Tenderly Boromir lowered a motionless Legolas on to the grass. He sensed the stares of the others at his back, but he chose to ignore them. He had made a commitment to Legolas, one which he intended to honor. The Elf was completely unresponsive and the normally blue eyes were still closed, something which clearly upset Aragorn and Gandalf. Elves usually slept with their eyes open and hardly ever closed them. It showed how deeply the assault had affected Legolas.
"Here, I brought you fresh water." Aragorn placed their bowls, which he had used to carry the water in, on the ground next to Boromir. "I can help, you know. I consider Legolas a friend as well."
Boromir nodded, realizing that he couldn't simply dismiss Aragorn. Maybe the other man was beginning to trust him, and the desire to help was doubtlessly genuine so he accepted Aragorn's offer. It felt like the right thing to do. "We need new clothes. These have holes in them." He also wanted the clothes gone because they were tainted with Legolas' blood. Looking at the Elf's face he cringed, seeing the severe bruising.
Boromir and Aragorn looked up at the same time. "Frodo... go back and join the others," said Boromir. He didn't want the hobbits to know what had happened to Legolas.
"But... Elrond gave us some spare clothes... We packed everything on to poor William..." Frodo gave them a hopeful look, then his gaze dropped and darkened, seeing the shape Legolas was in. "I only want to help." He knew better than to ask what had happened to the Elf. Their expressions told him that the two Men wouldn't tell him the truth.
"Bring us the clothes," said Aragorn. "We're grateful that you want to help. We accept your kind offer."
"I'll be right back..." Frodo hurried away and headed for the pony.
Boromir frowned. "We can't keep them in the dark forever."
"All they need to know is that Legolas is wounded. The nature of that injury should remain a secret," said Aragorn concerned. "I do not want them to worry about a possible attacker. Gimli, Gandalf and I will be more careful in the future." They would find the one who had done this to Legolas and make sure than the hobbits were safe at all time. "Legolas is an experienced hunter. I do not understand who could have surprised him."
Boromir nodded once. "Hopefully the Elf will recover and tell us."
"Boromir..." Aragorn grew silent when Frodo returned with the clothes. "Thank you, Frodo."
"Will Legolas recover? He looks... like the dead..." Frodo sounded extremely worried. "If I can help..."
"Then we will let you know," assured Boromir the hobbit. "Now go. Sam and Pippin are growing restless. Reassure them that everything is fine."
"Is everything fine, Boromir?" Frodo gave Boromir a startled look. "Are we safe?"
"Yes," replied Aragorn instead of Boromir. "I give you my word that you are safe."
Reassured, Frodo nodded. "I hope he recovers..." After uttering those words he returned to the fire.
Aragorn and Boromir exchanged a glance and it was Boromir who spoke first. "Do you still believe I did this to Legolas? What monster do you think I am?"
Aragorn met Boromir's eyes and returned the hard stare. "Maybe I judged too quickly and harshly."
"Aye, you did." Boromir felt a little appeased now that Aragorn admitted to making a mistake. "And now I have to tend to him." How had he gotten himself in to this situation?
"We need to undress him, dispose of his clothes, clean his wounds and then dress him again." Aragorn gently pulled Legolas toward him and let the Elf's head rest against his shoulder, while Boromir removed the tunic.
Boromir's eyes narrowed, seeing several bite and claw marks on the cream like skin. "What in Isildur's name attacked him?" He ripped some cloth from the tunic and dipped it on the water. Cautiously he began to rinse the wounds. "The attacker's teeth are imprinted on his skin!"
Aragorn once more regretted accusing Boromir of this foul deed. "I doubt a Man did this. Judging from those marks it probably was an Orc, but how could an Orc surprise and overpower Legolas?"
Boromir gritted his teeth in frustration. "It should serve as a warning. If this Orc can overpower Legolas it can just as easily overpower one of us."
Aragorn agreed. "We'll be more careful in future."
