It was well he did so, for the elf's counterstrike was swifter than sight; in a flash Legolas was on his feet with blade in hand and had Gimli stood defiant, his head would surely have been lying in the sand where the elf had sprawled only a heartbeat before. Legolas swept his knife upward in a vicious arc and Gimli felt it whistle past; pain seared across his breast. Gimli stumbled and pressed a hand to the wound, then he narrowed his eyes and lunged forward with a savage shout.
The Fellowship would have been six that night if Aragorn and Boromir had not closed in quickly. Boromir threw himself at the dwarf, gripping him by the shoulders and forcing him to the ground. Gimli slammed a solid fist into the man's gut, but Boromir had not yet removed his leather armor and the warded blow did no harm to him and served only to enrage the dwarf further. Cursing and spitting guttural dwarven words, Gimli fought to break the warrior's hold on him, but his struggles were incapacitated by the madness which clouded his mind and Boromir proved to be stronger than the raving dwarf.
Aragorn broke forward to stand resolutely before Legolas. The elf was still, very still, his arms at his side, the knife stained with the dwarf's blood clenched tightly in his fingers and he was watching Gimli with a look as cold as a killing frost. A gash along his cheekbone was red and raw in the firelight and a blackened bruise was beginning to form along his jaw where the dwarf's powerful, stony hand had caught him.
Carefully, Aragorn gripped Legolas by the sword arm to keep his weapon at bay and he hooked a finger below the elf's chin, forcing him to look up and meet his gaze.
The pale green eyes were flat and murderous. Legolas stared through Aragorn as if the heir of Elendil was an insignificant annoyance to him, beneath his concern; Aragorn's throat constricted at the lack of emotion, the coldness he saw. That alien, abhorrent look did not belong there, would never belong to any elf, and did not belong in the eyes of his impassioned friend.
Sickened, Aragorn trailed his hand down the elf's arm and wrenched the blade from him. He lifted it into the air and slowly, deliberately, cast it downward and plunged it into the sand at Legolas's feet.
"Look to me," Aragorn ordered, but Legolas did not react to his voice. "Tiro na nin! Nuitho i'ruith." The elf fixed his gaze upon the Ranger, yet he seemed to recognize him not, and he made to retrieve his knife.
Aragorn stopped him and brought him up. He cupped the elf's face in his hands and looked at him hard, delved deep within him, trying to pull Legolas's will to the surface to meet his own. "E-tolo le ulunn tin, Legolas Thranduilion?" Aragorn whispered.
Legolas seemed to hear this. He flinched slightly and Aragorn saw something stir in those eyes. His voice grew stern, his grip tighter, needing the elf to reach back and seek him now.
"Aen. Hado dad lin meldir ah e-tolo be buian esta hir Sauron."
The elf's breath caught and he shuddered violently. Aragorn saw the veil lift; the life returned to Legolas's face and brought with it desperate disbelief. As close as he was, Aragorn could feel the horror dawning in his companion and the confusion and the pain and he wished fervently that he could spare the elf and Gimli both from the harsh reality laid out now before them, for their sake and for the sake of their companions.
He had seen the signs in Boromir. Temptation had ridden upon his back, spurring the man of Gondor since Rivendell and Aragorn recognized it for he too felt the lure of the Ring, though he understood the danger moreso than did Boromir. Ever had he kept watch over their stalwart, conflicted companion, fearing the worst, fearing for Frodo.
And with his narrow vigilance, Aragorn had failed the others. He berated himself for his neglect, but for all the bickering, all the bitterness, he had held hope that the elf and dwarf would be less susceptible to the corruption, slower to succumb. He had needed to believe that. He could not trust Boromir, could hardly trust himself, and more than ever he had realized he had relied upon the unyielding dwarf and the dauntless elf to be strong. Unfairly did he place that burden upon them, this he knew, and yet he could not help but feel betrayed by them now.
