Abyss by AussieRo|
Summary: Overjoyed with happiness at the current results of his plans for Minas Trith and Gondor, King Elessar is caught out when dark forces attack the Elven settlers on their way to Ithilien.
Warning: This is an extremely dark, depressing and gory story.
Disclaimer : I own none of the characters mentioned below. They belong to Prof J.R.R Tolkien.
Thranduil, King of the newly renamed Eryn Lasgalen, stood in front of the entrance way to his palace and gazed with pride at the rows of Elves who now stood before him waiting.
Feelings of joy, happiness and excitement filled the air. This was a new adventure, a new challenge for them. A time for them to make, hopefully ,their mark on this Middle Earth before they sailed. Their eyes were alive with the feelings, and the smiles that lit up their faces seemed to burn brighter than the very sun.
With the ending of the War of the Ring and the defeat of Sauron, this was the first time Thranduil had seen and felt these emotions for something other than Orc or Spider hunting. The mood of the assembled group was infectious, and although the previous night as he had farewelled his son he had been melancholy, he now stood before the adventurers as happy and delighted as they were.
The two of them had said their private goodbyes earlier. That had been hard enough. He could not face repeating what he had said to his son, in public. It had hurt enough in private.
"Lead your people well, my son," he had said as part of his farewell. "Never forget that they look to you, remember what I taught you. They are your responsibility, guide them well, protect them fiercely and love them."
"I will, Father," Legolas had promised. "You have taught me well and I will not forget."
"Goodbye, my son," He gathered Legolas in an embrace, tears running down his face.. "Remember this is your home and will continue to be so. If for any reason this venture fails you will always be welcomed back."
"Thank-you, Ada." Legolas said, tears also running down his face. "I will not forget. I love you, Father."
"And I love you, my son."
He had so very much expected Legolas to follow him to the throne here in Eryn Lasgalen. Not set up his own colony in the south, even though the skills needed to be an Elf Lord were the same as needed to be an Elf King.
When his only son and heir, Legolas, had come to him after his return from the War of the Ring and announced his intention to form an Elven colony in the south of Middle Earth, he had scoffed.
He had told his son that the Elven time in Middle Earth was over. That their people, not just those of Mirkwood, but those of Imladris and Lorien as well, were leaving for the Undying Lands. That no one would choose to follow him, not when the call of the sea, the longing for peace after so much turmoil and trouble, and the yearning to see the promised land and their families again was so strong.
His son had sworn to prove him wrong, to show him that there still remained in Arda Elves who loved the land, the trees, the plants and animals, and who wanted to see this Middle Earth returned to her former glory.
And now standing before him was the proof, the result of Legolas’s hard work and tenacity, before him stood over five hundred Elves, a mixture of the three Elven strong holds. Not only Elves, but also their horses and the supply wagons, carrying vital supplies, building materials, archive records and other bits and pieces that the fledgling colony would need.
Legolas had indeed proven him wrong, and of that he was very proud. His son had inherited vigour that he had seen in his own Ada, Oropher. This was combined with a dose of his mother’s silken tongue and diplomatic skills, and a hint of his own fiery will and spirit.
So many of them, all standing here waiting, his son at the head of them.
The horses were by now stomping and digging at the ground with their hooves, eager to be off. He could feel the same eagerness coming from the gathered Elves, each one of them young, at least to him, but older than his son.
Clearing in his throat,Thranduil said,
"You all, each and every one of you, have chosen to accept the call to restore that part of Arda so recently ravaged by the Dark Lord."
Heads nodded silently.
"This is a good and noble endeavour, one filled with endless possibilities and potentially dangers. We here in Eryn Lasgalen, along with Imaldris and Lorien, salute you and will look forward to that time we once again we will all be together in the Undying Lands." He swept the gathered group with the traditional Elven salute. "Go with the Valar’s blessing, may your journey be a safe one."
As one the company before him swept a return salute to the King and began slowly to file out of the Eryn Lasgalen gate and towards their new home.
Many, most of whom lived in Mirkwood under his rule, bowed their heads to him one last time as they passed him. Thranduil returned each and every gesture, wishing each good fortune and a safe journey.
The last out of the gate was Legolas, father and son sharing one last look at each other. Thranduil hoped that in his eyes Legolas would see the hopes he had for his son and his new home, the love he had for his son and above all that he was proud of and very happy for his only child.
Legolas was doing what he wanted, what he felt in his heart was right and what would in probability make him happy.
A father could ask for no more for his child.
