Particular thanks to Glorfindel for her expertise in medical practice and advice/ help in this chapter.
Beta: Fab Anarithilien. Thank you for your inspiring story about Aragorn and Legolas. Showed me the way!
And thank you to everyone for the reviews. It DOES make a difference and stops me from putting down my figurative pen and doing something else instead. Guest- this one's for you! Sorry it has taken so long to get this posted but on the bright side, I have two more chapters pretty much done.
Summary: Legolas joined the scouting expedition to search for the Nazgul along the banks of the Bruinen. Aragorn and the Sons of Elrond had been despatched by Glorfindel to warn the Men of the Angle about the Orcs they have just slain. Glorfindel led the rest of the group, Gimli, Legolas and two Imladrian warriors, Rhawion and Amron, to Phellanthir where they hunted the Nazgul. Glorfindel warned them to stay away from the Tower and to avoid engaging the Nazgul. However when it started raining, Rhawion persuaded Legolas to take shelter in the Tower and Legolas followed him. There they encountered the Nazgul, and two Orcs. Rhawion was killed and Legolas attacked by the Nazgul. He was wounded and the wound turned out to be poisoned. In the last chapter, Elladan and Elrohir attempt to heal him.
Chapter 15. Lost Souls
Gimli sat quietly watching the fire and humming under his breath. He tapped out the little signs of the Iglishmêk against the stony ground, letting his fingers trace over the small nuggets of minerals amongst the stones and feeling where there were veins of agate and quartz below the ground, deep in the earth. He dug his fingers a little into the dusty thin soil and felt where it would be good to dig should he wish, half closed his eyes and saw how the rich ore was buried beneath, how the caves opened up in the deepness beneath their feet and how the river had carefully worn away caverns and long winding tunnels in the rock....He breathed in and smelt the cold freshness of stone, of the granite and slate and the seams of agate...
He looked up. It was the Man, Aragorn, who was the Heir of Isildur, whatever that meant. Gimli pursed his lips. He was a good Man whatever his ancestors had done and Gimli had a liking for his quiet ways.
'I can relieve you of your watch if you wish to rest,' Aragorn said.
Gimli was quite happy watching over Legolas. He had grown fond of the Elf during their brief journey and he felt he had more of a bond with him than with anyone else in their small company, partly because they were both outsiders and partly because of the incident with what Gimli thought of as Elrohir's Orc. So he shook his head and folded his arms.
'You get some rest yourself Aragon. You have been helping those two sons of Elrond and that took some time. And you have scouted and hunted for our supper. All I have done is sit here and watch that he doesn't choke himself.'
'Hardly true my friend, but if you are comfortable there, I will not dislodge you,' Aragorn shifted the sword at his hip and then stretched his arms over his head and yawned.
'Maybe in two hours,' Gimli agreed, thinking the Man could barely keep his eyes open as it was. 'Then I can sleep. For the moment, I am awake and thinking.'
Aragorn stepped away then, smiling, and rolled himself in his blanket and seemed to fall asleep almost immediately.
Gimli ran his fingers through his beard, feeling its luxuriant silkiness and thinking how he would enjoy bathing in Elrond's rather wonderful bathing rooms on their return to Imladris and using the rich and aromatic oils. It had been a surprise and joy to Gimli when they arrived in Rivendell to learn that the Elves knew how to pump hot water from the mountains around them, and understood the importance of bathing, of oils, of scented soaps. Almost like home.
Gimli rummaged in his tunic to find the pocket where he kept his pipe and pipeweed and pulled it out, staring at the fire and its crackling flames. The slight breeze would take any smoke away from the camp. He filled his pipe and tamped it down, then reached into his pocket for his tinderbox.
A figure stepped out of the shadows beyond and stooped over the sleeping forms of his companions. Gimli narrowed his eyes; Elrohir. He knew it was Elrohir because it was Elladan whom Gimli had relieved from watching over Legolas, and he slept nearby so that Gimli could awaken him quickly if necessary. And Elrohir had a dark-bladed sword hidden in a black sheath with runes of mithril that swirled and swooped. Gimli wanted to look more closely at the sword, for its black blade was unusual and Gimli thought it must have been fashioned from the rare metal ores found in the distant northernmost and secret mines of Ered Luin. But even there such a deep metal was rare and precious. Gimli's hands itched to explore it, to feel the texture and hear its song. But he did not like Elrohir, did not trust him, so he watched him carefully.
