17. Rise Again
Celeborn was an elf of great strength and even greater endurance. One could not live through the hardships and the trials that he had without having the energy and the perseverance that he possessed. As such, Celeborn was unused to feeling weary or tired. He knew fear and anxiety all too well while grief and sorrow were both frequent visitors, but exhaustion was something else. Nevertheless, from time to time, Celeborn would become fatigued, and he now reluctantly conceded to himself that this was one of those times.
He was still in Rivendell’s library, sequestered among the books and the manuscripts that had grudgingly yielded a few answers to the questions that continued to plague his mind. Taking a small break from his research, Celeborn stood, stretched, and moved to the large, arching windows that looked out over the valley of Imladris. The world was still veiled by night, but an elven time sense told Celeborn that dawn was not far away. The sun would climb over the top of the mountains in a little over an hour, and the day would begin. By then, he had best be prepared with answers, for Arwen would return with persistence renewed.
Yet how shall I explain anything with what little information I have? It is still not more than a hunch. Only a possible idea that happens to agree with the facts as they are known. There is no strong evidence that what I now remember is happening to Legolas and Merry! The lord of Lothlórien groaned and caught his head in his hands in a most unseemly display of exhaustion. By the Valar but I am tired!
With a weary sigh, Celeborn turned slightly and leaned back against the window’s wooden frame, wondering exactly where his fatigue came from. It probably stemmed from the fact that he was not using his usual methods in pursuing answers but rather adapting Galadriel’s tactics and making them his own. It was working to an extent, but it was telling on Celeborn’s nerves. Had the investigation proceeded normally, he would have traveled to see the darkness for himself and then garnered information from all who came into contact with it. Depending upon what he learned, he might then have returned to the library or he might have lingered for further study. In any event, he would have never begun his search in the library with only the vague inkling that this had happened before. Yet this was exactly what had happened, and Celeborn decided that Galadriel was wholly to blame.
He seemed to sense a hint of laughter at this, and he grunted as he closed his eyes and tipped his head back. Doubtless his exhaustion was highly amusing to Galadriel, particularly because of its source. This was not a weariness of the body but rather of the mind, yet it was telling on Celeborn physically as well as mentally. Still, at least now he had a better idea of what they might be facing and could prepare for some of the problems that might arise if Aragorn and the sons of Elrond were successful in freeing Legolas and Merry.
And with Pippin, Gimli, and Thranduil to help them, Celeborn sighed, Legolas and Merry will be liberated, or all our hosts shall die in the attempt. Those three in particular shall make certain of that. The elf smiled rather mirthlessly and shook his head. When Thranduil caught up with the power that had taken his son, all of Arda would undoubtedly tremble. The son of Oropher had a temper that could put Sauron to shame, and despite what he might do or say, he loved his youngest son fiercely. In Celeborn’s opinion, he loved him a little too much, and his need to control Legolas and keep him from harm’s way had led to many of the arguments and ill feelings that seemed to have come between the two. And as for Pippin and Gimli…well, there were legends about dwarven loyalty as well as horrific tales regarding what happened to those foolish enough to violate said loyalty. And Pippin had appeared ready to take on a Balrog for the sake of his lost friend.
Celeborn sighed again and shook himself out of his thoughts. There was still much to be done and much needed in the way of preparation. Beyond that, he had to speak with Elladan ere the elf left to rejoin the others in the forest. It would be a busy day for all, if nothing else, and by its end, things in Rivendell had to be ready.
Quickly gathering up the scrolls and books he had used, Celeborn placed them back on the shelves and in the bins where they had been stored. Once all was again in order, the lord of Lothlórien turned and left the vast library. He had learned all that he could from the records of the ages, and it was now time to put that knowledge to use. Trying to ignore the weariness that clung to him like a shroud, Celeborn closed the library doors behind him and set out in search of Elladan.
* * * *
The early morning air had a bite to it and Pippin pulled his cloak firmly about himself as he hurried toward the Hall of Fire. A strange thing had happened this morning that was probably never to be repeated: Pippin had risen from his bed on time. Inexorably pleased with himself, the hobbit had met Elladan and some of the other elves upon the main porch exactly one hour before sunrise and had surprised them all with his promptness. While waiting for others to come, Lindir had reported that Sam and Rosie had spent the night in the Hall of Fire and were probably not yet awake. Pippin had immediately volunteered to rouse them, and Elladan, sensing the hobbit’s enthusiasm as well as his need to show off his rare punctuality, had easily given his consent.
