16. The Road to Walk
Something wet splattered upon his forehead.
The liquid upon his brow slowly dribbled in a chilly river, running down the bridge of his nose and into the crack of his closed eyelids. It tickled him. After what seemed like an eternity, another drop fell upon him. The force of it striking his skin felt incredible, and it followed the wet trail down his face. Then came another and another, on his cheeks and face, on his hands. It seemed that these rhythmic drops had become his existence. Quiet. The deafening roar of the tiny bead hitting his skin. Then silence once more.
Eventually his senses gained enough awareness to pull him from the lull of the drops. Slowly they parted with their sleepy lethargy and bombarded his body with demanding sensations. He was cold and wet. Everything ached with a rising insistence, and his arms and legs felt leaden. Hateful words and harsh voices resounded inside his throbbing skull, and it took him a moment before he realized the jeers and taunts existed only in memory. Still, the fear and panic rekindled within him, effectively chasing away the last bit of the calming void of sleep.
Legolas groaned and opened his eyes. The scene overhead spun endlessly, the mesh of tangled limbs overlaid upon rain clouds becoming a blur of brown and gray, and he nearly retched from the nausea. The moments became an agonizing torture as he lay still, riding out the waves of pain and dizziness, shutting away the whirling sky. Finally the queasiness abated, and he sucked in breath after breath to calm his shaking body and racing heart. A moment later he felt it safe again to open his eyes.
It was drizzling a cold rain, and his breath formed a weak cloud of vapor before his lips. The mist felt cool against his bare skin, and he shivered. The memories were slow to come. For a moment, he could make no sense of where he was or how he had come to be in such a position. But then from the haze of his pained thoughts came recollection. The Uruk-hai. Saruman. The trees screaming. Sam. Such a horrible pain. A vicious beating upon his heart. Then all that he knew was a frightening and formless void.
Legolas slowly sat up, and when the task proved more difficult than he expected, he realized his hands were still bound. His lower chest as well tightened and burned with the movement, but he did not allow that to deter him. The mist was slow to fade from his mind, but, as he glanced about the area, he knew something to be horribly different. This indeed was the glade within Minas Morgul where he had last seen Saruman. These trees were the same that had screamed a warning of impending tragedy to him. Now they were quiet, their silence perhaps louder than their shouts before, and Legolas shuddered. Why had they stopped singing to him? Moreover, why had he been left behind? He felt his heart thunder in panic. The jumble of his memories would not become clear, and he grew frustrated. Saruman had done something to him. Those long, white fingers had dug into the side of his face. The wizards black, depthless eyes had delved deeply into his own. He had known agony, terror, and confusion keenly, his body and mind succumbing to panic. Then there had been a strange sense of disorientation. He had felt disjointed. After that? Nothing else was apparent to him. He did not know what had happened. He did not know how long he had slept, though judging from the sodden state of his leggings and hair, he had been out in a heavy rain for quite some time. A parting gift. Despite all his uncertain, one thing was starkly and hatefully clear. He was sure that Saruman had arrogantly left him alone in this forest to die.
Angrily he flexed the fingers of his hands. The digits were numb and white. They would be little use to him unless he was able to remove the ropes still tightly tying his wrists together. Slowly Legolas pushed himself forward, bracing his hands on the cold ground to give support to his shaking, bent form. He struggled to stand. Dazed and fearful, he moaned. His body felt so heavy and strange. Intense, biting pain flowered from his feet and spiraled up his legs to settle in his knees. Instantaneously a gruesome memory flitted across his panicky mind, one in which he recalled the sad state of his feet after he had been forced to walk barefoot for days across unforgiving terrain. The joints buckled under the strain. The world pitched and with a cry, he fell forward.
Legolas hit the ground hard on his hands, sending a rough jolt up his arms. They provided enough support at least to prevent his head from ramming into the ground. A puddle of murky water was now beneath his face, and his reflection caught his eye. When he looked, he saw a stranger staring back.
He gave a cry of surprise and squirmed away. Panic welled up inside him, terror spurring his heart into a painful pounding, and he shook with more than simple chills. Numbly he could only lie a moment. Then he began to doubt. Perhaps it had simply been the trick of his abused and tortured mind! It took Legolas a great deal of courage, but slowly and tentatively he crawled back to the innocent puddle. He looked again.
