After scrambling from the water, Elladan and Elrohir emerged at the top of the path in a dead heat. They looked across to where Arwen should have been standing, ready to proclaim judgement on the winner, but she was not there. Instead, she was on her hands and knees at the cliff edge, peering down at the river.
“Arwen! How can you tell – what’s wrong?” Elrohir’s voice changed sharply.
She twisted round, looking frantic. “It’s Legolas! He hasn’t come up yet!”
“What? Are you sure?”
She nodded miserably. “You all jumped in at exactly the same time, but I can’t see him! He’s still underwater!”
“Legolas? LEGOLAS!” Elladan bellowed, then waited for a response. There was no reply. He turned to his brother and sister, issuing brisk instructions. “El, go down the other path, see if you can find him there. Ar, get help, run back to the ford and find the guards. I’ll go back in.”
With that, Elladan dived off the cliff back into the water. Elrohir and Arwen exchanged a fleeting glance of surprise at Elladan’s sudden assumption of authority, then scrambled back down the paths to follow their orders.
Elladan dived deep into the water. The river was a soft peaty brown colour, but he could see clearly. Looking around wildly, he spotted Legolas straight away. He was motionless, not even struggling, held beneath the water in some way. Even as Elladan watched, he was slowly sinking towards the river bed.
Elladan swam to his side. Frantic questions raced through his mind. How long had Legolas been underwater? How long was it since they had jumped in? He and Elrohir had swum to the side of the pool, clambered out onto the steep bank, then raced one another up the precipitous path, laughing, each trying to trip or hinder the other, assuming that Legolas was in front, that he had already won. Why had they not noticed that he was missing? Why had they not realised something was wrong? How long could he survive?
As he reached Legolas, Elladan shook him slightly, but there was no response. He tried again, harder this time. Was it his imagination, or was there a faint reaction, a movement of his eyes? He had no idea if Legolas knew he was there or not, but wanted to give some reassurance that he was not alone.
Aware that he himself could not stay underwater for much longer, Elladan searched for what held Legolas. His right foot had become wedged between two boulders, and was tightly trapped. Elladan tried futilely to free it, pulling and tugging, but had no success. His own lungs burning, he kicked back up to the surface to look for Elrohir, and took a deep gulping breath. There was a splash beside him, and then Elrohir was there, shouting something.
“Where is he? El? Did you find him?”
Elladan nodded. “Trapped,” he gasped. “His foot’s caught. He’s going to drown, El, what can we do?”
They both dived again, Elladan pointing to Legolas, his trapped foot, the narrow gap between the two stones. Elrohir stood on the two stones and tried to push them apart with his feet, but the buoyancy of the water made it difficult to put much force into the attempt. Looking around for some other method, he saw a branch at the bottom of the pool. Picking it up, he wedged it into the gap, and tried to prise the boulders apart that way. It seemed an impossible task; the stones were massive, and deeply embedded in the river bed. However, desperation gave him strength, and he was determined not to give up. Bracing himself against the boulders, he heaved again on the branch. He was not aware of any movement, but something, somewhere, must have moved fractionally, because suddenly Elladan was tugging at his arm and pointing to the surface. Legolas was free.
Pulling Legolas with them, the twins swam to the water’s edge. Elrohir scrambled out onto the bank, kneeling and helping to haul Legolas up and out of the water while Elladan lifted him. At last Legolas lay on the bank, limp, completely motionless, and deathly pale. Elladan tilted his head back slightly while Elrohir searched frantically for any sign of breathing, or a pulse, anything to indicate that Legolas was still alive.
Elladan’s panic faded as he remembered every word of his father’s training. Holding his nose with thumb and forefinger, Elladan covered Legolas’s mouth with his own, and exhaled. He lifted his head, took a deep breath, and repeated the action. Elrohir suddenly looked up in triumph. “He’s alive! I found a pulse, El!” It was rather faint and erratic, but it was there, unmistakeable.
“Good.” Elladan carried on his attempts, muttering under his breath. “Come on, Leg’as, don’t do this to us, I really don’t want to have to tell your father we let you drown. Come on, breathe!”
He was sharply reminded of the last time this had happened, when it had been Elrohir lying there while Taniquel tried to save him, when he had been so frantic with terror that his twin was dead he had been unable to do anything, other than watch helplessly. This time, he was determined to do something. He just hoped it would work.
Arwen flew along the path that led back to the ford. She hoped desperately that Elladan and Elrohir would find Legolas, that the guards would be able to do something. She was out of breath and had a stitch in her side by the time she reached the outpost. The guards had of course heard her coming long before, and one was just lowering the bow he had raised.
