Greetings and Salutations. I am the incorrigible and self-proclaimed flightiness-prone author, LAXgirl! This is not my first LOTR story, but yet another fic I've started when I should be working on my other two I still have floating around out there in some writing process limbo. But I couldn't help it! I got this idea and I had to get it down in print. I'm pretty much just testing this idea out to see if I should continue with it or not, so if you actually clicked on this to read, tell me what ya think! Some of you may notice this as a shameless spin-off of Steven King's "the Dead Zone," but I thought it would be such a cool idea if I took Johnny Smith's experience and transposed it over our favorite blond haired elf. No previous knowledge of the story is necessary. In fact, it's probably better if you don't have any at all. It'll give you a better aura of suspense. But even if you have read it, there will be other major plot twists in this that will set this totally apart from Steven King's. I promise. Just bear with me. It's better than it may sound.
Disclaimer: All characters of LOTR are property of Tolkien and are not mine, nor are they being used for profit in this story. The main idea and inspiration for the experiences used in this story were devised and created by Steven King, the reigningmaster of horror and suspense. If you want to read the original works of either of these amazing authors that helped spawn this unlikely hybrid, than go out and read them!
Ok, enough of this! To the story!
The Third Age
August 22, 1421 (Shire Reckoning)
It was early morning. Though the sun had already begun its ascent up into the pale, hazy blue sky, a thin layer of ghostly mist still clung to the land, slinking across the ground in thin tendrils as if trying to somehow escape the warm rays of sunlight by hiding in the ever receding shadows of the night. A peaceful quiet still rested over the city of Minas Tirith. Though many of the city's inhabitants had no doubt woken, or were in the process of doing so, and preparing themselves for the day's work ahead, the calm stillness of lingering dreams from recently shed sleep still hung in the air.
Though the morning sun seemed to herald the coming of yet another peaceful day, an ominous twinge of something dark hovering just on the horizon seemed to taint the sweet morning air. But no one would recognize this strange unease until much later, when no longer could anyone heed the whispered warnings of the dawn's golden light of the terrible accident that was to soon occur.
In the courtyard of the city's mighty Citadel near the base of the Tower of Ecthelion, a small group of people stood, preparing to see off one of their companions.
"Legolas, I wish we did not have to see you go so soon," Aragorn, King Elessar of Gondor, said as he clasped his friend's arm in a strong but friendly grip, "It seems like you only just came here to Minas Tirith to visit, and here you are leaving again."
Legolas smiled warmly. "I would stay longer, Aragorn, but I fear there is important business that needs my seeing to back in Ithilien," he said. "Do not fear. I will be back and burdening you again with my presence much sooner than you may think. That is a promise," the blond-haired archer joked.
"At least you're finally beginning to realize what I've been saying all along," rumbled a deep and gruffled voice off to Legolas' left, "Any elf's presence is a burden even to the strongest of forbearance after a time."
The fair elf prince looked to the one whose voice had been issued and smiled fondly. "Ah, Gimli," he sighed in mock exasperation, "You will just never understand. An elf's presence may be trying after a time, but it is nothing in comparison to that of a dwarf's. If you still harbor doubts, ask anyone else here for their own opinions, because they will all readily agree that they would prefer the company of an elf over that of a dwarf."
"Ai! Leave the rest of us out of these personal squabbles of yours," Aragorn exclaimed to general friendly laughter of those around him.
Standing beside Aragorn, Faramir, the King's Steward, smiled, warmed by the familiar banter of the three long time friends. Like the others, he also had dared to venture out into the chilly morning air to see the prince of Mirkwood back off to his elven colony in Ithilien. "I think I must agree with my king," he said, "I fear many of those present would prove too bias in opinion for your own tastes, Gimli."
"He speaks truly!" cried a fair voice from off to Legolas' side. Standing near Legolas' white stallion, Arod, were the identical twin elf-lords Elladan and Elrohir.
"I fear you are outnumbered, Master Dwarf," Elladan added to his brother's comment. "We could never outrightly vote against ourselves or our own sister."
"Oh, enough of this nonsense," the Queen of Gondor admonished from where she stood beside her husband in a flowing gown of pale blue. "This is not a fair fight for our friend Gimli to win. But if it will be of any help to you, Master Dwarf, I offer my vote in your favor for the company of a dwarf," she said, her smile warm and radiant in the early morning light that spilled into the large courtyard from the east.
"Thank you, my Lady," Gimli bowed graciously to the beautiful queen. "If one such as the Lady Evenstar can find the worth in the company of a dwarf, then there is still hope for your race yet..." he added out of the side of his mouth to the woodlandprince standing not far from him. A round of friendly laughter rose up from the group before slowly dying away into the misty morning air.
"I wish I could prolong my departure more, but I fear I must be off," Legolas finally said with obvious reluctance to leave the company of his friends just yet, "I had hoped to reach the other side of Emyn Arnen sometime before dark, so I must be going."
"May Elbereth watch over you," Arwen blessed as she stepped forward and planted a chaste kiss on the side of Legolas' cheek in a sign of sisterly affection.
