The Wild Ones
Benár cantered amidst the small group of four warriors, brothers in all but blood, loyal unto death to their commander, who rode at the fore. Only on this journey, he was to be known only as their captain, not by his true rank or name.
Indeed nothing differentiated their leader from the rest. He wore the same brown, green and blue uniform, their armor made of reinforced leather, rather than the finer metals of the Noldorin and Sindarin warriors – for these warriors were Silvan – veterans of the Mirkwood.
Benár glanced over at Halú, the youngest of their group. Son of a royal councilor, the child had chosen to follow the ways of the warrior, rather than the politician. Benár smiled, for the boy was fierce indeed, although not quite as much as the commander he venerated, for Legolas of the Woodland Realm – or Taú – as they would call him when in the wilds, was the fiercest elf Benár had ever met. In spite of his royal training, the prince was as wild as he was blunt, as undiplomatic as he was loyal to his father and land.
Benár smirked as he cantered, remembering some of the more monumental skirmishes his prince had found himself in. But his mirth promptly disappeared as the reason behind such behavior made itself known.
The elf was forged from hardship. The horrific circumstances of his mother’s death, the loss of so many siblings, the steady encroachment of evil into the lands he knew and loved so well.
So much death, so much horror for one still so young; the grief and the responsibility had matured his friend well beyond what was considered normal, indeed at one point in his life, he had been named the ‘infant warrior', amongst other things, and Benár smirked once more.
A quieter, wiser smile graced Benár’s weary face then, as he glanced at his commander’s wind-swept face, still bruised and bloodied, as most of them were.
The journey had not been easy, and both pain, hunger and exhaustion drove them those final leagues into Imladris, their destination.
Two more days, two cycles of the sun and they would reach safe haven.
For now, Benár gritted his teeth and bent lower over his panting horse, for they had picked up the pace as the rotten stench of orc made itself more apparent. They were being stalked – again.
And so, the steady canter had become a gallop, and the biting November frost stung his eyes and turned his flesh numb.
On this journey, Legolas was but a captain of the Greenwood, not the only remaining son of Thranduil. Should that information escape and somehow return to their Sinda regent, Benár knew that Legolas’ freedom would be sorely limited. If there was anything his sire loved above his wine and his land, it was his son, and therein lay the elven king’s weakness, one Thranduil understood well, and strove to protect himself from.
Oh, for a meal, a bath, a glass of wine and a soft hand. Perhaps, he mused, two days hence and two thousand years of history later, the Noldor would see fit to accommodate them, albeit they were to be known as nothing more than humble warriors bearing a missive from their king.
The stench grew stronger, and the wail of foreign trees filled their minds. It was time to dismount and climb, for the orcs were upon them once more.
Weary silver eyes reflected the waning light of a late-November afternoon, the experience behind them as evident as the grief that waged war with a weary desire to move on; a half-hearted attempt to live life anew in the wake of tragedy.
He sat emerged in his past, and in spite of having lived for so many years, he was capable only of conjuring the darker moments. As if solitude dictated he injure himself by reliving only the grief, and ignoring the many happy moments he had lived.
A deep breath and the intelligent silver eyes refocused upon the half-filled goblet of wine.
“You are wallowing…” came the blithe words of a blond warrior who now stood behind his pensive lord.
“A lord does not wallow, Glorfindel, he ponders.”
A snort was the only reply his words garnered and then the slow, mellow trickle of rich wine hitting polished metal, and the audible gulp of the velvety liquid as it was swallowed with relish.
Elrond faintly smiled, only half-turning his head toward his friend.
“Help yourself,” he said sarcastically.
“I already have, Elrond. This is the good stuff.”
The Lore-master did not answer, but simply turned his eyes back to the wintery landscape beyond the windows before him.
“What is it, Glorfindel?” he asked finally.
“Orcs. Or at least a hint of a fragmented group along the southern border.”
“Will you ride out?”
“Not yet. Tomorrow, if reports are consistent.”
“It grows worse of late.”
“Yes, still, nothing we cannot handle,” he answered, trying to lighten his friend’s mood, one he was well accustomed to.
“Will you dine with your people tonight, Elrond?”
The question had been light, and apparently inquisitive, but Elrond too, knew his friend well. He was worried and Elrond could not fault him for that. His sons had been abroad for two months now, without even the briefest of missives, and the ghosts of his past haunted him of late – so much so, that he had not shared the evening meal with his people for over a week.
