Silently, Arwen and Faramir returned to the tower where she and Aragorn lived. The house was in near darkness, a single torch burning at the door, and a few candles still lit in the hallways. She turned to Faramir. “Thank you. Will you stay here tonight, or return to your own house?”
“Éowyn is still here. I will wait for her. We will stay if you need us.”
“Thank you” she said again softly.
Leaving the room, she moved to the stairs leading to the upper floors. At Eldarion’s room she opened the door quietly and went in. Éowyn was in a deep chair next to the bed. She was dozing, but as Arwen entered she looked up and rose to her feet.
“Éowyn, thank you for staying here. Is Eldarion all right?”
“He’s sleeping now, but I think he’s having bad dreams.”
“Yes. I can stay with him now. Faramir is downstairs, waiting for you. Can you both stay tonight, please?”
“Of course.” Éowyn replied as she left the room.
Arwen sat in the chair Éowyn had vacated. Eldarion was asleep, but restless. She watched him intently. He had Aragorn’s dark looks, but her fairer skin - and his ears were slightly pointed. She knew he would be deeply upset at what had happened - he rather tended to hero-worship Legolas. She was also sure he would blame himself. He had his father’s tendency to take responsibility for events over which he had no control. It was a trait she simultaneously loved and hated.
For the first time in that long night, she allowed herself to relax, relinquishing the iron control with which she held herself, both as daughter of Elrond and as Queen of Gondor. She remembered the young Elf prince she had first met at her father’s court long, long ago, and gradually the tears began to fall.
It was the custom of the three Elf lords to meet in council every ten years, and on this occasion it was her father’s turn to host the gathering. The household had been in preparation for weeks. Rooms had been prepared, bedding laundered and the banners of the Lords and their captains dusted down.
He brothers had attended the last two councils, and now Thranduil was to bring his son for the first time. As heir it would be part of his training to take part in the council and gradually to represent his father at audiences. Arwen was glad her future did not hold such trials. Her brothers would both be Lords, Elladan of Rivendell, and Elrohir of Lothlorien when Celeborn and Galadriel departed, and Elrond was already training them in their duties. For now, though, she was mistress of Rivendell, as her mother was away in Lorien and would return with Celeborn the next day.
When the party from Greenwood the Great arrived, she looked at Thranduil’s son with interest. He was a little older than she was, a little younger than her brothers, with an air that spoke of the possibility of much fun for the four of them. The initial introductions were all formality. “Lord Elrond, may I present my son, Prince Legolas.” Thranduil announced.
Legolas bowed low, both to Elrond, and, to her acute embarrassment, to Arwen herself. “My Lord Elrond, Lady Arwen, I am honoured to meet you.”
In her turn, Arwen curtsied. “Your Majesty, you are most welcome to our house. Prince Leg’as - Legolas - I bid you welcome.” She flushed at the error, but it served to break the formality, and she heard her father laugh.
“You will not be needed yet. Arwen, will you show Legolas Rivendell?” She nodded, and pulling him behind her, led him away to meet her brothers.
They had somehow heard of her slip, and exchanged twin’s glances as they approached. “Hello, Leg’as. Welcome to Rivendell.”
“Yes, we are pleased to meet you again, Leg’as.”
Without showing a flicker of reaction, Legolas smiled at the brothers. “Ellahir, Elrodan - thank you for the welcome to your city. I am sure I will find much of interest here.”
It was as if he had passed some sort of initiation. From that moment the four were inseparable, and roamed the whole valley of Rivendell, ranging up onto the moors above the valley, and as far as the Ford of Bruinen. They did not quite dare to cross the forbidden Ford towards the Trollshaws, despite Elladan’s prompting - Elrond’s wrath could be formidable.
Eldarion was growing more restless, tossing and turning. He cried out once, and Arwen touched him gently on the shoulder. He awoke with a start. “Mother? What is it?” His face clouded as he remembered. “You’ve been crying. I’m sorry. It’s all my fault.”
“Shhh. No. It’s not your fault - there’s nothing anyone could have done. Go back to sleep” she soothed him. “If you like, I’ll tell you about the first time I went to Mirkwood with your uncles. It was called the Greenwood then. We all got into a lot of trouble one day.”
“Tell me. I can’t imagine you ever being naughty, mother.”