Concern for Merry momentarily allayed, Pippin grinned to himself as he hurried through the quiet halls. He’d beaten Sam in waking, and now it was his turn to do the rousing. For most of their journey with the Fellowship, Sam had been awake long before Pippin, and there’d been more than a few quiet remarks on this fact from the normally unassuming gardener. During their stay at Rivendell before setting out on the quest, Sam had picked up the ability to rise with the sun, and he took great pleasure in making sure that others who did not wake so easily were very aware of his talent in this area. Feeling anticipation build, Pippin chuckled to himself and imagined what kind of face Sam would pull when he found out that Peregrin Took had gotten up first.
Finally reaching the Hall of Fire, Pippin prepared himself to give Sam some good-natured ribbing, pushed the doors open, and then blinked at what he saw.
On one side of the room, shadowed somewhat by a pillar, a sleeping Sam leaned up against the wall with Rosie’s head pillowed on his lap. A small collection of toys lay scattered about them, but their daughter was nowhere near her parents. Instead, she was on the other side of the room curled up in Gimli’s lap, her hands wrapped securely in his beard and her head cradled gently in the crook of his arm. A small smile graced her tiny face, and her sleep reminded Pippin of a peace and innocence that he had once known. Sadness and nostalgia flared briefly within the hobbit, and he thought back with longing to the carefree days of his youth before he had learned of Mordor and the Ring. A glance at Gimli drove home the lesson that he was not the same hobbit who had fled the Shire, nor would he ever be gain. Like Elanor, the dwarf was also asleep, his head lolling to one side, but there was a sense of alertness about him that spoke of his years as a warrior. His free hand hovered near his belt where his axe might rest during long journeys, and beneath closed lids, his eyes flickered and darted about restlessly. Even in dreams, Gimli was never completely at ease.
With a slight sigh, Pippin shook his head and momentarily dislodged his dark mood. He then turned his mind to the question of which sleeper he should rouse first. After evaluating his options, Pippin moved toward Sam because waking Sam was not usually hazardous to one’s health. Waking Gimli could sometimes be an adventure that made Bilbo’s encounter with Smaug sound tame.
Walking quietly, Pippin soon reached Sam’s side and shook him gently, taking care not to wake Rosie as he did so. "Sam? Sam, it’s time to go." Sam mumbled something and shifted, raising one hand to bat at Pippin’s arm. Pippin sighed and shook Sam again, harder this time. "Sam! Come, Sam, Elladan won’t wait forever."
The other hobbit grunted and blearily opened his eyes. He stared for a moment at Pippin as though certain he was seeing things and then shook his head. "What time is it?" he asked.
"One hour before sunrise," Pippin informed him cheerfully. "And you, Master Gamgee, are late."
Sam groaned and rubbed his face. "Who woke you?"
Sam stopped and turned incredulous eyes on Pippin. "No one?"
"I am perfectly capable of getting up on my own," Pippin answered loftily.
"No, you aren’t."
"Yes, I am."
Sam sighed and shook his head, easing Rosie’s head off his lap and laying it down gently. "I don’t have the energy to argue this. Let’s get going." Sam lumbered to his feet, stretching as he did so, but then he paused and looked around. "Where’s Elanor?"
"I think she found a playmate," Pippin said, turning his head toward Gimli and nodding.
After a moment of shocked silence, Sam grinned and started to laugh. "Now there’s a sight I never thought to see. I sure wish Strider was here for this. He’d enjoy it, no mistake about that."
"So would Legolas," Pippin murmured, his mood darkening slightly. "Come on, we have to wake Gimli, and we’d best do it before any of the elves decide to come check on us. He wouldn’t forgive us for letting them see him like this."
"No, but you can bet that it would be a treat," Sam said. "Now, how does Legolas usually do this? I know there’s a trick, but I don’t know as we can imitate it."
"I think Legolas always wakes Gimli from a distance. Or at least, that’s the way he did it when we were still in the Fellowship. But we don’t have elven reflexes or an elven reach, so maybe we’d just better call to him."
"Will that wake him?" Sam asked.
Pippin shrugged. "We won’t lose anything by trying."
