The sun melted the snow that lay upon the roof of Legolas's tree-house, high above the ground. Water dripped onto his front porch, where Haley and Legolas were busy fixing his rope ladder. Alice was inside, taking a nap on Legolas's couch.
"Do you think Ugluk will break your bow, or keep it?" Haley said.
"He won't break it. He might try to sell it. Orcs are always trying to sell things."
"Is he an orc? It thought he was an Exile."
"An Exile is an orc so nasty that the other orcs won't let him live with them any more."
"How nasty is that?"
"Pretty nasty," Legolas said.
Haley finished tying a knot. "How are you going to get your bow back, then, if Ugluk sells it?"
"I have to get it back before he sells it."
"We'll help you."
"Will you? It will be dangerous."
"Well," Legolas said, "Perhaps we can go and steal it back from him tonight. I'm sure he will be feeling very pleased with himself, and he won't know you're with me."
From inside the house, they heard Alice say, "Yuck!"
Legolas and Haley looked in through the door. Alice was standing on the couch, pointing at the floor. There was Legolas's lizard, and a big green pooh on the floor behind him. "That lizard was going to pooh on me!"
Legolas shouted at his lizard. "You stupid lizard, I told you to pooh outside on the porch."
"ZZZPFF!" the lizard said, and crawled under the couch.
Legolas went in and cleaned up the pooh.
That night, it was cold again. Alice, Haley, and Legolas unrolled the rope ladder, which was now all fixed up with new pieces of rope and strong knots. Haley and Alice each wore a white wool dress with white tights that kept their legs nice and warm. Legolas was wearing a dark green sweater and brown trousers. Hanging from his belt were his two long knives, and on his back was a quiver of twenty arrows, in case he did get his bow back.
Legolas climbed down first. He stopped and listened several times on the way. Orcs are tough and strong, but they are not quiet, so Legolas thought that if he listened carefully, he would hear any orcs that might be hiding below. But he did not hear anything, so he climbed down all the way and crouched on the wet snow that lay on the ground.
Legolas knew that if there were orcs nearby, they would be able to see him more easily than he could see them, because orcs see very well at night. He listened for a while longer and then made a whistling sound. When Alice heard the sound, she started to climb down. When she reached the bottom, she crouched next to Legolas.
"It's night-time," Alice said.
"Yes it is," Legolas said. He could hardly see Alice in her white dress with the white snow all around.
"I have a club," Alice said, and Legolas saw her hold something up in front of his eyes. It was as long as Alice's arm, and looked heavy and hard.
"You be careful of those orcs, Alice. They're mean."
"I am going to bite them and hit them and make them go to sleep."
"I don't think you should bite them, they probably don't taste very good."
Legolas whistled, and Haley started climbing down. She climbed down so quietly that Legolas did not hear her until she was almost on top of him.
"Look out," he said.
Haley let go of the ladder and landed beside him.
"What if the orcs go up the ladder while we're away?" Haley said.
"We won't be here."
"But they might mess up your house."
"Oh well," Legolas said, "I don't think they're anywhere around here."
Even though it was dark, there was a little light from the moon, and Legolas led Haley and Alice through the forest to the place where Ugluk and three orcs had attacked him that morning (see Legolas's Bad Day). They stood listening for a while, and then Legolas took out his flashlight, and shined the light on the ground. They saw the big footprints left by the orcs in the snow, and Legolas's footprints as well.
"This is where I dropped my bow," Legolas said, and showed them the place where he had jumped up and grabbed a tree branch to escape from Ugluk. "Now all we have to do is follow their footprints in the snow, all the way to the place where they are hiding."
And so they followed the footprints. At first the footprints went back towards Legolas's house, until they came to within a hundred steps of his tree, but then they turned away, and went off deeper into the forest. Alice, Legolas, and Haley followed the footprints for an hour. The footprints were always easy to see with Legolas's flashlight, but in some places the snow was still deep, and they sank up to their knees in it. Their trousers and tights were wet and cold. In other places, the snow that had melted during the day was freezing in the cold night air, and they all slipped many times. Once, Alice slipped down a slope and bumped into a bush, which scratched her on her arms.
"Ow!" she said.
"Be quiet Alice," Haley said, "I'll come and get you."
But Alice was already climbing back up the slope towards them. When she reached the top, she waved her club over her head. "I'm angry now!"
"Let's go and find the orcs, then," Legolas said.
And so they kept going, on and on through the dark, cold, forest, slipping on the ice and sinking into the snow, getting more and more cold and wet and tired. At last Legolas said, "I don't know, girls, maybe they ran so far away from my house that we won't be able to get there before the sun comes up."
Haley was shivering. "So what do we do?"
"Are we lost?" Alice said.
"No," Legolas said, "I know where we are."
"I think we are lost," Haley said.
"No, we're not lost."
"How do you know we're not lost?"
"Trust me when I tell you that we're not lost. I've lived in this forest for thirty years."
