The Test of the Fellowship
Gimli gained consciousness when an Uruk-Hai harshly dropped him on to the cold earth. The Dwarf's eyes flashed open and he immediately searched for the Elf. Legolas was only a few feet away from him, but the Elf's hands and feet were bound tightly. But Gimli was still free and able to walk. He just hoped that splitting headache would disappear.
The Elf's eyes were open, but Gimli knew it didn't mean a thing. Legolas could be either awake, asleep or unconscious. He noticed the fierce trembling that moved through the Elf's body and he privately cursed the Uruk-Hai for abducting them.
The Uruk-Hai didn't pay him any attention; apparently they didn't think him dangerous. He vowed to prove them wrong. Keeping a close eye on the monsters, who were setting out guards for the night, he moved toward the Elf. The Uruk-Hai didn't stop him and he grew bolder, bending down to tap Legolas' shoulder. "Can you hear me, Elf?"
Legolas blinked once, sighed and nodded. "Gimli?"
"Aye, it's I." In spite of their situation Gimli smiled. "They carried us off. I do believe Aragorn is still alive." Legolas' expression was hard to read, but Gimli hoped knowing Aragorn was alive would make a difference to the Elf. "They made camp for the night. We should stay alert and escape when possible."
Legolas nodded without much enthusiasm. He didn't feel comfortable among the Uruk-Hai. The stench of blood clung to them and the appealing smell was getting to him, but there was something else as well, something way worse. For some elusive reason the Uruk-Hai felt familiar. When the Uruk-Hai spoke among themselves he detected traces of the old Elven language. A shudder passed through his body. Was it possible that these abominations were somehow related to the Elves? It was unthinkable, but he couldn't rule it out. He didn't know how Saruman had created the Uruk-Hai.
"Elf, they're watching you closely." Gimli noticed the angry, yet curious looks the Uruk-Hai were giving Legolas. He didn't like this at all. Blind, Legolas seemed an easy prey and he wasn't sure he could protect the Elf.
"I can feel their eyes on me." Legolas shivered and wished he wasn't bound. Now that he was lying on the damp earth the cold was seeping in to his bones.
Gimli bared his teeth when the leader of the Uruk-Hai approached. It was hard to tell what the Uruk-Hai was thinking; the expression in the dark eyes was unreadable. The hair at the back of his neck grew rigid, warning him that something was wrong. Protectively he went to stand in front of the Elf, trying to hide Legolas from the Uruk-Hai's view. The Uruk-Hai's eyes flashed menacingly and a powerful fist knocked Gimli on to the ground. A kick to his back made him roll even farther away from Legolas. Gimli tried to get back to his feet, but another Uruk-Hai restrained him, grabbing his wrists and pulling them behind his back.
The leader of the Uruk-Hai went down on his heels to study his prisoner. He cocked his head, growled and raised a hand, which he rested on Legolas' face.
Legolas tried hard to appear calm, but he flinched at the Uruk-Hai's touch. It was vile and tainting. He held perfectly still, uncertain of the other man's intention.
"You're an Elf," growled the Uruk-Hai. He continued to study Legolas as if trying to read the Elf's thoughts.
Shivers ran down Legolas' spine as the Uruk-Hai's breath hit his face. The foul smell almost made him nauseous. "Yes, I am." He forced himself to answer; he couldn't show any weakness now. The fact that he was bound and lying on the ground was humiliation enough.
The Uruk-Hai growled deep in his throat. "I have orders to take you to Saruman... Alive. Try to escape and you'll suffer the consequences."
Legolas was surprised that the Uruk-Hai was capable of speech, let alone rational thought. Maybe he had underestimated them. "Where are the Hobbits?"
The Uruk-Hai growled once more. "Out of your reach, Elf."
The last word dripped with hate and loathing, and Legolas tried hard not to react to the fierce emotion. He missed his eyesight; he had never realized how much he deepened on it. He decided against questioning the Uruk-Hai and preferred being silent.
"I hate you, Elf..."
Legolas forced himself to remain calm when the Uruk-Hai's sharp fingernails scratched his throat. The long nails left a bloody trail from his chin to his collar bone. Blood flowed from the wound and a stinging sensation coursed through his throat. The sensation felt awfully familiar. The infection the arrow head had caused had felt like this. With the poison still nestled in his body this would only worsen his condition. He didn't worry about a possible scar, knowing the skin would heal. He worried about the side effects of the poison. Without the healing tea made from the plants Aragorn usually gathered, his condition would further deteriorate.
