Legolas was brought back to consciousness by a slap
of cold water and
someone shaking him roughly, which did nothing for his throbbing
Right after his headache, the next thing he noticed
was the pain in his
leg. Then his wrists... but why did they hurt? With a shock the elf
realized that his hands were tied tightly together above his head, with
the rope that bound them looped up over a high branch that held him
upright and barely allowed his feet to fully touch the ground.
Additional coils of rope around his chest and legs held him firmly
against the tree at his back.
For a moment a bright flare of panic at his own
over the elf before he got control of himself and pressed it down to a
dull fear. What did these men want with him? Forcing his eyes open and
struggling to bring the blurry world into focus, he could have sworn
that he recognized none of them.
"Finally, you’re awake," Taradin said somewhat
"What do you want with me?" Legolas forced the
grogginess from his
voice, keeping it remarkably clear and strong for his condition. "I
have very little that is worth stealing and I think you will find me
rather expensive quarry if anything ill should befall me," he said
Taradin rolled his eyes. "Don’t be cute. I’m sick of
you picking off my
men and playing games with us. You’ve fooled us before, not now. I want
answers and I want them straight. If you’re smart, you’ll cooperate
with me," he warned.
Legolas’ brow crinkled in confusion and irritation.
"I don’t know what
you’re talking about, release me!" The pain in his head from the
repeated blows was bad and it was making it hard to think, so he wasn’t
quite sure if the man actually wasn’t making sense, or if he was just
having trouble processing what was said.
Taradin shrugged. "I’ll get it out of you one way or
another. If you
want to play games with us, I can do that too. He pulled a small flask
out of the front of his shirt and uncapped it. "Thirsty?" he asked
Legolas, offering him the bottle.
Actually, Legolas was, but something in Taradin’s
eyes concerned him
and there was no way he was voluntarily taking anything from these
people. Turning his head, he refused.
With shocking suddenness, Taradin drew back his
large fist and slammed
the elf upside the head with incredible force, rocketing Legolas’ head
back into the tree behind him. Starbursts exploded across the prince’s
vision at the treatment of his already battered skull and he nearly
blacked out again.
Legolas wasn’t even aware that Taradin had pressed
the flask to his
mouth or poured its contents down his throat until he felt a strange
burning in the back of his mouth and realized that there was liquid
there and his body was swallowing automatically to keep his airway
clear. The elf coughed and tried to spit whatever it was out, but he
was still dazed and weak. Taradin grabbed his jaw and roughly forced
his mouth shut, holding the prince’s nose until Legolas was forced to
swallow the rest of the liquid or else choke himself.
With that accomplished, Taradin released the
prisoner and stepped back,
watching and waiting. He was sure there was no mistake being made this
time. He had seen this elf before, he would recognize him anywhere. And
this elf would pay for the cold-blooded murder of his friends.
Legolas let his head fall back against the rough
bark of the tree
behind him. Blinking his eyes he tried to clear his mind, as he felt a
strange, light-headedness creeping over him. Pain lanced between his
temples and it seemed to him that he was having trouble with conscious
thought, or at least, his control over his conscious thought.
Frighteningly enough he felt as if whatever they had
his system was attempting to pry control of his body, his thoughts and
his words away from him and place that power in the hands of his
captors. The elf steeled his jaw. He was not about to let that happen
if he could help it.
Wave after wave of dull nausea swept over the prince
and he closed his
eyes tightly against the pain that was spreading slowly throughout his
body. When he opened them again he found that the lead man was watching
him intently. Obviously they knew very well what Legolas was going
through right now.
"What have you done to me?" Legolas asked through
sluggish lips. Even
forming the words in his mind seemed hard. He did not like what he felt
"Ensured that we’ll get a little truth out of you,
that’s all," Taradin
said darkly, watching the elf’s eyes. They were sufficiently glazed and
cloudy now, he knew the dragon water he had administered had taken
effect. "With this stuff in you, you can’t lie to us, and that’s good
because I’ve got plenty of questions that I want honest answers to."
"Who are you? What do you want with me?" Legolas
asked, wincing and
rubbing his forehead against the side of one of his bound arms, wishing
he could rub out the headache. Taradin’s voice throbbed painfully in
his head and he wished he could escape the ache of it.