As the last of the party disappeared out of sight Thranduil moved swiftly to the aviary, where a messenger falcon waited. On it’s leg was a message Legolas had asked him to prepare, a message to the King of Gondor assuring him of the Elven companies, and more particular Legolas’s, safe departure from Eryn Lasgalen.
A warm breeze blew across the forecourt of the Citadel of Minas Tirith and ruffled the dark hair of the man standing on the balcony of the private sitting room of the King and Queen.
Raising his head to meet the wind Elessar , King of Gondor smiled as he felt the wind blow gently across his face and play in his relatively neat hair, well neat for the ex-ranger anyway.
Quiet, almost non-existent, footsteps announced the arrival of his Queen and wife, Arwen
Turing to face her he again smiled as instead of blowing his hair away from his face, the wind now blew it into his eyes, nose and mouth.
Laughing gently Arwen brushed the stray hairs behind her husband’s ears, then joined him as he gazed across the fair and beautiful white city that was Minas Tirith.
Gently he placed his hand over hers.
"Happy, my love?" Arwen asked as she picked up on the warm mood of the breeze and of her husband.
"Very," Elessar answered, "Everything is falling into place just as I hoped."
He held out to her the messages that had come in through the course of the day.
"From Eomer." He separated the top one from its mates. "Life in Edoras has returned to near normal, the damage done by the wild men as they rampaged through the Westfold is almost repaired and he says that this year’s foaling will be the best Rohan has ever had."
He pulled the second one out.
"From Gimli, he and three hundred of his people have arrived and are settling into the Glittering Caves, he says that within a month they will be settled enough to start work on the fortifications to Minas Tirith ,and he has promised to come and personally oversee the work."
The message disappeared to the bottom of the pile and was replaced with the third.
"Faramir, he reports that construction of the homes and working areas in South Ithilien goes well. He has high hopes that the first of the settlers can move in within two months, the first of the trades-people even sooner."
A smaller piece of parchment found it’s way into the King’s hand.
"Samwise tells that the he, Frodo, Merry and Pippin made it home safely. Frodo is doing much better now that he is back in his beloved Shire. Samwise also tells me that he, himself, is now married and there is soon to be a child."
A broad smile broke across Arwen’s face at that piece of news.
"Who is the lucky lady, Estel? How did they meet?"
"Her name is Rosie Cotton and she works in the Green Dragon according to Sam. They had known each other since before the Quest of the Ring. One night he plucked up the courage and outright proposed to her."
"Good for Samwise!" Arwen exclaimed.
Seeing that Estel still held onto one last piece of parchment, and noting the brightness and joy in her husband’s eyes, the Queen let herself fall into the trap and asked,
"And what of Eryn Lasgalen, Estel? Any news from Thranduil?"
The brightness of her husband’s smile almost put the setting sun they were both watching to shame.
"Thranduil reports that five hundred," Elessar reported, the excitement in his voice uncontained. "Five hundred elves left Eryn Lasgalen yesterday."
He picked his wife up by her waist and swung her around .
"That is more, far more than I ever expected." He swung Arwen around one more time and the deposited her back in the same spot from whence he had picked her up. "When Legolas first mooted the idea of an Elven colony in Ithilien, we both imagined one, maybe two hundred would follow him there, but five…Oh my love, this is going to be so amazing."
"Estel!" Arwen squeaked as she once again found herself in the air. "Calm down or you will have no energy left to greet our guests with when they arrive."
"We still have a week to wait, that is more than enough time for me to calm down." Elessar countered with.
"Not with the emotional rush you are feeling at the moment my love, not at all."
Legolas cast a glance over his shoulder.
His party were still very close together, which was a good thing.
Although his father’s armies had done a wonderful job in ridding Eryn Lasgalen of its spider problem, one could never be too careful. Stragglers could have been a problem, especially if the stragglers were Elves not of Mirkwood and unfamiliar with the threats that still could possibly exist within the forests of his former home.
Given the size of the travelling party and the fact that some of that party consisted of wagons and trams carrying the supplies the new colony would need to survive on until they were properly established, they had covered a far amount of ground.
The palace of his father was now nothing more than a dot on the horizon, and before them was the Forest road, which once they turned onto it would lead the party west out of Mirkwood and bring them close to the foot of the Misty Mountains. Once there the party would turn south and follow the Anduin till the Falls of Rauros. After passing the Falls, his plan was to put onto rafts and boats as much of the supplies as possible, to have them waiting for the land travelling party when they finally reached the upper reaches of North Ithilien.
