Esendri paced up and down impatiently. The sun had risen long since, and his master had not returned. Glorfindel made it very clear that the prince had wished to be alone, although he had been vague and unclear about what had happened the night before.
"Master Glorfindel, should we - "
Esendri was cut off by a loud shrieking, as Nardawin reared in delight. He turned sharply to see his master making his way towards them.
"We must be swift! Obsiran has returned with news from Lord Elrond. A storm is building in the clouds, and we must reach Caradhras by nightfall!" The chest of the Elven prince heaved heavily as he reached them. His eyes, however, glittered dangerously, as if challenging the other two to say anything about his perceived state of unfitness.
"Did he not stay?" Esendri said.
"Nay, Esendri, for he had tidings to bear from Elrond to his leader. But now the hour grows late! Let us ride on!" cried Legolas, leaping onto his steed.
He was off like the wind.
Legolas felt a chill set itself into him. His condition had worsened during the night, and the iciness that held him in its chilling embrace had kept him awake. On top of that, his nausea and exhaustion did little to alleviate the situation. He had stumbled many times on his way back, and it was all he could do not to stumble in front of his friends.
So good was he at disguising his pain that even the eagle was fooled. Although, Obsiran had been preoccupied.
The horses sped on throughout the day, Legolas pushing hard, unaware of his surroundings for most part, focused instead on keeping his balance. He rode uneasily, and more than once, almost gave in to his body's cries. Yet each time, he chided himself angrily, furious at his own weakness.
Finally, long after the sun had set, the prince looked up from his stupor Esendri let out a shout. The mountains loomed before them in the moonlight, big and threatening, hostile slopes beckoning. The air had also turned distinctively chillier.
"Legolas, I fear we cannot go further. Lindral is close to collapsing!"
"Let us tackle the Pass tomorrow," said Glorfindel, somewhere in the distance. He had been reserved towards the Elven prince all day. It was something that served Legolas well, for the last thing he wanted was for the others to notice his ever-worsening condition.
A terrible pain seized hold of Legolas suddenly, and he flung himself off Nardawin, only to go crashing to the hard ground. More sharp pains took him as he hit his head hard, and he curled up into a foetal position. The pain, nausea, and cold all caught up with him, and it was all he could do not to cry out. He could not move, and giant shivers wracked his body.
His companions cried out and dashed towards him. Esendri gasped as he grasped the freezing hands of his friend. Glorfindel too, his annoyance forgotten, was kneeling beside him, astute eyes taking in the blackening of the pallid lips, and the terrible gash on his forehead from the fall.
"Legolas!" cried Esendri, frantic. If not for the calming presence of the Eldar, he would surely have broken into tears as he stooped helplessly by the spasmodic form of his friend. There was no response, for Legolas was so caught up in the pain that all he could see were white flashes and stars across his visual field.
Muttering a dark curse for the stubbornness of the young one, Glorfindel scooped up the lithe form in his arms, feeling the coldness of his body, and placed him quickly on a softer patch of ground. Taking charge of the situation, he instructed Esendri to get a fire going, and threw their cloaks upon the freezing body, and quickly tended to his head injury.
The face of the fair Elf was flushed and wet with perspiration, but the warm cloaks seemed to have no effect on him.
It took Esendri the better part of ten minutes to get a fire going, and Glorfindel moved the icy-cold youngling towards it. He sent a silent prayer to the Valar for the heat radiating from the flickering flames to warm Legolas.
Glorfindel then carefully peeled off his tunic, and the bandages over the shoulder wound. His face turned a deathly shade of grey as he saw the blackness had spread to the chest of the young Elf, and was creeping up his neck. The crushed leaves of the Athalas plant crammed into the ulceration had been reduced to a black powder by the poison.
He motioned for Esendri to boil some water. The toxin was unlike anything he had ever encountered. Although he did not possess the healing skills of Elrond, the antidote and treatment he had administered earlier should have at least contained the poison for ten days. Speaking comfortingly to the half-unconscious form, his heart dropped further as he noticed the clenched fists, and the fever in Legolas's half-open eyes.
Searching the Elf, he found many leaves of the healing plant. He smiled grimly. It was a good thing the young one had the wits to procure enough leaves, for they would not find any on the hostile slopes of the Misty Mountains.
Esendri moved over with the boiled water, eyes hooded in pain and apprehension. It was all he could do to hold back the tears that threatened to erupt, as he saw the indecision and worry on the Elflord's face.
Glorfindel took up the goblet of hot water, and sprinkled it with the Athalas leaves. He then instructed Esendri to feed it to his friend, while he got up and headed for his horse.
Esendri obeyed, moving over to Legolas, and spoke in soft, soothing tones, gently propping his master up against his knee, massaging the small of his back with his free hand.
"Drink this, Lass," Esendri said, knowing that Legolas could not hear him.