"No, I don’t suppose we will." Sam sighed and then moved across the room, stopping several feet away from Gimli and looking over as Pippin joined him. "Who wants to go first?"
"Gimli?" Pippin called, taking the initiative. "Gimli, we have to go. You have to wake."
A muted rumble was their only answer, and Pippin looked helplessly at Sam, hoping the gardener had a better idea. He didn’t want to go in and shake Gimli because the dwarf would occasionally wake in a foul mood and assume that any incursion into his personal space constituted an enemy attack.
"Gimli, we have to find Legolas," Sam spoke up quietly, and Pippin mentally kicked himself for not thinking to use Legolas’s name. "You wouldn’t want to miss out on a chance to rescue him, would you?" Sam continued. "Think of how much you can tease him about it later."
The dwarf murmured something in his sleep about elves and then shook his head slightly. With a deep breath, Gimli slowly opened his eyes and looked up, squinting sleepily at Pippin and Sam.
"Good morning," Pippin offered.
Gimli sniffed and muttered something about disrespectful hobbits, but then he seemed to realize that he had something in his arms. Glancing down at Elanor, the dwarf stiffened and then looked up at the hobbits again, an unreadable expression clouding his face. Not knowing quite how to react, Pippin held completely still and hoped someone else would take over the situation. It was Sam who eventually stepped forward and started things moving again.
"Elanor?" he called, and Gimli raised the child to a sitting position as she slowly woke. Bright blue eyes blinked open slowly and a yawn stretched her mouth wide as she arched her back and stretched luxuriously, still somewhat cradled in Gimli’s arms. Elanor then entwined her hands deeper into the dwarf’s beard and began looking about the room. "Hello, sweetheart," Sam said quietly as the large eyes eventually fell upon him. A smile broke over Elanor’s face and she wiggled out of Gimli’s gentle hold to give her father a hug.
Sam winced at her enthusiastic shout and glanced over his shoulder even as he returned the embrace. "Hush, Elanor," he said gently. "We don’t want to wake Mommy. She’s still sleeping."
"Oh." The little hobbit drew back and her eyes darted across the room to where Rosie lay quiet in peaceful oblivion. Her voice now lowered to the level of a child’s whisper, she turned back to Sam. "Mommy sleeps a lot, doesn’t she?"
"Sometimes," Sam answered with a small smile. "I think that she’s very tired today. Did you have a good sleep last night?"
Elanor nodded eagerly as Sam pulled back and stood, her golden curls bouncing on her head. "The bush told me a story about the irritating one."
Sam blinked. "The irritating one?"
Elanor nodded again. "He’s an elf," she explained sagely, her face solemn as though she imparted to them great wisdom. "They’re all irritating. But you can’t say that here, because there are lots of elves around and if you tell them they’re irritating then they become more irritating."
Pippin snorted, unable to help himself, and glanced at Gimli. The dwarf had an innocently bland expression on his face that turned Pippin’s snorts into laughter. He received a rather stern glare for this from Sam, who jerked his head back in the direction of Rosie, but Pippin noticed that the gardener was having a difficult time controlling his own laughter.
"Come on, Elanor," Sam said at length, his voice strained by hidden mirth. "Let’s see how Mommy is doing."
"The irritating one?" Pippin questioned as he and the dwarf followed behind Sam and Elanor.
"It is a fitting enough name for the elf," Gimli answered casually. "I saw no reason for withholding the truth from so perceptive and quick a mind."
"The bush and the irritating one," Pippin murmured with a shake of his head. "At this rate, at least in Elanor’s eyes, you and Legolas will have as many names as Strider."
"NO!" a small voice suddenly exclaimed. Jumping slightly in surprise, Pippin looked over at Sam who was now down on one knee trying to reason with his daughter.
"Just for the day, beautiful," the gardener was saying. "You’ll be in charge again and—"
"No!" Elanor said firmly, folding her arms tightly and assuming a look of extreme stubbornness that immediately reminded Pippin of Sam. "I’m coming, too."
"Elanor, you can’t come," Sam reasoned. "There aren’t any toys to play with and most of the time we’re just be walking about. You wouldn’t find it any fun."
"The bush will be there," Elanor pointed out, looking at Gimli for confirmation. When the dwarf hesitated, she raced over to him and seized his beard in a grip so strong it would have impressed a troll. "I want to stay with the bush!" Elanor declared, glaring at Sam as though daring him to defy her wishes. "He can tell me stories."
