iglishmêk - gesture language of the Dwarves.
Mazarbul-aglâb - (literally telling of the records) The telling of tales of the deceased, to record their lives and deeds.
Uzbad-Kibilulbizar - Lord of Rivendell (Valley of Silver Streams and Running Water. )
Khazâd ai-meir zenen - The Dwarves will stand with you.
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Chapter 22: Rivendell
Gimli hated horses. It didn't matter how much Amron told him to sit still and not wriggle, he found them uncomfortable and could not help it. Although, he told himself, it would take much more than this great height and lump of horse to frighten a Dwarf-Lord of Erebor, Master Smith of the Guild of Steel, Gimli Iron-Hammer. Nevertheless he prayed; his fingers tapping out the minute gestures of the iglishmêk that both his friends might soon return and be safe, and that his own feet might tread the Earth sooner rather than later.
So when two elven steeds appeared from between the trees, followed by Aragorn's big grey beast who danced less than surged powerfully into view, Gimli was delighted. He could see Aragorn had seen them and said something to the other pale-haired rider behind him. Legolas lifted his head to follow the Man's pointing finger.
'Both of them are well,' Amron said over his shoulder, grinning as widely as Gimli himself. When Legolas too lifted his hand to wave and Gimli felt a gladness sweep over him that Legolas was recovered. It hit him quite unexpectedly that he thought of Legolas as his friend. He sighed heavily; he would have to be careful when his father was around, he thought to himself, although even Gloin agreed that Thranduil had spoken fair at Thorin's grave.
He did not say this however, instead he shouted gruffly, 'Well about time too! We have been waiting for you to catch up.'
The two Elves who rode with Aragorn and Legolas looked oddly at Gimli but they were Elves and who knew what they thought. Aragorn was laughing though and Legolas looked certainly better than the last time Gimli had seen him.
'Ah laddie,' Gimli muttered to himself, 'you gave us a turn.'
The Elves called muted greetings to each other and to Aragorn, but Gimli watched Legolas for there was no escaping that this was Rhawion's journey home too and even as Gimli thought this, Legolas caught sight of the body that lay over the withers of one of the horses
Any colour he did have drained away and he swayed slightly behind Aragorn.
'Do not fret, Legolas,' said Gimli quietly, knowing the Elf would hear him. 'He is safe here with us, and we are taking him home.' Amron brought his own horse alongside Aragorn and Gimli was able to reach out and touch Legolas' elbow.
At his touch, Legolas looked at Gimli and said softly, 'I know, Gimli. I know. I was very sick. I had such dreams...I know they were not real now.'
Gimli narrowed his eyes at the Elf and said shrewdly, 'Do you expect me to believe that? And where then, are Glorfindel and Erestor?'
Legolas blinked at him owlishly and had the situation not been so sad, Gimli would have laughed. But Legolas' gaze drifted back to the sorry burden wrapped tenderly in Gimli's own blanket and carried by the last horse. Legolas passed his hand over his eyes then, avoiding looking at anyone and said softly and in distress, 'I am sorry, Gimli. I am still confused...I think it is all the sere-vanda and Crystôl,'
Furious, Gimli glared at Aragorn. 'I hope he does not mean that you have forced yet more drugs into him? When I told you no?' He could hardly believe that Aragorn, whom he thought quite a sensible person for a Man, could have been so reckless.
Aragorn turned his head to face Gimli. 'I did what I thought was right,' he said. 'You were not there, Gimli, I had no choice. And it worked,' he added defensively.
'Aragorn!' Amron turned to look accusingly at Aragorn as well now. 'Surely you did not give him a second Crystôl? Glorfindel told you that you should not.' Amron's horse shied and bumped against Roheryn.
'Gimli, Amron. He did not...' said Legolas. 'Well, he did,' he amended, frowning and then continued, 'but I attacked him first and he had to restrain me...I think. I can't remember,' Legolas put his hands over his face. It could have been because he was confused, Gimli thought later but at the time, he thought that Legolas must have been hurt and reached over to him.
Amron waved his free hand, gesticulating angrily and had lapsed into Sindarin, which Gimli could not follow. Out of the corner of his eye Gimli saw that the other Elves had turned and watched, appalled as Amron's horse jostled against Roheryn.
Saeldir rode up to them, shouting. 'Cease this, all of you! We have Rhawion's body with us and we are entering the peace of Imladris!'
At that they fell silent, ashamed, and Gimli hung his head. It was indeed unforgivable to show such discourtesy and disrespect to their comrade.
'My lord Gimli,' Saeldir said more quietly and firmly, 'I assure you that Annael and I saw no harm done to Legolas. Indeed he is remarkably recovered since it was with lach-rhaw that he was poisoned.'
