5. Exploring The Darkness Together
Chapter 5: Not a Day in Paradise
Aragorn was not having a good day.
It had started out pleasant enough; breakfast with Legolas and Gimli was always enjoyable, their bantering often bringing smiles and laughter. He had hoped to spend the day with his friends exploring the caverns he had yet to see but was unexpectedly delayed by an urgent matter of state.
The day took a turn for the worse after he parted company with his friends. If being trapped with some of his advisors for several hours was not bad enough, he then had to deal with the dreaded mound of paperwork on his desk. Trying to slip out to the gardens for a short break proved futile; everyone wanted something from him, like this pompous windbag who had stopped him in the halls to ask him some favor for his daughter. So much for sneaking away to enjoy a few minutes to himself.
Aragorn loved his people, and he knew his role was to serve them as their king, but he often found himself missing his old life and the freedom that had come with it. Being reared among elves had instilled in him a love for nature, engaging conversation and adventure. After Aragorn had been told of his heritage, he had enjoyed his years leading his people, and while many years had been spent in lonely wandering, he sometimes thought he would prefer to return to such a life than put up with Men such as the one yammering on and refusing to leave him in peace. He sighed.
"King Elessar!" The call drew his attention away from the noble rambling on endlessly. Aragorn frowned and turned in the direction of a page running towards him with a frantic expression on his face. Finally! He was needed elsewhere. He politely excused himself, ignoring the man's stuttered attempts to delay him, and turned to the page who had hastened to his side. One look at the boy's face, and Aragorn knew something was terribly wrong.
"There has been a cave in my lord!" the boy gasped out. He was almost out of breath as if he had run far.
Concern filled Aragorn as he listened to the report, his heart silently hoping Legolas and Gimli had made it out safely. If anything had happened to them…
Taking a deep breath, the page continued, his words only increasing Aragorn's worry. "It is in the area we have not yet explored. It is where Lord Legolas and Lord Gimli went earlier today. They never returned, my lord!"
It was as if a lead weight had dropped onto Aragorn's chest. He reached out and grabbed the boy's arm. "There is no sign of them?" he asked, his heart racing now with fear for his friends.
"No, my lord. The men checking the area wanted you informed that the tunnel is completely blocked. We have no idea where they were when it happened." Once again the page had to pause for breath.
"Have they searched the known areas? It is possible that they changed their minds as to where they would explore today. And what of any others; is there anyone else missing or hurt?" Aragorn was deeply concerned with this sudden crisis, but he refused to panic or act rashly until the facts were known.
"All known areas are being searched as we speak, my lord. Several of the city engineers were already down there. They were the ones who heard all the noise. They say it was terribly loud. So far, no one has been found injured, and all who were known to be in the caverns are accounted for except..."
"Legolas and Gimli" Aragorn finished for him, biting his lower lip in frustration. Of course, everyone else is fine, he thought. Leave it to an elf and the dwarf to find themselves trapped underground. He sighed heavily in frustration and refused to allow himself to think that they might have been crushed by the falling rocks. After all, Gimli was a dwarf and dwarves had strong instincts about these things. He would have sensed an imminent cave in. This thought comforted him. They would be found. Alive. He would accept nothing less.
"Send for Captain Arnorion and have him recall all who have experience in such matters. We need to organize a rescue party quickly. I want several teams down there digging out that tunnel and I want them working on it NOW!" The young page, turned away and rushed once again to do as his king had bid him.
The day had gone from unpleasant to dreadful very unexpectedly. He now had a very good reason to escape the palace walls, but no longer was that a comforting thought. Legolas and Gimli could be seriously hurt. Aragorn turned towards his own quarters to quickly change into suitable attire and to grab the satchel where he kept healing supplies, a habit he had changed, no matter that Gondor had many skilled healers. If there were injuries, he would be there. He would head up the rescue personally.
Aragorn's fast walk became a run, his long strides taking him quickly down the corridor to the Royal Apartments.
- o -
As soon as Gimli heard the crack overhead, he knew the table they were sheltering beneath had been hit and would most likely be unable to sustain the impact. The table was not very thick and as he suspected, it shattered. Pieces fell around him and the elf's grip on his hand relaxed as he felt Legolas start to slump to the side. Before Gimli could move to help his friend, something large and heavy landed forcefully on his left leg pinning it down. Gimli roared as unbelievable pain screamed through the limb. Somehow he remained conscious, but unable to move from his position, he covered his head with his arms, muttered a prayer to Mahal through gritted teeth for this to stop.
Eventually, rumble and downpour of rocks and dirt ceased, leaving the air full of choking dust and all in blackness. Gimli pulled his shirt over his nose and mouth and took slow calming breaths. Reaching out towards his pinned leg, Gimli evaluated the boulder that rested heavily on top of it. It was fairly large, and though he knew his efforts would most likely be futile, he tried pushing it off anyway. As he suspected, the stone would not budge; he could not get the proper leverage, trapped as he was. He took another breath and held it in frustration. That was when he heard the soft breathing next to him.
"Legolas?" Gimli called to his friend, but there was no response. He tried again. "Legolas!" But there was nothing, no murmur, only the slow sound of ragged breathing.
Trying to ignore the intense pain of what Gimli presumed was a broken leg, he felt about him with his hands. The floor was littered with broken rocks and dust. Quite close, his hand came upon long, cool fingers, and he slid his hand up Legolas's arm to the elf's shoulder and up his neck. The elf was lying on his side, so it seemed, and Gimli checked for a pulse. It was fast and a little faint, but his friend was alive and breathing. Brushing his fingers lightly over the elf's face, he checked for further injuries, but to his relief, found none. He then pulled the elf's tunic up over his nose and mouth to cut down on the dust Legolas inhaled.
Gimli then began to examine his friend's head as best as he could in the dark. He pushed aside the long, silky hair to check the scalp. The fact that his friend was unresponsive greatly unnerved him. In their years of friendship, Gimli had never known the elf to be knocked unconscious. He kept feeling for the injury he knew had to be there. Near the back of Legolas's head, the hair was a sticky mess. Blood was still seeping from the wound, but not gushing. Gimli managed to cut a strip of cloth from the bottom of his under shirt with a small knife he kept in his belt and pressed it cautiously to the wound. He feared pressing too hard in case the injury was severe. There was nothing else he could do about it, trapped as he was under that boulder. He was thankful he was this close to his friend and able to do this much.
His own pain made it difficult to twist and reach but his worry for Legolas helped distract him as Gimli proceeded to check the rest of Legolas's body for injury, at least the parts he could reach. There was sure to be bruises and abrasions, but he could find no other serious injuries on Legolas. He found the elf's hand again and held it, remembering how Legolas had reached for him when the torches had gone out. Legolas hated the pitch black of being underground.
Gimli started speaking, as much to give himself something to do as to try to ease the elf's mind, even though he did not think Legolas could not hear him. "Legolas? Now listen to me lad. I told you we would get out of here, and somehow we will. You hold on until help gets here. You hear me?" There was no response, not that he expected there to be.
"Aragorn will find out about this and send help. We just need to wait for them to get here."
Gimli was worried about his friend, and in addition to that he was unable to see. He had no idea how bad that head injury was, and it frightened him. Feeling helpless, a condition Gimli hated, he kept talking to his friend, hoping it would help keep his own mind off the pain in his leg and the fact that he could not get up. Until help arrived, it was all he could do. But help would come, he was sure of it.
Sometime later, Gimli fell asleep, his friend's hand still grasped in his own.
To be continued…
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