Bringing the can up to the parched lips of his friend, he gently tilted it, causing the hot liquid to travel down into the throat of the trembling Elf. Legolas spluttered and choked initially, attempting to spit out the liquid, but the soothing and firm presence of his friend gradually won over.
Glorfindel returned, and noted with grim satisfaction that Esendri seemed to have marginal success with getting the Elven prince to drink, as Esendri caressed Legolas's back, making soft, gentle downward motions to ease the passage of the healing concoction.
Eventually, the terrible spasms seemed to ease off, but Legolas was still shivering with cold. Slowly, the Silvan prince seemed to return nominally to the present, and he murmured weakly to himself, nonsensical words.
"Ada?" he muttered. Esendri looked up in alarm at Glorfindel. Legolas had never before used the endearing term for his father.
"Esendri, we must not tarry!" Glorfindel said, and knelt beside his friend. "More than herbs are required to stem the tide. I must summon upon an ancient magic, and you have to help me. It is not a cure, but it will hold back the poison."
Esendri nodded. Taking a cue from Glorfindel, he held the hands of his friend, clasping them tightly, afraid to let go.
Glorfindel knelt by Legolas's side, and placed his palm over the shoulder wound. Small, blue sparks emanated from his finger tips, and travelled down into the wound, disappearing deep into the flesh of the prince. Legolas convulsed sharply with the first sparks touching him, and, Esendri could feel a dreadful tugging of his spirit.
Esendri bit his lip hard, ignoring the pain that passed through his friend to him. Their spirits were joined as the magic slowly took effect, and he hissed as he felt the frostiness. A loud humming filled his ears, and he looked on in wonder as the world around him spun into a blur. He could feel the fading strength of his friend start to return, and the humming worked up into a loud roaring that hurt his ears. Esendri held on tightly still, in spite of the terrible pain, determined not to abandon his friend.
The world returned to normal suddenly, leaving Esendri gasping for air. He looked up, eyes starting to focus, and saw that Legolas's face had lost its black shade.
Looking about, he noticed Glorfindel kneeling beside the prince, knuckles pressed to the ground, panting terribly.
"Glorfindel!" he cried.
The Elflord looked up and smiled shakily.
"Do not fear, Esendri, the venom has been contained for the time. He should drink more warm fluids, for he is still icy to the touch."
"Nana - heleg - ring - " Fragmented words emitted from the lips of fair Elf. "Nana - ring - "
The servant ignored them, and instead, propped his master up, coddling him to down the warm liquid. This time, there was no resistance, and the Elven prince relaxed as the hot fluid ran down his cold throat.
"Keep him warm!" Glorfindel, having regained his strength, started pacing about, looking worriedly at the sky.
Esendri nodded, and scooped his master up into his arms, holding him tight, singing softly to him. Eventually, the tremors stopped wracking his body, and his breathing deepened.
Without warning, Legolas's eyes flew open. Confusion and fear settled upon his face, and he struggled weakly.
"Hush, Legolas, do not move, for you are still weary."
An abrupt bolt of coughing caused Glorfindel to look sharply at Legolas in concern. The fair Elf twisted about, and retched violently in the midst of his coughing fit. Dark, foul liquid poured from his mouth.
Esendri reacted immediately, stroking his back gently, speaking soft words of comfort, not showing his increasing worry as Legolas continued to gag, even after the contents of his stomach ceased its flow. The Elven prince's eyes were red from the effort to rid his stomach of its non-existent contents, and he remained half-conscious.
After what seemed like ages, the heaving stopped, and he leaned back heavily on the chest of his servant, eyes closed, chest moving up and down heavily. Esendri ran a cloth over his pale lips, wiping away the black sickly liquid. His eyelids flickered, and Legolas gradually opened his eyes again.
Panic flooded through the veins of the prince and he cried out suddenly.
"Are we in a cavern?" The words were full of fear and bewilderment.
Glorfindel was over in a second.
"Legolas?" he asked, concern permeating his words.
"I cannot see you, Glorfindel!" the young Elf cried, panic overcoming him, and he started to thrash about.
The strong arms of his friend held him down, and Esendri spoke soothingly, "Lass, relax."
A look of worry and understanding passed between Esendri and Glorfindel. The poison had taken away his sight.
The panic draining slowly from his limbs, Legolas pried himself away from Esendri's embrace.
"The poison has yet to be purged from your body, Legolas. Be still, and do not move about. Your sight may yet be saved," Glorfindel said, noting the look of dismay on the other's face.
It was instantly replaced by an impartial mask, one that Esendri recognised very well. Legolas was withdrawing into himself, unwilling to show his true feelings.
"I can deal with it, Glorfindel, we must move on, we cannot linger!" Legolas said, the words coming out with some difficulty.
"Not before I examine you, thoroughly, this time!" Glorfindel's voice was stern, and he did not bother to keep the worry out of his voice.
As if on cue, the Elven prince pulled the cloaks that were draped over him defensively up to his chin.
