The storm finally blew itself out some time after . The pounding rain which had been hammering on the windows gradually eased, and the howling wind dropped to a mutter. The silence seemed loud after the fury of the gale, and the only sounds now were the crack of wood from the fire, and the soft, restless movements and voices of those who waited.
Elrond had known better than to suggest anyone try to sleep. He knew it would be impossible. He had spoken with Peneldur and Nahald, the guard captain, and reluctantly agreed with their refusal to send anyone out searching in the storm.
“I’ll not risk any more men,” Peneldur stated flatly. “We’ll see nothing in this, in any case. We’ll see what happens come dawn.”
He had also spoken with Thranduil’s guards. They were desperate to search for their King and the prince, but had agreed to wait until Nahald’s men could join them. There was little the two of them could do alone. They both seemed stunned by what had occurred, at the magnitude of the tragedy which had hit the Greenwood. Although Elrond hoped desperately that they would find both Thranduil and Legolas, the practical part of his mind knew it was an almost impossible chance. The reality was that both had perished in the icy, storm-tossed waters.
Just before dawn, Peneldur returned. “We’re leaving at first light, sending out search parties. I’m sending the fleet out, but it’s a huge area to search. I’m not sure which way the other boats went, and even if they started close together, the storm will have scattered them. I suppose you’ll want to come?”
“Yes,” Elrond confirmed. Peneldur’s question had saved him the trouble of asking to accompany the searchers.
“I’m coming as well,” Elrohir stated firmly. Elrond looked at him, then nodded in acquiescence.
“And me,” added Elladan. “And don’t tell me I can’t, or that I was ill before, I don’t care! I’m going with you.”
Elrond immediately protested. “Elladan, there is no point. You would be better off here. It will not help Legolas or Thranduil.”
“I’m going,” Elladan repeated stubbornly. “Surely you don’t expect me to just stay here and wait?”
Before Elrond could answer – he did not imagine for one minute that Elladan would docilely sit in Esgaroth – Nahald joined in.
“I’m sending men out to search along the lakeside. If you’ve got eyes like those wood elves, you’d be more use to me there. So will you help us instead?”
As soon as it was light enough for the men to see, the search parties left. Elrond and Elrohir accompanied the rescue boats, while Elladan, Celebrían and Arwen went with the troops who would search around the banks.
At the docks, the devastation was clear to see. Two of the jetties had been destroyed, and another badly damaged. Wreckage littered the surface of the water; sharp, splintered planks, and wicker fish baskets.
“The storm was one of the worst we’ve had for nigh on twenty years. The town’s built to withstand the weather – but nothing can stand against that wind when it comes from the north. It will take a long time to rebuild.” Peneldur sounded bitter. The damage to the docks, the loss of the boats – and the crews – were hard blows.
In sharp contrast to the day before, the lake was as calm as a mill pond. It was bitterly cold, but a pale, wintery sun shone down, sparkling off the water. The boats negotiated their way through the flotsam, and spread out to search as much of the lake as possible. Peneldur took the boat north, and Elrond and Elrohir gazed out across the lake, searching desperately for a boat, even upturned; wreckage large enough for a survivor to cling to; or even bodies.
One of the other boats had already found something. The crew were leaning over the side, dragging something on board, their faces grim. Peneldur peered at them. “What is it? Can you see?” he asked Elrond.
“One of your fishermen, I fear. He looks young, with short, brown hair, slightly curled.”
Peneldur gave a deep sigh. “Ramdal. It was his first season in the fleet. I’ll have to see his ma when we get back. He was her eldest, the only lad.”
“I am sorry,” Elrond told him quietly. “I hope we will find some of your people alive.”
They continued northward, making slow progress in the light wind. For a long time they saw nothing of what they sought, just floating wreckage here and there. Then Elrohir pointed to the east. “Look, there! I can see a boat. It’s overturned, but at least it hasn’t sunk.”
Peneldur grunted. “With the wind in this direction, it’ll be quicker to row. Can you steer us there?”
