Dark Horizons: 6. Awakenings

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6. Awakenings

"Is he dead?"

"No, his chest is moving. But he's awfully still."

"Maybe he's just sleeping."

"Don't be stupid. If he were sleeping, his eyes would be open!"

"No need to get snippy! I just forgot that's all."

A pause...

"Should we try to rouse him?"

"I'm afraid to touch him. I don't know how badly he's hurt."

Legolas's mind floated on the brink of consciousness. He was aware that the conversation over him had been going on for quite some time. The voices were familiar, and he vaguely realized that they must be speaking about him, yet he could not seem to muster enough strength to respond. His entire body was numb, and he did not have the energy to force his eyes open. He was tired, so very tired, and he just wished the voices would stop screaming in his ear and let him return to the comfortable blackness of oblivion. His thoughts were fractured into a thousand pieces that danced and twirled just out of his reach. A spark of resistance deep inside was the only thing keeping him from slipping completely into darkness. This spark screamed that something was wrong, that he must awake, that danger was near! Yet the spark was small, and was quickly being drowned out by an overwhelming weariness.

"Do you think that dark elf-creature managed to hit him with an arrow?"

"I don't see anything. He doesn't seem to be bleeding at all, except his arm, and I think that is an old wound, for it already has a bandage."

"Then what's wrong with him?"

"How would I know? I guess we just have to wait until he wakes up and tells us himself."

At the mention of a dark elf, the spark of resistance within Legolas flared and he surged once more to the brink of waking. His mind began to function once more, and slowly his thoughts gathered and his memories started to return. He could remember Aragorn bending over him with concern in his eyes, and then everything had gone hazy. Now, he could sense the presence of others near him, yet he was still unable to force his eyes open. The smell of smoke and blood hung heavy in the air, along with the unmistakable (at least to an elf) stench of orcs. He continued to struggle against the weariness that attempted to drag him back into darkness, and at last he broke free.

Merry and Pippin were both leaning over Legolas, searching for any clues as to what ailed their friend. They both nearly jumped out of their skins when, without warning, the elf's eyelids flew open, revealing slightly glazed gray eyes. Pippin gave a squeak of surprise.

"Merry? Pippin?" Legolas's voice sounded weak even to him, and his eyes were having trouble focusing on the two blurry figures above him.

"It is us," came the somewhat strained response from Merry.

"You scared the curl right out of my hair!" Pippin cried. "Next time, warn us before you do that!"

Legolas frowned, confused. He had done nothing but open his eyes. He quickly put the matter away, as more important things entered his mind. It was still night, and Legolas did not think he had been unconscious for very long. "What happened?" he asked as he attempted to sit up.

This was a big mistake. The numbness fled, replaced by sharp, searing pain all down his left side. With a gasp, he fell back to the ground, every breath sending slices of pain across his chest.

Merry and Pippin gathered close once more, concern written across their faces.

"Perhaps you shouldn't try to move until Gandalf has had a look at you and can see if anything is broken," Merry suggested.

Legolas closed his eyes and nodded, and then the hobbit's words sunk in and his eyes flew open once more. "Gandalf!?"

Merry and Pippin nodded down at him. "He arrived just a few minutes ago, and it's a good thing, too. If he hadn't shown up when he did, none of us would be here." Pippin seemed to think about this for a second, and then he shook his head. "Actually, we would probably still be here, we would just be dead, and it wouldn't matter to us whether we were here or not because we wouldn't know the difference and..."

"Shut up, Pippin!" Merry exclaimed, sending an annoyed glare toward the younger hobbit. Pippin returned the glare with an indignant one of his own, but Merry ignored him and turned back to Legolas.

"What Pippin was trying to say is that we would all be dead right now if Gandalf hadn't shown up to save the day. As usual."

"I said that," Pippin mumbled in an injured tone.

Merry continued to ignore him, squatting down next to Legolas. "This has been quite an evening for surprises. First, you ride in and save us all from that elf-creature, and then Gandalf shows up and saves us from the orcs."

"Orcs?" Legolas asked, still trying to organize his scattered thoughts.