Aragorn nodded in understanding. "Safe travels, my friend," he said, stepping forward and again clasping his friend's arm at the elbow in the elfish equivalent of a handshake. Legolas returned the gesture and nodded with a smile. The archer then met each of his other friend's gazes in silent farewell as he slowly swept his bright blue eyes around to encompass the entire group of people that had gathered to see him off. Finally coming to Gimli, the prince held the dwarf's gaze for a few moments longer than what he had done with the others, silently sharing a final last-minute farewell with his closest friend.
But as Gimli held the elf's piercing gaze with his own, a strange feeling suddenly came over the dwarf, like a stirring of foreboding dread deep in the pit of his stomach. Legolas' eyes stared back into his. But they no longer felt like they belonged to Legolas. It was as if they had become somebody else's; strange and foreign. The inner circles of Legolas' irises seemed to darken, clouding to the dark, navy blue color of the sky right before the coming of a violent thunderstorm. Gimli suddenly felt put on guard and tense. It was as if he could physically feel the elf's gaze burrowing down deep into him, ripping down through flesh and blood down to his very soul.
He was suddenly frightened of the elf. Frightened of the strange and alien power hiding behind the cerulean depths he had once known to be those of his friend. Frightened of what he thought the elf could see; all the dark little secrets and thoughts of his soul.
The rush of blood pounded in the dwarf's ears. He could feel gooseflesh begin to rise up over his skin in small hilly patches. A sensation of grave unease and foreboding unlike anything he had ever felt before overtook him.
Behind Legolas, Arod was beginning to prance nervously in place, eager for his master to hurry so that they might be underway. Wickering his impatience, the mighty war horse pawed the ground restlessly and gave a shrill whinny that seemed to slice the quiet morning air like a knife.
Just as suddenly and as powerfully as he had been ensnared by the elf's gaze, the dwarf was then broken free of its hold as Legolas shifted his eyes away from him to look at his horse. Gimli let out a shaking breath he hadn't even realized he had been holding.
"All right. All right. Easy there, Arod," Legolas soothed as he affectionately pettedhis fidgety mount's neck, unaware of any effect he had just had over his friend, "We'll be off in a minute." Picking his horse's trailing reigns from off the ground, the elf deftly slung his silver bow over his shoulder and nimbly leapt up onto the stallion's back.
"Don't get into any trouble," Elladan warned as he handed a small bundle of packed rations up to Legolas from beside the prince's anxious mount.
"Or do anything we wouldn't," Elrohir joined in as he gave the mounted elf's knee a friendly cuff on the side.
"That doesn't leave me much not to do then," Legolas observed much to the cries of indignant protest from the twin brothers. Smiling brightly and not giving the two time to think of a comeback, the youngLord of Ithilien spurred his mount into a trot, making towards the open gateway of the courtyard. "I shall see you all soon," the elf called back over his shoulder as he neared the stone archway that would lead him out of the Citadel and into the city beyond and then out to the rolling country beyond the cramped and busy streets of Minas Tirith.
But just as the elf was about to pass under the thick stone keystone of the Citadel's gateway, another strange feeling came over Gimli. One that seemed to scream at him to say something else to Legolas. He suddenly felt with a frighteningly strong certainty that if he did not say whatever it was he felt he needed to say now, he never would. As if he somehow knew that this was going to be the very last time he was going to be able to speak to his friend for a very long time.
"Legolas!" he shouted, jogging several paces from the rest of the group across the stone courtyard after the retreating elf.
Just beyond the gateway, Legolas heard his friend's shout and reigned Arod back around in a tight circle so that he faced back into the courtyard and Gimli. "What?" he called back, his hair flowing out over his proud shoulders like a curtain of frost-colored straw set ablaze in the early morning sunlight that had somehow managed to find some crack of space between the tall buildings of the tightly erected city.
Suddenly aware of how foolish he was acting, Gimli coughed in embarrassment and called back guardedly, "Just... Just be careful, elf."
There was but the smallest breath of pause between the two before Legolas finally smiled and raised his hand to the dwarf in a final sign of parting. If only he knew how long their parting was going to truly last or just how poignant Gimli's words would come to be. But with no knowledge to warn him of the coming future, the prince clucked his tongue and wheeled Arod back around to speed into the winding streets of Minas Tirith beyond.
Standing the quiet emptiness that always follows in the wake of a departed friend or loved one that is not expected to be seen again for some time, Gimli quietly stared in the direction his friend had just disappeared.
"What was that all about?" Elladanasked as he and the others walked up behind the statue-like dwarf to stand beside him in the center of the wide courtyard.
For a moment, Gimli did not answer, too lost his own pondery of why he had just felt so compelled to chase after his friend. "I do not know," he answered truthfully after a time, "But it's not like the elf couldn't heed that bit of advice ever now and then," he then hastily added in a vain attempt to turn the others' attentions away his recent actions of unjustified concern, "He's always getting himself into trouble."
