9. Alone and Together
But more than anything, he wasn’t frightened. Not at all. He squirmed again, and groaned. He felt very stiff and uncomfortable, and his head was starting to ache. But he wasn’t going to cry. He would be brave, and when Uncle Legolas and Uncle Gimli got here they would be proud of him. And then they would tell ada and he would be proud of him, and ada would tell nana and nana would hug him and put him on her lap and sing to him and tell him how brave he had been and everything was all right now and—
A fat tear rolled slowly down Eldarion’s grimy cheek, leaving a wet trail that didn’t show in the pitch darkness. He swallowed hard and sniffed, but the tear was soon followed by another. He missed his naneth and adar. And he was cold. And he was lonely. And he was worried. And he was definitely not frightened.
Not one bit.
“Nana,” he whimpered, a lost whisper in the darkness. Wrapping his arms around his head, Eldarion started to cry. He cried until, exhausted, he at last fell asleep, small hand curled close to his face—but not actually sucking his thumb.
Because he wasn’t scared. Not at all.
“I’m sorry,” Legolas whispered, pulling away slightly from the dwarf and forcing his fear beneath the surface again. He tried to summon the ragged shreds of his dignity and self-control, but it was difficult to do in the darkness, even with Gimli here to anchor him.
“What’s that, lad?”
Legolas had to smile; Gimli had started calling him that to gall him on the Fellowship’s journey—after all, he was only a few thousand years older than the dwarf—now he used it whenever he wanted to annoy or, in this case, distract the Elf. But no distraction, however well-meant or welcome, changed his behavior. “I am sorry for my actions. They were unbefitting to us both—”
“Nonsense,” Gimli cut him off shortly. “Now, let’s see how badly you’re hurt,” he continued before Legolas could protest. “I believe there was some damage to your shoulder?”
Legolas sighed. The dwarf wasn’t going to allow him to apologize, at least not until he was satisfied with his physical condition. “Ay,” he responded, resigning himself, “I have wrenched it somehow. Some torn muscles, I believe; nothing serious.”
Gimli harrumphed, as if to say “we’ll see about that,” and started probing at the injured area with surprisingly gentle fingers. Legolas let out a hiss of pain before he could restrain himself, and Gimli froze instantly, pulling his hands away.
“I’m fine,” Legolas snapped a little harder than he meant to. But he hated feeling helpless, and he hated being “coddled” (as he and Aragorn termed it in disgust) when he was perfectly capable of handling whatever injuries his body had decided to accumulate this time.
Gimli, used to this reaction, just chuckled. “Of course you are,” he agreed. “Now let me see it.” Legolas gritted his teeth and allowed the dwarf to continue his ministrations. This time it was Gimli’s turn to hiss. The shoulder seemed worse than the elf had said—why was he not surprised? Legolas, underestimating an injury? The dwarf shook his head and carefully prodded the elf’s shoulder. He was no healer, and it was difficult to tell in the pitch black exactly how bad it was, but there was definite swelling.
A few minutes of some rather painful examinations later, they came to the conclusion that the elf’s right shoulder was not dislocated, just badly wrenched and torn, as he had said. He had cracked at least two ribs and done something—they weren’t sure exactly what or to what degree—to his left ankle. He maintained that he was perfectly fit to walk on it, and Gimli knew that he would do so no matter how it pained him. He also knew that if he were too overly attentive to Legolas’s injuries, the elf would turn around and demand a full account of his own hurts. They were minor, and the dwarf intended to ignore them until they were safely out of the caves. Of course, he was not about to let the elf do the same, and he was fully willing to take advantage of the situation created by the darkness that threw off his friend in order to avoid examining his own injuries.
Gimli patted his friend’s uninjured shoulder, and paused. He brought his hand to his nose and sniffed: blood. The elf was bleeding? Gimli’s eyes narrowed. In a voice that was more an imitation of a Warg’s growl than actual speech, he asked, “and just what have you been hiding?”
Although he could see only the faintest shadow of light from his friend’s eyes in the endless darkness, he knew him well enough to sense the innocent and confused expression crossing the elf’s face. He also knew that Legolas knew him well enough to sense the scowl he was directing at him.
“I truly do not know what you mean,” Legolas said with sincerity. After a moment, Gimli decided that he was genuinely unaware of his meaning, which worried him. If the elf did not even know that he was bleeding…
Hiding his worry as best he could, Gimli anxiously searched for the wound with his fingers. Legolas pulled away from him, protesting. “I have no other hurts, Master Dwarf! Come, we must be on our way!”
“No other hurts?” Gimli repeated impatiently. “Then why is there blood upon your shoulder?”