She smiled at him as she recalled the day they had explored Legolas’ home. The next Ten Year Council had been held at Lasgalen. One of them had committed some minor misdemeanour, she could not recall what - but it had roused the ire of the King. She had barely begun her tale when Eldarion fell asleep again, but she was lost in memories.
“And stay inside Lasgalen!” roared Thranduil.
“Yes, father” Legolas replied meekly. They looked at one another.
“Now what can we do?”
“I’ll show you the caves under the palace. My grandfather built this place in the Second Age, and the tunnels seem to go on for miles. We’ll need torches - it’s dark down there.”
As they moved deeper into the cave system Legolas explained the history. “Part of the Forest River ran through here and made these caves, and Oropher excavated some of the other parts. The caves nearest the surface are used for storage, but my father tells visitors that deeper underground he has dungeons for any unwelcome guests.”
The cave walls in places glistened with water, and the air was chill. Their voices echoed, and outside the circle of light from the torches they could see nothing. The tunnels and caves branched and interlinked, so Arwen had no idea how far they had come. “Perhaps the part about unwelcome visitors is right” she suggested. “They’d never find their way out again.”
Elladan and Elrohir exchanged glances. “But you know the way, don’t you?” they said to Legolas.
“Ye-es. Of course I do. This way” He led them down another passageway. It twisted and turned, and branched off into darkness at several points. At times it was difficult to make out the main route. At length they came out into a large cavern. The rock seemed different here, and high up on one side a gleam of light showed. “I have no memory of this place at all.” He sighed. “I think we’d better go back.” They followed Legolas back down the tunnel they had come through, the torches flickering in the draught from the hole behind them. He soon faltered and peered down a tunnel that led off to the right. “I think that’s the way we came - come on.”
The new passage continued to twist on itself but eventually they saw it widen ahead. They were in a large cave - and high up a gleam of light showed. “How did we get back here again?” queried Elladan.
“Don’t worry” said his brother. “It will be quicker if we climb up and get out through that gap. Arwen? Do you think you can do it?”
She looked up at the wall consideringly. “Yes, of course. Can you?” She glared at Elrohir and threw the challenge back at him.
Legolas laughed. “All right. We’ll go that way. It doesn’t look too difficult, but I’m sorry I got us lost. Elladan, you go first.”
Elladan jumped and caught at an overhanging rock. Finding hand and footholds he quickly scrambled up until he could pull himself through the gap. He turned to peer down. “It’s easy. Elrohir - you next. Come on.”
Elrohir followed his brother up the side of the cave. He had nearly reached the top when the rock beneath one foot broke away. He clung to the wall for a moment, frozen, then carefully pulled himself up a little further. His foot, reaching for a toehold, kicked against the rock, and another stone broke off and fell. Then a whole slab of rock, loosened by the other movements, broke away and crashed to the ground below him. It was followed by a cascade of stones, pebbles and soil which gradually slowed and stopped. Elladan had lunged forward and seized his brother’s wrists before he fell, then with a heave hauled him up and through the hole. “Are you two all right?!” he cried.
Arwen coughed, her throat and eyes stinging from the dust. “I am, but I think Legolas is hurt. He’s not moving”
“Elbereth! Is he dead?”
Picking her way over the loose stone and rubble on the floor she knelt beside Legolas. He had jumped forward when Elrohir nearly fell, and had been hit by the rockfall. A slab of rock lay across one leg and he was covered with rubble and debris. His upper body was twisted as he had tried to shield himself and get clear. Carefully she took his wrist and felt his pulse, the way her father had shown her. “N - no. I don’t think so. He’s alive. Elladan, what are we going to do?” She gazed up at her brothers far above, feeling lonely and very scared. The torches had gone out when they were dropped and the cave was in near total darkness. The faint light from above did not penetrate this far.
Elladan and Elrohir had a hurried conversation, then Elladan called down to her. “I’ll go and get help. Elrohir will stay here and talk to you. I’ll be as fast as I can. Don’t worry!” They disappeared from the hole, then Elrohir was back.
“He’s gone to get help now. I don’t think we’re too far from Lasgalen, so it won’t be long.”
“But Thranduil told us not to go outside! He’ll be angry!”
“Arwen, if we’ve killed his son that will be the least of our worries. Father will have our ears for this!”
