I Shall Fear No Evil
Chapter 6: I Shall Fear No Evil
Legolas faltered, energy rapidly draining from his small legs. Quickly catching himself before stumbling onto the dark soil, the elfling bent down with a gasp as a wave of nausea shook his small form. He trembled, hugging himself. The dense fog cradled his form with a chilling caress. The elfling was cold. He didn't like this unfamiliar feeling.
Swallowing hard, Legolas shut his watery eyes tight. Running thus normally did not have such effects on him, and he was frustrated with the unusual fatigue that threatened to overwhelm his body. He was lost, the shoulder wound was screaming in pain, and Gandalf was back there fending off the orcs alone. The elfling remained still, gathering his thoughts. What to do?
Then he frowned. He straightened his back, and looked about the trees. He was sure he heard a scream. His scream.
"Ada! Ada, help me!"
The burning pain in his shoulder faded away to the dark abyss of his consciousness.
"Nana, I'm coming!"
"Where are you, Ada?"
Laughter. Screams. Questions. All in his own voice.
Legolas wildly looked around, eyes scanning the treetops and the horizon as well as the bushes surrounding him. What was this madness? Was he gripped so tenaciously by pain and weariness that he was now imagining things? He brought a muddied hand to his mouth; the cold lips were still and silent. Legolas looked around once again, confusion slowly overwhelmed by an instinctive sense of dread. The many voices that belonged to him clashed in the dark air, mingling in a frenzy of terrifying cacophony.
Then he remembered. Of course! It had to be the orcs. They had seized him as they had seized his mother; they were imitating him as they had imitated his mother. Then...
Legolas stood upright, eyes wide. They were trying to trick someone!
The elfling quickly turned to the direction from which he had come. Had they stopped fighting Gandalf? Surely the wizard would not allow the evil creatures to sit around and howl in unison to trick an innocent passer-by. Perhaps Gandalf had deterred them only enough to come running after him. That had to be why they were all trying to trick the wizard.
The elfling clutched his bow tightly. Gandalf was being hunted. What if the orcs shot arrows at him too? What if they pushed the wizard onto the ground and hurt him, like they had done to Legolas?
The elfling's mind reeled. He could not stay here. He had to go help Gandalf. The wizard said he was his friend, and Ada had told him once that friends were to help each other, even during times of danger. Besides, it was his fault that Gandalf was fighting all those big, bad orcs by himself...
The elfling quickly turned on his heels. He broke out into a run, and stopped abruptly, almost stumbling.
Gandalf had told him to run. He had come to help him, and told him to run away. Disobeying the wise wizard could get them into worse trouble.
The elfling furrowed his brow, biting his lip. What to do?
The scream startled him out of his ponderings. The elfling looked around, eyes widening once more. Now wait a minute...
The voices were calling for his father desperately. No longer Nana. Just one person...
Legolas' heart jumped to his throat. A bright smile broke out from the pale features of the child.
They were trying to trick Ada! Ada was out here, looking for him!
"Ada!" he screamed, as loud as his young throat would allow him. "Ada!"
But then he faltered, a frown crossing his face. There were many other voices around him that screamed the same thing. Legolas looked around, panic-stricken. This was not going to work. How could he make his father recognize his voice? All of these cries were his.
Fear was slow, but it was insistent. It crept discreetly along the elfling's senses, at first unnoticed, then repressed, but gaining in force. It was steady in growth and powerful once it began to take hold. Legolas shivered, panic rising in his throat.
What if his father couldn't tell the difference?
The elfling growled, suddenly angry. He stomped in frustration, his pain and injury forgotten. Why wasn't Ada calling out his name? Then he would be able to just find him on his own, without Ada having to be lured by the orcs!
"Ada!" he screamed again. "Ada, please answer me!"
Yet only his own voices haunted the cold air. Legolas hugged his arms, and jolted at the burning pain that returned to his senses with a vengeance. Trembling in pain, he scowled. Why wasn't Ada answering?
Calm down, Legolas, he told himself, huffing from his moment of frustration. Think. You must get out of this on your own. It was a strange and frightening thought.
