High above, Elrohir waited anxiously. Elladan seemed to have been gone a long time, and he hoped desperately that his twin had not run into trouble. It was dark now, and still the snow fell heavily. Had Elladan even been able to make his way back to Lasgalen in these conditions? Despite this new anxiety, he knew he had to concentrate on Arwen and Legolas. They needed his help now.
Clinging to the heavy branch, ignoring the increasing pain in his shoulder, he wriggled forward again until he hung over the edge of the cave, and could peer straight down at Arwen and Legolas. They were talking about the Games at Imladris. A torch, wedged into a pile of stones cast a dim light, illuminating the scene. It was enough to show how Legolas was pinned down by a large rock, and the blood that smeared one side of his face. He could only see the back of Arwen’s head as she faced Legolas, talking to him in a determinedly cheerful voice about the contests. He called down to them softly.
Suddenly, the soft soil and earth of the ledge he lay on began to crumble and give way again, showering Arwen and Legolas anew. He heard the panic in their voices, and shouted at his sister. “Arwen, get back! It won’t help him if you get trapped too!” Legolas was pleading with her to move as well, but unsurprisingly, Arwen ignored them both and leaned over Legolas, protecting him from the falling stones, as he wrapped his arms around her head, shielding her as best he could.
Elrohir knew that it was his own movements that were causing this newest collapse, and with a sob of despair pulled himself back, away from the edge, away from Arwen and Legolas. The movement sent more rubble falling, and Arwen’s voice came again, fainter now. “Elrohir, move back. Away from the side, I think that’s what’s causing it.”
Elrohir listened intently as to his relief as the shower of dirt and stone slowed, then stopped. “I’m sorry, Ar. Is that better? Are you both all right? What were you thinking of? That was a silly thing to do, you could have been badly hurt!”
She ignored him, but called instead, “Is there any sign of Elladan yet?”
“No. He’s been gone a long time. I expect he’ll be back soon,” he said reassuringly, although he was beginning to get increasingly worried.
“What if a spider got him?” Arwen sounded scared now.
Elrohir’s spine crawled. He had not considered the threat of spiders, they already had enough problems with the cave-in and the increasingly ferocious blizzard. If Elladan had encountered a spider … he was alone, and unarmed. He glanced around uneasily, but said firmly, “Don’t worry. We’re quite close to Lasgalen.”
“But Legolas told me that they sometimes attack someone on their own, even here!”
“He was probably trying to scare you. Ask him. He told me that the spiders hibernate in winter, anyway.” The trouble was, he and Elladan had not been sure they believed that tale.
“Spiders hibernate? Are you sure? Where?” She sounded very doubtful.
Elrohir thought quickly. According to Legolas, the spiders hibernated in caves. But he was not about to tell Arwen that. “In tree trunks. In dead, hollow tree trunks. They’d all be tucked up asleep in this weather! But why don’t you ask him?”
“I don’t think he can hear me. Elrohir, his leg’s bleeding, a lot. It looks bad. But it’s underneath the stone, and I don’t think I can do anything.” Arwen sounded worried again.
“Arwen, talk to him. Keep him awake. You’ve got to stop the bleeding. If you can’t get to the injury itself, there’s something else you can do. At the top of his leg there’s a pulse point. Do you know where to find it? Press there, hard. It should help.” Elrohir spoke calmly, but he was growing increasingly worried. Legolas was obviously badly injured, and needed help urgently. And where was Elladan?
Helplessly, Elrohir waited, calling down to Arwen, talking to her, hearing her disembodied voice drifting up to him as she responded. He shivered as the wind howled around him, but then stiffened as another sound came out of the night. It was a voice, calling him. Elladan.
“I know it’s this way, we must be close now. El? Elrohir! Can you hear me? Are we there yet? El!”
Smiling with relief, Elrohir picked himself up off the icy ground and moved away from the cave. “El!” he called loudly. “Here! Over here!”
In minutes, Elladan and a group of warriors from Lasgalen appeared through the trees, heavily armed with ropes, blankets, stretchers and medical supplies. Elrohir greeted his brother warmly, relieved to see him in one piece.
“Father, Thranduil and Calmacil are going through the tunnels,” Elladan explained. “I described the cave; Thranduil knew where it was. But if they can’t do that, we’ve got ropes to bring them out this way.”
Elrohir breathed a sigh of relief. “Thank the Valar for that! El, Legolas is badly hurt. Arwen’s been great, but I can tell she’s scared. I hope Father will get there soon – for both their sakes.”
As the rocks fell, Legolas put his arms around Arwen, cradling her head against him. He kissed her brow. “Thank you,” he murmured. “For everything.” He felt her jerk, her body tensing as the rocks hit them, and she gave a hiss of pain. Something smashed into the back of his hand as he held her, numbing his fingers. Slowly the rain of stone eased and eventually stopped, and Arwen turned her head, calling something to Elrohir.
