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Burning Embers


Yes, I do

Rating: K+

Disclaimer: No one would give me Legolas. (I refuse to pout in public.) So, I just borrowed him and surrounded him with a few of my own creations.

Summary: When a raging fire threatens part of the Woodland Realm, Legolas demonstrates the courage, determination and hope of a true woodland prince.





April 14, III 2675

Prince Legolas Thranduilion and his patrol of twelve rode through the forest at a pace that would have left most mortal riders in the dust, as their wonderful elven horses ate up the miles effortlessly.

The prince and his warriors were on their way to a settlement several miles northwest of the elven stronghold of King Thranduil.

The patrol had been alerted that human bandits had been seen in the area, and now the warriors could smell smoke on the breeze, as it drifted through the trees like writhing ghosts. The closer to the settlement they got, the thicker the air became.

In each elven mind, it had been hoped that the patrol would be able to protect the elves who lived in this area from possible attack from the bandits. Now, as the smoke grew hazier and more pungent, they feared they might be too late.

As the riders plunged ahead, the smoke-filled air soon filled with screams that became all too discernible. To a mortal ear, had they possessed the keen hearing of the elves, the sounds would have resembled people wailing from pain and fear. The elves, however, knew what it was they were hearing. It was the agonized shrieks of dying tress. A sound that tore at the very heart of a an elf and especially that of a woodland elf, born and raised in the forest and attuned to even the subtlest rhythms of its life.

As the smoke continued to become thicker, the keening grew more intense, until the patrol found themselves among trees alight with flames. Even their horses were being affected by the sound and fury of the fire and the trees. They were being held to their purpose by the capable guidance of their riders.

The patrol finally burst into the center of the settlement, appalled by the devastation they saw around them.

Everything appeared to be in chaos, as the elves that called this small village home were trying to save not only each other but their precious possessions, as well. It was soon apparent that the valiant attempts to keep their belongings safe were going to be futile, as various bundles were soon abandoned on the ground, when the elves grabbed their elflings more tightly, as they rushed them toward any area that wasn’t burning.

“Prince Legolas,” one of the settlement elders called out, as the patrol approached and Legolas dismounted. “We are glad to see you and your patrol. Our situation is dire, and we are in desperate need of your aid.”

Legolas turned to his warriors and instructed them to dismount and help in any way they could. Organization was usually important, but things had now progressed to the point that it was time for each elf to do whatever he saw as the biggest need, regardless of what others were doing. No other instructions were necessary. Only after everyone was safe were they to try and save as many of the villagers’ possessions and cottages as they could.

Unfortunately, the flets in the trees were a lost cause, and once everyone recognized that fact, the tree-bound living quarters some of the younger elves preferred were abandoned to their fate.

Legolas had to shout to make himself heard over the roaring of the flames and the death throes of the trees all around them. That horrendous shrieking alone almost brought the young prince to his knees.

He had seen trees burn before but nothing on a scale quite like this. He was in charge and much needed doing. He would have to hold back the tears that threatened and do his job. Later he would mourn the elves’ and Greenwood’s loss.

A different kind of scream sounded off to Legolas’s right. It was an elleth with dark brown hair, her arms flailing in the air. She was running back and forth in front of a cottage that had flames shooting out of all the windows.

Legolas ran over to her and held her by the shoulders. He was forced to shake her to get her attention.

“My daughter is in there,” she wailed. “The flames... I cannot reach her!”

“What is her name?“

“Tanwyn,” the elleth answered in a sobbing voice, tears making rivulets down her sooty cheeks.

“Stay here. I will get your daughter for you.”

Just as Legolas was about to run toward the cottage, he was grabbed by the arm.

“No, Legolas, you cannot go in there. The flames are too intense. You would never come out again.”

Legolas turned to see the worried countenance of his second-in-command and friend.

“I must go, Bandolir. There is an elfling trapped inside that cottage.”

Bandolir well knew the stubborn determination in the tone of his friend’s voice, but he had to try and talk the prince out of going on what he believed was a suicide mission. The child‘s life was important, but the life of the prince of the realm was more so. “You and the child both will be lost. Surely you do not insist on going in that burning cottage?”

