Memory of Darkness

Chapter 11: First Steps

by Jay of Lasgalen

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Legolas awoke slowly, aware of slight noises on the edge of his hearing.  There was the rustling of paper, the whisper of cloth, and the sharp tink of glass jars knocking together.  There were low voices as well, and the occasional laugh.

His eyelids felt heavy, and it took some effort to force them open.  Blinking, Legolas squinted at the brilliant sunlight flooding the room and turned his head, away from the brightness and towards the sounds he had heard.  Calmacil and Tirana were clearing the worktable they had been using, carefully packing jars and phials away in a deep, sectioned box, rolling bandages, and storing the cups and measuring jugs they had needed.  Memory of the previous evening came back to him, and he moved his leg experimentally.  The weight of the cast he had expected, but he was dismayed to find that his leg ached fiercely, as badly as it had in the days when he had first been allowed out of bed, propped up in the chair.  He could not quite stifle a groan of frustration, and Calmacil turned, smiling as he saw his patient watching.

“Good afternoon, elfling!  Awake at last?”

Legolas scowled at that comment, and did not respond immediately.  It was the fault of Calmacil and his drugs that he had slept for so long, after all.  From the position of the sun it had to be after mid-day.  He pushed himself a little more upright, and reached for the cup on the table beside him.  Taking a sip of the watered wine – when would he be permitted to drink it in its full potency again? – he cleared the roughness from his throat.  “Good afternoon,” he replied at last.  He watched as Tirana placed the last bottle in its box and closed the lid before wiping the surface of the worktable.  “Please don’t misunderstand me,” he said with a smile, “but I’m delighted to see you leaving.”

“I imagine so,” Calmacil agreed.  “Now that you can move from here, you can come to the infirmary like everyone else when it is time to remove your cast, or if there is anything else you need – no more special treatment.  I left some of the rusth – just add a little to wine or water if you need it.  I expect your leg hurts?  It will for the first day or two, especially if you overdo it.”

Nodding, Legolas pushed the sheet back to look.  The cast ran from his foot – only the toes were exposed – and up his leg, ending just below the knee.  He put one hand on it experimentally. It felt hard and smooth, and when he knocked on it with his knuckles it sounded dull and solid. 

Eager to stand and finally move under his own power, without having to be carried, he sat up, carefully moving his legs to the edge of the bed, and reached for the crutches propped at one end.   They had been carved from a single piece of wood apiece; Y-shaped at the top to fit under his arms, and padded with a soft material for comfort.  About halfway down there was a further spur of branch to use as a hand rest.   Bracing himself, he took a deep breath and pushed himself to his feet.  He stood, a little unsteadily, balanced on one leg and supported by the crutches.  He suddenly felt absurdly nervous – it would be the ultimate humiliation if he fell and landed flat on his face in front of Calmacil and Tirana; not to mention painful.  He had already endured enough indignities at their hands as they had tended to him.

“Move the crutches a little in front, and transfer your weight to them,” Calmacil instructed him calmly.  “Then swing yourself forward.”

With a tense nod, Legolas did so, and lurched forward a little awkwardly.  One step.  Then another.  It was harder than he had imagined, and he had to stop partway to adjust his grip on the hand rests.  He felt a ridiculous sense of triumph when he finally reached the window and turned, very carefully.  “I did it!” 

His father was also there, looking as delighted as Legolas himself felt.  “Well done, elfling!” he praised.  “Can you come back?”

The return was a little easier, as Legolas settled into a rhythm and learnt to coordinate the unfamiliar movements.  He knew it was not particularly graceful,  and his slow, clumsy pace felt strange.  Calmacil watched critically, finally nodding in approval.  “Good.  I will leave you to practise.  Do not overdo it – and do I need to remind you to be careful?   If you fall you will undo all the healing.”  

He left, following Tirana, and Legolas resumed his careful pacing.  Reaching the window for a second time he sank down onto the cushioned ledge, not bothering to conceal his sigh of relief.  He felt exhausted, his arms were leaden, his leg ached, and he was gasping for breath. Thranduil sat next to him on the ledge.  “Are you well, little one?” he asked in concern.