The slight movement of the faint glow of his eyes and the faint sound of pale hair sliding along silk told the dwarf that Legolas had tilted his head to the side in thought. “Blood upon my shoulder?” he asked, likely inspecting it himself. When he spoke next, there was a smile in his voice. “Ay, and in my hair as well. When it dries, it will be most amusing to get out. But it is no cause for concern, my friend; ‘tis but a slight cut.”
“That’s an awful lot of blood for a ‘slight cut,’” growled Gimli, unconvinced.
He felt Legolas shrug. “It is a head wound. They always bleed more than is necessary,” he said simply, obviously feeling that it merited no further discussion. “But come,” he went on then, “how fares Eldarion? Is the lad unscathed from his experience?”
Gimli shifted uncomfortably, his armor clinking the sounds of his discomfort. Legolas’s sharp eyes narrowed on the dwarf he could not see, suspicion so strong it was practically foreknowledge.
“You have not found him,” he said accusingly. His friend gave no answer, but seemed ill at ease. “Gimli,” Legolas exclaimed, “you mean to tell me that the boy is lost somewhere in the caves, and we know not even what condition he is in? What if he is injured? And we have been sitting here—dithering!” The elf leapt to his feet, and his eyes seemed to flash even in the darkness.
He heard Gimli scrambling to his feet next to him. The dwarf sounded pained, as if he was only now aware of what had been done. “I—I am sorry, I know not what came over me,” he admitted awkwardly. “In my fear for you, all other considerations seemed driven from my mind.”
Touched, Legolas laid a hand briefly on his friend’s shoulder. “Come,” he said urgently, “we must find him! Quickly, how did you get into this pit? We must climb back up!”
Gimli did not answer for a moment. “I, uh,” he muttered reluctantly, “I jumped.”
Legolas’s voice was completely neutral. “You jumped.” Gimli nodded, forgetting that it was too dark to see, but the elf sensed his movement. “I see.” The dwarf could feel himself blushing, and was suddenly thankful that the blackness hid it. “And I suppose you gave no thought to how you would get back out?”
“I was…less than logical,” the dwarf replied gruffly. He was reluctant to admit just how worried he had been, even to his friend. “My thoughts were not exactly on the most prudent course of action.”
“Fortunately, I believe that it is not to high for an elf, insurmountable though it must seem to lesser races,” Legolas said with forced levity. Their minds were both writhing with fear for the child, and the darkness was beginning to press in upon the elf. He was clinging to their banter as a drowning man will clutch at driftwood.
“I’ll give you lesser races, Elf,” Gimli growled, but his heart was not in it. Rather, his heart was in a painful lump trying to strangle him from within his throat. He shook his head, focusing on what needed to be done rather than on the reasons for their action. “It is not the fault of the dwarves that we are stable and solid creatures, not given to foolish, weightless thoughts, as are the flighty elves. Fly, then, Elf, and show that your empty head is good for something.”
There was a light patter of falling rock dust that told Gimli his friend had already caught the edge. He strained his eyes in the darkness, but could not make out the form of his friend. Had his injured ankle supported him in the jump? Would his ribs impede swinging onto the stable stone? Would his swollen shoulder prove an impediment?
Apparently not, or at least nothing insurmountable, for moments later the light voice called down to him. “Come, Master Dwarf, leap for my voice! I shall pull you up so that you may climb out of this pit.”
“You had best not dare use your injured arm for this,” Gimli warned him sourly. He did not like the dependent position he was put in—dwarves were proud creatures, after all—but thoughts of Eldarion drove all less important considerations from his mind. He leaped, and his fingers seemed to brush those of Legolas for a moment, but not enough for either to catch onto the other’s hand.
“Again!” Legolas commanded. Gimli was already back on his feet and repositioning himself, this time paying more attention to where the elf’s voice was coming from. He was talented at locating things by their echoes, and that combined with the almost-imagined glimmer of elvish eyes pointed out where Legolas was crouched at the lip of the hole. The dwarf launched himself as high as he could, and felt his friend’s strong hand latch onto his wrist.
Using Gimli’s momentum, Legolas pulled back; he was stretched out halfway into the pit, and it took all his balance skills not to tumble back into it with the sudden added weight. He ignored the protests of his injured shoulder and ribs as he hauled the dwarf to the lip of stone. Gimli caught it and hauled himself up with the elf balancing him in the darkness.
Gimli scowled. “You used both arms,” he accused.
“Hurry,” Legolas said, ignoring him, “we must find Eldarion! Where have you searched?”
Agreeing that the boy was by far the more important thing right now, Gimli let it lie and dragged his friend after him into the darkness to find the missing prince. With the grace of the Valar, they would not be too late…
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.