Author’s Note: It’s up! Yay! .
I noticed I never did a disclaimer thing: Obviously, I don’t own Middle Earth or any of the familiar places and characters in it. J.R.R. Tolkien does and always will. Grumbles to him. heehee.
Ch. 8: The Real Escape
“I really don’t like this idea.”
Elrohir stood with crossed arms, barely allowing Jax to continue to layer him in Gondorian clothes.
“It’ll be fun, just watch.” Jax grinned as he stepped back and surveyed his masterpiece with a critical eye. Legolas glanced over the young man’s shoulder to his friend, and raised an eyebrow.
“You look like a scarecrow.” He covered his mouth to stop a laugh, failing miserably. Elrohir rolled his eyes as Jax gasped in mock disappointment.
“It’s the work of an artist!” He said, turning to Legolas, who was still smirking. “Besides, it’s your turn now.”
Legolas’s face went white and he backed up a step. Jax sighed, and slung a cloak over his own shoulders.
“Your funeral.” He brushed past the stubborn elf into the front room, with Elrohir walking stiffly behind him.
“I think we’d have a better chance with pitchforks and axes than in these clothes.” The Rivendell elf muttered as he passed Legolas.
“You’re welcome to try it.” Jax called from the doorway. Legolas shot a look to Elrohir, and then with some grumbling wrapped himself in the thick wool clothes of Gondor.
“Now who looks like a scarecrow?” Elrohir choked.
“Not now, Elrohir.” The blonde prince scowled. Jax grinned at their lack of enthusiasm, though he didn’t blame them for it. He was pretty sure it wouldn’t work anyway.
“In case this blows up in our faces-” He started to say before they departed the shack.
“Probably will.” Elrohir said under his breath.
“Then we make a run for it, if we can. The door to the caves is pretty close, so just follow me and we might make it before they can find out where we went. I’ll take a round a bout way, but you have to keep up. Got it?”
The two elves nodded, and Jax watched them for a moment. He took a deep breath, as if he were about to plunge into dark waters, and stepped into the night.
The air was chill and quiet. It was a long walk to the archway that led up to the sixth level.
“If we have to run,” Elrohir whispered as they walked, “I might not make it. These clothes weigh a ton.” Jax laughed softly at the elf.
“Well, you don’t look like an elf, that’s for sure. I applaud you, Jax.” Legolas said, all hard feelings for the boy obviously had melted away. For that, Jax sighed in relief.
“I feel fat.” Elrohir stated.
“You look fat.” Jax replied over his shoulder. “That was kind of the point.”
They came to a crossroads, the northern track leading a couple dozen yards to a narrowed point that was the gate. Torchlight flickered against the white stone walls, and they could hear the occasional voices of the guards.
“Why couldn’t Legolas be fat?”
“Shh.” Legolas clamped a hand over his friend’s mouth as the clatter of hoof beats filled the level, echoing off the walls. The trio slunk backwards into the shadows as a dark stallion galloped by, racing towards the gate. Jax cringed as the horseman stopped to talk to the guards. Now they had to wait until he continued- they could never outrun a horse.
Elrohir listened intently to the drifting conversation, his keen elven hearing picking up more of the words than Jax could make out.
“The horseman is telling the guards that the troops will be deployed this morning as planned by the King before the attack. . . the guards are complaining, I think. The horseman grows angry- I do not recognize his voice.”
“I do.” Legolas murmured. It was Griffin, the general; the man who took Rowan. Elrohir looked at his friend questionably and Legolas shook his head in anger. “He has the authority to make the command. I just wonder why.”
“Perhaps the Haradrim have gotten to him as well.” Elrohir stated somberly. Jax started, and stared at the elves.
“The Haradrim?” He frowned in question.
“Minas Tirith has been infiltrated by Haradrim soldiers, so we think,” Legolas quickly explained, much to Jax’s dismay. “We think they caused the explosions.”
Jax rested his head against the wall. The King and Queen were dead, so was Corin, probably- the city was in disarray and now the Haradrim were showing their traitorous faces in Gondor. What else did they have planned? What frightened Jax more was that whatever it was, there was nothing that he could do to stop it. It seemed Gondor’s doom was set in the very stone of the White City itself.
“We must continue now,” Legolas gave a sympathetic glance to the young man, who drew an angry breath and then stood. “The horseman has moved on.”
* * * * * * *
Rowan and Elladan stood side by side in the darkness of the mountain pass. Neither of them wanted to leave their friends in the City, but neither of them wanted to die there either. They were stuck halfway inside the caves and Rowan’s feet wouldn’t let her go further.
“Perhaps they will meet us here.” She said, voicing her feelings. Elladan raised an uncertain eyebrow, but didn’t respond. He felt it also.
