Supper that evening in Lasgalen was a rather subdued affair. Elrond, Elladan and Elrohir were conspicuous by their absence. Elrond had forbidden Elladan to get up until the next day, Elrohir refused to leave his side, and Elrond had stayed with them both to ensure that his orders were followed.
Legolas was also rather quiet. He had just realised that despite his promise to his father, he had still not told Brethil and Tirnan the truth about the spider. Events had rather got in the way of his confession. He spotted them both, seated at one of the tables, deep in conversation, and steeled himself.
Thranduil saw his son’s sudden resolve, and took pity. “Legolas? You have done enough for today. I quite understand if you talk to your friends tomorrow.”
Legolas was determined, however. Having made up his mind, he did not want to put it off until the next day. He made his way to the lower tables, and sat down opposite Tirnan and Brethil.
He took a deep breath. This was not going to be easy. “Tirnan? Brethil? I – there’s something I have to say to you.” He paused, hoping for inspiration.
Tirnan looked at him questioningly. “Yes?”
“Well – what I said to you this morning, about the spider.” He stopped again.
“Yes?” Tirnan and Brethil spoke together this time.
Legolas sighed. “Well – it wasn’t quite what happened, exactly. It – wasn’t exactly true.”
“What did happen, then?” Brethil wanted to know.
“Do you mean you didn’t scare Elladan and Elrohir with it?” Tirnan sounded disappointed.
“Oh, yes, that bit was true! I scared them both! You should have seen them run! Then I dropped my spider on the path behind them, and they ran even faster!” Legolas began to cheer up as he recalled that part of the previous night’s adventure.
Brethil began to understand, but couldn’t believe it. “You mean there wasn’t a real spider? Legolas, you told your father that there was! He sent out search parties, and hunters, and everyone! You’re going to be in so much trouble when he finds out! Are you going to tell him?”
“Shut up, Brethil!” Legolas was impatient. The constant interruptions did not make his confession any easier. “There was a real spider, I wouldn’t make that up! The thing is – well – I didn’t exactly fight it.”
“So what did happen, exactly?” Tirnan asked.
“Well – I looked up, and I saw the spider. It was just above me. I could see its eyes …” he stopped and shivered at the memory. “I couldn’t get down; it was between me and the tree! And I was trying to think what I could do, and I was going to fight it, I really was, but then …” he stopped again.
“Then it hissed at me. And I thought it was going to attack me. And I was so scared that – that I fell out of the tree,” Legolas finished lamely. “So when I told you that I fought it, it wasn’t exactly true.”
“So that’s how you got that bruise!” exclaimed Tirnan triumphantly.
“Bruise? What bruise?” Legolas sounded puzzled.
“Legolas! Today, when we had to wash before lunch. You pulled up your tunic, and I saw a massive bruise on your side! We wondered what had happened. We knew you hadn’t fought the spider, after all.”
Legolas looked astounded. “You – you knew I hadn’t fought the spider? You knew it wasn’t the truth? That I – I lied to you?”
“Well, of course we knew you didn’t fight it! If you fought off a spider, on your own, it would be all over Lasgalen! You’d be a hero! Your father wouldn’t have been able to stop telling everyone about it!” Tirnan’s logic was faultless.
“You know what he was like when you won that archery contest in the spring,” Brethil added. “He talked about it for days!”
“I thought you’d hate me for telling you lies,” Legolas admitted.
Brethil snorted. “It wasn’t telling lies, it was pretending. That’s different.”
“My father doesn’t think so. He says it’s the same. ‘If it’s not the truth, or it didn’t really happen, then it’s a lie.’ ” Legolas quoted.
“That’s rubbish,” said Tirnan bluntly. “Besides, you never tell lies.”
“It’s why you keep getting into trouble,” Brethil pointed out. “If your father ever asks you what happened, you always tell him the truth!”
Upstairs in the twins’ room, Elrond and his sons were having a quiet supper. Elladan was still confined to bed, despite his protestations that he was perfectly well. But because he had been unconscious for some considerable time, Elrond was taking no chances.
With his arm splinted, bandaged and in a sling, sporting a large bruise and a spectacular black eye, Elladan certainly did not look well. But his eyes were bright, and he wore his familiar grin as he argued with Elrohir about what to tell their mother about the accident.
Elrond was writing a letter for Teiglin to take back to Imladris for Celebrían. He wanted to reassure her that Elladan had no lasting injuries, and would make a full recovery. Elladan did not want to say anything at all, arguing that by the time they returned home he would be well, his arm healed, and there was no point in worrying their mother. Elrohir, while finally relinquishing sole responsibility for what had happened, nonetheless wanted to explain everything in full.
While Elladan and Elrohir continued their bickering, Elrond quietly finished the letter, sealed it, and left to find Teiglin, who would be leaving the next day. When he returned, the twins were laughing together as Elladan read out some of Athela’s declarations of undying love for Elrohir – who had a definite flush to his cheeks.
When Elrond suggested an early night, they made only a token protest. Both of the twins were yawning, an effect of the crushed peles leaves Elrond had furtively added to their meal. Elladan was clearly still in some pain, and beneath the colourful bruising he was very pale. Elrohir at times unconsciously still rubbed his arm and shoulder. A good night’s sleep would do them both good.
Two days later, Legolas suggested an expedition. Although Elladan still had his arm in a sling, he had otherwise fully recovered, and the bruises were fading. Alfiel was taking a small group of novices on a walk through Lasgalen as far as the Enchanted River. As it was a familiarisation exercise, identifying potential hazards, there would be no problem with a few additional members.