Suddenly the Uruk-Hai rose to his feet and marched away. The other Uruk-Hai released Gimli and the Dwarf immediately headed for the Elf. His face briefly contorted, seeing blood flow from the wound. He ripped a piece of fabric from his shirt, hidden beneath his armor, and approached Legolas. The Elf raised his head as if trying to determine who was close to him. "Let me tend to that injury." Gimli hoped his voice would reassure the blind Elf; he was starting to see beneath the mask Legolas usually wore. It was only cracking because the Elf was blind and injured and even now Legolas was trying to hide his unease.
"No need to take care of me, Master Dwarf. I am capable of doing that myself." But he had forgotten that his hands were bound. He was reminded of that fact when he tried to touch his throat.
Gimli shook his head disapprovingly. "Stubborn Elf. Why can't you accept help when you need it?" What was it in Legolas' past that made the Elf unwilling to trust others? He pulled Legolas in an upright position while keeping an eye on the Uruk-Hai who never moved far away from them. They were clearly being guarded and closely watched. But the Uruk-Hai didn't stop him when he pushed the piece of fabric against the wound, trying to stop the bleeding.
"Can you see the Hobbits?" Legolas needed a distraction. He had to stop thinking about his own problems and focus on someone else's.
Once more Gimli shook his head. "They are nowhere in sight. I reckon they split up before coming back for us. The Hobbits are with the second group."
"How many Uruk-Hai are there? Can you free yourself of the robes? Do you still have your axe?" He had already noticed that his bow and hunting knives were gone. He had to come up with an escape plan; the Uruk-Hai planned to take them to Isengard and they had to get away before Saruman could get his hands on them.
Gimli sighed deeply. "Elf, listen to me. You're bound hands and feet and we don't have any weapons. My head is killing me and there are about fifteen of the monsters watching us. We need to bide our time." He would have preferred to break free right now, but common sense won from his impulsive urges. Furthermore, the shivering Elf worried him. A feverish gleam shone from the blue eyes and a delicate film of sweat settled on Legolas' brow. Maybe poison had clung to the Uruk-Hai's fingernails and the substance was now making his way through the Elf's body once more. His primary concern was to keep Legolas warm and safe.
Gimli ignored the looks the Uruk-Hai were giving him and sat down on the damp earth, pulled Legolas against him and wrapped his arms around the bound Elf, offering Legolas his body warmth. "I wish I could do more, but I lack Aragorn's knowledge of the healing herbs. Maybe you can describe the plant to me and I can look for it?"
"They won't let you search for it," said Legolas with certainty. "Do not trouble yourself. I won't die from the poison, it merely weakens me." He wasn't sure he would be of any help when an opportunity to escape arose. Maybe Gimli had to break free alone. He would only slow the Dwarf down.
"What are you thinking, Elf?" The expression in those feverish eyes greatly worried Gimli. The Elf felt hot to the touch; the poison was moving much quicker than he had expected.
"You should escape on your own. I will only slow you down. Find Aragorn and then locate the Hobbits." Legolas nodded firmly.
Gimli smiled saddened. "And what about you?"
"I can take care of myself. Saruman wants me alive; the Uruk-Hai won't kill me. I'm safe."
Gimli growled softly. Legolas' apparent calm was getting on his nerves. "No."
"No, what?" Legolas frowned. Shivers ran down his spine and his body began to tremble once more. "The poison is too strong and I won't be of any use to you. You have to do this on your own. Don't waste any more time."
"I won't leave you." Gimli was determined not to give in to the Elf's demands. "I reckon Aragorn is already on our trail; he'll find us shortly. You have to hold on a little longer."
"Not even Aragorn can take on fifteen of these monsters... It won't even get to a fight. They have us for hostages." Legolas briefly closed his eyes. "Listen, Master Dwarf, you have to leave me and find Aragorn!"
"Stop it, Elf. I won't listen to this nonsense. I'm staying. You'll get worse and someone will need to tend to you. I can't see the Uruk-Hai do that and their leader is watching closely, trying to listen in on our conversation. I won't leave you alone with him."
A sad smile appeared on Legolas' face. "You honor me with your loyalty, but you're making the wrong decision." His throat ached, his mouth felt dry and his eyes were beginning to sting. His body shook with chills and even Gimli's body heat no longer made a difference. He was freezing again as the poison invaded his blood and bones.
Aragorn gritted his teeth and accepted the challenge the fierce wind presented. He pushed himself relentlessly, only pausing once in a while to kneel and study the tracks in the muddy earth. It had started to rain a few hours ago and the Uruk-Hai had set a firm pace, almost doubling the distance between them. Aragorn couldn't pause now; every minute was precious.
