Those who are Dead
Teitho Contest Entry: BOO!
Disclaimer: Nothing is mine.
Summary: Unfinished business with the City of the Dead.
"Fight for me and I will hold your oath fulfilled."
As the King of the Dead laughed, the walls started crumbling around them.
Aragorn rolled his eyes, checked the dwarf and sent a concerned gaze toward the elf, who was quickly moving forward, prodding the dwarf along. They made their way to the exit, skulls dropping on them.
From the corner of his eye, Aragorn spotted an unusual sight. The oaken seal of the House of Oropher was engraved in one of the pillars of the disintegrating city.
As they made their way out of the cave, they came out onto the edge of the river, overlooking several corsair ships. Despair waived itself across his soul. He had failed. Minas Tirith would fall.
Legolas placed his hand on Aragorn's shoulder. Until this moment he had felt they had a chance. Now he knew there wasn't. He felt as he had the day Gimli had found the Hobbit belts. There had to be a way for them to succeed, but he couldn't figure it out.
At that moment, a noise from behind them made Aragorn stand and look behind him. The King of the Dead stepped out of the stonewall. "We fight," he said with a smile, and then disappeared back into the wall.
The three hunters made there way toward the shore. As the ships came around the bend, the man, the dwarf, and the elf made a bizarre front line against a thousand ruthless pirates.
In true kingly fashion Aragorn shouted out, "You may go no further. You will not enter Gondor."
The Bo 'sun shouted back, "Who are you to deny us passage?"
Perhaps if time hadn't been so pressing, Aragorn might have argued more. Instead, he turned to the archer, "Legolas, fire a warning shot across the Bo 'sun's ear."
For some reason, Gimli decided to be ornery and poke fun at the poor elf. As Legolas drew his bow, Gimli taunted, "Mind your aim," as he tapped the bottom edge of the bow with his axe. Legolas's aim was knocked off just as he released the arrow, causing it to meet with deadly precision in the Captain's chest.
Covering for the error, and avoiding the elf's gaze, Gimli shouted, "That's it. Right. We warned you. Prepare to be boarded."
Coming from such a furry, stout character, this couldn't have been too intimidating. Instead, the pirates laughed as their leader shouted back, "Boarded? By you and whose army?"
Aragorn took great satisfaction in quietly stating, "This army." And with that pronouncement the dead came out of the rock wall. Needless to say, the battle was swift, and the dead soldier now at the helm pulled closer so the three hunters could board.
They still had at least a day's journey ahead of them. Legolas stood near the prow, looking forward to his first glimpse of his friend's country. Boromir had talked in glowing terms of his white city and the elf was anxious to see it.
Gimli had gone below to see what weapons and food might be below and Aragorn was off discussing strategy with the dead king. Legolas had been at the rail for at least and hour when a soldier came up to him. "You look familiar my lord."
Aragorn and Gimli had just returned topside. Legolas looked over at the ranger, then back at the soldier he was talking to. "I am at a loss as to how. I am sure we've never met."
The soldier got an obstinate look on his face. "I know you Oropherion. It's been long, but elves don't change. How is the King doing?"
Legolas started as he realized this soldier thought he was his father. It was quite possible that Thranduil had once known this soldier. It was also possible that being locked in the mountain for so long; he might not know that Oropher was dead, and that Thranduil was now the King with a son of his own. "Much has changed since you locked yourself in the mountain. I am Legolas Thrandulion. Oropher was my Grandfather."
"Your highness I apologize. I assumed when you were introduced to us as Prince of the Woodland realm, that you were Thranduil, as it was during the last age."
"You couldn't have known, thousands of years have passed. My father has been King of the Woodland Realm since my grandfather was killed at Dagorlad during the Last Alliance. High King Gil-Galad was also killed on a different front of the same battle."
"I had not realized things had changed so much, I am sorry for your loss."
"The battle was long before I was born, though my father stills mourns his passing. The battle was fierce, ill timed and reinforcements late."
