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Subject: Everyone FINALLY arrives in Mirkwood

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Date Posted: 22:03:52 10/16/03 Thu

Dusk was falling as it always fell. Yet beneath the shadows of the trees it seemed to fall much darker than usual. The procession made their way along the narrow track through the woods, huge trees looming up on either side. The pale radiance of the torches illuminated the path, bathing the way in a glow like moonlight. Every so often, more elves had silently peeled away from their hiding places in the leafy foliage to join them on the steady trek towards the palace. Harion found it disconcerting to suddenly find yet another strange elf had appeared, walking at his side without him realising. These elves moved so silently, they walked steadily, their faces set in grim determination. Their eyes glittering sternly in the dimming light. He was aware that they could kill him instantly, no noise, no warning, no trouble. If he had wandered in here by himself, he might already be dead. He shuddered and inched ever so slightly closer to Legolas. It seemed ironic that the person he had feared so bitterly just a few days ago was now his comfort, the only thing keeping those hostile arrows from silently striking him in the back.

As the woods grew darker, Harion picked up a slight feeling of unease. The elves seemed to bunch closer together, all alert, turning instantly at the slightest noise in the foliage. At one point, Harion swore he could see faint green eyes glimmering in the darkness. A couple of elves stepped up to Legolas, laid a hand on his arm and conversed quietly in elvish. Legolas glanced quickly into the shadows and nodded. The strange elves slipped quietly off the path and into the shadows. The company kept walking, as if nothing had happened. There were a few minutes of silence, then an unearthly shriek pierced the trees and was suddenly cut off.
"What was that?" Harion cried before he could contain himself. A couple of nearby elves glanced at him in scorn, then returned to coldly ignoring him.
Legolas was silent for a moment, staring straight ahead down the dim track.
"We are not the only things to live in these woods." he replied at last. "The creatures of the dark ever grow in confidence. We must be wary." The two elves emerged out from the shadows, one replacing his bow, the other wiping a dark purplish smear from his knife.

"Quick, overhead!" the cry came from an elf somewhere in the crowd. Harion jerked his head upwards to see a dark hairy shape scuttling across the branches that enclosed the path. Several arrows whistled instantly through the air, and Harion heard the soft thuds as they met animal flesh, followed by the same unearthly screech. The black shape fell to the path below, and shuddered for a moment, legs jerking about in spasm before it lay still. Harion swallowed hard as he looked upon the largest spider he had ever seen. He smiled grimly to himself, imagining his sister's reaction if she could see it. There was no way he would have removed that one from the ceiling at home. The elves carefully walked around the hairy, still body and continued on their way. Harion couldn't help scanning the dark shadows himself for any further glimpse of faintly glowing green eyes.

Harion looked up as the procession slowed to see a beautifully carved wooden bridge span across a dark gorge in the side of the hill. He could hear the rushing roar of a swift, strong river running far below. The bridge led into the mouth of a huge cavern in the side of the cliff. The flickering torch light reflected brightly off the great beech trees clung tightly to the slope, dipping their roots in the rapid river, their huge branches shielding the entrance to the cave. The elves led the way over the bridge and into the cavern without hesitation. Harion looked back to watch the elaborately carved gates being closed behind them. He swallowed nervously as the last faint glimmers of the outside world disappeared. He was trapped, there was no way out. He felt a hand squeeze his shoulder in encouragement, and looked up to see Aryante smile, carefully hiding her own apprehension. The elves started to move down the underground passages lit with red torchlight. The paths were shallow and carved from light sandstone. They twisted and crossed through the hillside, the echoes moving through the clean, ventilated air.

At last they entered a great hall, hewn out of the rock. The torchlight banished the shadows to flutter in the far corners. There were many elves waiting as they entered. All eyes were on them, searching, expectant. Then the first shades of unease and scorn as they sought out Harion. It was hard to ignore the burning of so many pairs of eyes, Harion allowed himself to be roughly grasped by the shoulder and thrust forward towards the elaborately carved wooden throne. The king of the woodland realm watched coldly as the first human to cross his borders for many years was pressurised into kneeling before him. Harion caught only a glimpse of him, before someone bent his head down to stare at the floor respectfully.

Legolas walked calmly past where Harion and Aryante knelt in forced reverence on the floor to the very foot of the dais where his father sat and sank to one knee. He dropped his head and murmured respectfully “Atar,”, making no move to rise.
Thranduil regarded him in silence before extending an arm gravely. “Tula sinome utinamin,”
Legolas stood gracefully and moved to the throne, where his father stood and embraced him. “Nae an’ luume’”
Thranduil agreed. “Ellera ai’quenen.” He turned his gaze to the assembled elves and ordered, “Lemb’lye.”
They filed out silently, save for the guards who still hovered threateningly over the mortals. Legolas regarded them through solemn eyes, then stepped back from his father and bowed formally. “Father, I present to you Lady Aryante, a distant cousin of the Numenorean Line, and Harion of Minas Tirith.
“Humans are not welcome in my realm,” the king said, eyeing them coldly again.
“They are welcome here as my guests,” his son insisted. “I would be grateful for your hospitality, father. I would not have brought them if it was not important.”
Thranduil looked at him sternly. “No, you would not.” He sighed, “You would have me grant them my protection?”
“Your word that they shall not be harmed would be enough.”
The elven king was silent, considering. Finally he gestured to the two before him. “Stand.”
They complied nervously and waited. “You are not welcome here. However, I am reminded that it is my duty to extend my hand to those my kin call friend. None shall harm you whilst you are under my roof, so long as you do not cause trouble. Be gone now, all of you. I am displeased.”
Legolas motioned to them and they bowed low, backing away quickly before he could change his mind. The prince himself did likewise. “Thank you, Atar.”
His father’s gaze was grim and troubled. “We shall speak of this later.”

*Thranduil and Legolas conversation goes as thus:
“Come here my son”
“It has been a long time.”
“Too long. There is much to speak of…Leave us.”

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