Friendship Amidst Loss by KimicThranduilion
Summary: When Legolas and his troop become targets for slave traders tragedy strikes and the Prince suffers a devastating loss after a series of savage attacks. Longstanding rivals put feuds to bed, old friendships stand strong and new ones are forged but can friends reconciled, old and new help Legolas in the aftermath?

Disclaimer: I own nothing besides my OCs.
Categories: Fiction Characters: Elladan, Elrohir, Elrond, Legolas, OFC, OMC, Orc, Thranduil
Content: Angst, Hurt/Comfort
Challenges: None
Series: Tales of Friendship
Chapters: 17 Completed: No Word count: 48813 Read: 6880 Published: December 27, 2015 Updated: June 05, 2016

1. Chapter 1 by KimicThranduilion

2. Chapter 2 by KimicThranduilion

3. Chapter 3 by KimicThranduilion

4. Chapter 4 by KimicThranduilion

5. Chapter 5 by KimicThranduilion

6. Chapter 6 by KimicThranduilion

7. Chapter 7 by KimicThranduilion

8. Chapter 8 by KimicThranduilion

9. Chapter 9 by KimicThranduilion

10. Chapter 10 by KimicThranduilion

11. Chapter 11 by KimicThranduilion

12. Chapter 12 by KimicThranduilion

13. Chapter 13 by KimicThranduilion

14. Chapter 14 by KimicThranduilion

15. Chapter 15 by KimicThranduilion

16. Chapter 16 by KimicThranduilion

17. Chapter 17 by KimicThranduilion

Chapter 1 by KimicThranduilion
Celegil whistled short, quick and sharp as she mimicked the call of a crow. Legolas gave a small smile of relief and whistled his answer in return also mimicking the sound of the crow – for the calls of these birds would not arouse suspicions of anything unfriendly hiding in the woods – as crows were long known to be spies of the Dark One.

Satisfied now Legolas turned to face those of his warriors who remained with him, "Celegil has given us the go ahead, the path is clear – let us move out."

It did not take long for the troop to mount their horses and make for the small path out of the clearing for they were anxious to be on the move and leave this place behind. Legolas could hardly blame them – they had been on Mirkwood's most demanding patrols for just over two months and it had certainly felt longer.

The Southern Patrol was like no other patrol embarked upon by the warriors of Mirkwood. It was hard, harsh and demanding and as such each troop only did it for two months at a time compared to the standard three months for all other patrols in the Kingdom. The warriors of Mirkwood were tough and faced deadly peril on nearly all their patrols but not nearly as much as they did when on the Southern Patrol.

Orcs, wargs and the spawn of Ungoliant were especially numerous in this part of the woods and the elves faced daily battle and skirmishes with these fell creatures doing their utmost to keep them from taking over anymore of the lands than they already had. The Southern patrols were usually based in an area called the Narrows of the Forest – a grim and gloomy part of the woods where the trees were asleep and deaf to the calls of the elves. It was as far as they could get to the dread dungeons of Dol Guldur without placing themselves in mortal danger. Nonetheless despite this area being relatively safe no elf was ever sad to leave and Legolas and his drnaith were no exception.

Legolas watched with satisfaction and no small amount of relief as the last of his elves left the clearing that had been home for the past two months – though no one would think that to look at it now. For the troop had been careful to leave no trace that they had been here at all. They would meet the next troop to take up the Southern Patrol the next day somewhere along the road on the way back to Thranduil's stronghold. This was unusual as usually one troop arrived before the other left but their replacements had been delayed by first a skirmish with a cluster of spiders and then by a freak lightning storm which had set fire to a few trees around one of the outer elvish villages and the troop had stopped to help the inhabitants put out the fires and repair the damage.

Therefore Legolas and his troop had stayed in place for an extra two weeks and were by now itching to leave. In the end Legolas himself had made the call for them to leave before the other group of warriors showed up. He had seen the despair on the faces of his maethyr when the message came via carrier hawk with news of the other troop's further delays. He had said they would give them another two days and if they were still not here then they would leave and meet and de-brief the other troop on the road. Legolas was tired and he knew his warriors were too.

For that was another thing that came with doing the Southern Patrol – the bone aching weariness and slowly crushing despair. Enchantments of the Dark One and his minions hung heavy in the air in this area and it slowly worked its poison into the minds of the elves on patrol here – it was another reason patrols here were relatively short – elves could easily slip and give into the mind numbing despair when faced with the foul, darkly enchanted air for too long a period of time.

Legolas glanced round him once more and satisfied he leapt up and perched himself upon the back of Morchant.

"Come boy we leave this place now. Let us catch up to the others." Legolas gave his horse a fond pat on his midnight black rump and Morchant started after the others at a trot.

Legolas gave into a sigh and gave a small smile – finally they were on the way home. He touched his left shoulder briefly before dropping his hand to his side. He had another reason for leaving early besides his troops happiness but he was not about to discuss it with anyone. He closed his eyes and allowed himself to enjoy the gentle swaying rhythm of being upon horse back. Legolas trusted Morchant and knew he could rest his eyes as his animal was smart – he did not need Legolas' guidance – he knew the way home and was as keen to get there as his master.

"Sleeping already my prince? Will you not wait for your soft warm bed back at the palace?"

Legolas merely grunted too tired to rise to his friends bait. He kept his eyes closed and upturned his face in a vain attempt to feel the early morning sun upon it. He had no luck of course for they were still in a far too gloomy part of the Kingdom, where the canopy grew so densely the sun hardly ever penetrated, or any other element for that matter – even the rain simply trickled down the bark of the trees to form small pools at their feet. Legolas suppressed a shiver at the thought and kept his eyes closed determined to have a moment's peace.

Faervel was not so easily put off by his friends supposed indifference though and he continued chattering to Legolas about this, that and nothing at all as they made their way to where Celegil and Thoron had scouted ahead and now awaited the rest of the troop.

After another jibe at his friends expense fell on deaf ears Faervel took a closer look at his friend. Legolas looked pale – well paler than was his wont – and tired. Faint dark circles could be seen under his eyes. He had lost weight (which was not uncommon for warriors on the Southern Patrol) but the thing that had Faervel most worried was the way Legolas was sitting upon Morchant.

Legolas had fine and proper posture as a rule due to Thranduil's strict training, however now Legolas sat slightly slouched and leaned towards the left, crouching in on himself ever so slightly. Faervel frowned, he knew Legolas was not as hale as he was making out but his friend was stubborn and could be as unmovable as a mountain range when he wanted to be. Legolas had insisted that he was fine to make the long trip back home and there had been no convincing him otherwise.

Faervel continued to study his friend and Legolas continued to ignore the scrutiny – yes he was a bit tired but so was everyone else. Faervel could be such a mother hen. Could he not just leave him in peace? Legolas knew that his friend knew there was more to it than mere fatigue but he would not give in. Legolas kept his eyes closed and willed himself to think of pleasant things in order to distract himself from Faervel's heavy gaze.

He had been imagining eating the heavenly blueberry pie Thanniel always made him upon his returns whilst in the tub (something Thranduil strongly disapproved of but Legolas found relaxing) when Morchant suddenly slipped on a slick of mud. The horse quickly regained his balance and righted his steps but it was enough to unbalance Legolas whose eyes flew open and his right hand shot out in a vain attempt to grab at Morchant's neck, mane or anything at all. He missed and found himself on the cold ground with a thud landing on his left shoulder. Damn why that shoulder?

Morchant reared up sharply at the lack of master on his back and turned round to look at Legolas who was currently wishing the ground would open up and swallow him whole. For it was not just the curious eyes of his horse upon him but that of all his maethyr. Ai Elbereth why? Legolas sprung up quickly but not quickly enough to stop half his warriors leaping off their own mounts and rushing over to him concern clear upon their faces.

"Captain are you ok?"

"Hest Legolas manen le?"

"Legolas are you well – what is wrong?" This last from Faervel who was now rather annoyingly close and attempting to check him over.

Legolas brushed him off and waved away the concerns of his warriors, "Avaro naeth im maer."

His warriors reluctantly mounted again with one or two still throwing him concerned looks. Legolas waited until they had started moving again before he whispered for Morchant to kneel so he could mount. He was annoyed he had to do this but the fall had hurt him more than he wanted to admit. Of course Faervel was there strong hands steadying him as he perched himself back upon Morchant. His horse whickered softly checking his master was ok before moving off again.

Faervel drew up alongside Legolas on his own horse, "Legolas please tell me are you hurt?"

Legolas breathed out slowly trying to ignore the throbbing in his left shoulder. He longed to cradle it to his chest to keep it from being jostled but he refrained – Faervel would nag him to death if he knew how much his shoulder hurt. He also needed to be strong for his maethyr – he wanted to show no further weakness in front of them.

"Las please" Faervel drew his horse to a stop forcing Legolas to either stop as well or ignore him and carry on.

Legolas gave in with a sigh – he could not ignore Faervel when he was like this.

"What is it Faervel?"

"Tell me the truth if you will tell no one else. Your shoulder pains you still does it not? It was not as healed as you made out and this fall has just made it worse hasn't it?"

Legolas looked at his friend but despite his accusatory tone Legolas could see only worry in his eyes. He sighed again, "It was still a bit tender yes but we could not stay there any longer. Now come we are falling too far behind."

With that Legolas gave Morchant a light tap and the horse cantered off down the gloomy path eager to catch up to the others. Faervel followed with a frown still firmly in place upon his fair face.

~o~

The troop carried on, meeting with Celegil and Thoron who had gone ahead and scouted out the path that would lead to a clearing where they would camp for the night. They continued chattering softly amongst themselves, more than a few still throwing their Captain worried looks. Legolas rode on oblivious, eyes closed again but his right hand had a firm grip upon Morchant whilst he and Faervel brought up the rear. They were all so pre-occupied either with worried thoughts of their Captain or thoughts of getting to their camp site before dark, and with their senses still slightly dulled by the foul enchanted air none noticed the unfriendly eyes watching them from the brush.

~o~

Elias held his breath and waited until the last elf passed him by. He waited a few more minutes once they were out of sight before he gingerly left his hiding place amongst the bushes. He hadn't meant to get as close as he did to the elves but their path had taken them very close to his hiding place, very close indeed.

Elias half felt as if he ought to give a quick prayer of thanks to the Valar for spearing him from the wrath of those pointy eared freaks – 'twas a shame he didn't believe the Valar existed. Nonetheless he was still quite surprised none of the elves had noticed him. They had unnaturally sharp senses and when he had seen them coming so near to his hiding spot he had made his peace with the world in anticipation of his death.

The elves here were feral – or so tales were told – and Elias was certain they would cut his neck when they laid hands upon him. Yet they had passed by without giving the merest sign that they knew he was there. His near brush with the elves really was a blessing – for he now knew exactly where they were headed thanks to their whisperings about the camp they were to set up for the night. Elias grinned in glee, all was going to plan and he could not wait to give the good news to the Captain. Maybe that would mellow out the sour old so and so.

Deciding he was safe Elias begun to make his way back to give his report to his Captain being careful to disturb the forest as little as possible – it would not do to be careless now. The last thing he wanted was for those elves to hear him stumbling through the woods and chase after him. Elias picked his way near silently through the forest feeling very glad for once he had been taken in and raised a Ranger of the North.

TBC.
End Notes:
Dirnaith – Military (Troop/Guard)

Maethyr – (plural) warriors

Hest – Captain

Manen le? – How are you

Avaro naeth Im maer – Don't worry I'm fine/well

Morchant – Legolas' horse- Sindarin name meaning Shadow
Chapter 2 by KimicThranduilion
Author's Notes:
We see a little more of our baddies and Legolas is still feeling a bit rough.
Legolas was struggling. The dull throb in his arm had settled down to a constant burn that hurt worse when he moved his arm. He hung back taking up the rear position with Faervel leaving Aithel his second in command to take the lead. At least that was how he hoped it looked – truthfully Legolas was scared his troop would notice the slouched way he was sitting in an attempt to protect his left arm without cradling it to him. He was known for his perfect, princely posture after all. Just one hour more and they should be near the spot Celegil and Thoron had picked out for them to spend the night. Legolas closed his eyes again – he could hardly wait.

~o~

Faervel watched as his friend's eyes slid shut again. Damn Legolas and his accursed stubbornness – Faervel knew his Prince was unwell – for as fast as elves healed even they had trouble with the poison of Ungoliant's spawn and Faervel knew that this was what still bothered his friend.

For a mere four days ago Legolas had been bitten by a spider. The troop had just finished their last round for the night and were about to head back to their camp when the creatures had attacked seemingly from all sides. The battle was sudden, fierce and brutal – the spiders had been determined to have elf for their dinner that night. However they had not bargained for a troop more than ready to lash out and take out their frustrations at still being on the Southern Patrol upon them.

The spiders had been decimated but not before the leader of the cluster, a particularly hairy and ugly beast, had stung Legolas square in his left shoulder. Legolas had continued to fight the bite not even registering as his body was full of adrenalin. It was Faervel who had first noticed that anything was wrong – after Legolas kept stumbling around as they tried to dispose of the spider bodies in an efficient and quiet manner – Legolas was anything but quiet as he tripped over this and bumped into that.

Faervel being the troop's chief healer had immediately pulled him to the side before looking into his eyes. Legolas' pupils were blown wide – a common side effect of the spider poison – and Faervel had then proceeded to check him over finally finding the bite on his left shoulder.

Legolas had then been a fever ridden, shaking and shivering mess for the next two days as his body fought against the poison within it. They had had to gag him so that he would not cry out in his delirium and bring down the Dark Ones creatures upon them. The entire episode had taken its toll on a troop stretched by being in the foul area of the Southern part of the Kingdom for too long. That was why two days after being bitten when Legolas had seemed in his right mind and to be doing lots better the troop were over joyed. They were especially happy when he had said that they were to leave the very next day and meet their replacements on the road.

Faervel had been unconvinced and had tried to argue with Legolas to stay put until the other troop came to relieve them. He did not think that Legolas was recovered enough to make the long trip home. Yet his friend and Captain had remained firm arguing with him privately that staying and being around the darkness and breathing in the foul air that came with the Southern Patrol would do nothing to help him heal fully. Faervel could not argue with that – and beside Legolas was his Captain – his word was law.

And so here they were now with Legolas clearly struggling to stay upright and awake on his horse leaving the lead to Aithel. Faervel fought the urge to shake his head. It wasn't that Aithel was incapable of taking the lead from her Captain when the need arose – oh no for she was more than able – it was just that Legolas still needed at least another two days' rest in Faervel's professional opinion. He was not ready for this trip as yet.

Faervel looked up sensing another's gaze upon him and saw that Aithel was giving him an inquiring look – a look that asked how their Captain fared. Faervel glanced over at Legolas taking his pale and now sweat sheened appearance. He turned to face Aithel again giving a curt shake of his head. No their Captain was not faring well at all.

~o~

Elias came to the clearing where the village of woodsmen was. Despite his considerable skill at moving near soundlessly through the forest he still felt thankful that he had put considerable distance between himself and those elves.

Suppressing a shiver at the mere thought of the elves Elias squared his shoulders and strolled into the village. It was getting towards sunset now and there were just a few village women shuffling about their business before darkness fell. A few looked up at him but quickly turned their backs or cast their eyes downwards not looking at him for any amount of time. They all moved in a fearful manner – hunched over, eyes cast down, jumping at the slightest sounds. Elias grinned – he felt powerful as he strode through the village making his way to what was once the chieftain's house. He enjoyed their fear and was glad that he had played a part in turning these once proud woods people into people near afraid of their own shadow.

Two weeks ago Elias' Captain, Elias himself and a group of travelling bandits had snuck into this village – one of only two villages of men King Thranduil permitted in his realm - and seized power. Brutally. They had slaughtered any woodsman who had tried to take a stand and had threatened their women with rape and murder forcing the remaining men to bend to their will. They had chain ganged the men and forced them to chop wood and haul water daily under heavy guard. The women they forced to cook, clean and take care of them – some were forced into bed.

Elias shrugged mentally – that wasn't personally to his taste he was merely in this for the money but some of the other men he travelled with were base. He simply put up with them as he was well paid by their Captain – very well paid indeed. His skills in scouting, spying and moving about as if a ghost were highly prized by his Captain and for this Elias was glad. His Captain, Aldred, was an unstable man prone to sudden fits of pique and fury – particularly if he did not get his way or if he felt someone had stepped out of line. Elias was spared from being punished for most of his sins by Aldred purely because the man valued his skills so much. Skills he had spent nearly all of his life learning.

Elias forcefully pushed memories of his past life away as he rapped out a quick coded knock on the wooden door before him – he would not think of those times.

The door cracked open an inch suspicious eyes peering at him before the door was swung open fully.

"Ah Elias the Captain has been waiting for you."

Elias nodded at the other man – Blacwin – a man who constantly looked world weary, bored and generally dissatisfied with life. Elias did not particularly like him – though he had far more decency than most of the other scum in this troop.

"I'll go in to him now Blacwin – all goes well and tonight may be the night."

Blacwin just continued to look at him with the same perpetually bored expression and Elias fought the urge to slap the man – he would definitely be punished for that sin – for Blacwin was Aldred's second in command.

Calming himself Elias continued further into the house – a very nice one it was to be sure – and made his way to where Aldred had set up his headquarters. Knocking he awaited permission to enter – which was given in a typically irritated tone.

Elias pushed open the door which glided smoothly and entered the room. Aldred was sitting behind a huge mahogany desk listening to what sounded like the end of a report from one of the head guards of the forced chain gang of woodsmen.

"They are just getting harder to control Captain, today was a very close call. They are a strong and willful people. And vengeful – they shall not give into us altogether so easily – I fear they bide their time. What if they are in with the elves? We should be doomed then Captain."

"Silence man," thundered Aldred who was near purple in the face with rage, "You are afraid of these simpletons? These knuckle dragging woods people who actually choose to live in this forsaken forest with the accursed elves? Grab a hold of yourself and your wits lest I put an end to you all together."

"Sorry Captain," the guard hung his head low, "but they were very willful today and -"

"Hold your tongue," Aldred was roaring now and Elias tried his best to blend in with the rich tapestry adorning the wall to his back.

"Hold your tongue or I shall cut it out. I will hear no more of this incident nor your pathetic sniveling." Aldred turned to look at two thin lanky men sitting sprawled across the plush sofas at the back of the room.

"Samer, Saveric go and teach our chained slaves how to behave." Aldred sat back down having jumped to his feet in his earlier rage. "Here use these."

The two addressed men sprung to their feet at once, each taking a wicked looking whip from the outstretched hand of their Captain. The tall duo gave quick bows and turned to leave wicked grins upon their faces when they were stopped by the perpetually irritated voice of Aldred.

"You man" he pointed to the fearful looking guard, "follow them and learn how to properly bend others to your will for if I hear of another similar incident you shall be joining the woodsmen in their chains."

Aldred gave a quick dismissive wave of his hand, "Now leave the three of you."

The guard hastened to the door after Samer and Saveric who once again had evil grins plastered on their faces no doubt at the thought of the pain they were about to inflict. Elias forced himself not to shudder – those two were nasty pieces of work.

He had no longer to think upon the wicked brothers for Aldred's commanding voice snapped him out of his thoughts.

"Elias. Give me your report and this one had better be good."

Elias smiled at his Captain and moved to take a seat in front of his desk. He was sure Aldred would be pleased with his news.

~o~

Legolas was trying really, really hard to get a hold of himself – he could feel himself constantly drifting off into sleep – and mild delirium if he was honest with himself - and forced his eyes to open. He needed to take charge of this situation once again and let his eledhrim know that he was in still control. He could not show any further weakness now.

Willing away his headache and ignoring the throb of his shoulder he spoke up forcing his voice to remain steady and strong, "Celegil, Thoron we will be upon our campsite for the night soon will we not?"

"Yes Captain," Thoron's strong voice floated back to him.

"Good, you will go ahead now and ensure all is as you left it and naught is amiss. We shall break here and await your signal."

"Yes Hest," their answer was as synchronized as their leaps off horse back and into the trees.

Legolas addressed the rest of his warriors, "All of you into the trees and horses into the brush – let us not be sitting ducks for anything unfriendly."

His troop with dismounted with ease and speed leaping into the trees, whisperingly asking their horses to head into the shrubs and bushes off the path to hide.

Legolas guided Morchant under a low hanging bough before he hauled himself up into the tree with rather more effort than he would have liked. His horse looked up as though checking his master was safely in the tree before whipping his tail and shaking his head he headed off into the brush to conceal himself. Legolas smiled – his horse had so much attitude.

Legolas looked up and decided he was still far too low down in the tree to be hidden. With a barely held back sigh he proceeded to drag himself higher up the tree one handedly. There was no point in hiding his injured shoulder from his troop now – they had all seen him fall upon it after all. However despite the hindrance of only one properly working arm Legolas managed to guide himself to a decent height in the tree – he was a wood elf after all and especially beloved by the trees of his Adar's Kingdom – the tree he had chosen felt honoured and it would not let him fall. In fact it shuffled its branches around to better conceal him.

Satisfied with his position Legolas leaned back against the tree and listened to its excited chatter letting it soothe him. They would wait until given the all clear and despite his pleasant current company he would be glad when they would be on their way to the campsite where he would finally be able to rest properly.

~o~

"Blacwin."

Blacwin turned his bored gaze toward the door from where the irritated shout of his name had come and slowly moved towards it.

"Yes Captain?"

"Come in man, do you think I call you for naught?"

Blacwin held back a long-suffering sigh and opened the door before giving a slight bow of his head.

"Yes Captain?"

"Get in here fully and close the door already," Aldred snapped.

Having done as he was told Blacwin stepped closer before taking up the second seat in front of Aldred's desk. Elias still occupied the other.

Aldred looked at him before smiling indulgently at Elias – or at least he tried to – it came off more like a toothy grimace.

"Young Elias here has wonderful news – the elves shall be in prime position tonight. We shall have our pick of the bunch and Elias has a few targets in mind." Aldred did his disturbing version of a smile again, "Gather the men – but leave enough to guard this cursed race of people. We leave in half an hour."

Aldred rubbed his hands together in glee, "Yes, tonight is the night we put our plan into motion and we shall soon enough be rich indeed."

TBC.
End Notes:
Eledhrim – Elves

Hest – Captain

Adar – Father
Chapter 3 by KimicThranduilion
Author's Notes:
Our elves setle into their camp for the night - unaware they're being targeted.
Aldred yanked hard on his reins in a poor attempt to calm his horse. He was getting annoyed with waiting for his rag tag group to get themselves together and his horse was no better as it tossed its head and snorted impatiently. They needed to get a move on if they were to be in position by morning – and it was early evening now – just after sunset.

Where they were going was not very far away but they would need to move as silently and as stealthily as they possibly could so as not to bring the elves they sought down upon them. There were other fell creatures too that roamed these woods at night and they would do well to stay unseen and unheard. Aldred turned to look at his men whom Blacwin was currently placing into some sort of an order and giving last minute instructions. He sighed – tonight would be a long one. They would have to go slow and careful and in all honesty Aldred was unsure if some of the men could do it.

Elias came up to him just then interrupting his disparaging thoughts of some of his men.

"Elias you will lead the way – and boy I hope for all our sake's you've picked a route that even some of these half-wits will be able to traverse without awaking the entire forest."

"I've done my best Captain. I cleared the route as best I could without making it an obvious path. The trick will be to go slow, steady and silent."

"Indeed," grunted Aldred giving his reins a yank again.

Blacwin approached just then and gave a curt nod of his head, "We're ready to leave now Captain."

Aldred nodded and turned to face his assembled men.

"We must be in position by first light. Then we shall attack. I expect you to give it your all and give the elves no quarter."

He paused and scanned the faces in front of him, "If we give them even an inch we shall all be dead. We are here to make money not to die. Elias please outline our targets for the men. These are the elves I do not want unnecessarily harmed only subdued – I hope that is clear." Aldred glowered at his men who all nodded in return.

"Good, Elias please if you would."

"Yes Captain," Elias puffed out his chest and turned to face the assembled men. "We have three main targets – two she-elves one with light brown hair and the other with very dark brown hair – nearly black. They will fetch a pretty price. The last target is a male elf – blonde – and he looks a bit delicate at the moment so should be the easiest target as well as the easiest to spot. He is the only fair haired one amongst them."

"Right anything else we ought to know before leaving Elias?" Aldred was beyond inpatient by now and was itching to go but he would not go unprepared.

"I have cleared the path as best I could without making it suspicious but still be sure to have a care where your horses thread. Also the blonde elf seems to be the leader of the pack so if we take him down the others shall be leaderless and easier to deal with and -"

"Thank you Elias," Aldred interrupted forcefully, he did not have all night to stand here and let Elias play at being in command. "We move out now and I want no talking in the ranks whilst we travel – lest you want to lose your tongues. You have all been briefed on the positions you should take and who the targets are. We -"

"Captain wait," cried Elias causing shocked inhales of breath from the rest of the men – they all knew the Captain hated to be interrupted.

Elias seemed to realise his mistake but ploughed on regardless, head bowed feeling fairly certain what he had to say was of enough importance.

"Begging your pardon Captain but do all the men have their flowers?"

Aldred sent a questioning glare towards his men, "Well do ya?" he snapped.

The men stammered their affirmatives some holding up their small leather pouches that contained the plant.

Aldred nodded, "Good – make sure you all keep the flowers safe," he paused to send an irritated glance at Elias, "let us move out - now!"

With that Aldred swung round and jabbed his spurs in his horse's side with unnecessary force leading the group out of the dimly lit village and into the darkness of the forest.

~o~

Legolas could not help but smile as he at last rode into the clearing where they were to make camp for the night. He slid off Morchant and gave his cramped muscles a stretch whilst shaking his head to clear it. He realized what a bad idea that was as his head begun to pound ever more fiercely in protest to his careless and foolish actions.

Putting a hand up to his temple Legolas rubbed whilst he walked round what was to be their home for the night. He was pleased, Celegil and Thoron had chosen well – the clearing was shielded from the wind and large enough to host them and their horses comfortably. Right at the far end of the clearing was a small stream bubbling away merrily – a sight that pleased Legolas even more. He'd be able to wash himself of the foulness left behind by the Southern Patrol and their horses would be able to drink to their hearts content.

Smiling he turned to his warriors and begun to assign the tasks that came with setting up camp. Thoron and Celegil were sent to fetch firewood as well as giving the wider area one final comb over for potential enemies. Magoldir and Feren were to tend to the horses whilst Aithel and Hadril went to collect the water need for tonight's meal as well as re-filling their water skins. They were also to be the camp chefs for the night.

Lastly Legolas turned to Arasson and Camaendir, "See if you two can find any game for our meal tonight. We are far enough from the shadow now that you should have a chance at catching something. Faervel and I shall be on first watch."

With quick bows to their Captain Arasson and Camaendir slipped off into the night to see what they could find.

Legolas whistled to catch Faervel's attention, who was currently routing around in his saddle bags and seemed not to have heard Legolas. Faervel looked up a questioning expression on his face.

