Elrond looked up from his work sharply when he heard Aragorn’s cry,
glancing back towards the bed in time to see his adopted son
desperately checking the prince’s pulse.
Legolas was still alive, but no longer responsive and Aragorn feared
that it was as Helm had said and his friend had slipped into the last
stages of his deadly illness.
“Ada...” Aragorn turned
pain-filled eyes on Elrond.
The elf lord’s hand were moving furiously quick over his work as he
dumped one vial and re-filled another, smelling the results and trying
to judge how the potion he was working on was coming along. “Talk
to him, Estel, stay with him. I believe I almost have it.”
His compassionate tone was not distracted by his work.
Aragorn did as he was told, talking softly to Legolas and stroking his
friend’s hand, hoping that Legolas knew he was there. It
was all he could do. If you asked him about it later, Aragorn
would not have been able to tell you what he said to the unresponsive
elf, because the feverish eternity seemed unclear and clouded in his
memories by the anxiety that was ripping his heart out.
The next clear thing that he remembered was Elrond sitting down on the
bed next to him, holding a mug full of amber liquid. The elf
lord’s face was concerned and drawn. He had had to work a lot
faster than he liked and could only hope and pray that this was indeed
the right mixture.
“I’ve doubled the dose to give him a bit of a head-start,” Elrond told
Aragorn quietly as the ranger propped Legolas upright so that they
could gently administer the life-saving anti-venom.
For what seemed an age they waited and hoped, Aragorn sitting by his
friend’s side, Elrond monitoring the younger elf’s condition with his
hand upon the prince’s head.
Then Elrond’s tense posture loosened somewhat. “He’s going to be
all right, Estel,” he whispered with quiet relief. “His
temperature is going down, his breathing is easing. He’s going to
be all right. He’s just sleeping now, and that is well, he needs his
Aragorn let his breath out and slumped back against the bedpost behind
him. He was so relieved he felt dizzy. “But he’s going to
“Yes, my son,” Elrond gently touched the side of the man’s face.
“He is going to live, thanks to you and your determination.”
“Just so he’ll live,” Aragorn slowly felt himself truly letting go of
the horror that had gripped him ever since he first started having
nightmares so many weeks ago now.
Outside they heard the clatter of hooves and a horn blowing.
Elrond stood up and looked towards the sound. “I would say that
young Éomund is returning,” he said, heading out the hallway
door and towards the front of the house. Aragorn followed,
finally feeling free to leave his friend’s side now that he knew the
elf was just resting.
Helm was already outside as Éomund and the Rohirrim pulled
up. The Third Marshal of the Riddermark dismounted as soon as his
horse cantered to a stop, calling orders to several of his men.
Aragorn scanned the ranks of horsemen. They were only a fraction
of the host that had set out earlier and he feared the
worst. “Éomund, what happened?”
The young Marshal of the Mark shook his head, guessing what the other
was thinking. “All is well, Thorongil. Your directions were
true, so we caught up with the thieves not many leagues from
They put up quite a fight and many of them are dead; our own losses
were small. The rest of my men have taken the prisoners and the
horses back towards Kurnwait. We have had word that Prince
Théoden and his riders are near and have sent messages to
them. The prisoners must be taken back to Edoras for sentencing
by King Thengel. Understand that even aside from the murder of
the men here, horse stealing in the lands of the Mark warrants
Aragorn nodded, but he could tell that something still bothered the
young Marshal and the fact that several of the Rohirrim were busily
scattering into the nearby hills confirmed his suspicions.
“What are you looking for?” the ranger queried.
Éomund smiled dryly. “You are quite observant,
Thorongil. The brigands’ leader got away during the fray.”
“Scatha?” Elrond, quiet until now, put in the name that Legolas had
given them last night.
“Is that his name? I know not,” Éomund shook his
head. “He was last seen fleeing back this way but the trail has
been lost. Perhaps you would like to have a look, Thorongil?” he
added as an afterthought. “As I told you earlier, we lost our
tracker some time ago.”
Aragorn nodded easily, following the young Rohirrim up the hill and
away from the house. “I’ll have a look if you like.”
Legolas tossed lightly in a fitful sleep. His fever was leaving,
but he still felt ill and weak. Locked in his uneasy dreams he
did not hear the back door of the bedroom being opened, nor the soft,
limping footsteps that echoed on the wooden floor.
Dark, surprised eyes saw the injured elf lying on the bed and a deep
frown creased the man’s features.
Scatha scowled darkly. He had lost everything, including almost
his life as the quickly tied-off gash to his leg attested. He
could not get far in his condition and the course of his flight had
brought him back to Émuseld. He had hoped that the
Rohirrim would not think to return here looking for him, but he had not
counted on there still being anyone here. He could not run, so
his only hope was to hide in the house and wait it out. The
Rohirrim had already been over this area; they would not think they
needed to search it again...
Finding the elf however, surprised him. He had never expected to
see this one alive and it ruined his plans yet again. If this one
were here, then there would inevitably be more people coming back into
the house. He could never hope to hide from all of them.
Outside he could hear the Rohirrim talking and calling to one
another. They were looking for him. He was trapped here;
there was no way to escape.
The ringleader’s fingers tightened around the hilt of the dagger on his
belt as he slowly and quietly drew it out, careful to not let the metal
scrape against the scabbard. At least he would not die alone or
without revenge for his losses. This blasted elf had caused him
enough trouble. If he could not escape, he would at least take
some of the joy out of his conqueror’s victory.
