Rimmon walked at the back of the group, as rear guard. He studied the others carefully as they made their way back. A very routine - boring, even - duty of keeping watch over the ford had suddenly taken a very dramatic turn with Arwen’s arrival and desperate plea. Both he and Eilenach had been fearing the worst, and they had been greatly relieved to find Legolas safe and – comparatively – well.
Eilenach was at the front of the group, automatically scanning the trees and surrounding undergrowth as he went – as Rimmon was himself. Just behind Eilenach, Elladan, Elrohir and Arwen walked very close together, not quite touching, but as if they drew comfort from one another. All three were unusually quiet, subdued even, and spoke little, and then in low voices. The euphoria and high spirits of a few minutes before had been replaced by a sombre mood as realisation of the narrow escape sank in.
Immediately in front of Rimmon, Thranduil walked beside Morel, one hand touching the horse’s mane. He cast frequent glances up at Legolas, as if reassuring himself that his son was still there, that he still breathed. Rimmon noticed that the child still shivered slightly, clutching Eilenach’s cloak to him, and seemed to cough more and more frequently. It could be from the chill he felt, or from reaction to the events. In any case, the sooner Lord Elrond examined him, the better.
Their way back to Imladris led past the ford. Ilmarin stepped out from the shadow of the trees as they approached, his gaze going first to Legolas on Morel, then flicking to the other elflings. He hailed Eilenach.
“Is all well?”
“Aye. It is now.” Eilenach turned back to Rimmon. “Rimmon, I want you to return to your post for now. We will continue to Imladris, I shall send replacements when we meet with the others. Linhir will have reached there by now and sent help.”
Rimmon saluted Eilenach, and left the group, melting into the trees by the ford close to Ilmarin’s position.
The remainder of the group had travelled perhaps halfway back to Imladris before they met the reinforcements Linhir had sent, riding at a flat-out gallop. Elrond himself was at their head, and he scanned Eilenach’s group swiftly, his expression visibly relieved as he saw Legolas, then moving just as quickly to his own children.
The two groups halted and joined, then Elrond moved his own horse alongside Morel. He paused as Arwen ran to his side, bending down to sweep her up in one long arm and settle her in front of him. He kissed her absently, then turned to Legolas, his gaze swiftly taking in the pallor, the shivering, and the slightly uneven breathing.
“Well, elfling, what have you done to yourself this time? Are you well?”
Legolas nodded, a little shakily. “I feel fine, thank you, Lord Elrond.” He stopped, coughing again. “But as for what happened, I’m not exactly sure of all of it.”
Elrond frowned, and stopped him. The child certainly did not look well. “Then perhaps you should tell me later. Shall we go?” Without waiting for a further answer, he turned; paused while Eilenach dispatched two guards to replace those at the ford, then led the augmented group back to the halls of Imladris.
When they arrived in the courtyard, there were several others waiting for them. News of Thranduil’s abrupt departure, followed by Linhir’s message had evidently spread. Celebrían stood at the top of the steps, clearly agitated. The fact that on this occasion her own children were safe and accounted for, seemed to make little difference to her. She went straight to Legolas’ side, and looked up at him in concern.
“Oh, Legolas, I was so worried about you! What happened to you? And your foot! Has Elrond looked at it yet?” She touched it softly with her gentle fingers. Legolas tensed at first, fearing that even a slight touch would cause more pain, but he found that her caress caused no hurt, only a soothing coolness. He shook his head slightly in response to her final question.
Confident, encouraged by the lack of pain, he slid off Morel’s back, landing lightly on the ground. But even that slight impact jarred his ankle, and he stifled a gasp of pain. Taking an experimental step, Legolas found that he was still unable to walk on his injured foot, and wavered, a little uncertainly, clinging to Morel’s mane.
He looked up as his father moved closer beside him and took his arm. “Elfling, you have two choices,” Thranduil whispered. “Either I carry you, or else you walk, with your arm around me for support. Please do not argue, or tell me that you are ‘fine’. I want Elrond to look at you immediately.”
