The Sons of Thunder: 28. The Houses of Healing

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28. The Houses of Healing

I am sorry for the long delay- work and then HASA was down every time I looked.

Beta: Fabulous Anarithilen- we bounced this around so many times to get it right. Thank you as always for your generous help.

Thanks also to reviewers, Vanwa, Ladyconfidentail, tanbo (welcome back!) leggy and el, KyMahalei, mienepies (oh, Fireflies so needs a wonderful picture from you, you know!) Caelhir, klc101, alanic, dragonmad, dimaranien, inmyeyes, myshka, debbie (Took note of your comment re straight to here. Thanks) leralonde, freddie, muyany, lunaqueztal, spiced wine (welcome to this site!) marchwriter, ninna, wherever winter fell, lady angst, Blip-chan. It was really, really wonderful ot get so many reviews because I agonised over that chapter and sweated good and proper - rather Anar made me!

Next chapter underway so pelase keep the reviews coming!

Warning: just usual angst and stuff.

Chapter 28 The Houses of Healing

Pippin leaned against the cold stone and struggled to open his eyes again. He kept nodding off. Aragorn was standing nearby and the comforting presence of the Ranger made him dream he was just settling down to sleep in camp and the Fellowship was all there... he thought of Boromir and felt a sudden warmth as if the dead warrior stood nearby watching over him. Aragorn stirred slightly and stood forwards, the moonlight was so clear and bright it cast a long shadow from Aragorn's tall frame.

Pippin looked up at the sky, crowded with stars, hard and bright. Night had fallen some hours ago and the city was in darkness except for the hundreds of tiny fires that sprung up on the plains below. He blinked and yawned widely. Aragorn turned and looked down at the Hobbit.

'Why don't you go and get some sleep, Pippin?'

'Oh, I don't want to leave you on your own, Strider,' Pippin said a little sadly. 'And I think I should be here when they get back. We ought to, we're his friends...' he trailed off.

Aragorn did not reply but he heard the Man shift slightly and rest his hand on his sword as though restless for action. They lapsed back into silence.

Together they watched the stars move across the clear sky, glad that the dreadful, suffocating clouds had moved and the wind now came from the West.

Pippin sighed and pulled himself onto the low wall to sit. He wondered if Legolas was alright... but he knew he was not. Elrohir had gone to make sure of that...to give the what was it called? the millwee cris? Pippin bit his lip and looked down at his foot. The moon was so bright it cast his shadow across the pale stone pavement and he wondered if Frodo and Sam were alright - but they were not either. He wiped his nose briefly with the back of his hand.

'I met Legolas before the quest.' Pippin glanced up at the quiet words to see Aragorn looking down at him kindly.

'Of course you did!' Pippin smiled encouragingly, 'when you took Gollum to Mirkwood.'

'True, it was to Mirkwood that I dragged Smeagol there at Gandalf's behest. And never more glad was I than when Thranduil was persuaded to keep him!' Aragorn said with heartfelt warmth. 'The idea of dragging that miserable beast anywhere else other than the Long Lake and throwing him in was more than I could bear!' He laughed softly. 'I still think it a better thing had I done that.'

He settled himself more deeply into his cloak, pulling it round himself against the frost-silvered air. 'But that was not the first time I visited. You have not been there but you have heard Bilbo's tales,' he continued looking down at Pippin. 'Well imagine that and worse. Darker than the night, impenetrable, full of spiders and their disgusting webs, and in the South, the trees are twisted and decayed and there is nought but rank foul water. Nothing grows but the pine trees. It is a miserable and depressing place.'

Pippin was surpised at the feeling in the Man's words. 'That is not what Legolas says,' he objected, and looked away for a moment.

'Well he wouldn't,' Aragorn replied more gently. 'And the Elvenking's halls are very different. Lit with huge globes of different coloured glass and carved with animals. And the pillars all like great trees, gemstones set in the ceilings like stars. It is a strange place, darker than Rivendell, gloomier that Lothlorien, not timeless or peaceful... but magic is very strong there nonetheless. But it is... different.. older... earthier. It feels...otherworldy but not as Lorien, more like a folktale where to eat or drink is to stay forever.'

His voice had become distant and Pippin imagined the feast laid out for the Man who had stumbled into the Elvenking's halls with his unwanted prisoner. He imagined the golden candlight and pewter shining softly, silver plates gleaming, whole suckling pigs and roasted vension, dark purple grapes and succulent golden pastries, pale churned cream and great wheels of cheeses, dark chocolate desserts and tarts loaded with glazed fruits and every kind of sweet... jugs of deep red wine and candlelight glowing through amber spirits...His stomach rumbled and he shook himself slightly. Aragorn was looking at him in amusement.

'I was just thinking,' Pippin said defensively. Aragorn smiled and knocked out his pipe on the stone wall. He tugged his pouch from inside his cloak and started to fill the bowl.

'I ran into Legolas the first time I visited Mirkwood,' he said, tamping down the pipeweed. 'I had ridden long and hard, fought with the giant spiders, been beset with a goblin or two and heard wargs and wolves howling in the forest. When I was brought to the Elvenking's Halls, Legolas was in the stableyard. He was grooming the oldest, slowest looking nag I have ever seen and still yet to see. I had no idea who he was and when we arrived, I thoughtlessly gave him my horse as if he were a groom. He looked me up and down, gave that grin that I now think of as predatory, and took my beast with some very deprecating words about Imladris horses...about their not having spirit, broken as they are to obey bit and spur as he said. And I had to defend my sweet-natured little mare.' He shook his head and Pippin did not know if it was at Legolas or himself that he shook his head, but he smiled at the memory anyway.