“Yes, I do.”

With those words, Legolas pulled free of his friend and began running toward the house. He heard his name being shouted several times. He understood the desperation in Bandolir’s voice but kept going until soon he was lost to sight, as the flames closed in behind him.

The roar of the fire drowned out even the shrieks of the dying trees, as the orange-gold tendrils licked at his hair and exposed skin. And, the smoke was too thick even for the eyes of an elf to see clearly.

He shouted out Tanwyn’s name, facing in all directions, as he did so, and hoped that somehow the child would be able to hear him.

He peered with watering eyes at the interior of the house that was being consumed with ever-greater speed. Every stick of furniture, every inch of the walls was alight. Rippling flames rushed like a river across the ceiling, seeking the unlimited oxygen of the outside air, as they rolled out of the open windows and pushed toward the sky, seeming to follow the black smoke they were creating.

It was a mesmerizing sight, but one that Legolas banished from his mind immediately. He had to hurry and find the young elfling before she succumbed to the heat, the smoke or the flames themselves. Even he, a strong, young ellon, was not immune to the ravages of a confined fire with a limitless supply of fuel at its disposal.

The prince searched the cottage, checking each room while bending and sidestepping the flames that sent searing tendrils licking toward him at every turn.

When Legolas finally reached the last room in the rear of the cottage, he thought he heard whimpering. Cocking his head, he listened until he heard it again. Rushing forward, the elf vaguely saw, through the choking smoke, a small body huddled in the far corner.

Knowing this had to be Tanwyn and rushing to her, Legolas didn’t stop to ask any questions or make any inquiries. He simply scooped her up in his arms, tucked her head into the crook of his neck to protect her face, turned and made a mad dash toward the front door and freedom.

Only by now, the front doorway was engulfed in fire. Had the wall of flame been narrow, he could have run through it, but the entire front room was filled with flames. There was no freedom for them that way.

Legolas turned and headed for a side door he had briefly noticed when he was searching for the girl.

If that way was blocked, as well, he would simply have to make the effort anyway. A loud creaking noise all around and above told the prince that the house was on the verge of collapsing. There was no other option now short of just resigning himself to an agonizing death and waiting where he stood until it came. That was not in his warrior’s heart, especially with a child’s life also at stake.

Unable to take a deep breath to give himself strength, Legolas wrapped his arms more tightly around Tanwyn and ran for the door.

He closed his eyes briefly at what he saw in front of him. The door was covered in a sheet of fire rippling like waves, much like the ceiling above him. However, with time running out, he continued moving toward the inferno.

Legolas barely slowed down, as he slammed his shoulder, the one opposite where Tanwyn rested, into the wooden door. Its well-made elven hinges shifted only marginally, but Legolas bulled his way into the small opening that appeared, his momentum forcing it wider.

Suddenly, two arms reached out toward him from the other side. He pushed Tanwyn into those arms. They and the child disappeared beyond the flames and smoke. Legolas had no way of knowing that Bandolir had taken the child from him and given her to the village elder who had spoken to him when the patrol first arrived.

A scream of joy greeted the elfling, when Tanwyn’s distraught mother rushed forward and grabbed her daughter. The child wrapped her arms around her mother’s neck, as though she never wanted to let go.

Still inside the cottage, Legolas, with stinging eyes and searing lungs, was being overtaken by the heat and foul air the fire had produced. Inches from the freedom of the open doorway, the elf went to his knees.

Bandolir, while helping where he could, had also been keeping an eye out, waiting for his friend, commander and prince to exit the house. He had seen that the front door was a lost cause, so he had made his way around to the side entrance, peering through the licking flames until he had gotten a glimpse of Legolas’s wavering image moving inside the shifting inferno. It was obvious that his friend was not going to be able to make it to safety on his own.

After handing Tanwyn to the village elder, Bandolir had pushed his way into the house far enough to grab Legolas and half carry, half drag him out into the cooler, comparatively cleaner air

After the two soot-covered figures were clear of the fire and smoke, Bandolir lowered Legolas, coughing fitfully, to the ground.

