Dark Horizons


Chapter 026




Desperate Plans

Chapter Summary

The Fellowship is reuniting, but may face a new threat that is hunting them all.

Aragorn stood tall and relaxed on the north wall of Calembel, allowing the early afternoon sun to bathe his face in calming warmth.  There was much to do, but for this fleeting moment, he allowed his body to rest, and his mind to briefly work free of the tangle of plans and details that had crowded his thoughts for so long.  It felt good to merely stand, without moving or thinking, allowing the gentle breeze to ruffle his dark hair, and when he finally forced his body back into action, he somehow felt rested and revitalized.  His thoughts turned back to the task at hand, and the relaxed set of his features once more transformed into a hard and determined grimace.  He knew that night would be coming all too soon, and there was still much to be set in place if his plan was to have any chance of success.

The plan.  Aragorn had gone over it time and again within his mind, smoothing out the fine edges and searching for any weak points.  Unfortunately, he had found all too many, but there was simply nothing to be done about it.  The city was on its last legs, and something had to be done fast if there was to be any hope of survival.  The plan was the last desperate act of an army that was swiftly running out of time and hope.  Legolas was out of the action, both he and Gimli were wounded and quickly losing strength, and all the others were nearing collapse from exhaustion.  One way or another, Aragorn knew that this night’s action would see an end to it once and for all.

Still, he could not keep the doubts from crowding in on him, nor the heavy responsibility he felt toward his people from crushing down on him.  He had spent several hours this morning with Gandalf, Gimli, Faramir, and Kenson, pouring over maps and working out the final details of the plan he had laid out before them.  He knew that his friends stood firmly behind him, though they knew as well as he all that could go wrong, yet the overall responsibility of success or defeat would fall on him.

His plan was simple, yet at the same time, somehow terribly complicated, requiring split second timing, dangerous maneuvers, and no small amount of courage and luck on the part of the defenders.  It was a plan that rode a fine line between success and defeat, and only the fates knew on what side of this line the desperate defenders would ultimately fall.  Yet, despite the dangers, if carried out correctly, it would see not only the defeat of Malek, but the destruction of his orc army as well.

“My lord!”

Aragorn turned at the call, watching as a young soldier scrambled up the wall and hurried toward him. 

“What do you have to report?” Aragorn asked when the young man at last reached him, red faced and puffing for breath.

“Captain Kenson has returned from the canyons, my lord,” the soldier replied hurriedly. “He reports that everything is in place, and he is ready to lead the force there whenever you order.”

Aragorn nodded, smiling slightly at the quick efficiency of the merchant captain.  “Tell him he may begin his preparations, but that I wish to speak with him before he leaves.”

The soldier nodded, then quickly bowed and departed at a run.  He had not even faded from sight before Aragorn was once more hailed from behind.

“My lord.”

Aragorn turned to face the new messenger, this one a bit older than the last, but in no less of a hurry.

“Lord Faramir bid me tell you that he and his men are ready and wish to depart as soon as possible.  They wish to learn the land where they will fight before night approaches.”

For the second time, Aragorn nodded.  “Tell him to proceed,” he stated simply, and the soldier bowed and also departed at a run.

Everyone was running today, or so it seemed.  An excited air filled the city, and no one had escaped its influence.  Except for the officers, few of the soldiers knew the details of the plan beyond their immediate role, yet they were no less affected then any others. 

“My lord.”

For the third time in less than five minutes, Aragorn heard the call from behind him, yet this time, instead of rushed and urgent, the voice was soft and gentle.  Aragorn smiled and turned, opening his arms to Arwen and pulling her tightly to his chest.  He bent down and laid a gentle kiss on her forehead.

“My lady,” he responded to her greeting, his voice soft and slightly teasing.  “I have missed you.”

“And I you,” she responded lightly, turning within his embrace to look up at him.  “It seems the only time I see you anymore is if you or one of your adventurous companions are in need of my healing skills.”

Aragorn smiled down at her wistfully.  “I wish I could spend every minute of every day beside you, my love,” he whispered softly, “yet I hold a responsibility to this city and…”

Arwen cut him off by reaching up and laying a finger across his lips, the bright twinkle in her eyes telling him that his explanations were not needed.  “I know,” she said simply, wrapping her arms around his waist and laying her head against his firm chest, listening to the strong beat of his heart.

