The Last Stronghold
Chapter 10: The Last Stronghold
Legolas was in pain.
The pain was not only in his shoulder. The flames of agony was surrounding him, licking his small body while dancing around him delightedly. Enfolding him in an endless cradle of scorching heat.
He ran, fumbling blindly through the mist.
Orcs he could handle – so long as he had his bow and arrow.
The fire, he could not.
He twisted his body and writhed as the flames chased him vehemently. The heated dance sang out to him, haunting him in its wild and shrill laugh.
Legolas stumbled, but immediately scrambled back to his feet. He ran, gasping for breath, tears stinging his eyes. Valar, hadn't he done enough of running away? Hadn't he done enough of fighting? Why did he have to be thrown into this again? Was it because he was not brave enough? He choked back a sob.
A harsh laughter tore at his ears. Legolas turned quickly to see an orc pointing an arrow at him. The elfling blindly backed away, fingers trembling as they reached behind his back. Before he could fathom what was happening, his bow was back in his hands, sending an arrow toward the enemy's doom. The orc gave a terrifying screech, and fell heavily onto the ground. The black figure molded into a puddle of ethereal light. Golden hair tumbled into a heap upon the soil. A frail white hand lay limp.
You killed Nana.
Thranduil turned, eyes gleaming with a practiced decisiveness, as he called for the warriors to fan out. Horns sounded, screams ravaged the lands, trees groaned. Blood splashed upon twisted barks, drenched the tender seedlings. Spears and arrows pierced the blinding fog. Embraced by the unrelenting mist, elves and orcs battled, hatred clashing with bloody force.
"Do not step back!" cried the king of elves, spurring his horse at the lead as arrows came flying at his direction. "Protect our realm! They shall not break the spirit of Greenwood the Great!"
Great war cries followed as elves charged forward amid the swift onslaught of arrows. They could not see far through the mist, but they could hear the orcs well enough. There were masses of them, swarming in a sea of black. Slowly nearing in on them, chocking them, cornering them. The king gritted his teeth. This was going to be a bloody battle. A battle, he knew, from which they may not come out alive.
His breath hardly strayed from its steady rhythm when several arrows embedded themselves in his body. A wry smile grazed his lips as Thranduil nonchalantly pulled out an arrow from his side. It was unfortunate that Mithrandir had to be here at a time such as this. How he wished there was a way to get him out of here, into safety. Along with his little Greenleaf.
The world swayed as he spurred his horse forward again, a bloodied arm steadily raising a spear. The poison blazed into his veins, spreading a sickening taste in his mouth. The spear expertly cleaved the mist with tremendous speed, eliciting a sharp cry of death from the other side of the silver veil.You gave him to me.
The great black bow sang death as it dispatched messenger after messenger of mortality. Death was opening its arms, welcoming the brethren of Arda as they slaughtered each other in burning hatred and rage.
With a roar, the orcs poured about the elves, breaking their line of defense. The king dropped his bow as he found himself surrounded by black hordes of glinting, hungry eyes. He swung a great spear in an arc, swiping out a dozen orcs in a swing of a slender arm dripping blood. A fountain of red and black drew a rainbow in the sky.Don't you dare take him away now.
A swing. A dozen orcs fell backwards. Another swing. Another dozen.
And yet they kept coming. Their numbers were endless.
"Protect the King!"
Cries of dismay, screams of rage, shouts of desperation, determination, pain and hatred – it burned into his veins. It burned so painfully.
Thranduil gasped, eyesight dimming. Breathing became a labor when he realized that his body was swaying unsteadily. He gripped the horse's reins tight, and raised the spear once more. Elves were fighting their way toward him as orcs swarmed about. Swords glistened, arrows sang. The elven warriors thrashed, struggled, screamed, wading their way toward him through the sea of black. Bloody cries, hysterical laughter, desperate screams – and they continued toward him, elves and orcs alike. And more arrows lodged themselves in the king.
He was at the center of the attack; blood ran down his temples as he lifted his clear blue eyes to coolly gaze at the bloodshed flooding around him. He stopped pulling out the numerous arrows embedded on his back and shoulder. It didn't matter anyway.If he be my son, he will fight.
The spear swung in the mist again, its bloody blade swiping at another dozen orcs. Thranduil was panting. Bright red seeped from underneath his armor.Valar protect him.
The screams grew faint, echoing as if from a faraway place, obscured by the mist. The frenzied cacophony around him dimmed as the king's spear broke against a brutal grip of an orc. The world spun.Valar protect my people.
Pale hands pulled out a gleaming sword in a flash, sending dizzying lights through the mist as the blade danced madly through the sea of blood. Thick rivulets of red streamed down from his temples and blocked his vision, and yet the king met and exterminated life with his blade as if possessed. And around him, shouts of anguish continued to dim.Valar give me strength...
The hectic maelstrom of sounds faded away, ringing in a strange quietude. Thranduil could no longer feel his arms as they swung sword and knife in each hand, could no longer feel the bodies falling at his strokes – could no longer feel the arrows digging into his skin. A darkness, a comforting silence, was all that enveloped him. And yet the vague ringing sound lingered. It rang louder and louder, until he could recognize the voice. The melodious laughter of a golden bell.
He closed his eyes as the horse underneath him shuddered and collapsed in a tumble.No...I cannot go yet.
A faint smile. A welcoming hand. The comforting ring continued to resonate, embracing him in the warmth of darkness. He shook his head.Not while he yet lives.He no longer heard the elves calling out his name. Clutched desperately in the bloodied arms of a fellow warrior, the king's body slowly fell limp.
A terrifying cry rang out in the air.
The healer jolted. Quickly rising from her seat beside the prince, she hurried toward the window and looked out into the fog.
