The Sons of Thunder: 35. Penance

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35. Penance

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter 35 Penance

 

It burned where sharp steel had torn across the top of his scalp. He had been thrown headlong across the ramparts, sliding out of control across stone, grit scraping on his bare skin, slamming hard into the wall. He felt, or rather heard, the tiny bones in his ears rattle. A loud ringing started in his head and sparks of light exploded behind his eyes. His shoulder burned and felt odd and there was something heavy pounding towards him. The stones themselves were shaking. He reached out and groped for something to hold onto. Nothing but the gritty stone beneath him that was rolling round and round and he was somersaulting in space. But the stone was still beneath him...

 

Elrohir looked about dizzily, and began to shake his head to clear the ringing in his ears but it started the spinning again and there was sticky wetness on his face. He groped about for Aícanaro but there was nothing. A huge shadow, the shape of a bat, obscured everything for a moment. A horrible screeching filled his head and he clapped his hands over his ears in horror for he knew that sound...but it was going away from him, fading.

 

He knew there was something he needed to do...He stumbled again and crashed to the stone floor. He lay for a moment, trying to breathe. There was something urgent and he could not rest...

 

But then he remembered. Legolas. 

 

He had been poised magnificently on the rampart wall, shouting his challenge to the Nazgul with the wind streaming his long hair back. And he fell. Or...or was he taken?

 

Elrohir struggled to his feet, lurching as he did so and slamming again into the wall. He felt his shoulder jolt unnaturally but he pushed away the pain and stumbled towards where he thought Legolas must be. The scream of the Nazgul faded away beyond the ramparts. He blinked dizzily and leaned against the wall for a moment. He couldn't see anything. Dust clouded his sight, clogged his throat, scratched his eyes. His head pounded. He felt his breeches inexplicably loosened around him...His mind fumbled with that and he pulled them up around him. His hand groped uselessly for the hilt of Aícanaro but somewhere he remembered that Legolas had taken it from him, carefully, as if he did not want to touch the dark blade, and he would not have been the first.

 

'Legolas!'

 

Hurling himself against the wall where Legolas had disappeared, Elrohir leaned as far as he could over the thin, crumbling edge. The walls of Osgiliath were pitted and cracked by the great war machines of Sauron, and where they had been sheer, there were now holes and ledges. He searched the ledges and pits with forlorn hope. Perhaps Legolas had fallen, or leaped onto one of these ledges. 

 

And then he saw the gleam of pale gold hair lift in the wind. There! He lay almost obscured by stone dust, face down and one arm thrown out beyond the ledge and hanging mid-air.

 

'Legolas!' he cried again, desperately, his failing consciousness groping through the dust and cloud. He felt he would fall at any moment and fought unconsciousness with all his crimson, swirling energy, reaching out with everything in his soul for the green-gold thread that had led him here. 

 

It did not seem far to climb down.

 

Elrohir felt his face wet and did not know why ... perhaps it was raining.

 

'Legolas,' he called again, his head whirled and he felt dizzy. There was wetness on his face and down his sleeve where he had wiped his eyes. He wanted to lay his head on his arms and sleep but he had to reach Legolas first, or the Elf might fall, plunge from the narrow shelf. 

 

Elrohir swung his legs over the parapet and looked down. He felt the wall sway. Or perhaps it was he who swayed? He had no choice. It was not far to reach him surely? But the ground was far, far below and it spun dizzyingly. He was not sure if he saw Legolas move or if the wall was tilting beneath him but the Elf seemed to slowly curl in on himself.

 

'Legolas!' he called again. He thought he heard a moaning but he wasn't sure if it was the blood banging in his head, or the ringing in his ears. Elrohir slid over the wall and perched on the other side of the battlements so his toes were clinging to the edge and his back was pressed against the wall. Looking down to where Legolas lay, he could see no hold, no easy way...and he wanted to close his eyes to stop the pounding in his head, and the way the world was rocking around him. If he could only reach...

 

He eased himself into a crouch, ignoring the wetness on his face that he thought must be rain. He clung with one hand to the battlements and with the other he reached down towards Legolas. 

 

'Legolas!' he cried and the Elf slowly lifted his head. Elrohir paused, waiting for the world to stop tilting and turning and watched as Legolas slowly curled deeper in on himself, his hands clutched his chest and he gave a low moan. 

 

Elrohir felt his heart leap. 'Reach!' he cried, putting all his longing and love into that one word, tried to push away the tearing pain in his shoulder as he reached down as far as he could. 'Take my hand, Legolas! Reach!' He pushed out all his swirling, crimson love to Legolas, wrapping him in tenderness and love. He, Elrohir, would stop the screaming, the anguish and pain. He would save Legolas! He stretched his hand down further, and dug the fingers of his other hand into the cracks of the stone, anchoring him to the parapet. Legolas raised his face to Elrohir and his eyes suddenly shone and then were lost in terror. He moved his mouth like he was shouting and his hands were raised towards Elrohir as if beseeching him but Elrohir could hear nothing and he reached, stretched further and further.