Gimli nodded in acknowledgement and although he always tried to meet an elven gaze full on, refusing to be cowed, this time he avoided looking at Saeldir, ashamed that he had allowed himself to show such disrespect albeit from concern. 'I am glad to hear it,' he said, allowing himself to be appeased. 'He is quite useful when he is well,' he added with grudging fondness. Legolas gave a soft laugh and Gimli looked up into his leaf-green eyes and smiled. But Gimli was not fooled and he saw how pale Legolas was and noted that he cradled his injured arm.
Annael had ridden up as well then. 'I can testify to his strength as well, my lord Gimli. He made a terrific shot onto a ridge where a spy lurked.'
Coldly, Gimli turned to Saeldir then. 'Do you mean he had to use that arm when he is injured? Neither of you could do anything?'
Saeldir glanced irritably at Annael who shifted a bit. 'He was closer,' said Annael, glancing at Saeldir uncomfortably. Gimli was unconvinced and opened his mouth, determined to uncover the truth when Legolas spoke.
'Peace Gimli,' he said softly. 'We were under threat. A goblin spy watched the road and I killed it.' He leaned across from where he sat behind Aragorn and touched Gimli's arm as Gimli had touched Legolas' when they first arrived. Gimli looked into the Elf's eyes and had the strangest sense then; it seemed to him he could be in the forge with the smell of hot iron and the heartbeat of bellows on the furnace. He felt the song of metal under the hammer and then, softly at first, deeper than the sounds of the world, came the deep Song of the Mountain...He stared into leaf-green eyes and wondered how it was that the son of Thranduil understood so well...
The horse danced a little under Gimli as if it too heard the song and was excited, and he suddenly lurched to one side and clutched at Amron. 'Very well,' he said, 'I will leave it this time. But next time, Aragorn, you will have me to answer to!' Then he turned his earth-brown eyes upon Legolas and added, 'And don't think you can count the goblin spy. I still lead you by three.'
The following day they drew within sight of the Old Ford and knew they were within the environs of Imladris. Gradually they drew closer to the Last House. Looking up, Aragorn saw the young birch tree clinging to the cliffs and remembered that Legolas too had delighted in it on their journey out. It had pleased Aragorn at the time that someone else had seen it for Aragorn had noticed it on his return from Lórien the first time he had met Arwen, and now looked for it every time he returned to Imladris. Gradually it had taken on a new symbolism. Yet Legolas said nothing. The horse with Rhawion's body draped over it walked close by and he noticed the way Legolas listed slightly towards it whenever it came close.
The river rushed past them, its grey and white melt-water fast moving like a long sinuous beast, pouring over great slabs of granite that had fallen from the mountains over the Ages, plunging over weirs and falls on its way to the Sea. The roar of its cold water was loud, drowning out their conversation and heralding their approach to the Valley.
He always felt a knot in his belly as they approached the final bend in the road that ran smoothly alongside the Bruinen, knowing that in a moment he would see the towers and roofs of Imladris. His eye always sought out the windows of Arwen's rooms, hoping wildly that she sensed his approach and would be standing, waiting for him, the breeze lifting her lustrous dark hair and her lovely eyes fixed upon the road hoping for him as he longed for her. But it was always too far for him to see so he imagined it anyway, and a small smile slipped onto his lips.
'Are you dreaming of your lady Arwen?' Legolas asked and Aragorn heard the smile in his voice.
He nodded slightly and half turned his head . 'I always hope to see her on her balcony, waiting for me,' he said, hoping that Legolas could see and would tell him. But the Elf only nodded and did not oblige.
'I always hope to see my brothers when I go home, unless they are out in the Wood fighting. Even then, I hope for some sign that they are safe,' Legolas replied conversationally. 'My father is always there waiting. Hopping from foot to foot in anxiety! And Galion,' he continued.
Aragorn gave a quiet laugh; he could imagine Pippin maybe hopping from one foot to the other in excitement, but not Thranduil-- elegant, enigmatic Thranduil, whose gaze alone was enough to wither the heart of a lesser man.
As if he knew Aragorn's thoughts, Legolas added, 'Ah, well maybe not Thranduil - but Galion. My father's embrace is like a bear's.'
Yes, thought Aragorn, that he could imagine.
Legolas fell silent then, thinking no doubt on his home, his father and brothers. Aragorn wondered if he was worried about the two companions that Legolas had set out with from Mirkwood. Surely they must have arrived back by now? He wondered how Thranduil would greet them and grimaced, glad he was not in their shoes.
'Ah!' Aragorn felt Legolas lift up his head as he exclaimed. 'She is there I think. I see a maiden with long dark hair and her white dress gleams. She has a cloak of deep green. She waits for you I think for she shades her eyes with her hand and watches the road.'
