Title: A Light in the Dark
Author: Ice Cube
Rating: PG – PG-13 (K+ – T)
Spoilers: For FotR movie verse, other stories that I have written or am currently writing
Disclaimer: Right, if I owned them anywhere outside of my dreams, the characters that are forthwith mentioned in this story would be making me a lot of money and very happy…so no, they aren't mine, and I'm a broke college student who has no money, so if you're going to sue, feel free, you won't get anything.
Characters: Aragorn, Legolas, Elladan, Elrohir, Elrond…the Fellowship is mentioned
Archives: Feel free; just let me know where so I can find it again.
Summary: Past meets present when the Watcher pulls down the entrance to Moria…written for the Fellowship Followers Challenge 6
Warnings: To those who think that I am capable of writing a fic that is torture free…I can't, and thus, if you don't want to see h/c, various possible tortures, and other forms of angst, find another story. Also, to those of you looking for slash, when I mean friendship and brotherhood, I take that in the trust you with my life and have no problem telling you about my current crush who is of the opposite sex way. In other words, if you're looking for slash, you won't find it here. By the way, like almost everything I've ever written, it's AU, so take that into account. Gilraen is missing from this and all my stories, and for anyone who doesn't assume that Elrond took Estel in as his son and the twins thought of him as a brother, I do…so…yeah…that happens in this. Besides, it says that Elrond took in Estel as a son somewhere in the appendices anyway…
I don't have my stories beta'd, I'm too impatient to wait for someone to proof it after I've written it, so I apologize for any mistakes, and if you email me to tell me that they're there, I'll fix them later. Reviews are always a plus, it's great to know that people are reading my stories and like them, but as I'm a horrible reviewer, I won't hold my breath for them. Flames, however, will be treated with the utmost respect they deserve…they will be ignored completely or poked fun at with friends.
That said, on with the tale…
The octopus like creature extended its tentacles out one last time, groping in the dark for the one it sought. Being rewarded only with pain and lost limbs, the Watcher grasped onto the rocks and pulled them to the ground, trapping the Fellowship in the long dark of Moria.
Darkness settled on the group like a burial shroud, blanketing and suffocating all who were unlucky enough to be caught in its clutches. No matter what he did, Aragorn could not see around him, could not focus on Legolas' natural light enough to quell old fears. His hand tightened down on the hilt of his sword, sweat beaded on his forehead and trickled down the back of his neck – sending a cold shiver down Aragorn's back. The memories he thought long buried, the fears he thought were long passed came crashing down on him like the rocks themselves. Though he kept his feet, Aragorn was thrown back; thrown back to a time of more innocence, when he was only thirteen years old.
Estel raced from the Last Homely House with tears in his eyes. Elladan had told him that his pet might not make it, and the boy was furious. The salty wetness stung the scratches on his face from his last misadventure and blinded his path from him. Estel did not care. He only wanted to be away from life as he knew it; he didn't want to think of what would happen if the dog died. Yet before he knew it, the teenager only wanted to be safe at home with Sador and the rest of his family. He recognized the place he found himself only too well, and nervousness started to creep into his thoughts.
This place was one of the local haunts for the Elflings that inhabited Imladris, but for Estel, it was only a place of pain and taunting. The few times that the human had wandered mistakenly into this clearing, he had paid for it dearly. At the present, he did not see any of his tormentors, and Estel was not one to tempt the Fates, distraught or not. He had made it back to the safety of the treeline when he felt it. When he looked down there was a light colored hand resting on his shoulder, just longer than his own. He closed his eyes and gulped when the sound of laughter reached his ears; he really was in trouble now.
Schooling his features, Estel stowed the fear away and turned to face the Elves. Bitter resentment laced the eyes of the Elfling holding onto the boy, and an evil grin spread across his face.
"Back for more fun, Edain?" The grip tightened until bruises were forming on Estel's skin, and he knew there was no getting out of this one. He sighed and dropped his head, stepping back out of the way of the first punch that was aimed for his stomach. Estel could never understand why these Elves hated him so.