 

Suddenly his foot slipped from the narrow ledge and he felt himself lurch horribly forward, clinging to the ledge of the battlements by his fingertips and one foot in air. The ground was so very, very far and his head pounded and swirled...

 

He caught Legolas' gaze below him, green eyes wide with terror, as he teetered and then he closed his eyes for he felt the narrow edge giving way and knew he would fall.

 

...Ah. Perhaps it was always to be thus. Penance. To be denied love he did not deserve...

 

His fingers grasped frantically at the cracks in the stone but it seemed time had slowed unbearably. Legolas was struggling to his feet, his mouth moved again and he seemed to be imploring Elrohir but Elrohir could only hear the bang of his heart in his chest.

 

The wind suddenly seemed to swirl about them, tugging his loosened hair and the ledge finally crumbled. He heard a cry behind him and thought it might be Elladan - he wished he could tell him he was sorry. It might even be a gift...to escape this dreadful, endless, immortal guilt, self-hatred. His fingers brushed something, someone warm just as he finally let go. He slipped from the ledge and the air, the stones went rushing past him.

 

A strong hand shot out and caught his wrist as he fell. He was jerked, smashed against the rock face. His shoulder, already injured, jolted and he screamed with the sudden agony, but he was no longer falling. His wrist was gripped, but slipping. He wrapped his strong fingers around the hand that gripped him and opened his eyes. Above him, face grim with determination and fear, was Legolas. He had caught Elrohir as he plummeted past. Legolas' long hair swept around his lovely face and Elrohir knew, he would not let him fall. His mouth was moving but Elrohir could not hear what he said. Then there was a sudden tug and the Elf pulled with such strength.

 

An arm was thrown around Elrohir and with a tremendous heave, Legolas pulled him up onto the shallow ledge. Elrohir lay panting on the narrow shelf, still unable to hear anything. He felt hands on his face and looked up with unutterable relief. Legolas cradled his face in his hands and there were tears in his eyes and he was speaking. He stroked Elrohir's black hair back from his face and kissed his eyes, his mouth, his cheeks, his hair. The world spun slowly for Elrohir and he was blinking. The wetness on his face was in his eyes and he could not see anymore. He felt his mouth move but no words came out.  Yet he was suddenly so tired. He wanted to flood Legolas with his healing, to wrap his crimson love around Legolas's thin green-gold light and weave it close. He tried to lift his own hands,  to thread his own swirling crimson through and between the ribbons of light that poured from that dark wound in Legolas' chest...but he felt that pounding in his body again... It was coming in spurts now and in between, he felt such weakness. 

 

Elrohir closed his eyes slowly and let himself sink. He leaned into Legolas' arms because he could not lift himself and he thought this shallow ledge would crumble beneath their weight..Perhaps Legolas could be saved if he, Elrohir were not here...

 

...A grey veil came down over his eyes then, and he saw everything through a dull mist. In the distance, there was a shimmer of silver glass, and he thought he saw a gleam of white, as if a far off shore, and beyond, a far green country. But it was beyond him, and so far away now, and instead there were arms lifting him, and a green-gold light surrounded him and warmed him. There was the scent of meadow grass and summer, and the leafy coolness of the forest canopy. He heard his song, and his heart soared like the eagles. And now, he had his head against his beloved's chest, he felt the warmth against his cheek and wanted nothing more than to sleep.

 

 

oo000oo

 

Elladan had thrown off the cloak he was using as a blanket for he still could not sleep. His mind turned over and over the argument he had had with Elrohir. How could he ever speak to him again let alone forgive him? No. He was finished with him.

 

But he kept returning to the words Gandalf had uttered to him in that moment at Minas Morgul. Elladan had raised that cold shield of hatred against his twin, made it impossible for him to approach. Gandalf had felt it of course, who couldn't? Even Aragorn had felt it.

 

After Elrohir had ridden away, head low in shame, Gandalf had leaned towards Elladan and said softly, 'Can you bear it? If one of you falls and you do not know the Way the other has chosen? If Elrohir falls and chooses the Way of Men? What will you tell them?' Elladan had refused to listen or even acknowledge the wizard, but now, as the night closed in and he felt the prickle of the Nazgul flying high above them, he thought about it again.

 

It was not the first time he had thought that Elrohir might choose the Way of Men. He had always said he understood Men better than Elladan, that he knew their hearts. But it was the first time he faced Elrohir's potential death unreconciled, knowing that Elrohir might yet choose Elros' way...And Elladan found that tore him more than the knowledge that he had stood and watched while their mother was raped.

