sword, you have a bow, you have a lover, you have youth. How old are you, boy?” He asked, changing the subject.
“8,000,” he said. (Every 144 human years equals one Elvish year.) He hadn’t really wanted to admit his age; a young Captain wouldn’t be followed.
“You’re too young to be here,” the veteran growled, shaking his head sadly. “Why do they send all the young men out? They shouldn’t have to die so young.
I wouldn’t sen–“
Screams; inhuman screams, came from the front of the Army. The Orcs had waited for them there. All was a confusing mass of noise; battle cries, steel on steel, steel on flesh, the dying voices of Elves and the horrid Dark creatures.
They fought. And fought. And fought. There were too many of them. When it was over, he searched among the bodies. The veteran was dead. He came to the body of his wife, and wept.
“Legolas, I love you with all my soul,” she said, and died.