"Legolas is a skilled warrior. He can take of himself. He'll be fine," Aragorn said dismissingly as he offered an arm to his wife to escort her back inside the palace. "Ithilien is only a two days' ride from Gondor and the roads have never been safer to travel on. There have been no reports of any Orc or bandit attacks within a twenty mile radius of the city for the past eighteen months. I am sure Legolas will reach Ithilien perfectly fine."
"Bah! You're probably right," Gimli then agreed with a grunt, again feeling stupid for his unwarranted fears as he and the others turned to head back into the White Tower. "I'm sure Legolas will be fine. As you said, I myself have found him on more than one occasion more than capable of looking after himself."
And so the small group broke up and disbursed to pursue whatever activities they had planned for the day, unaware that Gimli' fears would not only prove warranted, but also almost prophetic. Nor were they aware that none of them would hear Legolas' voice again for five years.
Almost immediately after seeing his friend off, Aragorn had found himself deeply entrenched in a seemingly endless onslaught of politics and concerns of state. Situated in his private audience chambers, Aragorn was currently enduring a particularly long proposal from one of his councilors about possible improvements that could be made on parts of the city's sewage system.
Bored out of his mind, and desperate to the point of tears for a distraction – any distraction! – Aragorn almost leapt out of his chair with joy when a sudden rapping at his chamber's door sounded.
"Enter," he called, too elated at the moment for the welcome distraction to notice the disheartened look spreading across his councilor's face at the untimely interruption of his presentation.
Opening the door and striding purposefully inside, Faramir approached the king's massive desk which (only several hours into the day) already lay buried under half a mountain of parchments and papers.
"What is it, Faramir," Aragorn asked as his Steward finally came to a stop in front of his desk.
"A messenger just arrived, my Lord – an elf from Eryn Lasgalen. He carried with him a message from King Thranduil addressed to Legolas," the Steward answered showing the scroll that had just been delivered into his hands by a distinctly travel-worn elf from the distant elven realm in the far north.
"Legolas just left this morning..." Aragorn slowly replied.
"That is what I told the messenger, but he was adamant that it was important that Legolas receive it soon."
Sighing, Aragorn leaned back in his chair. "If it is that important, then I suppose it would be quickest if we sent out a rider after Legolas now to try and catch up with him before he gets to Ithilien."
"As it so happens, Elladan and Elrohir were present when the messenger arrived and have already offered their services for such a task if that was what you ultimately chose to do with the message," Faramir said.
"So be it," Aragorn consented, "They are two of our fastest riders and would catch up to Legolas before any of our other messengers could." The issue now resolved, Aragorn sat there for a long moment, silently looking at Faramir as if expecting (or perhaps silently pleading?) for Faramir to say something else that would somehow prolong his visit.
Glancing in the direction of the councilor he had interrupted when he had entered, Faramir was slightly amused to find the man patiently standing on the side of the room, obviously waiting for the king's Steward to leave so that he might continue on with whatever business of state he was currently holding with the king.
"I can see that you are busy," Faramirsaid, smiling slyly at Aragorn, "I will leave so that you may get back to business." And with that, the Steward then turned and swiftly made his way back towards the open door of the room, a small smirk beginning to pull at the corner of his mouth as he felt what was sure to be a scathing glare boring into his back from Aragorn's eyes.
And then with a resolute and seemingly undisputable click of the heavy oak door being shut behind his retreating Steward, Aragorn again found himself alone with his persistent councilor.
Cringing inwardly, the man slowly turned to look at his advisor, silently praying that the other man would grant him some form of mercy and just be done with this political nonsense. But it seemed Fate was not about to grant the king any form of leniency that day.
"As I was saying, my Lord, the sewer system in the western section of the city..."
Legolas had been riding for several hours now and had just passed the last of Gondor's cultivated fields and farms in favor of the wild forests and hilly country of northern Ithilien with mountains that seemed to rise up from the ground like slumbering giants of stone in the distance.
Emyn Arnen – one of Ithilien's largest bordering mountain ranges – loomed like a towering wall of solid rock in front of the elf. The road that led towards the forested realm of Ithilien itself did not swerve off to wrap around the base of the large mountain like many other mountain roads might have done. Rather, it snaked through the surrounding forests at the base of Emyn Arnen towards a small gorge on the western side of the mountain that cleaved a relatively smooth path between two rocky cliffs of the imposing tower of stone. Many times during the year the path could not be used because of snow, and those traveling on the road would have to veer off to take the longer track around the base of the mountain. Luckily though, Legolas thought to himself, with it being the middle of August there would be little chance of the way being blocked by snow.
As the elf unwittingly rode ever closer to Emyn Arnen and his ultimate doom, Arod began to strain against the checked control of his master's hold of the reigns, eager to have a freer head so that he could gallop a bit on the open road. Feeling his mount wishing to break out of their slow but steady trot, Legolas readily slackened his hold on the horse's reigns to give the white stallion more head to run with, eager himself to feel the wind in his hair after spending so much time in the tightly packed, claustrophobia-inducing city of Minas Tirith.
