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Out of the Woods by lotrfan General Audiences
Summary: Oropher receives word regarding the mustering of the armies of the Last Alliance and Thranduil confronts his doubts...
Don't wanna fight this War by mangacrack Mature
The last Elves of Middle Earth sail to Valinor. With them is one of the few people Fëanor claimed to be his friend.
The Ways of Paradox by Narya Teen
How do you pass the time when you know you're facing eternity? Maglor agrees to appear in a student production of The...
Bedtime by Narya General Audiences
Maglor is away on a trip and Maedhros has been left with the children. He isn't sure he's up to the task.
A Nameless Fear by Gabriel Teen
The King of the Woodland Realm has a secret, something he both fears and despises. When a more fouler evil is discovered...
I'll be Yours if You'll be Mine by NelyafinweFeanorion Teen
Modern setting AU. Maedhros/Fingon. Maedhros owns a bookstore. Fingon is in grad school. Expect appearances from varied members...
Comfort and Joy by Narya Mature
It's the festive season in Gondolin, and Voronwë finds himself intrigued by the Captain of the Guard of the Secret Way.

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Spiced Wine
09/24/18 10:14 am
I would just choose whichever you want then, Gabriel. It’s what I tend to do when there is no clear answer
Gabriel
09/24/18 06:31 am
I have tried to look for it on other sites, but they have given two time frames which is a little confusing. One in the S.A. the other in the T.A.
Gabriel
09/24/18 06:24 am
I have a little question to ask. totally off the subject. Does anyone know when Bree was built? Was it up and running when Gil galad was king of the Noldor and Celebrimbor was in Eregion?
Gabriel
09/24/18 02:45 am
Okay. If its not too much trouble. Thank you Spiced. :)
Spiced Wine
09/23/18 11:53 am
It’s not a problem, I shall just go in and edit the announcement
Gabriel
09/23/18 07:31 am
Besides, I don't want you having to go out of your way just to add me to the list. But thank you for offering. :)
Gabriel
09/23/18 07:27 am
I don't want to be a bother, Spiced. I think I'll just wait till my other fic has done its dash in the recents list and post the SinS after it. Its no problem.
Spiced Wine
09/22/18 02:44 pm
But I can definitely add it for you
Spiced Wine
09/22/18 02:44 pm
I can add it, Gabriel, but only using a keyboard and iPad I cannot hotlink it I have no mouse, and everything is a pain in the neck
Gabriel
09/22/18 01:00 pm
Not to worry Spiced! It was my fault for not submitting it in time. That's the consequences I guess. :)
Shout Archive


Im Taur ar Imlad: Between the Forest and the Valley by KimicThranduilion

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A/N: Set between Chapters 35 and 36 of my main fic Friendship Amidst Loss but can be read as a stand alone fic.

Night One

"We should stop here if we do not wish to be caught out on the plains tonight by anything too unfriendly."

"Yes I agree."

Thranduil threw a filthy look over at the two ellyn – his personal bodyguards – who had spoken, "I disagree, we've only just come to the forest border, why should we stop already? What part of 'make haste' did you two not understand?" Thranduil cocked a perfect, pale questioning eyebrow at Aglardaer and Arodon.

Aglardaer sighed, "I know we are just at the border but it is dusk and will be dark very soon – if we were to go any further we would be caught out at night without the protection of the trees. There were reports of increased orc activity around these parts by the troops that were out looking for the Prince and Lord Faervel when the search was still on; I shouldn't like to run into any of those foul beasts if I can at all help it."

Arodon nodded, "At first light we can make all haste towards the Mountains, in the meantime this will be a good rest for the horses for once we reach the Mountains we shan't have the luxury of extended rest breaks."

Thranduil grit his teeth, as per usual his bodyguards were right and being sensible about the journey ahead. Yet Thranduil was finding it really rather difficult to be sensible himself. Legolas – his son who'd been missing for over two weeks had finally, finally been found and all Thranduil wanted to do was be with him as soon as was possible. He didn't want to take a break and wait for the sunrise which was hours away. He wanted them to continue on and press ahead toward the much anticipated reunion, orcs or any other of the Evil One's minions be damned.

Yet Thranduil also knew when he was beaten – he stood no chance when both of his most mother-hen-esque guards decided against him.

With an aggrieved sigh he gave in and slid off Diomedes, "Very well – have it your way – we'll stop for now, but at the very first sliver of sunlight we shall be back on our way."

"Of course Aran-nin."

"Please do drop the formalities. I shan't spend this entire trip with you all 'Aran-ing' me to death. Please – I have a name and whilst we are alone a simple 'Thranduil' will suffice."

Thranduil had all but growled at Arodon and he held back a sigh even as he led Diomedes over to one side so he could tend to him. Thranduil settled himself and his horse in the shade of one of the great sentinel oaks that dotted the border of his realm – a fair distance away from the rest of his escort. He would keep his distance this night. It would be better for all involved; Thranduil felt a foul mood settling upon him at what he saw as an unnecessary delay and knew he would not have the strength to curb the sharpness of his words this night.

Instead he let himself focus on all the tasks he needed to complete before he could climb up the great oak to rest in its branches. There was first the formidable task of grooming Diomedes – formidable for the great warhorse had little patience for being forced to stand still whilst he was fussed at. Then Thranduil would see to his own comfort; cleaning himself up before he supposed he would be forced to take dinner with the rest of his Elite and Bôr. The blonde grimaced at the thought – he really did not feel like company tonight yet if he refused to eat or ate on his own he would be subjected to hang-dog and worried looks and fussing from Aglardaer and Arodon for the rest of the trip.

Thranduil shivered – that he could not abide.

The King began to gently brush Diomedes and reconciled himself to the fact that he would not get to be as alone as he would like this night or indeed any other night of this trip. And yet that could well turn out to be a good thing considering Thranduil had spent his recent nights alone drinking far too much as he drowned himself in maudlin thoughts. Nay – it would be good for him, Thranduil decided, to have some healthy distraction and companionship.

For though he currently felt nothing but irritated contempt for the fussing and cautiousness of his Elite he was glad they were here. Glad that he would not have to face the long journey to be reunited with his son alone with his overactive mind. Glad to be surrounded by ellyn who would make sure he did not neglect himself or lose himself to his darker thoughts; glad to have ellyn who could pull him out of himself, who could cut his brooding short, who were experts in handling and mollifying his rages.

Thranduil let the hushed noises of his Elite setting up camp soothe him – perhaps, just perhaps he would be able to dredge up enough politeness to be able to sit through a meal with them.

~o~

Day Two

Thranduil glared balefully at the large dark scorch mark that was dotted with a few charred and twisted bones a few yards to his left. It was all that remained of the pyre his search parties had found along with the small Woodland calling card that had let the troops know that Faervel had followed his son up into the Mountains.

Thranduil switched his stare up to the looming, shadowy shapes that made up the Misty Mountains. They were close now – they'd be at the foot of the Mountains in less than half an hour and it was only an hour past midday – they were making very good time. They had been up right at the very crack of dawn and after a quick breakfast they had set out, picking their way along the edge of the forest until they had come to the Old Ford. Once they'd crossed that they had pounded fiercely across the plains intent on getting onto the High Pass as soon as was possible.

The huge burn marks that scarred the earth here had proved to be a distraction to them all however and they'd ended up pulling to a halt and studying the macabre sight. Thranduil turned to the burnt, cracked earth again unable to stop the questions that flooded his mind at the sight. Question after question assailed the King as he wondered at all his son had been through and suffered. It was enough to snap Thranduil's attention back to the journey and their intended path and he whistled sharply.

"We waste time here – the earth tells us nothing we do not already know and besides all that we are not trackers. We already know our intended destination – let us make haste."

Thranduil watched as his escort fell back into formation and they were on their way again racing across the empty plains toward the dark, ominous and yawning gap that signalled the entrance to the High Pass.

A mere half an hour later saw the group gathered at that very entrance as they paused to let their lathered and panting horses catch their breaths and Thranduil stared up into it. It was no less dark nor ominous up close and the blonde King had to suppress a shiver. The High Pass though the safest path through the Mountains was by no means an easy, benign route. Orcs, goblins, wargs, bandits and all other manner of evil travelled upon it just as they intended to. They could come across every single one of the aforementioned en-route if their luck was ill or nothing at all if the Valar felt so inclined to help them.

Thranduil slid one of his twin swords out of its sheath and rested his hand gently upon the hilt of the other and watched as his Elite and Bôr all secured their own weapons in hand as Aglardaer gave the signal for them to begin moving again.

They were heading into the misty domain of a great many fell things and they would not be caught unprepared.

~o~

Day Three

Thranduil flinched and took a deep breath in order to keep himself calm as Diomedes, his wilful stallion, gave a toss of his head and liberally showered the blonde in icy rain water. It had been raining all morning and Thranduil was rather fed up with it. It was that fine, misty rain that got into every crack and crevice, slowly but surely penetrated even the most densely woven of fabrics and made one thoroughly wet and miserable as Thranduil now was.

His hair was plastered to his skull despite him having rather futilely put up the hood on his cloak. The cloak itself was generally good at keeping out the elements and worked for them particularly well under the boughs of their forest home (where they were rather sheltered from the elements). Yet here in this wet, stony dankness the rain had worked itself into every fibre of the tightly woven material and left Thranduil quite soaked.

The King sighed in aggravation as Diomedes gave another wet toss of his head and Thranduil leant over to hiss into his mount's ear, "Stop that you great nuisance – I'm wet enough, you needn't add to the problem."

Aglardaer snickered at his side, "Misery needs company Thranduil – Diomedes is only trying to share with you."

"He can keep it to himself," Thranduil grumbled as he flicked a loose wet strand of hair from his face. "I am wet through without his kind help."

And that was no exaggeration – underneath his now rather pointless cloak Thranduil was soaked to his skin. His tunic and shirt stuck to him uncomfortably and his usually soft and comfortable trousers now chaffed with every movement Diomedes made as it too clung to him like an unwanted second skin. The only saving grace was that they wore only their lighter leather armour – anything else would have been simply unbearable.

Their packs had not escaped unscathed either and everything that hadn't been wrapped in oilcloth was likely just as soaked as they were – including their food which consisted predominantly of lembas and dried meat and fruits. Thranduil did not like lembas as it was – he preferred to eat and enjoy a complete meal before feeling full up – soggy lembas was a definite and firm no and as such to add to his troubles the Elven King was also by now quite hungry.

