Memory of Darkness

Chapter 6: The Longest Night

by Jay of Lasgalen

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The room was in near darkness, lit only by a small fire of logs flickering in the grate, and a candle burning on Calmacil’s workbench.   Thranduil watched with one eye, idly, as the healer moved quietly to and fro, examining his potions and remedies, counting bandages.  There seemed to be a certain tension in his actions as he checked his supplies yet again.  As if aware of the king’s scrutiny, he turned, and glanced across the room to where Legolas lay.  Thranduil, though, had returned to his vigil as he sat at the side of the bed, his gaze fixed unblinkingly on his son’s face. 

Thranduil supposed it was merciful that Legolas had not regained consciousness during the long, tortuous return to Lasgalen.  The constant jolting of the stretcher, and the way it had to be twisted, turned and lifted as the rescuers negotiated their way through the narrower passageways, would have made the journey an unbearable agony for him otherwise.  But they had returned some time ago, Legolas was safe in the sanctuary of his own room, and he had still not awakened.  Again, both Calmacil and Elrond had assured Thranduil that this was also for the best, that Legolas would be in severe pain both from his shattered leg, and from the toxins coursing through his body now that the crushing weight had been removed.

That was small comfort.  It was heartbreaking to see Legolas so unnaturally still and lifeless, so pale.  One hand lay limply in his, and Thranduil caressed the long fingers, his thumb massaging the palm.  He murmured soft, nonsensical words over and over, that he, at least, found comforting.  It seemed he was not the only one to find some small reassurance in the action.  The lax fingers curled slightly, tightening their grip, and Legolas turned his head slightly, a grimace of pain creasing his expression.   With his free hand, Thranduil reached out, brushing the tips of his fingers very gently against his son’s face, drifting down to cup the curve of his jaw.  “Legolas?  Can you hear me, elfling?” he whispered softly.

There was the faintest of nods, and Thranduil squeezed his hand again.  “Good.  How do you feel?” he questioned.

There was a pause before Legolas responded.  His eyelashes fluttered, but did not lift, and he moistened his lips before replying.  “Thirsty,” he murmured faintly at last.

“Yes, of course,”  Thranduil agreed.  “Here, drink this.”  Disengaging his hand, he shifted his grip and slid one arm beneath Legolas’s shoulders, lifting him slightly.  Legolas flinched slightly at the touch, and he gave a soft cry, his body tensing.   His eyes flickered again, and this time opened slowly, blinking several times before gradually coming to rest on Thranduil.  He gave a very faint smile, and his hand groped blindly, finally gripping a fold of Thranduil’s robe.  Calmacil appeared at his side, and helped to support him, while Thranduil picked up the cup that stood, ready, beside the bed.  It contained a strong sedative and pain killer, and would send Legolas beyond the reach of pain for a few more hours.  Slowly, with much encouragement and prompting, Legolas sipped at the bitter mixture.  He was only semi-conscious, his eyes closed again, and his head kept sliding sideways against Thranduil’s shoulder, before he eventually drained the contents.  But before it could take effect, Calmacil filled the cup again, this time with water from a covered pitcher.  It was vital that Legolas drank as much as possible, while he was still conscious enough to swallow, to flush the accumulated toxins from his body.  Thranduil managed to coax him to drink two cups before Legolas turned his head away weakly.

“Please, no more,” he breathed.  A spasm shook him as he retched, his stomach trying to rebel against the fluid.  Calmacil sank down beside him on the bed, placing one hand on Legolas’s head, the other on his chest, as he drifted into a light healing trance. 

“Be still, elfling, do not fight this.  Calm yourself, no harm will come to you.  Rest now, and sleep.  All will be well.”   Calmacil repeated the mantra over and again, and slowly Legolas slipped into sleep once again, his breathing slow and shallow.

Thranduil had tears in his eyes as he gently removed his arm, and laid his son down carefully on the bed.  It hurt to see Legolas so weak and ill, in so much pain.  “Calmacil?  How bad is this going to be?” he asked flatly.  “I want to know.”

Calmacil nodded, then drew Thranduil away from the bed, closer to the workbench.  “Very well,” he said in a low voice. 

Thranduil glanced back at the bed.  “There is no need for this,” he said sadly.  “He cannot hear us.”

“Perhaps not.  But it can be very difficult to tell when he is aware enough to understand.  He does not need to hear this.”

“Hear what?  Calmacil!  Tell me.”

Calmacil sighed.  “At the moment, his leg is the least of my concerns.  That will heal, eventually, but it will take a long time.  For now, I am more worried about the side effects.  As you saw, he is in great pain everywhere.  He is nauseated, and it will be difficult for him to accept even water.  But he must drink, as much as possible, or …”

“Or what?  Calmacil, what else could happen?”

“Or his whole body could simply stop working.  I have seen it once or twice before, long ago.  You remember when your father had these caverns built?  The dwarves who were working in the deeper regions came across an underground stream, and the tunnel collapsed.  We rescued them all, eventually, but two of them subsequently died, for all their injuries did not seem that severe.  There was nothing we could do.”  Calmacil looked saddened at the memory.

