Dark Horizons

littlefish

Chapter 001

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Tidings in Blood

This story takes place roughly half a year after the Return of the King. Some
small details may be different than the book, but not very much. Actually, the
whole last chapters about the Shire and Frodo leaving, never happened in this
story. Also, Aragorn and Arwen haven't gotten married yet. O well... writers
prerogative. I hope to focus on all characters equally, but Legolas is my
favorite, and I may show it!

Summary: The Fellowship is reuniting for the marriage of Aragorn and Arwen,
unaware that a new evil is hunting them all. Please R&R

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A quiet peacefulness settled over the forest of Mirkwood, as the sun dipped
beneath the horizon, sending out bright rays of gold, orange, and pink to light
up the sky. The last rays of sunlight played through the leaves and branches of
trees, to land dancing upon the forest floor. A cool breeze, smelling of life
and freshness, swept across the land rustling and whispering through the trees.

This was Legolas's favorite time of day, and he couldn't have asked for a more
beautiful evening. He lay peacefully beneath a giant birch tree, hovering half
way between wakefulness and sleep. So quiet and still was the elf, that a
curious squirrel perched on a branch only two feet away and studied him, before
turning away and continuing to hunt for nuts, totally unconcerned.

Many more minutes of peaceful silence followed, and the air was dim with the
foreshadow of night, before Legolas stretched and sighed. The squirrel dashed
away in fright, then tuned a few yards away and commenced to scold the fair elf
in a loud, angry voice. Sitting up, Legolas watched the furry creature, and
then let out a soft laugh.

"Peace little friend. I did not mean to startle you, and I assure you I
will be leaving shortly. But do not begrudge me of my chance for a little peace
and quiet, for it has been long since I have had opportunity to enjoy it."

At the sound of the elf's fair voice, the squirrel stopped his scolding and
cocked his head.

Legolas stretched again, then leapt gracefully to his feet. He was loath to
leave this calm glen, for it had indeed been long since he had rested so
peacefully. It had been only a little more than six months since the
destruction of Sauron and the end of the war, and Legolas had spent the first
half of those months in Minas Tirith, helping the men of Gondor to pick up the
pieces left by the terrible war, and also helping his friend Aragorn to settle
into his new position as king. When he had finally left Gondor, it had not been
to return home, but instead he had traveled the last several months with his
friend Gimli, visiting some strange and wonderful places in Middle Earth in
response to oaths the two had made before the war began. It had been only two
weeks since the two friends had parted company, each to return to his separate
home for some long awaited rest and relaxation. Legolas had only been home for
a week, and he found that most of his time was spent telling and
retelling the tale of the `Fellowship' and attending different meetings and
gatherings in his honor. This evening had been the first he had managed to slip
off and just revel in the joy of being home.

"And they will be expecting me back shortly, if they have not already sent
someone looking," Legolas said out loud as he reached down to retrieve the
bow and quiver of arrows that had rested next to him on the ground. These
weapons were never found far from the elf, and in fact seemed to be an
essential part of him, almost like a second skin.

Legolas bid the suspicious squirrel goodbye, then began to jog quickly and
silently back towards the city. He wondered whom he would be expected to dine
with tonight. He wished he could just have a quiet meal with his father and
brothers, but he seriously doubted that would be a possibility until the elves
of Mirkwood had gotten their fill of the prince's story, and that seemed as if
it would not be any time soon

Legolas sighed once more. He was truly glad to be home, for there was no place
he loved more than Mirkwood and he had missed his father and all his brothers.
But now he found that he missed his other friends. Friends who had been forced
together through circumstances and yet had formed a bond of love and trust that
could never be broken. Perhaps most strange was the bond between Legolas and
Gimli, elf and dwarf. And yet the two had been practically inseparable during
the long travels of the fellowship and afterwards, and Legolas already missed
the steady dwarf. The only thing that comforted the elf was the knowledge that
it would not be long until he saw all his friends again.

A letter had arrived the previous day from Gondor. An invitation to the grand
wedding of Aragorn, son of Arathorn, King of Gondor, to the beautiful Elvin
lady Arwen, daughter of Elrond.