Arwen had gone rigid at Elrohir’s first words, but managed a weak smile at the final sentence. It was Elrond’s favourite threat whenever they did something wrong. A slight movement beside her brought her attention back to Legolas. He muttered something about darkness and his eyes flickered. “Legolas? Legolas, can you hear me? It’s Arwen.”
“Ar - Arwen?” His voice was faint, the merest breath.
“Yes. Don’t try to move. Someone’s coming soon.” He turned his head towards her. As he shifted slightly he gave a gasp of pain. “I said DON’T try to move! Keep still!”
His eyes were open now, and his voice a little stronger. “Why? What happened?”
She was worried by this, but kept talking to reassure him. “We’re in the caves under Lasgalen. The side fell in and some of the rocks hit you. It’s going to be all right. I’m going to move some of the stones now.” Carefully she began to pick the rubble off him. She could remove most, but the heavy slab was beyond her. “I can’t move this. It’s too heavy. I’m afraid if it drops back it will hurt you even more. I’m sorry.”
He nodded, turned his head more carefully and looked up at the shaft of light. “Who’s that up there? Ellahir?”
She almost sobbed with relief, and gave a watery smile. “No, it’s Elrodan. Ellahir’s gone to get help.” She raised her voice. “Elrohir! He’s awake!”
“Thank the Valar! Legolas, are you all right?”
“Wonderful. We must do this again one day.” Beneath the banter Arwen could hear a tension in his voice. He was very pale and his pulse was racing. There was a deep gash on the side of his head. His hair was matted with blood, and there was a tracery of blood on his face. He moved again and was unable to suppress a sharp hiss. To take his mind off things, Arwen thought back ten years to when they had explored Rivendell.
“Do you remember when you fell in the river?” she asked him.
“Fell? You pushed me in!”
“Actually, it was Elrohir who pushed you. Because you’d been talking to that girl who came with the Lothlorien group.”
“Alyssia? I’d forgotten about her.”
“Forgotten? You knew her name straight away!” Legolas laughed, then winced. “I’m sorry. Does it hurt?”
“No. It’s not so bad now. I can’t really feel much.” At that, Arwen was more worried than ever, but kept on talking.
“Do you remember the time when Elladan dared us to go across the ford and up to the wood? He said there were trolls there.”
“He was right. Elrohir and I crept up there one night and nearly got caught. I don’t know what I was most scared of - the trolls, your father, or mine!”
“I never knew that! Why didn’t you tell me?” demanded Arwen. “Why didn’t you ask me to go with you?”
“I don’t think Elrohir wanted you to see how scared he was!”
“Or how scared YOU were?”
She could tell his attention wasn’t really on her. His eyes kept darting around the cavern, trying to see into the darkness, and up at the wall of rock Elladan and Elrohir had climbed. Parts of it still looked unstable, and she prayed that more wouldn’t come down. Outside the cave, Elrohir leaned through the hole again. His movement caused a fresh shower of small stones to rain down. She gave a gasp of fright and tried to lean over Legolas to shield him. He looked up at her.
“Arwen, what are you doing? Get out of the way! It’s coming down again!” His voice was weak, but he sounded furious with her.
“No! Elrohir, the wall is collapsing again!”
“Arwen, get back! It won’t help him if you get trapped too.”
Now Legolas added his voice again. “Move! This whole side of the cave could give way. You must get out of the way, Arwen, please!” He was angry, but there was a stark fear in his eyes.
“NO! I’m not leaving you!” she said fiercely. “Elrohir, move back. Away from the side. I think that’s what’s causing it.” He disappeared from the hole. As he moved a few more stones fell but then the shower stopped. “That’s better. You’ll have to stay there. Don’t come any closer. It’s too weak.” She spoke calmly, but now her heart was racing nearly as fast as Legolas’. She could no longer see Elrohir, but could still faintly hear his voice. She called again. “Is there any sign of Elladan yet?
“No. He’s been gone a long time.”
“What if a spider got him?!” She could not quite keep the tremor out of her voice.
“Don’t worry. I told you, we’re quite close to Lasgalen.”
“But Legolas told me they sometimes attack someone on their own, even here!”
“He was probably trying to scare you. Ask him.”
She looked down at Legolas doubtfully. He didn’t really seem to be aware of her now. “I don’t think he can hear me.”