"Yes, orcs," Merry replied. "Big, ugly, mean ones, as if there are any other kind. They attacked shortly after you rode in. There were lots of them, and they just kept coming. I think even Gimli was getting tired, but we just kept fighting. Then Gandalf shows up and scared them all away with this bright light.

"Where is Gandalf and the others now?" Legolas made another attempt at rising, and this time he was ready for the pain. The hobbits reached forward and helped him into a sitting position. Legolas was glad of their support as a wave of dizziness hit him. He would have fallen back to the ground if the hobbits hadn't held him upright. He tried to take deep breaths to clear the nausea, but this proved even worse, as sharp pain lanced across his chest at every breath. He realized that he must have seriously cracked, if not broken, some ribs. His left arm hung uselessly, a burning pain making itself known at his shoulder.

Merry was the one to answer his question. "Frodo and Sam are back at camp with what remains of Strider's guard. Sam has a nasty gash on his head, and Frodo has a couple cuts and bruises, but otherwise they're fine. Strider is missing, and his guards wanted to go look for him, but Gandalf wouldn't let them. I don't think he wanted a bunch of us running around in the dark, especially if the orcs and that other creature are still about! He took Gimli, and I think he went in search of Strider himself, after he asked us to look for you."

"Asked us?" Pippin joined in. "Don't you mean he told us! I was still trying to get over my shock at the orcs all running away, when in strides Gandalf, shouting orders left and right. He sees me standing there, and does he stop to greet an old companion, `Hello, young Took! Glad to see you! It looks as if there was quite a battle you fought here. Good to see you still alive!' NO! Instead he tells me to stop standing around gawking and to take Merry and find you. Then he grabs Gimli and practically drags him away in search of Strider, and Merry and I are left to wander around in the dark, and it's a good thing Merry tripped over you, or we would have walked right by and then......" Pippin finally trailed off, having run out of things to say or breath to say it. Legolas was not sure which. He did not think he would ever get used to the hobbits' strange ability to ramble on, without stopping or even seeming to breathe. He finally decided the only thing the hobbits were able to
do as well as eat, was talk.

Pippin's long tirade had allowed him to recover enough that he believed he was ready to stand. He was worried about Aragorn and wanted to help find him as soon as possible. His keen elven eyes and senses would be a great aid in the search. Legolas knew that he would need the hobbits help in rising, a fact that galled the pride of the young prince almost as much as falling off the horse in the first place. `I should have rolled when I landed!' he berated himself. He had never fallen from a horse before unless it was on purpose. The fact that he had been injured and knocked unconscious, unable to help his friends in their battle made matters even worse. Now, however, he would not let his injuries keep him from helping in whatever way he was able.

"Merry, Pippin, if you would aid me, I think I will try to stand now." Legolas tried to make his voice strong, but the hobbits were not fooled.

Pippin frowned, and Merry even went so far as to shake his head. "I really think you should wait for Gandalf," he said once more. "I'm sure he will find Strider soon and then come and find us. I cannot really tell in the dark, but I think you look a little pale, and if you should pass out again..."

"I won't." Legolas cut him off. "I am fine, and Gandalf and Gimli may need my assistance in finding Aragorn." At these words he began to struggle to rise, and the hobbits had no choice but to aid him.

It took them three tries before Legolas was standing, albeit a bit shakily. He closed his eyes, and was pleased when the dizziness passed more swiftly than before. He was in pain, but not unbearably so. Too much time had passed when he should have been doing something. The company's original campsite lay off to his right. Orc bodies littered the ground, and here and there among them, the bodies of some of Aragorn's guard. The campfire, which had been nothing but a small flickering flame when he had ridden into the valley, was now growing larger as two small figures, one stumbling, ran about and added more firewood.

Looking away from the fire, Legolas began to scan the shadows that had not yet been reached by the light of the growing bonfire. It did not take him long to spot what he was looking for.

Perhaps fifty yards away, two figures knelt hunched over another form on the ground. A sense of dread swept through Legolas, and he immediately started making his way towards the trio. He stopped after a few paces, when he came to his bow, lying forgotten where it had landed. Merry reached down and retrieved it for him, and then they went on.

