The Cry of the Gull (Chapter 30) - Crossing the Ice-Desert
Crossing the Ice Desert
Legolas and his multitude spent four days in their crossing over Helcaraxë. Balved suffered most, hugging his thinly covered arms to him and walking, always walking as hard and as fast as his nearly frozen legs could carry him. Legolas finally made him ride on Aeraew, burying his arms and legs deep in the feathers of the great bird in an attempt to keep him warm. Every morning was filled with Legolas's comforting voice urging the younger Elf onward, ever onward. He could survive if they just kept moving. Legolas himself felt very cold all the time, but he did not complain, for he knew that it could mean their deaths to stop, even for a minute.
They did not speak, to conserve their depleting energy as much as possible. They ate little food and drank less water, to get by on what they could, though there was plenty for the journey ahead, Aer assured them. The bird took frequent flights above the snow-driving dark clouds to see what he might see, and every time he came back he grunted that the opposite side was closer.
Though this news was true, every new minute weakened them more, every hour became an age, every step took strength, will and determination that Legolas had never had need to call upon before. How had the great company all those years ago, the only other band to cross and make it out alive, done it without becoming permenantly extinguished? A voice in his head seemed to answer his question:
Eru was with them...
Eru was with him too, Legolas knew. He never thought that he would suffer like this, though. He was blind and could only trust the bird to lead them in the right direction. He was cold, and he could only trust his armor and other clothing to keep him warm. He was fatigued, a new sensation to him. Somehow he continued though, one foot made it in front of the other, one inch more behind him, until finally Aer returned excited from his first flight that day.
"Legolas, the day has come! We will cross into Aman this day! Yea, it is dark on the opposite side, and dangerous, but warmer, nonetheless. We will live through this, my friend!"
Balved, clenched tightly to Aer's neck had his eyes closed, his lips and fingers were a deep shade of blue from the cold. He would not last much longer, he knew it. Even as he lay across the back of the great bird he could feel the world swim below him, he tried to open his eyes, but everything was so hazy, and his head hurt. Aer had said just a little longer...
As Aeraew landed, Legolas watched the hands of the young Elf slowly loosen, and Balved slipped down from Aer's back, landing in an unbreathing heap on the snow-covered ground. Legolas rushed to him, and Aer stood over the young Elf, sudden shock and un-Maian fear springing to his deep eyes. Legolas spoke:
"Aer, cover him, cover him with your body, your feathers may yet bring him back to life!" he said, rolling Balved over in the snow. He brushed wet flakes from the face of the Elf. The flakes hadn't melted, Balved was as cold as the snow around him. Aer put his beak against Balved's forehead, and sighed wearily.
"Nothing can bring him back," he said.
"No!" Legolas cried, throwing his own body over that of the young Elf. He breathed on Balved's tollowy face, but there was no stir in the air of returned breath. Tears mounted in Legolas's eyes and spilled down his cheeks to freeze in tiny rivers. An unbidden thought sprang to his mind:
"That will be you," it said. Legolas shook his head and pulled Balved's hand from the snow and close to the boy's face, having the beginnings of an idea. He reached into Balved's shirt between the layers of clothing, right near the Elf's throat. He took hold of the gem that he had carved for the boy, and put it in Balved's hand, wrapping the blue fingers around it, and his own around those. To his hope he saw a faint blush return to Balved's cheek, near Legolas's own face. Though very slow and faint, gold-white light wove in intricate vine-like patterns up Balved's arm, visible through the thin layers of cloth that covered Balved's body. Aer lifted his head up and looked at the sky, having the air of one who knew something far greater than what had befallen them at that moment; the living dead stood about with shadows of another world playing on their faces as they watched a young Elf tear himself from Mandos' grasp. Indeed, no one saw the hooded black figure that stalked away, lead by a woman in grey, but the dead knew he was there. Balved rose with Leolas, clenching tightly still to his little gull. He looked with golden eyes at the face of the Prince and said slowly:
"That will be you."
Legolas looked at the boy in wonder and a tinge of fear at this message. He took the thong that the jewel was bound to and yanked it away from Balved. Immediately the whiteness left the body of the doorkeeper, and Balved stood, looking curiously at Legolas with his brown eyes alive again.
"What did I say?" he asked.
"I will tell you later, we must make haste," Legolas said.
The two of them walked toward the west, and Aeraew followed behind, hanging his head in sadness.