Lalaith's Younger Years

Chapter 24

Dark and hideous, the corpses of wargs and goblins littered the valley of Dale while here and there, a brighter spot of color, where a Dwarf or Man, or Elf lay where he had fallen. Over these, swarmed the bloodhungry ranks of the enemy, pounding, like waves against sifting hills of sand, upon a great ring of warriors, Thorin among them, that had driven down the Mountain like the wedge of a great axe into the ranks of the enemy. Swift had been Thorin's charge, and fearless had been his cry as he and his Dwarves drove into the ranks of the enemy, many Elves and Men trailing with them. But their charge had been too swift and too far, and their numbers too few. Goblins and wargs returning to the assault had cut off their escape. And now, Thorin and those with him were trapped, surrounded by shrieking goblins and howling wolves baying for their blood.

Upon the steeps of Ravenhill, Legolas could see many of his kinsfolk, and others of the Men of the Lake among those that had followed after Thorin. But neither he, nor the Elves that stood with him could do anything to reach their kinsfolk, for now, the seething muck of goblins and their ilk, came crashing against the Mountain's edge, with renewed force.

No sooner would he cut down one wailing goblin, but another would come, or a snapping, slathering wolf, throwing it weight against him in a shrieking rage. Here and there among those he fought beside, one of his kinsmen would fall beneath the rage of their enemies, like sand sluffing off from a cliff beaten continually by a fierce storm. It had been too long since he had seen Elrohir, and he feared that his friend was one of those who had fallen. Where was his father, and Gandalf? He feared the answer, but he could not turn his head to search for them. For up the slope, its black blade whirling wickedly above its head, came a snarling goblin, its red eyes piercing him through as it rushed at him.

Far to the west, the black clouds that had lain a heavy veil over the face of the sky were torn suddenly by the wind, and a knife blade of red light sliced through the darkness, stopping the goblin in its charge. It glanced toward the west with a huff of surprise just as the blade of reddened sunlight slashed across the spur upon which they stood, and across its eyes.

Uttering a howl of pained rage, the great goblin threw up one futile hand, and staggered back as if stricken.

"The eagles! The eagles!" A small voice, Bilbo's, he was sure, came from nearby, high and close. "The eagles are coming!"

Legolas raised his eyes, seeking through the gleam that washed over Ravenhill, and as surely as Bilbo had cried, dark shapes, small against the distant glow of the sun, took shape. Many shapes against the reddening sky were coming down the wind, line upon line in as great a host as the black undulating cloud of bats had come, though these beings flew with a smooth grace, their wings beating with gentle strength against the wind upon which they rode.

"The Eagles! The Eagles!" Bilbo's hidden voice cried again from somewhere nearby.

"The Eagles are coming!" Legolas shouted, taking up the cry, and many more voices of Elves and Men, followed his, the cry growing into a shout of victory across the spurs of the Mountain.

As the hopeful echoing cry reverberated across the mountainside, the goblins recoiled, their faces darting about in sudden fear, and many started in a scampering, disordered retreat, back toward the valley. The goblin that stood before Legolas, though, remained undaunted, its glance darting from the sky to Legolas as its red eyes glowered with hatred.

Renewing its effort, it stomped toward him, raising its great blade above its head, and bringing it down with a reverberating crash and a scraping of sparks upon the tumble of stones where Legolas had stood a moment before. With a snort, its angry eyes darted about searching for him before it lifted its head uttering a great roar of pain when one of Legolas' knives plunged into its side between two of its ribs.

As if the blade had been no more than a bee's sting, the goblin swiveled with a wild snarl, smacking Legolas hard in the chest with the back of its massive hand.

Stunned, Legolas staggered backward several steps before he regained his breath and his wits, only to realize then, that he had left his blade embedded in the monster's body. His bow was upon his back, but he would not be able to draw it before the goblin that raged toward him now, reached him. Tightening his grip upon the one remaining knife within his hand, he drew in a breath of calm, waiting as the goblin stomped nearer.