There could be no denial. His reflection showed him a face that was not his own. Though the features were much the same despite bruises and blood, the eyes that he met were empty of light and void of spirit. His skin was so pale and dirty, and it lacked the glow of the Elves. Legolas felt his shaking hands rise of their own accord. Gently they traced the side of his temple, down his cheek, across his lips, as if in a desperate quest to convince his doubting heart that it was indeed his face he saw in the puddle. The water rippled, gently at first, but the motion became rapid and violent as his breath grew bated and rushed.
The trees had not stopped singing. He could not hear them.
It could not be! It could not!
It made such sick, disgusting sense. The ravaging of his mind, the sundering of his heart. He had been split from the spirit of Middle Earth. His Firstborn blood had turned cold and lifeless. Saruman had ripped him from his making! I vowed to make you neither prince nor Elf. What was this sick curse upon his soul? What had that black touch done to him? The place where the call of the trees so vibrantly lived within his heart seemed ill and vacuous. The void was so very powerful; he worried it might consume him, this harsh emptiness he felt! The soul of the Elves that so powerfully lived within him was crushed, gone, annihilated, leaving a stark coldness where once there had been life and love. He did not want to acknowledge its absence. He cried out to the old trees, begging them for but a whisper of recognition, but if even they could hear his wretched cry, their response fell to deaf ears. Severed from the very substance of his livelihood. Ai, Elbereth, make this not so! I cannot I cannot
He was an Elf no longer.
For a long time Legolas numbly sat beside the twisted mirror. He could not think. He could feel nothing but sadness. His heart and mind had fallen into a vortex of despair and disbelief. Depression had devoured him, and he had willingly given up his fight and gone into the murky abyss. He felt naked, stripped, and mutilated. His soul was sundered, his spirit lost to a silent, wailing grief, his will broken by the deadliest of curses. For a long time did he drown in his sorrow, too stunned and pained to sob, too lost to escape the greedy hold of his misery. Time passed, and it rained and rained, drenching the prisoner of the gloomy woods. Drops like tears ran from Legolas dull eyes.
When the woe no longer satiated the hunger of his heart, his mind burst in fury. From the stupor he snapped, and a twisted grunt fled from his ashen lips. The grunt grew to a chuckle. The chuckle became a mad laughter. This was his reward for being true to his family, to his promises! This was how fate repaid him for the agony he had endured! Legolas raised his insanity to the sky, the piercing, sad mirth breaking the burdensome silence. Rage was the only weapon afforded him, and he embraced it. He damned Saruman. He damned the Ring and the Fellowship he had so stupidly joined. He damned Boromir for selling his immortality in return for a moment of corrupted bliss. He damned Aragorn for his insipid weakness. He damned Gimli for rowing away at Amon Hen and condemning him to the Orcs whims. He damned the silly Hobbits. They should have kept to themselves and to their home. Had Frodo Baggins only never come to Rivendell! Had he never been sent as a messenger to Elronds council! Had he never fought with his father!
No! You cannot think this! Never regret!
The madness became horridly disgusting, and he collapsed. If he allowed himself to embrace his rage, he would be no better than Saruman. If he lost his pride, he was truly a wretch. The air, once pierced by maniacal laughter, became wrought with heavy sobs. Legolas curled onto his side, tucking his body tightly onto itself, and cried. He cried long and hard, with such violent release that his sobs shook his heart and soul. His pain, wrath, and fear he vented in great waves. The shower of drops fell softly upon him. His father his brothers Mirkwood he had lost them all!
What was he if not an Elf?
A great time passed before Legolas again was aware of anything around him. He did not want to be. He did not want to think. The pain of what had been done to him was unbearable. His entire being had been violated, his gentle light raped by the shadows, his heart ripped from him. How was he to face the world now? He was neither Elf nor man. He could see things with the eyes of neither. What could he do? He imagined his fathers overwhelming anger, grief, and disappointment. He heard Vardaithils denials. He understood Astaldogalds rage and knew Aratadarions silent mourning. Aragorns eyes he felt meeting his, offering strength and loving support. Arwens arms he felt envelope him, her sweet scent filling his body with peace. Peace. Be calm. All is not yet lost. Have hope.
Legolas closed his eyes and struggled again to sit up. The pain was sharp and he whimpered, but he managed to right himself. Then he concentrated on breathing. The cool air was a soothing balm to his bleeding heart and strengthened his floundering morale. Yes, he had to have hope. Perhaps this was not permanent. Perhaps even the worst of curses could be undone. If he gave up his fight, Saruman would win. Saruman would break him. This brought him angry resilience. The wizard had left him alone to die. He would not let that happen!
