Opening his eyes slowly, Aragorn glanced about his
room. He could tell
it was midday from the bright light that streamed in through the open
curtains. His gaze landed on Elrohir who sat in a chair near the
picture window, his fingers laced behind his head and his feet propped
on the chest of drawers, staring lazily out across the ravine.
Aragorn tried to speak but his throat was incredibly
dry. He swallowed
hard and tried once more, “Father know you are disrespecting the
furniture again?” The words came out barely a whisper and his voice
cracked as he spoke.
Startled, Elrohir jerked into a sitting position,
his boots crashing to
the floor as he jumped to his feet.
“Estel, you are awake!” His brother headed quickly
for the door. “I’ll
“No, wait.” Estel reached out to stop his
brother from leaving,
“I just wanted a drink of water.” He let his hand fall back onto the
bed and sighed, looking towards the pitcher of water on the end table;
an impossibly long ways away.
Aragorn eased himself up in bed. The slight movement
proved to be too
much for his aching head and he stopped, resting his head in his hands
until the pounding stilled. His fingers brushed the stitches that
knit the cut in his brow and he idly touched the bandage that wrapped
around his temple. He realized that the arrow had been removed
from his shoulder and had been bound sometime while he slept. His
arm was lathed in ointment where it had been rubbed raw by the
granite. All the tiny aches in his body had begun to demand his
attention at one time and he closed his eyes, trying to block out the
Elrond entered the room followed quickly by the
twins. He noted
the way Estel was hunched over himself, holding his head as though it
were going to break apart any moment. Sitting carefully down on
the edge of the bed, he took the young man’s hands in his own and moved
them away from the injuries, tipping Aragorn’s head slowly up to look
into his eyes.
“Just what do you think you are doing?” He smiled at
“It hurts,” Aragorn groaned softly.
“I bet it does.” Elrond gently reached behind the
boy’s head and
touched the knot at the back of his skull. “That was quite a hit you
Aragorn reached his hand back, placing it over his
drawing in his breath slowly. “Is that why I feel sick?”
“Yes. More than likely it is.” Elrond pushed
his hand down gently
and readjusted the bandage, “You are lucky you have a very hard head,
“You should have seen what you did to the granite
muttered, a smile on his face.
“Is that why there was a crack in it when we went
“Funny. Very funny.” Aragorn frowned at his
brothers as his
father pressed him back down, pulling the pillows up so that he could
rest against them, “Next time you get to fall off the cliff. I’ve had
it with that.”
Elrond reached out and grabbed the pitcher, pouring
the cool water in
to a glass and handing it off to the ranger.
“Thank you,” Aragorn replied somewhat grumpily.
“That’s all I wanted.”
“Well, for now, when you want something,” Elrond
reseated himself and
stared into the silver eyes, “you will ask for it and someone else will
bring it to you, until I say otherwise.” He held up his hand
staving off the argument he could see in the youth. “Do you
understand? You took a very nasty fall and you have quite an
assortment of injuries, none of which I am pleased with.”
“It wasn’t my fault,” the human muttered before
taking a drink of
water. He coughed as the liquid touched his dry throat.
“How long I have I been out?” He asked, relinquishing the glass to
“Two days.” Elrohir answered, dropping lightly down
into the chair in
front of the window. He tipped the seat backwards and stared out
into the valley, balancing his weight on the back two legs of the
Elrond cleared his throat and pointed to the ground
when the twin gave
him his full attention. Guiltily, Elrohir let the chair fall back
into place. Aragorn had totally missed the entire episode, his
thoughts caught on his brother’s words.
“Wait a minute. Two days?” He reached out for
the glass of water
again and his father passed it to him.
“Slower this time,” Elrond cautioned. “Yes, my son,
two days. Which is
why you will take it easy. Part of that was my doing, you needed
the rest but you have woken long after the medicines would have worn
Estel tipped the glass to his lips and took a small
sip of the liquid,
letting it run slowly down his parched throat. He nodded his head
in understanding. “Has anyone sent word to Legolas?”
“Not yet.” His father stood and walked to the
doorway. “He said that he
would return when he was able. If he has not by the time you are
better, we’ll discuss it again. Remember, Estel, Legolas is
royalty and he has duties to his standing as such. He has tarried
here with us far longer than he originally planned. His father
may need him for a time. I will have a runner leave word with his House
that you are safe.”
