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Part 17

“Whoa!” cried Arthur, bringing the elf’s horse to a standstill.

High above him, a jet of fire, blasting at the rocks, had just exposed the position of the dragon’s lair. Arthur watched it, memorising landmarks and judging distances, until the flames died out.

“Well,” he said, patting the horse’s neck, “now we know where to find the beast. Let’s hope that your master proves as easy to track down.”

...

It was the horse, however, who found the elf—resisting all of Arthur’s attempts to guide it, it picked its own way through the maze of criss-crossing paths, and brought him straight to the foot of the dragon’s hill.

The elf, who seemed to be expecting him, greeted Arthur with (what he supposed was) an elven gesture of respect, placing one hand upon his heart and bowing his head.

“I see that you have escaped the whirlwind, your Highness,” he said.

“I have—Sir Elf,” Arthur replied, and saw a hint of amusement flit across the creature’s flawless features.

But, after glancing at Sir Bors, who—though not much of a fighter—had always proved himself a shrewd judge of character, and seeing that the man appeared to have befriended the elf, he decided that it was time to make some sort of apology. “On reflection,” he began, awkwardly, “I—I feel—that is, I think may have been a little—er—hasty in my earlier judgement—”

“As I recall, your Highness,” said the elf, lightly, “you risked your life to drag me from the whirlwind’s path. I am in your debt.”

“Well,” said Arthur, “be that as it may—if you still intend to rescue your Lady, I offer you my sword.”

“The Lady is Lord Legolas’ wife, Sire,” said Sir Bors.

“I see,” said Arthur.

“And she—er—she was able to inform us,” Bors continued, “that she is as yet unharmed.”

Arthur saw the elf—Leg-a-las—shoot the knight a look of gratitude, and wondered what secret Sir Bors might be keeping from him. “What’s your plan?” he asked.

“I intend,” said Legolas, tying a length of flimsy-looking rope to a ridiculously elegant arrow, “to climb up there, and ask the dragon to set my wife free.”

Ask?” said Arthur, incredulously.

“Beg, if necessary.” Legolas fitted the arrow to his bow.

“And if that doesn’t work?”

“Then I will have to think of something else.” The elf planted his feet, and drew his bow, taking careful aim—and, though Arthur had always considered the bow a commoner’s weapon, he found himself admiring its obvious power.

“Right,” he said.

Then the elf loosed and, as the arrow flew silently up the hillside, it seemed to Arthur that it was following the contours of the rock, seeking a suitable target—until, suddenly, it buried itself deep in a crevice. He had to admit that it had been a phenomenal shot.

Then Legolas grasped the rope, and Arthur understood how he intended to use it. “That will not hold,” he said.

“It is an elven arrow,” said Legolas, cheerfully, “and elven rope.” And he began to climb.

Arthur waited until the elf had gone a good thirty yards without falling to his death before he motioned Bors to follow. “This wife of his had better be beautiful,” he muttered, under his breath.

 

 
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