It was the elf’s turn to go wide-eyed. “You
can’t! Not here, not now!” he shook his head emphatically.
In sight of an orc camp with nothing and no one on hand was a horrible
place to deliver a baby, even had he known how to do so, which he
Maraen gasped slightly as she sank down to a sitting
position but managed a weak, wry grin. “I don’t know how it is
with elf women, Legolas...” she panted slightly around the building
contractions, “but I have no control over this. The-the
baby’s coming whether I want it or not!”
“Can you move? Can we...” Legolas was at a
complete loss. He didn’t know how it was with elf women either,
much less human ones. In his centuries of life experience, this
was not something he had ever been called upon to do before.
Birthing was work for midwives, not warriors.
Maraen shook her head somewhat desperately, the
terror of their situation clutching at her young heart.
“Legolas... I can’t! It’s coming right now!” She looked up at
him with large, pleading brown eyes, looking much younger than her
“I-I thought I’d have my mother with me... my aunt
Betha even... Legolas... Legolas, I’m scared! I-I don’t know how to deliver a baby!”
Maraen was nearly crying, but they were both careful to keep their
voices at the lowest whisper possible to avoid detection by the nearby
“That makes two of us,” Legolas murmured, too softly
for her to hear. Running his hand over his face he forced himself
to be calm and rational. Maraen needed someone to be strong and
in control of the situation, even if he did have no clue what he was
“It’s all right Maraen, everything is going to be
fine,” the elf assured gently, crouching down next to the girl and
squeezing her shoulders gently. “Your body knows what to do,
listen to it.”
“Well right now it wants to scream,” Maraen
listen to that,” Legolas
replied with a small grin. “Unless you want to invite a troop of
orcs to this happy event.”
“Let’s skip that,” Maraen gritted out through her
teeth. She bit her lip hard and took a deep breath. Fear
was not helping her pain any. “Legolas... what do I do?”
Legolas’ mind sought blankly for information it did
not contain, but when he spoke he acted with confidence to give the
girl courage. “You need to lie down. Come on, I’ll help you.”
Gently, the elf prince laid the young human girl
down upon the mossy ground, wishing he had someplace better and someone
more experienced on hand. He rested his hand gently on her
stomach, feeling the little life move under his fingers.
Maraen was trying to be brave, but as the time drew
nearer, her resolve began to crumble. “They’re going to kill
us... they’re going to kill my baby like they’ve killed Erron...” tears
slid down her cheeks. She restrained a sob.
“Shh, shh...” Legolas soothed gently, lightly
stroking the girl’s hot face with the back of his fingers and brushing
her auburn hair out of her eyes. “Breathe deeply and try to
remain calm, it will make this easier. I’m not going to let
anything happen to you or your baby, I promise you that.”
“Y-You swear? You won’t let them get my baby?”
she pleaded with large, childish eyes, tightening as the contractions
became more forceful.
Legolas gripped her hand firmly, squeezing it and
letting her hang onto him. “I swear,” he reiterated
seriously. “I will die before I let any harm befall you or your
The girl seemed to relax a little, obviously
trusting the elf implicitly. “Y-You’re so good to me, Legolas,
and you don’t even know me...” she murmured. “Here you had to
leave searching for your friend to get home and now you’re waylaid by
some pregnant girl and a pack of orcs...” Maraen winced and drew a deep
breath in as another contraction gripped her sharply. “You-you
didn’t ask to get stuck with me, and now this... I’m sorry. I’m
sorry this is happening...”
“Shh,” Legolas placed his fingers softly against her
lips, stilling them. “None of this is your fault. You can’t
control when your baby comes, I just wish I had someone more
knowledgeable here to help you. Father will just have to manage
the ceremony without me; it will hardly be a crisis I think. As
for Estel...” Legolas closed his eyes. He couldn’t think about
his missing friend right now. That was too hard and too painful
and he had to keep all his attention on the task at hand. “Lord
Elrond was right, he and his sons do know this area, and Estel, better
than I do. If he’s out there, they’ll find him.” He wished he
believed that, but it eased Maraen’s mind a little, so his words served
The girl stilled slightly, but then her eyes grew
large and she gripped
his hand tightly. “I-it’s coming!”