"Shhh!" Alice said, "I hear something."
They listened, and tried to breath quietly so they could hear better. They heard voices somewhere through the forest ahead of them.
"That's them," Legolas said.
Without saying anything else, they started following the orc footprints again, and as they went forward, the voices grew louder. Legolas stopped and turned off his flashlight. "I don't want them to see us coming."
They walked forward, towards the sound of voices, and soon found themselves at the top of a ridge. Looking down through the trees, they saw a big fire at the bottom, and around it, fifteen or twenty orcs laughing and talking together, and roasting meat on the fire. There was Ugluk, standing in front of the fire, telling a story. He was speaking so loudly, they could hear every word he said. But they could not understand him because he was speaking orcish.
"Ah yes, me keen-eyed, pretty bandits, a fine day's work indeed, if ever there was one!" he said.
"What's he saying?" Haley said to Legolas.
"I don't know, I don't speak orcish."
"You should learn."
"Why should I learn orcish? You learn it."
"Shhh!" Alice said.
Legolas and Haley stopped talking.
"And here it is, the one and the only, the dragon-bow of Legolas!" Ugluk held up Legolas's bow and waved it in the air. The orcs cheered and picked up their clubs and shields and started banging them together, making a very loud noise.
"Now is a good time to move closer," Legolas said.
"I can't bite all of them," Alice said.
"Don't worry," Legolas said, "you won't have to."
Very slowly, Alice, Haley, and Legolas crept down the slope, hiding behind trees and bushes whenever they could. But the orcs were so busy making noise and roasting meat and listening to Ugluk, that even if the three of them had stomped down the slope, none of the orcs would have noticed.
When they reached the bottom they hid behind a big rock only a few steps from one of the orcs. This orc seemed to be very tired, because he fell over on the snow and started snoring soon after.
"Ah yes, me trusty, hairy-nosed warriors, we'll sell this fine article and all be rich!"
One of the orcs said, "But boss, who are we be going to sell it to?"
"Never you mind, Grubb," Ugluk said, "Leave the plotting and the planning to old Ugluk, he won't let you down."
The orcs nodded their heads and said, "That's right!"
"But tell me Grubb," Ugluk said, "If I have one bow and I sell one bow, how many bows do I have left?"
All the orcs looked at Grubb, who, after a moment, held up his fingers and started counting on them. The orcs were quiet while Grubb tried to figure out the answer. But in the end, he gave up and said, "I don't know boss, is it a trick question?"
The orcs laughed. One of them slapped Grubb on the back.
"Ah, Grubb," Ugluk said, "You're one in million, you are, one in a million."
The orcs went quiet again, and looked at Ugluk.
"Ah, me laddies, I can see that none of you hard-working reprobates know what a million is. Well, don't you worry, because, you know what?"
"I knows what a million is."
Unfortunately for Alice, Haley, and Legolas, as I have said, none of them spoke orcish, so none of them could understand what the orcs were saying. But they were watching from behind the rock, and they realized that the orcs were talking about the bow, and about Legolas. They were just discussing what they were going to do, in quiet whispers, when one of the orcs stood up and walked straight towards their rock.
"Get down!" Legolas said, and they lay down behind the rock.
Soon they heard the sound of a thin stream of water hitting the other side of the rock.
"He's doing a pee!" Alice said.
"Shhh!" Legolas said.
Alice was starting to giggle, but Haley put her hand over Alice's mouth so the orcs would not hear.
"Ah!" the orc said, "That's better," and he went back to join the others.
"That was close," Legolas said.
Haley looked up over the rock. "Where's the bow?"
Ugluk was not holding it any more.
Legolas looked as well. "There, he's put it back by that tree, next to his bags."
"And now," Ugluk said, "It's time for some music."
"Oh no," Legolas said, "We must act quickly."
One of the orcs picked up a metal can and threw a couple of rocks into it. He put the lid on the can and began to shake it, making a loud clanging noise. Two other orcs took out big, crooked trumpets, and began to blow on them. The rest of them took their clubs and banged on their shields, and on rocks, and even branches lying on the ground. They all banged together.
"Don't worry," Legolas said, "it will be okay so long as they don't start to sing."
The orcs started to sing. Or you might say they all started to yell at the same time. Alice and Legolas put their fingers in their ears. He was frowning, as if he was in pain.
"I don't like this music!" Alice said.
Legolas closed his eyes leaned against the rock.
But the orcs were having a good time. Some of them stood up and started dancing, waving their bottoms around and stomping on the ground in time to the music. Ugluk danced in front of the fire, waving his long black knife over his head. Every now and then he jumped up in the air and clapped his feet together.
"It sounds kind of like my Dad's music," Haley said.
But neither Legolas nor Alice could hear her, because they both had their fingers in their ears.
Haley leaned close to Legolas and said, "I'll go get the bow."
"Are you sure?" Legolas said.
"Yes, I'll be right back."