There was a stillness in the air, uncommon for a boat in the middle of a river traveling at high speed. Perhaps the long dead soldiers realized their fault in not coming to Isildur's aid. That failure meant that there were not enough troops to come to Oropher's aid when he marched his forces too soon.
"Father led a seven year siege in Mordor after Sauron fell, and when he returned home, less than one-third of our troops returned with him. These have been dark times. You would not know my home now if you saw it"
"Indeed," the Dwarf chimed in. "Mirkwood it is known to those who do not dwell there."
Aragorn saw Legolas's eyes flash when Gimli called his home Mirkwood and decided that he should put an end to this discussion before the Dwarf offended the Elf. "Come, we must prepare for war," he said as he turned toward the front of the boat.
As Legolas turned to follow, the soldier stopped him. "When you finish this path you now walk, return to ours. We have something of yours, Oropherion." With the most frightening grin, the soldier turned to walk away and disappeared into nothingness.
Legolas blinked at the abrupt disruption, then followed his companions to the other side of the ship, just as the ship tapped against the deck.
"Pirate scum, late as usual. There's knife work needs doing."
Legolas heard those words as Aragorn jumped over the side. All thoughts about the past went out of his mind as he focused on the battle ahead. It would be almost a year before he remembered the conversation with a soldier he didn't see again.
"When you finish the path you now walk, return to ours. We have something of yours, Oropherion."
Legolas walked forward toward the mists in front of him, hearing those words over and over again. A stone city carved into the wall in front of him materialized through the mists. He felt pulled toward the building in front of him. Behind him, a wall of rock kept him from going back. He wandered deeper into the stone entry hall. His claustrophobia was starting to push in on him, but he couldn't go back, he had to push on.
In front of him, torches started lighting on their own, illuminating a courtyard of stone columns surrounding a stone water fountain. People walked through the halls that he could see through the doors across the courtyard.
Everyone was celebrating. Wondrously dressed women were singing as they sauntered through the corridors. A beautiful red haired woman came up to Legolas. She wrapped her arms around his neck and started dancing with him. Stiffly, he tried to push her away from him. As she tightened her grip, he felt trapped, he couldn't get away. With a last push, he shoved her away from him. As she stepped back her fingernails dug into his arms, her eyes flashed blackly and suddenly the bright walls were bathed in flowing red blood. The world went dim, green mist started appearing again. With a last look at the once beautiful creature in front of him, he started running back toward the entrance to the cavern.
"When you finish the path you now walk, return to ours. We have something of yours, Oropherion," a disembodied voice echoed in his ear as he stumbled. As he sat up, he realized he was in bed. It was all a bizarre dream.
He stood shakily to his feet, then walked over to the wash basin. Splashing water on his face, he brushed the hair out of his eyes.
As he looked at his reflection, he noticed he was still flushed from the dream. He had not thought of that day with the dead in so long. What had the soldier meant and why this weird dream? When the Battle of Pelanor ended, Legolas did not remember seeing the soldier anywhere in the crowd around the Dead King.
Shaking the cold feeling off, the newly made Lord of Ithilien dressed for the day, then made his way down to the Hall. For now he had been staying with Faramir and Eowyn, but his flet would be finished soon. He entered the hall to find Gimli and Aragorn waiting for him. He had forgotten that Aragorn was coming for a tour of Faramir's colony.
"Legolas!" Gimli shouted. "It is good to see you, lad." As Gimli stepped back he realized something was wrong with the Elf. "What is the matter, Laddie?"
Feebly, Legolas tried to avoid the question. "Nothing Gimli, I just didn't sleep well. My mind is driven by ill dreams of late."
"What would those be?" a new voice asked as its owner came around the corner.
Legolas stopped at the sudden appearance of his father. I'm sorry I was not up to greet you father. I did not realize you were coming. Forgive me for not being better prepared."
"I wanted to surprise you, my son. I cannot spend time with you if this visit were to become a formal affair. Now what were those dreams you spoke of?"