 

Ah! How could he live with it? He lurched to his feet and drew his hands through his hair. He could not bear to speak to Elrohir. But he could not bear the thought he would never see him, not even should they both fall and he go to Mandos Halls and Elrohir go to wherever the fate of Men took him. He paced the tent in rising fury, fury at Elrohir for putting him in this predicament. 

 

But he had not forgotten either his mother's exhortation to forgive Elrohir either. She had known. She must have known too, somewhere, that this moment would come. 'You must bear your brother, forgive him, for he cannot forgive himself...' Not fair either to ask him that.

 

He needed air, cold, to help him think for his nerves were on edge. He looked up at the ramparts of the old town, the pocked walls where the town had been besieged by the foul engines of war. Elladan could see they had borne a hard assault from the forces of Mordor.

 

He knew instinctively, that Elrohir was up there on the high walls, amidst the rubble and ruin of the town, and in turmoil. He could feel the sweep of crimson, swirling restlessness. 

 

He peered up into the darkening sky, a faint sense of unease. He thought he heard Elrohir cry out but it could have been the wind...and he felt a brush of malice against his thoughts, and he wondered what might happen should Elrohir die on the battlefield. Would the place in his mother's heart be his then? And would the pale-haired Elf who so obsessed Elrohir be free for Elladan to pursue? He remembered a moment aboard the SeaSong, the slide of his shirt to the floor and Legolas drawing his hand through his long, cool silk hair, unconscious of how sensuous, how seductive that movement was, so it hung over one shoulder and Elladan could see the ironic smirk of the dragon painted on his skin.

 

He had been usurped by Elrohir, had he not? The Elf had been about to seduce him. But there had been Nestor's accident and the next time Elladan had seen Legolas, he had barely glanced at him, ignored both him and his brother. It was only later that he understood that Elrohir had attempted his own seduction of the Wood-elf in Aragorn's tent. That had ended with Elrohir assaulting Legolas, he mused... calling him 'whore', and he had almost strangled him. The violence of that assault should have terrified Legolas but it seemed only to make him miserable, blaming himself. Elladan found himself thinking without really knowing where it came from, that Legolas would be better off, happier, if Elrohir were no longer around...better for everyone in fact, if he were dead....

 

He stopped. 

 

He had found himself agreeing with a voice that seemed to be his and yet it was not...

 

Elladan stilled himself, reached into those cool, deep pools that were his strength. These were not his thoughts, he recognised. He had been led, and suddenly he looked up. There against the night sky, he could just discern the outstretched thin leathery wings that blotted out stars one by one and they winked back out as the winged reptile wheeled slowly overhead.

 

'Nazgul!' he shouted. 'Sound the alarm!' He ran back to his own tent and snatched up his bow and sword, buckling the sword belt with one hand and striding back out amongst the men. 

 

'Archers! Shoot at will!' he lapsed into command. 'There! It flies above the old town! Look where I shoot!' He strung his bow swiftly and sent an arrow straight up and towards the city walls. There was a cry from some of the archers as their keen sight followed it, and suddenly a hail of steel tore into the sky. It easily evaded their arrows and wheeled high.

 

'It's coming back!' shouted one man and Elladan tracked the creature's path carefully, took aim... It veered slightly however and his arrow yet again went wide.

 

'Where is Legolas?' he heard someone shouting. Gimli.

 

Even as he heard the cry he knew Elrohir was up there. He did not stop to think but ran into the old town, instinctively heading for the highest place, knowing that was where the Nazgul was headed. It slowly wheeled in the black sky above, skewing its course for the high ramparts.

 

Elladan pounded up the broken steps three, no, four at a time, desperate. He charged through the arches and broken doors and fled up the narrow steps to the tower, hearing the Nazgul scream, arrow already strung and ready. The huge wings unfolded, thin, leathery outstretched and slewed across the ramparts above him. Elladan fired upwards. One. Two. Three arrows in quick succession and the creature threw its head up and shrieked, slamming into the town's ruined walls.  It seemed to slide across the stones and crashed headlong into the battlements above Elladan, tearing huge chunks of masonry. A terrific rumble followed and dust rose up in a dense cloud and obscured everything.

 

He drew his pure, white sword and leaped up the steps to the next floor of the tower.  Almost at the top now, he paused to draw another arrow and carefully aimed. The creature shrieked again but it was flying now, lurching into the air and he watched for a moment. It threw back its head in pain. 

 

Too far. It had flown across the top of the battlements now and he had yet another flight of steps to go. He let his hand fall back to his side, breathing heavily.

 

He paused for a moment and listened. At first he could hear nothing and then a choked cry came from above on the ramparts where the creature had crashed into the stone. Elrohir!