Biting down the fear that threatened to rise and take hold, he patiently tilted his head, pouting his lips and staring hard at the sinister dark mist. Even heartbeats, calm breathing. Focus. His eyes glazed hazily as he drowned in intense contemplation.
Even if Ada did call out, what then? Would he be able to find his way without being blocked by the orcs? Surely they would hear Ada too, if Legolas could. Then they would come and try to hurt him, and Ada as well...
In a flash of realization, Legolas' eyes focused sharply. The orcs would imitate Ada, and try to trick Legolas! Then neither of them would be able to find each other! Now he understood. Ada was unable to answer. If he did, then Legolas' fate, which had just been given another chance by Gandalf's intervention, would surely be sealed.
Legolas stomped again furiously, frustration quickly rising into a heat of panic. What was there to be done?
Be calm, he told himself over and over again, fiercely struggling to push down the quickly growing fear. Be calm. Think. Think.
His mind was a jumble of whirling emotions as the screams in his own voice continued to ravage the air. Legolas listened to the voices surrounding him, voices calling out to his father. His heart constricted painfully with anxiety. He was completely helpless.
Following fear was despair. "Ada," he whispered. "Hear me...Ada..."
The elfling slowly sank down to the muddy ground. He was lost. Surrounded by orcs, his father near and yet so far, and the wizard battling for his life – he had brought something terrible to them all.
"Forgive me," he whispered, hugging his knees and resting his chin atop the round kneecaps. "Ada...Gandalf."
He was startled to find himself suddenly overwhelmed with a vicious onslaught of fatigue. The nausea returned, and his head began to pound feverishly. The dark shadows surrounding him began to spin. And the pain at his shoulder was becoming unbearable. Legolas shut his eyes tight. "Nana," he whispered, voice quaking in misery.
Then the tears came.
Slowly sinking deeper into the ground, Legolas rested his head against the cold soil. It brought a chill up his spine, but offered a surprising relief from the weariness. Never before had Legolas realized how tiring it was to simply hold up one's head.
The scorching pain remained, but the rest was blissful. The elfling sighed, eyes slowly losing focus. He wanted, more than anything, to sleep. Then he would awaken in the warm golden sunlight, and his father would be sitting at his bedside, stroking his head and gently telling him that it was all just a nightmare. How wonderful that would be...
Legolas clenched his fists tight and curled into a ball. This was real. As much as he shut his eyes and willed it to go away, the darkness of the night spared him no inkling of a light. The menacing chill of the fog continued to embrace his body, and the hard ground beneath his weary bones remained cold and unkind. The pain in his shoulder was sizzling hot. Legolas' eyelids began to droop.
I wonder if I will meet Nana in the Hall of Mandos, he thought drowsily. The elfling decided, slipping into a foggy dimension of semi-consciousness, that going to the Hall of Mandos may not be so bad after all. He had missed her very much...her laughter, her touch, her songs...
The song. It came back to him, a soft golden hum wading through the hazy silver mist of memory. And then he was back again, back in those golden days. The afternoon sun was shedding its warmth upon the luscious colors of the flowers and bushes in the garden; the bees were droning busily, and the birds were singing in their sweet, joyful voices. A slight breeze brushed against his cheeks Legolas sleepily looked up at the white arms, and the flowing azure blue dress, hovering above his unfocused vision. He was warm, his resting body swaying gently in a rhythmic motion. And the song...the song was there, constant as the sun, that ancient song that Nana had so often sung to him in his rocking cradle. It had been golden, sung in a warm and melodic voice; the sunshine had kissed his forehead, and Nana's hair had shone gold, and she had sung in a mysterious, ancient language...so beautiful, so magical...
Legolas started. Cold sweat broke out in his forehead, and he shivered involuntarily. He was still curled upon the cold, damp ground; he could hear his voices crying out in the darkness. He blinked, looking around dazedly. How long had he slept? Had he slept at all, or was it just a forgotten memory that had chosen to surface at this peculiar time? He was so sure he had heard her voice. She was singing to him, singing that sweet and beautiful song of the ancient tongue...
