You reviewers are all so amazing, I would never have written here if it weren't for you. But I have to especially credit the anonymous reviewer Tzz for getting me to finally post again. I had gotten too busy to write any fanfiction for the longest time, and hadn't read Lord of the Rings fics at all since I started watching Supernatural. But I was checking my inbox today, found just about the sweetest review an author could hope for, and decided that I was being incredibly rude to leave you guys hanging. Thank you so much, Tzz. I cannot apologize enough to everyone. If anyone is still reading this, I am so sorry for the 'hiatus' and I hope with all my heart that this chapter does not disappoint. I'm still getting reacquainted with Lord of the Rings fanfiction and using fanfiction to post and everything, but I'm going to try that respond-to-reviewers-via-email thing. Thank you so much. I'm back.
"'Dan, please… You have hardly eaten anything these past weeks, hardly slept either. Brother, you cannot blame yourself for what happened. You are not doing anyone any good by hurting yourself like this!"
Elrohir ground his knuckles into the wall as he stared at the dark hair that shielded his sibling's face from him. He let out a loud sigh and nearly growled.
"Elladan, will you please just look at me?"
"I should have done something different," the older twin whispered, his tone sharp with anger. "I should have let him stay with us like he wanted. There were not very many orcs, he would have been alright. I let this happen."
Patience wearing thin, Elrohir seized his brother's shoulder and pulled it roughly so that they were face-to-face. He then grabbed Elladan's chin, forcing him to make eye contact. "Will you at least pretend that you are talking to me, not just berating yourself?"
Elladan slapped his twin's hand away from his face and shrugged the other off his shoulder. "You know as well as I that this could have been prevented. We could have saved him."
"Yes, I know that, which makes it just as much my fault! I could have let him stay, too…" Elrohir felt guilt churn inside him, rising painfully up his esophagus. "And will you quit acting like he's dead? You know better than to just give up like that-"
"Elrohir, don't you dare lecture me on giving up! I have gone out looking for him more than you have!"
The younger twin took a step back, stung, then sighed despondently and shook his head. "So you are mad at me as well? I thought you might be. You are mad at the entire world and focusing it all in at yourself because you do not know who else to blame. But Elladan, hating yourself will not bring him back. You need to keep hope, brother, and the only way we are going to get through this is if we are there for each other…" His gaze fell to the floor and he shifted uncomfortably. "… Do you think this is not also hard on me?"
Elladan just turned away, tense with suppressed emotion that would have been unreadable to anyone but his twin.
Elrohir, looking up and seeing his brother leaving, rapped his hand against the bedroom wall until he was practically punching it. "This. Is. Not. Your. Fault." He punctuated each word with a strike to the wood. "I am here for you, 'Dan. I want to help, but I cannot unless you let me in."
When he didn't receive an answer, Elrohir's stomach roiled with exasperation and a stabbing sense of rejection. "Alright. I am going to visit Legolas. Maybe he will speak with me."
Elladan whirled around. "What?"
Elrohir hesitated, unsure of what to make of his brother's sudden concern. "…He is having as hard of a time as any of us, he needs someone to talk to."
His twin shook his head with more certainty than he had shown in weeks. "No."
"Pardon? Are you telling me what to do, Elladan?" Elrohir's grey eyes widened incredulously. "Moreover, are you telling me not to go see Legolas? What has-"
"He cannot be trusted-"
"Are we even talking about the same person? This is Legolas! We have known him almost our whole life!"
Elladan was staring at his twin with resolute determination, filled with anxiety he couldn't explain. "He is not who he used to be, Elrohir. Have you seen the way he acts? He, he is not stable!" His voice was as desperate and pleading as his brother's had been only minutes before.
Elrohir stepped away furiously. "So now you suddenly care about what I do? You have ignored me for weeks and now you are mothering me? You weren't there when I needed it because you were too busy pathetically blaming yourself, and now you try to tell me what to do? You think I need you now?"
"I am your brother!" Elladan tried to illustrate his worry, but Elrohir thought that it sounded like an order. "I am not going to let you around someone who is not mentally sound!"
"Well, you could come with me, but that would ruin your little isolation binge, wouldn't it? And don't give me the older sibling speech! Valar, Elladan, can't you ever understand? We are twins. A couple frivolous minutes do not mean a thing. Even if you were years older, that would not immediately make you any stronger or smarter than me, or give you any right to hover over me all the time, acting like I need your constant protection! I can take care of myself!"