"I said that you and I would take first watch over the camp come let us make our first round."

Legolas grabbed his spear and once again with Morchant's assistance made his way into the trees. He would not be able to use his bow or twin knives without considerable pain but he could still use a spear – only one hand was needed after all. Faervel followed after him bow in hand, an arrow loosely knocked and they began to walk through the trees who were humming with excitement at the wood elves traversing their branches.

Faervel waited until they were a fair distance from both the small stream and the where their horses were being groomed before he pulled gently on Legolas' good shoulder getting him to stop.

"Let me have a quick look at your shoulder Las, and you should take something for your pain now if you are to take first watch. Which by the way in my professional healer's opinion is folly."

Legolas sighed and sat down on the branch he was upon and Faervel squatted down next to him whipping out a small healers pouch. That must have been what he had been so intent on finding in his bags mused Legolas sourly. Still he sat like an obedient little elfling and let Faervel look into his eyes checking for any lingering effects of the poison.

"Do not be overlong with this Faervel we are supposed to be on guard after all. The others cook and prep camp in the knowledge we watch their backs."

"I know this Legolas," Faervel snapped annoyed now with his friend's nonchalance towards his health, "but in truth you should not be here. You should be resting."

"I have rested enough." Legolas glared at Faervel blue eyes flashing with annoyance.

"You have rested nowhere near enough Legolas. Your shoulder pains you and the poison still lurks within you."

Legolas said no more setting his lips in a thin angry line, he tightened his hold upon his spear and continued to glance around them listening for anything untoward.

Faervel sighed knowing Legolas had clammed up now and he gestured for Legolas to remove his light armour, vest and shirt so that he might look at his shoulder.

Legolas reluctantly complied before turning his back to his friend silent all the while. Faervel looked at the shoulder revealed to him and made small noise of displeasure. Legolas' shoulder was now an angry red with a deep purple around the area of the bite and a thin trickle of blackish looking blood ran from the wound – the fall had caused it to open again – and as he suspected there was poison still within.

Sighing once more Faervel decided to set to work and shoved two pain numbing leaves in his friends face. Legolas stared at them with the same dispassionate distaste he would an orc. Faervel grit his teeth, clearly his friend was in full on stubborn mode but still he needed to do this quickly – Legolas was right in that the others were depending on them to keep a proper look out.

"Las please take them they shall only numb your pain they will not hinder your ability to complete the watch. Then I need to drain your shoulder again and bandage it. Please I will be quick but the herbs will help."

Faervel held out the leaves a few moments more before Legolas begrudgingly took them and shoved them in his mouth chewing forcefully. Satisfied Faervel completed his ugly task quickly; draining and bandaging the wound after having packed it with antiseptic herbs all with seemingly only minor pain to his friend before he sat back putting his things back into his pouch.

"There we are the done – the herbs should kick in soon enough if they have not already. We may go now."

Legolas said nothing, still brooding as he pulled on his shirt, vest and armour fastening them as hastily as he could without jolting his arm too much. Done he stood up and spear in his good hand continued his round of the clearing without so much as a glance at Faervel. He heard his friend sigh again and his soft footsteps following. Soon they were side by side once more but Legolas kept his gaze ahead.

He was annoyed with Faervel – always he mothered him. It was beyond aggravating. Legolas would be damned by Morgoth himself if he took it easy and rested for another night. He had already been forced off taking night watch for the past four nights by Faervel, wasn't that enough? Legolas was fuming he was annoyed at Faervel but truly angry with himself – if only he had not let himself be bitten by that cursed spider. Legolas grit his teeth and shook his head ignoring its protest at that unwise move. He needed to get a hold of himself and pay attention to his surroundings. Losing himself in his anger would help no one now.

Legolas breathed out slowly and glanced at his friend; Faervel had been looking at him and gave a small smile. Legolas gave one back. He had never been able to stay mad at his childhood friend for too long.

"Come you insufferable mother hen. Let us complete this watch and get back to the camp and see how the others fare."

Grinning broadly Faervel nodded his head, "Yes Hest."

"Don't Hest me now you insubordinate pest of a healer."

Faervel only laughed and Legolas grinned to hear the clear happy sound of it.

~o~

Faervel dropped down into the midst of the camp whilst Legolas again used Morchant to assist him down from the trees, sliding out of the trees lowest branch to get onto his horses back before dismounting. He joined Faervel in the center of the camp doing his best to contain his anger and embarrassment at having to need Morchant's help to get in and out of the trees. Fighting both emotions down he declared the perimeter of their camp secure.

"That is good news indeed now come and eat – Arasson and Camaendir out did themselves and brought us back a deer," Hadril called over to them from her place at the camp fire.

"Really? Well then very well done both of you," Legolas grinned over at the two hunters who were now sitting near the fire looking well fed and far more content than Legolas had seen them in weeks.

"They did indeed," continued Hadril as she dished up some stew for them both. "They also came across a patch of mushrooms so we shall feast well for breakfast also."

"Here you go you may both sit, eat and rest for a bit now."

Faervel accepted his portion at once with heartfelt thanks to both chef and hunters but Legolas had to assign the next watch and find out how the area ahead and around them looked from Celegil and Thoron.

"Please keep mine warm Hadril," Legolas smiled at her sweetly, "I'll return for it soon."

"See that you do Captain," Hadril called out warningly even as Legolas turned to make his way over to his scouts.

Legolas smiled – Hadril could be very forceful and even scary at times. "I will Hadril – I would not miss out on your venison stew for all the mithril in Arda."

~o~

Legolas sighed in deep contentment, Celegil and Thoron had nothing untoward to report and Legolas had set Magoldir and Feren on the second watch of the night with Aithel and Camaendir on the final watch.

He rinsed the last of the soap from his hair and felt glad to be full of good food and clean once again. Legolas switched his position so that he was now floating on his back, the cool water soothing his aching shoulder. He could also look up at the beautiful night sky which was liberally sprinkled with Elbereth's blessed stars.

He could also rather annoyingly feel Faervel's presence – his friend was sitting on the bank braiding his freshly washed hair and mothering him as usual.

"Las you should come out now – you don't want to get a chill."

Legolas snorted in a most un-princely way, "I am an elf Faervel – I do not catch chills." Legolas continued unperturbed, hair floating around him like a golden halo.

"Yes I know that but you're also an elf recently poisoned and not yet fully recovered. You could easily catch a chill."

Legolas dunked himself under the water before surfacing and shaking out his golden mane – all over Faervel.

"Was that necessary Las?"

Legolas laughed.

"It's what you get for your ceaseless mothering. Please Faervel I know how I feel and I feel like soaking here for a while more," Legolas went back to floating on his back, "and the sky is particularly lovely tonight."

Faervel sighed as he gathered his things ready to head back to the main camp, "Fine I shall leave you to it – for a while - but tell me first how is your pain?"

Legolas considered for a moment as he relished the feel of the water against his shoulder which still gave a consistent dull throb to the rhythm of his heartbeat. He considered his ribs and hip both of which had been bruised in his fall. He also considered his headache which had lessened considerably since Faervel had forced those herbs on him. Overall he was in less pain but there was still pain – but Faervel didn't need to know that. If Legolas told him honestly how he felt right now Faervel wouldn't leave him to star gaze from the water in peace. He'd hover and his nervous energy would spoil the evening for Legolas.

"I'm fine," Legolas felt a small twinge of guilt for lying to his friend but continued, "I feel much better since you forced those herbs on me."

"I did not force you Las. You make my job as troop healer so very difficult – do you know that?"

Legolas merely threw him a self-satisfied smirk.

Muttering to himself about annoying and stupid Captains Faervel made his way back to the clearing leaving Legolas to enjoy his stars in blissful silence.

~o~

Faervel glanced up as his Captain strolled back into camp, a good two hours later, looking extremely pleased with himself. Legolas' hair was still damp and unbraided – Thranduil would have been annoyed if he knew just how much Legolas strolled around with his hair unkempt and unbound when on patrol.

"Good night Faervel," Legolas continued his smirking as he went up to Morchant who he used again to get up into the trees.

Gritting his teeth Faervel just shook his head at his friends antics and climbed up into a tree near to the one Legolas was in and begun to make himself comfortable for the night. He had waited up for Legolas and had been the only one awake in the camp apart from Magoldir and Feren who continued their watch.

Finally settled Faervel whispered into the darkness "Good night Las."

TBC.
End Notes:
Hest – Captain
Chapter 4 by KimicThranduilion
Author's Notes:
Aldred and his men finally begin to put their plan into action
Aldred was trying his very best to stay calm but he was fighting a rapidly losing battle. He felt that he and his men had covered only half the distance needed so far and the second watch of the night was nearly over. This was taking far too long. They needed to speed up if this thing were going to happen by sun rise. Had Elias said the elf camp was so far away? Aldred was sure it was all the having to keep quiet that was making this little trek seem like it was taking an eternity.

He held up a hand, "Halt." The men came to a sudden and somewhat loud stop behind him. "Elias front and center now," he hissed.

"Y-yes Captain?" Elias cursed the slight tremble in his voice but he was still very much aware that his Captain was annoyed with him for his interruption nearly four hours ago.

"Scout ahead and see if there is a suitable and convenient place we can leave our horses. I think we shall make better time and less noise" here he paused to glare at his men, "if we do that. We have a need of haste if we are going to get in position by sun up."

"Sir" Elias sketched a hasty bow and spurred his mount onwards to do as he was bid.

Aldred regarded the rest of his men, "Come make use of this small break, let us get the flowers in order so we are fully prepared when it is time to use them. Tie them into two bunches – small bouquets if you like. Make sure you have your flint close enough at hand. Once we are all in position I will give the signal and you are to set the first bunch of flowers alight, hold them aloft and let the smoke take effect. The when I give the second signal light your second bunch and throw them as near to the elf camp as you can and then we shall let the herbs do their work."

Satisfied as his men scrambled to do as he had instructed Aldred gave a small smile. He was fairly sure that they were going to pull this plan off successfully and the small intricate purple flowers his men were currently tying into bunches were central to his plot.

Passion flower was known amongst men for being a relaxant and sleep aid. However according to Elias this plant had a potent effect on elves – particularly when burnt. It dulled their scarily sharp senses and made them confused and clumsy. Aldred glanced at his own bunch of flowers. Elias had better be right or they would all be shot full of arrows before they could blink.

That tuned his thoughts to his scout extraordinaire. Elias was still somewhat of a mystery to Aldred. He had known him for just over a year and had never, ever had a scout so good at his work. The boy moved like a wraith and could track and follow even the most carefully concealed tracks. He also knew rather a lot about elves – a rather lot about elves.

Aldred had at first thought that he might have been working with the pointy ears themselves but then he had seen the spark of pure hatred that lit up in the young man's eyes every time the word elf was mentioned. He knew he was safe then. So Aldred had welcomed him into the fold and had come to truly appreciate the boy's extraordinary talents. He appreciated them so much that he allowed Elias to get away with a lot more than he would his other men.

Aldred was interrupted from his musings on Elias when the man himself returned a half hour later as silent and as wraith-like as ever.

"I have found a spot Captain not too far ahead and well concealed. We can leave the horses there and carry on from there on foot."

"How far is the horses hiding spot from the elf camp?"

"Not far at all Captain. In fact we are closer to their camp than expected. Seems like we are making good time after all. It should take us no more than an hour to be in full position all going well."

Aldred waved a hand impatiently, "Never mind all that is this hiding place of yours within running distance from the elf camp?"

"I would say so Captain, yes."

"Be sure boy," Aldred growled, "a lot of this mission's success rests on your shoulders – I have had the men prep their flowers. Are you sure of their effects on the elves? We shall have a fair deal more trouble with them if you are wrong."

Elias got an odd glint in his eyes before the hatred Aldred was used to took its place.

"Trust me Captain I am sure of this, with the smoke from these flowers they will be confused and slow, their senses dulled. We must just make sure that we wear our masks - it does not affect men anywhere near as badly as it does elves but we should take no risks."

Aldred nodded satisfied, and as he had before he wondered now about Elias' past, how the boy had come to have so much knowledge of elves. But this was not the best time to ask those questions – it never really was.

Shaking thoughts of Elias' mystery past he signaled to his men to mount up, "Be silent from here on in, ensure you have your plants, flint and masks ready for when I give the signal. Now move – and do it silently." Aldred grabbed his own reins and followed behind Elias – he hated repeating himself so many times in one night but honestly some of his men had very little between their ears.

Hoping against hope that all would go without a hitch Aldred focused on the path ahead ensuring he and his horse made no further noise than absolutely necessary.

~o~

Silently Elias led the men away from the place where their horses hid. Aldred had to admit he was impressed – it was perfect – an enclave made by two mighty oak trees. It was covered over with vines and concealed their horses perfectly.

Now they were creeping along behind Elias as he led them along the last stretch towards the elf camp. Before long Elias stopped and Aldred held up his hand in signal for all his men behind him to come to a halt. They were close – there could be no speaking now – they would have to use hand signals from here on in. Aldred could only hope that his men remembered what each signal meant.

Elias signaled with his small bunch of flowers that it was time for the men to set light to their first bunch of flowers. Aldred did the same holding his as high as he could to ensure all his men could see the signal. He heard gentle rustling behind him as his men slipped on their masks and set their flowers alight. Aldred pulled his own mask over his face and expertly set flame to his bunch of herbs as he watched Elias do the same.

Having waited for the flowers to catch flame properly and start to smoke Elias and Aldred began to wave them around holding up as high into the air as they could. The men behind did the same and they watched as the soft grey smoke floated away from them on a gentle breeze and towards the clearing that held their targets.

~o~

Aithel wrinkled her nose, paused and sniffed at the air. She suddenly sneezed and wrinkled her nose even more as she sniffed. Camaendir came up beside her his arrow loosely knocked and gave her a questioning look.

"Is all well Aithel?"

Aithel gripped her spear harder and gave another long sniff. "Do you smell that Camaendir? Something odd – a faintly sweet smell?"

Camaendir give an experimental sniff, "Not really. You say it is a sweet smell?"

Aithel nodded, "Yes, but it is very faint though."

"Sorry Aithel – I can't really smell anything at the moment."

Aithel sniffed again but this time could smell nothing. She shrugged, "Well it must have been a passing breeze – I can smell naught now myself. Come if we time this right by the time we finish this round breakfast should be about to be served."

Camaendir grinned at her, "Yes that's a good idea and I'm looking forward to seeing what Hadril makes with the mushrooms."

"Yes she is a rather good cook isn't she? When we are paired to do the cooking together I merely follow her command – the bulk of the actual cooking is left to her. I simply chop, peel and stir when she says so." Aithel laughed fondly and shook her head, "I think she prefers it that way."

"Yes – when Hest Legolas paired me with her for the first time I tried to help with the actual cooking but she was not very impressed and set me to the dishes instead."

Aithel laughed again as she imagined the look Hadril would have given Camaendir upon his attempt to actually cook something. Hadril could come off as cold and forceful but she took pride in keeping her troop as well fed as possible and did not really welcome any input to her dishes.

She laughed again. "Yes I can well imagine she was not impressed. Never mind – at least with her in charge we are guaranteed a tasty meal."

Camaendir nodded in agreement as they continued their rounds through the trees.

~o~

Camaendir slipped and hastily grabbed onto a nearby branch to right himself. Aithel paused and looked at him blearily.

"Are you well Cam?"

Camaendir nodded his head furiously, "Yes Aithel worry not."

Aithel gave him a quick once over before motioning for him to catch up to her and they proceeded to continue their round.

Camaendir gave his head a slight shake as he re-adjusted the position of his bow and adjusted his grip. He had no idea why he had slipped just then. It was highly irregular and embarrassing. He was as fleet footed as any wood elf and beloved by the trees – they would not play tricks with him and cause him to lose his footing. Camaendir looked back at the branch he had slipped on checking if there was any moss or other abnormality that could have caused him to stumble but there was nothing.

"Do not worry over it so Cam – you are perhaps tired. It happens to us all at a point. Tis nothing major."

Aithel was trying to soothe him but it just made Camaendir feel worse. He was the youngest in this troop at the age of just 416. He had joined them only a year ago and this had been his first time serving on the Southern Patrol. He knew he had done very well to be able to join the Prince's elite group of maethyr at such a young age but he still felt as though he had to prove his worth to them all. Slipping and nearly falling out of a tree in front of his second in command was not his idea of impressive.

Still he resolved to put it behind him and adjusted his grip yet again on his bow which now seemed as heavy as if it were made from solid mithril. Camaendir blinked as he felt unbalanced on his feet again and cast his eyes down to the branches he tread upon. This was not an ideal situation – he should be keeping an eye on his surroundings and ensuring the camp where his fellow warriors slept stayed safe. Yet he felt unbalanced as he never had before and was afraid that if his eyes left the path he tread for even a moment he would slip again.

That could not happen – he did not want Aithel to give Hest Legolas a bad report of him saying that he was clumsy and unfocused. Camaendir bit his lip and glanced around him quickly as he fell even further back behind Aithel. He had to focus – he could not slip up again. This watch would last only a short time more for already they sky was beginning to be bathed in a pale pink glow. He could do this. He just needed to focus.

~o~

Aithel was completely unaware of the inner battle going on with Camaendir behind her as she tried her best to focus her mind on the task at hand. She found it difficult however as her mind repeatedly wandered – what Hadril would cook them for breakfast, how pretty the sky was at sunrise, perhaps she ought to have a dress made in that colour? How sweet the wee robins were as they happily welcomed the new day with their beautiful chirping song. How the very air around her was sweet and heavy like fine perfume and how she felt like dancing.

Aithel shook her head – what a ridiculous thing to think about whilst on watch. She strengthened her grip on her spear which was rather heavy. It felt as if it had a leaden point. Aithel stopped and rubbed her eyes – she just needed a drink to refresh her and clear her head. A sip of cool water would help. She pulled out her water skin to take a sip but fumbled badly with opening it and watched in dismay as it slipped from her hands and fell to the forest floor below.

She gaped down at it before turning to check if Camaendir had witnessed her shame. Camaendir it seemed had seen nothing and was shuffling along the branch behind her as though he were an elfling newly learned to climb trees.

Aithel watched him in concern that quickly slipped her mind as she thought how fun it had been to help teach her young nephew to climb his first tree.

Camaendir looked up suddenly to see Aithel smiling at him fondly. Or was that condescendingly? It was not his fault that he had suddenly lost all the grace and balance of the Eldar. Oh please let her not tell the Captain.

Camaendir was about to open his mouth to beg for her silence and mercy when Aithel cooed at him, "Come now Cam – we're nearly there only a few more trees."

She held out her hand and her grasped it eagerly – letting his bow fall limp at his side – feeling far too grateful at the fact he would no longer have to struggle through the trees to feel much shame that he needed help at all. Thought he knew not why she cooed at him and smiled at him in such a manner – yes he was the baby of the group but still this was odd. He had no further time to think upon it as all his focus was once again needed to keep him from falling out of the trees.

Hand in hand they continued round the last bend of their route back to where the camp fire lay – Aithel smiling giddily and giggling from time to time whilst Camaendir shuffled alongside her and gripped her hand for dear life.

~o~

Elias peered at the two of them of a minute longer before rushing back towards the waiting group of men. The flowers were working – the two elves who were supposed to be on guard seemed hardly aware of their surroundings – so much so that Elias had been directly under them at a point and neither had batted an eye.

Elias smiled – perfect - this was going swimmingly. The Captain would be pleased indeed.

He reached the spot where the men were still wafting the last of the embers from their flowers into the morning air. Smilingly he gave his Captain a huge thumbs up before signaling that he was ready to move the men into position.

Aldred nodded and smiled his smile that was more of a grimace. Finally the waiting and trailing around through this dank forest was over – in perhaps half an hour more he would finally have his hands on the elf he wanted most – the golden haired male elf. He could hardly wait – if all went well that one would make him rich indeed.

TBC.
End Notes:
Hest – Captain

Maethyr – (plural) warriors
Chapter 5 by KimicThranduilion
Author's Notes:
Our elves are not feeling like themselves - and then... they're under attack.
Elias deposited the last of the men – Samer and Saveric – into their positions and headed back over to Aldred to tell his Captain that all was at last ready. Elias had deposited the men (there were a total of twenty six of them including him and the Captain) in a tight circle around the elf camp. They men had been split up into pairs and knew that they were to wait until they heard the chirp of a swallow. That would be the signal for them to set light to their second batch of flowers. They'd let them take full effect on the elves before they would follow the lead of himself and the Captain (who were paired together) and attack.

A sound plan – Elias simply hoped that none of the men fouled it up. Elias was back at Aldred's side and signaled to his Captain that the men were in position. Aldred gave a curt nod and without further ado Elias whistled as loudly as he could mimicking the call of a sparrow. The plan was set in motion now. There would be no going back.

~o~

Aithel and Camaendir returned to the sight of a very sleepy and sluggish looking camp. Where there would usually be the brisk activity associated with breaking camp there were stifled yawns and looks of mild confusion. A swallow chirped loudly announcing morning was come yet some in the camp were still asleep – Faervel, Thoron and Celegil all slumbering in the treetops.

Legolas was awake though he seemed to be confused and rather tired as he approached them whilst trying to stifle a yawn.

"Aithel, Camaendir," Legolas paused to try and stifle another yawn unsuccessfully, "today is a beautiful day is it not?"

Legolas gestured widely with both arms before grimacing and lightly touching his left shoulder, "What news from the watch?"

"No news at all Captain. All quite apart from the lovely little birds." Aithel was cooing again.

Camaendir smiled and gave a salute to Legolas before slumping down on the ground grateful to be out of the trees in one piece.

"Ah good," was Legolas' coherent reply seemingly not noticing the odd reply and behavior from his warriors.

"That's so good. You two can rest now and have breakfast – but," Legolas cocked his head to one side and looked over to where Hadril and Arasson were seemingly arguing, "I don't think any has been made as yet?"

"Come." Legolas grabbed both their hands yanking Camaendir up off the ground with his good arm and dragging them both behind him over to the now cold camp fire.

"Arasson, Hadril what is the hold up? Our brave warriors have returned and you have not yet started the fire?"

Hadril and Arasson each glanced at the other before turning to their Captain.

"I cannot remember how and neither can he." Hadril stated with a scowl.

Legolas frowned, "Remember what?"

"How to start a fire!" they both replied in frustration Hadril gesticulating wildly and Arasson frowning with hands folded across his chest.

"Do not be silly," Legolas shook his head as he bent down near the fire pit, "tis simple."

"Then you do it," Hadril thrust the flint down at him and stalked off in the direction of the stream. "We will get the water. Come Arasson."

Legolas watched Arasson as he scrambled to keep up with Hadril and shook his head feeling sorry for him; Hadril seemed to be in an even testier mood than usual. Legolas patted the ground next to him gesturing for Aithel and Camaendir to sit.

"We will eat soon," he assured before turning his attention to the cold fire pit in front of him. How could neither Hadril nor Arasson remember how to start a fire? It was most odd. Even the older elflings knew how – why all you had to do was –

Legolas blinked as his mind drew a blank. He knew how to do this – come on, think, all he had to do was… was? Legolas sighed and let his head fall so that his hair fell around his face. He could do this, it was a basic skill. But his mind was so fuzzy. Yes that was the word fuzzy as if there were cotton inside his head. He'd felt that way ever since he had woken up to a sweet smelling breeze. He had actually come down out of his tree to go wash his face and have a drink of water hoping that would help him feel less groggy.

Then he had seen Camaendir and Aithel stroll into camp side by side, hand in hand and he had forgotten what he was going to do. In fact what was he supposed to be doing now?

His jumbled thoughts were further interrupted by Feren and Magoldir walking up towards them.

"Aithel is this your water skin? It has your marking on it – it was near the latrine." Magoldir tossed the skin in Aithel's direction who made a poor, fumbled attempt at catching it.

"Uh thanks."

"You're most welcome my lady," and Magoldir bowed so deep and low that he would have fallen flat on his face had Feren not caught him.

Magoldir giggled, "Shall we dance Feren?"

Feren yanked him up to full height before spinning him so they were face to face, "Yes – we shall."

Legolas watched as two of his best warriors waltzed round the camp. Should he stop them? Was this ok? Wasn't there something he was supposed to be doing? Why did he feel so odd? His head felt like a fluff filled pillow and he couldn't keep hold of any one thought for more than a minute at a time.

Suddenly there was a scream – high pitched and terrified.

Then a yell from Arasson.

"Hadril! Hadril no!"

~o~

Aldred had waited patiently as the fire burned through the delicate purple flowers and the wind swept the smoke away towards the elf camp. He and Elias were crouched down behind a thorny bush near a stream – a prime spot that allowed them a clear view into the camp.

Aldred watched as the elves started to act – well odd. That was the only way to describe it. First they were stumbling around yawning, then they seemed to be fighting amongst themselves at their fire before two elves started stalking over towards the stream and their hiding place. Aldred tensed and gave a furious yet worried look at Elias. Elias seemed unconcerned and merely motioned for him to wait. Aldred's worry seemed mis-placed as neither elf took any notice of them and proceeded to try and fill some pots with the cool liquid from the stream.

Aldred slowly relaxed as he watched the elves fumble around near the stream bank when finally the she elf waded in arguing with the male elf in that strange language of theirs the whole while. Aldred watched as she came ever closer yet still did not register their presence whilst the male elf had his back turned as he tried to balance one pot on the streams edge. This was it, this was their chance – and if he was not mistaken this very she elf was one of their targets. Perfect.

He tightened his grip on his broad sword and looked over to Elias before giving him a confirming nod. Attack!

Aldred sprang from the bush and plunged straight into the water grabbing at the she elf's long hair that hung in a braid. He yanked hard and pulled her toward him placing his broadsword across her throat. Arasson turned sharply at Hadril's panicked scream.

He could not believe the sight that greeted him. "Hadril! Hadril no!"

Arasson made a lunge for the man holding his rather large sword at Hadril's throat but was stopped when another younger man jumped at him brandishing a wicked looking pair of knives. Arasson's attention was momentarily distracted from Hadril's plight as he ducked and swerved sharply to the left to avoid the man's blades. Arasson reached into his vest quickly and pulled out his own pair of daggers. He would have preferred to have had his twin swords with him now but these would have to do.

Arasson speedily parried the man's next attack as he took quick steps backwards to avoid the furious onslaught. This man was skilled and speedy and Arasson was most definitely on the back foot. He felt slow not nearly as fast as usual and he grit his teeth at having to fend off another skilled maneuver. He could not take his eyes off the man for fear he would be cut to shreds but he was worried for Hadril. He would not let that big brute of a man harm her.

Arasson glanced up for only a moment and was annoyed to see the man smack Hadril hard in the face with the blunt hilt of his sword. He had no time to do anything about it or even think on it further as a sharp stinging pain bit across his chest bringing him back to the reality of his own battle.

Elias felt please he had landed a blow on the elf. The flowers had really done their work – this elf was really out of sorts and distracted and slower than any elf ought to be.