“Lady Arwen!” he exclaimed, startled by her sudden appearance. “What has happened?”
“It’s Legolas,” she explained breathlessly. “He’s in the river, we can’t see him. Eilenach, we need help.”
“Where in the river? Where were you? What happened?”
“By the cliff. We were jumping in the river. Please, hurry up!”
By a stroke of luck she had arrived just as the guards were changing their shift. Instead of the usual two, there were four there. Eilenach turned to the others, giving rapid commands.
“Linhir, go back to Imladris, find Thranduil, or Lord Elrond, or anyone, and raise the alarm. Ilmarin, stay here to watch the ford. We cannot leave it unguarded. Rimmon, come with me.”
Leaving one to continue to watch the ford, his companion ran back to Imladris to raise the alarm. The two remaining guards went with Arwen back to the pool. Almost immediately Arwen, already out of breath, began to lag behind. She could not possibly keep up with the fleet-footed guards. At last Eilenach turned, and seeing her some way behind, ran back and scooped her up in one arm.
“Your pardon, Lady Arwen,” he began, aware of the liberty he was taking, knowing how she hated being picked up by anyone other than her parents or brothers. “But we must hurry.”
“It’s all right,” she reassured him, ignoring the indignity. “Just this once.”
“Can you tell me what happened?”
“I don’t know what’s happened to him!” she said despairingly. “We were all jumping off the cliff. The last time, El and El and Legolas jumped together – they were racing – and they came up, but he didn’t. Oh, do hurry, Eilenach!”
As she spoke, they came to the river bank at the foot of the cliff. There was no sign of Elladan or Elrohir, of Legolas, of anyone. They stopped, and the two guards exchanged glances. “Lady Arwen? Are you sure this is the place?” Rimmon asked her uncertainly.
“Of course I’m sure!” she snapped. She gazed around, puzzled. Where were they? Now all three had disappeared! Just as she drew breath to call, Rimmon made another suggestion. “Could they be on the other side of the hill?”
“Yes, yes they might be!” She wriggled until Eilenach put her down, then shouted. “El? EL! Where are you?”
A faint voice answered her. “Ar? We’re round this side! Did you find the guards? We need you round here! Ar!”
Elrohir could plainly see the despair and fear in his brother’s eyes, together with a shadow of lingering memory. He had never regained his own memories of the day he had nearly died, but he knew instinctively, with their usual empathy, exactly what Elladan was thinking. He reached across and touched his brother’s hand lightly in reassurance. “Don’t worry, El, it will be all right,” he said with certainty. “I know it will. It was last time, wasn’t it?”
As he spoke, Legolas gave a choking gasp, and a little water trickled from his mouth. He began to cough harshly, moving restlessly. Quickly, they turned him so that he lay on his side, and sat back, watching anxiously. After a few moments Legolas blinked, then slowly opened his eyes. At first his gaze was a little blurred, but he blinked again, gradually focusing on the two figures hovering over him worriedly.
“Legolas? Can you see me? Do you know who I am?” Elladan questioned him carefully.
Elrohir snorted. “Don’t be daft, El, he can hardly tell us apart at the best of times! Legolas, can you hear me?”
Legolas nodded fractionally. “Ellahir,” he croaked at last, his voice rather hoarse. “You both are.” He tried to push himself upright, but his arms were shaking badly. Elrohir helped to pull him to a sitting position, and Legolas leaned against him. The movement caused a fresh wave of coughing, and Legolas spat out another mouthful of water. He rested his forehead against one arm, propped on a raised knee, and carefully took another deep breath. “Ai, Elbereth,” he murmured. “I thought I was dead.”
He looked up as the sound of voices and footsteps approached. Arwen and two guards were running across the grass towards him.
Arwen dropped to her knees and flung her arms around Legolas. He returned the hug rather self-consciously. “Legolas, they rescued you! They saved you, like Taniquel did El!”
Legolas looked up at the twins, still watching over him anxiously. “Yes, you did. Thank you.” It seemed very inadequate, and he gave them both a rather weak smile. “But there’s one thing I don’t think you need to worry about, in case you were wondering.”
Elladan looked puzzled. “What do you mean?”
Legolas coughed again, then explained: “Well, I don’t think I’m going to fall in love with either of you out of gratitude over this!”
“It’s not gratitude!” Elrohir protested hotly. “And I’m not in love with her! I like her because she’s beautiful, and clever, and brave, and funny, and – oh, shut up, El!”
