A night wind stirred through the trees at the edge of the forest, helping, in a small way, to calm the tense nerves of the young elven warrior as he perched on a low tree branch. One hand clutched a slender limb for support, while the other hefted the familiar, comfortable weight of his bow. The soft wind plucked gently at him, brushing, almost playfully, at his golden hair, hanging past his shoulders. Two slim braids behind his peaked ears, and one larger braid at the back of his head, the style of forest elves, kept the hair from blowing in front of his keen blue eyes as they scanned the treeless plain below him.
Dark, frightening rumors of orc patrols about the borders of their forest had been coming to the ears of his father with increasing regularity, and the elven warrior gazed out at the dark, moonlit plain with apprehension. His comrades had moved on from this place at the edge of the trees, for they had sensed nothing out of place here, yet he, for reasons unknown, even to him, had chosen to remain behind for a moment.
Perhaps his decision had been unwise, he sighed ruefully to himself. His ageless face, at once both child-like and manly, frowned softly. There seemed to be nothing out of place on the vast greenness before him. He knew he should join the safety of his group, but he knew that orcs had learned over the ages, how to deceive even the senses of elves. And so he perched here, unsure, indecisive.
He sighed at last, shaking his head at his foolishness, and leapt silently to the ground, his soft boots making not the slightest sound as he lighted on the forest floor. Were orcs here, he reminded himself, he would be at a disadvantage, having willfully separated himself from his fellows as he had. He turned and took a step to follow after them. They were only a league or so away, and it would take but a few moments to catch them.
But then something stopped him. At first he could not tell what it was. A sound, perhaps? An unknown scent? He turned, darted from the shadows of the trees to the edge of the moonlight, and once again scanned the horizon, his smooth brow furrowing with concern. And then his heart leapt within him. Speeding toward him, from the south-east, was a dark shape, a horse, he knew instantly, with a rider upon its back. A human. His eyes widened in alarm. A female human. Long slender shapes, his heart gave a painful thud, arrows, protruded from the haunches of the poor beast, and even from the back of its rider, who still managed to stay mounted, though she was clearly in agony, barely conscious, he could see, one hand clutching the mane of her horse, the other clasping something small, shrouded in white, to her chest. Something terribly important, he guessed, from the way she seemed to crush it against her.
And then, the reason for the haggard woman’s flight burst into sight over the distant ridge the woman and her mount had descended only moments before. Five massive wolves, mounted by the hunched shapes of orcs, cleared the rill, and the harsh blood cry of orcs on the trail of their prey pierced his ears.
The woman glanced over her shoulder, and in that moment, almost fell from the back of her horse, but managed to clutch herself closer to its back, and urge the spent beast ever faster. The elf’s blood boiled then, and giving a shrill whistle to summon his comrades, burst into a dead sprint away from the safety of his trees, not pausing to consider the foolishness of his actions, straight toward the approaching horse and its five pursuers.
As he ran, snatching an arrow from his quiver as he did, he saw, with a sinking heart, the swiftest wolf draw alongside the horse, and its mount draw back on the string of a bow, and let fly. The arrow pierced the horse through the ribs, just behind its front leg. The poor creature stumbled, and went down, throwing the woman from its back. She released a cry of fear and terror as she fell, but immediately she was on her feet, stumbling in pain, and still clutching her precious package to herself. The elf paused, only long enough to draw his bowstring back, sight down the shaft of his arrow at the snarling wolf which was closing in on her, and release the string.
A high pierced canine shriek told him he had struck his mark true, and then the wolf fell, its unlucky rider pinned beneath it as it rolled on its back. A sickening crunch told him he would not need to waste an arrow on the orc. Neither rider nor mount rose again.
The woman looked back and gasped in surprise, then looked forward again, and saw him. Fear gripped her features for a moment, and she stumbled to a halt, frightened and unsure. He remembered then, that her vision was not as keen as his own, and in the shadows of night, she took him for a foe rather than a friend.
“I am a Sindarin elf, an ally.” He called gently to her in the common tongue, hoping to sooth her.
Relief flooded the woman’s features, and she stumbled forward. “Please, I beg of you, help us. I have not the strength-,” She pleaded as her legs buckled beneath her, and she stumbled to her knees.
Without further words, he darted past her, and strung another arrow. He loosed it at the oncoming group of four, and the lead wolf shrieked, then tumbled into the grass, once again rolling and crushing its master beneath it. His movements as fluid as water, he rapidly strung and released three more arrows, cleanly bringing down the mounts of the other orcs, but the dark shadows of his foes, having seen their fellow orcs crushed, threw themselves clear of their downed mounts, and drew their wicked black blades as they rolled to their feet. In response, he drew his own knives, white, glistening in the light of the moon, and darted at them, his senses strung.
