**** "The Griffon's Tears" is dedicated to the crew of the Space Shuttle Columbia who, like the griffon, have gone home. I'll never forget you. ****

Welcome back! Hopefully I didn't miss anyone who wished to be contacted. If I have, I am so sorry!!!!

This is the fourth story in the Legolas/Gimli/Alede adventure series and takes place approximately five years after the events in the "Faerie Goblet".

Get set for another adventure of magical mayhem. In "The Faerie Goblet" Legolas and Alede were betrothed, but that doesn't mean its going to be easy! King Thranduil and even the strange weather seems intent upon driving the two apart now. And then there's the Griffon who wields bizarre powers . . .

Fasten your seat belt and hang on for another adventure with Legolas, Gimli and Alede in the . . .


Chapter 1 ~ "Journeys"

Legolas slid silently away from the boulder which had concealed him. His ashen gray garments blended with the dusky landscape of Mordor. Rocks and ruble were strewn about, vomited up by Mount Doom, making the path beneath his feet treacherous. But the elf moved with quiet stealth, passing his many warriors and vanishing up the slopes, unseen by the enemy.

King Elessar and Gimli stood upon the hills above Barad-Dûr, their armor shining dully in the morning haze. Behind them spread out their companies, many hundreds strong. No army of this size had approached Mordor since the War of the Ring and they did so now only out of the greatest need.

For many years, small bands of Orcs had trickled out of the enemy's ruined land to attack travelers and small villages by night. They made a rude living out of their plundering. None of the Orcs had been organized enough to move like an army, but they did succeed in killing many innocent people and burning several villages. Their numbers had been growing each year and in the past few months, there seemed to be a common purpose behind their killings. Something or someone had united them lately.

There was also a slow and illicit trade in objects of dark magic. Legolas occasionally encountered traders slipping down out of the southern mountain passes, thinking they could lose themselves in the lush forests of Ithilien and not be found out.

Lose themselves they did, and often their lives as well if they failed to give up their evil gains, for the Lord of Ithilien's Elves did not look kindly upon this dark trade.

He had a very specific reason to hate the objects of dark magic.

~ ~ ~

Legolas crept up the slope toward his old friends. Aragorn's horse turned its head toward him, but gave no alarm.

"I can see no sign of Legolas' army," Aragorn said, shielding his eyes.

"If that Elf has dragged us to this stinking mud hole and then failed to show up, I'll lop off his head myself!" Gimli said irritably, shaking his axe slightly. He looked dusty and weary, for his company had had the farthest to march.

"Peace, my friend," Aragorn said soothingly. "I am certain that Legolas will not be late for this party which he has planned . . ."

Legolas slipped out of the shadows and threw back his cloak. Aragorn turned quickly, but did not start. Gimli on the other hand gave a satisfactory jump.

"Of course I am not late," Legolas said cheerfully, ignoring the irritable sounds coming from his stout friend, though his hand dropped to the dwarf's shoulder and he gave him a nod of silent greeting. "Indeed, my company and I arrived for the festivities quite early and have been waiting for you."

Legolas clasped Aragorn's arm in welcome, but his eyes were drawn toward the plains in front of them.

"It appears that we have been seen." He nodded toward the broken down gates of Barad-Dûr. Hundreds of Uruk-hai and Orcs were swarming out of the opening to greet the army assembled above them.

"Not the wisest of moves," Gimli observed. "They would have been better to repair their broken down gates, or even to shield themselves behind what is left of them."

"Aye, but Orcs and their kind are not wise," Legolas said, watching the enemy closely. "And so they blunder into our trap quite willingly."

"They do appear to be united in their movements though," Aragorn said.

"Aye," Legolas agreed. "Their movements of late have demonstrated unity, though what or who has united them, I still do not know. But their movements lack foresight. It is as if they are driven by desire but no experience. Whoever leads them has no battle knowledge, of that I am sure. But their boldness is growing and I am certain this is the time to strike them, before their forces grow even stronger."

Aragorn nodded, knowing that Legolas was still uncomfortable about this battle which he had proposed. The Elvin prince was a skilled warrior and had led companies of warriors with great success, but this was the first time he'd commanded a huge massing of troops such as the one that now had marched into Mordor.

