Heart of the Storm – Chapter Three

Legolas had no real sense of how long he lay unconscious before he became gradually aware that he was no longer alone.  His first conscious thought was to reach for his knife in his boot, but his hands seemed disinclined to obey him and his heavy eyelids remained steadfastly closed.  A hand delicately probed his side, making his gasp and half sit-up at the pain.  A second hand firmly but gently pushed him back against the nest of roots as a disembodied voice said to him soothingly,

“Peace brother, I want only to help.  You are very gravely wounded.  Drink this.  It will help build your strength.”

Legolas heard the quiet pop of a stopper being removed from a glass bottle and his nose was filled with the odor of sweet-smelling healing herbs.  A hand helped steady his head while another guided the vial to his lips.  After some initial sputtering and spilling, Legolas successfully swallowed several large mouthfuls.  His senses instantly felt sharper, the pain in his side less overwhelming.  He was able to take several deep, satisfying breaths.

“Thank you,” he croaked.

After several attempts, he finally managed to prise open his eyes.  As they gradually adjusted to the light, he was able to focus on the figure kneeling at his side.  His rescuer was small and clad simply in an oversized green tunic, brown leggings and a loose vest the color of tree bark, clearly chosen to blend into the forest.  Reddish-brown hair was neatly braided away from an oval face revealing delicately pointed ears.  Legolas thought that the boy seemed young to be out alone so far from the city of Galadrium itself.

The lad’s hands hovered above the bare skin surrounding Legolas’s wounds.  It was only then that Legolas realized that much of his riding tunic had already been cut way.   A cool breeze chilled him and two Orcan arrows stood out in sharp relief against his white skin. The lad seemed distracted, concentrating on things Legolas could not hear or see.  He abruptly met Legolas’s eyes for the first time.  Legolas was surprised by the intensity of the lad’s eyes.

“I must remove these arrows as soon as possible.  Would you like something to bite down on?  I am afraid it will be quite painful.”

Legolas began to protest that he would be fine but let his protests die when he realized the lad was paying him no heed.  The boy was rummaged intently through a large, much-patched backpack of indeterminate color at his side.  After considering and discarding several objects, he finally removed his own knife belt.

“This will have to do,” he said more to himself than Legolas.

Before Legolas could muster another protest, the leather belt was in between his teeth.  The lad looked at him with compassion.

“I will pull on the count of three.  One… Two…Three. . .”

There was an explosion of pain in Legolas’s side as the first arrow was pulled slowly but firmly from his side.  He could feel his torn flesh and a fresh flow of warm blood.  The lad held his hands just above the wound and Legolas could almost have sworn that the youth willed the rush of blood to slow to a trickle.

When he appeared satisfied, he met Legolas’s eyes.

“Again, on the count of three.  One. . . Two. . . Three. . .”

The removal of the second arrow was more painful than the first and Legolas found himself grateful for the leather belt clenched between his teeth, as he surely would have cried out.  The youth again held his hands above the open wound, eyes closed, deeply lost in concentration.  Legolas felt the heavy blood flow slow, then stop completely.  Perhaps the loss of blood was addling his thinking, but Legolas felt as though the lad’s attention had somehow sunk into Legolas’ battered body, seeking deeper injuries, knitting torn tissue, restoring healthy blood flow.  Legolas had lost track of time when the lad suddenly rocked back on his heels and opened his eyes, the trancelike state broken.

Legolas removed the leather belt from his mouth with a shaking hand.  He tentatively examined his body and found himself weak, but far further along the healing process than should be possible.

“I am deeply in your debt.  I would have most likely died on this spot if you had not come when you did and tended to me. What twist of fate brought you here?”  Legolas asked curiously, his voice growing stronger.

His rescuer was silent for a moment before shrugging his shoulders.  “An unnamable feeling really.  An instinct deep in my soul that I would be needed here this morning led my feet.”

“Then I am fortunate that you have such feelings, such instincts,”  Legolas replied.

“Let me get you food and drink to strengthen you and then I will properly bind those wounds.  I am not concerned about further bleeding, but the risk of infection is still high.”

The lad again rummaged through his backpack, pulling out a water bag and a package that turned out to be lembas bread.  He helped to steady Legolas’ head in order to give him sips of water and mouthfuls of the lembas, before finally drinking and eating himself.  He was soon digging again through the seemingly bottomless bag, pulling out strips of clean bandages, small pouches, and vials.  Legolas rested in between the massive roots of the oak, slowly re-gathering his strength, marveling inwardly at this young elf’s healing abilities.

“I have forgotten my manners,” the lad said suddenly, extending his hand.  “I am called Storm of Lothlorien.”

“An unusual name for an Elf,” replied Legolas, reaching out his own hand to shake as firmly as he was able.

Storm smiled suddenly, “A nickname really.  Given to me by Gandalf the Gray when I was a small child.  Family lore has it that my eyes reminded him of storms on the Anduin Sea.  Between you and I, I believe Gandalf was really referring to my temper.  I could be a trying child.”

