Disclaimer: If I owned Lord of the Rings, I'd be rich beyond my wildest dreams. I'm not even close, so that should tell you someone else owns Middle-earth and everything in it.

Summary: How does an immortal face death? Let Legolas tell you in his own words.

A/N: This story was written for the Teitho Contest theme: Me, Myself and I. We had to write a first person story.


FACING DEATH

by White Wolf

He watches me. With large yellow eyes that seem to glow with an inner fire, he watches me.

I watch him, too, but the effect is hardly the same. The advantage is all his. For you see, I am dying, and he knows it. Yet, for some reason, he does not attack. It would take no more than one strong leap for him to reach me. In seconds, his gleaming white fangs could sink into my throat and rip it out.

It may be that he does not yet know that I am defenseless against him. My twin knives are lost to me, as is my bow, though I doubt I could reach them, even if they were still strapped to my body. I cannot even reach the small knife in its sheath next to my right ankle.

I think it best if I start at the beginning and hope that I am able to finish my story.

x x x x x

My name is Legolas Thranduilion. I am the youngest Prince of the Woodland Realm, known to most these days as Mirkwood. We, the elves who live there, have never referred to it by that name. And dark though it has become, it is still our beloved home, and I am proud to say so.

Now that you know who I am, here is how I came to be in this situation - facing death on two fronts.

Three days ago it was that I began this adventure. Three days when everything was as it should be. Three days when I believed my future as an immortal was secure. Just three days.

x x x x x

I left Lothlórien, where I had gone to deliver a message from my father to Lord Celeborn and the Lady Galadriel. While nearby, I decided to make a small side trip to Fangorn Forest, a place I had heard so much about but had never visited. That was a deadly mistake on my part, and one I will not live to regret.

Fangorn is old and mysterious, full of wonders, like the Ents, that I longed to see for myself. Many are frightened of the darker things that inhabit the forest, but being a wood-elf, I believed I would be perfectly safe there among the venerable trees.

The ironic thing is that it was not an evil presence, a fell beast or some black spell that was to be my undoing. It was nothing more than a simple accident.

I was so enamored of the ancient trees, dark and beautiful, that I was not paying attention to my footing. I simply wandered where I wished. Before I knew it, I stepped upon a loose stone, which gave way under me, throwing me down an embankment. I slid and tumbled until I finally landed quite hard, back first, against a sturdy tree.

I am loath to admit that an elf could be so negligent. But I am compelled to be honest, so such an admission must be made. I was careless.

When I awoke, I was surprised that I was not in more pain than I was. I had a mild headache and small aches from what I am sure were various bruises on my chest, back and arms. I felt nothing in my legs, but at the time, it did not register with me why that would be.

Embarrassed by my untimely fall, I gathered myself and tried to get up. I was unable to do more than shift my upper body slightly, which resulted in an agony so intense my breath caught in my throat, and I thought I would pass out again.

I spent the next few moments gathering my courage. I then made several more gentle attempts to move that netted me naught but more pain. It was then that the realization came to me; I, a wood-elf, had not only slipped on a loose rock, fallen down a small hill, and hit a large tree, I had also broken my back.

To say I was shocked, stunned and horrified hardly does justice to my reaction. I do not know how long I sat in a fog of disbelief and denial. I do not know how many times I said, 'I am an elf! This should not have happened!' It did not change my circumstances one bit.

After I forced myself to calm down and breathe normally, my first rational thought, and I use this term loosely as you will see, was that I could possibly make small movements until I worked myself around to where I could lie flat on my stomach. Then I could crawl away. Rational thought?

Imagine my surprise when it dawned on me that there was no where to crawl to. Did I seriously think I could make it back to Lórien like that? Such a ridiculous notion only pointed out how badly my mind must have been affected. Irrational fear leads to irrational thinking. Throw in desperation, and you can understand my state of mind.

I called out, but three was no one to hear me except the trees, who all gave me their deepest of sympathies. I think I feel worse for their sorrows for me than I do for myself. I cannot do more than reassure them that I will be well in the Halls of Mandos and that they should not worry for me. If I could only convince myself of that.

x x x x x

On the morning of the second day, I awoke shortly after dawn. I regretted that I had fallen asleep before nightfall and did not get the chance to see the stars I love so much. I was sure that simply looking upon their dazzling beauty would have comforted me. 'Perhaps tonight, if I still live,' I thought. It gave me a small measure of comfort. Until...

I turned my eyes from the sky and looked across the clearing in front of me. I saw a sight then that made my heart seize. A large, black wolf was lying on his belly only a few yards away, staring at me. I do not know if he had been there when I awoke, or if he had stealthily crept up while I was lamenting not having seen the stars. I felt like a deer too frightened to run. Yet, as I stared back, the wolf did not make a move toward me. He only watched.

