“)…(” = Sindarin
“/…/” = Quenya
”§…§” = Black speech
The day was steadily wearing out, flowers already closing their sprouts, the leaves of the trees still seeking out for the last rays of the sun before the night would fall. All these things would have been quite unnoticeable for a lesser viewer, but for an Elf, they were such an everyday miracle, which brought light sadness to their hearts. But when the night would arrive, flowers of another kind would bloom, and the stars would appear to light the sky above.
Asthaldo, on the other hand, didn’t pay much attention to the flowers’ activities as he passed by them. Of course he knew what was going on around him, but right then his thoughts were far away. Silently he walked just behind his cousin, eyes distant. Suddenly, he collided with Thalión’s back when the other halted. Thalión turned to look at him quickly, frowning, and Asthaldo smiled sheepishly to him. Suddenly, he collided with Thalión’s back when the other halted.
Then Thalión turned to look back to his original direction, and only few seconds later Dínnor appeared.
“)It is getting late. Maybe we should head back(,” eldest of the cousins said quietly, eyeing Asthaldo suspiciously.
Asthaldo raised an eyebrow, wondering what kind of silent discussion his cousins held between them. He had never found out if that was the case, but as his cousins were several decades his senior… Maybe someday he would find out if his cousins shared some kind of telepathic connection, and maybe he also could learn to use such a thing… “)Please, do not let me to slow you down. I was merely in my thoughts(,” Asthaldo explained.
“)Such dark thoughts are not good for you, young one(,” Thalión replied, looking at Asthaldo pointedly.
“)I am not that young, dear cousin. After all, even you two are counted as youths among Edhil.(”
Dínnor and Thalión shared a look, and then burst into laughter. “)You are right, of course(,” Dínnor said. “)But you also know that is not what Thalión meant.(“
Asthaldo blinked, and then his face turned defiant. “)So when I brood in dark thoughts, it is suddenly very alarming. What of your dark thoughts? I know you have them, maybe even more that I.(” This statement was especially pointed to Dínnor, who hadn’t said anything for a while, only staring at Asthaldo. “)We passed by the Old Tree some time ago(,” Asthaldo challenged, determined to get his point through.
And it seemed to work.
Both Dínnor’s and Thalión’s eyes hardened instantly, tension growing in the air. Dínnor turned his head away from the others, staring at the distance, and Asthaldo wondered if he had looked like that just moments ago: expression distant, mind wandering on the paths of a past not so long gone.
They all remembered it like it had happened just yesterday. Long is the memory of the Elves, and long they all would bear this wound in their souls: a memory of those they had lost.
Only few years ago their families, who dwelled in the highlands of Taur-en-Faroth, south from Nargothrond, were brutally killed by a sudden attack of Orcs – a mock reminder that Morgoth still ruled in the north. A small colony of Elves living far from the safety of great city was swiftly destroyed, and then the Orcs headed to north, but were soon destroyed themselves before the forces of Nargothrond. Of course that was only a small consolation for the three young Elves who had lost their families and friends.
They had been away from home that night when the Orcs came, wandering in the close forests, but when they returned, the sight that greeted them bore itself deep into their minds and souls, and they swore vengeance for all the servants of the dark.
Now, years after, the memory of that day wasn’t any easier or less painful to bear, and dark thoughts lured themselves easily into their minds. And they all knew that well.
Finally Dínnor returned his gaze to his cousins, his dun eyes gleaming in the vanishing light. “)Old Tree… how our mothers loved that ancient thing, its old and thick branches, the smell of its bark…(” he trailed off, shaking his head to make the images of the past disappear.
“)Maybe we should be going back(,” Thalión suddenly spoke.
The two others turned their attention to the third, each nodding slowly. “)Aye, it is time. Come!(” Dínnor said, taking the lead again. It was sort of normal to him, being the oldest of the three, to look after others, and make the final decisions.
They walked long in silence, when suddenly Thalión stiffened, stopping in his tracks. His ears seemed to hear something, and he stayed like this for a long moment. The others waited patiently, knowing better than to hurry him to tell of his discovery.
Slowly, Thalión closed his eyes, drew a deep breathe and then opened his eyes again, his powder blue eyes unreadable.
“)What is it? What can you feel?(” Dínnor asked, while Asthaldo held his breathe, trying to find out what it was that troubled his cousin so, even if he knew that Thalión was the one of them who held greatest contact to the nature around them. Single stir of possible change in his surroundings would alarm Thalión immediately, but this seemed to be more than that…
Finally, they got their answer. “)Yrch.(”
There was a moment of silence, all of them getting used to an idea that there were creatures of the dark nearby.
“)How far, and how many? Can you tell?(” Dínnor asked after a moment.
“)Not many, I think, though the forest is greatly distressed. And they are not far from our path, either…(”
Asthaldo could already feel a familiar tingling sensation of excitement creep over him, his heart beating a little faster. They would fight, of course. After their previous discussion there was truly no other option. He slowly slid his hand over the blade hanging on his waist, like assuring it of that it would be shedding blood soon.
Dínnor nodded, and then with a small movement that would not have been noticed by many, he ordered Thalión to take the lead. Within seconds, the silver haired Elf has climbed into the trees, followed closely by his cousins.
They passed through the paths made by the limbs of the trees, leaving no sign of their passing, not making a sound, their senses alert. Even if they were all young in the Elven standards, they had soon learned how to hunt enemies after their families’ fate… They never had wanted to move into the safety of the Elven cities, but instead they had continued to live on the highlands like before. But lately the enemy had started to send his forces against the Elves more often, and they all knew that something was about to happen soon.
