Night had fallen once more upon the dark, foreboding forest, in spite of their best attempts at arriving before they would be forced to stop for another night. It was not an appetizing thought, and Lindir had said as much after a black bat had flown into his long, flowing hair at the camp fire the previous night.
The musician had yelped, and then abruptly stood as he flapped his hands around his head and stomped his feet. Galanor had laughed at the bard, rocking upon his makeshift tree branch bench beside the other guards, and Glorfindel had rolled his eyes in exasperation of the squeamish musician. Elrond, however, had simply sighed as he flicked his fingers at an oversized mosquito that had been annoying him for the last hour. He had no intention of being bitten by the thing, for he was sure it would be poisonous – it certainly looked like it would be.
It was, perhaps, the eighteenth hour, yet their eyes already strained past their considerable limits in order to navigate their treacherous path, for the high bows were compact, knitted together at the tops, as if holding each other’s hands for comfort before what lay below them. Their steeds stumbled and whickered uneasily and Elrond was becoming concerned, just as he knew Glorfindel was; another night upon the path in the company of Lindir was not a pleasant thought, but the distant stench of orc had him unnerved, and had deprived him of any appetite he had managed to work up.
Glorfindel’s eyes sought Elrond, who sat upon his mighty black stallion, the very picture of a proud, warrior lord. Fully armored and battle ready, Elrond had expected to be met upon the path and guided into the city proper before now, and of course he had deigned to do so in the best possible Noldorin fashion, one Erestor would be most content with, had he been here.
Not for the first time on this trip, Elrond was relieved that Erestor had stayed behind to see to the matters of the valley in his own necessary absence. Erestor was surprisingly intolerant for a Chief Advisor, perhaps the elf’s only short-coming, thought Elrond, for in every other way, he was a master of dialect and rhetoric. He was Elrond’s indispensable right hand in matters of state; it really could have been no other way.
Elrond’s eyes swiveled to Galanor, now but a simple warrior, stripped of his rank of lieutenant after the unpleasant affair with the Wild Ones. Glorfindel had, as punishment, condemned the elf to travel to Mirkwood, duly warning him that should a similar episode occur, he would be expelled from the Noldorin military all together, or even better, left to the wiles of the Woodland King’s judgment. The shame would be too great for the arrogant elf to bear, and, the chances of redemption were enticing, for beneath it all, Galanor was an asset to his army, or so Glorfindel claimed.
Elrond’s mind wandered back to the briefing he had given the travelers on the eve of their departure.
“The Noldor have a reputation to maintain, for we have advanced beyond other cultures, have written many books on lore and natural physics, poetry and prose unequalled. Yet that does not mean we should flaunt it, rather understand the Silvan society – alliance is close at hand, let us not ruin things as we once did, with petty arguments and intolerance…”
It had been an inspiring talk, one his people had wanted to hear, for they had nodded and smiled and stood taller as their lord spoke. He then went on to explain what little he knew of their venture…
Thranduil had proposed a meeting. It was short and it was simple. It seemed the Sindarin king wished to reestablish alliances and yet he had gone into no depth at all as to what was to be discussed. A test, perhaps, he had postulated. A test of trust that Thranduil lay at Elrond’s feet, daring him to travel into troubled lands, to meet with a king of dubious alliance. He asked much, but Elrond had seen the wisdom of accepting.
Later, however, the Lord of the Valley had confided in Glorfindel that there was another reason why he had accepted, one that had Elrond perplexed. The king had said quite simply, that he had come into possession of something that belonged to Elrond.
Elrond, Glorfindel and Erestor had talked and wracked their brains for hours, wondering if some lost Noldorin treasure had been found in the bowls of some distant mountain. But it was to no avail – whatever it was that Thranduil had in his possession, was of an unknown origin, and not for the first time, the seed of doubt had sparked in their minds. Was it a trap?
Yet surely, after Legolas’ visit to the Valley, the king would be positively predisposed, for the prince had been discovered and no harm had come to him, well, almost none.
‘…something has come into my possession, something that belongs to you…’
Elrond shook his head to rid himself of the annoying phrase that would not leave his thoughts. Luckily, Glorfindel’s powerful call to halt jolted him out of it and he turned to his general in askance.
“We can go no further,” he stated simply, and after a moment, Elrond realized he was right. That was it then, another night in this forsaken land of strange beasts, gnarled trees and oversized, blood-sucking insects – not to mention squeamish bards who refused to braid their hair.
Yet fortune had other things in store for the Noldorin entourage, as the thunder of many hooves soon reached their ears, their warriors instantly alert upon their horses once more, their steady hands hovering over the pommels of their swords as their heads swiveled this way and that, trying to discern the direction from which the horses approached.
Glorfindel held his hand up in a signal to hold, for he could see his elves disconcerted looks. They had not heard the group until they were almost upon them, and that was not natural, thought the general. Yet there was nothing for it. Logic dictated they would be elves, wood-elves, for they were too close to Thranduil’s abode for human travelers – they were elves.