Slowly, she backed away.
The fog was moving. Or rather, little black masses were moving from within it. Hundreds of them.
Paralyzed with fear, the healer backed away to the door, hands fumbling blindly behind her. The doorknob turned clumsily and the great door swung open. Her gaze was riveted on the window, vacant with terror. The halls were filled with panicked screams and shouts as elves ran about, weapons and armors donned or gripped in their hands. The healer looked around, eyes darting hysterically. Her voice caught in her throat. She swallowed hard, trying to quell her ragged breathing.
"The King..." Her voice was a hoarse whisper. Gradually it rose, until the halls rang with a shrill scream. "Where is the King?"
For if the orcs had managed to break through the magical gates, it only meant one thing.
"Calm yourself!" She felt strong hands clutching her arm from behind. Feebly struggling, she turned her panicked gaze to those of the warrior who had entered the prince's healing chamber not too long ago. His eyes shone fiercely under the white bandages wrapped around his head. "Get back into the chamber," he ordered, shoving her gently but urgently toward the door. "I will take care of this."
Gleeful yelps and shouts of orcs could be heard from just around the corner. The healer clenched the folds of her robe, knuckles whitening. The orcs had broken into the safe havens. The gates had been penetrated; now the foul creatures were stampeding into their unstained sanctuary.
She watched, rooted in place, as the warrior before her drew a sword. Blood slowly oozed out from underneath the bandages on his arm.
"Do not linger!" the warrior exclaimed, daring a glance over his shoulder. The healer stared ahead at the approaching enemies, unmoving.
"Stay with the prince!" It was no use. The healer was motionless. She slowly raised her hand. When the sentinel looked back, mind racing with panic, a strange light was shining from her eyes. Her lips began to move in silent whisper.
The warrior looked about and, to his horror, saw that all of the healers had exited their chambers and stood outside their doors, lining the hall of the House of Healing. All of them had an arm outstretched, with the same light in their eyes, whispering the same incantation.
The orcs were racing toward them when they suddenly jolted and wobbled, as if the rug underneath their feet had suddenly thrown them off balance. They stumbled, grunting in surprise, as their feet danced uneasily about them. The floor seemed to refuse to be stepped on by their feet. The ground of the havens was sending waves of violent rejection upon the foul feet that trampled on it.
The warrior glanced at the healers, understanding lighting his eyes. The elven magic was failing, and the healers were now pooling their powers together to keep the it alive. If only the king's strength remained, then orcs would never have been able to remain standing here...
He started. A commotion broke out from behind the hesitant band of orcs. Suddenly there were orc bodies flailing about, as if some giant plow was closing in on them from the back. The orcs turned their attention toward the entrance through which they had entered and, screaming in rage, rushed toward the entrance. A brilliant beam of light poured out from that direction.
Blood-wrenching screams and painful cries were short lived. Black bodies catapulted, scattering against the walls and floors in a heap. From around the corner, Gandalf appeared in a huff, surrounded by a band of wounded elves. He spotted the healers standing together, and quickened his pace. Among the wounded were several elves, whose conditions seemed to be relatively well, and were carrying something – or rather, someone.
The healers instantly broke out of their trance and rushed forward to the king. The wizard looked around. "Where is Legolas?" he demanded impatiently. His hair was a tangled mess, his sleeves torn. It was apparent that he had waded through his share of the bloodbath. "Place him with Legolas. Guard the chamber. The magic will not hold unless the king recovers." His face was set in a scowl.
When the king was hurriedly taken into the chamber, Gandalf whirled around and hurried out the door. "Remember," he called, "guard your king!"
The elves needn't have been told. The wounded, who were previously trickling into the House of Healing, were once again donned in armor, weapons ready in their hands. The healers, save the one who was in charge of the king and prince, pooled together once more. The gates creaked as orcs from the outside pushed. The healers' chants became more fevered, desperate.
Standing in her chamber once again, the dark-haired healer looked down at the king and prince. Lying side by side, father and son both lingered on the brink of death. She closed her eyes, hoping fervently that the king would be strong enough to repel the poison from his body in time. The gates were creaking dangerously.
Pale fingers intertwined, and the healer bowed her head as she clasped her hands tight. A soft prayer slid from trembling lips.
With a roar, the gates swung open.
Unsteady hands smoothed the creased brows of the king as he battled the poison raging in his veins. "I beg you, my king," whispered the healer, willing her magic to soothe the pain burning in the warrior's body. "Rise among us again."
"Death to the orcs!"
As mighty as he was, adrenaline rush was fast dwindling. Gandalf breathed hard. If only he had gotten enough rest! If only Thranduil had not been injured prior to the battle! He cursed. So these creatures think they can take over Mirkwood, do they? He glared around the battlefield sourly, forcing another painful squeeze out of his drained magic.
He scowled as elven warriors battled their way toward him. "Don't worry for me, you fools! Protect your gates!"
Though the magic gate was already opened by force, the wizard and the elves still stood before it, defending the castle from the overwhelming waves of invaders. The orcs that had already penetrated their defenses would have to be faced by the elves within the castle. After all, every dweller of Mirkwood was capable of battle. Gandalf only hoped that there would be enough of them left within the palace walls.
"Don't pull back!" The wizard's light blinked dimly as he spurred his horse back and forth amid the fray. "Darkness shall not prevail!"
But Gandalf turned, horror-stricken, when an uproar could be heard from behind.
The orcs had breached the defenses from the side. Though not many were able to struggle into the narrow path that lay unprotected, a thin stream of them were trickling into the castle with victorious howls. They resembled a marching army of ants. The wizard turned away, once again facing the hordes pushing in from the front. It was up to the healers and maids now.
To Be Continued