Aragorn merely held her against him tightly, stroking her smooth hair and allowing her to relax against him.  At last, Arwen pulled back from Aragorn and began looking him up and down, her eyes going from his bandaged arm to his weary and pale face.  She frowned slightly, and Aragorn almost laughed out loud at the small pucker in her lips.

“Do not pout at me, my love,” he said teasingly.  “I am tired, yet I still have enough strength left in me to do what needs to be done.  Do not worry.”

Arwen did not respond except for a small shake of her head, her large eyes unreadable.   This scene was nothing new between them, and any arguments she might have had for him had been used up long ago.

“How is Legolas?” Aragorn asked, attempting to change the subject and switch Arwen’s attention from himself.

“He is doing well,” Arwen answered after throwing Aragorn an all too knowing look.  “His physical wounds are healing quickly and I expect he will wake soon.  Gimli is with him now.”

Aragorn nodded, pleased with the news.  “Walk with me?” he offered, holding his arm out for Arwen to grasp.  “I must go and meet with Kenson Brantz, and I will be glad of your company.”

Arwen nodded, and the two began to walk slowly toward the nearest ramp that would lead down from the wall and into the city streets that seemed strangely quiet and empty.

“Where are all the soldiers?” Arwen asked curiously.

“Most are down by the north gate with Kenson, preparing to head into the canyons” Aragorn responded.  “The rest have already departed with Faramir.  All that are left are the ones who will be remaining here in the city.”

Arwen nodded, and they walked on in silence for a while before Aragorn again spoke.

“When will you begin to move the injured down to the docks?” he asked.

“Soon,” Arwen responded.  “Yet I hope it will prove to be unnecessary.”

“As do I,” Aragorn assured her.  “Yet the city will be virtually defenseless, and if Faramir fails in his task and the orcs come here, I would prefer that they find nothing but stone and wood.”

“You do not truly think that Faramir will fail?” Arwen stated as much as asked.

“No,” Aragorn responded, “yet I intend to take no risks.  Things have gone well so far, and both Kenson and Faramir are well prepared for the tasks before them, yet that does not mean that nothing can go wrong.”

“And what of you?” Arwen asked suddenly, squeezing his hand tightly.  “Are you and the others prepared for your part in all of this?”

“We are prepared,” Aragorn answered firmly, then started in surprise when Arwen snorted at the reply.

“Prepared,” she said hotly.  “One old wizard who admits his powers are weakened, four hobbits who are better suited for eating than for fighting, a dwarf who should be flat on his back, and a king who has not slept in days, all going up against an evil creature who’s sole desire is to destroy them, and you believe that you are prepared?”

Aragorn stared at her in surprise.  “I think that the hobbits have proved…” he began, but Arwen cut him off.

“I am not speaking of the hobbits,” she whispered. “I am speaking of me!”

Aragorn stared at her, now completely confused.

“I wish I was going with you,” Arwen said, her eyes filled with sadness.

“As do I,” Aragorn answered, though it was not completely the truth.  Though he loved having Arwen at his side, he would never like the idea of her in danger, even with the knowledge that she was more than able to take care of herself.

Arwen let out a low laugh, as if reading his thoughts.  “Ignore me, my love,” she said sadly.  “I have spoken out of place, and I apologize.  I hold complete faith in you and the others.”  She stopped suddenly, pulling Aragorn to a halt beside her.

“I must go,” she stated abruptly, and Aragorn wondered briefly if he had somehow angered her.  “We shall be moving the injured soldiers soon, and I wish to be there to help.”  She stepped forward and quickly embraced Aragorn, kissing him briefly but passionately, before turning and gracefully striding back up the narrow streets.

Aragorn watched her go, trying to sort through his conflicting emotions.  At last he sighed and turned back down the road.   Kenson was waiting for him, and Aragorn had kept him too long already.  His phase of the plan would not require him to leave the city until near nightfall, and he resolved that he would find time to speak with Arwen again before that time.  Right now, he had other things to worry about.


