When Aragorn and Legolas returned to Lasgalen following the debacle
with the wolves, there was a message from Imladris for the young human,
carried by one of the messengers who travelled between the three elven
Aragorn read it quickly, then threw it to one side. “I will have
to go home soon. It seems there are trolls again near
Imladris.” He sighed. “I thought Mithrandir said he’d dealt
with them ten years ago.”
Legolas was intrigued. He knew the old wizard well, but had not
heard that particular tale. “Mithrandir? Ten years ago, I
thought he was occupied with the White Council. But we were
rather busy ourselves. What did he do?”
Aragorn laughed. “He tricked them into the daylight, so they
turned to stone.”
Legolas smiled. “That sounds typical of Mithrandir. I remember
trolls near Imladris, long ago, in a small wood there. I wonder
if they were the same ones? You should take Elladan and Elrohir
with you - they would love to go troll hunting.”
“Why don’t you come too? Come back to Imladris with me.
When did you last visit?”
“Not for far too long,” sighed Legolas. “I cannot. Not
now. I was unable to get close enough to discover what had
happened at Dol Guldur on my last journey, so I will try
again. This time, though, I will be taking a patrol.
Come and see!”
Aragorn followed him to the area where Lasgalen’s army trained.
As they toured the practice sessions, as Legolas commented on an
individual’s progress, as he intervened to demonstrate a particular
move or suggest an alternative, and from the respect with which he was
greeted, it became clear that his rank of Army Commander was not merely
an honorary one, a sop for the King’s son, but had been earned purely
on merit alone.
In one corner of the grounds, near the stables, the patrol Legolas had
chosen was checking weapons and gear. He had hand picked them,
all seasoned warriors, selected for particular skills that would be
needed for this venture. Two had been out riding the borders and
had only returned the previous day. Legolas had decided to delay
and await their return, rather than go without them - hence his trip
with Aragorn. Aragorn was mildly surprised to see two
females in the group. One of them, Taniquel, was an archer.
She was firing at a group of targets that looked impossibly small and
“She’s as good as you are” commented Aragorn to Legolas.
Taniquel glanced over her shoulder. “Nearly,” she said with a
laugh. “I have not beaten him yet, but I will one day!”
Legolas nodded. “I think she is right, she will. It keeps me
Next they went into the stables. It was a long, low building;
light and airy. There was a sweet smell of hay and horse.
As they entered, one or two horses came forward to investigate the
newcomers. Several others turned their heads
curiously. A big grey stallion butted his head at Aragorn,
imperiously demanding tid-bits. Legolas pushed him aside
with a laugh. “You are far too greedy, Fanuidhol! Go away,
do not tell me Alfiel never feeds you.”
At the sound of his voice, another horse came forward, whickering
softly. He was a beautiful pale gold, with a creamy coloured mane
and tail. Aragorn looked at him in admiration. “What a
beauty! I’ve never seen that colouring before.”
Legolas patted the horse on the nose affectionately. “This is
Pavisel. He is mine, a gift from my father. I wish I could
have taken him south with me last time - I trained him to fight with
me, to use his hooves in battle. He would have been a lot more
use than the other poor beast!”
From outside the stables, voices could be heard calling. Legolas
gave Aragorn an apologetic look. Before he could speak,
Aragorn said “I must return to Imladris tomorrow. I need to
prepare, so I’ll see you later.”
As Aragorn went back across the practice grounds, Legolas rejoined the
rest of the patrol for a final briefing. As he approached them,
he watched them carefully, consideringly, weighing up their various
skills. Elthan was an archer, and a talented healer.
Hopefully his abilities would not be required, but on a mission such as
this it was reassuring to know he was there. Alfiel was Legolas’s
second in command, skilled in all forms of combat, but most
importantly, a trusted friend as well.
He could equally well have picked Tirnan instead, for all the same
reasons, but as he had chosen Eléntia to join the patrol, it
would not be a good combination. Eléntia could be very
prickly and difficult to work with, and Tirnan, frankly, could not
stand her. However her abilities as a scout were legendary, and
her knack of moving silently phenomenal even for an elf.
