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The Last Journey; Chapter 6: Destruction (2/2)

July 1st, 2006 (10:50 pm)
current location: my room
current mood: awake

Part one...

- - -

Gimli woke up at some time of the night. He had no idea what had woke him, and one glance around the room told him that his Elven friend hadn’t came back yet. With a shrug he turned to his other side, trying to fall asleep again. But then he heard something, and rose to sit up in his bed. Like distant drums, he thought himself. What are those silly Elves up to? Can’t they understand that some rational creatures sleep at this time of the night?! Or is it already a morning? No, it is still night, for Legolas hasn’t arrived yet to wake me. Grumbling to himself, he laid down again. For a moment everything was nice and quiet, but then it was there again.

Doom… Doom… Doom, boom, boom…

Lovely! Just what I need. I can already feel a headache coming, Gimli swore quietly at Dwarvish and sat up again. The sound of drums reminded him of something, but he couldn’t quite remember… Doom… After that one doom there was screams and shouts, and then Gimli remembered, shivering slightly.

Moria. Of all the places on and under Middle-earth, why does everything always remind me of that place? Gimli stood up, shaking himself all over and walking to the door, opening it and stepping out – in the process nearly getting run over by group of Elves. Heavily armed group of Elves in a bit of a hurry, Gimli added to himself as he pulled himself up from the floor where he had just stumbled in an attempt to avoid collision with the Elves. What is going on? He went to the door again, and this time he peered out slowly, watching out to the corridor distrustfully. He waited for a moment, straining his senses, and finally he heard the sounds again. Drums, shouts, sound of metal as it clang together with something else, more voices. Every warrior who has ever raised a blade knows what those sounds mean: a battle! But the sounds come from the inside, so how is that possible? Better go and see myself. Never trust the Elves to take care of the business. Although he might have thought that way, he was growing worried. One glance to the room and he knew that if there indeed was a battle raging in the halls of Woodland Realm, his Elven companion was weaponless. Of course Legolas always had a knife or two with him, but in the real battle they weren’t good enough.

Quickly as possible, aided by the years of experience, the Dwarf put on his armour and clothes, grabbing his axes from where he had laid them last evening. After he had found all the five and hung them down to their right places, he felt quite ready. Stepping towards the door, he suddenly noticed Legolas’ white knives upon the Elf’s bed. Swiftly Gimli strode to his friend’s bed, and took the knives, thinking that he could give them to the Elf when he would find him. He also thought seeking out his friend’s bow, but he had no time for that: he could already hear the shouts clearly, which meant their origins were coming closer. But before Gimli could leave he remembered yet one thing. He went to his gear and searched for a moment, and found at last what he was looking for: an Elven knife. A gift from Legolas some years ago. Though Gimli didn’t say it to his friend, he appreciated the gift greatly and kept it always with him, within an easy reach.

Now Gimli was ready and he didn’t waste more time. He ran out of the door and along the corridor to the direction of the Main Hall, where he knew his friend was supposed to be. Of course things might have changed after the battle began, but it was a good place to start. If there truly is a battle going on, Gimli thought, even if a theory of ‘no battle’ didn’t really convince him. And when he arrived to the first slightly bigger hall, he needed no more guessing about the matters.

To his terror there was Orcs all over the place. At any other time Gimli would have taken an opportunity like this to hack Orcs to pieces with immense delight, but in this situation he hoped the very opposite. There was Orcs everywhere, and the few Elves fighting them were in terrible inconvenience to defend themselves. Anger flared inside the Dwarf, and with a terrible war cry he crushed into the battle, his axe bringing death all around him. He let the instincts guide him, and soon the Orcs saw that it was better to stay far away from this new fighter.