For long months had they counseled at Legolas' insistence. Faramir had been quick to agree with the Elf about the growing threat of Orcs in Mordor, but convincing Aragorn had taken more time. Gondor was a huge realm and its ruling was complicated. Aragorn did not lightly lay aside his duties to march to war.

But the young prince had persuaded him in the end, though Aragorn had known that deep inside Legolas harbored misgivings.

Aragorn gripped Legolas' shoulder. "It is obvious that they have expected this," he said nodding down at the Uruk-hai. "Let us finish them, before they grow even greater. Let us finish them once and for all so that Middle Earth need never be troubled by them again."

Legolas nodded and his grip on Gimli's armor tightened. He was grateful for Aragorn's support. He was even more grateful for Gimli's.

The dwarf had not even asked why, he had simple offered 500 warriors.

Legolas looked to the west. "Faramir and his company are in position, as are my warriors. We will begin the attack on my signal."

Aragorn nodded and Gimli shifted his sturdy feet. "Let us begin then!"

Legolas raised his cloak over his fair hair once again and slipped back down the way he had come, blending into the landscape like a shadow. He nodded to his warriors as he passed them, watching in satisfaction as they fitted arrows to strings. Silently, he slid back into his position at the very end of the line of archers.

Ahead of him, the Uruk-hai marched heavily out onto the plain. Legolas' company was concealed on their right flank, slightly to the east of the broken fortress. Faramir's was on their left flank, also concealed. Aragorn and Gimli's warriors were straight in front and as the Uruk-hai marched forward so did the men and dwarves. Legolas waited until the three armies were nearly upon each other, neatly pinned between his and Faramir's forces. Then he stood and gave the signal.

"Leithio i philinn!"

And arrows flew from both sides.

~ ~ ~

Alede flinched and Faunlend spooked slightly beneath her.

"What is it?" Elrohir asked in concern, nudging his horse close so that he might lay a calming hand on Faunlend's mane.

Alede stared straight ahead for a moment, not seeing her friend, or even the worried twitching of her horse's ears. Instead she concentrated on the tumult of emotions that came to her from Legolas through their shared song.

"The battle has begun," she said, her voice distant. Because she still looked inward she did not notice that Lomomir, Legolas' uncle, had also drawn his horse close and watched her intently.

Focusing, she reached out, absorbing Legolas' notes and interpreting them. She'd become adept at understanding her betrothed's feelings over the last five years.

She'd known of the upcoming battle of course. Legolas had written to her about it and even bidden her to delay her journey to Ithilien. But while he might fear for her safety, Alede did not. She was through with being parted from him and she had no intention of allowing mere Orcs to get in her way now, not after she had waited so many years to finally be joined with Legolas.

"The battle goes well," she said after a while and those around her who had been holding their breath released it in a rush. "It goes very well."

Alede blinked and looked at those around her. Her eyes fell upon Lomomir and she smiled.

"Your nephew does well," she said to him.

Lomomir had a pleased look on his face. "This is the first time Legolas has ever organized so huge an assault . . ."

"And the first time he has proposed war," Alede added.

Lomomir nodded, "It appears he has his father's wisdom. The time is right for destroying the Orcs once and for all. He is wise to recognize it and even wiser to act upon it while he has strong allies."

"Wise yes," Elrohir agreed, "though I wonder how much of his decision is based upon wishing to make Ithilien safer for his betrothed?" Elrohir gave Alede a teasing smile, though she pointedly ignored him.

"I had wondered that as well," Radagast the Brown said, urging his horse closer to the others. "Young prince Legolas seems to be feathering his nest quite enthusiastically."

"Do not be silly, Father," Alede admonished, though secretly their jests amused her.

Over the last five years, as Radagast, Cyrus and she had finished their labors in Rivendell, a constant stream of letters had gone back and forth between Imladris and Ithilien. The separation that she had feared so much had instead been bearable. And Legolas' letters were charming to say the least, full of whit and humor, they had made her laugh on many occasions.

At least most of them made her laugh.

She still remembered the letter he'd sent shortly after his return to Ithilien five years ago.

"Dearest Alede, You are wrong about my father. He does not despise you nearly as much as you think. It only took him three days to stop shouting . . ."

