The next morning, at breakfast, Legolas met his father.
“I have to go out today, to ride along the borders. Would you like to come as well? And perhaps Elladan and Elrohir? It would be a chance for them to see a little more of the forest. Do you think it a good idea?”
Legolas considered the proposition. He had intended to show the twins around on his own, but did not want to turn down the opportunity to spend the time with his father. It would be a very good compromise.
“All right. I’ll tell them. What about Elrond - Lord Elrond, I mean?”
“He has asked if he can look through my library again. He thinks there may still be some books he has not seen before. I cannot imagine how, we had several copies made - made last time.” There was a slight hesitation in Thranduil’s voice. The last time Elrond visited had been immediately after Telparian’s death. Fortunately Legolas seemed to have missed the stumble.
Legolas had arranged to meet the twins in the main hallway, just inside the great doors. They were not dressed identically today, but still looked uncannily alike. He approached the nearest one, and made a guess.
“Elrohir? My father is going out today, and suggested that we join him. If you like, we can go partway with him, then come back on our own. Shall we do that? What about Elladan?”
Elrohir nodded. “All right. We’ll do that. But I’m ...”
“Don’t tell me. You’re Elladan, right?”
Elladan nodded, a little sheepishly. “Yes. And I’m sorry about last night. You did well to work it out. How did you do it?”
“Never mind. But from now on, you’re both Ellahir! That way, I can’t get it wrong!”
They set off, with Thranduil, and followed the course of the Forest River.
Legolas questioned the twins endlessly about Imladris and their home.
“You’ve got a sister, haven’t you? Arwen? What’s she like?”
“She’s a nuisance!” exclaimed Elrohir promptly.
“Not all the time.” Elladan was fairer in his assessment. “But she keeps trying to keep up with us, whatever we do.”
“She keeps wanting to know why she can’t be a twin.” Elrohir explained.
Thranduil joined the conversation. “And what does Elrond say to that?”
“He said ...” Elrohir paused, sounding puzzled. “He said ‘Never again.’ I’m not sure what he meant.”
Thranduil turned away, fighting the irresistible urge to smile. “I cannot imagine.” He recalled the escapades his son had got up to, either with his friends, or entirely unaided. Some - in fact, most - were hair-raising. To have that potential for mischief, multiplied by two, did not bear thinking about. Silently he thanked the Valar that Legolas was not twins.
After they had left Thranduil, the three moved silently through the trees. Legolas was guiding them to a point deep in the forest, where there was something he wanted the twins to see. After a while, he turned to them.
“We’ll have to leave the horses here. They make too much noise. You must be quiet!”
Intrigued, Elladan and Elrohir followed him along the narrow track ahead of them. At last, Legolas turned, placing a finger against his lips.
“Sshh! Be very quiet. Look here!”
Just ahead of them, beneath a clump of dense bushes, a family of four wolf cubs played. They watched, entranced, for a while, then Elrohir trailed a spare bow string in front of one of the cubs.
The little creature pounced on the string, batting it with its paws - which seemed far too big for such a tiny cub.
Before long the three were kneeling on the grass as the wolf cubs tumbled and frolicked about them. Legolas stretched out one hand to try to stroke one, but it turned and grabbed at him, nipping with very small, very sharp teeth. He snatched his hand back with a laugh.
“Little beast! He’ll be one to look out for when he’s older!”
They were still playing with the cubs when Elrohir heard a low rumble. He looked up, startled.
“Elladan? Did you hear that? What is it?”
Elladan and Legolas were staring past him, unmoving. The cubs still rolled about their feet. Elrohir turned his head to follow their gaze.
Not five feet away, a large she-wolf crouched, yellow eyes fixed on them. A low, savage snarl came from her throat, and her lips were drawn back to expose teeth far larger and more lethal looking than the cub’s.
“Oh no. I think their mother just came to see what’s going on.” breathed Elrohir.
The three elflings, still kneeling on the ground, did not move or take their eyes from the wolf. Then, as Legolas tried to rise to his feet, the growl intensified, growing in savagery and volume. He froze.
“Legolas? I think we’d better keep still.” Elladan whispered.
“Maybe you’re right. But what are we going to do?” he asked. The she-wolf growled again, and he dropped his voice. “Have you got any ideas?”
