Disclaimer: Only borrowing Tolkienís characters for my fantasy.
Inside the Darkness
Part 5 - The River
The first thing Legolas became aware of was being warm and feeling safe. Strong arms were wrapped around him and he sighed contently. The pain in his leg and wrist were momentarily subdued and he concentrated on the warmth surrounding him. Then he startled. There was only one person who could be holding him; Lurtz!
Alarmed, he wanted to move away from the Uruk-Hai, but Lurtz's hold was strong and he found that he barely had space to maneuver. Resigned to his fate, he remained in the embrace. /I wonder what he is thinking. Doesn't he wonder if he is evil as well now that I described the Uruk-Hai as evil? His concern baffles me and now I find myself in his arms and I even feel safe./
"You should rest a little longer. We won't leave until sunrise."
Lurtz's voice startled him. He hadn't realized that the Uruk-Hai was awake as well. After privately debating the matter, he looked over his shoulder and in to Lurtz's dark eyes. "You did not need to keep me warm."
"But I wanted to."
Lurtz actually smiled, totally baffling Legolas. Suddenly Lurtz's pointed ears made him wonder if there was an Elf hidden beneath the Uruk-Hai. However, the sharp teeth that showed when Lurtz smiled reminded him that he was dealing with Saruman's creation. "It stopped snowing," he remarked, trying to distract himself from his unsettling thoughts.
"But the wind is gaining in strength and it will work against us when we cross the river."
Lurtz made no attempt to release him and Legolas began to feel uncomfortable. It almost seemed like Lurtz enjoyed holding him close. There was an unreadable expression in those dark eyes. "How do you plan to cross the river?" He couldn't swim, not with his injured leg.
"I will build a raft," said Lurtz calmly.
Lurtz continued to gaze in to his eyes and Legolas eventually averted his, uncomfortable at being the center of attention. Why was Lurtz staring at him like that?
"You seem better today," noticed Lurtz.
Suddenly a large hand settled on his brow. The fever was gone, but the leg still throbbed painfully. "Elves recover swiftly."
"Even Elven bones need time to heal," remarked Lurtz, finally unwrapping himself from Legolas' body. "Stay under the blanket a little longer; you'll be warm there. I want to scout ahead and get started on the raft. I will come back for you when everything's ready."
"I can help," said Legolas stubbornly. He doubted he could walk unaided, but he didn't want to let his helplessness show.
"No, you will stay here. By trying to help you will only aggravate your condition."
Legolas sighed and pulled the fur blanket closer to his body. Lurtz wouldn't change his mind.
Lurtz turned around and walked toward the river.
/I am not even thinking of trying to escape. I should try to make it on my own to Rivendell, but Lurtz... I never thought I would say it, but I am starting to trust him. The only thing that worries me are his memories. When they return they will corrupt Lurtz and he will change back in to the brutal servant of Saruman./
Biting down the pain that emanated from his leg and wrist, he willed himself back to sleep.
Lurtz finished putting the raft together and looked proudly at his handiwork. It was big enough to carry Legolas over the river.
The river... The river worried him. It was growing restless, and the currents were getting stronger. Crossing the river was dangerous, but he couldn't postpone it. Legolas needed a healer.
Searching the sky, he shivered. A storm was brewing and would hit before nightfall. They had to hurry.
As a precaution he hit the raft between some bushes and he returned to the camp side where he found Legolas sound asleep. A smile crept across his features; the Elf was beginning to trust him.
He sat down on his heels and gently shook the Elf. "It is time to wake up, Legolas." His heart missed a beat as sapphire eyes met his. /He is beautiful./
Legolas blinked dazedly; realizing that Lurtz wasn't the enemy he had been dreaming of took him a moment. The missing leather mask and war paint reminded him of Lurtz's amnesia and once more he wondered about the expression in Lurtz's eyes. The Uruk-Hai almost seemed pleased. "I am afraid I won't be much help..." Being exposed to the cold while being immobile had made his leg go numb.
Lurtz reacted at once and Legolas sucked in his breath when Lurtz gathered him in his arms, always making sure the blanket covered him. Lurtz carried him to the river and Legolas tried to make sense of what was happening. The look in Lurtz's eyes made him apprehensive.
Unexpectedly Lurtz lowered him to the ground and Legolas watched as Lurtz uncovered the raft. Then he looked at the roaring river. "We can't cross today."
Lurtz shook his head. "I am not waiting for the river to calm down. We can't waste any time, not now your leg's infected."
Legolas considered objecting, but knew it would be futile. "The raft is not big enough for the two of us."
"It's big enough for you."
Legolas' eyes widened, realizing Lurtz's intentions. "You can't swim in that icy cold water!"
Lurtz shrugged his shoulders. "I will manage."
Legolas suddenly found himself lifted and being placed on the raft. "The water is wild and like ice. You can't do this." But Lurtz didn't listen and Legolas began to grow annoyed. Lurtz pushed the raft on to the restless river and the water already reached the Uruk-Hai's waist. "This is madness!"
