Fallen and found
True strength may be found
Not within the hardened steel
Nor within the heart of the wicked
Only a humble heart and spirit of light
Knows what strength truly is
He was dying, the thought was very bitter indeed. This was not how he had imagined his end at all, in fact he had never even thought about the possibility of facing death and absolutely not in such a manner. He had been too close for comfort before, for sure, but he had been surrounded by his kin back then. They had helped him and it had been a battle he had fought well aware of the dangers and what he might face. This was different.He had never felt more alone in his long life, and alone he was, completely alone. There were nobody there, only the sounds of nature surrounded him and he tried hard to fight the feeling of utter helplessness and fear. Where was he? And what had happened? He tried to blink away the tears that were forming in his eyes, this was so undignified, so downright unjust. There were no honor in this, and would anybody ever know the truth of his demise? Would anyone ever find him? He gasped and choked a sob, probably not. He had no idea where he was, and neither did his fellow travelers. And his son, his beloved son? What would he think and feel? Would he go looking for his father, never finding out what had truly happened to him? The thought was heart breaking, he could see it now, see how selfish and narrow minded he had become. How he had allowed his own fears to slowly choke the very light out of him.
He thought he had tried to keep them all safe, but in fact he had tried to stop the world from changing, clinging to a past long gone with every bit of strength that he had. He saw it now, you cannot make the truth go away by pretending it isn't there.He was staring up at the stars, it was a very clear night and the cold made him shiver to the bone, it didn't exactly ease his pains. In fact it made everything worse. The stars were unfamiliar, he had never seen those constellations and they were so bright and clear. It was a beautiful sight but it made him feel nothing but a deep sorrow and regret. How long had it been since he had done just this, looked at the stars? He could no longer remember!
He had forgotten about small pleasures like that, forgotten to live in order to stay alive. There had been so much to do and think about, he had hidden himself behind his title and duty and never allowed himself real joy. His son was his only pride and the one thing that brought happiness into his heart, he could only pray that this wouldn't be too hard on him. It was true what they said, you do see your life pass before your own eyes before you die. He saw himself as a stranger would and what he did see wasn't at all the man he would have wanted to be.His tears were ice cold upon his cheeks, what would he not have given to see his son one more time, to tell him he loved him? But it was too late now, too late for anything. He could only hope that the Gods would have mercy upon his soul. Every time he closed his eyes he expected to open them within the halls of Mandos but he didn't. It was just this place, a rocky riverbed where the cold wind blew relentless and chilled him to the very core. He lay on his back across the boulders, unable to move and he had been there for hours now. The sun was slowly rising and the sight brought new tears to his eyes. It was so very beautiful, he had forgotten what beauty really was.He had been too blinded by his own ambitions and his own inner demons to really appreciate anything, he had in fact lost his interest in life and drowned his sorrows and anguish with wine and self-pity. No wonder his people called him foul tempered and tried to avoid him. He had been acting like some spoiled brat, not at all as the noble king he was supposed to be. And now he was paying the price, and a terrible one it was.
He was in absolute agony, the pain was worse than anything he had even been able to imagine. It was worse than dragonsfire, worse than any wound he had received. It made him moan in agony and beg the Gods to let him die, he could not handle this, it made him shiver and cry like a child. He knew his back was broken in at least two places, his right arm too and his shoulder and collarbone felt like they had been crushed completely. He had fractured ribs and the increasing difficulty he had drawing breath told him one of his lungs had collapsed. He had been coughing up blood and the taste in his mouth made him cringe. He had more fractures too, his legs were probably broken but the pain was just everywhere, he could not tell for sure. There had to be internal injuries as well, bleedings and torn tissue, he was a real mess.He was laying there, slowly dying like some wounded animal trapped within its cave and he could not move an inch even when he tried to. The pain was just too great.
The few times he had tried to raise his head he had ended up screaming and the effort was too much. Now he was only waiting for the end, for his final breath. Death would come as a savior to him. As a long lost brother and friend and he only hoped that his son knew how dearly he had loved him. He prayed that he would have a good life, and a fulfilling one. He wished he only could have told him this and spoken the words to his face. But fate had stolen that opportunity from him and it made him close his eyes in sorrow and shame.A few yards from him he could catch a glimpse of a couple of horses legs sticking up from behind some huge ragged rocks, the animal had to lay behind them, probably crushed completely and he felt a strange kind of sorrow. It had been a good horse, not his usual one but never the less a proud and brave animal which deserved a much better fate than this. Now it would be a meal for whatever carnivores and scavengers this place held. And he would too, the idea of his flesh being devoured by some unknown beast was beyond terrible. It made him sick to think about it, his people did burn their dead and since elves rarely die of other causes than severe wounds funerals were few. Really, it should not bother him but it did, the dead feel no pain but it was so very disgusting to think about. He had always been a bit vain, tried to look his best and if he ever was to meet his end he had imagined he would receive a proper funeral.