With both Pippin and Sam at something of a loss for words, Gimli sighed and picked Elanor up. "Peace, my little friend," the dwarf murmured in a voice so soft that Pippin was hard-pressed to hear him. "Peace." Moving over to the sleeping Rosie, Gimli knelt and set the hobbit child on her feet, smiling slightly as she pressed close to him. "I am truly sorry, Elanor, but I must go now and you must stay. In this we both have a duty. You remember the friend I spoke of? He needs me and I promised to stand with him in darkness and light. I must keep that promise, and I can’t keep that promise if I tell you stories. Do you understand?"
"But I can help you find him!" Elanor protested.
"Little one, this task is not for you. Your role lies elsewhere. If you are looking after your mother, then I need not worry about her and can concentrate on finding my friend. But if you are not here, then I will have too many things to worry about. Do you see now?"
Elanor’s large eyes were still filled with rebellion, but Pippin could see the beginnings of acceptance. She studied the dwarf carefully and then pursed her lips as though coming to a great decision. "If I stay here, will this make you happy?" she eventually asked.
"Very happy," Gimli solemnly confirmed.
With a reluctant nod, the little hobbit backed away and relinquished her hold on Gimli’s beard. "And you’ll find your friend? The irritating one?" Elanor asked.
"Valar willing, yes," Gimli answered with a few rapid blinks.
"Then I’ll stay here," she announced, looking rather satisfied with herself.
"Thank you," Gimli said. "I have no doubt but what you shall be of great assistance here in Rivendell. And now I must go, Elanor. I thank you for your help last night." He paused then as though about to say more but instead of speaking he swallowed, turned away, and walked out of the Hall of Fire, stopping briefly under the main door to send the hobbits a look that sternly warned them about the consequences should the details of this scene be shared with anyone.
"And I thought only Orcs could glare like that," Pippin muttered with renewed respect for the dwarf.
"I know I wouldn’t want to be on his bad side right now," Sam said, checking to see that Sting was secured about his waist. "I wonder if the Orcs know what they’ve gotten in to." With his sword firmly belted in place, Sam leaned over Rosie’s sleeping form and kissed her cheek gently before turning to Elanor. "You be good," he said quietly, brushing his hand across her brow. "I’ll probably be back tonight."
"With the bush and the irritating one," Elanor ordered sternly.
"I’ll try," Sam promised, his voice solemn. He gave his daughter a quick kiss and then stepped away, taking a deep breath before turning to Pippin. "I think I’m ready to go now."
"You could stay," Pippin pointed out as he started moving away from the family.
"No, I couldn’t," Sam sighed. "I traveled through most of Mordor, and I know what Orcs can do. I’ve seen the way they treat even each other. And I’ll not be leaving any of my friends to deal with their likes alone."
"We’re hardly alone, Sam. Half of Imladris is out on the hunt, as well as most of Mirkwood, Lothlórien, and everyone that Aragorn brought up from Gondor."
"Well, you never know as when another sword might come in handy," the gardener answered. "And anyway, I’d never forgive myself if I didn’t go, and I couldn’t face Merry knowing that I didn’t try to go after him with the others. I don’t care that I can’t fight like soldier or track like a Ranger. Merry needs help, and I’m here to give him what little aid I can."
Pippin nodded, knowing exactly how Sam felt. "Then let’s go," he said, clapping the other hobbit on the back. "If we hurry, you might even be able to catch a quick breakfast before Gimli and Elladan get too anxious about starting."
* * * *
The predawn darkness lay heavy upon Rivendell. The winds that usually blew out of the mountains and into the valley were strangely absent this morning, and it was as though all of Arda held its breath. As though waiting for something, Elladan sighed to himself, resting his arm upon the hilt of his sword. Most of the elves had gathered now, and they waited only for the hobbits, Gimli, and a few other elves who were seeing to supplies. But more than that, we wait for answers. And we also wait for consequences.
Elladan had not had a pleasant night. After aiding Arwen in seeing to the medicines, he’d attempted to seek rest. But his mind had been troubled, and when at last he drifted into dreams, the darkness followed him. After an hour of uneasy sleep, he finally woke and rose, sensing that there would be no rest for him. Instead, he’d strolled among the gardens and fountains, seeking solace in the company of the stars. It was not quite the rest that Elrohir had envisioned for his brother, but it seemed to be enough. The clinging shadows had faded and Elladan felt light and hope once again in his soul. But the darkness had not vanished entirely, and as the group prepared to once again set out on the hunt, reminders of what they faced were slowly draining the spirits of the elves.