He thought of pleasant things to combat the burning misery he found threatening his resolve. He recalled Mirkwoods great forests and the old tree that was companion to his soul. He concentrated on Arwens smile and Aragorns laughter. He heard Aratadarions quiet songs on a cool summers eve and Astaldogalds cunning retorts in a trite debate. He saw Vardaithil ride high upon his horse and his father regard him with proud eyes. There were Gimlis gruff and boisterous tales of Dwarven might and Merry and Pippins mindless banter. He remembered Sam and Frodo, quiet but steadfast in their devotion to each other and to the quest they had assumed. In the midst of all this he knew himself to be. He could not let them go. He could not allow himself to be defeated!
With a renewed spirit, Legolas glanced around. This place was barren and dangerous. He did not know how close to Minas Morgul Saruman had deposited him, but if these sick woods were any indication, he was too near Cirith Ungol to be safe. He would have to find his way out of this place. Legolas again felt his anguish threaten. This was a daunting task, and he was injured. He did not know if his feet could carry him at all, let alone at any speed necessary to quickly deliver him from this evil land. How would he find his way through this maze of trunk and limb at any rate? Were his senses still sharp, were his heart still attuned to the song of the trees, he would have had no trouble finding his path. Now he had naught but his numbed and disoriented mind upon which to depend.
A logical voice calmed his riled nerves. If he lost his wits, he would surely die. He must take everything one step at a time.
Legolas glanced around the area quickly. There, not far from him and nestled against a tree trunk, was a rock about the size of his palm. The pain from his feet dissuaded him from even trying to stand, so he scrambled on his hands and knees to the rock. Once there, he picked up the stone, breathing heavily. It was flat and long. Gritting his teeth, he smashed the edge against the ground in hopes of producing a sharp point. Rock shards scattered each time the stone slammed down. After a moment, he examined it again and found, to his relief, that the force had molded the edge into a jagged surface. It was no knife, but it would do.
His fingers were slick with water and sweat, but he managed to grip the stone in his right palm. Then he sloppily began to saw at the coarse bindings around his wrists. It took a long time and he cut almost as much of his skin as he did the rope, but finally the stone sliced through. With a grunt of elation, he pulled hard enough to split the final threads, and his hands were free.
Legolas nearly sobbed in relief as he pushed the remains of the ropes from his wrists. Long, shaking fingers quickly worked to massage the abused skin. Slowly he felt the pain recede from his hands with a tingle as blood rushed anew to the extremities. He sat still, rubbing warmth into his fingers. This was but a small victory. Immediately his worries came again. He had no food or water. His clothes were hardly rags that clung to a starving body. His injuries were substantial. He was lost. He was lost.
Stop it, he hissed angrily, wiping away the tears from his burning eyes. He was not a weakling. He was not helpless. Drawing together his strength and composure, he gripped the trunk and pulled himself up. The effort was painful and tiring, and his feet screamed in agony as his weight came upon them. Still, after a few rushed breaths, he was standing.
Winded, Legolas leaned tiredly into the tree. He felt dizzy and cold, and his empty stomach squeezed and shuddered inside him. The trunk was rough and coarse, and his fingers felt only this. The soft caress of the kindred spirit did not reach him. He tried to ignore this blaring dearth as he slowly took a step, gripping the trunk tightly for support. The pain was intense, but he refused to fall. His bloodied feet nearly toppled him, and he waited until the hurt became dull before taking another step.
It was slow and torturous, but progress nonetheless. The rain feel steadily, and Legolas made his way through the woods. The sun was hidden behind the thick rain clouds, obscured by the tempest of grays and lavenders, so it was of no use to him in deciding a direction. He thought the best course would be a westward one. If he could again reach the Anduin, he might travel south along it to the bridge road that, in times long past, had connected the powerful sister cities of Minas Tirith and Minas Morgul. From there he could cross the Great River and reach Gondor. He knew this to be a massive and perhaps idealistic undertaking. These woods were great and it would be difficult to keep a consistent heading. He cursed the dismal clouds and wished them away, longing to both feel the warmth of the sun on his abused skin and know from its path in the sky the direction he needed to take.
He stopped then, breathing heavily and worn from walking. Propping himself up against a tree, he turned and looked around him. Each path seemed the same. Each trunk was nondescript and unfamiliar. The tears threatened again, and he looked to the sky. How was he to find his way? In the near three millennia of his life, he had never been so lost and completely helpless. Legolas slumped down the trunk tiredly, collapsing to the ground. He shivered and buried his face in his hands. For a few minutes he struggled once more against his despair. When he regained his composure, he breathed slowly and allowed his reasoning to take over. Maybe it would be best to simply wait. If the storm passed, the sun or stars could show him the way. If he were to just choose a direction, he would surely confuse himself further and wandering blindly so close to Cirith Ungol was far too dangerous. Yes, he would wait until again the sun was unveiled.