The sun was up now, it looked like it would be a truly lovely day, his last he was sure. He could barely breathe anymore and still he did, still his body clung stubbornly to life even if the agony was like fire within his body. He wanted to leave this place behind, to let his spirit fly free so why did he not die? He should have been dead hours ago, not even an elf can survive injuries like the ones he had received. The cold still made every muscle tremble, he was thirsty beyond imagination and his eyesight was failing too. It could not be long now, how he longed to rest. Maybe the world would even be a better place within him in it, he did not know but the idea clung to his mind and offered him little comfort.
The day had started rather well, he had joined some of his warriors in a quest to rid the borders of some rather pesky orcs. There had been some attacks on villages along the edge of the forest and for once he had felt like they had to act upon the threat before it got too close to home. They had found the orcs and slaughtered them, it had been a short and very bloody battle but they had been victorious. Not a single orc had survived and he had been in a good mood, he had enjoyed the thrill of battle and felt like it had been too long since he had seen action. It had made him feel alive again, and he had enjoyed the company of his warriors. He had felt like he did when he was young without a crown upon his brow and without a care in the world. He had felt free. His son was back at home and he remembered the last words they had exchanged. He had spoken to his own son like he would to some servant, to someone who did not matter. It made his heart twist within his chest and filled him with despair and shame as black as pitch.
They had camped for the night and he remembered that he had enjoyed the tales the others had to tell while they rested by the camp fires. He had forgotten that there was a world out there and these rare moments of peace were indeed precious to him. The next morning they had rode along a river, they were looking for a place to cross and he had been riding a huge grey gelding. His usual horse, a white stallion had gone lame for some reason and he did not want to risk the animal's health by riding it. The gelding was a good horse, fast and willing and he had decided that he wanted to keep it among his private horses. He had been sitting there caught within his own thoughts when something suddenly happened, so fast not even the well trained elven warriors had time to react. Something huge and dark had shot out from the bushes alongside the river and a terrible high pitched scream made the horses rear and buck.
It was a boar, a huge male with tusks the size of a short sword, its small red eyes were glowing with anger and malice and it had ripped open the belly of one of the horses before anyone had time to react. The panic stricken horses had been screaming and struggling against their riders commands and the gelding he rode suddenly bolted and started running along the narrow path like it had a dragon chasing it. He had been unable to stop the animal, it had ran like it was possessed and he decided that the best thing to do was to just hang on and allow it to run itself tired. It would slow down eventually and after all it was running in the right direction. He could just wait for his men to catch up with him.After a while the horse did indeed slow down, it was gasping for air and sweat covered its broad chest, he had been trying to calm it down completely with some soothing words when something appeared in front of them. Standing right in the middle of the path was a wolf, a great black bitch with glowing yellow eyes. He had time to think that no wolf ever could grow so large and then the horse screamed, a terrible sound that didn't resemble anything he had ever heard from a horse before. He grabbed onto the saddle and then there was a terrible cold and a feeling of falling. He wondered if the horse had thrown him and then there was just darkness and agony.
He was panting, every labored breath pure agony, his head was spinning like crazy and he felt like he was about to vomit but he could not, it would choke him for sure. His tears had stopped flowing, he had no fluids to spare and his body was shutting down. All that was left was regret, all the things he should have done, should have said. It was so bitter indeed. If he only had the chance he would have sailed west as so many others had before him but now that opportunity was lost. He was lost, in more ways than one.He suddenly heard something, a sort of distant growl and his fears returned, was this some kind of dangerous animal? He heard heavy footsteps and something was panting, it got closer. Could it be a bear? Or was it something even worse? He was shivering with fear now, he was utterly helpless and any creature with a taste for meat could finish him off as easily as he would behead an orc. Not exactly an end worthy of a king. Although he longed for an end to his agony he didn't want it to happen like that.
He managed to turn his head just a little bit, the sheer effort made him groan and it hurt like hell. And what he saw almost made him pass out, it was a monster.An animal the size of a very big horse, it looked bizarre as if somebody had mixed a sort of dragon with a kind of feline but it was very graceful and elegant and moved with amazing power and stealth. The head was almost as long as he was and very strange looking with both scales and fur and it had huge lynx like ears with tufts of black hair at the end. The tail was very long too with lots of long hairs at the end and the animal had a color like earth and dead leaves.He whimpered, this was a carnivore no doubt and he only prayed that it would kill him before it started to eat. Being eaten alive was as close to a real nightmare as he could imagine right there and then.
