Legolas awoke to find himself still immersed in darkness, but free of restricting bonds. Slowly and carefully he rose, gaining confidence as nothing impeded his effort. He stretched the stiffness from his muscles, then sat to ponder his few options. At least there is one positive factor of being in here - the negative thoughts and emotions of the Huorns are muted; mayhap I now can contrive some means of obtaining my release. Even with that respite afforded him, his thoughts were difficult to control to constructive purpose, for some of the nightmares that had troubled his sleep haunted his wakened mind.
How much time has passed since my interment? Has anyone come searching and met his doom for my benefit? If so, I should hold no less guilt than if I had slain him myself. The elf felt his heart would surely shatter if he discovered any of his friends had been killed on his behalf. He shuddered and resolutely shut out further thoughts of that nature. What various choices he might then have considered were suddenly rendered moot, as the earth above him moved. The latticed roots, no longer having to support the dirt overhead, also writhed apart, opening a hole to the outside.
Legolas’ elation at finally being able to escape the pit was tempered by his fear of what sight might await him topside. If the worst I imagine has occurred, Calenore may well have had hidden any signs of it; if I am indeed forced to go where the Huorns travel, it shall be long if ever I learn of my friends’ fates. Ai, the wondering may be harsher than the knowing! The distressed elf hesitated at the exit to his confinement, the open space above no longer so beckoning. A moment later, he jumped back as the area above darkened. When a large hand-like branch came grasping toward him, Legolas scuttled away until he pressed against the far wall. “Nay, I do not wish to go with you! Please, leave me!”
The advancement stopped. At the entrance, the darkness seemed to shift and the elf was astonished to see what appeared to be the reflected gleam of a huge eye looking in. “Hmm, well now, never have I known an elf who would prefer the underground to above.” The surprised voice was of a tone much like Calenore’s, yet heard by Legolas’ ears instead of in his mind. While the elf was digesting that his visitor was a Treeherd, Long-Stride continued, “You have me in a bit of a quandary, Elf Prince. I was directed specifically to fetch you, by a wizard, a man, and a dwarf; however, I shall not use force - do you truly not wish to be reunited with them?”
“Nay, I do…I mean aye…that is, please take me to them!” All alive and well - thank the Valar! Legolas flung himself gratefully into the Ent’s reach. Long-Stride curled his fingers gently around the fair being and carefully extracted the elf. Along with the welcome fresh air, Legolas was greeted by the renewed full impact of the Huorns’ presence, for they were still converged in the area. The elf huddled closer into the Ent’s grasp, for with the trees’ raging anger he had come to expect, he sensed a fearfulness and heavy guilt as well.
Long-Stride assuaged the elf’s misgivings. “I have explained many things to the Huorns; they really do understand now. They are fearful you disdain them for their behavior and shall have your people shun them ever after.”
Before the shocked elf could speak, a movement caught his attention; Calenore crept close, his whole form drooping with contriteness and apology. We meant only good, but have done a great ill in our stubborn ignorance. We are so sorry…can Legolas ever forgive us?
Legolas reached to stroke an offered branch soothingly. “I have already done so.” It gladdened the elf’s spirit to sense the immediate relief and joy of the trees at his reply. He laughed as more branches of other trees maneuvered for the privilege of a brief touch.
Long-Stride watched in satisfaction as Elf and Huorns strengthened their bond of friendship, but finally called a halt to the thronging. “That will have to do for now, my tendlings. The Prince has other appointments to keep, as do you.”
As the Huorns reluctantly pulled back, Legolas made a quick decision before announcing, “When both our duties are fulfilled and the Darkness is defeated, then would I visit you again, mayhap with more Elves, or even other beings I would vouch for. Of course, any such meeting would be contingent on arriving and leaving at our will.” The elf hoped the last part, added pointedly, would not overly embarrass Calenore.
The great Huorn took the reminder in good humor. Of course! We vow Legolas shall never be hindered again; and also that any he names ‘friend’ shall we likewise.
“Good - all friends - good,” the Ent rumbled, pleased the situation had turned out well. “But much must yet be done before those tidings may come to pass. Now is the time for each to return to his duty to that end…soonest begun, soonest done.”
The Huorns stored the light of Legolas’ promise deep within, letting their darker emotions emerge to have temporary dominion to guide through the distasteful though necessary tasks. The elf, once again mentally battered by waves of rage and hate, made another useless attempt to massage his returned headache away. Prepared to start back to the waiting group of people, the Ent noticed Legolas’ actions and pained expression. Sympathizing, Long-Stride raised the elf to a position above the Ent’s face. “Settle yourself within; it should afford partial protection from the influences that cause you hurt.”
Legolas scrutinized his rescuer; the Treeherd had a grand leafy mound atop his head, much like a person might arrange a mass of hair. Intrigued, the elf easily slithered his way through, discovering a clear area in the middle. Though the space was small, it allowed some light in; that and knowing he could get out anytime kept the elf’s claustrophobia from rearing. True to the Ent’s word, the ‘walls’ acted as buffers; as Long-Stride began his return trek, the rocking motion of the Treeherd’s gait added to his passenger’s comfort.
Legolas relaxed completely for the first time in a long
while, though he knew he would confront a new set of volatile emotions when he
faced his Fellowship comrades again; this experience had brought him full
realization of how truly like to ‘family’ those friends were. As fine as blood kin they are: Gandalf the
doting, if sometimes gruff, uncle; Estel the brother - confidant, defender,
often conspirator - from first we met; Gimli…ah, if I admit only to myself, so
I should call him also brother…well, mayhap cousin. The elf snickered at a
sudden premonition resulting of his enlightenment.