Legolas suddenly felt very tired, and that tentative plan seemed good enough. He closed his eyes and felt all his energy suddenly disappear. The cool drops of the rain eased his troubled mind, and he remembered a song. It was a soft melody of spring drizzle upon new leaves. His mother had often sung it to him before she had passed away. After her death, Aratadarion had adopted the tale for his own. It was one the few songs his brother kept untouched; never had he adapted the quiet words or notes to his own liking. Their mother had been a magnificent creature of timeless beauty and simple wisdom. At that moment Legolas missed her dearly.
The raindrops became her voice. The cold air was her cool caress. Unwittingly, the exhausted Legolas tumbled into sleep.
Some time later a shrill howl pierced his dreams. Legolas gasped and sat up quickly, his eyes snapping open. The gray light of the day had been replaced with a deep, black night, and his eyes refused to adjust to the darkness. Frantically he glanced around, angered that he had slept so long and frustrated that his vision was as impaired as his heart by Sarumans defiling curse. Legolas heart was racing, his bated breath forming rapid puffs before his lips. The woods again were quiet, eerie and still. Perhaps the cry had been but a nightmare. He allowed himself to relax his tense body.
Then a massive squeal shattered the silence, and Legolas terror pulsed over him, alarm tightening his muscles and clenching his lungs. He did not need heightened senses or the cry of the trees to know something black and hideous was roaming the forests of Minas Morgul. The evil prickled his gooseflesh and sickened his stomach.
His panic soared, and he could sit still no longer. Legolas whimpered and braced his bare back against the rough trunk as he struggled to his feet. Through the shadows and mist came a chorus of shrieks and shouts and a rumble of horse feet. Legolas swallowed, struggling to catch his wind, his racing breath horribly too loud in the night. He pressed himself against the tree, somehow wishing to simply be absorbed into the protective bark or slide into the concealing night. But he could not, and by the sound of the thundering hooves, the demons were approaching.
He could not stay there. He had to run! His paralyzed horror snapped, and he sprung into motion. The first few steps were shaky, his frozen, abused feet stumbling over the uneven, hard terrain and nearly tipping his balance. He teetered but regained himself, and sprinted.
Tears of fear and agony streaked down his pale cheeks as he stumbled through the woods. The boom of his heart was deafening, but it could not drown out the howls of the monsters in the night. His terror pushed his body beyond its limits, and though the pain shot up from his heel to his knee with every heavy step and his breath burned in his throat, he could not slow down. Vaguely he felt so strange, as though he was running with a body slower than his mind, trapped inside a form that was lethargic and heavy. But that was but a passing whim; all around him came the sounds of the black riders, and he had to escape.
Ahead was a great, wide trunk, and Legolas felt his strength waver. He fell against the tree heavily, choking on his breath. Shivering in fright, he hugged his slender figure to the trunk and swallowed his roaring heart. Straining his ears, he listened for the sounds of the shades chasing him.
An ear-piercing screech shattered the quiet, and Legolas squeezed shut his eyes in terror. Cold chills coursed over his quivering form, and tighter he pressed himself to the body of the tree. It sounded so close, perhaps on the other side of the trunk, but he could not be sure, and the noise seemed to come from everywhere at once. His mind was jumbled and each shadow looked to be a suspicious apparition. There was a snort and the thud of feet against the ground. He held his breath.
Suddenly a hand slapped over his mouth. Legolas jerked and gasped when a restraining arm shot across his chest, holding him tightly to the tree. He looked around frantically as he was held still and then groaned. The palm pressed firmer over his lips. Be still! came a harsh hiss. He had no choice but to obey, and after his eyes detected before him the Nazgûl.
The black rider was a bit hunched on its mount. The massive steed stood still, grunting and pawing the ground. Jets of vapor shot from the beasts flaring nostrils. In the shroud of shadow the Nazgûl sat, exuding a menace that chilled Legolas. Against the tree he watched with wide eyes, praying that the Ringwraith would not see him as he cowered barely ten feet ahead of it. Time seemed to stand still as the rider idly lingered in the night. Finally, whatever had attracted it no longer held its interest. There was another shrill call resounding through the woods, and, with a snort and whinny, the Nazgûl rode off into the shadows.