It is high time we left, Elladan decided, glancing around at the elves who waited with him. Should we delay much longer we shall manage to dim all our hopes ere we know the progress of those who hunted through the night.
"The promise of a new day is ever the promise of new hope."
It took a great effort to prevent himself from jumping, but somehow, Elladan managed it. He had been quite lost in his own thoughts and had not sensed the approach of anyone. Yet as he turned, trying to compose his face into a calm mask that belied his surprise, he found that a very unexpected elf stood behind him.
"Your father was very fond of saying that," Celeborn murmured, glancing toward the Misty Mountains. "He found great hope in the morning."
"My father was ever the optimist," Elladan said.
Celeborn smiled slightly. "And you do not share this?"
"My brother is wont to share it from time to time, and Arwen has certainly inherited this gift. For myself, though, I deem that fate is too fickle a mistress to trust in the light of the morning. Evil merely hides by day. It does not vanish."
"In that, you follow after Círdan’s philosophy. He found his hope in the evening, looking to the stars for guidance. Morning was an uncertain time for him." Celeborn fell silent, sharp gray eyes surveying the other elves, and then he turned back to Elladan. "I would have a quiet word with you for but a moment," he said, his voice soft but his tone firm.
"You have discovered something?" Elladan asked, trying to remember all that Arwen had told him the night before.
"Perhaps." Celeborn moved to the side and Elladan was quick to follow as the lord of Lothlórien slowly drew him away from the other elves. "It is by no means a certainty, but I believe I may have an idea as to what our foe intends," Celeborn continued, his voice low. "Still, I would like to be more confident of my guess ere I speak overmuch of it. Turn your mind to the Orc you confronted just ere you learned of the plan to waylay the Road. You mentioned that a fear of his master kept him from speaking. Tell me exactly what happened at that moment."
Elladan pursed his lips, wondering slightly at the request but nevertheless going back over his memory of the event. "I was forcing answers from him at the point of my sword, but he ceased to speak when I inquired after his master’s identity and purpose. It seemed to me that he was overcome with a great fear. He trembled and shook, almost heedless of my presence."
"And you say this was a lowly Orc from Mordor?" Celeborn asked.
"As well as a deserter, or so I believe. He knew the whereabouts of his company but was seeking other spoils."
"Yet he still had great respect for this master," the lord of Lothlórien murmured, narrowing his eyes. "He was willing to abandon his comrades, but he was not willing to betray the one who ultimately commanded him. He sacrificed his own life for a Black Númenórean who probably never acknowledged the creature’s wretched existence."
"It is obvious you see a conclusion in this reasoning, my lord," Elladan said, feeling the bite of impatience. "But to me your words are an enigma. Can you speak plainly?"
"I know not," Celeborn answered, seeming to now talk to himself. "Very little in this is plain. It is becoming clearer to me, and yet there is still just enough doubt…" He shook his head slightly. "Beware the darkness, Elladan. I doubt that there is a need to tell you this, but I must emphasize just how dangerous these shadows are. Open yourself to them with great caution. And when you are forced to confront them, remember and retain all that you hear and see."
"Arwen mentioned that you were studying the history of Númenor," Elladan said, hoping to draw out more information from his reticent grandfather. "Did you learn something from this search?"
"Nay, not specifically. But it did trigger my memory. It was something that Elendil told Gil-galad and Elrond, and Elrond later told me. I have not thought of this in years, and I doubt very much that it is specifically mentioned in any of the annals of history, for so many more grievous things were happening at the time. As such, my information is scant and has been obtained indirectly." Celeborn shook his head and sighed. "What know you of Amandil?"
Elladan frowned, surprised by the question, but nevertheless he quickly recalled what he could of Númenor and tried to answer Celeborn’s query. "Amandil was Elendil’s father, and it is said that he sailed to the Undying Lands in search of the Valar’s blessing. But he never returned from his voyage, and none in Middle Earth ever learned what became of him."
"What of his early years?" Celeborn pressed. "What of the years before he sailed? And even before he withdrew to Rómenna?"