“I wish you would wake, Legolas.”

Gimli’s voice, instead of being rough and harsh, was surprisingly calm and gently, and strangely resigned.  He stood over Legolas, staring down at his friend as if expecting the elf to immediately respond to his wish and wake up.

“We would make an unbeatable pair, you and I,” Gimli continued softly after several minutes of silence.  “Malek would not stand a chance!”

Again, Gimli paused, his eyes distant as memories of past battles beside the elf returned to him.  They had truly been an unbeatable pair, and Gimli now found himself wondering sadly if he would ever fight beside his dearest friend again.  Even if he somehow survived the coming battle with Malek, would Legolas survive the black shadow that encompassed his soul?  And if he survived, would he ever be the same? 

Gimli felt his heart clench painfully at this line of questioning, and he realized that he would do anything to see that it was so.  He would stand beside Legolas, and if the elf did not have the strength to break free of this shadow, then Gimli would give him his strength.  He would not allow Malek to destroy his dearest friend!

“He shall pay for what he has done to us.” Gimli muttered softly, as much to himself as to the figure on the bed.  His voice was hard, and he clenched the haft of his axe, and wicked gleam entering his eyes.  He was determined to stand by Legolas, but first he had to deal with the creature that had so hurt his friend in the first place.

“Have no fear, Legolas,” Gimli whispered softly, “he shall not escape my axe again!”

He glanced down to the bed once more.

“And I expect you to be awake by the time I get back!” he huffed, reaching forward and  clasping Legolas’ hand tightly, imagining for a brief second that he felt a slight squeeze of response from the slender fingers.  Yet he knew this was most likely only his wishful thinking, and with a soft grunt, he turned and silently left the room.


Faramir sat still and silent atop a high rise, his watchful gaze sweeping over the narrow valley below him.  The high peaks of the Ered Nimrais rose majestically directly to his left, offering partial protection against the chill evening wind.  The last rays of sunlight were just disappearing from view, casting the valley into shadow and turning the boulders and outcroppings into indistinct shapes.

Faramir needed no light as he continued his study, for everything he needed to know was in his head, impressed in his mind like some topographical map.  He knew where each boulder lay, where each tree grew, the narrowest and widest section of the valley, and even the slightest dip or swerve in the terrain.  It was all memorized, and he had little doubt that he could walk down the hill and through the valley in the darkest of night without even stubbing a toe.  He and his men had spent all afternoon getting to know the area, and Faramir at last felt satisfied that everything was in place.

Beneath him, his horse let out a soft whiney and stamped its foot impatiently.  Faramir reached down and patted the creature’s soft neck, whispering soothingly.  Behind him, nearly five hundred soldiers sat atop their mounts, their heads cocked toward the mountains and their hands gripping weapons nervously.  He had warned them all to remain alert and watchful, and to keep their ears open for the first sounds of the approaching orc army.  Faramir had no worries that the orcs would sneak up on them, but he wanted his men to be ready.

The loud cry of a hunting night bird caused Faramir to glance upward.  He noted with grim satisfaction that the sky was cloudless and that the bright shine of the moon and stars would aid in the night’s task.  They would not be fighting completely blind.

A distant horn shattered the silence of the night, startling the soldiers and their mounts.  Behind him, Faramir heard more than one sword ring free of its scabbard.  He smiled grimly, then motioned to one of his captains, signaling that the soldiers should spread out and conceal themselves behind the rise and wait for his signal.  They did so quietly and quickly with the ease of practiced soldiers, and Faramir was pleased.  The first phase of Aragorn’s plan was about to begin.

He heard the distant horn again, this time answered by another, closer by.  Still, nearly an hour passed before the first sounds of the heavy tramp of many boots reached the hidden defenders.  Faramir quickly dismounted, moving forward to crouch at the very crown of the hill.  Behind him, his men shifted restlessly.