And as a proof of that, they suddenly heard voices from below, soon noticing a small group of Orcs. Five of those disgusting creatures were making their way slowly towards the north, stopping now and then to listen and sniff the air. Dínnor grimaced in hatred, and the others wholeheartedly agreed. Those five wouldn’t live long enough to take another step further their whatever destination.
In a blink of an eye three shadows dropped from the trees, and with a shocked, shrill cry, two of the Orcs were dead. Two others soon followed as Asthaldo approached them, his two short swords making sure job. The last one of the Orcs dashed into the forest, seemingly attempting to save its own skin, but an arrow from Thalión stopped it short.
Asthaldo sneered at the corpses, cleaning his blades of the foul blood. “)Well, that was it; fun as long as it lasted. But I think we should be on our way, for it seems that Manwë will bless this forest with rain that shall wash away the filth staining it.(” After saying this, Asthaldo looked at the blood-stained ground, shuddering in disgust and stepping back.
“)Dartho.(” A softly spoken command from Dínnor startled Asthaldo, who quickly stopped every motion of his body, waiting the other to continue. “)Scouts.(”
“)Man?(” Asthaldo asked, bewildered.
“)These were scouts. That is why the last one of them tried to escape. They were scouting ahead of some other group.(” Dínnor looked up to Thalión from where he was crouching on the ground beside the bodies. “)What does the forest say?(”
Thalión closed his eyes, frowning, and stood still for a moment, and then again opened his eyes, looking somewhat confused. “)The forest is still restless. Maybe it was the larger group I sensed before… they cannot be far behind these others. Of their number, I cannot say much.(”
Dínnor nodded at this information, and then rose, wiping his bloody hands on his tunic. “)Well, what say you, my fearless companions: shall we continue back home or resume the hunt?(”
Thalión stared at the forest, and one could have read that as a sign of uncertainty, but his cousins knew better. After a while Thalión turned his attention back to them and nodded.
With predatory smile, Dínnor glanced to Asthaldo and Thalión. “)Well, shall we go then? We are wasting time here.(”
The other two laughed at that, and then the three cousins moved back to the trees, letting Thalión to take the lead, preparing themselves for a coming battle. There never had really been a chance that they would have continued their way back home and leave the Orcs to wander freely into the forest. Dínnor had merely asked it out of courtesy, knowing the answer too well.
Minutes dragged by as they made their way steadily towards south, Thalión slightly ahead of the others, but not once did he stop to hesitate. Dínnor didn’t know if this was a good or a bad sign: maybe the group was so large that it was easy for his cousin to find them, or then the woods were even more troubled that usually, easily leading Thalión to the origin of the disturbance, though even Dínnor could feel the nervous shifting in the trees.
Finally Thalión slowed down, his movements even more careful, and the other two soon followed his lead. They had practised, hunted, tracked and fought for many years together, and even a slight change in one’s posture would alarm the others immediately. They shared a strong connection between each other, and even if that connection still was stronger between Dínnor and Thalión – because they had hunted together far longer than with Asthaldo – Asthaldo was well aware that his connection with his cousins was getting stronger with each passing moment.
Soon Thalión stopped entirely, inclining with his head that the enemy was near, and so they crept forward very slowly, knowing that if the Orcs would even suspect that there were Elves nearby, their element of surprise would be lost.
After a while the hunters heard rustling upon the ground, and they all froze to their places, waiting patiently.
These beasts are making even more noise than usually, Asthaldo thought, and then nearly fell from his branch as the enemy came into his sight. Or very many enemies, to be honest. Under them, Orc after Orc passed by, moving steadily towards north. Asthaldo tried to count them, while despair arose in him. There must be at least hundred of them, maybe more. How are we ever going to survive of this?!
It took a long while before all of the enemies had passed by them. After they were sure that the Orcs could not hear them, they crept closer together to hold debate.
“)I think we may have a small problem here(,” Dínnor started.
“)’Small’!? Have you gone insane? Did you see how many there was? Nearly a hundred at least.(”
“)One hundred and seven, to be correct(,” Thalión put in, fingering his bow somewhat nervously.
“)Oh, so no more than that?(” Asthaldo barked. “)Well that is quite nice and sufficient number, hi neldë o ammen!(”
Thalión couldn’t keep from smiling. “)Are you afraid, selen nîn?(”
Asthaldo returned the smile with dark glare “)Any rational being would be, knowing what is moving in your heads.(” Dínnor and Thalión exchanged glances, slowly grinning to each other. “)Your heads are empty(,” Asthaldo muttered.
After a while the other two also grew serious. “)There is a great number of them. Too much for the three of us, possibly(,” Dínnor said quietly.
“)We could run a warning to the north, where they are heading. Though this group couldn’t do much against the strength of Nargothrond, there are many Elves living around the city. For them, even this number of Orcs could be… fatal.(” Thalión practically swallowed the last word, his memories turning back to the day when they had found their own families killed.
“)Yet we could fight.(”
Both Dínnor and Thalión turned to look Asthaldo, then nodded grimly.
“)Yes, we could fight them. And yet we would be greatly outnumbered(,” Dínnor said.
“)But this is our home, our playground. Our rules. And they are only a pack of half-witted Orcs, after all(,” Asthaldo said heatedly.
