Please read the author's note for disclaimer and explanation of this story.
I make no claim to Tolkien's works. I also give credit to Cormak3032.
Chapter 27: Thrown to the Wolves
Lana was rather relieved when she and Legolas returned to camp and the elf did not stay with her. A large group of men, women, and children would be an easy target on the plains. Legolas' heightened sight and hearing would be able to detect a threat long before any of the men did. He wished to offer his abilities to the king and to the people of Rohan.
Leaving her in the care of Gimli, he went off to keep watch. His leave-taking was reluctant. His eyes lingered on Lana's form before he slipped silently away into the night.
Gimli was quiet as Lana sat across one of the small fires from him. She could feel his speculative eyes on her but she resolved to play it cool. Gathering up her pack, she started sifting through it as if looking for something but not finding it. She must have gone through it three times already. Idly she picked at her fingernails.
Aragorn was sitting off alone in the tall grass smoking his long-stemmed pipe. The white smoke drifted around him as he sat deep in thought. He paid little heed to the world around him. At least, he hadn't seen what Gimli had!
While there was the sound of talking, of horses nickering and stomping, and of fires crackling, the silence between her and Gimli became taut. She pursed her lips trying to think of something to say.
"It's a nice night. I'm glad it's not as cold as it has been."
Gimli nodded. "Aye. Warm for the middle of March."
"It's March?" She said with more surprise than necessary.
Gimli nodded again. "Aye," he regarded her curiously as the woman seemed deep in thought. After a moment, Gimli inquired, "Is there something important about the month of March?"
She shrugged a shoulder. "No. It's just a bit crazy to think of how long I've been here now." Her lips thinned.
Gimli grunted. "Aye. It has been some time. Three months by my reckoning." He counted in his head. "And it's been two months since I last beheld the most beautiful sight to behold." He sighed somberly. "Alas, I fear that I shall not see such fair beauty again."
Lana smiled warmly remembering how highly Gimli regarded of the Lady of Light. She found it rather cute.
"You were quite taken with her. Considering that she is an elf."
Gimli immediately huffed and poked the long stick he held into the fire for a moment before shaking it at her.
"Someone I know seems to be quite taken by an elf as well. So smitten in fact that she takes to sneaking off with him in the dark to steal a kiss," he shot back.
Immediately he regretted his rash words. Lana's eyes grew wide and she looked away, cheeks flaming. She was horrified.
"Lass, I'm sorry. I didn't mean anything by it. I—"
"It's fine Gimli." Forcing a smile she spoke through gritted teeth, "If you can't take it, then don't dish it out they say." She rose to her feet, shouldering her pack. "I'm tired. I'll see you in the morning."
She moved off stiffly into the tall grass seeking a solitary spot away from him and anyone else. Gimli rubbed his nose. He had shocked her; possibly offended her—her clipped tone was a testimony to that. But he knew the best thing he could do was to let her come to him. Then he could apologize again later.
He replayed what he had witnessed through his mind once more. Had it been a kiss they had been about to share? What Gimli knew of elves—which wasn't a whole lot considering—was that they didn't take feelings of affection lightly. They felt more strongly than other beings, which is why they seemed so reserved to outsiders. They learned through centuries of living how to mask their true thoughts. And rarely would they ever give a straight answer to anything!
But Gimli knew from months of traveling with Legolas that the harder the stone the richer the treasure beneath. The elf was a passionate creature, even though he held himself in check. Lana seemed to be having a greater effect on him than Gimli initially realized.
Since the blossoming of their friendship, Legolas had been more open to everyone, including himself. He expressed his thoughts, smiled more, and took an active interest in Lana herself. Not that he could blame him. She was a fascinating woman.
But had that fascination turned into something more? Gimli tapped out a rhythm on his knee. It was difficult to say, but something was stirring between the two.
Lana found a sheltered spot in the tall grass near one of the ubiquitous rocky outcrops that dotted Rohan's plains. Laying down, she used her pack as a pillow. It wasn't very comfortable but she had since learned to do without comfort. Her mind was restless and was more concerned with all that had happened this day instead of the nominal aches of the body.
She resented Gimli's words, and she resented him. Her cheeks were still warm with her embarrassment. But she knew that wasn't fair. She had meant her words although they had been flung out rather flippantly. Can't take it then don't dish it out. Simple playground rules that still applied even now.
