Disclaimer: I do not own any thing pertaining to The Lord of the Rings.
Thank you, Katy. You are the best.
The weather was glorious, it was mid-autumn and all the trees were getting ready for their winter sleep. Once-green leaves were now browns and reds; in a glorious show of riotous colour that only nature could achieve. The sun hung low in the sky as birds made their way to the South and their winter bedding grounds.
Squirrels could be seen once in a while gathering nuts to hide in their caches so that they could survive the winter. Mice had begun to make their nests so that they too could curl up and sleep as much as they could during the long cold snap that all of the animals knew would be ahead.
Holly had burst forth, its leaves a vibrant green in contrast to the deep-red berries that it bore. Indeed all of the winter bushes were laden with their fruits to aid the wildlife, more so than they had done for some years.
The air was cold and crisp, in all it was a perfect winter scene. It was broken by the clip clop of horses as they made their way along the dirt road.
Into sight came a group of horses along with their riders. It was a large group; some of them wore the deep greens and browns that would blend them in well with any of their surroundings. Four wore greys and blacks, while one wore grey along with a big wide hat.
The riders wearing the greens and browns traveled alongside a medium sized carriage. All were on the alert; it was dangerous to travel this road at this time of the year. Wargs and wolves would not hesitate to attack an unwary traveler. Not that these were unwary, of course.
Inside the carriage three Elves sat. Two had dark hair and were extremely fair.
The other had long blond hair and could only be called beautiful. He was also looking exhausted, piled up in blankets to keep him warm. His skin tone was that of some one recovering from a long illness or injury.
"We will stop soon, Legolas." The Elf on the right broke the silence.
"T…thank y…you." The blond closed his eyes trying to stop the pounding that seemed to have taken up residence behind his eyes.
"I think we should stop now, Elrond. Legolas is exhausted and in pain." The elf on the left had a worried look on his proud face.
"You are right; this would be the best time to stop for the day. There is an enclosed area nearby that would provide good shelter." Elrond, Lord of Rivendell, stood and leaned carefully out of the carriage window to catch the others' attention and soon they were drawing to a halt.
Some of the guards made themselves busy collecting firewood for the fire and soon it was crackling merrily in the clearing.
Two identical Elves and a human made their way from the camp, bows at the ready, searching for fresh meat that would serve as their evening meal.
Legolas, Prince of Mirkwood, was helped from the carriage by his father,Thranduil, King of that Realm, and Elrond. It took a few very unsteady steps but soon he was being helped to sit on the blankets provided for him near the fire.
Elrond swiftly made use of the fire to warm some water and once it was in a goblet he added the herbs and watched as they dissolved before he handed it to Legolas. Both King and Lord watched as he took the tea on board.
Once finished, he sighed and would have leaned back if he had anything to lean against. Thranduil slipped in behind him and let his exhausted son relax against him.
They had been traveling a week now and it was getting to be harder for Legolas to hide his pain. As much as he hated traveling in the carriage, his heart told him that he was not fit enough to sit upon his own horse, however much he wished it.
A shaky hand reached up to brush a stray hair from his face. Hair that, while still glorious even in this light, was a little choppy in places. Ordinarily he would have been very upset at that and by the teasing of his friends. But for the minute he really did not care.
Thranduil looked down at his pale son with worry. They had all known Legolas would find the trip uncomfortable, but he still did not have to like it. Legolas had been targeted by Elrond's mad cousin not too long ago and he was still recovering from the numerous injuries that he had received as a consequence of witnessing something he should not have seen.
The worst of these injuries had been a bad fracture to his skull and, as a result, he had to be operated on twice to remove old blood, clots, bone fragments and serous fluid that had gathered. Their pressure had caused Legolas to have fits and had worried his father more than he cared to admit. The pressure had left Legolas with a lingering weakness on his left side and problems with his speech.
He also had begun suffering from increasing headaches as he traveled back to his home.
