In the innocence of childhood, Eldarion did not think to be grateful that he had not been crushed, and that the rocks were piled in such as way that they were only resting on and restraining him. Instead of falling limp with relief at his close call, the boy frowned in frustration. He knew only that he could not get out, and he did not like it. Digging his small hands into the pebbly, cold floor beneath him, he pushed upwards with his legs with all the might of his young body, but there was not even the faintest sound of shifting.
Panting, the boy relaxed weakly on the hard stone. He did not stop to think that in moving the rocks, he could very well do himself serious injury. He did not stop to think that rocks often supported other, far distant rocks that could come tumbling down at the slightest provocation. He did not burden himself with guilt over causing the collapse, because he did not see the connection between his exuberant jumping and the suddenly avalanche of rock. He did not tremble in fear because he knew his uncles were out there and would be coming for him as soon as they could, and he did not worry for them because Uncle Gimli and Uncle Legolas were invincible. Nothing could hurt them, least of all a cave-in.
No, there was only one simple thought going through the young prince’s mind as he lay alone in the endless, almost physical darkness of the cramped and lonely cave: Valar, he was bored!
Gimli was now confident that the cave-in had been more of a rockslide than an actually collapse, and that it was highly unlikely that there would be a repeat. As long as he could keep Eldarion from jumping on unstable piles, no further problems should arise.
There were more than enough problems already. For starters, he could hardly stop Eldarion from doing anything, as he had no idea where the child was. He also had no idea where Legolas was, and no clue as to their fate. Now sure that the ceiling would not come tumbling down at any loud noises, Gimli had shouted for his friends until his voice was hoarse from dust and strain.
But he had received no answer.
The dwarf cursed himself in every tongue he knew how to do so in—which was quite a few, and often very creative. Éomer in particular could be a bit hot-headed at times. But there weren’t enough words for his stupidity. Why had he taken them into this accursed cave? He should have known better! Neither elves nor children belonged in caves! Had he taken leave of his senses? Aglarond was one thing, but this half-explored maze of caverns was something completely different.
Gimli knew the risks inherent in exploring new underground openings, he knew how to deal with them safely! What had made him think it was a good idea to take an excitable, headstrong human child down here? Especially a part-elf human child! Of course the boy was going to go climbing and jumping all over the place—why hadn’t Gimli thought to test the stability of the rock piles first? He should have known that disrupting those stones was a recipe for disaster! He should have known that the floor was a fragile shelf between them and the lower levels, ready to shatter under the tumbling stones! He should have known better than to bring them in here!
If they were hurt because of him...or worse…
Gimli shook his head, as if trying to drive out the images. He couldn’t dwell on that now. He had to find them. They would be fine; he just had to find them. They had to be close—they had to be! The collapse hadn’t been that large. It was only a small section of floor that had given way underneath the falling rocks. Gimli had thrown small rocks upwards to test it, and the hold overhead was only a few meters across. With some judiciously piled stone—of which there was plenty lying around to work with—it would be easy to clamber out. But the dwarf wasn’t going anywhere without his friends.
Now all he had to do was find them.
He had already cleared a good portion of the lower cave he found himself in of rubble, having piled it against the far wall while he searched. So far, though, he had found nothing. Granted, there was still a lot of rock cutting him off from the other sides of the cave. His friends could very well be beyond those piles. But why had they not answered him? Why had he not even heard a moan? The dwarf shuddered and returned his attention to the heavy stones in front of him.
Gimli did not want to dwell on the possibilities.
Legolas stood, staring around wildly. He was doing his best not to panic, but had a sinking suspicion that it was a battle he would inevitably loose. Should he stand here and wait for someone to find him, rather than risk wandering into some un-explored part of the caverns where Gimli had never been? But what if Gimli were injured, and unable to search for him? Should he not try to find a way out? A sudden thought chilled the elf even more: what if Eldarion was hurt?
Legolas knew that there was blood in his hair although he could not see it, seeping from a stinging gash on his head—bleeding overmuch, as head wounds always did, but not a serious injury. He was battered and bruised, of course, and he thought perhaps that he had sprained his left ankle, although he could not be sure of the extent of the damage. But he was in relatively good shape for having been in a cave-in—surely better shape than after the last one he had suffered. The elf shuddered at the memory.
But it was not his own injuries that worried him. Rather, it was the thought that if he were hurt, his friends very well could be. Gimli was hardy and used to caves—and Legolas would not allow himself to think that the dwarf was injured—but Eldarion was a child! He had always been carefully sheltered, protected by everyone. King Aragorn and Queen Arwen had trusted their precious son to he and Gimli, and they had failed! Now the boy was lost somewhere in the dark void of this cave, possibly hurt, almost certainly scared.
Legolas would not allow himself to think of the worst possibilities. He was barley keeping the panic that was threatening to overwhelm him from doing so; thinking such dark thoughts about his friends would break the thin control that he had managed to create.
Of course, he had managed to calm himself—well, perhaps “calm” was the wrong word, as he was certainly not calm, but he was at least collected now—only after an initial frantic search. He no longer had the slightest idea where he was, or where to get back to where he had awoken, which would at least have given him somewhere to start from. He had been certain that another cave-in was only seconds away, and the walls were already starting to close in on him. The darkness was so thick it was almost tangible and seemed to rob his lungs of air.
And now he could not even find a wall. He was afraid to step forward and reach for one, for fear of finding only endless blackness, but he knew that he could not simply stand here in the middle of the dark. He had a strange sense of vertigo—very unusual and discomforting to an elf used to near-perfect balance. Mustering what courage he could, Legolas stretched his hands out in front of him and stepped forward cautiously. Rocks slipped and shuffled beneath his feet, but he did not fear tripping on them. Now that he had started, he found it nearly impossible to stop or slow. He knew that in a moment he would be running blindly, and tried desperately to restrain his terror.
Then there was only air beneath his feat.
Air and darkness.
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.