Going On A Bear Hunt
"Be careful, El. Try not to get into trouble – look out for bears!" Elladan called after his brother, as he led the way out of the courtyard with Aragorn and Legolas. Elrohir turned and waved.
"We will! Be careful of stray arrows!" he responded with a grin. They passed beneath the archway, and along the wooded path until lost from sight.
Elladan scowled after them, then gave a reluctant smile. Although not remotely funny at the time, the incident did have its humorous side. While he and Elrohir had been training a group of novices a few days before, a loose arrow – somehow – had struck his arm, slicing deeply through flesh and muscle. What had made it all the more remarkable was the fact that the youngling responsible had been in another group, facing away from Elladan at the time. No-one quite knew how he had managed it. However, the end result was that he was unable to accompany his brothers and Legolas on their bear hunting trip into the hills.
With a sigh he made his way to the training area. With his arm stitched, bandaged, and immobilised in a sling, he might not be able to demonstrate the unarmed combat moves he explained to the novices; but he could still supervise and oversee their work, and assess the progress they made.
The novices had been working for some two hours, and he was about to call a break when he realised that the sky was growing darker and darker. A wedge of thick, black cloud hung over the mountains, and the peaks were veiled in mist. It would be raining heavily in the mountain passes and foothills – the others would be getting extremely wet. He allowed himself a small smile of glee at the thought.
Elladan called a halt to the session and sent the trainees inside just as the first heavy drops of rain began to fall. Thunder rumbled in the distance, and a bright flash briefly split the heavy air. He paused, lifting his face to the rain and feeling the breeze cold on his skin. He loved wild weather like this – when younger he and Elrohir had liked to run and dance in the rain, trying to catch the drops on their tongues.
Lightning flashed again distantly, and suddenly he gasped, raising one hand to his head as he felt a sharp, blinding pain there. He stumbled, falling to one knee in the grass, breathing deeply. Vaguely he heard running feet, and a voice calling to him. "Lord Elladan! What is it? What's wrong? Calion, go and find Lord Glorfindel quickly!"
He opened his eyes to see Amrod, one of the novices, kneeling in front of him, one hand tentatively touching his shoulder. He looked frightened. The others stood around them, watching anxiously. "Lord Elladan?" Amrod repeated worriedly. The lad looked up with relief as Glorfindel ran over to join them. "Lord Glorfindel! I don't know what's wrong."
Elladan managed to pull himself together as Glorfindel helped him to stand. "Elladan? What is it?"
"Elrohir," Elladan said at last. "Something has happened – he is hurt." He held the side of his head again, half expecting to feel a deep wound there, but the skin was intact, and there was no trace of blood on his fingers.
"Elrohir?" Glorfindel repeated. "What has happened to him? Can you tell?" With one arm around Elladan's waist, he led him to a bench at the side of the field. The novices still clustered around, whispering to one another.
Elladan's gaze drifted past Glorfindel unseeingly. "Darkness," he murmured. "It is dark – I cannot see anything. I think he is unconscious." He closed his eyes, groping for the link with his twin. He heard Glorfindel draw breath to speak, and answered the unspoken question. "I would know if he was dead."
"Aye, I know you would," Glorfindel replied. He raised his voice slightly, addressing the novices. "You are dismissed – your classes are ended for the day. Amrod, thank you for your help."
"Is – is Lord Elladan all right?" Amrod asked cautiously. "And Lord Elrohir? Can they really tell if the other is hurt?"
Elladan managed to smile at the youngling, hoping to reassure him. "Yes, we can tell. I am sorry, Amrod – I did not mean to scare you. As for Elrohir – I intend to find him, and find out what has happened." He stood, able to ignore the stabbing pain in his head now, and turned to Glorfindel. "They were going towards the mountains, tracking a wounded bear. Gather a few guards together, and I will tell my father. Then we go."
Legolas picked his way down the path carefully. The downpour had turned the track into a torrent, and water raced down it, several inches deep. Rain dripped incessantly from the hood of his cloak. Ahead of him, Aragorn's hunched shoulders spoke of his friend's equal misery. Of the three of them, only Elrohir appeared unconcerned. His head was bare, hair plastered to his skull, and rain ran down his face and dripped off his eyelashes and nose. Yet he was smiling.
Legolas scowled at him in disgust as the rain fell even harder. "Elrohir, for pity's sake, let us stop and take shelter – this is madness! Is there anywhere near where we can get out of this rain?"