Gimli slowed himself, inching closer to the few gathering Elves, glaring at the Orcs darkly. The foul creatures returned his gaze, their voices full of loath and malice as they shouted to the defenders with their foul tongue. Gimli let his racing heart calm a bit, and then took a swift look to his surroundings. There was dead Orcs laying practically everywhere where he turned his eyes, and to his sorrow there were also many Elven warriors who would never walk under the stars and trees again. At least not in this world. And when he saw the fallen Elves, his thoughts turned to Legolas. Quickly directing his thoughts elsewhere, he turned to the Elves next to him. “What is happening here? Where did these foul beasts come from?” The Elves seemed shocked, but not by his question. Maybe they are as ignorant of the situation as I am, Gimli thought sadly, but one of the Elves broke that illusion quickly.

“No one seems to know where they came from. Or their exact number, either. But they got inside the caves some time ago, and after that no one has been able to stop them. The battle is greater in the upper halls near the main entrance. We haven’t been there, and our information isn’t much,” the Elf said apologetically, and Gimli nodded, all the time keeping an eye upon the Orcs. The dark creatures where moving slowly around, shouting taunts to the Elves.

Gimli weighed his options carefully, and finally he turned to speak to the Elves: “Well, I must find Prince Legolas, and knowing him as I do, he is where the battle is hardest. So, I must leave you now. Will you –”

“We shall be just fine, Master Dwarf. Now go, and may the grace of the Valar protect you and give you speed,” one of the Elves said, smiling faintly. Gimli only nodded and then started to the direction of the Main Hall. He would probably never grow to know what exactly to expect from Elves, for they kept surprising him. On the other hand he hadn’t just yet realised how much the Elves of Eryn Lasgalen loved their youngest Prince. And by that love they slowly started to accept Gimli’s presence among themselves. But right now wasn’t the best time to ponder such things, so Gimli sped up his steps, all the time alert for enemies, and hoping he would come in time to find his Elf in one piece.

Being a Dwarf, Gimli had quickly learned the twists and turns of the caves Woodland Realm, and he knew precisely where he was heading. He would reach the Main Hall swiftly with this pace If no problem would emerge itself. But it seemed that tonight fate wasn’t perfectly at his side, for trouble did come; after a few turns, Gimli found himself in the middle of a group of Orcs.

No one knew who was taken more by surprise, but Gimli recovered first. Before the Orcs could ever raise their weapons, the Dwarf’s axe was already bringing death among them. But the rest of the Orcs had time enough to evaluate the situation, and soon Gimli found himself hard pressed by his enemies. This won’t do! By Durin’s Beard, I’m in a hurry, and these stinking creatures are standing on my way! But not for long, if it is up to me! Soon, my howling friends, you shall learn of the fury of a Dwarf and an Elf-friend! With that in his mind Gimli pushed himself towards his enemies, practically hacking his way through those standing on his path. “{Khazâd-aimênu!{” he shouted, his voice ringing in the walls.

Of the rest of the way to the Main Hall Gimli remembered very little: there was Orcs swarming all around him, and only seldom he countered Elves. When he reached the first of the bigger halls on his way, he stopped for a minute, giving his aching hands a moment to recover. He watched the battle before him, dread rising inside of him. He was now on the edge of the fight, still unnoticed, and he was able to observe the situation quite well. There was more fallen Elves in here, but here the battle was also more fervent. Orcs had lost many among themselves, but it didn’t seem to bother the attackers, who increased in number every moment: or that it seemed. Where one fell, two came to meet the defenders.

Gimli also started to understand that finding his friend would be a rather difficult task. There was too large area to search for one Dwarf. Gimli sighed as he felt the first wave of despair to take a hold of him. Legolas, where are you, my friend? And you had better be standing when I find you, because if you are not, you shall see that all the Orcs of Middle-earth are more pleasant to be faced than my treatment.

So Gimli readied himself, and tried to make a decision of where to head next. If I would be that pointy-eared creature, where would I go? Most likely to meet the enemy head-on, though it maybe wouldn’t be the wisest thing to do… But being Legolas means doing irrational things, and he is quite good at it... So, most likely the Elf is where there is highest amount of enemies, and that means near the main entrance, which is pretty close the Main Hall.

