"Ai, Eldarion! What is the hurt?"
"Lad! Are you all right?"
Their voices, trembling with fear, fell over each other as they echoed in the dark cave.
"Yes," the boy said after a moment. "But now it’s pinching me. It’s really heavy," he added with slightly strained tone. The atmosphere in the cave abruptly tensed, and there was a fearful silence for a long moment.
"We need light," Gimli at last said gruffly.
Legolas nodded, although the motion could not be seen. "The torches should still be in the main chamber. Think you that the higher level is still reachable?"
"Ay," the dwarf replied. "I piled the rubble in a staircase while I was digging for you two."
"And have you still your flint and tinder?"
"Of course I do!" Gimli responded, offended.
"I suggest you bring a few of the torches. Four, perhaps."
"Well of course I’m not going to just bring one. I, at least, have more sense than an El—wait." Gimli’s mocking tone abruptly fell to that of suspicion. "And why, exactly, would you need to tell me this now, and instruct me in it? Will you not be there to carry your share?"
"Nay," Legolas said quietly, dimly glowing eyes locking sharply on Gimli invisible in the darkness in front of him. "Obviously, as any creature save a dwarf would see instantly," he continued in a forcefully light tone, "we need the torches to extricate Eldarion. As such, I shall be staying with him until you return."
"In the—alone? But—you—" Gimli stuttered.
"Nay," Legolas said sternly, "with Eldarion."
"You don’t need to wait with me, Uncle Legolas," the child piped up. "I’m not scared."
"I know you are not," the Elf said softly. "But I have no desire to go traipsing through these tunnels needlessly. Even our Master Dwarf can manage to find his way back to the point of collapse and return with light, I am sure. It is, after all, not a difficult task, and should not be, shall we say, above his reach."
Eldarion tried unsuccessfully to stifle a giggle, but Gimli could not manage to summon a suitable glare or growl to turn on his friend. "Will you be all right?" he asked quietly.
"Of course!" Legolas replied brightly. "Eldarion has already said that he is not afraid, Gimli. Did you not hear him?"
Gimli sat for a long moment, staring at the faint points of light that marked where the elf’s eyes were. Then his shoulders slumped in resignation, and he levered himself to his feet. "Very well," the dwarf whispered through a tight throat. He waited, as if for an answer, but the princes were silent. Gimli sighed heavily and turned away. "Eldarion, lad, may I borrow your uncle for a moment? He will return shortly."
"Of course," the boy answered quickly. "I’m not scared."
"Good lad," Gimli said with a smile.
"Gimli, I really don’t see—" Legolas began, but the dwarf cut him off.
"Nor do the rest of us, but that is because there is no light. Now come, I just want a word." Gimli groped in the darkness a moment before catching hold of his friend’s arm. He dragged the protesting elf to his feet and pulled him away from the child.
"What do you think you are doing?" he hissed as soon as they were out of hearing.
"We cannot leave the boy here alone! Gimli, are you mad?" the elf whispered back sharply.
"Nay, but you could well be! Sitting here alone in the cave—"
"I will not be alone," the elf interrupted. "Eldarion is here. Which, need I remind you, must be remedied soon. We have no idea how injured he is, and we must get him free as soon as possible. To do that, we need light, which you must fetch. You know the way to the surface, and can navigate these tunnels. I cannot. Were I to go, I would soon become hopelessly lost. Therefore, it must be you. And not only would it slow you down to watch over me were I to accompany you, but far worse, the child would be here alone.
"Alone, Gimli." Legolas’s voice fell so quiet that the dwarf had to strain to hear it, although they stood so close they were touching. "Can you imagine what it must have been like for the child? Lost, unable to move, alone and trapped—" he choked and fell silent. Getting a hold of himself, the elf continued. "Nay, Gimli, we cannot leave him back to solitude. I shall stay with him, and you shall go."
"Legolas," Gimli said huskily, then stopped. He could think of no words. Reaching up, he squeezed his friend’s uninjured shoulder. "You are very brave."
The elf gave a short laugh, somewhat bitter. "Nay, Gimli, I am terrified. But that does not mean that I shall give in to my fear. We must hold on. I know that you will find us again, elvellon. Do not fear, for either me or the boy. But do hurry," he said, changing the subject. "I like not leaving him pinned so long."
"Nor do I," the dwarf agreed. "My heart misgives me, and I can feel only fear for him—and you."
"I shall be fine," Legolas whispered softly. "Go. Please."
Gimli nodded, throat too tight to speak, and gave his friend’s shoulder a last, hopefully reassuring grip. Clearing his throat, he spoke loudly enough that Eldarion too could hear his words. "I shall return with speed enough to put the chase of the Three Hunters to shame," he vowed before turning and—with a few forced grumbles and insults traded with the elf as Legolas helped shove him through the small hole—departed, leaving his friends alone in the darkness.
Legolas watched the sightless blackness until Gimli’s hurried footsteps had faded from his sharp ears. Then, with a sigh and a slight shiver, he walked back to Eldarion and knelt beside the boy. "How do you fare?" he asked softly, gently smoothing sweaty hair on a chill brow. The boy winced, then relaxed into the soothing touch.
"I’m fine," he said defiantly, proudly. "Are you all right?"
Legolas smiled. So like his father, this little one. Always trying to be strong, always concerned for those around him. "Yes, mellon nin, I am fine," he replied. "And you are very brave."
"Truly, Uncle?" the child asked, voice lighting up almost enough to drive back the darkness.
A small hand found his and held tightly. "Hannon le," the boy whispered happily.
It was almost enough…
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.