It wasn't really Gimli she was mad at…it was the panic she felt from his words. Was truly she smitten by Legolas? Was it so obvious? How could she not see it? She snorted. Maybe she was just fooling herself, ignoring the signs that were so blatantly obvious. But then she had thought that she put all notions of that nature behind her. So why did she feel a stab of disappointment when they were interrupted earlier?
She still felt it now. Brushing her fingers over her lips, she replayed the events in her head. She had been so close to kissing an elf! What would that have been like? She wondered if she would ever know. Then she tossed the thought away, doubting herself again. Maybe Legolas wasn't going to kiss her. Perhaps she had misread his intentions. It wouldn't be the first time. She fell back on her lack of knowledge about elves, but it was of little comfort.
Turning her head into her pack, she sighed and tried to sleep. Already she was missing the soft bed back in Edoras.
When dawn came, Lana offered to help the women with breakfast. She hated how she did this to get away from Gimli, but she told herself that it wasn't so much that she was being a coward, but that she needed time and space.
Bullshit, Lana. Shoving the annoying internal voice behind a heavy door in her mind she donned a mask of serenity.
Breakfast was very simple: bread and water. Since there was nothing to prepare, Lana carried a basket of bread for an elderly woman named Hannrin.
Hannrin was a highly respected elder, and the people greeted her warmly whenever they saw her. She handed out bread to everyone: the women and children as well as the older men who were no longer fit for fighting.
Lana had worked with the matron the night before when she helped prepare dinner. Hannrin was a shrewd thinker and saw between the lines easily. It was something Lana wished to aspire to when she was old and gray. Beauty was fleeting but a quick mind was far more valuable.
"They say you are from a land that none has heard of," Hannrin's keen eyes looked sideways at her.
Lana nodded, holding the basket steady as the old woman pulled out another loaf. "Yes. That's true."
She didn't elaborate. After the incident with Éowyn, Aragorn had warned Lana that it was best not to discuss where she hailed from at all. At least not until they could come up with something suitable to tell people. Lana had yet to figure out if she would choose some random Middle Earth village as her "home," or if she should create a plausible backstory about where her true home was. For now, she chose to keep her lips sealed.
"You have much to learn here, traveler." Hannrin's gray eyes looked her over. Handing another small loaf to a young boy, Hannrin' patted his head affectionately.
More than you know, Lana thought with a grimace. Still an opportunity to learn and grow should never be wasted. And information was just as valuable as any other currency.
"Is it so obvious that I'm different?" She asked curiously. She was blond like these Rohirrim and had blue eyes. As long as she didn't open her mouth she thought she blended in quite well. But apparently she still stood out.
Hannrin smiled at the question, intending to answer it, but then frowned as she glanced down. "We've run out of bread," she noted. "Our work is done for now. Go to your companion. He waits for you."
She held out a wrinkled hand that had seen a lifetime of hard labor and pointed in the direction that they had come. Lana pivoted to see Legolas standing beside a wooden cart filled with foodstuffs. He was gazing at her with a warm smile on his face. Lana felt herself blush like a silly schoolgirl who had her crush pay attention to her.
A woman walking past dropped what she was carrying and Legolas bent to help her pick up the basket and the bread that had fallen out. Letting his gaze drift from Lana only for a moment.
She smiled as she watched him and her blush faded away. Legolas was forever a gentleman. She turned to bid Hannrin goodbye, but the old woman was already gone. Lifting a brow she shrugged and then walked towards Legolas. His smile grew as she approached.
"Aurmaer," he bid. Good morning.
Lana nodded, her lips curving but her voice was strangely unreliable. She swallowed.
"Lostennch mae?" His voice was smooth like silk. You slept well?
She shrugged and nodded again, even though she had not rested well. She had lain awake most of the night, listening to the sounds of the camp and thinking. As usual, her mind went in unrestrained circles like a pacing zoo animal.
"How was your watch?" She inquired softly.
"Uneventful." His eyes gleamed at seeing her cheeks turning pink once more.
"Well, that's a good thing."
"Indeed." He cleared his throat and for a moment, he felt nervous. Tension filled the gap in their conversation. Gripping his courage in a strangle hold, Legolas started again. "Gimli is riding Lady Éowyn's mare once more—"
"I'll ride with you." Lana interrupted before she could stop herself.