It was time to shake himself out of it – indeed he was wallowing – it was time to be strong once more.
“Aye, I will dine with you,” he said absently, and then seemed to snap back into the present and his smile widened.
“Thank you, my friend, you anchor me.”
“And you, anchor us all, Elrond. Come, and feast with the Noldor once more.”
Another smile graced his now softer features and he nodded. Tomorrow his warriors would ride out to protect the borders, and tonight, tonight Imladris would have its Lord.
Frost seeped through his already soaked garments. He had sweated and bled, had been rained on, spat on, attacked more times than he could count. He had suffered from hunger, still did, was exhausted and numb from cold. Halú was a Silvan warrior, accustomed to the wiles of the southern reaches of his beloved forest, yet the persecution they had suffered on this journey had been nothing short of astonishing; it was too much, perhaps, to be put down to simple circumstances, and he wondered then, if it was his prince they sought – for he did have a reputation, so to speak.
Whatever it was that had motivated such a game of cat and mouse, it was over now, and although it had left all four in a deplorable state – they were alive and but a scant few hours from Elrond’s abode.
His prince’s identity was to be denied to the Noldor, he reminded himself. They would be the warriors of a simple captain, deliver their king’s missive, and await a reply. Hopefully, though, that reply would take a while, for Halú wanted food, and rest, and blessed comfort, if but for a few days, for he ached and his stomach sent spikes of pain down to the very toes of his booted feet.
Whatever it was that his accomplice Erestor had said or done, it had worked, for although it was just an ordinary day in Imladris, the dining hall was all but full and Glorfindel smiled his approval at the Chief Councilor of Imladris, who nodded at the Noldorin general with no small amount of self-satisfaction. He had spread the rumour of a particularly splendid menu of winter delights, and of course, the much missed presence of their Lord.
It had worked, for although Elrond was, perhaps, a little stern and given to a somewhat authoritative approach, he was revered as a strong leader, renowned scholar and healer, a legend of which they were proud, and fiercely loyal.
And so, they dined in joy, despite the notable absence of their princes. It was, after all, a frequent occurrence, and no one doubted the young lords would soon return.
Music enveloped their senses and the pleasant murmur of learned conversation echoed softly through the hall as they ate and talked, laughed and simply enjoyed the day.
Sometime later, the heavy double doors of the dining hall moved inwards, letting in a violent gust of frigid wind that blew out half the candles upon the luxurious tables and velvet-draped walls.
Conversation ebbed as eyes followed a disheveled captain who smoothed down his uniform as he approached the high table.
Standing at a respectable distance, he waited to be called forth, hands obediently clasped behind his back.
“Report,” said Glorfindel softly, bowing his head towards the warrior in a silent command to speak only for his ears.
“The orc threat has been neutralized, my Lord,” said the warrior quietly.
Glorfindel’s eyes latched onto his warrior in surprise, wondering why he seemed uncomfortable.
“That is good news, Captain, congratulations – casualties?”
“No, my Lord.”
“That is wonderful…”
“What is it?” asked Glorfindel, his brow creasing as he risked a quick glance at Elrond, who was, indeed, listening intently.
“My Lord, it was not we who neutralized the threat.”
Glorfindel scowled and Elrond’s eyebrows disappeared into his hairline, while Erestor shuffled forward.
“Who then?” asked Glorfindel, almost conversationally.
“Wood-elves, my Lord,” said the warrior shyly, almost.
“Wood-elves – in Imladris,” said Glorfindel flatly.
“From the Woodland realm, my Lord. They say they are messengers from the Elvenking.”
Glorfindel simply stared at his warrior, waiting for more information.
“There are four of them, under the leadership of one they call Taú, they…” he faltered, searching but not finding the words he needed to describe his feelings.
“Go on,” urged the general, somewhat impatiently, watching as his warrior fought with an apparent urge to fiddle with his hair.
“We intercepted them on their final approach into the valley – they are – waiting outside as we speak.”
Glorfindel sat back for a moment, as the captain’s words registered, resisting the urge to ask the elf why he had not bid them enter, but something about his behavior told Glorfindel there was a reason, one that was making the warrior nervous and uncomfortable.