A tingling down his spine brought the soon to be Elf Lord of Ithilien out of his musings, his elvish senses on full alert.
The sounds of unnatural branch and leaf movement reached his ears. No breeze was blowing, there was not movement of the air that could cause such noises.
Around him the warriors of Mirkwood who had chosen to make this journey began to unsheathe their weapons.
Without even consciously thinking about it he unslung his own Lorien-made bow.
One silent signal had the warriors of Mirkwood taking position around the group. It was not that he doubted the skill of the warriors of Lorien and Imladris, they were highly skilled and disciplined in their fighting skills, the one thing they lacked was the knowledge on how to deal with the particular evil that had resided, and it seemed, continued to reside in Eryn Lasgalen.
Over the unnatural rustling another sound reached the ears of Legolas, a scratching scraping sound as if thousands of tiny feet were running through dead leaves and twigs.
For one brief moment there was no noise, no sound, and no movement.
Then all Mordor broke lose.
The earth beneath his feet gave way.
Scrambling back Elessar watched, fascinated as the earth and rock on which he was just standing fell away into the blackness.
The noise of rock hitting rock went on and on echo after echo, there seemed no end to the clinking.
Some force over which he had no control drew him once again to the cliff edge, drawing his gaze into the dark, never ending black pit.
The sound of voices crying out in pain assaulted his ears. Thousands of them all crying out in agony, calling to him to help them, to ease their suffering, to end their torment. With every passing second the sounds grew louder and louder, threatening to overwhelm him with their grief, their agony, till the very air around him was alive with the cries. The sounds went from barely audible in the beginning, getting louder and louder, when the crescendo finally broke Elessar found himself having to cover his ears in order to block out the noise. The painful violent screams reverberated within the confines of his head The emotions behind the cries began to tumble in on him causing his body to shake under the unrelenting pressure being applied to it.
Vile, grotesque images danced before his eyes, bodies covered with score marks rushed forward toward him,their faces out of focus. Green pus oozed out of their open wounds, trails of green vein like-markings trailed up their arms, across their chests and into the base of their skulls, with each throb of the tendril-like veins the sound of their screaming intensified.
The overwhelming sense of being crushed drove the King back from the edge of the terrifying abyss until he felt something firm against his back. He reached behind him trying to grab a loose branch , a stick, a twig, anything he could use to defend himself with against the oncoming terrors.
To his horror, the tree he thought he had backed into moved, hundreds of tiny hooks ripped into the back of his tunic, latching onto him and refusing to let go.
Calling on all his available strength the King pulled away from his hook prison, only to trip over a dried-out disfigured corpse. Empty, shrivelled-up sockets that at one point would have held the body’s eyes stared blankly up at him, flesh eating insects crawled and slithered across the remains of the it’s parched skin and desiccated innards looking for their next feed.
Something warm and sticky gripped the leg of his pants as Elessar turned from the decaying corpse.. He had stepped back and onto another body, one that at least was still recognizable . It was definitely Elven. Horror filled his very being and soul as he identified the figure as being Triullier, an Elf of Rivendell.
Triullier’s face was contorted in such an expression of pain and agony that it hurt Elessar just to look upon him.
What possibly could cause such an expression? What torment did Triullier suffer to make his last moments so painful and leave such an impression on his normally serene face?
Something large and heavy slammed into the ground before him. The air around him made a whooshing sound as a projectile-like object was aimed in his direction.
Scrambling back in hopes of reaching safety, Elessar found himself being driven to the edge of the abyss.
The edge of the black maw began to crumble once again as it struggled to hold his weight, a loud ear-shattering screech ripped through the air. Desperately the King grabbed for something, anything that he could in an effort to stay on solid ground, as hands, white and mottled with green veins, reached out for him.
Panicky, shallow breaths escaped from his mouth as Elessar fought not only to stay on solid ground but also to fend off the foul, white claws that were threatening to pull him down in the all-consuming blackness.
The loud painful screech assaulted his ears once again. Caught between the desperate need to hold on to something to save himself and the need to block out the painful sounds, Elessar covered his ears.
The piece of rock he had been forced onto finally separated from the main body of cliff.
Flailing his hands and arms ,Elessar felt himself start to fell.
Legolas, tired and panting for breath, sagged against the bonds that were, and had been holding him for what felt like days.
He had been struggling against the tough sticky bonds for the past hour or so, the same struggle he had been having with the bindings ever since he had regained consciousness after the ambush.