Elladan was laughing helplessly, and even Eilenach and Rimmon were trying, unsuccessfully, to hide their smiles. Legolas had also begun to laugh, but it triggered another paroxysm of coughs. Tears sprang to his eyes. Their laughter stopped abruptly, and the guards eyed him with concern.
“Legolas?” Elrohir asked anxiously. “How do you feel?”
“Terrible,” he admitted.
“But when you consider the alternative?” prompted Elladan.
“Considering the alternative, not too bad, I suppose.” If he was honest with himself, he felt utterly weary, and as weak as a new-born kitten. But he was alive. That was the important thing.
Rimmon stepped forward. “Prince Legolas? Can you stand? We should go back to Imladris. I think Lord Elrond should see you as soon as possible.”
“Yes, of course I can stand! El, can you help pull me up?” With a little help, Legolas stood, balanced on one foot, swaying slightly, despite steadying himself with a hand resting on Elladan’s arm.
“You are not going anywhere with your foot like that!” said Eilenach firmly. “Lord Elrond would have my ears if I let you walk on it, or put it anywhere near the ground! Linhir has gone to raise the alarm. Someone will come out with a horse, so you will be able to ride back. We wait. And while we are waiting, let me see your ankle.”
His tone made it clear he would not accept any argument. Legolas sank back down onto the ground, his foot outstretched. His declaration that he could stand had been an automatic protest. But his legs still felt like water, and his foot and ankle throbbed mercilessly. He feared something could be broken. It was swollen and badly bruised, and there were several deep grazes and cuts, especially around the prominent bones.
He reached down and prodded his ankle cautiously. Even his own touch hurt. He winced, and shivered slightly.
“Are you cold?”
Legolas looked up at Eilenach, who was removing his cloak. He passed it to Legolas, who wrapped it around his bare shoulders gratefully. “Thank you. I don’t know why I feel so cold.”
“In the circumstances it hardly seems surprising.” The guard looked at the others. “What about the rest of you? Where are your clothes?”
Elladan, Elrohir and Arwen glanced at one another, only now realising they were still wearing rather damp underclothes, and nothing else. “Oh … up there.” Elladan pointed to the top of the cliff. “We left everything up there. I’ll go and get it all.”
Rimmon accompanied him as Elladan started up the path. Elrohir called after them. “El! Don’t forget my wood, it’s in one of the bags!”
“Wood?” questioned Rimmon. “What does he mean, wood?”
Elladan laughed. “It’s El’s. He collects it, for carving. Branches, logs, roots, anything! It’s heavy, so he carries it himself.”
Back on the bank, Eilenach had tried to examine Legolas’ foot, but every time he touched it, Legolas flinched away. In the end he gave up. “I think Lord Elrond is going to have to see to this. When Linhir …” he broke off as the sound of pounding hooves became audible.
Instantly, Eilenach stood, drawing his bow. Linhir could not possibly have reached Imladris and sent help this quickly. So who was approaching now?
A great black horse, mane flying, thundered out from beneath the trees, his rider crouching low over the horse’s neck. Even as the animal slithered to a halt, the rider had dropped off his back and was running across to the group on the bank.
“Legolas? Legolas! Are you there? What happened?”
Legolas used Elrohir to pull himself upright and stood, on one leg like a heron. “Ada?” he called incredulously.
Thranduil wrapped his son in a tight embrace, murmuring incoherently. Gradually, words became distinguishable. “Legolas, are you well? Are you sure? Ah, elfling, what did you do this time? I was so worried about you!”
Legolas returned the hug, content to be held, ridiculously relieved to see his father. “Ada?” he whispered. “How did you know? How did you come so quickly?”
Thranduil was shaking his head. “I did not know what was wrong, only that something terrible was happening to you. I took Morel, and rode in this direction. I knew something was wrong. I believe I was talking to Elrond at the time – he must think me dreadfully rude.”
“He will understand,” Elrohir reassured him. “Sometimes he or Mother know if anything is the matter with one of us.”
Elladan and Rimmon returned from their errand at that moment, and Eilenach took charge again. “Your Majesty, I think Prince Legolas needs to get back to Imladris as soon as possible, I think his ankle may be broken. He should ride your horse.” He gave the rest of the group a searching glance. “Are you all ready?”
As they all nodded, Thranduil lifted Legolas, wrapping Eilenach’s borrowed cloak more closely around him, and hoisted him onto Morel.
Slowly, the rather bedraggled group set off to return to Imladris.Stories > First > Previous > Next