Elias dully noted the sounds of the others scrambling out of the bushes around them – he was too focused on trying to beat his elf. He lunged forward again, one knife aiming for the elf's neck and the other for his stomach.

Arasson heard the sounds of the men plunging through the bushes around them and realized in that instant that they were under an ambush. He needed to warn the others. Arasson blocked Elias' knife going in for his neck crossing his daggers in front of him protectively. He was un-prepared for the second knife that was plunged into his stomach.

With a howl of pain Arasson kicked out at the man hard, hearing the knife slide out of his stomach with a sickening pop.

Using Elias' momentary loss of balance Arasson pulled himself up to his full height as he launched his attack on the man and screamed, "Sy telir! Tiro!"

~o~

The warriors round the camp fire sprang up instantly grabbing what weapons they could upon hearing Arasson's cries for Hadril. They were about to run headlong towards the stream when all of a sudden men leapt from the bushes all around them each brandishing weapons. Legolas realized with a start that they were under attack.

"To the trees – get into the trees," he screamed, "Archers shoot!Maetho!"

Legolas scrambled backward towards the tree he had slept in and grabbed his spear that leant against it, before he took a running charge at a pair of men barreling towards him. If he made himself a distraction maybe his maethyr could get up into the trees from where they could rain arrows down upon these men.

Legolas did not expect his charge to be so slow and ungainly as he stumbled once and lost his momentum and crashed into the men. Still he had knocked them off their feet and Legolas sprang back to his – nowhere near as fast as he would've liked - and turned round to smash the blunt end of his spear into the skull of a man who was trying to run him through from behind.

Legolas swiveled back round to the two in front of him and plunged his spear into the heart of one before he pulled it out as fast as he could and plunged it into the neck of the other who had been trying to get back onto his feet. Legolas gave his spear a forceful yank to free it of the man's body and spun round just in time to fend off a blow form yet another man. Legolas was forced into a defensive crouch as he tried to stay well away from the man's angrily swinging sword.

He ducked and stumbled yet again, Eru Illuvatar where had his Elven grace gone? Legolas made another block before he rashly swung his spear out at the man's ankles causing the man to jump back. That gave Legolas the break he needed and he sprang away towards the horses. He needed to get up into the trees and the horses could help them overcome these thugs.

"Edraith enni Morchant. Come all horses – maetho, maetho, maetho!"

Legolas heard a whinnying charge as the horses stormed into the melee. Morchant came up to him and ignoring his shoulders protest Legolas flung himself up onto his horse's broad back and promptly ran his spear through a man who had advanced too close.

"Quick boy take me over to that branch I need to get into the trees."

Morchant obediently galloped over to the low hanging branch his master had pointed out and Legolas swung himself up onto it refusing to cry out at the pain in his shoulder. He frantically scrambled up it before racing through the branches towards the tree he had slept in the previous night where his bow lay. He stumbled several times and was glad when he finally made it to his bow without having fallen from the trees to his death below.

Legolas fumbled as he tried to quickly knock an arrow and he fired off a shot that only skimmed the cheek of his target. Legolas growled in frustration and pain as he quickly aimed another arrow – what was wrong with him? He never missed a shot – even with a bad shoulder. He pulled back and fired again and watched with relief as this time the arrow sank in between the shoulders blades of his target.

Legolas gave a quick glance round the clearing which was now a miniature battlefield. Nearly all of his warriors were still on the ground having been forced to engage in hand to hand combat. Only Feren had made it into a tree from where Legolas could see he was missing his some of his shots badly. Arrows were also being shot now by Celegil, Thoron and Faervel who were all now awake but judging by their wildly flying arrows – affected by the same malady that seemed to have robbed the rest of the troop of their elven poise and agility.

With a pained grimace Legolas shot another arrow into the arm of a man who was about to stab Magoldir in the back. Damn, he'd been aiming for his neck. Legolas swallowed thickly. This was not good not good at all. He needed to get his warriors into the trees.

He gave another rallying cry, "Horses attack – maetho! Dago! Warriors to the trees – now, now, now!"

TBC.
End Notes:
Sy telir – They're coming

Tiro – Look out

Maetho – Fight

Maethyr – (plural) warriors

Edraith enni – Save me

Dago - Kill
Chapter 6 by KimicThranduilion
Author's Notes:
The fighting continues...
The horses stormed into action hooves flying wildly – they had heard the Prince's cry and would do all they could to help their Elven companions. They were all war horses, exceptionally tall, sleek and very well trained in the battle arts. They spread out each one intent on protecting the vulnerable elves on the ground.

The men clearly had not expected this as several were caught off guard and found themselves experiencing Elven steeds in all their glorious fury. The men broke their formation, momentarily forgetting the elves and they made haste to get out of the way of the enraged horses.

Satisfied with the havoc the horses were creating Legolas was about to command his troops up into the trees again when he heard a sound that made his blood run cold. No, no, no – it could not be. He would have sensed them wouldn't he? Legolas pivoted on the spot to look behind him. He nearly wept with frustration – Elbereth above couldn't the Valar give them a minutes respite?

There, less than two metres away a spider stared at him through its eight beady little eyes. Legolas wasted no more time flinging the arrow he was going to shoot directly into one of the beast's eyes abandoning his bow and switching to his long knives with only a minor amount of fumbling and a huge amount of pain in his throbbing shoulder.

"Ungoliant's spawn are upon us," he yelled as he furiously lashed out at the hairy legs that were determined to latch onto him.

Legolas lashed out again slicing off one of the beasts legs, "Men or spiders kill whichever is closest. Gurth enin goth!"

~o~

Aldred hadn't expected the she elf he'd grabbed to put up such a struggle – she was so thin and delicate looking he'd expected her to freeze in fear once he'd placed his sword at her throat and give in quietly.

Instead she had screamed causing the male elf she was with to spin round and charge towards them. Elias had sprung up and engaged the male leaving Aldred to subdue the she elf he held roughly against his chest. The threat of cold steel had done nothing to subdue her however and she had kicked out behind her – hard. She caught Aldred in the shin and he gave a howl of pain yet his cruel grasp on her hair hadn't loosened. Instead he yanked on the thick braid all the harder causing Hadril's head to fly backwards. She had no time to do anything as Aldred brutally smashed the hilt of his sword into her temple.

The she elf went limp in his arms instantly and Aldred took a quick glance round him. Elias and his elf continued to battle and it looked as if his young scout were winning too as he stabbed the elf in its stomach. Seeing no one else was paying him any attention Aldred quickly retreated back the way he had come and once a good few hundred yards away he placed the she elf in his arms under a bush, satisfied that she would not awaken any time soon.

Aldred tightened his belt and wiped his brow as he strode off back towards the melee. He had a golden haired elf to capture and he would not fail. That was the elf he valued above all for he would fetch him an enormous amount of money. Yes Aldred would not let that elf slip from his grasp.

Aldred startled as he suddenly heard running footsteps coming towards him. He braced himself feet planted firmly as he poised himself to attack. He relaxed however as he saw Elias coming crashing through the brush an elf draped across his back. Elias was very nearly bowed under the weight of the elf on his back and he grinned in relief to see Aldred.

"Captain! Here, look another – I know he was not on our list but another elf to sell at auction won't hurt our prospects will it?"

Aldred smiled his terrible smile, "No it certainly won't boy. Quick stash him under that bush there with the she elf. We'll be back. In the meantime boy I need to make sure none of those buffoons have hurt my golden elf."

Elias hurried to do as he'd been instructed and with a mighty heave he flipped Arasson off his back and dumped him with a complete lack of care next to Hadril. Elias couldn't help the shiver that raced down his spine as he looked at the fair bloodied faces before him. It had been a long time since he'd been so close to an elf.

Elias shook himself and hurried to catch up to his Captain – glad to no longer be in such close proximity with the Eldar.

The two men gripped their weapons tighter before throwing themselves back into the fray.

~o~

Faervel heard the unearthly screeching of the spiders just after he heard Legolas' frantic battle cry for them to fight both men and spiders- whichever was closest to them. He flipped himself round to look into the trees behind him and was most annoyed to see an entire cluster of angry looking spiders hissing at him in their foul speech.

What was with these creatures? Why were they seemingly everywhere these days? And really why did they have to show up now? Could the stupid beasts not see they were in the middle of an ambush?

Faervel flung himself at one spider and was quite surprised to slip and fall right at its jaws. With all the haste he could muster he rolled out of the way of pinchers dripping with venom as they came crashing down into the spot his neck had occupied two seconds ago. The spider's fangs were stuck in the wood and Faervel was quick to behead it before kicking its bulbous body out of the tree down to the ground below where it landed with a satisfying dull thud.

He had no time to feel smug as he was very nearly thrown from the tree himself as another of the hairy beings whacked him across his back with its foreleg. It was only by the tree shifting its branch to catch him that he did not end up splattered on the ground next to the spider below. Faervel grabbed a dagger from his boot and charged at the spider who had dared to attack him. Brandishing the small knife in a threatening manner he lunged forward with the intent of stabbing the beast in one of its eyes when the spider easily dodged him and instead reached out with a bristly leg to knock his dagger from his hand. Faervel gaped before he grabbed the branch overhead and hauled himself out of the way of the spider. It took a lot more effort than Faervel was used to and he was nearly grabbed by the spider as he franticly scrambled upwards.

Faervel did not understand. What had happened? Why had he woken up to sounds of screaming, shouting and fighting? Why hadn't he been woken sooner by those on watch? Most importantly why was he so slow? The beast currently chasing him higher into the tree had dodged him so easily. It was shameful. And now here he was scrambling round trying to avoid the clutches of this accursed spider. He was stumbling and slipping and could not understand why he moved with so little of the grace he was used to.

Faervel was jolted from his musings by his current precarious situation and stomped down hard on the tip of a leg that was desperately trying to grab hold of him. He needed to get to his long knives which he had foolishly left in the tree next to this one. How stupid of him – that was a basic rule – carry your weapons with you at all times. Faervel pulled an arrow from his quiver and decided he needed to get back on the offensive. He'd not let this creature chase him through his trees any longer.

He whipped round and attacked the spider who had clearly not expected him to do anything else besides flee. He stabbed and slashed aiming for all the sensitive parts on the spiders foul body – he needed to be rid of this beast. For he suddenly remembered the condition of Legolas' shoulder. He had to get to his friends side. Legolas was not well and he should not be fighting; Faervel had to protect him – he would not fail in his promise to Thranduil – not this day.

With a renewed surge of energy Faervel dispatched his spider now using two arrows in place of daggers. He shoved the spiders' body off the branch and sent it crashing into two smaller ones below which had been trying to close in on him as well. Using the brief respite he hastily ran through the branches and tried his best not to lose his balance in his mad dash towards his knives. He grabbed them, spun round to face another two spiders and smiled menacingly. They should not have followed him – they had picked on the wrong elf. He attacked.

~o~

Legolas' shoulder was screaming at him. It screamed at him to stop his foolishness this instant and to lie down and rest. But he could not – there were spiders all around and he was hard pressed keeping them at bay. Stabbing yet another of the fat, hairy creatures in the juncture between its head and body Legolas leaped higher up the tree, feeling pleased when he stumbled only slightly – maybe this wretched and strange malady was wearing off and he'd be able to fight properly now.

Out of the grasp of any spiders for a brief moment he took the chance to look round him and assess the damage. It was carnage – three of their horses lay dead crossbow bolts sticking out of their crumpled bodies at odd angles. Of Morchant there was no sign and Legolas felt a stab of sadness through him at his horses' disappearance. Aithel, Magoldir and Camaendir were all still putting up a valiant struggle against the men on the ground. Whilst Celegil and Feren covered them from above. He could hear rather than see Thoron and Faervel fighting spiders in the trees near to him. There was no sign of either Hadril or Arasson and Legolas prayed to all interested Valar that they were still on the right side of Mandos' halls.

Legolas had no more time to contemplate and assess as a deafening screech sounded right by his ear. Legolas spun round with a start still wondering how these beasts were able to sneak up on him without him feeling their filthy presence. There must be some dark spell upon this clearing – one that rendered him and his warriors clumsy with dulled senses. He blocked a jab aimed by a furry leg at his stomach and ran to a neighboring branch.

He could not keep this up for much longer – he'd put an enormous strain on his already badly injured shoulder and the pain was now breathtaking. Still he had no chance at respite as the spider crawled right up behind him determined to bite him with its dripping pinchers. He ducked, dived and feinted to the left before lunging and stabbing the spider's underbelly from the right. The beast shrieked and reared up exposing more of its soft underside to Legolas who gleefully and dutifully disemboweled it.

He'd just kicked it off the branch when he heard the dull thump of something landing next to him. He twisted lashing out blindly with his right knife determined not to be caught off guard and was surprised to hear the clear ringing sound of metal on metal.

"Peace Legolas it's me."

Legolas looked up fully now and was happy to see his friend grinning back at him. "Faervel, I'm glad you are here," he paused as they switched into their preferred way of fighting back to back, "but tell me mellon-nin do you feel… um…strange?"

Faervel sliced off the tip of a leg whilst Legolas hacked off the other and they jumped down onto the branch below.

"If by strange you mean have I lost all grace I ever possessed then yes. And it is as if I am blind – I was awoken only by the noise of battle," he dodged an errant leg before continuing, "I did not feel the presence of any of these beasts nor the men."

Legolas left Faervel's back, jumped over their current nemesis and sliced its back open in the process before he replied, "Yes – I did not sense theses horrors were lurking in the trees – only their horrific screeching gave them away."

They had no more chance to speak as the spiders rallied just then and attacked ferociously. Legolas clambered upwards hoping to gain an advantage but was hotly pursued. He jabbed, stabbed and slashed at the big black creature following him. It seemed not to feel any of the blows Legolas landed and lashed out at him with its great spindly legs giving Legolas cuts over his hands, arms and face. Legolas was forced to defend and block even as he continued upwards. The spider would not be shaken though and Legolas sprang to attack again.

He lunged with his left arm and promptly felt his shoulder finally give way – the muscles giving a sickening pop. Sensing its advantage the spider made a huge swipe at Legolas who instinctively dodged backwards. To his horror he felt himself slip – right off the branch and into thin air.

~o~

Faervel had been keeping an eye on Legolas as he hopped ever higher even as he fought off some of the smaller spiders making crazy lunges and leaps at him. Therefore he saw it the moment Legolas slipped and fell and he threw himself to the edge of his branch before reaching out to grab Legolas catching his Captain's left arm in a firm grip.

Faervel's happiness at having stopped his friend's fall lasted only a second before he watched as Legolas' blue eyes widened in pain and he screamed. Valar! He'd never heard his friend make a noise like that before and he was so shocked by the terrifying sound that he let go.

"No! Legolas!" Faervel shouted as he grasped for him again but it was too late. In horror he watched as Legolas plunged through the branches to the ground below.

TBC.
End Notes:
Gurth enin goth – Death to the enemy

Mellon-nin - My friend
Chapter 7 by KimicThranduilion
Author's Notes:
Legolas is captured and our elves continue to fight...
Legolas faintly heard Faervel's panicked shout just before he hit the first branch which immediately winded him and he could think of nothing but the horrendous pain radiating from his side when he hit another branch. He distinctly heard a rib crack that time and he gave a breathless cry.

The tree was frantically trying to arrange its branches so that it's beloved Prince would have as soft a landing as possible but of course it could move only so fast – and hitting wood with force still hurt. None the less it was still better than plunging to his immediate death and Legolas felt grateful for what the tree was trying to do despite the tremendous pain it caused him.

He hit the final branch with a solid smack that sent his world black. Legolas was completely unaware when he landed on the soft squishy body of a dead spider with a splat.

~o~

Aldred had been busy trying his best to keep out of the aim and reach of both angry elves and angry elven horses. Some would have called his ducking, diving and use of his men as shields as disgraceful, cowardly even, but Aldred did not care. He had an objective to complete and it did not include dying. That was what his men were for – they were a dime a dozen after all. Easily replaced. He cared not how many of them fell – he did not truly intend to share the plunder with them anyways – their deaths here simply made things easier for him. Aldred ducked a stray arrow before his eyes found his quarry again.

His golden elf. That was the one he wanted above all; that was the elf he would not leave this cursed forest without. For that one would fetch a mighty price from the slave traders of the East. A mighty price indeed – and then Aldred would be rich, rich, rich. He'd be able to disappear to some far off land to live in comfort and luxury. All Aldred needed to do now was capture him and escape this dreaded place alive.

He slipped behind a tree and looked up as he watched his golden target do battle with the blasted spiders. Although he could not be too angry with the spiders - they had provided a marvelous distraction and as long as they did not come down out of the treetops to attack his men he could care less.

After a cursory glance round to ensure he was not in any immediate danger Aldred looked back up at the battle raging in the vast boughs of the oak trees. Then to his immense surprise his prey was delivered right to him. The elf slipped and was rather vexingly caught by his fellow for a second before he was falling through the branches again landing with a soft, wet smack upon the grotesque body of a dead spider less than a hundred yards away from Aldred's current spot.

Aldred wasted no time and simply thanked his lucky stars, "Elias and Samer cover me now whilst I grab our main elf," he yelled in the direction of his men.

Aldred watched as the two sprang into position before he raced over to where Legolas lay unconscious. Aldred scooped him up in his arms before tossing him over his shoulder and began to scramble away. He was pleased to hear a small pained moan leave the surprisingly heavy body. He'd been afraid the elf might've been dead after that spectacular fall but no – luck remained on his side. Pleased with his fortune he ran as fast and as best he could back to the hiding place where he had left the other elves.

It was time to leave this place now. Time to get out of here and put an end to this - he had his prize and that was all that mattered to him.

"Blacwin," he bellowed as he rushed away, "Do not let any elf follow. Elias, Samer, Saveric - I have a need of you all, come and keep me covered!"

~o~

Blacwin watched as Elias and the gruesome twosome Samer and Saveric (as he had taken to calling them in his head) all leapt to follow their Captain keeping Aldred's escape covered as they rapidly fired arrows and crossbow bolts towards the elves remaining on the ground distracting them and giving Blacwin a little time to gather the remaining men.

"Rally and fight" roared Blacwin to the men, "Let no elf pass us, form a blockade the mission is nearly complete. Come give your all – no elf to pass us!"

The men rushed to form a blockade at their Captain's retreating back blocking off the route towards the stream. With weapons raised and frantic cries it looked like a last stand – however Blacwin had no intention of this being his last stand. He was determined to live to fight another day and he would see to it that as many of his men as possible made it through this as well. For although he did not look it, with his world wary expression, he felt it was his duty to see to it that the men under his command made it back alive. Aldred may not care for them one whit but Blacwin felt that he owed the men who were willing to risk themselves on their missions at least a bit of loyalty and for him that meant doing his best to ensure they lived another day to enjoy their mercenary gains.

It was because of this that Blacwin never had any trouble from the men – he had their respect and they never hesitated to do anything he asked of them. Like now. The men had formed a semi-circle of a blockade and were ready and waiting for his command to rally, rush and to fight and defeat these last elves if they could.

Blacwin gave the word – and the men rushed forward with a roar.

~o~

Aldred heard the roar of the men behind him holding off the elves and he relaxed slightly. Blacwin could always be trusted to get a job done. Sure, Aldred thought, he gave too much of himself and took to many risks when it came to protecting the men - but besides that one flaw Blacwin was the best second in command a henchman could wish for. Aldred almost felt sorry for what he was planning to do to Blacwin and the rest of the men; but then he shook himself – no he was a mercenary – and mercenaries got nowhere by allowing feelings to cloud their judgement.

Aldred gave Blacwin no more of his thoughts – he had the situation under control – it was time for Aldred to do the same. He reached the spot where the other two elves had been placed beneath the bush.

"Elias quick fetch our horses we must leave this place with all speed."

As Elias ran off to gather their horses Aldred bent down to lay the golden haired elf on the ground next to his fellow elves who were still unconscious.

"Saveric keep a watch on the ground and Samer keep an eye on the trees. I do not want those freakish, forest fairies sneaking up on us."

As the brothers made to do his bidding Aldred pulled out his knife and took Legolas' head in his hands. He was momentarily mesmerised by the striking face. Though marred with faint circles under the eyes and a rapidly swelling bruise at his temple the elf was still amazingly beautiful to look at. Aldred smiled thinly – yes this elf was the one that would fetch the highest price. Wasting no more time he grabbed a handful of Legolas' tangled golden hair and sliced it off with his knife.

Twas a shame to rob the elf of some of its hair and therefore its full market value but needs must. Aldred was no fool – he knew his men would not be able to defeat all the elves and therefore he would need a decoy – a distraction to keep the elves busy whilst he made off with the real goods.

Elias returned with the horses just then who were nervous and stamping at the stench of blood and death in the air.

"Ah Elias perfect timing as always here take the golden elf and secure him to my horse."

"How shall I secure him Captain upright or -"

"No tie him across like a saddle bag – he'll raise less suspicion in the unfortunate case we are spotted."

"Ai Captain."

Elias grunted as he heaved Legolas' limp body up onto his shoulders and stumbled across to Aldred's horse.

Aldred continued his work without as much as a glance upwards. He trusted these men for they would do as they were told allowing him to carry on with his decoy. He quickly pulled out the small sack he had tucked into his belt and covered the red-headed male elf's head with it ensuring his red hair was tucked up into the sack and out of sight. Then he took the long, fine strands of Legolas' golden hair and pinned it to the sack securely using a tiny dagger.

He leaned back to look at his handiwork. It would do. It looked like the blonde elf had been hooded – hopefully until the elves got closer they would never know that they were chasing after the wrong elf – and of course by then Aldred hoped to be well on his way far beyond the clutches of the elves.

He dragged Arasson's limp body fully out from under the bushes grimacing in distaste at the trail of blood that dribbled out behind the elf. He didn't really care that the elf was bleeding – he just hoped the smell of elvish blood wouldn't attract the damned spiders towards them.

"Elias are you nearly done? Give me a hand with this one here."

"Coming," was Elias' breathless and somewhat muffled reply before he appeared at Aldred's side a few moments later.

Together the two slung Arasson up onto Blacwin's horse and secured him with rope in a sitting position. Hearing a high pitched cry in the elves melodic and strange language Aldred turned to Samer.

"Samer summon the rest of the men – tell them to head west out of the forest and over to the Great River and into the woods on the other side. We shall meet them further along the river once they have managed to distract and kill the elves."

Aldred was already getting up onto his horse and signaled for Elias and Saveric to do the same, "Tell them to ensure they are rid of the elves before they head North up the river to meet us at the Old Ford. Deliver this message to Blacwin then show all haste to follow us. We shall be heading to the second village of Woodsmen. We will gather supplies and then make for the Old Ford. Show haste boy and go now, then do your best to catch us up and make sure no elves follow you!"

"What about that she elf Captain?" Samer looked at Hadril dispassionately, "Shall I bring her with me?"

Aldred's horse was champing at its bit and pranced nervously at the strange sounds and smells all around it. Aldred gave a strong yank on his reins before a quick check to ensure his prize elf was secured onto his horse.

Kicking his spurs firmly into his horses' sides he shouted, "No we have no time for her – this one elf will bring in enough money for us four. Leave her for the others – she will be their payment along with the decoy elf. Do not fail me boy. Go now and the rest of you follow me to victory."

With that all three were gone, splashing through the stream heading north towards the second village of Woodsmen.

Samer wasted no time and securing his sword in hand he rushed to tell Blacwin of the Captain's commands. He wanted to catch up to the Captain's party and his brother as soon as possible.

Samer was not quite sure what his Captain's ultimate goal was but he was very glad he'd not been put on the decoy party; because for all Aldred's brave words of destroying elves and getting rid of them Samer had a funny feeling he'd not be seeing any of the decoy party ever again. Elves were fierce, fey and feral, he had seen that first hand now and he very much doubted the elves would be happy about seeing their leader elf taken captive. No – he was sure that Aldred had just signed the death warrants of all the other men – and though curious as to why his Captain would abandon Blacwin of all people to this fate he cared not. There would be more money for him and Saveric. He just needed to make sure he caught up to them.

He crashed through the brush and had to immediately dive to the ground to avoid an arrow. He was back up on his feet quickly as he made a mad dash towards Blacwin. He would deliver his message and then flee. He'd not die today.

~o~

Celegil was fighting desperately trying to keep the spiders up in trees and away from her fellow maethyr on the ground who were doing battle with the men. Men of all creatures. She had no idea how they had come to be here and attacking them. All she knew is one moment she had been sleeping as soundly and peacefully as an elfling and the next moment there was shouting and screaming and then chaos had ensued.

She had taken one look down into the clearing and had immediately grabbed her bow and sprang into action in order to help her troop. Or at least that had been her plan. What had actually happened was a near miss fall out of the tree, a shambling displaying in which she had fumbled for her bow and quiver before she set about 'helping' her troop by nearly shooting Magoldir in the head. AiElbereth what had happened? When had she become such a poor shot? From the look of the wildly flying arrows being shot by Thoron, Faervel, Feren and Legolas in the trees around her she was not the only one who had lost their sense of aim.

So encouraged that she was not the only one fighting some strange malady she had focused her best and tried to be more successful with her other shots. It had worked for the most part and she was starting to feel confident in their winning when Legolas had yelled that there were spiders in the trees. Sure enough as she whipped round behind her she had seen a huge cluster of the beings and she had been kept busy with them ever since.

The lunged at her trying their best to sting or bite her and she did her utmost to kill them. She suddenly heard Faervel's despairing cry for Legolas but could not turn to see what the problem was as she ducked and rolled to avoid a sharp pair of pinchers coming her way. She made her move as the spider reared up and sliced it open watching as its innards fell out of its shell like body and onto the forest floor below.

All of a sudden with piercing shrieks the spiders started pulling back with one particularly large spider hissing and clicking instructions to its underlings. Celegil held her long knives in a defensive position even as she watched what remained of the black horde retreat back the way they had come hissing and screeching furiously all the while. What they were saying in their vile Black Speech made her blood boil. Re-grouping to march on the stronghold were they? She would see about that – as soon as they dispatched the rest of these edain she would see to it that this batch of spiders were destroyed along with any others foolish enough to join them.

Still not trusting the arachnids not to come rushing back when her back was turned she kept facing them taking only a quick glance behind and below her. What she saw was the edain forming some sort of last stand. She tore her eyes away and looked back at the direction the spiders were scuttling away in and feeling a little more secure she turned her eyes back down to the standoff on the ground just in time to see her great silver horse shot by a cruel spiked crossbow bolt.

"No!" she screamed in anguish as her beautiful horse fell to the ground blood spurting from his nostrils as he took his last labored breaths.

"You will pay h gaun" Celegil screeched her voice raw with emotion as she leapt down onto a lower, branch took aim and fired.