Sure enough, not seconds later, a large group of mounted elves cantered towards them, and Glorfindel – for all that he tried – could not rip his disbelieving eyes from them. Sindarin? Nay – he doubted that they were even Silvan, and then he wondered if they could be Avarin…
They were shouting and yipping and jeering, long pikes in their hands which they held over their heads, and, as the group approached, Glorfindel realized what it was he had seen on their tips; heads – orc heads – long ropy hair flying in the breeze and blackened tongues hanging out of lax lips in the most obscene of grimaces; these beasts had not had a peaceful death…
The disgusting body parts did not seem to bother the warriors though, for they shook them in the air as trophies, which of course, was exactly what they were.
“Holy mother of…” began Elrohir, who was then interrupted by Galanor.
“What – is that!” he exclaimed in disgust.
“That, warrior, is a group of woodland warriors after a battle,” said Glorfindel matter-of-factly, betraying nothing of his own stupefaction. Elrohir spoiled it though, with a gigantic snort, and Glorfindel could do nothing more than smirk back at Elrond’s son.
Three of the wild warriors approached the Noldor, their comrades still shouting and yelling behind them as they rode their mounts in circles. Stopping before Glorfindel, Elrond and his sons, one elf dismounted in one nimble jump to the forest floor. Walking forwards, he stabbed his own, head-heavy pike into the ground and approached the lords, his bare chest gleaming in the waning light.
“My Lord Elrond!” exclaimed the elf jovially, his face smudged in blackened blood that did nothing to hide the streaks of blue paint under his eyes and over his cheeks. War paint, realized Glorfindel.
“Prince Legolas,” said Elrond somewhat lamely, and Glorfindel suddenly wanted to laugh, for Legolas, or Taú, was bear-chested where Elrond was clad in heavy robes of velvet and silk. Taú’s long silver-blond hair was in complete disarray around him, an eagle’s feather stuck inside his half-undone back braid, where Elrond’s long silken locks were severely confined into traditional braids of Noldorin lordship.
Taú bowed formally, showing Elrond the crown of his messy head, feather and all, and Elrond returned the gesture with enviable calm, thought Glorfindel. They were opposites in almost everything, he mused. Their clothing, their hair, their features, yet one thing they did have in common, for both exuded an air of authority that could not be denied. Yet where Elrond’s was calm and a little sarcastic, Legolas’ was hot, passionate, and brutally direct.
“Welcome to the Woodland Realm, my lords,” said the prince, the euphoria of victorious battle still upon him. “We will guide you in, my Lord, if you will. There are some stragglers we were not able to intervene, and I am sure you will be more comfortable within my father’ halls,” he said with a knowing smile.
Glorfindel smirked as he picked up a relieved sigh from behind him – Lindir – he knew. Unfortunately, the sigh turned into a wretching sound and Glorfindel knew the bard must have caught sight of the spitted Uruk heads.
“Indeed,” said Elrond with a smile, his own stupor now seeming to wear off. “Lead the way for we are anxious for a little comfort. The journey has been long and surprisingly – uncomfortable – if you do not mind me saying so.”
Legolas laughed scandalously, obviously imagining the discomforts the Noldorin caravan would have come across.
“Your elf there, he pointed to Lindir who was now wiping his mouth with his silken white handkerchief. “What is wrong with him? Is it poison?” asked Tau as he mounted up again, his head swiveling to Elrond for clarification.
“Him? Nay, that is Lindir the Bard, Legolas.”
“Bard?” echoed Legolas disbelievingly. “You brought a bard with you? To Mirkwood?” he said, his face twisted in a grimace of distaste.
“Yes,” said Elrond lightly. “’Tis custom for the Noldo to travel with their bard. It makes for some diversion upon the road.”
“I bet he was very entertaining,” smirked Legolas, and Glorfindel guffawed as he slapped Taú upon his bare shoulder in greeting. Legolas regaled him with a brilliant smile, before he turned to Elrohir and clasped his forearm in brotherly affection.
“I am glad you are here, my friend,” he said, only for Elrohir’s ears.
“And I am glad to see you once more,” smiled Elrohir. “I hope you have a big enough stock of wine for the both of us!”
“It is infinite, my friend, as you shall see. Come!” he bid as he turned his horse around to face his warriors. “We ride to the Greenwood to celebrate, for tonight, Gorhoshbak was slain!” shouted Taú as he shook his own pike high above his head and his elven warriors roared.
Lindir covered his ears in dismay, nearly losing his seat, and Galanor kicked his own mount into action, his lip raised on one side in a sneer of disdain. Elrohir, however, smiled in sincere delight. Elrond righted himself in the saddle, sitting taller as he arranged his cloak around him, and Glorfindel – Glorfindel watched them all, some with understanding, others with exasperation, even respect, and a few others, in utter dismay at what was surely to come.
“The Valar preserve us,” murmured Glorfindel, suddenly wishing he had stayed back in Imladris with Erestor.
OK, still on a light-hearted note, here is the second in the Wild and the Wise story arc.
No slash, no angst.... what is WRONG with me????
I hope you enjoy it!
No slash, no angst.... what is WRONG with me????
I hope you enjoy it!