Title: Prince of Dol Guldur
Author: Del Rion (delrion.mail (at) gmail.com)
Fandom: The Lord of the Rings
Era: Third Age of the Sun
Genre: Action/Adventure, AU
Rating: M / FRM
Characters: Legolas, Thrandui (, OCs)
Summary: Mirkwood Elves live constantly under an influence of a shadow, and it isn’t too hard to cross the line to the side of darkness... Legolas learns this as he meets a stranger in the woods, who desires to show him a new way to see the world.
Part of the history of “The Last Journey”. Complete.
Warnings: Death, evil, darkness, violence, etc.
Shannai lay beside Legolas in the undergrowth, their sharp ears listening for the movements of the other novices. They had a battle-training going on, each small group trying to find the others without being spotted by any others before it – or by their trainers. It was a lesson that was supposed to hone their skills to move unnoticed and silently, but which also increased their skills to work as units.
“I still say that all the others are in the trees and will see us,” Shannai whispered as loudly as he dared, not sensing anyone around.
“The others stay higher in the trees, being afraid to be found by the observers on the ground. Therefor they cannot see us through the branches between,” Legolas answered, his eyes shining with concentration. For once he blessed the hard hours under Thalión’s and Rafél’s training. He was able to sense most of their fellow students around them, knowing exactly where they moved. Trees sang their song to him, eager to tell him what he desired to know. I wonder if Thrénandu is also using this way to find us. Most likely he will try to descry us in an old-fashioned way, but if ought goes wrong, this provides him an easy way to gather us quickly. But what did Thalión tell me to do when I wish to hide my presence… The blue eyes closed, his young mind reaching towards the nature around. He ignored Shannai’s nervous shifting for a moment, trying to control the trees so they would not give them away when they would begin to move. The trees seemed to reach for him, their sparkling laughter meeting his request. They joined into his game gladly, whispering to each other to be silent.
Legolas smiled, opening his eyes again. “All right, let’s go,” he said to Shannai, crawling forward. “We have a game to win.”
“But what about –” Shannai began, then fell silent in the middle of his sentence, sensing the difference in the song of the trees. “You spoke to the trees. You hid us through them, didn’t you?” Shannai asked, his eyes wide with excitement.
“The others may not sense us, but they can still hear us.” Legolas reminded his friend as they crawled into a small cave under an old tree’s roots, stopping there for a moment. “Wait!” Legolas suddenly hissed, stopping Shannai who was already moving forward.
A moment later Thrénandu stepped into their view, his eyes gazing at the forest steadily. Shannai held his breath, leaning closer to Legolas. The Prince kept still, his eyes following his tutor’s movements without a blink. After a while Thrénandu departed back up in the trees, seemingly deciding that it would be the easiest way to find his hiding youths.
Shannai sighed relieved, tilting his head to see if the older Elf was gone. “That was close. He nearly saw us, I bet,” he whispered.
“He couldn’t be sure if he sensed something, so there is one point for us,” Legolas smiled. “Now, let’s –” he froze, halting in mid-sentence, a violent shudder running through him. Cold seemed to surge though his body, the song of the trees alarming him of approaching danger.
“Legolas, are you all right?” Shannai asked, his eyes wide with concern.
“Orcs,” Legolas hissed, trying to suppress the shivers still running through him.
“Orcs?!” Shannai shouted, his head jolting up. Legolas hissed, clasping his hand over the other’s moth, keeping him silent. The warning in his eyes was enough to inform Shannai that they were no longer alone. Something heavy stamped on the top of the tree-roots, a sniffing sound reaching their ears. Shannai looked up, seeing a form of a giant Orc through the twining roots. His eyes got even bigger if possible, his breath stopping short.
Legolas also glanced up, more sensing than seeing the Orcs gathering around. He cursed silently, counting in his head how far the guardians were. When the novices practised outside the immediate distance from the sheltering caves, they always had elder warriors with them to watch over them if something went wrong. Like today. How the Orcs had slipped past the guarding Elves, Legolas couldn’t guess. Especially today when the Three Cousins and Rafél were among them.
Legolas shifted carefully, sliding his knife free from its belt. Shannai glanced at him, fear in his eyes. Legolas smiled to his older friend soothingly, indicating with his head which way out they should take. Shannai nodded, grabbing his own knife. They prepared, shifting closer to the opening on the other end of the cave.
Suddenly a roar echoed from above them, a wet, giant muzzle thrusting in from between the roots. It smelled around, yellow fangs flashing from between the great jaws.
“Warg!” Shannai cried out, pushing back involuntary. Legolas opened his mouth to rebuke, but it was too late. A small group of Orcs gathered around their hiding-place looked down, someone trying to push the eager Warg back.
“Run,” Legolas gasped, pushing Shannai forward. A crack of a tree sounded from above and a spear thrust through the roots. It hit the ground between the youths. Another spear was shot down, but Legolas didn’t stay long. His hands pushed Shannai forward so that the tree hid them. A rough voice cursed as the Orcs tried to spot the Elves from between the roots. “Out,” Legolas signalled, crawling forward to reach another opening.