TBC.
End Notes:
Maethyr – (plural) warriors

Edain – (Plural of Adan) Men

H gaun – Cowardly dog
Chapter 8 by KimicThranduilion
Author's Notes:
The men flee, the spiders plot and poor Legolas hasn't got a clue.
Celegil's shot flew wildly and she watched in anger as it flew in the direction of another man who had the presence of mind to hit the ground and duck before he jumped up again and continued towards one who looked like the leader of the men. Celgil took aim again ignoring him – plenty enough time to kill him but first to kill the scum who had so cruelly butchered Celevon.

She took aim again calming herself just enough so that she could be sure that her shot would find its mark this time round and let her arrow fly. Unfortunately the man had moved so it came to rest in his shoulder rather than his throat as planned. The man yelled even as he was pulled back by one of his comrades to join the other men now making a dash towards the stream.

Celegil let her knocked arrow fall limp – she would hold onto her morals – she would not shoot this adan in the back. She turned around, back to the fleeing men intent on finally getting down onto the ground and helping her troop put an end to this when she had all breath knocked out of her in a painful blow. Celegil gasped as she fell from the tree arms flailing and the pain in her right shoulder intensified as she hit a branch as she plunged downwards.

For though Celegil had her morals the man with the crossbow had none and had shot after her in revenge as soon as she had turned her back. Despite the pain flaring in his own shoulder he was satisfied with his work and he ran after his fellows hoping that a second elf falling from the trees would distract from their escape.

~o~

The spider commander hissed angrily at her underlings wanting them to hurry, hurry and back away to the safety of their nest. There they could regroup and recollect before heading North to rouse more of their kin who resided in the Mountains of Mirkwood. From there they would march upon the filthy elf stronghold. The elves thought themselves so superior, the commander fumed silently, and indeed her troops had let her down enormously allowing themselves to be so easily slaughtered by the elf scum. Still, never mind - they would rally a great force and show those elves that the children of her wonderful wretchedness Ungoliant were still a force to be reckoned with.

~o~

Aithel wanted to scream – this was a nightmare – Legolas had been shot out of a tree before being captured and Arasson and Hadril still were nowhere to be seen. And now Celegil had also been shot out of a tree. Biting down on a scream of pure frustration and anger Aithel shouted commands – she was in charge now.

"Faervel go check on Celegil. Camaendir, Magoldir and Feren you all ride with me after those bandits. We cannot let those fiends get away with Legolas. And Thoron scout the area- we need to find what has happened to Arasson and Hadril. You will follow after us if you have not found them. Quickly! Round up what horses we have left."

Thoron clambered down from the tree he was in made his way over towards the stream – where Feren said they had last been spotted. He slung his bow upon his back and whipped out his long knives as he headed into the direction the men had retreated.

Aithel watched as the ellyn went to gather and calm their remaining horses giving them a quick once over for injury. Aithel turned to follow Faervel over to where Celegil had fallen praying to all the Valarthat she would not be coming upon a dead elleth.

To her huge surprise Celegil was standing next to Faervel shaking off his attempts to help.

"Celegil you are alive!" Aithel was pleased and surprised.

Celegil gave her a questioning look, "Of course I am alive," Celegil shook her hand sending droplets of thick black gloop flying. "I landed on a spider – they make marvelous cushions. Now we have no time to waste."

Celegil stalked off still shaking black goo from her person leaving both Faervel and Aithel staring after her.

Aithel suddenly ran after her alarmed at the red stain she could see slowly spreading over Celegil's green tunic, "Celegil wait you are injured. You were shot for Elbereth's sake!"

Celegil turned round to give a shrug, "Yes I was shot but the shaft snapped off in my fall – its fine. We have no time I need to get back to the palace and warn the home guard – the foul spawn of Ungoliant plan to march on the stronghold."

The others looked at her horrified but Celegil waved an impatient hand, "And you all need to get after the men and Legolas – why are we still standing here?"

Faervel put a firm hand on Celegil's shoulder and forced her down to sit on the ground.

"Let me tend this else you shan't make it anywhere to warn anyone." Faervel's voice was flat and his eyes looked dead.

Aithel sighed as she handed him a healing bag – he would be taking Legolas' capture the hardest of them all. Those two along with Aeglosson were the very best of friends – more like brothers really. Aithel had no doubt that Faervel was currently blaming himself. That and plotting out hideous ways to kill the men who had dared lay hands on his friend.

Leaving him to tend Celegil, Aithel turned round to look at the horses – only four remained. She hung her head in grief saddened that so many of their faithful steeds had been slaughtered. She had no real time to grieve though as she had to decide how they were to follow after the men with only four horses between them. And what of Thoron? How would he catch them up? And Celegil – would she not need a horse of her own in order to make it back to the palace?

A soft whimpering neigh interrupted her musings and Aithel snapped her head up to see Morchant come limping into the clearing – eyes wide and rolling in lingering fear. Magoldir instantly rushed over to him calming the great war horse whilst looking him over for injuries. He'd been shot three times – twice on the flank by arrows and once on the rump by a cruel crossbow bolt. Yet he stood tall and proud even as his wounds were tended reminding Aithel of his equally indomitable master.

Aithel clapped her hands drawing all attention to her. They had given the men enough of a head start.

"Celegil you will ride to the palace on Morchant and both warn them of the spiders plot and tell them of what has happened here. Get them to send help."

Celegil nodded before making her way over to Morchant whose injuries had been tended as best they could. She mounted with a helping hand from Magoldir, "I will ride as hard as we both can manage."

Aithel looked doubtful then, should she send someone else with Celegil? She had been shot after all.

"Do not worry so Aithel – Faervel left the arrowhead in place as it is keeping the bleeding in check."

"Here," Faervel handed Celegil a small pouch stuffed with healing and painkilling herbs as well as a few rolls of bandages, "You may be in need of them. You should be fine just do not overuse that arm."

"Ai Nestron, I shall heed your words," and Celegil gave a little bow of her head before praying, "Berio ven Eru," and with that she gave Morchant a light tap and they bolted out of the clearing.

Faervel gave a curt nod of his head, "The arrow head should hold and keep her from bleeding out as long as she does nothing to dislodge it. Celegil is tough – she will make it."

Aithel was not really comforted by Faervel's words spoken with no emotion but she would take his word for it – they had other things to attend to now. She looked round her, "Right Camaendir you will share with me as your horse is slain. Mount up. We shall leave Thoron's horse here for him."

Magoldir and Feren mounted Feren's horse sharing and Faervel leapt upon the back of his own mount.

After ensuring Camaendir was secure behind her Aithel gave her next order, "Tolo ar nin. Gwaem!"

~o~

Blacwin took another harassed look behind him and saw that still there were no elves. The sight did nothing to relieve him. In fact he felt even more nervous. Why were they not yet being pursued? Had the elves somehow managed to get ahead of them and were waiting in ambush? Or did they know that another pack of elves already awaited them? Blacwin gripped his reins tighter and gave his horse a kick to its sides. Faster they needed to go faster.

They were still out on the open plains and the sooner they got back under the cover of trees the better. Blacwin frowned thinking back on Samer's quickly shouted message before the pathetic excuse of a man had fled the scene. He had a bad feeling about the 'decoy' elf he had on the back of his horse. He felt even worse about the battered she elf he could see on the back of the horse in front of him – they had grabbed her even though Aldred had clearly abandoned her.

Why had Aldred been so keen to abandon the other two elves they had managed to capture? Even going so far as to use one as a decoy. Surely more elves meant more money? Hadn't they come out here to get their hands on as many of the creatures as possible?

Blacwin's frown deepened – he truly hoped that Aldred had not abandoned him and the rest of the men to the wrath of the elves whilst making off with the most valuable elf for himself. It would be a very Aldred thing to do after all. But whilst Aldred did not care one whit about his underlings he had always had Blacwin's back.

Blacwin forced his racing mind to calm. He and Aldred were long time criminals and as close to bosom buddies as it was possible for mercenaries to get. He felt a lot of loyalty towards Aldred and was certain that the other man felt the same towards him at least. The more sensible part of him sniggered at that. Blacwin shook his head determinedly. He needed to stop being so suspicious and trust Aldred's plan. It was sound after all – they would lure what remained of the elves away and slaughter them before catching up with the others and continuing on their way to their destination and riches.

And Blacwin was certain they would be able to slaughter the elves – they were outnumbered by his men and he had seen another elf fall from the trees as they left. The others would most likely be injured making them easy targets even if the effects of the flowers had worn off. Blacwin slowed letting his lathered horse get a chance to catch its breath. Yes – he needed to stop worrying – they'd be able to take on the elves and win – of course. Blacwin steadfastly ignored the part of his mind that laughed uproariously at that.

~o~

Legolas opened bleary blue eyes slowly before squeezing them tightly shut again. Ai blessed Elberethhe hurt. It had been long years indeed since Legolas had last felt such pain. He sucked in a deep breath to try and clear his head but promptly started to cough as his broken ribs painfully alerted him to their presence. There was also the small matter of the sweet smelling cloth that was tightly wound around his face. Legolas hacked and gagged each movement sending bolts of agony racing through him.

Rough hands grabbed hold of him just then and he was yanked upright in a move that made his shoulder throb and stomach lurch. Legolas opened tired blue eyes to see angry brown ones staring right back at him.

"Elias it's awake. Dose him up again we need to keep moving."

Legolas struggled to get his thoughts together and remember how he had ended up in the clutches of these rough, evil looking men. He had no chance to do so however as another cloth, stronger smelling than the one it replaced was wound tightly across his mouth and nose. And the smell – it was familiar to Legolas somehow – lightly sweet and linked to these men? Legolas racked his brain to get his thoughts to line up coherently but soon he couldn't even remember what he'd been trying to do. His mind wandered and at last he gave into the sleep that nagged at him.

~o~

Aldred held the elf upright until its body went limp with sleep. He slung Legolas' body back over his horse and turned to face the men who remained with him, "We need to make haste and enter the second woodsmen village. We must take what we need and leave. There are less of us now. There can be no mistakes."

Elias spoke up somewhat nervously. "Captain what if we played at being lost and in need of help? Would we not have a better chance of swaying them into helping us and not fighting us? The woodsmen are tough and as you say there are less of us now."

Aldred begrudgingly had to admit that Elias was right they would not be able to take the second village with so few men. He half wished that he hadn't left behind (he'd abandoned them truthfully) any of his men at that first village – but then he had needed to ensure that none of the woodsmen or women escaped and went running to tell all and sundry to the elves before they'd had chance to flee the forest. No – that had been a sound decision – now he had to make another.

"Yes Elias you are right – we will truss up the elf as baggage and beg board for a night and supplies for the morn. Then we leave. We shall act as simple merchants who do not speak much Westron."

Aldred nodded pleased with himself, "First we need to look the part. Come I can hear a stream nearby, we must wash away all traces of blood. If we play this right we can be in and out and none shall ever be the wiser."

The men stirred their horses and followed Aldred's lead pleased that all was still going according to plan.

~o~

Meanwhile Thoron rode his horse hard and fast through the forest determined to catch up to his fellow maethyr. He had found no sign of either Hadril or Arasson – but he had found blood. Lots of red elvish blood that pointed out the direction the men had taken like an accusing finger. Thoron could see it even now dotted in amongst the mulch and leaf litter that covered the forest floor.

Thoron's already steely gaze hardened even further, he had taken some time to salvage as many arrows as possible back at the clearing and he was now imagining using them to inflict revenge and pain on the edain who had dared to lay hands on his Prince, Arasson and Hadril.

They would pay. Oh yes they would pay dearly.

TBC.
End Notes:
Celevon – Celegil's horse – Sindarin name meaning Of Silver

Adan – Man

Ellyn – Male elves

Elleth - Female elf

Nestron – Healer (male)

Berio ven Eru – May Eru protect us

Tolo ar nin – Come with me

Gwaem – Let's go

Maethyr – (plural) warriors

Edain – (Plural of Adan) Men
Chapter 9 by KimicThranduilion
The Great River gleamed in the distance through the trees and Aithel slowed her horse's pace down to a canter apologetically stroking the lathered beast's neck. They had ridden hard and it was now taking a toll on their battle wary horses. She guided her horse to a stop next to a tree before leaping off its back and disappearing up into the tree branches above. She needed to have a quick scout of the area and see if she could spy where the men had fled to.

They had followed the general direction of the men towards the edge of Mirkwood and now as Aithel scanned the distance from her perch high in the branches she could see that the men had continued across the icy river and into woods beyond. Aithel continued her rapid assessment of the wider area even as her mind reeled. She had seen a glimpse of blond hair in amongst the confusion as the men had beat a hasty retreat. She frowned. Those men had her Prince and possibly Hadril and Arasson as well – they needed to free them as soon as possible. Aithel had no idea what those men wanted with elves but it could be nothing good. They had to go after their fellow warriors and yet…

Aithel bit her lip eyes still rapidly scanning everything she could see all the way up to the Misty Mountains far in the distance. She had never set foot out of Mirkwood before – none of her fellow maethyr had - save Faervel. Of course Legolas as Prince had been to Lake Town and Dale with the trade envoys but even then his last trip and been at least a yen ago. Aithel glanced at the woods across the river one last time before climbing down the tree to where what remained of herdrnaith waited for her patiently. It looked like she would be the one responsible for ensuring their safety on their first trip out of Mirkwood. Would that it was under better circumstances.

Aithel dropped gently to the ground, "They have taken Legolas into the woods beyond the river. They may have Arasson and Hadril as well. We need a plan – we cannot just rush in there lest we be ambushed again."

Faervel nodded and spoke up, "You are right. They may very well have set another trap for us hoping we will blindly rush in to the rescue and that they can then pounce and slaughter us. No we must use all caution."

Aithel opened her mouth to reply but before she could utter a word crashing branches could be heard behind them as something approached at great speed. Aithel grabbed her bow off her back and knocked an arrow even as the rest of her troop whirled round weapons in their grasp to face whatever it was that was clattering through the forest towards them. They would take no more chances.

"Sdh!" Thoron's horse leapt out of the bushes and came to a panting halt in front of them, "Sdh it is I lower your weapons."

"Ai Thoron it was you – for a moment I thought we may have been under ambush by the men again," Aithel lowered her bow and slipped her arrow back into her quiver.

She took in Thoron's frown at that and his exhausted horse that was still panting hard – he was completely alone. Aithel's heart clenched even as she forced her lips to form the words, "You are alone Thoron, was there no sign of Hadril or Arasson or have they… are they -"

Aithel simply looked at him despairingly unable to complete her question.

Thoron shook his dark head, "They were not there nor anywhere in the clearing but there was a sign that they may have been there."

Aithel unconsciously took a step closer to Thoron as she waited for him to continue.

"There was blood - Elvish. Quite a lot of it at clearing and there is a trail of it I have followed in this direction; but then I felt your presence and turned to meet you."

Faervel interrupted whatever Aithel was about to say grabbing hold of Thoron and spinning him so they were face to face, "Did you say you felt our presence?"

Thoron blinked a little startled at being so suddenly manhandled by Faervel but he nodded his affirmative even as he answered, "Yes I felt you."

Faervel clapped his hands together in glee, "Then that must mean whatever spell or affliction that was upon us is wearing off."

"Do you really think so?" Camaendir questioned hopefully. He remembered how disoriented he had felt on last watch and then during the small battle back in the clearing it - was not a feeling he'd enjoyed. He be overjoyed if whatever had affected them all so badly had worn off or been left back at the clearing.

"Well if Thoron said he felt our presence then it must be wearing off, for back at the clearing I did not feel the presence of either the men or the spiders. Think, that is how we were caught off guard. But if Thoron felt our presence then maybe our senses are returning to what they should be."

"Then why did we not feel him? We all grabbed our weapons ready to attack," Magoldir was almost scared to hope the affliction that had seen him fight in such a pathetic, graceless manner was gone.

"Because we did not take the time to feel we simple grabbed our weapons – which is understandable given our recent circumstances." Faervel would not be swayed.

"We can test this easily enough," Aithel was back in command. "If our senses and full abilities are returned you will all have no trouble in shooting the targets I set you. Everyone grab your bows."

Aithel rapidly shouted a name followed by the target and was astounded by the brisk, graceful reactions of each member of the troop each one hitting their target dead on centre.

"Aithel – small speckled yellow leaf behind you."

Aithel had already spun round and shot her target before she had even fully registered that Faervel had decided to put her reflexes to the test as well.

Aithel smiled as she turned to face the rest of her warriors, "Well I guess that answers that question. We are hale again. Quickly gather your arrows – we can tarry no longer. We need to plan, it is time to rescue our mellyn and for those edain to pay for their folly."

~o~

Curses and high pitched screeching filled the air within the spider's nest. Their lair was a series of decaying trees bound together by the thick, sticky web woven by the hairy beasts. Those who had survived the skirmish were having their wounds tended with a gentleness that would have surprised the Eldar had they been witness to it. Those who had remained behind to guard the nest now made final preparations themselves to march.

Perched high above the spider commander watched all with her beady eyes. She was still fuming at how many of her underlings had been slaughtered by the elves. She clicked her pinchers annoyed, they had not even been going after the elves in the first place. They had been out on the hunt – for deer meat – not elf meat (this time) when they had run into the accursed beings; who had of course viciously attacked them.

She clicked her pinchers again harder this time. It was high time someone taught those prissy elves to stay out of Southern Mirkwood, could they not see that this part of the forest was now given over to the darker side of life? Why was it so hard for them to accept that fact and stay put in their stronghold? No, still they came here wreaking havoc and killing innocent spiders, orcs and wargs. Well it was time to return the favour.

The commander stood tall and high on her seven spindly legs (the eight she had lost to a cursed elf in a skirmish) towering over her underlings.

"Get into formation now – you've had enough time. We march to our kin in the mountains, they'll not refuse us their aid in teaching those meddling little elves a lesson."

She watched in glee as her spiders straightened out into neat rows organized by rank.

"Forward march," she hissed and they set off row by row, the trees they marched in shuddering though whether under their weight or at their foul presence it was hard to say.

Branches snapped and trees groaned as leaves were shaken loose by dozens of hairy black legs as the spiders got under way – the Mountains of Mirkwood their aim.

~o~

Elias gave his knuckles one last going over with the cold, wet rag in his hands. Finally satisfied he held his hands at arm's length and inspected them – perfect – not a drop of blood to be seen. He got up off the rotting tree trunk he had been sat on before making his way of to where Aldred was fussily cleaning his boots. Samer and Saveric argued in the background making excessive noise in his opinion. He held back a sigh; Saveric had been much quieter and pleasant to deal with before his younger brother had caught up to them.

"Ready for inspection Captain," Elias gave a small salute before standing up straight and staying stock still.

Aldred looked up clearly annoyed at the interruption. He flung his boot to the ground before marching up to Elias and circling him. Seemingly satisfied he came back round to face Elias before growling, "Hands – hold 'em out boy. Let's see if you got all the blood off."

Elias held his hands out again before Aldred gave an approving grunt, "That's good boy – now go tell those two simpering idiots firstly to shut the hell up and secondly get their flea bitten hides over here for me to inspect."

Elias gave a little bow before spinning on his heels to do as he was bid. The Captain was truly in a bad mood and Elias had no desire to hang around him anymore than necessary.

Having delivered their Captains message word for word to the brothers (much to their displeasure) Elias moved over to check on their elf.

He just could not help himself – he knew elves were trouble but yet still he felt drawn towards their captive.

Elias stepped round Aldred's horse to where the elf was draped over its rump. He slowly shuffled closer and gingerly removed the sack they had placed over the elf's head to keep what remained of his golden hair hidden.

Elias jumped back immediately; startled to see fully lucid and angry blue eyes staring up right at him.

~o~

Legolas' stomach lurched for the umpteenth time and he had to quickly swallow down his bile. It would not do to be sick now – certainly not with a sack over his head. He had come to some time ago after a particularly bad jerk that had sent pain racing through his battered body. He could sleep no more after that. He had no idea where he was save that he was in the hands of the edain that had ambushed his troop and given the wretched rocking motion that currently had him feeling so ill he guessed he had to be on horseback.

Nausea washed over Legolas again and he bit his lip hard. He would not disgrace himself by being sick now – although he was sure it would amuse him to some extent to see how the owner of the horse he was upon would react to being vomited on.

Legolas felt the horse slow its movements before coming to a complete stop. He strained his senses to see what he could find out. He could hear the gentle trickle of water very nearby and guessed that the men had stopped for a break. He listened very carefully after that but rather annoyingly the men did not speak of any plans they might have. In fact they spoke not at all – apart from two voices arguing over trivial nonsense such as which inn had the best serving wenches.

Legolas wanted to scream in pure frustration – and anger. Why had he and his troop been attacked? Legolas listened again carefully and stretched his senses again. He could tell there were a lot less edain in this group compared to how many had attacked them – perhaps only four or five. Why? Had the men split off into different groups? Or had his troop rallied and slaughtered the rest of the men? Thinking back to what he had last seen of the battle Legolas had to admit that that was a vain hope.

Also worrying his was that he could detect no other presence save that of the men. Where were Hadril and Arasson? Why were they not being held captive also? Valar please let them not be dead, Legolas thought miserably. He had always feared this – feared that his troop would be targeted because of him. But then did this mean that these men knew who he was? Did they know he was Prince of Mirkwood?

Legolas's whirring thoughts were brought to an abrupt halt as he heard footsteps approaching his position. He heard the tentative approach and sensed that his hood was about to be pulled off. In a split second Legolas decided to keep his eyes open. He was angry with these edain and he wanted to look upon the faces of his captors – now that he was lucid enough to be able to see them properly.

Legolas' eyes hardened with all his pent up fury at the ambush and his present circumstances. The hood was pulled off and Legolas resisted the urge to squint at the late afternoon light. Instead he kept up his glacial glare and was very satisfied to see the man who had lifted his hood jump and stumble backwards.

The adan looked at him for a few moments more the fear in his eyes slowly being replaced by a pure, raw hatred. The young man took a step closer to him.

"Captain the elf is awake again – shall I dose him up and make him presentable?"

The man spoke with a hint of malicious glee to his voice and Legolas suddenly felt a small stab of fear. Dose him up. Those were the same words the men had used before putting that sickly sweet cloth over his mouth and nose the last time. That smell – whatever they were "dosing him up" with was the cause of all his troubles. Legolas did not know what it was but he knew that it was responsible for dulling his senses and slowing his mind.

An affirmative was given and Legolas did his best not to panic as the young adan disappeared from his limited view. Suddenly rough hands yanked him upwards as the cloth wrapped round his face was yanked off. Legolas jerked his legs and was annoyed to find he could not kick out as his legs were firmly secured by rope. The young man simply laughed at his futile trashing and Legolas was enraged; he waited for the man to put his hands in front of his face to wrap the poisoned cloth around him and then he bit him. Hard. Hard enough to draw blood and he refused to let go. It was disgusting as the blood flooded his mouth but Legolas would be damned if he let these men do what they pleased with him without putting up a struggle.

The man's pained howl was music to Legolas' ears and he finally let the man's hand slip free from his mouth before he spat out the blood behind him. Legolas had no further time to feel smug as a painful blow struck him in the head from behind.

Legolas was still reeling even as his head was yanked back and the cloth firmly and quickly wrapped round his lower face again. The same angry brown eyes Legolas could vaguely remember appeared in front of him again.

"Listen here elf, I'd rather not have to hit you as bruises will take away from your market value but be warned elf – I don't lightly accept back chat and I have no time for trouble makers. Think of that as you sleep elf."

And with that Legolas felt himself being slung back across the horse before his world went dark as the sack over his face was replaced. It was only a few minutes later that his world went dark again – this time as he succumbed once more to the sleep forced upon him by his captors.

TBC.
End Notes:
Maethyr – (plural) warriors

Drnaith – Military (Troop/Guard)

Sdh – Peace

Mellyn – Friends

Edain – (Plural of Adan) Men

Adan – Man
Chapter 10 by KimicThranduilion
Author's Notes:
Our elves begin the first stages of their rescue and Legolas experiences water-boarding Middle earth style.
Elias was furious with the elf. The cursed creature had actually gone and bit him. Bloody hard too. He'd had to wash his hand again to clear away the blood before having it wrapped non too gently by Aldred all whilst Samer and Saveric sniggered in the background.

Elias still offered to wrap up the elf so that he looked like baggage but Aldred had irritably waved him off to the side doing the task himself. Elias looked at his Captains horse in front of him and he had to admit that Aldred had done a very good job indeed of making the elf look like an extra piece of baggage.

Elias' thoughts were interrupted as Aldred swung round to look at him, "You're up boy make it convincing – don't let me down."

Aldred maneuvered his horse then so that Elias and he were riding abreast and Elias swallowed. It was time for him to convince the woods people to give them shelter for the night and provisions for the morn and in all truth Elias was nervous. He did not like the woods people and their strong wills and defiant spirit. Personally he would rather that they took their chances with hunting and gathering whatever they could find until they got out of Mirkwood. But alas he was not Captain and therefore he now had to do Aldred's bidding.

It was surprisingly easy, these people were seemingly a gentler and calmer race of the woods people. They had been welcomed into the town where an old, grey haired couple had haltingly offered to put them up for the night in broken Westron.

They had accepted even though it was slowly explained to them that they would have to spend the night in what was essentially the couple's cellar. Still Aldred eagerly accepted as it was the only way they would all be able to stay together.

"We…ah leave you… ah… get ready food," the elderly lady pointed back up the stairs to the main house.

Her husband nodded, "We calling you… when food…ah is ready for eating."

Elias planted a genial smile on his face bowing slightly as he faced the old couple, "This is good," he paused and made a show of thinking up the correct words in Westron before, "We…thank you kindly."

Satisfied the elderly couple went back up the stairs shutting the cellar door quietly behind them.

Aldred waited a few more moments before he spoke in a whisper, "That was very good indeed Elias. I'm pleased. Now let us remain convincing for the rest of the night. We can eat and I'm sure they will give us enough provisions for us to high tail it out of this forest. Now let's get our story straight before we go up to eat with them."

Elias listened distractedly to Aldred's whispered instructions as he piled their bags in one corner. He came to their last 'bag' and stared down at it. Elias was still angry about the wound inflicted upon him by the elf and he would've liked nothing better than to be allowed to inflict a little pain of his own upon the fair being.

"Put the elf behind the other bags boy and leave him be," Aldred hissed interrupting Elias' malevolent thoughts.

"We don't need him and you getting into another scuffle," Aldred walked up behind him watching as Elias did as he'd been told. "These woods people seem to have no knowledge of what's gone on in the other village and I'd like to keep it so at least until we leave. So no shenanigans with the elf ok boy?"

Aldred glared hard at Elias – this was a sin Aldred clearly would not allow him to get away with so he simply nodded yes.

Aldred gave a nod in return a pleased smile on his face when the door was lightly knocked before being swung open.

The old lady beamed down at them, "Food is…ah ready…now."

The men all turned round to face her fake smiles firmly plastered across their faces as they gave a little bow before following her up the stairs.

~o~

Faervel's eyes gleamed in the dim night light as he waited not so patiently for the rest of his troop to be ready to put their plan into action. He was raring to go – anxious to get to Legolas' side and ensure he was well as well as finding out whether Arasson and Hadril were also with the men. Of course he was also eager to let the men have a taste of cold Elvish steel. Faervel relaxed his grip on his twin knives a fraction willing himself to be calm.