Boromir had cleaned the marks that disgraced Legolas' shoulder, back and chest and looked at Aragorn, kneeling beside him. "We need to clean up the rest of him." He felt hesitant to remove the Elf's leggings after what had happened, but they didn't have a choice. They had to prevent possible infections. He drew in a deep, steadying breath and pushed down the torn leggings. A disapproving growl escaped his throat, encountering more bite and scratch marks.
"I'll hold him tightly, while you... remove the blood and clean his wounds."
Boromir washed the blood from Legolas' thighs and removed the dirt from the bite marks. He worked in silence, almost afraid that speaking up would wake the Elf and set him off in hysterics. A part of him still didn't understand why Elves gave up like this after being violated. If this had happened to him, he would burn with anger for the one who did this to him. Yes, he would have felt tainted, but he would never have given up like Legolas. He would fight!
"I'm done..." announced Boromir. "Hand me the clothes Frodo brought." Aragorn handed him the garments and Boromir struggled to put on the brown leggings. Legolas was a dead weight and not co-operating at all. Hadn't it been for Aragorn's help, he wouldn't have managed to dress Legolas. Next was the tunic and Boromir studied the Elf once he had finished dressing Legolas. "His hair's a mess."
Memories of caring for his brother Faramir returned to him. When they were younger he had looked after Faramir, at times even fussing over his younger brother. "I don't know how to braid it."
"Hold him..." Aragorn gently handed the motionless Elf to Boromir. A smile stole on to his face, seeing with how much concern Boromir tucked Legolas beneath his warm cloak.
"What do I do now?" Boromir watched as Aragorn first skillfully combed the Elf's hair with his fingers, and then braided fair locks. A few minutes later, the Elf looked like he had never been ravaged.
"You hold him. Talking softly wouldn't hurt either." Aragorn regarded them curiously and realized he felt at ease with the way Boromir was holding the Elf. True concern spoke from Boromir's features and he hoped Boromir would find a way to bring Legolas back to them. "No one ever succeeded," he said reluctantly. Seeing Boromir's frown, he explained, "No one ever managed to bring back an Elf who had been violated. The odds that Legolas will fight for his survival are very slim."
"I refuse to accept that," said Boromir firmly. "I'll find a way to get through to him."
Aragorn nodded tiredly. "I hope you will, but... my heart feels heavy with concern. I fear I will lose my friend."
"You won't," vowed Boromir, pulling Legolas even closer. "He feels cold beneath my fingers."
Aragorn sighed. "His soul is drawn toward death... You might not be able to stop him." Aragorn rose to his feet and looked at the two men. "I'll look after the others and I'll try to track down the one who did this to Legolas. Please take good care of him and let me do the fighting."
Boromir nodded gravely. "I won't let him slip away, I won't."
Boromir had almost dozed off, when the warm light of Gandalf's staff suddenly surrounded them. Legolas' eyes were still closed and the Elf hadn't moved since Boromir had tended to his injuries. Would he succeed in forcing Legolas to return to them? How long would it take the reach the Elf? He didn't know, but he was determined to succeed.
"Boromir..." Gandalf sat down on a rock and extended the light of his staff, wanting to see Legolas' face. The Elf looked pale, but his chest was still rising, drawing in precious oxygen and Gandalf grew slightly hopeful. "Make sure he's warm."
Boromir nodded worried. "No matter how much I rub his skin, he remains cold to the touch."
"He's closer to death than life at this moment. You must find a way to bring him back." Gandalf sighed. "I would hate losing him, Boromir."
Boromir rubbed the insides of Legolas' wrists again, pressed the Elf's body against his and wrapped his cloak even tighter around them. Looking up at Gandalf he found that worry and hope were at war in the Wizard's eyes. "How long before I know I am fighting a lost battle?"
"If Legolas has truly given up his mind will grow weak and his breathing will stop when the moon rises again." Gandalf bend down and caressed a strand of blond hair. "I hope your strength will bring him back to us."
Boromir watched Gandalf leave and tucked Legolas' head beneath his chin, guarding the Elf during the reminder of the night.
