Rating: PG -> PG-13
Warnings: [violence] [language] [het] [shounen-ai]
Pairings: Takeru/Ken & Ruki/Legolas
Notes: *sweeps notes up and throws them out* None!
Dedication: Java86! Who's reviewed a bunch of times with opinions and info, and who's giving me tons of information on the Japanese version of Tamers!
Disclaimer: ...la la la la la... I dunno, I felt like doing that. So here we go again: I don't own Digimon (any seasons or characters) or Lord Of The Rings (characters, places, etc.) ...I've just borrowed everyone for a bit but they'll all get returned as soon as I'm done this story... oh, and the sequel... and the sequel of the sequel... ^^;;
Chapter Fourteen: Balrog
Takeru's head whipped around when Ken's voice burst through over the rumbling of the cavern and the shrieking of the Orcs, which were still up in the walls. He blinked stupidly at the gap in front of him for a minute. <Shit, shit, shit...> His mind seemed to be in a loop; <shit, shit, shit, shit...>
:Takeru-: Wormmon nipped at his leg, bringing him out of his stupor. :We have to get out of here, NOW!:
"...y-yeah. Yeah." The blonde looked around desperately; "come on, come on... what can we do... what..."
"Takeru-!" Ken shouted again, "you've got to get out of-"
"I know, I know!"
There was no way for he and Wormmon to get across. No way. The gap was too wide for the wolf, never mind himself, to leap across. The Balrog was closing in, the roaring of it's fire was louder than ever... and the pounding of the Orcish drums was still throbbing in the background... arrows rained around him... and he just stood there, as if waiting to get hit. He didn't know what to do. He had no idea what to do...
:Takeru, the steps!:
:Look, look!: Wormmon snapped excitedly, :look! The steps keep going! Maybe the path goes all the way around-:
Takeru looked and his heart leapt. Wormmon was right -- the steps that had lead down to the bridge in the first place continued to run along the wall... maybe... maybe they went all the way around the pit and to the other side.
"It's taking the long way-"
:SO? WHO CARES!: The former-digimon's voice shrieked in terror; :we have to GET OUT OF HERE, NOW!!:
"Right. Come on then." Turning, Takeru started back to the steps.
"Takeru!" Ken's voice stopped him, and he turned back to the bluenette. He was standing on the opposite side of the gap, struggling against Aragorn and ignoring his injured arm. The Ranger was holding him firmly and showed no intention of letting go. "Takeru! Wormmon!"
"We're going around-" Takeru said quickly, gesturing to the steps; "you go and we'll find you after!"
The blonde cast a glance over his shoulder at the Balrog and shuddered. "You go!" He repeated, "we'll find you! You just go and we'll be fine!"
"Come on Ken," Aragorn said softly, "come on. They'll be fine. Come on."
The Ranger, with Boromir's help, managed to drag Ken back to the other side of the bridge, following Gandalf. The Hobbits went after, reluctantly, and Legolas and Gimli followed shortly. Patamon stood near the edge of the gap, staring across at him sadly... Ruki stood beside him. "Renamon-" she said flatly, "go with them."
The digimon nodded, "of course", then vanished and reappeared in a flash next to Takeru.
:Take care of Takeru for me, Wormmon!:
Wormmon muttered something of an affirmative to Patamon, but was slightly distracted at the time... and Ken's wailing was still audible as Takeru spun around and began to run, with Wormmon in front and Renamon beside him....
"No!" Ken struggled against Aragorn's hold on him, "let- me- go! I have to... he can't go off on his own, damn it!" Under normal circumstances, he would have been shocked at himself for even saying 'damn', but in this case... "let me go you bastard!"
"No, Ken." Aragorn told him sternly, "Takeru knows what he's doing. The most you can do for him now is arrive outside of Moria safely so that his mind is kept at ease."