Turning round to face the early evening gloom of the forest he watched as Aithel gave last minute instructions to their horses the animals gathered close around her. Camaendir, Feren, Thoron and Magoldir had all finished strapping on their weapons and now came to stand near him. Faervel swiveled round and gazed out over the plains again eyes roving as far as the woods on the other side of the Great River trying futilely to catch a glimpse of the men.

He gave up as he felt Aithel stand next to him.

"All is ready?" he asked softly even as he reigned in his impatience.

"Yes," was Aithel's calm response, "Tiro ven Elbereth."

"Tiro ven Elbereth," Faervel echoed the prayer along with the others and at Aithel's sharp nod they finally left the shadows of the trees and advanced across the plains separating them from their quarry.

Faervel turned his head looking back a little wistfully at his woodland home. He had left Mirkwood before - of course- it came with his promise to Thranduil yet it had always been to go into towns of men. Never had he left the safety of his forest to go further out into Wilderland - he'd had no desire to and no need to.

Yet he had need now and as he marched silently across the grassy lands with what remained of his drnaithhe ran through their plan in his head once again. They had waited for evening to cover them with darkness and shadows so they could cross the open plains. They had their stealth back now and by morning they would be in place in the woods on the other side of the Great River ready to unleash the same fear and chaos upon the edain that they had experienced themselves only this morning.

Faervel quickened his step ever so slightly – he could hardly wait.

~o~

Legolas gently stirred as he came back to awareness ever so slowly. His mind felt cloudy and he ached fiercely. He opened one eye just a crack and was disconcerted to see nothing but inky black darkness. He forced his whirling mind to calm and he took stock of what he knew or could remember. It took some doing but he finally remembered the men, the ambush and that he was a captive.

This last part made Legolas try to pull himself together more forcefully. He needed his wits about him if he were to have any chance of escaping these men. He stretched his senses out listening carefully to see if he could piece together where he now was. Unfortunately his mind and senses refused to co-operate and Legolas gave up with a small huff. His senses were dull, his mind was groggy and he hurt all over. Valar how he hurt.

It was no mere dull ache like he'd experienced with his injured shoulder either. It was vicious stabbing pains shooting through his body and pooling in his chest. If only he could breathe some fresh air unrestricted Legolas was sure he'd feel lots better – yet the accursed cloth tied tightly round his face made sure that was impossible. His feet and hands were tied too and Legolas was annoyed that when he gave an experimental wiggle neither knot budged so much as an inch. He was also aggrieved to find that his hands were quite numb. Fat lot of use they were going to be then.

Legolas wiggled a bit more in an attempt to find out a bit more of his surroundings. He could feel hard ground beneath his back and yet it was not cold. So he was not outdoors then for the ground in most of Mirkwood emitted a cold dread chill and was one of the reasons the elves had taken to sleeping in their beloved trees.

Another little wiggle told Legolas that he was surrounded by objects that felt sturdy yet they were not hard like stone or wood. Legolas was still considering this little mystery when he was suddenly grasped and tugged into an upright position. His hood was yanked off and this time Legolas could not refrain from blinking in the harsh bright torch light that was held in his face.

The bright light was removed and as Legolas eyes slowly readjusted to the now dim light of the room he silently berated himself for being caught off guard.

"Hello elf."

Legolas blinked owlishly in the direction the voice had come from annoyed with how slow and confused he was. A young adan grinned at him with a cheerful smile that did not reach his eyes.

"Wha..." Legolas tried but found his words were not only muffled by the cloth still round his face but that his voice had cracked from disuse and thirst.

"Oh shush, shush, shush elfie. You are not to make any noise or the Captain will be most upset."

Theadan looked down at a water skin near where he had crouched before looking again at Legolas, anger and bitterness in his eyes.

"You need a drink elf?" the man asked and Legolas was surprised at how he had spat the word elf using it as one would a curse. Legolas simply blinked slowly at him and kept very still. This was the adanhe had bitten earlier and the hatred and anger that had caused a small frisson of fear in Legolas' heart was still there in his pale grey eyes.

"Do you not understand me elf? Do you not speak Common?"

The young man gave his fake cheerful smile again and Legolas stayed stock still – maybe if the man thought he could not speak Westron he would shut up and go away and leave Legolas to deal with his raging headache and plans of escape in relative peace.

The man however merely shook his head before whispering, "Here let me make it easy for you elfie. Pedin edhellen."

Legolas' eyes widened with surprise and he studied the man before him more closely. Not many men knew Sindarin – even the trade merchants and peace envoys that came from Dale and Lake Town could only haltingly stutter out the traditional welcome butchering the words so badly it was often difficult to even understand what they had attempted to say. Yet this young adan had spoken the words like he was born to them. Legolas' eyes narrowed as he decided to test the man – that had been a fairly simple phrase after all.

Legolas's muffled question caused the man to frown.

"I can't understand you with that mask on elfie, I will loosen it slightly but if you make any attempt to bite me again I sigil nin egor I bau nin. You can decide your punishment."

Legolas's eyes widened again in shock at the man's knowledge of his mother tongue and he was so surprised he did not even register the man slowly loosening the cloth wound round his face before hastily jumping back.

Legolas quickly blinked before looking at the man again – it seemed pointless to test his knowledge of Sindarin now – it was clear he knew it well.

Still his next whispered words were in Sindarin, "Man i theled i cheniol edhellen?"

A slow malicious smile spread across the young man's face, "Ni elvellon."

The man chuckled as he moved around out of Legolas' range of sight, "Does that answer all your questions elfie? I am an elf friend so I can speak your filthy tongue just as well as you do."

Legolas snorted immediately regretting the action as he caught a whiff of the sweet sense dulling poison. Still he carried on, showing no outward signs of unease, "You lie lg, you are no elf friend and I warn you avof nathlad 'werth min daur vn."

The adan merely chuckled again before suddenly the cloth was once again tightened around his mouth and nose being secured from behind. Legolas twisted, struggled in vain and he internally raged at himself for letting the man sneak up on him. Who was this man exactly? Who moved so swiftly, silently and who spoke the Grey Tongue as if it were his own.

The man came back into sight and peered down at Legolas a horrible grin on his face.

"Enough talk elf," he jiggled the water skin that had been on the floor at him. "You sounded hoarse – how about that drink I promised you?"

Legolas narrowed his eyes at the man again. Why had he gagged him again with the cursed cloth if he intended to give him a drink?

The man smiled wickedly before he uncorked his water skin and carelessly let its contents splash down onto Legolas's lower cloth covered face. Legolas turned his head but the man simply moved forward so that his was sitting on Legolas' abdomen before pushing him flat to the ground his hand clamped firmly around Legolas's neck. Pain flared in his abused body as the man roughly adjusted him into position. Legolas was firmly locked in place and the man again gleefully spilled water across the cloth that covered his mouth and nose soaking it. Legolas wriggled trying in vain to move his head out of the way of the water that was again being poured onto his face. The cloth was soaked now and Legolas tried to take a quick gulping breath. He panicked as the saturated cloth simply clung to his nostrils not letting him take in any meaningful amount of air. He let out a chocking cough as he tried for breath by inhaling with his mouth and panicked again as he found he could not.

Fear was rising steadily within Legolas as he trashed around beneath the man. The man however simply sat on him harder forcing Legolas to be still lest he aggravate his broken ribs further. The man finished emptying his water skin upon Legolas' face and he calmed a little thinking that this particular little bit of torture was over. His calm soon vanished as the man simply pulled out another, larger water skin. Legolas again tried to take a breath and gasped as he found it difficult. He had no time to gather himself as more water splashed down upon him and he trashed wildly as the sensation of drowning over took him.

He could not breathe, he could hardly move, the water trickled down his nose to the back of his throat making him want to gag and heave. Legolas tossed his head or at least he tried to - the man's hand clamping down more firmly on his throat added to the sensation of breathlessness. Black spots danced in Legolas' vision as he tried ever harder to free himself from the man's grip, broken ribs be damned. He would not allow this man to send him to Mandos by drowning him on land! It was too stupid a way to die. Yet Legolas could feel his strength leaving him even as his lungs burned and screamed for oxygen.

Just then a door creaked open before a gruff voice ground out in an angry hiss, "Get off him!"

TBC.
End Notes:
Tiro ven Elbereth – May Varda (Elbereth) watch over us

Drnaith – Military (Troop/Guard)

Edain – (Plural of Adan) Men

Adan – Man

Pedin edhellen – I speak Elvish

I sigil nin egor I bau nin – My dagger or my fist

Man i theled i cheniol edhellen? – Why do you know Elvish?

Ni elvellon - I am a friend of the Elves (I am elf-friend)

Lg – Snake

Avof nathlad 'werth min daur vn – We don't welcome traitors into our forest
Chapter 11 by KimicThranduilion
Author's Notes:
The rescue mission gets underway and Faervel gets a surprise.
Aldred was furious at the sight before him – Elias who had feigned tiredness to their hosts in order to leave the table quickly – was straddling the elf and performing some sort of water torture on it. Aldred saw red as he hissed at Elias to get off the elf. Really what on earth did the boy think he was doing? Had all his men gone mad? As if what the gruesome twosome had just done upstairs wasn't bad enough did he also have to deal with Elias' nonsense too? He had thought the boy had some wits about him.

Elias jumped up and stumbled backwards the hatred in his eyes that had been directed at the elf softening and swiftly turning into fear.

Good, Aldred thought angrily as he stomped over and ripped the cloth from the elf's face allowing him to take a gasping breath, Elias should be fearful. Aldred needed this elf to be alive and reasonably healthy when he sold it at the slavers market. He would not stand for anyone doing anything to the elf that would lower its value. As much as he valued Elias' uncannily good tracking and stealth skills he would sooner slit his throat than miss out on his prize. He knew of a slave master who would pay generously indeed for elves for they were so hard to capture. Aldred would be able to finally leave the dangerous world of mercenary missions behind him. Yes, Elias would have to be punished at some point but first they had business to take care of.

The brothers grim had done something exceptionally stupid and now they had to make haste and leave before any of the villagers found out. Damn those two.

Aldred looked down at the elf on the floor who had curled into a ball as best it could with its limbs tied. It was taking in gulping breaths and Aldred noticed with rising anger that its lips were a faint blue. Damn all his men, he thought furiously, damn them all to Mordor.

"Get the elf bagged up again boy – we're leaving and if you harm one golden hair on his head I will kill you," Aldred snarled at Elias.

"T-Tied up Captain?" Elias was confused – why were they no longer spending the night here?

The look Aldred levelled at him was murderous, "Yes boy, tie him up and ready our gear." Aldred sounded out the words carefully as though he were speaking to a dim witted child.

"Yes Captain."

Aldred gave a grunt before storming back up the stairs no longer trying to move quietly or act with any decorum and why should he? Thanks to Samer and Saveric, his resident idiots in chief, the couple who had offered them shelter now lay slain on their own floor along with their daughter who had popped in to visit her parents.

Aldred had to grit his teeth and remind himself of the reasons why it would be more helpful to him to keep the duo alive than to run them through with his sword here and now.

He strode into the living area of the cabin and glanced with distaste at the bodies on the ground. They could not be left there – the later the other villagers discovered the deaths of this family the better. Samer and Saveric shuffled into the room sheepishly and Aldred sighed, forcibly removing his hand from the hilt of his sword – he had hoped for an easy night but it was clear now that it would be just the opposite.

~o~

The call of a crow rang through the crisp, misty morning air. Faervel gave his shoulders a slight shrug, rolling them to loosen tension that had gathered in his upper arms before knocking an arrow and pulling back his bow string. His eyes were trained on the men below him who had awakened and were now about to have their breakfast and he had to smile at the timing.

Faervel forced himself to calm and to wait patiently for Aithel's next signal. It was hard however for though they had done a round of the men's makeshift camp they hadn't spotted a single elf out in the open. Faervel guessed they were keeping his fellows in one of the small tents they had pitched.

He flexed the fingers holding his bow slowly, he was impatient to kill these men and get down there to see Legolas again and ensure that his friend was hale. Guilt raced through Faervel at the thought of how much he was focused on Legolas and he gave his head a small shake. He was just as worried for Arasson and Hadril but Legolas - though he did not know it - was Faervel's charge. Faervel suppressed a sigh, Legolas had no idea about the pledge Faervel had taken to become his bodyguard, the oath he had sworn to protect Legolas' life with his own. In fact none knew save King Thranduil and Faervel's Naneth.

Faervel tightened his grip on his bow – he wasn't doing a very good job of keeping his oath now was he? If he had not been so weak Legolas would not be with those men right now. He was the one who had dropped Legolas to his doom after all. He had just been so startled at the scream Legolas gave – still – that was no excuse for his poor performance as a Royal bodyguard. Faervel was pretty certain King Thranduil would not be impressed.

He had no more time to reflect as the piercing cry of a crow again rang clear through the air. Faervel aimed and then let his arrow fly – straight and true into the neck of one of the edain who stood as a lookout at the edge of the camp. Arrows showered down upon the men who panicked and scrambled about madly trying to get into the few tents scattered around the small clearing. Within a matter of moments most of the men had forced themselves into the small canvas dwellings hoping to take refuge from the arrows raining death down upon them.

Faervel shook his head at the futility of the men's actions – did they really think cowering in tents would save them from the wrath of the elves? He slung his bow secure upon his back before he pulled out his long knives and hopped down to the pine needle strewn ground. It was time for the men to face the consequences of their foolish actions. He advanced upon one tent noting in the corner of his eyes that his fellow warriors were doing them same. There were only six of them and around sixteen to seventeen men – arrows had taken care of six of them though so the odds were much more favourable now.

Faervel stabbed his knife into the material of one tent before dragging it downwards forcefully to reveal three men cowering within. He smiled at them before flinging one of his knives into the neck of the one furthest from him, bringing up his other knife just in time to block a rather weak blow from another of the men who had had the presence of mind to reach for a weapon. He lunged at the men brandishing his one knife wickedly. Both men scrambled backwards getting tangled in the material of the ruined tent and Faervel seized his opportunity. Before either man could blink he had flung his knife into one of the men's neck before he leapt forward, plucked both knives free, whirled round and slit the neck of the remaining man.

Faervel flicked a loose strand of dark hair from his face as he straightened and scanned the camp – neither Legolas, Arasson nor Hadril had been in the tent that lay destroyed at his feet and he wondered where they might be. His senses suddenly screamed at him and he moved just in time to avoid a crossbow bolt to the head. Faervel narrowed his eyes at the man who had just tried to shoot him and jumped to the side as the man shot at him again. Faervel slipped behind a tree and was about to look around it when movement caught his eye near the very edge of the clearing. Or rather a colour had caught his eye – a glimpse of gold – fine strands of it wafting in the air before being bundled up onto a horse.

Steeling his resolve Faervel pulled his bow off his back and jumped out from his hiding place swiftly dropping to one knee to get the perfect angle to shoot his current tormentor in the throat. That problem taken care of he shot off a few more arrows in rapid succession taking down another two edain before he had to dart up into a tree as a sharp dagger was thrown his way. From the safety of the branches he shot that adan too before swapping back to his long knives as he darted through the branches towards where he was sure he had spotted Legolas.

Of course the man was no longer still there but he was not very far ahead and Faervel caught up to him easily slithering through the branches above with ease before he dropped down in front of the man's horse causing the animal to rear up sharply. The adan held on though and Faervel had to jump out of the way as the horses great hooves came back down and kicked out. The man swung wildly with his sword at him and Faervel blocked it, the force of the blow ringing up his arms. Perhaps, Faervel thought as he fended off another attack, he ought to have stayed in the trees - the man had the advantage of height as long as he stayed seated upon his horse and Faervel was finding it hard to attack in any meaningful way.

His back touched solid wood and with an annoyed curse at himself Faervel realized he had allowed the man to back him into a corner – a cluster of trees that grew tightly together. Still he would not give in so easily and with great regret he lashed out at the man's horse catching the animal on its leg and chest which caused it to fall back with a pitiful whiny. Faervel hated himself then – he was a wood elf – a lover of animals and it hurt him to have to hurt this horse but needs must.

Still the man was unperturbed as he forced his horse forward again and swung his sword with some force towards Faervel's neck. Faervel crossed his knives in front of him blocking the man's attack but no sooner had he done so than the man was attacking again. Faervel fought desperately as he blocked, dodged and wished. Wished he had told one of his fellows where he was going, wished he had stayed in the trees and shot this man from above, wished that he hadn't allowed himself to be backed into a corner. And more than anything he wished he could get to Legolas' limp body that he could see flailing around on the back of the man's horse like a rag-doll.

~o~

Blacwin continued his attack upon the elf who was putting up a crazy and desperate fight, and in all honesty Blacwin himself was getting more than a bit desperate. His arm ached fiercely with the strain of his repeated failed attacks upon the elf who infuriatingly blocked every move. It was also getting harder and harder to keep his horse under control the beast moving wildly around beneath him in an attempt to get away from the elf's wicked looking daggers. He would not let his horse move further backwards however as he forced the animal to press ever closer to the elf. Blacwin swung his sword again and was annoyed to meet with thin air as the elf had ducked and rolled back a bit further into the copse of trees.

Ha, thought Blacwin full of glee – that was a foolish move from the elf – it was truly trapped now. Brutally stabbing into his horse's sides with his spurs he forced the animal closer to the elf hoping to deliver a death blow. He was surprised however as his horse let out a horrifying, shrieking type of sound and reared up high until it began to fall over onto its side. Too late Blacwin tried to leap free but in his panicked haste his leg caught in one of the stirrups and pain raced through him as his left leg was crushed under the bulk of his horse.

~o~

Faervel had seen the death blow coming before the man even had a chance at executing it and with a fervent prayer to Yavanna for forgiveness he plunged both knives deep into the throat of the man's horse. The horse had reacted as expected and reared up in horror and pain and blood spurted from the wounds as the horse fell backwards onto its wretched owner who was now caught fast trapped by his leg. The horse continued it's pitiful, ghastly whinnies as it jerked its head and legs in its final death throes.

Faervel rested his bloodied hand gently on the horses head asking it for forgiveness and uttered another prayer before putting it out of its pain with a quick flick of his knives. That miserable task done Faervel leaped around the horse's body and quickly cut Legolas free. Gathering his friend's frail form in his arms he whipped off the rough sack the men had used as a hood and flung it behind him. The glittering golden hairs went flying along with the sack and Arasson's battered face appeared as his own rich red hair tumbled free. Faervel's heart lurched and his stomach dropped – he was shocked that the elf he held was not Legolas but he was most shocked by the sight of how badly Arasson was injured. He hastily wiped one of his bloody hands clean on his breeches before running it softly through Arasson's flaming red hair and gave him a gentle kiss to his temple. He could not believe how terrible his friend looked – could not imagine what he had suffered. He quickly tamped down on his wild fear over what treatment Legolas may be suffering – he needed a clear mind and he needed to focus on who was here with him now.

Anger surged through him unchecked however as he raised his head to look over at the man who was still frantically flailing around trying to free himself from the bulk of his horse. He wanted to kill the man here and now but he was loathe to put Arasson down. At the sudden rustle of shrubbery Faervel's hand had shot out and grabbed one of his discarded knives even as he held Arasson tighter to him. He calmed though seeing it was Thoron who had come to seek him out.

"Arasson," Thoron gasped his fellows name before falling down upon his knees besides Faervel. With a trembling hand he tenderly stroked Arasson's hair. "Will…will he…will he live?"

Faervel gave a long sigh as he looked down at his fellow warrior with the trained eyes of a healer for the first time.

"I know not – we must get him warm and tend his wounds," taking another close look at Arasson he shook his head sadly, "I will do my best for him but truly I do not know how he will fare – if we are too late. Here take him. I must see to this adan."

Faervel had snarled the last word even as he gently transferred Arasson to Thoron's strong arms.

"He is not worth it Faervel – we have already killed all who did not surrender - do not waste anger on him. If you kill do so quickly and cleanly. We have found Hadril and she fares the same as Arasson. We must leave this place and get back to the Wood," he paused and looked over his shoulder, "We will be in need of your healing skills, do not be overlong. Kill him if you must then come. And Faervel worry not – we will find the Prince."

Faervel gave Thoron a curt nod before he gathered his other knife and stalked over to the stricken man.

~o~

Blacwin stopped his futile struggling as the shadow of the elf leaned over him bloodied knives in plain view. Cursing all his luck and Aldred's back-stabbing carcass most of all he fixed pleading, desperate eyes on the elf.

"Do not kill me – I know where your leader elf is."

The angry dark haired being before him gave no sign of understanding and only twirled his knives in his hand menacingly.

"The…the golden elf – he had golden hair…the one you still seek – I know where he is – damn it elf do you understand me?"

"Oh I understand you perfectly well mr-adan," the elf snarled in heavily accented Westron, "and now you should understand me – if your information does not lead us to find our friend safe, hale and whole I will show you in perfect, painfully slow detail why wood elves are considered more dangerous."

~o~

Legolas cursed himself as a small pained moan broke free from his lips – he did not want to give the man whose horse he was upon any satisfaction. He had somehow ended up being placed upon the horse of the young adan who had started water torturing him before they had been interrupted. Everything had then been a mad rush as he was swiftly bundled back up again and the men snuck out with him back into cold night. Legolas wondered at the swift, panicked change of plans - the men had been in such a hurry to leave that they had forgotten to 'dose him up' with that sweet smelling poison again.

And now Legolas could not decide if that was for better or for worse. He felt every bump and dip in the path acutely and he was sure that the adan rode his horse into such pits on purpose. Legolas' shoulder and ribs screamed at him and his blood pounded in his ears so hard he couldn't focus on listening to his surroundings. His feet and hands had long stopped tingling and were now numb and Legolas was really starting to get tired of the scratchy, rough material of his hood against his face. The forced darkness was not helping either.

A winded gasp left his lips this time as the horse again jolted and pain speared him. Legolas grit his teeth as he heard the man chuckle – and he made a small pledge to himself there and then to remain silent no matter the level of his pain. He would provide no further amusement for these ŷn yrch.

TBC.
End Notes:
Naneth - Mother

Edain – (Plural of Adan) Men

Adan – Man

Mr-adan – Dark (Evil) Man

Ŷn yrch – Sons (ŷn is plural on ion) of Orcs (Yrch is plural of orch)
Chapter 12 by KimicThranduilion
Author's Notes:
More pain is headed Legolas' way
"Halt. We should halt here and go no further during daylight – and here is perfect – we will make camp here and move again when dark. Now – hop to it!"

Legolas sent up a thankful prayer to Elbereth as the horse he was upon came to a stop. Finally, he thought, the torment is over.

That had been one of the most awful rides he'd ever had the misfortune of enduring – still at least he had managed to keep silent – not a moan nor a gasp had left his lips for the rest of the torturous journey. And Legolas was sure that that fact had infuriated the young adan – for he had ridden his horse ever more carelessly through every pit and dip. Indeed it was a wonder the poor beast was not yet lame.

Legolas was jerked out of his commiserations for the man's horse when uncaring hands grabbed him before depositing him with a thump onto grassy ground. Legolas was so thrilled to feel the grass underneath him he barely registered the pain his rough landing had caused – and could it be that the men were still in the Wood? If so then his chances of rescue were fairly strong. His musings were again interrupted by the same angry sounding voice that had called the men to a halt.

"Gods above boy, need you throw my elf to the ground so carelessly? I've told you already what'll happen if you harm him."

Legolas wrinkled his nose – he was nobody's elf.

The voice was speaking again (hissing aggressively more like), "And you two stop gawping and make haste with the camp – you're both still in utter disgrace for what you did back in the village. Crack on – what are you waiting for? A pack of wood elves to shoot us full of arrows? Get on man."

Legolas perked up – so they must indeed still be in the Wood or at least very near its borders – oh how he wished a patrol would show up. He strained his ears now to hear more of what the men would say but unfortunately for him they seemed to have clammed up, which was of course no help to Legolas at all. He needed to know more of their plans – all he knew was that the leader of the men did not want him harmed – why? Were they going to hold him to ransom?

With nothing else to hear but the sounds of a camp going up Legolas was left alone with his whirring thoughts as the men spoke no more.

~o~

Celegil peered up at the looming shadows of the Mountains of Mirkwood and bit her lip. She was really in spider territory now and knowing of their plot against her home she felt unusually nervous and even a little bit afraid. She was alone now after all.

Morchant gave an annoyed snort and Celegil smilingly patted his neck – no not alone she had a trusty steed at her side – but still… she was nervous. Usually the troops and patrols skirted round the base of the mountains deeming it too troublesome to traverse with their horses and the very real threat of spider attack. However now haste was of the utmost importance for Celegil and going through the mountains would save her time and yet –

Celegil clutched her right shoulder loosely and cringed inwardly as her fingers came away bathed in bright crimson. Arrow head or no all the riding had aggravated her wound and now she was steadily bleeding – a small trickle for now but it was blood – Elvish blood nonetheless - and the scent of it was like a dinner bell to spiders.

Celegil took a deep breath – she did not have time to waste – the abominable arachnids with their long reaching spindly legs could travel faster than her. Indeed they may already be gathering in the shadows, she had no choice, she would go through the mountains for it was the quickest if not safest path.

Celegil stroked her hand gently along Morchant's neck and gave a small tight smile as the horse leaned into the touch. She had other reasons for going through the mountains too – the blood loss was rendering her weaker hour by hour and Morchant was suffering greatly with his own wounds – going round the base of the mountains would add at least another day or day and a half to her journey. Celegil was not sure if they would both be able to hold out that long.

Route decided she squared her shoulders wincing as pain raced through her right one and blood trickled down her side – she would take the gamble, for her realm and her Prince she would risk all.

~o~

In a dank cave in the very mountains Celegil had decided to brave a huge gathering of spiders was underway.

The spider commander was hissing frantically in her high pitched voice trying to put her point across. For the unexpected had happened – she had met with fierce resistance to her plans to march upon the elf stronghold. The spider chief of the mountain clans had refused her outright, said that he would not risk the wrath of the elves, said that the elves had not come to his mountains for long years, and said that he would not send his troops.

It had been all the spider commander could do to not attack him there and then – that would teach that pompous, overfed sorry excuse of an arachnid. But no – she had to hold back – she needed his troops or what remained of hers would be decimated by the elves. Even worse they would have to turn tail and retreat to their nest – shamefaced and then her rule would be questioned and most likely overthrown.

No, she could not have that, she had killed far too many to get to her position to let it go easily. Gathering what remained of her limited patience she batted the lashes of her eight calculating eyes as she put forth her plan from a different angle.

Unbeknownst to them all an elf began her descent up the mountain path.

~o~

Legolas gave a small shrug of his shoulders trying to ease the dull ache that had settled in them but winced when pain flared in his injured shoulder and he gave up with a huff. He was in so much pain, he was thirsty and he was really getting fed up of being forcibly kept in the dark. He was a creature of light – happiest when he could rejoice in the rays of Anor, Ithil and Elbereth'sstars – the darkness cast by his hood was truly infuriating and he wished the men would remove it.