The Steward peered into the darkness at the base of the mountains, his hand gripping the hilt of his sword as the loud clamor drew closer; the distinct sound of orc voices drifting through the night.  Down in the valley, the shadows swirled and shifted as the first ranks of the vast orc army began to march toward the base of the hill.  Faramir noticed that some of the creatures carried torches, but for the most part, the army traveled in darkness.  He gave a satisfied grunt, his body tensing in anticipation.  Soon, the first ranks would reach the base of the hill directly below him, and the time for action would be upon them.

Faramir commanded a force of less than five hundred soldiers, a pitiful army when compared to the thousands of orcs marching through the valley below them.  However, the soldiers’ job was not to stand and fight against the overwhelming odds, for they would not stand a chance, but to strike quickly and move away.  They would use the element of surprise to wreak as much chaos and damage as they could before the orcs managed to recover and retaliate.  Once they had gained the orcs’ complete attention, they would slowly retreat west, using strike and retreat tactics to draw the orcs after them, straight toward the high walled canyons where Kenson and his men would be waiting.

Faramir tensed as the first orcs moved into place below him.  He rose and made his way quickly and quietly back to his horse.  Swinging into the saddle, he reached down and released the clasp holding an intricate silver horn.  Raising the horn to his lips, he paused only long enough to wrench his sword free from its scabbard, before blowing a single long and clear note; the signal for his men to charge.


The orcs were taken completely by surprise as Faramir and his men suddenly appeared at the top of the hill, charging down toward them like a rushing wave of death, the thunder of their horses’ hooves echoing throughout the valley.  The startled creatures didn’t even have a chance to draw their weapons before the soldiers were upon them, crashing into their ranks and cutting into them like a single lethal blade.  Startled cries were soon replaced by anguished screams as the first ranks of orcs dissolved into wild chaos.

The orcs who had not yet entered into the valley milled about in confusion, unable to see what was happening before them and unwilling to rush blindly forward to the aid of their companions.  The loud shrieks of the orcs, along with the war cries of the men of Gondor combined to form a deafening cacophony that made it seem as though the armies of all of Middle Earth had come down upon them.  Disorganized and confused, hundreds of the foul creatures fell dead before they even knew what hit them.  The surprise had been complete.

Malek, further back in the ranks, heard the desperate calls of his orcs and guessed at what was happening.  His face contorted in rage, and he began screaming at his orc captains, ordering them to drive the confused army forward, certain that they could overwhelm any force before them.  The captains, terrified of the rage of their master, moved quickly to comply, gathering the confused orcs together and doing their best to organize a counter attack against an enemy they could not see. 

When they at last managed to regain some semblance of order- reforming their lines and readying their weapons-they charged forward into the valley directly into a scene of absolute chaos.  Dead orcs lay everywhere, and those who had not yet fallen ran around wildly, screaming for aid and searching for any escape from the deadly trap.

The fresh orc ranks charged forward wildly, enraged, yet their enemy had already gone, disappearing back into the night from which they had come, the sound of their hoof beats fading into the darkness.

“After them!” Malek screamed, his voice filled with hatred and rage.  He could not believe that his enemies had dared leave the protection of their city and brave an open attack against him.  Yet just as Aragorn had predicted, he thought it no more than the last desperate act of a defeated and hopeless army.  The fact that his prey was so near, and so obviously outnumbered spurred him into a wild frenzy. 

“I want their blood,” he howled wildly, spurring his bloodthirsty army forward without any thought to direction.  They charged on, seemingly always a step behind their fleeing enemy, howling with rage whenever the soldiers would turn and strike at them before retreating once more.

Malek was no fool, and as the minutes dragged on and the defenders remained always one step ahead, goading his army forward, he briefly considered the possibility a trap.  He thought about halting his army’s wild chase then, splitting his orcs and sending some after the troublesome raiders while the rest returned to their course for the city.  He quickly discarded the idea, however, confident that his superior numbers could withstand any trap that the desperate defenders could have lain for them, and determined to squash the men who had so foolishly dared to attack him. 

When the high walls of the canyons came into view, the first flickers of doubt entered his mind, and he slowed his pace.  Yet it was too late to stop now.  The orcs around him were in a wild frenzy, spotting their evasive prey fleeing just out of reach and believing that they would soon be able to trap them against the fast flowing waters of the River Ciril.  Nothing could stop their wild rush at that moment, and the whole force flowed into the canyon’s first winding corridors, crashing blindly ahead, following the dust trail left by the soldier’s mounts.