He wanted to cry, needed to cry, but for some reason, though his heart was hurting terribly, his eyes were dry. Hadn't he read somewhere that Elves couldn't cry? The bluenette's throat constricted. <It must be true... I had to be an Elf... I had to be a damned Elf...> He wrenched his arms from Aragorn, ignoring the agony that shot through his shoulder and the blood that began to seep from beneath the bandage again, and wiped his eyes roughly, despite their dryness. "...Takeru..."
:Takeru's got Wormmon and Renamon with him...: Patamon said reluctantly, :so he'll be... fine.:
"Come on," Ruki stepped up behind Ken and grabbed his good arm, then dragged him along beside her, leaving Aragorn free of the burden. "I sent Renamon with them and unlike your pathetic digimon, she's good for something. So don't worry about Takeru. Worry about us! That Whatever-It-Is is still coming after us!"
"A Balrog." Ken stated softly.
"Sure. A Balrog. Whatever. Come on!"
The Child of Kindness followed after Ruki, the girl yanking on his arm to keep him moving along. In truth, his mind was far away from where they were at the time, despite the danger following them.
"One more bridge!" Gandalf shouted back at them; "and then we'll be out- here!" He stopped and gestured, and the others all paused to look where he was pointing. The 'bridge' (though it wasn't much of one) was even thinner than the previous one, and just as rickety-looking. Nevertheless, there was no other way... "go on, now!" Gandalf ushered the Hobbits past him and across, then Gimli, Boromir and Legolas, then Ruki hauled Ken across with Patamon right behind. Aragorn followed, and only after all of they were ahead of him did Gandalf begin the crossing.
Halfway across, the wizard stopped and closed his eyes with a tired sigh.
Aragorn paused as well, "Gandalf-"
"Go on." Gandalf ordered, turning, "go!"
The Ranger hesitated for only a split second, doubt and sadness- followed by acceptance- in his eyes, before doing as Gandalf had commanded. "God speed, my friend-"
"And to you, Aragorn." The magician replied softly, after the Ranger was out of hearing range. "Farewell."
Ken reached the other side of the bridge right after Ruki (who was still clamped on to his arm with a grip like a vise) and only shortly before Aragorn. Ruki whirled around- once her feet were on solid ground again- to face the way they had come...
<Farewell?> Ken thought suddenly, his Elven ears having picked up what Aragorn's had missed, though the Ranger certainly knew what Gandalf was planning. <Farewell? Gandalf... he doesn't... he doesn't expect to come with us... but, what could he be doing-?> A sudden realization and he shook his head violently, still silent; <no! He can't mean to-> he wrenched his arm from Ruki's hands, "Gandalf!"
Gandalf didn't turn, and instead stood tall and faced across the bridge toward the Balrog, which was closing in...
<No, no, no... not Gandalf, too...>
The creature stepped out onto the bridge, shaking the foundations with it's weight. Gandalf stared up at it, unwavering, as it towered over him. Wreathed in flame, fire licking at the ground where it stepped, it eyes frighteningly flat and black... Ken was frozen by the sight of the Balrog, completely visible...
"God help us." Ruki muttered, eyes wide.
The Balrog reared up to it's full height and let out a mighty bellowing roar, screaming down at the magician, who continued to stand his ground. Glaring, Gandalf raised his staff above his head and slammed it back down, creating a shockwave of light for several feet around him.
"Back, beast!" He shouted. Then, over his shoulder; "go, all of you!" Again, the Balrog roared, and again Gandalf raised his staff. "You shall not pass!" And his staff slammed downward again, this time creating a sphere of light that glowed softly around him.
A hissing sound, and a whip of unearthly fire appeared in the creature's hand. With a deep snarl, the Balrog raised the whip and then brought it down onto Gandalf with a crash. The whip bounced back, deflected by Gandalf's barrier.
"You shall not pass!" Gandalf repeated, holding his staff into the air above his head and screaming the words. Then, as the others watched, it descended once more, and as it hit the bridge beneath him, the stone cracked under the Balrog's feet. With a final bellow, the creature scrambled when the bridge beneath it crumbled, and plummeted into the abyss, it's shriek following it into the darkness.