 

Elladan raced up the last flight of steps, bursting into the cold air, churned dust and rubble. The Nazgul's distant scream faded in the night and the stars came out as if they had been hiding. He looked about him urgently and saw Elrohir sliding himself over the battlements and clinging to the other side. He teetered and eased himself into a crouch just as Elladan lunged forwards. Too late, his fingers brushed against Elrohir's hand as he fell and his hand closed around air. 

 

With a cry he threw himself across the wall, barely keeping his feet on the safe side, reaching, reaching but too late he saw Elrohir slip and then he fell. Suddenly he jerked to a halt,  one arm dangling and the other arm stretched upwards, screaming in pain. Elladan stared. Had he caught something as he fell?

 

And then he saw it was Legolas, lying flat along a jutting ledge, arm outstretched and Aícanaro jammed into the rock and his other hand braced against it. 

 

'Hold on, Legolas!' he called. 'Up here!' he shouted down the steps, hearing the sounds of men below and knowing Aragorn would have sent others up after him.

 

He raced back to the wall and peered down. His foot kicked against something that clinked and slithered. Barely glancing down, he saw that it was Elrohir's sword belt. He grasped it and wrapped the buckle around one hand and unbuckled his own belt with the other. He peered over the parapet again to see that Legolas was pulling Elrohir steadily up to the ledge. And then he had clasped him in his arms and Elladan thought he could hear a song lift on the air, and he felt tears prick his eyes for it was a song he knew, Elrohir. He did not pause to wonder how he knew but called down to Legolas.

 

'Hold onto the belt! It will keep you steady until I can get help!' Elladan fumbled with the buckle of his own belt and threaded Elrohir's through, until the two lengths were combined. He gave it a strong tug but it was made in Imladris and would not fail him now. He leaned over the parapet once more and looked down to where his brother clung to Legolas.

 

Legolas looked up at Elladan and the starlight shone in his eyes. For a moment, Elladan felt his heart swell and then falter. For the light in his eyes was for Elrohir. And, generous soul that Elladan was, he told himself to be glad for his brother.

 

He let the sword belt slide down over the wall. It was just long enough if Elladan stretched his arm. Legolas clasped it gratefully, and now he was cradling Elrohir's face in his hand, stroking away the dirt and tears, and Elladan could hardly bear it. A low hum, deep sounds, below the sounds of the world came from Legolas and Elladan realised he was singing to Elrohir, soothing him, comforting him.

 

There was a sudden flurry of movement behind and to either side of him and many voices. Ropes were thrown over the wall and he heard a scrabbling and voices, encouraging and soothing. Elrohir was pulled up first and Elladan pulled him into a hard embrace. 

 

'Forgive me, Elrohir. Forgive me,' he found himself saying.

 

In no time, Legolas was there too and he leaned against them both, his breath in short, panicked gasps and his hands trembling, his arms embracing both brothers and with him came a low song that was below the sounds of the world. When Elladan felt the trembling in Legolas' hands he took off his cloak and wrapped it tenderly around the Woodelf's shoulders, but Legolas barely noticed for he gazed at Elrohir, enraptured.

 

oo0o0o

 

Elladan looked at Elrohir's now sleeping form. It was strange to see his brother so peaceful, for Elrohir was all energy and swirling crimson restlessness. He had always loved him for that. Elladan found his face was wet and he brushed away the tears, shaking his head at his foolishness. How could he have let Elrohir despair? How close they had come to losing him forever? And how close had Elrohir been to accepting the Gift of Men?

 

He stroked his hand over Elrohir's pale forehead, letting his coolness sink deep, his strength soak his restless brother in the cool blue pools, the still, bejeweled depths of deep green shade and dark shadows of midnight blue. And where the light shone, it brightened to turquoise. He let Elrohir sink deeper into that calm and stillness, willing him to heal, to soak in the quietness and peace. 

 

Legolas had left but a little while ago, satisfied that Elrohir was safe. Earlier he had sat, still wrapped in Elladan's cloak, pensively watching Elrohir whilst Elladan cleaned the blood away from his brother's still face, and finally closed the wound on his scalp. Then as they kept watch together, Elladan had witnessed the tender blaze of Legolas' adoration. When he looked down upon Elrohir it was as if he beheld a great wonder, and light shone upon his lovely face. Elladan had felt humbled and envious and glad. He gave up his place and smiled at Legolas, moving aside for him. 

 

But he saw too, that the Elf was cold and his hands still trembled, whether from the exertion or the horror of the Nazgul, Elladan could not say. When Gimli came and finally took him away, Legolas did not protest. 

 

Now he was alone, he smoothed his hand over his brother's face and thought how close he had come to losing him.

 

'He is still sleeping?' Aragorn stood quietly in the entrance to the tent, his grey eyes softened with tiredness.

 

Elladan looked up, startled. 'Yes,' he said softly. 'It is no bad thing for now.' 

