Here´s the second part. Please feel free to review - I love reviews, lol.
Thanks to Mor and Claudia for their help with this story.
This one´s for you, San.
Rating: PG 13
Disclaimer: Not mine
Galad di duath [Light in Darkness]Even though all that remained for Legolas to save himself was the mere fraction of a heartbeat, the elf managed to turn in the air and get his legs beneath him, preventing him from crashing his back against the ground. He hit the ground knees first and Aragorn winced in sympathy when the prince cried out in pain and then fell to his side, eyes glazed over in agony. The ranger had little time for pity, however, when suddenly a dark shadow cut them off the gentle rays of starlight.
A massive grey head was thrust towards them, its stink travelling before it like a ship under full sails, making the man gag. Aragorn's heart picked up its beat, and his vision cleared. He saw Legolas down, saw the fury in the creatures face, and knew that there was little time. The troll's advance was suddenly halted by its broad shoulders that got stuck in the entrance of the hole, and a howl of frustration shattered the air. The troll wriggled and pushed in annoyance, trying to get farther in without success, its small evil eyes fixed on the elf who was still dazed from his fall.
Arrows stuck from the creature where Legolas had hit him, but this seemed to be of little effect. Ignoring the pain and knowing he would pay every move in red torment later, the ranger reached over to the elf and pulled one slender knife free of its scabbard. Dirt and snow rained down on him from above, but he barely felt it as his world narrowed around him. The pain closed in on him from all sides, leaving him only a tiny moment to act before it overwhelmed him. With one swift swing that was guided by instinct rather than his once again failing sight, Aragorn struck out at the troll.
He half expected to feel the blade slide along the hard skin, finding no entry, but instead the elegant curve of steal kept its straight course without wavering. A sticky substance splattered over his hand and then the hilt of the knife was suddenly ripped from his grip by a sharp movement. Another wail filled the small space around them, this time oozing agony rather then anger. The sound seemed to rapidly fade from Aragorn, even though he knew that it was more likely to increase before abating.
He felt himself fall, his vision going from red to grey. The pain in his leg was overrun by the agony that shot through his head. He was dimly aware that his hands reached up, clasping his aching skull as if preventing it from being torn asunder. His stomach heaved, trying to rid itself of substance it did not have and bringing up sour acid instead. He gagged and tried to roll to his side, but his body had withdrawn any control from him after the torment he had caused, and to his shock the gagging turned into a wheezing cough that only intensified the pain.
Darkness beckoned to Aragorn, and even though his mind screamed in anger against his weakness, he felt himself give in, eager to escape the torment in his head, the burning fire in his throat and the agonising lack of air that seemed to tie iron bands around his torso. The world receded at a rapid pace. The ranger felt as if he was diving into warm waters that brought him away from the horrors at the surface.
It was a firm grip on his shoulders that brought him back. He felt himself being turned to the side and his body, even though weakened, immediately resumed the fight. It began to heave again, struggling against the agony that strove to hinder it, and hot liquid poured from his mouth. The pain in his chest eased at once, but it was replaced by hot flames that flared up when fresh air hit his lungs. He groaned and tried to move away from the pain, but the hands on his shoulders continued to hold him. A voice drifted down through the haze, repeating one phrase over and over again, refusing to let him find any rest.
Slowly, Aragorn's control over his body returned, and he desperately wished it would extend to chasing away the ache that seemed to cover him like a blanket of hot steal, smothering him. Failing that, he forced his voice to work. "Baw, Legolas", [Stop, it. Legolas], he growled roughly, "I am awake, I am awake." He heard a deep sigh of relief from above him, quickly followed by a wince when the elf moved by his side. He felt himself gently turned in his friend's embrace to rest against the prince's chest.
Both remained still for a while, Legolas obviously from the exhaustion that made his body tremble slightly, Aragorn gathering strength for what he had to do. Even though he wisely kept his eyes closed, he had to find answers to some questions that haunted him. When he spoke again, his voice was still raspy but it had gained the authority that the healer in him always displayed. "How badly are you hurt?" he asked firmly, "and I will have no more lies from you today, my friend. The last one almost cost your life."