Having made his decision, the Dwarf pulled off from the wall where he had been leaning against it, and started to travel swiftly towards the first halls. He killed a few enemies when they tried to block his way, but kept his mind in the thought of finding his friend, and so he didn’t engage in the battle further.

When he was near the third hall from the main entrance, something changed in the battle. He was just about to reach the huge doorway to the third hall, when dozens of Elves came running towards him, trying to get away from the hall before him. Gimli soon found himself fighting to stay upright: the Elves that usually were very aware of their surroundings didn’t even seem to notice Gimli as they dashed by.

Suddenly an Elf crushed bodily to Gimli and they both fell to the ground. Gimli cursed something under his breath and struggled to get up when he noticed he was staring to the wide light green eyes of Shannai. “Gimli! Oh, by the eternal light of Elbereth, you are alive! We were so worried about you but none could to be sent to you –”

“Oh, quiet you!” Gimli practically shouted. “Where is Legolas? I must find him at once.”

Shannai was startled from Gimli’s outburst, but soon collected himself. “Come, we must go with the others. Someone ordered everyone to back off, though I’m not sure if the one giving the order was truly in order. But so many are dead, so I can’t really be sure who is in the lead right now and –”

Gimli tried to force himself not to strangle the Elf in that place. “Legolas. Where is he? I must go to him!”

“You can’t. And he’s coming at any moment. I lost him from my sight at some point of the retreat, but I’m quite certain that retreat wasn’t the first thing in his mind at the moment...”

Brilliant. All I need is a hysteric Elf who doesn’t make any sense. But at least he saw Legolas some time ago, so he must be close. “Where did you see him last time? Quickly now, we don’t have all day!” Gimli was going to loose his patience soon.

“In the second hall, but no-one is there now – only the dead…” Shannai fell oddly silent, paling even more, shuddering slightly. For a moment Gimli thought he should get the Elf to safety, but then his concern for Legolas won. He started to move around Shannai, but the other grabbed his hand in instant. “We can’t go there! Everyone else is retreating! Come, we must get out of here, this place is becoming a death trap: Orcs are swarming in from every entrance they can find –”

“I must find Legolas first,” Gimli said softly, prying the Elf to let go of him.

“You can’t go there!” Shannai nearly screamed. “You shall be killed!”

“But if my Elf is there, and I must go to him. Now get yourself on the move and out of here. I will be following you in no time – with Legolas.”

“You are mad. You cannot go there!” Shannai cried in vain as Gimli started to work his way past the Elves who were still trying to get away from the hall.

“)Nai a Vala nauvar aselyë,(” Shannai whispered silently, watching Gimli disappear to the mass of Elves and Orcs.


Shannai blinked, looking around dazed. He was sure someone had just called his name.

“Shannai! Don’t just sit there! Get up, you fool!” said someone, grabbing Shannai forcefully from the shoulders, yanking him up. Only then Shannai realised who it was.

“Thalión! I just saw Gimli!” Shannai exclaimed, trying to stop the other Elf’s attempts to move him to the same direction with the running Elves.

“Come there is no time – You saw whom?!”

“Gimli. I saw him. He was looking for Legolas,” Shannai explained hurriedly. “He went to find Legolas.” He looked desperately at the direction where Gimli had disappeared.

“He went to find Legolas…” Thalión echoed, his eyes widening with horror as he realised where the Dwarf had gone.

Shannai nodded. “I tried to stop him, but he didn’t listen…”

“Has Legolas already come from the third hall?” Shannai shook his head. Thalión cursed. “Get out of here. I will find the Dwarf – and Legolas,” he added as an afterthought. “Get out!” he shouted to Shannai, as he dashed to the direction of the third hall.

Shannai stood there, rooted, for a long while, uncertain what to do. But finally he turned and ran to the same direction with the other Elves, knowing he couldn’t help his friends anymore.