Aragorn's heart leapt. Arwen! He knew the cloak of which Legolas spoke- he had brought it all the way from Pelargir in foolish love as a gift for her, luxurious velvet silk that he had had to work hard to save from spoiling on his journey across mountain and river. He strained to see but it was still too far. He could hear the smile in Legolas' voice.
'The sun catches her as if it loves her. But I think there is nothing that could love her more than do you, Aragorn.'
Aragorn imagined her, as Legolas said, standing on her balcony, the breeze lifting her hair. His heart pounded and he felt his chest swell with love for this lovely woman who had given him her heart, her love, her immortal life...and there was the rub. Her immortal life.
He bowed his head. It was too much. He could not ask it of her. He felt that now familiar sense of heaviness dragging his heart into his belly and churning up misery. How could he have let this happen? How was he to change anything?
Slowly he became aware of a low melody, a harmony of sounds that could not strictly be called a song because there were no words he could hear at first and then he heard the whisper of the wind winding through mallorn trees with their leaves of gold, and beneath his feet the turf was scattered with white flowers. A nightingale sang its liquid notes somewhere ahead and then he saw her, a maiden dancing on the green sward. His heart caught and he wished he could stay in that moment forever...Beren to Luthien...
He closed his eyes and let Roheryn find his way, and felt the stillness of Legolas at his back. So quiet was he singing that it was almost unheard, almost part of the rushing of the river, the birds song, the steady heartbeat of his companion...
...He saw there mirrored shimmering.
Tinuviel the elven-fair,
Immortal maiden elven-wise,
About him cast her shadowy hair...
As if he felt Aragorn's attention, Legolas changed from singing softly to humming quietly under his breath so it was part of the sounds of the Valley.
'I have never liked the ending until now,' Legolas said softly. 'It seemed so unfair that they both should take the Path of Men, but I see now how it is not sad at all, but a fair ending. For she loved him beyond all else and she could not be parted from him.'
'It was too much,' Aragorn said.
'It was love. Such a love I have not yet known, but I hope to still. One day. Imagine someone loving you so much they would give up everything because the idea of being in the world and you not there is so unbearable. Would you not give that person the same love? Would you not wish for them to never be parted?'
'You would wish they had never laid eyes on you,' Aragorn said bitterly. How many times had he had this same conversation with himself in the empty nights in the Wild? How many times had he imagined Arwen, alone, laying herself down somewhere to fade and die? Ah, he could not bear it! He squeezed his eyes closed against his own imaginings and could not blame Elrond for his confusion of love and hated for the Man he had raised as his own and who, like a viper, had turned upon him.
'Elves do not give their hearts so lightly,' Legolas said matter-of-factly, as if they were discussing the weather. 'In the Wood we say that the heart knows its Other Self, and when it knows, the Song is complete in your heart.' He laid his hand lightly on Aragorn's shoulder and hummed a little. 'Arwen's Other Self is very untidy,' he observed. 'It does not comb its hair and this,' he tugged gently at Aragorn's beard, 'must scratch or tickle her nose and make her sneeze.'
Aragorn found an astonished snort escape him and he could not help the burst of laughter at the irreverent and unexpected response but he was becoming accustomed to the Mirkwood way of looking at things; a strange blend of intense ferocity and mischief. Aragorn had never quite met anyone like Legolas although he knew plenty of Silvan Elves in Lothlorien, and there were Sindar in Imladris of course. But he had spent only a few nights in Mirkwood and had slept for the most part. Thranduil's Elves had kept their distance, and although courteous enough, it was clear that Thranduil did not wish to know more of Men or of Elrond's kin. He had only asked about Glorfindel and that fleetingly and in nonchalant manner. It had been his eldest son who was most at pains to welcome Aragorn and make him comfortable.
Legolas hummed quietly, but a sadder song now, and he leaned his cheek against Aragorn's shoulder and rested.
It was not long before they were clattering over the stone bridge that arced across the Bruinen and the silvery road glimmered before them and disappeared into the First Homely House West of the Hithaeglir. Home.
Elrond was standing on the sweep of steps waiting for them and Aragorn's heart leapt again when he saw Arwen hovering uncertainly behind him; she knew what it cost her beloved father to see them together, but she could not keep away. Their eyes met and his heart swelled again, like a tide in his chest and smothered the smile that wanted to burst from him for the mood of the crowd was not one of joy or welcome; it was somber and full of grief. There were many Elves gathered and when they saw the horse with its burden of Rhawion's body, there were cries of distress.
The horses clattered to a halt and Amron pulled the last horse forwards with its sad burden. Straight away, two Elves were there, reaching up and gently pulling Rhawion's body from the horse. A murmur followed them as carefully they carried Rhawion to Elrond first who gazed in sorrow. Arwen too lifted her hand to her mouth in shock and Aragorn wanted to go to her and gather her in his arms.