Thalión smiled. “)So what do you suggest?(”
This time Asthaldo had no answer, but he didn’t have to give one. Dínnor made it for him. “)They are many, yes, and as soon as we would be able to shoot them with arrows, they would notice us and then climb up to the trees, and our game would be soon over. Also throwing ourselves into a close combat would be very unwise, if we would like to see the end of this.(” He looked thoughtful, his brows furrowing. “)But if we make them divide their forces to a fairer number, we could defeat them. But yet they are much more greater in number than we…(” Dínnor looked t the other two for approval.
Asthaldo laughed, his eyes gleaming. “)Thalión selen nîn, I think Dín has a plan.(”
Thalión only smiled knowingly.
We could have gone in to the north to warn our kinsmen. But that would have possibly led to a situation where we would have lost the enemies’ trail… and if one of us would have stayed to track them, he would have been in mortal danger. This is the best option we have. Of course even Thalión knew his thoughts were quite untruthful, but he didn’t let it bother him. It would have been beyond the skill of Orcs to hide the trail of such a great number – especially from the sharp eyes of the Elves. But yet, if one of the cousins had stayed tracking Orcs, he indeed would have been in great danger if the Orcs had become aware of him.
And beyond all that reasoning and planning burned one reason why the cousins didn’t go and warn their people: the desire for revenge. To avenge their families. So it didn’t take much time to rekindle that hatred inside of them and decide that they were going to handle the Orcs on their own. To the last one.
Thalión smiled ghostly, then lifted his bow, took aim and released the wooden shaft. There was barely time to hear how the arrow whistled through the air before it landed to its mark, burying itself deeply to the body of an Orc. The fell creature let out a cry, and then slowly crumbled to the ground. Smiling with satisfaction, Thalión took another arrow and delivered it with the same surety to another target. He knew they had not enough arrows to bring down all the beasts, but he was going to use his bow as much as possible. And so it seemed that the others had also decided similarly, because soon there were arrows flying from two other directions as well.
The Orcs, momentarily confused by this attack, dashed around, trying to find shelter, and most of them trying to find to their own clumsy bows some targets. But the Elves stayed well hidden, and so the Orcs’ arrows went far and wide.
A lucky shot from below jutted itself deeply to the tree where Asthaldo was kneeling among the branches, embedding itself only few inches away from the Elf’s shoulder. Asthaldo looked at the arrow, frowned, and then sought out Dínnor. It was highly a time to move on with their plan.
As if deciding that himself, Dínnor suddenly stood up in his tree, and dropped down to a lower branch, revealing himself to the Orcs, who greeted him with delighted howls. But before any of the Orcs’ arrows found their mark, the target was already moving. Dínnor dashed into the woods, soon followed by his cousins, making sure that it was quite easy for the Orcs to follow.
And follow they did.
With excited screams the Orcs ran after their opponents, their blinding hate towards the Elves driving any sane thoughts from their heads. The only thought they now possessed was that there where those cursed Elves just before them.
While he dashed through the path of limbs and branches, Dínnor once in a while turned to look how their pursuers fared. He could already hear a voice of a river before them, and with a quick smile he encouraged his cousins. Not far now, he thought. And then he saw the river, and halted, observing the banks with a critical eye. A moment later Asthaldo appeared beside him, and then Thalión was also there, crouching on a higher limb, his eyes running over the riverside. The sounds of the Orcs drew nearer, and all the Elves turned to look at their direction.
“)Well, this is it(,” Asthaldo said. “)The moment of truth.(”
“)Just keep each other on your sight all the time. We cannot afford to loose each other(,” Dínnor said, knowing that his cousins would do exactly so. They had fought so many times against this kind of a foe that they already understood what was necessary, but this time the number against them was quite overwhelming. They had to stay on their guard all the time, or the consequences would be… fatal.
“)A nai i Valar nauvar asëlye(,” Thalión finished, and with that, they dropped from the trees, immediately hearing the shouts behind them increase in volume.
Asthaldo grimaced, fighting down a sudden urge to shoot some more arrows to their pursuers. But he knew those arrows would be needed more later, and so he turned after his two companions, who already were making their way towards the river before them.
Hithsîr, Mistriver, was its’ name, a small river running on the highlands of Taur-en-Faroth. It wasn’t marked on the maps of old, but those who lived in the highlands knew it well. Rocky, swiftly running river that was quite deep at places, and full of little waterfalls. Because of the waterfalls the river was most of the time covered by floating mist, after which it was named. It’s banks where steep, rocky cliffs giving in for a long fall. Great trees hung over the river in many places where the banks were lower, their branches disappearing into the swirling mist.
Dínnor stopped his running when he reached the bank, looking back and waiting for the others to catch up with him. The Orcs were hot on their heels, near enough to see them. Dínnor could only grin, for their enemy seemed to be quite confident that they had trapped the Elves. The other cousins also noticed this, and they shared a swift glance, before turning to Dínnor.
“)On our left the rock starts to rise, and forms a small passage between two high cliffs. If we make the Orcs come that way, they cannot pass through that narrow path but only two or three at once. It will be rather easy for us to fight them(,” Dínnor explained his plan. The others nodded, their gazes rising to look at the direction where the narrow passage laid. It couldn’t be seen from where they stood now, for the path was twisting between rising cliffs, and the trees and bushes hid it from the view anyway.
“)Sounds good. But I wonder if our pursuers will be as stupid as we think. Maybe they shall not waste time hunting a prey they cannot reach(,” Asthaldo said.
