Between Darkness and Dawn
Chapter 22: So Cold
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You're so cold, keep your hand in mine
Wise men wonder while starved men die
Show me how we end this all right,
Show me how defenseless you really are
Satisfy an empty inside
That's all right, let's give this another try.
You're so cold, but you feel alive,
Lay your hands on me one last time...
-- Breaking Benjamin
Two hours later, Aragorn’s hands were trembling so badly he could no
longer hold the vials steady as he worked with them. He nearly
sloshed the precious liquid he was working with all over the table top,
and would have, if a set of strong elven hands had not clamped over his
own, holding them steady.
Gently, Legolas relieved Aragorn of the small glass cup in his
hands. “Let me do that, mellon-nín,” he offered quietly.
Aragorn nodded, closing his eyes against the blurry nausea that
consumed his being. It was getting so dark that it was hard to see
what he was doing. When he opened his eyes again they might as
well have remained shut. He could see nothing. A small
thrill of weary panic shot through his being. No! Not now!
The ranger remained very still, afraid to move lest he knock something
off the table that had taken him hours to create. He wavered a
little on his feet.
“Legolas,” he said quietly, but the tone in his voice caused his friend
to look up in alarm. “Please take my arm.” The ranger’s
request was calm, but somewhat plaintive.
Legolas hurriedly complied, setting the mixture they were working on
aside on the table and taking his friend’s arm reassuringly in his
own. He recognized the staring, blank look on Aragorn’s face with
a sick, sinking feeling in the pit of his stomach.
“You can’t see again,” the elf said sadly. It was not a question.
Aragorn inclined his head slightly; moving it too much felt like it
would tip him off balance or make him throw up. “Yes,” he
conceded. With Legolas as an anchor, he felt steady enough to
reach out and find the edge of the table with his groping
fingers. Holding on to it tightly, he let go of the elf’s arm.
“Legolas, I will tell you what to do. I just need you to be my
eyes and my hands for me. Can you do that
mellon-nín?” Heavy perspiration stood out upon the
ranger’s brow and stained the cloth tied overt the lower part of his
face. He was not doing well. The fumes and darkness of
their surroundings was hastening his fall back into the clutches of the
poison that was killing him.
“Of course, Estel. But let us go topside first, for you must have some fresh air,” Legolas tried to convince his friend.
Yrin and Tinald were already taking a breather up in the fresh air, but
Aragorn had refused to go and Legolas remained with him. The elf
squeezed Aragorn’s right hand.
“Let me share your trial with you, my friend, get you some of your strength back...”
The ranger shook his head with a sad smile. “Legolas, even if I
would allow you to do that again, we don’t have any Togiuith.”
Unfortunately, Legolas knew he was right, but he wasn’t ready to give
up yet. “Then at least get some fresh air, out of this foul
reek. Come, Estel, please...”
“Legolas!” Aragorn’s voice was strained and hinted with anguish.
“I don’t have time,” he whispered hoarsely. “This has to be done
before...” he stopped. “This has to be done. Please, just
help me my friend.”
When Legolas looked into his friend’s sightless eyes, a flicker of
panic leapt inside him like a tiny flame. Aragorn had the look of
a man who knew his moments were numbered, and was trying to make as
much of them as he could. The elf was glad his friend could not
see the tears that sprang into his pale blue eyes.
“All right, Estel. Just tell me what to do,” the prince said quietly.
Aragorn directed the elf slowly through the final stages required to
purify the mixture he had created. The human’s breathing was
ragged now, his speech so slurred Legolas could barely understand
“That’s... that’s the base,” Aragorn murmured. “At least...
Valar, I hope it is. This will have to be heated and then...” A
long silence followed as Legolas waited for his friend to
continue. Aragorn did not.
“And then, Estel?” Legolas prodded quietly.
Aragorn started slightly and blinked. His mind was drifting in
and out on him. He was fading; he couldn’t be sure he was doing
anything right anymore, and now his mind was getting so cloudy he
couldn’t even find strength or reason enough to be alarmed.
