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Interrupted Journeys: Part Two--Journeys Perforce

Chapter 4: They knew not how great was their peril

by ellisk

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It was the Shadow of Sauron and the sign of his return. For coming out of the wastes of the East he took up his abode in the south of the forest, and slowly he grew and took shape there again; in a dark hill he made his dwelling and wrought there his sorcery, and all folk feared the Sorcerer of Dol Guldur, and yet they knew not at first how great was their peril. Silmarillion
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Lindomiel sat in the talan nestled in the crown of the tallest tree in the capital. She and Thranduil watched the sunrise together in this talan every morning. Tonight, she watched the stars alone. Or at least that was what people assumed their queen was doing. In truth, she was listening to the forest. The evening song of the trees and birds seemed unsettled to her and she was trying to determine if that was truly the case or simply the product of her own nervousness.

Lindomiel was shaken from her reflections by the sound of someone climbing up the rope ladder. She was sufficiently edgy that her hand went automatically to the dagger hidden in the bodice of her dress before she realized her visitors were her friend, Amoneth, and Thranduil’s mother, Dieneryn. Forcing herself to relax, Lindomiel waited for them to ascend the ladder.

When Dieneryn reached the platform, she smiled concernedly at her daughter-in-law and settled herself on a cushion next to her. Amoneth did the same. It was Dieneryn that spoke first. “It does no good to hide yourself, my dear. Better to share your worries so we can help you dismiss them.” Lindomiel remained silent with a slightly confused expression on her face so Dieneryn continued. “Surely you know that I am familiar with the fear you are feeling,” she added softly.

Lindomiel winced slightly and looked away. “I know you are all too familiar with the fear I feel at the idea of Thranduil in battle,” she replied sadly and shook her head. “I cannot imagine how you must have suffered seeing your husband and sons go to Mordor and I pray I never experience such a thing with Thranduil and our children. But that is not truly why I am here. I hope no one else has that impression. If they do, perhaps we should go join the games by the Great Hall.”

Dieneryn raised her eyebrows slightly. “No, pen neth, I do not think you are fostering any undue nervousness amongst the populace simply by star-gazing. Amoneth told me you were up here and since she and I were discussing our concerns for Thranduil and Aradunnon, we thought we would look for you as well.”

Lindomiel nodded, still not looking at either lady. “I know Thranduil is fine. I can tell he is…tense, but nothing more,” she said firmly.

Dieneryn smiled. “Are you trying to convince us or yourself, pen neth?” she asked gently.

Lindomiel grinned at her mother-in-law, looking at her sidelong. “Neither. I sincerely know he is uninjured now and that might change at any moment. I do not deny I am worried. How could I not be? But I do take comfort in the fact that he is unharmed as yet.”

Amoneth looked at Lindomiel sadly. “I very much wish I had the same assurance with Aradunnon.”

Dieneryn frowned slightly at Amoneth. “I would know if anything was seriously wrong with my son, Amoneth. I told you he is fine. He is this realm’s troop commander. He spends a good deal of time in battle and he is a very capable warrior. Try to believe in that.”

This was clearly a statement Dieneryn had repeated several times that evening. Her tone revealed irritation. Amoneth was also obviously frustrated.

“This is a much more serious fight if Thranduil is taking part in it as well,” Amoneth countered, still obviously troubled. Her voice was slightly whiny.

Lindomiel’s brow knit. “Indeed it is, Amoneth. I do not recall Thranduil ever mentioning one hundred orcs in the forest before.”

“Thranduil and Aradunnon should not be involved in such battles,” Amoneth declared, now openly petulant.

Lindomiel looked at Amoneth harshly. “Thranduil is the king, Amoneth. Aradunnon is a prince and the king’s troop commander. They rule this kingdom. It is their place to defend it. You complain when Aradunnon goes to the borders for a routine duty. You need to learn to accept Aradunnon for who and what he is.”

This statement was brusquely delivered and caused Amoneth’s eyes to widen dramatically.