At one point, while we continued to stare at each other, he put his head down on his front paws, though his eyes never left mine, as mine did not leave his. How long the two of us stayed that way, I cannot say.

'He waits for me to sleep,' I thought. So, I did not sleep. It seemed I hardly even blinked. As a warrior, I have often been required to watch something or someone intently, never daring to let anything distract me. It is not a hard thing to do, once you learn how to do it properly. Yet, there were times that the image of the wolf swam before me. I was weary and pulled down emotionally by the hopelessness of my impending death. And there was the constant pain. What my legs could not feel, my upper body made up for tenfold.

I ate and drank what little food and water I had with me, though I laughed at myself for doing so. What good were either of those things going to do me? But self-preservation is a powerful thing to fight. Training to be a warrior and fighting the Shadow has given me a very long time to hone my survival instincts, and they are not easily abandoned.

x x x x x

By the time the sun rose this morning, all hope was finally and completely gone. My back was not going to miraculously mend itself, and no one was going to find me and take me somewhere to be cured. I felt better, having accepted those facts at last, and a kind of peace came over me.

I checked, as I always did, to see if the wolf was still there. He always was. He had inched much closer to me, stopping mere feet away. I do not know if he leaves while I sleep, or if he has been with me throughout my ordeal. I do know I no longer fear him.

He still watches and waits.

Perhaps it is my acceptance of my own mortality that he has been waiting for. Why this should be only the Valar know. It may be a consolation to ease a dying elf's passing, an event that was never meant to be. Strange how a warrior, who has faced death so many times before, should suddenly become so reflective. But then, what else is there for me to do?

Why, some may ask, have I taken the time to write my story down on this piece of parchment I have, when my life is hanging by a thread, so to speak? It seems like such a frivolous thing to do at a time like this, but it is not, at least not to me. I do it because I hope that this narrative will be found among what is left of my bones, and word will reach my family and friends, so they will know what happened to me. I write in the Common Tongue, for I know not who may find this. I suppose I should add that this is the first day of Spring, 2795 of the Third Age.

I hope when the time comes, I can say I will meet death with courage and not cowardice. Which that turns out to be, I fear no one else will ever know.

The wolf is beautiful. Have I said that already? I do not remember, and I have not the time to go back and reread what I have written. I, who once thought I had all the time in the world, now have so little of it left to do the simplest of things.

My mind wanders again. I was speaking of the wolf, was I not?

The yellow eyes that watch me so closely are not filled with hate or a desire to kill. I can see that now that he is closer to me. He is curious. Has he been watching all this time to satisfy some curiosity about my kind or why I sit here and do not move? Will he change his mind and kill me after all?

x x x x x

I fell asleep again, but I do not think I slept for long.

A most unusual thing has happened. When I opened my eyes, I looked across the clearing, and the wolf was gone. His absence not only surprised me, but instead of feeling relief, I felt a sense of loss. I had come to think of him as belonging to the scene that has become all there is of my world. The fear I had once felt now turned to sorrow. It seemed as if I am to die alone after all, not from the deadly teeth of a wolf but from the betrayal of my own body.

I let my hand slip down to my lap in a gesture of resignation where it suddenly encountered something soft. I looked down and found myself shocked for the second time in as many minutes.

The wolf had his head on my leg. He had it at such an angle that he was still watching me with those piercing yellow eyes, only now they were soft, filled with a kindred sympathy. Had the Valar sent this creature, this example of the wildest and purest part of Nature, to comfort me in my final hours?

I had to rub the broad forehead and twist my fingers into the thick, black fur to make sure the creature was not an illusion. I realized that until then, I had not really known if he was real or imagined.

There is something else I realized. He is dying, as well, though from what cause I cannot tell. I only know it is true.

Now, as we sit here together, the wolf and I, time slips past us on its way into the future, a future that will not include either of us. It is a comfort to me to know our bones will lie together under one of the ancient trees of this magnificent forest.

I have but a few lines left to write before my time in Middle-earth is done.

I want everyone who has ever loved me to know that I have had a good life, full of all the things that one experiences to make up that life. I have no regrets about any of it.

x x x x x

I stroke the wolf, as his eyes and mine grow heavy. It is hard to write, but I must finish these last thoughts, for I would have my loved ones' hearts eased a little to know of my peaceful passing.

I listen to the sounds around me, the leaves overhead, gently rustling in the wind, the buzzing of insects, the birds, singing their sweet melody, and...

Hoofbeats?

The End

Scared you there for a moment, didn't I? I keep my promises, and those of you who read "Cold Wind" will know exactly what I'm talking about.