"I’m one of those people you’ve been trying to kill,
elf!" Taradin said
with controlled anger. "Or don’t you pay attention to who you’re
shooting at anymore? I was a friend of Elbamir and Zarrinor and I will
see you pay for what you did to them!"
Legolas’ brow creased in growing confusion, which
added to his pounding
headache. "I don’t know what you’re talking about! I’ve never seen you
before in my life. Let me go."
Taradin struck the elf across the face, knocking
Legolas’ head back
into the tree behind him again and making a small trickle of blood run
down the corner of the prince’s chin.
Legolas stifled a moan at the pain that the blow
caused to explode
across his senses. Many more like that and he was going to black out
again, whether Taradin wanted him to or not. His head lolled limply to
the side and for a few moments he did not have the strength, or the
will, to raise it again.
Taradin grabbed the elf’s long hair near his scalp
on one side of his
skull and tugged Legolas’ head up. "I’m not going to play games with
you elf! I want to know why you’re killing my people, and if there are
any more of you involved in this!"
"I don’t know what you’re... talking about..."
Legolas licked his
bleeding lip. What else could he tell them? The drug in his system was
robbing him of much ability for rational thought, but he was beginning
to think that these men must have mistaken him for someone else. "I
don’t know who you think I am, but I’m not."
"Right. Then who are you?" Taradin demanded harshly.
Being bound and questioned by these men, especially
now that this drug
had put him into a highly suggestive state, was bringing back evil
memories to the prince’s mind, memories of the last time he had been
taken captive, beaten and questioned by men. They had wanted to know
who he was too. Legolas’ sluggish, reeling mind seized up and refused
to allow an answer. He would not tell these men who he really was. He
didn’t know them, the truth could be dangerous. Besides, he doubted
they would believe him. "Not whoever you think I am..." Legolas’ words
slurred slightly. It was the truth, just not all of it.
Taradin scowled. "Right. Garith, get me another vial
of the dragon
water. One obviously isn’t doing the trick." Legolas was right, the man
would not have believed who his captive was even had he been told at
The young man complied, although he hesitated
slightly when handing it
over. "This is pretty potent stuff... I thought you weren’t supposed to
give more than one dose at a time?"
Taradin shrugged. "Maybe it’s different for elves.
They’re not like us.
Besides," his look turned dangerous, "it’s not like he’s got very long
to live anyway."
Uncorking the small bottle, Taradin ordered Legolas
to drink it and to
the elf’s surprised horror, he did as he was commanded. Obviously, the
drug was working better than Taradin thought it was. The only reason
Legolas did not speak was because he did not know what they wanted.
The man’s reasoning was faulty. Two doses of dragon
water were too much
for anyone’s body, man or elf alike.
Legolas pressed himself back against the tree,
fighting the urge for
his knees to buckle under the double assault of the drug. He began to
tremble as the overdose took full affect. His heart pounded as if it
were trying to beat out of his chest and his breathing caught and
hitched spasmodically, leaving him gasping for air. He twisted his
wrists feverishly in the bonds that held them over his head, but to no
effect. The drug tore at his mind, creating a blinding haze of pain
inside his head, so sharp that he actually saw rending flashes of light
obscuring his vision and making the world a hazy yellow color.
The elf gasped in pain, moaning softly between
shuddering breaths as
the drug ripped the last of his ability for conscious, rational thought
away from him, leaving his mind a confused jumble, overridden with
"Are there others?!" Taradin demanded. "Where were
you operating from?
Tell me!" he was nearly shouting and Legolas flinched away from the
"I-I don’t k-know..." Legolas murmured helplessly,
shuddering as the
dragon water coursed violently through his veins.
"You’re lying!" Taradin struck him roughly in the
stomach and Legolas
doubled over as far as the ropes allowed him. "Where?!"
Legolas nearly sobbed at the agony spearing through
him. He couldn’t
breathe. He felt like he was suffocating and his body’s warning signals
kicked in, adding panic to his already over-loaded senses. The
throbbing pains of Taradin’s questions were like knives inside his
yet he couldn’t answer, he couldn’t give them what they wanted because
there was nothing there. He couldn’t make it stop, couldn’t satisfy the
harsh demands being placed on him. He didn’t know!