Aragorn watched Boromir and Legolas with some concern. They were about to leave the clearing and continue for Mount Doom, but Boromir now faced carrying Legolas. The Gondorian was strong, but Aragorn worried that carrying Legolas would wear the other man down. He was about to offer his help when Boromir used his warm cloak to wrap Legolas in. Boromir then fastened the cloak around his body, creating a sling in which Legolas rested comfortably. Boromir's sword arm was free and he could defend himself when attacked. Aragorn was impressed.
Boromir folded one arm around the Elf who was now resting against his chest. Legolas' head rested on Boromir's shoulder and it pained Aragorn to see that Legolas' eyes were still closed. If only those sapphire eyes would open, then they had a chance.
"Let's move out," said Boromir, indicating he was ready to leave the camp site.
"I will take the lead," decided Gandalf. "Aragorn, scout ahead and make sure we don't run into Orcs. We can't risk a battle while Legolas is... recuperating."
Aragorn noticed the unease among the hobbits when they stared at Legolas. Pippin's eyes had darkened with concern and Frodo hovered close to Boromir, offering his help, which the Gondorian politely declined.
Aragorn left the group to scout ahead, hoping the Elf would still be alive tonight.
Boromir had less problems carrying Legolas than expected. The fact that the Elf hardly weighed a thing was an advantage and Boromir managed to keep up with the rest of the Fellowship. Every so often Gimli or one the hobbits would inquire if they could help, but Boromir continued to decline.
Long hours they walked, making good progress, and the Walls of Moira appeared in the distance. Gimli roared his pleasure, raising his axe in greeting, but the rest remained subdued.
When night fell, they camped again and Boromir settled down near the fire, hoping it would warm the chilly Elf. He unwrapped Legolas from his cloak and was relieved to find that the Elf was still breathing. His eyes met Gandalf's questioningly. "Does this mean he will live?"
Gandalf nodded hesitantly. "But I must admit to being surprised. Several times today I expected you to call to us to a halt to mourn Legolas' passing, but... he seems to be fighting, but why I don't know... I never heard of anything like it."
Boromir felt pleased. During the entire day he had whispered softly, telling Legolas about Faramir and their youth, growing up at the court of Gondor. He had regaled Legolas with childhood tales, telling the Elf how naughty Faramir and he had been as children.
"Here, see if he wants to drink some water. If he doesn't, moisten his lips with water." Gandalf handed Boromir a bowl filled with fresh spring water.
Boromir placed the bowel against Legolas' lips. "Drink now, Master Elf."
But Legolas' lips remained closed, refusing the refreshing drink. Boromir then dipped his fingers into the water and moistened the Elf's lips, as Gandalf had suggested. Legolas' lips were chaffed and bruised and yet they felt soft, marveling Boromir. When had he started to pay attention to how Legolas' lips felt at his touch? "Swallow a few droplets, Legolas."
But the drops remained sitting on Legolas' lips. Boromir felt disappointed; he had hoped that Legolas would miraculously recover because of his care. He was now beginning to realize how hard this would be on both of them.
"I don't know if you have any siblings, Master Elf, but my little brother was trouble. He always got himself in to dangerous situations. Faramir climbed trees, then grew scared and didn't dare to climb down again. I had to go get him and deliver him safely to the ground. My father always said I was responsible for my little brother and I took that responsibility very seriously. When Faramir got a cold I was the one who tended to him and when Faramir decided to jump on to the back of a horse, and was then thrown off, I took the blame.
When we got older we fought a lot, for fun, mind you, for our bond is very strong. So strong that we sense it when something ails the other... but there are drawbacks as well. We fell in love with the same girl and we courted her for a while... Then she decided she didn't like either of us enough to marry and she choose another!" Boromir laughed. "Fair Elara... She choose a farmer above a son of Denethor!"
Boromir continued to chuckle. "Faramir was heart broken and I took it upon myself to cheer him up. We ended up mud wrestling in our father's stall!"
Boromir's deep laugh made the hobbits look up questioningly, but he continued to chuckle at his memories. "Maybe you will meet my brother, I'm sure you will like him, Legolas."
Boromir grew quiet and alert when Frodo and Sam approached them. "Young hobbits, go back to the fire and keep warm."
But Sam shook his head. "We gathered some berries for Legolas, maybe he will eat them?"
