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

For some hours they climbed. At times the mountain side was so steep that Legolas and Elesia had to climb ahead and pull Gimli up after them. At the top of the mountain pass they stopped. At this elevation, the air was noticeably colder. The peaks of the Misty Mountains spread out before them. One snow covered peak after another broke through the atmosphere and seemed to touch the sky. To the west they could see the gently sloping fields that eventually lead down to the Shire.

Legolas and Gimli stared off into the distance. It had been 2 years since they had visited the Shire. And Gimli and Legolas had soonafter decided that there was no place where they had been shown such hospitality or merry-making. The month they spent there had been filled with laughter and song and pipe-smoking and ale drinking. Much more happiness than either of them had seen in the years before or since. The memories of those days they held dear.

Gimli stared off at the gently rolling hills and said, "I wonder what goes on in the Shire this evening?"

"I should think there would be warm meals by firelight. Followed by a few more helpings of food. Until their hobbit bellies were filled way passed contentment." Legolas said with a small grin. "And pipe-weed passed around for a long smoke."

"Master Pippin's pipe is still the best I've ever used." Gimli said.

"I have never seen the appeal of blowing smoke rings until it obscures the view of the sky." Legolas teased.

"That is because you are an elf and do not understand the joys of the simpler things in life. You are all sun, moon, and stars." Gimli said.

Legolas smiled. "Perhaps you are right."

Elesia fell asleep as she listened to their gentle banter.

Several hours later, they awoke with the sun and continued their journey. The days hike continued much as the day before. Except, instead of climbing up, they were climbing down. It was slow and tedious, but not all together unpleasant. Any day spent outside amongst good company was a blessing to Legolas.

Towards sunset, they were at the end of the trail. A long steep sheer rock face lead down into the forest of Entville. They were behind the gates at the back of the village. Getting down, however, would be tricky. According to Elesia, a few of the villagers had attempted it, but the sheer rock offered no hand holds. In order to descend a very long rope was needed. Gimli had a light weight elvish rope given to him in Rivendell. It was not quite long enough, dangling 15 feet or so above the forest floor.

Legolas climbed down first and dropped down easily. For him, 15 feet seemed little more than a hop. His light footfalls taking the fall effortlessly. Gimli slid down next, grumbling to himself the entire way. Hesitating a moment before dropping down into Legolas awaiting arms. Legolas set him up-right on the ground. And Gimli dusted himself off.

Elesia slid down last. She held onto the very last edge of rope. She fell into Legolas outstretched arms. He set her down gently on the ground.

In Elesia's house, food was the first thing on Gimli's mind. They ate in silence considering the past two days events. 1,000 orcs. That had seen them. It wasn't good news. Gimli and Legolas said nothing as they ate. They didn't need to.

"The orc's will increase their attacks on us." Elesia said.

Gimli nodded.

"We must leave tonight." Legolas said. "It we hurry we can be back here in a month, no more."

"No less though either." She said.

Legolas sighed. It was not the way he wished this journey to end. But in his life it seemed as if journey's ends never went according to plan. He had no desire to leave these people so unprepared for attacks.

"Let's get your horses ready. There is much to be done." She said.

Supplies were gathered in a hurry. The children were running as messengers throughout the village, gathering provisions for their journey. And the villagers were generous with supplies.

Before sunset, the horses were saddled and ready. The villagers lined the dirt paths and watched in silence as Legolas and Gimli lead their horses towards the gates. A few yelled out words of encouragement.

Elesia was waiting at the gates for them. She walked to Gimli and took his hands.

"Thank you Gimli. If these defenses hold, we have you to thank for it." Elesia said.

"It was an honor," he said.

"Safe journey." Elesia said.

Gimli bowed low. He looked up at the gates and at the young guards who he had been preparing for battle. They raised their weapons in a salute to him.

She turned to Legolas and handed him a small pouch of salve.

"Rose wanted you to have this for your ankle." She said.

"Give her my thanks." Legolas said.

"I am sorry about your injury," she said. "Please accept my apologies."

"You do what you must to survive. No apologies are necessary." He said. "Though, I would like to hear the stories of the Entchildren when we return."

"When you return." She said, as if she liked the sound of those words.

He smiled.

"Safe journey, Legolas." Elesia said.

Gimli and Legolas mounted their horses and slowly picked their way through the delicate trail of orc traps. Once, Gimli caught Legolas looking over his shoulder at the gates as they grew further into the distance.

"There are so few of them," Legolas said.

"But we both know it's impossible for the two of us to turn tide in a battle against so many orc," Gimli said. "We are doing what we can."

Legolas nodded. Gimli was right, of course, but that didn't mean Legolas had to like it. He looked across the valley and gave his horse a nudge, sending them both running swiftly away from Entville.

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