Thranduil tensed.  “You mean he could die?  He has a broken leg!”  He sounded utterly disbelieving, and turned to stare in anguish at Legolas.  When he looked back at Calmacil, his eyes were wide with fear.  “He cannot,” he whispered.

Calmacil returned the look with almost equal anguish.  Raising one hand, he gripped Thranduil’s shoulder tightly.  “Not if I can help it.  You know I will do everything I can.  I – I do not wish to fail you again.”  The shadow of a never-forgotten guilt flickered in his eyes.

Thranduil shook his head.  “You have never failed me.  You will not now.”  But he spoke almost absently, and returned to Legolas’s side, sitting now on the bed itself.  He stroked Legolas’s head very tenderly, fearing to cause him yet more pain, then took one hand between his own.  “Oh, Legolas,” he murmured.  “I am so sorry.  I should never have sent you into those caves.  I never meant to cause you harm!  Forgive me, little one.”

There was no flicker of response, and Thranduil leaned back against the ornately carved bed head dejectedly.  He still clasped Legolas’s hand in his, remembering the tiny hand that had once fitted into his palm, the tiny fingers with their determined grip.

Some hours later, Legolas began to stir again, emerging from the realms of misty oblivion as the pain and discomfort began to override the waning effects of Calmacil’s drugs.  At his first movement and faint moan of pain, Thranduil jerked back to awareness.  Exhausted by worry and fear, he had slipped into a light sleep, but was now awake and alert. 

“Legolas,” he said quietly.   Legolas did not appear to respond, but moved restlessly again, and muttered something unintelligible.  Suddenly his eyes snapped open, and he looked straight at his father, but without recognition.  Before Thranduil could react to this worrying new development, the truth dawned.  No, he realised, Legolas was not looking at him, but rather past him, into the shadowy darkness.

Legolas widened his eyes, and he moistened his lips before swallowing.  “No,” he murmured.  Involuntarily, Thranduil turned to see what it was Legolas was looking at, but there was nothing there.  Calmacil’s candle flickered gently in some current of air, causing the shadows to sway and move as if alive.  Legolas peered at them fearfully, and he shook his head.  “There’s something there,” he muttered.  “Can you see it, Arwen?  I can hear it, moving in the dark.  It’s there…”

Thranduil realised that his son was not seeing anything in the room, but was caught in some evil memory of darkness.  He tightened his grasp on Legolas’s hand, but before he could say anything of reassurance, Legolas tensed and cried out again.  “No!” he gasped.  “Arwen, get out of the way!  It’s going to come down again!”  He raised his hands, as if to ward off something that threatened.  Thranduil caught at them,  capturing both hands in one of his, and soothing Legolas with the other.

“Hush.  It is all right, Legolas, you are safe now.  Have no fear.  I am here, and you are safe.  Safe. You are in your room, and safe now.  Hush, elfling, hush.”  Slowly, Legolas quietened, sinking back into sleep, and his racing heart slowed.  Equally slowly, Thranduil relaxed,  releasing his grip, and he stopped stroking the dulled golden hair.  What terrors had Legolas – and Arwen – endured while trapped in the cavern?  Was Arwen, too, plagued by nightmares? 

After a few minutes, Legolas’s eyes drifted open again, and he again regarded his father.  This time, though, there was awareness there, and his lips silently shaped a word.  “Adar.” 

“Yes, I am here, little one,” Thranduil told him.  “I want you to drink this.”  He raised Legolas’s head slightly, and helped him to drink again, first a cup of cool water, then another of the sleeping potion and pain killer mixtures, finally another cup of water.  “Well done.  How do you feel now?”  he asked.

Exhausted, Legolas lay back, drained by the exertion.  “It hurts,” he whispered, summoning his strength.  “It hurts so much, everywhere.  Why?  I thought it was just my leg that I’d injured.  It hurts, Ada.”  He reverted to the old childish name again, as tears of pain and weariness spilled from his eyes.  Helplessly, he gave in to them, too weak to fight.

“I know.  I know,”  Thranduil soothed, offering what comfort he could.  “It will soon pass.  Sleep now and rest, elfling.”   As his son’s tense body relaxed again, Thranduil looked up to meet Calmacil’s steady gaze across the bed.  He sighed.  “How much longer must he suffer this?” he asked.

“A day or two.  It will not be easy.  But you are doing well, both of you – at the moment, what you are giving him is far more potent than anything I can offer.  All I can do is to provide medicines to make him sleep, to take him beyond the reach of pain.  Your love and support will do much to help him endure this.  And he will survive it, he is strong and determined.  He has your stubborness!”

Thranduil nodded, and gave a weary smile.  He clasped the limp hand against his chest once more, though whether the comfort of the contact was for his benefit or his son’s, he could not have said.


Author’s Note:   Many, many thanks to Nilmandra for her invaluable help on the effect of crush injuries on a victim.  Thank you, nîn mellon!

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