The tall Elf walked slowly around the quiet camp, looking down at each one of them where they slept, though Gimli could not guess his purpose. Then he drew close to Gimli and glanced at him. Gimli met his eyes with his own challenging stare for he would not be cowed!
'Has he been quiet?' Elrohir asked in a low voice. It was smooth, his voice, and rich, dark, the sort of voice that made you listen, that could soothe you into sleep or rouse you to battle, but Gimli was not going to allow Elrohir to have any guardianship of Legolas.
'He is quiet now but a moment ago, he was very restless.' Gimli paused, wondering if he should tell Elrohir that Legolas had cried out, and Gimli thought he had sounded so distressed. But it could have just been him calling for his father, mother, lover...So he said nothing and held the flame to his pipe instead, drawing on the pipe so it lit, deep brown eyes fixed on Elrohir all the while.
Elrohir knelt beside Legolas and looked down at his face. He was not peaceful. Gimli could see his eyes were closed but beneath the lids, his eyes moved like he was watching something and his lips were parted; his breath came in short pants like he was terrified or running. Elrohir put his wrist over Legolas' forehead and held it there, his eyes downcast and the fire made shadows of his lashes on his cheek. Had it been anyone else, Gimli would have described the act as a blessing or benediction, but he could not think it would be that from Elrohir.
'I will give him more sere-vanda,' Elrohir said and did not seem to notice the sharp look Gimli gave him. 'It will keep him quiet.'
Gimli watched him disapprovingly, and drew on his pipe. The bitter taste of pipeweed on his tongue was overwhelmingly good and sharpened his senses. He let a long stream of smoke pour from his lips and then said slowly, thoughtfully, 'Is it quiet that we want? Will that help him recover or hinder him? I had thought your brother said the fever needs to worsen and then will break.'
The grey eyes that met Gimli's were intense and fierce but Gimli met them with an intensity of his own. A challenge.
'He need not suffer.' Elrohir's face was still, inscrutable as a carven image, but his voice crackled with suppressed irritation. 'Sere-vanda is a sedative. It will not dampen the fever. He will still dream but it will be deep and he will not remember it when he awakens.'
'I would rather you woke your brother first.' Gimli folded his arms across his chest and chewed on the end of his pipe a little. Immoveable, he told himself, like the Mountain itself.
Elrohir stood quickly and his eyes flashed. 'Then I will leave his care to you entirely since you do not trust me!' he snapped in annoyance.
Gimli merely inclined his head. 'That seems to be the way of it,' he said.
Elrohir stared at him for a moment and then flung himself away, Gimli would have said flounced, but that seemed too slight to describe the simmering tension that surrounded this Elf warrior.
Gimli settled himself back to watch, pleased that he had averted any attempt of Elrohir's to jeopardize Legolas' scarce recovery, but he wondered nonetheless if Elrohir had been right and if Gimli had caused him more pain. He sighed. He could only do his best and keep watch, a vigil, until morning and then Glorfindel and Amron could share the load.
Elrohir settled himself near Elladan but he did not lie down. He merely pulled his cloak about him and stared morosely into the fire. The scabbard of his sword lay to the side carefully, but he did not take it off and his hands often went to the hilt, Gimli noticed. The Elf stroked the polished handle as if he almost spoke to it. Well, that was not unheard of, Gimli thought, glancing at his own great war axe. But the fire that reflected in Elrohir's eyes showed he did not sleep though all others in the camp did so apart from Amron, who was on watch and whom Gimli could see but dimly, standing amongst the trees on the ridge above the camp.
It was very quiet, the river rushed on below them and a light breeze sometimes rustled in the dead leaves that clung still to the branches. But there was no other sound. Above him, Gimli could see the stars and they wheeled above him like diamonds on black velvet. It was cold, the frost coming down from the high Mountains lay on the air in drifts, lightly falling, slowly, over the trees and grass like silver glitter. The fire crackled and Gimli spoke a word and the flames burned low and hot, hidden by the pit he had dug for the purpose.
In the quiet of the night, Legolas cried out. It was a quiet, low cry that was full of pain and misery, and both Elrohir and Gimli's heads turned towards him. They waited.