Taniquel was much easier to get along with. Her archery skills
very nearly matched his own, and he could see her promoted to Captain
in the not too distant future. Finally there was Math’rin.
The oldest of the group, he had fought at the Last Alliance, long,
long, ago. He was deadly with a sword, but gifted with a harp.
After outlining the mission ahead of them, they discussed the task they
faced, then Legolas finished with: “Remember, this is a
surveillance mission. We need to find out what is down there,
learn as much as possible, and then return here to report back.
We avoid entanglements with orcs, or anything else, unless there is no
alternative. I do not want to alert Dol Guldur to our
presence. Be careful.”
They left at dawn the next day. Aragorn rode with them for part
of the way, before turning west to follow the track that led towards
the Misty Mountains. He drew away from the patrol for a last word
with Legolas. “I wish you a safe journey. If you can, will
you send word to Rivendell of what you find? I think Elrond and
Mithrandir will wish to know of this. I know Mithrandir thinks we
haven’t seen the last of the Necromancer.”
Legolas agreed readily. “All the Wise should know if the shadow
has indeed returned. I will send a message to you and Elrond as
soon as I return to Lasgalen. Ride well, my friend.
With a final farewell, Aragorn turned his horse, and rode into the dim
green light of the elf path. The path twisted, and soon he was
lost from sight.
Alfiel gazed after him. “I hope there will be nothing of
importance we need to report,” he said. “But the sooner we reach
Dol Guldur, the sooner we shall know the truth.”
They rode south through the forest, following narrow paths that other
eyes would not have seen. As they reached the Mountains of
Mirkwood, running west-east across the forest, they veered right,
ascending a narrow pass through the mountains. The trees had
changed to pines on this higher ground, and the air was cooler.
It was only early evening, so Legolas hoped they could cross the pass
and descend towards the old Forest Road before full night fell.
In this time of early summer twilight lasted long, and full dark rarely
The moon was rising as they crested the pass, dropping down into the
southern forest. In a clearing of pine trees they halted,
tethering their horses and settling for the night.
In this relatively safe area they lit a small fire, and over a meal
talked about their journey.
“I like your new friend,” commented Alfiel. “He seems to
know a lot about our ways, for a mortal.”
“He grew up in Imladris,” explained Legolas. “He knows Elrond and
his children.” He did not go into further detail - Aragorn did
not want his background generally known - but he trusted this group
implicitly, and they were naturally curious.
Taniquel was looking speculative. “I think he is very good
looking. I wonder - ”
Legolas laughed at her. “No, Tani, he has already been spoken
for! Besides, what would Tirnan say? I think it is just as
well he did not come on this trip – he would be jealous!”
Taniquel shrugged dismissively. “Tirnan? We are not even
engaged yet. A little competition would never hurt him! If
you like, I can take the message to Imladris when we return from this
Eléntia spoke up. “That seems a very good idea. But
I think you should not go alone, Taniquel, the forest can be very
dangerous. I think maybe I had better go with you.”
Alfiel and Legolas laughed at them. “That is most generous of you
both, but I plan to go myself,” said Legolas. “I have not seen
Elladan or Elrohir for a long time.”
Eléntia leaned over to Taniquel. “Do you think he would
like us to go with him?” she murmured.
As they settled for sleep, they drew lots for the first and final
watches that night, and Legolas, as was his custom, took the middle,
most difficult watch.
Math’rin had the first watch, and the others fell asleep or rested
lightly to the sound of his harping. He played late into the
night, sending flurries of harp notes drifting into the dark
forest. After two hours, Legolas roused himself, sending Math’rin
to rest. The moon was nearly full, and he lifted his face to it,
letting the light shine on him. He had lost count of the nights
he had been awake and watchful, either alone or guarding a patrol, but
it was a useful time to plan the day ahead, or review recent
events. He reflected on his meeting with Aragorn. They had
had an adventurous few days, but he felt that the foundations of a
lasting friendship had been built. When this mission to Dol
Guldur was over, he hoped they would be able to travel together again.