It was allegedly mid-day (though one could not tell to look at the darkness of the sky) and Thranduil hadn't eaten since the day before. He'd never admit it but he'd been too nervy at their first night in the Mountains last night to eat and he had skipped out on the soggy lembas breakfast this morning and his lack of sustenance was beginning to make itself known with the low rumbling of his stomach.

"Just have some dried fruit – the water does not affect it nearly as much as it does the lembas."

Thranduil rolled his eyes at Aglardaer's comments - not only did he have to deal with awful weather and hunger, he'd also been mothered incessantly by his best friend since they had set foot on the accursed mountain path.

"I'll eat when I feel like it."

"Well I hope you feel like it soon," Aglardaer threw Thranduil a smirk, "lest your stomach rouse every evil nearby." The silver haired Commander snickered softly, "Truly Thranduil – you could rival the thunder that will doubtless soon be upon us."

"I am glad my misery amuses you so," Thranduil replied dryly even as he cast expert eyes warily up at the sky. He held back another aggrieved sigh – Aglardaer was right – there was a thunder storm rolling in.

What joy that would be; more than that if the Valar were feeling especially vindictive toward him perhaps he would even get to witness one of the lightning storms these Mountains were famed for.

Diomedes gave another flippant and wet head toss and Thranduil gave up. He pulled out and plucked off a soggy corner of lembas before he popped the mush into his mouth. He was wet, had to deal with a fusspot of a best friend who thought himself a comedian, a demon beast that paraded as his horse and there was a thunderstorm on the way. Why did he just not complete his misery and add terrible, gloopy food to the mix?

In the distance there was a loud and ominous thunder clap.

Thranduil just sighed and wiped the drizzle from Diomedes' mane from his face.

~o~

Day Five

With a quick and completely ungraceful jerk to the left Thranduil avoided falling face down into the icy, muddy slush at their feet. Though it was spring clearly no one had informed the Misty Mountains of this fact. Five days in and they were now firmly on an incline as they continued up along the High Pass. The weather had gotten ever more foul and winter-like as they pushed on; the higher up they had gotten into the mountains the colder it had gotten and though this did not bother them as elves the weather had certainly taken a turn for the worse. The miserable, chill rain of the previous two days had given way to the arctic sleet that pelted down with the same intensity the rain had hence the irritating and rather slippery slush that made their current path so difficult.

Added to that fact they had all been forced to dismount as the path had gotten exceptionally narrow with numerous boulders that jutted out from all angles; not to mention the many irregular sized rocks that liberally littered their path. All in all it was very hard going for both horses and elves alike.

Up ahead Arodon pulled the same ungraceful manoeuvre Thranduil just had as he and his horse both narrowly missed a nasty fall. Thranduil shook his head in consternation at the sight; he could not fathom how such a widely used path such as the High Pass had come into such utter disrepair. At this rate one of them would break a leg if they were not very careful.

"Arodon," Thranduil had to raise his voice over the wind and squelching, wet sounds of the arctic slush beneath their feet. "Are you sure we remain on the correct path? That we did not miss a turn somewhere? Surely the High Pass cannot have become as badly maintained as this? I mean, there is barely room for us to move through all these accursed boulders. Tis a miracle we have come to no harm thus far."

Arodon drew to a halt and pushed his loose, wet, straggly blonde hair back as he swivelled round to face his King. "You are right Aran-nin we no longer travel upon the High Pass."

Thranduil's eyebrow rose; both in rebuke at being so formally addressed when he had asked them all to leave aside the formalities during the trip as well as in question to Arodon's purpose for leading them off the High Pass. He knew his worry wart bodyguard would never do anything to place him nor any of the others in danger so Thranduil was sure there was some purpose to Arodon's detour.

"Ah..sorry Ara…Thranduil," Arodon stammered somewhat flustered, "the section of the High Pass that we should be on right now is incredibly dangerous; steep high cliffs overhanging on each side and plenty of shadowy nooks and crannies all perfect for an ambush of the unsuspecting. I figured this little off shoot would be safer – from any predators at least. Truly I had no idea the path would be this bad. The weather certainly isn't helping. I guess my maps do need updating for they showed this path to be wider and well-kept. "

Thranduil heaved a sigh, "Tis not ideal but the weather and boulders are preferable foes to yrch or goblins – I would prefer not to have to draw my sword if at all possible." Thranduil gave a weary wave of his hand, "Lead on."

Arodon nodded his head in a jerky bow, "Yes Aran-nin," before he continued to lead them up the rock strewn path.

Thranduil sighed again at the formality but did not bother to correct it – he supposed it was difficult to lay aside centuries of habit.

The Elven King gave Diomedes a reassuring tap as he too moved off back into their single file formation behind Arodon and Aglardaer. Bôr and Arthon followed close behind with Duron bringing up the rear. The small troop picked their way cautiously across the uneven ground but it wasn't long at all before there was sharp whiny just behind him as both Bôr and his steed took their turn at slipping across the ground in an ungainly manner.

Thranduil turned to offer his secretary a steady hand before he yelled ahead to Arodon, "How much longer Arodon?"

"I'm afraid we've still got quite a while to go, perhaps another three hours if I am correct – the sleet, mud and being forced to dismount has slowed us considerably. We should reach just after nightfall – though would that is was sooner, for I certainly do not fancy traversing this path in the dark."

Thranduil bristled a bit at Arodon's time estimates – he needed and meant to get to Legolas post haste. Fifteen days – that was the aim and it was already day five and they had not yet crested the Mountains. They had no more time to waste floundering round as though they were not all elite warriors that held back the creatures of Darkness from their home day in day out through their sheer strength, blood and sweat alone.

"Pick up the pace Arodon – this accursed path has held us up long enough – we have a schedule and we shall be sticking to it." Thranduil let his voice rise so they could all hear him, "Pull yourselves together and push through – tis only a bit of weather and we are all being very pathetic about it. We will make it back onto the main road before nightfall; be careful, be watchful but pick up the pace and let us lament this weather no more. We have all been though far worse than this. Do not let it be said that sleet of all things defeated Thranduil and his Elite."

The King gave a jerk of his hand commanding Arodon onwards and he was relieved to feel within minutes the burn of his thighs and lungs telling him that the pace they moved at had most certainly gone up.

He was still careful of course, eyes scanning ahead as well as below to carefully pick the best way round the boulders and avoid the worse of the loose rocks upon the ground. He was mindful of Diomedes too and kept a clam and steadying hand upon the great stallion who fed off Thranduil's own calm and began to take his steps with more courage and less fear.

The sleet continued to slash down upon them relentlessly – icy fingers clawing through their already previously soaking uniforms. It was enough to chill even an elf to the bone but Thranduil cared not. He had focussed his mind again and kept his eyes firmly upon his prize.

The weather, these mountains, this trip could throw whatever they pleased at him; he would push on and push through whatever came his way for his son, his precious Lasseg needed him and Thranduil would not let him down.

~o~

Night Five

"The end of this path is just up ahead – another five minutes and we will be back upon the High Pass."

Thranduil gave a tired, satisfied grin at Arodon's announcement. They had kept up a brisk steady pace all afternoon and the King was pleased to see that they had made very good time in getting back to the main road just as dusk was beginning to settle rather than after nightfall as Arodon had earlier predicted.

"We'll take a break just before we switch back onto the main road." Aglardaer held up a hand to quell Thranduil's protest before he had even voiced it, "If we want to keep the horses fresh and have them carry us through to the end of this trip then we need to bear them in mind. A quick rest – twenty minutes at most – will cost us nothing. I dare say we deserve it after that climb and how we have made up the time – tis not even nightfall as yet."

Arodon nodded, "We have made great time and rest will be good – the High Pass gets considerably steeper from here on in until we crest the Mountains. We'll need to keep moving once night falls, keep formation and stay nice, compact and quiet throughout –there will be no time for rest until dawn when it is safer. It is best we just take our rest now."

As usual his bodyguards rather irritatingly made sense so Thranduil said nothing and simply followed their lead now that they had reached the end of their detoured path and swung off Diomedes and stretched.

"We'll take a twenty minute break – ten minute watches with three on three off as usual," Arodon leant again his mount wearily as he quickly gave his orders. "Ara…uh Thranduil, Arthon and Duron - you can take the first watch. Aglardaer, Bôr and I will take the second."

Thranduil nodded, deferring to Arodon's leadership as he had done for the majority of the trip. The blonde eyed his bodyguard covertly even as he swung his bow off his back and nocked an arrow; it certainly said a lot in regards to how tired Arodon was if he did not claim first watch for himself as usual. Then again Thranduil had demanded a rather exacting pace and Arodon as head of their party had to play vanguard as well as guide them all. He could be forgiven for being perhaps a bit more winded than the rest of them – Thranduil would not begrudge him his rest first.

The King glanced round him for a suitable perch from which to take his watch. He spotted a suitable outcropping of rock above them from which he'd have view over both the path they rested upon now as well as a fair section of the High Pass – perfect.

Thranduil had just begun to pick his way upwards toward the outcropping when there was an almighty groaning before something dropped down rather heavily atop them all with a dreadful crash.

Thranduil had been knocked clean from his perch to land rather heavily on his back. He wasted no time however and got up instantly after giving his head a small shake to get rid of the slight daze he felt trying to claw at him and forced himself to take in the situation. It was not good. Not good at all; the thing that had crashed down upon them appeared to be a cage of some sort – dry bleached bones tied together with wiry old sinew. Worse that that they were all trapped within it due to the close formation they had been keeping and the rather large size of the cage.

"A goblin trap," Aglardaer hissed in annoyance and distaste. "Doubtless the little bastards will be swarming here any second." The silver haired Commander drew his knives and looked round in mild bewilderment, "Though for the life of me I cannot see anything we have done or touched to have set it off."

"My fault," Arodon spoke up and he sounded mortified. "It's just here where I sat on this bit of stone – it sunk down under my weight but ere I could call out or do anything more this great, bloody thing had fallen atop us all." The blonde pointed to the stone in question with one of his long knives that he too had pulled in readiness, "It's a switch – cleverly designed to look like a welcoming seat for the weary."

Arthon laughed, "And to think you lead us upon this very path to avoid this sort of a thing gwanûr."

Arodon scowled at his younger brother but Thranduil interrupted as he felt once more as though he had his wits about him.

"Never mind all that – you can hardly be to blame Arodon – you could not have known of the goblin's schemes," the King was quick to reassure his guilt prone bodyguard. "What matters now is us getting out of here this instant."