“Then... finished and... add the other... other thing... like Yrin
“Finished how Estel? And what is the other mixture? Is it
the same as this?” Legolas pressed. He was worried that he was
losing Aragorn’s concentration.
Aragorn didn’t answer.
“I-I don’t know...” Aragorn shook his head helplessly. “Legolas,
I’m sorry... tell them... tell them I’m sorry...” he murmured, his
voice a mere sorrowful rasp.
Legolas caught Aragorn as the human’s knees buckled. Swinging the
ranger quickly up into his arms, Legolas hurriedly carried him up
through the shaft and out of the claustrophobic laboratory. The
sun was almost blindingly bright and the elf had to blink several times
to adjust. He drew in deep breaths of clean air as he ripped the
mask off Aragorn’s face, tilting his friend’s head back so the ranger
could breathe easier.
Yrinvan and Tinald rushed over, seeing the elf exit with the limp ranger in his arms.
Legolas laid Aragorn gently on the rocky ground, pulling his own mask
down to hang around his neck as he gazed worriedly into the ranger’s
damp, flushed face.
“Estel? Speak to me! Wake, Estel, please, I need you,
mellon-nín! I cannot do this alone, come back,” Legolas
pleaded earnestly, massaging his friend’s swollen hands and arms,
trying to ease the ranger back to consciousness.
Yrinvan and Tinald knelt beside them, but after a few minutes Yrin
straightened up and laid his hand on Legolas’ arm, halting the elf who
was still trying to wake his friend.
“Legolas,” the former slave said quietly. “You cannot wake him now. He... he’s too far gone.”
“No!” Legolas ripped his arm away from Yrin, refusing to believe the
human’s words. Maybe it was true for others, but they didn’t know
Aragorn. He was stronger - he was!
“Yrin’s right,” Tinald put in sadly. “It’s already beyond
miraculous that he’s made it this long. We’ve seen it many, many
times, Legolas. Look at the way he’s sweating and shaking, even
though unconscious. It’s claiming him. Only the antidote
can save him now, if it’s not already too late.” They weren’t
trying to be cruel. This kind of death was a reality they had all
had to come to accept.
Legolas stumbled back a step, feeling a little dizzy and nauseous
himself. “But there isn’t an antidote yet. Estel used up
what was left in testing. We have a base... but I don’t even know
if that’s right or not.”
“Then we are all dead,” Tinald said quietly, with the finality of one who had half-expected such an outcome.
“No, no...” Legolas could only shake his head for a moment. He
could not accept this conclusion. “Tinald, stay with Estel,
please. Try to keep him comfortable. Yrin, if I attempt to finish
the antidote, will you help me?”
Yrinvan nodded without hesitation. “Just lead the way.”
Legolas scrambled back down the hatchway into the lab. Returning
to the foul air after the fresh was like slamming into a brick wall and
he gagged, quickly pulling his mask back on. After he and Yrinvan
had finally gotten their eyes to stop watering, Legolas stood for a few
moments, looking at the table and the jumble of items strew across the
top. Valar, he had no clue what he was doing.
“All right, this is our base,” he gestured to the mixture Aragorn had
created. “We need to finish it, and create the second element
that is added after heating.”
Yrin nodded slowly. “Good. You know how to do this?”
Legolas tried not to wince behind his mask.
“No,” he admitted. “But maybe together we can figure it
out. Please, Yrin, tell me anything at all you can remember from
when you assisted in making the antidote. The smallest thing
“I told you almost all I know...” Yrinvan admitted. “But I did
come in once when the Wraith was still finishing the second
element. It was a very light red until he added a white powder,
and then it turned dark.”
Legolas nodded slowly. That actually did tell him
something. There were only certain plant families that could have
created a red formula, and only one of them was present in this
lab. Legolas could not have told you why he knew this, but he
The prince had a limited knowledge of healing practices and applied
every ounce of common sense he could muster to aid him. Slowly,
painstakingly, he experimented with some different compounds until the
mixture was an appropriate shade.
