1) The Song
Like an animal testing for danger, he raised his head. His ears filled with sounds of the forest as he strained to find any trace of danger. He knew Aragorn was somewhere nearby, but Legolas would not search for him now. He knew the ranger needed to think. He wondered briefly what he should do. He might hunt, but the impression the irritable forest was giving him was that to take from it would only lead to bad relations.
Suddenly, a sound drifted into his head. A tinkling. It sounded like the wind chimes of Lothlorien, only with a more menacing song. Where could they be coming from?
He looked all around him, deep into the forest. He saw nothing but the green of the soft ferns coating the forest floor. And if someone had hung chimes in the forest, why would they have suddenly started singing? No wind had picked up. Legolas began to wonder if he was in fact hearing the sound or just imagining it. Perhaps he was near the edge of the forest and he was hearing the music of some nearby dwelling.
The song sounded malevolent in nature and it did not play at random the way wind would take bells. This melody had structure, all the notes minor.
Then Legolas felt a presence behind him, and he whirled around, bow and arrow already strung in his hands. But there was no one. He followed the point of his arrow all the way around in front of him, but he was alone in the forest.
“Estel?” He called, loudly. The forest seemed to absorb his voice and it traveled nowhere, as though he had spoke into a sponge.
Suddenly the branches of the wide trees seemed to have gotten lower. If Legolas wanted to see along through the forest, he would now have to drop to his knees. As he stood, he could only see dense twisted branches. Had it always been this way and he had only just noticed? He could no longer see the sky either, though the cavernous wood seemed to emit its own green light. Though the forest was wide open inside, he began to feel a claustrophobic panic rise in his windpipe. He quickly pushed it down, telling himself that going to pieces would get him no where.
“Some evil is at work here.” Legolas said aloud.
He decided then that Aragorn’s right to solemnity had officially expired.
Legolas was vaguely aware that the trees would not respond to him. He went to return the way he had come. But the trees all looked the same. The soft moss of the floor was so puffy that it seemed to expand back outward, leaving no trace of footsteps. His face grew hot with embarrassment and frustration as he realized that with all of his skills and senses, he was lost. He wanted to make some sort of growl to relieve his tension, but the knowledge that the sound would go no where in this place was so unsatisfying that he didn’t bother.
The tinkling was filling his head up as though it were a pitcher of water. Was it really getting louder? He could no longer think. He was so overwhelmed by the sound that he dropped to his knees, covering his pointed ears, his face contorted.
The song then changed for Legolas. Instead of eerie and ill conceived, it sounded appealing and seductive. He slowly let his hands fall from his ears. He looked up, and a smile slowly crept across his face. Lifting one leg at a time, he stood. He began to follow the music. All thought left his head. He did not see and he did not feel. He only sought the tinkling song.
Soon the music became more than it was. A delicious smell filled the air. His stomach became desperately hungry. And the music played on. A sight of beauty filled his eyes. It could not be described as anything. It was only colour and light. And he did not see it at all, but it was a part of the music as well.
How long Legolas followed the sound would be incalculable. But when the music faded away, he was kneeling somewhere deep within the middle of the forest. It was a clearing.
Legolas still knew nothing. The spell of the music did not wane.
In front of him in the grass was a small patch of mushrooms. Though there was no voice, something or someone was telling him to eat a mushroom, to have as many as he wanted, in fact. And Legolas did not need to be convinced either. He wanted them more than anything else. This was his one desire, the fruit of all of his arduous searching. Had he been himself, he would have known better. Legolas knew this vegetable, and that it was not for eating.
Without a moment’s hesitation, he grabbed up a handful of mushrooms. He stood and devoured them without tasting or feeling them in his mouth. As he was swallowing, he heard the trickle of a stream and then birds chirping and the distress of the forest. And suddenly Legolas could hear and see and feel everything. He also thought he heard laughing. He was confused. He had no idea where he was or how he had got there. He realized he was swallowing something, though he didn’t know what. He grasped his throat, but it was too late. Whatever it was, it was down his gullet now.
The trees on the outskirts of the clearing seemed to suddenly be stretching tall up towards the sky in his peripheral vision. He looked down at his knees. There was a disturbed and shredded patch of mushrooms there in the grass, which seemed to sway. His stomach lurched. Without warning, he fell to the ground, unconscious, his blond hair sweeping down through the air to keep up.
When Legolas had called for Aragorn, Aragorn had answered. Upon receiving no response, he became concerned. But now he knew Legolas’ whereabouts and followed the direction that the elf’s voice had come from. As he walked he heard movement in the trees. But these steps were too clumsy for an elf, but they led away from the direction that Legolas’s voice had come from. Alert, Aragorn followed these steps from a distance, convinced that they had something to do with Legolas and the reason he had called for him.
After a while, Aragorn stopped and listened for the bumbling steps, crashing over logs and bushes as it had been, but he heard nothing. He soon realized he was very far behind. He quickened pace and kept south as the creature had been going. Almost missing it all together, Aragorn stopped himself as he noticed bright light between the trees to his right. He headed towards the light. After hopping over a small stream, Aragorn climbed the bank of the opposite side of it and found himself on the outskirts of a large clearing.
The sun was setting and the glare was in his eyes. Stepping past it, Aragorn struggled, cautiously into the clearing. Near the centre, he saw something on the grass. It was a figure, a man. Scanning past the legs, up the torso, Aragorn’s eyes finally came to rest on the head of the distant body. Long blond locks scattered about the head of the crumpled body.
Legolas! Aragorn’s mind screamed as he began to bolt for him. But he stopped himself, and did so with such abruptness that he lost his balance and fell soundlessly into the grass. He had to be careful. There was a reason Legolas was lying there and that reason might easily still be nearby. He crouched in the grass and listened, the skills he had learned in his youth being put to use. He heard nothing but the pounding of his own heart. He struggled with himself to remain where he was and to pick out the danger.
You’re wasting time! He told himself. He may be dying!
“Be still.” He whispered. He snuck around the outskirts of the clearing, using the mask of the trees to cloak himself. The descending dark was generous in aiding him of this. He moved until he was as close to Legolas as he could possibly be while still being in the dark of the trees. There was nothing to suggest that there was anyone or anything nearby.
Finally satisfied, the ranger darted out to the elf. He knelt at his side. He felt his pulse and called his name. His pulse was only a fraction slower than normal, but he did not wake at his name. He stirred and his eyes moved from under their gentle lids.
“Oh, what has befallen thee now?” Aragorn muttered.
He suddenly felt something wet under his knees where he knelt. He shuffled back and found he had completely obliterated a patch of mushrooms.
“Arg.” Aragorn did his best to wipe the moist vegetable off his knee. “Scantalois?”
Struck with a thought, Aragorn gently pulled Legolas’s head into his lap. He looked to the prince’s mouth, but found no trace. If he had eaten a mushroom, he was much too dainty to have left any on himself, Aragorn reasoned. Then his eyes fell on a tiny fleck of grey on the front of the elf’s tunic.
“Then again, maybe not.” The ranger picked it up and sniffed it gently. He matched it with the foul fungus in the grass. He looked down at Legolas and stroked his hair. “What have you done?”