Lindomiel looked down. “Forgive me, Amoneth,” she said quietly. “I am worried about Thranduil and that has made me a little snappy, obviously.”

Dieneryn put her arm around Lindomiel, drawing her closer. “It is normal to be concerned, Lindomiel. And difficult to do as good a job of concealing it as you have. We can only wait. At least this battle will not go on for seven years.”

*~*~*

As Thranduil and the warriors with him climbed over the rocky slopes of Amon Lanc, he saw other groups of warriors doing the same, abandoning the cave entrances they had been guarding to respond to Aradunnon’s signal. Thick, black smoke oozed from these openings. Thranduil laughed despite the seriousness of the situation. Aradunnon had clearly been most enthusiastic setting fires to drive out the orcs. Amon Lanc was smoking like Orodriun. Then he frowned at that thought. It was not a funny comparison.

Finally, Thranduil crested a ridge and immediately understood the cause of the anxiety he felt. Aradunnon stood over one of the cave entrances shouting positioning orders to troops as they arrived. Around him, elven warriors disbursed as he commanded, attacking the orcs below them as they rushed out of the smoking caves. There had to be nearly one hundred orcs in front of the cave and more were still running out. Thranduil’s eyes darted automatically over the battlefield, assessing the situation.

Aradunnon and his warriors were all in relatively protected positions above the orcs and were firing down on them from where they emerged. Many of the orcs were overcome with smoke. They simply staggered out of the cave blinded and choking. They were easy kills. Others were equally affected but had the presence of mind to press themselves against the mountain as they escaped it to make themselves poorer targets for the archers above.

Aradunnon appeared to have around fifty elves distributed amongst the crevasses so he was outnumbered at least two-to-one—still decent odds against orcs assuming not too many more emerged from the mountain. Thranduil guessed that his brother’s conservative tactic—keeping the warriors on the mountain rather than having them engage the orcs directly—was a result of the fear that more orcs might surface. Conservative but successful—Thranduil saw at least fifty corpses already on the ground around the cave opening.

Looking more closely at the quivers the elves wore, Thranduil realized they would not be able to continue this course of action much longer. They were running out of arrows. Additionally, a large number of orcs had recovered from the smoke and were beginning to organize. Thranduil saw Aradunnon glancing around at his warriors and the orcs, drawing the same conclusion. Thranduil called a signal to his brother and began to order the warriors with him to positions on the slope knowing they still had arrows. He saw his brother look up at him, spotting his green cloak amongst the bare rocks. Aradunnon smiled with unconcealed relief before turning his focus back to the battle.

As Thranduil’s warriors joined the battle, a mass of orcs that had recovered from the smoke began to spring into action. Nearly fifty of them charged up the slope, clamoring over the rocks towards the closest elves directly above the cave entrance—Aradunnon, Colloth and the four warriors originally guarding this cave. The elves began to release arrows upon them with no hope of stopping them all.

Thranduil scanned the battlefield swiftly for warriors in a position to attack those orcs. “Sidhion, Tawaron, Gelehel,” he shouted to a group positioned in front of him and clearly able to make the necessary shots. “To the east coming up the mountain—stop them.”

Thranduil saw the three warriors turn their bows in the direction ordered as he took aim himself. Orcs began to scream and fall back as arrows rained down upon them. Still, thirty made it up the slope to engage the elves. As Aradunnon, Colloth and the four warriors shouldered their bows and drew their swords, Thranduil tensed. Five to one were not good odds but he could no longer do anything to improve them. The orcs were too close to Aradunnon and his warriors for the elven archers to continue safely firing upon them. Since there was nothing else he could do to aid his brother in that fight, he divided his attention between watching Aradunnon’s progress and directing the rest of the battle.