Insert foot in mouth! Good grief Lana! Why had she agreed so easily?
She was nervous enough around Legolas as it was. Mentally cursing herself she wondered if she could retract her answer. But Legolas grinned broadly in delighted relief. It was too late now.
The Mirkwood elf was entirely too pleased that she would be joining him. He had missed her while he was on watch and had longed for morning to come so that he could see her again. He had been nervous that she might misconstrue what happened last night and use it as a barrier between them.
"But I will only do so if you promise me something," Lana continued capturing his attention.
He waited patiently for her to speak, a questioning look on his face.
"I want to ride in front today."
Legolas' brows lifted in surprise. "You wish to learn to ride?"
She nodded, biting her lower lip. "I used to ride. When I was small, but it's been years. I don't really know a lot about horses or how to ride them very well. I…this is my world now…I need to know." She told him honestly.
Legolas smiled warmly. "I shall teach you. Bring your pack and we shall go."
A short while later, Legolas assisted Lana into Arod's saddle. They were both aware of how his hands lingered on her waist longer than necessary. After securing her pack to the back of the saddle, Legolas mounted up behind her. Her quiver and bow made it awkward for him to fit comfortably behind her but he made due. He would gladly deal with the annoying weaponry if meant they still sat astride the same horse.
There was a moment of giddy panic when Lana realized that maybe this wasn't the best idea right now. The decision was half made because this was her world and she did need to learn to ride properly; the other half was because she thought the concentration involved with riding might keep her thoughts off Legolas and his proximity to her. That was an epic fail. If anything, she was more aware of him.
"Are you well?" He asked when he saw her skin pale. She nodded mutely. Gazing down, she slipped her right foot into the stirrup followed by the left.
"Keep your heels down and position the metal of the stirrup beneath the ball of your foot. This will help you sit more firmly in the saddle." Legolas instructed.
Lana nodded, vaguely remembering this from her childhood lessons. She pushed her heels down. Legolas reached forward and gathered the reins that lay on Arod's neck. Then he took her hands and threaded the leather through her fingers. The worn leather was supple to the touch.
"This is how you hold the reins."
Lana nodded, mentally memorizing how the reins slipped between her pinky and ring fingers on each hand, and how the rest of the flat leather strap came up her palms between her thumb and first fingers and flipped down between her two hands.
"Ok. I got it."
Legolas could sense her apprehension and he was proud of her for trying this. Just as he was relieved that she was not shying away from as he feared she might this morning.
Last night had left him both pleased and worried. Pleased that she would have kissed him had Gimli not interrupted, but worried that she might see the kiss they nearly shared as wrong or frightening when she had time to think by herself.
As an elf, he should feel that attempting to kiss her was wrong. But he did not. In fact, it did not feel wrong to him at all, but strangely right. Lana was a beacon of pure light in a time of darkness and uncertainty. Why wouldn't he desire her near him? Yet the feelings that she evoked were strong and pervasive. They seemed to eclipse all his reason.
All night during his watch he had agonized over what she might do with the coming dawn. He did not think he could handle losing her friendship. She was fast becoming something of an obsession for him. This alarmed him and he vowed to be more careful when dealing with the warm pleasant feelings that engulfed him while in her presence.
The fair-haired elf blinked. He had been so deep in thought that he had nearly forgotten where he was.
"Goheno nin," he said, blushing slightly under Lana's intent gaze. Immediately he returned to the task of helping her learn how to ride. "If you wish to go left you pull the left rein out to the left side."
His hand slipped over hers gently pulling her hand left. Arod moved his head and took one step left.
"And if you want to go right,"
"Pull to the right," she supplied, giving him a knowing smile.
He grinned at her as she pulled her right hand to the right. Obediently Arod took a step right, although he flicked an ear as if it say, Make up your mind! Lana smiled and leaned forward to pat the stallion affectionately on the neck. She murmured in undertone words unknown to Legolas. He thought it must be her Italian language.
Both he and Arod found the foreign words soothing against their ears. Arod bobbed his head and nickered. Lana chuckled. The remainder of the lesson was simple enough. She was light on the reins and gentle in the saddle, and it seemed Arod had taken to her. This made teaching her to ride very simple for Legolas. He praised her highly saying that she already had skill in her horsemanship.