Legolas opened his mouth to protest, but then shut it again. Suddenly, he found he had no wish to argue. He felt exhausted, weak, shaky, and humiliatingly close to tears. Also, there was a worrying tightness in his chest every time he breathed. Instead, he nodded. “All right.”
Thranduil draped Legolas’ arm across his shoulders, holding it in place with one hand, and put the other around his son, supporting him. That way, he would not have to put any weight on his foot. Legolas, with a rather worrying lack of protest, allowed his father to help him to his room.
Elrond followed them, directing Legolas to a chair, where he would be able to examine the injured ankle. Thranduil perched on the arm, his hand still resting lightly across his son’s shoulders. Legolas watched carefully as Elrond poked and prodded, rotating and manipulating, feeling the swelling bruises tenderly. His touch hurt, but not as much as Legolas had expected. At last Elrond had finished, and replaced Legolas’ foot on a cushioned stool. He looked at both Legolas and Thranduil with a smile.
“Well, it would seem you have been lucky. Nothing seems to be broken, but there is some bad bruising and swelling, as well as a few deep cuts and grazes. How did you come by those?”
Legolas realised that neither his father nor Lord Elrond knew yet what had happened. “Elladan, Elrohir and I were jumping off the cliff. We were too close together, so we spread out. Then, when I jumped, my foot got trapped between two big stones.” He shivered a little, and coughed. “Ada, I was so scared,” he admitted. “I don’t think I’ve ever been so frightened in my life. Not even when I saw the spider. I tried and tried to get away, but I couldn’t. I thought I was going to drown.” He shivered again, and leaned a little closer as Thranduil tightened his embrace.
“So how did you get free in the end?” his father asked him.
Legolas shook his head, still unsure. “I don’t know. The next thing I knew, I was on the bank, with Elladan and Elrohir. They – they must have saved me. But I don’t know how.”
While he had been speaking, Elrond had filled a deep bowl with steaming water. He added a few drops of oil from a small bottle, and a sharp, herbal scent filled the room. “Place your foot in here,” Elrond instructed. Legolas complied, gingerly immersing his foot in the water. It smarted at first, but the feeling was soon replaced by a soothing warmth. For the first time the sharp pain faded. Elrond deftly cleaned the deep gashes, wiping away the ingrained dirt and slimy green algae from the river, forced deep into the cuts by the sharp edged rocks. Finally, he rubbed on a cool ointment, massaging it into the bruises and swelling, before wrapping the ankle with a close-fitting bandage. “How does that feel?” Elrond questioned.
Legolas flexed his ankle cautiously, before putting it to the floor. “Better. Much better. Thank you.” He stood carefully, then limped across to the window, testing it. It hurt, but he could walk on it, just. Halfway there, he stopped. The simple exertion had aggravated the congestion in his chest, and he began coughing again, harshly.
Both Elrond and Thranduil watched him anxiously. “Legolas? Come back here,” Elrond ordered. He placed his hand flat on Legolas’ chest. “Take a deep breath.”
Legolas obeyed, but was only able to draw half a breath before another spasm shook him. “I can’t,” he explained a little desperately. “When I try to, it makes me cough. I can’t breathe properly.”
Elrond took a handful of herbs from his supplies, cast them into a small dish, and sprinkled them with a thick, oily liquid. He added water, boiling this time, then held the dish out towards Legolas. “Breathe in the steam,” he instructed.
Legolas tried, but immediately began coughing again, so hard it made his eyes water. He was aware of his father rubbing his back, and Elrond, one hand still against his chest, as he gasped for breath. “Again,” said Elrond. The burning in his lungs intensified, and he began to feel as if he was choking. Elrond closed his eyes slightly, and gradually the burning sensation diminished, to be replaced by a slight warmth.
It was a little easier this time, and Legolas could feel a warm glow spreading out from Elrond’s palm, soothing his raspy breathing. He coughed again, but it was far less harsh. “One more time,” Elrond murmured.