When Gimli finally reached the third hall, there were very little on-comers any more. And not too soon he understood why. He should have understood it earlier, he thought later: Elves didn’t just run away from the enemy, it wasn’t their way to fight. The Elves he had seen running had been afraid of something, and Gimli should have had noticed that. But he hadn’t, because the only thing in his mind had been how he would reach Legolas. It proved to bee a fatal mistake, as he later noticed.

The second hall beyond the hall where Gimli now stood was in flames, and as he watched, the flames spread steadily across the third as well. On the floor laid dead Elves and Orcs. There were also few Trolls and other creatures of darkness, but they were primarily Orcs and Goblins. Sadness swept through Gimli, for he recognised many of the dead Elves who now lay on the cold stone, slowly burning to ashes. But the sadness didn’t last long. Because as soon as Gimli walked towards the next high doorway, his heart nearly stopped. Right then Shannai’s warnings made sense to him. In the other end of the hall stood a demon that Gimli wasn’t yet ready to face, and he wondered if he would ever be. A Balrog. Could this go any worse? Gimli thought in growing desperation.

There wasn’t many Orcs here, but they really weren’t needed. One Balrog was quite enough. Few remaining Elves were running in the demons’ feet, trying to stay alive a moment longer, but one by one the Flame and the Shadow brought them down. Gimli wanted to collapse, to disappear, but then he saw what he had sought for so long: Legolas. The Elf was among those few who still desperately tried to fight the demon of the dark, without success. One after another the Elves fell, like a dry grass before the cutter. Why won’t they run, like the others? Legolas, run, you fool of an Elf! This enemy is not yours to overcome! But then the truth dawned to the Dwarf: if the Elves would run, the Balrog would merely follow and kill them while their attempt to escape– they had no other choice but to fight.

One more Elf was brought down, and Gimli felt himself shudder. It could have been Legolas. I must do something, before they all fall! At the same time as his mind tried to form some kind of a plan, his friend kneeled beside his fallen kinsman. For a moment Gimli hoped that his friend would just stay still and maybe escape the monster’s attention, but he knew it would not happen: Legolas never took it lightly when anyone of his kin was killed. And even if the killer was something far beyond the Elf’s grasp… “Legolas!” With a desperate cry Gimli tried to draw his friends attention to himself, hoping to prevent him from doing anything rash.

And it did indeed work, for Legolas raised his head and noticed the Dwarf in the other end of the hall. Gimli could nearly feel his friend’s relief as their eyes met. So I wasn’t the only one worrying, after all, Gimli smiled inwardly. But that smile soon faded. He had to get them out of here. “/Túle!/” Gimli shouted, the High-elven tongue sounding rough and misplaced upon his tongue, but he didn’t care. It was enough to drive Legolas into action. The flames engulfed the last one of the other Elves, and Legolas swiftly turned towards his friend, racing through the hall with all his speed, trying to avoid the flames playing around him. But it was not enough.

The evil whip of the Balrog rose to the air and came down with a loud crack, hitting to its target. Legolas screamed, falling to the ground, only distantly hearing Gimli shout his name as the agonising pain drove over him. It was as though his back was on fire, and the pain only grew as time passed until it was all he felt. After some time – Legolas couldn’t tell if it was only seconds or minutes – he blacked out while still whimpering in pain.

In the meanwhile, Gimli could only watch as his best and dearest friend fell before the demon of the ancient world. When he heard Legolas’ scream of pain, his vision turned red. Legolas had never screamed while their friendship had lasted, and Gimli was about to make sure he wouldn’t have to hear that sound again. Shouting his friend’s name he raced forward, trying to reach Legolas in time. The Balrog had stopped for a moment, seeking for its next prey. That gave Gimli the precious seconds he needed to reach his friend.