“Thank you father.” Aragorn gently pressed his
fingers to the skin
around his left eye; it was sore to the light touch and rough. “My face
really hurts,” he murmured, pressing himself up in bed so he could
glance into the oval mirror above the chest of drawers on the opposite
side of the room.
“I can imagine it does. I will get some more
ointment for you; it will
take the sting out.” Elrond left and returned in moments.
Aragorn stared at the reflection in the
mirror. The left side of
his face was black and blue and his eye was reddened. There were
scratches and cuts all over his face from where he had been drug along
the bottom of the lake.
“You had dirt and small stones embedded in your
skin. It took a bit to
clean you up after they brought you home.” Elrond gently wiped
the cuts with a soft cloth that he dipped in the soothing ointment.
Aragorn winced at the gentle administrations.
“Perhaps it’s a
good thing that Legolas is not here,” he growled testily. “I’d never
live this down.”
“Don’t think that you ever will.” Elladan
smiled wickedly at his
younger brother, dancing out of the human’s reach before being chased
out of the room by his father.
“For now you will take things easy.” Elrond sat back
and smiled at the
human. “I am sure that Legolas is fine and enjoying himself. You too
will be back at it in no time I am sure.”
Aragorn laughed lightly. “Well the next time we are
ambushed when we go
fishing, it will be them and not us who do the running.”
“Estel,” his father warned with him with his tone,
“hunting orcs will
do nothing but get you into trouble.” He smiled as the young
human laughed heartily.
Legolas slapped the tree branches out of his path as
he made his way
rapidly up the steep, rocky incline that led further and further into
the Misty Mountains. He had made good time since he split company
with the sons of Elrond two or three days ago and moved at a steady,
determined pace. The faster he got home the sooner he could
To say that Legolas was angry or upset would have
been going too far,
for he had more sense than to waste time on either of those feelings
when they changed nothing. It was impossible to harbor resentment
towards a festival or event because it was merely the way the passage
of time fell and one might as well curse the rising of the sun, but
that would be absurd. Beyond that, Legolas knew that his duty was
his duty and it did not serve him, nor do him any credit to feel angry
towards his father for being his constant reminder of just what was and
wasn’t expected from a Prince of Mirkwood, no more than it would have
been justified for him to be upset with Elrond for agreeing with his
father on this issue.
Still, it could hardly be said that Legolas’ frame
of mind was entirely
settled, or that his heart was peaceful, because it was not. He
hated leaving without knowing Aragorn’s fate, or being able to help in
With his thoughts tangled up in the web of emotions
running through him,
he almost did not sense the other presence nearby until he had just
about passed it.
Legolas froze suddenly. He had been making
hardly any noise at
all, even in his slightly agitated state, but now he was completely
soundless as he turned slowly round, trying to find what had alerted
Slight sounds, audible only to elven hearing, gave
him the information
he was seeking. There was someone or something hiding between a
large, jagged outcropping of stone and the thick, tangled over-growth
that was choking the life out of the shrubbery some distance away on
his right. Whatever it was was watching him and trying to conceal
its presence. Legolas was aware that the orcs who had shot
Aragorn were still out here somewhere and did not particularly care for
the idea of any of them skulking around and watching him, especially
if it were a scout meaning to see which way he went so as
to bring the whole pack down upon him at some inopportune moment.
Fading back into the shadows of the broken,
crumbling rocks that
littered the area, Legolas worked his way silently around until he
flanked the intruder. So quiet and stealthy were his moves that
the being hiding in the thicket did not know he was near until Legolas
stepped up and parted the overhanging vines with one swift move.
Grabbing the dark, hunched figure by the arm, Legolas pulled the being
out into the light, one of his long, ivory-handled knives clenched
firmly in the prince’s other hand.
“Who are you and why are you spying... on me,”
Legolas’ demand faltered
as he took in the young, human girl who was staring up at him with
wide, terrified eyes, curled over her knees on the grass and cringeing
back from his grip on her upper arm. Wavy auburn hair spilled in
tangled ringlets around her flushed face. It looked as if she had
recently been crying. The young woman could not have been much
over seventeen years of age and regarded the fierce looking elf with
paralyzed horror, too scared to even move.
Legolas quickly sheathed his knife and released her
arm. The girl
started crying. Or rather resumed crying, since Legolas felt that
he had perhaps interrupted her in the middle of such a state.
“It’s all right,” Legolas knelt next to her.
“I’m sorry I
frightened you, I thought you were an orc. But be assured, I mean
you no harm.”