Wondering exactly where this conversation was headed, Elladan turned his mind backward, digging through facts and rumors that had been buried by passing years. "He was perhaps the last of the Faithful to sit upon the council of the king. But when Sauron corrupted Ar-Pharazôn, Amandil was cast from the council. It was then that he retreated to his stronghold in Rómenna."
Celeborn nodded slowly and watched his grandson with careful eyes. "Then let me remind you of certain things, and by so doing, I hope that you, your brother, Thranduil, and Aragorn might be able to unravel this puzzle. Then shall we compare our conclusions, and perhaps independent evaluations shall prove all. Amandil and Ar-Pharazôn were great friends when they were young. And though Amandil had clearly allied himself with the Faithful, that friendship persisted for years until Sauron was released from his status as a prisoner of Númenor. Keep this in mind, Elladan, and also remember that Sauron stayed close to the king even after his influence over Ar-Pharazôn was clearly established."
"I know not what you hope for me to accomplish with this information," Elladan said, feeling extremely confused and hating it. "These things I knew already. Why do you bring them up again?"
"Why indeed?" Celeborn murmured. "For those answers, I fear you are alone. I will not help you lest I taint you with my own suspicions. I need another mind in this, Elladan, for I do not trust my own reasoning."
"As you wish, my lord," Elladan sighed, sensing that he would get nothing more from Celeborn. A stirring among the elves caught his attention, then, and he turned toward the house as the doors opened and three figures emerged. "Your pardon, grandfather, but the last of our company has now arrived."
"And you wish to depart," Celeborn said. "Go, then, but be wary. And think on what I have said."
"I shall," Elladan answered. "We all shall." And with that, he bowed to Celeborn and moved toward Gimli, Pippin, and Sam. "I trust you are prepared?" he asked.
"Begging your pardon, Mr. Elladan, but I was wondering how we were going to find the others," Sam said. "It took us most of yesterday to get as far as we did in that darkness. Are we going to have to go through that again?"
"Nay, Samwise, we have taken thought for this. The trail upon the ground is hidden from us, but elves are not easily led astray in the wood, and we will be able to find the place where we last left our comrades."
"But what about beyond that?" Sam asked. "Will they send someone back for us? Or maybe they have someone waiting?"
"We have also taken precautions in this," Elladan answered, schooling himself in patience. "A trail should have been left in the trees by our companions, and we shall follow it to them. Have no fear, Master Hobbit. We shall not strand you in shadows."
"And now that your question is answered, Sam, let’s be off," Pippin said, anxious to start. "Are we waiting for anyone else, Elladan?"
"You three are the last. Your ponies are already saddled and stand with our horses, and we shall ride until we meet with the men of Gondor. The horses shall then be left in their care and the care of a few elves of our company while the rest of us continue on foot. I trust this is satisfactory?" Elladan asked with a slight twinkle in his eyes.
"As much as can be expected when dealing with elves," Gimli answered gruffly. "Now let us be on our way. The day grows lighter and I would rejoin the others upon the trail ere the sun rises over the mountains."
"Then come, friends," Elladan said, raising his voice so that he now addressed all gathered on the porch. "There is much to be done and little enough time for the doing. We ride to the aid of our companions, and may the Valar strike any that stand in our way."
The surrounding elves cried aloud in response to this, and as one they left the porch and mounted, a song of war and vengeance rising as the light of day began to creep into the valley. Attempting to muster hope from this display of unity and purpose, Elladan composed his face and raised his hand in farewell to Celeborn. The lord of Lothlórien returned the salute, but his face was grave and his eyes troubled. Turning away, Elladan tried to shove this image to the back of his mind as he spurred his mount forward and shouted to the elves behind him. But as they left Rivendell, Elladan could not quite shake the feeling that something very dark was at work. Something darker than any suspected. And this feeling persisted as the elves, hobbits, and dwarf vanished into the cover of the trees to merge with the shadows of the early morning.
* * * *
Legolas first became aware of faint whispers. They surrounded and engulfed him, yet he could not understand their words. At first, it could almost be likened to the sea longing, which was a constant presence in the back of the elf’s mind. But as time went on and the whispers continued, Legolas decided it wasn’t like the sea longing at all. The sea longing was somewhat pleasurable in a haunting sort of way, and it was capable of producing a bittersweet joy. But these whispers… The elf shivered. Their words were dark and cold, and though he did not comprehend what they said, Legolas knew they spoke of evil. He tried to shut them out of his mind, but when he did so, they seemed to close more tightly around him. A creeping chill filled his heart, and he seemed to teeter upon the edge of a precipice.
