In the Dark
"Estel, watch your step. The floor has some broken stones right outside the doorway," Legolas advised, turning to speak over his shoulder to his friend.
There was no answer. That was puzzling, since the ranger had been right behind him.
"Estel?" the elf called out again.
Thinking the man had stopped to examine something he had come across, Legolas stopped a few feet inside the doorway and listened.
He heard no movement and more troublesome, no breathing. He did, however, feel a rush of cold air blow across his body, as if someone or something had moved past him in the dark. It made him shiver.
He could tell that the room he now found himself in was small and windowless. He reached up and touched the low ceiling barely a foot above his head. He sensed that the walls were close by. They were so close, in fact, they felt oppressive to the elf, who was used to open spaces, even in a forest full of trees. ‘Not much space and no trees here,’ the elf thought grimly.
His thoughts then turned back to the ranger, who should have been close enough to him in this cramped room to touch. Had the man not followed him in, or had he turned back for some reason?
Legolas turned his head slowly in all directions, his senses straining. The darkness was total. There was not so much as a sliver of light that his exceptional elven sight could lock onto. Not even the natural glow that the Eldar were blessed with, something he had used on numerous occasions to light his way when he found himself in darkness, could penetrate the absolute black that surrounded him. That had never happened before in his life. His inner light was one of the things he could always count on---until now. Its absence frightened the elf more than he cared to admit, even to himself. He would just have to ignore this most troubling discovery, so he could concentrate on the more pressing matter of what he was going to do.
The elven prince suddenly became aware that there was no air coming in through what should have been the open doorway. The door must have closed somehow.
"Estel?" Legolas repeated. There was more urgency in his voice this time. "Where are you?"
The elf stood frozen in place, as a scraping noise sounded behind him and to his right. He held his breath, when the sound came again.
Legolas jerked around to face it but, of course, could see nothing. Standing there like a statue was not going to give him any answers, so he finally got his feet to move and took a few steps, reaching outward until his fingers came in contact with the cold, stone wall. He moved right, reaching the adjacent wall. The elf then turned and moved left along the short wall until the adjacent wall in that direction met his groping hands. Nothing. He laughed somewhat nervously. "Estel, are you trying to play a trick on me?"
Perhaps the man was crouching down below where Legolas had been feeling, getting ready to jump up and say "Boo!" ‘No,’ Legolas thought. There was not enough room for that. Besides, the man knew the effect dark places had on him. Estel would not do that to him. "Estel, please answer me," Legolas pleaded, trying to keep a note of desperation out of his voice.
No answer came.
Legolas continued to listen, hearing nothing, not even the scraping noise. He turned back around, thinking he would go back out the way he had come in. There had been dim light coming in through a broken window at the far end of the corridor he had just left, so he hoped by going back there, he would be able to see where Estel had gone.
When the elf reached the wall directly in front of him, he held his hand out to grasp the handle and open the door. His hand met only more solid stone. Legolas frowned. He must not have come back exactly opposite the doorway, when he finished examining the wall behind him.
He moved right a few feet, never losing contact with the wall. He soon met the wall on that side. ‘Wrong direction,’ he thought. Moving back the other way, he soon met the wall to the left. There had been no door. The elf’s frown deepened. This was not possible.
He took several long, deep breaths, forcing his pounding heart to calm. The elf knew he wouldn’t be able to think clearly, if he began to panic.
‘Now think,’ he chided himself, making his mind move along a practical path. He had walked into the room and stood facing the rear wall. It was that wall that he had examined, looking for the source of the scraping noise. Then he had turned around to face the front wall where he had entered. ‘The door has to be there,’ he told himself. But it wasn’t. ‘Doorways do not move. It has to be there.’ But it wasn’t.
There had to be a logical explanation. Legolas went over the whole thing again. If he walked in a door and turned around to face that door again, the door must be there. And while he was at it, why had Estel disappeared, when the man had been right behind him, talking to him, in fact, when he came in?
People sometimes disappear for one reason or another, and he would solve the riddle of where Estel had gone, as soon as he got out of here. He hoped the man was all right.
Totally confused now, Legolas decided to try logic again. He would simply find a corner and start going around the room until he found the door, on whichever wall it ended up being. At this point, he didn’t care; he just wanted to find it and get back to where there was light.
Taking one very deep breath, Legolas made his way to the corner on his right. He put both of his hands flat on the wall at shoulder height and began moving to his left. To keep track, as he came to the next corner he said, "one wall". Left again and "two walls", left to "three walls" and back down the last wall to the corner where he had started, "four walls". There had been no door!
Perplexed and frustrated beyond reasoning and now more than a little unsettled, as well, the elf stood still, his hands remaining in the corner. He lowered his head onto his left arm.