“It sounds safe enough,” Elrond admitted, when he heard of the plans. “And Alfiel will be in charge? Then I suppose you may go. Elladan, be careful. Elrohir, look after your brother. Legolas – have fun.”
In the end, there were ten in all – Legolas and the twins; Tirnan and Brethil; Alfiel and four novices. They walked in single file, Alfiel at the front, with Taniquel, the most experienced of the novices, at the rear. The objective was to walk silently. If Alfiel heard a single footfall, leaf rustle or twig snap, there would be trouble for the culprit.
Legolas was quite impressed with how well Elladan and Elrohir performed. Unused to the ways of Sindarin or Silvan elves, they nevertheless moved nearly as quietly as the wood elves.
The day was warm, and sunlight shone down between the trees, which grew thinly here. Squirrels scurried along branches, leaping effortlessly from tree to tree. Somewhere behind him, Legolas heard a faint crack as someone stepped on a branch hidden in the grass.
Alfiel spun around. “Brethil! Was that you?” he snapped.
“Sorry!” he whispered.
“Think yourself lucky you are not one of my novices! You could be a guard duty for the next three nights! Be more careful.” Alfiel looked around at their surroundings. “We can stop here for a while.” He looked appraisingly at his novices, and the five additions. “You did well, all of you,” he allowed. “Especially you two.” He indicated Elrohir and Elladan.
They settled on the grass, but were not permitted to relax. Alfiel scanned the group. “Now, who can tell me what dangers you can see here?”
“Wolf tracks!” said Eléntia promptly, pointing them out.
“I can see an old spider web up there,” added Taniquel. “No sign of spiders now, but they have been here.”
“Snakes, possibly. On those rocks in the sun.”
“Those ‘mushrooms’ are poisonous.”
“That plant over there,” said Elrohir unexpectedly. “It looks like athelas, but it isn’t. If you used it on a wound, it would go septic.”
Alfiel nodded approvingly at each comment. “Good. Anything else?”
“Yes!” warned Tirnan. “That spider over there!”
They all turned to where he pointed. It was some distance away, but moving in their direction. Alfiel drew an arrow, and felled the spider in one shot.
“Well spotted,” he praised.
They continued on their way without further incident. They reached the banks of the river by , and paused to eat. This was a popular place to visit. Generations of elflings had dared each other to cross the river without getting wet, and a rope swing had been constructed, tied securely to a high branch that overhung the river.
The Enchanted River was an oddity of Greenwood. Legolas knew that his grandfather had done something to it as a means of protecting his realm when he had left for the battles of the Last Alliance. But no one knew precisely what he had done, not even Thranduil – who had been unable to remove the spell. As a result, the waters caused deep sleep and forgetfulness to any who drank it or fell in.
Swinging from one side to the other was easy. The best challenge was to see how many times one could cross the river on one push, without becoming stranded, suspended above the water as the rope finally stopped moving.
Discipline was relaxed over lunch, and one by one all the elflings, and even Alfiel, had crossed to the far side. Elrohir, thinking Elladan would be unable to manage, had declined, only to see his brother swoop past, clinging to the rope with one hand.
“El, be careful! You’ll hurt yourself!”
“I’m fine!” Elladan winced a little as he stepped from the rope, the impact jarring his arm slightly. “Come on, your turn!”
The next part was more challenging. Tirnan clung on for too long, barely making it back to the bank he had started from on his fourth swing. Most settled for three crossings, landing back on the bank on the Lasgalen side of the river. Legolas also tried for four, but had to leap for the bank when it became clear he would be stranded. His heel splashed into the water. He jumped back, shaking his foot quickly.
Several other crossings were made, until finally only Elrohir and Alfiel were left on the far side of the river. Elrohir, showing off, tried to be clever and swing five times, but ended up stranded helplessly, dangling above the river, unable to reach the bank. He was laughing so much he could barely hold on to the rope.
Elladan echoed the laughter. “El, you idiot! Now what are you going to do?”
“No problem. This happens a lot,” explained Alfiel calmly. “Use that branch there to hook the rope.”
Legolas took the branch indicated. As he glanced back at Alfiel, he tensed. “Spider!” he shouted. One lurked several yards behind Alfiel. Legolas reached for his bow, but then stopped. He could not fire; Elrohir was directly between him and the spider.
There was a sharp twang behind him from one of the novices. But the shot missed the spider completely, and instead sliced neatly through the rope. With a yell, a dreadful curse and a splash, Elrohir dropped straight into the Enchanted River. Alfiel knelt at the water’s edge, and was shouting something. “Elrohir, get out, quickly! Hurry!”
Elladan was almost doubled up with laughter at the look of surprise on his brother’s face. “Don’t worry!” Elladan gasped. “He’s not hurt. He can swim!”
“Not in this, he can’t!” retorted Legolas. “It’s enchanted, remember? Elrohir, get out of there!”
Elrohir surfaced, gasping at the unexpected chill of the water. He turned to float on his back, laughing up at his twin. He could see both Legolas and Alfiel shouting at him, but could not hear their words. He shook the hair out of his eyes and the water out of his ears, but was hit by a sudden wave of dizziness. He shook his head again and blinked, suddenly feeling a little confused. Turning, he began to swim slowly to the bank. It was strange, it now seemed very far away, and he was unsure if he could swim that far …
Elladan’s laughter evaporated very rapidly. Elrohir’s movements had become strangely lethargic and uncoordinated. He seemed to have lost the ability to swim. Elladan looked across the river to Alfiel.
“What’s wrong with him?” he asked in panic.
When he looked back at his twin, Elladan’s heart nearly stopped. Elrohir was motionless, floating face down in the water, drifting gently with the flow of the river.Stories > First > Previous > Next