"Gandalf..." Ken breathed in awe. <I've never seen anything... like... that...>
Gandalf turned back to them with another weary sigh and a soft smile.
And out of the pit beneath, the Balrog's whip snaked from the shadows. It lashed through the air and wrapped around Gandalf's ankle with a snap. The magician's eyes flew open to their widest extent as he was jerked backward...
"Gandalf!" Frodo shrieked from behind them, "Gandalf-!"
Somehow, Gandalf managed to catch himself on the edge of the broken stone, despite the weight and ferocity of the Balrog. His staff had been lost already, and he pleaded with them through his eyes.
He struggled to keep himself up for a moment longer. "Fly, you fools!" He whispered fiercely. "Run!"
And then his grip slipped, and he vanished over the edge into the blackness beyond.
"G-Gandalf!" Frodo's voice screamed, and Aragorn had to forcibly keep the Hobbit from following his friend into the pit. Frodo struggled desperately, his eyes wide and tear-filled. "No, Gandalf! No! No!"
But Gandalf was gone.
Gone? He couldn't be...
:Ken! Ruki!: Patamon caught their attention, jerking them back to reality, and they turned to face the wolf. Patamon's beige fur had begun to glow slightly, and his eyes shone with a strange light. :What's going-?: His sentence was cut off when a sudden flash of light enveloped not only him, but Ken and Ruki besides. And when it faded the remaining sparkles shone on beige-and-white skin and thin bat-like wings. "Wha-?" The digimon fluttered his wings once and twisted to look himself over. "Ken! Ken, I'm back to normal! B-But... why? What's happening? What-?"
"I... don't know..."
"Let's go!" Ruki grabbed his arm again and yanked Patamon up onto her shoulder by a wing. The digimon yelped and clung there, mournfully nursing what was possibly a sprain. "There's time to figure this out later! For now we have to follow the others before we get-"
An arrow landed at her feet with a thump. Now that the Balrog was gone, the Orcs were getting bolder again...
"Come on!" Boromir shouted at them from ahead. He was standing in an archway, and light was visible from behind him...
The orange-haired girl half-dragged Ken across the stone, arrows fling through the air and showering around them, and outside. The rest of the Fellowship was already there, save for Takeru, Renamon and Wormmon... and now, Gandalf..
Ken winced. The sunlight was bright. Too bright, right now, for his eyes. They had adjusted to the dimness of the cavern after the first few hours of wandering in near-blackness. Now, he had to blink and squint to clear his gaze and look around; they were on a large plateau that seemed to be entirely rock.
Nearest to him, Boromir was seated, his head resting on one hand. Merry and Pippin had fallen to the ground, clutching at each other and wailing pitifully. Legolas was standing near them, grief written in his features, but of course he couldn't cry. Gimli was sitting at the Elf's feet, not trying to hide the fact that he, too, was crying along with the Hobbits...
Aragorn was a few feet away, gaze turned downward.
And Frodo... Frodo was far from the group, standing on his own... and staring blankly out across the rocks...
<Gandalf...> Ken's throat closed off and he took a shuddering breath. Licking his lips, he was shocked to taste salt... tears... but... his good arm and hand flew up, and his fingers ran along the edge of his ear... ending... where it had always ended. No point. Nothing like that at all. He raised his hand farther and searched his hair for braids. Nothing. "I'm not an Elf anymore... Ruki-" turning, he looked at the girl. She was standing a few feet away, her stance hard but her eyes shining. "Ruki, your ears-"
"Hn?" Ruki sniffed softly, snorting to cover it up. "What are you talking about, Ichijouji?"
"Your ears..." The bluenette repeated, his voice cracking. "They're back... to the way they should be... " he choked and had to swallow the lump in his throat. "Gandalf..." he whispered, "he... he brought us here and... changed us... with him... gone..."