 

'The wound has stopped bleeding. That is good,' Aragorn observed, looking down at Elrohir's face, softened in sleep and less stern than when he was awake. Aragorn glanced at Elladan. 'You should rest also.'

 

'And so should you.' He looked up at the man's tired face. There were lines around his eyes. 'You most of all, Estel. Sleep here. I will watch over both of you...' he paused, wondering if he should say all. 'I have almost lost one of you today through carelessness. It will make me happy.'

 

Aragorn sighed and gave in. 'Then I will. It will be like old times when I was very young.'

 

'You are still very young,' Elladan said smiling. He seemed to be in the mood for sad reflection. All the Heirs of Isildur had been young, to him at least, and so soon departed. But Aragorn, Estel, was especially close to him. And he wanted nothing more now than to hold him close and let him sleep. He let a wave of blue peace wash over Aragorn, soothing and cooling his thoughts, settling him in quiet stillness.

 

He listened for a while to Aragorn's steady breathing, slowing and slowing and settling into sleep. 

 

It was some time later that he realised Aragorn had awoken and watched him. He slid a sideways glance at him and raised an eyebrow in imitation of his father so that Aragorn laughed, as he always did.

 

'You look nothing like him,' Aragorn said, as he always did. Elladan smiled and went back to watching Elrohir's soft breath.

 

'You said you almost lost him through carelessness,' Aragorn said softly. 

 

Elladan said nothing, but he pulled the covers up over Elrohir a little more. He had known Aragorn sought only to comfort him, but he could not speak of the trouble between himself and Elrohir to anyone, not even Aragorn. 

Aragorn shifted on his narrow cot, and put one arm behind his head. He had a way with him that rested lightly and encouraged confidence and confession. 'And have you resolved your dispute?' Aragorn asked, quietly persistent.

 

'In almost losing him,' Elladan said, returning his gaze to Elrohir, 'I found him again.' He thought, but did not say, And I have forgiven him as I should...I have forgiven him as I was bid.

 

Aragorn rummaged in his tunic and found his pipe, knowing that neither Elladan nor Elrohir had ever minded the smell of pipeweed. He lit his pipe. The gentle ptt ptt as he lit it soothed Elladan and a thin stream of grey smoke coiled in the air above the man. Then he settled his head more comfortably on his arm and smiled at Elladan. 'Then I am glad. For I could not bear it if one of us had fallen and there still be this enmity between you. And we do not yet know the Way he has chosen...' He was quiet for a moment and then added, so quietly that Elladan almost did not hear, 'Or you.'

 

Elladan turned to face Aragorn fully then and met his concerned gaze. 'I have always known, Estel. I have always walked the Ways of the Elves. There is so little of Men in me that Elros' path is ...unthinkable. But Elrohir...'  He closed his eyes for a moment. 'Elrohir has always been close to Men. He understood Elros. And he cannot bear to lose you...' He did not say her name as well. He knew that would pierce Aragorn. Sometimes Elladan felt the Choice of the Peredhel was no gift at all but a curse to divide and cause unutterable sorrow.

 

'I know... And Arwen... I am sorry.' Aragorn was struggling to his feet but Elladan held his hand up, gesturing for him to stay. 

 

'You must not be.' So now they had to speak of it. 'Arwen has always known. Not for nothing is she Luthien's likeness. And not for nothing do you have Beren's pure heart. I love you both. You are destined to be together. You would not wish that she had never loved? I would not wish that.'

 

'I ask too much of her,' Aragorn said quietly. 'She will be forever parted from her family. Her father, mother...'

 

Elladan stilled himself. It was this that would hurt the most. 

 

'When I think that Celebrian does not know of her daughter's choice...that she will be waiting for her on the far shore of Eldamar...' Aragorn lifted his head to look at Elladan. 'How would she bear it should Elrohir also be taken from her?'

 

Elladan covered his eyes. He felt his heart would burst; he had almost let Elrohir go without telling him that Celebrían had forgiven him. He had almost let him make the Choice ...And they would have been parted unto the Ending of the World, never knowing that their mother had forgiven him.

 

He dropped his gaze back down to Elrohir. He never looked peaceful, even in sleep. Always restless, fidgeting, murmuring ...but now he was still. Still like one dead. Elladan had an absolute compunction to shake him awake, to reassure himself that Elrohir lived still, that he was amongst the elves...and he knew with absolute clarity, that Elrond had experienced the same prescience with Elros, but that Elros had not felt the same about Elrond. His knuckles were white as he gripped his brother's hand and poured his cool strength into him, willing him to fight, to struggle up through the layers and clouds of sleep, of unconsciousness and to awake...

 

He became aware that Aragorn had risen and stood beside him, had drawn Elladan's head to rest against his chest now in a gesture so unfamiliar and such a reversal it almost made him laugh. 