The Dwarf knelt beside his fallen companion, touching him gently, trying to coax the Elf into reaction. The only answer was those quiet whimpers that came from his friend even as he was unconscious, and Legolas’ entire body thrashed in undeniable pain. Gimli swallowed slowly, trying to observe the situation. Legolas had countless bruises and wounds all over his body, but the worst was his back: the cruel whip had burned his skin even through the fabric of his tunic, and the skin had burned black and bloody welts ran over his entire backside. Gimli gave the Balrog a dark look, but knew that there was no way he could avenge his friend’s fate. Their only hope was now to get out of the caves, to the other Elves.

But if I move, the Balrog will notice me, and then I can say goodbye to this world. But there must be a way… there must be…

As an answer to his prayers, a shout reached his ears. “Gimli, run! Take him out of here!”

Thalión… Gimli looked at the older Elf, who stood in the middle of the doorway of the hall. Without waiting for Gimli’s response, Thalión rose the bow in his hand – a weapon that he had found during the battle – took aim, and sent an arrow flying towards the Balrog. Every living, thinking and sane creature upon earth would have known that shooting arrows at a Balrog wouldn’t be successful, but harming the creature wasn’t what Thalión was trying. After a few shots, he had the dark demon’s undivided attention, and after he was sure that the monster was enraged enough, Thalión dashed away, the Balrog after him.

Gimli sat there, watching, as Thalión led the demon away from them, awe filling him. But then a ragged moan from Legolas rose him from his thoughts. You will not die for nothing, Thalión my friend. I shall take Legolas to safety, and so your death shall be a one with meaning. Slowly he gathered the Sinda Prince to his arms, feeling a pang of guilt run through him as Legolas moaned again in agony. But he had to get Legolas away from the enemy’s reach.

Gimli waited as long as he dared, making sure that no enemies were around and then he moved to find one of the smaller corridors that would lead out of the caves. Slowly he walked, listening intently, hoping that he would not run into Orcs, because Legolas was in no condition to be tossed around, and he himself wasn’t able to fight with his much taller friend in his arms.

The sounds of distress coming from Legolas were enough to drive Gimli mad with fear, worry and wrath, and he didn’t know which emotion to soothe first. “Hold on, Las. It will be over soon. Just hold on a little longer, my brave Elven warrior.”

After a while that felt like an eternity, they came out to the fresh night air, or at least fresh when it was compared to the smoky air of the caverns. But Gimli soon noticed that things weren’t well even up here. Many trees were on fire, and the signs of Orcs’ passing were evident. But Gimli would be fully content if the Orcs would stay away for now, because he had no intention to fight them right then.

Gimli laid Legolas gently to the cool grass beside a broken fountain, trying to position the Elf as comfortable as possible. That was quite impossible task at the moment, but he did his best. Legolas moaned brokenly, whispering something and then he fell silent again, pained tremors still running through his abused body.

Gimli ripped a piece of fabric from his tunic and dipped it to the cool water of the fountain, bringing it to the Elf’s face and wiping of the blood and dirt that marred the fair features. Legolas groaned quietly and without a warning the blue eyes opened. Gimli nearly fell back in surprise, but collected himself swiftly.

“Gimli?” the Elf’s voice was full of uncertainty and pain, and one arm reached towards the Dwarf as if trying if he was really there. Gimli took Legolas’ hand in his owns, feeling the shudders of the others body.

“It is I. Rest for a while, you got a pretty bad hit down there.” To put it mildly, Gimli added to himself. “As soon as you feel better we should go and try to find the others. I think there weren’t too many of your people who wanted to stay down there…”

“Gimli, I’m not sure if I… can go on…” There were tears in Legolas’ eyes, his pain showing clearly. “It’s too much. I can’t…”

“Hush now, dearest heart. Rest. I shall take care of you,” Gimli said, trying to soothe the thrashing Elf. The last thing he wanted to see was Legolas crying, but here he was, with severely hurt Elf beside him, no idea where he was, and enemies possibly right behind the corner. What was he supposed to do?

