For disclaimer, see first chapter.

Right Side of Justice

Chapter 12 – Hopeful Melancholy

Desert turned to brushland, brushland met with trees – soon the arid climate was thickening with humidity. It never ceased to amaze Legolas how much the land could change in a few hard days of riding.

The Peters homestead bordered an expanse of forest that spread into the east, with hilly grazing land stretching toward the west. The spackling of leggy shrubs spotted the cattle land. The change of scenery - the green of the old trees, the gold grasses, the tang of the new air – it all brought new life into Legolas' wearying spirit. It gave him fresh hope.

He wasn't the only one that benefited from the change. Toril showed his appreciation for the different vegetation by sampling the varieties of grasses with gusto.

The Peters ranch welcomed them warmly, but with a certain reservation that Legolas could well understand. John introduced his family, who all filed out onto the porch with hands and faces well scrubbed.

"This is my wife, Shila." Shila nodded and smiled tightly, looking Legolas straight in the eye. "… this my eldest daughter, Kate," Kate curtsied a bit too deeply, "…my eldest son, Timothy," the boy ogled the visitors' weapons, "…Maria," Kate tugged on Maria's blond braids, reminding her to shut her unhinged jaw and curtsey, "…and last, but not least, Henry."

The youngest grinned toothlessly and held up three fingers, "I'm fo'!"

Kate translated, "He means he's four."

Scott was pressing his hat against his chest, picking at the brim nervously. He'd been voted to do the introduction since, "Mateo is lousy at making friends with anything but horses" – or so Benito claimed.

"Well, I'm Scott and we're really much obliged to your…er, welcoming generosity. This here is Braden – a hot head of an Irishman, this one is Crock, Harold Crock, a farmer from Harris, and this fellow over here is Ruben – he can't sing for a turkey pie. You folks already know ol' Bryne, and that shady fellow sulking in the corner is Legolas – or Mateo as he's also known to be called. I'm just finding out all sorts of new things about him, such as –"

"Thank you very much for your hospitality," interjected Legolas hastily, "I hope we won't cause you too much inconvenience."

"Well, inconvenience or no – we'll be having supper soon, right Shila? Timothy, go make sure the empty stalls are ready for the extra horses. Henry, go with your brother."

Henry tottered away after his sibling, and the daughters followed their mother back into the house. John motioned the remaining men to follow, "I suppose a tour of the facilities are in order."

John glowed proudly as he led them around the well-kept barn, past his prize pig, around his hen-house, and last, back to the front of the house.

He stretched out an arm and swept his hand through the air. "That, my friends, is Texas." The grassland rolled away, disappearing into the vibrant orange sunset. Breezes played games in the grass and evening birds dipped and dived in the coming dusk. A white moon rose behind them over the trees, and amongst their shadows, the night life began to awake. "This is America."

John shoved his hands in his pockets and breathed deep. "I love this place."

Scott cocked his head, "You mean your ranch?"

"Texas, I love Texas." John spoke, as one who knew a different kind of life. "I love this country."

Ruben, always quiet, nodded solemnly. Even the brash Irishman, Braden, concurred seriously.

Legolas didn't show an opinion either way, but inwardly, he appreciated their appreciation. He'd bled for this state, this country - he along with hundreds of other courageous men.

…And he was prepared to bleed again.

"Well, Shila and the girls ought to have some vittles ready by now," John shrugged off his mood and led them back toward the house.

Lingering a moment, Legolas cast one last glance toward the sunset. A hopeful melancholy – that was the feeling that the sight cast over him. A hopeful melancholy.

---

The next morning brought Legolas riding the lay of the land with Scott, John, and his son, Timothy. They had left bright and early – but not before Shila had set them down to a rousing breakfast. It was the sort of breakfast that could satisfy a king, and keep an army on its feet for a full day of marching. Legolas honestly couldn't remember the last time he'd been a part of such a generous table.

So, well-fed they left their five companions and the children to the bountiful remains. Toril jogged easily ahead, eyes bright and ears pricked. Cresting a hill, Legolas stopped and dismounted. "Have a bite, friend," he patted Toril's neck and turned to face the west.

Somewhere out there, Marshall Godard was planning his next move. No – someone was planning how next to move Marshall Godard.

Godard was a little man in the grander scheme, Legolas knew this. But what the grander scheme was…how often he was reminded that he didn't know what it was! He found it more than a little disturbing that it still evaded him. No doubt when the time was right, all would be revealed.

Would it?

Scott rode up beside him, "How's it look?"

Legolas shrugged, "Decent. From here we have a good vantage point of the farm, and the route from the west. Yes, and that hill to the north, the southern hill, and someone in the trees…"

"Lookouts, you mean?"

Legolas nodded. "Four in all. If we can see them coming, then we'll be pretty well off."

"Sounds like you're expecting an invasion!" Scott's laugh died when he saw Legolas' serious expression.

"Godard isn't a fool – he won't underestimate us again…neither will he lay any bets on his men's individual prowess," he added somewhat dryly. "It will be a show of force – which I'm sure he can muster."

In his minds eye, Scott's previous notion of a handful of enemies multiplied into a horde advancing over the hills, burning and pillaging as they came on…

"Of course it could be worse."

"Could it?" Scott gulped and attempted to erase the image from his mind.

Legolas smiled, and nodded.

A/N: I've got a clear shot to the end of Part 1. It's plotted out, detailed – now it's just waiting to be written. OO

Thank you all for continuing to encourage so faithfully.