The first blow that got past Estel's defenses clipped his eye and stunned him just long enough for three of the boys to knock him to his hands and knees. With one boy sitting on the back of his legs and the other two stepping on his hands, the Elflings laid into their target with all they had. A flurry of fists and feet attacked Estel's vulnerable ribs and face as he tried to pull in on himself. His left hand came free first and with it he used the momentum to drop to that shoulder and roll out of the circle. Launching himself to his feet, Estel clutched his stomach and forced the pain out of his awareness, setting for the boys to attack him again.
He never saw it coming. Still near the cover of the trees, Estel had been so preoccupied with his own existence and continuing it that he didn't notice the Elfling that took to the branches until he felt the weight on his back. It was the last thing he remembered as he crumpled to the ground, letting the promise of blissful sleep claim him.
Estel woke once to the sensation of being carried. He groaned and tried to open his eyes, but found the task required too much effort and simply settled more comfortably into the arms that held him, once more falling into darkness. He missed the sounds of laughter.
"Look at the dumb Edain, thinking that he is but a babe in his mother's arms. Let's take him to the caves."
Estel woke again when he was thrown to the ground and rolled to a stop between two boulders. Gasping in pain, the boy let his instincts govern him as he launched to his feet, swaying momentarily. He shook his head to try and clear it even as he was bringing his fists up to guard his face. The last thing he remembered clearly was pain, and so he set his feet for an attack and peered into the darkness.
Estel couldn't hear anything, nor could he see anyone. Not ready to drop his guard, the boy wondered idly if the other Elflings had simply left him there. In a cave that was as small as this one felt, Estel was sure that the natural light of the Elves should be filling his vision. Slowly, however, he began to hear whispers. They spoke of his weakness, and how he was a disgrace. The voices were almost ethereal, and Estel found himself convinced that the ghosts of the past were coming down on him. He blinked rapidly and then opened his eyes wide, trying not to focus on any one thing to see through the black.
Out of the corner of his left eye, Estel thought he could see the lithe body of an Elf, and took a chance. Before any of the hidden boys could react, Estel had launched himself into one of his tormentors and knocked them both to the ground. Renewed vigor flowed through the human when he hit flesh and found that his ghosts were as alive as he was. Wrestling, the two boys traded advantages and blows, both trying to keep the upper hand. Finally, past hurts and human endurance caught up with Estel, and when he faltered for a single second, he let his defenses be breached. The feelings of weightlessness sent his stomach into his throat before he slammed back against a stalagmite and tumbled to the ground.
Rising slowly to his hands and knees, Estel wondered what could make him tremble so badly. It took him an instant longer to realize that he wasn't trembling, the ground was. Panic gripped the young ones as the rumble of rocks falling assaulted their ears. They all started racing each other for the exit, often stumbling over one another and tumbling to the ground.
Estel felt someone crash into his knees and send him face first into the dirt. He didn't wait to see if they rose; his brothers had spent most of his years frightening him with stories of cave-ins, and he didn't want to experience being trapped firsthand.
Thinking better of his actions, Estel turned to help the Elfling up and was knocked flat onto his back. He found himself trapped, and no matter how much he struggled, he couldn't rise. One last resounding crack sounded and the rumbling intensified until Estel was sure his ears would burst. Then all was silent.
When Estel woke, coughing, he instinctively tried to wrap his arms tightly around his aching ribs. Fear spiked through him when he could not move. He tried again, jerking erratically against whatever held him. The boy's head whipped back and forth, searching for something to focus on, but no matter what he did, it looked as though he was staring into the back of his eyelids. Estel could see nothing. He could hear nothing. There was no distinct smell. He could feel nothing. It seemed that he was in a large void.
