Shadows Over Lasgalen

Chapter 1: First Meeting

by Jay of Lasgalen

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T.A. 2951

Legolas was weary as he finally crossed the bridge that led into his father’s palace.  He was tired, footsore, and travel-stained.  The guards at the gates saluted him, one exclaiming, “Welcome back, my Lord!  Your father was becoming concerned.”

Legolas returned the salute.  He had been getting worried, too.  He was returning from a long, solitary patrol that had gone badly wrong.  There had been times when he wondered if he would return at all.   “Thank you.  Will you go to my father, and tell him I have returned?  Tell him that I am well, and will be with him just as soon as I have eaten.”

He continued down the corridors to the kitchens in search of food, a warm fire, and a cup of wine.  To his surprise, there was another traveller there, a messenger from Imladris.  “You look tired.  Where have you been?” asked the stranger.

Legolas looked at him for a moment before replying.  Oddly, the messenger was a young human, no more than perhaps twenty.  But there was something about him that Legolas felt he could trust.

 “I went down to the south – perhaps further than was wise, as I was alone, but I had received reports that I needed to investigate.  I had stopped briefly for the night when something spooked my horse, a lone wolf hunting down a deer.  The wretched creature disappeared, so I had to return on foot.”  He paused for a drink of the clear spring water, and the stranger regarded him oddly.

“I thought Elves were supposed to have a way with animals?”

Legolas laughed shortly. “Not this one!  My own horse was lame, so I had taken one from the stables.  It was only after an hour or two I realised why it was still in the stables.  It tried twice to throw me, and left at the first opportunity.  It would not come back, even for me.”  He sighed.   “It deserved better than to fall victim to spiders or wargs, though.   But has been a long time since I saw a Man in the halls of Lasgalen.  What brings you here?”

The stranger was wary.  “I bear a message from Lord Elrond.  My name is Estel.”

“From Elrond? So why are you his messenger?”  Legolas was curious about this man.

“I was raised in Imladris.  I recently started travelling alone, serving Lord Elrond.” 

As Estel described the journey he had had, including an encounter with a band of goblins, Legolas laughed.  It was most odd, but this human reminded him strongly of Elladan and Elrohir, friends whom he had not seen for many years. “You are like me, my friend!  We are both wanderers.  There are few who do so now, the land is perilous.  Perhaps one day you could journey with me through Lasgalen?  There is much I could show you.”

His meal finished, Legolas rose and stretched.  “Forgive me.  I have been travelling for many days, and I still have duties to attend to.  I will see you tomorrow.”  As he left, Legolas heard the young man ask,  “Who was that, who just left?”

The cook replied in some surprise.  “That was Legolas.  Prince Legolas.  King Thranduil’s heir.”

When he reached the library, Legolas knocked and entered. After embracing his father, he remarked, “I just met with Elrond’s messenger.  He seems an unlikely choice.  But I like him, I think.”

“Elrond sent you a message,”  Thranduil told him.   “He asks that you take the time to get to know this Estel.  He would not say why.  But I can grant you leave for a few days, if you wish.”

Legolas nodded his agreement, wondering at the strange request.  Nothing Elrond did was without reason, and over the years Legolas had come to trust him implicitly.  Who was Estel?


The next morning Legolas was up early, exercising his archery skills, shooting arrows into a series of targets.  After a while, the style of practice changed.  Another Elf threw thin discs of wood high into the air, one after the other,  often two or three at once, in a never ending stream.  By the time each hit the ground it had an arrow straight throughout the centre.   It was hard work, and Legolas was breathing hard by the time he finished.  At the sound of applause behind him, he  turned swiftly, raising a hand in greeting.  “Good morning!  Will you be ready to leave today to travel through Lasgalen with me?  You will find it very different to Imladris.”

They made their way back to the halls of Lasgalen, where Estel had already packed.  He preferred to travel light, and had only a little food, a blanket and a warm cloak.  He also took his short bow, a quiver of arrows, and his sword.  As they left the Court, they skirted the grounds, heading west along the Forest River.  As they travelled upstream the trees changed, fading from beeches to chestnuts, and then to oak.  Birdsong rang in the air about them, and they saw butterflies with wingspans the size of a hand.  Squirrels raced among the trees, not the sinister black squirrels seen further south, but a russet red, with tufted ears.  A pair sat scolding them as they approached, from the safety of a high branch.  Estel laughed.  “Lasgalen is a lovely realm.  I had thought it a dark and shadowed place, especially with the name Mirkwood, but this is very different.”

Legolas was silent for a moment.  “We do not call it Mirkwood, it is an evil name. I remember it was once all like this.  It was called the Greenwood then.  There were many birds and animals, and the glades were bright with sunlight.  In the summer we lived among the trees, and seldom used the halls and caves.  There were always a few of the great spiders, but they lived near the mountains, and rarely troubled us.   But when the Necromancer came to Dol Guldur, the shadow came, and darkness spread like a cloud over the land.  We fought it for many centuries, but many were lost to his evil.  The White Council finally drove him out only ten years ago, but I fear -  something  - has returned.”   His face was sad, distant, as he recalled the evil which had slowly poisoned the once beautiful forest that was his home.