Aragorn felt Legolas shift then and he turned to help the Elf slide carefully down from Roheryn and stand beside the horse. Aragorn dismounted then and noted that Legolas held onto the stirrup leather as if for support.
Elrond stepped forward and looked in great sorrow upon Rhawion's body. 'Let us bring our dear friend, Rhawion, son of Nathron and husband to Tharlimm. Our brother, Rhawion, has given his life that we may live in safety and in peace. Bring him home, my friends.' Elrond's deep, comforting voice took on a power that seemed to reach beneath their sorrow, to kindle something deep, beyond reason in their hearts and Aragorn felt a deep compassion caress him for a moment as though his father's hand stroked his hair back from his face, and held him close. He felt the tears prickle at the corners of his eyes and blinked hard although some of the Elves stood weeping unashamedly while others were stoney-faced and still.
Amron dismounted and stood beside Rhawion's body, his hand reaching out to touch it lightly and his fair face wrenched with grief.
'He went into the Tower of Phellanthir, my lord, and there was set upon by the Nazgûl which called upon Orcs to protect it. He was killed in duty, my lord.'
Legolas hung his head and stepped forwards then, a little unsteadily. 'I was with him when he was slain, my lord.'
There was a murmur from the crowd, and Aragorn saw that Gimli stood near Legolas and watched stonily. Then the Dwarf stepped forwards so he stood beside Legolas, his mail hood pulled down so his copper-wire hair gleamed in the weak sunlight. 'My lord Elrond, I commend Rhawion of Imladris. He was a brave warrior, a good comrade. And I saw Legolas bring him out though it almost cost him his own life.'
Elrond's eyes were focused and intent upon Gimli for a moment. Then he reached down and clasped Gimli's shoulder. 'His name will be written alongside yours, Gimli Gloinsson, in the Mazarbul-aglâb and yours, Legolas Thranduillion. Rhawion Nathronion will stand with you in the Dagor Dagorath.'
Gimli raised his head proudly. He clenched his fist and struck his chest with fierce eyes. 'Uzbad-Kibilulbizar,' he said in his rich voice. 'Khazâd ai-meir zenen.' But Legolas simply gazed at the wrapped bundle that was Rhawion's body in abject misery.
Aragorn saw that Legolas swayed a little and he stepped beside the grieving Elf and steadied him. For a moment Dwarf, Elf and Man stood together and Aragorn saw Elrond stare at them, startled as if struck, and then abruptly he turned away and motioned for Rhawion to be brought into the Last House. Arwen shot him a stunned and compassionate look before she too swept away in her father's wake.
Amron followed and Legolas began to follow close behind though Aragorn thought he looked ready to fall. He reached out and caught Legolas' arm gently and held him back but when the Elf turned to him, there was such terrible misery in his eyes that Aragorn paused.
'You do not have to go with them,' he said in a low voice. 'Elrond will take him to his family, and Amron will tell them what happened.'
'I do have to go. Only I was there when he died. Only I can tell them what happened. And I need to....' He stopped, and bowed his head.
'To what?' Aragorn turned to face Legolas but the Elf looked down at his feet and pulled at a loose thread on his sleeve. Gently, Aragorn caught his hand and stilled him. 'Do you mean you still think you left him there? Is that what you are going to tell them? That your hideous dream is real and that Rhawion is trapped in there with no hope of release?'
'No...' Legolas looked up then and his fair face was distressed. 'No...' He shook his head and sighed. 'But they will know surely? I thought I might say that Erestor and Glorfindel are going to find him and let him come home.' He looked down as Gimli stepped between them and patted his arm.
'No, not yet, my poor friend,' Gimli's voice was gentle as Aragorn. 'Now is not the time for them to hear this tale. Let them grieve a little first, Legolas. And then you may go and tell them what they will then want to hear.'
Legolas paused and then looked down at Gimli. His shoulders were slumped and he closed his eyes for a moment. 'I will not be a coward and shirk my duty.'
'It is not a cowardly act to spare them a moment longer. It is a kindness,' Gimli said with impossible gentleness, and his earth-brown eyes were so compassionate that Legolas had to look away and blink. Gimli patted his arm. 'Now, we do need to check the dressing on that or something I seem to remember. Whenever I have been wounded, the blasted healers always want to prod and poke at you until you are strong enough to hit them...' His voice rumbled soothingly and he glanced at Aragorn and nodded reassuringly. Almost without Legolas realising it, they walked beside Legolas, one on either side and although they did not need to steady him, they were there to steer him up the spiraling staircase and in through the open door of the Last House.