Legolas stilled as he heard footsteps approaching his position.

"Ok Saveric – I'll take last watch now, you take your rest."

Legolas stiffened at the sound of the young adan's voice before he mentally chastised himself for feeling nervous around a man who had not yet even seen thirty summers. Legolas forced his racing heart to calm, after all he had no real reason to be nervous – the young man couldn't harm him, not with his threatening boss sleeping nearby. So reassured Legolas went back to his current favorite pastime of imagining all the ways in which he would kill his captors.

Light suddenly blinded him and it took a few seconds for Legolas to realise his hood had been lifted. He blinked rapidly trying to get his eyes to adjust and the world back into focus. He was annoyed at the little shudder of nervousness that raced through him at the sight of the young man's face peering down at him from above.

"Mae govannen elf – thought I'd give you a brief respite from the dark – I know how fragile you creatures of light can be. Wouldn't want you to fade on us now would we elfie? The Captain would be most displeased."

Legolas did not reply but took the time to truly study the leering face above him. Lightly tanned skinned pointed to a life spent mostly out of doors but it was the soft, pale grey eyes peering at him intently that led Legolas to his answer. A man who spent most of his time outdoors with pale grey eyes and who spoke the Grey Tongue as it was his own. Of course, he had to be a Ranger of the North. Legolas narrowed his eyes at the man – why was he here with these bandits then? He had learnt in his lessons long ago that the Rangers were about the only edain that could be trusted. Why then was this one, clearly well trained by elven kin, now given over to darkness?

Legolas made as if to speak and of course all his words were horribly muffled by the cloth wound round his lower face. Hoping that the adan would take the hint that he wanted to speak to him Legolas continued raising his voice to the highest volume his parched throat would allow.

"Stop that noise elf, are you trying to wake everyone?"

Legolas quieted as the man approached and gingerly removed his mask. Legolas opened his mouth to begin to demand the adan explain all to him when a thick piece of rope was promptly shoved into his mouth and tied round the back of his head. His eyes widened in surprise and he tried to shout out in vain for the rope had effectively gagged him.

Wild fear grabbed at Legolas' heart now – for if the adan intended to play his water torture games with him again all gagged like this he would surely drown. He trashed round desperately wanting to somehow get away from the man – of course he made no true progress for he was very well secured bound by both hands and feet. Still he tried and wriggled round furiously until he felt the cold press of steel against his throat.

"Hold still elf and be silent or you'll be very sorry – I can slit your throat and be gone before Aldred even awakes to see what I've done. Do not think his orders will keep you safe from my hand."

The man removed his knife as Legolas stopped his writhing round.

"The Captain plans to sell you at a slavers market and he needs you to be looking your prettiest to fetch the highest price – he'll want few marks upon you – but believe me elf I can cause you pain without leaving much evidence of it."

Legolas' mind reeled – a slaver's market? He was to be sold into slavery? He would have laughed at the absurdity of it all if it wasn't for the horrifying reality he found himself currently in – if he wasn't found before these men left the Wood a life of slavery was indeed in his future. He was trying very hard to keep calm, for panic would not help him now but truly his situation looked grim indeed. He did not even know how many, if any of his maethyr remained in the land of the living- rescue may or may not be coming.

Legolas tipped his chin up defiantly staring into the man's heartless grey eyes – he'd have to find a way out of this himself. He was a Prince, Legolas Thranduilion and he would be damned to the black pits of Mordor if he allowed himself to be sold into slavery by these mere vagabonds.

"Always you elves are so defiant, so proud and so noble. Well let's just see if I can break you of that."

Legolas kept his glare haughty and defiant even as his heart pounded faster as the man leaned in closer to him.

"Keep nice and quiet now elfie – remember I will kill you and be gone – your death is nothing to me and Aldred my good Captain is a sound sleeper."

Legolas tried to give a scathing remark but found he could not – his tongue was secured by the rope to the bottom of his mouth making words impossible. The man merely smiled at his soft garbled noise before holding up a tiny dagger to Legolas' face. Legolas frowned wondering what the man meant to do with it – after all cuts by a dagger would leave a mark.

The man smiled before settling himself down comfortably on Leoglas' bruised mid-section watching as a small pained puff of air left him.

"Open wide elfie."

Legolas' bottom lip was suddenly grasped by the man who drew the tiny dagger down it in one quick swipe. Pain and blood flooded his mouth and the adan quickly did it again and then several more times in quick succession. The coppery tang of blood filled Legolas' mouth as small rivulets of it ran back into his mouth and down his throat – disgusting. Yet Legolas could only swallow in order not to gag on it. The man gave a small nod seemingly satisfied and let go of his abused lip only to grasp his upper one and begin to do the same.

Sharp pain marked each cut left behind by the small dagger and Legolas's lips were soon throbbing in time to the beat of his heart.

He wriggled trying to free his maltreated lip but the man simply placed one hand across Legolas' ribs and pressed down firmly until Legolas gave a choked gasp of pain.

"I know you have a broken rib or two elf – stop moving lest you want to add to that figure."

Legolas stopped moving but tried to bite the man's fingers with a quick sharp nip of his teeth. However the man's fingers were never in any danger as the thick rope in Legolas' mouth ensured he was unable to bring his teeth together.

The young man gave a soft chuckle, "Such a testy one you are – and such a fan of using your teeth against your enemy – I think I may take one of them from you and keep it as a trophy. To mark surviving Mirkwood's man-eating elves."

Legolas' eyes widened – what did the adan mean by taking one of his teeth? Surely he did not mean to extract one of his teeth here and now!

Legolas struggled to resist as the man forced his mouth open wider before tapping his small dagger against Legolas' left canine tooth.

"This one would make a beautiful souvenir elf, and you needn't worry I know it'll grow back in a week or so – you elves are odd like that."

With no further ado the man brought up the hilt of his larger knife and smashed it into Legolas' mouth causing him to see stars. Elbereth above the pain was breathtaking.

Legolas was still trying to even his breathing when the man gave him another fierce smash in the mouth. Searing pain followed as the man pulled harshly on the loosened tooth plucking it out of his bloodied mouth.

Legolas tried in vain to free his tongue so he could spit out the blood that he was so very tired of tasting. Its taste along with the pain raging in his mouth and head made him feel horrifically nauseous. Legolas closed his eyes fighting desperately to re-gain control of his body and master the pain.

He would have screamed had he not been gagged as his mouth was forcibly pulled open again by the man. Legolas open bleary pain filled eyes to look up at his sadistic captor.

"We'll just rinse your mouth out for you now elfie. I don't want you getting any infections."

Legolas' pain racked brain was still deciphering the man's words when what felt like pure liquid fire was poured into his mouth. The bitter taste of mannish alcohol vaguely registered as Legolas fought to get the offending burning liquid out of his mouth tossing his head to the side since he could not spit.

Finally the weight on his abdomen removed itself and Legolas cast tortured eyes up at his captor.

The man smiled brightly down at him before holding up something small, mostly pearly white and also a little bit bloody between his fore finger and thumb. His tooth. That son of an orc had his tooth.

Legolas glared then at the man a sudden hatred bubbling up and burning fiercely within him and he clung to it as it allowed him to take the focus off his mounting and all-consuming pain.

"I shall put it on a chain elf – it shall be a fine looking bit of jewelry indeed."

The man tried to sound cock-sure but Legolas could tell that his heated stare was unnerving the adan. In too much pain to do anything else Legolas simply glowered at the man as he bent to hide his crimes by tying the mask back around his lower face before replacing his hood. Once inside the dark safety of his hood Legolas let his eyes slip closed in agony as he sternly fought back tears of overwhelming pain and misery.

He was a Prince and he would not cry lest those edain see the tear tracks across his face and crow over his misery but Valar the pain was so intense.

Elbereth please anno dulu enni, Legolas prayed as he gave into the dark heaviness of pain induced sleep.

TBC.
End Notes:
Adan – Man

Anor – Sun

Ithil – Moon

Mae Govannen – Well met

Edain – (Plural of Adan) Men

Maethyr – (plural) warriors

Anno dulu enni – Help me
Chapter 13 by KimicThranduilion
Author's Notes:
Enter Thranduil...
She was being stalked; Celegil could feel it – her tingling senses warning her that she was being watched. Still she grit her teeth and carried on giving Morchant a soft tap on his midnight black rump to indicate that she wanted to pick up the pace. Morchant gave a small wearied whiny and Celegil felt bad but they were so close to the stronghold now for the decision to cut through the mountains had really paid off and she had met no trouble on the path. She had pushed on straight through the night ignoring her body's (and Morchant's) demands for rest and now she was nearing the end of the Elf Path and getting ever closer to the entrance to the Stronghold.

"We will make it Morchant," Celegil patted his neck fondly, "I am sorry to have pushed you so mellon-nin."

There was a rustle of leaves in the trees behind them and Morchant turned his head to look back. Celegil looked too though she could not see much in the dense foliage; she was getting ever weaker and her vision was no longer as sharp. Gently she laid her hands along the sides of Morchant's head and pulled softly so that he was facing forward again.

"Avo gesto an drastad mellon-nin; tl anlen."

Celegil leaned forward into Morchant's range of vision, "Please gather your strength now and let us ride hard for the palace Morchant – I know I ask a lot but if we go now we may yet make it into safe territory before they can get close enough to attack."

Morchant gave a firm nod of his head as though agreeing and Celegil gave a small laugh despite the fact they were about to run for their lives – Legolas' horse was so very spirited and funny. She sobered at the thought of her Prince and she hoped that the others had managed to find him.

She tapped at Morchant gently getting him to move again and as expected she heard the soft rustling sound of leaves. Theyngyl probably thought they were being stealthy and quiet but Celegil's fine hearing had not left her yet – she could hear them loud and clear. With much pain and wincing she pulled her bow off her back and grabbed an arrow. It would be excruciatingly painful but if it bought them time and reduced the number of spiders on their tracks then Celegil was prepared to shoot – shoulder be damned.

She peered into the trees hoping to be able to discern exactly how many spiders were on their tail but was unable to see much detail at that distance. Celegil sighed, her health was fading - and fast – it was time for them to flee.

"Noro hi Morchant. Noro!"

The thunderous sound of Morchant's hooves on the path mingled with the rustling of leaves and the creaking and cracking of branches as the spiders now gave chase in earnest.

~o~

Thranduil was bored. He was bored and to top it all off his neck was getting stiff from sitting in the same position for so long with one of the cursed, heavy official crowns Arahaelon always insisted he should wear in meetings with Men upon his head. As it was Spring Thranduil would usually wear a crown of bluebells, snowdrops or other spring flower, but because he was to attend this trade meeting with the Men of Esgaroth Arahaelon had insisted he wear the official spring crown of the House of Oropher. It was a beautiful piece of jewelry – tall, spiked mithril in the shape and style of twigs – dotted throughout with white gems. Small blue topaz gems were arranged among them along with pale green tourmaline stone in the shape of many delicate bluebells.

It was a pretty piece but the sheer amount of gems made it heavy – which of course was not helping Thranduil's mood any. He had been sitting here with these men since the crack of dawn having been forced to suffer through a welcoming breakfast with them before they plunged straight into the trade talks.

Damn Arahaelon, thought Thranduil with no real malice – his regent was one full millennia older than him and was just about the only ellon on this side of the Sundering Seas that Thranduil would take instructions or orders from. Still that did not mean that he was thrilled with this particular instruction from him.

Thranduil gave a gentle nod of his head as he let his gaze land on the adancurrently speaking and he looked for all intents and purposes as though he were paying rapt attention to the man's monotonous speech. That could not be any further from the truth however as the man's words hardly even registered. This was so pointless in Thranduil's opinion –– the trade terms more or less remained the same all the time anyway. He wished men lived a bit longer so that they could have these re-negotiations every century or so rather than the every three years the edain insisted upon.

Thranduil let his thoughts turn to his son. Legolas and his maethyr should have been home two weeks ago but due to delays their replacements met along the way they were yet to show up having been forced to remain on the Southern Patrol for a while longer. The troop who was due to replace Legolas' had kept them up to date via carrier hawk but he had received no word from Legolas himself for a good long while now. Thranduil just managed to stop himself from giving a fond smile – for his son was just as bad at keeping in touch as he himself had been and still was.

Shaking himself mentally Thranduil forced himself to pay real attention to the proceedings unfolding before him – content in the knowledge that he'd see his son soon enough.

~o~

Morchant kicked out hard with his rear hooves so that the last of the yngylthat had been pursuing them went flying back and landed with a satisfying thud somewhere behind them. Celegil grabbed hold of him for dear life as he continued his mad gallop towards the stronghold gates - for they were in sight now - the enchanted, gleaming marble bridge shone in the early afternoon light just ahead of them.

Celegil tried to right herself and sit up straighter so she could hail the home guard as Morchant clattered down the bridge but found herself unable to. The spiders had pursued them relentlessly leaping from tree branch to tree branch before jumping to the ground to give chase behind them. They had gotten close – too close – and Celegil had been forced to draw several arrows and fire after them – her shoulder had screamed at her in painful protest but she had managed to fell two of the beasts. There had been four in all and the other two had not given up the hunt, snapping and clicking their pinchers behind them. Celegil had been hard pressed to keep them at bay and although she had managed to kill another of the beasts lashing out with her wicked knives she had been bitten in the process.

She could feel it now - she hung onto her consciousness by a thread and unable to even sit up any more she simply clung onto Morchant's neck, tried not to fall off him and tried to get her thoughts in order. She had to get word to the King of Legolas' capture but also something else? What was it?

Celegil tried her hardest to get her brain to co-operate with her even as she slid further and further down upon Morchant's back. She had to remember – she must – if only she could hold out against the spider poison and beckoning unconsciousness for just a little while longer.

Suddenly Morchant came to a halt stamping and snorting, trying his best to catch his breath. Celegil tried to pull herself up again but found her muscles refused to co-operate and she swore to herself even as her body began to tremble – one of the first signs the spider poison was really starting to take hold. Still – she had a mission to complete and as she gathered her strength to make another attempt at getting up strong yet gentle arms closed about her carefully easing her into a sitting position.

The arms remained around her keeping her upright and Celegil found the strength to lift her head and found herself looking into the worried eyes of none other than Commander Aglardaer himself.

Perfect, she thought even as she tried to give a smile - which in all honesty probably came off more like a grimace.

"Celegil? Great Eru above what has happened?"

Celegil watched as Aglardaer's eyes landed on Morchant before they darted back up to her, "This is Morchant, Celegil what has happened – where is Legolas and the rest of your drnaith?"

"W-we were…attacked," Celegil was surprised at how weak her voice sounded. She coughed to clear her throat and continued, "M-Men…ambushed us – Legolas, Hadril, Arasson…captured – and then spiders."

"Spiders?"

Celegil nodded weakly – she knew she was not making much sense and she made a concerted effort to get her scattered thoughts together before trying again.

"Yes – the yngylplan…attack up-upon…upon the stronghold," she gave a great exhale of breath.

"Easy now she is greatly injured."

Celegil snapped open her eyes at the Commander's voice and she wondered when she had closed them in the first place. She was also wondering who Aglardaer was talking to when she suddenly felt herself being gently lifted before being made to lie on something soft on her uninjured side.

"That's it keep her on that side for her other shoulder is wounded – spider attack from the sounds of things; and please can we have a stable hand to see to Morchant – he has proven his great strength."

Commander Aglardaer's voice was soothing even when he was giving commands and Celegil could have easily fallen asleep to the sound of it there and then. She resisted though she had to make sure her Commander understood her message properly.

She forced her bleary eyes to stay open and grasped his sleeve.

~o~

Thranduil started ever so slightly as the doors to the council chambers were thrown open with a bang by his Crown Commander – a startled looking Br trailing behind him.

"Forgive the intrusion Aran-nin – Commander Aglardaer requests an urgent audience with you."

Br's announcement was really null and void as Aglardaer was already standing at Thranduil's right side head bowed.

"Be at ease Commander."

Aglardaer's head snapped up and the look in his eyes convinced Thranduil of the seriousness behind his overly loud disruption.

Thranduil stood causing his councilors and the Men to jump to their feet as well.

"You will forgive the disruption," Thranduil inclined his head ever so slightly to the Men, "I need to see to this matter – my trades councilors will continue the talks with you in my absence."

"We understand Lord Thranduil," one of the Men piped up whilst puffing his chest out.

Thranduil glared at the man until the adan could no longer bear the weight of his sharp Elven gaze and he had to look away. Lord Thranduil indeed – the adan thought too highly of himself and Thranduil was glad for a reason to be rid of the man's overbearing presence.

"Lord Arahaelon I require your presence," Thranduil turned to leave using the side entrance to the council chambers with Aglardaer, Arahaelon and Br all hot on his heels.

~o~

As soon as the door into Thranduil's study had closed he whirled round to face the three who had followed him one eyebrow raised in curiosity.

"Well Commander? Not that I do not appreciate your interruption of a deadly dull meeting but tell me - what is your news that it warrants such a dramatic announcement?"

Thranduil's tone was light and even teasing but inside he felt a slight nervous flutter, for Aglardaer was not one given over to histrionics.

"I do apologise Aran-nin but I have had grave news," Aglardaer paused and swallowed nervously before he continued, "I have had news of the Princes' troop."

He stopped and Thranduil grit his teeth in frustration, "Do share Commander, and do not keep us in suspense."

"Apologies again my King," Aglardaer gave a bow of his head, "You know the Prince and his troop have been delayed in their return from the Southern Patrol due to their replacements meeting difficulties along the road. However they should have met by now and the Prince and his drnaith should have been here if not today then at least tomorrow."

Thranduil nodded his head impatient for Aglardaer to actually get on and share this grave news he had seen fit to disrupt his meeting for.

"Just a few moments ago one of Prince Legolas' maethyrrode into the courtyard – on Morchant no less."

Thranduil's heart clenched; Morchant was Legolas' horse and the flighty beast would suffer none else to ride him except perhaps in time of great need or where explicitly commanded by his master. Thranduil forced his whirling thoughts to slow as Aglardaer continued to speak.

"Things have gone ill for them indeed – they left their patrol early by command of the Prince aiming to meet their replacements on the road. However when they made camp they were ambushed by a large group of Men and the Prince along with two of his warriors, Hadril and Arasson, have been captured."

Thranduil who had remained standing this whole time sat down very suddenly mind reeling.

Arahaelon gave his shoulder a squeeze in a gesture of comfort that barely registered with Thranduil and Br stood the tiniest bit closer to his King in silent support.

Aglardaer threw an apologetic and nervous glance at Thranduil before continuing.

"The Prince's remaining warriors have gone off in pursuit of the Prince, their fellow maethyrand the men who ambushed them but Celegil – that is the name of the warrior who is here - has no idea how that hunt has gone but she said it has been two days since the ambush."

Thranduil put a hand up to his suddenly throbbing temple and removed his heavy crown with the other, "Send a message to the troop due to replace Legolas' and see if they have heard from or seen them since. Also send out another two troops to aid with the hunt and pursuit of these Men and be sure to include the best trackers – we must rescue our warriors and capture these Men alive if possible – I need to know who this new foe is."

"Of course my King, it will be done but there is still more I must tell you I'm afraid."

Thranduil looked up at his Commander and centuries-long friend before he gestured for both Aglardaer and Arahaelon to sit whilst Br poured them all wine.

Goblet firmly in hand Thranduil gestured for Aglardaer to continue. He sat numbly as he listened to how Legolas and his troop had been ambushed by Men before being simultaneously attacked by spiders. Spiders who had vowed to march en masse upon his Stronghold and who were now most likely gathering in the Mountains before marching down to attack them. He listened, quietly sipping his wine as he heard how both Celegil and Morchant had been cruelly shot by the Men before they had been stalked and chased by the yngyl on their way back to the palace. Listened as he heard how very badly injured they both were and he breathed a little easier after Aglardaer had assured that both were being tended as they spoke.

He sat quietly; face a blank stoic mask but every word that fell from Aglardaer's lips acted as fuel to the rage that had been lit inside Thranduil. By the time his Commander had finished Thranduil was apoplectic despite outwardly looking as cool as the Hithaeglir.

"Thank you Commander," Thranduil turned in his chair to face his secretary, "Br call for the war council – tell them I want them gathered in the assembly hall within the next ten minutes. Commander bring to me the two troops who are to go out to search for the Prince and his drnaith and Lord Arahaelon have guards set within the council chamber with instructions to keep a keen eye on the Men – they are not to wander unattended by a guard at any time."

Aglardaer and Br both set off to do as they had been bid with quick bows to their King, Arahaelon however stayed put and turned compassionate eyes upon him.

"Thranduil the men will take offense if we put them under such obvious guard."

"I care not – again Men have proven how untrustworthy they are."

"Yes but we cannot assume that the Men here have anything to do with those who attacked Legolas and his troop."

"Attacked and captured," Thranduil snarled and when Arahaelon opened his mouth to speak further Thranduil held up a hand.

"Nay. I am sorry Arahaelon but with all due respect those are my orders – it would please me if you would fulfill them."

Arahaelon stood up and bowed low, gave Thranduil another fond squeeze of his shoulder to show he took no offense at his tone, before leaving to do as he had been bid.

Alone now Thranduil pillowed his head on his arms allowing himself a brief moment to be a not a King but a father whose son had been captured. It was not long though before he lifted his head a King once more and he ran long bejeweled fingers though his hair flattening any lose strands.

The rage that had taken hold of him had not left, it merely simmered away inside him and he used it as fuel to help him get up and do what he ought to instead of giving into the cold dread that lay in the pit of his stomach. With quiet yet purposeful strides he made his way towards the assembly hall.

For he had a son to rescue and enemies to teach a lesson.

TBC.
End Notes:
Mellon-nin - My friend

Avo gesto an drastad mellon-nin; tl anlen – Don't look for trouble my friend; it comes to you

Yngyl – (Plural of Ungol) Spiders

Nori hi – Run now

Ellon – Male elf

Adan – Man

Edain – (Plural of Adan) Men

Maethyr – (plural) warriors

Drnaith – Military (Troop/Guard)

Aran-nin/Aran - My King/King
Chapter 14 by KimicThranduilion
Author's Notes:
A/N: Just a simple and massive thank you to everyone who has reviewed and followed so far – I'm glad you are enjoying this and thank you for the tips and suggestions. I really am grateful and it makes my day. So again hannon-le for taking the time out to review!
Faervel watched as the last of the blood on his hands swirled round in the water before being totally washed away in the fast flowing stream. He kept his now clean hands in the cool water and closed his tired eyes for just a moment – just a moment to gather himself and his strength was all he needed.

For he was tired, it had been exhausting, energy draining work keeping both Hadril and Arasson in the land of the living especially during the short trek back to the Wood. Still they were back here now – had made camp, set guards and he had finally been able to tend to all of his fellow warriors injuries. Faervel gave a small sigh – they were in a bad way – Arasson had been stabbed and then his inert body had been shown no care and as a result not only had he lost a lot of blood through the stab wound but he was covered in numerous cuts and bruises. He had shown no signs of awakening at all.

Hadril's case was just as worrying she had a cut along her right temple along with a huge blue-ish lump. Clearly she had been hit on the head – and hard. She too had been cut and bruised during her time held captive with the men and she also showed no signs of returning to consciousness. In fact Faervel could feel her fa begin to fade – he was really worried about Hadril; and more than anything he was worried about his ability to keep both his charges from Mandos Halls. He was tired – he had spent much healing energy with no rest for himself – and they were still so far from the Stronghold or even any of the elven villages. They needed help.

Faervel stood removing his now cold hands from the water – he had been away from Hadril and Arasson for too long now. He re-entered their camp which was under as heavy a guard as they could muster with Feren, Magoldir and Camaendir all on guard duty. Aithel would join them once Faervel was back to look after their stricken comrades. Thoron himself kept a keen eye on their prisoners.

Faervel glanced over at the men, there were four of them in all…now. There had been six of them to begin with but two had given such a great amount of trouble that with only a small amount of regret Faervel had put a swift end to them slitting their throats and silencing them forever. The rest of the men had been much more co-operative after that – including the one who claimed to know where to find Legolas. Faervel sat down as he relieved Aithel mulling over what the man had told them earlier. He wondered how true the man's story was.

The man had claimed that they had been hired by the Woodsmen from the Greater Village, the larger Woodsmen settlement, to capture elves for them and that they were to take all their elven captives back to the village. Yet that made no sense to him – the Woodsmen were a peaceable race of Men – long had they lived in Thranduil's kingdom under his protection – why would they now invoke his wrath by capturing his son and attacking his people? No the man had to be lying. Faervel decided that he would try to get the man to talk to him again and see if he could discern the truth of the matter. He was the most fluent of them all in Westron and he would be the one with the greatest chance of telling if the man really was speaking the truth about Legolas.

He beckoned to Thoron, "Bring that adan to me – I wish to see if I can get him to speak the absolute truth this time."

~o~

Meanwhile the troop due to replace Legolas' had finally arrived at the Southern Patrol base camp that morning. They had scouted out the area shortly after arriving finding it strange that Legolas' troop was nowhere in sight. They had no further time to dwell on that fact however as they discovered a small battalion of orcs hiding out amongst the dark decayed foliage and had thrown themselves straight into the fray. The Southern Patrol was never easy and it certainly didn't give you time to settle in.

~o~

Thranduil swept into the assembly hall pleased to see that both his war council and the two troops he had requested were all already gathered and standing to attention. Thranduil waved a hand at them ushering them to be at ease as he made his way to his own seat at the head of the long mahogany table. He looked down it at the faces of his generals, his Crown Commander, his secretary and Regent – somehow Arahaelon had managed to arrive here before Thranduil himself. Satisfied that everyone he needed to be here was here he wasted no further time.

"I thank you all for coming at such short notice and I shall get straight to the first point of business – Prince Legolas' troop came under attack by a group of Men – the warriors Hadril and Arasson as well as the Prince himself have all been taken captive -"

Whatever else Thranduil was planning to say was interrupted as there was a collective sharp intake of breath before frantic whisperings and murmurings broke out among the councilors and war veterans. They loved their Prince and the worry in their tones and on their faces was palpable. That was all well and good but they wasted time and Thranduil grabbed the heavy crystal goblet at his side and brought it down hard upon the table causing all noise to cease immediately and all eyes to be turned back upon him.

"Yes – as I was saying they were taken captive two nearly three days ago now and time is of the essence."

Thranduil turned to face both troops that stood ready for his command one he recognized as one of the Woodland realm's elite troops and the other one of the regular battalion troops. Thranduil cared not which regiment they belonged to – what he wanted were troops with exceptionally good trackers and if these were the two that Aglardaer picked then he would trust his friend's decision.

Thranduil inclined his head to them ever so slightly and they responded with a salute.

"You will both go to a clearing not overly far from Rhosgobel – it is popular with troops leaving the Southern Patrol?"