After a moment, Legolas turned his head away, eyes squeezed shut and his hands lifted heavily, fluttering in the air about him for a moment and then dropped back to his side. He gave another low moan and his legs thrashed for a moment, and then he was still.
Gimli drew on his pipe, savoured the smoke without knowing it, watching. Then he let it stream from his lips, eyes on Legolas' pale face. Legolas fell quiet and still. He lay as if dead for a long moment and Gimli watched silently.
After a long while, there was another low moan, but this was not of pain but filled with anguish, like it sounded from the depths of his soul and was in torment. Gimli froze, pipe in hand and then leaned over and quietly placed his hand over Legolas' forehead. He moved his fingers over the pale and clammy skin, three fingers, then tapped twice and dotted the tip of his forefinger, repeating the blessing three times as required by the Iglishmêk* and Legolas breathed in deeply through his nose and his chest rose and then fell as he exhaled heavily and settled.
Gimli glanced up to see Elrohir watching intently, but he said nothing and when he saw Gimli watching him, he looked away.
Two hours passed and true to his word, Aragorn suddenly started and seemed to waken instantly. He sat up, pushed his hair back from his face and blinked roundly. Meeting Gimli's eyes, the Man smiled and yawned. 'I said I would relieve you,' he said and Gimli nodded for he knew he would need some sleep if they were able to march that day. He did not think Legolas would be able to walk, so they would have Legolas to carry and Rhawion's body too. He thought though that the body could be slung over one horse and Legolas carried on another perhaps. He was thinking this as he pulled his blanket about his shoulders and closed his eyes. Another thought was trying to make its way into his conscious mind, something he needed to do before he slept, but he could not remember what it was. And then sleep took him and it was too late to remember that he did not trust Elrohir with Legolas and wanted to warn Aragorn of that....
He awoke suddenly. Loud voices, shocking out here in the quiet stillness of the Wild. Gimli's mind fumbled with what he had been dreaming and what he heard. Strange voices, words he did not understand, the fire leaping and crackling uncontrolled, blazing, and beyond it, dark shapes struggled. Something flashed.
He pushed his blanket to one side and scrambled to his feet, blinking and groping for his small throwing axe, checking his knives.
It was Legolas who was shouting.
The blankets that had wrapped him were thrown, hurled perhaps to the far side of the camp. He stood staring about him wildly, half naked with those strange markings on his torso and arms like Gimli's own Gunud-aglâb*, and a knife glinted dangerously in his hand. He waved it in front of him as he shouted, threatening Aragorn who stood too close though the Man's hands were outstretched placatingly. To the side of Aragorn and half in darkness, was Elrohir, still and silent but watching intently; he knew it was Elrohir for the dark-bladed sword at his hip. Gimli could not follow what Aragorn was saying and then Legolas shouted over Aragorn, gesticulating murderously with his knife and he looked ready to leap at the Man's throat.
Suddenly it was dangerous and wild and Gimli felt that Legolas had no idea who they were or where he was. He caught Rhawion's name amongst the stream of incoherent words, and Phellanthir.
Gimli was aware of Elladan and Glorfindel, that both had leapt to their feet, swords already drawn when they too realised what was happening. In the firelight, the blades gleamed brightly, and the flames burned orange.
Legolas backed away from them, the knife flashing as he brandished it again at Aragorn, shouting. His skin was corpse-pale and Gimli could see sweat shining on his skin. His eyes were huge and he stared about him, wide-eyed, terrified. He did not know them. Legolas whirled towards him, confused and desperate, the firelight flickering over his skin, the Gunud-aglâb* like markings on his naked chest. Gimli thought it made him suddenly vulnerable for it was an intrusion and he thought someone should have covered him up and not left him half-naked like this for them all to gawp at. No Dwarf would ever show his secret markings except in the ritual of the Mazar-kut.*
Glorfindel slowly, quietly put down his sword now that he saw the only danger was from Legolas, and he spoke in a low soothing voice, taking one slow and careful step towards the Woodelf. He too mentioned Rhawion and Gimli frowned. Why were they all taking about Rhawion?