Alede sighed. As eager as she was to join Legolas, she dreaded the stop in Mirkwood so badly that her stomach turned to knots every time she thought about it. If she had had her preferences, they'd say goodbye to Lomomir and his two apprentices at Mirkwood's western border and then follow the Anduin south. Unfortunately propriety demanded that they travel to the King's hall. Whether Thranduil approved of her or not, she was Legolas' betrothed and must observe the ancient customs.

The stop, in addition to being nerve-wracking, would also add considerably to their travel time, something that Alede was loath to do as well. They still had not decided if they would travel along the eastern edge of Mirkwood and risk the scarcity of water or double back on their steps through Mirkwood again and then travel south. Radagast had suggested that they ask Thranduil's counsel, since he would be more familiar with the lands to the east of his kingdom.

*No doubt he'll be happy to tell me where to go,* Alede thought sourly.

Beside her, Elrohir urged his horse close and nudged her knee with his own.

"If you continue to frown like that Little One, your face will freeze that way," he said with a twinkle in his eyes.

"Easy for you to say," she retorted. "You don't have to face Thranduil."

"True," he agreed. "Tis a terrifying prospect."

Alede glanced at him, surprised that he would agree so readily and found a grossly exaggerated frown on Elrohir's fair face, obviously a parody of her own.

"Stop it!" she cried, trying to hit him and not laugh all at the same time.

Elrohir's stallion danced easily out of her reach and Elrohir continued to tease her for the rest of the day.

Radagast chuckled to see their antics and laughed even more at the weary sighs which came from Cyrus. The Blue wizard did not care for Elves and their 'frivolity' as he called it. Even worse, he despised horses and Radagast knew that this would be a miserable trip for him.

*I wonder if he would consent to learn about Alede's spell horse?* Radagast mused.

~ ~ ~

Maladok the Red struggled to a sitting position and looked around the small cabin in confusion.

*How long have I been here?* He shook his head, trying to rid himself of the herb-induced stupor he'd been in.

His memory wasn't as good as it had been a few hundred years ago. Vague remembrances of a long life seeped through the fog. He had initially been sent to Middle Earth for a purpose . . . a purpose that he felt ashamed of. A purpose that he wasn't meant to fulfill.

It occurred to his dim mind that he was no longer the same sort of person that he remembered. He had once been someone else, long ago before he'd had that argument with Saruman. An argument in which he'd been injured . . . or be-spelled . . . or something.

He shook his head in confusion. Not that it mattered, he thought, hastily pushing aside the feelings of shame. He led a much more exciting life now than he had then, of that he was sure.

Reaching out, he pushed open the casement of the glass window beside the bed. Glass was a sign of wealth in this remote part of the mountains and of course Maladok deserved wealth. He deserved the best.

Fresh air cleared his head enough that he remembered where he was.

*The Angmar Mountains and I have been here six months.* Six months and he was no closer to the riches he'd sought when he first came. Perhaps it was time to move on.

Movement outside made him turn. He watched as a dark gray spell horse touched down in the meadow in front of the small cabin and then trotted out of sight. Anticipating the arrival of the spell horse's maker, the wizard pushed himself out of bed and crossed to the small table where he plunged his hands into a bowl of water and splashed it on his face.

The cold water completely restored him. Shaking droplets from his neatly trimmed beard, he ran his fingers through his short black hair, shot with streaks of gray.

For a moment he thought of leaving through the back door. He'd tarried here in the Angmar Mountains far too long. What had started out as a pleasant dalliance had turned into a prison. He could get down onto the plains and follow the foothills to Rivendell. That's where he'd last heard that Radagast and Cyrus were. Though what they were doing with the Elves, Maladok did not know.

He did not care much for Elves. They were arrogant people who never took his advice, seemed to disdain it actually. Dwarves, he had no use for at all. They were a grubby people who were stingy with their more than adequate wealth and stubborn as rocks. Men were far easier to persuade and it had been because of men that Maladok had come to these hills. There were tales of incredible wealth amongst the witch people of Angmar.

It occurred to Maladok that he should have consulted Radagast before coming here. The old wizard had married an Angmar witch. Surely Radagast would know . . .

A sound at the door sent Maladok hurrying toward the back of the cabin, tripping over a braided rug as he went. If he was going to escape, now was his only chance . . .