'What happened?'

'I told you I was young and foolish. The patrol that had brought me in were laughing and I did not understand their dialect so I felt even more foolish... I was angry for his words about my horse and so..' Aragorn struck his tinderbox and the flames flared and glowed on his face while his lit his pipe 'I insulted his horse and challenged him to a race.'

Pippin felt his mouth tug. 'What did the other elves do?'

'They were delighted by my hubris and started laying bets. Of course.'

'Of course,' agreed Pippin a little sadly, for he had seen Legolas bet on everything from horse races to the number of orcs killed to how many spuds Sam could eat. It was something that Gimli and Legolas had in common and that Pippin, on the quiet, thought accounted for their unexpected friendship.

'The odds were not in my favour. But I did not realise that until later.'

'Of course not,' nodded Pippin wisely.

Aragorn laughed softly. 'He took advantage of my arrogance,' he said, 'toyed with my ignorance, laughed at my clumsiness.'

'What happened?' Pippin found himself drawn in spite of his sadness.

Aragorn held his pipe between his teeth and drew on it hard. A long stream of grey smoke blew from between his lips and he gave a sigh. 'He challenged me to prove my mare's spirit unbroken. And I laughed unkindly and pointed to his own poor horse and said I would race his and prove him wrong.' Pippin laughed and looked up at Aragorn with fondness for his honesty and for laughing at his own young self.

'Well, this stable lad, as I thought, looked down and hummed and haha'd and asked if he could ride one of his father's horses instead. He said his father was a poor man compared with the great Lord Elrond, but that he, Laeglas, as he called himself, had only this old horse and another. I could see it was an old pony and more likely to fall over than win any race. But by that time I had recovered my good sense and refused to let him ride anything but Gwilileth, as she was called. We agreed to race to the nearby lake in two days so as to give my mare time to rest, and he just grinned. I should have known better.'

'Of course!' Pippin grinned. 'And of course, he beat you.' Aragorn laughed and nodded.

'When I saw him that evening sitting at the left hand side of the Heir of Thranduil I thought something up. Thranduil raised his glass to me and waved merrily and that did not bode well...' He leaned back against the stone wall and puffed contentedly on his pipe for a moment. Then he looked down and offered Pippin his pipeweed pouch but Pippin shook his head. He didn't really feel like it riht now, not with Merry lying within and their waiting for Legolas to return...

'It was such a fine morning,' Aragorn continued, leaning back and half closing his eyes in memory. 'Clear blue sky and that cool mistiness of early summer. When the race started, my mare leaped ahead while Legolas merely ambled out on that old nag. I was way ahead and even slowed to an easy canter. But as soon as we got near the lake and the finish was in sight, my well bred steed propped and shied and pranced and would not go near the lake.' Aragorn puffed on his pipe and stared into memory. He slid a sideways glance at Pippin and said casually, 'Eventually she reared up and I slid off her rump and landed on my own while Legolas ambled slowly past on his old nag.'

Pippin was imagining Aragorn's mortification at landing on his own rump in front of the Mrkwood Elves, and thoroughly enjoying the idea when he caught the Man's amused gaze upon him and smothered his own grin. 'How dreadful!' he exclaimed unconvincingly. 'Why did she do that? Did you lose anything?'

'Apart from my dignity and pride?' Aragorn said wryly. 'Oh Thranduil was most gracious. I believe, he actually felt quite sorry for me in spite of my arrogance.' He stretched out his long legs and folded his arms. 'Legolas returned in time to pull me out of the bog into which I fell. But my horse would not go near that lake, even later. She would shake and dig in her feet and refuse to go near.' he smiled. 'He would not tell me, even now, but my guess is he whispered in her ear something about dragons or horse-eating trolls or somesuch thing.'

Pippin was grinning for he himself had lost many a wager to Legolas, but the Elf had returned everything he won from the Hobbits. He was sometimes less generous with the Men and Dwarf.

'How much did you lose?' the Hobbit asked brightly.

'More than I had to give,' Aragorn said drily.

Suddenly Aragorn stiffened and he uncrossed his arms, standing taller. Pippin, after long months in the wild with the Ranger, froze and his hand went instinctivley to his short sword.

'Horses.'

Pippin pushed himself up, wide awake and listening. Sure enough, far away in the darkness, he could hear the clopping of hooves on stone, drawing steadily nearer ... nearer.

They both leaned forwards over the stone wall and stared down the hidden, narrow track. In the distance, Pippin recognised the bright coat of Shadowfax first between the black pine trees, and then Gandalf's white robes gleamed in the moonlight. He looked bulky though and Pippin realised he was carrying something... someone. His hand flew to his mouth and he felt his heart sink to his toes. Legolas. It was Legolas, sitting before Gandalf, and as they drew closer, he could see the Elf's head rested against Gandalf's chest. Long pale hair fluttered, but otherwise Legolas was absolutely still.

Pippin couldn't help it and gave a cry and started running but Aragorn overtook him swiftly.

'They will go straight to the House of Healing,' he shouted back to Pippin.

