He must have closed his eyes for a moment, because suddenly he felt a soft touch on his arm and started. He could not see when his eyes flashed open, but he became aware of a strange grinding sound echoing oddly in the small enclosure.
“Eldarion?” a light voice breathed in his ear.
“Uncle Legolas!” the boy cried, awkwardly wrapping his arms as best he could around the elf crouched by his side. It was difficult since he did not know exactly where Legolas was, and he could not move his lower body.
“Hush, Eldarion, we are here,” the elf reassured him, adjusting the child’s hold on his waist.
“Uncle Gimli?” the boy asked in a tremulous voice, sensing only one being near him.
“He is enlarging the gap in the rock which I crawled through. It was, unfortunately, not of a size suitable for our dwarven friend’s broad shoulders. I fear he has found too great a fondness for food since travelling with hobbits…” There was a muttered dwarven curse at that which made Eldarion laugh. “That is the source of the scraping sounds and grumbles that are now assaulting your ears,” Legolas finished lightly.
“Oh,” said Eldarion, and he fell silent for a moment, listening.
“Tell me lad,” the elf asked then, “are you hurt?”
“No,” the boy replied. “I just can’t move my legs. They’re pinned under the rock.”
He could feel the elf tense sharply. “Where? Guide my hand, that I might feel it.” Legolas’s voice was tight and strained, although he seemed to be trying to keep it calm. Eldarion did as told, taking his uncle’s hand in his own and leading it towards the stone that trapped him. He felt the elf flinch slightly when he touched the cold rock.
“Are you in any pain?” Legolas’s voice was calm, but slightly higher than usual; it reminded Eldarion of the way his mother’s voice changed pitch when she was smiling at someone she didn’t like or pretending that she wasn’t sad when she read letters from her daeradar about Lothlórien.
“No, I’m just stuck. And I am a little stiff,” the boy admitted with a slight wince. He didn’t know how long he’d been lying there, but it was long enough that his legs had cramped up and gone numb.
“We shall soon have you free,” the elf assured him.
“I know you will,” Eldarion replied, voice full of trust. His uncles were here now. They would make everything all right again. He hugged Legolas and laughed. “Hurry up, Uncle Gimli!” the boy shouted gleefully. “You’re late again!”
Eldarion couldn’t make out his uncle’s response, but he giggled at the furious tone of the mutters over the grinding sound of the rock being chipped away. Fear forgotten, the child settled down to wait happily in the dark cave, now just another fun adventure with his favorite uncles.
At last Gimli broke through enough of the rocky barricade that he could squirm through. While Legolas was by far the taller, Gimli’s shoulders were much broader than the slim, nimble elf, and the tiny hole had only admitted Legolas though sheer force of the prince’s will. The dwarf could hear his chainmail scraping on the edges, but he gritted his teeth against the shrill noise—hoping absently that Legolas would think to cover his sensitive elvish ears—and forced himself through.
Panting, the dwarf rose from the undignified heap that he had landed in when he tumbled out of the opening. He rubbed his shoulder, which was throbbing in protest at his exertions as well as at being landed on. He ignored that, as well as the tightness of his ribs, looking for his friends. Of course, he could see nothing. “Legolas?” he called, “Eldarion?” Worry racing through his veins, Gimli started forward, staring wildly into the darkness.
“Peace, Gimli,” came a steadying voice through the black. A faint glimmer of almost-imagined starlight, somehow misplaced into the smothering cave, shone as the elf turned his eyes towards him. “We are here. Eldarion is unharmed, but he cannot get free of the stones upon him.” A slight tremor of tension ran thickly through Legolas’s carefully calm tones. Gimli was unsure whether it was simply the elf’s reaction to his unwelcome location, or if it was worry for the boy.
Stumbling forward anxiously, Gimli ran into the rocks that the elf had been speaking of. He cursed loudly—fortunately in dwarven, which neither prince spoke—and rubbed his knee.
“How long do you think it will take to get me free, Uncle Gimli?” Eldarion’s light tone piped up. Although it was hoarse and strained it still contained the innocent trust of childhood. He did not ask whether it would be difficult, or doable, or painful, or the host of other questions that were chasing each other fearfully through the dwarf’s skull. He trusted in his uncles completely to free him; it was a foregone conclusion that they would keep him safe, even after Gimli had failed to protect him from the cave. Tears came to the dwarf’s eyes as he dropped to his knees next to the prone boy, and fortunately the darkness hid them so that he would not need to pretend that they were in protest to the injury he had just received.
“Soon, lad,” Gimli said roughly, patting the child’s shoulder awkwardly. “Soon.”
“Oh, good,” Eldarion replied happily. “It’s getting kind of uncomfortable,” he confided softly. “I’m glad you found me.” There was no accusation in the child’s tones, no reprimand for either risking his life nor in taking so long to get to him. A small hand grasped his in the dark. “Don’t worry. Everything’s all right now.”
The dwarf swallowed against a suddenly thick throat. “Ay, lad,” he said to the darkness. “Ay, that it will be,” Gimli promised softly. He could see Legolas nod in firm agreement by the shift of elven eyes.
If I have to beat it out of the Valar one by one personally, I promise you everything will be fine, the dwarf vowed silently to the child. You will be fine.
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.