Suddenly there came a sound near to them from the forest. For a moment Gimli thought that the other Elves had found them, and he stood up to greet them. But the ones who emerged themselves from the forest weren’t Elves – at least not any more. Gimli found himself eye to eye with big Orcs, and at least a part of them were Uruk-hai. Just my luck, Gimli swore in his mind, raising his axe in instant.

The enemies watched them silently, their noses sniffing the air. Gimli stood between them and Legolas, trying somehow to block the fallen Elf from view. “Alright, you stinking rats! Show me what you’ve got! Come on!” he challenged, swinging his axe, and got a response immediately.

The enemies attacked with great speed, and for the first time during this night Gimli was truly worried of his success against these monsters. He was already tired, and then there was Legolas who had to be protected. Keep going. One at the time, and it will be just fine. I can’t fall now. For Legolas’ sake… But only thoughts were not enough to win these creatures. Even if Gimli was able to bring few of them down, they were too many.

More Orcs came from the forest, and Gimli knew he was done. As soon as the thought left his mind, a club hit his head and he fell to the ground, groaning gruffly.


The alarmed shout from the Elf made Gimli look up to his friend. Legolas still lay on the ground, eyes dark with pain and tears on his cheeks. It was clear that the Elf was struggling to get up, but the pain got better of him.

That sight in his mind Gimli rose, once again starting the desperate fight he was not going to win: the Uruks would make sure of that. Being more skilled fighters that the other Orcs, the Uruk-hai attacked Gimli from all sides, bringing the Dwarf down without mercy. Gimli fought with all his might, embedding his axe with such a force to one of his enemies that it seemed to stick there. In desperation, Gimli searched for another weapon: but he had already spent all his axes in this battle, and they lay scattered around in dead enemies. The Orcs yelled encouraged, getting closer to him. Then suddenly Gimli remembered his Elven knife, and drew it from its sheath, making the Orcs back away hissing.

But one small knife was a minor weapon against Uruk-hai.

With final blow from one great Uruk, Gimli fell to the ground, world spinning around him. The last thing he saw was Legolas shouting his name with utter despair, fighting his captors while he was dragged away, and then all around Gimli went black.

- - -

Tirifëa emerged from a small cave entrance, breathing the night air deep into his lungs as his warriors spread out around him. With Aduifan right behind him, he walked a little further away from the entrance, staring at the darkness. A moment later Lossaurion walked to his side, and they exchanged a small smile.

“)Ernil nîn…(” came a hesitating voice from behind them.

Both Princes turned around, finding Rafél standing there. “)What is it? Have you some news?(” Tirifëa asked.

“)We are quite safe here as far as our scouts can tell, but it would be safer to move little further into the forest,(” Rafél said. Tirifëa nodded. “)We are not sure yet how many have got out of the caves, but one great group is moving towards Misty Mountains. Some who met this group said that they are trying to reach Imladris, and then… the Grey Havens.(”

Lossaurion sighed, and Tirifëa turned to look to the west. “)Very well. Who is leading them?(”

Rafél laughed somewhat bitterly. “)No-one who would know the way properly. But I can easily understand why they have made a decision to leave…(”

“)Then we should sent someone to show them a way,(” Mîrfanya put in, concern written all over his face. “)The are most likely all wounded and tired, and have very little food with them.(”

Tirifëa nodded. Then he looked at Rafél again. “)You know the way over the mountains. Take dozen of well-faring warriors you can find, and some food and bandages, and go after that group. Lead them to Imladris.(”

“)But my Lord –(” Rafél argued, but was given no chance.

“)Please Rafél. I have faith in you,(” Tirifëa begged him, but his tone told Rafél that the Prince had made his decision.

With a stiff bow, Rafél saluted, and left the four Elves, gathering the group and supplies.

“)Gather all the Elves we can find, and make them move deeper into the forest,(” Tirifëa commanded, and the Elves around put the message forward. “)We can do nothing more here,(” Tirifëa whispered, and then turned towards the dark line of trees, knowing the others would follow.