He pulled his cloak around his body and continued to walk with grim determination. Gimli's axe was in his hands, his own sword in its scabbard and Legolas' hunting knives dangled from his belt. He was already looking forward to cutting down the monsters who had dared to abduct his friends. Friends... He still hoped that Legolas and he would be lovers one day. Maybe it would be wise to tell the Elf that Arwen and he weren't bound to each other, that he was free to chose a mate.
He vowed to talk to Legolas after freeing the Elf. When Legolas had returned that embrace hope had blossomed inside his heart, knowing the Elf accepted him close. Now he had to take the next step.
Lost in thoughts, he almost took the wrong direction and had to backtrack, locate their tracks again. Studying them, his worry increased. Up until now he had been able to identify Legolas' weak footmarks in the mud, but they were gone now. Looking closer, he realized that one of the Uruk-Hai's footmarks were deeper now. The Uruk-Hai had to be carrying the Elf, but why? Was it the poison? Damn it, he had been certain that he had subdued the poison. Or was Legolas wounded and unable to walk on his own?
His fingertips touched the mud. These were Gimli's footmarks, but still there was no sign of the Hobbits and he suspected that the Uruk-Hai had long split up in to two groups. Although a small voice in his head told him he ought to go after the Hobbits, his heart forced him to follow Legolas. He couldn't bear the thought of the Elf being their prisoner. Thankfully Gimli was with Legolas, hopefully keeping an eye on the stubborn Elf.
A gust of wind almost swept him of his feet and rain suddenly crashed down on him. He was tempted to find a shelter for the upcoming night, but he had to press on. He couldn't allow the Uruk-Hai to gain an even greater head start!
Wet hair, dripping with raindrops clung to his face. His clothes grew heavy with rain, but still he refused to give in to the elements.
An hour later, when the dark clouds obscured even the starlight that had guided his path, Aragorn had to admit defeat. In the darkness he couldn't read the tracks and he was cold and wet. A weak light unexpectedly appeared to his right and he succumbed to temptation and fled toward in to the cave. He felt curious, wondering about the origin of the light.
He stopped abruptly in his tracks, his breathing seized for a moment and his eyes almost bulged from their sockets. "What trick is this?"
Gandalf smiled warmly. "You must be cold, Aragorn. Share my fire with me and dry your clothes."
Aragorn cocked his head. "You're dead. You died at the Mines of Moira. I saw you fall." It was impossible. Gandalf couldn't be sitting in front of him, nursing a fire and leaning on his staff. "This is Sauron's work."
"You offend me," whispered Gandalf. "It takes more than one Balrog to end my life." He understood Aragorn's disbelief, even distrust, but hoped to convince the Man that he wasn't an illusion. "Come sit with me and we'll talk."
Aragorn cautiously approached. One hand rested on Legolas' hunting knife, the other clutched Gimli's axe tightly.
Gandalf waited for Aragorn to lean against the wall, realizing the Man wasn't sitting down yet. "The Balrog's whip pulled me down in to the abyss, but I managed to break my fall and find a way out of the Mines. I tried to catch up with you, but I got distracted. Now tell me why you're alone. Where are the others?"
Aragorn felt conflicted. Gandalf appeared to be real, but he couldn't completely discard a sense of distrust. He slid down on to the ground and extended his hands, trying to warm them by the fire. "Frodo and Sam are on their way to Mount Doom. The Uruk-Hai captured Merry and Pippin and we decided to follow them. Then they also captured Legolas and Gimli. I hoped to catch up with the Uruk-Hai today, but the weather stopped me." He decided against telling Gandalf about Legolas' blindness just yet. Right now, they only needed to exchange the most important information. "I have no idea where the Uruk-Hai are taking Merry and Pippin. Maybe Isengard, maybe Mount Doom."
Gandalf had grown quiet, staring in to the fire. "They captured Legolas? That's most unfortunate. It complicates matters greatly. Maybe it wasn't a wise thing to do, to let him tag along, but I couldn't stop him. His presence was required."
Aragorn frowned, hearing Gandalf rant absentmindedly. "I'll find and free them," he vowed passionately. Gandalf didn't seem worried about the Hobbits at all, mumbling about Legolas once more. "Gandalf?"
The Wizard forced himself to pay attention to Aragorn. "Maybe I'll explain later. We'll wait until the storm has cleared and then we'll take up pursuit. It's important that we free Legolas. We can't allow Saruman to question him. The risks are too great..."