“I-I’m not an orc!” the girl snapped, trying to dry
Irritated now at her own weakness and still more scared than she wanted
to admit of the strange warrior she found herself facing, she said, “My
name’s Maraen, from Holswollow. W-what are you?!” She had
never seen an elf before.
“My name is Legolas, good lady, an elf, from
“An elf...” she breathed. She had heard a lot
of stories about
them, most of them good, but some of them not, and she was unsure which
to believe. As her panic calmed she couldn’t help noticing that
this elf was perhaps the fairest man she had ever seen. “Are all
the elves as beautiful as you?” she asked before she could stop
Legolas quirked an eyebrow in amusement. “Are
all humans as
forthright as you?” he answered her with a question of his own.
Maraen flushed a little more at her own
me... my head is spinning, it makes me say foolish things without
Legolas just rose and offered her his hand up.
Maraen rose with
difficulty, one hand wrapped tightly around her midsection. When
she was standing beside him Legolas realized for the first time that
this girl was pregnant - very pregnant.
“You should not be out here in the wilds in your
condition,” he said
quietly. “Holswollow is a day's journey from here at least.
Let me take you back.”
Maraen eyed the elf prince warily, still not sure
she could trust
him. After everything that had happened these past few days, she
wasn’t sure she could trust anyone.
“There’s no Holswollow to return to, so you needn’t
bother,” she said
somewhat tartly, but Legolas could tell her shortness came from fear
“What do you mean?” the elf’s face turned grave.
“The orcs destroyed it!” the girl choked slightly,
pressing her eyes
shut against the horror of her own memories. “T-they just swept
down out of the hills... raiding, sacking, killing... nothing like that
had ever happened before! Everyone who could ran for the hills
and scattered, but they followed us... I don’t know if anyone else made
it out or not.” Maraen was trying hard not to start crying
again. “My husband Erron and I made it into the woods and
hid. B-but the
next morning he insisted on going back to Holswollow to see if anyone
else had made it... he said he’d be back in a few hours. That was
four days ago.” Maraen’s voice broke and she turned away so that
Legolas would not see her distress. “I waited as long as I could,
but I had to find water and... the
baby... it’s due any day now. I-I tried to go to Sendwait, but
the orcs had hit it too. There was nothing left. Now I
don’t know what to do...”
Legolas reached out and took the girl's trembling
her gently around. With a small sob, Maraen buried her face
against his shoulder. The elf prince let his arm rest lightly
around her back as she cried, knowing that although she turned to him
for comfort, she was not yet comfortable with this stranger that she
In a few moments Maraen pulled back again, once more
wiping her eyes
and trying to put a little more distance between herself and the
elf. She wanted to trust him, his eyes seemed honest and true,
but he was so different than anyone she’d ever met before and she was
Legolas was deeply disturbed by the news of the
violent level of orc
activity. To wipe out two entire villages, even ones as remote
and isolated as Holswollow and Sendwait, showed more aggression and
ambition than the orcs in these parts had exhibited in a long
time. By nature, orcs did not work together very well unless they
could all see clearly what was in it for them, or, unless they were
guided by some stronger will or plan.
“The baby is due soon?” Legolas resisted the urge to
touch the large,
full, hump of her stomach. He did not wish to seem forward with
her, and had been around very few pregnant women in his life.
“Any day now,” Maraen sniffed slightly, pulling
When she had heard Legolas coming, she had thought he was an orc, much
he had made the same mistake about her, and the terror had unsettled
her. Now that she was coming down from the scare, her natural
resiliency was taking the front again and she resolved to herself that
she would cry no more, not even at the horrible, painful loss of her
dear, dear Erron, husband for only a year, but sweetheart since
“If you will consent to come with me, Maraen, I will
take you back to
Rivendell with me,” Legolas offered her. “It is not far.
They will take excellent care of you and you can have your child in
Maraen nodded slowly. “Thank you,” she said
knew it was her only, and probably her best chance, but she hated
leaving these hills, because it meant leaving Erron... even though she
was sure he must be dead.
Legolas read the hesitation in her eyes; it was one
he knew all too
well. “I know you don’t want to leave your husband behind, not
knowing what happened to him, but he would want you to look to yourself
and your child. If he is alive, he will find you.”
Maraen looked up sharply, surprised that the elf
could read her so
easily. “Can you hear my thoughts?” she asked somewhat
“Nay,” Legolas shook his head, smiling gently.