This time, Legolas found he could breathe without discomfort, for the first time since his immersion in the river. He took another deep breath, and the ache in his chest finally faded away. He looked at Elrond with a smile. “Thank you! What did you do?”
Elrond did not reply immediately, but shook his head regretfully, before finally removing his hand. “Something I should have done straight away. Forgive me, I did not realise precisely what had happened. You must have breathed in some of the river water. That can be very dangerous if not treated.”
Legolas inhaled again, enjoying the simple pleasure of breathing without pain or discomfort. It was a sensation he had never even thought about before. “Thank you,” he repeated.
Thranduil was still watching him like a hawk. “Ada, I’m all right now. Really!” Legolas protested.
“I hope so. I was worried about you,” Thranduil said, with massive understatement.
Elrond interrupted. “Will you both join us now? Celebrían and I intend to have lunch on the terrace. Will you join us? I expect Elladan, Elrohir and Arwen will be there too. I think you had planned a picnic?”
Legolas nodded. “Ada? Can we?”
“Are you well enough? Can you walk that far?”
“Yes! Of course I can!” Legolas protested indignantly.
Elrond tactfully left them, with an excuse about needing to talk to Erestor, leaving Legolas and Thranduil to continue at their own speed. Legolas, fiercely independent, refused his father’s help, and hobbled down the stairs clinging to the banister rail. As they made their way across the lawn to the bank where the others sat, Elrohir watched Legolas’ progress closely.
Legolas dropped down, with a scarcely muffled sigh of relief, to the grass, stretching his foot out in front of him. Elrohir suddenly turned and glanced at Elladan. “I know just the thing!” he exclaimed, then disappeared inside. His voice floated back to those on the lawn. “Legolas, don’t move! Stay there!”
Legolas shrugged. “I only just got here! I’m not going to move again for a while!”
After a while, Elrohir reappeared. He had one hand hidden behind him, concealing something behind his back, and crossed the lawn again, then presented what he held to Legolas. “I made this for El, last year, when he fell off his horse!”
Distracted, Legolas turned to Elladan disbelievingly. “You fell off your horse?” He had seen how well both twins rode; they had a natural affinity with the animals that was almost Silvan.
Looking disgusted, Elladan nodded. “But El fell off as well!” he said defensively.
“Yes, I know I did, but at least I didn’t break my ankle, brother dearest!”
To forestall the inevitable bickering, Legolas turned the gift in his hands. It was a walking stick, fashioned from a long, straight branch - hazel, by the look of it - bound and shod with a silver ferrule to protect the end. The handle was shaped to fit comfortably into the palm of a hand. It had been carved in the shape of a hound, with soft, pricked ears, a long, panting tongue, sharp teeth, and a smiling mouth. The fur felt shaggy to the touch.
Legolas looked up in delight. “It’s Huan! It’s just like him! When did you – oh, of course, you saw him at Lasgalen, didn’t you?”
Elrohir nodded, grinning. “Yes, and that piece of wood just felt right for Huan! Do you like it? Try it!”
Without waiting for an answer, Elrohir and Elladan pulled Legolas to his feet, and thrust the stick at him. Taking a few experimental steps, Legolas found that it did indeed help. It supported his injured ankle, and meant that he would not have to rely on anyone to help him.
He looked at them both, a little awkwardly. “Thank you, both of you! Not just for this, but for what you did before as well.”
Before he could say more, Celebrían called to them that their lunch was ready. Leaning back against trees, or the steep bank, or just sitting on the grass, they ate and drank, and relaxed in the warm sunshine. Before long, Legolas, still weary from his ordeal, found it harder and harder to stay awake.
“Legolas? Are you going to watch the Games?”
“Have you entered for the archery contest yet?”
Disgusted, Elrohir looked up at his father. “He’s asleep! Father, what did you do? Did you give him something? You keep doing that!”
Elrond shook his head defensively. “Nothing! I gave him nothing. I did not need to. He simply fell asleep. It has been a rather eventful morning, after all.”Stories > First > Previous > Next