Pippin arrived at the silent House that was in darkness apart from one light burning in a window on the first floor, Shadowfax had halted at the bottom of the steps of the House, and Aragorn was reaching up to Gandalf to take Legolas. Gandalf let him slip into the Man's waiting arms. As Aragorn caught him, the sable cloak that had been huddled around Legolas slipped open and Pippin stared. Legolas was stripped to the waist and there was a gaping wound in his chest that did not bleed, and on his pale skin there were dozens of smaller nicks. Pippin rubbed his eyes for they pricked with tears. He was dead. Ah, Legolas was dead. Like Boromir. And he had suffered, it was clear.

He saw that Aragorn hestitantly touched his fingers to the wound that did not bleed before wrapping the cloak carefully around Legolas. He glanced up at Gandalf who watched him streadily.

'A morgul blade?' he asked, and Pippin stared at him in horror.

'That's what happened to Frodo!' he cried, unable to stop.

'Pippin?' Gandalf peered at the Hobbit and sighed. As he slid down from Shadowfax, he paused and then said simply, 'Yes. A morgul blade. It has done its work and I have done what I can...' The horse rubbed its head against Gandalf and left a streak of mud on the already stained white robes. Gandalf leaned heavily on his staff, his eyes were tired and there were dark rings around his eyes. 'I am very weary and must rest before I can do anymore.'

Pippin looked beyond Gandalf and Shadowfax now to see two black horses led by the sons of Elrond arrive and halt at the steps on which he stood. One leaned against the other. Gimli was still mounted upon one of the horses, his shoulders slumped and head down. One of the brothers steadied Gimli as he slowly slid his leg over the horse's back, and then paused before sliding down. The Dwarf landed gently with the Half-Elf's steadying arms about him and unusually Gimli did not glare and complain. He barely registered anyone or anything but just made his way quickly to where Aragorn stood, holding Legolas, and lifted the edge of the cloak to peer into the Elf's cold face. Pippin moved closer and hovered at his elbow, looking over Gimli's shoulder first at Legolas and then at Giml with equal measures of concern, for the Dwarf looked devastated.

Gimli anxiously pulled the cloak again up over Legolas, as Aragorn had done before him, and Pippin was sure he would have tucked him in if he could. Through his own shock and sorrow, Pippin heard Aragorn speaking to Gimli, catching fragments of their conversation as they both stared down at the Elf's cold, still face.

'... you caught up with him...in time to help?...'

'...already too late...Nazgul pursuing us and...'

Pippin felt useless as usual, superfluous now that the Big Folk were all here. So he took Legolas' cold hand and held it gently, wishing and wishing that this had not happened... wishing he had said something... wishing he had told him that ...

Wait!...He felt something...

He opened his eyes wide and stared at Legolas' still, cold face. But he was sure he had felt a twitch of long fingers against the palm of his hand. He frowned and whispered 'Legolas?' very quietly so the others would not think he was stupid or mad. 'Legolas?' he said more insistently.

And then... yes... there it was. A slight pressure on his fingers...

He squeezed back slowly, slightly and turned excitedly to Gandalf. But the wizard was looking straight at Pippin and somehow he thought Gandalf already knew.

'He's alive?' he whispered and Gandalf nodded, slowly, sadly.

'Yes,' said Gandalf holding Pippin's anxious, excited gaze. 'He is alive... in a way. As was Frodo...For he too was struck with a morgul blade. But unlike Frodo, the Nazgul worked their dark sorcery on Legolas before they stabbed him. Hobbits are very different from Elves, Pippin. The morgul blades are creations of the first Dark Lord, Morgoth. They were meant for Elves, not Hobbits.' Gandalf leaned even more heavily on his staff and Pippin realised he looked wearier than he had ever seen the Wizard, even after they had fled the Balrog. It seemed all his piercing blue spark had faded into greyness. 'These blades were created to cut the spirit from the body... so Morgoth could consume their spirits and corrupt their bodies.'

'C..corrupt? What do you...?'

But Gandalf looked away and Pippin grappled with what he meant and then slowly, he understood...so it was true about Orcs being Elves once and the Nazgul had cut Legolas' spirit from his body...worse than death, worse than anything he could imagine. He grasped the edge of Gandalf's sleeve for a moment in horror and staggered slightly.

'Ah, my dear Took,' sighed Gandalf and his hand rested gently on Pippin's head. 'I would have guarded you from so much if I could.'

Pippin looked down again at Legolas and Gimli came to stand on the other side of him.

'Can we... can you do anything?'

'I have tried.' The Wizard passed his hand over his eyes in a gesture of hopelessness. But surely they would not be defeated now, Pippin thought earnestly. Not with Legolas here, back with them when they had thought all hope was lost?

He set his mouth in a determined line, sure there was warmth in the hand he clutched. And he whispered again, 'Legolas...it's Pippin. Hold on. We are coming.'

oo0000ooooo

All was quiet in the Houses of Healing. Everyone else was asleep and the sounds of their small group's footsteps hurrying along the wide stone corridors seemed louder than they were. Even their muted voices, laced with anxiety seemed loud to Pippin. He wrinkled his nose at the smell of lotions and bitter herbs. Pippin was suddenly reminded of Rivendell when they frst arrived, exhausted and terrified, and how the Last Homely House had been filled with light and soft music and wonderful scents of flowers and herbs, distlilled into medicines and lotions. He remembered Elrond telling him how scents and fragrances were important in healing... amongst hobbits and men it seemed it was quite the reverse- the nastier it smelled the more effective it was deemed.