Boromir couldn't bear to tell them that Legolas was drifting far away from them, not drinking and certainly not eating. "I thank you, my friends." He raised one hand and Sam put the berries in his palm. "I'll try to feed them to Legolas."
"What's wrong with him?" asked Frodo unexpectedly. "Aragorn doesn't want to tell us. I read concern in his eyes, but he won't tell us what happened to Legolas. Was he attacked? Why isn't he moving or talking?"
Boromir sighed deeply. "Aye, my friends, he was attacked and wounded badly. His mind is resting and will return to us when he is ready."
"Is there anything we can do?" Sam looked at Boromir with eyes filled with hope.
"Aye, you can gather more berries." The hobbits were eager to help and Boromir couldn't simply dismiss them. Gathering berries would make the hobbits feel useful.
"We will do that," said Sam passionately. "We want to help."
"I know that," assured Boromir the hobbits. Frodo moved and Boromir's gaze was drawn to the One Ring the hobbit wore around his neck.
/Boromir... I am power... I am your destiny... Take me, use me, and dispose of the others. They don't understand my power, but you do./
Silvery words slithered stealthily into his mind, tempting him. Boromir started to rise, but something was keeping him down. With a start he realized that he had almost released Legolas and he quickly folded his arms around the Elf once more. The lure of the One Ring weakened, but continued to whisper softly.
"Boromir?" Frodo's eyes grow big, seeing the distant expression in the Man's eyes.
Boromir shook his head, trying to throw off the evil enchantment. "I must be more tired than I thought. Maybe I should get some sleep as well."
"Aragorn and Gandalf are standing guard," said Gimli who had overheard most of their conversation. "It's safe to sleep, Master Boromir." His axe lay beside him, ready for combat if necessary.
Frodo and Sam returned to sit with Merry and Pippin, mumbling softly and trying not to disturb the silence that hung near the fire.
Boromir closed his eyes, but sleep wouldn't come. Hearing the Ring call him had upset him and he needed to drive away the temptation. "When Faramir and I were little we caught four mice in the woods. Our mother was deadly afraid of the critters and we released them in the throne room when my father was addressing his men. My mother screamed in terror when the mice headed for her feet and she jumped on to the throne, trying to get away from them. My father was enraged and he spent the next hour trying to catch those mice. Forty warriors chased four mice and never caught them.
When my father found out that Faramir and I were the perpetrators we were sentenced to kitchen duty for one month. It was the worst thing that could happen to us. Only women worked in the kitchens and now we had to scrub the floor, do the dishes and help them peel the potatoes and prepare the food. We never forgot that week and in spite of the humiliation Faramir learned how to prepare a decent stew!" The memories felt warm inside his mind and he sneaked a look at Legolas. "I don't know if you have brothers or sisters..."
"He has one older brother, Valthoron," said Gandalf, who had come to check on Legolas. "And they were quite mischievous as well, driving their father, King Thranduil, mad with their pranks."
Boromir nodded thankfully. "He's someone's little brother then..."
Gandalf actually smiled. "Aye and he needs a big brother to watch out for him now."
"I won't fail him," promised Boromir.
Gandalf nodded, hoping that Boromir was right.
The next morning Boromir repeated the same ritual of moistening Legolas' lips with fresh water. The others were already on their feet, ready to leave and he rose as well, once more using his cloak as a sling to support his charge. "Will we enter Moria today?" he asked Gandalf as the Wizard fell in to step beside him.
Gandalf tried to measure the distance between the party and the Mines of Moria. "Maybe today, maybe tomorrow. I am in no hurry to enter the Mines. Evil lurks there."
Boromir pressed Legolas close to his body. "He is still alive. I take it that is a good sign?"
"Aye. I don't know what you're doing, but it seems to work. Legolas decided to stay with us after all. Now you must persevere."
Boromir pushed a strand of flaxen hair behind one pointed air after the wind blew the lock in to his face. Strange... the hair felt much more silk like than he remembered... "The Ring called me last night..." His eyes narrowed, wondering why he was confiding in Gandalf when this should remain a secret. He didn't want them to think of him as weak and volatile.