Legolas chuckled. "I did not lie, Estel. I merely tried to verify my assumptions before telling you that we might end up as a troll's dinner. I did make one grave mistake though, when I thought to protect you from the fight. You were very well able to deliver a killer blow today. " There was a layer of awe in the elf's tone, something rarely heard, and Aragorn felt a smile grace his lips. "The eye?" he inquired, guessing where his lucky stroke had found its mark. "Aye", the elf confirmed, "it must have died almost immediately, despite the racket it made. Your aim was true."
They were quiet again. Aragorn could feel the cold creep into his bones, making him shiver despite Legolas´ attempt to warm him. He could sense the elf draw breath to speak, no doubt to comment on the ranger's state of health, but the human would not let him get away this easily. "You still have not answered my question, Legolas" he said quickly, "how badly were you hurt?" The elf gave a little snort, entirely too ungraceful for his fair race. "Far less than you" he answered sourly, but before the protests could come he continued, "a cracked rib, but it still holds from the feel of it. My knees are badly bruised yet I can still move them. I am telling you the full truth, mellon-nin. It is you we should worry about."
Aragorn sensed the truth in the elf's words and sighed. "Aye" he agreed quietly, "we need to move. Can we get out past the troll?" He knew the answer before the elf spoke, sensing the tension in his friend. "No", Legolas said quietly, "its carcass firmly blocks the entrance. I will not be able to get us out past it." The regret in his voice brought home the severity of the situation, but there was also something else.
"But?" Aragorn asked expectantly. The answer was late, and when it came, it was tense with apprehension. "There is a tunnel."
It had been their only hope, the last path left to take. This thought kept repeating itself in Aragorn's head, over and over and over again. He did not know how often he had thought it as he forced his body through the tense darkness. He had even played with the thought of counting the phrase, trying to grasp his endless misery in this unique measure, but he felt like that this would use up too much of his sourly needed strength. The agony of his body had become a constant companion, travelling with his every move, weighting him down and cutting off his inner light, but he refused to give in. As long as he kept going, there was still hope.
Estel. Hope, yes that was what it meant. Estel. Yes, that was his name. Estel? That was who he was. Estel?!
Aragorn frowned when one thought was replaced by another. Was he beginning to go insane? Why would his mind keep repeating his name? He fought the urge to shake his head to rid himself of the cobwebs spreading through his mind and instead concentrated on the sounds of the elf behind him.
Legolas had not spoken in a long time, and the ranger knew his friend was in as much agony as he. Not so much from his physical ailments, although these were sure to make his progress painful, but from the very situation they were in. The elf despised small spaces in the best of times, but the small tunnel they had to squeeze through now had to smother the fair creature's soul. His breathing was far too fast and laboured, his lack of conversation a sure sign of his mounting fears.
Estel? Estel. Estel. Estel...
"I know my name!" Aragorn ground out in frustration, startling himself by speaking out loud. "Estel?" the voice in his head was mirrored by Legolas´ from behind him, "what is it, my friend?" The ranger winced at the tightly woven fear that dripped through the elf's concerned words, but Legolas obviously read something else in the sound. "We should rest for a moment", he said firmly. Aragorn knew what it cost his friend to make such a suggestion and was inclined to refuse, when suddenly his head collided with solid earth. Surprised, the ranger let out a grunt of pain and collapsed onto the floor.
"Aragorn?!" The man could feel Legolas hand brushing his back when the elf searched for his neck, no doubt looking for a pulse there. It hit him then just how high-strung the elf had to be if he no longer registered the sound of the human's loud breathing. The ranger reached out with one hand, grasping his friend reassuringly. "I am fine", he said, stretching the truth of the statement, "do not worry." With his other hand he felt in front of him, fighting the panic that threatened to overcome him at the thought of the tunnel just ending here. It would be a dead end, indeed.
Thankfully, though, he found that the tunnel merely split in two. "What is it?" Legolas asked his grip on Aragorn's hand almost painful in its intensity. "Fate has offered us yet another choice", the ranger answered, trying to keep his voice light, "that is a dwarf for you, digging his way through the ground but then losing his way." He did not normally play with the elf's prejudices when it came to dwarves, refusing to be pulled into the conflict, but now he knew the comment would relax his friend.
