Exploring Darkness: 14. Echoes and Memories

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14. Echoes and Memories

Gimli’s ears were filled with the sound of his heavy breathing and heavier footsteps as he raced through the black tunnels. He had lost count of the number of tumbles he had taken, for he ran at a reckless pace too fast for even a dwarf to manage in unfamiliar caves without sight. But he could neither stop nor slow. His friends were waiting for him. The lad Eldarion might well be hurt grievously, and needed free of those rocks. And Legolas—

Gimli did not want to think of what his Elven friend must be enduring in the enclosing darkness he had left him in. Why had he ever made that foolish deal about Fangorn and Aglarond in the first place? He knew that Elves were not meant for caves, Wood Elves least of all. He had come to determine over the course of their friendship that Legolas was a claustrophobic in denial, but he had never before known that it was as powerful a fear as it really was. And now…

Now he had left the Elf in the darkness. He had failed his friend. He should never have dragged him into that first cave, let alone the numerous caverns after that.

And then to bring the boy! What had he been thinking? Taking an elvish-blooded child into caves? He must have lost his mind at last! And now the lad—the precious child that Aragorn and Arwen had trusted to their care—was trapped under crushing rock and stone in a lightless pocket of rubble. He was a fool; he should never have brought them here in the first place. If either of them were scared from this experience…

The echoes of his footsteps were loud in Gimli’s ears, reproachments thundering behind him, inescapable no matter how fast he ran…

* * *

“Uncle?”

“Yes, Eldarion?”

“Do you think Uncle Gimli will be long?”

Legolas swallowed hard in the darkness. Using every ounce of control he possessed, he forced his voice to be light and cheerful. “Nay, I am sure that he will run with all haste—likely too must haste,” he grumbled under his breath, frowning at the thought of that fool dwarf injuring himself. “Well,” he amended with forced levity, “with as much haste as a dwarf can manage, that is. They are, after all, slow and clumsy creatures, and not made for anything requiring either speed or grace.” The child giggled and Legolas almost smiled. “Why?” he asked then, half-smile chased away by fear. Was Eldarion in pain, or…?

“Well,” the boy shifted slightly in the elf’s lap, “I…” He was probably chewing on his lip. The child did that whenever he had to confess anything he did not want to, and from the tone of his voice, that was what he was steeling himself to do. Legolas waited patiently, lightly stroking the small, sweaty forehead. Eldarion sighed heavily, then continued. “I’m bored,” he admitted reluctantly.

Legolas chuckled. It was a weak, tremulous laugh, but a laugh nonetheless. Only Eldarion’s strange, childish mix of unquenchable optimism and pragmatism could make him find humor in such a bleak situation. Well, he thought, there is always Gimli, but our jests in battle are more of a black humor attempting to keep spirits up forcibly, not accidentally. Really, counting the number of beings one killed and attempting to slaughter more than your friend? Even if they were orcs, that is a tad sadistic…

“I am most grieved to hear it, young prince,” he answered Eldarion seriously. “I am sure that, were Gimli aware of your ennui, he would hasten his steps even more, rest assured. In the meantime, I promise that I shall do my best to keep you occupied.”

Eldarion squirmed with excitement, then winced as his legs shifted uncomfortably against the rock. Legolas tightened his grip comfortingly on the boy’s shoulder and smoothed damp hair from grey eyes. The child relaxed, then looked up at the uncle he could not see in the blackness. “Will you tell me a story?” he asked eagerly. “About one of you and Uncle Gimli’s adventures?”

Legolas pretended to think hard. “Hmm,” he said slowly, “I suppose I could try to remember one or two… There aren’t that many to choose from, what with how much Gimli detests anything remotely daring, you know,” he teased the child. “I think you have already heard all of the exciting ones, but I may be able to dredge up some vague memories of something faintly interesting…”

Eldarion laughed happily and settled into the elf’s safe embrace. Then he perked up again. “Uncle Legolas, could you tell me one with ada in it?”

“Of course,” replied the elf, casting his mind about for a suitable story. Ah, that will do. “Well,” Legolas began, “shortly after your adar was crowned, he was feeling a little stifled by his new responsibilities. Gimli, in his infinite wisdom, suggested that al he needed was a short vacation to remind him of his former life as a Ranger. We—or rather I; the dwarf has no concept of stealth or subtlety—aided Aragorn in sneaking away from his guards…”

Legolas immersed himself in the memories, where there was light and air. He was as desperate to distract himself from their plight as he was the boy from his boredom. He clung tightly to the memory of light, a thin thread of life snaking frailly through the suffocating darkness that pressed in upon them from all sides…

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.

Story Information

Author: Tathrin

Status: General

Completion: Complete

Era: 4th Age

Genre: Drama

Rating: General

Last Updated: 02/02/05

Original Post: 02/02/05

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