Gandalf looked at Boromir with worried eyes. He realized that Boromir was drawn to the One Ring and the Ring used it to its advantage. "Aragorn spoke true at the council of Elrond. No Man can wield the Ring. It only serves Saruman. It will poison your mind and use you to its advantage. Do not put your hope or trust in it."
Boromir nodded. "My heart knows you speak the truth..." One arm still cradled Legolas against his chest and he was suddenly reminded of a task more important than gaining possession of the Ring. The Elf depended on him and Boromir drew his power from that fact.
Gandalf studied Boromir closely and found that the man's fate was unclear to even one of the Istari. There was light and darkness in Boromir's soul and he wondered which one would prevail eventually.
Once more they made camp and this time Gimli caught some rabbits, grilling them above the fire. "Here, Master Boromir, eat for you need the strength of two men as long as you carry Legolas."
Boromir gratefully accepted the food and began to eat. Legolas sat in front of him and the Elf's back rested against Boromir's chest. Some time ago he had tried to slip a berry in to the Elf's mouth, but Legolas hadn't swallowed it, and that frustrated Boromir. The Elf still refused to eat and his skin was losing its normal cream like tone, feeling dry and brittle, but Boromir only managed to slip a few droplets of water between the Elf's lips.
Gandalf joined them and began to eat as well. His eyes traveled from Boromir to Legolas and his worry increased. "Legolas should be regaining consciousness... or at least open his eyes." He didn't understand. The Elf had chosen life, yet Legolas gave no sign that he was returning to them. "Maybe he needs more time..." But time was the one thing they didn't have. They would enter the Mines of Moria tomorrow and the darkness would undo the little good Boromir had accomplished so far. The Wood Elf would suffer greatly in the long darkness of Moria.
Boromir felt equally worried. "I told him about my youth and about my brother Faramir. I am running out of tales to tell."
"Maybe we can entertain him?" offered Pippin. "I know some really good jokes and..."
"Shut up, Pippin," said Sam. "The last thing Legolas wants to hear are jokes!"
"How do you know? Can you read minds now?" Pippin sounded annoyed. "They are some of the best jokes around!"
"Quiet now, young hobbits," said Gimli, not in the mood for their bantering. "Sam is right. The Elf doesn't need your jokes."
Boromir moved Legolas nearer to a tree. They were still close to the fire, but now had some privacy as well. It was time for a more personal revelation.
He gently rested Legolas' head against his chest and covered the Elf with his cloak. "When I first met you at the council of Elrond you annoyed me, Legolas. You looked calm and composed, almost regal, and when I questioned Strider's knowledge of the Ring, you defended him, telling me I owed him my allegiance.
I admired your courage for standing up to me and your loyalty at defending a friend. At first I disliked you, but that has now changed. I never thought an Elf could be this vulnerable and yet you trust in me for you did not choose death. You chose life instead. When I pledged myself to your recovery I meant it. I do not know what will happen if we 'bond' like Gandalf mentioned, but I am willing to find out."
Boromir sucked in his breath. Was he imagining things or did Legolas just move slightly? He took the Elf's hands in his and rubbed the cold fingers. "I mean it. I do not know who hurt you, but I will find and punish him. I will be there for you in your hour of need, but first you have to return to us. We miss you. Gandalf fears losing you and so does Aragorn. You are frightening the hobbits and Gimli... I think he plans on sharpening his axe before splitting your attacker's skull. We need you with us, Legolas. You are the eyes and ears of the Fellowship. We cannot go on without you."
Boromir felt slightly awkward for delivering such a speech, which was uncharacteristic for him. He wasn't a man of many words, but now they needed to be spoken. "I am willing to commit to this bond, but you have to come back to us." A soft sigh seemed to flow from Legolas' lips and Boromir held his breath in eager anticipation. "Come back to us, Elf. I am not giving up on you, ever!"
"Boromir..." Aragorn suddenly leaned in closer.
"What is it?" Alarmed, Boromir cupped Legolas' chin in the palm of his hand and he studied the pale face. His heart missed a beat, staring in to a pair of sapphire eyes.
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