Lurtz remained quiet and Legolas held on to the raft as the current pulled them in the wrong direction. Lurtz corrected their course and Legolas watched the Uruk-Hai with growing concern. The water had climbed to Lurtz's chin and the other man regularly swallowed mouthfuls of water.
Lurtz's warning came just in time. Legolas held on to the raft when a wave of brutal water nearly threw them against a rock. Lurtz's strength saved them, pulling them away from the rocky shore. /This is madness! The river is wild and won't let us cross!/
"We're almost there..."
Lurtz's voice was barely audible through the roaring river. Legolas ignored the stabbing pain in his wrist and dug his fingernails in to the wood for support. His leg ached badly, but he was determined to see this through. Suddenly, another wave of water rolled over them and Legolas yelled a warning, but it was too late. The water closed over Lurtz's head, pulling him beneath the water.
Legolas frantically stared at the water, trying to locate Lurtz's form. His worry increased when Lurtz didn't make it back to the surface and suddenly his sharp eyes made out a form to his right. Arms stretched, head down, Lurtz seemed unconscious. Legolas acted at once, rolled off the raft and reached for Lurtz. The Uruk-Hai was heavy, but after a short struggle he managed to pull Lurtz back to the surface. "Breathe!"
Lurtz's eyes flashed open and he coughed up the swallowed water. Legolas quickly checked the expression in Lurtz's eyes; the Uruk-Hai was growing alert once more. "The shore... I can't swim..." Rescuing Lurtz had taken his last strength.
Lurtz's right arm enfolded his waist and the Uruk-Hai headed for the shore, dragging Legolas with him.
Doing his best to remain conscious, Legolas bit down the pain slashing through his leg. Spiting out some cold water, he watched the distance to the shore decrease. Lurtz was going to make it!
Lurtz grabbed him tightly, and carried him ashore. Then the Uruk-Hai fell to his knees and lowered Legolas on to the grass. They were safe now; the roaring water was behind them.
Legolas briefly closed his eyes, hardly believing they had made it.
Lurtz's voice pulled him back. He tasted the coppery tang of blood on his lips. "It is nothing..." He had bit his bottom lip when the pain had gotten too much. Now his leg was numb again, for which he was thankful.
"You saved my life..."
Lurtz's eyes were filled with gratitude and the expression caused a lump to form in Legolas' throat. "It is the least I can do..." Legolas sighed deeply. The cold, wet clothes were uncomfortable and he was losing the sensation in his right leg and wrist.
"You need to get warm..." Lurtz quickly assessed the situation and lifted Legolas once more.
"I can walk!" protested Legolas. He was getting tired of being carried around like a child!
"Be quiet!" Lurtz scanned their surroundings, hoping to find a cave... "I need to build a shelter."
Legolas simply allowed Lurtz to carry him deeper in to the forest where he was lowered on to the ground again. Lurtz busied himself with building a shelter made from branches. In the end, Lurtz carried him beneath the improvised shelter and he froze when the Uruk-Hai began to remove his tunic. "What are you doing?"
"We need to stay warm. I refuse to freeze to death now that we conquered the river."
Lurtz stripped him quickly and Legolas shivered, seeing blood drip from beneath the bandaged knee. The wound was bleeding once more. He grew alert when Lurtz began to remove his clothes as well. /Just what does he think he's doing?/
Lurtz didn't speak, but maneuvered them in to a lying position, which them laying face to face. He then grabbed the remaining branches and leaves and placed them on top of their shivering bodies.
The skin on skin sensation caused Legolas to sigh contently. Lurtz, wrapped all around him, held him tight. /I can't believe I am enjoying being this close to him. What's wrong with me? He is the enemy!/
"We'll leave at dawn. Our clothes should be dry by then and hopefully we will reach Rivendell the day after tomorrow."
Legolas nodded against Lurtz's shoulder. "I wish I was back in Mirkwood, in my bed..." He had always enjoyed sleeping in the open, beneath the starlit sky, but now he craved a warm and comfortable bed.
"My home..." Legolas felt himself slip away; soon he would be asleep.
"Aye?" Legolas was trying to listen, but sleep tugged at his exhausted soul.
"Thank you for saving my life, but don't do such a foolish thing ever again."
"Foolish?" whispered a sleepy Legolas.
"You could have drowned... or be smashed against those rocks. Elves can die, you know..."
Legolas smiled against Lurtz's shoulder. His mind was already asleep when he whispered his reply. "I am not ready to die yet..."
Lurtz returned the smile and stroked the long, wet hair. "Neither am I... and thanks to you I'm still alive." A new sensation slipped in to his soul. It was more than just concern, but he couldn't label the feeling. "You care about me..." Knowing that Legolas cared enough to save him from drowning warmed his soul. "I will stay with you, Legolas. I will watch over you." Lurtz pulled Legolas as close as possible and held on, needing to prove to himself that the Elf was still alive. The river hadn't bested them and their journey continued.
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