Legolas knelt by her side and laid his hand on the
top of her skirt and
hesitated, looking questioningly into her eyes for permission. He
was not at all comfortable with this situation, but someone was
actually going to have to deliver the baby, and unfortunately the only
someone around who wasn’t an orc was him.
Maraen nodded slightly. She was hardly more
comfortable with the
situation, but what couldn’t be helped couldn’t be helped, and she had
started to trust Legolas. At first the strange elf had frightened
her, but she had come to like him and respect him quite a bit in the
last day or so.
Gently, Legolas helped her get ready to bring her
baby into the
world. It was not a moment too soon because everything was
happening rather swiftly now. Maraen clenched her jaw and kept
perfectly silent, no matter how she hurt, because she knew that the
slightest sound would bring down a horde of orcs on their heads.
Legolas spoke softly, soothingly to her. He slid in and out of
elvish and the common tongue, but it didn’t matter because she was
barely hearing his words, just his gentle tone of voice and the comfort
of having him near.
When the child began to appear, Legolas was
relived... but he quickly
became concerned, because the baby was not coming out. He could
see the infant’s shoulder and arm, but nothing else. He had no
way of knowing that this was not the way the baby should be coming, but
his mind suddenly flashed to the only reference he had, which were
stories he had been told about his own birth. It had been a
difficult labor and he had been lodged sideways in the birth
canal. He and his mother had both nearly died, or so he had been
told. A zing of panic shot up Legolas spine. He didn’t want
Maraen and her baby to die like this, just because he didn’t know
enough to do anything...
Praying that he was doing the right thing, Legolas
tried to turn the
baby so that it was head-first, because that seemed logically the best
way for it to be. It was difficult and he could only hope that he
was helping the situation and not making it worse.
Maraen was scared; she could tell something was
“Legolas? Legolas!” she whispered desperately, wanting to know
what was happening, why the pain was different now.
“It’s all right Maraen,” Legolas lied for her peace
of mind. “The
little one’s just a bit twisted, but it’ll be all right.”
Legolas had no idea how long it took, but just as
the sky was beginning
to streak with grey, the baby did somehow end up in the right position
for delivery and the elf caught the small infant so that it did not
have to touch the ground. He breathed a sigh of relief as the
baby spluttered a few times and then let out a soft, low burble.
He bounced it gently, soothing it with soft, elvish words, not wanting
the child to cry and give them away.
“Maraen,” he whispered softly to the exhausted
mother. “You have
Maraen laid her head back in weary relief and
she’s all right?”
“She’s fine,” Legolas assured, looking down into the
“She’s beautiful. Maraen...” Legolas glanced about, uncertain
what to do now, he had the general idea, but did not want to do
Fortunately, Maraen did have some idea about
follow-up care and was
able to tell the elf what to do and how to separate the baby from the
Finally the whole thing was actually finished and
Legolas pulled his
outer vest off, wrapping the tiny child in the soft, warm, fleece-lined
leather. Laying the baby in her mother’s arms, he brushed gentle
fingers over the infant’s forehead. The small babe looked so
incredibly tiny and fragile.
Maraen beamed down at her baby. “She’s so
shall I name her, Legolas?”
The prince was surprised by the question.
“Surely, that is a
question for yourself and your husband to decide.”
A shadow crossed Maraen’s face and her eyes
must be dead, Legolas... he would never have left the baby and I alone
otherwise,” she choked out softly. She loved her husband so
terribly much that it was a horrible thought, but one she could no
Legolas laid his hand gently on her shoulder.
“You don’t know
he’s dead, Maraen. There are many things that could have happened,” he
comforted gently. It was the same thing he had been telling
himself about Aragorn so many times now it was almost painful to try to
give that hope to someone else, yet he knew how important it was to
cling to hope, no matter how slim.
“Perhaps...” Maraen said wearily. “But even if
he is, I know he’d
be grateful to you for the care you have taken of a complete
stranger. And... I-I want you to name her.”