"I-I c-can’t..." he was almost sobbing now. The
substance in his blood
was demanding that he give them what they wanted and he was unable to
Taradin and his men took no pity on the elf. "What
were you doing in
the ruins? Where were you going?" the questions pressed harder and
harder until Legolas felt as if he were going to scream.
"What were you doing there?!" the question came
"A-Aragorn..." Legolas was almost fully delirious by
now and he no
longer even knew what he was saying. He never would have said anything
about his friend otherwise. "Aragorn..." he had been going to see the
young ranger, but right now he couldn’t find strength or breath or
peace of mind enough to even finish a thought. He winced and dropped
his head forward, battling incredible pain.
Taradin was beside himself with rage. Two doses of
dragon water in him
and the creature still wouldn’t talk? What kind of inhuman beast were
they dealing with? "If you want to be stubborn, I can teach you not to
be," he threatened darkly.
Picking up a thick branch from the pile of firewood,
Taradin struck the
elf in the ribs. Once, twice, three times... Legolas cried out
helplessly, much too far gone to attempt any kind of control over his
Several of the other men followed his lead, picking
up clubs of their
own. When they all started in on him, Legolas did not even have enough
breath to scream. He felt himself slipping away swiftly, falling
towards the darkness of either death or unconsciousness, he knew not
which, nor did he care, so long as it took him away from the agony that
he was in right now.
"Aragorn..." delirious, he called out for his friend
darkness claimed him.
Aragorn made his way up the hill, deep in thought.
He walked slowly
back to the men’s camp, still disturbed by the fact that the dark elf
hadn’t killed him outright. It was almost as if the elf had thought he
recognized the human. He was wondering what a Silvan elf was doing this
far from his people’s lands and what his father would say about the
rogue’s strange actions, when a young man came running up the path
Garith saw him and ran out to meet the ranger before
he was even fully
in sight of camp.
"Strider, you’ll never guess what happened while you
were gone!" Garith
said excitedly, obviously pleased with himself.
Aragorn repressed a small smile at the younger man’s
fifteen, Garith was the youngest of Taradin’s group. On the whole,
Aragorn had found these men to be a lot more impulsive and less...
scrupulous, than the Dunèdain, or other rangers he was used to
working with. But they weren’t a bad lot...
Garith didn’t wait for the ranger to speak, but
breathlessly. "We caught him! We caught the dark elf!"
Aragorn’s eyebrows quirked upward sharply as they
entered the camp.
"Really? How did you-" the young man stopped short, horror shooting up
his spine when he saw the fair-haired elf that was bound to the birch
tree on the opposite side of the campfire. The elf’s hands were tied
together over his head, suspended from a tree branch above him, and a
second coil of rope around the elf’s chest and legs held him in a
standing position. The fair being’s head had fallen forward and his
golden hair spilled about his face, clinging to fresh blood that marred
one corner of the elf’s smooth mouth and right temple. His body hung
heavily against the ropes that held him.
The young ranger froze, his face going pale. Oh no.
This couldn’t be
Garith was still talking, not having noticed the
change in his
companion’s demeanor. "Gave us a hell of a lot of trouble. Taradin gave
him a double-dose of the dragon water, but he still won’t talk..."
Aragorn finally shook off enough of his shock to
find words. "You
idiots!" he nearly shouted as Garith’s last words sunk in. "By the
heavens, what have you done?!" Crossing the camp quickly, Aragorn
brushed his friend’s hair gently back from his face, lightly examining
the elf’s wounds.
Barely half-conscious and still under the influence
of the dragon
water, Legolas flinched at his touch and tried to draw back. His eyes
were unfocused and hazy and he did not seem to recognize his friend, if
he even saw him. He had passed out earlier, only to come back to a hazy
semi-awareness about fifteen minutes ago. Yet it was as if he were
trapped between two worlds, hanging somewhere in limbo and fully aware
Hot anger burned bright inside Aragorn’s chest as he
quickly pulled a
knife from his boot and cut the ropes that held his friend’s hands
strung above his head. Legolas slumped forward limply and Aragorn
caught him. The elf hissed in pain at his touch and the young ranger
began to fear that his friend had taken more hurt than he could see.