Before leaving Minas Tirith, Aragorn had procured promises from all the remaining
members of the fellowship that they would return to Gondor for the wedding.
Legolas looked forward to the occasion and the chance to strengthen friendships
under better circumstances. He planned on leaving for Gondor within the week,
even though the wedding wasn't for another month and he would probably be the
first to arrive. He knew that Aragorn would welcome him, and Legolas wanted to
check up on his friend.

Legolas entered the city and continued to jog up the main path toward his
father's home. Many elves hailed him along the way, and Legolas waved, though
he would not stop. He was anxious to be home now, anxious to get whatever
special evening that had been planned for him over with.

Legolas had just reached his father's home, and was reaching out to open the
door, when the door swung open on it's own. Terandu, his father's steward,
reached forward, grabbed Legolas's tunic front, and all but yanked the startled
elf into the front hall, slamming the door behind him. Legolas hadn't even
gained his balance yet when the shorter elf turned on him and demanded,
"Where have you been? I've been turning the whole city inside out looking
for you!"

Legolas was about to reply that he hadn't been in the city, but Terandu didn't
give him a chance. "Quick, you must hurry. Your father has been waiting
hours for you. Something dreadful has happened, simply dreadful!" Yet the
elf would say no more about what had happened and why it was so dreadful. He
merely half dragged, half pushed Legolas down the hall towards his father's
study.

Legolas allowed himself to be dragged along until they reached the great double
doors that led into Thranduil's study. There, he stopped. Terandu continued to
pull at him, trying to urge him on, but Legolas firmly placed his hand on the elves's
shoulder. "Easy friend, I am here now and will go to my father with all
haste, but I know the way, and can walk it on my own." Terandu flushed at
the reprimand, and let go of Legolas's tunic front. Legolas straightened the
wrinkles and smiled kindly at the older elf. "I have been in the forest
since earlier today, and I am a bit hungry....."

Terandu bowed, "Of course lord, I will bring you something right away, for
the others have already eaten. But please, do not wait any longer, for you will
wish to know what has happened!"

Legolas watched Terandu hurry away down the hall before turning and opening the
great doors and entering the room.

A great fire was burning in the hearth, casting away the evening chill. Several
chairs had been placed in the room in a half circle. His father sat in the
largest chair at the head of the room, leaning forward and looking at something
he held on his lap. Legolas's brothers sat next to their father, also looking
at the object held in the king's hand. There were several other elves in the
room, some that Legolas recognized and knew, and some that he could not name.
Upon entering, all eyes turned to him, and Legolas felt a sense of dread settle
over him, for the faces turned toward him were grave and lined with worry.

His father half rose out of his chair when Legolas entered but settled back
down with a sigh. A look of intense relief flashed over his face and then was
gone so suddenly that Legolas wondered if he had really seen it or not.

"Legolas, I am glad you have finally arrived. We have been waiting many
hours for you." Thranduil motioned for Legolas to sit in a seat that had
been left empty next to his brothers. As Legolas made his way forward, he
scanned the faces of the other elves present. Many met his eyes briefly, before
dropping their gazes, as if afraid to give something away. By the time Legolas
had taken his seat, all the elves seemed intent on looking at something,
anything, besides him. All, that is, except his father and brothers. They
stared at him openly and their faces looked calculating, thoughtful, and
definitely worried.

"What has happened, for I sense that terrible news has reached this
council while I was away."

"Terrible news indeed," Thranduil answered, never taking his eyes off
his son. "And all the more so because it involves you, Legolas."

"Involves me?" Legolas asked, startled. "How so? Please explain
yourself, for I feel a dread here that leaves my heart cold!"

Thranduil nodded towards a tall elf that Legolas recognized, but did not know
the name, and the elf stood and faced him.

