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Campfire Story - Rumil's Tale

Title: Campfire Story - Rúmil's Tale
Characters: Rúmil, Orophin
Rating: PG
Genre: Humor, Horror, General



AN: Written for Halloween 2004


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Patrolling the new border between Lorien and the kingdom of Eryn Lasgalen was a tiring and ever vigilant task. Though the Orcs who still made their homes beneath the sheltering trees were few, their defeat in the War of the Ring had made them fiercer and more territorial than ever before. Their raids were still a source of terror among the newly established villages and their hatred of the Elves meant that the fair folk could not travel unmolested without the border patrols keeping them in check. A few remaining wargs and spiders were also seen on occasion, and the Elves did their best to make sure these creatures did not live to breed and spread their foul spawn near the settlements of Elves and Men.

In spite of the potential dangers, Rúmil, Orophin, and their three companions had seen no action for three weeks. Though grateful for this, they found themselves a bit bored and had taken to spending their evenings trying to top each other in the singing of song and telling of story. Now on their way to meet with their relief patrol, the group had stopped to make a small cooking fire. Running out of small talk, Orophin turned to Rúmil with a grin.

"How about a tale, brother?" he said, and the others joined in.

"Yes, a tale."

"Tell us a story, Rúmil."

"One we have not yet heard."

Rúmil smiled at this last. Three weeks represented a long time and many tales. He thought for a moment before he began...

"When this area was under the influence of the Dark Lord," he said, "great evil emanated from the fortress, affecting a wide area of the surrounding forest."

The others nodded, remembering tales they had heard, though none had been in Lord Celeborn's service in those days.

"A Wood Elf, hunting alone in the forest, had strayed into the area tracking game. Night had fallen and he was far from home. He wandered on, with no thought to his surroundings, until he suddenly felt something was amiss and looked up to see the fortress of the Necromancer high above on the hill. Finding himself so close to the dread citadel, his heart trembled and his senses were inundated by the evil that suddenly seemed to radiate from every part of the old forest. Fearing discovery by the Dark Lord's minions, he pulled his cloak tightly about him and began to hastily make his way back in the direction he had come.

The night was much as this night, the wind calm, Ithil full - its silver beams shining down peacefully, but there was evil beneath the beauty that the Elf could feel quite keenly."

Rumil's listeners had grown silent, imagining their own fear should they find themselves in a situation such as that unfortunate Elf. A breeze blew through the camp and the Lorien Elves heard the trees around them sing soft reassurances that the horror was no more. Relaxing a bit, they settled in as Rúmil went on.

"The Elf made his way along as quickly and stealthily as he could, which for a Wood Elf is quite swift and silent indeed." The other Elves all looked at each other and nodded agreement. They knew from experience how difficult it could be to detect the presence of such an Elf anywhere under tree. "As he walked," Rúmil said, "the Elf listened and watched for signs of the presence of another living being. And that is when he noticed that there was no sound at all in the forest save his own nearly silent footfalls.

Not a stir of breeze or branch could be heard, nor was there sound or voice of any living creature. It was an eerie walk through the soundless forest, and the Elf looked up through the dark branches for a glimpse of the comforting stars. The branches above seemed to lace together almost before his eyes, blocking the smallest ray of starlight from reaching his pleading gaze. And now his own footsteps seemed to echo around him, calling attention to his presence, marking him, tracking him as he went.

He began to feel his passage was being observed, but by who, or what, he knew not. He glanced around him fearfully and his heart caught in his throat to see the same trees he had passed but moments before standing silently along the path he trod. Turning to the left, he walked quickly again, and now he felt a rush - as of a sudden, stiff breeze - which seemed only to last but a moment and was gone. Not thirty paces had he gone when, again, the same trees appeared ahead. He stopped short, looking around in fear and confusion, wondering how he could have gotten lost, for never had he been lost in a forest in his long life.

As he stood trembling, unsure of which way to turn next, he saw that the trees now seemed to press closely around him. Old oaks and ash they were, with large, gnarled roots which seemed to barely touch the ground in which they grew, and twisted, claw-like branches held low to the ground and seeming to reach out like hands to halt his course. The Elf could feel a malevolence roll off their rough bark and he tried to dart past the nearest one, only to nearly crash into it as it suddenly blocked his path.

He stepped back in fear and awe, looking up at their cruel branches and wondering how a tree, of all things, could have moved swifter than he. And now the trees were upon him, trapping him within their compass, his chest, back, and sides almost touching their knotted trunks. Knowing he had no chance of getting around them, the terrified Elf leapt up into the branches above..."

Rúmil paused and the other Elves were barely breathing as the awaited the fate of the cornered Sinda.

"A scream rent the stillness of the night." Rúmil said solemnly. He looked at his companions and shrugged, "and thus the tale ends."

The others exhaled in unison. They looked at each other and then at Rúmil.

"Is that all?" one of his companions finally said. "What happened to him?"

"Legend has it that the Elf's fellows sought him for weeks but all that was ever found was his bow." Rúmil said. "It has come out since that when the Necromancer ruled Dol Guldur he had transplanted some of the Huorns and bent them to his dark will."

"But if the trees killed him, and he was hunting by himself, how did the story come to be known?"

Rúmil smiled an odd smile. "I did not say the trees killed him."

The others looked at Rúmil uneasily.

"But..." Orophin began, but he never finished, for into the camp strode a tall Wood Elf, dressed in the colors of the forest, a quiver of arrows on his back but no bow in his hand.

The Lorien Elves jumped from their places by the fire and ran into the forest, Orophin included, and did not stop until they reached their rendezvous point several miles away. Meanwhile the Wood Elf sat down by the fire and helped himself to a plate of stew.

"I'll have to go retrieve my bow after dinner," he grinned at Rúmil, "but thank you for clearing a place for me."

"Think nothing of it, my friend," Rúmil smiled back, and give Prince Legolas my best next time you see him."

"You may tell him yourself when you return the favor. We patrol the Greenwood side of the border six weeks hence."

Rúmil laughed, "I will do so, but if his bravery matches that of my companions, I am afraid you will have to deliver the message yourself."


end

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