“Hand me some of... that,” Legolas couldn’t remember the substance’s
name and did not particularly care at the moment. Yrin saw what
he was waving at and brought it over. Legolas measured some out
into the bowl of his palm and added it to the light red-ocher potion he
was working over. Instantly, the liquid clouded to a dark
brown. “Like that?” the elf inquired of the human.
Yrinvan nodded, smiling for the first time. “Yes, at least that is what it looked like to me.”
“Good,” Legolas was relieved. Then he chewed his lip, his
thoughts flying swiftly, automatically. “But there’s nothing for
it to react to in the base. None of these elements react against
one another. We need to add some velendrum or hallyhem...”
Yrin raised his eyebrow as Legolas sought out the herbs he
desired. “And you said you don’t know what you’re doing,” he said
with a small smile.
Legolas blinked several times. He didn’t know what he was
doing... did he? A moment ago it had certainly felt like he
did. The answer had come to him automatically in his mind, as if
it were knowledge he already possessed, but he was certain there was
nothing in his experience that should have taught him these things.
It was a mystery the elf did not have time to entertain. Too many
lives hung in the balance for him to make a mistake now. Hoping
he did right, he added a few measures of hallyhem to the base mixture
and put it in the cauldron along with several cups of water to dilute
the concentrated mixture.
Yrin quickly went about his job of building and maintaining the fire.
The moment of truth came quicker than Legolas felt ready for it and he
dumped the second mixture into the pot. Holding his breath, the
elf tore a bit of clean cloth off one end of his mask and dipped it
into the pale yellow liquid in the jar that Yrin had indicated
earlier. Dipping an edge of the cloth into the bubbling potion,
the elf bit his lip, hoping...
The cloth flushed a deep purple-blue and Legolas swore, yanking it out
of the pot in frustration. It wasn’t even black, so something in
the mixture was decidedly wrong.
Yrin let the fire die down to embers again since they did not need any extra heat or smoke in the room and rose to his feet.
Legolas dumped the ruined concoction and started all over again at the
beginning, recreating the base from step one, as he had watched Estel
do, and considering every measurement he added.
“What do you think went wrong?” Yrin asked quietly.
“It could have been anything,” Legolas admitted, his frustration riding
just beneath the surface. “The wrong ingredients, the wrong
measurements... we must keep on trying.”
Try they did. For three long hours Legolas and Yrin toiled over
one mixture after another until both of them felt ready to gag from the
strain of their surroundings or scream from frustration.
When one of the vials the elf was using cracked from being left too
close to the fire and ruined another batch before they even got to test
it, it was almost too much. Legolas pounded his fists on the
table and slammed his forehead down upon them. He was failing
them. He was failing everyone, especially Aragorn who had placed
far too much misguided trust in him.
“I can’t do this...” he choked out softly, not meaning to have spoken at all.
“You’re doing your best, Legolas,” Yrin tried to reassure him. “We’re trying everything we can.”
“Well that’s not good enough!” Legolas straightened and whirled around
angrily, flinging the cracked vial in his hands forcefully against the
far wall where it shattered and exploded into a million pieces.
Yrin pulled back, but it was quickly evident that Legolas’ anger was
not directed at the human.
Legolas buried his face in his hands. “What am I missing? I
feel like its right there, right on the edge of my consciousness and I
can’t find it!”
Yrin coughed into his hand, wheezing around the bad air. “Come,
let us go up and clear our heads. We’ll come back down and try
“No,” Legolas started to refuse, shaking his head. “We have to...”
“Legolas.” Yrin’s gaze stopped the elf’s protest. “Just for a few
minutes. I... I need the air, but I won’t go up if you
don’t. I think you need it too.”
Legolas noted the way Yrin’s eyes had swollen partially shut. He
heard the nasty cough the human had been developing for some time now.
Yrin did need to go up, and maybe he did too. Perhaps it would
help him think.
“All right,” the elf conceded. “I want to check on Estel anyway.”
The outside air was a welcome relief and Yrin leaned heavily on a rock,
his lungs heaving. Tinald hurried quickly to his friend’s side,
leaving Legolas to check on Aragorn.
