"Legolas! Two already!"
Gimli's jovial cry rose above the clashing, discordant sounds of battle, and Legolas looked up from the orc he had just flung down from the wall at the Dwarf who stood several lengths away from him.
Gimli's glove with all but two fingers pulled into a fist, waved proudly at the Elf. Legolas grinned at Gimli's bright eyes that shone proudly out from behind his bush of a beard, and cheerfully cried, "I'm on seventeen!"
Gimli's glowing face fell into a look of perturbed astonishment. "Wha-?" He roared. "I'll have no pointy-ear outscoring me!" With that, the Dwarf turned back to the orcs as they streamed across the balustrade, and with his axe, tore into them with renewed vengeance.
Legolas turned back as well, snatching an arrow from his quiver as another orc reached the crest of the wall and in one smooth motion, drew his string to his cheek, and released. The orc, with a harsh squeal, fell heavily from the ladder as another arrow was set to the string, drawn back, and sent into another goblin as it scrabbled to the top of its ladder, striking yet another of the ceaseless stream of orcs down from the wall.
"Nineteen!" He cried out to Gimli's back.
The Dwarf made no other response to this but to lay into the streaming horde with a fearsome roar, and even greater vengeance than before. Gimli, Legolas thought to himself with a rueful grin as he set himself back to the task of killing uruks, was swiftly catching up with him.
Legolas took advantaged of a momentary lull to glance down and away at the ground many paces from where he stood, to see the Lady Lothirien, Haldir's wife. Her arrows, and those of the Elves near to her, were flying as thickly as hornets into orcs as they scrambled to the top of the wall, leaving Haldir but few to contend with. Her arrows were quickly depleting, though, as were those of her other companions scattered about her upon the ground. Seeing her there, clad in armor like a man, and prepared to die to save the Rohirrim, as all the others were, Legolas sent a quick prayer of gratitude to the Valar that Lalaith was not here, as well. He would be worried to distraction for her, if she was.
The greater part of the harsh battle still lay before them all, and though he faced it with a tenacious grin, mentally calculating the tally of his kills in his head, he knew the long night was far from over as orcs continued to mount the ladders, which only here and there, managed to be kicked from the walls, landing with a shattering crash onto the uncounted uruks massing below.
Lalaith sat upon the roots of the old gnarled tree where she and the Hobbits had waited for much of the day, and long into the hours of the night. Pippin sat nearby upon her folded blanket, fumbling a small stone back and forth between his hands as Merry, who had been growing more agitated as the hours passed, paced back and forth near the circle of Ents as they groaned and sighed in the long speech of the Ents, swaying back and forth like trees moaning in the wind.
Pippin's eyes had taken on a thoughtful look as he gaze long upon the little stone in his fingers, and Lalaith could see that his thoughts were taking him far away.
"Pip," she murmured in a hushed tone, and at her voice, he lifted his head, and glanced at her inquiringly, "do you miss the Shire much?"
"I do, a little," he admitted with a shrug.
"I've never been there." She sighed, absently plucking a small green leaf from where it had fallen upon the ground, and twirling it around between two fingers. "Bilbo's spoken of it. But I've never seen it. It sounds like a lovely place."
"It is." Pippin sighed wistfully. "I do miss it. And the folk there, too."
"And Diamond?" Lalaith asked, her mouth twisting into a slender smirk.
"Diamond of Long Cleeve?" Pippin asked, his cheeks coloring a little. "She's just a Hobbit-lass I know. I don't see her often. She's not-," Pippin gulped, "she's not a sweetheart or anything." Pippin glanced back at the stone in his hand, and beneath his breath, in a voice she would not have heard without her elven hearing, he added, "Not yet, anyway."
He sighed, and as he tossed the stone away, he muttered aloud, "I would like to see the Shire again. And-, and Diamond too."
Lalaith drew in a deep breath of the sweet night air of the forest, and leaned her head against the wizened tree trunk at her back, and tipped her head back so that she could see the black velvet swathe of the sky above her, bejeweled with sparkling stars. And I would like to see Legolas again, her mind whispered.
Beside her, Pippin stirred slightly as he rose to her feet, and tromped over the grass to join Merry where he was still pacing about.
How would she find her way to Legolas? The way he had avoided her questions so stubbornly in the dream they had shared, had made her suspect that he might be in some peril that he did not want to trouble her with. Were she to have been certain that he was in danger, there was no doubt but that she would rush off to find him, with or without the help of Treebeard and the Hobbits. But to have her questions brushed away as lightly as he had, gave her no recourse, but to be sick at heart, and more eager than ever to have the Ents come to the conclusion that they must help fight against the darkness. That could be the only conclusion that they could come to. The risk to all the inhabitants of Arda was too great.
"Merry. Lalaith!" Pippin's voice piped through the darkness, reaching her where she sat, and her head that had been lifted to the sky in thoughtful contemplation, lowered. Treebeard was coming.
Leaping to her feet, she joined the Hobbits and lifted her eyes to Treebeard's gaze as he stepped near, and creaked to a stop above them.
"We," he boomed in the slow breathy way he talked, "have just agreed." He nodded his head, closing his large golden eyes.
Lalaith bit her lip as her eyes lowered to Merry's, and the two traded a hopeful nod. Pippin shifted his feet, and the three waited expectantly.
But Treebeard didn't move.
Lalaith gulped, pursed her lips and folded her arms as she shifted her stance.
"Yes?" Merry finally asked, bringing Treebeard's head back up, as his eyes opened once again to gaze down in studious concern upon his three smaller friends.
"I have told your names to the Entmoot," Treebeard breathed, his voice low and deep, "and we have agreed," Lalaith refrained from rolling her eyes at the slow words that seemed to run like stiff honey from his mouth, "that Master Meriadoc, and Master Peregrin are not," he drew a long pause here, and a noisome sigh escaped Lalaith, "orcs," Treebeard nodded at Lalaith, "for the daughter of Valar would most assuredly not choose orcs as her traveling companions."
He released a rumble of contentment as a wide smile split the slit of his mouth beneath the knot that appeared to be his nose, and the other Ents behind him nodded enthusiastically as their golden eyes widened, and their knotted, wooden faces curled up in contented smiles.
"Well, that's good news." Pippin nodded with an attempt at cheerfulness. Merry however, was scowling with concern, and seemed ready to say something.
"But what about Saruman's army?" Lalaith cut in, before the Hobbit could speak, her patience frayed. "What do you mean to do about him and his orcs?"
"Now, now." Treebeard rumbled soothingly, one of his branching hands raised in admonishment. "Don't be hasty, my little Valië."
"Hasty?" Merry burst in here, and stepped forward past Lalaith, his face tight with impatience and anxiety. "Our friends are out there!" He insisted, pointing away and through the forest. "They need our help. They cannot fight this war on their own!"
"War? Yes." Rumbled Treebeard unperturbed, his voice as slow as ever. "It affects us all."
With slow creaking of bark and branches, Treebeard bent low toward them with the air of a wise parent, patiently addressing ignorant children. "But you must understand, my young ones," he breathed, "it takes a long time to say anything in Old Entish," Lalaith glanced down at the Hobbits, while Merry's eyes lifted to meet hers. Merry shook his head and harrumphed softly. His face mirrored her own feelings of frustration as Treebeard continued to drone, "and we never say anything unless it is worth taking a long time to say."