The hobbits were unable to see were he was headed, but they had traveled with him enough that they trusted his elven senses completely. They walked on either side of him, and looked as if they were ready to catch him should he fall.

Legolas was forced to keep his movements slow, a fact that annoyed the elf in his desire to reach his comrades. He was sure that it was Aragorn lying on the ground, and if the great man was dead, Legolas did not think he would ever forgive himself!

Pippin was startled when he heard something sounding suspiciously like a curse come from above him. He had never heard Legolas swear before, and the sound just didn't fit the elf.

"Do you always get this angry after a fall?" he asked timidly.

Legolas glanced down at him and grimaced, whether in pain or at the hobbit's words, Pippin was unsure.

"I do not usually fall!" was the elf's curt answer.

Merry thought he noticed a hint of strain in the elf's voice, which had nothing to do with the pain he was undoubtedly in. He was curious about this, and couldn't help wonder what was upsetting his friend so much.

Pippin failed to notice the tension in Legolas. All he saw was that his friend was upset and needed cheering up, and he set himself to this task.

"Don't worry about it, Legolas. I've fallen from ponies many times, and that is saying something, since I don't ride often. I prefer my own feet. Why, once I fell off one old beast and cracked my head open and had to stay in bed for a week. And of course, we ride in saddles. It must be twice as hard to stay mounted riding the way that you do, and its no surprise you fell, riding as fast as you were. It's a wonder you haven't come off a thousand times before now. I would have to practice for years to be able to ride the way you do and........"

"Pippin!" Merry cut him off. "I do not think you're helping any, and it may be time for you to practice keeping your mouth shut!"

Pippin glanced up at Legolas's face and decided that, for once, Merry was probably right.

Legolas was glad for the silence. He knew the hobbits were meaning well, but right now, their endless chatter was just giving him a headache. He was nearing the place where Gandalf and Gimli knelt over Aragorn, and at the sight of his friend's still, pale face, he quickened his pace, ignoring his own discomfort in his worry over Aragorn.

Gimli glanced up as they approached and then began to rise. Legolas quickly motioned for him to stay were he was. He could tell the dwarf was worried about him, so he gave his friend a reassuring smile and a nod of the head. Gimli was not going to be put off that easily, and his eyes narrowed as he began to look the elf up and down, but he did settle back down to the ground. Legolas remained standing behind Gandalf, looking over the wizard's shoulder and feeling tremendous relief at the sight of Aragorn's chest rising and falling. The wizard had pushed the man's shirt up and was now intently pressing a clean white cloth against a hidden wound.

"How is he," Legolas asked softly, not wanting to disturb the wizard's work. On either side of him, Merry and Pippin both looked down at the still warrior, and for once they remained silent, their faces grave.

Gandalf let out a tired sigh, the sound causing Legolas's fears to rise, but the wizard's next words soothed his worries. "The wound is deep, and he has lost much blood, but he is strong and will recover soon. Even now he is waking."

The words had barely left the wizard's mouth when Aragorn let out a small moan, shifted slightly, and opened his eyes. Gimli leaned forward and Legolas and the hobbits stepped closer, Legolas catching Pippin muttering something about Aragorn at least knowing how to wake properly. However, he was too intent upon the waking warrior to pay the hobbit's words much attention.

Aragorn's eyes showed the same confusion Legolas had felt upon first waking, and when the king of Gondor tried to push himself upright, the result was once again the same as his own had been. The only difference was that this time, Gimli and Gandalf were there to reach forward and catch the man, helping him into a sitting position.

"Take it slow and easy," Gimli urged, still supporting Aragorn's left side. "Take a moment to catch your breath before we try to get you on your feet."

Aragorn nodded, taking deep, even breaths. Now that he was sitting, Gandalf finished tying off the bandage and lowered the blood soaked shirt back down over Aragorn's chest. Aragorn smiled his thanks to the wizard, and then turned his eyes to Legolas and the hobbits. "It seems the fellowship is together once more," he said weakly, then frowned and started looking about him.

Gandalf was the one to answer his unspoken question. "The other two hobbits are alive and safe back at the camp sight, though I think Sam will have quite a headache for a while. You also may find that the number of your guards has been greatly reduced."