“No matter what
they say in tales, that is not something my people can do, although the
very wise can sometimes see into others' hearts. But it takes no
great wisdom to see what is in yours, young one, because it is greatly
akin to my own. I know what it is to have to leave behind someone
you care for. But come, let us get you to safety and make both of
our sacrifices worth something, shall we?”
Maraen nodded slowly and allowed Legolas to lead her
back down the path
he had recently come up, heading once more towards Rivendell.
Although it had only taken Legolas a few days to get
as far as he had,
the way back was much slower traveling because Maraen could not go fast
or far in her condition and they had to make frequent stops.
Legolas was incredibly patient with their achingly
slow progress and
never pushed Maraen more than she could take. He was quiet and
did not talk much, but Maraen realized that, although he said little,
seemed to be aware of everything and it felt a little comforting to
know he was watching over her so closely.
The second day they were together, storm clouds
rolled in and it began
to rain torrentially. Legolas quickly led Maraen to a place where
the thick, interwoven boughs of two huge trees that grew side-by-side
kept off the majority of the rain. The pair seated themselves
against the trunks of the two great oaks to wait out the
thunderstorm. Legolas draped his cloak around Maraen’s shoulders
to stave away the chill.
For a while thunder pealed and lightning split the
like jagged daggers. Presently however the fury of the storm
spent itself and it settled into a steady, simple downpour.
“Where were you going, before you found me?” Maraen
inquired, now that
the wind had died down enough to allow comfortable conversation.
“I was on my way home to Mirkwood. My people
are celebrating an
important festival soon and my father requires my presence,” Legolas
“You don’t sound like you want to go,” Maraen
Legolas glanced sideways at her. “Now who’s
She grinned slightly, but didn’t let the subject
go. “Who is it?”
“Who is what?” Legolas was slightly puzzled.
“Who did you leave behind? When we met you
said you had had to
leave somebody behind too. I see it in your eyes, the same thing
I feel in my heart at leaving Erron to an unknown fate. Was it
your wife? Your brother?” Maraen inquired softly.
“No,” Legolas shook his head, “although he had
become quite like
a brother to me this past year or so. He was... a dear friend of
mine. His name was Estel. He was felled by an orc arrow and
went over the falls... we had not yet found him before I was compelled
“And your father would bid you do such a thing?”
Maraen did not
“Unfortunately a prince cannot always do as he
pleases,” Legolas said
with a sigh, glancing sideways at Maraen, judging her reaction to the
revelation of his identity.
The girl looked at him with fascination, but since
she had never
expected to find herself sitting in the forest, in the rain, with an
elf in the first place, it wasn’t that much greater of a shock to
discover that she was sitting with an elf prince.
“The yèn celebration is very important to my
people, almost a
holy day. The king and one of his sons are supposed to be on hand
to receive and to give the traditional blessing to the people.
Since I have no brothers, that responsibility falls to me. I had
already delayed as long as I could and would only just have had time to
make it. Although it is a joyous celebration, the day of blessing
is taken very seriously in my realm,” Legolas tried to explain.
“They place a great deal of importance upon it.”
“You won’t make it in time now, I suppose, not with
this way,” Maraen said quietly, playing with a blade of grass between
her fingers as they watched the falling rain, waiting for it to
stop. She felt guilty for putting him out like this.
“I suppose not,” Legolas concurred, shifting his
against the thick trunk of the tree.
“My father died two years ago, but when he was alive
he hated it if I
didn’t come home when I was supposed to. Of course I was a little
girl then,” Maraen watched Legolas with interest. He was much
nicer to look at than the rain and she was just young enough to not
really be able to hide the fact that she was staring at him. The
elf who had become her protector and guide was as enigmatic as he was
beautiful. He was a mystery to her, and now that she had gotten
over her initial fear of him, Maraen wanted to know more about her
quiet companion. Yet if he wouldn’t talk to her, she could never
find anything out.
It hadn’t exactly been a question, so Legolas did
not realize she
wanted a response and just nodded to acknowledge her words.
“Will your father be upset with you?” Maraen
prodded, trying to start a
conversation. The elf could be very difficult at times.
“It is not something you need to concern yourself
brushed her worry aside lightly.
“But you said it was very important to your people.”
Maraen noted that
Legolas had not denied what she had said, he had merely told her not to
worry about it.
Legolas resisted the urge to look peeved. The
girl minded her own
business about as well as Aragorn did. The thought of his friend
hurt, so Legolas shoved it aside quickly.
humans as nosey as you and Estel I wonder?” he mused,
cocking one eyebrow as he turned his head to gaze at her.