Fresh air hit his face. Just as Legolas thought they had finally got out of trouble, a great howl rang through the air. Before them appeared a giant head. The Elf shot back, strong jaws trying to catch him as he retreated back to the cave. He crushed at Shannai’s body, the mouth of the Warg getting closer as the animal tried to dig itself in.
“Accursed creature…” Legolas swore, trying to push the drooling jaws back. He fixed his position, only briefly imaging what kind of sermon he would get from Rafél, and then he shot forward, the impact of his body sending the Warg backwards. The Elven knife flashed, warm blood spraying to the air. The Warg yelped, springing backwards, but Legolas’ hit had been perfect, and after few steps the animal collapsed to the ground.
Legolas didn’t stay to wonder, knowing it would not take long for the Orcs to recover. He turned back, seeing that Shannai had already emerged from their shelter. Together they sprang ahead, hearing the Orcs curse behind them. Dozens of feet trampled the ground as the Orcs dashed after their escaping prey.
“They are coming after us!” Shannai shouted, glancing quickly over his shoulder. “Let’s get into trees and find the others,” he gasped, jumping aside as an arrow shot by them, hitting a tree next to him. More arrows began to rain in their direction, and without waiting another moment, Shannai reached up, climbing to another tree, not daring to look back at their enemies.
Legolas nodded his affirmation to his friend’s words, his eyes gazing up to the trees, trying to spot the others. Surely the rest of their group had already noticed that they were under an attack? Another whistle carried through the air and Legolas dodged aside, an arrow passing him by an inch. Sensing another danger approaching, Legolas threw himself to the ground, letting a volley of arrows fly over him. The earth was steep where he fell, however, and with the speed his body was already in, Legolas rolled down a small slope. Crashing into a large bush of thorns.
Shannai looked back, noticing only then that Legolas was not behind him anymore. Nor was his friend anywhere in his sight. Frowning, he looked around, seeing the Orcs reach the place where he had taken off the ground. The Orcs were scattering: a few continued forward, more Orcs appearing and joining to them, some tried to see him through the branches, pointing their bows in his direction, and some where pulling to the side. Shannai followed the latter group with his eyes, seeing them halt on a brink of a slope nearby. A cold fear assaulted him, a wild scenario of what might have happened running through his head. “Legolas…” he whispered, jumping forward to another branch, his terror falling back in front of worry. But then a low sound reached his ears, and he turned back, hearing Thrénandu’s call. The novices were supposed to gather up.
Torn by the command of his superior and the loyalty to his friend, Shannai balanced on the branch, trying to decide what to do. Some of the Orcs were already going down the slope, disappearing from Shannai’s view. He cursed, then slid his small blade free again, creeping forward. He crept along a great limb of a tree, getting right above the slope. His eyes searched the ground below, and to his horror he indeed saw Legolas, struggling to get free from a great bush of nasty thorns. The Orcs stood nearby, taunting the Elf and waving their weapons in the air.
Legolas’ eyes stole up, finding Shannai easily among the branched. The Prince shook his head, indicating that Shannai should get help: there were too many villains nearby for the two of them to overtake. He struggled again, driving himself deeper into the spiky trap. Even if he couldn’t get loose, he could seek shelter from his momentary prison. The thorns might slow the Orcs a bit, and maybe it would be just enough for the warriors to get to them. Glancing up again, he did not see his friend. Good Shannai. Now hurry, because these foul beasts are getting impatient…
But Legolas’ assumption had been wrong, as he soon noticed. When the first Orc moved forward, bored in mere playing, a shape landed from the trees, knocking the Orc down. Before the enemy was on its feet again, a flash of a blade cut its throat. The attacker was back up in an instant, meeting the other Orcs defiantly. The Orcs stared at their opponent for a moment, and laughed then, spreading out to attack.
On his place in the middle of the buses, Legolas swore aloud in Elvish, cursing his bull-headed friend. “Just wait until I get out of here, Shannai. Or perhaps it is enough that Thrénandu shouts your ears out…” he muttered, trying to get free. There was no way Shannai was going to be able to fight off all those Orcs.
And he couldn’t.
One of the greatest Orcs approached Shannai, battling with him for a while. Shannai tried his best to keep his ground, dodging and moving aside, then flashing out and backing away again. The Orc cried out, annoyed, when Shannai’s knife got stuck to its thigh. Shannai yanked back, earning another growl from the Orc. A huge, armoured hand shot through the air, sending Shannai flying back like a small child. With an outraged growl the Orc pulled the knife off, flinging it aside as it would have burned him.
The Orcs gathered around Shannai’s unmoving body, eyeing it carefully. More than one blade rose up, ready to end the life before them. Legolas struggled, finally being able to draw one of his hands almost completely free. His fingers closed around the sticky handle of his knife, and with a desperate shout he sent it flying through the air. It embedded itself deeply to the back of the very same great Orc that had hit Shannai, making it stagger forward unsteadily. The Orc was dead after another heartbeat, collapsing almost on top of Shannai.