Malek flowed along with them, unable to suppress his rising doubts, yet still confident in the invincibility of his forces. Nothing could stand against them.


“They are coming, Captain!”

The call rang through the canyon, filled with excitement and anticipation.  Kenson immediately rose from his crouched position and signaled to the messenger that he had heard and understood.  Beside the captain, several of the officers also rose and began shifting around nervously.

“Go and take your places,” Kenson ordered calmly, and the soldiers immediately dispersed.  The captain glanced around him, his critical eye taking in every detail as he checked that all was in readiness.

He stood near the center of a large bowl shaped depression, surrounded on three sides by the high walls of the canyons, and on the fourth by the fast flowing Ciril.  The bowl contained only two main entrances, one to the south, where he could already make out the distant shouts of the approaching orc army, and one almost directly across from it, to the north.  The light of the moon reflected brightly off the waters of the river, lighting up the bowl with a bright glow.  Straight before him, spaced along the high walls of the canyons, Kenson could just make out the dim silhouettes of the lines of archers.  He glanced toward the southern entrance, and though he could not see them, he knew that a large force lay concealed just beyond, waiting for the orcs to pass before closing from behind and sealing them in. 

The trap was set. All that was needed was for it to be sprung.

Convinced that everything was in place, Kenson turned and raced for the north entrance, pulling his sword free of its scabbard along the way.  The tingle of anticipation that always struck him before a battle was coursing through his veins, and he felt like laughing out loud, despite the dangerous gamble they all were about to make. 

He reached the entrance and easily found the little alcove that he had chosen for himself.  The small niche in the stone appeared to be a very small corridor running from the canyon wall, but it only went back into the stone for about 15 yards before sloping upward, offering him a small perch were he could watch the corridor below him as well as have a clear view across the bowl.  He tucked himself carefully into his hiding place, watching the last few soldiers disappear from view as they found their places, and the area once more fell still; deathly still.

The minutes seemed like hours for those waiting in ambush, but at last the steady pounding of horses’ hooves drew near, and everyone tensed.  From the southern entrance, Faramir and his men burst into the bowl, urging their horses into a flat out run to outdistance the orcs who came rushing through right behind them.

Kenson watched as the horsemen reached the halfway point, and then began the final stretch toward the corridor below him.  The orcs were falling back slightly, their howls filled with rage and hatred, and when the first of their ranks had reached the center of the bowl, Faramir and his men swept into the Northern corridor.  Faramir saluted Kenson with his blood stained sword as he charged by, and Kenson smiled grimly and returned the salute though Faramir was already long gone

He turned his attention back to the bowl just as the first lines of orcs were nearing his hiding place.  They charged forward blindly, looking neither to the right, nor left, but focused on their prey fleeing before them.  Kenson let them through, his eyes focused across the bowl to the other entrance, where still more orcs continued to flow forward into the large depression. 

He was ready to spring the trap, but knew that he had to wait until all of the army had entered the bowl.  He was growing increasingly nervous and more orcs continued to flow into the passage below him, but he steadied himself and kept his eyes locked across the chasm. 

At last, the final ranks of orcs broke into the bowl, and Kenson did not hesitate.  He raised his horn to his lips and gave three sharp blasts, then turned and stumbled down the incline and toward the main passageway, yelling loudly as he ran.

The hidden defenders closed in from both sides, rushing in to fill the gap of the corridor, cutting off the flow of orcs like a cork in a bottle.  The surprised creatures skidded to a halt, confused when they saw that the way forward, which had been open just seconds before, now lay blocked by a large force of grim faced warriors.  Too late, they realized the trap.

In the back of the orc army, several of the cowardly creatures turned to run back the way they had come, only to find that this passageway had been blocked as well.  Howls of dismay now echoed from both ends of the bowl, and for the second time that night, the orc ranks broke apart as confusion reigned.  