They passed Eowyn's door and Faramir's and Merry's and he thought of all those who were hurt by this dreadful war. And now Legolas lay so still and cold and pale... he squeezed the Elf's hand again and glancing over to Gimli once more, he saw the bandage around the Dwarf's head. Suddenly Pippin coudn't bear it anymore. He wanted the Shire. He wanted to sit in the garden at Bag End with Frodo and Sam and Merry and smoke pipeweed and eat his fill and drink beer. He wished he had never heard of Gondor or the Ring or any of this... he squeezed his eyes shut for a second, willing away the tears that threatened when he felt a gentle warmth and it was Gimli who had reached over to him.

Gimli's warm, intelligent eyes fixed on him and he just said in a low, quiet voice, 'I know, Pippin. It seems too much. But think what we have in our Fellowship. If you had stayed in the Shire I would not know you. And I am very glad I do. And I would not have known Legolas had I stayed in my halls of stone. Even if we lose him, I am still glad I have known him.'

Pippin nodded, blinking hard. 'I know. And you are right. Not even the gaffer in the Shire could tend his garden in what he calls peace but for folk like Legolas, whether he knows about them or not. I am glad I know about him, a little. And I am glad I know you too, Gimli...But I don't know why I am talking like this.* I need a long smoke of Longbottom Leaf.'

'Ah,' Gimli drew a long breath as if he could smell the bitter fragrance even now and Pippin laughed. 'That would certainly waken Legolas, Pippin. Maybe we should try it.'

'In here,' said Aragorn suddenly and opened a wide door. Pippin followed the litter into the room and was suddenly bathed in the scent of athelas. Immediately he felt his spirits rise and he thought of the Shire and felt such peace.

'Bring him in here.' Aragorn strode over to the long windows and threw them open. The moon-netted shadows of lime trees stretched over the frost-silvered garden outside and the scents of the garden and cold mountain air mingled with athelas, and Pippin thought that Aragorn had chosen this room especially for a Woodelf.

'Gently, lay him there.' And suddenly there was a clamour of voices and noise.

'Bring hot water... clean that wound.'

'Scalpel, needles... that will need stitches and bring some of those linen strips.'

'Should we get...'

'Take the lord Gimli to get that wound seen to...' And suddenly people swept in, around and Gimli was gone, taken off somewhere to be attended to, and there were too many people in the room, and too much noise and bustle. Healers suddenly swarmed in with hot water and bandages and metal implements that tinkled and clashed. Pippin tried to make himself small and out of the way so he would not be sent out, and perched on the edge of the bed, still clutching Legolas' hand.

On the other side of the bed, Aragorn leaned over Legolas, reaching down carefully and lifting the cloak from his cold, pale body. He cast the cloak over a chair nearby. Pippin stared again at the horrible gaping wound that had not healed but did not bleed either. It was like it had been frozen, or the blood sucked dry. Behind Aragorn stood one of the sons of Elrond, who leaned forward and rested a hand gently on Aragorn's shoulder. He said something to Aragorn and the Man looked up startled and replied but they both spoke so softly that even Pippin could not hear them. The Half Elf moved away then and stood staring out of the window at the moonlight as it pooled on the silvered grass. In his place, the Healers of the city pressed forwards to stare and exclaim softly, advising Aragorn and urging him to let them bind it.

Pippin did not listen to them but instead, glanced across to where the other son of Elrond leaned against the door lintel, arms folded over his chest. His long black hair gleamed and his grey eyes were fixed upon Legolas but then he looked away as if confused and ashamed, and a young healer from the city pushed past him into the room and Pippin could no longer see him.

The room was full of urgent voices and noise. Healers bustled about with basins and water and metal implements clinked, and the son of Elrond stirred himself to argue with Aragorn about something but Pippin did not listen. Amidst the noise and movement, Legolas was still. The moonlight gilded his hair silver and his skin was pale as marble. The lovely painted swirls and colours on his skin that Pippin had gawped at when he first saw Legolas seemed dead. All the warmth and life seemed to have leeched out of him. He was so still! Not dead though, not yet, and Pippin felt tears prick his eyes again, for he thought again of what Gandalf had said. It might be living but this was not life; not for Legolas, whose merry tales and gentle tricks had kept Pippin's spirits up during those cold long months in the wild, and whose songs had cheered up the Hobbits and made Gandalf so cross.

With sudden tenderness, he stroked the lovely, cold face and wished Legolas would suddenly look up and wink and smile and say it was only a trick he was playing on Gimli. He wished they would all go and leave them in peace. The sons of Elrond were arguing more loudly now, with each other as well as with Aragorn.

'Leave him,' said one curtly. 'Aragorn knows what he is about.'

'I do not question that, Elladan.'

And that, thought Pippin wearily, must be Elrohir. He had been the one staring at Legolas like he was confused and ashamed, and as if he could barely stand. Pippin remembered that it had been Elrohir who had gone with Legolas and who had been supposed to... supposed to deliver the milui-criss. He wondered what had gone wrong that Legolas had instead ended up with a terrible wound from a morgul blade intended to cut his spirit from his body.

'But this is beyond him.' Elrohir was still speaking. 'You do not know...'

'What do I not know?' Elladan narrowed his eyes and caught Elrohir's arm. 'You have not yet told us what happened.'

Pippin looked up. No, they still did not know and he felt a sudden wave of anger on Legolas' behalf, that Gandalf had been prepared to sacrifice him, that Aragorn had agreed and that Elrohir had gone along to make sure he died! He felt the wave build in his chest and had to bite his tongue hard.

'There has been no time.' Elrohir was protesting, but Pippin saw that he looked away guiltily. 'Please, Elladan, do not let him do this! It is too soon.'