"Thranduil is right, let us focus on getting out of this cage – it cannot be that hard to break apart. Focus on cutting apart the sinew holding it all together. Spread out and we will make a hole big enough for us all including the horses to fit through." Aglardaer began to attack the sinew before him with vigour, "Bôr keep watch for goblins and see if you can do anything to calm the horses whilst you're at it."

The russet haired secretary nodded as he begun to speak to the spooked and loudly whinnying horses in a low tone whilst he nocked an arrow.

Thranduil in the meantime was beyond frustrated at trying to hack through the sinew. For something that looked so old and brittle it was not giving way easily. The Elven King had been forced to pull one of his knives that had a serrated blade from where he kept it hidden in his vambrace and even that was slow going. Far too slow. Elbereth alone knew how much longer they had before the goblins would be upon them. Though he had not heard any bell nor chime sound when the trap had befallen them Thranduil was sure the goblins had a way of knowing that their trap had been sprung.

The King cast a glance over at what the rest of his bodyguards were doing – they too were struggling despite having pulled out serrated blades much as he had. Thranduil gave an annoyed growl before another idea came to him. Perhaps they would have better luck if they attacked the bones – they certainly looked old enough.

"Bôr lend me your sword."

His secretary looked over at him from where he was perched lightly upon his mount on his knees – eyes keen and arrow ready. There was a look of confusion that passed briefly upon the fair face at Thranduil's request but Bôr did not question his King – used by now to Thranduil and his whims – and simply unsheathed the great broadsword at his side and handed it over.

Thranduil took it with a grunt of thanks. Bôr's broadsword had been modelled upon the Noldor swords of old and was therefore a great (and in Thranduil's opinion ungainly) thing and would suit his purpose well.

"This is taking far too long – watch yourselves."

That was all the warning Thranduil gave his Elite before he swung Bôr's sword directly at one of the large, dry looking bones before him. Yet like the sinew it was stronger than it looked and the tiny chip that resulted belied the force and strength Thranduil had put behind the blow. Thranduil hefted the sword and swung again at the exact same spot with even more force.

A crack appeared – a small one and Thranduil nearly screamed in pure frustration. He could smell them now – the goblins. He could smell their foul scent upon the air and Thranduil knew their time ran ever shorter. He was about to attack the chip with his borrowed sword once more when Duron spoke up.

"Rather than the bone try aiming it at the sinew we have been sawing away at Thranduil, you too Aglardaer," the Avari warrior gestured at the broadsword that hung from his fellow's belt. "Hopefully we have weakened it enough that the force of a blow from your swords will finally see us free."

Seeing the sense in Duron's words Thranduil hefted Bôr's sword once more and swung hard at the sinew joints that he'd been exasperatedly sawing at minutes ago. The cage gave a low groan and the joint buckled slightly. Still it was better progress than they had been making and Thranduil gave the joint another hard blow putting as much as he could behind it. With a satisfying snap the sinew at last gave way leaving a small gap in the cage; it was far too small for any of them to fit through of course but at least they finally had an effective method for breaking free from their macabre prison. Aglardaer took his turn next with a grim smile and it took him three blows before his portion of the cage gave way. The opening was slightly wider now – the lithest of them could likely get through it with some great struggle however they were all swordsmen and archers with the broad shoulders to show for it and not one of them were likely to fit just yet.

Arodon, Duron and Arthon begun to saw away at the sinew nearest the small hole with vigour – the smell of goblin was thick upon the air now and they could just hear the patter of their feet upon the stone path. Thranduil slammed Bôr's sword hard into another of the joints as soon as Arodon had cleared the area and beside him Aglardaer swung hard and did the same. Again it took them another few blows before at last the sinew gave way to leave an even wider gap in the cage. They would just about be able to scramble through now but the horses were still very much trapped.

They had no more time though to make the current opening in the cage any wider – Thranduil could hear the goblins now. Their incessant and high pitched chatter grated upon the Elven King's nerves; he had forgotten just how much he hated goblins having not had contact with them in centuries. Their noise and their smell was most irritating and both now strongly assaulted Thranduil as the goblins drew ever closer, their speech louder now and more excitable – doubtless giddy at the prospect of discovering and torturing whatever lay in their trap.

"We need to go now. Bôr catch," Thranduil tossed his secretary his sword back hilt first. "Stay with the horses and keep them safe. Arodon, Aglardaer, Duron, Arthon make haste and get through that gap now – we've little time before those creatures will be upon us. We will be better able to fight them on the High Pass rather than this narrow path." Thranduil slid easily into command, "Let none pass you – keep them from Bôr and the horses as best you can. Menif hi!"

The King watched as his bodyguards scrambled through the hole barely wide enough for them and rushed onto the main road. Thranduil turned to face Bôr just before he too slipped through the cage's rough opening, "Guard the horses as best you can; we will do our all to keep the goblins from you but should they pass us and the need arises do what you must. Do not sacrifice your health or yourself for the sake of the horses."

With that Thranduil pulled himself through the gap in the cage gaining a godly number of scratches along the way. He felt guilt in leaving Bôr behind; felt guilty that Bôr was even in the position where he might have to fight. He knew his secretary had long abandoned the life of a warrior after an ill mission that saw him and one other as the sole survivors from a troop of ten. Bôr had not even wanted to come on this trip initially, citing reasons such as this very one that was upon them yet Thranduil had pleaded with him until his unflappable secretary had given into his whim. Thranduil had been so pleased – had promised to keep Bôr safe – and now look at the state of affairs.

The grim thoughts made Thranduil grip his twin swords all the harder, made him feel even more determined – not a single goblin would be getting past him this night. The Elven King fell into easy and routine formation at Aglardaer's side. They were rear-guard with Arodon and Duron as vanguard and Arthon in the middle free to sweep in and lend his support to whomever should need it.

Thranduil had arrived just in time as the goblins appeared all in a rush as they rounded the bend on the main path toward them. The creatures gave wild shouts at the sight of five elves and attacked with wholehearted abandon. There were a lot of them. In less than a minute Arthon had already abandoned his starting position to lend aid to his older brother and Duron who were quickly swamped by the sheer numbers of the beasts. Though Thranduil could see his Elite gave it their all it wasn't long before the first of the goblins slipped past their defences and made a mad dash toward him and Aglardaer intent on getting past the two sword wielding elves.

Thranduil was having none of it and stopped the first goblin rather simply by decapitating it. They all seemed rather short – likely the grunts of their clan or litter or whatever was the collective word for goblins. Hardly any of them came up past his chest and Thranduil found their necks at a rather convenient level for beheading. They fought with a bit more grace than orcs though not by much; the only things that were truly in their favour was their sheer numbers and the wickedness of the blades they fought so frenziedly with. Already Thranduil had been nicked with one and that alone told him that if any of the goblins were to get close enough they'd be able to do real damage.

So Thranduil kept them at swords length as much as he possibly could as he aimed for their bony, unprotected necks and he lopped off the heads of any stupid enough to challenge him. Aglardaer at his side had adopted his technique and they stood as an immovable wall as they made sure not even one goblin snuck past them toward Bôr and the horses.

Thranduil swept the feet out from under a goblin that had managed to get under his defences before he viciously stabbed it through the heart as it fell upon the ground. Was there no end to the beasts? The ground before him was strewn with their foul carcasses and still they came. Arodon, Duron and Arthon were certainly giving it their best yet they were only three against so many and more and more of the goblins were able to sneak past and make their way toward Thranduil and Aglardaer where they seemed anxious to get past the two elves and to their trap beyond.

Yet Thranduil has absolutely no intention of letting that happen and he continued to stab and slice and lop off heads as he an Aglardaer stood strong shoulder to shoulder in the face of the onslaught that continued to slip past his maethyr and come their way.

The Elven King beheaded one beast with a clean and easy sweep of his right sword before he struck out with his left to impale another goblin. There was no respite though as three more appeared to take their place; they charged madly as one toward him wicked knives glinting in the low light and Thranduil was forced to take a step back and parry several times before he was able to surge forward once more. He lashed out hard again and managed to behead one goblin before disembowelling the other two in a twirling, flashy move. Quick as lightening the King struck out to stab a rather sneaky and enterprising goblin who'd been crawling along the ground amidst the corpses in the hope of getting past them and panic flared in Thranduil's chest as he hurriedly sent a glance across all the bodies at their feet. Goblins were not nearly as stupid as orcs and could be surprisingly inventive.

This small glance away from the battle scene costed him however and Thranduil had to hurriedly throw up both swords in a defensive manoeuvre against yet another two goblins who had managed to get far too close to him. Thranduil again swept the feet out from under the goblin nearest him before he ran it through with one sword and swung out wildly at the other in an attempt to behead it. The goblin was small and quick however and it ducked to easily avoid Thranduil's blow before it popped up again under the King's still outstretched arms.

Thranduil realised his mistake too late and grunted in pain as the sting of a cruelly sharp goblin blade sliced across his unprotected midriff. It wasn't a deep nor serious cut but along with the fact that the goblin had managed to so easily out manoeuvre him Thranduil saw red; snatched the grinning imp by the same arm it had used to stab at him, wrapped it into a tight headlock and snapped its neck.

The Elven King snatched up his swords again and in a blaze of anger easily decimated the goblins who had foolishly decided to try their hand against him. The cut across his stomach stung as it was pulled at with each move he made and the dark stain that begun to slowly bloom across his shirt only fuelled his rage. And rage was good, for his arms had started to tire and his footing grew less sure as the ground grew slick with goblin blood and ichor and still the goblins came. The rage helped him to focus and put even more into beating back the goblins into whichever despicable hole they had crawled from.

The rage was a far better an option than the alternative of dismay at the way he could see red blood upon Duron, Arodon and Arthon and at the muffled sounds of pain that came from Aglardaer. The rage was better than the sinking feeling of despair at the fact that more goblins kept on coming in swarm after swarm. Nay the rage was good and was what Thranduil held onto as he bellowed encouragement at his Elite.

"Maetho! Gurth enin goth!" Thranduil beheaded yet another goblin with a zeal that hid the tired, trembling ache in his arms and his growing fear for his Elite.

They grew weary – had been wearied already even before this battle by their fast paced march uphill – they needed to put an end to this lest they were overwhelmed completely and dragged back by the goblins to their den. Thranduil had absolutely no intention of dying in such an undignified and unworthy manner and certainly not before he got to see Legolas again. Yet he was at a loss as to how they were to stem the tide of chattering beasts – there certainly seemed no end to them – for every one Thranduil cut down two more appeared to take its place. He knew that logically there had to be an end to the goblins eventually; he was just unsure whether their strength could hold out against the onslaught until then.