Legolas was slightly staggered by this turn of
events. “You offer
me an incredible honor, young one,” he smiled gently down at the
girl. “Very well, if I were to name her, I would call her
Estelle.” He brushed the now sleeping baby’s cheek. “Estel
means hope in the Elven tongue,” he explained.
“That was the name of your missing friend, was it
not?” Maraen said
softly, compassion and understanding showing in her tired eyes.
Legolas nodded once. “It was... one of his
names. One that
fit him very well when he was...” Legolas kept himself from saying,
“When he was alive” because he still refused to accept that Aragorn
could be dead. He still clung to that hope.
Maraen smiled weakly. “Then I am most honored
for my daughter to
carry that name. It’s beautiful, and it seems perfect, just like
“Rest a little now, Maraen,” Legolas said quietly.
strength. We will leave for Rivendell as soon as you are ready.”
They would not have as long to rest as they would
Legolas slid out of the grove to check on their unwanted company in the
woods, leaving mother and daughter sleeping. A few minutes later
the baby’s cry broke the stillness, loud as only a baby can be, and
Legolas turned on his heel and fled back to the
enclave where he found
Maraen sitting up and rocking the baby hurriedly, her eyes wide as she
tried to shush the child’s perfectly normal testing of its new
“I-I’m sorry, I don’t know why she did that...”
Maraen shook her head,
fear igniting in her eyes.
Legolas guessed that the little one was hungry, but
there was no time
to worry about that now. “Babies cry, it’s not your fault.
Come, we’ve got to get out of here, there’s no way the orc sentries
will have missed hearing that.”
Maraen struggled weakly to her feet, clutching her
baby to her
breast. It was far too soon after delivery for her to be moving
and her body protested sharply, but she ignored it because she had no
Legolas saw how pale she was and gave her his arm to
“I’m sorry, I’m sorry but we have to go.”
The young mother just nodded and the new threesome
further back into the trees as the sound of crunching footfalls and
coarse shouts confirmed their fears: the orcs had indeed heard the cry
and come to check it out.
Legolas chafed at their slow speed and pressed
Maraen as fast as he
dared, but he was beginning to fear it would never be enough.
They could hear the orcs behind them clearly now and
knew they were on
their trail. Giving up stealth for as much speed as they could
get, Legolas and Maraen ran through the trees, although Maraen felt
sure each step would be her last.
Finally she tripped and stumbled, unable to go
on. Legolas halted
by her and she pushed her baby into his arms. “Run Legolas!
Take Estelle, take her away from here! Don’t let them get her!”
Never in a million years would Legolas have left a
thing like Maraen to the mercy of the orcs. Instead, he stooped
and scooped both the girl and her baby up into his arms, with one arm
under Maraen’s knees and the other supporting her back. She
wrapped her arms around his neck and he moved off as fast as he could
with his new burden.
It was a good thing that elves were naturally
stronger than was normal
by human standards, but Legolas was still considerably slowed by his
The desperate flight ended minutes later when a
dozen orcs that had
split off and cut around another way to outflank their prey, burst out
of the trees on the left, near at hand.
Legolas was forced to relinquish his load, setting
Maraen down on her
feet and quickly drawing his bow. The young mother clutched her
baby tightly as Legolas’ hand flew in a blur of motion, stringing arrow
after arrow until five of their attackers lay dead.
Unfortunately, the delay was all the main troop
behind them had needed
to catch up. The hideous creatures poured from the trees with
shouts of the hunt and Legolas moved to stand squarely between them and
Maraen and Estelle, his bow already in motion. He had sworn to
protect the two humans to the death, and he did not make light
Drawing his bowstring back again he let the arrow
fly as the black
horde rushed towards them like the horrendous floodwaters the elf had
beheld earlier in the year, easily as frightening as any force of
nature they had yet witnessed.
Legolas picked off as many as he could with rapid,
steady shots until
they crowded too close for his bow to be very effective and then he
drew his knives.