“)Then we start again with some new tactic(,” Dínnor said simply. “)Now let’s be on our way, because we shall soon get a volley of arrows to our backs if we don’t move.(”
Thalión looked at the approaching enemy, and then started after his cousins who were already making their way towards the rise. “)I wonder how many such plans Dín will come up with before the enemy is destroyed(,” he murmured, casting one more glance to the enemies who were already trying to hit them with their arrows. Two arrows swirled past Thalión as he dodged, and the shouts increased. With a snort Thalión picked up his pace, more arrows flying to his direction. This is going to be fun, he thought grimly.
They had to slow down their pace soon, as the terrain got more difficult to travel. With their Elven abilities they would have been able to keep their previous pace, but they knew that the Orcs didn’t posses this skill.
Any worries that their pursuers were falling behind or getting tired to this hunt were swept away as more harsh shouts was heard behind them and more arrows were shot to their direction – though they missed their targets.
Soon the three cousins reached the narrowing passage, dashing through it. In his mind Dínnor congratulated himself for choosing this place to set their trap in. The passage was quite wide in the beginning, getting narrower by every twist and turn. If they were lucky, the Orcs in their heated pursue wouldn’t even notice that the path was actually getting more confined – before it was too late.
With a final twist, the Elves met the small passage, and after they had got to the other side where there was much more space, they turned and stopped, preparing for the attack.
Not too soon the first Orcs came into view. Slight tingling of metal was heard as Elven blades slid free from their scabbards. Seeing the Elves the Orcs halted, and after a moment they broke into a run, screaming with their foul tongue. When the first Orcs reached the narrow passage, more Orcs came into view from behind of the last twist, but the cousins had no time to concentrate on that as their blades met those of the first Orcs.
When the first Orc reached the Elves, it was in a blink of an eye pierced with three swords. Even before the dark creature fell to the ground, the cousins drew their swords free and circled a little away from each other to give the others room to work. Soon they were hard pressed by the Orcs, but they knew that if there were no narrow passage, there would have been tens of Orcs against them by now.
Asthaldo was used to fighting with two shorter swords, but in their limited space he had to use only one longer one. He cursed bitterly as one of the Orcs’ blades drove itself through his tunic, leaving a long gash into his arm in the process. The Orc on the other hand didn’t have much time to celebrate his victory, because Asthaldo’s angry blow sent it sprawl to the ground, and one thrust of the sword sent it away from the living world. Yanking his sword free, Asthaldo tested his arm for a moment before he again got new opponent. His arm felt somewhat numb, and he cursed again. Of course it had to be a poisoned blade! Just my luck… he thought heatedly, hurling one of his opponent’s head off. “)Thalión! I may need a little help here!(” he shouted for his cousin nearest to him. Thalión gave him a soft, quick nod before ending his two enemies.
With one glance to Dínnor’s direction Thalión made his way to Asthaldo, his blade swinging in the air with graceful, deadly arcs. “)What is it?(” he asked as soon as he reached Asthaldo.
“)A poisoned blade. I don’t know how bad it is, but my arm is slightly numb(,” Asthaldo said back, dodging from the path of an axe, then returning the favour with his sword.
Thalión nodded, his fair face serious. He well knew the poisons of the Orcs and their effects. Elves may be immortal, but poisons of the dark creatures were a threat even for the Firstborns. Throwing himself towards Orcs, he put down three creatures that were most unfortunate to be on the path of his sword as he spun around, then killed one of the enemies that had tried to sneak behind him, all the time watching Asthaldo in the corner of his eye.
It didn’t take long before Dínnor was beside them, realising that all wasn’t well.
“)Hantanyel an tulielya!(” Thalión shouted a greeting.
“)You’re welcome! What is wrong?(” Dínnor answered, decapitating an Orc on his right, then thrusting his sword in the one’s chest on his left.
“)Asthaldo got a wound from a poisoned blade(,” Thalión said, dancing for a while with Orc’s swinging blade, then dropped to the ground and ended the fell creature with a final blow.
“)It isn’t that bad, really(,” Asthaldo argued, trying to calm his breathing. “)I just thought it would be nice for you to know.(”
“)Of course. But I think that our time here is ending: the Angband rats are pressing us too hard at the moment. I would suggest a swift change of tactics.(”
“)Does that include running from the enemy?(” Asthaldo asked.
Dínnor grimaced. “)Perhaps momentarily. But we will have plenty of time to finish these stinking creatures later, I assure you.(”
“)That’s fine for me(,” Thalión exclaimed, fighting a pressing enemy away from him. “)I say we change the tactic now, before we are trapped.(”
Dínnor nodded, and then gave a signal for them both, and as a one mind, they drew back from the battle, pulling back for a moment, and when they reached a certain section of the cliffs, they abandoned the battle and climbed up the rocky wall with all their speed, trying to avoid the arrows flying into their direction. Once they reached the top of the cliff, they dashed into the trees, halting only then when they were sure that they were out of the enemies’ reach.
Asthaldo let himself fall heavily onto a giant limb of a tree, sucking in his breath.
“)Le tyava quel?(,” Thalión asked, gazing worriedly at Asthaldo.
“)Umai. Just regaining my breath, that’s all(,” Asthaldo replied after a moment, sitting up slowly. Thalión kneeled beside him, laying his bow to his side and started to examine the wound in Asthaldo’s arm. Dínnor stood few paces away, keeping watch and trying to follow the Orcs’ movements. At last he turned to look at his younger cousins, worried.
“)How is his arm? Can he fight?(”
“)He will live, rest assured: or at least it will be not be the cause of this arm that his end shall come – if it is to come(,” Thalión said, taking some herbs from his belt-pouch, putting them over the long gash in Asthaldo’s arm and dressed it with a piece of clean clothe. “)That must do for now(” he said to his younger cousin, who nodded.