Thranduil was snapped from his maudlin thoughts when a rather ugly goblin that had been charging toward him stopped and dropped suddenly, it's ugly leer frozen upon its face and an elven arrow lodged in its heart. Several more fell in a similar manner in quick succession and though he could not spare the moment to look up Thranduil knew that it was Bôr who as ever kept a watchful eye upon him.

Thranduil grinned at Aglardaer and they both quickly covered the ground Bôr had cleared for them to join Arodon, Duron and Arthon at the very heart of the fighting. The whistle of arrow cutting through the air to land with a wet thump unerringly into its target mingled with the sounds of steel against steel and the strangled cry of dying and panicked goblins who suddenly seemed to think it would be a better idea to retreat now that they were also being slain from on high. Not to mention the fact that despite their numbers they still hadn't managed to best the five elves before them.

One by one the goblins began to back away before giving up all pretences and fleeing back down the road but Thranduil had seen how close they were to victory, how few goblins remained – twenty or perhaps thirty at best.

They would win this - of that Thranduil was determined, "Let none escape, we've nearly bested them all. Ensure not one lives to tell their tale lest they gather, regroup and attack us again. Aphado din! Dago din!"

Thranduil and his Elite sprang forth after the fleeing goblins moving as one - as the slick and deadly unit that they were. There would be no escape for the goblins.

o.o.o

Thranduil trudged tiredly behind Arodon and Aglardaer as they returned to where they had left the cage, their horses and Bôr who'd stayed behind when they had left to hunt down the rest of the goblins.

They had dispatched of the remaining beasts fairly quickly before setting about the exhausting work of concealing the fact that such a bloody battle had taken place. Being unable to light the usual fire upon which to burn their foes they had instead found a deep gully and had dragged and dumped each goblin corpse (and their heads) into it. It was exhausting work but Thranduil supposed it could have been worse – it could have been the heavy lumbering carcasses of orcs rather than the much lighter goblins.

Still he was thoroughly exhausted now yet he knew they could ill afford to stop and rest. They had to leave and quickly before the stench of blood and death upon the night air brought even more foul beings upon them. The last thing any of them needed was another fight. Thranduil stepped back upon the smaller less used path as he followed his bodyguards and tried to will a little bit more strength into his arms for they had yet to free their horses from their bony, macabre prison.

He was pleasantly surprised however to round the corner and be immediately accosted by Diomedes who snorted at him before bumping his head heavily into Thranduil's cut and aching stomach. Despite the pain and fresh blood that bloomed at the contact the Elven King was pleased to see his horse freed and even more pleased that the task had been taken care of already. The thought of having to smash apart the rest of the cage to free his mount hadn't really been all that appealing to his tired and aching body; yet it seemed his secretary had once again come to the rescue.

Thranduil smiled at Bôr, "Hannon-le were it not for your timely intervention we'd likely still be fighting."

Bôr snorted softly in amusement, "Hardly, you had very nearly defeated them all – I just thought to help you along a little."

Thranduil waved a hand at the now decimated cage behind them, "Thank you for that as well. I wasn't especially looking forward to it and you've saved us some time."

"Again, I thought you might appreciate it." Bôr ran a critical eye over his dishevelled and bloodied King and opened his mouth to speak but Thranduil cut him off with an outstretched hand.

"I'll stop you right there Bôr and you too Arodon," Thranduil glanced at his worrywart bodyguard who already held a small healers pouch in his hands. "It is but a small cut and it bleeds still only because it is awkwardly placed. It is nothing and we have no time for any of you to start mothering me. We need to get away from here as swiftly as possible."

Thranduil gestured to the dark sky above, "It is fully dark now and too much blood and death linger here, if we do not move now we'll be in far greater trouble."

"Thranduil is right let us mount up, get back in formation and move out now. We can deal with any injuries once we've put some good distance between us and this place. Gwaem."

Thranduil threw Aglardaer a grateful look for his support and swung himself up upon Diomedes. Besides the immediate danger they were in Thranduil did not think he could deal with Arodon and his fussing just then – far better for him to have time to steady and calm himself before he was subjected to Arodon's particularly mothering brand of care.

The Elven King tucked himself easily into formation and with a few whispered words of encouragement and quick taps to their mounts they were on the move again.

~o~

Day Six

"Can you not hurry it up Arodon?" Thranduil groused from where he sat still and waited rather impatiently for his bodyguard to finish up with tending to his wound.

"It is as you said Thranduil – the cut is rather awkwardly placed which makes it all the more awkward for me to place the stiches. But I am nearly finished, just be still a moment longer please."

"I know I am an elf but any longer like this and I shall likely freeze to death. I would so hate for you to have to explain that to Lord Arahaelon."

Thranduil was shirtless and they had been sitting behind the snow drifts that did nothing to shelter them from the brisk, biting wind for a good fifteen minutes and though the cold did not truly trouble the Elven King he was more than fed up.

Arodon gave a long suffering sigh, "You'll not freeze – I really am nearly finished. Please, just let me concentrate."

Thranduil rolled his eyes but said no more as he regretted for the hundredth time ever having taken off his light leather armour. It had been soaked through and uncomfortable and he had removed it fully intending to put it back on once they'd set out for the night portion of their travels after it had had some time to dry. Yet the goblins had caught them unawares and Thranduil hadn't had the presence of mind nor the time to strap himself back into it before taking on the foul beasts.

He'd paid for it when that wily little goblin bastard had managed to slip past his defences and deal him a blow with its wicked blade. The resulting cut was long, thin and diagonal across his stomach and though not especially deep it had refused to stop bleeding as it pulled with nearly every move Thranduil made. A fact that had worried Arodon and Aglardaer through the night and at first light when they had put a fair amount of distance between themselves and the site of the battle Arodon had called them to a halt. And Thranduil had been under his care ever since.

Thranduil did not so much as flinch as needle and thread bit into him again – his skin had long gone numb being exposed to the arctic like weather this high up the Mountains. He just really wanted to be able to get up off the wet, snow covered ground, stretch his legs and be free from Arodon's ministrations. He sighed long, loud and heavily and Arodon laughed.

"You needn't sound so disconsolate Thranduil – I'm finished now."

The King looked down and saw that Arodon had indeed finished and had tied off the line of neat, tiny and precise stitches he'd been carefully placing. He smiled wide and bounced to his feet eager to be rid of Arodon's attentions (and put his shirt back on).

"Ah, ah wait – I still need to bandage you up. Surely you don't want your shirt and armour rubbing against freshly placed stitches."

"Ugh Arodon," Thranduil murmured in dejection even as he let himself be pulled back down in the snow.

o.o.o

"Well we've reached the highest point of our journey; day six and we have finally reached the peak of the High Pass. It's all downhill from here."

Thranduil jolted a little at Arodon's triumphant sounding announcement, blinked to focus his eyes and sat up a bit straighter from where he been slumped in a light snooze upon Diomedes.

"It's beautiful – you can see all of Arda from up here," Arthon pointed as he joined in his brother's excitement and Thranduil blinked hard a couple times more before he allowed his gaze to look in the direction his bodyguard pointed.

The vista before them was stunning and it truly did look as though they could see the entirety of Arda from their current position. Thranduil pushed his hair firmly back behind one ear from where it was being buffeted by the wind so he could take in and appreciate the view a little more thoroughly.

The immediate mountains just below and around them were lightly shrouded in mist and swirling snow while the further out Thranduil looked the land got gradually greener and more lush as the wintery grip of the higher mountains gave way to spring in the plains and vales below.

Thranduil turned and looked back behind him; his sharp eyes immediately picked out the dark, distant smudge far, far below them that marked his Wood. A light pang of worry and a stronger one of longing swept over him at the sight. He hoped Rithel and indeed his entire realm would be well in his absence – it had been a long time since he had ever set foot out of it and now that he could see his Wood so far behind him it gave him cause for pause.

"Well as beautiful as this is I don't particularly want to stop here for a rest. It's far too snowy, windy and miserable. Let's start down – I'm sure we'll find a far more suitable place to rest not too far from here."

Aglardaer's testy voice shook Thranduil from his worries over the realm he'd left behind and after one more longing look the King resolutely turned forward and tapped Diomedes to drop back into formation as they moved off.

He was worrying for naught – Rithel was more than capable, Arahaelon was at her side and there had been no major crises when he'd left. They would manage just fine without him – they had done it before and could do it again. All would not fall to ruin just because he was absent for a month or three.

The needs of his son were greater than those of his realm just now; he needed to keep his sight focussed on what lay ahead of him – Imladris and getting to the aide Legolas.

~o~

Day Nine

Thranduil abruptly swung himself to the left in order to balance out the listing slip Diomedes had made to the right. The terrain was getting ever more difficult to traverse and much to the King's displeasure Arodon had informed him that they still had at least another three days of downward travel before they would finally leave the slippery, miserable slopes of the Misty Mountains behind.

Though the snow had eased off as they got ever lower down the High Pass it had given way to slow melting slush that their horses were currently having a fair bit of trouble with. The path here also seemed to have suffered some sort of a landslide or perhaps an avalanche earlier in the winter which had left it littered with numerous small debris, stones and gravel which did nothing to ease their passage. The fact that they were going downhill certainly did not help their cause.

Diomedes skidded again and gave mighty toss of his head and turned to shoot a sharp glare at Thranduil as though his predicament was somehow the blonde's fault. Thranduil did not even bother to try and soothe the testy animal – he'd only slip again – and more than that Thranduil would likely only be bitten for his troubles. Diomedes was not the soothing type.

They continued to delicately pick their way down the road and Thranduil strained his eyes upon the path as he did his best to keep the slips and slides to a minimum. It was not long though before Diomedes skidded again; a fair few metres down the path, and the bad-tempered horse paused to stomp and snort and whinny at the Elven King accusingly. Thranduil let him do as he would before he gave a small tap to get them on their way again.

Diomedes took a few tiny steps before he jerked to an abrupt stop, snorted and gave a long high pitched whinny.

"Oh stop that Dio and do get a move on," Thranduil tapped at the stallion's sides impatiently. "You did not even slip this time – menif hi."