“Arwen, talk to him. Keep him awake! Wait - I can hear someone.” There was a long pause, then: “It’s Elladan. It’s all right, Arwen, someone’s coming.”
She gave a sigh of relief. “Elladan?” What’s going to happen?”
“Father and Thranduil are going through the tunnels. When I described the cave, he knew where you were. It will be easier if you come out that way. If they can’t do that there’s some people here with ropes to pull you up.”
It seemed a long time, but eventually she could see a faint flicker of light approaching, and heard voices calling her. She got to her feet as her father, Thranduil and several Lasgalen Elves came out of one of the passages. Elrond held her close. “Are you hurt? No? What about Legolas?”
She turned to look behind her. Thranduil was already there, with Legolas leaning back against him. It seemed incongruous to see the stern king kneeling in the dirt, cradling his son’s head. “Elrond? What can you do?” His voice sounded curt.
Elrond examined Legolas carefully. He did not seem too worried by the gash on his head, but his face was grave as he peered under the heavy stone. He beckoned several of the Elves over. “We need to lift this. It will hurt” he warned.
“I don’t care. Just do it. Get me out of here” whispered Legolas. For the first time his control slipped, and she glimpsed the pain and fear underneath. Arwen returned to his side and took his hand. "Ready?" He nodded.
As the heavy slab was lifted, circulation returned, and with it, pain. He gripped her hand so tightly her fingers hurt, but he made no sound. Beside her, she could hear Thranduil murmuring something in Sindarin, so softly she could not make out the words. At last the stone was heaved to one side. The brown material of his leggings was dark with blood, and the ground beneath glistened wetly. As Elrond ran gentle fingers over his leg, Legolas gave a soft cry and suddenly went limp. His hand went slack in Arwen’s and his head sagged against his father’s shoulder. Thranduil’s voice broke off abruptly and he made an odd sound, but Elrond gave a sigh of relief.
“This is for the best. His leg is broken, quite badly. I can see the bone. I need to splint and set it, then we can get him back to Lasgalen.” He looked at up. “Don’t worry. He should be safe now.” Tears started welling in her eyes, and she ducked her head so no one would notice. She took a quick sideways look at Thranduil. His face was grey and lined with worry at the fear of losing his only child. She knew his wife had died in childbirth many years ago, and the baby, a girl, with her. Her father had not been there but he had said he would have been unable to save her. She prayed he could do something this time. She did not think Thranduil could endure another loss like that.
The whole process took a very long time, and Legolas did not regain consciousness until they were back at Lasgalen. As they eventually set off Arwen overheard Thranduil talking to her father. “Tomorrow I will have these passages and caves sealed. They have become far too dangerous. He could have died, Elrond, they could all have died! This must never happen again.”
Elrond agreed, but then, with the ghost of a smile, asked “But what about your dungeons?”
Thranduil gave Elrond a sharp look, but to Arwen’s eternal amazement reluctantly returned the smile. “I don’t need to tell anyone they’ve been sealed, do I?”
Eldarion was asleep again, and seemed calmer. Outside, the sky was growing lighter and she realised with a start it was nearly dawn. The accident had happened so long ago, but she remembered every detail vividly. The physical scars had healed quickly, but Legolas had been left with a lingering dislike of caves and such places. As far as she knew, he had never spoken of the incident since. Certainly, Aragorn did not know, and she was sure Legolas had never told Gimli. Their unending taunts could be exhausting, but were always light-hearted, never cruel. The Dwarf would not mock the fear, and would never have played the trick in the Glittering Caves if he had known the truth.
A nagging doubt at the back of her mind regarding the events that evening - yesterday - suddenly crystallised into certainty. They had made a dreadful mistake, and she had to see Aragorn before it was too late.
This is a work of fan fiction, written because the author has an abiding love for the works of J R R Tolkien. The characters, settings, places, and languages used in this work are the property of the Tolkien Estate, Tolkien Enterprises, and possibly New Line Cinema, except for certain original characters who belong to the author of the said work. The author will not receive any money or other remuneration for presenting the work on this archive site. The work is the intellectual property of the author, is available solely for the enjoyment of Henneth Annûn Story Archive readers, and may not be copied or redistributed by any means without the explicit written consent of the author.