And the sky full of stars: Part VI
by: Jen

The sun set and before the next days dawning Legolas, Gimli, and Elesia were packed to hike to the Orc's stronghold.

Gimli went to get the horses but Elesia stopped him.

"Where we go, the horses cannot. It is safer for all, if we go by foot. But even then it is a dangerous journey." She said.

"If you do not wish to go, draw us a map and we shall find the way ourselves." Legolas said.

"It would be foolish for you to go alone into strange country." Elesia said.

"We have done it before." Gimli said.

"I'm sure you have. But you will not while I am here to guide you." She said. "I can take you to look out point. We go there from time to time to monitor the orcs number and strength."

Legolas stepped out the door. "The sun rises soon." He said.

"And we should leave. It is dangerous to travel the open valley in daylight." She said.

She started to open the front door, then hesitated. Legolas and Gimli watched as she took the green amulet from around her neck and placed it on the mantel.

They crossed the open valley under cover of darkness. They moved quickly and she kept up a steady pace. The grey skies of dawn greeted them as they approached the gentle slopes that lead up to the mountain pass. By the time they were passing into the cover of the foot of the mountain, the first rays of sun had broken over the horizon.

She lead them away from the main path of the orcs, to a narrow trail only wide enough for them to walk single file. The mountain steepened and before long they were half climbing, scrambling over boulders and shimmying along the edges of cliffs. After they had climbed several hundred feet above the valley, the trail widened and there was a small overhang. It was here that she stopped for the first time since they'd left the village that morning.

Gimli sat down and looked at the steep sheer cliff walls that surrounded them on all sides. The only way to continue up the trail would be to scale the sides of the mountain.

"I thought you said this was an easy hike?" Gimli said.

"Easy as in not far. If you fear heights, then it may be considered hard." She said and smiled. "I thought dwarves loved mountains."

"Dwarves like caves. Not the sides of cliffs." Gimli said.

"Which way to we go from here?" Legolas asked, as he examined the rock.

"It is not much further. From the top of the rock face behind us is the look out that I spoke of. From there, you will be able to see down into the stronghold. They have delved many deep caverns but have only one entrance or exit." Elesia said.

"So we climb?" Legolas asked.

She nodded.

Legolas was about to take off up the side of the mountain and she stopped him.

"This way. I will lead you. There is only one way that has proper footholds." She said.

She then looked at Gimli and considered.

"We will have to pull you up. The footholds are too far apart for your feet to reach." She said. "I hadn't considered that and I am sorry."

Gimli shook his head, "I shall stand guard here and await your return."

Gimli watched from below as Elesia climbed up the cliff face. And Legolas followed behind her. As she had warned, there were only certain hand and footholds that would hold them. And those were all few and far between. About 20 feet up they disappeared over the top of the cliff.

Gimli waited.

Legolas followed Elesia as she crawled on her stomach to the other side of the cliff. Legolas joined her and they peaked over the edge into a deep chasm delved by orcs. The entrance was a wide hollow of a cave. Orcs came and went freely. Legolas began calculating their strengths from the workmanship he saw below him. From the depths of the caverns and the comings and going of orcs, Legolas estimated there were near 1,000.

"There are no guards?" Legolas asked.

"They do not guard so near the entrance, they are back down the path near where the mountains meet the valley." She said.

Legolas turned and looked back down the narrow and long trail that wound through the foot of the mountains and lead out into the valley. Though some distance away he could see orcs standing guard.

"There are 5 of them." He said.

She looked at him astonished. "Is that some magic you use to see so far?"

Legolas shook his head. "All elves posess the gift of great sight."

"That is a gift I should like to have." She said.

He smiled at her. "Your gift has been to bring us to the stronghold. Without your help we may well have walked into this place unaware."

"Without my help, your ankle would be unbroken." She said.

"It is but a small price to pay for victory over the orcs." He said.

They turned to crawl away. But a rock near them gave way and tumbled down the sides of the cliff. It started a chain reaction with other rocks and a small rock slide fell towards the chasm. Orcs were yelling. And arrows whizzed over their heads.

Legolas and Elesia dove behind a large boulder for cover. Another volley of arrows rained down upon them. With lightning speed Legolas drew his bow and fired. He heard an orc scream. Then another.

Gimli yelled up at them.

"Legolas! Elesia! What foul trouble have you gotten into?" he hissed up at them.

Gimli heard the march of footsteps and looked down the edge of the trail. Orcs were headed right towards him. Surrounded by cliffs there was no where for him to go but up.

"Legolas!!" Gimli yelled.

Legolas handed his bow to Elesia and lowered the rope to Gimli. The dwarf tied the rope around his waist and was quickly hoisted up. As Elesia untied him, Legolas watched below.

"Orcs are on there way up here." Gimli said.

"Do you know where the trail leads from here?" Legolas asked Elesia.

"It goes up across the top of the mountain pass down to the hot springs on the other side." She said. "It is a days hike but we will come out behind Entville."

"Then lead us." Legolas said.

They hurried away from the cliffs and the sound of orcs grew distant.

| Part VII |
| Index |