Diomedes ignored Thranduil completely however and stamped and snorted again before giving out another even longer and this time fearful sounding whinny. All the other horses took it up as well as they too drew to a stop and refused to be urged on. Diomedes neighed again loud and high pitched before he reared up on his hind legs and stomped back down.

Thranduil was in no doubt now that his stallion was scared of something – for even if the other horses had not started up as well the King knew that for all his moodiness Diomedes was far too well trained a warhorse to rear up just like that and to not go when commanded. He was scared and there was only one thing that would set the great black horse to flight – wargs. Orcs and spiders Diomedes took great glee in stomping his massive, muscular legs down upon but at the sight of a warg Diomedes could and would bolt - training be damned.

Thranduil leaned down low and tried to shush and calm his nervy steed – the last thing he needed was for Diomedes to bolt on the slippery path and break a leg. At the same time he stretched his senses as he sought out the source of their horses fear; hoping against hope that it would not be anything as tiresome as a warg.

They had no such luck of course – Thranduil felt the dark, foul presence of the beast almost immediately a couple hundred metres down the path.

"Warg ahead," Duron confirmed Thranduil's assessment. "I can only sense the one – shall I go ahead and dispatch it?" The Avari warrior addressed Arodon as leader of the trip.

"We'll both go – it'll be safer that way," Arodon slid from his mount and he and Duron made their way silently further down the path swords drawn.

They'd soon dispatch the warg no matter its size – Thranduil's Elite were formidable maethyr indeed. Yet something was still off – not quite right – the King felt a nagging sense of dread and the horses hadn't calmed whatsoever. In fact they carried on as though the threat had gotten worse and closer. Diomedes in particular gave Thranduil cause for concern as the great horse bucked with regularity beneath him now; he would not be still, would not heed Thranduil's words and the King was having a more and more difficult time staying mounted.

"Dio annin - calm yourself I beg you."

But the stallion paid no heed and this time with another neigh of terror he reared up high and Thranduil hadn't a hope of remaining seated. He landed with a hard thump on the wet ground and glared up at his horse.

"Diomedes really! You will…" Thranduil's words trailed off as he rolled to the side and just out of the way of a bolting Diomedes.

The King sprang to his feet but his angry yell died in his throat as a sudden wave of evil and darkness suddenly surrounded them on all sides. Bôr and Arthon were also thrown as the other horses fled in the same direction as Diomedes back up the path but Thranduil paid that no mind as he pulled his bow from his back.

"Forget the horses, they will see to themselves. Close ranks – we've been ambushed," Thranduil barked as his eyes darted to and fro seeking out each and every warg that slinked about on the cliff tops that loomed over them.

Bôr, Arthon and Aglardaer were quick to fall into line and they closed in a tight defensive circle facing outward – each one of them scanning their section of the cliff tops. It would be in their best interest to shoot down as many wargs as possible before they decided to leap down from on high and Thranduil dropped his voice to a whisper as he gave his next command.

"Arthon, Bôr and I will shoot on my command – hit as many as you can; and Aglardaer you be ready. They will likely leap down as soon as we start to shoot and we'll need you to get us a few precious seconds so we can swap over to swords. Understood?"

They all gave him an affirmative and Thranduil gave a grim nod even as he nocked an arrow and sighted. He felt worry for Duron and Arodon – they'd been too long now – it ought not to have taken them so long to dispatch a single warg and the thought that they too had been ambushed gnawed at the King. Yet Thranduil resolutely pushed the worry aside – just like with the horses until he got out of his own predicament he'd be little use to his two missing maethyr.

"Hold, hold…fire!"

The sound of their arrows whistled through the air and Thranduil was quick to expertly flip out another arrow, quickly sight it and shoot again being sure to hit the wargs in the eyes – the easiest way to kill them from such a distance. He was only able to shoot two wargs before they were on the move, eager to rush down and charge them. Aglardaer stood sword at the ready as Arthon and Bôr swapped their bows for swords but Thranduil held his a moment longer and nocked another arrow. He'd noticed that the wargs were unable to directly leap down upon them due to the height of the cliff tops and the jagged terrain below; they were instead forced to slink their way downwards which left them exposed and the King was quick to take advantage as he quickly shot down another two evening their odds.

Thranduil hurriedly swapped to his twin swords, "There look to be around four of them left."

"One for each of us – let's make quick work of this so we can see to Duron, Arodon and our horses." Aglardaer swung his broadsword up into ready position before he launched himself at the first warg that came snarling down from the cliff at them.

Thranduil was quick to follow suit as he too hurled himself at the next warg to make its appearance known. It was the best way to deal with wargs – to attack first and gain the upper hand - for to let them approach first was utter folly. They would have your throat ripped out before you even knew they were upon you.

Thranduil struck out with one sword catching the beast a heavy blow across its neck before he stabbed upwards and into its ribcage with the other. The warg made a wounded growly noise and the King was quick to use his free sword to swiftly and cleanly silence it forever as he slit its neck. Thranduil freed his sword from the warg's body and whirled round to see where he was needed. Aglardaer had already dropped his warg with Bôr and Arthon well on the way to dispatching the ones they danced with.

"Aglardaer, see to Duron and Arodon – I'll see to the horses," Thranduil turned back up the path from whence they had come swords at the ready.

"Be careful Thranduil – there may yet be more of the beasts."

"I shall," Thranduil shouted back as he made his way intently up the sloping, slushy path.

Thranduil kept wary eyes darting between the path and the shadowy cliff tops above on the lookout for any more of the wolf-like beasts. Though the sense of evil that had fallen upon them all back at the ambush site had lessened greatly there was still a lingering malevolence in the air. Not to mention he had yet to come upon any of their horses which could mean they had been chased by more wargs; elven horses knew better than to stray too far away from their masters even when scared or frightened.

Thranduil could no longer see any of his maethyr as he rounded the bend and continued upward and still no sign of their horses. He cursed and stretched his senses even further seeking the foul darkness that seemed to follow wargs about; he had no one to watch his back at the moment and he did not want to be caught unawares.

Thranduil took another bend and was at last rewarded with a distant whinny, he picked up his pace and broke into a brisk jog toward the sound.

A deep sense of foreboding came almost too late and the Elven King took a quick step backwards just in time to avoid the snapping jaws of one out of the two wargs that had leapt at him from seemingly nowhere. They blocked his path, snarling and snapping as they assessed him with mean calculating eyes. Thranduil made to inch backwards to better secure his footing but immediately aborted the action at the sound of a deep growl behind him. Hair rose on the back of the blonde's neck and he almost did not dare to turn and thus expose himself to the two wargs at his front. Yet he needed to know what he was up against, how far away the warg behind him was – whether he had any chance of fighting his way out.

Slowly Thranduil angled his swords so that there was one facing the two wargs ahead of him and one facing the warg behind him (and never had he ever been so glad that he fought with twin blades). Then ever so slowly Thranduil angled his head so that his good eye could take in the warg and its position behind him. His position was not nearly as untenable as he had feared and Thranduil came to a quick decision – he was sure he could fight his way out of this and still come out on top.

Granted, his plan relied heavily on his aim being true and him putting enough force behind his blow but the Elven King was confident in himself and in the twinkling of an eye lest he give the wargs anymore time to gather themselves and organise their own attack Thranduil moved.

He flung his right sword hard and deep into the throat of the warg behind him – it had foolishly bared its neck as it lifted its great head to snarl at him and the King took full advantage. Thranduil had only a second to see the blade sink deep into its mark before he whirled round to face the two that leapt at him in frenzied anger. Thranduil feinted then blocked before he lashed out and dealt one of the beasts a great gash along its foreleg. He kept up his assault not giving any leeway and was careful not to step too far back.

For he could hear soft, choked growls that emanated from behind him that told him he had not been as successful as he had hoped in taking out the warg to his back. He could not spare even a moment to look back and assess the situation however caught up as he was in fending off the immediate danger in front of him; yet judging by the fact he had not been leapt upon and torn to shreds from behind the blonde figured he'd incapacitated the warg sufficiently enough that he was not in any immediate danger from behind.

Instead he focussed all his energies on beating back the wargs in front of him that so desperately tried to get close enough to tear him down. It was difficult with just the one sword and not because Thranduil had become spoilt by wielding two. Twas simply the way in which they had been forged made it easier if they were used as the pair they were meant to be. Still such a small detail mattered little to the Elven King and he simply put more force and precision behind his blows and ensured he hit the weak spots on each warg with every blow.

The first warg staggered slightly after a deep cut along its flank and Thranduil swiftly moved in for the kill. He viciously stabbed the beast clean through its eye socket and watched with satisfaction as it sank lifeless to the ground. The other warg used Thranduil's nearness to its own advantage and Thranduil hissed in pain and pulled back before he directed a fatal blow to its neck. The beast choked a stream of dark blood at Thranduil as it made one last ditch dying effort to leap at him. It landed heavily into Thranduil's legs, knocked him to the ground and sent his sword flying from his hand. The blonde pushed the carcass off him in disgust, leapt over toward his sword and swung round to face the sounds of running that approached him sword at the ready.

He relaxed almost instantly as it turned out be Arthon and Bôr rather than yet another warg ready to maul him.

"You look dreadful Thranduil," Bôr stated simply as he efficiently put an end to the warg that had been at Thranduil's back with a quick but vicious stab of his broadsword.

Thranduil shrugged and feigned nonchalance, "You do not look especially pleasant yourself just now."

He turned so that his back was to his secretary and bodyguard and effectively hid the jagged wound along the right lower half of his face. What was it with minions of evil always going for his face? Did they envy him his looks that much?

Thranduil let a hand drift up to feel the wounds and scowled at what he felt - three fairly deep gouges from the warg's claws that would doubtless need painful stitches. He held back a sigh, he would simply have to extend his glamour over to that side of his face as well until the scars faded once they got to Imladris. He looked at his bloodied hand in disgust before he gave it a wipe on his trousers.

"Come we should see what trouble Diomedes and the others have got themselves into."

"Let me at least bandage your face – Arodon and Aglardaer will have my head otherwise," Bôr fussed.

"Nay, we've more important matters ahead of us – besides the wound has all but stopped bleeding anyways. Let's find the horses – the rest of this journey will be infinitely more difficult without them. There'll be time enough for us all to be mothered to death by Arodon and Aglardaer." Because Bôr and Arthon looked just as red blood splattered as he doubtlessly did and Arthon had a limp.

Thranduil continued to stride up the path the horses had fled before he glanced behind at his companions who trailed him, "What took you two so long anyways? When Aglardaer and I left you were about to drop the wargs you fought and Arthon you were certainly not limping then."