The elf prince’s speed was almost inhuman as he
deflected and slashed, trying to be everywhere at once, trying to
counter the enemy and at the same time keep them away from Maraen and
The odds were overwhelmingly against them and
Legolas held no
illusions. This was a battle he could not hope to win, there were
far too many orcs and with Maraen in tow he could never hope to outrun
them. The cliff wall to their back both helped and hindered their
efforts. It helped, because it at least kept the enemy down to
only three fronts they could attack on, but at the same point it was a
liability because it left the small trio nowhere to flee, even if they
Four orcs rushed Legolas at the same time. He
twirling away from another and slashing at the third, but the forth
slipped inside the tiring elf’s guard. Without realizing it,
Legolas side-stepped just in time to save his life, but felt a blinding
stab of pain shoot through his shoulder before he even had time to
register the danger. The elf had barely a moment to take in the
orc, the knife blade buried half-way into the soft flesh of his
shoulder, only inches from its intended target, which had been his
heart. He had even less time to react, but somehow he did.
Striking out with the swiftness of a serpent,
Legolas buried his own
blade deep in his assailant’s midsection, kicking the beast back.
The orc fell away with a cry, ripping his blade free
of the prince’s
shoulder as he did.
Legolas couldn’t stifle his own cry of pain as the
blade did further damage on its way out, leaving a fast-growing crimson
stain spreading across the front of his forest green tunic. He
was not allowed time to deal with the pain or the injury.
Grimly, the prince ducked and struck, leaping away
assailant, but his strength was running short. It was incredibly
painful to move his left arm and the orcs, spurred on by the scent and
sight of blood, redoubled their attack.
A heavy orc body slammed into him and Legolas
flipped the creature over
his back, but his injured shoulder screamed in pain, slowing his
movements. The fallen orc grabbed the elf’s ankle, wrenching his
feet out from under him. Legolas fell and landed heavily upon his
left side, making his head spin dizzily. Before he could rise the
orcs were on him. One kicked him in the back, another in the
chest and shoulder as Legolas tried desperately to roll away from the
jabbing, slicing blows of their scimitars.
Legolas stabbed one of the creatures in the leg and
the orc howled,
hopping away. Just as swiftly, another of the beasts kicked the
prince’s knife out of his hand, ruthlessly stamping on Legolas’ wrist
and hand, forcing him to drop it.
The press of the orcs was suffocating and Legolas
was slowed by pain
and blood loss.
Nearby, Legolas heard Maraen scream. His heart
wrenched and he
struggled harder against the orcs that were attempting to keep him
down, but there were just too many of them and flat on the ground like
this he had no room to maneuver.
A heavy boot landed on the elf’s chest, pinning him
to the ground and
crushing the air out of his lungs. Dark spots danced before
Legolas’ eyes as he felt the harsh steel of an orcish blade bite the
flesh under his chin, pressing down on his neck. Overhead a loud,
blood-curdling shriek filled the air, but Legolas had no time to wonder
what it was, indeed, he barely had time for the realization that he was
about to die... before the orcs were suddenly stopping... looking
up. In his confused and slightly oxygen-starved state Legolas
couldn’t figure out what was going on.
Whatever the reason, the orcs did not bring their
blades down for the
deathblow, and Legolas could have sworn that they looked almost
frightened. That was not too much of a wonder actually for at the
same moment a dark shadow fell across his own heart and he shivered as
if an impenetrable cloud had crossed the sun, turning its rays to frost.
From his position he could see little, but something
did indeed sweep
across the sun for a moment, like a great bird coming in for a
landing. Legolas heard a thump as if something had landed close
by and the orcs holding him drew back a little in fear. It was
then that Legolas had the first clear look at the approaching evil that
would haunt his nightmares for many years to come.
A great, evil looking black beast stood about two
stone throws away,
folding up it’s great, bat-like wings in evidence of the fact that it
was what had just landed. But it was what was sitting atop the
beast that was turning every heart in the clearing cold.
Robed all in black with only the metal tips of his
cruelly pointed boots and
sharply jointed gloves showing, a figure dismounted from the creature
and walked towards them. It was the first time, although not the
last, that Legolas beheld something he had only ever heard of before in
tales... a Nazgûl. One of the Nine most dreaded servants of
the Dark Lord Sauron. Ringwraith. Witch King. Master
of nightmares and lord of all that was dreadful and twisted.