In the moments before the beast reached him, a high avian screech caused the very air about him to vibrate with the strength of the cry, and Legolas had scarcely looked up before his goblin foe had been plucked effortlessly from off of the mountainside into the claws of a great bird that had swooped so near, that Legolas could feel the brush of air from its feathers, and catch a glimpse of the gold speckled feathers upon its breast. Within its sharp talons, it lifted the thrashing wailing goblin high into the air, the backdraft of its wings creating a pulsing wind that washed the earth around Legolas as its great wings beat rhythmically at the air, carrying the bird and its prey higher and higher against the sundering clouds banked against the reddened sky before it sailed out and over the valley, dropping the great goblin over the surging host of its fellows, where it tumbled flailing through the air to land with a thud that Legolas could hear even from where he stood, crushing a number of other goblins beneath it as it plunged into the earth.

The loss of his knife was a small concern, now that the slopes of the Mountain spurs were cleared of their foes. For the way now, was open for them to rush to the aide of Thorin, and those who had followed after him, trapped in the midst of the goblins in the valley.

Legolas slipped his one remaining knife back into its place, and snatching the comfortable weight of his bow eagerly into his hand, he shouted, "To Thorin!"

And with a great shout, the Elves, with the Men of the Long Lake beside them, streamed down the mountainside with Legolas at their head, into the shrieking, bewildered mass of goblins. As he ran, Legolas drew his string to his cheek, waiting until the infinitesimal instant before the armies met. He released the string, his arrow flying true into the throat of a roaring orc, and then, once again, the armies collided.

"Legolas!" A voice amid the shouts and the chaos of battle sounded merrily out of place, and Legolas glanced frantically around until he found the source of the shouting.

Elrohir stood nearby, having only just cut down yet another goblin before he turned his sword upon a snarling warg that came seething and snapping at him. For all the fury of battle, Elrohir seemed fairly cheerful. Other than a smear of black blood across his cheek, he appeared otherwise unhurt.

"Elrohir! I was worried about you!" Legolas cried out, his heart giving a glad leap, for he had seen his father only moments before, near to where Mithrandir still stood, alternately smacking goblin heads with his gnarled wooden staff, and cutting through the creatures with his sword. Now they were all accounted for. "I lost track of you upon the mountain. Where that warg had you trapped."

"Aye, and I was worried about you too, my friend. I was beginning to wonder what I would tell Lalaith." Elrohir laughed back.

"What happened? How did you get safely away from that beast?" Legolas returned as he dodged the swinging axe of a fuming goblin, before snatching an arrow from his quiver and plunging it through the creature's eye. Jerking the shaft free of the sagging beast, he nocked it to the string, and let fly straight into the snapping jaws of a wolf that came lunging at his shoulder.

"I don't know." Elrohir returned. "The beast just dropped dead in front of me. I have no idea how."

"Truly?" Legolas laughed. "What a fortunate puzzle you lack the answers to, then my friend. Answers that perhaps young Bilbo Baggins knows."

"The little Pherian?" Elrohir grunted, parrying the furious blow of a particularly determined goblin before swinging his sword into the shrieking creature's abdomen. "How?"

Legolas now was too breathless to answer, for the battle was growing heated and desperate. Even with the help of the Eagles, swooping and diving among them, they were still outnumbered. The goblins were desperate and wild, and were not giving ground as easily as Legolas had first thought. A swaying sea of mottled oily bodies still separated his band from Thorin's company. And already the brave Dwarf king had fallen, overcome by many wicked spear thrusts, and two of his kinsmen who stood near, defending him to the last.

The tireless seething sea of goblins was even beginning to gain back some of the ground they had lost when the Eagles had driven them from the precipices of the mountain. And once again Legolas began to fear for the outcome of the great battle. Even with Thorin's help, and the arrival of the Eagles, it seemed that perhaps the wicked spawn of Morgoth might take the Mountain after all.

But in the moment when his thoughts once again began to grow dark with despair, a noise reverberated through the valley, one which he had not expected to hear. A great roar of anger, and in the midst of the goblins, a great creature appeared, massive in its wrath, rearing upon its hind legs as it batted goblins, puny beneath its great size, this way and that, flipping them through the air as if they were scattering leaves. Its massive frame was carpeted in a great coat of brown fur, its jaws wide with the fury of its roar as it came, and Legolas paused, tipping his head in inquiry. Was that a-, bear?

And then he understood. It was the giant, but kindly hearted skin-changer who made his dwelling between the Great River, and Mirkwood, who at times would take the shape of a Man, and at other times, a great bear. Legolas allowed a slim smile of hope to touch his face. For the arrival of Beorn would at last, change the tide of the war.

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