Asthaldo tested his arm for a while and then nodded again. “)So, what is our course of action for now on?(” he ask at length.
Dínnor seemed to be deep in thought, and he startled, rising his head to look at the others. “)Well, we must keep separating the number of the enemy. That is our only hope to destroy them.(” The two others nodded gravely.
“)I really began to wonder if we will see the end of this…(” Thalión mused.
Dínnor stepped at his side, resting his hand on the younger one’s shoulder. “)Have faith in our skills, selen. We shall see the end of this. Estelio nîn. Le naa belegohtar.(”
“)Yet someday even the mightiest fall(,” Thalión argued softly.
“)Ai, so they will, but this is not the time of our end. Have faith, and you shall be victorious. Now I suggest we seek out our enemies before they decide to depart too far away from us(,” Dínnor replied, taking his bow and without waiting for answers – knowing that his cousins would follow – he took a path towards the way where he had last sensed the Orcs.
The hunt has only begun.
Asthaldo could have sworn he had never felt this tired and beaten before. His entire body ached as he sprinted along an invisible path on the forest floor, numerous cuts bleeding and making his own blood mix with that of his enemies. He knew that the Orcs could smell their blood – not only his but also his cousins’ too – and the smell of Elven blood always made Orcs loose the last bits of coherency they might possess.
And to the top off everything, it was raining. It seemed that Asthaldo has been right as he had predicted that there would be a rain. Right now it was hammering down from the sky, making everything slippery.
Asthaldo could hear Dínnor’s raspy breathing clearly, knowing his cousin must be in pain. One slip on a bloody and wet stone had earned Dínnor at least two cracked ribs from one of the Orcs, and the pain was reminding him of his lapse all the time. But now wasn’t the time to worry about wounds and discomfort: because right behind them was raging a group of at least thirty Orcs, who knew very well that the Elves they were pursuing were tiring up.
How many hours had been going on like this, Asthaldo couldn’t tell. He had also long ago lost count of the enemies he had killed, but he knew there were many more yet to be slain. But when the next fight comes, how many of us will return to the main group again, and try to brake them apart? I know Dín cannot keep this up for long, and Thalión is also in a need of some rest. And I myself… as much as destroying this enemy will give me delight, I could really use some rest now. But no rest shall we have before we have fought this enemy! Setting his jaw in determination, Asthaldo increased his pace a little, willing his body to forget its discomforts. Thalión glanced at him, then slowed his own pace, shooting one arrow to the group of Orcs. With a yell one of the evil creatures fell, being immediately trampled by his own companions. He had also long ago lost count of the enemies he had killed, but he knew there were many more yet to be slain.
Smiling with satisfaction, Thalión started to run again, knowing that soon their running would end, and they would face their enemies. Not a moment later, Dínnor stopped, drawing his sword, and turned around to face the approaching Orcs. They were far enough from the other Orcs that the main group would not appear to the place in the middle of the fight.
Asthaldo also drew his own shorter swords, seeing in the corner of his eye that Thalión was doing the same. They all stood on their marks, waiting coolly as the Orcs drew nearer, slowed down, and then started to approach the Elves with taunting shouts and clashing of blades. Few paces more, and the cousins attacked, bodily tackling down the first enemies they crashed on, their blades cutting a path around them.
“)Ndago! Do not give in! Only a few more!(” Dínnor’s bright voice carried over the sounds of the battle, his encouragement making his companions fight twice as hard, and their enemies growled in response, hating the Elven words, though not caring if they didn’t understand their meaning: they just wanted to bring down these Elves who had been attacking them all night.
But in the end the superior skills of the Elves brought them victory, and finally all the enemies that had been following them this time were hacked down, their bodies covering the forest floor of the small clearing.
Asthaldo moaned in disgust, a smell of blood filling his nostrils, and he staggered a little further away from the corpses, sliding down on the side of a tree, sighing contentedly. “)I’m so tired I could sleep for a week.(”
Dínnor snorted at that, then winced as the movement caused his cracked ribs to protest. “)There cannot be much more left(,” he muttered darkly. He also was ready to fall from his feet, but he knew they couldn’t rest yet. He glanced at Thalión, for the first time truly noticing how pale the other looked. “)Are you well, Thalión?(”
Turning to look at the older Elf, Thalión smiled ghostly. “)Just counting how many more we have to take(,” he said quietly. “)There is about thirty-five of the Orcs left. Maybe a little more. I haven’t really stayed in my counting…(”
“)Thirty-five or a little more? By the Valar, how are we ever going to make this…(” Asthaldo moaned pitifully.
“)It is not that much, Asthaldo, so stop whining. We can do this(,” Dínnor said, making Asthaldo shut his mouth immediately. “)There is no point to separate the remaining group anymore. After all, the Orcs are becoming suspicious, I think.(”
“)Already now? We have killed more than a half of them using the very same tactic all the time, and now they start to get suspicious?(” Asthaldo laughed. “)Not too smart those creatures. If I would be a Dark Lord, I would choose my captains a little better.(”
“)I think we killed most of the captains as we attacked for the first time(,” Thalión broke in, also smiling. “)So, what are we waiting for. Let’s go and send those creatures back to the abyss they belong in!(”
With a shout, Asthaldo and Dínnor answered, and after Asthaldo had got himself back to his feet, they headed out into the forest, preparing themselves for the final battle.