Around him, at least as far as his vision, limited as it was because of his inability to turn his head that far, he could see, were his people. Some, like himself were trussed up against dark emotionless trunks, of trees that once would have been filled with life and joy but were now nothing but hardened husks. More of his people were bound to the ground, writhing and crying out in some pain that he could not comprehend. Others were still, lifeless, their open, blank eyes staring up at the blackened forest canopy.
Pain tunnelled its way across his head as he heard the hissing sound of Mordor Black Speech coming closer. Through the pain and the cursed , contorted Elvish that was Black Speech, Legolas could just about make out every second or third word.
"Welcome Mirkwood Prince."
"Why are you doing this?" he asked back in pure Sindarin, knowing that as Black Speech hurt Elven ears, so pure Elvish would hurt whatever sort of audio sensors the dark denizens of Mordor had.
"Revenge..You,…Your Father,…. Look…see….awaits…you."
Eyes wide with horror and still bound tight to his dark dead tree, Legolas watched as the bound elf next to him was ripped out of his ‘cocoon’ by what he could only describe as black horror, a huge black monstrosity of a spider, fangs dripping with venom, and hairy legs covered in barbed hooks.
The unfortunate Rivendell-born Elf, Triullier, was flung to the ground, spun over so that he lay face up. Quickly, thanks to the barbs on its, legs the spider ripped the tunic from the Elf’s body. He was forcibly held in place while more of the sticky bindings were woven in place, covering his legs and upper body, but leaving his abdomen, head and arms free. Not that it would do Triullier much good.
Unable to do little more than protest the treatment handed out to Triullier and the rest of his people, Legolas watched as the oversized dark arachnoid positioned its own bulbous, venom filled abdominal sac over the Rivendell Elf’s. Its stinger was lowered and with one long lunge penetrated the elf’s body. The squelching sound made as the spider stinger entered Triullier’s body was drowned out by the screams of Triullier himself. Green tendrils sprung forth from the entry point and slowly began to cover every portion of visible skin.
"Your come soon." the voice continued. " A promise long painful."
"Show yourself .." Legolas challenged angrily "Or are you such a Mordor-cursed coward ?"
"You dare call me a coward?" The voice boomed out changing from Black Speech to the more common and easier to understand Weston. "You who attack with bows and arrows to afraid to fight us on the ground face to face?"
The ground shook as out of the trees above a body, one that made the spider still filling Triullier with its venom, look like a dwarf standing alongside a cave troll, landed in front of him. It’s red eyes filled with hate and loathing, its enormous bulbous venom sac covered with green oozing openings, its thick, long fangs dripping poison.
"Release me and I will show you just which one of us is a coward," the Elf Prince continued his challenge.
"Oh no Prince, not when it has taken me so long to get you just where I want you," the spider replied. "But I will leave you with just a little taste of what is in store for you."
The bindings holding his right arm in place were ripped away, quickly the spider lifted the arm and re-bound it , holding it out horizontally.
From one of the many barb-covered legs, a single stinger emerged.
"This is but a small sample, Prince, of what is to come."
The stinger was thrust into the Elf Prince’s arm.
Red hot liquid shot into Legolas’s arm
A pain filled scream was torn from his lips as the acid-like fluid surged into his veins and began to make its way around his body, burning as it went.
Slowly the feeling died down.
Exhausted by the pain Legolas’s s head tilted forward, resting against the web-like bonds
"A small sample." the spider purred. "When your time comes I promise you, Prince, it will be much slower, much more painful and much, much more enjoyable." Another leg reached out and stroked his face.
"The young ones rush things, they don’t appreciate the subtleties of pain and joy. I do, Prince, and you will feel every pain laced second, I will see to that personally."
It seemed as if the very wind was pushing him toward Mirkwood.
Ever since Arwen had woken him from his nightmare in fear, all he could think about was getting to the Northern forests.
His panic was further heightened when the message he sent to Thranduil came back with a negative response. Nothing had been heard or seen of the travelling party since they had left Thranduil’s halls. What little hold he had managed to maintain over his self control was shattered when that missive had arrived
With out a word to his councillors, advisors or even to Arwen he had thrown off the clothes that marked him as King , and become the ranger once more. Nothing else mattered now. All he wanted to do was get to…wherever…somewhere .. while the dream was heavy with death and outcomes, it told him very little about where . Not one clue, nothing he could or did recognize, nothing but death and bodies.