"My Lord, if I might suggest Faramir's study for such a reunion? I'm sure he won't mind," Aragorn said, as he moved the two elves and the dwarf toward the door.
As they walked down the corridor, Thranduil noted the changes in his son. He had finally come into his own. On the journey from Minas Tirith, Aragorn and Gimli had explained how many changes his son had made in his new realm in such a short time. Soon Thranduil would have his son show him those changes, but first he had to find out what put the shadow in his son's eyes. As they entered the study, and shut the door, Thranduil wrapped his arms about his son.
"I have missed you so, my little Greenleaf. Home is not the same since you founded your own colony. Yet you don't seem as happy as I hoped. What is making you so sad?"
They each took a seat on two couches, Aragorn and Gimli on one, Legolas and his father on the other.
"I keep having the same dream, every night for the last week. Aragorn, Gimli, do you remember the night on the corsair ship when that soldier thought I was Ada?"
"Yes, it was so strange." Aragorn turned to the Elvenking "While we were on the ship, we spoke to one of the Dimwold soldiers. He thought Legolas was you, my Lord. Apparently Legolas looks a lot like you did 3,000 years ago. The soldier thought he was you."
Thranduil went pale. "What did he want?"
"He wanted me to return to the Dimwold Mountain when the ring was destroyed," Legolas said, glancing at his friends. He had not told them this before.
Thranduil shot out of his seat and went to stand by the fireplace. "I forbid you from doing that. What lies in that mountain is best left undisturbed."
Legolas had never seen his father so upset. "What is it? What is in that mountain that scares you so?"
"That mountain is evil. What lies there should stay there. The way is shut, we must leave it to the dead," the king ended as if in a trance.
"Leave what to the dead? Ada what happened there? I don't understand. I know whatever happened there happened before I was born."
The Elvenking looked at his son. "When father and I took our forces to fight in the last alliance, we were assured by King Elendil, Isildur's father, and High King Gil-Galad that there were several allies and we would have any reinforcements we needed. Our army was paired with Dimwold's. They were to assist and cover our flank. When Elendil called them, he took a token from Greenwood's Army to give them.
"The soldier you described would be Dworden, the king's advisor. The token he took to his king was mine." From around his neck, Thranduil pulled a necklace over his head and gave it to his son. "This was my father's pendant, upon his death it became mine. It is the symbol of the King of Greenwood. The match is the pendant that was mine 3,000 years ago, the symbol of Greenwood's Prince.
Engraved into a timeless, circular piece of wood was an oak tree, under it the elvish runes for King. "When Elendil called for aid, he sent Dworden with my pendant, which was to be returned to me when Dimwold's army joined us. As that never happened, it was forever lost. It was one of my regrets from that time, to loose that which should have become yours at birth."
"So the something he referenced, that would be the pendant?" Aragorn asked. "As we were leaving the Path, I thought I saw an oak tree on the wall. He must want you to return."
Thranduil once again shocked the trio when he shouted, "I forbid it! The way is shut, none but the dead can go there!" Gimli, Aragorn and Legolas stared at the Woodland King with shock.
Not wanting to upset his father, Legolas agreed and changed the subject. As the four of them discussed the changes Legolas and Faramir had made and still planned, Thranduil seemed to calm down. As the evening wore to a close, Faramir's servant escorted Thranduil to his chambers. Aragorn and Gimli tried to engage the Elf in conversation, but Legolas claimed to be tired and went to his room.
Thranduil's visit to Ithilien was cut short when a messenger came from Celeborn telling him there was trouble at home. He packed quickly, said farewell and was gone.
After his father left, the dreams became more vivid, but they were of places and events of long ago or those still to pass, for he knew none of them. He had a foreboding feeling that if he did not return to Dimwold the world might still fall. Why he could not say.
Toward the end of Gimli and Aragorn's visit, Legolas announced his intention to inspect the colony, as a messenger had arrived and informed him of the progress that had been made on his home.
The next morning, as Legolas was leading Arod out of Faramir's stable, he was stopped by the sight in front of him. Gimli had appeared sometime after he had entered the stable and was now sitting on the bench outside.