Drip. Drip. Drip. Drip. The sound of some liquid plunking against the ground made its way through the void, and Estel calmed a little. He tried to take a deep breath, but it felt like a troll was pushing its palm against the boy's chest, squeezing his lungs against his spine. Short choppy breaths replaced his attempts at breathing normally, and soon he could hear a distinct wheeze with each passage of air. Fearful of being squished, Estel fought harder against his entrapment until he once again passed out.
Estel wasn't sure how long he had been out, but when he came to, he found that there was no change in his situation. Relaxing back against whatever was supporting his back, the boy began to systematically discover what his surroundings were. When he didn't try to jerk himself free, Estel found that he could move his toes and ankles. His knees were trapped, but whatever was holding them down felt pliable. He thought that if he tried, he could wiggle out from under that. Estel sat up straight and tried to pull himself backwards. He could sit straight up, but couldn't twist left or right. With a sigh, the boy slumped back and was surprised that he hadn't noticed himself groan, even though he heard it.
From there, Estel focused on his fingers. They moved backwards easily enough, but every time he tried to make a fist, his left hand cramped and shot fiery pain up through his elbow and his right pushed against something soft. Curious, Estel prodded the object some more. Stretching his fingers out as far as they were able, Estel found that the object had at least one hole near his smallest finger. In front of his thumb, there was some kind of flap. Estel started when his third and fourth fingers squished down on an indentation that was filled with something jelly-like. He finally realized part of what was trapping him; he realized that his fingers had plunged down into someone's eye.
When Estel came to his senses again, tears were tracking down his face. No breath was coming from the nose that the boy could feel, and there was nothing he could do to help. He vaguely remembered there being four other boys at the clearing, and he wondered if any of the others made it out. A hacking cough wracked his frame once more, and he heard the groaning again. Frowning, he held his breath and fell back. There it was again.
"Oh great, it's you." The voice was weak and airy, but still held all the disdain that was Estel's bane.
"Can you move at all? If I sit up I mean."
"Anything to get away from…" the Elf trailed off.
Estel shook his head and sat up. He felt the Elf roll away from him and found that he could shimmy out a little further and pulled his arms free. Rolling in on himself, the boy cringed and shuddered. A gasp of pain that was not his reached his ears, and he whipped his head around. Still unable to see anything, Estel strained to hear the other boy. Another whimper escaped, before a sound that Estel had never heard from an Elf hit him, and then there was no more.
It seemed only seconds later, but was in reality much longer when Estel turned around again. Unable to catch his breath, the boy shook even harder as he extended his arm behind him. Closing his eyes as if it would make any difference, the boy stretched out his fingers until they brushed against the light tunic of the Elfling. No breath moved the boy's stomach, and Estel dropped his head.
Drip. Drip. Clank. Click.
Drip. Drip. Whoosh. Snap.
Every sound intensified as the time passed on. The teenager found himself stroking the hair of the Elfling still in his lap. His breaths were short and raspy. The back of his tunic was drenched in sweat. His teeth chattered. His eyes darted back and forth. Orcs seemed to dance just out of his vision. His hands trembled. Estel had no way of knowing how much time had passed, but the nauseous feeling in his stomach told him that it had been far longer than the few moments he thought had passed. He was hunched over, his hand lying on the dead boy's head, unwilling to leave the one concrete thing that held him slightly grounded.
Slowly, however, exhaustion wore on the boy and he found himself listing over to his side. He never realized when he had fallen over; only that he was finally lying on his side. From this position, Estel could just see a small speck of light and it gave him hope. Stretching his fingers out, the boy reached and brushed against a slick material. Pulling his hand back with a gasp, Estel noticed that his fingers were now glowing slightly. He reached out again and this time curled his palm around the object. Now his whole hand had a slight greenish tinge in the inky blackness.
A few more moments of frantic digging and pulling produced a stone just bigger than an arrowhead. Estel clutched it for all he was worth returning his left arm to the Elfling's head. With it, he could just make out his right fist, and used it to check as much of his surroundings as he could. The palm of his left hand was gashed open, and he could see the shadows of deep bruises running up the arm. He saw that the boy on his lap was still staring at him, his eyes vindictive, even in death.