The defenders did not give them a chance to recover from their surprise.  On a signal, the archers along the cliff face began to rain volley after volley of arrows down into their milling enemy, adding to the chaos.  The soldiers blocking the tunnel entrances did not rush forward to engage the orcs, but waited patiently for the creatures to come to them, knowing that they held the advantage against the larger force within the narrower confines of the passageway.  All they had to do was hold the orcs trapped within the bowl until sunrise; a difficult task, yet one that seemed not so impossible as the confusion within the orc ranks continued to grow.

A large force of the beasts charged forward, attempting to escape the deadly rain of arrows and use their sheer numbers to push through the trap.  Yet they were unorganized and frightened, making them easy prey for the soldiers, and they were cut down one by one.  Soon the sound of fighting filled the canyons as small forces of orcs continued to try to break free, only to die at the end of a sharp sword.  If the creatures had taken the time to organize and band together before attacking, they would have stood a better chance. Yet, luckily for the soldiers of Gondor, orc had never been known for wise battle tactics. 

Still, there was several hours left before dawn, and eventually the orcs would calm down and begin to band together.  Kenson, standing at the front of the line of defenders blocking the Northern passageway, knew that then the true fighting would begin.  Already, near the center of the bowl, Malek and his captains were beginning to organize. Behind him in the corridor, he heard the ring of metal against metal and knew that Faramir and his men were taking care of the orcs who had already come through.  The captain could only hope that the steward would be able to clear the orcs quickly and come to their aid.  So far, they had managed to land all the blows, but he was not foolish enough to believe that this would last.

The true challenge was just beginning.


Arwen sat quietly at the base of one of the long docks leading out into the Ciril River, watching the gentle play of moonlight on the glassy surface.  It was the first time all day that the she had gotten a chance to sit down, and her soft boots lay casually by her side as she dangled her feet in the water, allowing the cool river to help ease the weariness she felt in both mind and body. 

Aragorn, Gimli, Gandalf, and the four hobbits had left several hours earlier, and Arwen was still wrestling with the fact that she had not gone with them.   Aragorn had told her that she was needed here, yet Arwen was not so sure of the fact.  She had helped with the loading of the injured soldiers into several large boats and barges that could be pushed out into the river at the first approach of orcs, yet now she found herself merely waiting and worrying, as was usually the case when Aragorn was off on one of his daring adventures.

A soft call from behind her jerked Arwen from her thoughts, and she twisted around to see a short fat man hurrying toward her.

“What is it, Anvanar?” she called out, worried that one of the injured soldiers had taken a turn for the worse.

“My lady,” he replied, gasping for breath as he finally reached her, “You asked to be notified if the elf lord showed any sign of waking…”

“Legolas is awake?” Arwen gasped out, pulling her feet from the water and reaching for her boots.

“Nay, my lady,” he replied quickly, causing Arwen’s shoulders to slump slightly with disappointment.  “At least, he was not awake when I was sent to fetch you, but he is tossing and turning and crying out in a language none of us can understand.  We have been unable to calm him at all.”

“How long has this been going on?” Arwen asked sharply, hurriedly putting on her boots.

“Near a quarter of an hour now, my lady,” Anvanar replied, and Arwen felt a flash of irritation.

“You should have notified me at once,” she said impatiently, then shook her head and immediately apologized.  She was angrier with herself for wandering off alone when Legolas so obviously needed her. 

She hurried toward the boat where she knew she would find Legolas, quickly outdistancing Anvanar in her haste.  She slipped onto the vessel and quickly made her way toward the back, where she could see a crowd of healers trying desperately to calm Legolas.  She pushed her way swiftly through them and knelt down next to the small mat containing her elf friend, motioning for the healers to leave them.

Legolas was indeed tossing and turning, his head twisting around wildly on the pillow, a fast stream of Sindarin flowing from his lips.  She could not catch all the words, but she heard enough to know that he was talking of a shadow and darkness.  His eyes were still closed, but the lids were fluttering wildly, as if he was desperately trying to open them.   His body was arching and twisting so violently that Arwen immediately feared that he would injure himself, or reopen the newly healing scabs on his back and chest.