The ranger’s condition was steadily declining. His pulse was
fading and his skin was growing dangerously cold, despite the pile of
coverings Tinald had wrapped around him.
Legolas squeezed his unresponsive friend’s hand. The sad truth
was that if they did not find an antidote soon, Estel was not going to
make it much longer.
After waiting a few more minutes for Yrinvan’s sake, determined steps
took the elf back down into the dark, polluted chamber once more and
Yrin followed stoically.
Legolas laid a gentle hand on the human’s shoulder before they
re-entered the shaft. “Yrin, you don’t have to come with me; I
can make do on my own for a while. I’ll call you when I’m ready
for the fire.”
Yrin shook his head. “I can help you. I’m going back in,”
he rasped with determination. His eyes reminded Legolas that it
was the life of his family and all of his friends on the line
too. The elf understood that and allowed Yrin to follow him back
down into the pit.
Legolas coughed as they descended once more. He was more
resilient than Yrin, but the foul atmosphere and lingering oppressive
evil was wearing him down as well.
The elf picked up the pestle he had been using and rested it on the
edge of the mortar dish. He had to try again, but what was he
supposed to do? What was he missing? Why didn’t the formula
work? All the elements seemed right, but the test cloth was still
turning a resolute purple.
What? What was he doing wrong??
The prince ran through every action and reaction that occurred in the
compound, sorting them in his tired mind. There weren’t that many
really. It was trying to balance them. That was the
issue. He felt he had achieved that balance, but something was
“The hallyhem,” the thought darted through his mind. “It’s
reacting too violently to the charcoal. A catalyst is needed.”
Legolas’ head jerked up. It made perfect sense; they needed a
catalyst to stabilize the highly volatile hallyhem. Undoubtedly,
this instability was what caused the undesired reaction in the
compound. An instant later Legolas knew there was no way he could
have known that information. It had not come from his mind,
although it was clearly echoed in his thoughts. And what was
the catalyst? He had felt like he had grasped the concept only a
moment ago, but now his mind drew a disturbing blank.
The prince gripped his head tightly. This was a bad time to start going crazy.
The elf fought to hold onto the thought, to trace back the random
flickers of knowledge that seemed just behind. He had been
feeling it for a while now; the odd touches of thoughts, knowledge or
information that should not have been contained in his mind, and yet
they came to him as his own. He knew he should not have been able
to come as far with this antidote as he had, but here he was. And
now he was positive that he could remember something about a catalyst
for hallyhem, if only he tried hard enough.
“Legolas, are you all right?” Yrin asked quietly, and Legolas realized
he had frozen, his hands on his temples, a look of intense
concentration on his face.
“Shh...” the elf bid his companion
distractedly. He had to concentrate. Like one trying to
recall a barely remembered dream, Legolas sifted through his
consciousness, attempting to pinpoint the memory he sought. It
came to him in bits and snatches at first, but slowly became clearer
and clearer under his continued scrutiny.
Two identical little elflings with
dark hair were staring up at him with questioning eyes. In their
hands they each held a small mortar dish with liquid inside. One
was bubbling - the other was not.
The child holding the still cup looked either peeved or disappointed. “Ada, why does El’s work and mine doesn’t?”
“Because you forgot the wildeen, my
son,” a patient, loving voice replied. In Legolas’ head, it
seemed the voice was his, yet in reality he knew that could not be
“Wildeen seems an insignificant
little plant,” the voice that was not Legolas’ continued.
“Because it has no special properties of its own, but it is a catalyst
that will keep the hallyhem from reacting too quickly and going
flat. Always remember to pay attention to even the seemingly
unimportant things, Elrohir, for they will serve you well. Come,
I’ll help you make it again, all right?”
Legolas stood stock still for a few moments as the memory faded.
Memory? How could this possibly be his memory? He had just
seen Elladan and Elrohir as very young children, long before he had
come to know them, and he would not have been calling them his
sons. Obviously, inexplicably, it was Elrond’s memory that he
was recalling, and not his own at all.
Other memories were now surfacing, recollections that felt as if they
had been locked away in his mind, hidden until he turned his attention
intently enough upon them to bring them forward into the light of
day. The momentary rush on his senses was almost staggering.