- - -

Shannai sat high in a tree, staring at the darkness. For a long time, he didn’t feel even a spark of joy inside himself. It was unnatural to him. But he understood well why he felt like he did. So many were dead. So much was gone. And what was about to come… He sighed silently, gazing up to the stars. Even their light seemed cold and distant tonight.

Shannai felt someone approach him, and he turned to meet Asthaldo as the other climbed to join him. Soon after him followed Thrénandu, who look extremely weary. Shannai gave the two a quick smile, nodding his head in acknowledgement. They all knew that now was not the time for compliments. “)How are the thing going down there?(” Shannai asked at length.

“ )They could go better, but I think I should be happy for what I’ve got done(,” Thrénandu said quietly.

The fight had ended few hours ago, and after that there had been little to do. Only a few Elves had come to join those who were already gathered together, their news bringing even less hope for others.

“Some have crossed Anduin and are trying to pass over the Misty Mountains to reach Imladris and the Grey Havens,” Asthaldo informed them. Thrénandu gave Asthaldo strange look, because of his decision of the spoken language. He had never understood the Cousins’ need to speak Westron. Shannai also glanced at the Sinda, but understood better than Thrénandu. Shannai himself spoke Westron much, and especially with Legolas…

“Any news of Legolas and Gimli?”

Asthaldo shook his head. “No. I have heard that Legolas’ brothers have gathered a great number of Elves together a little north from here. But Legolas is not with them, of that I am sure. There were also some prisoners taken–”

“ )And they are most likely already dead. As are all in the caverns and outside them. Our loss has been great(,” Thrénandu added, refusing to use Westron by habit, or because of the moment.

“So there is no news of the King?” Shannai asked, guessing what the answer would be.

Thrénandu shook his head. “ )No.(”

Shannai sighed again. “)We should send for help. Right now we are too weak to defend ourselves if the Orcs return.(”

“)I’m sure Yrch are not our greatest trouble(,” Asthaldo said quietly. They all shuddered at the memory of the Balrog. “What do you suggest,” Asthaldo said, lapsing again to Westron.

“We could ask aid from the Men of Rohan. The Dwarves in the north and the Men of Esgaroth may have troubles on their own of these attackers, so maybe we should ask for help from a little further. I’m sure that King Éomer will help us.”

“So you have thought of this, then?” Thrénandu asked, giving up for the other two in the language contest.

Shannai merely smiled ironically. “I’ve had naught to do for the last few hours. I think it is our best chance.”

Asthaldo nodded. “I may go, and take few others with me. If that was all, I go to find others to accompany me.” Without another word he left, disappearing from view.

Shannai looked after him puzzled. Then he remembered, and all hope in his mind died again. “So Thalión hasn’t been found yet?”

Thrénandu only nodded. He spoke only after a while. “It’s easier for Asthaldo like this. Finding Thalión dead is not what he wishes to do right now. So going to Rohan is better that seeking vengeance or mulling in sadness.”

“But he could also stay here, waiting for Dínnor to return…”

“And then face his eldest cousin and tell him that he lost Thalión in the battle?”

Shannai didn’t answer to this. It will be such a shock for Dínnor… “You gave up rather easily to my plan. Was it only to occupy Asthaldo, then?”

“Maybe you are finally starting to behave like an adult, and with that comes an ability to form working plans. And I am sure that the Prince’s would agree with your plan – and will when they hear of it.” Smiling to the much younger Elf, Thrénandu also left Shannai to see how Asthaldo fared.

Well, I guess you know best, Thrénandu, because you have trained all the Princes of Mirkwood, after all. At times like this, they look upon you for advice, Shannai thought.