The elf gasped, feeling the dying embers of hope spring to life. Here was a voice neither imagined nor cold. For Legolas it was a lifeline, and he clutched desperately at it, following it toward consciousness much as one would follow a clear trail in a darkened wood. He groaned slightly as he tried to muster the needed energy, for the whispers were loath to release him. But eventually, after a bitter struggle, they seemed to give in and fade into the background.
But they did not go away.
Still painfully aware that he could hear these dark whispers, Legolas managed to open his eyes, and he found himself staring up at the concerned face of Merry Brandybuck.
"Are you awake?" Merry asked hesitantly.
"I am," Legolas sighed, pushing himself into a sitting position and shaking his head. The whispers were still murmuring in the back of his mind, and they were distracting as well as unnerving. "How do you fare, my friend?" the elf asked, trying to keep his mind off the voices.
"I’m still here, which I guess is both good and bad," Merry shrugged. "It means I haven’t escaped, but it also means I’m not dead. Which can also be both a good and a bad thing."
"Do not wish for death," Legolas said sharply, instantly remembering his newfound fear of death. "The situation is not so bad as to wish for that. We shall yet escape."
"I know," the hobbit sighed. He grimaced and looked away, not meeting Legolas’s piercing eyes. "They’ve left the cell door open again."
"Have they?" Legolas glanced over and saw that Merry was right. "I suppose we shall have to take this opportunity, then, and attempt to reach the outside world. I remember the way, I think. It will not take as long as it did last time."
"Legolas, I’m not hungry."
The elf blinked, wondering exactly what that had to do with anything, and then the significance of Merry’s statement sunk in. A hobbit was almost always hungry unless an extremely large feast had just ended. And a hobbit was especially hungry if he hadn’t been given anything to eat or drink for quite some time. Merry hadn’t. Nor am I hungry, Legolas realized with a shiver. The last time he’d eaten had been in Rivendell, two days ago. And his thirst was now gone as well.
"What happened to us?" Merry asked, interrupting the elf’s thoughts. "What happened to us up there? Why couldn’t we escape? I don’t know about you, but I couldn’t move. I was too afraid of leaving the caves. The sunlight was actually painful. It was like…I don’t really know what it was like. What happened, Legolas? What was it? And why aren’t we hungry?!"
"I do not know what happened, Merry," Legolas murmured, getting to his feet and studying the open door of their cell. "Nor do I know what is currently happening. Do you…" He hesitated, unsure of his next words. "Do you hear whispers? Voices? Coming from the shadows?"
The hobbit frowned and cocked his head to the side. "No," he said at length, his expression unreadable. "What about you?"
"I…I am not certain." Legolas frowned and closed his eyes, trying to clear his thoughts. "I believe so. It is as though they linger on the edge of my mind, yet they are a constant presence. And they speak of evil, but I cannot understand their words."
"I do feel a…a darkness," Merry said, waving his hand vaguely. "But no voices. Nothing like that. Do you feel all right?"
"Given the circumstances, I feel as though I am well," Legolas murmured. "But we both know that is not true. Neither of us is well, my friend, for we do not feel a need for food or drink. Yet we have been given nothing to sustain us. And neither of us could abide the thought of leaving the caves when we last attempted to escape."
"It was almost as if I was obligated to stay," Merry said, sounding as though he spoke more to himself than to the elf. "But there was more to it than that. I was afraid of what would happen if I left. But I don’t really know what I was afraid of." The hobbit fell silent and studied the open cell door. "Why did they do it? Why did they let us get so far and then stop us? And why are they doing it again?"
"I know not, Merry. I know very little about our situation. But I fear that duty binds us in making another attempt at escape. If we do not, we submit to the darkness, and I shall not give in so easily."
"But if we don’t figure out what they’re doing and why, then we’ve already lost," the hobbit protested. "We can’t fight them on their terms, they’ve made that clear enough. So we have to figure out what their terms are and change them."
Legolas blinked and glanced over at Merry. "You are not the same hobbit who set out from Rivendell five years ago, Master Brandybuck."
"Are any of us the same?"