He was holding a baby in his arms, a
little girl. She was so perfect, so beautiful. “Arwen,” he
whispered. “Her name is Arwen. A Noble Lady...” he glanced
up to catch the lovely, curling smile on his wife’s lips. “Like
“But she has her father’s features,” replied a beautiful elf woman that Legolas knew immediately was Lady Celebrían.
Celebrían reached out and ran
her fingers through her husband’s dark hair. “I hope she has your
hair, like our sons.”
He leaned over, kissing her gently,
cradling their daughter between them. “Well I hope everything
else about her is like you,” he whispered.
Legolas pulled back from the memory abruptly, feeling like an intruder
in someone else’s life. He flushed hotly. It was
impossible, but the memories really were there. Dimly he recalled
the only other time he had felt this way... that day on the mountain
when he lay dying... nay, when he did die. Elrond brought him
back, pushing so much of himself into the wounded elf’s body that their
minds had literally joined for a few heartbeats of time. He
remembered his initial confusion when he couldn’t remember who he was
due to the warring sets of memories he contained. Legolas had
almost forgotten all about it. He had told Estel the truth when
he said what had happened on the mountain that day had been lost to
him, but now he was beginning to remember.
With a jolt, Legolas realized he still had those memories, though he
thought initially they had seemed to fade away almost immediately after
that encounter. Rather, he realized now, they had simply been
buried, slowly leaching out in little ways such as his increased
familiarity with medicines.
The elf pulled in a shuddering breath, only to gag on the thick
air. That quickly brought him back to present. The wonder
over what had happened was going to have to wait; he did not have time
to deal with any of this confusing information now. He did,
however, see one immediate advantage. If he had some of Elrond’s
memories, then he also retained some of the elf lord’s knowledge.
He needed that knowledge now; needed it badly.
Yrin thought it was almost a different elf that came back to work with
him. Legolas had suddenly become more assured, calmer, and he
simply... felt different. He also suddenly seemed to know what he
It was difficult for Legolas at first to access the knowledge he
needed, but slowly, he brought to light the memories and wisdom he
sought, as if remembering things from a dream. He tried very hard
to keep any non-medicinal memories out of his mind and focus only on
the essentials. He already felt dangerously as if he were
trespassing deeply into someone else’s privacy, but he had no
choice. He had to believe that Elrond would forgive him if it
meant saving Estel’s life.
The wildeen was quickly measured out, along with a few other essential
herbs and minerals that Legolas’ new knowledge now told him was
vital. After the hours of frustration and stabbing in the dark,
it felt frighteningly easy. Legolas was more than a little afraid
of the results when he hesitantly dipped the test cloth once
more. His mask had become very short from having bits ripped off
of it; dare he hope that this would be the last time?
Legolas resisted the urge to give an audible whoop when the cloth
turned a very satisfactory shade of brown. He carefully lifted
the concoction off the fire and set it on the table.
Yrin stood to his feet, rubbing his aching back. His huge grin was hidden under his mask, but it shone in his eyes.
“We did it, Legolas.”
The elf nodded as he carefully poured the liquid into a large
flagon. This potion was actually much stronger than the watered
down version the Nazgûl had employed. Only a little bit
would be required for each person to completely counteract the poison.
They may have enough right here to give everyone their first
dose. Still, it was not going to be a one-time cure. The
slaves’ dependency was deeply rooted but, with regular treatment, they
could eventually neutralize all the poison in their bodies and finally
become free. Legolas or Yrin could easily make more for them
now. They wouldn’t even have to use this lab again, now that
Legolas knew what temperature control was needed and how to achieve
the correct balance of elements.
“Yes, we did,” the elf sighed with relief. He showed Yrinvan
exactly how much to give each person as the servant was only used to
dispensing the meager amounts the Wraith had allotted them.
“Yrin! Legolas!” Tinald’s worried voice echoed down the shaft,
bringing a chill of alarm back to the exhausted human and elf.
“Come quickly! It’s Estel, he’s... please hurry!”