'It is the only way,' Aragorn argued but Pippin did not know what Aragorn thought was the only way for Elladan put his hand on his brother's chest, restraining him and Elrohir began saying something loudly, aggressively that Pippin did not understand; it did not sound like any of the words Pipin had learned from Legolas over the months of the Quest - which were mostly rude ones anyway.

It seemed Pippin was not the only one overwhelmed for Gandalf turned to everyone else in the room and with sudden irritation he said, 'Anyone who does not need to be here, go! If we do not awaken him soon he may be lost forever, Elrohir. It is a risk but I will be here. Elladan, take your brother away before he and Aragorn come to blows.'

Pippin scuttled round to face the Wizard. 'What about me?' he demanded over Elrohir's loud protests. 'Legolas might know I'm here. He squeezed my hand.'

Gandalf harrumphed and tucked his less than white robe over his arm as if it got in the way. 'It seems that you will defy my orders and do as you wish anyway, Master Took!' Pippin stood his ground and stared defiantly up at the Wizard until he sighed and relented. 'Don't get in the way,' he growled.

Pippin turned back to Legolas, feeling a small sense of triumph while Gandalf ushered everyone from the room and shut the door firmly. So there was only Pippin left with Aragorn and Gandalf, and they both almost ignored Pippin completely. He could hear Elrohir outside, still angry and protesting with his brother.

Aragorn pulled the steaming bowls of athelas closer and leaned over Legolas with his hand on his brow... closed his eyes and at once seemed to sink inwards. Then he breathed once, deeply, and then again and then a third breath, bringing himself to the point where his and Legolas' breaths seemed to merge, seemed to curl around each other and were the same...

Aragorn sighed deeply and his head dropped down on his chest further and he squeezed his eyes shut tightly as if an enormous amount of concentration were needed. There was a slight shift in the air as Gandalf reached down to close his own hand over Aragorn's and Pippin's hand tingled. He felt a slight crackling of energy, like pins and needles in his fingertips and looked up startled, stared in sudden hope at Legolas' face. A slight twitch? He thought he saw movement - the Elf's eyes moved beneath his closed lids surely? Wasn't there Music somewhere? In the distance, a chiming of bells, of a soaring chord that lifted his heart beyond anything, and he knew somehow it was Gandalf...

Aragorn stirred but he did not stop, as if he were unable to pull his hands away. He pressed down more and there was a quiet moan but Pippin did not know if it were from the Man, Elf or Wizard, or even from himself.

Slow warmth moved up Pippin's arm and Legolas squeezed his hand. Pippin looked up at Gandalf in delight and laughed softly but the grip on the Hobbit's hand grew crushing and Pippin squeaked.

'Aragorn? Aragorn, he won't let go,' Pippin cried with increasing anxiety for now the small bones had begun to rub against each other and hurt. 'Legolas, let go, you're hurting me!' An answering whimper came from Legolas and Pippin tried to pull his hand away from him, but the Elf's grip was iron.

Legolas cried out this time, more loudly and tossed his head from side to side. He thrashed and tried to pull away from Aragorn and there was a flurry of robes as Gandalf tried to get around the bed and managed to prise the Elf's fingers off Pippin's hand. The Hobbit stood back, wide-eyed, nursing his injured hand as Gandalf tried to hold onto Legolas. But the Elf suddenly opened his eyes and stared blindly around him, panicked. He cried out again but Pippin could not understand what he said, only one word...Rav-ion, he thought, like a cry for help. Legolas shoved Gandalf away suddenly and clutched frantically at Aragorn's hands that were pressed above the gaping wound in his chest, half-curling around himself as if in agony. But Aragorn was still locked in his trance and seemed unable to let go, instead pressing harder down on Legolas' abdomen, squeezing his eyes shut more tightly as if he could black out all thought, all sound. Before Gandalf could recover and reach the Elf, Legolas opened his mouth; for a moment there was no sound, and then a heart-wrenching cry burst from him.

At that moment the door flung open and one of the sons of Elrond stood there. He stared for a moment and then within two strides he was with Legolas and pulling Aragorn's hands away. 'Daro, Aragorn! Elladan!' he shouted over his shoulder, and his brother appeared in the doorway behind him, white-faced. 'Elio nin!'

Aragorn resisted Elrohir slightly, like someone deeply asleep and then Gandalf and Elladan were there too. Legolas opened his eyes wider, unseeing as if something else was before him, even more terrifying. He began shouting, pleading in his own language.

Pippin strained to catch the words but it was too fast and too fluid for him to understand. He moved to stand next to Gandalf instead. 'What is it?' he asked, nursing his hand, feeling helpless but unable to look away from Legolas' terrified face. 'What's happening?' But Gandalf seemed to be focused inwards and ignored Pippin.

Elrohir was shouting at Elladan, gesticulating wildly and shaking his head as he moved to the other side of the bed and leaned over Legolas. Elladan hesitated, looking from Elrohir to Aragorn and then slowly, he moved to stand behind the Man, put his own hands gently on Aragorn's shoulders. 'Estel,' he murmured. 'Estel, come back to me now.'

Aragorn seemed to start slightly and blinked but then he sank again into the strange trance again and this time, Elladan was more insistent. He forced Aragorn's hands from Legolas' body and pulled Aragorn back against his own chest. Gandalf moved closer too and lay his hand gently on Aragorn's forehead. The Man blinked and stared at them for a moment, then he cringed with seeming terror.

'The Eye!' he whispered and covered his eyes with his hands. 'It was terrrible to behold. The Eye ripped my heart from...'