Legolas could not help but respond with a smile of his own at the sight of the lad’s grin.  The lad had been so serious and focused during the healing that Legolas was almost taken aback by the change a smile brought to the young elf’s face.  Deep dimples marked the lad’s cheeks and his eyes spoke of warmth and humor.

“It is an honor to meet you Storm of Lothlorien.  I am Legolas of Mirkwood.  Any friend of Gandalf the Gray is certainly a friend worth making.  Thank you again for coming when you did and saving my life.”

Storm had begun to open the pouches and vials to dress Legolas’ wounds.

“Legolas of Mirkwood,” his tone was thoughtful, “my people have been expecting you.  My aunt and uncle have asked me to be on the lookout for you on our borders.  I believe you were expected several days ago.”

Legolas felt the blood rise to his face. “I know.  I am sorry.  I was . . . delayed. . . .” his voice trailed off.

Storm met his gaze with a penetrating look and a raised eyebrow.  Legolas felt exposed under that gaze.  He began to wonder if Storm was indeed as young as Legolas first imagined.  His eyes were filled with wisdom and knowing Legolas did not often find in young elves.  Storm held his eye for what felt like many minutes before again returning to the business of binding Legolas’ side.

Legolas cleared his throat, “You mentioned that your aunt and uncle asked you to look out for me.  Am I to take it that you are kin to Lord Celeborn and Lady Galadriel?”

Storm looked up from Legolas’ side.  “Yes, the Lord and Lady are my uncle and aunt and have raised me like one of their own in Lothlorien since the death of my parents.  The Lady Galadriel informed me when I was last in the court of Lothlorien that King Thandruil wishes his eldest son, Prince Legolas of Mirkwood to marry, and that Prince Legolas was to come to Lothlorien to meet the flowers of the household of Lorien.”

Storm’s tone was outwardly neutral but Legolas sensed some self-mockery in Storm’s statement that he could not begin to understand.

“Yes, it is my father’s hope that I will find a suitable bride in the house of Lorien.”  Legolas tried to keep his own tone neutral.

“And what is your hope, Prince Legolas of Mirkwood?”  Storm asked, again looking at Legolas in that penetrating way that left him feeling bare.

“Just Legolas, please.  I am sure all the women of the house of Lorien are beautiful and accomplished and worthy.  It’s just that . .  . I had hoped to. . . ” Legolas ran out of words.  He didn’t know how to express his feelings to this stranger.

Storm said nothing for the moment but motioned that Legolas should rise so that Storm could finish wrapping his wounds.  Storm put an arm firmly behind Legolas back and helped him up.  Legolas grimaced slightly as he changed position, but was pleased to find he could sit without dizziness.  Storm deftly wrapped bandages several times around Legolas’ torso and secured them firmly.  Satisfied with the job, Storm began to clean up the supplies scattered around the roots of the tree, packing them back into the well-worn backpack.

“I am sure you will find all my cousins suitability beautiful, accomplished in the ways of the court, and worthy of a Prince’s attention, ‘just’ Legolas,” Storm said meeting his eye again, a smile on his lips.  “I suspect you will also find them all eager to make the acquaintance of the Prince of Mirkwood.  You are renowned here for your skill with weapons as well as your beauty and wisdom.  I am sure that you will have no trouble winning the heart of any maiden of the House of Lorien that you desire.”

Legolas again sensed mocking below the surface of Storm’s comment, but it was unclear whether it was directed inwardly or toward Legolas.

“It does sound a trivial and selfish errand in such troubled times,” Legolas said, gazing back out toward the plains where he was first attacked.

Storm eyed the shreds of Legolas’ clothing.  “Did you lose your gear during your battle with the Orcs?”

“Yes,” replied Legolas, “it was on the saddle of my horse, which disappeared while I was fighting.  He is a valiant, loyal mount.  I can only hope he did not fall into the hands of the Orcs.”  Legolas whistled for his mount but there was no response.  “I believe he will eventually return to Mirkwood if he cannot find me.”

“I cannot offer you princely gear, but I do have a clean shirt you are welcome to,” Storm pulled out a simple but clean tunic of gray.  “I know you are still weak, but I would rather we were closer to the city before night falls.  Are you able to travel?”

Legolas grasped the arm Storm offered and allowed himself to be pulled up.  He winced once, but after a deep breath was convinced he could walk for several hours if need be.  “Yes.  I am able to travel.  I have no desire for another encounter with Orcs today.  I agree that staying here would not be wise.”

Storm helped Legolas off with his tattered shirt and then gently helped pull the clean shirt over his bandaged skin.  They gathered up the rest of their belongings.  “Storm of Lothlorien, I am again at your mercy,” Legolas said after they had finished their preparations, “lead on.”  With that, they were off.

Read Chapter Four

© Christine Elizabeth Ray – All Rights Reserved

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