"Just where do you think you're off to?"
With a sense of déjà vu Legolas rolled his eyes and replied, "Not this time. This time I go alone."
Aragorn came up behind him leading Brego. "Have you learned nothing of the stubbornness of Dwarves?" he said with a smirk.
"You might as well accept it. We're going with you, Laddie," Gimli interjected as he grabbed his stuff and stood.
"How did you know?" the elf questioned.
"Know what?" Aragorn asked.
"That I wasn't going home."
"Because, stubborn human that he is, it's exactly what he would and has done. Face it Laddie, the three of us have spent too much time together not to know each other's minds."
"And I well remember the haunted feeling I felt in the shadow of the mountain, a feeling I think you now own," Aragorn added.
"It was hard enough to deal with the strange dreams before Ada left, but now they really won't leave me. They've just gotten deeper, stronger; even more relentless."
"What are we waiting for?" Gimli asked impatient to be going.
The journey to the back entrance to the Dimwold took three days on horseback, and gave the three friends some relaxing time together. As they neared the door they decided to leave the horses outside.
Gimli was far more nervous than he wanted the elf to know for if the elf knew he might try to keep him from entering.
Inside the cave was darkness. Legolas read the old words once again." The way is shut, it was made by those who are dead. And the dead keep it. The way is shut." With that a burst of air came through the door, and with a last determined look at his companions the elf entered the cave walking the reverse trail.
Aragorn and Gimli quickly followed, amazed that there was no evidence of a rockslide. The main hall looked just as it did the last time, with one distinct change. There was no abyss in the middle of the Main Chamber.
As they came to a halt in the center of the room, they were surrounded by eight soldiers, led by the same soldier on the ship. Dworden, Thranduil had named him.
"So the son of Oropher has returned. We thought you too much of a coward, elf," one of them sneered.
Dworden stepped in to correct them. "This my friends is Oropher's grandson, Legolas Thrandulion." He smiled at the look of surprise on the archers face. "I did hear you before, I didn't acknowledge it."
"He has come to reclaim what is his, for he is the Prince of Greenwood."
"With Isildur's heir?"
"Indeed he was here with him before."
"I don't think he should stay. No he should leave."
"I am not leaving until I know why I have had such strange dreams of late. I demand an answer."
"Oh he demands, does he? Show him what we think of his demands!"
At that moment a loud crack was heard from above. Aragorn who had been standing respectfully behind the elf and next to the dwarf, saw the rock coming at them. "Legolas, look out!" he screamed as he grabbed the dwarf and jumped backwards out of the way, seconds ahead of falling rock.
Suddenly, the ground opened up again revealing the missing abyss and stranding Aragorn and Gimli on the far side.
As the rock slide stopped Legolas stood and looked behind him. A wall of rock stood between him and his friends. He could hear Aragorn's and Gimli's voices on the other side. "Come, they will be safe, you must go forward alone. They cannot go where you must."
With a last hesitant look behind him, Legolas followed, never realizing that he left his body on the ground behind him, as he followed Dworden into the city. As he entered the city, his guide disappeared into green mist and Legolas found himself walking through the courtyard, unescorted. He felt suddenly uneasy, and his heart seemed to beat harder in his chest. He could hear it's pulse in his ears, independent of the world around him.
Ahead of him, all was bathed in white, the light seeming to stream through vacant stone windows. There were several people walking around dressed in bright colors. On the far side, one woman stood out. She was tall with black flowing hair dressed in a vibrant red gown. She looked up from her laughing conversation with a group of men and looked right at him, and then through him. Her blue eyes became vacant, turning almost black, as she approached him.
Slowly, as she came closer, the stone windows seemed to change color, and the room behind her turned blood red. Green mists rolled in, the courtiers disappeared on by one until she was the only one left. She twined her arms around him, leaning forward almost kissing him. "Welcome, Legolas, to my world. I am Losha, pleased that you could join us." She gestured around at the now vacant room. "Come, I have much to show you." Letting go of him, she started forward further into the city, he found himself following her, unable to stop. As the moved, the city around them had completely turned crimson, and now the only light in the room focused on her, a light beacon in a blood bath.