"Well, my grandfather used to breed race horses. My brother and I were taught to ride, but as we both got older we stopped riding altogether." She guided Arod down and around a gentle slope. "I guess it's like riding a bicycle. You never really forget."
"Riding a what?"
Lana suppressed a snort of humor and shook her head. The expression was unknown to Legolas, but he didn't bother her concentration as she negotiated a tight fit between the carts in front of them. They rode at a sedate walk, Lana sitting tall and proud in the saddle. Legolas was just behind her, his hands on his thighs a light smile on his face, pleased that she was happy.
"I heard that Gimli fell off Éowyn's mare yesterday."
Lana's concentration broke and she nearly dropped the reins when Legolas spoke. "Did he?" She said carefully. Re-gathering the reins she checked to make certain that she was holding them properly.
Legolas chuckled. "Aye. I heard the men speaking of it last night while I kept watch. He spoke too loudly and spooked the mare; ended up falling right off onto the ground. I wish I could have seen that."
Lana smiled, but it was a tad forced. It didn't last long either. This caused Legolas' smile to fade as well.
"What is it?"
Lana thinned her lips. "Nothing."
Legolas tilted his head trying to see her face. "There is something. I felt your mood change."
"Can you always sense what I am feeling?" She asked with some asperity.
"Not always," he told her, surprised by her tone. "There are times when you are unreadable; when you have managed to block what you feel from me."
Silently Lana vowed to work on this skill as often as she could. She hated being an open book.
"Something happened between yourself and Gimli."
"It's nothing," she told him, mentally cursing his intuition.
"Aye, it is something to have bothered you so," Legolas noted. "There is bitterness in your tone and your light mood disappeared when I mentioned his name."
Lana bit her tongue so she wouldn't swear out loud. Why couldn't he just leave it?
"Trenaro nin," he commanded gently. Tell me.
Lana grit her teeth. If she didn't tell him, he would only continue to badger her until she gave up the information he wanted.
Legolas noted Lana's stiff posture and how her jaw tightened. He thought she would refuse to speak but then she surprised him.
"He teased me. That is all." She said in taut tones that came out in such a rush that it forced Legolas to listen hard in order to understand her.
"He hurt you."
She sighed and shook her head stubbornly.
"Aye, he did." Legolas countered. "Of what did he tease you?"
"Legolas please; just let it be," she muttered in exasperation.
She glanced over her shoulder at him. But that was a mistake, and she wished she had not looked into his eyes. He was clearly upset and troubled, and her refusal to tell him made her feel guilty. Damn your eyes!
"I cannot let things lie when someone has hurt you," he replied. "Please tell me."
Lana shut her mouth firmly and turned back around. As if it was even possible she became more rigid. This time, he feared that he had pushed her too far and now she would not confide in him at all. However, whatever dam held back her emotions suddenly ruptured and her reply rushed out in a torrent of annoyance, anger, and embarrassment.
"It was just about last night, ok? Geez." She huffed with astringency.
Legolas did not allow her tone to bother him. She was trying to push him away again by hiding behind her fiery mood, and he would not stand for it.
"What about last night?" He pushed.
She threw her gaze skyward and laughed sardonically. "You cannot seriously be that naïve." She spat.
Legolas' frown deepened.
"Probably half the camp knows," she groused crossly.
Her cheeks were rapidly turning red and Legolas suddenly knew exactly what Gimli had teased her about. Did the dwarf have no manners? Lana did not give Legolas a chance to respond. She gave Arod a gentle tap with her heels and the stallion began to trot.
The Mirkwood elf felt anger welling up into his chest. He did not like that the dwarf had teased Lana. Especially about something so personal. It was awful enough that the dwarf had interrupted them in the first place, but now he sought to mock Lana?
Legolas felt himself grow angrier each time he rose and fell with Arod's movements. He knew that he should have been glad for the interruption. What he and Lana were about to do went against all that he had been taught. Elves did not mingle with mortals.
Yet he was the exception to that rule. He had come to love mortals as if they were elves. He loved them even though he knew that they would wither and die and leave him.
The thought of Lana aging and dying was something he did not wish to consider. Ever. He shifted closer to her. She, however, tensed and leaned forward and they rode in silence until midday.
"Legolas, who is Isildur?"
The question had come out of nowhere, but Legolas answered it as if they had been talking for hours.