It didn’t take long from them to find the remaining Orcs. Those dark creatures were walking with more caution now, grumbling nervously, looking up to the trees now and again, trying to see any signs of the enemies. Thalión had been quite right, because the remaining group was thirty-four heads strong.
“)It seems you counted for our favour(,” Asthaldo whispered, trying not to attract attention to himself. But even if the Orcs were scanning the trees, they didn’t succeed in finding the Elves, who were hidden to the shadows of the leaves and branches.
“)So it seems(,” Thalión smiled, shifting a little as he turned to look at Dínnor.
“)Spread out a little, and use your last arrows. But do not miss your shots, because every fallen enemy is for our credit.(” The others nodded and Dínnor continued. “)When our arrows are spent, we descend to the ground. Watch yourselves, and may the Valar protect you.(”
They squeezed each other’s shoulders for the last time, and then headed out to find themselves a good shooting spot. When they found one, they remained unmoving, waiting for the others to do the same.
The Orcs on the ground sniffed, and the only remaining captain fingered his blade nervously. He had lost far too many men tonight – more than a half of their original number – and he knew that Master would not be pleased.
One of the Orcs halted, his body going stiff. “§Elves. I can smell them!§” The others responded to this immediately, raising their weapons and turning their heads from one side to another. But when the first arrow struck the one who had spotted the smell, none of them knew where it came from. And then a rain of the arrows began. Orcs dashed around trying to find the source of the attack.
“§In the trees, you maggots! Search the trees!§” the captain yelled, getting an arrow to his chest a moment later. But the harm was already done: the Orcs went to the trees, clumsily but effectively climbing into them, soon spotting the Elves.
Thalión cursed, aiming at the Orc in a tree next to his. Of course some of the stupid beasts had to be smart enough to realise that they were attacked from the trees. Even if he didn’t understand the black tongue of the Orcs – nor had he a desire to – he soon understood what the one, who seemingly had been one of the captains, had said.
Taking another arrow from his quiver – that was far more emptier than he liked – Thalión aimed at the next Orc, releasing the shaft, and without looking if it struck – which it did of course– he started to look for another enemy. And he found one very soon. Out of nowhere, a clawed hand closed around his ankle, pulling him off balance with fierce yank, making him fall from his branch.
Asthaldo shot one of the Orcs creeping near to his tree when he heard a loud thud, and as he turned his head, he gasped in shock. “Dínnor!” he shouted, looking with mounting horror as the Orcs approached Thalión from every direction. How can he be so foolish as to fall from a tree!? He hasn’t fallen from one at least during my lifetime, if ever. Reaching for his quiver he searched for an arrow – soon noticing that he had just fired the last one. “Dínnor!” he shouted again, at the same time leaping from his branch to another, trying to get closer to his fallen cousin. “)Thalión! Get up!(”
Dínnor, climbing from one branch to another, fighting off the Orcs, heard Asthaldo’s cry of warning, turning his head to his cousin’s direction. As he saw that Asthaldo was fine, he frowned, and then kicked one of the Orcs to the face, sending it down to the ground below. As another cry left Asthaldo, Dínnor tried to find the reason for his cousin’s fright. And then he saw it. Or to be correct, he didn’t see. He couldn’t see Thalión in his tree. When he glanced down, he soon understood why Asthaldo had been in his current state. “)Thalión…O Elbereth… Thalión!(” And then he, too, was running, forgetting everything else.
Thalión, on the other hand, had enough trouble to organise his thoughts to some understandable order. He could feel the danger getting closer to him, but he couldn’t bring his aching body to co-operate. He thought he heard someone calling his name, but at the moment he couldn’t even remember where he was or with whom.
Suddenly something gripped the back of his neck, and Thalión winced as the sharp claws dug into his skin. “What do we have here… did the little tree-rat fall from his tree, hmm?” an ugly, scarred Orcish face was brought before him, it’s accent making the words of Westron nearly incomprehensible.
Like a lightning, the reason struck back into Thalión’s disoriented mind, making him bolt away from the Orc. Luckily for the dark creature, its claws were dug just deep enough to keep its prisoner in place. It took much from Thalión not to cry out as his flesh was torn, his vain attempts to escape thwarted. How I am supposed to get out of this trouble, I wonder? He could already feel the other Orcs pressing closer, sniffing the scent of his blood greedily, excited shouts rising from them. ‘Watch yourselves’ indeed… Dínnor will be so displeased of this little lapse… I wonder if I’ll ever hear the end of his nagging. In the case I survive of this, first. He tried to pull free again, feeling the blood pour from his skin and flow down his back. How in the name of Yavanna I didn’t feel the one approach me?! I should have felt it, so many trees around me…It seems that I am far more exhausted than I imagined, and for that I will pay the price… Ignoring your own weaknesses is the most fatal mistake you can make, and I have just proven it! With that thought, he pulled backwards, snatching himself free with brutal force that only captive and desperate Elves possess. Stumbling backwards, he suddenly felt pain shoot up his right leg, and he fell back to the ground, a high-pitched shout rising from him. With pain filled eyes, Thalión raised his gaze to his enemies, rain pouring to his face, challenging them to go on. He knew that one of the bones in his leg was broken, knew he couldn’t fight like this for long, but willing himself to face his enemy for one last time. The Orcs brought their weapons closer to him, their eyes gleaming with strange light – a light that appeared only when an Elf was taken captive by them, their eternal hatred against the Firstborns – their forefathers – awaking in them, making them want to ruin the beauty of the Children of Iluvatar.