 

'He is safe now, Elladan. If we came close to losing him and yet we did not, it is because he is supposed to be here. With us. Now.' With a light tap on his head that Elladan always used to give Estel to tell him no more stories, go to sleep, he said, 'Now you rest too. I need both of you with me and you have spent much of your energy healing. Will you not rest here alongside me?' Elladan heard the smile in his voice as it changed to a chid's wheedle. 'I need a story with a happy ending.'

 

 

oo000oo

 

Not far from Elladan's tent, Pippin sat near Legolas. Although he was wrapped in a thick sable cloak that Pippin thought must be Elrohir's, the Elf was huddled close to the small fire, his hands trembling where he clasped the cloak tightly about him.

 

Upon seeing him, Gandalf had shucked his robes over one arm as if they got in the way and lowered himself to sit next to Legolas. He leaned close, looking at him intently and speaking in the Elf's tongue. Pippin could not understand many of the words and regarded the Wizard warily.

 

 At one point Legolas looked away, but Gandalf put a finger under Legolas' chin and pulled him back to look into his eyes. At first Legolas would not meet the Wizard's kind gaze, but everyone had seen the way his hands had trembled and they were all concerned.

 

Pippin made himself small so he would not be sent away but Gimli patted him on the shoulder reassuringly. 

 

'Look at him! Hands shaking and teeth chattering, hardly able to stand,' the Dwarf muttered, tugging his beard anxiously. 'But oh, he hasn't been injured. No. He says to me, Gimli, all I have are cuts and scrapes...' He turned his deep brown eyes onto the Hobbit and Pippin saw the warmth and concern there. 'It's not the cuts and scrapes I am worried about, it's having met the Nazgul again. Is it going to bring everything back too soon?' Gimli chewed the ends of his beard anxiously staring at Legolas' pale face.

 

'What happened to him?' Pippin turned to Gimli. He could not help but ask for no one had told him more than the barest details. Gimli looked grim, his usually kindly eyes were serious and stern. 'Did the Nazgul hurt him again?' Pippin asked in a hushed voice. Gandalf glanced up and glared at Pippin but Legolas did not seem to have heard.

 

Gimli gave an exasperated snort. 'He was knocked off the ramparts by the damned Nazgul, but managed to cling to a ledge. Mahal only knows how he did it! He had hold of Elrohir's sword too. Gandalf thinks that had something to do with how he survived the fall. Perhaps it slowed him down, or caught on something...'

 

He paused for a moment and then whispered to Pippin irritably, 'I do not yet understand how he came to be up there with Elrond's sons. And what I want to know is why was Legolas holding that sword? It is Elrohir's. I hope they were not fighting again!' 

 

Pippin glanced up at Gimli. He had a rather shrewd idea of what Legolas had been doing up there with one of the sons of Elrond. He listened, Pippin thought to himself a little smugly. And although everyone else believed that he did not, actually he did. For example, he had worked out that for Legolas the name Rávëyon brought on a rather special look...one that Merry, had he seen it, would describe as his 'dreamy' face. Pippin thought the 'dreamy' face meant that Legolas had what Frodo would call 'an infatuation.' He and Merry would call it 'a thing,'   but whatever anyone called it, Pippin thought, it was absolutely about Elrohir. Of course, Pippin could not possibly suggest this to Gimli. The Dwarf would be horrified. Pippin chewed his lip and wondered what Merry would do in his place.

 

'Was it Elrohir or Elladan he was with?' he asked as a preliminary. He glanced across at Legolas again to see if he was listening, but the Elf's head was bent towards Gandalf now, and he had half-closed his eyes like he did when he slept.

 

Gimli squinted at him slightly. 'Both.'

 

Pippin looked back at Legolas with a mixture of admiration and surprise. Both! Well, there was a surprise! He couldn't wait to see Merry's face when he told him that Legolas had a 'thing' for both Elrohir and Elladan! He tried to believe he would see Merry again.

 

'There now,' Gandalf said kindly, rising to his feet. Pippin heard his knees crack as he did and winced in sympathy. Gandalf patted Legolas on the shoulder and moved away. Legolas still had the rich sable cloak wrapped tightly around him and his hands clung to it as though it were a lifeline.

 

Gimli immediately went to him and sat down at his side in the place the Wizard had just vacated. He smoothed the cloak, pulling it closer about Legolas and generally just fussed. It said much that Legolas did not fidget or complain. He seemed to soak it up as if he were freezing cold and Gimli was a warm fire. Legolas murmured something that Pippin did not hear and Gimli said quietly, 'You are back with us, Legolas, and that is all that matters.'

 

Pippin stood then and reached over to give Legolas' hand a slight squeeze so he knew Pippin was there too.