Ahead of them the wide, elegant stairs wound upwards, sweeping up onto the first floor and along the open hallways, beneath the arching windows that were flung open to the skies and swift wind and sunlight. The Healing Wards were close by and Aragorn guided his new friends into the light-filled chambers where a young woman, whom he knew slightly, approached and took one look at Legolas, then she frowned and led him quietly away into the hushed rooms. He followed her meekly, head bowed and steps slow and faltering, but he walked on his own nevertheless, which Aragorn had feared, only days ago, that he might never do again.
He waited for her on the bridge over the Bruinen, beyond the Walled Garden and above the waterfall. He knew she would come. And suddenly she was there, in his arms, her hair a cloud about him, fragrant, and her skin so soft it made him wondrous. Arwen buried her face in his shoulder and wordlessly found his mouth. They clung together for an age before she unravelled herself from him and pulled him away along the quiet and secluded paths above the River.
'I have missed you,' she said, and turned her face up to him. Aragorn laughed.
'I am glad,' he said and then more tenderly, 'I missed you as well. Even for such a short time as it was.' For they had been parted long months, even years before now and it felt every bit as much as it did the longer times. 'How will I be able to leave you?'
'Do not speak of that now!' she exclaimed and pulled him close. 'I cannot bear it!' He felt her softness against his own hard body, rounded where he was lean. He could not help himself when his hands drifted over that round softness, and when she gasped softly and leaned against him, he kissed her and she opened her mouth again and their passion ignited.
It was too much. He felt himself bulge and press against her and pulled back a little, laughing eyes wide. 'We had better stop,' he said a little breathily. 'I am beyond desire.'
'No,' she nuzzled him demandingly, 'why do you stop? We are betrothed.'
It was one of the things he found the most difficult. That his beautiful, pure Arwen wanted him and Valar knows, he wanted her, but he had resolved he would keep Elrond's custom and respect, for he owed the Lord of Imladris more than just this- but it was one thing he could give and denying himself was penance. But when her hand squeezed him and kneaded his flesh, he had to catch her hand and stop her.
'I will forget myself!' he cautioned and stepped away, forcing back the wave of physical longing that being with her always brought. 'We are promised, and we will obey the Laws and Customs.' She almost pouted, he thought amused, but she was far too dignified and elegant for such things.
Arwen saw him smile and slapped him playfully. 'Oh! You and your honour! I would have had us both bedded and wed in Lothlorien if I had had my way!'
"And living in The Angle, washing clothes in the Bruinen,' he finished. She shook her head. It was a contention between them and Aragorn could feel it coming.
'My people survived the Helcaraxë and Gondolin on one hand, and Doriath, Sirion, Beleriand on the other. Do not tell me I cannot endure!' she snapped. Aragorn ignored the sparks and instead stroked the softness of her hair, watching the lights in it shine. He could lose himself and all sense of time and place in her...He felt the silk of her hair float through his fingers, let his hand drift down her throat to her shoulder and he knew the skin of her breast was indescribably smooth, soft...
'Are you listening to me, Dunádan?' she asked sharply, but he knew her better and smiled.
'Hm?' He let his eyes stay on her hair, watched her lips as she spoke. And when she let out a small tut of irritation he smiled.
'I do not dispute the hardiness of your blood,' he said more seriously. 'But you have never had to live like that. And I do not want you to. Your father has set me a condition and I will do all I can to keep it.'
'Is my father's will more important than mine? We could flee to Rohan, to Gondor, you could become Thorongil again. Denethor would welcome you...Or dwell in Bree, the Shire. We could live on the edges and have a cottage in the woods...'
'You will suggest we return with Legolas and ask for Thranduil's protection next!' he laughed and winced as her eyes lit up.
'Of course! Why did I not think of that! '
Then she laughed softly, shaking her head. Both knew they were playing now.
Suddenly she became serious. 'We have some time before you leave. Let us make sure we use it well.'
Resting her head on his shoulder, he felt her spirit bursting with love for him, as his did with her, and the sorrow that shaded her brightness. They walked through the gardens, hands entwined and her head against his shoulder and he told her of their journey and of the terrible tragedy that had befallen them. Arwen listened, as she always did without pity but with compassion, tenderness and love.
'When next I leave here,' he said, 'it will be to accompany Frodo. And all our dreams and wishes stand or fall.'
'When you leave with Frodo,' Arwen said firmly, 'it will be to defeat Sauron, and to restore the order of the world. You will lead your people back into greatness.'
In the wide, airy rooms that were the Healing wards of Imladris, Legolas' wound had been cleaned and dressed once more.
'Sleep is the best healer,' the maiden had told him firmly and he recognised her from his first day in the kitchens where he thought the quiet girl had been a kitchen maid. She did not explain herself to him and he did not have the strength to ask. Instead he meekly took whatever was given him and left his clothes in a pile on a chair and pulled on a comfortable linen shift that tied up the sides and front, which was hardly befitting a warrior but he did not care.