As they moved deeper into the forest they left the river, travelling north towards the Grey Mountains.  The first night they camped they did not light a fire as the night was mild.  Even here, only a day’s journey from Lasgalen, they set a watch.  The next day it rained, a thin drizzle that penetrated even the elven cloaks both wore, soaking their clothes and gear.  They saw no animals, everything with sense being safely sheltered from the weather.  By evening the rain had stopped, but the ground was soaked, and drips fell incessantly from the trees. That night they lit a small fire, enough to heat their rations and ensure at least dry bedding.  They sat by the fire long into the night, talking.

Estel began to tell a little of his story. “I told you I was raised in Rivendell.  Lord Elrond is my foster-father.  And – my true name is Aragorn.”

Legolas nodded slowly in understanding.  “Aragorn.  I see.  That explains much.  So you know Elladan and Elrohir?  And Arwen?”

“Yes.  I only met Arwen recently.  She had been away in Lothlorien for a long time.  She’s – very beautiful.”  There was a look of longing on his face.

Legolas gave him a strange look and hid a smile.  “She is.  My father and Elrond hope we will become betrothed one day.  It will strengthen the ties between our lands, and also make an alliance with Lasgalen and Lorien.”

Aragorn looked at him in shock.  “You - and Arwen? But I thought – but she didn’t say anything – and she promised – oh, I knew I was foolish to hope.”  His voice stumbled to a halt as the Elf’s laughter rang through the trees.

“Fear not.  Arwen is a dear friend, I love her like a sister – but not, I think, the way you love her?”

“But – what of your betrothal?”

“It is wishful thinking by my father and Elrond.  We are not lovers – and never have been,” Legolas added to reassure Aragorn, who still looked stunned.  “It grows late.  We should get some rest.”  Once again Legolas took the longest watch, sitting silently next to the fire for most of the night while Aragorn slept.


It was on the third day of their journey that they became uneasy.  They had turned west, planning to re-cross the Forest River, loop south, then travel east back to Lasgalen.  At times the land rose, or the trees thinned, and ahead they could see the peaks of the Misty Mountains.  The forest was silent.  No bird sang.  No fox barked.  The trees grew thickly here and little light reached the forest floor.  At his side, Aragorn became aware that Legolas grew more and more tense with each step.  They halted in a small clearing.  The silence was overwhelming. When the Elf spoke his voice seemed loud in the oppressive stillness.  “Something is wrong, but I do not know what it is.  I have felt evil in Lasgalen before, but not here – and never anything like this.  Stay close. Be careful.”

Aragorn nodded, surreptitiously checking his bow, and placing one hand on his sword. Gradually they became aware of a soft sound heading towards them.  It was a rustling, padding sound, and now came from all sides.

Legolas took a step away from the human, giving them both room to move, and instantly had an arrow ready to fire.  He gave a cry of warning: “Wargs!”  It was a pack of wolves, the biggest and fiercest Aragorn had ever seen.  As the first ones came through the trees, Legolas loosed his bow.  One, two, three of the creatures fell dead, each with an arrow buried deep in its chest or eye.  Aragorn’s own bow sang in unison, but he did not have quite the Elf’s speed.  Switching to his sword he hacked and stabbed at the crowding wolves, their growls and howling cries chilling his blood.  Hearing a snarl behind him he whirled, sword raised, to see two wolves springing on him together.  Desperately he swung at them, beheading one – as the other fell dead with an arrow through its throat.  With barely time to react, he gave a nod of gratitude to Legolas, then returned to the desperate fight.

The attack lulled then, and they both repositioned, checking weapons.   Legolas’ knife was stained with blood to the hilt – and he had only a few arrows left.  Snatching what he could from the bodies around him he thrust them back into the quiver.  The wolves had only paused to summon reinforcements.  Howls from the surrounding trees were answered by many others nearby, and a cacophony of growls and snarling broke out.  The howling of the wolves was now all around them, sometimes nearer and sometimes further off.  Several wolves at once burst through the trees, and Legolas reverted to his bow, trying to drop the wolves before the creatures reached them.  Even he was unable to keep them all at bay, and more and more were now surrounding them.

A wolf larger than any they had yet seen launched itself straight at Legolas.  As he moved his stance he stepped back onto the body of a wolf – and fell.  Even before he hit the ground his long knife was in his hand, thrust before him to impale the wolf as it jumped.  It never reached him.  It fell at his feet, Aragorn’s last arrow in its side.  As the Elf scrambled to his feet he called desperately to the man.  “We cannot fight them!  We have not enough arrows, and there are still more coming!”

“What do we do?”

“Run!”  They turned and raced through the trees, dodging roots and branches as they went.  Gradually the sounds of pursuit faded.  Suddenly they came out of the trees and found themselves at the top of a steep bank that dropped down into a stream – a tributary of the Forest River.  Sliding down the bank they splashed into the water and paused, breathless.  There was silence apart from the water.  There were no sounds of the wolves following them, and the forest’s natural sounds had returned.

Bloody, muddy, and soaked, they stared at each other.  Both Legolas’ Elven dignity and Aragorn’s pride were severely dented.  Aragorn waded to the opposite bank, then turned and looked back at Legolas.  “I thought Elves were supposed to have a way with animals?”

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