The animal lifted its head and sniffed, turned its head and saw him, it licked its jaws and he saw that it had some very impressive teeth indeed. They were sharper than a dragons and feline in appearance. It had a lot of them too, and the beast appeared to be hungry.It turned and jogged towards him, its tail swinging and head turning from side to side, apparently scanning the surroundings for any rivals to this fresh meal. The beast made a strange noise and stopped right by him, sniffed the air. He was beyond fear now, all he felt was some sort of resignation, then be it. It would devour him and he closed his eyes and whispered a short prayer to the Valar."Please, let it be quick"
And then he heard a voice shouting in the distance and everything changed within the blink of an eye. "Hey, Frerk, get your hairy ass back here! I don't want you gnawing away at any more dead animals. The last rabbit you ate made you stink for days!"The animal whimpered and then it sat up on its rump and pawed the air with its front legs, it looked like a dog begging for scraps. "What is it, what have you found?"
He wanted to shout for help, to help himself in any way possible but he could not, all he managed to produce was a weird sound which reminded him of a frogs croak. The voice got nearer, it was a female voice and it was very beautiful and yet it told him that the woman who spoke was powerful in some way. It was the voice of someone well used to be listened to and obeyed . "Oh by the goddess, it's a dead horse? What has happened to it?!"
Another voice could be heard, deep and raw and beyond any doubt masculine. "It is completely crushed, like it has fallen from a great height"
The animal swung its tail in frustration and now it made a strange howling noise. He could hear footsteps and then he heard the woman gasp and the man swear, at least it sounded like swearing because he had never heard that language before. He opened his eyes and saw two elves, but they did not look like any elves he had met before. The woman was a stunning beauty with hair like flames and eyes like polished amber. She was tall and strong and far more curvy than most elleths he had met. The man was an even greater shock to behold, he was very tall indeed and his hair long and black, his skin was dark too and he had eyes that were black like pieces of polished obsidian.
He looked dangerous, and he felt dangerous. There was an aura of something unspeakable and terrible around this man and he was a warrior no doubt. He carried two stunning elven blades across his back and there were lots of scars visible on his skin. One ran along his cheekbone and disappeared into the mane of wild hair, it had colored a lock of it white. The woman rushed over towards him, she was obviously in deep shock."Oh no, what has happened to this man? He too must have fallen? But from where?"
He tried to speak, managed to cough and blood ran from his mouth again. He had no illusions as to his chances, he was as good as dead. But maybe he could manage to cling to life long enough to give them a message for his son, if they could find him. The woman stared at him with huge eyes. "It is impossible, he is alive!"
The man looked just as shocked. "He is an elf, but that should have killed even one of our kind."
The woman was kneeling down beside him, she grasped his hand and it felt so good it made him want to cry. At least he was no longer alone, he was in the presence of someone who could understand. She stroked his head and got the long silvery blond hair out of his face, it was full of blood and he realized that he had to look absolutely terrible. But she did not seem to care, her touch was fantastic, like the soothing touch of a caring mother. "He is fading, we need help"
The man nodded. "I don't think we can save him, he is too far gone."
She sighed. " Maybe, but we have to try, get Frostbird here and fast, I need her help"
He wanted to tell her that he was beyond help but could not speak, his throat was so dry. The man got up from his crouched position. "Yes my love, I will go get her. She can't be far away."
He felt a bit confused, the woman seemed to be so genuinely good, like a true creature of light and the man was the direct opposite as far as he was able to judge. And yet the two of them obviously were a couple? The woman held his hand again, he tried to grasp it and felt his hand shiver. "Oh you poor poor thing, I know you are hurting and afraid, but fear not, we will help you. I am known as Elywen and he is my soulmate Hawk, I am a priestess for the goddess and he is a weaponsmaster."
He did not know which goddess she was speaking about and did not care, all he wanted was to be able to speak, so he could tell them about his son and tell them what to say to him if they ever met. He moaned and shivered and she placed a hand on his forehead. "You are freezing to death, and are starting to run a fever too. How in the name of everything sacred did you end up here?"