Now that they were stuck in the cave anyway, Aragorn decided to ask Gandalf something that greatly troubled him. "Gandalf, I watched Legolas when he thought he was alone. A flame appeared in the palm of his hand. Is this related to him being a Wood Elf?"
Gandalf's eyes narrowed and a shadow flashed across his features. "How could he have been so careless?"
"Gandalf?" Aragorn's worry increased. Gandalf acted like he wasn't supposed to have ever seen that flame!
"You'd better forget you ever spied on our Elven Prince," said Gandalf in a warning tone. His brow was deeply furrowed, worrying about Legolas as well.
Aragorn wasn't sure he could. It was too damn obvious that Gandalf was keeping things from him and he didn't like it. He was the leader of the Fellowship. How could he lead when secrets were kept from him? "You'll accompany me then?"
"Oh yes, I'll come with you. The two of us stand a better chance against the Uruk-Hai." Gandalf's eyes searched Aragorn's face. "Listen to me, Son of Gonder, Legolas must be freed, and he must stay alive."
Aragorn had the feeling that Gandalf wanted to add more, but the Wizard sat back, pulled his cloak close to his body and stared in to the fire. The conversation had clearly come to an end, but still Aragorn was left with many unanswered questions.
Gimli bared his teeth, trying to scare off the Uruk-Hai who was approaching them. He had lost all track of time during their endless march through wind and rain. One of the Uruk-Hai had carried Legolas most of the time. Fever tormented the Elf's body and he was growing dehydrated now that the Uruk-Hai no longer stopped to pause to let him drink. Finally, after what had seemed an eternity, the leader had signaled them to stop and Legolas had been dropped in to the mud unceremoniously. The shivering was much worse now and Gimli cursed the Uruk-Hai loudly.
Gimli managed to drag the barely conscious Elf beneath a tree, that offered them some shelter from the biting wind. "Leave him alone," he warned the advancing Uruk-Hai. "You're killing him. He needs water, warmth and rest!"
The leader of the Uruk-Hai overheard the Dwarf and suddenly headed in their direction. Gimli expected trouble and wished he had his axe handy. "Keep your distance!"
The leader of the Uruk-Hai growled deep in his throat. "Dwarf..." His voice dripped with contempt. One blow to Gimli's temple knocked the Dwarf off his feet and the Uruk-Hai closed in on the Elf.
Legolas was only vaguely aware of what was happening around him. The one thing that suddenly hit him was the Uruk-Hai's close proximity; he was too close, but Legolas, still bound, was unable to move away. He raised his head, desperately trying to locate the predator so he wouldn't be taken by surprise.
"It's a pity that Saruman wants you alive. Your very presence disgusts me..."
Again sharp fingernails accompanied the Uruk-Hai's words and Legolas barely kept himself from flinching. If those nails dipped beneath his skin again the poison would once more invade his blood and in spite of what he had told Gimli earlier, he wasn't sure he would survive after all. He remained quiet, not wanting to anger the Uruk-Hai any further. Why did the other man hate him this much?
"My master told me how I was created," continued the Uruk-Hai with loathing in his tone. "We were like you once... Weak. He made us strong."
Legolas couldn't help it, but he gasped in surprise. Was the fever clouding his mind? What did the Uruk-Hai say? That they had been Elves? That Saruman had changed them? Blind and feverish, he was unable to make any sense of what he had heard.
"Maybe Saruman has use for you, maybe he wants information... I hope he'll make you suffer before ending your wretched life." The Uruk-Hai spit in to Legolas' face and then marched off.
Gimli, who had recovered from the unexpected blow, quickly moved to Legolas' side. He used his sleeve to wipe away the spit and then checked on the Elf's injury. Legolas' throat showed signs of severe infection. Blue lines had reappeared, making their way down Legolas' chest. What was taking Aragorn so long? The Man should have caught up with them by now! Legolas needed the healing herbs!
Gimli looked about, realized that the Uruk-Hai were setting up camp and pulled the Elf close once more. "Talk to me, Elf." Legolas, who never spoke much, now worried him when growing silent. "Can you still hear me?" He feared losing Legolas to the dark dreams that haunted the Elf when he rested.
"I hear you..." Legolas had lost all sensation in his hands and feet. His body felt numb and icy cold. Gimli had told him that he was burning with fever, but only cold registered in his mind. "Do you know where we are?"
"Too close to Isengard." Gimli wondered what Saruman the White wanted from the Wood Elf. "Why does he want you?" To his surprise, Legolas' mask slipped in to place again. He hadn't seen it for days. "Elf?"
"I don't know."
