Memory of Darkness

Chapter 9: Conversations and Understanding

by Jay of Lasgalen

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When he next awoke, Legolas was startled to realise that it was shortly after dawn.  Surely it had only been late afternoon when he had been speaking to Arwen?  It was strange, and a little worrying, to find he was spending so much time asleep.  Turning his head, he could see there was no sign of Calmacil, but his father was still there, asleep now, reclining in a deep padded chair that had been dragged over to the bed from its usual place by the window.

As he lay there, gathering his thoughts, Legolas became aware of two things.  One was that although his leg still throbbed painfully, the sharp agony of the previous days had eased.  The other was that his mind was the clearest it had been since the cave-in.  He wondered hopefully if it meant that he was beginning to recover.  Lifting himself with his arms, he pushed with his uninjured foot and managed to move himself further up the bed until he could sit, leaning back against the pillows.  He was rewarded by a sharp flare of pain from his leg as he dragged it along, and he hissed softly, closing his eyes as the room began to spin again.  The effects of his injury and the drugs had not yet worn off.  Taking a deep breath, he slowly opened his eyes again, and gradually the pain and dizziness faded.  He felt a sense of triumph at having been able to do even so small a thing for himself, and cautiously leaned over to pick up a cup that stood on the table by the bed.  Sniffing it carefully, he decided it was no more than plain water, and drank gratefully.

After setting the cup down again, he gazed around the room.   Legolas began to realise that he must have been very seriously ill and injured, if the constant presence over the last few days of his father’s most skilled healer was any indication.  And as far as he could remember, Elrond too seemed to have been in frequent attendance. Calmacil’s absence now had to be another good thing, for it must surely mean that he had decided his patient was finally well enough to leave unattended. 

Legolas realised that he was not too sure what other injuries he had managed to sustain, and rather gingerly began to explore.  A dressing on his head concealed what felt like a long cut and bump when he prodded it through the light bandage.  His chest was bare, unbandaged, but adorned with some spectacularly colourful bruises – it was no wonder that breathing was still a little painful.  Finally he pushed back the blankets to inspect his leg.  A lightweight frame had been placed over it to keep the weight of the blankets off it, and through the struts of the frame he saw for the first time just how much damage had been done.

His leg was mottled black and blue with bruising, and a long jagged gash, held together with a row of stitches, ran the length of his shin.  There were countless other smaller cuts and scrapes. Two sturdy splints had been bound to his leg just above the knee, and again at his ankle and foot, rendering the lower part of his leg completely immobile.  He felt a little sick – it looked even worse than he had imagined.  He leaned forward to prod cautiously at the bruises, then jumped at the sound of his father’s voice.

“Leave it!  Calmacil said he would tie your hands to the bed if you tried to touch his handiwork,”  Thranduil told him sternly.  The harsh words were belied by the smile on his father’s face, and the way he leaned forward to embrace his son.  “You look a little better, I think.  How do you feel this morning?”

Legolas considered the question.  “Better, I think,” he agreed.  “I don’t feel so – hazy.  And I think I may be able to keep my eyes open for more than a few minutes at a time.  I hope so, anyway.  But how long am I going to have to stay here?”

“For some time yet.  Do you really think you can move?  How does your leg feel?  And I want the truth,”  Thranduil added firmly.

“It still hurts.  A lot,”  Legolas admitted.  “But at least it’s bearable now.  And I know I can’t go anywhere yet, but what am I going to do?  Father, if I have to stay here for the next few days, it will be so boring!”  Accustomed to an active life, riding, training, practicing his archery skills, and the simple freedom to roam at will, he was horrified at the prospect of his enforced immobility.

Thranduil nodded in sympathy.  “I understand.  I know how you must feel about this – but I have an idea that may help.  I need to talk to Tionel first.  Will you be all right here on your own for a while?”

“I’m not likely to go anywhere, am I?”  Legolas asked glumly.  “And I promised Calmacil I would not try to walk until he said.  Go, father.  Talk to Tionel.  Anything you can think of will help!”  He studied his father closely, and frowned.  “Have you been here the whole time?  Sleeping in that chair?  You look tired.”

His father gave a slow smile.  “Thank you, elfling.  Yes, I have been here all the time – I was a little concerned.  But tonight, perhaps I will rest in my own bed again.”  He rose, stretching wearily, and leaned forward to kiss Legolas before he left.

Finally left alone, Legolas picked up a book that lay on the table beside his bed, but did not immediately open it.  He gazed out of the window that lay to his right, staring at the leafless tree tops as they swayed in the breeze that generally followed the river.   But it was not even the bare branches which he saw.  Instead, his mind was filled with the darkness of the caverns, which overwhelmed his thoughts.  He was faced with two choices.  Either he had imagined the skulking creature in the deepest recesses of the caves – and it had been so real; he could still see the soft glow of its eyes and hear the rasp of its breathing – or  he was telling the truth; it had really been there, but no one believed him. 

Frustrated, he pressed the heels of his palms against his eyes and tried to think.  The thing had been there.  He had seen it and heard it.  But where had it come from?  How was it possible that no-one else had seen it?  But if it was real, then the thing was still there, lurking in the caves, perhaps preying on the unwary. Alternatively, he had imagined everything.  The thought filled him with fear.  If his mind was failing, how could he trust his own thoughts and feelings?  Would Thranduil ever be able to trust him again – how could his father possibly rely on his judgement or opinions? 