"I bet you want to stretch your legs out a bit after being cooped up those stables so long, don't you?" he whispered into the horse's ears in elvish as he bent down low over the animal's long neck. A low whinny was all that answered him. "All right then. Let's go. Ha!" With that, the white stallion shot forward, it's long mane and tail streaming out in the wind behind it as it galloped down the road at full speeds.
Wind whipped past Legolas' face as he and Arod flew down the road like a blurry streak of white and green. Trees whirled by in a dizzying kaleidoscope of greens and browns. As the horse and rider quickly sped ever closer to the towering mountain, the looming shadow of Emyn Arnen seemed to hungrily reach out across the land towards its unsuspecting prey and swallow them both in a shadowy veil of darkness.
The land around them slowly began to climb in slope as the elf neared the base of the mountain. The trees growing along the side of the road steadily began to thin away as the land became more hilly and rocky in composition. The closer the elf rode towards Emyn Arnen, the less and less suitable the loose soil of sloping mountain side proved able to sustain larger trees like those growing in the thick forest growing along the base of the towering hill of rock. Noticing the change in topography, Legolas slowly drew Arod back into a slow trot. He did not want the horse to strain itself over the hilly terrain when there was still half a day's ride left before they could make camp and rest for the night.
Arod snorted in irritation, but immediately quieted at the soothing pat Legolas gave the spirited stallion on the side of the neck.
They were nearing the gorge; a twenty foot wide split of land running between two steeply sloping cliffs of craggy outcrops of shale and stone.
By now the forest had thinned out only to a few straggly trees that sprouted out of the stony soil every now and again along the roadside. The landscape was quickly turning rocky and increasingly steep on either side of the road as Legolas neared the gorge. The path itself remained relatively smooth and clear of any sizable rocks or pebbles that could prove harmful to Arod's hoofed feet. Near the mouth of the gorge though, large rocks and piles of smaller stones littered the side of the path, attesting to numerous small-scale rockslides that had occurred sometime recently in the past, but had been cleared off to the side to keep the pass open for other travelers.
Slowing his mount to a halt just before the wide mouth of the ravine, Legolas warily eyed the pass he was about to go through. The path was clear of any debris all the way through to the other side of the gorge abouttwo hundred feet ahead. The archer's sharp elven eyes slowly turned to scan either side of the surrounding cliffs.
Though he could not explain it, he suddenly felt vaguely uneasy with the whole scene. Something felt wrong. The ravine was deathly still and quiet – like a grave, Legolas would years later look back and say as he remembered the ominous tension that seemed to hang so heavily in the air that fateful morning. He could see no visible sign of danger or anything else that should have given him cause for alarm, but still the nagging feeling persisted. He had traveled that particular route countless times before over the course his many travels between Ithilien and Gondor, and not once had he ever felt so uneasy about passing through the mountain gorge as much as he did at that exact moment. He could not place it, but still the feathery tingle of danger ran along his spine down to the small of his back.
So strange and persistent this sensation was, the elf was almost ready to turn around and take the long way around the mountain – regardless of the extra day's travel it would cost him. But just as he was about to turn Arod around to go back the way they had just come, he suddenly realized how foolish he was being. There was nothing wrong with pass.He had said so himself. He had transversed it numerous times before with no incident. Why should there be one now? Plus he could not afford the extra day of travel; he was needed back in the colony. He would have to brave the pass, no matter what kind of unwarranted apprehensions he had.
It was a decision Legolas would later come to regret.
The elf motioned Arod forward with a soft nudge in the white stallion's sides. The horse moved forward willingly, but with much less enthusiasm than what it had first displayed at the beginning of their journey, as if he could sense his master's hesitation to enter the gorge.
Legolas sat tense and straight upon his mount as Arod started into the wide gulch. His eyes scanned from side to side up either rocky cliff face, as if expecting at any second a sudden trap to be sprung from out behind one of the numerous outcroppings of rocks. Trying to ignore his feelings of unease, Legolas motioned Arod faster, eager to be out of the ravine and back into open space again.
They were now perhaps thirty feet into the gorge. Nothing had yet happened. Legolas began to feel the wary tension in his body slowly begin to relax as Arod continued to happily canter through the mountain pass. Laughing inwardly at himself for his moment of irrational fear, the elf let his stiffened body relax and fall into rhythm with the gait of his horse.
The fall of Arod's hoofbeats echoed loudly against the sides of the gorge down the length of the path until it sounded as if an entire army of dwarves were there in the ravine with Legolas, busily pounding away at their anvils with giant steel hammers. Again becoming impatient to break free into a faster pace, the white war horse began to pull at the reigns.
"No, Arod," Legolas reprimanded, keeping a steady check on the fidgety creature. "Not yet."
If the white war horse the elven prince had inherited from Eomer, the then-future King of the Mark, was anything, he was stubborn (just like his master, Aragorn would playfully remark on occasion) and prone to throw temper tantrums when he did not quite get his way. Snorting indignantly at his master's refusal, the horse stamped at the ground angrily which sent a resounding echo of unintelligible noise up against the sides of the rocky canyon.