“I don’t know how,” He finally replied, glancing back and imagining the torch lit gateway in the distance. “But maybe.” He looked over at Rowan, who’s eyes remained looking in to the caves. They glinted bright blue in the soft light as she turned to him.
“Then we wait. At sunrise, which is not far off, we will continue. If they are not here by then,” Her voice softened. ” I do not think they will ever make it.”
* * * * * * *
The gate rose high as the odd looking trio found themselves suddenly dwarfed in the shadow of it. They had begun to feel nervous about their “expedition”, as Jax started calling it, and now the guards laughter and talking were loud in their ears. Suddenly the chatting ceased, and the soldiers stared at the strangers suspiciously.
“Uh,” Jax swallowed down his nerves. “We were wondering if we might be able to stay on this level the night. My- aunt was injured so I heard. . .” Lame, he thought.
`Who are they?” One of the guards motioned a hand to the two tall (and one slightly fat) newcomers that stood behind the young man.
“My brothers.” This was random. The guard grunted, running a unconscious hand over his sword. He seemed to sway between letting them through and killing them there. Jax swallowed uncomfortably in the over long silence.
“Why are their faces covered?” Another soldier called. The first guard looked at Jax in question, who in turn found himself at a loss.
“Our faces were burned in the explosions-” The tall, skinny stranger said suddenly. “They are wrapped.”
The guard was quiet for another moment before he gave a long, deep sigh, and with a jerk he motioned them up the walkway. Jax couldn’t mask his relief.
“Thank you, sir.” He said and quickly walked through the ring of soldiers, and bore to the right, down the dark alleyway. The elves followed, quickly drawing out of earshot though they could feel the eyes of the soldiers on their backs.
“That wasn’t fun.” Elrohir whispered softly in Jax’s ear. The mortal grinned, and took a sharp left, stopping suddenly. The elves jerked to a halt. Straight down the corridor that ended in a dark, box like crevice, stood two elves that the company knew a little too well to not recognize.
“Who goes there?” Elladan drew his sword, and Rowan squinted in the darkness.
“Hold a moment, Elladan. . .Jax?” She suddenly grinned as her friend quickened his pace. Elladan frowned and watched the bumbling fat stranger with a strange look in his eyes.
“Don’t tell me that’s you, Elrohir, or I may have to disown you right here and now.”
The second figure threw off his cloaks, uncovering his blonde hair with a soft laugh.
“Looks like you’re found out, my dear Elrohir.” Legolas grinned as Elrohir tore off the cloaks with surprising speed and tossed them on the ground. He pointed a finger at Jax.
“Never will I let you have any say in my clothes again- ever!” He said, and then was caught in his brother’s hug. Rowan laughed, and then stepped forward from Jax’s embrace.
“I wondered when you were going to show up. That was quite dramatic.” She said, looking at Legolas with a smiling light in her eyes.
“I am glad you waited,” He replied, reaching a hand out for hers. “I was scared-” The prince looked to the ground a moment, but when he raised his head there was a smile on his face. “I am glad you are here.” He wrapped his fingers through hers.
“I knew there was something strange about them!”
A harsh voice broke the quiet night, and the elves spun around. Five of the guards stood with hands on swords, torches casting an eerie light down the corridor. Jax muttered a curse, and then shot a glance to the door, which stood a few paces from them. He pictured the interior in his mind’s eye- imagining the dirt walls, the random barrels, the large wood rafter that was meant to run across the back of the door as a lock- the torches and random food and water he had set there not three weeks before. He remembered wondering why he did that.
“Everything happens for a reason-” He whispered. Rowan glanced at him as the guards whistled to their friends, and starting to approach.
“Come on!” Jax spun on his heel and raced to the open doorway, stepping inside and reaching into the darkness for the wood lock. The elves didn’t hesitate for a second; they bolted after him and then the door shut, and there was silence. Jax had his hands around a rafter and, with the unasked for help of Legolas, they slid it across the door and heard it thud into place.
The door shuddered, and then was still. The darkness was so black that Jax could see absolutely nothing.
“I hate being underground.” Elrohir’s voice echoed in the cavern.
“Then help me find the torches so we can get out of here.” Jax scrambled on his hands and knees through the wide passageway. Eventually it narrowed, but here it was at least 15 paces wide. And strangely he couldn’t remember where anything was. . .
A dish clattered to the ground as Rowan groped around some barrels.
“That should be the food!” A disembodied voice called from the opposite end. Rowan felt some soft bags and shook them: water swished around inside.
“Well, you were prepared, Jax.” Legolas said, close to Rowan. He grabbed a few of the canteens. Rowan continued to feel her way around the dirt floor.
