First things first. I don't own anything from Tolkien. Obviously. If I did, I wouldn't be here, right?
I'll start out saying it, and I'll continue to say it, most likely. THANK YOU NEA! Nea, going under the pen-name Nea's World (which for some reason only comes up in search if you only put in neas-or at least for me), is the reason this is here. She wrote a very short one-shot which got me interested, and has helped smooth out some rough edges on this so it flows better for anyone who should decide to read this. She also convinced me to post at all. So even if you don't thank her, I do! Love ya, angel!
Carnage. That was the only word to describe the scene before them.
Thranduil sighed and dismounted, telling his horse to stay put with a few words. Words were not needed to compel Legolas to join him on the ground, to survey the disaster that had befallen their people… and to see if there was anything they could do, anywhere they could offer more assistance than a few inadequate words of compassion.
"I have never seen so much damage done at once, Father," he murmured softly, frowning with concentration as his misty blue eyes studied the death, the blood, the horrible picture set out before them in macabre detail and color, grating sound and putrid smell. "Why did they do this?" His soft voice trembled slightly, quieter even than when Eirthriel was unwell.
"Do spiders need a reason? Hunger, perhaps. Or hate." Thranduil looked at the covered bodies which remained, as yet not taken care of—there were just too many for the elves who had survived the attack to have taken care of so quickly. Many were being carried back to their homes, but when entire families had been slain… If it had been hunger along which had caused the spiders to attack this smallish village, more of the elves would have been dragged off, instead of merely slaughtered. He sighed and shook his head, recognizing too many faces among the departed, those who had not yet even been covered. "Oleydya," he murmured, seeing a tragically young elf kneeling beside two bodies. She would have just come of age. She was at that stage when parents are no longer considered necessary, but are still desperately needed by their children to impart advice, even if the no longer quite children seek to deny both that fact and the advice. Thranduil silently placed a hand on her shoulder. "Come with us," he murmured after a moment's respectful peace, gently pulling her to her feet away from the two motionless and bloody forms.
She numbly rose to do as he asked, probably aware neither of her actions nor his identity, and was helped onto one of the horses by Legolas before his son followed him deeper into the black woods. "Father?" he asked softly, before turning his head as a wave of smoke and ash flew into his face. He coughed softly and wiped at his eyes carefully, trying to dislodge the irritants without making it worse, considering the state of his hands, since they had already helped with the moving of some trees that had been felled over the path, preventing their aide from arriving in time to help the majority of these villagers.
"They were her parents. She has no other family on these shores. Had I been here when they fell, they would have known there was no need to ask it of me."
Legolas looked back at the bodies through watering eyes and sighed. There were no words to describe the sorrow and grief that clawed at elves when they were faced with the impossible—the death of their kin. It was a horrifying deviation from the way things usually were, the way things were meant to be. Elves were not born to die. It was not their way. "So much death," he breathed softly, having finally cleared his throat of most debris and emotion, though both made his voice a bit deeper, rougher. Anger, easier to deal with than sorrow, flashed in his eyes, darkening their edges with blue fire. "Why do the spiders attack us so venomously now? We have lived many years without hearing of any attacks, even among the woodmen on the western boarders, and yet in the last month there have been three mass attacks, and over fifty slaughtered elves… before this terrible count. When will their hunger be sated?"
"Perhaps it will not, Legolas. You are right, though. Why now? There is no reason, as the first attack should have fed an army of the devils, considering the animals they carried away." Thranduil shook his head once more, knowing the sad truth, before giving his orders and offering his condolences to the survivors. Any who so wished would be assisted in their move closer to the palace, to the safety of the guard that could not be reliably extended this far into the forest.
But as for the spiders, as to the reason for these attacks… the truth was they might never find out why, may never know what caused these completely illogical attacks. It was nearly suicide for the spiders to attack the elves, and usually the nasty things fled from the sight of elves, and avoided places where fires created by the magic of the elves had been used to chase away the darkness of the forest. Yet suddenly they not only attacked, but attacked places strong in the magic of the elves. Places elves dwelled were always imbued with power. There was no reason, no logic. And armed with neither, he could not imagine why this was happening. With a shake of his head he called his horse and readied to return to the palace.
Legolas swung into place behind their new charge, sorrow gnawing at him as he felt hers. He sighed softly and tightened his hold around her, trying to reach her in her numbed state. After a while he fell silent, feeling his words were ineffective.
Having brooded all the way back to the palace, Thranduil was not surprised when his young son asked for a moment alone. They moved to the sanctuary of rooms beyond the throne. "Father, is there nothing we can do? No way to stop them?"
"The only way I see to stop this from reoccurring is to kill the spiders. That would require an intense effort—and skill beyond that any under my command possess."
With a frown growing darker upon his brow, thinking first of all those warriors who had made tracking spiders and killing them a pastime, then wondering why they were not what Thranduil wished. "Is there anyone with the skill you seek?"
Legolas watched his father's eyes cloud in memory. "Yes, my son. There is one."
The elven king walked into a little used room that adjoined the throne room, and removed a medallion which hung on a mithril chain, which he had set out at the beginning of the attacks, just in case he would require it. It seemed he did indeed.
Legolas intently studied the medallion, for he had never seen it before. He had thought he knew all the treasures kept in his home, but obviously he did not. It was of familiar craft—a smaller pendant of similar construction hung about his neck and had since he came of age. His was of mithril with a few green stones, shaped to form the leaf of the grandest tree in what had once been Greenwood. The medallion was also of mithril, he guessed, with a dark stone set in the middle of what appeared to be teeth. "Father? What is that?"
"A message," Thranduil answered, looking at the pendant for a calculating moment. With a faint smile he walked from the room and to the stairs located behind the throne, only ever used by the royal family and then rarely. The steps wound all the way to the top of the mountain.
Legolas had walked up these steps with Thranduil nearly every time in memory that his father had gone. Almost invariably a falcon would fly down, and rest upon the staff that Thranduil kept leaning against the high exit of the palace. Thranduil would take the message from the bird and would add something in way of a response to the letter he had already written, which would be sent out within a few minutes.
Today was no exception. Within a few minutes the falcon arrived, bearing a letter. Without reading it, though, Thranduil held up the medallion. The falcon gripped it carefully in curved talons and flew away. Thranduil then looked at the letter, tucking it away before looking quizzically at his son, who had not moved to descend the stairs after him.
"You have never told me who you write, nor how it is the falcon always comes without being called," Legolas murmured with a frown, slowly stepping forward. He replaced the things that usually leaned against the door before stepping lightly down the stairs.
"No I haven't," Thranduil agreed. "The first shall be answered fairly shortly, unless all hope is lost. The second is so simple you should have figured it out a hundred years ago." When Legolas merely frowned his incomprehension, Thranduil sighed. "It is arranged that every year on the first day of spring the falcon will arrive here. It carries a message to me and takes one back."
"Back where? To whom?"
Thranduil simply smiled and shook his head, resting one hand on his younger son's shoulder. "You have infinite patience for anything as long as it doesn't require you to wait."