"Arod, no. Be quiet," Legolas pleaded, feeling the strange sensation of unease creep up back the length of his spine again like the sticky warm breath of a stranger on the back of his neck. He had spent several hundred centuries training as a warrior and had accompanied many war parties up into the mountains for training missions over that time. He knew from personal experience what effects noise could have on a landscape of unstable snow or rock, such as the one he stood in.
"Arod, no! Steady!" he cried in elvish desperately. This particular stretch of land was notoriously known for its freak landslides.
Not to be deterred by his master's pleas, the horse refused to quiet and instead let out a shrill scream. It's echo slammed against the walls of the steep gorge like the sound of cannon fire.
"Arod! Be qui–"
But the elf never had the chance to finish his sentence as the sickening sound of shifting rocks and the soft patter of pebbles clattering down on the right-hand side of the pass caught the elf's sharply tuned ears and began to fill the air in a steadily rising tempo of dissonance and chaos.
Looking upwards, Legolas could literally see the hillside beginning to crumble and give way under its own weight. Starting almost fifty feet up the rocky slope, a building wave of rocks and stony debris rolled down the hillside like a giant tidal wave of stone towards the horse and rider standing almost directly below its intended path of destruction.
Oh, no... They needed to get out of there! Or they were going to be buried alive!
Hurriedly casting his eyes down either length of the mountain pass, Legolas quickly assessed that they were closer to the northen end of the gorge – the side they had entered in on. The opening was perhaps forty feet away and the rocks were coming down fast. It was a distance, but they had to make it!
Not wasting a moment's pause, Legolas abruptly wheeled his frightened horse around in a tight circle and spurred Arod sharply in the ribs towards their only hope of salvation. The horse was immediately speeding down the path, flying over the ground as the first wave of smaller rocks and loose gravel hit the ground and spilled out over the path. For a moment, Legolas feared Arod's feet would become caught in the loose, shifting debris as it spilled out over the ground and pooled around the animal's moving feet like water. By some miracle the horse managed to keep its footing, and continued to desperately wade through the ever shifting terrain of stone towards the promised light of safety shining in at the end of the collapsing pass.
Legolas desperately clung to the back of the horse, tucking himself into a tiny ball atop the charging war horse. The end of the pass was so close! Maybe twenty feet! Just a little farther... They had to make it... They had to!
Time seemed to slow, and the short distance left between himself and salvation suddenly seemed to stretch out into eternity. He was suddenly aware of every distinct noise and sound around him. He could suddenly feel with a precision sense of touch every exact pin prick of pain as a hail of sharp stone chips rained down over his face and body. The deafening roar of several thousand tons of falling rock beginning to crash down around him filled the air.
Almost there... Almost there...
They were so close. He could almost feel the kiss of the warm morning sunlight on his skin.
The elf could feel a shower of larger stones beating down on his back as the tumbling wall of rock crashed down around them. They were almost there. Arod was perhaps within fifteen feet of escaping the crumbling gorge. But as the horse tried to flounder the last few feet to salvation through the shin-deep quicksand of dirt, gravel and stones, the main wall of crumbled hillside slammed down onto the path. Like a wave of stone, the landslide spilled out across the path and washed over the fleeing horse with the fluidity of water up to the animal's shoulders.
Legolas felt the force of the rockslide slam into Arod's left side like a battering ram. The sheer force of the hit alone almost vaulted the elf from off the animal's back. A frightened scream of terror escaped the horse before it was quickly drowned out by the deafening roar of crashing rocks as another wave of stone surged over the animal's head in an avalanche of dirt and rock. Legolas suddenly knew they were lost. There was no way to escape now. The end of the gorge stood tauntingly close before them, only half a dozen paces away.
He felt Arod swept out from under him as another wave of rock and dirt slammed against him, violently throwing him free from the half-buried animal's back. During those last few, seemingly endless, seconds of eternity in which the elf weightlessly flew through the air like a tossed rag doll, Legolas looked back over his shoulder towards the wall of stone bearing down on him just in time to a see a massive stone careening straight towards his head.
It flew towards him tauntingly slow, as if relishing the numbed expression of shock played out across the doomed elf's face. As the stone swept closer, Legolas suddenly had the impression of a dark, yawning mouth, hungrily rushing towards him to swallow him in a lightless tomb of black nothingness. There was an explosion of pain on the left side of Legolas head as the merciless stone smashed against his skull. And then, there was nothing...
"Did you hear that, Elladan?"
Elrohir's older brother did not answer immediately as he listened to a strange, low rumbling like the sound of a long roll of thunder on the horizon die away into the distance. An empty silence stung the two elves' ears as the sound faded away from hearing.
For the past several hours they had ridden south from Minas Tirith in the direction of the elven colony of Ithilien in hopes of catching up to Legolas and deliver to him an important message from his father. Though the two had ridden as hard as they could, they still had yet to meet up with the elusive prince. The two brothers were nowonlya couplemiles from the base of Emyn Arnen. The towering mountain of stone loomed up close in the distance over a sea of lush green forest.