Pippin patted the Man's hands. 'It's alright, Strider,' he mumured, glancing up at Gandalf, but the Wizard's piercing blue eyes were distant and vague, like he was dreaming. His lips moved slightly but Pippin did not hear any words. Bewildered, and a little frightened, Pippin cast a look back over his shoulder at what Elrohir was doing.

For Elrohir stood leaning over Legolas, his long black hair gleamed in the candlelight. Pippin saw that his face was tender and concerned and he pressed his hands over the horrible wound and became very still. Legolas whimpered more loudly and tossed his head from side to side. Pippin turned back to Strider for a moment to soothe him again for he was still reeling from his trance. Elladan had pushed Strider into a chair and now had moved away to prepare more athelas and Pippin could hear him moving bowls and pouring the hot water in over the fragrant leaves.

It was then that the screaming started.

And then everything happened so fast and Pippin could hardly keep track of things. The Warden of the House came rushing in followed by a number of other Healers. He eased Elrohir away and grasped Legolas' head while others pushed past Aragorn and Gandalf, moving them away in an efficient and experienced manner. Two more pushed past Elrohir and in spite of his protests, grasped Legolas' arms and legs and held him firmly. Legolas fought them like they were orcs and screamed so Pippin thought his lungs would burst. But the healers struggled to hold him frantically and then suddenly there were leather straps being thrown around him and buckled to the wooden frame of the bed while he struggled and fought.

Elrohir railed at the healers and swore at them but to no avail and the Warden ignored everyone, calmly opening bottles and pouring liquids into a glass flask, swirling htem together into a mixture.

Elladan's face was grim, and he said something to Elrohir that Pippin could not understand but it silenced Elrohir to an angry, astounded glare. Pippin could do nothing. In the end he covered his face and looked away while the healers held Legolas down and the Warden forced the drug into his friend. Legolas choked and gagged and thrashed and screamed but gradually, slowly, his cries grew weaker and Pippin was helpless to do anything more than weep. He crept back to hold onto Legolas' hand as the Elf crashed into a drugged stupour.

There was peace of a sort once Legolas slept, a horrible, desperate peace where Gimli stomped into the room in rage and berated Aragorn, and Elrohir argued long and angrily with the healers. Pippin stayed still and quietly wept on the bed, clutching Legolas' hand and staring at him. Gandalf leaned on his staff wearily and shook his head.

'I have looked into his mind and seen the Eye. It has turned from Mordor back to Minas Tirith. Legolas was successful.' Pippin looked at him suddenly furious. Was that all Gandalf could think about? That they had been successful? Didn't he care? But in the blue eyes there was such sorrow and loss that the words died in Pippin's throat and he could not speak.

000oooo0000oooo000

'I am Legolas Thranduillion' he whispered, and once it had meant something, but now, it was the only thing he had left. All had been burned from him. Liquid fire spewed along the ground, ran in molten lava in lines around him, flared up and cast hot red light on his face, ran together so he was surrounded on all sides. Walls of fire enclosed him and he burned.

'Ash nag thrakatuluk agh burzum-ishi krimpatul.'

Scorching heat, words burned into him, blood boiled in his veins and flesh melted.

No! He shouted in resistance. No! But he no longer remembered what he denied. The Eye was open and he burned and screamed and screamed as his nerves, sinews twisted, stretched, melted.…I see you...And he could never escape.. it was always there, always fixed upon him...It ripped all thoughts from him, and lightning and flame poured into him… The screaming seemed to come from far away but he knew it was he who was screaming… he was dimly aware that his throat hurt but everything was fire…scorching fire…burning him. His eyes felt they were melting but he tasted salt. It is tears, one part of his mind thought. He knew that was right because he could not last long…there was something... precious... It was looking for it... and he knew something once but had buried it deep now and there was only fire. …The Eye, the Voice, ripped his entrails open and dragged out his heart and threw it to one side...It mocked were earth-brown eyes and a deep song of the earth but he no longer knew what it was... He screamed over the laughter that wrenched his bones.

'The journey doesn't end here.' Once there had been sharp blue eyes, wide and soft in remembrance but now there was only the One, the Eye that poured its malice into him,

struck again and again, the spear of ice through his heart impaled him, pierced him. The threads of black reached into his body... but his body was burned? And the ear-splitting shrieks got inside his head and were terrifying. The black threads, like ink in water spread into his veins, into his lungs, into his flesh and dug out his heart, his soul so he stood outside his body looking back as he crumpled to the ground... and he looked down at himself in horror...and saw the forest floor through his hands...could not understand. Was this death? Was he dead? But he burned and the Eye drilled into him and his blood boiled and his sinews stretched and flesh melted...

'I am Legolas Thranduillion.' he whispered. He no longer believed it, but it was all he had left. He could not escape. He was here forever. And the liquid fire, molten lines ran around him, caging him again, and it started all over again, although it had never really stopped.

Only sometimes... sometimes, there was a crimson warmth and something had come to him... someone... he knew them... 'Stay,' it had said. 'Trust me'.. and he had not wanted to, had been frightened and it hurt but oh, he had wanted to trust ...'Stay.' It had said again and there was such pleading, such yearning... that he had... and now it reached out to him again and gave all of itself..all...but it was crimson and he had baulked, for red hurt, it hurt. But this was like something else, like soft light, a crimson warmth and there was a song that wrapped itself about him and kept out those ear-splitting shrieks.