Fear rode behind him like a persistent fell beast that would not be shaken off. The fear that he had acted too late and that nothing he could do now or in the future would help.
The one hope he clung to was that in his message Thranduil had included a meeting point, a rendezvous. This he held onto for dear life. The life of his chosen brother.
Elessar had barely turned Brego’s great head east along the Forest Road when the warhorse reared and the stench of death assailed his nose.
It took him a moment to calm Brego down and as he completed the task, Elessar had his first good, proper look at his surroundings.
Scattered about the area, lying where they had fallen, were bodies, Elvish bodies, all in grotesque, tortured positions their faces frozen in eternal pain.
Green veins, fading with every passing second could still be seen mottling their pale, translucent skin.
It was his dream, but now it was turning into a living nightmare.
"I am no so sure they are not the lucky ones," Thranduil’s voice boomed for over his shoulder.
Turning and looking up Elessar saw Legolas’s father standing there. But it was a Thranduil that the human King had never before seen.
For a race that was ageless, the Eryn Lasgalen King looked every inch his years. His face appeared weathered, lines spread out from the edges of his normally cold blue eyes, the skin around those same eyes was mottled with dark patches, telling Elessar that his counterpart had not slept much, if at all.
"You have found survivors?" Elessar asked incredulously
"Some of the party finally made it back to us yesterday." Thranduil reported tiredly. "Others fled across the mountains to your Fathers realm."
"Any of them still alive?"
"Lord Elrond has been able to help some."
The Elven King nodded sadly
"According to your Ada… He has been able to save some." Thranduil said as he knelt beside the petrified remains of an Elf that Elessar barely recognized as once having been of Mirkwood.
"How many?" Elessar asked
"So far out of the two hundred that made their way back either to us or to Rivendell, seventy-five did not survive. Elrond is even now working in my halls hoping to improve his cure. He has high hopes."
"Is…" Elessar bit his lip, "Is Legolas…?"
"We have not yet been able to …" Thranduil’s voice broke under the strain. "to find him."
The total and utter despair that rang through the Northern Kings tone sent Elessar’s
spirits sliding further into the dark depthless abyss of his nightmare.
The abyss was calling to him again.
From the darkness that was the never pit of the abyss came a voice, a voice he half recognized, a voice distorted by some force within the pit, a voice calling to him.
On the very edge of his visual range a shape began to form, at first the it was just a blurry unrecognisable form floating with in the dark, bottomless blackness. Then, slowly, as he watched it, the form moulded itself into something or rather someone he recognized.
It was Legolas calling to him, beckoning to him.
The pull was so great, that he started to reach out to his chosen brother. Legolas did the same, their fingertips almost touching.
He and Legolas were just about to latch their fingers together when a look of indescribable pain crossed the face of the Elf Prince.
Before his eyes Legolas’s abdominal area bloated out to three times its normal size.
With feelings of dread and utter helplessness rising in his chest, Elessar could do little more than watch as Legolas doubled over for a moment, then arching his back the Elf Prince ripped his tunic off.
Legolas’s stomach swelled once more, beneath the translucent skin the King could just see the silhouettes of creatures crawling around the Prince’s abdomen.
Legolas doubled up one last time. For a moment he was still, still and quiet.
Then with one last ear-piercing scream he arched his back and the skin of his swollen abdomen split.
Red and green gore spewed forth. Blood and skin that had once been a part of his chosen brother’s body splattered over him.
But that was not all. From the shattered body of Legolas came……..
A hand gripped his shoulder tightly and a firm commanding voice roused him from his nightmare-driven slumber.
"Estel!. What was it ? What did you see?"
With his heart threatening to pound right out of his chest, and his lungs heaving all the Human King could say was
"Hurry. We do not have that much time."
The sensation of barbs being scraped across his skin woke Legolas from the darkness that had followed his last encounter with dominant female spider. The red hot burning feeling had subsided leaving only a warm tingling.
The air around him was alive with movement, the dark sense of death had been replaced with panic, nervousiness and fear. Something or someone was causing the spiders to panic.
Hope rose in the Prince’s heart. Maybe, just maybe some of his people had escaped and had sounded the alarm. Help it seemed was only moments away.
"Having troubles?" He boldly asked the large female as she appeared in his line of vision.
"Do not gloat too loudly, Prince." the female hissed. "Help maybe close, but for you it has come too late." She lifted one of her legs and severed the bonds holding the blonde Elf. "Your Father and your friend may very soon find us and destroy us, but we will live on. You, Prince of Elves, will be the vessel that will carry us on. I promised you a slow painful death for what you have done to us in the past, and it is now time for the process to begin."