'My lord Elrond will be in to see you later.' The girl did not smile but was serious and he thought he did not mind that he did not have to flirt and make her smile. It was restful. He lay between clean, fresh white sheets and slept deeply.
It was long past midnight when Legolas dreamed...
.....He found his feet did not move and yet he was rushing through the air like he was running. Ahead of him, the Tower was dark and forbidding. It had not been destroyed after all, he thought, looking up at it and feeling the flood of fear surge into his chest and belly at the thought of going back in there.
I have to.
Rhawion's gaunt, pleading face floated before him, disembodied, ghostly. It was distorted, elongated, as if he looked into a pool and the surface of the water were disturbed. His mouth opened slowly and Legolas found himself with his hands over his ears and screaming as did Rhawion. A thin, high, piercing shriek....his skin was so cold, and the air seemed to fill him, blow through him, so he was afraid he might dissipate like mist....
The Tower was empty. Green lichen gleamed hungrily in the dark, luminous, and raindrops smattered on the cold grey stones. There was the guard room ahead of him...the dark seemed oily, almost oozed around him, slick, it pressed against his throat, his mouth...
His foot clattered against an old rusting sword that had fallen to the ground. He noticed his fingers were trembling when he picked it up and held it before him and the blade wavered. His hands were shaking he realised. It must be the Crystôl that Aragorn had given him; was it still working within him? Where was he anyway? Surely he was here, with Legolas?
A drift of cold air fingered through the damp tunnels and passages of the Tower. Ahead of him an eerie light glowed, green-ish. A distant sound...like weeping, a broken, dismal cry.
The nerves in his fingertips tingled and buzzed and he rubbed them together.
And then something shifted beside him.
The hairs on his arm lifted and he dared not move for it might hear him. He slid his gaze sideways but the dark pressed upon his eyes. Something fluttered against his leg, something light, like wings, or a shroud. His heart gave a great thump and pounded in his chest and he could not move.
A word whispered through the dark, trailed off into the shadows which seemed to move and shift. Legolas turned but his movements were so slow, so slow. Yet he could hear his breath rasping loudly. It must hear him. His long pale hair lifted in the wind and a trail of cold could be felt on the back of his neck.
....So far from home? Why have you left the dark shadowed eaves of Agannâlo?
Cold breath on his ear, so cold it drove a freezing spike into his heart and he gasped.
...What is so important that Azgaâzir has let you, his dearest, come to Barîba-kadar?
Legolas heard his breath gasping, his mouth was open trying to draw in huge lungfuls of air as if he had run a great distance very fast, but the air was so thin and he could not breathe. A tendril of darkness clung to his leg, slithered up to his hip, nosed its way between his thighs and he slapped at it with his hands in panic, in horror. The sword clattered to the ground; the sword! He had forgotten about the sword but it was on the ground and in the dark. He dropped to his knees and groped about in the dark. Something cold and metal met his hand and he gripped it. It gripped him back.
He cried aloud and struggled against it. But the iron grip was deadly cold and held him still. The darkness moved, shifted like a shroud had been lifted, swept aside. Nothing. An empty hood. An empty shroud. Darkness that slid up between his thighs, wrapped around his waist, seized one hand and he was lifted upwards...a smell of old and empty tombs. Terror broke upon him...
He struggled, panting in fear, from the drowning sleep, hearing a whimper some from somewhere that dimly, he realised was himself.
Far off, an urgent voice called to him and a small, insistent hand tugged at him. 'Wake up! Oh please, do wake up!'
Gasping, he struggled further up from the murky depths of the nightmare, and blinked through a haze to see a small face with very curly hair looking anxiously at him. At first he thought it must be a child of Men, and then a Dwarf-child... and then, finally he realised that although it was not Frodo, it was one of the Hobbits.
'I am sorry...' he said weakly. 'I am sorry...I disturbed you...'
'No, no not at all.' The Hobbit seemed absurdly pleased that Legolas was awake now. 'I was trying to wake you because you were having a horrible dream. Are you all right now? I tried to find someone but there was no one about and I dared not leave you. And I don't know where Gimli has gone.'
'Gimli?' He wondered why Gimli was in the wards. Surely he had not been injured as well?
'Yes- your Dwarf friend. He just left but I am sure he will be back soon. He didn't want to leave you at all, but Neniel insisted.'
Legolas blinked slowly. The light hurt his eyes and he felt very confused. Gimli had watched over him? Of course he had. They had become friends, he realised and it gave him great comfort to think that.
'Let me help you,' the Hobbit was saying. 'Do you want something?' He picked up a jug of water in both hands for it was far too heavy for so small a hobbit and it wobbled dangerously as he tipped it forwards and water splashed out over the cup, spilled onto the chest and dripped onto the floor. Legolas put out a steadying hand and held it, helped him return it to the chest. Then he looked up at the Hobbit's anxious face, concentrating carefully on placing the heavy jug back down, and smiled.