"What are you doing
Strider, are you crazy?!" Taradin demanded as he
stalked quickly over. "He might get away! Have you forgotten what I
told you this devil did to Zarrinor and Elbamir? What they looked
like... How they died... He doesn’t deserve our mercy!"
Aragorn’s eyes flashed as he defiantly cut the rest
of the ropes and
lowered Legolas gently to the ground. His mind was still whirling. He
hadn’t known that Legolas was anywhere in the area, and guilt washed
over him as he realized that the prince had probably been on his way to
Rivendell to see him, just as they had planned a fortnight ago. "I
haven’t forgotten, Taradin, but you have let your anger and your hate
blind you! You have the wrong elf!"
Taradin’s brow furrowed darkly. "What are you talking about Strider?
We caught him skulking about the ruins, just like he was the other
night when he shot at us!" He did not like being rebuked by the younger
man, nor the idea that he had captured and tortured the wrong person.
It was impossible... wasn't it? "Look I don’t care if you are a Ranger.
This is my territory and my
people. I give the orders. Now you put
him back up there or I’ll-"
"Don’t be a fool!" Aragorn shook his head angrily as
Legolas’ vitals. The elf’s heart was beating way too fast and his skin
was clammy. His body trembled softly and his breathing was uneven at
best. People could die from being given too much dragon water, and
somehow Aragorn felt sure that Taradin and his people had been none too
careful about how much they administered.
"Taradin, I’m telling you, you have made a grave
mistake! This elf is
my friend! He’s saved my life more than once, you think I wouldn’t know
him? This is Legolas, son of Thranduil and prince of Mirkwood!"
Aragorn said as he gently unclasped Legolas’ dirty, torn tunic. His ire
raised several notches at what he found there. Deep, purple-black
bruises mottled Legolas’ chest, shoulders and torso. Just looking at
them was painful. If the elf had no broken ribs it would be a miracle.
Some of the bruises had crisp, clear edges and
Aragorn guessed that
Legolas had been clubbed repeatedly with a blunt object, probably after he had been tied to the tree,
judging from the placement of the
bruises. The elf moaned softly as Aragorn passed his hands probingly
over his bruised ribs. The moan turned into a sharp hiss when he
pressed on the third rib down and Legolas convulsed upward slightly,
confirming Aragorn’s fear that his friend had at least one broken rib,
Aragorn soothingly pressed his friend back down and
turned a hard glare
on Taradin, who was trying to process Aragorn’s shocking words. "You’d
better pray he lives, Taradin," the young ranger said darkly. "Or you
won’t have to wait for King Thranduil to seek retribution on you, I’ll
demand satisfaction myself."
The fire burned low and still Aragorn sat
attentively by his friend’s
side. He had done what he could for the elf, there was nothing to do
now but wait. If by morning Legolas had not taken a turn for the
better, Aragorn was going to take him back to Rivendell, to Elrond,
mission be damned.
Garith sat quietly nearby, watching them. He felt
about his part in all this, now that they knew they had the wrong
person, and had tried to help Aragorn as much as he could.
Legolas stirred and murmured, still delirious.
Aragorn bit his lip and gently placed his hands on
shoulders. "Shh... shh... it’s all right Legolas. It’s all right." He
could not admit to belonging to that name here in the midst of
Taradin’s people, who knew him only as Strider.
Garith scooted forward slightly. "He keeps calling
that name," the
young man said softly. "Earlier, after Taradin gave him the dragon
water, when we were... when they- when they thought he was the dark
one," Garith said uncomfortably, obviously not wishing to say: "when we
were beating him" to Strider’s face. "He called that out several times."
Aragorn let his head sink into his hand, turning
away so that Garith
could not see how the words affected him.
"Does that mean something to you?" Garith inquired,
at the young ranger.
Aragorn shrugged. "Somebody we both know." He
attempted to be light,
but the fact that Legolas had been calling for him when he was drugged
and being tortured tore at his heart, along with the burning knowledge
that he had not been there. Legolas had been there for him when the
orcs had him in Moria, but when Legolas needed him...
Aragorn pressed his palms into his eyes, taking a
deep breath. Legolas
was going to be all right. This was going to work out, somehow...
When Legolas called out to him again the ranger
could stand it no
longer and leaned over the elf prince. Quietly slipping into the grey
tongue he spoke softly, knowing the elf could easily hear him. He
gently placed his hand on his friend’s chest and stilled his movements.