Estel woke with a start, his fingers still clutching the rock. He wasn't sure what had dragged him from his sleep, but he didn't have long to wonder.
Clang. Crack. Bang. Thud.
Each sound terrified the boy even more. With only his small rock to light the cave, every shadow seemed darker; every crack in the rocks around him seemed to hide an Orc, a Goblin, or some other creature from the twins' tales. There was no relenting in the din, and with each new sound, Estel could imagine a horde of beasts coming to get him. Seeking the smallest bit of comfort, the boy curled in on himself further, pulling his thumb into his mouth for the first time since he was a small child and beginning to stroke the hair of the boy on his lap.
Drip. Bang. Thud. Clang.
Breaths came more quickly. Sweat coated his back, arms, and legs. Tremors raced around his stomach. Tears coursed down his face. Soft whimpers escaped past his right thumb. Tired fingers continued to smooth the boy's hair. A sore palm wrapped around the pebble.
Crack. Boom. Creak. Scrape.
Estel could almost feel the biting hands of the Orcs; could almost smell their rancid breath; could almost hear their guttural words. He knew they were coming for him, that there was no escape now. All he could do was pray to the Valar to spare him.
When the sounds finally stopped, Estel was too afraid to notice. Light spilled into the cave, but that only served to force him into an even smaller ball. All of the monsters from his nightmares were coming to get him, he was sure of it. When he felt another's presence looming over him, his whimpers only increased in volume.
Elladan looked down at his baby brother and could feel his heart break. It had been four days since the two Elflings had come racing into Imladris bruised and bloody. The pale, quivering form held his eyes tightly shut and seemed to only tremble more when Elladan bent over him. Quickly, the Elves with him began to move away the rocks and bore the bodies of the dead out to the light. Alone with the boy, Elrohir and Elladan both tried to talk to him, but could not break him of his stupor. Not knowing what else to do with him, they carefully scooped him up and carried him out to the grassy knoll where their packs were.
Being out in the sunlight seemed to calm Estel slightly, but he was still catatonic. With tears checked at the corners of their eyes, the twins set to work examining their brother as quickly as they could. Right now, they wanted nothing more than to get Estel home to their father, and see what magic he could work to get through to the boy.
One broken wrist, several broken ribs, and numerous cuts later, Estel was handed up to Elrohir and the family was off home at breakneck speed. The rest of the rescue party was charged with bringing the other boys to their families.
Elrohir kept a close watch on his brother during the quick ride back to their home. He spent the trek whispering softly to the boy and keeping a close eye on the boy's breathing and heartbeat. Thankfully, they made it to the Last Homely House without incident.
Reaching the gates of their home, Elrohir handed Estel down into the waiting hands of his brother before dismounting. He raced after his family, adding his voice to Elladan's as they called for their father.
Elrond came at their calls and he, too, was saddened by the sight of his youngest. Relieving the elder twin of his burden, the concerned father cradled his boy closely and raced for the Healing Halls.
There was nothing more that Elrond could do for his son, and he didn't quite know how to handle it. The arm had been set expertly, and was now lying in plaster. Each of Estel's 3 broken ribs was in place and bound tightly to keep them from sliding into his lungs. The cuts had been cleaned and dressed. Still, Estel's breathing was labored, and he would not lie quietly. Not knowing what else to try, Elrond simply gathered his son up in his arms and rocked him, singing of simple times in sunlight. The effect was almost instantaneous, and a smile touched each of the Elves' faces. Estel curled his right hand in his father's tunic, and slept on.
The boy slept for two full days before joining his family in consciousness, but his problems did not end there. The coming days proved to be a trying time for him as every shadow sent him careening back into the cave. He could not go into a darkened room without feeling as though someone was squeezing his chest, and the few times he woke after his candle had burnt out, his brothers had found him under the bed, whimpering.