As if driven by scream of their kinsman, two demons suddenly threw themselves to the Orcs, their fury making the Orcs back away in fear. As soon as Dínnor reached Thalión, he drew his cousin to his arms, making sure that he was still alive.
“)Thalión, you king of fools! What were you thinking, jumping down like that?!(” Asthaldo shouted, his swords risen, fresh black blood dripping down them.
“)I was pulled down(,” Thalión gritted between his teeth, gratefully holding on to Dínnor, who also seemed reluctant to let go.
“)Well, it seems we have to continue alone from this point. Dínnor(,” Asthaldo called the other softly, “)Shall we?(”
Dínnor let Thalión fall back to the ground, smiling at him encouragingly, and then stood up, his eyes blazing with hatred and thirst for blood.
Then, suddenly, Asthaldo shouted: “/Auta i lómë! Utúlie’n auré!/” his fair voice ringing in the air as the first rays of the sun touched the sky.
The Orcs also noticed this, their eyes widening with horror, their voices rising in alarm. Even if the light of the sun didn’t really hurt Orcs, though the light hurt their eyes that were used for the darkness and shadows, and they hated the Sun above all else.
With a shout of victory, Dínnor and Asthaldo charged towards their enemies, fighting with all their might. Being trapped under the rays of the rising sun and the flashing blades of the Elves, the Orcs were soon destroyed to the very last one.
And as the sun finally rose, colouring the clouds in the east blood-red, the three cousins stood quiet, one leaning to another heavily, if he might have been falling immediately if the other let go of him, all of them stained with black blood and dust.
None of them had noticed when the rain had stopped, but that didn’t really matter.
Beyond all that, they felt peace. Tired, but victorious.
Smiling, they started towards the place they called ‘home’…
)Sindarin(: - Westron:
Edhil - This is how Sindar call all the Elves
Yrch - Orcs
Dartho - Wait
Man - What
Hi neldë o ammen - For three of us
Dín - Dínnor’s nickname (Dín means “silent” in Sindarin)
Selen nîn - My cousin
A nai i Valar nauvar asëlye - And may the Valar be with you
Hantanyel an tulielya - Thank you for coming
Le tyava quel? - Do you feel well?
Umai - Yes
Estelio nîn - Trust me
Le naa belegohtar - You are a mighty warrior
Ndago! - Battle! (Fight!)
/Quenya/: - Westron:
Auta i lómë! - The night is passing!
Utúlie’n auré! - The day has come!
§Black speech (Orcish)§: - Westron:
Ilid - Elf
There was a long silence in the weapon room after the story has been finished. Unconsciously or not, Thalión ran his finger along his leg, as if remembering the pain. “You are right,” he said at length, resting his gaze on Asthaldo. “I had never fallen from a tree before that day.” He laughed somewhat bitterly. “I can quite well believe what I looked like…”
“Think not of that,” Asthaldo said, smiling to himself, “because for a moment I thought you were dead!”
“Not as long as I did,” Dínnor muttered. He raised his gaze to meet the powder blue eyes. “Somehow I had already managed to assure myself of the fact that you were dead when I reached you. Luckily, I just fooled myself.”
“I think none of us were quite sane that day,” Thalión laughed, then looked at quiet Legolas, who sat beside him. “So what say you, Greenleaf? Now that you have learned the truth behind our glorious heroism, do you still think that we are worthy of the legendary reputation we are given?”
“You drag the reputation far behind,” Legolas said at last. “Whatever your decision was about logic, heroism and utmost bravery, or simple foolishness and pointless desire for revenge, you killed a great number of enemies, who could have done great harm in their whatever destination.”
“Why, those are words of wisdom,” exclaimed Asthaldo.
“But you do not win fights nor wars with mere words,” Legolas replied.
“Sometimes, those simple words can prevent wars, young one,” Dínnor said, smiling.
“Aye, but I think negotiating with the Orcs would be a total waste of time,” Legolas uttered.
All three others looked at him with astonishment, and then burst into laughter. “You are definitely right, as usual, your Highness, and I bow to your wisdom,” Dínnor said, making a bow, which Legolas returned with an elegance of a royal one.
“Such words are expected from me,” Legolas said gravely.
“And why is so, young one?” Asthaldo asked, though he knew the answer.
Legolas grimaced, shaking his head defiantly. “Because I am from the house of Oropher, that’s why.”
Thalión sighed, wrapping his hand around the youth’s slender shoulders. “Remember, you should use the years of your childhood wisely, not like we did. Though I think you have even less choices than we had,” he muttered finally.
Legolas glanced at him, smiling sadly. “My childhood is long gone. I am a novice now, soon a Warrior of the Woodland Realm. I am no child,” he whispered.
“Then at least take it better than we did,” Asthaldo chided, making the others look at him questioningly. “Because we had no real childhood after our families died,” Asthaldo explained, “we try to live it now, joking and behaving like children. Little late I would say.”
They all laughed, but now they had awoken a new question in Legolas’ mind. “Are your eccentrics caused by this ‘late childhood’, then?”
The three elder Elves couldn’t help but laugh at this question. “And how did we wish you wouldn’t notice,” Asthaldo said, a look far too innocent upon his face. “But you are too )golodh( for that, aren’t you?”
Legolas smiled, but didn’t say anything, so showing he wanted some answers. Dínnor sighed, shaking his head. “And what ‘eccentrics’ is your Highness thinking about?”