"What do you think that was?" Elrohir again implored as his dapple grey horse pawed the ground restlessly, wanting to be off again.
"This part of the mountains is known for sudden landslides," Elladan replied quietly, casting his ancient grey eyes in the direction of the nearby mountain, "A hillside somewhere on the mountain must have shifted. It was probably nothing. Come. Let's be off. We're not getting any closer to catching up to Legolas by just standing here."
With that, the two brothers spurred their horses back into full gallop and flew down the road, making straight for the mountain pass where their friend lay in a thick pool of his own blood, lost in a deathlike state of dreamless unconsciousness that would last for the next five years.
"The pass is blocked!" Elrohir cried as he and his brother drew closer to the mouth of the rubble-choked mountain path in front of them.
Slowly drawing their mounts to a halt, the twins stopped some several paces in front of the destroyed pass. The road that had once ran between the two mountainsides had all but disappeared. They could only stare in shocked disbelief at the twelve foot high mountain of rubble blocking the whole right side of the gorge. Dirt and rocks of all imaginable sizes spilled out from between the two cliff sides and fanned out in front of the gorge's mouth in a large arch of strewn debris.
A small, narrow path on the far left side of the gorge remained, somehow having survived the monestrous landslide that had devoured almost the entire mountain pass. Barely wide enough for a full grown adult to squeeze through, it ran only several paces deep between the huge pile of rubble on the right and the opposite hillside of stone on the left. A thin haze of shifting dust still hung in the air over the demolished roadway.
"This happened recently," Elladan remarked ominously as he swung down from his horse's back to investigate. His brother was close to follow. Slowly, the two elves approached the demolished mouth of the gorge, reverently surveying the damage wrought by the power of shifting land and rock.
Bending down, Elrohir delicately picked a small stone from off the massive pile of rubble and held it in his hands almost speculatively. The rock felt heavy, cold and deceivingly dangerous to him as it sat there so innocently in the palm of his hand. As he stood straight beside his brother again, he asked hesitantly, "Do you think Legolas made it through to the other side before this happened?"
Elladan looked to his brother with a small stirring of worry in the pit of his heart. "I don't know," he answered. "He might have. Or it might have happened before he got here and forced him to take the longer trail around the mountain. Either way he's still ahead of us. If he did make it to the other side before this landslide happened, then he has almost an entire day's lead on us; we'll never catch us to him before he reaches Ithilien.
Sighing deeply in frustration, Elladan said, "Either way we're going to have to take the long way. I don't think we can get the horses over this. But if Legolas also had to take the alternate route, we may still be able to catch up to him and save ourselves a trip all the way to Ithilien. Come. Let us hurry. We still may be able to catch him." Turning from the blocked pass, Elladan began to walk back towards the waiting horses.
Giving one last look down at the stone he still held in his hand, Elrohir then carelessly tossed it aside back onto the pile of rubble beside him. Landing, the stone bounced against another rock and then began to noisly tumble down the side of the rocky heap. The sudden motion immediately triggered a chain reaction of collapse as the rock pile's delicate equilibrium of many weights and balances was disturbed, causing a small landslide of gravel to cascade down that section of debris. A small shower of stones followed as the whole section of loose rocks shifted and slid down to the ground.
Elrohir was about to turn and follow after his brother when a speck of gold suddenly caught his eyes from beneath the pile of recently disturbed dust and debris he had just created. Curious, he decided to take a closer look. Walking closer, he noticed several other strands of gold tangled between the rocks and stones littering the uneven ground. For a moment he could not tell what it was. But as he knelt down beside the small pile of gravel and dirt to examine it, he suddenly knew with a sickening certainty what it was. It was hair. Blond hair.
Elrohir's stomach immediately twisted in his gut. "Elladan!" he screamed over his shoulder. He began to dig feverishly, ignoring the scrapes and scratches on his hands as he viciously clawed his way through the loose dirt and gravel.
"What? What is it?" Elrohir heard his brother call from somewhere behind him, but he did not pause to answer. He just kept digging. But then, his hands froze. There, covering the edges of several rocks he had just shifted aside was a sticky red substance. Blood...
Elrohir's heart thundered in his chest. Pushing aside his fears, he began to frantically dig again. By now, Elladan had also seen the blood covered stones and had joined in on his brother's frantic search. As the two dug and threw great handfuls of dirt and stone to the side, the rocks began to come away completely soaked and dripping with blood.
"By the Valar..." Elladan swore under his breath as he and his brother continued to shift through the bloody debris, "Where is he?!" Finally, as Elrohir desperately plunged his hands back into the bloody gravel in search of his friend once again, he felt his hands come in contact with a large, limp mass.
"I've found him!" he cried as he latched onto the soft, sticky mass. Pulling back, Elrohir extricated the limp, broken body of his friend Legolas from the mass of dirt and debris.