 

Almost as if in response to that small gesture, Legolas blinked and turned his gaze towards Pippin. There was a strange look in his long green eyes, and Pippin stared. Most of the time Pippin thought of other members of the Fellowship almost as Hobbits. But every now and again, something would remind him of their difference... and Legolas, well he could be utterly alien. But at this moment the Elf looked so utterly helpless, not Hobbit-like, and not Elf-like either. It struck Pippin as both strange and heartbreaking. Legolas was saying something and Pippin leaned close to hear.

 

'I...I am sorry,' he finally made out and realised that Legolas' teeth chattered. Suddenly concerned, Pippin took off his own Lorien cloak and tucked it around Legolas. It seemed so long ago now that Legolas had flung his own cloak around a freezing Hobbit on far Caradhras and he remembered how it had still been warm from where Legolas had been wearing it. He hoped he could offer the same.

 

Gandalf smiled at Pippin.

 

'What's wrong, Gandalf? You are smiling at me and it makes me nervous. I think I prefer it when you are telling me off,' Pippin said. 

 

Gandalf was still smiling and when he placed his hand gently on Pippin's head, Pippin caught a glimmer of how he truly was...a bright light, a presence. An indefinable warmth stole over him, like he was in the presence of some great kindness. Pippin suddenly felt overawed and he ducked his head.

 

'Hobbits are full of surprises,' Gandalf said approvingly but when Pippin looked up, it was only old Gandalf again and he was still smiling benignly down on him. Then Gandalf turned back to Legolas and said briskly, 'Now what is this you are sorry about?'

 

'I...I am...weak. Look at me...sh…shaking!' He held out his hands for them to see. 

 

'Yes. It's a reaction to what you have been through,' said Gandalf briskly. 'But don't start all that nonsense again, Thranduillion. It's over and you are safe.'

 

'I...I know. It's just… my teeth... won't stop... what they are doing...' he chattered, looking horrified at what was happening. 'What is...is... wrong with me?'

 

'Your teeth are chattering, that's all,' Pippin said helpfully. 'It's what happens when you are very cold. Or sometimes in shock. I expect you are in shock,' he said, soothingly. 'I'm not in the least surprised. You had a Nazgul to face. It was a very brave thing to do.'

 

'No,' Legolas said. 'I am a fool.' He sounded so downhearted that Pippin scooted over to sit closer to him. 

 

'No one thinks that,' Pippin protested. 'Everyone thinks you mighty courageous. What with fighting the Nazgul, and bringing down the Oliphant, and walking the Paths of the Dead with Aragorn and all. Why if it wasn't for you, Gimli here...'

 

'Wait.' Legolas looked up, green eyes gleaming sharply. 'I b...brought down the Oliphant?'

 

Gimli shuffled a little and looked around innocently. 

 

Pippin glanced at him. 'Yes,' said the Hobbit curious now. 'Who did you think shot it?' And if Pippin wasn't mistaken, Gandalf gave a snort.

 

Legolas shot the dwarf a keen look, his teeth still chattering. 'Gimli told me he had k…killed it with a mighty b…blow of his axe.' He said this last bit as if he were repeating the exact words spoken to him, thought Pippin.

 

'Well, he may have slain one too,' said Pippin hesitantly, wishing to be conciliatory but also recalling his own exaggerations. There was another snort from Gandalf and Pippin looked at him, astonished.

 

'It is none of my doing or knowledge, Peregrine. I was not there,' said the Wizard, holding up his hands. Pippin looked dubiously at Gimli; he had already heard some of what the Dwarf had told Legolas but it seemed as if Gimli had not simply exaggerated his own part, which in Pippin's mind was perfectly acceptable, but he had downplayed Legolas' part to that of the Dwarf's sidekick! He didn't think Legolas would take that for very long! He wished Merry were with him so they could enjoy it together.

 

And as if he had read Pippin's mind, Legolas said, 'It is as though someone has taken advantage of my lapse to f...fill my head with nonsense of his own brave deeds and diminish any part I have played.'

 

'Nonsense.' Gimli drew out his pipe calmly and stuffed the bowl with pipeweed. 'I merely told you a more accurate version than you remember. Even now I do not think you have recovered all of your memories.' He puffed out his chest and struck his tinderbox. A flame flared up and settled. 'Next you'll be telling me it was your idea to shoot fire into the barrel of tar at Pelargir when that was clearly my idea.' He puffed hard to light the pipe. 

 

Legolas turned on him and there was a hint of doubt in his eyes. Gimli blew a long stream of smoke into the air above him and leaned back, earth-brown eyes gleaming with pleasure. 'The Oliphant?' the Dwarf said casually waving his hand as if it were insignificant. 'Well, I will give you that since your heart is so set upon it. But I am definitely in the lead for the number of orcs killed,' he said and he blew out a large smoke ring as if to emphasize the fact.