Legolas released a harsh breath and sagged against the tree in weakening relief. For a moment, he could not think, so utterly exhausted from the run and from the receding terror. Then anger burned his heart, and he pulled free from the grips sharply. He ripped around the trunk to look behind him. He gasped.
He was staring into the dark eyes of Boromir.
The night was heavy and cold. Wispy clouds caressed the pale moon and the twinkling stars, and mist formed from the heavy rains and dropping temperatures hugged the earth. Silence ruled the night; neither animal nor wind had the gall to speak, for the blackness of the sky was so intense and the spirit of the land that evening was undeniably grave. The air was crisp and chilling, tight between the trees. It mirrored the tension that lay over the small camp.
Boromir found that he could not bring himself to meet Legolas gaze. They had hardly shared a word since he had come upon the other in the path of the dark rider. He had known the Nazgûl to be roaming these woods, set forth from their black fort of Cirith Ungol on what the warrior could only assume was a patrol. For days he had searched for his lost comrade in the maze of the forest, refusing to rest as he followed a path marked by bent twigs and disturbed leaves. Fear and concern had driven him when his endurance had begun to dwindle. The cold memories of what the twins of Thranduil had told him about the crying trees and the silence of their youngest sibling through their bond burned fear into his mind and panic into his stomach. Every night the cry of the Nazgûl had grown louder, and Boromir had begun to doubt. This forest was thick and without obvious trails. He had struggled to renounce all the pessimism of Aratadarion and Astaldogald, a promise made in dream giving him strength. He could not fail in this task, for he knew if he did not succeed, redemption would never come to him. As days passed with no sign of what he sought, his hopes had begun to fade.
He had nearly collapsed in relief when finally he spotted a blonde figure huddled fearfully against a tree. The Nazgûl surely would have found and killed Legolas had Boromir not interfered. He had grabbed the stunned archer by the arm and dragged him away before the Ringwraiths could return, running back in the direction he had come. When they had come upon this grove, Legolas had ripped from him and backed away, absolute horror, confusion, and fury painted on his face. Boromir had watched numbly, wanting to say anything to assuage his guilt, as the other had stumbled to the opposite end of the tiny glade. They had not spoken once.
The arms of the clouds released the mournful moon from their embrace, and the pale light spread upon them. Boromir gained courage enough finally to look up. When now his eyes met Legolas, he could not look away. The creature before him bore little resemblance to the proud, vibrant Elf he had once known. He wore the scars from his imprisonment plainly. Legolas was gaunt and pale. The long blonde tresses usually pristine and soft were ragged with tangles and dirt. His tunic was missing, and his chest was a mottled collection of red welts and bruises. His ribs seemed visible under an emaciated layer of skin. What remained of his leggings barely clung to a thin body. Boromir winced at the sight of his feet; they were torn and swollen and caked in mud and blood.
Yet these were but physical things. As the man looked into the others eyes, he saw a nightmare of betrayal and terror, of the ultimate violation. The deep blue orbs that so often seemed to glow of their own accord seemed utterly dull and vacant. The light of his skin was gone, replaced by a heavy shadow that crushed Legolas spirit almost visibly. The peaceful, beautiful aura that he had radiated so luminously in the past was gone, and Boromir nearly blanched. The being before him, huddled and shivering in the moonlight, was a mere shade of what he had been.
For a long time Boromir could not speak. He could not think. Clearly something depraved and wicked had been done to Legolas. He suspected that Saruman had been the one to commit the heinous crime. This implied a horrible conclusion that smashed his valor and threatened his sanity: whatever had been done to Legolas, whatever foul desecration that had been strong enough to sever him from his brothers and reduce him as such, had been the indirect making of his own weakness and greed.
His curiosity and shock would not abate. What did he do to you? he asked quietly.
Legolas face grew hard. He did not answer, looking away in obvious pain and disgust. Boromirs heart nearly broke. His disgrace grew to a scream, and he could no longer sit still and wallow in his anguish. He approached Legolas, never breaking eye contact with the other as if to offer his good intentions. But Legolas did not accept the unspoken promise and scrambled away from him weakly. Stay away from me, Boromir, he snapped coldly.
Boromir felt the blood drain from his cheeks and raised his hands, stilling his advance. I only wish to help you, Legolas, assured the man quietly. He was unable to completely hide the yearning from his voice.
Those empty eyes flashed in fear and anger. I neither want nor need your help! Legolas hissed. Thin arms tucked bruised knees tightly to a bare chest.