"I am Calwick, in case you do not remember me, and I am afraid that it is
I who brought news of this dread here. Two days ago, I was leading a patrol
along the Northern borders of our forest. We had been patrolling that sector
since before your return, my prince, and my patrol were weary, but in high
spirits, for our replacements were on the way, and we were looking forward to
returning here to rest. Alas, that was not to be, for as I lay in a clearing,
resting, one of my scouts came to me in the night. He was shaken and pale, as
one who has just left a deathbed, and he could hardly speak to me. Instead he
led me to a clearing a few miles off. There, I was met by a sight that I will
carry with me forever."

At this point, Calwick paused, and cast his eyes down. Long seconds passed
before he again looked up, glancing towards Thranduil, and then continuing.

"I came upon the remains of a small Elvin hunting party, only ten in
number." Again he paused, then looked up and met Legolas's gaze full on.
"They were all dead, my lord, all of them!"

Legolas's eyes widened slightly, but Calwick continued with his story.

"It was very strange my lord. I have the entire clearing pictured in my
head, and I will try to pass on to you what I saw. They were lying all about
the clearing, each on his back, staring towards the heavens. At first I
believed them to be only sleeping, though I thought the position very strange,
but as I came closer I found the truth. They had many cuts and bruises upon
their body, and their faces all showed shock and pain. Each had a black arrow,
one such that our own archers use, only blacker, sticking from their chest, all
in the exact same spot. It was the arrows that killed them, although they had other
injuries, and the arrows did not pierce their hearts, but their lungs. I
thought it strange that they had died so obviously horrible deaths, and yet lay
so composed and organized. And yet, that was not the strangest thing. What
caught my immediate attention and caused my great confusion was the fact that
none of them had drawn any of their weapons. Their bows lay at
their sides, and not an arrow was removed from their quivers. Their knives were
still sheathed. It was as if they had been attacked, and done nothing to defend
themselves as they were being slaughtered! I do not understand it."
Calwick stopped and dropped his head, as a great, sad sigh escaped his lips.

"Alas, neither do I." Legolas cried. "But please tell me, you
said that this involved me, and I do not understand how."

Calwick nodded. "There is more to the story, my lord. Upon exploring the
rest of the clearing, I came upon a leather parchment. It was half buried under
one of the fallen elves, and I pulled it free to look at it. As soon as I
realized what it was, I dropped it and was loath to even look at it
again."

"Then what was it?" Legolas asked, curious at the complete distaste
on the elves's face.

"It was a message, written in the blood of those slain. The runes and
lettering were unfamiliar to me, but I felt a darkness settle on my soul just
looking at it. The message was very long, and as I said before, I did not
recognize the language, so I could not discern what it said. That is, until I
reached the bottom. Then I saw something that chilled my blood and sent fear
through my heart."

Thranduil stood, and raised his hand to show that Calwick should stop. "I
think that it is at this point that my son should see for himself why it is
that this involves him."

Thranduil turned to Legolas and handed to him the item he had been holding in
his hand. It was an old weathered parchment, and Legolas felt his stomach turn
as he took it from his father. The parchment was covered in scratches and
unfamiliar runes that glittered black in the dim light. He remembered what
Calwick had said, "a message, written in the blood of the slain." He
couldn't help the shiver that ran down his back, and as he scanned the
unfamiliar writing, coldness settled over his entire being. These were indeed
evil words he held, of that he was certain, although he could not understand
their meaning. Evil words full of hate and malice. Legolas looked up to find
that the entire council was looking at him expectantly. He looked back down at
the parchment and began to study it more closely, despite the evil emanating
from it. He had almost reached the bottom when he let out a yell of surprise
"Gimli! What is Gimli's name doing on this foul letter?"

Thranduil only continued to stare at his son, so Legolas returned his attention
to the message once more. What he saw caused his breath to catch and his hands
to shake.

The last two lines of the message were written in the common tongue. The words
were bold and clear, and somehow darker than the rest of the letter, as if the
writer had been especially intent when writing them. Legolas read those words
out loud. "Gimli son of Gloin, Aragorn, son of Arathorn, Gandalf the White,
Frodo Baggins, Samwise Gamgee, Perigrin Took, Merridock Brandybuck,
and......." The elf trailed off, then looked up at his father.
".......and Legolas Greenleaf.

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