Aragorn and Gimli stood after the rock fall to see the wide abyss stretched in front of them. On the far side, their elven friend lay where he had fallen, unresponsive to the world around him. They called to him, but he didn't respond. Carefully, they made their way around the pit. Aragorn wanted to rush, but he would do the elf no good if they got hurt.
As they finally got closer to their friend, the green mist had moved even thicker into their path, and they could barely make out their fallen friend. Legolas wasn't glowing, and this fact terrified them. Then, suddenly, through the mist, they caught sight of a new cloaked figure, kneeling over Legolas. As they got closer, the figure threw back his hood, and looked at them.
"King Thranduil!" Gimli exclaimed. "But you left ahead of us, how—"
"I see you got my message, my lord," Aragorn said.
"If you sent me a message, I never received it. I didn't get very far before I realized what my son would do, so I turned back and came straight here, hoping to catch you before you entered these halls. What happened?"
Gimli explained as Aragorn and Thranduil checked Legolas over. With a relieved sigh, the King of Gondor sat back on his heels as he found the elf's pulse. Checking for a head wound, Aragorn could find no reason for his friend to remain unconscious. "His pulse is strong, his breathing normal. I don't understand why he doesn't wake up."
Thranduil answered, "It's because he's not here. His body is, but his fea isn't. I'm not certain how it happened."
"The rock slide separated us. He hasn't awoken since," Gimli said.
"Your Highness," Thranduil turned to Aragorn, "I ask that you and Gimli stay with my son. Keep him safe as I go to find him."
"My Lord, I understand one of us must stay, and as I am the healer it makes sense that it be me, but I must insist that Gimli go with you. Together you have a much better chance of helping Legolas." Aragorn's words made sense so Thranduil bit back what he wanted to say."
"Very well, but be on your guard. Do not believe what you see or hear. Nothing is real."
"That shouldn't be too hard, just focus on the elf. I can do that." As they walked forward, green mist grabbed at their heels and crunching sounds could be heard. "Keep moving, they want us to turn around."
As they entered the city, the stone walls around them vibrated, shimmering and shedding dust. The catacombs in front of them were as cold and damp as a tomb. The smell of death was everywhere. Chanting voices could be heard from up ahead.
The Elvenking and Dwarf moved faster making their way toward the sound. Cobwebs were draped everywhere, decay marking the walls. A strange clacking sound could be heard under the voices, making Gimli's hackles rise. As they walked through another archway, Gimli caught his breath at the sight before him.
Legolas was on the other side of the room, standing frozen in front of a mirror. A dark woman stood behind him, leaning into him, whispering into his ear. She was dressed in a thin white burial gown that appeared as decayed as if it had been made of dirty spider webs. Suddenly, she turned and looked over her shoulder. "Ah, Thranduil, you've come back to me," she simpered.
"Of course I came back. You took my son. This has nothing to do with him."
"You came for him, yet you left me here. Why?" she pouted moving toward him.
"My Lady, you know why. Had Dimwold come to our aid, many good people, elves and humans would still be alive, as would my father." He stepped back as if afraid, yet out of her sight, he motioned Gimli toward his son.
"You know I didn't mean it, we should be together, you and I. Come back to me, come back to where you belong."
"And where would that be?"
"Into my arms; and into my love." She stepped forward again as if to embrace the king. Gimli had managed to avoid her view and moved up to his friend. Legolas was pale and cold. Even though the Dwarf knew he was seeing his friend's fea and not his body, he still felt the person in front of him. Legolas hadn't moved. It was as if he was in a trance. Staring into his reflection, Gimli brushed his hand across his friend's back. "Laddie, wake up, it's time to go," he whispered, nervously looking over his shoulder, checking on the King.
At Gimli's voice the younger elf blinked twice, and then followed his friend's gaze. Gimli looked back at his friend, just as he saw awareness return to his eyes, and then Legolas vanished.