Glorfindel gestured into the shadows where they had put Rhawion's body so Gimli thought he was reassuring Legolas that Rhawion was here, that he was dead. Sure enough, Legolas edged towards the dark place where the body was covered still by Elrohir's cloak. He kept his knife pointing towards them as he moved and Gimli realised that he thought they were enemies. Perhaps he did not recognise any of them, that he had forgotten Rhawion was dead?
Without taking his eyes from them, Legolas moved to where the body was and glanced down. He flicked his gaze up again instantly, and with his free hand reached down to throw back the cloak to reveal the face of Rhawion. Legolas looked down again, and when he saw the cold stillness of Rhawion, he became transfixed. His face crumpled in anguished despair and he sank to his knees beside their dead comrade, crying out in his own tongue.
'Díheno. Ah Rhawion! Díheno,' he cried and he pressed his hands to his face. The knife was still clasped between his fingers and Glorfindel took a slow and careful step towards Legolas. Gimli dared not move for he had no idea what a distraught Woodelf could do, but he had seen their berserker fury, as his father had called it, in the Battle of the Five Armies and he could not predict how Legolas might behave now in such distress.
A long stream of words poured from the distraught Elf, and Gimli wracked his brains for he could not remember what that meant though Bombour had tried to teach him. He could only pick out gwaedh which he knew meant oath or promise. Legolas let his hands fall to his sides now and he lifted his lovely stricken face to the skies and cried aloud a stream of words, and suddenly he set the knife against his own chest and with an anguished cry, cut a deep incision into the skin. A thick ribbon of blood welled from the cut. Aragorn cried out a protest and lurched forwards.
At the same time there was a blur of movement from the shadows and Elrohir launched himself at Legolas. Legolas whirled round and struck out hard with foot and knife, slamming his foot into Elrohir's midriff and simultaneously slashing him across the cheek. But Elrohir caught his wrist and twisted so the knife flew from his fingers across the camp and skidded into the fire. Glorfindel and Aragorn launched themselves at Legolas and wrestled him to the ground. Between the three of them they pinned Legolas down.
Legolas bucked and kicked and thrashed about, shouting, screaming, weeping now. He kicked out and Elladan fell back clutching his eye, but he threw himself back on top of the wildly struggling Elf, and Glorfindel was shouting now too. Aragorn was thrown off and kicked hard in the midriff. He bent over, winded and clutching his belly and looking up watching. Elrohir pressed his whole weight down on the Woodelf's chest. Slowly the struggles became weaker and there was a moment of stillness before the heap of bodies suddenly lurched and struggled again as they tried to subdue the fever-stricken Woodelf beneath them.
Suddenly Legolas went limp and silent. His head rolled back and his hands relaxed.
For a moment, Glorfindel, Aragorn and Elrohir lay tense, Legolas quiet and still beneath them. Then they all seemed to talk at once, in quick urgent voices and Aragorn reached towards Elladan who was rummaging, one handed, through his pack. Hurrying over to them, Gimli saw that Elladan had in his hand a rolled up pouch that clinked quietly, so it must have some metal implements, Gimli surmised, and a small vial with an amber liquid sloshing in it.
Aragorn glanced at Gimli then and said, 'Gimli, please will you hold his feet so I can help Elladan.'
Gimli nodded and crouched down, put his strong hands firmly on Legolas' feet and felt him tense. 'He is going to fight again!' he warned and immediately they pressed down on him.
'Careful! He is still very weak,' Elladan said, squatting beside Legolas. 'Perhaps we should bind him. He will fight as soon as we let go.'
'I have him. He will not fight.' Elrohir had Legolas' right arm pinned beneath him and his weight against the Mirkwood Elf's shoulder. His hand was pressed over Legolas' forehead so he could not lift his head up. The Woodelf's eyes remained closed but his lips moved and he mumbled incoherently.
Aragorn pulled away from the tangle of bodies now that Gimli had Legolas' feet and knees, and the Man knelt behind Elladan and unrolled the velvet pouch to reveal a number of scalpels and other implements. He selected a fine needle and threaded it. 'We need to get that cut stitched while he's quiet.'
'He's not quiet yet,' Gimli warned, in spite of Elrohir's assurances, feeling the strong muscles tense. 'He is pretending.'