Unconsciously, Legolas started to play with his hair as he thought about that, and in response, Asthaldo reached for his, to mimic the Prince’s action. Dínnor watched that display for a moment, and when the youngest two of the company realised what they were doing, Dínnor gave the answer. “As for the style how we wear our hair, I think it came around the years when we travelled to the East, and met Haradrim for the first time.”
“Of course that is much later than the Battle of Hithsîr: after that battle, we hunted Orcs across the highlands, but some years after, we left Beleriand. We never fought in the War of Wrath,” Thalión said quietly, “but we had our own wars everywhere else. It wasn’t because of that first great battle we are now legends – even if we are named after it – but the fights we involved ourselves later – they are those with some meaning.”
“’Involved ourselves’. Ha, I have never heard it put that way!” Asthaldo laughed, and then turned his fallow eyes to Legolas. “When we met Haradrim, we finally realised what we really wanted. We wanted our own identity, our own style, though I’m the one of us nearest the usual Elven style,” he added, fingering his hair. “But now we of course are talking about the main change, which seems to be one of the most important for the Elves,” he mused. “We changed our hair-style quite soon after we came to Rhûn, didn’t we?”
“Yes,” Dínnor answered. “The way you braid your hair is always a sign for Elves, and Elves we are – that is something we will never change. But the braids… we thought it was all the same how we braided our hair, as long as it wasn’t mistaken for some other styles.”
“Because the braids tell your position in the social system, your family and age…” Thalión continued.
Legolas merely nodded. He, as a Prince and as a novice, of course knew this.
“So, what comes to our styles,” Asthaldo frowned, and then smiled, “I like of the normal Elven style, but I thought it would be exciting to find yourself a new way to identify yourself. So you are right, it is rather childish, isn’t it?” he laughed, eyes sparkling.
It was the truth that Asthaldo’s hair was maybe the closest one to normal Elven style. The only difference was that his front hair was shorter than the rest of his hair, unbound and reached just behind his pointed ears.
When you looked at Thalión and Dínnor, you could see great similarity in their styles. Dínnor’s thick, long golden hair was entirely braided to small braids, whereas Thalión’s silver one was only braided of it’s upper layer, some blue bands braided among the hair, making his hair look even more silver than it was.
Thalión smiled, and gently tugged one of Legolas’ own braids, smiling. “Well, that was about it. It is quite usual among the Men of the Eastern lands to braid their hair. But I guess that wasn’t the only thing you meant when you spoke of ‘eccentrics’.”
Legolas smiled, knowingly.
“As for why we speak Westron rather than Sindarin…” Thalión shrugged. “There is no answer. Maybe we spent so long among those people who did not know our language that we ourselves gave up of it.”
“And yet we tried to learn their languages,” Asthaldo laughed. “Though, I have never found it overly interesting nor desirable to learn Black Speech.”
“Aye, but the tongues of Men are quite interesting,” Dínnor said.
“What of Dwarvish, then?” Legolas asked with a smile.
Dínnor muttered something rather unpleasant about the sturdy folk living under every suitable peace of rock. “It is hard to learn a language no one wished you to learn,” he finally got out, and that was the end of that conversation, Legolas noted.
“And what of –” Legolas was about to start when the door opened, and a long Elf stepped inside, wearing the uniform of the royal family. He quickly nodded to the cousins, and then turned to Legolas.
“)Taren nîn, if you haven’t forgotten, you have one more patrol today.(”
“)Umai, Rafél(,” Legolas said somewhat sheepishly. He stood up and bowed for the three cousins. “I thank you of your time, my Lords. I see you later, hopefully.”
“Certainly, your Highness,” Dínnor answered, just and just holding his face from breaking into a smile as he saw Legolas’ bodyguard’s shake his head in denial as he witnessed the discussion spoken in Westron instead of Sindarin. With that, Legolas took his weapons and went out of the door, followed by his protector.
Pulling his lungs full of fresh air, Legolas walked silently towards the place where he knew Thrénandu would be waiting for them. Glancing at Rafél, he noticed a strange look on the others face. “)Is ought wrong?(” he asked.
“)Nay, my Lord.(” There was no further answer for a while, and so Legolas thought that the discussion was over. But it wasn’t. “)So, you had quite entertaining day, I assume?(”
“)Yes, very(,” Legolas answered, smiling to himself. “)I hope you also found a way to spend your time.(”
Rafél chuckled, putting his hand to Legolas shoulder just for a briefest of moment, and then let it settle back to the hilt of his sword. “)Of course.(”
“)I certainly hope you weren’t eavesdropping(,” Legolas replied. “)It is mostly disgracing way to spend time.(”
Just then they came to a clearing where Thrénandu already stood, waiting for them. And because Elves have extremely sensitive ears – and Thrénandu’s especially were trained to hear every crack and snap – Thrénandu had most evidently heard their discussion, because he now stood there, an eyebrow risen, his light blue eyes darting between them questionably.
“)Actually, I was stealing some cakes from the kitchen. I thought that we all might be hungry: Thrénandu of ordering novices around, you of spending time checking your weapons, and me… of stealing some cakes from highly guarded royal kitchen(,” Rafél smiled innocently.
The others two laughed at him, but thought that stealing cakes had been a good idea after all, because they were all hungry.
They started towards their patrol direction, and Legolas couldn’t help himself but asked: “)And of course such an idea didn’t even enter you’re mind, our mighty cake-stealer, that you could have only asked for those cakes?(”
“)And what fun would have there then been, Taren nîn? No fun at all…(“
Golodh - Wise
Taren nîn - My Prince