Feeling the loss of the younger elf's soul, the woman screamed and slammed the back of her hand across the King's cheek. She turned toward the Dwarf and sent a bolt of lightning toward him, throwing him into a wall, where he slid down, dazed.
Thranduil shook his head, and wiped imaginary blood from the corner of his mouth where her ring had cut him.
"You haven't changed Thranduil. Still trying to do things your way, but don't worry, I will get him back, for he carries my mark. He will return." She reached up to sooth the mark on his face.
"Don't bet on it. My son and grandson are stronger than you know. I release the hold you have on my line. Go back to the shadow world you come from."
Gimli stood. My lord! The mountain shakes. We have Legolas. We must go!"
"You cannot. The Greenleaf carries my mark. He is mine."
"Not if I take his place, Thuringwethil. Fallen though you are, even you must choose a willing sacrifice. Gimli! Come here!" As the Dwarf approached the Elvenking pulled the necklace off the woman and taking a ring from his own finger, he handed them to the dwarf. "I charge you, Gimli son of Gloin to return these to their rightful owners. Go now. Get your friends out of here. Do not stop; go straight out of the mountain. When you see my grandson, give him his necklace, and when you see my son, who is waiting just outside, give him this ring. Tell them both that Oropher is proud of them."
In that moment, the face before him changed, the elf became darker, his hair black and his shoulders broader. He could see his friend in this elf's face, but this was not Thranduil, no this was the mighty Oropher himself. "Go now, the mountain is falling. Make them know that I came back for them, and am at piece. GO!" And with that, the Elvenking of old grabbed the vampiress who was once Maia, and walked away, fading into the green mists.
Gimli felt the mountain shake and went running to find his friends.
As he came out of the ancient city, it was to see Aragorn caring for a newly awakened elf. "Come, we must go. The mountain is collapsing."
"But Gimli—" Legolas started.
"No time. I have what we came for, let's go." Together the Dwarf and Human dragged their friend toward the exit, before he had time to realize his father hadn't returned.
And again the three hunters found themselves beating a hasty retreat from skulls and flying rock, as the mountain once again collapsed. As they came out the exit, it was to see a solitary ship on the waters ahead of them. It was small, accommodating a small group of elves, who had come to lend aid if needed.
Thranduil stood at the bow. Aragorn was confused. How had Legolas's father come to be aboard that ship?
They made their way to the shore and waited for Thranduil to join them. "My lord, Aragorn, I thank you for your message. I am sorry I didn't get it sooner. I only hope we arrived in time?"
Gimli stepped forward. "There is a lot to explain, and it will take time. Legolas needs to rest. Perhaps we could come aboard, make our way to Minas Tirith? The time for explanations can come soon enough."
As Legolas was practically falling on his feet, Aragorn agreed. They boarded the King's ship and floated down the Anduin toward home. Aragorn made Legolas comfortable, nervous about his unrelieved pallor and the mysterious snake bite wound that had just appeared, and then mysteriously disappeared on his friend's neck right before he had regained consciousness. In fact, Aragorn wasn't sure he hadn't just imagined it.
The horses had been loaded into the hold of the ship. In the dining hall Gimli filled the two kings in on all that had happened in the dark city, then he pulled from his pocket the ring he had been given. Handing it to Thranduil, he said, "Your highness, your father said to give this to you, it is yours. He also entrusted the necklace to me for safe keeping. He traded places with Legolas for his freedom. Whatever deal he struck brought the mountain down. I doubt we shall be bothered again."
"When my son awakens, we will give him his birthright, together. He is very fortunate to have such friends."
Down below, in his cabin Legolas suddenly jerked awake from the sound of seductive feminine laughter ringing in his ears. He nervously touched his neck, but all he felt was smooth skin. He stood up and went to the wash basin. Looking into the mirror, he could see two perfect round punctures from which no blood oozed. What had happened to him? In his ears, that woman's voice resounded, "I am Losha, and you are mine."