But then the Eye opened onto him again and wearily, he lifted his head and defiantly whispered, 'I am Legolas Thranduillion,' as if it meant something...and the fire surrounded him and he was trapped again in the agony of burning...

00oooo0000ooooo0

Elrohir stood by the window and leaned his head against the cool glass, gazing as the same thin crack of dawn appeared and the late stars seemed to shine all the more brightly before they too dimmed and faded. He stood and watched the sun's rays creep over the sleeping land and turn the river silver. The great mud flats were polished to a sheen and the gulls, flying upriver, cried and mewed, silver catching on the edges of their wings.

He heard a stirring behind him but he did not turn. It would not be Legolas, drugged into such a stupor that he could neither heal nor scream. That dreadful moment when he first began to awaken and roused the whole House with the horror of his torment reminded Elrohir all too clearly of his mother's 'recovery'. Why did everything about Legolas keep returning him to that horror? That was hours ago now and the Houses of Healing had slipped back into warm slumber, but he guessed he was not the only one who was unquiet in these earliest hours of morning.

There was a clink and the sound of water poured into a glass. Then the scrape of chair pushed back and the creak of someone sitting on the bed.

Elrohir said nothing but he listened to Aragorn arrange things as he wished and then go to the door and ask someone outside for hot water. Elrohir wished he would not. They could not just keep drugging Legolas and avoiding this. So he turned and stood at the bedside, looking down.

Legolas lay unmoving except for his occasionally twitching fingers. Long hair splayed out over the pillows and his face looked almost peaceful... except at times, Elrohir could see his eyes move beneath his lids and knew that the Elf saw images in his dreams which were distressing and terrifiying.

'Do not drug him again,' Elrohir said quietly. 'He cannot control the dreams if he is drugged. He will be stuck forever in that place.'

Aragorn paused. 'You think we should leave him if he wakens again screaming?' he asked. 'You cannot think he will rest or have peace!' He pinched the bridge of his nose.

'The other residents of this house may not have peace,' Elrohir said levelly, 'but I know this; Legolas is alone in that place if we drug him again.' He looked at Aragorn, held his gaze unflinching. 'Believe me, Estel. He is in torment if we leave him there... He cannot get out on his own and he will not heal. You glimpsed it yourself when you tried to rouse him.' He looked again at Legolas and lowered his voice, ashamed. ' I have already wronged him. You cannot know how I have wronged him. I must give him my life if need be.'

Aragorn stared at Elrohir as if he had never truly seen him before. 'What have you done?'

'It is not for you to know, Estel. Trust me. I will atone, but it is not you who is owed this debt.'

'Then who?'

'To Legolas ... if he recovers enough to understand. And if he does not, I must account to Elladan for my sins. For you know he may recover in body and never recover his wits.' He looked down at the sleeping Elf and gestured with his hand. 'I have seen this once...she... she never recovered.'

Aragorn knew enough not to ask further and Elrohir waved his hand dismissively, as if she didn't matter. Oh, but she did. She did. 'This great hurt to the soul...it cannot be healed even with great love. And there may be only one way to ease Legolas' soul and heart, for he wishes to sail now he has heard the gulls.'

'And how will you atone if he sails?' Aragorn demanded.

And Elrohir looked him squarely in the eye and said, 'I will sail with him.'

If he had shocked Aragorn before, he could not have guessed the devastation in his face now, and Elrohir realised that Aragorn had never thought he might leave him. The Man looked so tired, he thought. His skin looked tinged with grey from fatigue, and he rubbed his hands over his face the way he had always done, even as a child. Elrohir felt an immense tenderness well up, and gently he shoved Aragorn to the door and said, 'Go, you must rest now. You have given everything you can but you are still the General now of this place. The enemy is still without and will come. If we have succeeded he will be on the road soon enough and I do not think the city can withstand another seige. Go. Rest. Sleep.' He gently smoothed his hand over Aragorn's head as he had so long ago when he was a child. 'I will call you if I need to.'

oo00000oooooo

Elrohir stayed with Legolas, and he knelt silently beside Legolas as if in prayer, holding his hand, insistently flooding him with warmth, with energy, with desperate pleading to come back.

And quietly, barely noticeable, the archer's long fingers twitched and the eyelids fluttered.

The last warmth of the evening sun stroked over the pale stone. Elrohir felt a change steal over the room for the light was tinged with the pale green of young leaves and the lime trees outside whispered and leaned a little closer.

'Legolas?' he whispered, hardly able to hope.

He waited, barely breathing, staring at the Elf. But there was no more movement, no fluttering of the eyes...although his breathing settled, deepened and became more regular. The small whimpers stopped and a natural flush warmed his cheek. Elrohir thought he looked child-like, vulnerable. His heart clenched and he covered his eyes in shame for he had behaved with utter dishonour at every step. Across Legolas' throat were the marks where Elrohir had almost strangled him in jealous rage, and he placed his fingers lightly on the bruises, stroked them down the warm skin, gentling his own fiery energy and light. He closed his eyes and felt a fluttering like butterflies...

Elrohir looked down to see the long sea-green eyes open and fixed upon him. He felt the world tilt and a strange sense of dislocation.

'Legolas!' he gasped.

Legolas blinked slowly and his lips moved weakly. Elrohir stared disbelieving, his heart gave a great leap and pounded in his chest. He felt tears prick his eyes and words burst from him.

'Legolas...beloved!' He took the hand between his own and bowed his head and when his long black hair fell around him, he was relieved that his face was hidden so the Elf he loved could not see his shame.