Turning his eyes to Elrond and then Erestor, he waited as the councilor stood and bid the citizens retire to the Hall of Fire. Such was their friendship that no words had been necessary, and before he could rest his gaze once more upon the warrior, they found themselves alone at the table, a distant murmur of voices and music the only evidence of their impromptu feasting.
“Bid them enter, Captain,” instructed Glorfindel, already focusing his sharp blue eyes upon the doorway.
The warrior returned but moments later, with four hooded elves behind him, followed by two more Noldorin warriors, strangely, with their hands resting upon the hilts of their swords.
Glorfindel thought it strange, but only for a moment, for as his eyes rested on the company of foreigners, he began to realize just why that was. There, in the midst of his own warriors, and with their hoods now pushed back, were four of the fiercest elves he, Glorfindel of Gondolin, had ever set eyes on. He resisted the urge to swear in Quenya, and refused to allow his eyes to bulge. His tongue, however, had refused to move, and Glorfindel gave profuse thanks to the Valar when Elrond stood and spoke.
“Welcome to Imladris, friends from the Greenwood. It seems we owe you a debt for freeing us of the enemy this night.”
An elf with pale blond hair that disappeared into his cloak, stepped forward and bowed, and Glorfindel could not help but stare. He was battered and bruised and cut and bloodied and his eyes told the story of his exhaustion. Yet more than this he was simply – exquisite to behold; the epitome of masculine beauty, enveloped in the garments of war. It was hard to look away for his stunning face was a book to be read with relish, full of tales and enigmas….
“Glorfindel,” came Elrond’s flat voice, one that startled him out of the semi-daze he had fallen into.
“Please ask the kitchens to bring food for these soldiers. They must be hungry.”
“Of course, my Lord,” he bowed, and moved out of the hall to arrange it. Minutes later, he returned with three elves behind him, bearing trays of the exquisite food that had been served at the feast. It was a strange thing to see – hungry warriors being fed delicacies, and Glorfindel resisted the urge to smirk.
Benár, Halú, Dorán and Taú sat hunched over the steaming plates of delicacies that had been placed before them, their eyes skipping over the steaming fish sitting in butter, the delicately roasted potatoes and greens, the pies and patés, mushrooms and roasted meat. The presentation was exquisite, with a flower here and a green leaf there and there.
Glorfindel’s eyebrow rose in surprise at their hesitation, for his practiced eye recognized the signs of hunger, and so they waited, and then watched in abject fascination as the four Silvans moved forward as one, their dirty hands reaching forward to snatch at the meat and bread, pouring wine into their goblets even before the servants could reach for the bottles. As for the flowers, they had slipped to the side, discarded and forgotten.
Erestor cleared his throat, and Glorfindel and Elrond turned and sat, hiding their surprise behind well-practiced resolve.
It was brutal and messy, as bits of chicken skin and bone fell to the polished table, crumbs of bread scattered carelessly as they viciously ripped pieces off and shoveled it into their wide, chomping mouths. Wine was gulped carelessly, washing down huge balls of food in its wake, and dripping down their chins, only to be wiped irritably away as they reached out for more food.
Elrond’s eyes narrowed and his hand moved to his chin in thought as he watched the spectacle, and Glorfindel could no longer hide the grim smirk that had lodged itself onto his features. It was strangely refreshing to see such unrestrained behavior at their normally stiff and refined Noldorin table, and he certainly had no sympathy for the squashed and trampled petals that had adorned the food.
One warrior grunted as his companion passed him a platter with roasted vegetables. A serving spoon sat upon it, but the elf decided it was much more practical to use his hand, and quicker.
Another elf shoved his neighbor roughly, narrowly avoiding him falling asleep head-first into his food, earning himself a warning growl from a thoroughly disorientated Silvan warrior. A growl he totally ignored as he filled his mouth once more and swallowed almost painfully.
Had it not been for his years of training, Glorfindel would have guffawed wildly; as it was, he was hard-pressed to suppress his mounting mirth, for the spectacle was one he had only ever seen – with dwarves!
A glance to his left and right confirmed that Elrond and Erestor were in a similar predicament. Except that they had settled back in their chairs, crossed their legs and arranged their robes around them, their faces hinting at their own amusement, and no small amount of Noldorin arrogance.
After ten minutes of fascinated observation, Elrond spoke, realizing that the speed with which the elves ate had diminished and their eyes began to droop, as infants after thoroughly feeding on mother’s milk.