Legolas found himself pushed to the ground, he was neatly flipped onto his back and held down as the bugling Queen secured him to the earth and rocks.
"Out of all those we captured Prince, you are the strongest, you have the greatest will to survive, and you will be the perfect incubator for my brood."
The tip of a hairy leg stroked the Prince’s chest and abdomen.
"My children will grow strong on what you will provide for them. For the first few days your body will give them the warmth they need as they grow. Once hatched they will feed on your muscles, your lungs, your heart and your brain, my Prince. Slowly, day by day, you will die a little more, until the day when my children are ready to emerge and take their rightful place once more in the forests of the North. Once secure my children will then spread out across the whole of this Middle Earth. Avenging all that was destroyed when you and your kind defeated our master and creator. Think on it Prince, you will be the vessel and there is nothing you , your friend or your Father can do to stop it."////
With those words the queen positioned herself over the Prince’s bare chest and abdomen. The birthing tube, that part of the Queen that would deliver the young into his body, was lowered and came to rest against his skin. He could feel the sharpness of its edge against him.
"If you are worrying about the father of my babies, don’t," the female warned. "He is already doing his bit to ensure their survival, just as you are about to do yours."
As she finished her speech the Queen, in one fluid movement, drove the razor sharp tube into Legolas’s abdominal cavity.
Red hot liquid filled Legolas, boiling his muscles and organs. Screaming with pain he tried to get away, but couldn’t. Above him, the Queen continued delivering the eggs into him.
Once again he screamed as the Queen removed her birthing tube, only to reinsert it on his other side.
The unbearable pain diminished as consciousness left him.
Two sets of ears heard the scream; as one two heads turned and located the area from which the agonizing sound emanated.
Leaving Thranduil’s guards in their wake, Elessar and the Elven King kneed their respective stallions to greater speed.
Both knew who it was that had made the unearthly cry. The one person both cared about so much, the only person they both shared affection for and the one both of them would be willing to die for.
With sweat pouring down his face and his heart racing Elessar called upon Brego for more speed. The sound that only moments ago rang and echoed through the forest, was identical to the one in his nightmare. His chosen brother was in danger, his nightmare had told him what the danger was and its outcome. It was up to him to prevent the dream coming true, to stop the pain and agony he had witnessed, to save Legolas’s life and perhaps save his own soul.
Brego reared as the pair entered the dark clearing, almost unseating the King. Around them the air was ripe with the stench of death and decay.
Hanging around the entire clearing, like unwanted carcasses in the slaughterman’s yard, were the bodies of dead Elves.
Some were still recognizable , others beyond recognition . Green, vein like tendrils snaked up their bodies. It was his nightmare all over again.
Scanning the bodies, his eyes fell upon the form that was Triullier. As in his nightmare, Triullier’s face was contorted in a death mask of pure and unadulterated pain.
Dismounting from his brown warhorse, Elessar knelt by the body of the Rivendell Elf he had once called friend.
Gently and with extreme reverence he closed the elf’s haunted and now blank eyes. Sobs of grief fell from his mouth and tears flowed from his grey eyes. He was too late, he had been warned and had failed to heed the warning!
The weight of the dead fell upon him. He had failed them. He should have paid closer attention after the first nightmare, but no! He had ignored it,sent a message to Thranduil instead of jumping onto the back of Brego and riding out then and there. He could have saved them, saved those beautiful souls from the torment that had been their deaths.
Looking past Triullier he recognized other faces, all in much the same state. Some he was just too far away from to see if they still lived. Closing his eyes he sent a call to the Valar, asking, hoping, begging that some of the hundred’s of bodies around him still breathed, that some of those beautiful souls could be saved.
Covering his friend with his cloak, Elessar rose and hurried to the next victim, then the next and the next.
The one he was hoping to find was missing. Legolas was nowhere in sight. Panicked he continued his frantic search, his heart threatening to pound right out of his chest.
The quiet was suddenly broken by another bloodcurdling scream. Frantically, Elessar lifted his head.
Ahead of him just beyond a small pile of rocks, his chosen brother lay pinned to the ground by the same sticky web-like filaments that held the elves around him.
Standing over Legolas was the giant Queen that Thranduil had spoken of. Connecting one to the other was a transparent tube.
Horrified, Elessar watched as through the tube the Queen pumped fluid and what appeared to be eggs into the abdomen of his chosen brother.