Elrohir blinked water out of his eyes and shook his head like a dog, sending drops flying. "There is a cave of sorts ahead – a cleft in the cliff. It is a small place, but there should be room for the three of us. But I thought you did not like caves?" he added with a grin.
"There are times when I am prepared to make an exception," Legolas retorted. "This is one of them. Lead the way!" He followed Elrohir gloomily. At least the hunting expedition had been a success – of sorts. Elrond's scouts had found traces of an injured bear, and the three of them had undertaken to search for it, following it into the foothills behind Imladris. It had been old, lame, and badly injured after a fight with a rival. A swift arrow had despatched it mercifully, though he took no real pleasure in the deed. They had been returning home when the rain started, growing heavier and heavier. Now there was a cave to look forward to. Could the day possibly get any worse?
All three flinched as a dazzling flash blinded them momentarily, and an ear-splitting crash resounded all about them, echoing off the cliff walls. They reached the cave, and Aragorn pressed inside, throwing off his hood as he went. Legolas followed him, for once not all that reluctant to enter a cave. Behind them, Elrohir paused, gazing upwards at the dark clouds. "I think the worst will be over soon," he began. "The heaviest clouds are blowing away from us. It should …" His words were lost as there was another flash, and a simultaneous clap of thunder. The noise did not stop but seemed to increase. Legolas flattened himself against the cliff as Elrohir took a hurried step towards him, then all was chaos.
Stones, rocks and soil fell from above with a roar. He could not see or hear, but crouched in the narrow cleft, arms wrapped around his head for protection. Slowly the rain of rock eased, then stopped, and he raised his head cautiously, swearing softly. "I hate caves, I hate caves, I hate caves!" he muttered furiously. There was a cough, then a chuckle just in front of him. "Aragorn?" he questioned.
"Yes," the man replied. "Are you all right? You sound it. Elrohir?"
There was silence. Legolas stretched one hand out, feeling all around, and repeated the call. "Elrohir? Elrohir!" There was still no reply, but his questing hand touched rock and stone where there had been clear space before.
Carefully he twisted around in the narrow space, hearing Aragorn's worried voice behind him now, sharp with anxiety. "Oh no. Oh no. Elrohir? Can you hear me? Elrohir!" Legolas groped in front, reaching as far as he could, and suddenly found a fold of sodden cloth. Feeling again, he touched wet hair, then cold, wet skin.
"I found him! Elrohir? Can you hear me?" He ran his hands over Elrohir's head, wincing as he found a deep gash, and continued until he reached Elrohir's neck and throat, searching with his fingers until he found a pulse. "I found him, Aragorn," he said, his voice steady. "He's alive, but unconscious. A bad head wound, I think – I have not found anything else yet."
Aragorn's voice was right behind him. "Thank the Valar – Elladan would kill me if anything happened to him!" He sounded relieved, but a little unsteady. "Let me see."
Legolas pressed himself even closer to the wall. "There is not much room," he warned, as Aragorn squeezed past him. "It is a good thing we are friends!" He eased himself sideways, giving Aragorn a little more room next to Elrohir. As his eyes adjusted to the dimness, he could see Aragorn, crouched over Elrohir, running his hands over him to check for further injuries and murmuring softly to him.
Elrohir lay against the cliff wall at the entrance to the narrow cleft, just clear of the rubble that had fallen from above. A great boulder had missed his leg by mere fractions of an inch, and he was fortunate not to have been crushed. At last Aragorn looked up. "I cannot find anything much else, and I think this is not as bad as it looks. Can you pass me my pack?" As he spoke he turned Elrohir slightly on to his side, and pulled him closer, so that his head rested on Aragorn's leg. There was a deep cut and bump on the back of his head, and several smaller cuts and grazes on his brow and face, where he had fallen forward against the rock. Taking his waterskin, and wetting a corner of his cloak, Aragorn gently began to wipe the blood and dirt from his brother's face.
Legolas turned his attention to their surroundings, and stood cautiously, gazing upwards. There was a new wall of rock to one side, but at the far end, near the top, there was a glimmer of light. Carefully he began to remove some of the stones there, dropping them to the floor at his feet, and hoping that he did not destabilise the entire rock fall. He stopped and turned at a slight moan from Elrohir, and knelt at Aragorn's side again.
Elrohir's eyes flickered and opened, and he raised one hand to his head, turning to look up at Aragorn. "Estel?" he asked uncertainly.