Elrohir nodded, taking the rudder, while his father and Peneldur pulled at the oars. He did not take his eyes off the upturned hull. He could see something on the keel, near the stern, but could not work out what it was. As they drew nearer, he realised. It was a hand; bloodless, white-knuckled, clinging desperately to the boat. It was impossible to see who the hand belonged to, so he steered the boat around to the far side.
There was a figure in the water, head just clear of the surface, blond hair plastered over the deathly pale face, eyes closed.
Beside him, Elrohir heard his father murmur something to Elbereth, then he raised his voice. “Legolas? Can you hear me? Legolas?” There was little response, Legolas appeared to be only semi-conscious.
Peneldur was leaning over the side, but then he gave a curse. “I can’t reach! I can’t get close enough!”
Without hesitation, Elrohir slid over the side and into the water, stifling a gasp. It was bitterly cold. He swam to Legolas’ side, placing one arm around his waist. “Legolas? You can let go now.” The death-like grip did not relax, but Legolas slowly opened his eyes.
He gazed at Elrohir without recognition for a moment, then whispered incredulously, “Ellahir?”
“That’s right, but only one of us. Now, will you let go of that boat? I think we should get you back to Esgaroth, don’t you?” Elrohir tried to pull Legolas towards Peneldur’s boat, but he still did not relinquish his hold.
There was a slight splash, then Elrond was there as well. He reached up, and gently prised Legolas’ stiff, numbed fingers free from the keel he clung to so desperately. Holding Legolas between them, Elrond and Elrohir swam the few yards to the boat, passing him up to Peneldur, and scrambling back on board themselves. Peneldur had already stripped off Legolas’ drenched clothes, and wrapped a thick blanket around him. Legolas sat motionless, eyes closed, leaning against the side, the blanket draped around his shoulders. His expression was bleak and desolate.
“My father,” he murmured softly. “Where – where is he?”
Elrond shook his head sadly. “I do not know. We hoped we would find you both together.”
Legolas hung his head in despair, his hands hanging limply between his knees. It was a miracle the cold had not killed him. The youngling was totally exhausted, as pale as a wraith, and chilled to the bone. But that, at least, Elrond could do something about.
He removed his own tunic, and pulled Legolas against him, wrapping the blankets around them both. Legolas desperately needed warmth, and sharing the heat of his own body was all that was available at the moment. Elrond wrapped his arms around Legolas, holding him close, and extended his healing senses, giving of his own strength, and warmth, and power.
Dimly, he could hear Elrohir’s concern. “Father, be careful. Don’t overdo it. Just –” Elrohir sighed. “Be careful, please?”
At last, Elrond opened his eyes, and looked down at Legolas again. He was stronger now, but there was one thing he had not been able to help with. Legolas was in utter despair. He believed his father was dead – and Elrond feared he was right.
Along the edges of the Long Lake were several tiny villages and hamlets, and many solitary homesteads. The folk here survived by hunting, and fishing, and scavenging what could be found along the sides of the lake.
Tayla’s parents lived in one of the more isolated huts. After the storm, at dawn, she set off along the shores, searching for debris, firewood, useful pottery, anything that could be of use; either in their home or for trading. Rounding a small headland, she came to another mud bank, and stopped dead. There was a figure, lying half in, half out of the water. She approached cautiously, noticing the long, fair hair; tangled and smeared with mud. Then she saw that the figure was breathing; not dead as she had thought. Turning, she ran back to the hut, shouting for her mother.
“Mama! I found someone! Come and see! A lady, I think, but she’s not drownded!”
Tayla’s mother followed the girl to the mud bank. There was a figure, but not a woman, she thought, despite the long hair. No, this was undoubtedly a male. She felt for a pulse, could not find it, and carefully turned the figure over. The pulse was strong, regular, and she breathed a sigh of relief. She hated finding victims of drownings or shipwrecks. But as she brushed the long hair aside, her hand froze.
“Mama? What is it? Who is it?”
“An elf. Look, can you see the ears? He must be from the Greenwood. I wonder how he came to be here? Tayla, go and find your Da. Tell him to come and help. We need to get this one back home. He’s hurt.”
She brushed the hair away again, tracing the long gash along one side of the face. “I wonder who he is?”Stories > First > Next