Memory of Darkness

Chapter 10: Distractions

by Jay of Lasgalen

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Thranduil returned to Legolas’s room shortly after Elrohir had left.  He had put his suggestion to his Steward, Tionel, who agreed that it was an excellent idea – it would simultaneously be useful experience for Legolas, a distraction from his injuries, and a way to reduce the workload that had built up while Thranduil kept vigil at his son’s bedside.  As he entered the room, he smiled at the sight that met his eyes. 

Legolas had fallen asleep again, and lay back against the supporting pillows, his head tilted to one side.   A book lay at his side, and Thranduil moved quietly to the bed, gently removing the volume from his son’s lax fingers.   He had lost count of the number of times he had done this in the past; how often Legolas had fallen asleep at night while reading – usually long after he was supposed to have settled down.  When Legolas had been an elfling, it had become an automatic part of Thranduil’s own night-time routine to look in on his son for a second time, remove the book – first carefully marking the place – and extinguish the candle left burning on the bedside table.  He still vividly remembered the night that Legolas, attempting to read a particularly fine print, had held the candle in his hand so that he could peer more closely at the tiny lettering.  Sheer luck had caused Thranduil to arrive seconds before the bed caught alight.

Now, he brushed a strand of lank hair – it needed washing – away from his son’s face, so gently that Legolas did not stir, and silently directed the guards who accompanied him to move a deep chair, padded with cushions and blankets, to a spot by the window, along with a low stool and an old table.  The task accomplished, Thranduil returned to sit by the bed and simply waited.  He picked up the discarded book and began to read.

Some time later, Legolas began to stir.  His eyes flickered and he murmured something, giving a slight smile as his eyes opened fully and he registered his father’s presence.  Then he grimaced.  “I fell asleep again,” he said in disgust. 

“Aye, you did,” Thranduil agreed.  “You need the rest.  But I – ” 

“Rest?”  Legolas interrupted bitterly.  “I have done nothing but rest since I was injured!  I don’t want to rest, I want to be able to stay awake.  I want to be able to hold a conversation with someone without drifting off half-way through!  Did you know Elrohir was here earlier?” he demanded.  “He left because he didn’t want to ‘tire me out’ – as if I was an elfling or an invalid!  I don’t want to sleep all the time, but when I am awake I feel so frustrated because I can’t do anything for myself – do you know how humiliating that is?”

Thranduil did not answer, reflecting that just at the moment, Legolas was indeed an invalid – although he did not intend to point it out.  He nodded sympathetically and moved to sit on the bed next to his son.  Legolas continued: “My leg hurts, and my chest hurts – I hate being trapped here like this!  I hate being so bored all the time.”  Thranduil still did not say anything, but placed an arm around his shoulders, gently rubbing his back in wide circles.  Legolas gave a long sigh and drew a deep, slightly wavering breath, releasing it slowly.  “I’m behaving like a spoiled elfling, aren’t I?” he muttered.

“Just a little,” Thranduil agreed with a smile.  “But I think you are entitled to.  I know what this must be like for you.  I know how helpless you feel.”

“Do you?”  Legolas still sounded bitter, and rather sceptical.  He looked up, noticing the chair and table that had been placed by the window.  “People come and go all around me, and I’m not even aware of it,”  he pointed out, and sighed again.  There was a pause. “I’m sorry, adar.  It wasn’t fair to take everything out on you.  Forgive me?”

“There is nothing to forgive,” Thranduil assured him.  “It is better for me to hear it than anyone else.  And sometimes these things need to be said – honesty is better than pretending you are completely well.”  He hugged Legolas again.  “Now, I was about to tell you that I have had a few ideas.  Calmacil said that if we are careful, you can be moved to a chair.  Perhaps somewhere by the window would be a good idea?”  He watched as Legolas’s gaze moved to the chair by the window, and his expression visibly brightened.  “Although,” he added idly, “I am not sure I agree.  A few more days in bed may be advisable, just to be sure.  Especially if your leg and chest still cause you pain.”