"Legolas, might I remind you that if it were not for your stubbornness, you would not be in this state!" stated the Eldar brusquely.
Dismayed, the young Elf attempted to pushed the other aside.
"It is only my sight that is absent. I do not feel any worse than I should!" he pleaded.
"Mayhap then, I should knock you unconscious and tie up your limbs ere you lay still?"
The intimidation did the trick, and Legolas let go of his cloak, the vacant eyes resigned and defeated. If there was one thing he hated more than being fussed over, it was being humiliated, and he knew that Glorfindel was serious about carrying out the threat.
"We should move off now!" Legolas said, for he could not bear another second of the fuss being raised over himself. "Do not fret about me, my other senses will pick up where my sight has failed!"
"Patience, neth-pen, for night has fallen. We set off at dawn. The horses need their rest, even if you do not."
"Master, a drink?" Esendri offered, thrusting a goblet into to his friend's hands.
"Ai, your hands are still icy-cold, Legolas!"
He fell silent when Legolas shot him a look.
Glorfindel, however, was having none of that.
"You will compromise the mission further by pushing ahead, Legolas. Let your pride go, for once, I pray you! You have caused enough worry already!"
"I always manage to get into trouble, is it not, Sen?" said Legolas humourlessly, before settling down.
"Fear not, Legolas, your sight will return!" replied Esendri comfortingly, stroking his friend's forehead. He pressed forward with his palm lightly, and the Elven prince grew drowsy with the workings of the magic.
"You know how I hate that, Esendri?" Legolas murmured, before dropping off into a peaceful sleep.
A sigh of relief passed through the pair, as they noticed his head fall to one side, the tension in the muscles draining off. The poison had weakened Legolas sufficiently for Esendri's magic to be effective. Esendri's arms were still cast protectively around the icy body of his friend, and he shivered as he felt the cold refusing to abate, despite Glorfindel's efforts to coax the fire into releasing more heat.
Abruptly, the blonde Eldar sprang up and rapidly doused the flames.
Esendri looked up in alarm, eyes full of fear.
"Something is amiss!" cried the Elflord. He resisted the urge to draw his sword, for fear of startling Esendri any more than necessary. The young Elf strained his ears, listening, wondering what the other had picked up.
"Glorfindel?" "Hush, Esendri!" the Elflord was frowning heavily, keen eyes scanning the horizon, darting about.
"Esendri! Orcs!" cried Glorfindel, jumping into action. He set two horses into motion, making them flee with a sharp word, and gathered up his weapons. Only Nardawin remained, refusing to leave her master. Muttering dark curses under his breath for the foul creatures. Glorfindel's heart sank as he realised the predicament they were in.
The servant's limbs turned to ice. The slopes of the mountain were hostile, and Legolas could not fight even if he were awoken. Quickly but gently, Esendri settled the lithe form on the ground, removing him from his embrace, and headed for his own weapons. He thrust his long knife into Legolas's hand, and caught the dagger that Glorfindel tossed over to him. They had no chance to restock on arrows, and his long bow had been broken in the earlier battle with the foul creatures. The vulnerability of the situation hit him, and he glanced about frantically.
His keen eyes swept the surrounding area, and came upon a small recess in the rocks a distance above. Scooping his master up into his arms, he started climbing towards it.
Glorfindel too had noticed it, and nodded grimly to the young Elf, before leaping onto the back of Nardawin, sword drawn, and went charging down the slopes of the mountain. His hair streamed behind him, and he uttered a silent prayer that this diversion would work.
In the meantime, Esendri had reached the alcove, and hurriedly settled his friend down within it. Throwing all three cloaks onto his master, he noted with satisfaction that the material worked well in concealing the unconscious form. He doubted very much that Glorfindel would be able to hold back the tide of Orcs. Descending the slopes, he laughed briefly, a derisive snort raising in his throat, as he examined the short dagger in his hands. Some kind of weapon it was, against the horde of Orcs he could see stampeding across the plains.
He stood there, sorrow rising in his throat, on the slopes of the mountain. Surely Glorfindel would not succeed, and then, he too, would fall. There was still a chance of Legolas escaping undetected, but he was blind and poisoned, and could never make it across the High Pass to Imladris - and safety.
Heavy footsteps jolted Esendri out of his reverie. His sharp eyes could barely discern dark figures emerging from behind the boulders to the north. So the Orcs were playing strategic games. The thought surprised him, for he had never seen anything of the likes before. The goblins were usually stupid creatures who had no minds to think on their own.
He moved slowly towards them, dagger ready, intent on taking out as many as possible before he fell.
The blow hit the side of his head and before the Elf could react, all was enveloped in darkness. Esendri fell to the ground, the dagger in his hands clanging uselessly on the hard rock.
***** Sindarin Translations: ada - daddy nana - mummy ring - cold heleg - ice neth-pen - young one
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.