Maraen didn’t know whether the elf was amused or
shrugged, unsure how to respond. “I take it then that your father
will be angry with you, and it
will be my fault. I’m
sorry.” She looked away.
Legolas sighed softly. “No, it won’t be your
fault. If he’s
angry I’m the only one to blame. It probably wouldn’t matter that
much if it were just about this one yèn celebration that I will
miss...” Legolas rubbed his temple absently. “But it’s not.
It’s the one before it, and the one before that...”
“Oh,” Maraen nodded slowly, watching him
again. She couldn’t help
it. “So this celebration happens often? When was the last
“About four-hundred thirty-two years ago by your way
of reckoning,” Legolas replied without
“Four-hundred and thirty two years?” Maraen’s eyes
found it impossible to believe that her companion was old enough to
have missed anything that happened that long ago. She knew elves
lived longer than humans, but it was still something of a shock to
her. “How can you miss something that you knew was coming for
over four-hundred years?” she
Of course, to the elven mind, time was entirely a
different matter, so
Legolas did not completely understand her question. “It just
seems to be the way it ends up... I don’t know why, but unfortunately
it always seems to work out that I am somewhere else at the time of the
celebration,” Legolas chuckled dryly. “And usually against my
father’s wishes. It started a long time ago. You see, when
I was a child I had a... disagreement with my parents shortly before
the yèn festival. It doesn’t matter what it was about now,
but it culminated in the fact that I wanted to go with my friends on
their first hunting party, and was not allowed to because... well
because of many reasons, but one of which was that they might not
return in time to attend the celebration. Being young, and
stupid, I got angry, ran away and hid in the woods until it was over,”
Legolas grinned slightly at his own childishness, but he had been quite
“You will never hope to see someone as angry as my
father was about
that. Of course, it had very little to do with my missing the
celebration and everything to do with my running away,” the prince
shook his head ruefully. He could look back with humor upon the
situation now, but of course
it hadn’t been at all funny at the
time. Yet time had a way of changing things, and he could also
understand his father’s other reasons now as well, for there was quite
a bit more to the situation and the story than he saw fit to try to
explain to Maraen at this time.
“I’m just lucky that my Mother was still with us
then, or it would have
been worse for me. That was the first yèn festival
celebrated in Mirkwood after my birth, and also the first one that I
missed, but it wouldn’t be the last. To be fair I have been to
several after that without event, but it is the exception rather than
the rule I fear. The celebration before last I got caught up in a
border skirmish that held my patrol and I pinned down for over a
week. Unfortunately, we weren’t supposed to be in that area in
the first place.” Legolas gave it all in an overview, not caring to go
into much detail.
“And then last time I was tracking a warg pack that
had been ravaging
the countryside and was forced to disregard father’s summons because I
didn’t want them to escape when I had just about found them out.
He was not pleased.” Legolas sighed. He knew his father
loved him dearly, but just sometimes it seemed as if there were very
little he could do that did, in fact, please the elder elf.
“And now you’re going to miss again,” Maraen
finished for him,
beginning to see the irony of the situation.
Legolas nodded. “Yes, and I wouldn’t be
surprised if he hung me
for it this time,” the elf muttered with good-natured humor.
Maraen was not certain he was joking and her face
wouldn’t really, would he?”
Legolas actually laughed at her grave face, but
smiled gently to let
her know that he was not laughing at her,
merely at the notion.
“No indeed, good lady, fear not, I was jesting only. Until the
that disapproving looks can kill I shall be in no mortal danger from my
“Well good then, you had me worried.” Maraen settled
back once more,
her hand resting on her large girth. She shifted as a tense,
squeezing pain made her wince slightly. It faded presently and
she let her breath out slowly. “You elves are such curious folk,
I’m not sure what to believe about you.”
Legolas smiled and let his gaze drift away
again. “Not half so
curious as humans are.”
Maraen grinned slightly, trying to look at it from
his point of
view. “I suppose.”
The rain had slacked off to a mere trickle now and
Legolas rose easily
to his feet, helping Maraen with her more difficult ascent.
“The rain has let up, let us be moving on,” the elf
said as he led her
on once more.