Legolas looked stricken, and he turned a horrified glance on his father.  “Adar, no!” he protested.  “If Calmacil says …”  He stopped, catching Thranduil’s eye, and continued dryly:  “If Calmacil thinks I should move, we should abide by that decision and defer to his expert knowledge.  I can tolerate the discomfort of sitting by the window and looking out over the forest  for a while.”  His eyes drifted longingly to the bare treetops visible through the window.

“My thoughts precisely, elfling.”  Rising, Thranduil went to the door, looking out into the hallway.  He returned with Tirana, one of Calmacil’s assistants, who greeted Legolas warmly, then became very professional.  She removed the bandage on his head, inspected the cut, and peered into his eyes.  Then she placed her hands on his chest and ribcage, instructing him to breathe.  Finally she twitched aside the covers and looked closely at his leg, checking the splint and the stitches, although she did not actually touch his leg itself. 

At last she stepped back, apparently satisfied.  “Well,  I think you can be moved,”  she announced.  “But be careful – he is not to put any weight on that leg at all!” she added sternly to Thranduil.

“Yes, my lady,” he said meekly, ignoring Legolas’s amusement.  He returned to the door and summoned the guard who waited outside.  Under Tirana’s watchful eye, Legolas moved carefully to the edge of the bed, his leg extended, and draped his arms across the shoulders of his father and the guard.  As one they rose, hoisting Legolas into the air, his feet dangling uselessly between them.  He was carried across the room to the window, and deposited gently in the chair, while his injured leg was carefully supported on the footstool.

Thranduil watched his son carefully as Tirana fussed around him, making sure that Legolas had come to no harm.  He looked rather pale, and was biting his lip.  “What is it?  Does your leg hurt?” she asked.

He nodded miserably.  “It aches,” he admitted.  “But it did before; it’s not because I moved!” he added quickly.

“I can do something about that.  Is there anything else?”

Legolas closed his eyes and swallowed.  “I feel dizzy.  But I think it will pass soon.”  Clearly, he did not want to risk being moved straight back to bed again.

Tirana did not appear too concerned by the admission.  “You are bound to.  This is the first time you have moved from your bed for five days,” she pointed out.

His eyes snapped open, and Legolas stared at Tirana, aghast.  “Five days?” he repeated, sounding horrified.  “Is that how long it’s been?  I didn’t realise.”

“Five days,” Thranduil confirmed bleakly.  It had been five long, worrying, wearying days; five days when he had not left his son’s side, sleeping fitfully in the chair or sharing the bed; five days when he had petitioned the Valar to spare Legolas, reminding himself that his son was strong and could survive this.

Tirana, who had been mixing something, returned to Legolas’s side.  “Calmacil told me to give you this,” she told him.  “It does not contain peles, so will not make you sleep, but it will ease the pain.  Drink it.”  She held out the cup.  Legolas downed it in one gulp, a sure indication of how much his leg was still hurting.

“Thank you.”  He waited until Tirana and the guard had both left, lifting his face to the pale winter sunlight, and drawing a deep breath of the cold air.  “Was this your idea, father?  Your idea that might help?  Thank you.  I think I feel better already!”  He looked at Thranduil, still slightly ashamed.  “I’m sorry about earlier,” he said again.  He closed his eyes once more and smiled, again breathing deeply.  “I can feel the breeze.  I can see the trees.  I can hear the sounds of the forest!”  The lines of pain around his eyes began to fade, as he revelled in the soft murmur of the leaves.

“It is a part of my idea.  There is more, when you feel ready.”

Legolas looked at his father curiously.  “You seem very secretive.  What is it?”

Thranduil tapped a sheaf of papers on the table.  “The rebuilding work on the docks and fishing fleet at Esgaroth.  The initial reports and damage assessments have been sent, and the first orders and requisitions submitted.  If you agree, I would like you to be responsible for the whole project.”