Each fresh delivery caused his friend to arch and cry out in unbelievable pain.
With Anduril in his hands and his vision totally and utterly focused on the delivery tube, Elessar rushed the giant arachnid. Swinging wildly he hacked at the tube , severing it in the middle.
With his blood boiling and adrenalin coursing through his veins the human King raised the Flame of the West , aimed it and separated the spiders head from it’s body in one clean stroke. The head fell off and out of his sight, leaving the ex-ranger kneeling beside the Elf Prince, spider blood and eggs covering his coat and hair.
In front of him Legolas’s body sagged to the ground, the birthing tube still impaled within his body.
Anger and loathing raced through Elessar has he ripped the tube from his unconscious brothers stomach and flung as far away as he could. The filament bonds were the next to suffer the Kings wrath as he sliced through them freeing his brothers arms, legs and chest. In order to help, and save the life of, his brother he needed to be able to move the Prince.
Beneath his probing hands Leogolas’s usually smooth, flat, toned abdomen rippled with the fluid and nourishment sacs of its unwanted inhabitants. From the twin puncture wounds red blood mixed with slimly green slimly leaked out.
Legolas’s body was hot to his touch and Elessar realised that he did not have the luxury of much time. Those unwanted and uninvited guests needed to be removed, and quickly.
"Hold him!" Elessar instructed the bewildered Elven King who was now kneeling beside him, Legolas’s head in his arms, his eyes glued to the rippling swollen area that was his son’s stomach.
He watched Thranduil as the Elven King watched him preparing, the fear and slight mistrust in Thranduil’s eyes worried him. He just hoped that the Northern King understood that what he was about to do, would save his sons life.
Hating himself, but knowing in his heart that there was no other way, he slipped the knife into the puncture wound in Legolas’s right side and quickly slashed his way across to the second wound on the other side of his brother’s body.
"Roll him!" he ordered the stunned Thranduil. "Quickly! I am not sure how much time we have before those things start to hatch."
His knife was thrown aside as Elessar gripped the bloody sides of the open wound and forced them apart. Gore and spider eggs spilt out of his brothers abdomen and onto the grass.
Closing his eyes and praying that his brother remained unconscious for a few moments more, he plunged his hand into Legolas’s stomach feeling, probing, for any unremoved eggs, scooping them out and sending them to join their mates on the grass.
Never had he worked so fast, or hated himself so much for doing what he had to, as he did at that moment.
"I am so sorry, my brother." he whispered into Legolas’s ear "I should have been here sooner. This is all my fault."
"Your Ada is waiting at my halls."Thranduil repeated. "Take my son to him, please. Between the two of you I know and trust that you will help him, and that given time he will return, to all of us."
Astounded at the King’s statement , Elessar stood frozen, unable to move.
"My people and I will look for any other survivors and bring them along when we can," Thranduil said gently stroking his son’s the silent ,unmoving head. "Legolas is the priority now, he must be gotten back to help. My son trusts you ,Elessar ," He paused, "… and so do I."
"My Lord, before you go." Elessar said looking up at the King, "I need your help for one last thing. Please."
"The wound needs to be stitched, even if only crudely," the Human King said as he rummaged through his pack.
His hands were shaking and his effects were being strewn across the area. One such object to be lost was the thread his father insisted he carry. His hands were trembling so much that the little reel flew off, ending up in the midst of the spider egg slime, thus rendering it useless.
"Calm down Estel." the Elven king said quietly and soothingly. "You will do yourself and Legolas no good in this state."
Semi-composing himself, Elessar set the needle to the fire Thranduil had built and continued the search of his bag, hoping that in his haste he had thrown in a second reel of thread.
Tired, emotional and weighed down by the events of the past few days, Elessar threw the pack away when he could not find the reel he was searching for.
Without that thread he could not stitch the gaping wound he, with his own hands, had opened across his brothers belly.
"Take this," Thranduil offered.
In the King’s hands were ten or so strands of long silver/blond hair.
"They may not have the strength needed to string an Elven long bow." Thranduil smiled sadly. "But what they do have is the strength to save my son," he paused, grasping his counterpart’s arm " in the hands of one who knows just how to use them."
Tightening his grip on the Elven hair, Elessar nodded.
Thranduil had given him his trust, and after all that had happened, Elessar was not about to betray that trust.
The flames of the funeral pyre sprang high into the cool, clear air that night in the courtyard of Thranduil’s halls.