“Legolas,” she called out gently, reaching out to cup his pale face in one palm.  She began to talk to him calmly in Sindarin, her words slow and unhurried as she desperately tried to still the wild movements of his body.  It took several minutes, but slowly he began to calm, his muttering dying away to silence and his body lying limp once more except for an occasional wild tremor.  Arwen continued to speak to him quietly as she brushed the hair from his face, talking about anything and everything that came to her mind, one arm carefully draped across his chest to keep him still.  She glanced down at the bandages wrapping his chest to see if they showed any signs of fresh blood, and when she again moved her eyes back to his face, she found his eyes open and watching her.

“Legolas,” she said again, watching the light gray orbs for any sign of recognition.

Legolas blinked, and then appeared to be struggling to speak.  Arwen quickly reached beside her and poured him a glass of water, leaning forward and holding his head up as she put the goblet to his lips.  He gulped greedily for a few seconds before she once more took the cup away.

“Arwen,” he whispered hoarsely, his eyes locked onto her face as if trying to memorize it.

“I am here,” Arwen answered softly.  “Just lie back and relax. You are safe here.”

Legolas closed his eyes and shook his head slightly.  He opened them again a second later and looked back up at Arwen.  She was struck by how dull and lifeless his eyes appeared, the normal twinkle gone, replaced by shadow.

“Where…” he had to stop and swallow before trying again.  “Where are we?”

“We are in Calembel,” Arwen replied.  “Do you remember anything of what happened?”

Legolas nodded slowly, pain flickering across his face.  “Is….is Pippin alright?”

“Yes,” Arwen answered slowly.  “He is just fine.”

Legolas seemed relieved, and he sank back to the mat, his gray eyes flickering closed, only to snap open once more a few seconds later.  “Where are they?” he asked suddenly, his voice sounding frightened.  “Where are they?” he repeated, his eyes locked on Arwen.

Arwen knew whom he was speaking of, and she was more than a little unnerved by the desperation in his voice.  “They are gone,” she replied slowly, watching Legolas’ reaction carefully.

“Where?” Legolas asked again, his voice taking on a strange and somewhat frightening tone.

Arwen was not sure what to tell Legolas, afraid to upset him further when he was obviously so distressed.  Before she could think of anything to say, however, Legolas began struggling into a sitting position, his eyes wild.

“Malek,” he whispered simply.

Arwen nodded her head, knowing she could not deny it.  “Legolas, I think….” she began, but stopped abruptly when Legolas began struggling to rise from the mat.  “What are you doing?” she cried, reaching out to hold him down.

He shrugged free from her grasp, showing surprising strength despite his injuries.  “I must go to them,” he gasped.

Arwen was incredulous.  “You cannot even rise on your own, and you intend to go after them?” she asked disbelievingly.  “And what do you intend to do?”

“I have to help,” Legolas replied, still trying to push himself upright.

“You cannot even rise,” Arwen pointed out yet again.

“Then help me,” Legolas snapped, his voice half angry and half pleading.  “I have to help them,” he repeated, his voice a low groan, whether from worry over his friends, or from pain, Arwen did not know.

Arwen shook her head and reached out and grasped Legolas’ wrist firmly, pulling him back down to the mat.  He no longer had the strength to fight against her, and he sunk back down with a moan, his face a mask of pain.

“Legolas, listen to me,” She commanded, her voice calm and soothing.  “In your condition, you could do nothing for them even if you were to go.  You would merely get in the way.  Aragorn and the others can take care of themselves just fine without you.  You must trust in them.”

Legolas’ gaze locked on her own briefly, and Arwen expected that he was going to begin struggling against her again.  But instead, all the tension seemed to drain from his body and he relaxed back on the mat, turning his head away from her on the pillow.  Arwen could not help the sinking feeling that struck her at that moment.  While Legolas had been struggling against her, a brief spark of light had reentered his eyes, a flicker of his previous fire, but it was gone now, replaced once more by dull lifelessness.

She reached forward and gently replaced the blankets that had fallen from him when he had tried to rise, for the evening was cool.  “Rest, Legolas,” she whispered, “your friends shall be returning soon, have no fear.”

Legolas did not respond, did not even turn and look at her, and with a sigh, she rose and moved away.  She was sure that she was making the right decision, yet why did it have to be so hard.”