The older twin was appalled by his sibling's naivety. "You are acting so thick, is seems that you need someone to watch you and make sure you do not do something stupid!"
"I know what I am doing, I do not need you, Elladan!" Elrohir slammed the door behind him as he left, briskly making his way down the hall.
Legolas invited Elrohir in welcomingly and the Peredhil smiled warmly at his friend as he stepped in the guest room. He did not doubt the prince's loyalty, but Elladan's words were echoing in his ears.
"How are you, Legolas?" he asked kindly, trying to forget the argument with his brother. "How is your back?"
"It is fine, thank you," the blonde elf answered hurriedly, shutting the door behind them.
"Is something wrong?" Elrohir questioned, concerned, noting how Legolas wouldn't look him in the eye. The prince's hands were fidgeting anxiously against the closest bedpost.
"Uh, no, it is nothing." He abruptly looked up, locking the younger twin's gaze. Then he smiled in amusement, his eyes unnervingly distant. "A bad dream, I suppose."
'He is not who he used to be, Elrohir. Have you seen the way he acts?'
Elrohir forced a smile back, suddenly feeling uneasy.
Legolas knew that he had to act before he changed his mind, before he could really consider what he was doing. At the moment, he was too consumed with unquestioning surety that he was doing the right thing. It was like an adrenaline rush, his heart slamming against his chest. Inwardly repeating the mantra of 'It has to be done… Quickly… Efficiently… Now…', he tightened his fingers around the blade.
In one fluid motion he grabbed Elrohir's arm, slammed the unsuspecting elf into the wall, and heard the sound of the knife entering. He began to twist it, just to be sure.
The utter confusion in Elrohir's huge eyes stopped him, the eyes Legolas was so used to seeing full of playfulness or empathy. He paused, frozen by the way his friend's young face was fixed with shock. The way his mouth opened to say something but nothing but a soft sound of pain came out. His pupils expanded almost enough to hide the color of the iris.
It felt too real.
He pulled the dagger out in sudden revulsion. The hand that he had used to pin Elrohir against the wall felt the younger twin shiver fiercely. Then he felt only empty space, and there was a quiet thud.
Legolas looked at his hands, blinking in disbelief.
This wasn't what Nuialossё had promised him.
He let the weapon fall to the floor, clattering next to Elrohir's prone form.
Blinking as if just waking up, yanked out his stupor, he felt like he'd just been sleepwalking or gotten over some fever-induced delirium.
Then there were footsteps. Each stride unsteady, Legolas darted towards the window and jumped to the ground.
"Elrohir," Elladan snapped as he pounded on the door. "Will you quit being such a fool? I was trying to talk to you, isn't that what you wanted?"
No answer. He frowned in annoyance. "Elrohir? I know you are angry, Elrohir, but at least open the door. I am doing what you said, I will visit him if it means that much to you… Elrohir? Legolas?"
He opened the door slowly, not seeing anyone at his eye level. "Elrohir, stop acting like such a-"
His gaze fell upon the blood stained wall, then shot down to the floor.
Legolas ran as far as he could into the woods before crumpling to the ground next to an old tree, pressing his forehead against the bark.
His breaths shuddered as he panted in horror. Pulling his knees against his body, he shook his head vehemently. "Bring me back, bring me back, bring me back," he begged tearfully.
Mildly surprised that it had actually worked, he opened his eyes and found himself sitting on the floor inside his usual room in the House of Elrond.
He looked up at Nuialossё, struggling to his feet so that they were at the same level.
"You are a liar." Legolas hissed.
The dark haired elf raised his eyes with a slight smirk. "Is that so?"
Legolas didn't know if he had ever been so distressed in his life, so unsure of what was happening or what would happen next. "You said that this was real, that my 'dream' where Estel was alive was nothing but an illusion. You told me that to end that illusion, I should make that dreamworld undesirable."
"And you believed me."
Legolas looked around suddenly. The room was all wrong, things were just off. It didn't seem… real.
"If that was the dreamworld," he accused, he voice laced with odium, "And you wanted me to detach myself from it, there would have been faster ways than killing my friends. Killing Elladan and Elrohir, then slowly succumbing to grief, how long might that take? If you truly were looking into my best interest, you should have just had me kill myself in that world. You cannot return to a world where you are dead, can you?" He hated how shaky his voice was.