Arthon gave a small, self-deprecating chuckle, "There were more than we thought – they did not all come down from the clifftops at once. There were another three and as soon as they saw us relax our battles stances to check each other over they pounced. Literally." The young blonde winced, "one landed on me and my leg was caught beneath me rather awkwardly."

Thranduil shot him a worried glance, "Are you certain you should be walking on it?"

"It'll be fine and you needn't worry – I can still fight."

"Hn," Thranduil grunted unsure what else he could say. It would be dangerous folly to leave Arthon on his own and ask him to wait for them and the Valar alone knew what had happened to the rest of his Elite.

The King took a deep breath and pushed down his worries over his maethyr; his job right now was to see to their horses. Aglardaer, Arodon and Duron were all well capable.

The thought did little to stem Thranduil's worries for them but he pushed ahead even as he tried to silence the nagging, doubtful, worried voices in his head.

o.o.o

Thranduil stepped back to study his work upon Diomedes' hind leg as well as to simply be out of kicking range of the irritated horse. Though Diomedes had been calm through Thranduil's treatment of him thus far (a testament to just how badly frightened the horse had been) the Elven King was no fool and knew the stallion's patience with being fussed at would soon be over.

The King studied the neat stitches he'd placed in the leg and nodded satisfied – they would hold and enable Diomedes to make the rest of the trip in relative comfort. He unrolled a length of bandage and went to wrapping it about the leg. Thranduil worked quickly, he wanted to get this done so they could all be on their way and regain the ground they had lost in having to back track for the horses whom they had found clustered together in a large cave roughly a mile from the site of the ambush.

Aglardaer, Arodon and Duron had since followed and joined them; they too had had to deal with more wargs than initially anticipated including the oversized leader of the warg pack and that was what had held them back considerably. It also saw them looking as battered and bloodied as he, Arthon and Bôr did. Thankfully the wounds were all superficial – nothing that wouldn't heal and fade in due course – certainly nothing that would hinder them too badly even if both Arthon and Arodon now both sported pronounced limps. They had taken care of themselves quickly enough – Thranduil bearing his stitches with a grimace and silencing both Aglardaer and Arodon on the subject with a glower.

They finished up with their horses now – it seemed one foolish warg had tried to take them all on – its body lay some three hundred metres down the road broken and battered. Only three of the horses including Diomedes had suffered physical wounds whilst the rest had suffered nothing more than a bad scare.

Thranduil tied off the bandage and gave Diomedes a perfunctory clap on the flank (for the war horse was not one to suffer coddling) and looked around him. Everyone else was ready to mount up and go and the King nodded at Arodon. "Lead on – let us see if we can make up the ground we've lost."

"Indeed, we still have the bodies to dispose of and I would like us to get past the site of the ambush before nightfall. Though I am sure we really have got them all now it would be most unpleasant to be pounced upon by a stray warg in the dark."

They all murmured an agreement and mounted to follow Arodon's lead back down the path save Thranduil who had decided to walk alongside Diomedes for now until he could be sure the horse was truly well enough to carry him. Aglardaer opened his mouth as though to protest but Thranduil simply glared and shook his head silently forbidding the Crown Commander from uttering a word. He was already annoyed by the sting of the stiches in his face and the bulky bandage Arodon had insisted he wear to cover them. Thranduil wanted no more mothering nor coddling nor fussing.

He stalked down the path grim-faced as he mentally dared the Valar to set anymore such irritations in their path for the remainder of their journey.

~o~

Afternoon Thirteen

Thranduil slipped from Diomedes' back careful to land with a sprightly bounce that hid his true weariness. For he was really rather tired and despite frequently alternating between walking and riding (and he had done a lot more of the former since Diomedes' injury) he found himself quite sore as well.

"We'll have a rest here until nightfall – we should be safe enough to start a fire, have something warm to eat and really just take a proper break." Arodon surveyed his chosen spot with satisfaction.

Thranduil stretched his hands up high over his head releasing the cramped tension across his shoulders and back and looked about the glade Arodon had brought them to a halt in. It was well sheltered with great, leafy beech trees that had freshly sprouted in the pleasant spring sunshine and rather appealingly there was a brook that gushed passed them in its haste to filter down to the Bruinen. There was plenty of green fresh looking grass for their weary steeds and perhaps most importantly the glade was a good way off the road and they were afforded a vantage point whereby they would see anyone or anything approaching long before it got close enough to do any damage.

Thranduil smiled, a good place to stop for an extended rest indeed; he eyed the brook with unholy glee – it would likely still be freezing but he'd be so happy to get all the grime and blood off and be clean again.

Arodon handed them their orders; he would take first watch alongside his tithen gwanûr Arthon, Aglardaer would see to their mounts, Bôr was to see to starting the fire and finding the wood to feed it whilst Duron and Thranduil were tasked with the finding and preparation their meal.

"I wonder what we might find…some small game or birds would be good – I feel as though I've not eaten properly in days." Thranduil swung his bow from his back as he and Duron ambled away from their makeshift camp.

"You have never held any fondness for lembas have you?" Duron snickered, "I agree with you though – it would be nice to have a 'real' meal again." The Avari warrior looked about them, "I've been in this area a few times before, if my memory serves me correctly there is a place completely burrowed through with rabbits and plentiful hare nests. It's not too far from here."

"Hare or rabbit sounds perfectly agreeable to me – lead on."

Thranduil followed alongside Duron and took a moment to simply enjoy the sun on his skin and the cooling wind that blew from time to time. He was ever so glad to be free of the cold, oppressive rock of the Mountains and back among green and living things again. The slight upward quirk of his lips grew into a full blown grin as he spied what would prove to be a very tasty dessert and morale booster.

"I've just seen some strawberries Duron – I'm going to have a look and see if they are any good for picking as yet."

Duron nodded and waved a hand, "I'll carry on if you don't mind, rabbits are tricky to catch – the sooner we get started on the hunt the sooner we eat. Their burrows are not too far from here, just follow this smaller path it will lead you straight to me."

Thranduil's smile grew even wider – this was why he loved to be paired off with Duron – even though he was older than Thranduil by a good half a millennia the Avari ellon never insisted on mothering Thranduil and watching over his every step. At times it seemed Duron alone of his bodyguards knew Thranduil was a fully capable adult and warrior in his own right; for even the youngest of his Elite, Arthon, had the tendency to hover at times.

"I'll catch up with you shortly – it'll be a treat indeed if I can get us any of them."

They separated and Thranduil made a beeline for the bushes eager to see if he had indeed spotted a punnet of ripe strawberries.

He had – they were plump, ruby red and ripe for the picking and Thranduil wasted no time in helping himself to them. It was still too early for the delicious fruit on his side of the Mountains but the air here was mild and a good deal warmer that it had been when he'd left his realm. Thranduil popped one of the plump berries into his mouth and smiled as one of his favourite flavours flooded his sense of taste. He busied himself with picking them placing them all carefully in a pouch. There was a lot of them – more than enough for both his maethyr as well as their horses. He hoped Diomedes in particular would appreciate the peace offering; the stallion hadn't stopped glaring at him ever since the warg attack.

Thranduil finished up and stood; he had every intention of following after Duron but the sight of a cluster of closed cup mushrooms beckoned to him just across the way and thinking what a fine accompaniment they would make to their meal the Elven King made his way purposefully toward them.

o.o.o

Thranduil looked round the clearing he was in – though he could clearly see rabbit burrows here and there and the odd hares' nest he could see no sign of Duron. The blonde heaved a sigh and pursed his lips; he was not irritated with Duron but with himself for becoming so utterly distracted that he had lost sight of time and indeed his bodyguard. After the closed cup mushrooms he'd headed dutifully after Duron but had then been distracted by the sight of athelas and had stopped to get some for their horse's wounds. Mixed in with the athelas there was wild garlic which Thranduil had also helped himself to – it would make a tasty seasoning to go with their game.

Lastly he had come upon a new crop of baby carrots and had happily liberated them – even if they caught no game now they would have a very fine vegetable soup.

Carrots collected Thranduil had firmly followed the little trodden path Duron had indicated not letting his eyes stray to the bushes and plants around lest he get even further distracted. It seemed he'd lagged too far behind though for there was neither hide nor hair of Duron anywhere to be seen.

Thranduil strolled over to the nearest beech, hung his now bulging pouch upon a low branch and laid his palm upon the tree's bark. In his realm the trees all spoke to him from afar – he never had to lay hands upon them – yet here he it seemed he'd have to be a bit more tactile. It was his hope that he'd be able to get the tree to either tell him where Duron was or pass on a message for him. Yet the tree was fast asleep and did not rouse to Thranduil's calls. The Elven King moved onto another, then another, then three more and then another. At last Thranduil gave in and sauntered back to the tree he had hung his spoils upon. He shouldn't have expected anything else of the trees in this area in all honesty. Likely they had not heard the call of the elves for millennia and it would take a fair bit of time to rouse them now.

Thranduil climbed up into the tree he had hung his pouch upon and settled himself on a sturdy branch not too far up. There was no point in him haring off after Duron who when in hunting mode would be nigh impossible to track anyway. This tree was on the small path his bodyguard had told him to follow and Thranduil knew sooner or later Duron would pass back along this way. Thranduil would simply wait him out and they could then return together and prep their meal; a meal Thranduil had to admit he was very much looking forward to – he'd suffered lembas for far too long now and he really hoped Duron had caught some game.

Thranduil stretched himself out more comfortably upon the branch and angled his face up toward the sun. He could not remember the last time he'd had the opportunity to just sit in the trees in the sun and relax. He was always so busy, busy, busy and then recently he'd been so stressed over Legolas and everything else that had surrounded his son's capture.

Thranduil took in a deep breath and let the sunshine and the hum and chirp of the animals around soothe away those bad memories. He would be with his son soon – they were making great time – they were exactly where they'd aimed to be at this point in the journey. In fact they were even a couple hours ahead of schedule hence the well-deserved rest stop.

The King exhaled slowly – and decided he'd give his mind a rest too – even if for as long as they rested here.

Thranduil let his head rest back against the trunk of the tree as he settled himself into an even more comfortable lounging position where he could still clearly see the path Duron would take on his way back. The pleasant afternoon sun continued to beat down upon him and the song of the birds floated merrily on the air. It was so soothing, so utterly relaxing that Thranduil soon felt his eyes slide slowly out of focus as he begun to drift off. The blonde gave himself a shake – he should be looking out for Duron not snoozing away like a sloth, especially when Duron had had the harder task of hunting.

