The elf stalked to the left, anger and hatred all too evident on his fair features. He silently bent into a crouching position as he stared hungrily at the marauding beasts which poisoned the very air with their foul stench.
He was fuming to find orcs so near to his home and even more so to see that they travelled with obvious purpose. Elladan could make out the leader of the group issuing growled commands to his band of filthy warriors.
The fury he held towards these creatures was held in check as he rose to leave, he would go back to his group and alert Glorfindel of the situation. Just then an unknown instinct made him stop and turn back round to face the evil creatures and what he saw made him shudder.
In the centre of the clearing, another group had joined the twenty or so orcs, these comprised of four snarling wargs, thirteen goblins, and ten creatures that Elladan instantly recognized as Uruk-hai; a breed of orc and goblin combined which were highly intelligent.
Tae gazed out in a north westerly direction, her exhausted eyes struggling to even pick out the mountains and forests that stretched out in the distance. As was becoming common, she had once again worked her body and soul down to the bone so focused she was on her learning that she had little time for rest or relaxation. So much so that Lord Celeborn had intervened and ordered her to take the rest of the day off.
He had said she looked like a walking corpse and when she had then gone and looked in a mirror she had realised why. Gone was the shine and lustre in her hair; the curls just fell limply and her body had taken on a decidedly pale colour which starkly contrasted with her normally glowing coffee complexion.
She had spent her free time (loathe she was to have it) whittling away at a new carving, a secret creation that she had decided to gift Haldir with before she left the Golden Woods.
The day of her departure was growing ever nearer and Tae counted the marchwarden as one of her closest friends, if not the closest. She was crafting the likeness of a dolphin though she was slightly dubious as to whether she should be giving an elf something to do with the ocean.
The branch of driftwood which was slowly being transformed into the graceful sea creature had been discovered washed up on the banks of the Silverlode and the branch had almost seemed sentient in its call to be shaped in her hands.
Sighing into the distance at the unknown feeling that had drawn her gaze North West she flexed her tired fingers and returned the half finished carving and knife to a nearby table.
The gash on her hand had healed well after Orophin’s fussing, he had found her hand bleeding at breakfast the morning after she had accidentally cut it by the river and whisked her away to his flet.
Three times Tae had to assure the over zealous elf that she was fine before he allowed her to return to days lessons.
Just four days remained before Haldir would escort her back to Rivendell and Tae was worried bout the reception she would receive when she got back. She had vowed to seek out Elrond first of all and apologise for the harsh words she had spoken to him when all he had ever done was look after her.
As for the other inhabitants of the secret valley’s refuge she was anxious also to see Elladan again, remembering the day she had last seen him and his admission that he loved her. Tae had tried to ignore her feelings for the dark haired Noldor twin yet there was only so many times that she could tell herself that they were just friends.
She only hoped that when she saw him again things would work themselves out; if they were meant to be together so be it. After the time she had had lately she yearned for something or someone to take her mind off thoughts of war and revenge. Though not about to go seek out his love she would just go with the flow with regards to their relationship whether they would have one or not.
Grimacing as the throbbing pain which was almost constant these days soared to a painful peak she pictured his face which could almost always bring her solace when her thoughts were troubled. Tae had come to ignore the ache in her abdomen and use the pain to fuel her thirst for revenge. Without it she could probably not get out of bed in the morning.
So just four days were left for her to absorb and memorise every piece of information and advice from the lessons Talen had given her. For if she was to stand any chance at all of defeating her enemy she would need all the help she could get. Talen had given the young half elf a deeper insight into why the destruction of their foe was so vital a few day back.
One night the two had left their bodies in the safety of Talen’s glade and travelled in their sprit forms far to the east faster than the fastest elven steed until they reached a murky settlement on the edge of the sea of Rhûn.
From the darkness strange voices and guttural shouts could be heard emanating from the sinister mists which enveloped the camp and as the travellers moved nearer they saw who the sounds originated from.
At least eight thousand creatures were huddled around several hundred blazing campfires; their hulking bodies casting long shadows in the flickering firelight. Four words Talen had spoken as the full horror of the massed host of orc, warg and goblin sank in, four words which took the horror and wrapped it in an impenetrable case of dread had nearly stopped her heart dead.
“These are the scouts.”
He knew it was too late to warn the others.
Unconsciously Elladan went for his sword, yet he was too late as he felt a sharp pain explode in his stomach. He half turned with the blow, crazy with the pain and tried desperately to unsheathe his blade.
He caught a final glance of three snarling Uruk-Hai coming at him from behind; one handling a twisted black bow.
As realisation hit the elf he looked down at the dark shafted arrow protruding from the soft fabric of his tunic which was rapidly moistening, his blood spreading out from black arrow. He knew no more as the darkness took him and the enemy advanced on him; wicked grins on their malformed features.