It was then that the cottage collapsed in a loud roaring whoosh, sending flames and smoke upward and outward. The cottage settled into a pile of smoldering ruin, as sparks flew from the carnage. It would take a while for the former cozy home to completely burn up and reduce itself to rubble and ash.

Bandolir shuddered at how close Legolas had come to dying in that pyre. Turning from the devastation, the raven-haired elf bent down to examine his friend, fearful of the damage he might find.

“Legolas.”

The only answer was more coughing.

Helping Legolas into a sitting position and placing a strong arm at his back, Bandolir asked, “Legolas, how do you fair?” The worry was evident in his voice.

By now, Legolas had ceased his coughing. He waved a dismissive hand toward his second in command and then stretched it out in a gesture that meant he wanted aid in standing.

In a smoke-roughened voice, Legolas said, “Bandolir, you saved my life and almost lost your own. That was a near thing.” He shook his head then smiled up at his friend. “I thank you.”

Bandolir quickly switched from friend to subordinate to cover his embarrassing gratitude at being thanked. The king had given him the task of protecting his son, but Bandolir looked upon it more as doing what any friend would do for another. He asked again, “How fair you, prince?”

Legolas turned to Bandolir, “I am uninjured.” With his own condition now forgotten, he turned his attention to the elves of the village. “Has everyone been accounted for? Are there any serious injuries?” he asked hoarsely.

“You were the last to be rescued. Everyone here is safe. A few minor burns and scrapes, but no one was killed. Unfortunately, as you can see, the settlement has been destroyed.”

“Thank the Valar for the lives that were spared. I feared we would be too late to be of much help in preventing loss of life.”

Bandolir gave Legolas a once-over. “Your clothes are burned, your highness, especially your right shoulder. Your hair is singed, and you have scorch marks on your face and hands, not to mention you are smoking in several places.” It was spoken in a stern manner much like a father admonishing a wayward child. “Your father will flail me alive for allowing you to do such a foolhardy thing as rush into a burning house.”

Behind the stern words, Legolas heard the relief in his friend’s voice. He also knew Bandolir was not worried for himself, even at the prospect of facing an irate King Thranduil, something no one in their right mind would ever wish to do.

Legolas smiled and grasped his friend’s shoulder. “I am fine, Bandolir. Truly. A child has been saved and reunited with her naneth. What are a few minor....damages...compared to that?” He sighed, trying not to think about the extensive damage to the nearby trees.

Legolas was about to say more, when a stiff wind brought the wailing of the trees from a particularly dense area nearby to an even greater crescendo.

Legolas turned his head toward the towering forest, rapidly being reduced to burning embers.

“The trees, Bandolir. Listen to them. My heart weeps to hear their death cries.”

Bandolir nodded. “It will take the effort of us all to stop the fire. There is not anything We can do now to save those close by, and there is not so much as a single cloud in the sky to aid us. The trees all the way to the Forest Road may burn, and the flames may not even stop there. It could cross and go on from there.”

Legolas’s heart railed against the very thought of so many trees meeting their end in such a horrible manner, not to mention the elves who would be displaced from their homes. But he knew that Bandolir was right. The elves could not easily stop a fire so out of control and moving so rapidly. And only the Valar could bring the rains that might arrest the fire from its destructive path.

“My father must know of this,” Legolas said. “Send Cantar to the stronghold and inform the king at once, though I believe that the cries of the trees may have already reached him.”

As Bandolir turned to seek out the warrior that was to be sent with the message, the prince shook his head in sadness. He felt sure that, even though many miles separated them, his father, as attuned to the trees as any wood-elf, could indeed feel their pain, as he himself did. Such destruction in the forest would not go unnoticed by its king.

There was a hard road ahead of the elves of the Woodland Realm to minimize this spreading disaster. Legolas felt certain, though, that between them all, most of the northern forest could and would be saved.

“Do you believe the fire can be stopped before too much damage is done?” Bandolir asked hopefully.

With no hesitation and with complete honesty, Legolas replied, “Yes, I do.”

The End

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