The words hurt, but Boromir would not so simply be dissuaded. He had not expected this to be easy. Since leaving the other Elves, he had mulled over in his afflicted mind how he might behave when he finally again encountered the one he had betrayed. Words of apology and actions of rescue had brightened his heart and provided hope in a tempest of guilt, sorrow, and anger. He felt if he could just again win Legolas trust, he might have a chance at redeeming his lost honor. Please, Legolas, he began softly, forcing his gaze to be strong and comforting, you are hurt. Let me tend to your wounds.
You cannot now care where before you cast me aside! Tell me, Boromir, to what gain do you now manipulate me? Are you truly rid of the Rings call? I will not so easily allow you to regain my favor! His eyes burned and the nightmare devoured them. You left me to his tortures, Boromir. You left me to his insanity! The madness of your pathetic Ring I saw it in your eyes, and I saw it in his. I suffered for your weakness! I suffered for your mistake! You cannot now ask me to forgive when it is all too sick and painful to forget! Legolas gave a twisted laugh tinged with absolute despair and agony. Boromir winced. Vindictive hurt scarred the once quiet beings voice in a way that stabbed sadness and guilt into his heart. You cannot face me now and pretend that it was not you who made possible this torture! Look at me! The man wanted to avert his eyes, but he found he simply could not. Legolas face fractured in rage and grief. Look at what I am! Look at what I have become!
You are very ill, Legolas, Boromir whispered feebly, feeling hot tears sting his eyes.
Legolas shook his head. This is no passing illness, Boromir! This is no simple disease! I am cursed! He laid upon me a black magic to strangle my light and breathe darkness into my heart He destroyed me! I am an Elf no more!
Shock coursed over Boromir. The man felt his jaw fall limply open, but he could not speak any words. He wanted to deny. He wanted to ignore. But he understood then what the sad truth was and he could not for all his want cast it aside. In all of its terrible implications it loomed, threatening ultimate despair. It stared at him with fiery hunger, sundering his pride and his strength. How can that be? he asked dully. The question sounded stupid and lame, but he had neither the strength nor the time to amend it.
There came a weak moan of torment. It took Boromir a moment to realize that Legolas was weeping. The man felt a pain like none he had experienced before. He had been afraid that facing Legolas would bring forth in him a guilt and hurt like none other, for the truth was often undeniable and ugly. But he had not imagined something so vulgar or cruel could be possible. I never lost my hope, said Legolas into his hands. The muffled tone was drenched in misery. He told me he would break me. He promised that I would fall. I held tight to my will. But it was for naught. It was all for naught! His last wound was the most damning!
Boromir could bear the others pain no longer. He crawled forward gently. Legolas-
No! howled Legolas. He was trembling as he skittered away. Keep your pity! I want none of it!
I do not offer pity, declared Boromir firmly. I give to you my aid. I cannot find words enough to apologize for the great wrong I have done to you. I do not expect your forgiveness. I wish only to ease your pain and make right again the way of things! He softened his voice. Please, Legolas. Let me help you.
The tense silence returned. Boromir forced himself to maintain his gaze upon Legolas, and he saw a great many emotions swirling in the others eyes. Pain. Fear. Hopelessness. Loneliness. The mans heart bled for him. Would perhaps now Legolas let down his defenses for the sake of his heart? Could they now start to heal? Would this small token of peace be enough to begin to atone? Boromir felt his hopes teeter as he waited to be accepted or rejected, and though the uncertain quiet was torturous, it was not his to break. He had offered his help. It was up to Legolas to make this choice.
After what seemed to be forever to Boromir, the hard visage of Legolas face slipped away, and he closed his eyes and nodded. Relief washed over the man, colder than the chill of the night, and he thanked whatever fates may be for this chance.
Gently he moved closer, his fingers suddenly nervous and shaking as he pulled from his pack a small satchel of bandages and herbs the twins of Mirkwood had given him upon leaving Isengard. Powerful elation threatened his grave face with a smile, but he pushed it down as he sat before Legolas. The sight of the once powerful archer so weak and ill disturbed him greatly. Though it was clear many wounds ailed him, Boromir supposed the sad state of Legolas feet was the most serious and discomforting. The soft skin on the bottom was ripped to the bone, a mess of blood and mud coating thickly upon the cuts and gashes. He winced as he inspected the injury. Some stones had dug into the flesh and remained lodged inside by the sticky, drying blood. It was a wonder that Legolas had managed to walk upon them at all, for the wounds looked days old and inflamed. It pained Boromir that the once swift feet of the agile archer that had so many times in the past ran in the wind and danced gracefully in battle might never again do such.