Haley began to sneak around through the trees, outside the light of the fire, towards Ugluk's bags, where she could see the bow. She was wearing white clothes, walking on the white snow in the dark, so even if the orcs had looked in her direction, they would not have seen her. She took care not to step on any branches, and stepped slowly on the snow so that the orcs would not hear it crunching beneath her feet.
Meanwhile, Alice took her fingers out of her ears. Haley was right, it did sound like some of Dad's music, so it was not so bad after all. But Legolas was pale in the face and pushed his fingers harder into his ears. Alice put her arm around him and kissed him on the cheek.
Haley reached Ugluk's bags, stepped over them, and picked up the bow. But as she did so, a flicker of light from the fire shone on her face, and Ugluk saw her.
"Thief!" Ugluk said, and the music stopped.
From behind the rock where Legolas and Alice were hiding, the orcs heard a long, painful moan. It was Legolas. "Oh, my ears," he said.
All the orcs looked at the rock, even though Ugluk was pointing at Haley.
"Get the thief!" Ugluk said.
Legolas stood up from behind the rock. When the orcs saw him, they shouted. Two of them, who had been banging their clubs on a fallen tree, ran at him right away. Legolas was still dizzy from the music, but he drew his knife in time, and knocked aside the first orc's club. The second orc might have hit Legolas, but Alice jumped up on the rock just in time and brought her club down hard on his head. The orc stopped, stepped backwards, and fell down.
"Go to sleep!" Alice said.
Legolas punched the other orc in the stomach.
"Oof!" the orc said, and sunk to his knees, "stronger than you look, you little creep."
Ugluk ran towards Haley. She looked at Ugluk, and then at Legolas. She decided that she would not be able to run faster than Ugluk in the forest, and certainly not at night, when he could see better than her. Legolas and Alice were not far away, but between her and them were ten orcs, all picking up their clubs and putting their helmets on, getting ready to fight.
She drew back her arm and threw the bow, high over the heads of the orcs. Ugluk watched it fly through the air. Legolas reached out with one hand and caught it. With his other hand, he took an arrow out of his quiver, and half a second later, the arrow was strung and pointed at Ugluk.
"Nobody move," Legolas said.
"They can't understand your pretty words," Ugluk said.
But the orcs understood the bow well enough, and all of them stopped. Nobody seemed to be paying any attention to Haley, so she disappeared into the forest again, and started creeping back towards Alice and Legolas.
Alice swung her club above her head.
"I'm angry! I'm angry," she said.
"You can't shoot all of us with one arrow," Ugluk said.
"I won't shoot all of you," Legolas said, "just you, Ugluk."
"My boys will get you anyway."
"Maybe they will, Ugluk, but you won't be around to enjoy capturing me."
The orcs looked at Ugluk, and then at Legolas. By now, Haley was very near Legolas and Alice, but she stayed hidden behind a tree.
"I tell you what, little elf," Ugluk said, "you give me back my bow, and I'll let you and the girls go."
"No, I'll tell you what," Legolas said, "Goodbye."
He and Alice turned and started to run up the slope. When Legolas saw Haley, he was very glad, and together they went as fast as they could. When Alice slipped, Legolas helped her up. The orcs were running after them, and orcs are strong, so they are fast when they run up hills in their big boots. One of them was right behind Haley.
Legolas reached the top of the slope first. He turned and fired his arrow. It flew past Haley's face and hit the orc behind her in the shoulder. When the arrow struck him, it nearly knocked him backwards. But he did not fall, and he was so tough that he did not even cry out in pain. As Haley reached the top of the ridge, the orc pulled the arrow out, and started running again.
But the orc did not see Alice crouching down on the snow near the top of the ridge in her white dress, and Alice hit him hard on the knee with her club. He fell, slid down the slope, and bumped into the orcs running up behind him. Two of them tripped over him, and the others had to stop for a few seconds to catch him.
"This way," Legolas said, and Alice and Haley ran behind him through the forest until they came to the top of another slope. There were hardly any trees here, just snow with a thin skin of ice, shining white in the moonlight.
"Come on!" Legolas said. He sat down on the snow and began to slide. Alice and Haley came after him. Down they went, faster and faster, with the cold night air in their faces, and buried rocks bumping them all the way, until they landed together in a big pile, bruised and panting in a snow-covered bush.
"Don't stop!" Legolas said, and they stood up and began to run again.
Behind them, the orcs stopped at the top of the slope waiting for Ugluk, and then came sliding down themselves. But by the time they reached the bottom, Alice, Haley, and Legolas were gone.
"To the tree-house!" Ugluk said.
Legolas led Alice and Haley by the quickest way back to his house, but the orcs did not know the quickest way, and by the time Ugluk and his orcs reached Legolas's tree, Alice, Haley, and Legolas were already up in the tree-house, with the rope ladder coiled up on his porch. They were cold and wet and very tired, but they had Legolas's bow, and they were safe.
"Well done, girls," Legolas said, "What would I do without you?"