'Thank you,' said the Hobbit turning back to Legolas. The Hobbit was small, his hair was curly and he had the brightest and most mischievous eyes. 'Peregrine Took at your service,' the Hobbit said, hand on his chest and bowing. 'But everyone calls me Pippin.'
Ah. This was the Hobbit of whom Aragorn had spoken, and who Legolas himself resembled, according to Aragorn. Legolas frowned slightly, for he could see no resemblance whatsoever. But he nodded at Pippin for he could not bow from where he half-sat, half-lay. 'Legolas Thranduillion,' he replied. 'Legolas,' he added smiling.
'I know who you are,' Pippin said and hopped up onto Legolas' bed familiarly. 'I have heard them talking about you.'
Legolas glanced away, wondering what 'they' had been saying and after a moment he felt Pippin touch his hand gently.
'Did you really go into that tower to fight the Nazgûl?' he asked and his eyes were wide and admiring. 'And that you brought back the body of that poor Elf that has been killed...' He stopped abruptly. 'Oh. I am sorry. My big mouth. It runs away with me, especially when I'm nervous, and I just say whatever comes into my head and it's like I can't stop....' He waggled his feet and suddenly Legolas noticed how very big they were and how very hairy. His green eyes widened, he could not help it and stared. Though he had seen Bilbo of course, in fact had had a bone to pick with Bilbo for sneaking past him on at least one occasion, he had not really seen the Hobbit's feet for most of the time he had been enveloped in an enormous cloak that Thranduil himself had taken from his own shoulders and wrapped around the shivering Hobbit the evening he had appeared with the Arkenstone. Legolas had been posted in Dale with Thalos at the end of the Battle...that was where the unfortunate incident with Bard's daughters had happened. He shook his head to rid himself of the hot embarrassment that crept between his shoulder blades. Don't think about it, he told himself. Focus on Pippin. And his feet!
Pippin was looking at him and he was looking at Pippin's feet. Staring. Pippin wriggled his toes.
'They are my best feature,' the Hobbit said, blushing modestly.
'I can see. They are...' Legolas thought for a moment. 'Very hairy...' he ventured hopefully. And it seemed he had chosen exactly the right word because Pippin gave a wide, cheery smile. He wriggled his toes proudly.
'They are indeed! I soak them in nettles and cider vinegar,' he confided and then leaned back, nodding. 'It stimulates the hair follicles,' he said brightly and then he looked at Legolas critically. 'I could make some up for you, you know.'
'Oh.' Legolas thought quickly. 'I think Elves might be allergic to nettles,' he said.
'Ah, well I'll let you into a secret,' Pippin leaned forwards and whispered. 'It's not the nettles. There's a secret ingredient. Old Bullroarer Took invented it - but I'll bring you some.' Pippin glanced down at Legolas' chest pityingly. 'It will put hairs on your chest and toes!'
Legolas looked down at his chest in horror, and then back up at the Hobbit who was smiling indulgently.
Luckily he did not have to think of a further excuse because there was a rumbling beyond the door and both turned to see Gimli push it open, closely followed by Gandalf.
'Ah! I see you have met,' The Wizard nodded and stood looking down on them both. 'Well, what mischief have you got yourself into, m'boy?'
'I was just...' said Pippin and the Wizard's piercing blue eyes swung towards him. 'I was just helping Legolas,' Pippin finished lamely.
'I think he meant me,' Legolas said quietly and looked up at Gandalf.
'I did indeed,' Gandalf said kindly. 'Pippin, go along now and see where Merry has got to. Frodo is coming down here so he can be amongst other people for a little. `He is bored stuck up there in that room on his own.' The Wizard gave a quick look at Gimli and then at Legolas and his eyes crinkled at the corners in that funny way that mortals did, although Legolas knew Gandalf was no mortal Man.
Pippin scrambled quickly from the bed and flashed a cheeky smile at Legolas. 'I will visit again if you like.' Then he gave an enormous and exaggerated wink. 'And I'll bring something... you know... hairs on the chest and all.'
Legolas tried not to let his face show how he felt but Gimli snorted. 'Aye! Whatever it is, he needs it, Pippin. Like a child he is. He might even grow a little beard.'
'Thank you for your concern,' Legolas replied stiffly. 'But I am quite happy being beardless. Elves should not have hairy chests or... with great respect to your own beard, Gimli, and your toes, Pippin, we do not have hair on our chins or our toes or our chests.. It would be not be ...' He was going to say dignified but thought better of it when he saw Gandalf's raised eyebrows. 'Elvish,' he finished lamely.
'I think we will finish this conversation here,' Gandalf said, his blue eyes amused. 'Pippin, off you go. Gimli and I will keep Legolas company for a little while. Merry needs you so you had better run.'