"Sleep, Ion-nin, I will waken you when it is time to eat." Thranduil gently stroked the hair that was a lasting legacy from his wife. It was not long before Legolas had relaxed totally against him, eyes closed in sleep.
It always worried him to see Legolas sleeping with his eyes closed. He knew
Legolas was still recovering, but he still worried. He sought Elrond's eyes once more, needing the reassurance from his old friend.
"He is doing well, Thranduil. It is still early days in his recovery." He moved beside them and as Legolas was sleeping, he began to gently massage the tense muscles. Around them, the camp was being prepared for the night, with Glorfindel and Mithrandir, the wizard, keeping a close eye on the activities in the camp but also on the area around them.
The twins, Elladan and Elrohir, arrived back in the camp with a brace of rabbits each. Along with then came the human, Estel, their foster brother. As the twins moved towards the fire and began to prepare the rabbits for the stew pot, Estel moved to his foster father's side.
"It is all clear nearby, Ada; I could find no new evidence of either Wargs or Wolves. Is Legolas alright?" He was worried about his best friend; he looked so pale and tired. He hated to see his usually-robust best friend looking so weak.
"He is just tired, Estel. He has had some herbs for his pain. I will let him sleep until the meal is ready. I do not want him missing any meals at the moment." Legolas had lost a lot of much-needed weight in the first few weeks of his initial recovery and he was only now beginning to regain it. Always on the thin side, now he was painfully thin.
"He is finding it hard, is he not?" Estel found he did not want to leave Legolas' side.
"Yes, although I think he understands now why we insisted on him having the carriage." That caused rueful looks from both man and elf.
"I found some fresh Athelas while we were hunting. Do you need me to pick some for you?" Estel watched as his father finished massaging Legolas' legs and sat back. Picking up the pack that contained all of his herbs and roots for healing, he looked through it.
"That would be a good idea, fresh Athelas is better than dried. Do not go on your own." Elrond watched as Estel made his way over to his foster brothers and helped them to finish skinning and boning the rabbits. They added them to the pot along with the vegetables they had brought with them. With a wave to their father, they left the pot to simmer and left the camp to collect the Athelas they had found earlier.
It was just becoming dusk when the food was ready. Thranduil woke Legolas and he watched critically as his son played with his food.
"You need to eat that, Legolas." Elrond looked up at his friend at these words, from across the fire.
"T… tired." Legolas raised laden eyes to peer at his father.
"I know, Ion-nin, but you need to eat to keep your strength up. I promise you can sleep all you want once you have eaten." Both he and Elrond watched him closely as he shakily ate his portion. It was difficult though, as he found his hand was shaking almost uncontrollably.
When they were satisfied that he had eaten most of the stew, they let him lay down and sleep. The watches were quickly assigned and they all settled for the night. Estel had drawn the first watch, along with one of Thranduil's guards.
All was silent for some time until the first howl was heard. It echoed eerily in the night air. Both watchers kept their hands on their swords, silent and still. They only relaxed when no more howls came.
Just before their watch finished, Estel made certain that the fire was built enough to last. He knew that at present Legolas was feeling the cold. He crossed to his friend's side to check him. He was fast asleep, shivering slightly.
Standing, he crossed to the carriage and retrieved one of the extra blankets. He gently tucked it around Legolas. Standing, he found the guard looking at him with approval.
Estel shrugged, embarrassed at having been caught caring for his friend. He woke
Mithrandir as the other woke Glorfindel and they bedded down.
Dawn broke, if it could be called that. In direct contrast to yesterday, the day was dull and overcast, dark clouds threatening rain. They moved quickly to eat and then break camp.
Within an hour of waking they were on their way once more.
By mid-morning the rain was streaming down and it was decided that they should find shelter until it had passed. They found a large open cave that would provide perfect shelter. It also held a number of broken branches and bracken that would serve as kindling for the fire. It was soon set up and they settled in to wait.
Legolas slept once more, as close to the fire as they felt was comfortable for him. The deluge did not let up and they settled in for the day.