Aradunnon and the warriors around him met the attack coolly. They automatically formed two groups of three and fought as a unit rather than an enraged, disorganized mass like the orcs. The first orc to make it to their position charged Aradunnon directly head on, scimitar raised. Aradunnon swung his sword in a tight arc. The force of his blow cut through the orc’s poor quality mail and sliced a deep gash across its midsection. Blood spurted forth as the orc fell to his knees, clutching the entrails that spilled from the wound. Aradunnon’s follow through luckily turned the blow of the next orc to attack him. Turning to face him properly, Aradunnon reversed the direction of his swing and drove his sword down into the orc’s chest, feeling bone crush as he did. This orc fell as well, dragging Aradunnon’s sword down with him. He planted his foot on the orc’s gut and pulled his sword free while ducking below the attack of an orc on his left. Using the momentum from jerking his sword free, Aradunnon aimed a hacking, low swing to that orc’s legs, removing one at the knee. The orc screeched but Aradunnon had no time to notice. The next orc was before him, bringing his sword down upon the prince with both hands. Aradunnon side stepped him while bringing his own sword up burying it into the orc’s gut.

As he dispatched that orc, Aradunnon heard a cry to his left. Glancing over involuntarily, he saw Dollion, captain of the capital guards and his long time friend, collapsing backwards, an arrow in his shoulder. The orc closest to him had a surprised but viciously gleeful expression on his face as he raised his scimitar. Instinctively, Aradunnon leapt over the rock separating them to deflect the blow brought down on his friend.

At that same moment, also responding to Dollion’s cry, Thranduil directed several elven archers to eliminate the orcs at the bottom of the slope that had shot his captain. Unlike elves, the orcs did not hesitate to shoot into a tight group of elves and orcs. They did not care if they shot some of their own as long as they killed elves too. As Thranduil issued his order, his eyes shifted from the orcs at the bottom of the slope to the sword fight a short distance away. Aradunnon had managed to turn the blade of the orc attacking Dollion but his sword was now extended in front of him and driven down by the force of the orc’s blow. Thranduil’s eyes widened. Another orc, taking advantage of Aradunnon’s vulnerable posture, swung a blow at his neck. Thranduil watched as if in slow motion as the orc’s blade sliced through the air. Aradunnon could not pull his own sword free and raise it in time to deflect the blow. He leaned back to dodge the blade but Thranduil could tell it would not be enough. Just as the scimitar was about to make contact, Colloth’s blade drove it downward. Thranduil suddenly realized that he had a clear shot to the orc attacking his brother. In a swift movement, he nocked and loosed an arrow. At the same time, he heard another arrow whistle by his ear. He glanced sharply around and saw his guard, Tureden, watching the fight as well. He shot the orc that originally attacked Dollion while Thranduil’s shot eliminated the one that attacked Aradunnon.

Thranduil turned back to looked at his brother. Colloth was standing over him and Thranduil could see he was clutching his leg. Keen elven eyes detected blood seeping between Aradunnon’s fingers. Colloth had deflected the orc’s blow but it had still fallen across Aradunnon’s thigh as the blade was knocked downwards. It was clearly not a mortal wound. With an effort, Thranduil forced his attention back to the overall battle.

The archers Thranduil had brought into the battle, had nearly dispatched the orcs struggling to breath as they emerged from the caves. The elves with Aradunnon had managed to destroy the orcs that had recovered enough to fight. As the last of the choking orcs fell to elven arrows, Thranduil suddenly realized there were no more targets to direct the warriors to attack. Instead an eerie silence again reigned over the battlefield. The king took one more careful look around him before he directed his attention to Aradunnon. He frowned. His brother had propped himself into a standing position against a rock, hand still tightly gripping his leg, and he was also assessing the battlefield. Thranduil climbed over the rocks to join his brother.

“How bad is your leg?” he asked with concern as he approached him.

“It is fine,” he responded dismissively. Then he frowned at Thranduil’s scowl. “We are not done yet. Now is not the time to worry about minor wounds,” he continued resolutely.