"He was a King of Gondor very long ago. Where did you hear of him?"
"Someone mentioned that you were speaking to Isildur's heir. You know the king's heir?" She glanced over her shoulder speculatively. "I thought Gondor was ruled by a steward, not a king?"
Legolas marveled at the woman in front of him. No less than an hour ago she was moody and quiet, and now she was calmly asking questions as if nothing had happened.
"He is not a king. He is a lord. And you are correct. Gondor is not under the rule of a king, yet." He explained vaguely.
"So this lord is planning on showing up and proclaiming himself king?"
Legolas grimaced and chose his words carefully. "Perhaps not quite in those terms. He has yet to lay claim to his throne."
"I thought everyone here was from Rohan?"
"Perchance you should speak to another of this matter. One who has been to Gondor," He suggested, not liking where this discussion was headed.
"Legolas you obviously know this guy. Why won't you tell me who he is?"
Forcing himself to dismiss her hurt tone, he answered. "Because it is not my place."
Lana glanced back at him, and he knew that she would not give up. She could be just as stubborn as him.
This time, he dropped his gaze, unable to hold it. "Speak to Aragorn," he slipped hastily, and he clenched his jaw for allowing the name to fall from his lips.
Lana lifted a brow, her thoughts working like a machine. Then she gasped. "He's the heir isn't he? Aragorn's a prince?" She exclaimed in a rush.
Legolas sighed and shook his head, returning his gaze to her. "Nay Cairnmel. Aragorn is not a prince. But he is destined to be the King of Gondor."
Her mouth fell open and her grip on the reins loosened in her shock. She caught them just before she dropped them.
"Did—did you just say king?"
"Aye." Legolas felt her complete astonishment as well as mortification.
Lana had always viewed Aragorn like a brother. She had thrown grapes at him in Lothlórien and had lost her temper in front of him, and she had shared her tears and insecurities with him. He was the first person that she truly opened up to in this world. He had the privilege of seeing who she was before anyone else—the good and the bad.
What an ignorant fool he must have thought her to be! After all the ridiculous and stupid things she had done and said in a future king's presence—what must he think of her? Lana felt deeply hurt now. How could he have not told her who he was? Legolas had. Did he still not trust her after all this time? Lana had thought them as close as siblings, but apparently Aragorn did not share this sentiment.
The elf behind her was not insensitive—he knew that she was hurt. "He did not tell you for reasons of safety," he explained, immediately defending the Ranger. "Before we reached Rohan the knowledge that he is heir to the throne of Gondor was very dangerous. It is still dangerous. Do not feel anger or hurt at him because he did not tell you."
Lana's whirling emotions darkened. Had she not proven herself trustworthy? And now Legolas was telling her what to feel and not feel.
Aggrieved she replied stiffly. "How can I not? He kept things from me, just like you did. He is like a brother to me, and he kept all of this from me."
She concentrated on her anger, using it like a shield against hurt she was feeling.
"You know the reasons that Aragorn and I kept our titles from you are one and the same. These are perilous days," he replied, gently stroking her hair behind her ear.
He tilted his head forward and regarded her intently. He could feel the red-hot anger pouring from her. And he knew her well enough to know it was a ruse.
Lana's lips drew further down and she pulled away from his touch, not wanting to be soothed. Legolas sighed. This was the second time today they had been at odds. She was being obstinate but he could not fault her for it. With how much value he and his companions placed in trust, it must seem like a slap in the face to not be included within their closest confidences. Legolas would have readily told her all, but it was not his place.
He meant to placate her but he tensed suddenly. "Daro Arod," he commanded flatly. Stop.
By the tone of his voice, Lana knew something was up. She pulled back gently on the reins.
"Whoa, Arod." The stallion came to a halt and pawed at the earth. "What is it?" She asked as Legolas dismounted swiftly.
"Stay with the others," he ordered her firmly. "You will be safe with them." His eyes bored into hers for only a moment before he tensed again, and then he looked toward the road. "I will travel ahead to be certain that the way is clear."
"I'll go with you," she told him despite her piqued feelings. Legolas was on the alert and it made her anxious.
She watched his eyes dart back and forth and saw that his jaw was set. Something was definitely wrong and she did not want to be alone.
"Nay. You stay with the main group." He reached up, covered one of her hands with his and gave it a gentle squeeze. "I will return."