Elrond oversaw Legolas' exercises and massage when he woke up and also continued with his work on his speech. Their evening meal was sparse and once again they set the watches.
This time the howls from the Wolves were numerous and sounded nearby. Everyone was on their guard, although to their relief, the night passed without incident.
The next morning broke fair and although the ground was still wet and muddy they made good time. Stopping once for a light meal and so Legolas could have a rest. Taking advantage of the pause, Estel and the twins went off hunting, bringing back a deer that would do nicely for the evening meal.
For Legolas though, the day was long and painful. He was cold, more cold than he could ever remember being in his life. It did not matter how many blankets he had over him, he felt a deep chill, almost as if…
Legolas gave himself a little shake. He was imagining things. He was cold, sore and tired. He was also very well protected, nothing would harm him here. So why in all of Arda think he was being watched? Why did the hairs on the nape of his neck stand up? And why did the trees scream their warnings at him like they did?
He glanced surreptitiously at his father to see if he was affected as well, but his father was sitting comfortably chatting with Elrond. If any one else could hear the trees it would be his father.
The feeling grew as the day went on until he was constantly shivering under the blankets. Not only were the trees screaming at him, but every fiber of his body screamed danger. It was an instinct that he relied on and it had never failed.
He glanced out of the window catching sight of his father's guards. They seemed relaxed as well. Perhaps it was his imagination.
Thranduil looked up from across the carriage and noticed that his son was shivering almost uncontrollably. He was also parchment white.
"Are you alright, Legolas?" He made his way over to sit next to him. Startled blue eyes turned to him. Thranduil felt Elrond move in beside him.
"D…danger." He kept his eyes on his father as Elrond felt his forehead.
"What danger, Legolas?" Thranduil was as puzzled as Elrond. "T… twees s… say d…danger." The shivering increased. "Legolas, I do not feel…" he broke off and realised suddenly just what Legolas was talking about.
Moving with Elven speed he made his way out of the carriage, startling the driver.
"There is danger ahead. Brolinth, I want you and Selend to scout ahead. The trees are screaming danger. Be on alert." The two guards quickly carried out their King's commands. Their places were filled by the twins while Estel and Glorfindel rode on slightly ahead of the group. All senses were on the alert.
Once back in the carriage, Thranduil was rubbing Legolas' cold pale hands. Elrond had brought out more blankets from under the seats and had covered the shivering Prince with them. They did not appear to help.
Eventually Thranduil pulled his son to him and used his own body heat to help.
Legolas' eyes had just closed in sleep when growls, screams and loud whinnying could be heard from ahead of them. Thranduil could hear the sounds of both swords and bows being drawn.
Estel's voice could be heard calling "Orcs!" then the sound of metal clashing against metal.
With faces set in grim masks, the two Lord's drew their own weapons from their scabbards in readiness.
Very soon, they were in the thick of the fighting. Horses screamed as their masters tried to continue their protective duty around the carriage. They were heavily outnumbered, but that mattered not to the Elves and human. What mattered to them was keeping their friends and royalty safe.
The fighting was fierce and Thranduil could see the battle from where he hovered protectively above Legolas. The tide was finally beginning to go in their favour. Orcs after all can not be called overtly intelligent in fact they were quiet the opposite.
The fight was just entering its final stages, with the leader being struck down by Glorfindel, when the door to the carriage was opened from the other side.
The few Orcs that remained standing and fighting froze at seeing their leader decapitated and with one glance at each other turned on their heels and ran for their lives. They did not get far before they were cut down in their strides. As cruel as it may seem to the onlooker there is no love lost between Elf and Orc, especially with theses Elves.
It was then that a high-pitched scream was heard coming from the carriage behind them. Estel and Glorfindel turned and hurried to the door, Estel pulled it open only to draw back in horror at the sight that greeted him.
To be continued
This story is dedicated to Katy. Without her love and support this would still be festering in the back of my mind. Also to Barbara for the wonderful Betaing. You are great!
Please let me know what you think of this?