Thranduil raised an eyebrow and was relieved as all the warriors nodded that yes, they knew the place of which he spoke.

"Good – you will start your hunt there, find what tracks you may and pursue them. The captives are your priority – bring your fellows home as safely as you can. But," and here a cold hard light shone in Thranduil's eyes, "if you find any of these men try your best to bring them back alive – even if it is just the one. I would have a word with them if at all possible."

A collective shiver ran down the back of everyone in the room – they could imagine what kind of a 'word' their Liege Lord would be having with any of the Men unfortunate enough to be brought back.

Thranduil laid his right hand on his heart and gave a bow to both troops, "Le athae. Hortho le huil vaer."

The troops returned the bow before marching out from the assembly hall Aglardaer behind them presumably to give last minute instruction and guidance. Thranduil motioned for some water to be poured for him and he sipped it silently – if he still had any faith in any of the Valar he might have prayed but he had long lost his faith in them all so instead he cleared his mind and brought his focus to the next matter at hand. Yes, the small matter of a revolt by the yngyl that had invaded his land.

Aglardaer reappeared then and Thranduil put his glass down, "I will let Crown Commander Aglardaer enlighten you as to our second matter of business and the real reason the war council has been summoned."

Aglardaer stepped up then and relayed the threat and plot of the spiders in a far more composed way than he had done when he had first told Thranduil the news. Immediately the war council began their discussions – questioning Aglardaer in order to glean as much information from him as possible. At length Thranduil raised a hand effectively silencing them all.

"I wish for us to send several battalions, at least a quarter of the troops to the Mountains to deal with this threat before it arrives upon our doorstep."

One of the council members spoke up, "A quarter of the troops Aran-nin? Is that not a little excessive – surely the threat of the yngyl is not that great?"

"Yes my Liege," chimed in another, "perhaps we ought to send scouts up to the Mountains first – to give us a better idea of what we are facing."

"Nay," Thranduil was resolute, "Too long have we left the spawn of Ungoliant to roam freely and unchecked in the Mountains. No, I will not have the Shadow build another stronghold within our lands – we have enough trouble and evil coming out of the dread tower in the South. I will not have the Enemy's helpers build another one, this time even closer to our homes. We will send a quarter of the troops and they will crush every arachnid in their path so that if even one spiderling survives it will leave to tell any others that the elves of the Woodland realm are not easily intimidated by threats and plots. That we are not to be trifled with."

Command so forcefully given the councilors simply nodded their assent and proceeded to move on with the plotting and planning that such a large military exercise required.

~o~

Blacwin smiled at the elf in what he hoped was a truthful and honest looking manner. The dark haired being made no obvious sign as to whether or not it believed him but Blacwin really, really needed the elf to trust him – for that would be his only way out of this sticky predicament Aldred had left them in.

If he could get this elf to believe that the other elf they sought was being held in the Woodsmen village then he and the three remaining men with him would be saved. For Aldred had left a good number of men back at the village to guard against any of the Woodmen escaping and fleeing to get help from the elves. The men left back at the village would easily overpower these elves and set them free. Then perhaps they would all get a share of the riches initially promised after all with so many elves in their capture. That would really teach Aldred.

The jarring sound of metal scraping upon metal brought Blacwin's attention back to his present reality – bound by his hands and feet, standing in front of an elf bent on vengeance who just happened to be sharpening its knives at the present moment. The elf seemed to be thinking – perhaps mulling over everything he had said but Blacwin had no intention of standing here all night waiting for an answer. His leg ached and throbbed fiercely from where his stupid horse had fallen onto it and watching the elf sharpen its knives was getting to be quite unnerving.

"Well elf – I've told you the story twice now – are you so lacking in Westron that you need me to spell it out for you again?"

Blacwin shrunk back and even let his gaze fall from the elf's eyes to the ground as the elf pinned him with a sharp look for his flippant remark.

"Slon gwanna nf gn adan."

Blacwin jerked his head up to look at the elf confusion in his eyes.

The elf merely smiled at him big and wide, "I said you lie human."

Blacwin huffed as he tried to act indignant and not show just how much the elf's words had unsettled him.

"I'm not lying elf. Why would I? You have me captive don't ya?"

The elf tilted its head as though studying him before it smiled again – a small secretive smile and went back to sharpening it's knives before it spoke up again.

"I don't know why you lie adan but I know that you are lying. Perhaps it is because we have not maltreated you as you maltreat your own captives. Perhaps you simply do not fear me."

Here the elf paused in its work bringing one wickedly sharp and gleaming dagger up to eye level to inspect.

"You should fear me," a twirl of both knives, "but that is beside the point. The point is that you are lying – ever have the woods people been our allies, our friends – why would they turn upon us now?"

Blacwin floundered for he knew nothing of the relationship between the woodsmen and the elves save that he thought any man willing to live in such a cursed elf plagued place was a lunatic and as nutty as the elves themselves. He had simply taken a gamble by blaming the kidnappings on the woodsmen. He decided to press on nevertheless – he really needed to get the elf to believe him.

"Men are never truly your friends elf, you should learn that lesson well. The woodsmen have elected a new chief – one who is tired of your oppressive ways – one who means you harm. Whatever should happen to your blonde elf friend if you choose to ignore me telling you these truths will be upon your head. After all I offer you the chance to save him."

"And save him we shall."

With that the elf got up and made his way over to the edge of the camp giving a quick shrill whistle. Several of the other elves appeared and they began to converse in their strange melodic tongue. Blacwin couldn't understand a word of what they were saying but he felt as though he had finally got through to the elf as he watched two of them make their way across to the horses and begin to pack up.

Unable to stop the smile of sheer relief that appeared upon his face Blacwin crowed at the raven haired elf as it walked back towards him, "I see you've seen sense elf – I only hope you will be in time to rescue your friend from the hands of those barbarians."

With no warning at all the elf brought up his hand to land a stinging, painful slap hard across Blacwin's face.

"Remove that stupid grin human, for the only barbarians I see here are you and that miserable bunch of filth behind you. I know you lie to me and I am sending scouts out now to prove it – and when they have proven me right and you wrong you will wish that all I would do is slap you."

With that the elf turned his back to him and stalked over to where he was tending his two stricken comrades. Blacwin watched with unseeing eyes as the two scout elves mounted up and rode out of the camp before he was grabbed by impossibly strong arms and hauled back over to be tied back up to the tree with his fellow mercenaries.

He felt nothing as he was roughly shoved up against the bark and his bindings secured ever tighter. For he knew now that the game was up – any chance he had of escaping his fate – a painful death at the hands of these elves was now gone along with the elven scouts. For he knew what they would find – and it would condemn him and the last remnants of his men to death.

~o~

The Captain of the latest Southern Patrol held out her arm allowing the carrier hawk that had so suddenly appeared to land on her bracer. She smilingly stroked the birds head before untying the message strapped upon its leg.

With a gasp she hastily re-read the message before scrambling to write one of her own even as she gave commands to her troop - tired from a day's hard battle with the Darkness.

"We have a hunt upon our hands maethyr, our Prince and some of his troop have gone missing – attacked by Men. We are to help find them – more troops will be heading this way to aid in the hunt but it would be well for us to get a head start. Come, saddle up for we ride soon. Berio ven Eru."

It was not long before the carrier hawk took to the night blackened skies with a screech, new message secured to its leg.

And the troop who had been tired and longing for a quiet night's patrol were suddenly energized as they swiftly packed up camp removing all evidence of their having been there – for their Prince was in trouble and their King had a need of them. They would not let either down.

TBC.
End Notes:
Fa – Soul (Quenya)

Adan – Man

Le athae – Literally: You are/were helpful/kind - Sindarin version of Thank you

Hortho le huil vaer – May useful winds speed you on

Yngyl – (Plural of Ungol) Spiders

Aran-nin - My King

Slon gwanna nf gn adan – A big wind pours from your mouth human

Maethyr – (plural) warriors

Berio ven Eru – May Eru protect us
Chapter 15 by KimicThranduilion
Author's Notes:
The search for Legolas continues.
"Come on elf up you get – time for us to be moving along. If we make good time this night we will be clear and free of this accursed forest."

Legolas was hauled up to his feet by a yank on the ropes that securely bound his hands. He stood pleased that the awful pins and needles sensation in his feet had finally abated. For the men had decided that they were safe here on the edge of the Woodland border and they had loosened the bindings on his legs. He was no longer trussed up like a fowl for roasting but his legs were still not completely free. He had been hobbled by the men who were (rightly) untrusting of letting him have his legs completely free.

Legolas held back a sigh as he was secured to the tack on the leader's horse - he was not looking forward to having to trudge alongside the ill-tempered man all night long. The horse gave a soft whiny as Legolas' was tethered to him and butted his head up against the elf's shoulder. Legolas held back the gasp of pain that wanted to escape him and instead rubbed his own head against the horse's feeling ridiculously happy for the affectionate touch.

"Stop trying to bewitch my horse elf," the man's angry voice nearly made Legolas jump, "It is a stupid beast and it will not be able to help you no matter what elvish enchantments you may put on it."

Legolas simply snorted and allowed himself an eye roll. It was all he could do seeing as he was still gagged. Oh yes, his young torturer had ensured that ever since he had relieved Legolas of his tooth that he was kept gaged in the presence of their leader. The young adan had taken it upon himself to be Legolas' care giver (and Legolas used that phrase very loosely) – a role the other three men seem pleased to let him take on as they all seemed to have the most ridiculous suspicions regarding him. Of course this arrangement served the youngestadan well – he was more easily able to keep hidden his ill treatment of Legolas.

The leader of the men jumped up on his horse and Legolas felt pity for the poor animal as it was viciously jabbed in its sides by the man.

"Right men – tonight's the night we'll be free of this forest at last."

"We head to the Old Ford right Captain – to meet Blacwin and the others?"

Legolas watched as the man in charge swung round to pin the other with an exasperated glare.

"Nay Saveric – we leave altogether – things have become dangerous and the plan has changed. We make our way to our destination by ourselves. Blacwin and the others will catch up when they may."

"But, but Captain -"

"But nothing," hissed the man, "Because you and your half breed brother could not control your lust and killed that girl back at that village we will soon have a mob of angry woodsmen baying for our blood! Think you that we can afford to wait for Blacwin and his sluggards? No we must make all haste to leave this area. So tell me now if you wish to stay behind and wait here on a fool's errand – it can be arranged."

"N-No Sir."

"Good."

Legolas watched as the other man hung his head afraid to even look in his Captains direction. It was disturbing to find out why they had left the village in such haste yet it was interesting to him to note how much all the men feared their Captain - even his young tormentor had a healthy respect for his superior. Legolas could understand for the man in charge seemed to have a constant homicidal and manic gleam in his angry brown eyes.

Legolas' train of thought was interrupted by a sharp pull on his hands that sent pain racing up his arm and flaring in his injured shoulder. With a start and some alarm he realized the men were on the move. On the move away from the forest – away from his salvation. Legolas had no choice but to move his legs as best he could having been hobbled, and keep up with the horse he was secured to lest he fall flat on his face and be dragged through the leaves and mulch.

His mind raced as he began to look around him covertly hoping to see something, anything that might aid in his escape, he was loathe to let these men get far from the Wood with him in tow. His chances of escape looked slim however, the men had frisked him of anything they deemed dangerous upon deciding that they would hobble him and make him walk for this part of the journey. His long handled knives now rested at the waist of the men's Captain and his quiver and bow sat proudly on the back of his young tormentor. His hidden daggers in his boots had also been removed.

That had not been all they took either, the tall lanky brothers had plundered his sparse amount of jewelry with one taking his mithril earrings and the other his ring – a thin band of burnished gold with his seal on it. Legolas cared not really for he had many earrings back home and another ring with his seal could easily be forged – no the piece of jewelry he was most distressed over was a necklace that now gleamed in the moonlight at the neck of the men's Captain. The brothers had wanted it for themselves but it had been promptly snatched by their leader who had declared neither of the two fit for such jewelry. In truth even the necklace itself did not really concern Legolas but rather the ring that hung upon it – his Naneth's betrothal ring. It was one of the very few things he had from her and his strongest memories of her were tied to the ring that Legolas had taken to wearing as a protection charm. He wanted that back – they could keep the rest but he needed that ring back – any escape plan would include him taking the time to take back his Naneth's ring. If he had to pry it from the cold, dead hands of the man then all the better.

Having seen nothing that could yet aid in his escape Legolas decided to bide his time and he looked ahead to see where he was being lead. To his great dismay it seemed that they were headed straight for the Old Forest Road. Surely the men were not so stupid as to attempt to traverse it at night? For though it was clear by day Legolas knew that orcs and goblins had a tendency to take to it by night using it to cross through the Wood, across the countryside and over the Great River. The elves did their best to keep it clear but in all honesty it was not a priority for the patrols given that no elves lived near it any longer. In truth they had never really taken to the Old Forest Road for it had been rumored to have been built by the Naugrim and the elves preferred to use their own safer Elf Path further up North.

Legolas stopped and jerked hard on the bonds that held his hands fast – he was not willing to be taken onto the Old Forest Road whilst tied up. He jerked his hands again and tried his best to speak around his gag his muffled mumblings sounding loud in the quiet night.

A forceful smack to the back of his head nearly sent Legolas to his knees before his bonds were yanked upwards and he was saved from falling.

"Don't start a fuss now elf. I'm giving you freedom to move about and stretch your legs so that you're not a cripple when I come to sell ya but don't get ideas. I don't want you making no noise or you'll soon be drugged up and trussed up again – you hear me?" the man hissed above Legolas holding tight to the rope that secured the elf to his horse.

Legolas was undeterred though and tried his best to convey that he thought the men's plan to get onto the Old Forest Road at night was folly and he gesticulated wildly and as best he could with the limited movement he had.

"Stop your struggling elf – do you think we're about to go in whatever direction you're pointing us to? So that some of your pointy eared friends can capture us and free you? No chance elf now keep walking."

Legolas was once again forced to move as the men continued along their route – a route Legolas was sure would lead to disaster for them all.

~o~

Feren glanced over at Magoldir to see firm determination set upon his friends face. They were in a tree that was far enough away from the village that mortal eyes could not see them yet they could see every detail of the village perfectly. It seemed quiet – unnaturally so – there was little movement and there seemed to be an air of anger as well as despair emanating from the place. In all truth Feren wasn't particularly keen to get any closer. He knew the woodsmen were meant to be friends of the elves but clearly something was off here – they had all doubted the adan's words when he said that the woodsmen had betrayed the elves but now he was not so sure.

With a sigh he decided they would find out nothing more by simply staying put on their perch.

"Let us go in and see what we can find out. I'm not sure if I believe that adan's words but we must ensure that Legolas is not here."

Magoldir gave a firm nod of his copper haired head, "Yes do you want to take the East side of the village and I shall take the West? We will meet back here once we've scouted it out?"

"That's fine by me – hoot twice like a nightingale if you come upon Legolas and once like a barn owl if you are in trouble and I'll do the same."

Of course it went without saying that they were to keep out of sight of any edain– they were not there to pick a fight after all but to simply scout out the village and see if they could find any signs of Legolas.

Magoldir nodded and with that both elves jumped down to the soft grass below making nary a sound and began their way towards the village. It was surrounded by a fairly high wall, around eight feet high or so made from long thin planks of dead wood; for of course the woodsmen knew that felling live trees would distress the elves and incur the wrath of the Elven King. Right now however Feren wished that the wall was made of living wood that could tell him all the happenings in the village. He had tried asking the tree they had just been in of course but so far South the trees were deaf to the call of the elves, either due to the poisoned darkness flowing within them putting them into a deep sleep or through simply maliciously ignoring them. Whatever the case he had gotten no answers and now they had to go in search of them themselves.

The village wall was no obstacle to either and they swiftly climbed over having checked that there was nothing ill awaiting them on the other side. With another curt nod to each other they split up determined to find some answers.

~o~

Sanya looked at the two burning piers some way off from where she was standing and shook her head in disbelief. As a seasoned Captain of the guard she knew that the Southern Patrol was one of the most difficult patrols in the realm, however she had not been prepared for the horrors that this particular patrol kept throwing their way. It had been a nightmare from the time they had left the palace having first been delayed by a huge cluster of spiders and then by a freak storm. All in all they had been two weeks late. She had expected to meet a wary and exasperated Prince Legolas and his troop and yet they had been nowhere to be seen.

She had had no time to dwell on that however as almost immediately they were forced into battle with orcs that had been lying in wait very near their main camp. Right on the heels of that skirmish had come a message from the King himself solving the mystery of Legolas and his troop's nonappearance – they had been attacked and the Prince and two of his warriors captured. And so she had hastily written back saying that her troop would begin the search until the other troops joining the search arrived.

Luckily enough the letter from the King mentioned where the attack had taken place and Sanya and her troop had made all haste to get there.

And here they were now watching the bodies of evil men, filthy yngyl and faithful Elvish steeds burn. Sanya's heart clenched as she thought about the scene of devastation they had come upon – blood splattered trees, blood slicked ground and battered, crumpled bodies of men, spiders and horses scattered around the clearing. Still at least there had been no elves amongst the dead the Valarbe praised. She had set her best trackers to looking over the scene and gleaning every possible clue they could from it. That done they proceeded to burn the bodies – even evil men should be disposed of respectfully and not left for the yrch she supposed. Now it was time to decide which way to go for there were two sets of very conflicting tracks to follow. The first set lead away to the edge of the forest and they were numerous and included the tracks of elven horses. The second set of tracks were less but spoke of speed and haste to get away.

"We need now to decide which way to go – we have two tracks but we will notbe splitting up so we must decide which trail looks the most promising for now and leave the other one for the other troops to follow."

"Then we must surely follow the first set of tracks for there are prints of elvish horses there, the other track looks interesting but if we may not split up then I say we must follow in the direction where we know elves have definitely gone in Captain."

Sanya nodded her head gravely, "Let us make haste then and be sure not to disturb the tracks as much as is possible – hopefully they will still be intact and visible when the other search parties arrive."

And with that they mounted and made off in the opposite direction Legolas had been taken by his captors.

~o~

Feren crouched down in the shadows near the last house he had had a quick scout around – as with all the others before it contained no sign of Legolas being held captive but there were plenty of others who were.

It was clear to Feren now why the man had been so adamant that they come to the village to seek Legolas. For it was overrun by more of the same mercenaries and somehow they had managed to attack and overpower the woodsmen for they were all gathered together in the simple homes chained and under heavy guard. Indeed the only people who currently roamed freely were the mercenaries; all the native people were being kept hidden away and chained inside the huts, misery and anger clear on the faces of those he could see. His heart bled for them and he longed to be able to do something to aid them yet he was a sole elf with only one other companion here – they were heavily outnumbered by the evil men. Yes indeed he could see why the man so very much wanted them to come here for they would be overrun, killed or taken captive and the men they currently held as captive would be freed – it was a trap and now Feren had the sinking suspicion in his gut that Legolas was nowhere near here at all and it had all been a bluff by the man in order to try and save himself and his cronies.

Feren looked up again cursing the single adan who sat facing his direction. The man could not see him now but if he moved he was sure to be spotted. He was getting pretty tired of his crouched position as well – he'd been stuck here for ten minutes hoping and willing the man to turn around. Yet still he sat doggedly looking into the darkness in Feren's direction, sipping from a flagon of ale in his hands.

Feren was looking back the way he came wondering if he would be spotted were he to move back that way now when all of a sudden there was the sound of smashing glass and the adanshot up off his seat and rushed off with a small group of other edain in the direction of the noise. Glad for the distraction Feren jumped up and made his way over to the house the man had been sitting alongside – it was the last one to be checked and Feren had decided that if Legolas was anywhere to be found in this village he would be within this building – the chieftain's lodgings by the look of things – and it seemed to be the evil men's headquarters.

He quickly scaled the fence behind the property having checked there was nothing awaiting him on the other side; which is why he jumped about a mile and very nearly screamed when a strong hand clasped his shoulder.

"Ai Magoldir you very nearly sent me to Mandos – what are you doing here?"

Magoldir merely smirked before replying, "I'm saving you of course – I saw how you were stuck with that adan staring into your very hiding place so I caused a distraction to allow you to get free and to give us some time to check out this last building. No doubt you have discovered this town is under some sort of siege?"

"Yes – the woodsmen have been overrun by these mercenaries which is why the ones we have captive were so keen to get us to come here."

"Mmm," Magoldir hummed in response, "twas a trap and now I wonder if Legolas is here at all. Should we just go back now whilst it is relatively easy?"

"Nay that man knows something about Legolas. He knows something but does not speak the truth about it. Nevertheless we are here now and if there is anywhere Legolas would be kept in this village then it will be here – it seems to be their main base. Come now let's not put your great distraction to waste."

With that Feren eased open the back door and he and Magoldir slipped inside praying to all the Valar for help for their cause.

~o~

Around fifteen minutes later both elves slipped back over the village wall. They were disappointed not to have found their beloved Captain and Prince. There had been no one at all being held captive in the large hut and no sign of Legolas having ever been there. They had had a close escape and were happy now to be back amongst the dark embrace of the forest which was in fact getting lighter with their every step for dawn would soon be upon them – they had spent far more time in the village that anticipated.

"Let us hurry back to the others – we do not wish to worry them and Aithel said she would send Thoron and Camaendir looking if we did not return by dawn."

Magoldir gave small sad smile whilst simultaneously picking up his pace, "Well we can't have that - Thoron would never let us hear the end of it."

"Indeed."

They climbed up into the trees as they continued back to their make shift camp in silence that was broken at length by Magoldir's sudden weary sigh.

"Where do you think Legolas is? Do you think he is still alive? I fear with every false turn we make I lose hope. I also worry for Hadril and Arasson – they do not fear well either."

Magoldir stopped leaning up against the trunk of the tree they were in, closed his eyes and wrapped his arms around himself tightly, "And I have a particularly terrible feeling about Legolas."

Feren stopped then too holding his friend gently by his shoulders and pulling him into an embrace.

"What do you feel?" asked Feren softly, fearing to hear the answer, for Magoldir's feelings were hardly ever wrong – they seemed to be a sort of premonition and everyone in their troop had learned to take heed and listen when Magoldir had a 'feeling'.

Magoldir looked at Feren with sadness in his eyes before answering, "I feel pain. I feel the absolute darkness of terror and I feel horrible, shocking pain."

TBC.
End Notes:
Adan – Man

Naneth - Mother

Naugrim –Literally: Stunted People – Dwarves

Edain – (Plural of Adan) Men

Yngyl – (Plural of Ungol) Spiders

Yrch – (Plural of Orch) – Sindarin for Orcs
Chapter 16 by KimicThranduilion
Author's Notes:
Because I missed posting at the weekend and I will be away this coming weekend – here's another chapter – full of angsty elves :)
hranduil cast mildly irritated but mostly anxious eyes over the courtyard which was currently in far too much disarray for his liking. Horses snorted and stamped impatient to be off and there were packs and water skins littering nearly every free corner of the courtyard. Warriors hurried to and fro busy checking over their armour and weapons as well as applying the traditional war paint to their horses and to themselves. Thranduil turned his back on the chaos fingers gently massaging his temples. He really hoped that Aglardaer would have the area under some form of control by the time he went down into the courtyard to give his blessing over the troops. He really could not stand disorder – it tended to make him irritable – and truly there was no need to exacerbate his foul mood any further.

For he had had no sleep at all as the war council had run long into the night. Even once that was over and Thranduil was free to retire to his chambers he found that sleep eluded him, the true force of his worry for Legolas hitting him then. He had had nothing to distract him and had therefore spent the entire night battling to stay positive and not give in to the despair lurking in the corners of his mind. Legolas – his precious Lasseg - would be ok. He had to be, he must - for the alternatives were too awful to think of and made Thranduil's heart clench and feel faint all at once.

Thranduil ran a frustrated hand through his unbound hair as he stalked back inside and went back to pacing up and down his dining room. He was so busy with his pacing and worrying that he did not hear the gentle tread of elven feet entering the room.

"You shall wear a rut into that rug Thranduil – and a fine rug it is too. Did you not buy it just this turn of the season?

Thranduil spun round with a start before fixing Arahaelon with a glare, "Why are you sneaking around here? Must you always walk around as silently as a wraith?"

Arahaelon merely smirked at him and took no notice of Thranduil's waspish tone, for he knew how badly Legolas' disappearance was worrying his King.

"Tis not my fault you are so preoccupied that a herd of Mmakil could have waltzed in here unnoticed. Come, stop this fruitless pacing. Have you eaten as yet?" Arahaelon cast a doubtful look over to the spread on the table which was surely cold by now.

"Nay," came the short answer as Thranduil resumed his tense pacing.

"Why ever not? You will be needed to give your blessing shortly. Surely you do not want to swoon in front of your troops."

The look Thranduil shot at Arahaelon was poisonous, "Do not be absurd. I have not eaten because I am simply not hungry."

Arahaelon snorted in a way that was very unbecoming an elf Lord in his position, "I shall go fetch Galion – see if he may bribe you into eating with a few of your favourites like an elfling."

As if summoned by the mere mention of his name Galion appeared in the room after two sharp raps on the door, "Aran-nin if it pleases you I have brought something different for your breakfast?"

Thranduil rolled his eyes, "Please Galion do not stand on attention merely for him," Thranduil waved his arm vaguely in Arahaelon's general direction.

Galion gave a smile at the pair's antics before he tried again, "Well then there is just a light fruit platter here and some sparkling strawberry wine I managed to swindle out of the cooks. At least eat some of it Thranduil for you will need your strength this day."

"He will eat all of it, won't you Thranduil? Lest you wish to disgrace yourself in front of the maethyr."

Knowing he was fighting a losing battle against the both of them Thranduil flung himself into his chair at the head of the table and motioned for Galion to bring the food before him whilst resolutely ignoring Arahaelon's smug smile.

He began to eat, gingerly taking a tiny bite of apple before he realized that he was indeed famished. He popped the rest of the fruit slice into his mouth before starting on the blueberries.

At length Thranduil spoke up, "Do not just sit there and watch me eat like a proud Adar Arahaelon. Go and see to it that Aglardaer gets that din in the courtyard under control so I may go down and set them off. I want the maethyr to march before the sun has fully risen."

"Sdh Thranduil – you know Aglardaer will have all under his control by the time you go down to them. You need not work yourself up like this."

Still Arahaelon drained his own goblet before standing and bowing to Thranduil. Arahaelon may tease and joke but he was very respectful of his King despite him being a full millennia older than Thranduil. His merest wish was Arahaelon's command and he left to do as his King had bid him satisfied that he had achieved his aim and Thranduil was now eating something. For Galion had come to him worried at the King's lack of sleep and refusal to eat. Arahaelon had told him to fetch a small platter of fresh fruit and to leave the rest to him. He could do nothing about the lack of sleep but at least Thranduil would have some sustenance to keep him going this morn.