Lifting the knife he placed it against Legolas’ neck. “Wake up,
little elf,” he hissed mockingly through his teeth, into the prince’s
ear. He wanted the elf to know who it was that took his
life. “Wake up one last time.”
Éomund fell back, letting Aragorn take the lead as the ranger
walked swiftly up the incline towards the hills that bordered the back
edge of Émuseld. The flat grasses betrayed nothing to the
young Rohirrim and little even to the elf lord who followed quietly in
the rear. However, Aragorn’s keen eyes could distinguish many
different tracks running hither; unfortunately they were a confused
jumble, some old, some probably from last night and some that could
even have been made by other Rohirrim.
Aragorn didn’t really expect to find anything this close to
Émuseld. He imagined that they would have to get quite a bit
further back towards the area where the horse soldiers had lost Scatha
before he would find anything useful. Therefore his long strides
ate up the distance quickly as he headed for the canyons in the
direction that he, Elrond and Legolas had come from just this
morning. It seemed like an eternity ago.
Suddenly the ranger stopped and dropped to a crouch to look at the
ground, something catching his attention. A small, dark patch
stained the grass. It was so small it almost escaped his notice,
but something had called his attention to it. Dabbing up a sample
of what the ranger knew already was blood, Aragorn rubbed it between
his fingers and sniffed it, his brow creasing in thought.
Éomund stopped behind him, gazing curiously over the older man’s
shoulder. “What is it?”
“Blood,” Aragorn said slowly, his mind working over the puzzle
swiftly. “Human blood. But it is fresh, not old. It
could not have been left here more than four hours ago... I would even
say much less than that if I were to guess. “Are any of your men
The young captain shook his head. “Nay, any that were wounded
went to Kurnwait with Folcwine, my second-in-command. You’re sure
it’s not from last night? Or could it be your friend’s, or a
horse's? Many of the horses we rescued were injured in grievous
manner,” Éomund’s eyes flashed angrily at the memory.
“It is not from last night, and it is neither the blood of an elf nor a
horse...” Aragorn’s eyes were quickly scanning the plain around
them. This seemed to him suddenly very important although he
wasn’t quite sure how it fit together yet. Looking closer he
began to see the trail in the grassy plain which before was hidden by
all the others that crossed it. Yet this one seemed the most
recent as it lay on top of the other trails.
“Someone passed this way quite recently... they were limping, the
impressions are uneven, you see?” Aragorn’s eyes narrowed as his
attention honed in on this new information. “I’d guess that his
leg was injured; that’s probably where the blood came from...”
Éomund couldn’t begin to see what had so caught Thorongil’s
attention, it all simply looked like trampled grass to him, but he
trusted the young man’s word and his face darkened slightly in
shock. “Right leg or left leg?” he questioned, his voice suddenly
“Left,” Aragorn looked up, quickly seeing the change that had come over
the other man. “Why?”
“The one you call Scatha, he was injured thus. I know, I dealt
him the wound myself and would have killed him if fortune had not taken
away the opportunity,” the marshal said darkly. “But how could he
have gotten back here so quickly...?”
“It seems that those men know these hills much better than most,”
Elrond commented, his own face marred by a concerned warning in his
heart that he could not yet understand. “It is possible that he
knows of ways you and your men do not, Captain Éomund.”
Aragorn’s attention was still on the ground. “Lord Elrond is
right, these tracks seem to come from beyond that rock outcropping up
yonder,” he gestured ahead of them, up the hill. Turning he
traced them in the other direction. “And they lead...” his voice
trailed off as his heart leapt up into his throat. For half an
instant Elrond caught a glimpse of the alarmed look in his son’s eyes
and knew the dreadful answer before it was spoken.
“They lead back down to the house!” Aragorn was already running
back down the hill as he said it. Clearly mapped out before him
by his keen skills, the ranger could see the erratic trail of footsteps
lead right up to the back door of the very bedroom where he had left
Legolas, asleep, weak and helpless, not long before.
Elrond and Éomund were right behind the ranger, although
Éomund did not yet fully understand their heart-stopping
Aragorn didn’t think he had ever run so fast in his life. This
couldn’t be happening, Legolas was supposed to be safe now!
Twice, twice already he had
almost lost the elf... and now by a
bizarre twist it all could have been in vain. This couldn’t be
happening. His heart was pounding in his ears and all he could
think of was every horrible story that he had ever heard about people
who tried to cheat fate only to find out that no matter what happened,
the future could not be changed. He couldn’t believe that.
He couldn’t believe that Legolas was simply meant to die no matter
how hard they tried to stop it. He wouldn’t!
Legolas’ eyes opened slowly. His eyes ached and it reminded him
of the first time he had woken up in this same bed, feeling this
miserable. However, whether because the poison had been near the
end of its life cycle, or because the anti-venom that Lord Elrond
created was more effective than the one that the breakers had used, he
didn’t feel quite as badly as he had that first time, after Fastred and
Léod had first brought him to Émuseld.
His sleep had been restless and filled with strange, discomforting
dreams. Suddenly the prince’s weakened body jerked slightly as he
came to his senses, passing from one nightmare to another as he found
himself staring directly into Scatha’s dark, deadly eyes. Legolas
felt the blade pressed against his throat, between his chin and the top
of the bandage that wrapped the last wound he had received from Scatha
and his henchmen in such a fashion.
“I wanted you to know who killed you, elf,” Scatha hissed, enjoying the
surprised fear that played across the weak being’s widely dilated
eyes. His hand on the knife hilt tensed and plunged downward.