The girl and the elf had traveled for about three
more hours when the
first shadow began creeping into Legolas’ awareness. Dusk was
stealing fast upon them and the evening star had just become visible,
but it was not that darkness which Legolas felt pressing uncomfortably
close. His movements instinctually began to become stealthier and
his steps quieter. It seemed now that Maraen made an incredible
amount of noise as she walked, and he held up his hand to halt her so
he could listen better to the distant sounds that were disturbing
Maraen stopped and looked at him curiously, but the
Legolas’ stance told her not to speak.
A look of intense concentration crossed the elf
prince’s face as he
listened to something that Maraen could not hear. Legolas glanced
around, but his keen eyes could not see through the trees and that was
all that could be seen, crowded densely on every side of them.
Dropping to hands and knees, Legolas listened to the earth for a few
moments before jumping to his feet again quickly, a flash of dim alarm
lighting his bright silver-blue eyes.
“Many feet are heading this way, at a great
pace. The earth
groans beneath their steps, it does not welcome them,” Legolas answered
Maraen’s unspoken question quickly and softly.
The girl tried not to look as alarmed as she
felt. “Orcs?” she
whispered, hoping beyond hope that she was wrong. She was not.
Legolas nodded once. “I fear so. Come,
we must move quickly
and silently now.”
Maraen followed his lead without question, although
she hardly felt
capable of being either quick or silent.
The orcs were moving swiftly and were not now far
pushed faster than he had been before and Maraen struggled to keep up,
panting slightly and feeling uncommonly like a fat, waddling duck
trying to follow a fleet-footed ferret. Yet Legolas was careful
not to leave the young mother-to-be behind.
They came upon two orc scouts that must have been
running ahead of the
pack quite unexpectedly, but Legolas was not totally caught by surprise
and had his bow drawn and an arrow launched before the two creatures
had finished recognizing their presence. The first orc never got
a chance to even make a sound, but fell dead at once. The second
rushed them with a cry, but tumbled to the earth a moment later,
clutching the arrow through its throat.
Legolas grabbed Maraen’s wrist and broke into a dead
pulling her along. There were other orcs on the way, drawn by
their dead companion’s cry. They had to get well away from there
and quickly or they would have more trouble on their hands than Legolas
felt prepared to deal with alone.
Maraen stumbled and tripped, trying to keep
up. Legolas released
her hand when it became an impediment to their rush through the trees,
but still they ran on, hearing the shouts of the orcs recede into the
distance a little ways behind them. However they were still far
too close for comfort.
Legolas paused, realizing that the girl was not
anymore. Turning he saw that Maraen was a distance back, holding
onto a tree and leaning heavily against it for support.
Quickly, the elf retraced his steps, glancing around
them warily before
fixing his eyes worriedly on the young human.
“Are you all right?” he queried with concern.
It was now almost
so dark he could only just see her, but Maraen did not look very good.
The girl nodded bravely, one arm tightly clutching
girth. “I-I’m just having some kind of cramps,” she brushed it
off, breathing hard. “It’s been going on for a while now, they’re
just getting a little worse... I think I’ll feel better when we can
rest a bit.”
Legolas nodded, his brows still furrowed in
concern. “All right,
but come, we cannot linger here, the orcs are still far too near. We
must keep ahead of them.”
Maraen nodded and pushed off from the tree,
struggling after the tall
elf, despite her growing pain. Neither she nor Legolas had
enough experience with babies and childbearing to realize what her
symptoms really meant.
Ten minutes later, Legolas froze, his sharp ears
picking up the sound
of approaching feet. Quickly pulling Maraen back into the dense
foliage, he hid her in a small hollow between several fallen
trees. Venturing cautiously back out, he remained in the shadows
and watched as the large orc troop came into view. They passed
directly by his position without seeing the prince. About
yards away, the orcs stopped and began to drop their gear, obviously
intending to make camp.
Quietly, Legolas slid back to where he had left
Maraen. “We must
leave quickly and silently,” he said with veiled urgency. “The
orcs make camp close enough for us to see their fires.”
It was true; their small enclave was actually being
dimly lit by
the too-close-for-comfort glow of the fires the orcs had already
kindled. In that dim, ruddy light, Legolas could see that Maraen
was terribly pale and her eyes were large with fear.
“It’s all right,” he assured, thinking he had
frightened the girl with
his words. “We just need to leave.”
Maraen shook her head and Legolas realized that
beads of sweat were
standing out on her pretty face. “I-I can’t...” she whispered,
doubling over and holding her large belly tightly as anther contraction
ripped through her.
Legolas looked puzzled and a little alarmed, not
understanding what was
“Legolas... it’s – it’s time. The baby...”
helplessly. “It’s coming!”