“Not yet,” admitted Elladan. “Have you got your bow? Elrohir? Legolas?”
Legolas shook his head minutely. “No.” He cursed his stupidity. His father had many, many times stressed the importance of always having a weapon on him at all times in the forest. One of the few times he had ever forgotten, this happened.
Elrohir’s voice came, very softly. “Legolas, can you reach just behind? My bow is about a foot behind you.”
Cautiously, very slowly, Legolas reached his hand back, groping for Elrohir’s bow. When he shifted slightly to alter his balance the wolf crouched down more, settling her haunches to leap. He stopped moving.
He wondered what they could do. It was clear that any attempt to startle or scare the wolf off would not work. She would probably interpret any sudden movement on their part as a threat to her cubs and attack.
Slowly he started moving again as Elrohir directed him.
“Back a little further - that’s it - now right about an inch - there!”
With relief, Legolas felt his questing fingers close on the end of the bow. Carefully, infinitely slowly, he pulled it towards himself.
At last he had Elrohir’s bow ready to fire, with an arrow nocked. But he still hesitated.
“I don’t want to kill her. She’s only defending her cubs.” he said softly. “Have you got any other ideas?”
Elladan sighed. “ I know. I don’t want to either. But I don’t know what else to do.”
“There might be something,” suggested Elrohir. “Legolas, how good are you with that? Are you really as good as everyone says?”
Legolas paused. He hated boasting of his prowess. But this was not the time for false modesty.
“Yes,” he said briefly.
“All right. Do you see, above the wolf’s head, back a little? There’s a dead branch there. Do you think you can hit it? If it drops down behind her, it might distract her.”
Legolas eyed the branch. It would be an easy shot, but he could take no chances. Carefully sighting along the arrow, he fired.
There was a sharp crack as the arrow hit the branch, snapping it off. It fell with a crash to the ground, a few feet behind the she-wolf. With a startled yelp and a growl, she whipped around, turning to face this new threat. The wolf stared at the fallen branch for a while, then seemed to decide it was no threat. With a call to her cubs, a short, sharp, high-pitched bark, she led the way from the clearing, the cubs tumbling and frolicking about her feet.
Long after the family had disappeared from sight, the three stared after them. Then, at last, Elladan shook himself.
“That was close. I think we were lucky.”
“I’m glad their father didn’t show up,” commented Elrohir.
Legolas said nothing. The encounter had frightened him, especially as he had been warned about the dangers of his forest, and the need to protect himself. He hoped he would not have to tell his father about it. One condition of being allowed to roam at will within the boundaries of Lasgalen was that he never relaxed his vigilance.
Legolas had never lied to his father. If Thranduil asked, then he would have to tell him about it. However, if he didn’t ask, then hopefully he would never have to know.
“Come on, let’s go,” he said at last. “And we’d better be a bit more careful this time.”
When they left the clearing where they had encountered the wolves, they headed back to Lasgalen. It was still only an hour or so past midday, so the three took the opportunity to range to and fro away from the path, investigating deeper parts of the forest.
At length they came to a long, narrow ravine, where an intermittent stream cut through the rock. It was uneven, steep and nearly sheer on one side, but more shallow and sloping on the other. Trees, bushes and brambles grew here, flourishing in the sunlight that slanted down, while on the steeper, rockier side - darker and more shadowed - creepers and stunted growth clung to the rocky cliff.
At the foot of the ravine it was damp, marshy, and black mud was sticky underfoot.
Elladan, Elrohir and Legolas slithered and scrambled to the bottom, through thick overgrown plants and shrubs. Once down, they halted and looked around.
Although Legolas thought he knew every inch of Lasgalen, he could not recall being here before. The sides rose high above them. On the gentler side, brambles bore heavy crops of blackberries, ripened in the sun’s warmth. They ate greedily, hands and mouths stained purple, and still gathered enough to take back to Lasgalen for the evening’s meal.
Leaving the berries they had picked in a cool, shaded corner, they split up to explore.
Elladan ranged over the bright, sunlit slopes, while Legolas followed the sound of trickling water to a spring at the foot of a cliff. He looked closely at the thick black mud to see what sort of animals visited this place. Elrohir scrambled up the steeper slopes, where bare rock was revealed, hidden at times beneath overhanging creepers.