He sat in silence, the quiet of the night broken only by the crackle of
the fire, the soft sound of the horses grazing, and the gentle
breathing and movements of the others of the patrol. After a few
hours he awoke Eléntia. She grumbled at him, but he fell
asleep, safe in the knowledge that they were in the mountains, and
The next day they crossed the Old Road and travelled deeper into the
darker reaches of the forest. The elven paths they used grew more
impassable, and thick strands of spider webs were more apparent.
At one time webs blocked their path, and rather than cut their way
through and enrage the spiders, they left the path and bypassed the
webs. It was a more prudent move than blindly hacking at
everything that stood in their way, but refinding the path proved
difficult. The trees grew thickly here, thickets of bramble grew
everywhere, and the cobwebs were thicker than ever. Long strands
hung down from the trees, ensnaring cloaks, hair, and bows.
Casting wary glances upwards, they continued, hoping to avoid an
encounter with the giant spiders, which would be dangerous and
time-consuming. A single bite rarely proved fatal, but had been
known to kill; and even a single bite left the victim in great pain and
delirium for several days. Legolas had been bitten once before,
long ago, and had no wish to repeat the experience. Besides, it
was a delay they could not afford to make.
As they moved further south, Eléntia left the group to explore
the surrounding land more and more often, leaving Bahnfrei, her horse,
with the others. Her extraordinary skills as a scout and tracker
were well suited to her solitary nature. While the rest of the
patrol kept to the forest tracks, she would range through the trees to
the east and west, alerting them to occasional orc patrols, or spider
haunts. She would rejoin them at intervals during the day,
unexpectedly; waiting for them as they rounded a bend in the path,
dropping from the trees in front of them, or hailing them from the top
of a rock outcrop she had climbed for a better view. At other
times they saw no sign of her from dawn to dusk.
They continued in this way for several days. Progress was slow,
as the tracks twisted and turned, and sometimes disappeared
completely. Picking their way through the forest, skirting vast
clumps of bramble, fallen trees, and negotiating sudden, unseen ravines
that crossed their path, they had already been away from Lasgalen for
nearly a week.
They moved steadily to the south, and were about half a day’s journey
from Dol Guldur when they came to an open area of forest. It was
mid morning. Eléntia had gone off at dawn when they broke
camp, but had not yet returned. Legolas had come this way once,
long before, and remembered that a short way ahead the land rose,
ending in a sheer cliff from which there was a clear view of the forest
far to the south, and all around. He signalled to Alfiel.
“I want you to stay here, while I climb up to see what may be
ahead. Take Pavisel for me.”
Leaving his companions concealed in the trees and watering the horses,
Legolas scrambled to the top of the escarpment, dropping to the ground
as he approached the edge so he was hidden from unfriendly eyes that
might be watching. He gazed first southwest. From this
height he could see the forest spread out before him. The fresh
green of beech mingled with the darker green of oak, and merged
imperceptibly with ash, birch, and pine. Bright sunlight gilded
the leaves and treetops. Far to the west he could see the line of
the Great River, Anduin; beyond that the trees of Lothlórien
shone golden in the sun. Beyond Lórien the peaks of the
Misty Mountains rose, partially veiled in mist and cloud as befitted
their name, and stretched south and far to the north.
This was a part of Lasgalen he rarely saw, and despite the influence of
the Dark Tower and the Necromancer, it was still beautiful. In the
distance he could see the tower, seemingly shadowed as if the morning
sunlight did not reach it. Dark specks circled all around.
Birds. Spies for whatever dwelt there. Now more than ever
convinced that a new evil had indeed returned to Dol Guldur, Legolas
finally studied the forest to the east and west, and back to the north
from where they had come. There seemed to be a creeping darkness
moving through the trees from the west. He waited as it drew
nearer and seemed to spread out. He looked more closely and swore
quietly. It was an army of orcs and goblins, and it was heading
straight for them.