Then Legolas turned from Aragorn to look at Gimli, and all of Aragorn's emotions were overturned. The anger, the betrayal he felt at their actions was nothing, nothing compared to what Legolas was feeling, and his eyes mirrored the immeasurable sorrow he saw in the elf's eyes.
Aragorn lifted a hand and lightly traced the hurt upon Legolas's face.
"I am sorry, Legolas," Aragorn said quietly. "Aranno nin. I should have been watching. I knew. I knew you were in danger and I failed you both."
Legolas looked at him, unable for a moment to answer. "You... failed us?" he murmured. He smiled sadly and he shook his head, and Aragorn was arrested by the sudden vulnerability of the elf.
Legolas looked so very young. Never had he seemed so, ever; though the timelessness of his companion's features would suggest it, Aragorn was wiser than to ever think that. But now, for the first time, the confidence, the surety of him, the ancient presence and eternal self- possession of his people which did emanate always from Legolas were all but gone.
Legolas stood before him, broken, discouraged, a young elf indeed who had been tested and was unable to withstand the subtle might of the Enemy he fought so very hard against.
Aragorn felt his heart tremble at the enormity of this, recognizing it as his own greatest fear the elf now suffered, and he wanted to shake Legolas and banish the thoughts from his mind and make him see that Glorfindel, Elrond, Gil-galad himself! the greatest, eldest of the Elven lords could never have served the Fellowship any more bravely or worthily that he had.
But the elf turned from him abruptly and walked towards the fire.
Legolas gazed upon the halflings, lingering upon their concerned faces, and he sought the Ringbearer. He met the hobbit's eyes and unshed tears misted Frodo's sight; Legolas looked upon him with gentle, wondering fear.
He feared Frodo! It wrung the halfling's soul, and Frodo felt Sam cast an arm about him. They watched as Legolas knelt before them both. The elf bowed his head for a long moment.
Then he said simply, softly, "I will fetch more water, Sam," and he gathered Sam's kettle into his arms and he rose; he walked slowly, silently away from them, out of the light from their fire and off into the darkness.
Gimli had crouched passively upon the ground, Boromir's arms still restraining him, though he had ceased to struggle. The fury that would not be quelled by Boromir's strength was dissolved in the wake of the sight of the grief which overwhelmed his elven companion. Gimli sagged and would have collapsed, but Boromir held him fast and spoke quiet words to him.
The false hatred drained from him and left him weak and shaking as no dwarf should. He heard Aragorn speak and watched him touch the elf's cheek, saw the gash upon the smooth skin and the bruised flesh and he was sick with loathing of what he had done. He pulled away from Boromir and huddled there wretchedly, beyond despair. He felt their eyes upon him now and knew a shame which threatened to stop his heart.
Firm hands touched him and he looked up to see Aragorn before him.
"Let me tend it for you, Gimli. Come."
The hurt was nothing Aragorn could ease. He watched Legolas walk off into the darkness and the shallow slash across his breast burned with a deeper pain than any wound more mortal. However, shattered though it was, his pride made him get to his feet. He refused their help and tugged at his tattered shirt, the white of it now stained crimson, and he pressed not-so- gently at the ragged edge of the knife cut to test the extent of the injury done. Wearily, he made his way back to the fire.
Sam and Frodo sat dejectedly upon Boromir's rock. They did not look at him and though he yearned to beg their forgiveness, Gimli was not yet ready for that. Merry reached up to touch his arm as he passed, but Gimli did not stop. He stalked to his bedroll and crouched and began to search through his pack to find something with which to staunch the wound himself."
"Should... should we not go after Legolas?" Merry asked hesitantly.
"Nay," Aragorn said. "He will be well, Merry. Let him be. He needs to be alone." He spoke of the elf, but his gaze rested upon the dwarf. Gimli did not look up, nor did he answer.
They attempted to go back to their tasks, to resume their routines, and quietly they laid out their gear and prepared for the night. Food was forgotten, and most of them showed no interest in the cold rations Sam passed out to them. Even the younger hobbits munched only a bit of waybread and were silent.