And on cue, Legolas suddenly gave an enormous buck and surged upwards, throwing off Gimli from his feet, and Glorfindel. He shouted loudly, furiously, and Gimli knew this was not Sindarin but the Black Speech, and for a moment he thought perhaps that Legolas had been possessed. Elrohir still hung onto his arm however and suddenly, with enormous strength, he shoved the Woodelf over so he lay on his stomach and threw himself onto Legolas' back, twisting Legolas' arm up behind him.
'Bind him then, curse him!' Elrohir shouted and Elladan grabbed the reins of his horse's bridle, the first thing to hand. Quickly he wound them about Legolas' wrists, pulled them back so his arms were tightly bound behind his back. Legolas writhed and struggled in pain, shouting, cursing whilst Elrohir forced his head back and Elladan shoved the vial between his clenched teeth and poured the liquid into his mouth. Legolas shook his head and would not swallow until Elrohir half lifted him and threw him hard back onto the ground. The shock made him gasp and splutter and some of the liquid he spat out but some he could not help but swallow.
It was then that Gimli heard him sob and saw the tears and desperation in Legolas' green eyes. Suddenly Gimli could not bear it and pushed between them all.
'Here, stop that. He is not an Orc. That will not do.' He snatched the vial from Elladan and knelt beside Legolas' head.
'No, he is not an Orc but the poison that is still within him will do as good a job as any Orc if we do not stop it!' Glorfindel suddenly snapped. 'And if he carries on with this noise, it will draw Orcs here, sure as daylight. And they will finish off what the poison did not!'
'I know this!' Gimli shot back. 'But this is not the way.' Gimli looked down with intense compassion at Legolas' terrified face. Then he lowered his voice so it was like the deep stone heart of the Mountain, like gravel in the river, like the rocks of the Forest streams. 'Legolas, it is me, Gimli Gloinsson.' The Elf looked up at him, and slowly his eyes focused on Gimli's face and seemed to clear a little. There were tears in his eyes, and he looked so unhappy and bewildered that it wrenched Gimli's heart strangely. Gently, he said, 'I am here because you need help, Legolas. Whatever it is you need to do, I will help you. Tell me.'
Legolas panted, heaving breath into his crushed lungs and Gimli glared at Glorfindel himself who looked embarrassed and shifted to ease the pressure off his chest.
'Tell me what you need. How I can help you, my poor friend?' Gimli gazed deep into the Elf's green eyes and hummed lightly under his breath. And Legolas took a breath that seemed to shiver through his whole body.
'It hurts,' he murmured and Gimli slowly put his hand out and patted the Elf's arm.
'I know. It will pass if you can take this medicine. Ell...Glorfindel is here. He is worried about you. Will you drink this?'
Legolas shook his head wildly. 'No. I cannot. It will make me sleep and I have to get back.'
Gimli frowned but kept his voice low and even and breathed rhythmically, slowing the Elf's fluttering, fevered breath. 'Where do you have to go?'
Legolas blinked and sweat drenched his face, dampened his pale hair. 'Phellanthir.'
Gimli heard a breath from Glorfindel and murmured concern but he ignored them all, focused on Legolas. 'No. You do not have to go there. It is empty now,' he said reassuringly. 'The Nazgul has been vanquished by Glorfindel and we are all safe.'
'No! No, we are not!' Legolas struggled to free himself. 'Rhawion is there. He is trapped! I promised I would not leave him!' And then, as if suddenly becoming aware once more that he was bound, trapped, he cried aloud and renewed his struggles. 'Help me, Gimli. It is suffocating me! Swallowing me up!'
Gimli glared at Elrohir who simply glared back. 'Well, what do you want me to do?' snarled the son of Elrond. 'Get off him? Release him to cut himself more or to run back to the Tower? Surely he will run faster than any of us and elude us all?'
Gimli narrowed his eyes at Elrohir and then carefully, chastely, placed his hand on the Elf's bare shoulder. 'Can you trust me, my friend? If I can throw off this thing that is suffocating you, will you trust me? Do not run from me.'
Legolas' fevered green eyes searched his intently and then he moved his head as much as he could. 'Yes. I will trust you. You have some Dwarven magic that will help?'