Aragorn sighed and closed his eyes. "At least the battle is over." He opened his eyes once more and looked first at Gandalf, and then Legolas. "But there are two here to whom I owe my life, and I must think of a way to repay them."

Legolas smiled down at Aragorn. "I did not rescue you in hopes of repayment, although I may have something in mind."

"As do I," Gandalf said, "but the time for thanks and talk of repayment will come later. If you have regained your wits, let us be getting you on your feet and return to camp."

Legolas was surprised at the urgency and wariness in the wizard's voice, and he studied the man closely for the first time. He could only see the side of Gandalf's face, yet it seemed to him as if the wizard looked older and more tired than Legolas ever recalled seeing him.

From the small frown on Aragorn's face, Legolas guessed that he had noticed this as well. Aragorn said nothing however, except to ask Gimli for help in standing. With Gimli on his left side and Gandalf on his right, Aragorn managed to make it to his feet on the first try.

Gimli and Gandalf kept a steadying arm around Aragorn's waist, until he assured them that he could stand on his own.

Legolas shook his head at the picture they made. Aragorn, flanked on each side by a dwarf and a wizard, and then him, with his own two small escorts. He smiled down at Pippin, and the hobbit returned the smile, relieved that the elf seemed to be feeling better and in a more pleasant mood.

Gandalf turned and looked at Legolas. "How bad are your own injuries?" the wizard asked, looking him up and down.

"Not so bad that they cannot wait until a better time to examine them." Legolas glanced toward the campfire, just making out two small figures standing at the edge of the light and peering into the darkness. "I think it best if we return to the camp now, before Frodo and Sam decide to come looking for us."

Gandalf nodded. "Yes, we should return now, and then prepare to move out as soon as possible."

"Move out!" Pippin exclaimed. "Tonight!? You mean we're going to travel on tonight?"

"Yes, young Took, that is precisely what I mean, and unless you wish to be left behind, I suggest you keep up with the rest of us." With these words, Gandalf turned and strode toward the campfire. With a shrug, Aragorn started after him, and Gimli followed in case Aragorn should need support.

"I do not think he likes me very much," Pippin mumbled to himself.

Legolas looked down at him in surprise, but Merry spoke before he could even muster a reply.

"Don't be foolish. He loves you and you know it. Now come on, before he turns around and returns to skin the hide off the both of us!"

Both hobbits looked up at Legolas expectantly, and with a shake of his head he started off after Aragorn and Gimli. The two had stopped a few yards off to wait for them, and both wore concerned frowns as they watched Legolas make his way over to them. Legolas knew that his movements were somewhat less than his usual gracefulness. Each step was made awkward by the pain from his ribs and shoulder, and yet Aragorn looked little better. The man's face was as white as a ghost.

"You should have let Gandalf look at your injuries," the dwarf grumbled, eyeing Legolas shrewdly. "I think you are in more pain than you let on."

"I am fine," Legolas repeated. "We should be heading to camp now, for I think Gandalf truly intends to leave as soon as possible."

"I wonder what all the hurry is about," Gimli mused as the five began moving towards the campground once more. "Does he believe that the orcs and that creature will return once more?"

"From the looks on their faces when he appeared with that light, I think they are probably still running." Merry put in.

Aragorn shook his head. "I do not believe we need worry about another attack tonight, but it is obvious that Gandalf knows something he is not sharing with the rest of us."

Legolas nodded. He had gotten the same feeling from the wizard.

"Is that anything new?" Gimli muttered under his breath, so low that only Legolas heard him.

Part 2

The return of Aragorn, Gimli, Legolas, and the two hobbits to the camp was met with great joy from Frodo, Sam, and the three remaining guards. There was a few minutes of complete confusion, as everyone shouted greetings to everyone else, all at the exact same time. Questions and exclamations began to fly through the air, and everyone seemed to be talking at once.

Gandalf stood a little apart, watching the chaos. He could not stop a small smile from lighting his worn face, for it was quite a sight.

Aragorn and Legolas stood side by side, their faces mirroring dazed confusion, as they were surrounded by four hobbits, one dwarf, and three men, all of whom were shouting at them in their attempt to be heard over the others.