Thranduil could not argue that the battle was not concluded but he did not think Aradunnon should be concerned with that until someone could see to his leg. Regardless of Thranduil’s wishes, Aradunnon had been a captain in his father’s army and was his brother’s troop commander. He was not to be easily deterred from his duty. Before Thranduil could protest, Aradunnon was motioning for his scouts and three of his lieutenants to join him.

He spoke to his officers first. “Each of you take five warriors with you and go check the other cave entrances. Make sure there are no more orcs lurking around anywhere. Stay hidden against the mountain and signal if you see anything.”

They nodded and scurried off across the rocks signaling to their troops.

Then Aradunnon looked at Pathon and Ostarndor. “Go make sure there are no fresh tracks around the other cave entrances. I want to know if any orcs fled from other openings while we were concentrated here.”

The scouts also nodded and moved off.

Thranduil looked at Aradunnon with concern at the orders he had given the scouts. “I hate to suggest it, but someone is going to have to go inside the caves and make sure we have them all out,” he said softly.

Aradunnon scowled. “Let us concentrate on cleaning up the mess we already have before we add to it,” he replied firmly. Then he turned to several of the warriors nearest him. “Go down there and kill the orcs that still live. Then retrieve as many arrows as you can salvage in case we find more orcs.” As those elves moved down the slope, Aradunnon called one more warrior to his side. “Go find out how many wounded we have and make sure everyone is accounted for and that the wounded are being treated.”

The warrior smiled at him. “Shall I begin with your wound, sir?” he asked knowingly.

Aradunnon smirked. “I assure you, Colloth and the king are only waiting for some privacy to ‘treat’ me. I am certain they will see to me very thoroughly in just a moment,” he responded in a joking tone. Thranduil could still see the pain etched around his eyes and hear the strain in his voice.

The warrior exchanged a sympathetic look with Colloth and then sketched a brief salute before moving off to carry out his orders.

Finally, Aradunnon turned cautiously, weight on his good leg, and looked about him. Black smoke was still billowing from the cave entrances. He eyed it warily, clearly considering how to handle the caves.

But Thranduil had seen enough for the moment. He shook his head in a gesture intended to forestall any further action on the part of his brother. “Sit down on that rock Aradunnon,” Thranduil ordered in a tone that brooked no argument, pointing to the rock in question. “Tureden, find Geledhel. Tell him to take command and inform him of the orders Aradunnon has already issued. Colloth, help Dollion. I will see to Aradunnon’s injury myself.” He looked at his brother sternly, “And then Colloth is going to take you to safety with the other wounded. You are finished here. You are an excellent captain but I also am perfectly capable of commanding my own warriors, muindor nin.”

Aradunnon frowned but did not have the ability to resist as Thranduil pushed him down on the rock behind him. He collapsed against it, biting back a moan.

Thranduil looked at his brother with concern, drawing his knife to cut a hole in Aradunnon’s leggings to expose the wound and grimacing as he did. It was deep, cutting muscle. Accepting the healing kit with a needle, suture and herbs that Conuiön tossed to him, Thranduil looked wryly at his brother.

“You will not be walking on this for a while,” he said softly.

Aradunnon scowled. “Especially if you stitch it. I remember the last time you stitched one of my wounds. It is only by the grace of the Valar that I have the use of my arm,” he joked, voice tight as Thranduil cleaned the wound.

Thranduil laughed. “Keep it up, Aradunnon. We will see how many stitches I can put in.” He glanced at the arrow tip that Colloth had just extracted from Dollion’s shoulder and tossed aside. “We are lucky the orcs did not expect our attack. At least none of their arrows or swords are poisoned,” he commented.

“Lucky,” Aradunnon repeated sarcastically, drawing his breath sharply as Thranduil placed the first stitch.

Thranduil only shook his head and focused his attention on completing his task as quickly as possible.

By the time he was done, Aradunnon’s breathing was ragged. “How is it that the wound always hurts more after it has been treated than before?” he joked weakly

Thranduil looked at him sympathetically. “I know, muindor nin,” he said softly. “But I am extremely hesitant to give you a sleeping draught until we are certain we have cleared the orcs. Even with this injury you could defend yourself somewhat. You could not if you are asleep.”