There was after all the small matter of the trade delegation from Esgaroth that needed to be dealt with once the troops had left. They were annoyed and as he had predicted offended to have been placed under such very obvious guard and Thranduil would need to be at his charming best to sway them back onside and get a favourable deal for the Wood. Smoothing his long silver hair he strode down the corridors eager to get the day underway.

~o~

Legolas wriggled around in a futile attempt to get somewhat comfortable. Despite his great anxiety over it he and his captors had met nothing upon the section of the Old Forest road they had travelled over the previous night. Now they were taking shelter just off the road amongst a small thicket; for the Captain of the men (Aldred as Legolas had learned he was called) had decided that they would travel only by night in an attempt to stay out of sight of unfriendly eyes.

Such foolishness, thought Legolas angrily, the worse things in and around the Wood only came out at night. He gave another experimental wiggle trying his best to find a position that would not put undue pressure upon his injured shoulder. His feet had been properly shackled once more and the bindings that held his arms secure has been attached to a piece of rope that gave him enough slack to move somewhat freely. The rope had been tied to a young tree – something that gave Legolas a small amount of comfort as he leaned against it slightly having finally found a position that was bearable.

All comfort he felt no matter how slight disappeared in an instant however when the young adan seemingly in charge of guarding him stepped into Legolas' field of vision. He held back a sigh – so far throughout their journey the man had found odd yet subtlety clever ways to hurt him and cause him pain. The man's need to cause him pain baffled Legolas – he did not understand the man's great hatred towards his race. He refused to look up at the adan as he approached however, choosing to ignore his presence for as long as he was able to and instead returned his focus to trying to rouse the young tree at his back from its deep slumber. Perhaps he could get the trees to relay a message back to the palace for him?

Just as Legolas decided to really try and force the young tree to awaken his focus was shattered as the man stepped onto a twig – the snap it gave sounded unnaturally loud in the silent thicket. His ever present gag was then hurriedly snatched out of his mouth and Legolas took the opportunity to move his nearly numb tongue, running it lightly over his teeth, stopping in the still slightly sore gap where he no longer had a tooth as he continued to try and ignore the man's presence.

"What are you doing elf? You look like you are attempting something," the man kneeled just in front of Legolas and tilted his head giving him an enquiring look.

Legolas glared up at him, "Are you a simpleton mr-adan? I am sitting here completely tied up and yet you ask me what I am doing? As if I have the freedom to do anything." Legolas' tone was scathing.

The man frowned angry with the way Legolas was speaking to him, "You really think I am like those other men don't you? You truly think I know nothing of elves and your devious ways?"

The man jumped up from his kneeling position suddenly causing Legolas to flinch – something which angered the elven Prince greatly but he had no time to berate himself as he was forced out of his semi-comfortable position and roughly pressed up fully against the tree. The adan manhandled him into position before tying a thick bit of rope around Legolas' middle securing him firmly to the tree.

Legolas gave a huff assuming nonchalance towards the man's odd behavior – inwardly he was starting to get that hideous nervous feeling in his belly again – but he was determined to show nothing of his suffering to these men, this one in particular.

When the man came back around to face him Legolas arched a perfect golden eyebrow at him, "Now I think it is I who should ask you what you are doing adan. I was already secured – why this?"

"Because as I told you before I am an elf friend, and that means I know a lot about you elves and your ways. For example I know that you wood elves have a special affinity with all green things – trees in particular. I saw that look of concentration on your face elf, you were trying to speak to this tree were you not?"

Legolas blinked and his mask of feigned indifference very nearly slipped (had he truly become so transparent?) before he managed to collect his shocked thoughts together and reply glibly, "I do not know of what you speak adan – the trees here are dead."

The man hummed softly, "We'll see elf, for it looked to me as though you were perhaps trying something naughty," here the man paused to waggle his finger at Legolas. "I really hope you weren't trying to get the trees to help you elfie for that would be a mistake."

"The trees here are dead – I've already told you this adan."

"Well then you won't mind at all what I'm about to do," the man leaned forward and roughly yanked the gag back into place being quick and careful with his fingers.

Legolas' heart raced as he kept his eyes on the man's every movement watching as he bent to retrieve some things from a small bag near a gap in the thick brambles that served as an entrance to the small thorny prison that cut Legolas off from the rest of the men's hidden camp.

The man approached with a selection of three differently sized daggers in his hands along with two of Legolas' very own arrows.

Legolas narrowed his eyes at the man angry at the sight of his possessions in the hands of one so evil even as he wondered what new tortures the man had come up with for him. He had gagged him again which most likely meant he expected Legolas to cry out. Well, Legolas would make sure he did no such thing – he would not give the man the pleasure.

The man took a fighting stance in front of Legolas twirling one of the daggers in his hand before flinging it towards Legolas. The Prince flinched, eyes closed and ducked as far down as he was able, feeling mightily relieved when he heard the dull thud of the dagger embedding itself into wood. That was until he heard a shocked scream reverberate within him almost piercing his very fa with its pain.

Legolas' eyes flew open as he frantically looked around trying to see what could have made such an awful heart rending sound. Yet there was no one else to be seen save the smirking young man in front him. He could now hear a piteous whimpering and realized with a start that it was the coming from the young tree he was currently trussed up to. Legolas eyes snapped up to glare at the adan who simply smiled big at him.

"Something wrong elf? You look shaken. I wasn't aiming for you elfie don't worry – Aldred would have my hide." With that he reached over Legolas and grabbed the dagger before wiggling it back and forth in the small hole it had made within the tender young bark.

A pained shriek sounded loud in Legolas' sensitive ears again and he tossed his head and closed his eyes willing the awful sound to leave him.

The man pulled his dagger free with a little grunt causing a pained gasp from the tree at his back.

Legolas maneuvered so that his fingertips just brushed the trunk of the young tree, "I am sorry mellon-nin I wanted to awaken you but not like this. Please know tis not me who gives you such pain."

The tree continued its whimpering seeming not to have heard Legolas' words at all so great was its pain.

Legolas looked up at the man angry yet pleading as he tried to speak around his gag before the man finally eased it back.

"Leave the tree alone – it is young and innocent. Torture me if you must but leave the tree in peace it has done nothing to deserve your malevolence."

"I thought you said the trees were dead elfie?" The man shook his head in mock disappointment, "You lied elfie – you lied about the trees being dead here and you lied about trying to get their help. I know all about you wood elves - I knew the moment you got near a tree you would be chattering away at it for help. Well no help will come elf, not from this tree nor any other."

Without another word he brutally forced the gag back into Legolas mouth and plunged two daggers deep into the tree at either side of Legolas' head.

"This tree will pay for your lies elf. Trying to speak to it was a mistake. So let this be a lesson."

He pulled out the knives slick with sap before plunging them into the same damaged spots again tearing more awful screams of pain from the tree. Legolas writhed, tried to kick out – anything – to get the man to back away from the tree and stop with this new form of hideous cruelty.

It was in vain though and he could do nothing to stop the man from stabbing the poor young tree again and again with his wickedly sharp knives splattering Legolas with sweet, sticky sap as he did so. He also found himself able to do very little to comfort the tree whose agonized wails now pierced Legolas as sharply as the man's daggers would have.

~o~

It was a full good hour later when the man finally pulled back his daggers for the last time as he stood back and surveyed his work with a proud look upon his face. The young tree at Legolas' back was scarred – deep marks and cuts had pierced its still tender bark and there were deep holes and gouges all along it. Gouges out of which seeped the tree's sticky life force. The man had cut and carved chunks out of the bark before plucking of the new spring buds and snapping off all the branches he could reach.

All the while he tree had cried out screamed and pleaded, chanting a pained litany for help that only Legolas could hear – and he could do nothing. Nothing as he was splattered with sap, nothing as he listed to the tortured screams and pleas, he could do nothing to even offer comfort.

He had tried – brushing his fingertips against the hurting bark he had tried to offer comfort and get the tree to try and focus on his gentle words rather that its torment. He had even tried a little greenling spell of healing he had learned from Radagast yni ago yet the hurts the man were inflicting we too great and the tree had continued to howl its pain.

The man removed the big thick piece of rope that had bound Legolas tightly to the tree leaving him as he had originally been tied up.

"I hope you learn this lesson well elfie – don't be talking to no trees – or they'll pay for it," he smiled at the pained horror that Legolas was sure was clear upon his face, "and I know that their pain hurts you too elf."

With that the man walked off wiping the sap from his weapons as he went.

Legolas closed his eyes and gave another great wriggle of his wrists, this time able to place his palms fully upon the tree before he recoiled with a jolt that sent sharp pain flaring through him as the tree hissed in venomous anger towards him. Legolas was shocked – never had he felt such murderous anger towards himself from a tree not even those ones that grew in the Shadowed South.

Legolas felt pain anew as the tree hurled its agonized anger at him. His heart was already sore from the tree's pain and now with its wrath aimed towards him he very nearly wept. Only the need to keep the men from seeing his pain kept him from doing so.

At length he shuffled forwards easing himself away from the tree that clearly found no comfort in his presence and decided to try and give it at least some small measure of peace. If that meant placing himself as far away from the tree as the slack of the rope allowed then so be it – though Legolas' heart reeled at the thought of green living things rejecting his touch.

He settled himself again in a small patch of dirt feeling unworthy of even sitting upon the grass at the moment. Legolas turned his head back to study the brutalized tree, his sadness swiftly turning into anger. He would memorize these marks for he intended to visit them all upon the adan as soon as he got free. Legolas' gaze hardened as he continued to look upon the tree – he would have his revenge. He knew not yet when but he would have it. He was Prince of the Woodland realm – no one would assault his people nor the trees and get away with it. This adan had done both and no matter how long it took Legolas would make sure that he paid for his crimes.

TBC.
End Notes:
Lasseg – Little Leaf – Family nickname for Legolas

Mmakil – Large creature resembling elephant used in battle by the Haradrim

Aran-nin - My King

Maethyr – (plural) warriors

Adar – Father

Sdh – Peace

Adan – Man

Mr-adan – Dark (Evil) Man

Fa – Soul (Quenya)

Mellon-nin - My friend

Yni – (Quenya) Elvish measure of time equalling 144 years. Plural of yn.
Chapter 17 by KimicThranduilion
"- but as for Legolas he wasn't there – no trace of him at all. So where do we go from here now?"

Where indeed, thought Faervel as he spun upon his heel and stalked back over to resume his watch over Hadril and Arasson. He clenched and unclenched his fists fighting to keep his composure. Magoldir and Feren's report was not what he wanted to hear. Although deep down he had not truly expected anything else – he knew the adan had been lying and he knew it had all been a ploy to try to trap them.

He forced himself to unclench his teeth as he knelt to check his comrades' temperatures. They were still burning up despite all the effort he had put in to keep them cool. With a sigh he grabbed a few damp cloths and went back to the tiresome and so far unrewarding task of sponging down his friends in an effort to help break their fevers. He could give no more healing energy right now – he was still far too drained – this simple method would have to suffice for the moment.

He kept half an ear on what the others were saying; now speaking in fierce whispers as Aithel wanted to get more details of what Feren and Magoldir had seen in the village. Faervel wiped a cool cloth along Hadril's brow being careful of the deep wound upon it as he did so. He felt fury on behalf of the woodsmen – angry they had been so taken advantage of but even so, their suffering at the hands of these men was not enough to stop the distracting and despairing thoughts of Legolas coming into his mind.

Ai Valar where was his friend now? How could they find him? Faervel blew a loose strand of black hair from his face as he glanced up at the men they had captive. He caught the eye of the man who had lied to him for a second before the adan lost his nerve and dropped his gaze and Faervel felt his fury rise a notch. That stupid lying ion orch had lead them on a merry chase when in reality he probably had no actual idea where Legolas had been taken. He was merely trying to save himself. Well, though Faervel savagely, he would pay for his lies and pay for wasting their time - oh yes Faervel would see to it – once he had solved the mystery of Legolas' disappearance he would exact his revenge.

His malevolent thoughts were interrupted as there was suddenly a great crashing and crunching of the brush and shrubbery ahead of them. In a flash Faervel was up in his feet cool cloths tossed aside in favour of his wicked daggers. He threw himself into a protective fighting stance in front of his stricken fellows. They had suffered enough and he would be damned if he allowed anything more to hurt them. Aithel and the others were already at the edge of the small clearing weapons at the ready to face whatever was rushing headlong towards them.

Faervel watched as several elven steeds came crashing through the shrubbery before coming to a halt just within the clearing. Sheathing his daggers, he breathed a huge sigh of relief as he recognized Captain Sanya and the rest of her drnaith as they dismounted.

Finally - they had met their replacements, finally help had come and with a weary smile he waved over the other troop's healers.

Hadril and Arasson may yet survive this, he mused as he watched the other healers unpack supplies he had long run out of. If only the same could be said of Legolas.

~o~

Thranduil glanced over at Br his secretary, faithfully scribbling down notes and he breathed a small internal sigh of relief glad that he had made the decision to bring Br into the meeting. For his mind wandered and he could not pay attention to whatever the man currently speaking said, his worry for Legolas was consuming him, preventing him from thinking of all else.

He was beyond worried for his son, his little leaf – Ai Valar he was so worried for him. Where was he now? Was he in pain? Was he being treated fairly? Or was he beaten, broken, and bruised? The very thought of Legolas being harmed or lying hurt somewhere made Thranduil both furious and miserable at the same time.

He let his thoughts flicker upon the men who had done this, the men who had dared to lay hands upon his son. He wanted to punish them – oh yes - he wanted to punish them in all sorts of hideous and painful ways but more than anything else he wanted to see his son. It had been a long time since he had waved Legolas off, indeed it had been nearly three months since he had said goodbye to him before he left on this doomed patrol.

Thranduil took a deep breath to calm himself willing his mind to focus, for all this worry, all these what if scenarios would do no good for him nor Legolas. Instead he did his best to focus on the accursed meeting he was currently trapped in. Thranduil nearly sighed aloud. He had not even intended to come back into the meeting – after he had seen off his troops he had been perfectly content to go back to his pacing in peace and leave Arahaelon and the trades councilors to sort this all out. But alas, Arahaelon had all but dragged him in here blathering on about how his presence was needed to help make up for any offense caused to the men. Thranduil for his part could give less of a damn how the men felt – they were here to talk about trade not their feelings.

He glanced round at the heavy elven guard presence still within the room – the edain would just have to deal with it; Men were as untrustworthy as ever and Thranduil was not about to be caught off guard – certainly not in his own palace.

"… good King Thranduil?"

Thranduil snapped his eyes to face of the adan that had spoken his name completely unaware of what he had just been asked. So much for not being caught off guard.

"I apologise you will need to repeat your question – I did not hear it," Thranduil saw no gain to be had by lying.

Before the man had a chance to repeat himself another adan piped up rather loudly.

"Do we bore you Lord Thranduil? Or perhaps those hundreds of years are catching up to your hearing?"

It was the same fat, pompous man from the previous day trying and failing to get a laugh out of the room.

Thranduil stiffened and straightened himself in his seat – he was in no mood for this adan's poor taste in jokes nor his disrespect.

"Firstly adan – whilst in my realm and under my hospitality you will address me as King Thranduil. Secondly I am millennia old not mere hundreds of years – before your town was even an idea I ruled here so bear in mind that the Woodland realm will carry on just fine with or without you and your trade."

Thranduil was aware that he was snarling at the now frightened looking adan but he was beyond the point of caring and he simply did not feel like reigning in his famed temper.

"And lastly though you do indeed bore me there is naught wrong with my hearing – I have much on my mind for my Kingdom is currently at war hence the extra presence of the guards you have taken so much offense to. Now you will excuse me as I have other things I must see too. My councilors will deal with you for the remainder of your time here."

Thranduil drew back his chair and swept out of the room in an angry flurry leaving the others within no time to bow or stand themselves.

~o~

He had to get out and do something to calm his spirit, sitting still in a meeting was the worst possible thing for him right now. He had always been an ellon of action yet Kingship had robbed him of that – now he was forced to sit still and let others search for his son, sit still and send others out to fight on his behalf. Thranduil stormed into his chambers and flung his crown off his head and across the room – he had never wanted it. Never. Yet it had been forced upon him and now he was stuck here – expected to continue his calm unaffected rule even in the midst of his own personal hell.

His son, his only son damn it, had been taken and he was expected to sit and make pleasantries with the very race that was responsible for his disappearance. Thranduil kicked out hard at a side table near him sending everything upon it flying before he struck out against his dresser smashing glass and scattering ornaments and papers. Damn the race of Men, he raged as he sank down to his knees despair rapidly taking over. Was he destined to lose everyone on Arda he cared for?

"Is it not enough I have lost Adar-nin a Hervess-nin?" Thranduil roared caring not one whit if any of his personal guard heard him before his anger gave way to simple raw pain.

"Must I lose Lasseg too?"

~o~

Faervel sat back on his haunches and wiped a bloodied hand against his tunic feeling pleased as he leaned back to study his patients. Both Arasson and Hadril looked ever so slightly better now after having the attentions of several healers upon them as well as the much needed pain relief and medicines that they had run out of.

He knew they were now in good hands and better protected with the arrival of this drnaith and that helped him to feel a little less bad for what he was now planning to do. And do it he must no matter the consequences afterwards – for Legolas was his friend but more than that he was his Prince. A Prince he had vowed to protect with his own life if necessary – and so far Faervel had to admit he hadn't exactly done a sterling job of that on this patrol.

Plans were being made for getting Hadril and Arasson back to the palace as quickly as possible now that they had learned from Sanya and her company that the King had sent out two patrols in search for the Prince. It had been deemed the best course of action was for them take their injured fellows back home for the proper medical aid they needed before returning if necessary to join in the hunt for Legolas. They would also report back to the King the plight of the woodsmen. It was all sound reasoning of course but Faervel could not and would not go through with that plan – he had heard Magoldir speak of his 'feelings' in regards to Legolas' current situation and he could not overlook them. Magoldir and his 'feelings' were not lightly ignored.

Also Faervel could not bear the thought of returning to face King Thranduil with the news that Legolas was still missing. How could he in all good consciousness go home safe to the palace whilst his charge was still lost out there somewhere? What kind of a bodyguard would that make him? Nay – he knew that even though some of his fellow maethyr may be worried and even a little upset at first they would come to understand in the end.

Still he did not shirk his duties in the meanwhile and after quickly washing his hands he joined in with preparations for the safe and comfortable transport of Hadril and Arasson.

Finally with his bow upon his back and his knives at his side he leapt up a tree to keep watch until they were ready to go. He had told Aithel to give a quick whistle once they were ready to move off and that he would come down. He gazed down upon them watching as they hustled to and fro and he felt a great wash of affection for the eledhrim he called his fellow warriors. He had been with them for centuries and they were all as good as family to him. His gaze shifted over to the men who were now being herded over towards the horses they were to be shackled to during the trip back to the palace.

Rage flared up hotly within him again as he looked upon the men but he fought to dampen it – these men were on their way to face King Thranduil and attempt to explain their crimes against his people and his son. Faervel shook his head for he almost felt sorry for them. Nothing he could do to them could match what Thranduil in a rage could.

Silently he turned his back on the scene praying for his drnaith's forgiveness as he tiptoed across the branches deeper into the forest and away from the clearing. He would not be here when Aithel whistled. It was time for him to do as he had promised Thranduil long yeni ago. He would find his Prince and save him from the clutches of these evil men. No matter the cost to him.

~o~

"What's wrong with my elf?"

The angry voice jolted Legolas out of the pained, dazed reverie he had slid into. He still sat in the same spot of dusty earth scarcely touching the grass around him. He had been so caught up in the anguished whimpering and angry accusations of the tree that he hadn't heard the men's non to gentle approach.

"What do you mean Captain – there's naught wrong with him."

"He looks pale… I thought you were meant to be looking after him."

Legolas glanced up as his young tormentor spoke in a flustered defense of himself, "I have been looking after him but elves are difficult creatures."

"I don't want none of your excuses boy you're supposed to be the elf expert here. Fetch him something to eat and drink and see that he does so before we move off. I haven't gone through all this trouble just to have him die on us due to your lack of care. I've said it before and I'll say it again boy. I'll kill you before I lose out on this elf. Now get!"

Legolas watched as the angry Captain stomped away followed more slowly and calmly by the younger man and a small unwelcome shiver ran down his spine. For all that the younger man had strode calmly away Legolas could feel the waves of anger that rolled off him and he was certain that somehow he would pay for the dressing down the adan had just received from his Captain.

~o~

Elias made sure to keep his steps calm and measured as he followed behind Aldred. He too wanted to stamp and crash through the brush like his Captain but he didn't dare do anything to rouse Aldred's anger against him any further. Simply thinking of the dressing down he had received from Aldred in front of the elf just then made him burn with fury. Oh he'd feed the elf all right, he'd feed him up good and proper.

Elias continued his calmly angry walk across their makeshift camp and snatched up a small wrapped packet and a water skin before he turned to make his way back towards the elf aware of the weight of Aldred's irate gaze upon him. Still he kept his face blank not letting even a tiny bit of the rage he felt slip through his mask until he had made his way through the brambles to stand in front of the trussed up elf.

Elias' rage shot up another level at the way the haughty creature on the ground before him did not so much as glance in his direction.

"Your food's here elf," Elias ground out from between his clenched teeth.

Still the blonde being on the ground did not move and finally letting his anger get the better of him he flung the packet of cram at the elf hitting him squarely in the chest. That got his attention and angry blue eyes pinned him with a glare. Elias couldn't stop the shiver that ran down his back at having the full weight of the heavy, angry elven glower on him. This elf if ever he got free would be a formidable foe and even though he had skill Elias did not think for a moment that he would be able to put up much of a fight against him. That realisation only served to anger the young man further as he quickly removed the elf's gag being careful of his fingers all the while.

"Aldred wants you to eat," he paused to gather up the food he had tossed at the elf, "I'll feed you."

The elf's eyes widened if only minutely and for a few short seconds before he wrinkled his nose and snootily refused, "I am not hungry and I do not eat human food. You needn't trouble yourself."

"I will indeed trouble myself elfie," Elias replied with malicious glee, "after all I do not wish to anger the Captain. He thinks you look weak and pale. I'm here to fix that."

"I am not weak," the elf near growled at him in his accented Westron, "and I am only pale as you have held me captive in the darkness for so long."

"I know that elf, but Aldred does not – he wants you to eat and eat you shall, and you needn't worry about the food – it's only waybread – tis the mannish version of lembas."

The elf scoffed at that and Elias shrugged casually, he could care less about the elf's preferences and tastes in food. He was here to keep Aldred happy and off his back. He was also going to have some fun with it. He broke off the piece of cram and looked at it calculatingly – how could he force the elf to eat without being bitten again. Idea coming to him he quickly jumped up and went round the back of Legolas grabbing the elf in a tight hold across his chest and the ribs that he knew were very bruised. The elf opened his mouth presumably to protest being manhandled and Elias promptly shoved the piece of waybread in using the palm his now free hand to clamp the elf's mouth shut and his thumb and forefinger to pinch the elf's nostrils together. He held on tight then as the being struggled furiously trying to shake him off. Elias was determined though and he just about managed to hold on until the elf began to make choking noises before he felt him swallow.

Feeling smug that he had gotten one over on the elf Elias crowed, "See elf that wasn't so bad was it? No need to be so stubbo- argh!"

He screamed pulling away his now bleeding arm and hastily leaping away from the elf, "You…you… elven bastard," Elias sputtered as he looked between his wounded arm and the smirking elf with rage in his eyes.

"You are too careless adan," the elf was actually grinning at him now and a macabre grin it was too. Elias' own blood stained the elf's lips and the gap where his tooth had been but two nights ago stood out clearly.

Elias snapped and raised his hand ready to punch another tooth out the elf's stupid grinning mouth when his arm was caught and held fast as Aldred bellowed in his ear, "What in the name of all the gods is going on here?"

Elias froze heart sinking as he realised what he had been about to do to the elf – Aldred's elf.

"Tis not what it looks like Aldred – I promise I did not hit him."

Elias flinched as Aldred roughly dragged him forward forcing him to kneel as Aldred himself knelt in front of the elf. With no care at all Aldred grabbed the elf's chin between his meaty thumb and forefinger.

"Open up elf and don't even think about biting me."

Of course the elf seemed disinclined to listen – at least until Aldred gave a rather forceful squeeze of his jaw. Elias closed his eyes against the incriminating evidence – the elf's mouth was still bloodied and the gap still just as glaringly obvious. Elias did not know how much of their little tussle Aldred had seen but he knew how it looked and he braced himself for the expected explosion of rage from his Captain. It was not long in coming.

Aldred gave angered incoherent yell and Elias found himself forcibly yanked back up off the ground by his arm before being spun round to face a furious Aldred.

"What have you done to my elf boy?! Where is his tooth?"

Elias tried futilely to shrug but did not get very far what with Aldred's iron grip upon his arm.

"Where is his tooth?!" Aldred thundered again, "I specifically told you he was not to be harmed."

Elias felt himself being flung away from Aldred before a fierce stinging pain took him by surprise as Aldred backhanded him.

"The elf stays with me from now on as clearly you cannot be trusted."

Elias watched as his Captain shook with rage clearly trying to refrain from hitting him again. Instead he stomped on what was left of the cram grinding it into dust with the toe of his boot before grabbing up the water skin and messily sloshing the contents over the elf's lower face and mouth which he had forced open again. The elf struggled but Adlred only tightened his grip on its jaw and forced his knees against the elf's bruised ribs. Once he seemed satisfied the elf had managed to swallow enough he whipped round to face Elias once more.

"Any loss in value from this is coming out of your cut boy," Aldred jabbed an angry finger at him.

"Th- they grow b-back Captain," Elias hated his weak trembling voice just then but he really did not want to rile Aldred up any further.

"A likely story boy," Aldred snorted disbelievingly, "Just get outta my sight and pack up so we can be on the move. I wanna reach the other side of the river by tonight."

~o~

Legolas trudged alongside the horse he had been tethered to. Aldred's horse. His hobbled feet ached as he could barely move them yet still had to keep up with the brisk pace that was being set.

He felt so ashamed – being led around like a mere bull with a ring through its nose. Since the incident back at the makeshift camp Aldred had kept him close and was keeping a keen eye on him. It was annoying, there was no chance for escape just now – Legolas would have to bide his time still.

He continued to plod along doing his best to keep up and not fall and be dragged through the filth on the road when he heard it. A low, rumbling guttural noise. Legolas stretched his senses and almost instantly he felt the foul presence in the air and it was getting closer with every hobbled step he took.

Orcs. Orcs were near.

TBC.
End Notes:
Adan – Man

Ion orch – Son of an orc

Drnaith – Military (Troop/Guard)

Edain – (Plural of Adan) Men

Ellon – Male elf

Adar-nin a Hervess-nin – My faher and my wife

Lasseg – Little Leaf – Family nickname for Legolas

Maethyr – (plural) warriors

Eledhrim – Elves

Yni – (Quenya) Elvish measure of time equalling 144 years. Plural of yn.
This story archived at http://www.faerie-archive.com/viewstory.php?sid=1725