He stared into her eyes and when her mouth began to open in opposition, he did not give her a chance to argue. Releasing her hand he tore off across the plains, causing many in the group to pause and observe him with mixed curiosity and worry.
Lana watched him go as a horrible foreboding feeling settled in her gut. She saw him race to the top of the rocky hill and stop to gaze around. She heard and then saw two of Théoden's soldiers ride after him to see what was happening.
From his place next to Éowyn, Aragorn paused. His eyes scanned the horizon seeking what had alerted Legolas.
There was a sudden cry and all eyes at the front of the group saw the ghastly beast. It was some sort of large wolfish monster, but it was larger than any wolf Lana had ever seen—and more hideous than a hyena. On its back rode one of those repulsive orc creatures.
Despite the distance, Lana could see the animal's enormous yellow teeth as it clamped down on one of the riders. The sound of bone cracking made Lana grimace though it must have been in her mind. The beast was too far for her to hear such things. But she heard the soldier's shrieking.
The animal shook the man as if he was nothing more than a ragdoll. Lana gasped as she realized it was Hama—the soldier who had greeted them first in Edoras.
She was about to yell for someone to do something when Legolas went tearing down the slope firing arrows. His shots were true and he slayed the animal. Closing in on the orc, which had been thrown from its saddle, Legolas drew one of his pearly handled long knives and slit the creature's throat.
He gritted his teeth and kicked the creature over. "A scout!" He shouted back.
Aragorn, who had run forward to see the commotion, stopped dead in his tracks when he heard Legolas' words. Where there was a scout, there was bound to be a scouting party. He turned and ran down the hill at full speed. Horses snorted and tossed their heads at his speedy flight. Lana held the reins in one hand and the saddle horn with the other as Arod pranced about excitedly.
"WARGS!" Aragorn shouted. "We're under attack!"
His words were like oil on a fire. The people erupted into frantic screaming. Terror ripped through the people of Rohan. Théoden ordered his riders to the base of the hill.
"Whoa! Easy, Arod! Easy now!" Lana tried to keep her voice calm for the stallion's sake.
She at last managed to get down without falling out of the saddle. Arod was charged and ready for action, and there was no way she could handle him like this. Quickly she grabbed her pack from the back of the saddle and held Arod's reins tightly.
Gimli appeared not two moments after she touched the earth.
"Get me up there I'm a rider!" He cried out. Several soldiers helped him into the saddle and in his haste he nearly fell off.
"Charge forward!" Gimli ordered, pulling on the reins. Arod moved backward instead and snorted. "I said charge forward!" The dwarf commanded, kicking the stallion's sides.
Tossing his head Arod managed to pull some slack in the reins and he leapt forward like a bolt. Gimli nearly fell a second time. Lana watched him in stupefied fear. Aragorn then rushed up to her, grabbing her arm as he ran towards Hasufel. Lady Éowyn held the stallion's reins.
"Go with Éowyn!" He commanded her. "Help her in any way that you can to get these people to safety!" He shouted above the din.
He mounted up in a flash. Lana automatically nodded. Her heart was hammering away but for a moment her mind was clear. She had a task and she wouldn't fail in it. She watched Aragorn and Hasufel join the horses and riders already charging up the hill.
From the corner of her eye, Lana caught Éowyn staring longingly after Aragorn before she turned and started issuing orders.
"Head to the lower ground! Stay together!" She shouted.
Lana was lost to the sight of horses and riders galloping in the opposite direction. Éowyn grabbed her arm tightly, snapping her from the moment. The woman's eyes were hard and determined.
"Help me!" She commanded.
Animated Lana immediately began pointing and shouting out Éowyn's commands. She helped anyone who struggled past her. She turned once, her heart in her throat as she heard the sound of barking, growling, and shouting. She saw Legolas fire an arrow from where he stood on the crest of the hill. Then the elf leapt onto Arod in an impossible way. That was all she saw of him as he was swept away in a sea of soldiers and horses.
She turned away and went back to herding the frightened people down the hill. Firmly she blocked out any thought of losing the men she loved so much. Aragorn had given her a task and she would not fail him. She would do what the future King of Gondor asked and do it well so that he would be proud of her when they returned.
Lana vowed to never be useless again.
How about that?
As always thanks for reading!