The Nazgûl spoke a command in the Black Speech
that Legolas did
not understand, nor did he wish to for the very sound of the black
words hurt his ears.
Immediately the orcs pinning him down took him by
the arms and dragged
Legolas to his feet, holding him roughly between them and intentionally
twisting his injured left shoulder, causing their prisoner to wince.
Now Legolas could see that Maraen also stood captive
between a set of
orcs, clinging to Estelle and trembling.
At a nod from its master, the dark beast the
Nazgûl had arrived
on lifted up into the air and flew away, giving the captives a wicked
glare before it did so, as if it would have liked to be allowed to eat
them all. Legolas reflected for a moment how very much he would
like to shoot the loathsome creature out of the sky, but that was
obviously not possible at the moment... maybe another time. If he
lived through this current situation that was.
As the ringwraith approached, Legolas pulled against
the orcs that
held his arms and was rewarded by a swift blow to the head that made
sparks dance before his eyes. His shoulder throbbed unmercifully
as he hung forward against the hands that held him.
The Nazgûl’s dark gaze swept the area, taking
in the frightened,
sobbing girl clutching her baby, the bleeding elf warrior with the
flashing eyes and the heaps of dead orc bodies that strew the
glade. Obviously the girl and the child were not responsible for
any of them, which meant that this one elf had taken on and killed more
than two-dozen orcs in hand-to-hand combat, totally unaided. It
was impressive, even for an elf.
The Witch King cared little for the lost orcs in a
personal sense, they
were easily replaceable. They were tools to use, he felt no
responsibility towards them, however, they were tools that had been
wasted and resources that were lost because of this elf, and that did
not please the wraith at all.
The Nazgûl stepped carelessly over the bodies
in his path, his
black robes swirling around him like dark mists. Legolas watched
his approach with apprehension. The elf felt a dark fear such as
he had never before experienced clutch at his heart. The being
before him was completely evil, more so than anything he had ever
crossed in all his many years on Middle-earth. Indeed, the only
way he could have been faced with a greater dread would have been if he
were to come face to face with Sauron himself and all his evil
malevolency. However, this was quite as close as Legolas cared to
come... a lot closer actually.
The wraith paused by Maraen and Estelle, stooping
slightly and sniffing
them. Maraen turned positively white with fear and the baby
shrieked in uncomprehending terror as the young mother clutched at the
precious bundle so tightly as to almost risk hurting the child.
Legolas tightened. He was afraid that Maraen
was going to pass
out, but amazingly she did not. The young girl was sturdier than
It only took a moment for the Nazgûl to know
that neither of
these humans was of interest to him. He moved on, stopping in
front of Legolas, his empty hood regarding the prince with a blank,
dark glare. Legolas did not shrink from the malevolent gaze, but
met it with his own. Inside his heart hammered roughly in his
chest and he felt icy cold, but his will was strong and he had the
strength of the Eldar in his blood; he did not back down.
It felt as if the wraith were looking for something,
as if he was
searching every fiber of Legolas’ being. A call was being issued,
but for what purpose the elf prince knew not. In any case there
was no answer and when the dark being was satisfied that the elf did
not have what he was seeking he withdrew his will.
The elf warrior was strong, but he did not possess
the one thing that
the wraith’s master coveted above all else. Yet Sauron knew it
was stirring. He was calling it to himself and he knew it would
try to answer. That was part of the wraith’s mission now,
searching, looking... somewhere, somewhere out here the One Ring was
trying to return to its maker, and he wanted to find it. They had
been scouring the banks of the Anduin for years now, but Sauron’s eye
was beginning to turn its attention to the almost forgotten lands west
of the Misty Mountains, yet secrecy was still essential. The time
was not yet right for anyone to know that the shadow was once again
re-gathering itself in the darkness of Mordor.
The Witch King laughed softly, a low, chilling
sound. “You are
strong, even for an elf,” he hissed, his dark voice both harshly
grating and strangely seductive, unsubstantial like mist, yet as
piercing as steel. “You would be more of an asset to me alive
than dead I think, at least for now...” he turned back to his
orcs. “Kill the woman and child. I have no use for them.”