Nuialossё's smile widened. "Finally figuring some things out, my prince? Noticing that there are so many flaws here, so many things that you just had not seen…"
Legolas felt his entire body quaking with fury and anguish. "This is the damn dream, this is fake! Estel is not dead!" He saw the certainty in the eyes of the elf in front of him and felt dizzy with the weight of revelation. "I was the one who fell! I hit my head, I-"
"All true, I am so proud. You grabbed Estel's arm, pulled him up, and began to climb down with him. You assumed that going back up would be harder and more unsafe. But then, slip," he snapped his fingers. "Less than twenty feet to go, and you fell. Tsk, tsk, my graceful elf."
"I do not understand!" Legolas was screaming now. "Why did this dream happen? Why did you happen in my head?"
"You hit it very hard, very hard…" Nuialossё made a motion towards his own head, miming colliding with a heavy object. "It just made your mind do some different things. Your mind made me."
"You made me attack Elrohir!"
"No," Nuialossё's eyes suddenly darkened and he stepped forward slowly.
Legolas blinked in confusion. He could have sworn that the healer had dark hair, but now it was blonde. In fact, he looked remarkably like the prince himself.
Nuialossё laughed, and Legolas swallowed weakly, blinking in shock. "You stabbed Elrohir, out of your own volition. You felt his blood on your hands." It was his own voice, heartless and cold. "You created me in your head, Legolas, the question you should ask yourself is 'why?'. What kind of person creates people like me in their imagination? What kind of person murders one of their best friends?"
"I did not murder him, he is not dead!" Legolas hollered as loud as he could, but it came out so softly. "And it was not my fault, I did not try to create you! I would never want to hurt Elrohir! I thought it was not real-"
"But somewhere in your mind, you did want to. Your subconscious-"
"NO! I did not have any control over it, this happened because I hit my head-"
"This happened because of you and only you." Legolas was now staring at a mirror image as it spoke. "You are the one who stabbed him. This is entirely your fault."
Legolas finally bowed his head, shaking it confidently. "This is a dream," he snarled. "And I know how to wake up now."
Without hesitation, he grabbed a knife off the bed, knowing that it was there because he wanted it to be. For once, something in his dreams actually worked the way it was supposed to. He plunged the blade into his skull.
Estel woke up slowly, blinking blearily, but his eyes refused to stay open. He could feel a few tiny patches of sun peeking through the rocks, falling upon his face, but it wasn't enough. He was still so cold, and lonely, and would have almost been able to tolerate how sick he felt if there had been a little more sun.
He couldn't remember how long it had been. His mind was too muddled to count how many times he'd seen his grave-like surroundings darken with the sunrise, then lighten slightly with the dawn.
Shifting weakly, his stomach twisted with unbearable huger. His thirst was so intense, he could barely swallow. He had emptied his waterskin a few days ago after trying so hard to ration it. He thought longingly of the food he had strapped to Hyalma. Vaguely, he wondered if she was alright.
At first, he had spent all of his time trying to escape. He had desperately dug at the rocks until his fingers were raw. He screamed for anyone nearby who might hear him.
Over the seemingly endless days, however, it had become harder and harder to stay focused. He started to become less lucid, wondering wildly how he got there, why he hurt so much. He couldn't remember what had happened, he could hardly even remember his own name in those periods of unbridled panic.
If he wasn't sleeping, plagued by nightmares, he would just lay there pining deliriously for food or water. Or for someone to talk to. He had never missed his father and brothers so badly. He was sure that they had gone searching for him, but he wondered if maybe they'd stopped by now. It felt like such a long time.
Then he remembered what had happened to Legolas, and began breathing faster, terrified. If the prince had died, maybe Elladan and Elrohir were so angry with their little brother that they refused to even look for him.
He laid his head against the cold ground again, hugging his arms against his freezing body. He shifted his right leg a little, idly trying to dig a hole with his foot. He wanted to let in some fresh air and have a better view if anyone walked by.
But he already knew that it was useless.
Even if he moved the rocks to his right, he still wouldn't be able to see much of the dried up riverbank outside. Most of his view would still be obscured by the huge boulder to his left, the one trapping him there.
The boulder that was crushing his left leg.