She spoke again, but Legolas was finding it hard to concentrate. His gaze slid past her, focused on the darkness beyond. Her voice seemed to be coming from a long way away, and he stopped trying to listen. He was tired, so very tired, and it was so cold down here. His attention drifted, and he tried to peer into the furthest corners of the cave, certain that there was something lurking there, moving just beyond the range of his sight. He could hear it moving …
With an effort, he tried to focus on Arwen’s voice again, but it was becoming more and more difficult. Despite the intense pain, everywhere else there was a creeping numbness that scared him. He tried to concentrate on something else, anything else, and tried to recall the poems in Quenya he had learnt as a child. But he could not hold on to the words, they kept slipping from his mind like a handful of water. He was feeling increasingly sick and dizzy, experiencing an odd floating sensation, and tried to use the pain in his leg to anchor himself to reality. Arwen’s hands were moving now, feeling along his leg, higher and higher, until she reached his groin and pressed down hard.
“Arwen!” he protested faintly in embarrassment. “What are you doing? Stop it!”
“I’m sorry,” she whispered. “But your leg’s bleeding, and this is the only way I know to stop it. Don’t worry.”
He smiled. “You keep saying that,” he pointed out.
“But I mean it this time. Did you hear that? Elladan’s back, and he says your father’s on his way. They’re coming through the tunnels. Someone will be here soon, Legolas. Stay with me!”
Either her voice, or perhaps it was his hearing, was fading. Dim sparkles of light were appearing on the edges of his vision. He blinked, but they were still there, flickering and dancing, brighter now, hurting his eyes. Arwen was saying something else now, sounding excited and relieved, but he could not understand her. Wearily, he closed his eyes against the brightness again, beginning to find the darkness more welcoming, but then opened them once more as he was brought back to awareness by a sudden movement as Arwen leapt to her feet and shot across the cavern.
Turning his head painfully, Legolas could see his father’s warriors approaching, Calmacil as well, and Elrond standing just inside the circle of torchlight holding Arwen tightly. She moved then, still clinging to his arm. She was pointing up at the cave wall, and at the fallen rocks, explaining what had happened.
There was movement beside him now, and an arm slid beneath his shoulders, lifting him gently. “Ah, Elfling, what have you done now?” Thranduil’s voice was rough, worried, but somehow reassuring. Legolas leaned back against his father, feeling obscurely relieved, a remnant of his childhood belief that his father could do anything, would make everything all right – somehow. His adult mind knew that it was not so, but Thranduil’s presence was still comforting. One hand caressed his face and forehead, the other took his hand.
Now Elrond and Calmacil were beside him, kneeling and inspecting the stone slab, their expressions concerned. Legolas tried to concentrate on what Calmacil was saying, but it was hard, so hard to focus his attention. The healer was holding a small cup towards him, urging him to drink.
“Legolas? Can you hear me? I want you to drink this, it will help you later. Come now, drink it, all of it … well done.”
Calmacil’s instructions did not really make sense; for surely they intended to lift the slab immediately, not wait for the medication to take effect? But Legolas had known Calmacil all his life, and trusted him completely. He drank, barely noticing the bitter aftertaste.
Elrond was directing the guards, indicating, by word and gesture, how they would have to lift the great stone and ease it down. “Legolas, are you ready? We are going to move this now. It will hurt,” he warned.
Legolas nodded, and managed to give a faint grin. “It already hurts. Just do it,” he murmured. “Get me out of here.”
He had not believed it possible that the pain could increase as the slab lifted, but it did. Indescribably so. Flames of agony flared through him. He swallowed a cry, desperately afraid that if he made any sound at all he would not be able to stop screaming.
At last it was done. He leaned back against Thranduil as the dizziness intensified. He was dimly aware that his heart was pounding, far too fast, and knew he was gasping for breath. He realised that he was still grasping his father’s hand in a death-like hold, and slowly released the grip. He tried to will himself into a calmer frame of mind, but found he was watching Elrond and Calmacil as they inspected his leg. Calmacil reached out to gently feel the jagged gash and splintered bone.
The pain was excruciating. Legolas gave a sharp cry, arching his back in agony, trying to pull away from the touch. Then the shadows, hovering on the edges of his vision, swooped down and engulfed him in darkness. He was too tired to fight it, and allowed the dark to claim him, relaxing into the blessed relief of freedom from pain.
Thranduil tensed as Legolas convulsed once, then went limp in his arms. His fingers automatically felt for and found a pulse, though it was beating far too rapidly. He cradled his son, much as he had done when Legolas was first born, and dropped his head to place a kiss on the cold cheek, ignoring the guards that surrounded them. None doubted the fierce love between the Elvenking and his only child, but few had seen it demonstrated so openly.
He raised anguished eyes and watched as Calmacil and Elrond worked together, cleaning, binding and splinting, stemming the blood flow and immobilising the shattered bone. After what seemed to Thranduil to be an extremely long time, Calmacil called two of his healers over, and Legolas was moved, with infinite care, onto a stretcher.
“We can move him back to Lasgalen now,” Calmacil explained. “His leg is badly broken, and it will be some time before he is able to walk again. But there are other complications as well. He was trapped for some time, and poisons can build up and are released into the bloodstream. Whenever he is conscious he should drink as much as possible, to flush the toxins out, but I fear he is likely to be very ill for a few days.”
Thranduil paled even further, and knelt next to the stretcher again. Tenderly, he brushed a strand of lank, dust-encrusted hair from his son’s face before looking up at Calmacil again. “I thought when we got here, and released him, the worst would be over.”
Calmacil shook his head sadly. “No. The worst is just