Sam brought Gimli a bit of bread and cheese, but the dwarf ignored him. Dejected, Sam placed the food next to him and returned to the fire and sat staring into the flames.
Boromir rested a consoling hand upon the hobbit's shoulder.
"We should set a watch, Aragorn," the man murmured. "I shall take the first stretch."
"You held the first watch this last night," a deep voice replied, and Boromir turned to Gimli. The dwarf lifted his head and looked up at him from beneath his dark, heavy eyebrows. "It would be my turn."
"I had thought...."
"I am well enough, Master Boromir. I shall keep first watch," Gimli said. Then his voice became low and he added bitterly, "Have no fear, you can all sleep sound tonight."
Gimli looked to the rest of his companions with a dull sort of hopelessness about him, as if waiting for one of them to argue, to say that he was no longer trusted. It was what he fully expected and he would not have blamed them for it.
Pippin lifted himself up, his small face sad and uncertain, then he stood. He picked his way over the debris of their campsite, stepping upon Merry and tripping over Aragorn's scabbard along the way; he steered himself around the fire to Gimli's side and sat down with him.
"Not alone," the hobbit declared, and then he met the dwarf's eyes with defiant confidence. "I will keep it with you," he said.
Gimli made to argue with him; a slow grin spread over Pippin's face and he leaned over to snag a hunk of cheese from the dwarf's plate. "The Butterfly shines brightly in the sky tonight, and I doubt I should be able to drop off for a while yet, in any case," he said between bites.
Gimli stared at the hobbit and despite his efforts to be restrained, strong, proud, he began to laugh. And then the tears came, and Pippin clasped his hand.
"Fool of a dwarf," Aragorn shook his head, and the Ranger was there beside him, ignoring his protests and mending the poor job he had done in binding his wound. Merry threw himself next to Pippin, and they began to regale Gimli with more hobbitish constellations as Aragorn worked, making up a few absurd ones of their own to suit them. Boromir fed the fire and built it up to light their faces and warm the night air, and the Fellowship did what they could to begin anew.
The elf was by himself. He walked beneath the stars away from the others. It was not usual, not usual at all, no. They should have been resting tired eyes and keeping quiet watch. The White Face in the sky was full and rising swiftly, he was, peering down at them and casting strange shadows. It was night-time, yes, and they had paddled all day, they had, not resting, and so now was the time for them to sleep. The elf should have been with the others, but he wasn't.
Gollum slunk along the slippery stones, his head on its long neck turning this way and that as he sniffed and muttered, curiosity making him bold. The elf did not see him. Gollum slid and crept and crawled closer, closer, a strange shadow himself, and still the elf did not see him, and this made him bolder still. He wondered, he did, and Gollum puzzled and pondered over the elf's wandering ways this night, and nearer and nearer he drew.
Sindarin Translations (loosely):
Tiro na nin! Nuitho i'ruith. (Look at me! Hold your anger.)
E-tolo le ulunn Tin, Legolas Thranduilion? (Would you become His creature, Legolas son of Thranduil?)
Aen. Hado dad lin meldir ah e-tolo be buien esta hir Sauron. (So be it. Strike down your friend and become no better than the servants who call Sauron master.)
Aranno nin. (Forgive me.)
(ME: Hey hey! Sam DOES mention carrots. Thank you, Thundera. I remembered the 'taters, of course, but the carrots slipped my mind. Sounds like a good humorous fanfic song lurking in that sentence somewhere. Hmm!
Alright! So I'm a sappy idiot, and I made myself cry with this chapter. What does that say about me? I need a hobby. Well, yeah, but stamp collecting is such a bore! ; ) This is good for me, I'm sure. Catharsis. No one else may want to read my distracted ramblings, but I enjoy it.
Gollum is back! Did you all think he wouldn't be? Heavens yes. He's an intregal part of my story, the little bad penny, though it may not seem that way yet. Hardly anything in my tales is put there without a reason, and we do not likesss loose plot endsss, do we, preciousss.... (*Ahem!* Sorry.)
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.