Disclaimer: All characters and facts related to Tolkien's works are his.

Deep Under the Ground

Chapter IV Tunnels and more tunnels

They hovered around the entrance of the cave- hesitating. Each for different reasons. Legolas because he was loathe to enter lightless, enclosed spaces and Aragorn because he was worried that his friend would suffering a relapse whilst they were in the cave.

The confined conditions and the isolation from the woodelf's beloved trees would be sure to weaken him and the ranger was fearful that the consequences might be dire. But they both knew it had to be done.

Legolas started forward first and loosened some of the thick vegetation with which the entrance of the tunnel was overrun. He slipped through the hole and disappeared from the sunlight.

The great difference between being inside the tunnels and outside in the open was the distinct lack of sound in the former- the sound of light breezes and great gales, the whirring of little insects and the rushing of distant streams as well as brooks in the distance. The quiet voices of the trees as they stood steady and strong rooted in the earth, the rustling of tiny blades of grass on the soft earth. Legolas noted these changes miserably as they moved further and further away from the opening. He took one last longing glance behind him before turning his head firmly forward.

They had walked for what seemed like days, but in truth, according to Aragorn's surmising; only half a day had passed. They sat down to rest, leaning against the rock walls of the tunnel.

Legolas sat very still, as though straining to hear something. His efforts were in vain. He fiddled with the edges of his tunic and let out a small sigh. He turned towards Aragorn, even with his sharp eyes; he could barely make out the man's face in the dark. They were saving matches. Who knew what was ahead? Legolas knew that it was the most prudent thing to do, but the fact did not make it easier for the elf to sit in this dark place.

Aragorn moved closer to Legolas so that his shoulder was touching the elf's, offering what comfort he could by the contact. Inside his head, he was calculating rapidly. Almost a day had passed, which meant that they had nine days more before Legolas relapsed.

"We will find it,' Legolas soft voice sounded unusually loud in the tunnel. He said the words with such conviction that Aragorn could almost believe it, but the treasure had yet to be found.

--

The following day, they found something. Not quite what they were looking for, but it was strangely reassuring too, in a morbid sort of way.

They found the bones of what looked to be a man. He had a spear clutched in his right hand and a knife through his rib cage, above where the heart was supposed to be. They edged their way around his body and continued to follow the tunnel. He must have been one of those thieving, wild men, murdered for whatever small reason that would induce another of his kind to kill.

They were a good distance away from the bones when Legolas suddenly stopped. Aragorn was ahead and did not notice his friend's halt. The elf called out to him and the man hurried back.

Legolas grabbed the torch from the man's hand and rushed off in the direction they had come. When Aragorn caught up at last, the elf was bent over the bones, examining the skeletal hand. He let out a small sound of triumph before standing up and showing the man what he had found. It was a piece of leather on which a map had evidently been marked on.

They moved away from the cadaver once more before stopping to take a closer look at their new discovery. Legolas held the torch close to the piece of leather, and tried to make out its contents in the flickering light of the torch.

"Well?", said Aragorn impatiently after a time.

"It seems we are going the right way," answered the elf slowly.

"And…?"

"Ssh! I can't concentrate with you breathing over my shoulder!"

After a long pause, Legolas finally replied, "Our best bet would be to just walk straight on…there are some spots marked out on the tunnel, but I don't know what it means…"

"I suppose we shall find out soon enough," he added grimly.

--

They might have missed it altogether if Aragorn had not stumbled over a loose piece of rock and fell unceremoniously to one knee. There was a smaller opening in the wall of the tunnel. There was no choice but to get down on their hands and knees to enter it.

Legolas watched as his friend's feet disappeared down the tiny opening. He swallowed, steeling himself for what was to follow. This bigger tunnel was bad enough, but at least he could stand in it. The smaller tunnel did nothing for the slight claustrophobia that was creeping up on the elf this very moment.

Reluctantly, he crawled in after the man. The rough stone was cool under his fingers. Indeed, it had been chilly since they passed through the hole into this place. Legolas suppressed a slight shiver that was edging up his spine…

--

"Sorry!" called the ranger as he accidentally trod on Legolas' long fingers for what seemed like the umpteenth time. Legolas grit his teeth and did not reply.

The tunnel was gradually widening, both in breath and height, a fact which the elf and ranger were heartily thankful for.

The tip of Legolas' bow had been scraping against the top of the tunnel when they were passing through the smaller part of it, producing an unnerving sound that made both man and elf uneasy though they both knew the cause of it. Legolas' overwrought imagination had planted images of bony fingers pawing the hard rock to produce the noise, while Aragorn had imagined that some creature was sharpening its claws against the rock walls.

Both knew that such thoughts were silly but who could help it when trapped inside such a place…

TBC…

Ok, perhaps this chapter was a little pointless. Not much Angst… a lot about tunnels. Next chapter will be better…stick around pls!

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