“Here we go.” The voice called again. There was a flash of bright light, and then a soft glow filled the cavern. Rowan glanced over her shoulder and saw Jax hold up a torch.
“Where are the vents in this place?” Elladan asked, seeing the torch flicker.
“They’re all over, although we can’t see them. Don’t worry though, I know my way around.” He said confidently, and handed another torch to Elrohir. Rowan eventually found the food, tucked away in the corner.
“Potatoes, brown lettuce, more potatoes- Have you ever heard of variety?” She asked with a grimace, throwing some of the lettuce away. Jax glared at her, and picked up a few long swords in the corner. Elladan’s eyes were wide.
“You stole weapons?” He asked. Rowan grinned at his surprise.
“You obviously don’t know Jax as well as I do,” She said, and lugged a bag of potatoes across the floor. “If you did, you wouldn’t be surprised.”
“Thanks.” Jax said sarcastically, and handed them to the elves, who only had a few random articles they were able to bring with them. Such as Legolas’s knives, which he was very thankful for at the moment.
“We better move before they find a way in.” Jax watched the shuddering door with a wary eye. Elrohir caught his concern, and picked up the potatoes with a grunt.
“These weigh a ton.” He stuttered.
“Yes, I know. Thanks.” Rowan wiped her hands on her clothes and winced suddenly as the motion brought back the pain in her shoulder.
“Are you alright?” Legolas asked, noting her face pale. She grabbed her arm, and felt it, an odd expression coming over her face.
“It was worse than this. . .” She turned to Legolas. “When I fell before, my arm broke- I felt the bones crack. It’s practically healed now, except for this aching.” Her eyes narrowed. “What did you do?”
Legolas looked innocently at her, taking her good arm and leading the pack down the cavernous trail.
“Why do you blame me?” He asked, looking away from her. Rowan frowned as the light from Jax’s torch illuminated the way before them.
“Is it something from Valinor? Tell me, Legolas. I don’t like to be in the dark about things.” She said stubbornly.
“It is nothing, Rowan. Please don’t mention it again.” Legolas wrapped his arm around her waist as if to say the conversation was over. It most certainly was not! Elladan and Elrohir smiled grimly at each other as Rowan’s voice grew angry.
“Don’t hide things from me. What is it?”
“Legolas you lie terribly.”
“I don’t care. What did you do, and why can’t you tell me?” Rowan’s eyes burned. Elladan sighed.
“It was an herb that Mithrandir gave to us before we left the White Shores,” He interrupted. Legolas glanced at his friend. “He told us to use it only in most dire need, as there was only a small amount.”
“So why use it on me?” Her hand instinctively went to her side as if trying to find something wrong with herself. She felt fine. Legolas saw her movement and caught her hand.
“Your wound was worse than we thought. . .”
*******Explosions continued to rip through the City even as Legolas reached an empty hut on the corner. He felt Rowan’s wound bleeding through the thick cloth he had wrapped around her, and he laid her on the bed gently. He watched her skin grow paler with a speed that worried him.
“What is wrong?” At first he thought it was just the pain, and he remembered feeling her neck and spine for broken bones, finding none beside that in her arm. Carefully he felt down her side, and horror hit him like lightening. Her ribs were all cracked, broken, and possibly causing damage to her internally. He prayed a swift prayer to the Valar and noted her skin was a deathly white. His hand unconsciously went to her pulse, and thankfully there was one, but it was weakening.
“No-” He clenched his jaw, and felt for Gandalf’s medicine: but to his mounting terror he realized Elladan had it. He would never find them in time, Rowan needed it now. She was bleeding internally, and there was nothing Legolas could do to stop it. . . *******
“Thanks be to the Valar, for they were looking out for you, and Elladan and Elrohir were close at hand. They saved you.” Legolas’s eyes were soft with pain. Rowan closed her eyes and leaned her head against his chest.
“You were afraid I would leave if you told me,” She said, remembering Elladan’s words to her that morning: It is dangerous for you to be here. . .
This certainly was just the beginning of the danger. “You knew I had to stay. Even facing death.” She smiled, much to Legolas’ surprise. “You know me very well, melamin.” The elven words filled Legolas with joy, but in his mind he ran over his conversation with Gandalf, buried for a while under the suspense of the night, but suddenly it all came rushing back to him now.
“It is more dangerous than you fear, Rowan.” He whispered in her ear.
“We must continue.” Jax said, looking impatiently at the spectacle. He was glad for the elves sacrifice to his friend, but right now he was worried about the increasing splintering of the door that was still very close behind them. Legolas nodded, and the troop continued on, into the growing darkness of the cavern’s mouth.