Shannai, alone again, let his gaze slowly turn towards the direction of the caverns. His heart ached for the thought of Thalión’s death. Of course nothing was certain, but they all knew that if Thalión would be alive, he would have already made his way here. And then there was Legolas and Gimli. Shannai felt his heart sink even more. He should have gone with Gimli, but his fears had got better of him. And he should have gone with Thalión, but again, he had found no courage. He could only admire those friends’ courage and bond. Gimli had been ready to face death to find his friend. Thalión… was pretty much the same, even if his loyalty to Legolas ran on an entirely another stage than Gimli’s. Shannai hoped that one day he could be able to do the same, to possess that same courage for the sake of others.

Slowly in the east the sun rose to the sky, but with it came no hope.

- - -

“Hurry, you scumbags! The Bright Face is rising, and we have a good way to travel!” one of the Orcs shouted, swinging his blade before him. “Check if he has anything valuable, and then dump him into a river! We have no need to carry him around further.” The Orc walked to the still figure on the ground and poked him with his weapon.

Gimli grunted, but didn’t wake.

One of the Orcs hurried to the unconscious Dwarf, probably hoping to find some diamonds or something else from his pockets. With a screech, it pulled its hand back. “Ugh! It has Elvish weapons. Just dump it to the river, and let’s be rid of it!” the Orc spat onto Gimli, continuing to curse with its own foul language.

One of the other Orcs came forward, checking the Dwarf roughly. “Arg, what’s this? A shining jewel!” it shouted as it spotted something glittering around Dwarf’s neck. It pulled out the necklace, and fingered it greedily, but shouted suddenly in pain as the green stone of the necklace flashed angrily at the dark creatures touch. The Orc dropped the jewel, holding its hand as if it would have been burnt. “Cursed Elven jewels! Dump it away! We have to keep going.”

The others shouted in agreement, and then two bigger Orcs took Gimli and heaved him unceremoniously into the river, which was already filled with all kind of branches and debris.

Laughing, the Orcs turned away as the first rays of the sun found their way through the leaves. And then all was silent.

- - -

Rafél stopped in his tracks and stepped aside from the narrow path that led up to the Misty Mountains, letting the other pass him. His gaze wondered back to Eryn Lasgalen, where smoke rose up to the sky to meet the new day.

Once again Rafél cursed in his mind, wondering if he would dare to do so aloud. But it was his duty to obey the command of the Crown Prince when the King wasn’t present. Even if he didn’t like of the given order…

He didn’t know when he had lost Legolas from his sight. Possibly during the attack of the Balrog, when at last the retreat was called. Rafél cursed himself yet again. It was his responsibility, at times like this, to look after and take care of Legolas. Even if he wasn’t his bodyguard anymore, he was so in his own heart. Maybe Legolas trusted I was coming. He shook his head, in despair. He knew his Prince was somewhere there, but not being able to see him and check that he was well… the feeling was soon coming unbearable. Maybe this is why Tirifëa sent me away. But it seems that he was wrong: being away from the Realm makes me worry over Legolas even more.

He looked up, towards the rising sun. Let it be so that Legolas and Gimli are with Thrénandu’s group, or somewhere else safe. Otherwise… I will never be able to live with myself.

“)My Lord?(” a voice asked behind Rafél, making him turn his attention away from his protégé. Behind him stood one of the Elves he was leading over the Mountains, looking uncertain, blooded and weary. Like all of us, Rafél thought ironically.

“)I’m coming,(” Rafél said at length. The other gave him a small smile, no doubt knowing of his inner desires to be somewhere entirely else.

With one more glance towards the forest, Rafél turned back west, climbing up to reach the others. He had a long way before him to go.

to be continued…

)Sindarin(: - Westron:
Las - Leaf (Legolas’ nickname)
Ada - Dad (Adar = Father)
Le Haran - Your Highness
Le maien dele - You look worried
Lasto - Listen
Pedo - Speak
Yrch - Orcs
Ernil nîn - My Prince
Dae a ruin - Shadow and flame
Nai a Vala nauvar aselyë - May the Valar be with you

/Quenya/: - Westron:
Túle - Come

{Khuzdul{: - Westron:
Khazâd-aimênu! - The Dwarves are upon you!

Story Info / Part one...