It was a lie and they both knew it. Gimli felt strangely hurt that the Elf was lying to him. "You can trust me, Legolas." He spoke the Elf's name for the first time aloud, hoping to convince him he was sincere.
Legolas was surprised to hear his name flow from the Dwarf's lips. "Gimli, I can't tell you because I don't know. I never met Saruman; I'm surprised that he knows of my existence."
"But do you know what he wants from you?" Gimli continued to pressure the Elf, offering him body heat at the same time. Legolas' head rested against his chest and his powerful arms were folded around the Elf's waist.
"Maybe... Please don't ask again." Legolas wasn't sure he could continue to shut Gimli out. His life had always been a lonely one, and he craved friendship and companionship, but this burden was his alone to carry.
"I will not..." Gimli shook his head, disappointed that the Elf didn't trust him. "Rest now. Maybe I can pursue them to give you some water later."
"Why are you still here, Gimli?" Legolas smiled into the Dwarf's long beard. He felt like teasing the gentle Dwarf, but lacked the energy to do so.
"Because Aragorn isn't." Gimli heard Legolas' soft chuckle and the sound warmed his heart. "You know he'll come for you, don't you?"
"I fear so," sighed Legolas.
"You fear?" Gimli frowned, confused. "Why fear?"
"He should be going after the Hobbits, not us." Exhaustion was growing stronger and Legolas' will to stay conscious was crumbling. It wouldn't be long before his body demanded he rest. "There are too many Uruk-Hai and he is only one Man alone."
"I doubt the odds will stop him," chuckled Gimli. "Now rest, Elf."
Legolas nodded against Gimli's chest. "I feel honored that you worry for me, but you must promise me to flee before we reach Isengard."
Gimli started to shake his head while his fingers stroked long and muddy blond hair. "I will not."
"You must... Saruman has no need for you. You'll die at his hands."
Legolas suddenly relaxed in his arms and Gimli realized that the Elf had lost consciousness. "But he has use for you? Is that what you're saying? Nay, friend Elf, I won't let you enter Isengard alone."
Aragorn struggled against the wind. They had spent the night in the cave and had left when the first ray of sun appeared at the sky. Thankfully the rain had stopped, but the mud made it almost impossible to read the Uruk-Hai's tracks. Aragorn went down on one knee and studied the footmarks. Next he found the remnants of a fire and an improvised shelter. "They stopped during the night as well. The marks are still fresh."
"How much longer till we catch up with them?" Gandalf was growing restless.
"A few more hours, provided the weather doesn't get worse." Aragorn rose and set a grueling pace. "Why won't you tell me why you're worried about Legolas? I worry about him as well."
Gandalf allowed for a grin to break through. "Oh yes, I know you worry about him."
Aragorn looked up sharply. "Why would you say that?"
"I know your destiny, Son of Gondor, and I know Legolas' as well. Your destinies are intertwined." Gandalf refused to add more, ignoring the angry glare in Aragorn's eyes. "I promise you will see our Prince again."
"How can you make such a promise?" Aragorn was losing his patience. "An Uruk-Hai's arrow injured Legolas, poisoning him and now he's blind! He was recovering due to a healing tea which I brew, but I have no way of knowing how he's doing now and neither have you!"
Gandalf was briefly taken aback. "He's blind?"
"Aye, I hope an Elven healer can restore his eyesight, but I'm afraid to hope." Aragorn suddenly started walking again, leaving Gandalf standing.
Gandalf's thoughts raced. "Legolas was poisoned? I should have opposed Elrond when he insisted Legolas took part in this quest."
"It wasn't your choice then?" Aragorn looked over his shoulder only to find that Gandalf had fallen in to step beside him.
"No," Gandalf hesitated, "Legolas is an accomplished warrior, an excellent archer, but he shouldn't be here. He should be at Rivendell or at Mirkwood where he belongs."
"I don't understand you," muttered Aragorn. "Legolas has been our eyes and ears. This Fellowship needs him."
"Any other Elf could have served as our eyes and ears," pointed Gandalf out at him.
"Then why did Elrond insist Legolas joined us?" Aragorn knew his foster father well. Elrond was a master at manipulation.
Gandalf shook his head. He feared he knew why Elrond insisted Legolas joined the Fellowship, but if his suspicions were correct, he couldn't tell Aragorn. "Legolas' safety is very important to me," he said in the end. "And the fact that they are heading for Isengard worries me even more. I suspect Saruman's scheming behind this."
"But why does Saruman want Legolas?" Aragorn, frustrated when he once more received no answer, stared at the gloomy sky. They had to get to Legolas in time!
Return to Archive | next | previous