Legolas nodded wearily.  “Yes.  I just had no idea how difficult this would be!  I feel as if I have just spent the afternoon on the training grounds instead of walking around my own room.”

After his father had left to attend to his own affairs, Legolas spent the rest of the afternoon practising.  Practising how to stand up, how to sit down, how to stand still without wavering, how to walk without stumbling and lurching like a drunkard.  He had just completed another circuit of his room when there was a knock at the door.  Legolas was just about to tell the caller to come in, when he moved towards the door and opened it himself.  Elladan and Elrohir stood there, and the surprise on their faces was worth all the discomfort he felt. 

“We came to see how you were managing,”  Elrohir began.

“Which seems to be quite well!”  Elladan finished.  “It’s wonderful to finally see you up!”

“Is there anything we can do?”  Elrohir added.  “Anything we can do to help?”

Grinning, Legolas shook his head.  “No.  Just stay and talk to me.  Oh – there is something, actually.  Would you move those chairs, and that table,” – he pointed with his crutch – “over there, and arrange them in an obstacle course?”

Elladan lifted a chair, then paused.  “Why?”  he asked curiously.

Legolas moved to his bed and sat down gratefully, rubbing his hands.  They felt sore from the constant pressure of the hand grips.   “Because I want to go downstairs tonight.  I’m going to have dinner in the great hall.  And I want to be able to do it properly, and move around all the benches and people easily, without wobbling and stumbling.  I need to show everyone that I’m still alive!”  He had been confined to his room for long enough, and was determined break free.  But his pride would not allow him to appear before his father’s people faltering and hesitant.  He already knew that everyone would be watching him, and was determined to be able to move confidently and surely across the hall.

Elrohir took the chair his twin still held, and placed it near the others.  “I know what you mean,” he said.  “You don’t want people feeling sorry for you.”  The two watched as Legolas carefully negotiated the barriers Elrohir had set, offering helpful – and sometimes not so helpful – comments. 

Finally, Legolas was satisfied that he was sufficiently proficient with his crutches not to embarrass himself.  He sat next to the twins, leaning the crutches against the mattress.  His arms ached, his leg hurt, and he felt amazingly tired, but could not help feeling pleased with himself.  At least now he should be able to avoid making a fool of himself.

“How long is it until the evening meal?”  Elladan asked.

“About two hours.  Why?”

Elrohir hesitated.  “Well – you’re going to hate me for saying this, but you look tired.  Why don’t you rest for a while?  We can come and get you later.  It would be better than falling asleep over dinner.”

Legolas had been about to make an automatic protest over the issue of ‘rest’ when he paused.   Elrohir had a valid point, he knew.  He was tired.   And although he was no longer fearful of falling, it would do little for his dignity if he did fall asleep in the hall.  “Maybe,”  he hedged.  “Can you come back in about an hour?  And promise me one thing.  If I am asleep, wake me up.  Promise me.”  They nodded, then left, and Legolas leaned back, positioning a pillow to cushion his back against the carved headboard.   He reached towards the table and poured a cup of water from the covered pitcher, adding a dash of Calmacil’s rusth after only a momentary hesitation.  He did not intend to sleep if he could help it, but the promise he had elicited from the twins reassured him – just in case.

Gradually, the rusth began to take effect,  and resting his leg and taking the strain off his arms also eased the pain.  Legolas found his thoughts drifting, as they often did now, to the caverns below his home.  Had he really seen anything there?  It had seemed so real, but the explanations Elrohir and Calmacil had given him were equally plausible.  He had already decided that there was only one way to find out, and that was to see for himself.  Now that he was moving about freely again, he intended to return to the caves at the first opportunity, and look.

Before that, however, there was another matter to attend to.  What was he to wear tonight?  For the last few days he had simply worn long sleep tunics which hung to his knees; simple to take on and off and which did not interfere with the splints on his leg.  He was not going to appear publicly in one.  Running though the options in his mind, he decided on a combination of moss green and chestnut brown, the woodland colours he favoured.  Grabbing the crutches again, he made his way to the wardrobe and searched the shelves, not wanting anything too formal or ostentatious.  He found trousers, a tunic, and a leaf-green under-shirt, and threw them onto the bed.  He was half-dressed when there was a soft knock at the door.  Before he could call out, it opened, very quietly, and a voice whispered, “Is he asleep?”