“Where is my brother Glorfindel, I would have thought he would have returned hours ago with the coming of dusk?”
“Aye, Elrohir, he should have come back from scouting ahead for us to set up camp, I feel something is amiss, something is troubling my heart.” answered the blond, taking his slender sword from its scabbard at his waist and unconsciously searching the forest with his eyes in the direction the elder twin had taken.
A few minutes later the rest of the company were similarly alerted and they did not hesitate to react when Galad came crashing through the trees towards them with fear in her eyes.
“Clouds appear full of care
And carefree drift away.
But the carefree mind is not to be ‘found’-
To find it, first stop looking round”
(Miscellaneous Poem ~ Wang An Shih)
As the elf finished the ancient proverb she placed a hand comfortingly on the others shoulder.
“Let your mind rest young one-there is nothing you can accomplish tonight to ease whatever your concerns, so cease the frowning.”
“How can I do that? I have seen the host that marches against your people and they were just the frontrunners.” Tae’s face darkened as she yet again relived the foul sight she had seen out on the Eastern plains.
“We are your kin also Tae, besides we have faced such things before and are we not still here?”
“Maybe but that does not give us the right to underestimate the threat of Serbitar’s minions, or Serbitar himself. Am I the only person who cares about what is about to transpire?”
“Never underestimate how much I care about the fate of my people, my philosophy is simple however. Dark times are not yet upon us, we still have time and I have complete faith in my people, complete faith in you.” Lady Galadriel physically moved Tae over to the bed and all but pushed her down into a sitting position, the stubborn half elf resisted only as far as her tired muscles could before she slumped down.
“Is faith enough? Because it is not sufficient for me. I feel uneasy and frustrated with regards to my role here; I just want it done with as soon as possible.”
“Your ‘role’ here Tae? You speak of defeating Serbitar as if it is your one goal and purpose in life. Has your quest for vengeance clouded the truth so?”
“Vengeance? More like justice. Besides, is that not the main reason I was brought here, because I am the only one of my mothers line.the only one who has a chance of killing Serbitar?”
“True child, Talen lost most of his power during his own battle with the abomination and now you are the only one with the blood strong enough to wield the magic that can extinguish his flame of malice for good. Since your mother journeyed out of his or our reach the responsibility has fallen to you. The fate of Elvendom and all the free peoples of Middle Earth rests on whether you are up to the challenge.”
“Oh rub it in why don’t you.” muttered Tae sarcastically in a rare moment where she allowed her hastily built walls down to expose the person she had been before she had learnt about her mothers fate and discovered her need for revenge.
Galadriel smiled as she broke through to the same girl she had met not long ago. She lifted and encircled Tae in an arm maternally, hoping to encourage her to relax and keep her internal walls down.
“You have been acting like a faceless machine ever since you spoke to your mother, the laughter and easy smiles have disappeared and I know the image you are projecting lately is not the real you. Your actions of course have not gone unnoticed however and I charge you with the blame for Orophin’s distractedness and Haldir’s melancholy. Not to mention my husband’s sadness at having to go without your fabulous cooking”
Tae had to smile, however feebly at the elf queen’s last statement; she got a sudden mental image of Celeborn sitting in a corner rocking because of his withdrawal symptoms to Tae’s pancakes.
“I’m not trying to say that you forget about Serbitar for the time being for I know that that task would be nigh impossible, just make time for socialising and talk about your problems maybe, I think it could make you feel a lot better.”
“I appreciate your advice, I really do but I just feel so down sometimes that I don’t want to see or talk to everyone. What with Serbitar and this troublesome pain in my stomach life doesn’t feel so fun anymore.”
“It still hurts? Here, let me have a look.”
Tae obligingly lay down on the bed and pulled her tunic up to expose the top of her trousers and her bare stomach. After indicating where the sharpest hurt could be found Tae lay back and fell into an easy doze as Galadriels gentle massage and quiet incantations deadened some of the ache.
Luckily for Elladan his thoughtful ponderings had not led him too far ahead of the rest of the elven patrol, soon after the orcs had descended upon him, Glofindel had come crashing through the trees; bright blade singing as he clove through the Uruk- Hai who were unfortunate enough to stray into the formidable blonds path.
As he swept though the goblin kin the threat that had been growing in his mind since they had broken camp was realised. Sprawled out in the middle of the encampment was Elronds eldest, face down in the dirt surrounded by several larger Uruks. By the time Elrohir joined the balrog slayer he shifted his gaze anxiously to follow that of his mentors to the centre of the clearing.
The orc hybrids shifted uncomfortably when they saw the furious elves and the deadly light in their bright eyes as they approached them; their slender swords dripping with the dark blood of their colleagues.