'Yes. I will throw off this Nazgul that is suffocating you,' he said with a glare at Elrohir who stared at him for a moment, then shrugged and shifted his weight off Legolas, rolled onto his knees, but appeared ready at a moment to pounce back. Gimli quickly unwound the reins from round his wrists, noting the red marks where he had struggled against the thin leather. 'There. It is gone.' Gimli shifted closer to Legolas and took his hand in his. Legolas breathed deeply and let his head drop back in relief. 'Now, will you not tell me what is going on?' Gimli settled back on his heels. 'Here,' he said and leaned forward to help Legolas into a sitting position. 'Sit up. Is that better?'
Gimli tried not to look at the deep cut on his chest, inflicted in that moment of wild despair. Blood welled up from the cut, was smeared across his chest. But Legolas seemed oblivious to all else now and scuttled close to Gimli, eyes still intent upon his and grasped both Gimli's wide, square hands in his own long elegant ones. If Gimli thought Legolas weak before, which he did not, the grip on his hands would quickly dispel this, for the Dwarf had to gently prise Legolas' fingers from his and loosen his grip or even his strong hands would have been crushed.
'Rhawion is still in that place,' Legolas said earnestly. 'And I swore I would not leave him. I thought he was with me but he is not here.'
'Ah, Legolas.' Gimli shook his head sadly. 'He is dead. You have seen that.'
But Legolas clutched at Gimli's hands and stared at him, his eyes huge and feverish in that gaunt, pale face. 'No, not his body. They killed him, I know. But the Nazgul has his soul, Gimli. He is trapped in that place, consumed by the Dark, swallowed...' His voice became a low whisper. 'I swore not to leave him there, Gimli. I swore an Oath and I must go back.'
Gimli cast a worried look over his shoulder at Glorfindel to see the same look mirrored on the Elf-lord's face. 'Show him Rhawion again,' Glorfindel murmured, reluctant to disturb Legolas' trust of Gimli.
Gimli turned slowly back to Legolas. 'You have seen his body, Legolas. You brought him out of the Tower yourself.'
Legolas leaned closer to Gimli and grasped his arm in a grip that would have a Man wincing in pain. 'I brought his body out, yes, his hroa. But his feä. Gimli, his spirit. It is still there, in the Dark. The Nazgûl...' He leaned still closer so Gimli felt his breath on his cheek, and was captivated by the fear and terror in the long green eyes. 'The Nazgul has his soul.'
Gimli felt the indrawn breath of Glorfindel nearby and his own heart thudded wildly. 'I do not think you can be right in this, Legolas. Surely you Elves believe in a Doomsman who calls you hence to wherever you go?'
Legolas shifted even closer to Gimli and Gimli could only stare into the strange green eyes that were flecked with gold and seemed so otherworldly, alien. 'I do not believe in the Doomsman. In the Wood, we have only the Earth, the Wind, the Forest...' It sounded like the lines of a ritual to Gimli but Legolas' next words chilled him. 'There is nothing beyond the Veil in that place.' And Gimli knew he meant the haunted Phellanthir and cold crept down Gimli's spine at the words. 'Just the Eternal Dark.'
Gimli saw himself reflected in the pupils dark and wide with fear and he suddenly felt the world tilt, and thought a coil of darkness slid over his shoulder, round his neck. It seemed to writhe and slither over his jaw, to force itself between his teeth, wrap itself around his eyes so he was blind and suffocating. He felt his own breath leave his body like it was his last and thought his own limbs convulsed and thrashed, tearing at the coiled shadow that opened its jaw to swallow him....
He fell backwards and the spell was broken. He heard Glorfindel speaking urgently, fear in his voice but it felt like he was far, far away. There was blurred movement and he felt himself pushed gently back down to the earth and he did not try to get up. Instead he let strong, gentle hands move him and a face swam in his vision. The scent of something lovely suffused the air quite suddenly and he drifted... Rosemary, he thought, maybe bergamot too...and maybe honeysuckle. The sweetness of it made him remember home. Not Erebor. But home. The old forge in the Blue Mountains where he and Gloin had made utensils, toys, trinkets for the Men of the West Marches and the Elves of Mithlond. The smell of cooking, of the leather apron of his mother and...and...suddenly his eyes stung with tears.
When he blinked, he saw Aragorn's face looking at him with kind concern. He held a cup of some sort of infusion before Gimli and it was that he could smell. The Man was calling Gimli softly by name and for a moment, he thought Aragorn used his name, but he was not. It was the scent of the infusion, he thought, coupled with the terror of Legolas' visions that made him so weak and vulnerable.