“You are tired, and require some first aid, I see. Let us show you to where you may sleep. Lord Glorfindel, perhaps you will instruct your warriors to assist our friends in finding their way to the bathing areas tomorrow once they are rested. Take your time and rest well,” he said authoritatively. “You may deliver your missive tomorrow before the mid-day meal if that is acceptable?” he said, his eyes latching onto the one called Taú.
The elf stood regally, and then staggered to the side, before being righted by one of his men. However when he spoke, it was to everyone’s great surprise, that his language was both educated and most proper, if heavily accented. Not so base, then, realized Glorfindel. There were some surprises to be had here.
“You have our thanks, my Lord Elrond. We would sleep now – everything else should wait as we are not in any condition to serve you at present, as is our wont.”
Silence ensued, only the echo of the softly spoken words danced around the walls.
Glorfindel suddenly felt – cruel. He had stood and watched as the elves sated their irresistible hunger, as had Erestor and Elrond. Yet now, as this warrior stood and nearly fell, part of his clothing – or what was left of it – becoming visible, he felt … ashamed.
“Then come, my friends. I will show you to our barracks,” said Glorfindel, his face now a little pale and downcast. Nodding somewhat sorrowfully at his Lord and Erestor, he walked away, the four Wood-elves in tow, until they disappeared through the double doors and the two Noldor were left alone.
“Well, well,” began Erestor, but did not continue.
“We have been – unjust, I believe,” began Elrond after a few moments of silence.
“I know. However it could not be helped, for that was – unusual. I have never seen elves eat like that, like… animals. It is in my nature, our nature, to feel curiosity, Elrond. Do not berate yourself for that.”
“Curiosity is one thing, Erestor, but I found myself feeling – superior. And then he stood and I saw the extent of their suffering and suddenly, their desperation was no longer funny. It is at least a five week journey from Mirkwood; who knows what trials they have been put through to reach that state of hunger and exhaustion.”
“Agreed. Still, I will not fault myself for my curiosity. You must admit this – Taú, is the strangest elf you have ever seen. His face is simply – stunning to behold.”
“Yes, a Silvan captain. Yet I wonder at his manners. He was most correct in his protocol and choice of lexis. Thranduil’s army is well-trained it would seem, despite appearances.”
“And that surprises you?” asked Erestor, rhetorically it seemed.
“Oh aye, it surprises me,” said Elrond pensively. Yet his thoughts had no more time to develop, for Glorfindel was back, slumping into the chair beside Elrond with a long sigh.
“Well?” asked Erestor.
“I have allotted them a dormitory. No sooner had I gestured to the beds and they threw themselves down, wrapped themselves in the blankets and fell into immediate sleep. We have been remiss, I think,” he added softly.
“Yes, so it would seem,” agreed Elrond. “However, there is nothing more we can do for them now. Tomorrow we will see if they require medical aid, and then find out what what Thranduil has decided to regale us with.”
They nodded and fell back into silence, each milling over the events of the last half hour as they sipped from their glasses.
Elrond could not help but wonder at this sudden missive from one who had not attended his own for many centuries. Not even Galadriel had had news of the northern kingdom, herself unable to see what transpired there.
Wood-elves, bold and daring, uncouth and rowdy. That was the extent of his experience with the Silvan people. It did not disturb him particularly, but he could not shake the idea that they were – inferior in some way. Science and the arts were disciplines that refined the mind and shaped the soul, made one a better elf, for with understanding and wisdom, comes justice and peace.
A small smile graced his face as he rose, his friends doing likewise.
“Come, to the Hall of Fire. Tomorrow, there will be time enough to deal with the Wild Ones…”
Wild they were, and yet neither Elrond, Erestor nor Glorfindel had, as yet, seen just how much. They were in for some surprises, surprises that would change their age-old perceptions of the Silvan people. Yet whether that would be for good or for bad, remained to be seen…
Welcome to The Wild Ones. I had the urge to write something light-hearted, and this is what I came up with. I really hope you enjoy the tale, and if you do, please let me know! It would truly make my day :)
Disclaimer: I do not own the canon characters in this story. They belong to JRR Tolkien. All OCs are my invention, and no money is being made by this humble author, who seeks only to entertain.
Disclaimer: I do not own the canon characters in this story. They belong to JRR Tolkien. All OCs are my invention, and no money is being made by this humble author, who seeks only to entertain.
Unbeta'd for the time being!