Several weeks previously, a sudden vicious winter storm – the ‘worst in living memory’ according to the fishermen – had destroyed the docks and half the fishing fleet of the town, built on piles over the lake itself.  In recognition of aid given and past alliances, Legolas had pledged help in the restoration work.

Legolas appeared surprised.  “Me?  But why?”

His father smiled.  “You proved that you are more than capable of dealing with the Master.  And the promise of help was originally your idea anyway.  The documents are here,” – he indicated the pile – “and  there is paper and parchment, pens and ink.  Ask Tionel if there is anything else you require – or if you need help.  Will you do it?  It is certainly a task I could gladly do without.”

Legolas nodded enthusiastically.  “Yes, of course!”  He pulled the uppermost sheets towards himself, and began to read the first document.  “What do they need?”  As Thranduil left, Legolas was muttering to himself, making swift notes on a blank page, and skimming through the other reports.   Thranduil nodded to himself, feeling satisfied at the success of his plan.  The assignment would keep Legolas occupied while he recovered from his injuries, stave off his uncharacteristic depression, and firmly establish his role as Thranduil’s deputy.

Over the next few days, Legolas’s spirits returned to normal, and his leg continued to heal.  Although he still fretted at his dependence on others for many things, and at his restricted movements, he enjoyed the task.  Thranduil had to admit he was making an impressively good job of it, liaising with the army commander Orionë over which novices could be sent to Esgaroth to help with the rebuilding.  “They’ve asked for manpower to rebuild the docks,” Legolas had reported with a grin.  “Do you think elfpower will do instead?”

Elladan, Elrohir and Arwen were frequent visitors, either together or separately, and Arwen in particular spent several hours with him.  The first bonds of a close friendship between them had been forged while they had been trapped in the cave, and Legolas, who had previously spent far more time with the twins, found that he had a great deal in common with their younger sister as well.

At long last, Calmacil decreed that his leg was sufficiently healed for the next stage of treatment.  The bruises and swelling had gone down, the innumerable cuts and gashes had faded away, and the long cut where Calmacil and Elrond had pieced together the shattered bone had healed cleanly. 

“Good.”  Calmacil sounded satisfied.  “Now that the cuts have healed, I can remove the splint, and put your leg in plaster.  You will be able to move a little more easily then, and will have more freedom.”

Thranduil hovered anxiously as the bandages were cut away and the splint was carefully removed.  His son’s leg looked curiously bare without the strengthening supports.  “Now, I need to take out the stitches,” Calmacil continued.  “You will probably feel a slight stinging sensation.”  He worked swiftly, his hands simultaneously firm yet gentle, a knack unique to healers.  He ran a finger along the long scar that remained, watching Legolas carefully as he flinched slightly.  “How does that feel?”

“It still hurts,”  Legolas admitted apprehensively.   “Does that mean you won’t be able to do it?”

“No, not at all,” Calmacil reassured him.  “The cast will protect your leg, and support it while the bone continues to mend.  But I am afraid you will need this.”  Rather apologetically, he offered Legolas a cup.

Legolas sniffed it warily.  “Peles,” he stated flatly.  “Why do I need it?” he added resentfully.

“I am sorry.  It is vital that you remain absolutely still while I put the bandages on your leg, and while the cast hardens.  This is the best way to make sure.”  Legolas grimaced, but drank the contents in one gulp, and then lay back.  He was clearly growing accustomed to the potions Calmacil had forced on him. 

He watched, blinking a little, as Calmacil deftly began to encase his leg in plaster, starting at the foot and working upwards.  “I hope that when I wake up I’ll finally be able to walk,” he remarked, his speech slightly slurred from the peles.  “Have you got me some crutches?”  As Thranduil nodded, Legolas smiled, his eyes finally closing.  “Good.  I want to go down to the caves,” he mumbled.  “I want to see what’s down there.”  He yawned, leaning against Thranduil’s supporting arm.  “I want to see if there really is anything … there …”   He slept.

Author’s Notes:  The story of the storm at Esgaroth, and just why Legolas promised help to the town, is told in ‘Mid Winter Gifts’.

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