'I am well enough now,' he said gruffly but he clasped the Man's hand nonetheless for he was grateful. 'Legolas? How is he?'
Aragorn looked briefly over his shoulder and Gimli became aware of a wailing beyond him that at first he thought was some wild animal being horribly killed. But it was Legolas he reailsed for he heard words in the dreadful cries and pathetic whimpers.
'You have to make him quiet!' Elrohir's voice was saying insistently and Gimli thought he agreed for the sound pierced the night and it would surely carry.
Elladan's own voice came back in a furious whisper. 'I know! What do you suggest?'
'Give him to me.'
There was a pause when all he could hear was a terrible pleading from Legolas and then he peered over Aragorn's shoulder to see that the fire was burning more brightly as if it fed off the fear. Orange firelight cast them all as demons of shadow and flame, and Gimli thought how the Sons of Elrond looked like dread lords of terror, for their faces were fair and grim and they locked their gaze with each other for a long moment and then they both leaned forward and Gimli could not see Legolas anymore. A long wail went up in the night, and suddenly stopped, as if it had been choked off.
'What have they done to him?' Gimli demanded and pushed himself to his feet, shoved past Aragorn.
Glorfindel stood nearby, looking down at Legolas and the Sons of Elrond held him between them. He was limp, head was fallen forward onto his chest, where a thin dressing now bound the self-inflicted wound, and his long, pale hair hung over his face. His hands were bound once more and somehow, that shamed Gimli more than anything.
'What have you done to him?' Gimli demanded, more insistently.
One of them looked up, his face hard and inscrutable. It was Elrohir, Gimli realised from the black sword at his hip. 'We have silenced him. He is still now.' He turned away and looked at his brother. It was strange to see them both, looking at each other with the same hard eyes.
Gimli stared, not knowing what to say. It was true that the noise Legolas was making was bringing danger to them all, but the piteous sight of his limp body laying between them was almost too much for the Dwarf to bear. 'Will he be all right now?' he asked, knowing it was weak.
'No.' Elladan said shortly. 'No, he will not be all right.' He threw an angry look at his brother.
Elrohir merely looked stonily at Gimli. 'The terror would kill him if the poison did not,' he said insistently. Elladan looked away and Elrohir continued, 'We need to subdue him, and then break the fever. We have sedated him heavily and now a drug must be given him that will intensify the fever so it breaks quickly. Aragorn will tend him when we have gone.'
'And where are you going?' Gimli demanded. He planted his feet firmly on the ground, made himself one with the rock, the stone, so they would know he would not be moved, would not be ignored in this, he would be heard and understood. Obeyed.
There was a pause, uncomfortable, and then Glorfindel stepped between Gimli and the sons of Elrond. 'They have to leave,' he said, nodding towards the two Elves. 'We cannot delay them any longer for their errand will take them now over the Misty Mountains. We will have to try to get Legolas back to Imladris without them.'
'You must delay!' Gimli protested. 'Surely your errand cannot be so serious that you would lose him for the sake of carrying it out? He will die without your aid.' He threw them a challenging, outraged look but neither looked at him, their grey eyes locked with the other's and they did not move or speak.
Glorfindel put his hand gently on Gimli's shoulder. 'It is more important, I fear, Gimli. More important than any of us.' And Gimli knew then that somehow their errand was connected with the One Ring. He looked away.
'We will delay our leave until first light.' Elladan spoke then and it seemed he spoke for both of them for the other nodded. 'We will do what we can to bring him peace, but we can delay no longer than that. I will tend Legolas until then and Aragorn will care for him after.'
And with that, Gimli had to be content.
Elladan sat staring into the fire and occasionally threw a stick onto the low flames to feed them. It had been some hours since Legolas had awoken, screaming, overwhelmed by the ferocity of the poison, drawing his own knife upon himself, and now he lay sedated, heavily, with sere-vanda.
Too heavily, Elladan wondered. But he had been frightened that they might lose Legolas and in the end, he conceded uneasily to Elrohir's insistence that they subdue him. And then they had had no choice but to give Legolas heavier and heavier doses of sere-vanda and Elrohir had forced upon Legolas the powerfulCristôl, Dream-Cleaver, as it was called by the Rangers. This would intensify the fever enough for it to break whilst he was sedated by the sere-vanda, although it was more a hope than certainty. But as Elrohir kept pointing out, Aragorn was more than capable of nursing a feverish Woodelf. It did not need Elladan too to sit and wait so they would leave at first-light.