Still, keeping himself awake and aware was proving a harder battle than Thranduil had anticipated until at last he sat up straight and begun to sing. He hoped the change in posture to something less comfortable and the singing of an old song where he had to think to remember the lyrics would focus him and lend him the necessary distraction to stay awake.

o.o.o

At the unmistakeable sound of a knife being pulled below him Thranduil started awake and in an instant he'd palmed two of his hidden daggers – one from his boot and the other from his vambrace. He tensed and would have pounced were it not for Duron's far too amused sounding voice that floated up to him.

"Ah, you're awake Thranduil – I beg you do not gut me." Duron grinned up at him and held his hands out palms up, "I'm just about to start on skinning and cleaning the catch that is all."

Thranduil relaxed and slid his daggers back into their hidden spaces before he grumbled, "How long have I been asleep?"

"I've no idea – I've only been here five minutes."

Thranduil felt annoyance shoot through him at the fact that he had still fallen fast asleep after his best efforts to remain awake; more than that he wasn't even sure how long he'd been asleep.

"Quit fretting, we've not been gone long enough for Arodon to send out a search party so you can relax on that front. And I'm sure you were not asleep all that long either." Duron sounded entirely untroubled but Thranduil frowned.

"I should not have fallen asleep – I was meant to help you with this after all." Thranduil sat up fully, stretched and slipped down to the ground. "My apologies – I meant to follow you as soon as I got the strawberries but I got distracted."

"Oh?" Duron quirked an eyebrow at him.

"Yes," Thranduil took down his full bag that still hung on the branch he'd left it, dropped to sit cross-legged next to his bodyguard and tilted the bag open to show Duron his finds.

Duron gave a satisfied smile as his eyes ran over the contents of the pouch, "I would not apologise for your distraction Thranduil – it has proved most fruitful. We shall truly feast well tonight."

Thranduil eyed the six hares his Avari guard was about to prep – one for each of them. "Indeed we shall," the King murmured in agreement.

Thranduil pulled out a small but wicked skinning knife, picked up one of the hares and got to work alongside Duron. The blonde let his hands work automatically as he let his mind idle through recipes and the way he could make the best and tastiest meal out of what they had. It was somewhat of a hidden talent of his – the ability to make deliciously satisfying meals from nigh on any ingredient presented to him. An ability his long ago troop and now his bodyguards always thoroughly appreciated and enjoyed and one Thranduil got to indulge far too little anymore.

Duron began to hum under his breath as they made quick work of the game before them. They soon turned to prepping the veg and herbs and Thranduil smiled as he decided upon a recipe. They would most certainly eat well this eve and after all they'd been through in pursuit of his son Thranduil felt his bodyguards certainly deserved the meal he had planned for them.

~o~

Night Fourteen

Thranduil pressed himself up even more firmly against the bark of the tree he was in and bit down on his lip to stop an aggravated growl from leaving his lips as he watched the beast below him saunter past.

Trolls. The brutish beasts had been stalking them ever since the first hints of darkness had fallen and the Elven King and his maethyr were having a rather difficult time shaking them. Thranduil willed the stupid creature beneath him to move further on – he was getting rather cramped from hiding in the meagre shadows his chosen tree allowed him. Oblivious to the blonde's desperate wishes the troll stayed in the general vicinity, began to poke about below the King sniffing here and there ever so often and Thranduil was hard pressed not to scream in pure frustration.

They'd been at this all night and he was getting tired, and judging by the rather aggravated and twitchy shadow a few paces behind him Diomedes was getting restless too – which was certainly not a good sign. The moody stallion was hardly a master at stealth as it was; the last thing Thranduil needed was for his horse to let its frustration get the better of it, act out and blow their cover. Thankfully the troll did not seem able to pick up their scent and it gave a frustrated kick at another tree before stomping away.

Thranduil watched for a moment longer as he made sure his current pursuer had moved past before he gave a soft tawny owl call – the signal for Diomedes to make his next move from his current hiding place to the one Thranduil next directed him to. Thranduil too made his move as he slipped from tree to tree being sure to keep to the darkest of the shadows and to keep one eye (his only eye) upon Diomedes as the warhorse trailed just behind Thranduil and did his best to stay unseen and unheard.

Thranduil kept his senses stretched as he moved slowly and cautiously forward. The brutes had proven sneaky and enterprising thus far and seemed unusually clever for trolls. There were not one but four of the irritating beasts and they had split up much as Thranduil and his maethyr had done when a breathless Arthon had slung himself down into their small, dark makeshift camp to announce the trolls were headed directly for them again.

Again - for the previous eve they had scarcely finished eating when they had been set to flight by two trolls bearing down upon them. That had been irritating in the extreme; they had not gotten the full amount of rest they'd hoped for and had been in such an utter rush and panic to leave they'd simply crammed their belongings into their bags and scattered. They'd left behind a pretty obvious campsite in their hurry - complete with still warmly glowing embers from a fire hastily put out – and Thranduil suspected that was what had given the trolls such enthusiasm last night and this.

The trolls knew they were here – more than that that they knew they were elves (for he'd overheard one mention to its companions that it had never had elf meat before and was excited to try it) – and these two factors seemed to spur them on with a seemingly unending vigour.

That unfortunately meant Thranduil had to try and find some vigour of his own which had so far proved far more trying than the Elven King would have liked to admit. If Thranduil was being honest with himself he would readily admit he was exhausted – mentally and physically. The worry for Legolas had never truly left him (and would not until he had his ion in his arms) and despite whatever he had told himself back in the Mountains with every step he took away from his realm his worry for it and his eledhrim grew. There was the physical side of things to contend with too – the High Pass had been no easy trek and the deep gouges Thranduil had sustained in the warg skirmish had yet to fully heal and were causing him some pain.

He'd long since abandoned the bandages Arodon had forced on him had instead extended his glamour to cover that extra portion of his face. The extra use of such a powerful magic was draining and to his horror Thranduil had found that the magical ring which he used to uphold the glamour for him (when he was tired and unable to do so without draining himself) had been forgotten back on his dressing room table most likely due his wanting to blend in and abandoning all jewellery for the trip. Therefore he was forced to keep up the illusion using naught but his own magic which of course further tired him out.

And now he was stuck here playing an aggravating game of hide and go seek with the trolls.

Thranduil wrinkled his nose – he'd just caught scent of another of the brutes and that was his cue to move. He held back a sigh and dived with nary a sound into the next tree. The troll that had been coming up behind him turned and began to head in the opposite direction to Thranduil. Feeling grateful for small mercies the blonde let his eyes quickly scan for the next patch of suitable cover for Diomedes; for this was their main task – to keep their horses safe from the salivating mouths of the trolls. They as wood elves had an advantage and were fairly safe in the trees; it was a different case entirely for their horses who were vulnerable on the ground and so Thranduil and his maethyr kept their horses on the move from shadowy corner to shadowy corner.

They'd gotten lucky yesterday, for they had stumbled upon a ravine that had been cloaked in darkness and they' led their horses through its relative safety whilst Duron and Arthon had led the trolls away on a merry chase in the opposite direction until sunrise when the beasts had been forced to seek refuge. Once dawn broke they had pushed on along their path - stopping only for the barest of breaks to rest the horses – yet it seemed they still hadn't gotten far enough away to avoid another night of dodge-the-troll. And this time there were four of the beasts which made things that much more difficult; not to mention dawn was still a good few hours away and they had yet to find another suitable shelter such as the ravine last night.

A great crashing and snapping of twigs, brush and shrubs let Thranduil know he was in the direct path of yet another troll and he swung himself up higher into the leaner branches of the tree, stayed perfectly still and hoped Diomedes would do the same below as the brute crashed past them. Thranduil held his breath as the hurtling beast got nearer – he just needed it to go past him then he and Diomedes could make for their next bit of cover – all the while aiming for the end of the path that would lead them out of this particular stretch of woods and onto the disguised road that would take them direct to Imladris (and hopefully out of the reach of trolls).

The troll burst into full view and without any warning at all crashed into Thranduil's chosen tree catching it full force with its shoulder. While the beast did not seem phased in the least as it stopped to give its shoulder a perfunctory rub Thranduil was in a suddenly precarious position. Though the impact had not loosened his iron grip in the least, his body had jarred along with the tree and caused him to inadvertently put a little too much of his body weight on one side. With a small but sickening snap the branch he held in his left hand gave way and the Elven King found himself listing precariously to the right which put too much pressure on the end of the branch beneath him.

With dread in the pit of his stomach Thranduil felt his perch give way beneath him. Instinct kicked in immediately and Thranduil gracefully swung down and manoeuvred himself safely to another sturdier branch below but it was not without cost.

The King was unsure whether it was the noise he'd made as he'd tumbled through the branches, whether the troll could smell him better now that he was so much lower in the tree or if the beast had caught a glimpse of his now unhooded blonde hair shining in the moonlight. Whatever the cause Thranduil found himself staring directly into the face of the massive troll beneath him.

Time seemed to stop for a moment as the two gawked at each other – one in horror, the other in surprise which quickly turned to glee.

"'Ere! 'Ere looky what I found – an elf! Elf!" A massive hand stretched up and made a clumsy swipe at the Elven King, "I don't know about you'se but I'm 'avin me some elf tonight!"

That snapped Thranduil out of whatever stupor he'd been in and he moved, barely dodging the hand that desperately tried to snatch him from his perch.

"Elf meat, elf meat," the troll breathed its rank breath upon the blonde as it continued to grab at him and Thranduil snatched a small pouch off his belt and tossed the contents into the ogre's face as it squinted up to get a better look at him.

Capsicum powder – finely ground and fiery hot – every maethron of the Woodland realm carried a pouch of it for just such emergencies. The scorching powder did its work immediately and the troll let out an unnatural howl of pain.

"My eyes, my eyes – drat it elf what did you do?" The troll flailed around hands over its eyes, "Oh 'elp, 'elp. Oi Brian, Bobby, Charlie ya useless gits – 'elp me. The elf's thrown some fairy dust in my eyes and it burns!"

Thranduil fought the urge to snicker and instead seized his chance and leapt deftly from the tree and hurried over to Diomedes. From the looks of things the stallion had been about to charge in to try and 'save' him so the blonde laid a calming hand upon the stallion's flank even as he considered his options.

They were few.