He took Legolas left foot between his hands. The other jerked and gasped. Boromir glanced up at his face. Sweat was beading upon Legolas brow and tears were filling his eyes. Lay still, he said softly. I will be as quick as possible.
Legolas regarded him suspiciously a moment more before the pain obviously became too much and he succumbed to the needs of his body. He closed his eyes as the man went about cleaning the injuries. Boromir poured water from a flask to a bit of ripped cloth to dampen it before tenderly wiping away the grime and blood. He worked quickly to minimize the amount of pain in removing the afflicting pebbles and dirt from the wounds. He tore herbs apart so that their soothing juices were free, and then he applied them carefully to the broken skin. He inspected his work with a bit of satisfaction when he was done. He was no healer, but the wounds looked cleaner and he hoped the medicine would at least take the edge off of the pain. Boromir subsequently set about gently wrapping the foot in clean linens. When he finished with the left, he began the same process on the right. Once or twice, he glanced up as he worked. Legolas bit his lip in obvious hurt, but he refused to cry or show his weakness. The man marveled at his pride and strength. Despite all that had been done to him, Legolas was as stoic as ever.
After he had completed caring for the feet, he sighed. These were dangerous injuries indeed, for they were extremely debilitating, and further use would only aggravate the wounds. He doubted anything he might do could heal them. Boromir felt his spirit strain in worry. He would have to carry Legolas; there was simply no other choice. To let him walk on those feet would not only slow them both but make worse an already serious situation, for the Nazgûl were prowling Minas Morgul, and they could not afford to linger. He doubted Legolas would easily submit to such treatment. Come morning, Boromir would make it clear that there was no other way.
The mans mind raced. He did not wish to wait for sunrise to move again, but the night was very black and these woods were a dense maze of trees. He doubted he could find his way to the Anduin in this smothering blanket of darkness. As much as he disliked the thought, staying in the grove until dawn was the best option.
Legolas was shivering with violent intensity, drawing Boromirs attention. They could not dare to light a fire for surely it would attract the attention of the dark eyes of this place and bring swiftly upon them the demons of Cirith Ungol. It gave Boromir much chagrin. Legolas would have greatly benefited from the warmth. The man unclasped his own Elven cloak that was so long ago given to him by the Elves of Lórien. This he attempted to wrap around the others shoulders.
A hand shot up and snatched tightly his tunic, stunning him. Delirious blue eyes burned with delirium. You do not understand, Legolas hissed, his breath a harsh rasp. I failed!
Boromir winced but forced himself to be calm. You shake with chills. Take this for warmth.
I deserve nothing! came the furious reply. A deep, shaking cough followed. Legolas writhed against unseen demons fashioned from fever and fear. I am a wretch of the shadow. I deserve no warmth!
Boromir grasped the thin, bloody hand tightly. Legolas, be still! You are wrought with fever. Do not sink into your nightmares!
His heart ached at the choked sob that answered him. I failed them. I failed Sam and Frodo. I failed Aragorn and Arwen and Lord Elrond! I failed my father! Legolas voice trailed off as another brutal paroxysm of coughing struck him, and his huddled form shook. Boromir watched helplessly, hating himself for bringing such destruction upon his friend. I was supposed to protect them But I failed, and now all will come to horrible ruin! Ai, Elbereth, save them if you will not me!
Boromir shook his head. Legolas, of what do you speak?
A moment tired lucidity passed in the bright eyes. Would you help me, Boromir? Legolas whispered, his struggles waning. The man felt cold and wrong hearing these words and knowing the sad irony laced into them. Would you succeed where I could not? Can you protect them?
Then a strange, numbing peace came over Boromir as he met Legolas troubled, feverish gaze. I would do my best, he swore in a whisper, his voice shaking.
Legolas grabbed his tunic with exhausted fervor. Saruman he discovered that Sam has the Ring.
Shock clawed its way painfully through Boromir. In its wake was terror and worry. If Saruman had uncovered the truth, then it would only be a matter of time. The hateful Eye would find Sam and thus the Ring, and Sauron would shortly after reclaim his prize and kill the one that sought to destroy it. Oh, for the weight of this knowledge! Poor Sam would not have the strength to contend with the will of Sauron! Numbly, Boromir murmured, How could he know such? Surely Legolas had not faltered!