The rest of the Orcs turned back to Legolas, sneering at him. One of them shouted something with their own foul tongue, the others joining to it gladly, and the entire group directed their attention back to Legolas. The Prince swallowed, steadily trying to free himself from the thorns that had stuck into his clothes more than desperately. His other hand reached for a small knife strapped around his ankle, sliding it free. It was not much defence against a dozen of Orcs, but better than nothing. And Legolas was not about to lose.
When the first blades of the Orcs cut down the thorns, something changed in the air. The wind stopped, and then began to blow from entirely the opposite direction. The world turned dark, shadows appearing out of nowhere. Legolas looked around, hearing a strange whisper filling the air. “It is not the trees,” he whispered, a strange feeling assaulting himself. The Orcs halted, looking around distrustfully. The wind increased, the shadows almost visible as they trailed from behind Legolas, their long fingers reaching toward the Orcs, menacing whisper filling the air.
The Orcs cowered back, looking down at Legolas as if thinking the Elf was causing this. Their eyes got wide, a strange emotion flickering over their faces. Someone might have thought it to be fear, but Orcs were not supposed to feel such a thing. Then they ran, leaving both Legolas and Shannai alone. As soon as the Orcs departed, the wind eased down, the shadows disappearing. But as the darkness drew away, Legolas was certain he felt it caressing his cheek, as if saying a fond good-bye.
And then it was over.
It didn’t take long before Thrénandu appeared, his drawn sword black with fresh Orc-blood. He met Legolas kneeling beside unconscious Shannai, checking the other carefully. “Are you well?” he asked, looking around puzzled.
“Shannai hit his head, I guess,” Legolas said, his voice silent.
Thrénandu nodded, glancing down at the young Elves after he was certain there was no danger around. His eyes widened at sight of Legolas, his clothes torn and covered with blood. “Are you hurt?” he asked quickly, knowing that he would be worse than in trouble if Legolas had been damaged.
“It is not my blood,” Legolas answered. “Would you –” he pointed towards Shannai worriedly. “I do not know how to help him.”
Thrénandu nodded, turning to the other Elf. “Nothing’s broken. He just hit his head, like you guessed.”
“An Orc hit him pretty bad,” Legolas explained, glancing at the corpse next to them. Thrénandu also looked at the giant Orc, nodding slowly. “He saved my life,” Legolas added. “Though I told Shannai to seek you out.”
“He should have done that,” Thrénandu said somewhat bitterly. “You both should have.”
Legolas was just about to answer when a group of Elves reached them. A shocked gasp came from Rafél when he saw Legolas’ bloodied form, the guardian immediately stepping beside his Prince. “What happened?” Rafél asked almost harshly, his hands checking Legolas for injuries.
“I killed a Warg,” Legolas explained, pulling back from Rafél. “I am unharmed,” he assured the other Elf.
“What happened to Shannai?” came another familiar vice, Dínnor dropping next to the unconscious Elf.
“He got hit by an Orc,” Legolas explained swiftly. “But he was fighting them alone, so it was a desperate fight anyway.”
“And what were you doing while he fought? Looking for souvenirs?” a slightly humoured voice asked, Dínnor’s youngest cousin, Asthaldo, stepped beside Legolas, tucking a thorn off from his clothes. His fallow eyes gazed at the bushes with an interested look.
“I got stuck,” Legolas murmured unhappily.
Dínnor smiled, shaking his head. “Well, if we are done here, it is time for us to get the novices back home.” He got up from his place, retrieving Legolas’ knife from its place in the dead Orc’s neck. “There you go,” Dínnor smiled, giving the blade back to the Prince. “Watch where you are throwing these things: they are dangerous.”
“Tell it to that Orc,” Asthaldo laughed, making his way towards the trees where the rest of the novices were waiting.
“I suppose he already knows that,” Dínnor muttered, taking after his cousin. One of the other warriors picked Shannai up, and Thrénandu gave out an order that they would return to the caves. Legolas started after the others, but then halted again, looking at the direction where the shadows had come from. He frowned, eyes narrowing, but he saw nothing. But it didn’t mean he felt nothing.
“Legolas, are you coming?” Rafél asked from his place beside the Prince.
“Yes…” Legolas answered absently, but made no action to move. Rafél’s hand settled upon his shoulder, pushing him gently to the direction of the others. Slowly Legolas followed, walking deep in his thoughts. He knew there was something out there.
Up in the trees, steady eyes following the Prince and his guardian. Thalión watched with mounting worry as Legolas turned reluctantly to follow the others. He was able to feel it as well, a lingering feel of darkness that did not belong to Mirkwood. There was darkness in their forest, yes, but this was something else. Older. Stronger. Darker.
Sighing, Thalión set after the others, giving the darkening forest a one, final look.
to be continued…