Thanks to the troll's horrific hollering another two trolls came storming into the clearing – one from the left and the other from the right effectively blocking off any escape route Thranduil and Diomedes could use without being seen. He had no idea where the rest of his maethyr were (hopefully they had made good their escape already) so he was on his own with only an agitated horse for help and company.

"Oh Morgoth's balls my eyes," the troll continued to stomp around in agony as his companions looked on dumbly still very much in Thranduil's way.

"Stop being a baby Sidney it's an elf – how much damage could it do?"

"Damage enough! Now quite yer lolly-gagging and get after it."

This caused Thranduil to tense up – they had nowhere to go save back into the thick prickly brambles behind them that were already trying their best to claw through his skin.

"The elf's not likely to be 'ere still Sid, ya know what they're like – flighty little beasts. Its likely long gone…in fact I don't even know why we're making such a fuss over a few mangy elves. They're what…a mouthful if that?"

Thranduil willed the troll called Sidney, who seemed to be the leader, to agree with his fellow. If the beasts gave up on hunting them that would be perfect. Unfortunately for the Elven King it was not to be.

"Dammit Bobby I want it found," the big beast paused in rubbing at its eyes to cuff one of his fellows round the head. "You and Brian quit being useless and get to shakin' them trees – it'll be in one of 'em and I want it found. And where the bloody 'ell is Charlie that lazy mucker?"

"Likely's 'ad more sense than we 'ave and gone searchin' for summat worthwhile," one of the ogre's grumbled but regardless both it and its companion stomped over and begun to shake the trees with furious vigour.

A cascade of fresh, young green leaves showered to the earth under the brutal handling of the trolls and Thranduil felt anger flare but could do nothing about it save be glad he had abandoned the trees when he had. He definitely would have fallen to the mercy of the trolls then; however as things were perhaps whilst the beasts were busy he could sneak past them.

Eagle sharp eyes darted round the clearing – Sidney's minions remained furiously shaking trees whilst Sidney himself continued to whimper and groan and clutch at his eyes. That would not last for long – it had only been a small if powerful bag of capsicum powder; the troll would soon overcome its sting and Thranduil wanted to be nowhere near when that happened. He pursed his lips and quickly reviewed his options – he could either fight his way through to the other side of the brambles and try to escape that way or make a fool-hardy dash clean through the clearing and right past the trolls whilst they were still otherwise engaged. If he was quiet and quick enough he may yet still be able to avoid detection. Still with Diomedes along for the ride it was a risk…

"It's as I said Sidney, the bloody thing ain't 'ere – we've shook all them trees now and nothin'."

"Well then get to checkin' in all these 'ere shrubs – I'm telling ya it's 'ere still. It's not got past us, now quit ya complainin' and get to lookin'!"

Thranduil grimaced – that order pretty much made his decision for him – already the grumbling ogres had begun to pull up shrubs and bushes a few hundred metres away as they continued to completely trash the clearing. It was only a matter of time before they reached him and then his hiding place would be exposed. Nimbly Thranduil leapt back upon Diomedes as he continued to rub soothing circles into the stallion's flank. He'd spotted his exit; it would take him directly into the open in the midst of all three trolls (and Eru alone know where the other one – Charlie - was) but he could see no other option that would finally get them out of there. He'd tried the sneaky, shadowy approach which had failed him – it was time for something a little bolder.

Thranduil readied both swords and leaned low over Diomedes' neck, "Don't let me down now Dio, hold still just a little longer, just a little while longer…then on my command run like the wind."

Thranduil bit his lip as he watched with increasing tension for the right moment to move off – he wanted all three trolls to have their backs to him as much as possible so he could get a fighting chance. Already the minions had their back to him engrossed as they were in tearing up every form of vegetation regardless of whether it was sizeable enough to hide an elf – at this point Thranduil was sure they were simply having fun destroying the area. It was just the leader – Sidney – who caused the current problem as the stupid beast stayed stubbornly facing Thranduil as it carried on grumbling about fiery fairy dust. Thranduil huffed in irritation – it was now or never – better to move when only one troll might see him rather than wait until it was too late and the other two were too close.

Thranduil took a deep breath before he gave his whispered command, "Noro hi Dio – fly like the wind!"

Diomedes bolted at the command, shot out of the shadows they'd been hiding in like a bat out of hell straight into the path of Sidney. Thranduil did not bother turning Diomedes to dodge the beast as continuing straight on would be their best chance of building up enough speed to finally leave their pursuers behind. Instead he spurred Diomedes on straight between Sidney's legs even as the beast gave a shout.

"'Ere, 'ere it is! The elf, the elf – I told ya it were still 'ere. Oh quick, quick, get it!"

Sidney made a clumsy grab for them just as Thranduil and Diomedes shot beneath the troll full pelt toward the gap in the trees that would see them free of the clearing.

Thranduil turned back to see how far behind he'd left the ogres and was amused to see that Sidney's wild reach beneath himself had seen him land in an awkward way on his rump whilst one of his minions cackled at his misfortune and the other simply stared between Sidney and the escaping Elven King utterly dumbfounded.

Thranduil felt a smile bloom upon his face as he left they the clearing and trolls behind, yet it lasted all of two seconds as a hand shot out of the darkness directly in front of them out of seemingly nowhere. Diomedes though was ready, having obviously been paying more attention to their path than Thranduil had and he gave a great leap that saw them soar high over the stumpy appendage and land with all the grace expected of a Woodland warhorse before he continued his frantic dash away from the trolls.

Thranduil again snuck a quick glance behind at the troll that had so very nearly stopped them; the one that had been missing – Charlie. It bared its teeth in an ugly snarl and growled as it begun to run in effort to catch them up. Thranduil could hear the angry shouts of the others too as he turned away and focused on directing Diomedes on the path ahead of them yet he was unconcerned. Diomedes was the Woodland Summer Gala Sprint Champion six years running. The trolls would not be catching them up any time soon.

o.o.o

Thranduil parted the overhanging foliage before him and peered into the space beyond to see all his maethyr and their steeds huddled within. Their tension levels (as well as their weapons) instantly dropped as they realised it was only their King and not a sneaky troll.

Thranduil smirked, "You all look terrible and very nervous." Thranduil gestured at himself and Diomedes, "Surely you did not mistake our footsteps for that of a troll?"

Aglardaer scowled at him, "Nay we did not – we have only been worried for our foolish King who decided to go and hide in the midst of said trolls." The silver haired ellon's frown deepened, "What in all of Arda were you thinking?"

Thranduil shrugged carelessly as he led Diomedes into their hiding place careful to place the foliage just so behind them, "It was not intentional I assure you – I only had one of the beasts on my tail but then he turned round and called for reinforcements. Hardly my fault and beside the point now – I've made it out well enough – and I certainly look a lot better than you all."

For indeed they were all deeply scratched, with tears in their uniforms and newly blossoming bruises; although he was dishevelled and somewhat scratched himself Thranduil still look fairly well put together. Still, considering their foe they had all done very well indeed.

The Elven King canted a look up at what sky he could see through the branches above them and smiled, "We have all made it out well enough and tis very nearly dawn – we need only sit tight until Anor makes its appearance. Then we can head to Imladris, I can finally see Legolas again and you can all put this dreadful journey from your minds."

"Yes," Duron deadpanned, "Until it is time to make the return trip."

Thranduil snorted a laugh at that – even the prospect of facing the same dangers all over again in the future couldn't dim his steadily building joy. He was nearly there, so very nearly there.

Just a few more precious hours and he would see his son.

~o~

Morning Fifteen

Thranduil smoothed his hair and mounted Diomedes. They were finally about to be on their way after suffering through what felt like the longest sunrise of Thranduil's immortal life. Since he had met up with the rest of his maethyr as they awaited the dawn with varying levels of patience they had twice suffered a scare when the trolls – who had still not given up hunting them – had passed far too close to their hiding spot. In both those moments they had stilled, hardly daring to breathe as the frustrated ogres stamped around their sanctuary – a crevice between two gigantic boulders overrun and covered up by vines and bushes to make a natural cave of sorts. Still, despite the beasts claiming to be able to smell them the trolls had been unable to pinpoint their location much to their relief and eventually the trolls had stumbled off dejected with their leader – Sidney – vowing to be back that night to capture and punish them for being 'bloody irritatin''.

Thranduil smirked wickedly at the thought of another fruitless night for the trolls; for they certainly had no intention remaining here even a minute longer.

Arodon's whistle signalling that all was clear came through sharp and loud and Thranduil's smirk transformed into a full smile even as tried desperately to settle the nervous flutters in his stomach. He was going to see his son again – finally. He was going to see Legolas, and though there was some trepidation over what condition he might find his son in (for Elrond's missive had made it plain Legolas was not hale) it was not enough to dim the joy that also bubbled within the Elven King alongside the nervous anticipation.

A warm, solid hand clapped the blonde's shoulder and drew the King out of his thoughts, "Come on Thranduil," Aglardaer smiled at his best friend, "Arodon reckons it's about a two hour ride to Imladris even at a moderate pace; the worst perils are behind us now. Let's go see your son."

END.
Chapter end notes:
Ellon/Ellyn – Male Elf/Elves

Aran-nin - My King

Lembas – Elven Waybread

Yrch – (Plural of Orch) – Sindarin for Orcs

Lasseg – Little Leaf – Family nickname for Legolas

Gwanûr - Brother

Menif hi – Let's go now

Maethyr – (plural) Warriors

Maetho – Fight

Gurth enin goth – Death to the enemy

Aphado din – Follow them

Dago din – Kill them

Hannon-le – Thank you

Gwaem – Let's go

Annin - Literally: For me – Sindarin version of Please

Tithen Gwanûr – Little Brother

Ion – Son

Eledhrim – Elves

Maethron – Warrior

Noro hi – Run now

Anor – Sun

Horses:

Diomedes – Thranduil's horse – (Greek) Cunning Warrior

OC Cast:

Arodon – Leader in Aglardaer's absence, archery master, Arthon's older brother, worrier

Duron – Avari, skilled healer, sword master, sombre and perpetually calm, the oldest

Arthon – short blades master, skilled in close combat, Arodon's younger brother, impulsive

Crown Commander Aglardaer – leader of the troops, Halon's father, Thranduil's best friend

Bôr – Thranduil's secretary/seneschal, one of Thranduil's closest confidantes

A/N: So hope you enjoy this one shot – the idea would not leave me alone until I wrote it and I had a lot of fun writing it. Drop me a line and let me know what you think :)
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