He felt the lightest of touches on his hair, fingers sifting through the long black silk, but even now he could not look up and meet Legolas' eyes. His plan to avoid Legolas' death had nearly brought a much worse fate upon him; how could he bear himself! A groan worked its way out of his throat.

'I..I am...' It was a hoarse whisper and no wonder for the screaming must have made his throat raw, but Legolas spoke nonetheless. He heard Legolas swallow drily, throat working clumsily and Elrohir reached out quickly to pour water for him. He cradled Legolas' head and held the glass to his lips, watching him drink a little sip and then wince for even that hurt. Legolas raised his hands feebly and put them around Elrohir's to hold the glass steady but his hands shook and it was Elrohir who steadied him.

'I...am...Legolas... Thranduillion,' Legolas gazed unseeing into the glass he held in trembling hands. And Elrohir felt a flood of relief.

'Yes. You are Legolas Thranduillion.' He asserted and he steadied the glass before the water spilt out onto the linen sheets, twisted and wrinkled from the ealier struggles .

When he had drunk a little more, Legolas let his head drop back down again on the pillow and stared up at Elrohir. Elrohir wanted to look away but he held fast- he owed that at least. The long green eyes were flecked with gold and grey and blue and seemed to change colour like the sea. Long winter grass hair pooled over his shoulder and chest, pierced with dozens of tiny cuts... and that one dreadful wound. Elrohir wanted to reach out and trail his fingers down the lean muscle and follow the swirls and abstracts of the painted dragon, but it seemed that even the dragon had lost its vibrancy and lustre. It seemed coiled in on itself. Before he thought it had almost watched him guardedly and aware. It suddenly seemed a mere decoration... Ah, but he was so unworthy now to even look upon it.

Elrohir bowed his head even lower and held tightly onto Legolas' hand, pouring his love, emptying himself into Legolas, drenching the feeble and tender green light with his own hot fire that would fight for him, fight death, fight the Shadow that sought to consume him.

'Legolas.' He just wanted to speak his name, wanted to hear his own name on Legolas' lips. 'Legolas. I know you cannot forgive me but I beg you let me atone for all my sins against you.'

Legolas' eyes were slits of green and he tilted his head slightly, almost enough to be a familiar gesture.

'I am...Legolas... Thranduillion,' he whispered as though it was all he had. And Elrohir felt a growing worry build in his chest. Legolas did not look away or show disgust or any other emotion... and that was it. Legolas was slowly awakening, of that Elrohir was certain, but he looked around the room stupidly, as though he had no memory of anything but his name.

tbc

*extract from ROTK. Merry says this pretty much at the end of the chapter The Houses of Healing.


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: ziggy

Status: General

Completion: Complete

Era: 3rd Age - Ring War

Genre: General

Rating: Adult

Last Updated: 06/12/12

Original Post: 04/04/10

Go to The Sons of Thunder overview

Comments

WARNING! Comments may contain spoilers for a chapter or story. Read with caution.

The Sons of Thunder

eliza61 - 02 Apr 11 - 1:55 PM

Ch. 28: The Houses of Healing

so intense Ziggy, yet very poignant.   So Elrohir has finally come to grips with his actions, interesting.  All the characters, from Aragorn to Pippin seem absolutely "tired" as if for the first time they all realize how much the quest will/is costing them.

Well written as usual!

Eliza

The Sons of Thunder

curiouswombat - 02 Apr 11 - 3:45 PM

Ch. 28: The Houses of Healing

Another powerful chapter - as intense as ever - and yet with the possibility of hope.  The way in which all the characters are now almost at the end of their tethers is so believable - and gut-wrenchingly well portrayed.  I still want to give all of them a cuddle - possibly even Gandalf by now - although I'm still not too sure about that...

The Sons of Thunder

Tanis - 16 May 11 - 3:37 PM

Ch. 28: The Houses of Healing

You have sucked out the very marrow of my bones with this chapter, Ziggy.  Left me sagging weakly on my sofa, wrung out with the depth of emotion drawn from me by the images conjured with your words.

From Aragorn's recounting of his first meeting with Legolas to the last "I am Legolas Thanduillion..."  I was riveted - and this the third reading of this chapter. 

The change up to Pippin's POV was perfectly tuned after the last chapter.  I loved his staunch support of Aragorn's lonely watch, the wringing sorrow so movingly portrayed as he gradually comes to understand Legolas' condition, his longing for the familiarity of home, his mundane normality in such equisite counterpoint to the madness Legolas has been plunged into.  Just awesome. 

But it was reading the scene that Pippin describes as he hears Legolas scream and scream and scream while everyone argues around them from inside Legolas mind that shredded me.  I said with the last chapter you do horror well, but this was horror on steroids.  You put me right in there, trapped with Legolas in that repetitvely endless cycle of burning pain, both physical and psychological.  You are extremely gifted with the ability to paint these word pictures so vividly that your reader experiences it right along with the character.  I'm probably repeating myself, but I think it every time I read one of these chapters - heck, I feel it every time read one of these chapters. 

And then Elrohir's plea to Aragorn not to drug the elf again ... such brokeness, such humility, I can feel the sorrow seeping off him like sweat.  And while I personally think he deserves to sweat sorrow, the portrayal of abject misery, of purpose to right the wrong he has done, of the love he has finally come to terms with is like all the chords of the Grand Symphony of the Song coming together at last. 

Mmmmmmmmmmmm .... supremely satisfying.  Now hurry up and write some more! 


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