"Oh, gods..." Elladan murmured as he helped his brother stretch Legolas' body out on his back over the stony ground so they could examine him, then knelt on either side of the unconscious prince. The elf's whole face was covered under a thick layer of sticky red blood. The twin brothers could barely recognize their long time friend under all the blood. Legolas' eyes rested open in two narrow slits, staring blankly up at the sky above. No sign of life stirred in the half-hidden sapphire orbs of his eyes.
Breathing hard to keep back his panic, Elrohir leaned down over his friend's body and pressed his ear to the other elf's chest. He could hear a heartbeat, faint and weak. He could feel the shallow rise of Legolas chest as the unconscious elf's lungs continued to reflexively draw air into them.
"He's still breathing," the younger twin said as he leaned back on his heels, only a fraction of the raging panic in his heart beginning to subside at the dispelment of his worst fear. "Help me," he said to his brother as he tore a long strip of cloth off from the bottom of his tunic and mopped it across Legolas' red stained face, "We have to find where he's bleeding and stop it." Both elves were well versed in the art of healing, having been taught by their father Lord Elrond of Rivendell, and deftly took to the task. Working together, the two brothers quickly cleaned away as much of the blood from Legolas' face as they could.
"He's taken a severe blow to the side of the head," Elladan gagged as he pushed back a handful of Legolas' hair fromthe prince'sface and suddenly found the source of Legolas' bleeding. The wound in question made the trained elven healer physically want to vomit. The whole side of Legolas' head was like a gapping hole. His once golden hair was matted thick with blood-caked dirt and other matter Elladan did not want to try to name. He thought he could actually see...
No. Don't think that, he told himself to keep from becoming sick as he made himself look away from the carnage of his friend's head.
Elrohir looked equally repulsed by what he saw as he leaned across Legolas' body to examine the prince's injury himself. "Oh, Elbereth..." he breathed, his stomach turning in revulsion at what he saw. Trying to keep himself composed but finding it difficult to keep the bile from rising in the back of his throat, the younger elf quickly ripped another long strip of cloth from his shirt and wrapped it around Legolas' head like a bandana and tied it off tightly over the prince's injury to keep a constant pressure over the grisly head wound.
"We have to get him back to Minas Tirith," Elrohir said urgently as he looked to his brother for assistance in lifting the archer's limp body.
"Elrohir, I'm afraid to move him," Elladan said in a small voice of numbed panic as his eyes scanned over the prince's dirt-caked body. "I can tell both of his legs are broken – possibly both in multiple places. The whole left side of his rib cage is crushed. And his head... I just don't know if we can move him like this..."
"We have to," Elrohir countered, "He'll die if we do nothing. He can't stay here or he'll bleed to death." Elladan nodded in grim understanding. Together, the two brothers tried to as gently as they could pick Legolas' broken body off the ground.
When they reached the horses, Elladan took the full weight of the Mirkwood prince into his arms as his brother swung up onto his horse's back before then handing the lifeless body up to the other elf. Elrohir gently settled Legolas on the horse in front of him and clasped the limp body to him with a strong arm across Legolas' chest. The elf's bloodied head lifelessly rolledback against the younger twin's shoulder.
"Hold on, Legolas," he whispered softly as his brother swung up onto his own horse. Spurring their horses into the fastest gallop they dared use with the seriously injured prince in tow, the two brothers sped back in the direction of Minas Tirith.
"Aragorn!" Faramir cried as he burst through the door of the king's private audience chambers.
Looking up from his papers, the retired ranger felt a twinge of dread enter his stomach at the sight of his Steward's face. Faramir's face was pale and drawn taut with barely controlled panic.
"What is it, Faramir?" Aragorn demanded, beginning to rise out of his chair in alarm.
"Elladan and Elrohir have just returned. They've brought Legolas back with them..." the usually calm and collected Steward tried to explain, "Aragorn, it's bad. There was a rockslide in one of the mountain passes. They need your help as a healer. Legolas is badly injured."
No other words were needed to persuade the king as Aragorn was already halfway out the door.
"Where have they taken him?" he cried over his shoulder as he and Faramir raced out into the stone corridor of the Hall of Kings beyond.
"To the House of Healing," Faramir answered, chasing after his king as the man sped down towards the front courtyard of the palace.
(Later that night)
In one of the House of Healing's many rooms, a heavy stillness hung in the air like a thick pall. The sky outside was beginning to darken as the last few rays of the sun began to slip below the horizon in the west. Several candles had been lit around the perimeter of the sparsely decorated room, spreading a low flickering light. But while the warm glow of candlelight drove back the shadows of the lengthening night, it could not drive back the shadows of worry and fear from the hearts those sitting there in the room, desperately praying for some small sign of life from their seriously injured friend.
Legolas lay unconscious and deathly still beneath the sterile white sheets of the only bed in the room. His face and body had been washed clean of all the dirt and blood that had caked his entire body in a thick layer of grime, and dressed in a clean nightshirt. Dark, ugly bruises marred the entire surface of his body and face, standing out obtrusively against the pale alabaster of his skin in angry purple blotches. The elf's numerous broken bones had been carefully set and splinted, and his countless cuts and scrapes cleaned and bandaged.