Gandalf could not decide whether the hobbits were asking Aragorn and Legolas questions about what had befallen them, or whether they were trying to tell their own tale. He finally decided that it was both. Gimli, hands on hips, seemed to be having a one sided argument with Legolas, who was looking desperately around him, trying to decide who to respond to first. Gandalf did not think he had ever seen the elf so flustered. To top it all off, the three guards were attempting to push pass an immovable dwarf in order to reach their king. A loud buzz filled the air, and nobody seemed to be able to hear what anybody else was saying.

Gandalf raised his staff in the air, hoping to bring some order; but in the confusion, no one noticed him. Frowning, he tried loudly clearing his throat, a sound that in the past had caused kings to shut up and listen to his council. The sound was lost in the noise, and no one even glanced in his direction. The noise level was getting louder and louder, and Aragorn looked as if he was about to fall over any second. Legolas looked little better.

Frustration rising, Gandalf let out a very undignified shout.

Immediate silence.

All eyes turned toward the wizard, and even the hobbits quickly shut their mouths at his frown. "Now that I have your attention," the wizard began, running his eyes over each member of the company before him. Most dropped their gaze under the wizard's fierce scowl, and the guards shifted uncomfortably and looked as if they wished to be elsewhere.

"I know you all have questions to ask and stories to tell." Gandalf eyed the hobbits, and then shifted his gaze to Legolas. The elf looked startled under Gandalf's scrutiny, but met his eyes squarely. Something passed between the two, and Legolas nodded slightly. Gandalf looked away and continued addressing the group. "However, now is not the time, and this is not the place. Your questions will have to wait until later, for I intend to have left this valley far behind by morning. Gandalf whirled suddenly, so that he was facing the three guards straight on. "You!"

All three men jumped slightly.

"I want you three to round up as many of the horses as you can without straying too far from the fire. Bring them in and begin to prepare them for our journey."

"And you." He turned to the hobbits.

"Sam and Frodo, you are in charge of the packs. Pack them swiftly and then bring them over to the horses. Merry and Pippin, go and find some large branches that can be used as torches. Each of us will have a light when we ride from this place. Gimli, aid the hobbits. And hurry, all of you."

The company split, each person running to do their assigned task. Legolas and Aragorn both let out a relieved sigh, and then turned and smiled at each other. "That was interesting," Aragorn said with a bit more cheer than he felt.

Gandalf snorted, still standing a few paces off and eying them both up and down, and they soon began to fidget under the wizard's intense stare. Finally, Gandalf nodded to himself, and then turned first to Aragorn.

"I want you to sit down and rest until time to go," he ordered Aragorn. "You have lost much blood, and you need to regain your strength, for it may be needed ere this journey is over."

Aragorn looked as if he wanted to argue, but the wizard's reasoning and his own weariness won out. He gratefully sank down onto a log and closed his eyes, letting out a long and tired sigh.

After making sure that Aragorn was going to stay put, Gandalf turned to Legolas. He examined the elf fully, even taking off the bandage and looking at the old cut on Legolas's arm. He decided that Legolas had merely cracked his ribs and not broken them, and he bound Legolas's chest tightly with some cloth, then began to examine the elf's left arm. It didn't take him long to come to the conclusion that Legolas's left shoulder was dislocated, and would need to be put back in place.

"I am afraid this is going to hurt," Gandalf told the elf gently, as he placed his right hand above the injured shoulder, and used his left hand to grasp Legolas's arm. Legolas did not make a sound as the wizard worked on him, but the blood drained from his face, and Gandalf worried that the elf would pass out.

But Legolas remained conscious, and when Gandalf was finished, he place the elf's arm in a makeshift sling, and moved him over to sit next to Aragorn.

"You will be unable to use your bow for quite some time, I am afraid. But if you take care, and do not over do it, I believe you will recover swiftly."

Legolas nodded and thanked the wizard weakly. Gandalf smiled at him, and then rose, intending to go and check on the progress of the others. He stopped, however, when Aragorn called out to him.

He turned to the ex-ranger, arching a questioning eyebrow.

"I was just wondering," Aragorn said curiously, "why you are in such a hurry to leave? We have a camp already set up here, and it will be morning in a few hours, unless I miss my guess."