Aradunnon was shaking his head. “I do not want anything. I hate being drugged.”

Thranduil laughed lightly. “I do too. But I also hate seeing you in pain.”

“It was worth it,” Aradunnon replied quietly, leaning his head back against the rock and closing his eyes.

Thranduil frowned, and looked at Dollion. “I admire your dedication to your warriors, Aradunnon. And I am certain that Dollion is grateful for your actions and so am I. Dollion is a very valuable officer. But you are as well. To me.”
Aradunnon lifted his head and smiled at Thranduil tiredly. “Helping Dollion was automatic, Thranduil. An instinct.” His head fell back against the rock again. “I meant that this wound is worth it if it we have succeeded in driving these vile orcs from my realm.”

Thranduil laughed again. “Indeed. Tomorrow we will leave Geledhel in charge here to see after any final duties and you and I are going to return to the capital to issue some orders to make sure these orcs stay out of your realm.”

Aradunnon did not open his eyes and he missed the joke entirely. “They will stay out. I will guarantee that,” he said with assurance.

Thranduil found he had no reply in the face of his brother’s confidence. Nor did he share it. Every aspect of this situation had concerned him deeply, from the number of orcs to their apparent activities here. He was certain they would not docilely abandon their efforts.

Thranduil stood and turned to Colloth, who had finished treating Dollion’s injury.

“Take them both to the forest with the rest of the wounded. I am going to find Geledhel and make sure we have truly finished here.”

Colloth nodded but Aradunnon was again focused on Thranduil, grasping his cloak to prevent him from leaving. “I want to speak to you before you have me dragged off, Thranduil.”

The king scowled. “You can talk to me later, Aradunnon…”

Aradunnon tightened his hold on his brother’s cloak and pulled it downward. “No. Now,” he insisted.

Thranduil sighed and studied his brother. He was obviously exhausted but that fatigue did nothing to dampen his natural stubbornness. “What is bothering you, Aradunnon?” he finally asked in a quiet voice, crouching next to his brother.

Aradunnon looked at Thranduil intently. “Did you do something to the fires?” he asked directly.

Thranduil looked confused. “Excuse me?”

Aradunnon scowled. “I did not think you had,” he muttered. Then he continued in a very soft voice for the king’s ears only. “Thranduil, did the rate at which the smoke poured out of the mountain not strike you as being somewhat…unnatural?”

Thranduil blinked at that. “I suppose it depends on how many fires you set and how big they were. It did seem very heavy, I noticed.”

Aradunnon nodded. “I set around ten large fires by the time the orcs started fleeing and I was called to battle. Enough to produce that much smoke. But what expelled the smoke from the caves so forcefully?” He paused. “And who extinguished the fires?”

“The fires went out?” Thranduil exclaimed, surprised.

Aradunnon nodded solemnly. “Suddenly. As if by magic…some sort of sorcery.”

Thranduil’s eyebrows went up. “Is that what you meant? Were you suggesting that I put out the fires you set? Aradunnon, I have some ability in that area but I could not control fire to such a degree as to extinguish so many large fires. Nor would I have interfered without consulting you first unless there was a very clear reason to do so. It was a somewhat risky tactic since it required splitting the warriors into small groups, but I agree it was a good one. I would not have opposed it and I cannot imagine what happened to the fires.”

“Nor can I, but it was not natural,” he replied firmly.

Thranduil frowned. “Surely there is some explanation.”

Aradunnon drew a deep breath. “I recommend you have Geledhel endeavor to find one,” he replied softly.

“I will,” Thranduil replied, standing and gesturing for Colloth to help his brother back to the camp. As he watched Colloth and Aradunnon descended the slope, he contemplated what his brother had said. That was certainly the most disturbing news yet.

*~*~*

pen neth—young one
muindor nin--my brother

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They knew not how great was their peril
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06 Oct 2004
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