 

'I cannot tell if that is true, Gimli,' Pippin said, feeling slightly indignant on Legolas' behalf.  'But Legolas has still killed a whole load of those fell beasts and that has to count as more than one orc.' Pippin shuddered. 'Anything that can bring the Nazgul closer is far worse than any orc.' But upon saying this he noted how Legolas's hands still trembled and he gave himself a mental smack.  

 

'Ah! I am sorry, Legolas. I didn't mean to remind you of them so soon,' he blurted out sincerely. But the Elf's trembling was no worse, and he had seemed quite himself a moment ago, Pippin realised. He straightened once more and noted, 'But you seem to be all right this time. I thought you would start screaming again. That was dreadful last time, wasn't it, Gimli?' Pippin cringed inwardly but he couldn't stop when he got nervous, talking on and on when he should just close his mouth and stop. 'I don't know what happened up on the mountain exactly but it must have been horrible because I have never seen you afraid even in Moria and ...' 

 

Gimli put a warm hand over Pippin's and patted him gently. 'Enough now, Pip. Gandalf has said the memories are easier to bear now.' He looked shrewdly at Legolas. 'Isn't that right now, lad?'

 

Legolas looked away and he bowed his head and Pippin wondered if perhaps it was not all right yet. The Elf pulled at a loose thread on his sleeve, and Pippin thought his sleeve must surely be getting shorter for it was a habit the Elf had when he was upset. Then Legolas spoke quietly, ashamed. 'Gimli was right in Minas Tirith when he said I should not come. If the Nazgul strike, I am afraid that I will turn tail and run as fast as I can. They have power over me that makes me weak.' He swallowed as if the words were hard to speak. 'I am afraid. Up on the ramparts… when it lifted its hand, I was back in that clearing, in the triangle of fire with the Enemy bearing down on me, tearing my skin from my flesh and my flesh from my bones...' He paused and closed his eyes briefly. 'But you inspire me, Pippin.'

 

Pippin's mouth dropped open. 'Me?' he asked, mystified that Legolas might find something worthy in him, a simple and troublesome Hobbit.

 

Legolas caught him in his green gaze and Pippin could not look away, thinking about the terror Legolas must have endured with the three Nazgul cutting him and then pursuing him down the mountain. How could he inspire a warrior like Legolas?

 

'You endured the Eye in the Palantir and you do not scream like a maid who has seen a mouse,' Legolas said with disgust at himself. But then he swallowed and lifted his chin as if pledging himself to the small Hobbit. 'So I need you and Gimli close, Pippin, to remind me I am not in that place again, alone and friendless. You will help me remember that they can do nothing to me that I cannot endure. And that it is ...only pain.' 

 

Pippin stared at Legolas, and he remembered the press of the Eye on him when he had looked into that dark, swirling, fiery glass. It had felt like he was stripped of everything and naked, all thoughts open to the Eye...Yes. It had hurt. 'Well, I don't know about that,' he said a little bashfully. 'But I like to think I can help,' he said, pushing away his own shuddering fears. The Palantir was in the past and it could not hurt him anymore. The Hobbit tentatively squeezed Legolas' hand again, and this time Legolas squeezed him gently back. 

 

 

tbc

 

I am sorry for throwing some readers into a frenzy of panicked emails last chapter with my flippant and throwaway comment about reviews- it was not intended to be in any way serious. I have every intention of finishing this quickly. I think there is about one or possibly two more chapters left in this. I am also not sure about the title for this chapter so any better ideas, please throw my way.

 


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

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Comments

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

The Sons of Thunder

Aiwendiel - 11 Aug 11 - 3:16 PM

Ch. 35: Penance

'Forgive me, Elrohir. Forgive me,' he found himself saying.

Quite possibly the most moving and astonishing words in this truly amazing, rich and remarkable fic. 9 deceptively simple words that sum it all up. 

Another fabulously thrilling chapter, zig! My head is swirling with images of the ruins of Osgiliath and green, crimson and blue energies all molten together! Thanks and I look forward to however many more your muse can give you. Aiwendiel

The Sons of Thunder

Aiwendiel - 11 Aug 11 - 3:33 PM

Ch. 35: Penance

Oh yeah, almost forgot -- LOVE that Pippin is the one to take notice of the goings-on and his internal comments -- delicious, esp the moment of "Both! Well, there was a surprise!" Delightful slice of humor/relief. A

The Sons of Thunder

Erulisse - 04 Oct 11 - 2:44 AM

Ch. 35: Penance

Ziggy - I finally have a quick moment to myself to catch up a bit.  Read Chp 34 and 35 in the same morning - what a wonderful way to start my day.  My dear, you know how I adore the tale you have been weaving, but these two chapters are truly magnificant.  I hope I find a bit more time in the near future to catch up with #36 and 37.  Hugs to you, my friend! 

- Erulisse (one L)


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