When Elrond's heart could take no more of his son's plight, he chanced a method of healing that he had tried only once before, on his middle son. He was going to make Estel face his fears, and hoped the boy would come out stronger for it.
Rousing the boy from a light sleep in the Healing Halls after dinner that night, Elrond wrapped him in a dark wool blanket and carried him down to the Hall of Fire. Sitting in a chair near the fireplace, he allowed the boy to relax in his arms.
"You trust this place, don't you ion nin? And you trust me? You feel safe where you are?" Elrond worked to keep the tremor out of his voice. He wasn't sure how this would affect his boy.
"Yes, Ada," Estel replied sleepily.
"Then please forgive me," he said softly. Before the boy could question his father, Elrond grabbed the corner of the blanket and threw it over his son's head, plunging him into darkness. With tears in his eyes, he held the small human as he thrashed and whimpered. He could see the Elves who were still milling around and asked them quietly to leave. Most were already on their way out.
"Estel. Estel, listen to me. You can hear me, I know you can Estel." He smiled as the boy relaxed a little, but still strained to move his arms. "Good. Listen to what you can. Listen to the sounds and then let them fade into your surroundings. Can you hear the fire behind you?" The boy nodded. "Good, now let that fade. Can you hear my heart beating next to your ear? Good. Concentrate on what you know. You are safe here, tithen pen. You know where you are and that no one can come and hurt you here. You know that the panting you can here is just Sador, waiting for you to heal. You can hear the owls outside? They are simply living out their lives, nothing more. Can you get passed all of this, Estel?"
Fear starting to subside a little, Estel was more in control of his actions, and tried once more to move the blanket.
"Not yet, ion nin. Not yet." As part of this healing, Elrond slid his hand under the fold of the blanket, grasping his son's hand. "Instead, see my light and know that the light of your family and friends will always lead you to safety. Remember that, my son."
Elrond paused once more to allow Estel to find his light and focus on it. "My son, the inky blackness of the dark is nothing to fear, for it can not harm you. You are safe in my arms here, and yet the darkness has hold of you. There is no way to hide from it, only to accept it and know that no matter what, it will not control you unless you let it. The world is an ever continuing cycle of light and dark, and those who can thrive in both will rule their own fate. Those who cannot will be able to do nothing more than wait in fear for the next revolution. You must look into your heart and decide which path you are going to choose, and then your brothers and I will help you. Imagine this fear of yours is the flame from a candle. It will take more courage for you to simply take a deep breath and visualize yourself blowing out the flame than everything you have done to this day."
With that, Elrond pulled the blanket away from the boy's eyes just slightly, allowing a sliver of light into his son's cocoon. He pulled his hand out from the blanket and simply sat, waiting for the teenager to make the next move.
Estel sat quietly for a moment, still working to calm his breathing and decipher all that his father had said. Knowing that he could not spend his life hiding in light, the boy put his trust in his father, took a deep breath, and blew it out, moving the blanket back over his eyes as he did so. He had surrounded himself in the dark, and was no longer afraid. He was content to sit there and relax before falling asleep.
It had been only seconds between the cave-in and Gandalf lighting his staff, but time seemed to have stopped, and it took the hand of his oldest friend gripping his shoulder supportively to break Aragorn of his nightmare. A sigh escaped from his lips and necessity only afforded him an instant to let the fears fade into the deep recesses in his mind like smoke from a candle wisping off into the air. It was an old trick that his father had taught him, and it worked once more. The light chased away any weakness the Man felt, and he reached for the small rock in his pocket. The lichen had long since worn off, but the symbolism still held. Squeezing it tightly, Aragorn smiled and nodded into the dark. He checked on the other members of the Fellowship, and fell into step behind Legolas – letting the Elf's natural light encompass him and setting his mind to other matters. Moria was far from safe now; he could sense it and so he took charge once more.