However, he knew that constantly pondering ‘what ifs’ would solve nothing, and would only add to his sense of frustration.  Perhaps he should ask Elrohir?  Elrond had mentioned that he had had a similar experience once – Elrohir might be able to give him some advice on dealing with the confusion of his memories.  Trying hard not to think on the matter any longer, Legolas opened the book that still lay by his side, and tried to concentrate on the tale of the Fall of Gondolin.

He had reached an account of the first attack of the host of Morgoth when there was a tap at the door, and Elrohir entered.  Legolas looked up with a smile, setting the book aside, then glanced at the closed door, a little surprised at his single visitor. 

“Am I disturbing you?”  Elrohir asked.  “I wanted to talk to you, but I can come back later if you like.”

“No, please come in!”  Legolas said fervently.  “I am bored to distraction here.  At the moment I would welcome even my old tutors – well, most of them.  But where is Elladan?”

Elrohir raised an eyebrow.  “We do occasionally do things separately,” he explained dryly.  “At the moment he is attempting to avoid one of those old tutors of yours – Lanatus.  He found a pressing need to exercise Nimelen in the forest.  As it is still bitterly cold outside, I declined to join him.”

“Why is he avoiding Lanatus?”  Legolas queried.  “Not that I can blame him, but is there any particular reason?”

Sitting carefully at the end of the bed, Elrohir explained about the shoe.  “Lanatus is furious, but cannot prove anything. He cornered me a few days ago, but I was able to swear that I was still at the cave when it disappeared.  El has managed to evade capture so far, which is just as well, as he cannot deny anything!  Lanatus is not amused.”

“Hopping mad, in fact,”  Legolas suggested with a grin.

Elrohir gave a snort of laughter.  “You could say that!”  He sobered slightly.  “But what of you?  You look better – you sound better.  And the jokes are getting better, too.  That has to be a good thing.”

“I do feel better.  Well enough to start feeling frustrated about being stuck here for so long.  Now that I am not being drugged insensible, or falling asleep every five minutes, it is so tedious.  I find I’m even glad to see you!”

Elrohir looked suitably horrified.  “As bad as that?  You must be bored!  You’ll even be glad to see Elladan soon!”

“I’m not that bored!”  Legolas protested.  “But thank you for coming, Elrohir.  There was something I wanted to ask you.”  He hesitated, aware of Elrohir waiting patiently.  “When Arwen and I were in the cave, I saw something, hiding in the shadows.  Or I thought I saw something – I’m not sure now if it was really there.  I think it was, but Arwen didn’t see anything.  How much of the cave could you see from where you were?  Did you see anything?”

“I could see quite a bit of it, but not right into the far corners.  There was nothing there that I could see.”

Legolas sighed.  “I thought you’d say that.  Everyone tells me there was nothing there, that I imagined it.  But it was there, I know it!  I could see it; I could hear it – a whispering, rustling sound.  But no one believes me.”

“I know.  That was partly why I came to see you – because I know what you mean.  I believe you.”

Legolas looked startled.  “You do?  But you just said you couldn’t see anything there!”

Elrohir shifted slightly on the bed, running one hand through his hair.  He drew one knee up and rested his chin on it.  “I don’t think that there was anything there, but I believe that you saw it.”  He shook his head in frustration.  “I’m not explaining this very well.  What I’m trying to say is that I understand what you mean.  It happened to me once, some years ago.  I fell off the stable roof  and cracked my head on the cobbles.  I was unconscious for over a day.  When I woke up, I could see mother and father and El all sitting beside me – I think they were rather worried.  But I could see something else as well.  I could see cats – purple cats, walking all around the room, climbing on the chair, over the bed and then back out of the door.” 

“And they weren’t really there?”

“How could they have been?  I don’t think there are that many cats in Imladris.  There are several around, and a little black one that curls up in my wardrobe if I forget to close the door; but none of them are purple.  They weren’t really there, I know they weren’t, but I saw them.”  Elrohir laughed a little at the memory.  “They seemed as real as you are now,” he added.

Legolas gave a slight smile.  “Thank you – I think,” he said.  “It helps.  I was afraid …” he stopped.

“You were afraid you were going mad?”  Elrohir asked bluntly.  Legolas nodded wordlessly.  “I know.  I couldn’t understand why no one else could see the cats, either.  Not even Elladan believed me.  But in the end my father convinced me it was an effect of the injury, that they weren’t real.”

“Why cats?”  Legolas asked.

“Why purple?  Elrohir retorted.  “It made no sense – which is why I think it was easier for me to accept, in the end, that it was a hallucination.  But I know what it’s like to have seen something like that, something that isn’t really there.  I know what it’s like when no one believes you or understands. I know how real it is.  If I close my eyes, I can still see them.”

Slowly, Legolas nodded.  Elrohir’s straightforward, not wholly coherent explanation, made sense to him, and reassured him far more than the careful details Calmacil and Elrond had described.  “Your father said something about the cats earlier.  It was why I wanted to talk to you.  Thank you, Elrohir – it’s helped me realise there wasn’t anything there, but I don’t feel so bad about it now.”  He stifled a yawn.  “I’m sorry!  That was rather rude!”

“Don’t worry.  I’m going now, anyway.  I told father I was coming, and he said I wasn’t to stay long.  He’ll have my ears if he thinks I’ve tired you out.  Besides, I want to see if Lanatus has caught up with El yet!”  With a wave, he left.

As the door closed behind Elrohir, Legolas picked up his book again and continued the tale.  But before long his head started to nod, and the book slipped from his grasp as he again drifted into sleep.

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