"Yes," Aragorn replied, relief clear in his voice. "And Legolas, too. Keep still, Elrohir – you took a bad knock on the head. There was a rock fall. Do you remember what happened?"
"What happened?" Elrohir repeated. "I – I don't know." His unfocused gaze drifted past Aragorn to the shadows beyond. "Where are we?"
Aragorn sighed. "We were on a bear hunt. There was a storm, and we took shelter in a cave. Do you remember that? Lightning hit something above us, I think – the rocks came down, and you were hurt. We are going to get out of here, and get help," he explained reassuringly.
"Oh," said Elrohir simply. He nodded slightly. "Good," he added vaguely. He frowned, then peered at Aragorn again. "Did you say Legolas?" He saw him then, looking over Aragorn's shoulder. "I thought you did not like caves?" he asked.
"No," Legolas replied shortly. "I do not. Which is why I want to get us all out of here."
"Why?" questioned Elrohir. "What happened?" He pushed himself upright, and leaned against the cave wall, closing his eyes again.
"A rock fall, remember? Elrohir, I want you to stay awake," Aragorn reminded him. "You should not go to sleep, you know that."
Elrohir nodded. "I know," he murmured. "I just feel so dizzy – it helps if I close my eyes," he explained.
Legolas turned to share a long look with Aragorn. Elrohir was clearly affected by the blow to his head, and the sooner they got back to Imladris, the better. He returned to his careful task of removing the loose fall of rock. It was slow, painstaking work, for there was little room to work, and he was afraid he could cause the whole lot to collapse. He had moved several more stones when something shifted, and a shower of debris fell around his feet, and some of the stones collapsed. He took a swift step backwards, away from the rubble.
"Be careful, Legolas!" Aragorn warned.
He nodded. "I know. I just think we should get out of here as soon as possible. I do not want to stay here any longer than we have to."
"It does not matter," Elrohir said. He opened his eyes to gaze at Aragorn and Legolas a little blankly. "Elladan will be here soon."
"Elladan?" Aragorn repeated in surprise. "Elrohir, Elladan is not here. He stayed at home – do you remember that?"
Elrohir nodded, then grimaced. He leaned against Aragorn again, closing his eyes once more. "I know. He will be here soon – he knows what happened. He will find us."
Legolas exchanged another long look with Aragorn, then shrugged, remembering odd times in the past when the twins had known when something had happened to the other; had known something was wrong. "He could be right. You know what they are like," he said to Aragorn.
Aragorn nodded. "I hope so. If we do get out, it won't be easy to get him down those steep paths like this. I'm worried about him."
"Stop talking about me as if I was not here, little brother," Elrohir protested in a whisper. He shivered.
"You may be here, but you are not quite all there, you know," Aragorn said with a slight smile. "How do you feel? Are you cold?" He glanced up as Legolas knelt by them again.
Elrohir opened one eye and regarded them both with disapproval. "A foolish question. What do you think?"
Aragorn sighed. "I think you feel cold, sick, dizzy, and have an appalling headache. You're finding it difficult to concentrate, and want to go to sleep. You are also too stubborn and awkward to admit it. Am I right?"
"You sound like El," Elrohir grumbled faintly, but he did not argue with Aragorn's assessment. He shivered again, and tried to pull his damp cloak around him more tightly. Legolas pulled his off and shook it to remove the water beaded on the outer surface. It was still a little damp, but the inner lining was dry. He handed it silently to Aragorn. All three of them were wet through, but Elrohir was clearly far less able to withstand the cold at the moment.
Aragorn removed his own cloak as well. He spread it over Elrohir, then bundled Legolas's into a pillow. "Lay down here, Elrohir. I need to help Legolas – if Elladan does come, we still have to get out of here." He eased Elrohir down carefully, and tucked the cloak around him. "Rest here, but try not to go to sleep."
Elrohir complied with an alarming meekness. "Is he here yet?"
"I will look," Legolas told them. He returned to the rocks that had fallen, and with Aragorn's help, began to remove more stones, wondering at Elrohir's insistence that his twin knew what had happened. He hoped it was true – but even if Elladan did know, how could he possibly find them?
Elladan led the way through the forest that lay behind Imladris as they climbed into the foothills of the mountains. The trail was fairly easy to track, though the torrential rain had removed some marks. The path began to rise steeply, littered with loose rock, and footing became treacherous. "The path is usually clearer than this," Elladan commented. "There must have been a fall of rock ahead." He shivered slightly, recalling the sudden darkness that had befallen Elrohir.