"Nay, I suppose not. Still, your words are words of wisdom, but I am at a loss as to how to go about seeking the knowledge we need."
"Don’t you have any guesses?" Merry pleaded. "Anything at all?"
"My suspicions are but grasping shadows," Legolas murmured, wondering if it was just him or if the voices were growing louder. "They have no basis. No foundation. There are no facts to back them."
"But they have to be better than anything I have because I don’t have anything!"
Legolas hesitated a moment, knowing that Merry needed something but uncertain of what to give him. He had several ideas, actually, but they were as stray arrows lost in the night, aimed with little care for direction and shot only for the sake of shooting. He was just as lost as the hobbit insofar as explanations went. And yet Merry was begging for something from one to whom he had looked for guidance. "I think," Legolas said slowly, choosing his words with care, "that we are meant to see our hopelessness. We draw nigh unto our goal only to be pushed back. They seek to break our wills in this, and in some ways, I would deem it to be more effective than physical torture."
"Then why did they do that, too?" Merry asked, his voice lowered to a whisper.
"For one, to allow the darkness entrance into our minds," Legolas answered. "For another, to satisfy the desires of the Orcs. It goes against an Orc’s nature to leave a captive elf whole and unspoiled. Not even the Mouth of Sauron can change the nature of his servants in that respect."
"But we were healed. Why?"
"Because we allowed the darkness to enter," Legolas said quietly. "It healed us. And using this gift, we made our way to the entrance of these caverns only to discover that leaving was against the will of the darkness that now holds us in thrall."
"So why are they doing it again? Wasn’t once enough?"
"Apparently not. Perhaps it is a test of sorts to see how much of a hold the darkness has. But I do not know, Merry. There are many things here that I do not know."
"I don’t suppose you’ve figured out what the purpose is behind all of this."
"Nay, and I fear to guess. But as I have already said, we must at least make an attempt to leave this place."
"I know," the hobbit sighed. "But I can’t help the feeling that this is exactly what they want us to do. And that doesn’t sit well with me. But I don’t have a better idea, and I don’t want to stay here. So I guess that means we should go."
Legolas nodded and moved forward, examining the open door and listening intently for signs that Orcs might be near. But as before, there was nothing. Legolas could not sense the presence of any enemies in the nearby tunnels, and had it not been for the voices that still murmured their dark words, it would have been completely silent. "Do you feel ready for this again?" the elf asked, glancing over his shoulder at the hobbit.
"No, but I don’t think I ever will. Let’s just get it over with," Merry answered, moving past Legolas into the hall. "Should we take the same way we took last time?"
"I do not know the other way," Legolas said. "I can at least guide us if we use the same path."
"Sam once told me that there’s something comfortable about routine," Merry muttered. "But I don’t find this particular routine to be very comfortable. Still, I guess we should take what we can get."
Not knowing how to respond to that and deciding that Merry wasn’t really expecting a response anyway, Legolas sighed and moved forward. He felt the hobbit fall into step behind him, and together, they once again braved the darkness of the tunnels. But this time, a stream of whispering voices followed the elf, and as he ventured further away from the cell, their voices became louder and louder.
First of all, some points about Amandil, Elendil, Ar-Pharazôn, and the fall of Númenor. Most of my information is coming straight out of the Akallabêth, which is purported to have been written by Elendil himself and can now be found in the Silmarillion. I’ve also drawn a little bit out of Unfinished Tales as well as Appendix A in The Return of the King. So if anyone is interested in pursuing this topic (and I highly recommend it) there are your sources. But be advised that I am adding my own spin on the things that happened in Númenor, though everything should still fit into canon.
Also, some of you might be wondering why Celeborn is using the name Ar-Pharazôn rather than the name Tar-Calion. But I submit that since Ar-Pharazôn dared to set foot on the Undying Lands, the Eldar do not refer to him by his elven name. Think of it as a rejection of sorts, even though the fall of Númenor happened well over three thousand years ago. (3246 years ago to be precise, if I did my math right.) Elves have long memories and even longer grudges. Anyway, that’s my theory, so take it for what you will.
Next, there have been quite a few questions about what happened to Thranduil’s wife. I am pleased to announce that the entire story behind the fall of Mirkwood’s queen, Legolas’s birth, and Thranduil’s resulting grudge against the dwarves is making an appearance in the next chapter, so hold on to your curiosity until then.
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.