Maraen bit her lip in terror as the orcs turned on
her, knowing there
was no escape.
“No!” Legolas cried urgently. Kicking out
suddenly, he caught one
of his captors in the shins, pushing them back as he twisted sideways,
wrenching his arms free and causing no small amount of pain to his
injured shoulder. Ducking one orc he punched his good shoulder
into the creature’s gut, flipping it over his back and relieving it of
its weapon in one fluid move.
Jumping away, the elf prince clutched the orc
scimitar easily in one
hand as he put himself between Maraen and the creatures that intended
to kill her. Dispatching all three of them in under half a
minute, Legolas once more found himself battling almost a dozen orcs as
the creatures recovered from their initial surprise and rushed to
retake the captives.
Legolas retreated quickly, keeping Maraen and
Estelle behind him, but
he knew he had no more chance of escaping with the two humans than he
had before. Alone, yes... but not with the woman and child.
Yet if they all had to die, he would die fighting.
The orcs pressed the elf back, until the small trio
found itself forced
up against the face of the cliff at their backs. There was
nowhere to go and no way out. The orcs paused their attack,
circling their prey like a pack of wargs preparing for the kill.
The Nazgûl laughed darkly. “Brave, but
futile. You’ll never get out of here with them alive. Now
on your own I do believe you just might, but you’re too noble to leave
them behind, aren’t you elf? Such a pitiful weakness for one so
strong. It’s too bad. I would have enjoyed shaping you into
something more befitting.” He shook his head mockingly.
Legolas still stood protectively in front of
Maraen. He was
breathing hard and agony was shooting through his shoulder; he was
nearly spent, but his gaze was firm. “The only way you’ll ever
touch me is if you kill me,” the prince said, his voice low and
“Unless...” Legolas hesitated. He glanced back
at Maraen’s pale,
terrified face. Estelle was too over-wrought to even cry
anymore. He had sworn his life to protect them and he meant
it. The prince swallowed his own fear and plunged ahead.
“Unless you let them go. I offer you this trade, dark one, their
lives for mine. What are they to you? A girl and a mere
babe, they can do you no harm. Let them go free, and I will stay
with you, whatever you have in mind. It is the only way you will
ever get me alive if you truly want me.” Legolas had never made
an offer he was more afraid of in his life, but it was the only chance
he seemed to have left to try to save Maraen and her baby.
“Legolas, no!” Maraen protested from behind
him. She would not
see the elf prince make such a sacrifice to save her life.
“Hush Maraen!” Legolas said quietly. “Think of
The wraith seemed intrigued by the offer. “You
are in a very poor
position to bargain with me, elf, but still... it is an interesting
idea. And do you give your word that you will not run if I do as
you ask? You will submit to whatsoever I choose of you?”
Legolas took a deep breath. “So long as it
harms no one save
myself... then yes.”
The Nazgûl knew better than to expect
from the elf, but that didn’t matter. Once he got his hands on
the fair being, that would all change. “Very well then. Lay
down your weapon.”
Legolas obeyed slowly. Immediately several
orcs rushed forward
and bound his hands, obviously not trusting the elf very much, but the
wraith waved them away from Maraen and Estelle. Striding forward
he let his shadow fall upon the young woman, gazing down at her
trembling form. A foul wind stirred around him and Maraen felt as
if she had suddenly been plunged into a lake of ice as the black breath
washed over her. Her knees buckled and she swooned senseless to
the ground with her baby still in her limp arms.
“What have you done to her?!” Legolas demanded both
angry and afraid.
The wraith walked away from the still forms.
“They are not
harmed, merely unconscious. When they wake they will not remember
you, elf, nor me, nor anything that has happened these past two
sunrises. Now come... you have promises to keep.”
Legolas choked back his fears as the orcs moved out,
prodding him along
with them. Glancing back over his shoulder to where Maraen lay,
the elf prince hoped that no evil would befall them, alone and helpless
as they were, and that they would make their way safely to Rivendell,
whether they remembered what had happened or not. At least
worrying about them kept him from considering the dark possibilities of
what exactly the Nazgûl had in store for him, and he was sure
that whatever it was would not be pleasant.