Chapter Nine: An Interesting Situation
Aragorn surveyed the scene below them from their vantage point, shaking his head to himself. Wargs, next to Orcs, were his least favourite inhabitants of Middle-earth, and there were minimally twenty of the damn things, swarming about the cave entrance like excited wasps.
Boromir gave a slow release of breath besides him, a clear indication that the Gondorian warrior was not overly impressed by their circumstances. 'I assume,' he began with a heavy tone, 'you are absolutely certain that those wargs have not simply cornered a bear in the cave?'
'A bear does not shoot arrows fashioned by Elves,' responded the Ranger coolly. He gestured to the corpse of a warg which lay a few feet from the cave entrance, a shaft protruding from its head.
Aragorn took his bow from his back, loosening the ties of his arrow bag. From this position, he knew he could pick the wargs off, one by one. However, there were twenty of the pack, and two of them; it was not possible for Aragorn to shoot each and every beast without the wargs reaching their location before the last animal fell. Aragorn's weapon of choice was not the bow and arrow, and, even though he was a good shot, he was not nearly so fast or indeed accurate as Legolas was. Legolas, he knew, was able to loose five shafts with deadly proficiency in the time it took Aragorn to notch and aim two.
Three wargs charged the cave, baying into the night. The noise made Boromir's skin twinge unpleasantly. Ferocious snapping and snarling was next heard, then yelping – and then a short, loud cry of pain.
Gimli's panicked scream of the Elf's name shimmered through the cold air.
Aragorn's heart stopped in that moment. His stomach felt like it had no bottom to it. Had he been killed? Was Legolas dead? It cannot be!
Aragorn skidded down the steep slope, giving no mind to the earth he upset on his way down. He cared not whether Boromir followed. There was no plan in his head as to exactly how he was not going to get himself killed. All he cared about was getting to Legolas, no more than that.
His hands thrust up into the gaping maw, and for a split second, Legolas prayed to the Valar that the anatomy of a warg was not that dissimilar from that of his dog. His thumbs pressed as hard as they could into the roof of the beast's mouth, his long fingers wrapping about the warg's muzzle...
Gimli tried desperately to get to his Elven companion, but the siege continued relentlessly, and he was hard-pressed to keep his own life intact. All he could see, so far as Legolas' situation went, was the animal on top of him, and the Elf's hands in its mouth. He had no time to ponder over why Legolas would do such a stupid thing as to put his hands into the mouth of such a creature; the outcome he could see for such an action was the Elf losing his limbs. However, now was not the time for Gimli to mull over the strangeness of Elves, and his axe plunged deep into a hairy neck...
The weight of the warg was incredible: it restricted his breathing as a gigantic foot pressed down into his breastbone, and he was forced to fight a relentless battle in his own head to stop himself from passing out. But the thing he was most aware of was his knee. It made its indignation at being stood on by a constantly shifting warg's foot loud enough, and it was all the Elf could do to keep himself from simply screaming out and letting go of his grip.
The warg pushed its great tongue at his hands, trying frantically to shake his grip off. Drool slivered down Legolas' arms, dripping onto his face and neck. It clawed at him, the lower jaw forever working, never ceasing its attempt to bite.
But it could not.
Legolas had had dogs around him all of his life. Hounds, every one of them, sleek animals bred for the hunt. Legolas had spent many an hour in the kennels, escaping his tutors when their backs were turned during his continuous lessons to play with the puppies and juveniles, rolling with them in the hay. He had relished his excursions to see the hounds, adoring the "rough and tumble". And that was how he learned that, if you press your thumbs into the roof of a dog's mouth and hold its muzzle, it cannot bite you. Legolas never fully understood how it worked – but, at that particular moment in time, he was simply grateful that he had managed to dip out of his lessons and learn something of real importance.
A sound reached their ears that they never thought they would hear again. The sharp whistling lit a spark of hope in their hearts, and Legolas remembered exactly why he loved the song of a bow and arrow.
'Aragorn?' he cried out, spending his much-needed breath on his shout.
'We're out here, Legolas!' the Ranger replied.
'Well get in here!'
Gimli blinked with amazement as the two men cut their way through wargs, the bow now discarded on the ground in favour of the sword. They fought back-to-back, and no beast with any level of effort could get to them. The two companions acted as one, fluidly moving with deadly grace. Despite their differences, they had set them aside to aid the Elf and Dwarf. This is what Fellowship means, Gimli told himself, and he felt a sudden flush of shame wash over him. The way in which he had treated the Elf at times during their days on the mountainside had been less than acceptable. Legolas was not completely faultless, mind, but Gimli could not help but feel that the Elf's closure and stiff attitude towards him had not been totally one-sided. Something of the Elf's private nature had offended him, he realised, and that was why they had not entirely gotten along. The Dwarf now accepted that perhaps Legolas was just a solitary soul. He had hinted briefly at something in his past that Gimli had cause to believe resulted in great trauma of some description. Expecting the Elf to disclose such personal information to him, he realised, was not necessarily a reasonable thing to ask of someone he hardly knew...
The wargs in the cave turned at their new assailants, hackles bristling and lips peeled back to show yellowed teeth. They were clearly enraged by the mass of fallen pack members behind the two men and the few in the cave, but Aragorn was under the distinct impression that the wargs that now hung back with no intention of going anywhere near the two swords incensed the trapped beasts the most. As it was, there were only four remaining in the cave, and three of hem bolted for the entrance in a flurry of fur and teeth, though they did not try to touch either Aragorn or Boromir.
Aragorn was hardly given the chance to realise their victory when Gimli started to shout at him-
'IT'S KILLING HIM! KILL IT!'