After poking about in the mud, and finding traces of all manner of creatures, Legolas washed off all traces of the thick black mud, then cupped his hands in the spring and drank a little of the icy water. He looked up as a shadow fell across him.
Elladan stood there, looking searchingly up and down the ravine.
“Have you seen Elrohir?”
Legolas shook his head. “Not for a while. He was up there somewhere.” He gestured vaguely at the cliff face.
“I can’t see him. He’s not there now.”
“Well, he can’t have gone anywhere, can he? He’s probably in the bushes somewhere.”
Elladan gazed along the length of the area again, then shouted.
“Elrohir! El! Where are you?” There was no reply. He tried again. “EL!”
Legolas added his voice. “Elrohir!”
At last there was an answering shout, very muffled, but becoming rapidly louder.
“Up here! Come and see what I found!”
High on the steep slope above, Elrohir had suddenly appeared. “Come up here!” he repeated.
Quickly, they clambered up to join Elrohir on a narrow ledge.
“Just wait. Close your eyes a minute.”
Elladan regarded his brother suspiciously. “Why?”
“Just do it! Close your eyes, count to ten, then open them again. Please!”
With a feeling of resignation, Legolas complied, wondering what Elrohir was planning. It was no consolation to see that Elladan was equally mystified.
*Onetwothreefourfivesixseveneightnineten* Legolas counted as fast as he could, then opened his eyes, a heartbeat behind Elladan.
Elrohir had disappeared. Legolas felt his jaw drop, and quickly shut it. It was a habit he was trying to break, after his father had once likened him to a stranded fish.
The two stared at each other, dumbfounded. “Where did he go?”
There was a snort of laughter, and suddenly Elrohir was before them again. The trailing tendrils of ivy in front of them concealed a small cave, totally hidden from view. Roughly triangular in shape, it was broad at the bottom, tapering quickly to a narrow crack that ended just below eye level.
“We can go right in! It’s a bit narrow at first, but then opens out. It’s quite big further back!” Elrohir was excited by his discovery.
“Is there anything in there?” Elladan was more cautious.
“Nothing, it’s empty! Come on, come and see!”
Without further encouragement, they bent low and squeezed into the cave.
Elrohir’s voice floated back. “The only thing I could see there was lots and lots of cobwebs. Lots of cobwebs!”
Legolas stopped dead, so suddenly that Elladan ran into him. “Cobwebs?”
“Yes. I’ve never seen so many!”
“Elrohir, come back. Don’t go on.” There was a strange note in Legolas’ voice.
“What? Why not?” Identical voices came from front and rear.
“Because if there’s cobwebs, it means spiders!”
“Well, of course. They always spin webs. What’s wrong with spiders? There weren’t any in there, anyway.”
“Elrohir, just come back. We shouldn’t go any further!” Legolas pleaded.
“Why not? You sound like you’re scared. Surely you aren’t frightened of spiders?”
“Come on, El. We’d better go back. It’s getting late, anyway.” As he spoke, Elladan turned and began to head back to the ledge, much to Legolas’ relief.
Out in the open, the twins turned as one to stare at Legolas.
“What was that about? Why are you scared of spiders?”
Legolas looked at the two identical faces, watching him in puzzlement.
“Ellahir, didn’t your father tell you about the spiders here?”
Now the twins looked at each other. “No, what about them?”
“They’re big. And dangerous. And we don’t want to provoke them,” explained Legolas.
“What, big? Like this?” Elladan made a circle with his thumbs and forefingers.
Legolas was scornful. “No! I mean big. The baby ones are the size of a cat, and the adults are as big a large dog. They’re big!”
Elrohir looked back at the cave. “You mean - they were in there?” He sounded uneasy.
“Probably not now. You’d have seen them. But it must be one of their places. Come on, let’s go.”
They returned to the bottom of the ravine, retrieved the blackberries, and scrambled back up out of the cleft.
As they rode back to Lasgalen, Elladan moved his horse closer to Elrohir.
“Do you think it’s true, about the spiders?”
Elrohir looked thoughtful. “I’m not sure. They can’t be as big as he says. There’s no such thing as giant spiders!”Stories > First > Next