It was not yet dawn however, and Elladan had time yet to soothe and heal the frightened Woodelf, to let his calm blue peace spread through him, easing his distress and torment, smoothing the nerves and knitting muscles and skin and cells...He conjured images of starlight and stroked them across the Woodelf's thoughts, of new leaves unfurling in the Spring, of sunlight spangling on water like blue silk. He let his thoughts drift, let his Power stroke gently across Legolas' wrangled body and troubled mind...
In the firelight, Elrohir moved slightly and Elladan glanced towards him but Elrohir gave no answering look or movement, no sign of support or reassurance. Firelight reflected in his eyes and he continued to look stonily into the fire, one hand resting on his knee, the other on the hilt of the dark-bladed sword, his cloak cast to the side. Nearby, a low hump that was Gimli snored lightly and settled, and Amron lay with his hands crossed on his breast and eyes half-closed.
Elladan turned back to Legolas for a moment, noted the pale skin, cold and clammy, and the sweat on his brow but he was quieter, which was just as well for he dared not give Legolas more of either drug. Just then Legolas gave a deep sigh and seemed to settle more deeply into sleep.
Elladan's fingers drifted to the hilt of his dagger, smooth and well-worn by hands long, long years before he had been given it. He twirled it between his fingers, watching the firelight flash upon the blade, turn the runes liquid, watched how the words formed, fascinated.
Now that Legolas was calm, he turned his thoughts to his brother. He was angry with Elrohir's insistence on forcing drugs upon Legolas, he had questioned whether they should intensify the fever, force it to break, for the terror had been so great in Legolas it was almost a cruelty. Had it been anyone but Elrohir, he would have refused. But Elrohir was a great healer and in battling fever and poison, he surpassed even Elrond; he would not yield, was unrelenting, determined to the point of self-destruction. So Elladan would have usually deferred to him in all cases of fevers.
If it was anyone but Legolas. For it was Elrohir's reactions to Legolas that bothered him now.
Elladan let his eyes focus on the flames of the fire and half-aware, he twirled his dagger between his fingers, half-mesmerized, let his eyes go wide in the dark, thought about what had happened only hours before...
When Legolas had resisted, Elrohir had wrestled with him, with a suppressed violence, thrown him down to make him swallow the sere-vanda. But when Elrohir went to force the second dose, had been leaning over Legolas to force the sere-vanda down his throat and the Woodelf was struggling and choking and fighting, Legolas had looked up and quite suddenly it changed from being a battle to healing; his long green eyes, bright with fever, had fastened upon Elrohir's. In that moment, he gazed almost in adoration, and had swallowed the sedative trustingly, never taking his eyes from Elrohir's face.
And Elrohir too had changed; he had cradled Legolas' head almost tenderly to give him the sere-vanda. Gently he had let Legolas sip from the vial so the drug slowly, kindly took him down to sleep. It seemed at first that Legolas had touched some tender spot in his heart.
As Elrohir had looked down, his eyes were soft, baffled, but quite abruptly he had gone rigid - as if he had seen something that horrified him, some dreadful foresight perhaps, or memory unlocked by the pale gold hair damp with sweat and the trusting, fevered eyes fixed upon his...For he had suddenly cried out and thrust Legolas away, staggered to his feet with his hand clasped over his mouth as if he had seen some horror...
Elladan stared into the orange flames, let his own grey eyes go wide in half-reverie. And he wondered what had made Elrohir start so. Time spun on and he felt Elrohir's strange mood, his restlessness and something else. If it were anyone other than Elrohir, he would say it was fear. Or some secret guilt.
Iglishmêk* - the gesture language of the Dwarves.
Gunud-aglâb -secret language, in this respect it is the secret tattoos of the Dwarvish clans. Gimli compares his own secret tattoos with Legolas' yarë-carmé (ancient art) which is cult-based and for identifying the bodies and body parts in Mirkwood.
Mazar-kut The Secret Fire. In this respect, a Dwarvish ritual of initiation, regeneration and renewal.
Díheno - Forgive me. Silvan dialect of Sindarin word
Thank you to those lovely people who review.