He was not disappointed. The bruising grip on his hand eased up slightly when Legolas chuckled and replied: "Aye, that is just like them. Always bragging about their skills, but I'm asking you, what do they need the virtual labyrinths for that they dig into earth's stomach? They must be losing their way constantly and no wonder, living in the dark for most of their lives. Even their brains cannot function without proper light, no matter what they say."
Aragorn could not help but chuckle, too, even though it was more at his friend's fire on the subject than at the dwarfs´ supposed inabilities. When Legolas had inspected the narrow tunnel prior to their entry into it, he had quickly found the unmistakable marks of an axe in the frozen ground, and the friends had concluded that a dwarf must have been trapped in the hole in warmer weather and the dug his way out. In regular distances, the low ceiling had been marred by rough strokes that had led to a layer of rocks, thus preventing the dwarf - and now them - to find their way back to the surface.
"Now which way to take?" Legolas asked, nervousness quickly seeping back into his tone. "It is too dark in here even for me to see, and I can sense no draft from either direction." Even though his words were calm and to the facts, his once again mounting fear was clear in them, and Legolas must have sensed this, too, for he remained silent, unwilling to give away more by continuing to speak.
The voice in Aragorn's mind filled the ensuing silence, growing louder and more insistent. There was something familiar in it, he realized, something warm and full of the promise of help. Willing himself to listen, he opened his mind to it.
Estel. Ion-nin. [Estel. My son.]
Aragorn's heart gave a lurch and then began to race in fresh hope. They were not close to the heart of Rivendell, but still Lord Elrond seemed to have sensed their predicament. Now that he had identified who was trying to establish the connection with him, the ranger embraced it, feeling the warmth of his father's love chase away the worst of the chill. He sensed that the connection was weak and most likely to fail soon, but still the promise of help remained.
Estel. Tirio. [Estel. Look.]
Without opening his eyes, Aragorn did as the voice bid him to. His moved his head slowly from the location of one passage to the other. At first, nothing happened, and his heart clenched in doubt, but then a tiny light sprang into life. It was no more than a candle at a huge distance, barely noticeable, but to him it was a bonfire that beckoned brightly. New hope rushed through him even as he felt the connection with his father quiver and snap. It had done its due.
"This way!" The enthusiasm that suddenly filled Aragorn seemed a light in itself, and when he forced his body to move, pain roaring back into life throughout him, a wild joy joined it. He knew they would make it. It was not far. And in his heart, he knew that his father had already sent riders on their ways to aid them. He could almost see them captured in the tiny flame he was crawling to, the outline of two identical figures pushing their horses through the dense snow. They would not be lost.
It took him a moment to realize that Legolas was not following him. He stopped, listening, but all he could sense from his friend was his ragged breathing. "Come on", Aragorn urged, "it is not far to the light. This is the way." There was no answer. The fear and doubt coming from Legolas was almost physical, filling the tiny space with its suffocating presence. "Aphado nin" [Follow me] Aragorn urged again, trying to put all the assurance he felt into the words. He knew he would not stand a chance of forcing the elf along.
"You cannot be so sure" Legolas answered finally, "the other way may also lead us out. Give me another moment, maybe there will be a draft..." "Aphado nin!" Aragorn interrupted. He knew that his new strength was largely due to his father's help and it would not stay with him forever. There was no time to lose. "Im Estel", he added more quietly, "apahdo nin, galad alpalan." [I am Estel/hope, follow me, the light is not far.]
And with a sigh, Legolas did.
As they continued, Aragorn found that the light grew with every painful inch he forced his wounded body to cover. It drew him along and he clung to it like a drowning man to the rope he has been thrown, pulling himself along despite the cold and the torment and the darkness that wrapped him and tried to tie him down. The light was stronger.
An eternity seemed to pass them in the blink of an eye and then Legolas voice rose behind Aragorn in disbelief and joy. "Estel" he breathed, " im tiradon galad!" [I see the light.] Laugher of relief pearled from him and Aragorn joined in, his exhaustion fading in the face of their victory as he listened to Legolas repeat the words of salvation over and over again.
"Im tirion galad."