Legolas moaned, It was a trick of the darkest magic. In his palantir a vision came to him of Sam caught in the glare of the Eye. This he showed to me in gloating. I wanted to help Sam, but I could not! And when I struggled in these final moments, he laid upon me this curse. He gave a cough twisted with tears. If the Eye has seen him, it will only be a matter of time. The fingers grasping his clothing became desperate. I do not want to trust you, Boromir, but there is no other choice. You and I we are alike in many ways. The words stunned the man, but Legolas spoke in a clear voice wrought with the reasoning of misery. Both of us have been stained by the shadow.
Legolas, please rest.
I will not! Legolas shouted.
You know not what you speak! retorted Boromir in hot anger and shame. Tears fled his eyes. He viciously wiped them away. You are nothing like me! You are valiant and wise! You are fair and handsome! You know of so many things and you comfort so many hearts! Ai, if only I could share with you the brotherly peace that you so readily give Aragorn Do not further dishonor yourself with such a gross comparison! Save your soul from guilt, Legolas. You have done no wrong! His voice turned dark and low in seething remorse. How could Legolas be so selfless? You lessen my crimes by equating them to yours.
Do you seek redemption, Boromir? the other asked, his tone taut. Sweat glistened on his face almost ethereally in the moonlight. Do you seek to absolve your heart?
The man lowered his eyes. Of course I do. I am wrought by guilt and duty. It was these feelings that pushed me to take the Ring in the beginning. They will drive me to repair what I have broken. He suddenly began to understand. His eyes widened. You would have me stop Saruman?
I would have you follow your heart, replied Legolas softly. It holds the greatest sway over your mind. Be it evil, you will do evil, and I cannot change that. It is the same for us all. You cannot absolve yourself. The weight of what we are and what we have done is to each of us our own curse.
Then I will go, said Boromir softly and decisively. The hands in his tunic loosened their grasp. I will go to Cirith Ungol. I will face Saruman and rid him of his means to track Sam and the Ring. I will steal this palantir from evil. And when I have, I will return and take you home.
Legolas said nothing, but there was much spoken by his eyes. The blue, glassy orbs were torn by fever and pain, by loss and betrayal, by the need for relief and the want to again have hope. Unvoiced was his ultimatum, but Boromir knew it clear enough. In the silence of his heart, he heard the words. If you make right what you have wronged, if you again become a protector, I will trust you. Legolas licked dry lips and leaned back tiredly. Clear tears seeped from closed eyelids. Saruman must be stopped. Then he was quiet.
Boromir watched the other slip into a feverish trance. Legolas eyes squeezed shut and he curled onto his side, weeping and coughing, shaking with the cold weight of the truth. For a moment the man could do nothing but crouch beside him, feeling wretched but now firm in purpose. He must do this. He must get this palantir from Saruman and prevent the deranged wizard from using it to see Sam. This would now be his burden. The remnants of the dream so many nights past became cohesive and clear. It chilled him, and in that the slow fire of the Ring piqued inside him to ward away the cold. The desire was growing again. Saruman could see Sam. Saruman could find the Ring. With the palantir, whatever it may be, he might find it as well!
Boromir shuddered and strangled those thoughts. He looked down at Legolas. The suffering creature whimpered quietly, and Boromir knew silently his pain and fear. Pain of what had been done to him. Fear that it could never be undone. The man tasted his tears as he laid upon the thin body his woolen cloak. Legolas had had no reason to offer him this chance, but he had done so all the same. The purest heart could not be defiled by even the darkest curse. Boromir would not make a mockery of his hope with failure!
He understood the choice he would face. He knew now the road to redemption.
His shame and guilt were a thick grime on his soul, covering it as heavily as night did the woods. He sighed, watching the plume of his breath form quickly before it faded into the shadows as though a ghost or spirit that was never meant to be. Merely a phantom in the night. Maybe, in a way, he was the same.
I will not fail you, Legolas, he assured softly, laying his hand firmly upon the others shoulder. Legolas cringed and flinched unconsciously, but Boromir did not allow himself to feel the pain. I swear to you I will not.
With that, he stood. He was not sure he knew the way and the moon was hidden again, but he was certain he would find his path. Mistakes were made. Fates became twisted and intertwined in ways unseen. Something beyond Legolas and himself and all they had shared had granted him this opportunity to correct the future. Something would make use of his suffering to change the course of life. And through that perhaps there could be absolution.
So he ran through the night, his face hard and his heart knotted in determination. Destiny, he was sure, would deliver him to salvation.
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.