Aragorn's eyes widened with horror as he saw the one remaining warg clawing and struggling with what he recognised to be Legolas. He surged forward, his sword singing as it sliced through the air and drove into the warg's side. The beast yelped with its agony, and Aragorn and Gimli combined kicked it to its side before it could fall on Legolas.
He stood and stared down at his friend, who did not move. The Elf's face was contorted with obvious agony, his blue eyes screwed up tightly as though to combat some glaring light or other. But then Legolas drew a wet hand over his face, whipping away the slimy drool, and he opened his mouth, gasping as the air filled his lungs properly for what must have been the first time in a few minutes.
Legolas cast a glance at the worried face of his friend. He blinked for a time as though he had just awoken, and then a tired grin graced his face. 'You took your time.'
A relieved smile flashed Aragorn's teeth, a chuckle emitting from his throat. 'Yes, well, there was the whole matter of creeping through the tangle of sleeping dragons, and then swimming a lake infested with Krakens-'
'Don't talk to him about lakes,' interjected Gimli, the smirk that graced his face audible in his voice.
Legolas shot the Dwarf a warning glare. He still could not remember what had happened during his delusional state, but Gimli's tone was enough to set alarm bells chiming in his head.
'I won't ask,' Aragorn finally declared, observing Legolas' expression and that of the Dwarf. If he pried, he feared Gimli might just lose his life...
'However,' he continued with a somewhat authoritative tone, 'I will ask about why you seem to be in so much pain, mellon nín.'
Legolas drew his eyes from Gimli and looked up into Aragorn's face instead, surprise raising his brow. But he instantly seemed to realise that this was the exact expression which would land him in trouble with his friend, and replaced it with complete innocence.
'I know not what you mean, Dúnadan,' Legolas responded smoothly, his eyes not wavering in the slightest.
'It is interesting, then,' Aragorn observed, 'that you appeared to be in such agony a minute ago, and are still on the cave floor. Clearly, what I saw was a figment of my imagination, and you are lying here because you enjoy lounging about in the dirt. I apologise for my misconceptions.'
'The Elf's crippled himself,' the Dwarf informed Aragorn as he passed outside for the first time in what felt to him like an age, chuckling to himself.
Outrage graced Legolas' features at these words. 'I have not-'
'-Legolas, be quiet. How and where, Gimli?'
'Bash to the knee by a rock when we fell,' called a gruff voice from outside which fought a losing battle to conceal the amusement its owner clearly felt. 'Right leg. Knee's broken.'
Aragorn shook his head, surveying his Elven companion, whose eyes had donned a rather guilty look. In all the years he had known Legolas, the Elf had never changed. He was quite notorious for straining to avoid treatment for injuries. Some said it was because he thought he was hardier than anyone else, thus not requiring aid. Others thought it was just simple stubbornness. However, Aragorn harboured a completely different notion: that Legolas feared pain, hence avoided healers. He would not submit himself to allowing others to touch injuries he sustained, because Legolas' hurts tended to be rather painful; never was it the easy matter of stitching a small cut – it would be a deep laceration. It was simply bad luck on Legolas' part, he reflected with amusement, that he had become best friends with a healer.
'Are you going to change your story now, Legolas?'
The Elf heaved a sigh, rubbing the back of his neck. He clearly did not want Aragorn to examine his injury, but now he had been caught out, he had no hole to hide in. 'Can it not just be left alone to deal with itself?' he asked, though his tone held no real commitment; he had lost, and he knew it.
'Come on,' Aragorn prodded gently. He offered Legolas a hand. The Elf eyed it, still weighing out the possibilities of jumping up and bolting as fast as he was able. When he came to his senses and realised he would not be running anywhere for a while, he grudgingly extended his arm and allowed Aragorn to help him sit up.
'Now,' said the Ranger, taking on the precise tone and mannerism of the typical healer Legolas so detested, 'let us examine this little malady of yours, fiddle around with it a bit, and reposition the bone, shall we?'
Legolas nearly lurched away from the Ranger at his words, and it was only Aragorn's sharp reflexes which allowed him to grab the arm of his friend and keep him there. 'Stille nu, mellon nín! I was jesting!'
'Jesting?' the Elf exclaimed incredulously, barely concealed panic ringing in his voice. 'Like all healers, you have a very twisted sense of humour!'
'I apologise,' said Aragorn sincerely, eyes level with Legolas'. 'I will do nothing deliberate to hurt you – I haven't done so before, have I? I have nothing with me, so all I wish to do is look. Please, mellon nín: trust me.'
Legolas grudgingly sat back down, eyeing his friend as he lifted the Elf's trouser leg to examine his knee. But a grin slowly crept across his face as it dawned on him just how he could get his revenge...
'Shall I tell a tale to pass the time?'
Aragorn scrutinised the Elf's suddenly very innocent face at this – he had heard the artificial sweetness in the archer's tone, and he had the distinct impression that he should be very wary.
'What does this "tale" of yours entail?' he asked cautiously. He knew Legolas too well to pass off the seemingly innocent proposal as being what it was meant to sound like.
'Oh, nothing too heavy – just a small story I know about a young Ranger, a lot of beer, a girl, and the young man in question awakening next morning to find his clothes all missing.'
Ah ... and there we have it, people! I hope you all enjoyed it sighs again contentedly.
I'd just like to say many, many thanks to all you wonderful reviewers; I love you all, and I just hope you like the rest of my stuff, too... Let's see: Assassin's Gift, the sequel to Assassin's Gift yes, I have already started writing it, and no, I haven't finished 'Gift yet. I've done that little one shot for Pirates of the Caribbean that's been poking the inside of my brain, trying so very hard to get itself written - I laughed at the ending, though...
Anyway, this li'l ol' English girl's going to go and do her - er- English ... yeah. Oscar Wilde, we love you!
Thank you all again,