“No, I’m not!” he responded, and the door opened fully. 

“Are you ready?”  enquired Elladan.

“Nearly.  Just give me time to finish dressing.”  Legolas sat on the bed to pull on the trousers. They were of velvet, in a warm shade of brown, and close fitting.  It was quite obvious he would not be able to wear them as they were.  “El, would you pass me my knife?”  Taking the knife Elrohir handed to him, he slit the back of one leg from the knee downwards, and eased it over the bulky cast.   Standing, he tugged the tunic straight, and glanced at his reflection in the mirror.  “Well?”  he asked the twins.

They studied him solemnly.  “Very smart,” Elladan declared finally.  “You will soon have all the maidens swooning over you again, and vying for your hand.”

“They will be queuing to offer you sympathy and comfort, eager to fetch anything you may desire.  You will not have to lift a finger for days!” Elrohir teased him.

“Do you think so?”  Legolas asked hopefully.  “I deserve some benefit from all this!”  They made their way from the room and along the hallway, the twins adjusting their pace to match his slower steps.  At the top of the steps he paused.  This was the only part of the endeavour that worried him.  “Stand back,” he warned.  “Let me do this on my own.  It’s the only thing I haven’t practised yet!”

Elladan raised his hands and moved back.  “Very well, we won’t help,” he agreed.

“But we don’t promise not to catch you if you fall,” Elrohir added cheerfully.  “Father would kill us if we let you break your other leg.”

Slowly, and very carefully, Legolas negotiated the stairs, one step at a time, placing his crutches on the next step down, then hopping forward.  He noticed that the twins had casually moved slightly ahead, and were strategically positioned a few stairs below him – just in case.  He managed the steps without incident, and at the bottom was met by Arwen, who had been watching intently.

She smiled in greeting, then hugged him.  “It’s wonderful to see you up at last!” she exclaimed.  “I didn’t know you were coming down here.”

“Your brothers were the only ones who knew,” he explained.  “I haven’t told my father, either.  I want to surprise him.”  They made their way along corridors and hallways, and down further flights of stairs towards the main hall.  The doors stood open, and many people were already there.  The weekday meals were informal affairs, with no set starting point, and people came and went throughout the evening.  Long tables ran the length of the room, and people sat where they wished.  A further table was set cross-wise at the far end, and here Thranduil sat.  Elrond and Celebrían were already with him, and all three looked up as the noise and chatter in the hall faded away. 

Legolas made his way slowly up the length of the hall, aware of all eyes on him.  He was flanked by Elladan and Elrohir, and Arwen walked just behind him.  At the end of the hall he rounded the table and approached his father.  “Good evening, Adar,” he said formally.  Thranduil’s eyebrows quirked, and he smiled in response.  Behind him, Celebrían was also smiling, and Elrond was trying not to laugh.

As Legolas sat in the chair next to his father, everyone in the hall broke into applause.  He flushed slightly, surprised at his reception.  “Good  evening, elfling.  I think they are pleased to see you again,”  Thranduil pointed out.  “You made a very impressive entrance.”

By now, his escort had greeted their parents and taken their own seats.  Legolas glanced down, a little surprised to see that a place had been set for him at the table after all.  “How did you know I would be here tonight?”  he asked.  “I didn’t say anything – I was going to surprise you.”

“How did I know?  Because I know you, of course.  You are too stubborn to give in.   How long did it take you to learn to move so smoothly?  You were weaving and wavering in all directions when I last saw you.”

Legolas smiled.  “All afternoon.  I practised.  I wanted to do it right,” he explained.

“Stubborn.  Just like your grandfather,” commented Thranduil dryly, and signalled to a waiting elf to begin serving them.


Author’s Notes:  I again owe thanks to Nilmandra for her advice on how far a plaster cast would extend for an injury like Legolas’s.  I also found an old pair of walking sticks in the garage, and practiced walking with them, and up and down steps, to get an idea of what it would feel like to use crutches.  I do hope no-one saw me!

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