"Two and a half hours," Legolas said drowsily from beside him.

Gandalf studied them both for a second, then stooped and sat down.

"Perhaps it is simply that I have no wish to spend a moment longer than necessary in this graveyard." Gandalf's voice was casual, and he looked about him pointedly at the scattered bodies of dead orcs.

"Perhaps," Aragorn returned. "But I do not think that is your reason, at least not entirely. You know something that you are keeping from the rest of us. What is it?"

Gandalf shook his head. "You may be right, son of Arathorn. But if that is the case, then I choose to keep my own council, and I assure you that you will know what you must, when you must."

By the look on his face, it was obvious that Aragorn did not like this answer very much, but he merely shrugged and met Gandalf's eyes. "As you say, but I wish to put the dead to rest before we leave. I did not know them well, but they died because they accompanied their king on a mission, and I do not think they should be left to rot amongst the corpses of orcs!"

Gandalf nodded. "There is no time to burry them tonight, but we shall carry them with us until daylight, when we can send them properly to their peace."

Aragorn agreed to this, and then he only had one more question to ask. "Where is it that you will be leading us?"

"We must go in all haste back to Minas Tirith," the wizard replied.

"Is the city in danger?" Aragorn asked worriedly.

Gandalf shook his head. "It is not the city, I fear, that is in danger." With these ominous words, Gandalf once more rose. "Regain your strength, for we will be leaving shortly." Then he turned and left them.

Aragorn and Legolas sat silently for a time, each lost in their own thoughts. Suddenly, a loud scuffle across camp drew their attention.

Two of the guards were struggling to control one of the horses. A rope was around the beast's neck, but whenever one of them tried to approach with a saddle, the horse would rear and paw the air, letting out a shrill whinny.

Legolas immediately recognized Shandarell, and he rose painfully and began making his way toward the horse. Aragorn also rose and followed him.

Legolas reached the guard who held the noose about the great horse's neck. Reaching forward, he took the rope from the man's hand and stepped close to the horse, whispering softly and gently. Shandarell immediately calmed, stepping forward and laying his head against Legolas's chest. He stroked the smooth, strong neck, pulling the noose over Shandarell's head and freeing the horse. The second guard, seeing him calmed, stepped forward with the saddle, but Legolas shook his head.

"He will not take saddle nor bridle," Legolas explained to the confused man. "He is alright now, and I will take care of him." Both guards shrugged, and then turned and left to complete their tasks.

Legolas continued to stroke Shandarell, and the horse started to ruffle his tunic with his soft nose, snuffling and snorting with contentment. Aragorn came up beside the elf and reached out to stroke the horse's side. Shandarell looked at him suspiciously, but allowed Aragorn to continue touching him.

"He is truly a magnificent animal," Aragorn said softly. "I have not seen his like since Shadowfax. Where did you come by him?"

Legolas looked up at Aragorn and smiled somewhat guiltily. "Actually, he comes from Rohan. He was part of the herd sent to you as a gift from Eomer."

Aragorn's eyes widened, and he looked at Shandarell once more. "It seems it is quite a gift Eomer has sent me, if this beast is any guide to the rest."

"He was the best of what I saw," Legolas admitted softly. Shandarell had lifted his head and begun nuzzling his neck.

Aragorn laughed as he watched the horse begin to play with Legolas's long golden hair. "Would I be correct in my guess that this is the repayment you spoke of earlier?" he asked.

"Only if you will be parted with him," Legolas said simply.

Aragorn grew serious. "You would be gaining a great beast...." A sudden smile broke out on his face. "I must admit, I do not think this is my choice to make. Indeed, it appears as if Shandarell has already chosen you, and so he is yours, not by my choice, but his own.

Legolas returned the smile, and opened his mouth to thank Aragorn, but the words never left his mouth, for at that very moment, Shandarell chomped down on a clump of Legolas's hair and gave it a firm tug.

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: littlefish

Status: Reviewed

Completion: Complete

Era: 3rd Age - Post-Ring War

Genre: Action

Rating: General

Last Updated: 10/11/02

Original Post: 06/26/02

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