"Going somewhere, Love?"

The silken tones washed over his senses like warm honey.

Reluctantly, Maladok turned around.

Leaning against the doorframe, the witch Zarraweth surveyed him with her usual feral smile.

"I was . . . just going to fetch more water, my lady," Maladok lied. The witch was astonishingly beautiful. Of course Maladok deserved a woman as beautiful as she. But of late, she had grown rather demanding. All she wished to speak about was his transformation abilities, a boring subject at best. Maladok was rather ashamed of it actually. It was disgraceful in his opinion, that one of the mighty Maiar could change himself into animals.

*Of what use are filthy animals anyway?*

But a part of him, a part that had long ago been broken by Saruman knew that once he'd been proud of that ability and considered it an honor. But Maladok was accustomed to banishing those vague memories since Saruman had awakened his arrogance and conceit.

"Indeed?" Zarraweth purred, referring to his lie about fetching water. Sauntering toward him, she snapped her fingers and relit the candles which had blown out. A heavy pungent odor began to fill the room. She paced slowly up to him and dragged a sharp nailed finger down his chest and looked up at him with eyes as green as leaves.

"If you intend to fetch water, should you not take a vessel to carry it in?" she asked with a sultry smile on her face.

"Yes . . . of course."

"But first, will you not greet me?"

The poor girl, Maladok thought. She was hopelessly infatuated with him and while their wild coupling had been quite entertaining, he knew it was time to leave. He of course would never allow himself to be subjected to any woman's whims. He would have to be stern with her.

*However, it wouldn't hurt to make love to her one more time before he left . . .*

The smoke from the enchanted candles filled Maladok's mind and banished his remaining thoughts of leaving and dulled his will. Had he been a more astute and less pompous wizard, he would have sensed her enchantment, but sadly he was not.

Or rather, was no longer.

So instead of leaving, he looked down at Zarraweth's luminous eyes and the lushness of her mouth. He reached out, sinking his hands into her silky black hair and kissed her harshly. She melded against him and wrapped one delicate calf around his leg.

Zarraweth gave a sultry laugh as he lifted her and held her against the cabin wall, pressing against her eagerly.

All thoughts of going to Radagast fled from Maladok's mind and he concentrated on tearing Zarraweth's clothing away to reach the treasure within. So enflamed was he, he did not even notice when the witch fastened two golden manacles onto his wrists, sealing his imprisonment even more.

~ ~ ~

*** "Leithio i philinn!" = Release the arrows!

A/N: Two golden manacles? Does anyone get the idea that this witch is up to no good? And Maladok sounds like he's a few cards short of a deck, if you know what I mean ;). In chapter two we'll find out what Zarraweth has got in mind and how Legolas is faring in the battle in Mordor. Also, Alede reaches Mirkwood and finds that her meeting with King Thranduil is actually worse than she imagined it might be.

*** And back by popular demand . . . The Original Character list. ***

Alede the Green - Witch, healer and wizard. She is daughter of Radagast the Brown. After the death of her mother, she was raised in Rivendell and learned healing skills from Elrond. She also developed a terrible crush on Elrohir, which he has gently teased her about for centuries. She spent some time learning the wizarding craft at Orthanc under the tutelage of Saruman. Because she felt her healer's calling was more important, and because she considered herself a poor wizardess, Alede never completed her training at Orthanc. (Well, duh . . . I guess you knew all that, didn't you? lol!)

Cyrus the Blue - The forth Maia to be sent to Middle Earth and friend to Radagast the Brown. He is a rather cantankerous wizard with a distinct dislike of Elves, Dwarves, horses . . . the list goes on. He's a good person and a fairly accomplished alchemist, but a bit on the cranky side. ;) He made his first appearance in "The Faerie Goblet".

Lomomir - Brother to King Thranduil of Mirkwood and a healer. He has spent the last many years in Rivendell studying with Alede and reading from Elrond's many books and journals. He made his first appearance in "The Caverns of Mirkwood".

Maladok the Red - The fifth Maia sent to Middle Earth. After a disastrous encounter with Saruman, Maladok has become a bit of a "black sheep" in the wizarding world.

Zarraweth - A young human witch with more greed and beauty than is good for her.