If these had been all the injuries the elven prince has sustained from the rockslide that had nearly ended his life, the numerous healers that had assisted Elladan, Elrohir, and Aragorn in treating their seriously injured friend might have already given Legolas an optimistic prognosis for a full recovery. But these were not all the archer's wounds, or the worst. Nor were any of the healers assigned to watch over the House's elven charge about to make any preempted forecasts to the prince's recovery when so much uncertainty still hung over the elf's fate.
Legolas' head lay tightly swaddled in a long white bandage that had been wound around his skull several times. Several small patches of dried blood marred the pristine white surface of the gauzy bandage just above the delicate point of Legolas' left ear, but no new spottage of red had appeared. It had taken almostanhour for Elladan, Elrohir and Aragorn to control the bleeding from the elf's seriously deep and extensive head wound, and then another hour to stop it completely. It had been a complete and utter miracle that Legolas hadn't bled to death.
But although Legolas now seemed stable and past his most critical period, he had yet to wake.
This worried all of Legolas' friends who had come to hold vigil at the injured prince's bedside, but none more than the dwarf Gimli. In the course of those first few hours in which Aragorn and his two elven foster-brothers had feverishly fought to save Legolas' life, word of the prince's accident had spread through almost the entire city. Unfortunately, one of the first to hear of Legolas' accident second-hand before Aragorn could spare the few moments needed to dispatch a messenger to him had been Gimli, who had subsequently then stormed the House of Healing as if laying siege on a fortified enemy stronghold. Aragorn had had to order Faramir to take Gimli from the room so that he, Elrohir and Elladan could tend to Legolas without the dwarf's constant presence thereby Legolas' side while they rushed to save his life.
"How much longer until he wakes?" the dwarf demanded from where he now sat in a chair close to his friend's bedside. Unmasked concern tainted his deep, baritone voice, though no one there was about to comment to him about it.
"Gimli, he has taken a very severe blow to the head," Elrohir tried to explain patiently, "It is a miracle he even survived the trauma. He will need time to recover."
Gimli shook his head in agitation. "But he does not move or moan in his sleep, even though it is obvious he should be in a great deal of pain," he said, looking down into the deathly still face of his unconscious friend. Legolas' eyes rested partially open, the empty sapphire orbs staring blankly up towards the ceiling. "If it was not for the sight of breath still being drawn into his chest, I would think Legolas dead. This is a strange and unnatural sleep that has claimed him. Never before have I seen him so unresponsive to any of our calls. What is wrong with him?"
Leaning forward in his chair beside Gimli, Aragorn let out a long and weary sigh. Thin care lines creased the corners of the man's face around his pale grey eyes from the many hours just spent frantically trying to repair the damage done to his friend's body from half a mountainside collapsing down onto it. The whole front of Aragorn's shirt was smeared with dark streaks of drying blood and dirt. "He's fallen into a coma," the retired ranger answered in a toneless voice that sounded just as hollow and weary as the man looked.
"What?" the dwarf stammered, only now beginning to realize just how serious Legolas' injuries were.
"His brain is in shock," Elrohir tried to explain as gently as he could, "It is trying to recover from what has happened to it. It may take some time before Legolas regains consciousness."
"How much time?" Faramir asked from where he stood behind Aragorn. Throughout the whole afternoon in which Legolas' life had hung by a thin thread of hope, Aragorn's faithful Steward had remained there in the House of Healing, offering whatever help he could to the healers as they rushed about trying to save the elven prince, and then comforting Gimli when the room had finally become too crowded for the dwarf to remain by Legolas' side any longer without getting in the way and had to be sent outside to wait.
"He could wake up tomorrow, next week, or three month from now," another fair elven voice answered as Elrohir's identical twin brother stepped up beside Legolas' bedside and into the conversation, "It is impossible to say. The damage Legolas sustained was very extensive... It is also possible that he may never regain consciousness."
"Don't say that!" Aragorn cried, as if his foster-brother's words had just dealt him a physical blow across the face.
"I have to, Aragorn," Elladan countered, "You know what I say is true. I have never seen anyone receive a head wound as severe as the one Legolas has and yet still somehow survive! Even if Legolas does somehow wake up, he may never be the same person we knew." If only the elf knew how true his words would years later prove to be.
"Is there anything else you can do for him?" Gimli asked, lifting his eyes up hopefully towards the dark-haired elf standing on the opposite side of the bed across from him.
"I am sorry, Master Dwarf, but there is little more we can do for Legolas now," Elladan shook his head sadly as he looked down at his comatose friend's placid features half-hidden beneath the thick white bandage covering his head. "All we can really do now is wait..."
It wouldn't be until many years later that the full extent of the elf's injury was finally known; when Legolas would finally wakefrom his five year long sleep and have his life turned completely upside down by a single, simple touch that would later lead him down onto a dark and frightening path of knowledge and foresight that he would come to wish he had never explored.
To Be Continued...
Like it? Hate it? Either way, criticism is welcome and highly appreciated.
'Till next time...