A tear trickled slowly down his cheek. “Raana,” he whispered.
“Legolas? What’s wrong?” Aurseldo asked, shaking him.
But all his brother proceeded to do was cradle his head in his hands, murmuring, “Why did she come? Why did I let her come? Raana. So much like Mother. She died for me. She wouldn’t stay. She was always stubborn. I was stubborn too. They didn’t want me to leave. Especially father. They left because I wasn’t there on time. We had to fight more than we planned. Raana. I shouldn’t have let her come. She would have stayed if I made her. Raana . . . “
Aurseldo only sat in thought. Raana — Moon. Who was Moon?
He then gasped and clamped a hand over his mouth. He had a wife, didn’t he?!
The Elf stood up angrily, slammed the sword into its chest, and stomped off without a word. Aurseldo, confused, followed.
That night the Númenorean lay awake, longing to comfort his brother in the next room. He tiptoed out of his chamber and pressed an ear to Legolas’ door.
The soft scratching of a quill died. “Come in, boy,” Legolas said with a sigh.
Aurseldo entered the firelit room as an owl flew by the open window. His brother sat in a highbacked chair, muttering over a paper that had been wrinkled and smoothed again many times. He went to his side and picked up the parchment, with some resistance from the Elf. He began to cry as he read the answer to his brother’s sorrow.
Herves nin anann al. Naitha nin thon le nermil. Meleth le na blaith nin.
Aurseldo sputtered with rage. “Legolas,” he read, “I am wife to you no longer. Mourn me, and I will haunt you. I love you with all my soul. Moon.”
Legolas looked up at his brother, face streaked with tears. “She knew,” he whispered shakily. “She knew she was going to die that day. Why would she want to die? May I be cursed for as long as I remain in this realm of mortals for allowing her to come!”
The boy only snarled and began crumpling the paper. “Filthy wretch! If she loved you, then she wouldn’t go out and fight just so she could leave you! May I never meet a woman!” And he attempted to throw it into the flames.
Legolas jumped up and grabbed at the paper, almost ripping it in two. “It’s all I have of her. I – I want to keep it.”
They were interrupted by a sharp rapping on the door. “Is everything all right? I heard screaming.” A deep, rough voice boomed through the wood.
Without waiting for an answer, Gondidhrin threw the door open and stalked in. For all his deep voice, the man was like a cat; light and flexible, an untamed wolf on a chain.
“Screaming?” the Princes exclaimed in unison.
“It wasn’t you?” he asked just as incredulously.
They all scurried from the room, searching aimlessly for the victim.
“Tithinaew!” Aurseldo screamed, kneeling beside the young kitchen maid.
A washing rag still in her hands, her face had twisted in a grotesque form as her throat was cut. Carved onto her forehead with a needle was this message:
Leave and there shall be war.
Stay and there shall be war.
Fight and you will die.
Do nothing and you will die.
Try to save them, you will fall.
Watch them perish, you will fall.
The Dark has risen, the Dark shall fight–
“Who is this written for?” Legolas pondered.
“Sire, I believe this is speaking of. . . . you,” Gondidhrin said in a frightened voice. He had always followed and adressed Legolas as if he was king, and knew of the rage he could unleash.
“If it is, I do not understand it.” He said, and strode away, calling over his shoulder, “Get the body outside and plant her Tree. Now. Come, Aurseldo. You’re going to sleep.”
* * *
Aurseldo was sitting on a log, eating figs. He was 7, and enjoying his life with the Elves. Legolas came and sat beside him. Out of the blue, the boy asked, “Legolas, when do we choose our names? I know what I want to call myself.”
“You must be at least twenty Human years old. What do you want as a name?” Legolas explained.
urseldo groaned. “Ohh, but I really like the name I thought up for myself! I want to use it.”
Legolas leaned forward, and as he told his brother how short 13 years really was — for both of them, he snatched a fig and hid it behind his back.
Aurseldo grinned, “I know a name for you — Pawaana.”
The Elf shrugged and gave him the fruit. “Thief. Good eyes, boy.”
There was a rabbit not 70 yards in front of them. Aurseldo clumsily placed an arrow on his string and aimed. He fired, but the shaft missed its target and slid into the woods. Legolas easily shot the creature, now 200 yards away, and went to retrieve the arrows. That night he boasted to their parents of how well the boy had shot the rodent, and at 8 years old! Aurseldo only murmured thank yous and shrugged down in his seat, wishing he could disappear.
Other memories of times not so long ago flitted through Legolas’ head, but that head was forced down by sorrow, and he slept.
* * *
“Concentrate, lad! They may not be necessary, but we could need them all the same!”
Arathorn’s jaw clamped shut with a snap. “I’m sorry, Morihondo.” He slumped to the orsarna-wrought table, and focused all the energy in his body on the worm-shaped thing twisting and writhing on the table. As they fused their intellectual strength, the creature grew to an awesome height; a being with one purpose — destroy.
As the Orcs emerged from their tiny cocoons, they stood in a line, awaiting their permission to kill.