One of the guards who had accompanied them, a skilled tracker, was kneeling, studying the rubble closely. "It is very recent," he announced. "In the past hour or two. The path beneath is wet. If the fall had happened before the rain started, it would be dry."
Elladan paused, gazing around him. Where was Elrohir? He felt slightly disorientated, and realised that he was sensing his brother's confusion. He could tell nothing about Aragorn or Legolas, but the fact that neither had raised the alarm meant one of two things. Either they were both trying desperately to help Elrohir, or they too were trapped or injured. At last he raised one hand, pointing to a track that led beneath a cliff, where most of the loose rock and scree seemed to have come from. "That way," he instructed.
They began to climb again, scrambling over the rough ground, as Elladan followed his instinct. Rounding a corner, they could see the source of the rubble. The path was blocked by a fresh rock fall. A dark hole gaped at one side, and even as they watched, another stone was pushed away and rolled down the slope. "There!" he shouted unnecessarily. The other could see as easily as he could. He ran towards the growing gap.
A grimy hand appeared, pushing more rocks away, and then Aragorn peered out. "Elladan? You took your time. Elrohir kept telling us you were on the way." He grinned, his teeth showing whitely in his filthy face.
"How is he? Is he hurt? What happened? And what about you and Legolas – are you hurt?" Elladan bombarded his foster brother with questions as he and the others began to dig through the pile of rock and stone.
"Elrohir was hit by the rockfall, and knocked out. He's conscious now, but seems a bit vague and concussed. I don't think it's too serious though," Aragorn explained quickly. "Legolas and I are fine, though Legolas is not happy about being in a cave! He seems to have an aversion to them."
With so many working on the rockfall from the outside, the gap was enlarged very rapidly, and soon there was enough space to crawl through easily. Elladan dropped to his hands and knees. "Elladan, you will have to wait for one of us to come out," Aragorn told him. "There is not enough room in here. Wait a moment."
As Legolas emerged, Elladan clasped him briefly on the shoulder, then crawled into the cave. Elrohir lay to his left, motionless and with his eyes closed. He did not at first acknowledge Elladan's presence.
"Well, little brother, what have you done to yourself this time?" Elladan asked gently. "I cannot even let you out of my sight to track an elderly bear without you finding trouble!"
Elrohir opened his eyes and smiled slightly. "El. I knew you would come. I told Aragorn and Legolas you would."
"Of course I am here," Elladan agreed. "Now, first of all we need to get you out of here, then we can all go home. Come on, little brother." He took the cloak that covered Elrohir and opened it out, then with Aragorn's help pulled him on top of it. Crawling out of the cave backwards, he dragged Elrohir with him out into the open air. The arrow wound on his arm throbbed, but he ignored the pain.
In the daylight, he and Elrond quickly checked the wound on Elrohir's head. "Elrohir? Can you tell me what happened?" Elrond asked.
Elrohir blinked, still appearing dazed, and opened his eyes again. "Not exactly – but Aragorn said that there was a rock fall, and that I was hit. I cannot remember it, though." He sounded a little confused.
"What is the last thing you do remember?"
Elrohir frowned, but then his expression cleared. "It was raining. The others hated it, but I did not mind. We were going to look for shelter …" His voice trailed off.
Elladan looked up from his brother's side to Aragorn and Legolas. "Is that right?"
Aragorn nodded. "Yes. That was only a few minutes before the lightning strike brought the rocks down. And he can remember what I said about the rock fall."
"Of course I can remember what you said!" Elrohir added waspishly. "I may have hit my head, but I am not an idiot! And stop talking about me as if I am not here!"
Elladan, Elrond, Aragorn and Legolas gazed at one another over Elrohir's head. "He sounds quite normal, too," Elladan mused.
"Good!" Elrond stood, beckoning to one of the guards who carried a stretcher. "Elrohir, first that cut will need stitching, then you are going to spend the rest of the night in the infirmary, under a healer's observation." He paused for a second. "Yes, Elladan, it can be you," he added even before Elladan had opened his mouth to ask. "But you are not going to carry the stretcher. Elrohir, I want to be absolutely certain that there is nothing more serious here, but I think that Aragorn's diagnosis is correct. By tomorrow I think you will be feeling much better. Now, shall we go?"
Elrond and Glorfindel picked up the stretcher, leaving Elladan nothing to do but follow. He glanced back just once at the tiny cave. Such a small place, but it had so nearly become a tomb for his brothers and friend. Slowly, the group picked their way down the steep, narrow track towards Imladris.