The Legend of Carn Dûm

Chapter 1: A Faraway Threat

                The grassy plain was a quiet place – a few rabbits lived in burrows made of dead or dying grass, lizards liked to sunbathe on the occasional rock (or maybe ruin from years past), and foxes sometimes came to hunt small prey.

                Certainly the two horses that flew by, hooves barely seeming to touch the ground, were unusual.

                The first horse had a golden coat that shined and accented its white mane; it led the second horse by little more than a length.  Its rider used no saddle or bridle; he seemed to guide the horse by words whispered in its ears.  His blond hair streamed behind him in the wind; his eyes were an intense blue-grey set in a fair elven face.  His grey cloak, cut in the fashion of his people, billowed unheeded, but slung over it was a quiver full of arrows and a dark Greenwood bow, and a white elven dagger hung from his belt, slapping his thigh with each stride of the galloping horse he rode.  He laughed, a pleasant warmth appearing in his face, and turned to look over his shoulder at his companion, who rode the second horse.  "Come, Glirhuin!  Halbereth is faster than that!" He called in a melodic tenor voice.

                His companion merely smiled and leaned forward to speak into the ear of the bay he rode.  Like the first rider, he rode bareback and with no bridle.  His hair was a darker hue than the first rider's was; his eyes were decidedly grey, and his features were more slender.  He, too, had a bow, but unlike his friend, he had no white elven blade at his hip.

Apparently his whispered encouragement had an effect on his mount; the bay began to gain on the palomino.  Already both horses were moving at unbelievable speeds, but their riders urged them forth, laughing and singing.  Indeed, the horses seemed to rejoice in the speed almost as much as those they bore; they tossed their heads, snorted, and competed with each other, nose to nose, as the two elves guided them to the top of the small hill in the middle of the plain.  At its peak they pulled short, stopping gracefully, and their riders patted their necks gratefully and murmured breathless thanks.

The darker haired Elf spoke first.  "That was a good race, Legolas … I think I won," he added, grinning.  His voice seemed to belie his small build; it was a deep tenor.

Legolas shook his head and brushed his hair back into place with long, slender fingers.  "Gloindel put her nose out at the last moment, my friend," he answered coolly, smiling.   "Halbereth has spirit, but none can match Gloindel for speed."  He patted his mount's neck again, and she seemed to preen under his praise.  "Though I believe that is the closest anyone has ever come to defeating her."

Glirhuin (for that was the second Elf's name) drew a deep breath to calm his own breathing.  "Halbereth is more competitive than any other horse in Greenwood, and I attribute our close second entirely to him," he said modestly.  He sobered and looked out beyond the hill that they now stood on.  "But let us move on to business."

Legolas followed his gaze.  In the distance a dark cloud hung over barren hills; it was so far away that even Legolas' sharp eyes could make out nothing more than a smudge against the sky.  "I received my wish, for I desired to see something other than Greenwood," he said flatly, drawing a glance from Glirhuin.

The two Elves had left Greenwood behind them well over three months ago, travelling across Middle-earth in search of nothing in particular.  It had been Prince Legolas' overbearing curiosity that drove him forth; his father, King Thranduil, had borne no opposition to the idea.  The world was a much kinder place than it had been 1100 years ago during the War of the Ring.  He thus granted his son permission to travel, and had allowed Legolas' good friend and companion, Glirhuin, to accompany him.

Alone together, they had traveled as far south as the border of Gondor, the greater realm of Men, and west towards the Sea, but not to it, for the legends of the Noldor from the Elder Days warned of the Sea-longing that all Elves who had seen the Sea were doomed to experience.  They were now traveling northwards again – and what they had found here was trouble.  Their elven senses trembled at the dark presence far before them; a vague fear had settled on their shoulders, and it seemed that the smudge at the edge of the sky was its source.

Unfortunately, it was now distinguishable that the dark clouds resided over –

"Carn Dûm," Legolas breathed, frowning slightly.  "The outer bounds of Angmar."

"Do you suppose Elrond knows of this?" suggested Glirhuin.

"I do not see how he cannot know," Legolas sighed.  "He is yet closer to it than we are.  The more appropriate question is whether has he yet done anything about it."

This time it was Glirhuin who had the answer.  "No," he admitted.  "Perhaps there is nothing he can do."  He cradled his chin in his hand, and Halbereth snorted skittishly; Glirhuin absently murmured a calming word, and his mount settled again.  When Legolas said nothing, he finally looked up.  "Is there anything that we can do?  If Elrond can do nothing – think on it, Elrond, the hero of the War –"

"Speak no evil of him!" Legolas spoke suddenly and sharply, and Glirhuin cut himself off.  Legolas repented none of his sharpness as he spoke again.  "Elrond has many things to attend to; he may not have noticed, or may be underestimating the threat.  Perhaps he is doing something and we, having been gone for so long, are simply unaware."  However, his voice wavered slightly on the last assertion.

"And I think, my friend, that you are grasping at straws," Glirhuin observed shrewdly.  Legolas shot him an annoyed look, but the grey-eyed Elf was undeterred, though he softened his words.  "Elrond would not have been fooled by any evil, and perhaps there is a reason for the silence from Imladris.  But we should not pray with false hopes."

Legolas obviously saw the wisdom of his friend's words, sighing a little and sagging on his mount, which snorted annoyance at the shifting weight and tossed her head.  He smiled a little.  "Right, as usual, Glirhuin."  He looked out across the land again, eying the black cloud.  "Let us go to Rivendell," he finally said, voice firm.  "We must do something, even if it is only to warn those Elves closest to the danger."

Glirhuin smiled again, affection in his face.  "You would make a good king, Legolas, for you know how to make decisions out of advice."  He wheeled his horse to face northwest.  "However, I will bet you my brooch that Gloindel cannot beat Halbereth to the river yonder!"  He squeezed with his legs and Halbereth took off like an arrow from the bow.

Legolas laughed, the worry fading from his face.  "Foul, Elf!  Gloindel will catch you yet!"  His golden mount carried him away, faster than the breeze.

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Author's Notes:  Er … it stands revised … a little.  I'm trying to get Tolkien's style into my work, at least in part.

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