She placed her hands upon his chest and suddenly there were a burst of heat coming from that touch, it heated him to the core and it felt so good he couldn't believe it. She had to be a healer of some sorts. He heard running feet and Hawk came into his field of view together with yet another elleth. She was short and lithe and very elegant and she had long hair the color of silver and eyes which shimmered with green and blue like a deep lake. Behind them he could barely see another man, also rather short for an elf and quite stocky and muscular with a strange face which reminded him of a huge cat somehow. He looked very feral.The silvery haired elleth that had to be Frostbird knelt down next to Elywen and stared at the wounded man with disbelief. She could see by his position among the sharp rocks that he was mortally wounded by the fall and she could smell his pain and fear. It had to be absolutely awful, to be lying there all alone knowing that death was inevitable. Elywen grasped Frostbirds hand. " I am not strong enough to stabilize him alone, but if we two join our forces we might be able to save him. At least we can manage to get him safely back home. "
Frostbird stared at the wounded elf, he was richly clad and there was something about him that told her he wasn't just anybody. Those very beautiful iceblue eyes were pleading, he was desperate and she could understand why. "Easy my friend, relax. Don't worry, we won't hurt you. But we can't move you yet, if we do you might end up paralyzed and we don't want that to happen now do we?"
She smiled gently and that smile was like a whiff of spring air. Hawk made a grimace. "I would not get my hopes up too high. Even Naragh might be unable to patch that guy back together again"
Elywen just gave him a very determined glance. "If he can't then maybe Rheynek can. Remember, he saved you!"
Hawk sighed. "That was just a reward, because he had served the Gods well that one time. He isn't a healer!"She shook her head. " I don't care, I won't let this man die"
She took his hand again. "Now, we are going to ease your pain and give you some strength back. And possibly prevent your fractures from moving any more, to avoid further damage when we move you."
I don't want to be moved he wanted to scream, I just want to tell you about my son. Let me die for I cannot be saved. But the two women held their hands together and the place suddenly got very hot, it felt like the heat of a furnace against his skin and he could see that Frostbirds eyes had turned white, like a milky mist had formed over them. And Elywens eyes reminded him of raw flames, burning and dancing and consuming everything evil and bad. He screamed, could not help it nor stop it. The agony reached a level he barely could believe that anything could survive and then all of a sudden it was gone. He just felt numb all over, like his body was gone. He heard some sickening cracking noises and felt how broken bones were brought back together and he screamed once more, more out of mental anguish than pain. It felt just…just sick!
He was panting and Elywens hand rested upon his chest, made his breathing easier. He suddenly felt a surge of hope rush through him, with such powers, maybe they really were able to save him? Maybe he could see his son again, redeem himself of his old sins. The two women were sweating and in obvious distress. They were hurting, he could see it and yet they were doing this for him, for a complete stranger! The thought was very humbling indeed, and he felt so very grateful. When they finally let go of him he was freed from the pain but he felt strange, like he was hovering and he was dizzy. Elywen smiled and wiped the sweat from her brow. "He won't die, at least not now. We can get him back home without hurting him further. But he'll need a lot of care and if he lives it will take months to recover, if he ever does."
Frostbird sighed and stroked his long silky hair. " No wonder, I have never seen anybody survive such damage. He has to be incredibly strong and tough!"
He swallowed, was still thirsty but he felt like he could manage to speak again, at least a few words. He clung onto Elywens hand like a drowning man clings onto a lifebelt, managed to produce a few gasping sounds but no understandable speech. Hawk knelt down, he held a small pocket bottle in his hand. "Here, give him some of this, it can't hurt and it might even help a bit."Elywen looked at it with narrow eyes. "Is that what I think it is?"
The dark elf nodded. "Yep, Dern's best liquor, strong enough to wake the dead!"
Elywen made a strange grimace but held the bottle towards the elf's lips. "One small sip and nothing more than that, this stuff has a kick like a mule I warn you."
He felt liquid running past his parched lips and swallowed eagerly, she had not been exaggerating a bit. It did really kick like a mule and the taste made him gasp for air but by the Valar, it felt wonderful and the aftertaste was of ripe strawberries and cherries. He sighed with relief and felt better. Elywen supported his head and he felt that he possibly could speak. He gathered his strength and had to close his eyes as to not reveal too much of his emotions. "Please…"
He swallowed hard. "Please tell my son of what happened to me if I die."
Elywen looked at him and her eyes were filled with compassion. "Of course we will if we can, who is he, and what is your name my friend?"
He felt his head spin and knew that he was close to passing out. "My sons name is Legolas Greenleaf of Mirkwood, I am king Thranduil of Mirkwood. "
And with those words darkness fell over him and he passed out like a candle in the wind.