Eldarion sighed heavily and tried to shift to a more comfortable position, where the rough floor of the cave would not be poking so pointedly into his back, but it proved impossible with his legs so securely stuck.
He had, so far, run through the numbers one to one thousand in both Westron and Sindarin, and tried to do the same with Rohirric but had only gotten as far as twenty-three before getting confused. He had then sung as much of every elvish song he knew, but it got annoying after a while because he kept finding stray lines that he either skipped or couldn’t find somewhere to insert. Then he had hummed the Rohan chant that Aunt Éowyn was teaching him, and then the Dwarven one he always heard Gimli mumble when he thought no one was listening. After that he had run through all the jokes he knew, but they weren’t as funny without someone else to tell them to and laugh with. Then he had pretended his fingers were armies, but since he couldn’t see them it was hard to coordinate the battle. Next he had practiced making faces, but again, that wasn’t much fun without being able to see them. He had even started telling himself the entire history of the War of the Ring that his ada, uncles, and aunt had fought in, but lost the thread of the trail halfway through Moria; it was uncomfortable to speak of Moria and the Balrog and the orcs when he was stuck in a cave.
Not that he was afraid. He just didn’t feel like continuing the story. Besides, he might end up insulting one of the rocks. What if they had a cousin in Moria? That wouldn’t be very polite of him. And he ought to mind his manners. After all, it was their cave. He couldn’t go about insulting his hosts. He wasn’t afraid, he just didn’t want to be rude. That was all. That settled, Eldarion cast about for something else to occupy his mind with. It was boring stuck under the rock. If he could get his legs free, he could go exploring on his own until his uncles showed up, but the rocks prevented that. He strained against them again, just in case they had lightened or moved while he’d been waiting, but apparently they hadn’t because he still couldn’t get out. He sighed again, and crossed his arms tightly across his small chest, pouting in boredom.
Eldarion was running out of things to do. Why weren’t Uncle Gimli and Uncle Legolas here yet? Surely they ought to be along any minute. Eldarion knew that nothing could dare stand against his uncles, and that included this cave. Maybe they were somewhere arguing about which way to go? They could spend hours debating. Eldarion giggled, and started picturing all the arguments his uncles had had.
would entertain him for a while…
* * *
Gimli gingerly probed the edge of the hole with the haft of his axe. He had almost fallen down it, but some ingrained sense of stone acquired over a lifetime spent working with it had warned him at the last moment. The rock had not crumbled when he first stepped on it by mistake, but it was always good to check. Deciding that it would probably hold his weight, and not being in the mood to spend time debating, the dwarf cautiously crept forward. He knelt down and felt the ragged break in the stone with an un-gloved hand. This was a new hole, he decided, probably caused by the recent turmoil in the cave.
He had cleared the small section of cave that he had fallen into, piling the large rocks in a corner to create a crude but stable stair back to the upper level. He had not, however, climbed up it. He now had an egress, but he could not leave—not while the elf and boy were still down here somewhere. And they were down here somewhere, and they would be fine. Sightless in the dark, Gimli had only blind hope to trust to, and he had put all of his faith in it. His friends were fine, he had only to find them.
So Gimli had continued down the dark, rock-scattered, occasionally blocked-off maze of tunnels and openings he had never seen before. Of course, it was dark enough that he could not see them now, but one rarely explored underground with one’s eyes. It was risky to walk them now, but he had no fear for himself. The heavy stone could collapse on his thick, foolish head and he would not protest—just as long as it waited long enough for him to find his friends and get them to safety and light.
Gimli groped blindly at the stone under his feet in the darkness, gathering broken handfuls of rock. There were ways to see without light, and Gimli was well versed in them. He threw a pebble far down the tunnel in which he stood, over where the hole stretched before him, and heard it skitter across the stone on the far side. He threw the next one a little shorter, and heard the same. His next throw took longer to make contact with rock, and the sound came from below. He experimented with a few more pebbles, but it was clear that he would not be jumping across this void. From the noise of the rocks he dropped straight down, it was not a deep hole, but it was far enough down that he would not be able to climb back out without something to stand on or grab hold of. He cursed loudly in the Dwarven tongue and started to turn back the way he had come to explore another tunnel when he heard a faint noise that was instantly familiar.
“Legolas!” the dwarf shouted, then listened anxiously, hands balled in nervous fists. His breathing sounded harsh and loud in the silence. It seemed to stretch on for a painful eternity before it was broken by a soft moan. Not pausing to think, forgetting everything he had ever been taught about safety in caves, he threw himself down the hole.
Every reason why that was a bad idea flashed through Gimli’s mind, but they vanished again as soon as his thick boots touched the stone. He shot upright and yelled again, heedless of precarious rocks and potential dangers. “Legolas!” He heard no response, and began searching frantically on his hands and knees, grabbing at cold, empty rock.
Suddenly he felt a thin arm beneath thinner silk and froze. An exclamation vanished almost silently in his beard. He gently probed the still form for injuries and was rewarded with movement and a hiss of pain when he touched the elf’s shoulder. Two small shadows of light glowed in the darkness as Legolas opened his eyes.
His musical voice trembled so much that tears came to Gimli’s eyes. He remembered when Legolas wouldn’t have admitted in front of the dwarf that he would be slightly anxious to face Sauron himself. Now his hand was clenched so tightly around Gimli’s arm that the dwarf knew it would leave bruises. He made no move to loosen the grip, so glad was he to have found his friend alive. The painful grip was more welcome than the sweetest caress to the distraught dwarf. Blinking back tears, he patted the elf awkwardly on the back. They would be all right now.They were together again.
Everything would be all right.
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.