After a moment, he raised his head, a look of determination on his face. "I am not going mad," he told the darkness. "I went completely around this room. I know I did. I checked each of the four walls and..." He stopped. He had not seen the room, only felt it. Perhaps there weren’t just four walls. Perhaps this room was oddly shaped and had five or even six walls. That would mean that he may not be back at his starting point. This theory was worth investigating, especially since it was the only one he had.
Legolas realized that he had to find a way to mark this corner, so he would know for sure when he came back to it.
He had nothing to hang on the wall, but he did have his bow to lean in the corner. No, he had already lost his friend and a door, he was not willing to risk losing his bow should it disappear, as well. Then the absurdity of what he had just thought to himself almost made him laugh. He looked around at the darkness and shook his head. "Maybe I am going mad."
He only had one bow, but he had plenty of arrows, so he took one from his quiver and set it down in the corner, point end down. "All right. I will start again." By now he realized he had been thinking out loud.
At each corner, even the second and third one, Legolas stopped and slid one hand down until he touched the floor. No arrow yet. When he came to the fourth corner, his hand touched the arrow he had placed there.
"So there are only four walls, after all," he said, stepping away from the corner and straining his vision to its limit, hoping against hope that this time he would be rewarded with a speck of light. Just a speck was all he asked. But the darkness was absolute and impenetrable.
It was only then that he remembered the reason for all of this effort; he was looking for the missing doorway. An unbidden and frightening question entered his mind. Had he become trapped in a room with no way to get out?
He felt like screaming for Estel, the way a lost child screams for its mother. He probably would have done it, if he had thought for one second that his friend would hear him.
Again the elf took long, deep breaths to calm his reeling mind. Panicking would get him nowhere. Easier said than done, but he gave it his best effort. At that moment, he would rather be facing a horde of orcs, armed to the teeth and riding wargs.
Legolas put his hand up to the ceiling to steady himself. That gesture gave him a new idea. Perhaps there was a trap door in the ceiling or even one in the floor. He could check both at the same time.
Making his way over to the corner where the arrow was still resting, he reached up and put the palms of both hands against the ceiling. With his right shoulder next to the wall, he began to walk, carefully examining the ceiling with his hands and the floor with his feet.
Reaching the wall at the end, he turned, took a small step to the side and moved back the other way. He kept repeating the maneuver over and over. Back and forth. Back and forth. It was slow going, because he didn’t want to miss anything. Back and forth. Back and forth. Each pass that failed to reveal what he was looking for made his heart pound faster.
When he reached the wall on the other side of the room without finding a trap door or any sign of anything else he could use to escape by, his heart sank, and his hands began to shake.
Legolas made his way back to the corner where he had left his arrow.
The elf’s fear was mounting. He had to have missed it. Logic said not, that he hadn’t missed anything, that there had been nothing there to miss, but his mind refused to accept that.
He started again, moving along each wall, hands exploring high and low. He again put his hands on the ceiling and began going back and forth. Back and forth.
When he ended up back where his arrow leaned in the corner, he stopped. "I must have missed it." He started again.
By now his legs were starting to shake, and he found it hard to walk. But he didn’t give up. When no door was found, he started again. Back and forth. Back and forth.
His hands found nothing but cold stone. His feet detected nothing but smooth stone.
When he finished, he said, "I must have missed it," and he started again. Back and forth. Back and forth.
Each time he made a complete circuit of the room, the elf would start again, and each time he moved faster and faster in his desperate search. Soon he was almost running along the walls and across the floor, hands and feet trying to keep up with his racing mind. "I must have missed it," he repeated each time his effort met with failure. And each time he started again.
Legolas’s elven endurance, depleted as much by mental stress and fear of dark, closed-in spaces as by his physical exhaustion, finally gave out, and he collapsed into the corner where his arrow was still leaning. He felt as if he were suffocating in this maddening darkness, and he began breathing heavily to compensate. His nerves were frayed, his body was trembling uncontrollably, and his mind was losing the battle for sanity and reason.
Wrapping his arms around himself and rocking back and forth, Legolas put his head down on his drawn-up knees and spoke into the darkness, "I missed it. but I will look again after I rest. Yes, that is what I will do. I will look again after I rest. I missed it, but I will find it. Right?"
The scraping noise was his only answer.
"Legolas, watch your step. The floor has some broken stones right outside the doorway," Aragorn advised, turning to speak over his shoulder.
There was no answer, which was puzzling, since the elf had been right behind him. "Legolas?" the ranger called out again.
Thinking the elf had stopped to examine something he had come across, Aragorn stopped a few feet inside the doorway and listened.
He heard no movement, no breathing, and more troublesome, he saw no elven glow. He did, however, feel a rush of cold air blow across his body, as if someone or something had moved past him in the dark. It made him shiver.
He then heard a scraping noise behind him and to his right....