Legolas sat up, his smooth brows suddenly wrinkling into a frown. The ancient tongue...it had been familiar. He somehow knew what the words meant. The memory had brought the song back to him, transparent and unmarred; and he realized, with a cold thrill, that he understood that language. He knew it well. He had not understood it then, but that was when he was still a babe. Legolas' eyes sparked with a sudden fire.
Hope rekindled, he jumped to his feet. The orcs were still screaming to his father in their imitated voices, and the dark sky was yet haunting and hostile; but the elfling stood upon the ground with fierce determination in his glowing eyes.
They imitate Sindarin well, he thought with grim triumph. Let them try their tongue at Quenya.
The horses were pacing nervously as the riders looked around in helpless desperation. Thranduil's head was hanging low. The warriors were eager to split into however many directions it took, even if that meant parties of one. But the king had not responded to their suggestion. He was staring at the ground, eyes unfocused and unseeing. All channels of coherent thought in the well-seasoned and decisive warrior seemed to have been paralyzed by the imitated cries of his son. The elves glanced at one another anxiously. The prince could be dead by now, for all they knew, though no one dared to let the fear surface from the depths of their gazes.
The king's eyes abruptly widened. The elves snapped to attention, harshly silencing their restless mounts.
A voice was ringing in the far horizon. It was clear and thin, just like the rest of them. However, something about it drew the keen gazes of the elves with a magnetizing force. It was exactly like the rest of the voices in the air – except it was different. It alone spoke in a different language.
The elves all quieted, staring intensely at a dark, misty part of the woods to the west. The voice was weaker than the others, but there was no doubt; this voice spoke the ancient tongue – a pure, perfectly accented Quenya.
"...have treaded upon the land since the golden days, untouched by fear..."
The elves strained their ears to isolate the child's voice from the rest of the chaos of the night. This voice alone did not call out to his father. The squad slowly spurred their horses to stand next to Thranduil, whose hands gripped the reins tight, glazed eyes focused on the western horizon. He held his breath as the flowing ancient tongue rolled off the craggy treetops.
"...so be gone, cursed race of demons; leave this place and be no more!"
"Legolas." The heart-wrenching whisper was more a sob than an utterance. "My Legolas."
The warriors glanced at one another, eyes steeled with determination, as they readjusted their grips on weapons. With a mighty cry, the king spurred his horse forward and lunged into the forest. The rest of the warriors followed readily, delving deeper into the dark. Paying no heed to the sharp thorns and bushes that viciously struck their faces, they urged their horses forward, galloping with newfound strength.
The path grew narrower and narrower, until finally it became blocked altogether. Thranduil jumped off his horse and, not casting so much as a glance to the side for another passage, began to wade through the gnarled branches and thorns. The rest of the warriors followed suit, hurrying through the sinister mist that clung to their forms and obstructed even the keenest elven sight. This part of the forest seemed more evil than the rest; the air was heavy and damp, and the trees spoke of evil lurking in the air. The elves were moving with instinctive haste and desperation; the orcs would soon realize that the elfling had outwitted them, and would also move toward the prince to catch him. The young prince was setting his life at stake for this gamble. The elves were determined to be the ones to reach him first.
All the while the warriors were at the height of their senses, listening sharply to the voice that continued to resonate. It was not a painful, tireless wail like the rest of them; this voice was weak, but determined. Weary, but proud - and it slowly grew in strength.
"...to you, for I am Legolas, son of King Thranduil, crown prince of Greenwood the Great. And hear me, you wretched creatures of the night; be it by arrow, poison or sword, I will not surrender to darkness!"
Thranduil unsheathed his sword and, with almost invisible speed and strength, began to slice his way through cumbersome shrubbery. The elves thus moved on swiftly, hacking their way through the forest, refusing to be deterred. Clinging onto the vehement young voice as it rose higher and higher into the dark sky.
"I am Legolas, son of Thranduil, grandson of Oropher!" A scream of determination, a bloody fight for life. "In my veins courses the royal blood of the Firstborn; that I stand before the venom of your tongues, or the heat of your torture, I shall fear no evil!"
Wait for me, my little bird, whispered Thranduil fiercely, icy blue eyes glittering as he picked up a foul orc scent that led to a familiar clearing. Running at blinding speed, he clenched his sword tight. Ada is coming.
To Be Continued