In a moment if clarity unusual for the hate filled creatures the five Uruk Hai surmised that this battle would end quickly.
Soon after, Elrohir raced over to the body of his elder brother with a lump in both his body and heart. With a steadying breath he touched Elladan’s neck in search of a sign, brushing aside his familiar raven locks to expose his pale skin which was much paler now.
“By the Gods!! He lives!!” he cried as he discovered his brothers faint, but nevertheless present pulse.
Glorfindel nearly cried out in relief as he crouched next to the younger twin to better inspect Elladan’s injuries, the male had yet again had a close shave with death, which reminded the Elf Lord that they were ‘not out of the woods yet’ as he surveyed the thick substance which still coated the arrow tip which stuck out from the younger elf’s body.
“Poison” affirmed Elrohir as he caught Glor’s uneasy glance.
Watching Elrohir carefully saw off the fletched end of arrow sticking out from his brothers back and tenderly turn him back over, Glorfindel began to formulate a plan. The young elf had lost a lot of blood and was likely poisoned by the looks of the dirty arrow so Elladan needed to get back to the house as smoothly as possible.
He called for the rest of the company to retrieve their mounts and build a pyre for the dead orc filth to be burnt away. He sent Elrohir on ahead to warn his father of the incoming patient and wrapped the bandaged Elladan up in a couple of cloaks tightly, mounting Asfaloth and then opening his arms for another elf to hand the still form of Elrond’s son to him.
He held Elladan to him and positioned him in front of him where there would be the least motion transferred from his mounts movements, Asfaloth was a smooth ride and Glorfindel hoped that would be enough. As he set off into a steady canter he called behind him for Galad to follow and the remaining elves once the Uruk bodies were disposed of.
He’d be lucky if Elrond didn’t kill him again for allowing his son to come to harm.
‘Palermo my friend, can you hear me?’ asked the apprehensive elven mage for the fourth time.
Usually Tae’s mother would answer at once but Talen was met with no response as he sought contact with the female mage. Evil was definitely at work here as not once in the whole time he had known Palermo had their conversations in this way been interrupted. There could only be something wrong in Valinor or wherever she was to prevent her from answering.
Talen was troubled, he wanted to speak to his friend to learn how Tae had took Palermo’s revelations and why they had so drastically affected Tae’s behaviour. Out of all the elves of Lothlórien, these days he was almost the only one who Tae spoke to lately and though it meant she was progressing at an unearthly rate with her magical studies Talen did not think it was good for her heart in the long run.
He saw the stark contrast between the way Tae and her mother dealt with difficulties, whereas Palermo had run from her troubles Tae put up walls in her heart and ignored them, in the process ignoring all the people who wished to help her through them. Talen could not decide which habit was worse.
With a sigh he began stood up from the arcane pentagram inscribed on the wooden floor of his flet which he had hoped would strengthen his call for Tae’s mother and resolved to go and speak to Galadriel.
Little did he know that Serbitar had purposely disrupted the magical field which allowed them to speak, effectively preventing Palermo from warning the elves of Middle Earth about her daughter’s dangerous condition.
The next day Tae awoke with a spring in her step which she had not experienced for a long time, the pain in her stomach had returned in the night but hell, the sun was shining and the birds were singing. With a smile she slipped out of bed and headed over to the basin and washed.
Later when she had picked out some clothes to wear and sorted out her unruly curls she opened the door of her flet and took a deep draw of the invigorating Lórien air.
3 days left.
A huge part of her would miss the Golden Wood, the friends she had made here and the general tranquillity of the forest, especially the late night bouts of man-hunt through the forest (or elf-hunt as Haldir would say). Yes, she would definitely miss chasing each other around the Mallorns and across the carpets of elanor and nipherdil, the sound of Talen’s laughter as she would miscast and end up with blackened fingertips and the familiar smell of pipe-weed smoke.
Tae shut the door behind her and traversed the steps down to ground level, she had a mission to complete before today’s lessons with Talen, after Celeborn had told her to take the night of yesterday he had informed her that there would be a celebration feast to send her on her way. It would mark her last night in Lothlórien and Celeborn had said she had better get ready for some serious drinking.
Heading in a generally straight direction as advised by the Lord of the Golden Wood she soon came upon another mallorn tree, only this bore a sign at its base marking it as a tree where the various trade and craft flets where. Haldir had once told her that anything she could ever wish for could be acquired here and she hoped he was right.
Still quite early in the morning she crossed her fingers behind her back when she came across a certain flet four levels up, before she lifted her hand to knock the door swung inward and a tall female elf with chestnut brown hair smiled at her.
“How can I help you Tae?”
Tae smiled as she recognised the elf as the one Rumil was forever swooning over, she stepped into the colourful room as she was bid and answered slowly as she took in the numerous racks across the walls.
“I need a dress”