The first orc snarled as he brought his fearsome black blade down, as if attempting to slice him down the middle, but the elf twisted deftly out of the way, spinning his knives and plunging them into the orc’s abdomen. Without a pause, he yanked them free, and turned to face the last two foul, shrieking creatures. They both came at him as one, howling madly, their blades whirling in their fists. He ducked the blow of the first orc, then using the creature’s bent back as a spring board, vaulted over the head of the second orc, to land cat-like on his feet behind his foes. The bewildered orcs, no longer seeing the elf in front of them did not have the chance to turn before his white knifes cut them both down from behind. They fell silently into the grass at his feet.
The flurry was past, the night once again silent, and unchanged but for the dark foul masses littering the grass around him, and for the form of the woman struggling for breath. She had fallen to her side, the white linen bundle snuggled against her.
Darting quickly to her side, he once again noted the cruel arrows protruding from her back. That she was still alive at all, was a miracle. He replaced his bow and knives and knelt over her, his face softened with compassion as he rested a hand on her cold, trembling brow. She was older than he would have guessed. Her hair, in a tangled disarray, was gray with age.
“What of my brave Rorin?” She whispered, turning her head to look up at him.
He shook his head sorrowfully. “I am sorry-,” He had seen the arrow strike her steed, and knew the shaft had pierced its heart.
The woman sighed brokenly, her eyes closed in grief for a brief moment, before she opened them and pushed the small white bundle into his hands.
“Take her.” She murmured. A shiver drove through her frail body, and he instinctively knew she had but moments of life left.
His eyes widened in amazement as he lifted the bundle gently, and felt the warm soft movement of an infant within the cloth.
“Do not worry, brave lady.” He murmured, brushing the woman’s cheek. “No harm will come to your child.”
“Not mine.” The woman whispered, shaking her head. She put out a trembling hand, and brushed the cloth from the infant’s face. “Elf-child.”
In the clear, silver light of the full moon, Legolas saw now, the smooth elfish features, and the peaked ears that marked the infant’s race. The baby who stirred now, and opened sleepy eyes was so tiny, so vulnerable, he marked to himself, yet so beautiful. Her hair was thick and golden, and her eyes as they blinked up at him, were blindingly blue.
The baby studied him with quiet intensity, before she opened her tiny red mouth, and cooed softly, as if trying to speak to him. At the sound, the woman smiled, and tears shone in her eyes.
“Her father, mother, dead. Rivendell, kin.” She murmured, her voice fading fast. “Elrond.” the woman drew in a trembling sigh, murmuring as her breath escaped her, “Lalaith.”
Legolas nodded quickly, hoping to give the woman some final comfort. “I will see to it that she is taken to Rivendell.”
The woman nodded wearily, and lay her head down upon her arm, closing her eyes.
Legolas waited for her to draw another breath, but it never came. Gently, he touched the woman’s lined forehead.
“Be at peace, daughter of men.” He murmured, gently closing her still open eyes, and brushing his fingers against her cold cheek.
“Hiro Hyn!” The cry came from behind him as his companions came sprinting across the plain to him, pulling to a stop as they came to the mounds of dark, unmoving shapes. “Are you injured?” The first elf demanded.
Legolas shook his head, rising wearily to his feet. “I have found an elf-child.” He explained, turning the infant so that they could see her face. “They slew her nurse, and her mount.”
“Wolf riders.” Legolas nodded.
“And you defeated them all?” Another elf queried.
“She is the kin of Lord Elrond, so her nurse said before she died.” Legolas explained, ignoring the stunned looks the others gave him. “We will take her to Imladris.” Nodding to the still body of the dead woman, he spoke, “One of you, carry the body of her nurse. We will bury her beneath the trees of Mirkwood, in great honor.”
“But prince, the woman is firamir.” One of the younger elves gently protested.
Legolas’ voice was even, but there was an edge in it as he turned on the elf who had spoken. “Mortal or no, she died saving another.” He said. “A child who was not hers, nor even of her race. If you have not the stomach, I will carry her myself.”
The elves no longer argued as he handed the baby to one of them who took the child gingerly, seemingly not sure what to do with her as Legolas stooped and easily lifted the limp body in his arms.
He gazed down at her lined face, which had taken on a soft aura of peace. The woman’s name, he realized, he did not even know, nor how she had come by the child. There were many questions that remained, but with her death, would never be answered.
“Let us go home.” He said, indicating to the shadowed line of trees that marked the borders of their land. Without further words he started back for the forest as his companions fell into step behind him.