"The magic wore off." Patamon finished, whimpering. He had moved from Ruki's shoulder and was on the ground near Ken's feet. "It's gone now... because Gandalf is gone..." the digimon sobbed and curled himself into a ball, wrapping his wings around himself. "Gone... and Takeru..."
The mention of his friend's name made Ken shudder, and tears streamed from his eyes. He was no longer an Elf, so he could cry... and he had every intention of doing so... he sobbed roughly and dropped to the stone.
Takeru was gone...
Wormmon was gone...
Gandalf was gone...
He sobbed harder.
"Get up." Aragorn's voice broke through his tears. "Come on, we have to keep moving."
"You heartless bastard!" Boromir cried, "leave them to their grief!"
The Ranger turned on the other man; "as soon as night falls, these hills will be swarming with Orcs. We must be far from here when that comes. Come on, Sam-" he reached down and hauled Sam to his feet, "come on. Legolas, Gimli-" he called, "help me get them up."
Ken hugged his knees to his chest and ignored him. Aragorn didn't know... couldn't know how he felt... he'd lost Takeru and Wormmon... the two most important people in his life... there was no way the Ranger could understand...
"Ken," Legolas's hand on his shoulder made him look up. He caught the look of surprise on the Elf's face when his tear-filled eyes came into view. But Legolas's eyes were as sharp as ever, and as soon as he noted the changes to Ken's ears he seemed to understand; "come on, Ken. We have a long way to go before we can rest."
The Elf's voice was rougher than normal, the only tribute to his own grief.
Ken shook his head.
"Staying here would mean death," Legolas said softly, half-forcing him to his feet. "I am sure that Takeru is still alive, and he would want you to live as well. Get up now, and we will find Takeru as soon as we can."
Ken, still lost in his tears, found himself standing, despite his wishes not to. Legolas stayed with him long enough to make sure he didn't collapse again before moving on to help the next person. The bluenette stared back at the towering walls of the outside of Moria, and reached up slowly to wipe his hand across his face. It came back wet from his tears.
Maybe Legolas was right...
Maybe Takeru was alive...
No, Legolas was right.
Takeru was alive.
A sniff, and though he couldn't stop the tears, he turned back and picked Patamon up from the ground. "Patamon-" and at the digimon's sad but questioning look, he licked his lips. "We have to go... we'll find Takeru and the others again..."
It was true. Patamon was right, Gandalf was gone...
Ken shoved the thought away.
"Come on, Patamon." He said softly.
Patamon nodded without another word and fluttered up to rest on the bluenette's head, as he had always done with Takeru... and Ken had to force those thoughts away as well. He couldn't afford to think of Takeru right then... they had to get away... and he was determined to be strong...
His eyes landed on Frodo, still standing away from the others.
...for Frodo's sake. For all of them. He wouldn't fail them. After all the sorrow, after all the grief... they deserved to see the quest finished. And he was a part of it, whether he wanted to be any more or not...
"Let's go-" Aragorn paused. "Frodo? Frodo!"
The Hobbit turned a water-stained face toward Aragorn.
"..." a long silence, and Frodo turned away again.
"Aragorn..." the Hobbit whispered his name, barely audible, then trailed off into silence, and simply turned around. Without another word, he walked slowly after the Ranger. Sam trailed behind.
There was a heavy silence.
"Let's go..." Ken murmured.
And he followed the others, behind the rest of the Fellowship, save for Takeru, Wormmon and Renamon, who were still in the Mines and searching for a safe route out... and Gandalf, who would never leave them again.
Me: Um, the next chapter will take place during this same time period, but it follows Takeru and explains what happened to him... so you'll notice that no one feels like talking to me right now. I guess I can't blame them -- Takeru's lost because of me, and Ken's pretty damn upset about the whole situation.
Ken: *softly* It's not your fault...
Me: Oh, I'm sorry!
Me: It'll get better, I promise!
Me: *looks at Ken sadly* Wait for the next chapter... you'll see...