'Very well Gandalf,' Pippin said meekly and Legolas was unconvinced for he saw a kindred spirit in Pippin and hoped the Hobbit would come back, even if it was with nettles and cider. He thought he would not bathe his feet but might wash his hair in it for he was rather vain about his hair, as all Elves were.
Gandalf shoved his grey robes over his arm and he dropped into a nearby chair. He no longer wore his hat and his hair was luxurious and silky, Legolas realised with a start. Perhaps the Wizard had the secret Took brew, he mused idly. Gimli plonked himself at the end of the bed.
Stroking one hand over his beard, Gandalf watched Legolas thoughtfully. 'Now. Why don't you tell me what happened, Legolas? Start with arriving at the Tower and what made you go there in the first place.'
Legolas looked away for a moment, feeling torn between wanting to tell Gandalf the truth as he would his father, and wanting to protect Rhawion's reputation that he himself could no longer protect.
'It was raining,' he began, not looking at Gandalf. 'So we took shelter in the eaves of the Tower. Only the edge...' And as he told the story, Gandalf grew more serious and it seemed that the room grew darker. Legolas felt a strange buzzing in his ears and shook his head a little; it must be a lingering after-effect of the poison, he thought. He told Gandalf how the Nazgûl had driven them deeper, how the walls had shaken, and as he spoke, the nightmare crept up on him again...
Cold darkness swirled around his feet and he looked around, fear gripped him, his heart raced and pounded in his chest and he found himself panting for breath . The rusty sword was in his hand again and cold touched the back of his neck, fingered down his spine. Squeezing his eyes shut, he heard a whimper and knew it was his own voice, and knew the rusty sword in his hand shook in abject terror. He was lost in the dream again, the Darkness and cold...
'Legolas Thranduillion, return to us...' He heard a voice distantly, more insistent but the rusty sword clattered to the ground and was lost in the oily darkness at this feet and he dared not reach into it for he knew the black tendrils and muscular arms would reach out and thrash around him, pull him down into their suffocating writhing coils... 'Legolas!'
Suddenly a white light filled his view and he saw a tall shining figure edged with steel-blue. The kindest sense of peace overwhelmed him and he looked up...Blue eyes looked into his intensely, then slowly he saw the face emerge from the light; a beautiful, compassionate face that he thought he knew from long long ago... dimly recognised...And then he saw...
'Mithrandir.' It was almost a sob, he knew, unashamed, and when the Wizard reached out to him, he gripped his hand tightly as if he would drown if he let go.
The face drew back and disappeared back into a grey beard and bushy eyebrows but the eyes remained intense, bright blue and focused. 'Hush now, young Thranduillion...Peace.' The Wizard pressed his hand gently against Legolas' forehead.
A deep peace settled upon Legolas, as if his mother's hand smoothed his hair back from his face, or he was enveloped in his father's protective arms. Overwhelmed he felt a threat of tears and closed his eyes, let himself sink back down onto the pillows and realised suddenly how very, very tired he was, for he had not slept properly since they left Imladris...His eyes closed and his breath became deeper, regular.
'He must not fall asleep, Gandalf. He will dream,' Gimli's voice rumbled and Legolas thought how very like the deep voice of the mountains he sounded, like rock and ore and the deep, still pools beneath the stone...
'Do not fear for him now, Gimli. He will sleep, and dream, but his dreams will be in the Garden of Lórien and not the dark of Shadows.' That was Mithrandir...his voice was deep but not in the way of Gimli. More like the Sea. Legolas wondered at that, for he had never seen the Sea, nor heard it, for it was perilous to stir the heart of the Silvan Elves. But Mithrandir's voice was a comforting warmth and it soothed him, so he felt his eyes fall heavy and sleep stole over him softly. He dreamed of home...
When Gandalf left, Gimli stayed to watch over Legolas. He settled himself in a comfortable chair near the tall window and looked out over the gardens to the Misty Mountains. Snow was beginning to settle over the shoulders of the great crags and he knew they would not be able to travel by the High Pass now so late in the year. He glanced at the sleeping Elf and wondered how Legolas would return home. Perhaps he would stay in Rivendell for the winter and wait for Spring, he thought and stroked his beard.
Rivendell was a good place to be. Gimli thought it for himself as well. Just in the last few hours he had been able to bathe and scrub the grime of the last weeks from his skin. His hair and beard were smooth and silky with the rich perfumed oils Rivendell was famed for.
But his thoughts became troubled, for he would not be lingering in the peaceful Valley; he had been asked to accompany Frodo as one of the Nine Companions, and the honour weighed upon him. It would indeed be a great task, he thought to himself, and he did not doubt his own courage or his strength of heart. No, he had seen Frodo only hours ago and though he was hale and recovered, there was a shadow upon him.