All round, the mood was sombre and reflective. The Elves stood around in groups comforting each other as they all, in their own ways, came to terms with what had happened over the last week or so.
So many did not make it back.
Of the five hundred that had started the journey to Ithilien with Legolas, only two-thirds of their number remained alive. Of those survivors, another third were so badly affected that they had decided not to make the trip south, but make another. The trip into the west.
The loss of so many of their own people was a heavy burden to bear. The souls that would wander through the halls of Mandos, never to see the clear and beautiful place that was the Undying Lands, never to be reunited with those of their own families who had passed on and were even now standing at that distant shoreline waiting and wondering, wondering how long it would be before they were all together once more.
Closing his eyes against the brightness of the flames Elessar could see their faces, the faces of those waiting. If he looked hard enough he could see those some faces turn from hope to grief as the newest arrivals in Valinor spoke of the tragedy, told the waiting families that their loved ones would never make the journey.
And it was all his fault. If only he had paid more attention to what his dreams were trying to tell him. If he had made contact with Thranduil earlier they could have started the search sooner, maybe saved over half the victims that were now burning on the funeral pyre.
Granted that if they had have been saved, they may have left Arda anyway, too traumatized to stay, but it would have been their choice. As it was, they had left Middle Earth, but not by their own choosing.
Looking across to where Legolas lay on a hastily built pallet, the only way he himself would allow his chosen brother to come to the funerals, he reflected.
Even the joy of finding his brother alive could not lift the terribly heavy burden he felt at the loss of so many special and unique souls.
He was tired, so very tired.
The full and unyielding weight of the guilt he was carrying was taking its toll.
The events of the past few days and their after effects had drained him so very much. The walls, the ones he had built up so carefully over his years of travelling and fighting,were crumbling around him like wooden doors before huge battering rams.
When would it all end?
He just wanted it to end
Broken both in body and soul he rested against the stoutest tree he could find. He closed his eyes, knowing full well what awaited him in the darkness.
When the ledge as it had in his previous dreams, began to crumble, he did not scramble back.. The despair and misery coming from the black depth of emptiness called to him and his own called back to it, offering himself to it. From the depth a hand reached out.
His mortally wounded soul allowed the seizure to happen, without putting up even a token amount resistance. It did not have the strength to any more.. Too much had happened , it had been torn and shredded once to often over the last few days. The nightmares, the finding of the bodies, watching as his sleeping nightmare turned into a living one , the horror of seeing , and then having to do what he did to his brother in order to save him. It was just too much.
Nothing now could save his soul,he knew that, not his father, not his wife, not even his chosen brother.
If this was the price he had to pay for allowing those precious elven souls to die, then so be it. They had been taken violently and against their wills. This, he acknowledged, was with his full consent To continue living without light, joy and hope was nothing much in the over all scheme of things, and it was of his own choosing.
This was not death, not in the way that the Elves had lost their lives, no, this was another kind of death, the death of joy, of colour, of feeling all that was good still in the world, from now on all he would feel would be sorrow, misery, and doom
He was not leaving behind those that he loved, that was not his punishment. He would see them, hold them, but never again feel the love they had for him, the joy in the time they would spend in his company. He would ,in himself feel the love he had for them, the joy he would get from their company, but he would never again be able to express it. Just as those who had died because he was too slow would never again express their emotions for, or feel the emotions of ,those they loved.
Elessar was under no illusions, this was a sacrifice.
Not of his physical existence.
In reaching Legolas in time to prevent his chosen brothers death, he had saved his own life.
This was a sacrifice of his emotional existence.
And one he made willingly.
The pain, the torment, the helplessness of each and every one of the lost Elven souls bombarded him as the hand completed its task.
The pain and emotion wrenched from his lips a stomach churning cry.
The shaking of his shoulder by another hand startled the King.
"Estel?" It was Arwen. "My love what is it?"
Bolting up right Elessar scanned the familiar surroundings of his bed chamber with relief.
It had all been just a dream.
"A dream, My love," He reached out and cupped his wife’s face. "Just a dream."
"Estel." Arwen continued. "That was more then just a mere dream. You have been crying and tossing around like a mad orc for hours."
Elessar gently kissed Arwen’s cheek, relieved that he still could.
"It is over my love." He reassured her. "Yes it was bad, but nothing to alarm us, either of us."
Across the sun drenched window a shadow floated into view.
It circled once, and then landed on the perch designated for the Eryn Lasgalen messenger falcon.