"Legolas it is Strider. I am here, it’s all right
now. I am so sorry, my
friend." The elf stirred at the sound of his voice, the words soothing
his fears and nightmares. When he saw the effect his words had he
chastised himself for not doing so earlier.
"Strider, how do you know elfspeak?" Garith started
to move closer to
hear the ranger's words more clearly, but Aragorn quickly raised his
hand and stopped the young man.
Legolas was slowly regaining consciousness.
"Course he talks elfspeak," Taradin looked up from
where he sat across
the fire, slowly burnishing the edge of his sword with a whetstone,
"he’s a ranger Garith. What’d you expect? They all speak it."
Aragorn was sure that wasn’t true but he let the
statement slide as he
moved nearer Legolas, blocking the elf’s view of the rest of the camp.
He didn’t want the first face his friend saw to be that of the men that
had beaten him earlier.
"Garith," The ranger turned back to the young man,
"could you move
around the fire and stay over near Taradin until Legolas is fully
"You think he’ll be trouble?" Garith eyed the elf
"I think you and the men beat him and I don’t think
he’s going to want
to see you right away." Aragorn’s words had more of bite to them than
he had intended. "I’m sorry Garith, just give us some space all right?"
He smiled gently at the youth as the boy nodded and moved to sit next
Legolas' hand touched Aragorn’s where it lay on the
bringing the human's attention quickly back to the wounded prince.
Legolas' head hurt and the light from the fire was
so bright. He was
slightly surprised to find that he was lying on the ground and no
longer bound. Someone was leaning over him speaking his name but it was
hard to focus.
"Ara..." The ranger pressed the fingers of his free
hand gently against
the elf’s lips, quieting him.
"No, it’s me, Strider." He smiled down into the
bleary silver-blue eyes.
Legolas was at once tense beneath his hand. Aragorn
was hiding who he
was and it alarmed the elf.
The ranger felt the change in his companion and
immediately put him at
ease, "No, it’s all right. I am using the name you gave because we are
still in the camp of men. They do not know who I am and they mistook
you for someone else. They know now they were wrong." He spoke the
words in elvish and felt free enough to partly explain the truth to
Legolas since it was obvious that no one here could understand them.
The elf’s eyes were locked onto his but he hadn’t relaxed. "We aren’t
far from my house. Tomorrow I am going to take you there. I’ll think up
Legolas tried to look around them at the others
nearby, he could hear
them and he was not at all comfortable in the situation he found
himself. Aragorn caught the side of his face with his hand and
redirected the elf’s eyes back to his own. "I’m sorry I wasn’t here for
"It hurts." Legolas winced curled in on himself
slightly, "Hurts to
Aragorn sighed, leaning forward until his forehead
touched the elf’s,
"I know," he whispered, "you have a broken rib and a lot of bruising,
friend, and your leg is not doing well where that arrow was ripped from
Legolas was taking small breaths and holding them as
long as possible
as waves of nausea warred with the pain in his chest. "What else?"
"The water you were forced to drink is a toxin, a
drug." Aragorn sat
back on his heels and looked down into the pain filled eyes. "Damn, I
should have been here." He cursed himself reverting to common speech.
He gently dipped a cloth in a small bowl of cool water and wiped the
perspiration from the elf’s face.
"Poison?" Legolas queried slowly. He had had more
than his share of
scrapes with various toxins in the past year or so.
"No," the ranger shook his head switching back to
elvish, "no, you just
wish it was. It’s more like a – a truth serum of sorts. It’ll wear off.
In time." He smiled slightly trying to lighten the situation. "It’ll
wear off faster if we get some fluids in you."
When Legolas shook his head the ranger laughed, "Now
you wouldn’t want
me to make a scene would you?"
The elf glared at him darkly. "Are they all still
here?" Meaning the
ones who had beaten him earlier. He was shaking slightly, his body’s
reactions beyond his control.
Aragorn’s gaze hardened and he looked over his
shoulder at the men in
the camp who were watching the two friends with great interest. "Uhm,
yes." He switched to common and raised his voice, "But they won't give
you any more trouble now and they are sorry they ever did." He glared
back at Taradin who dropped his gaze. Garith had edged his way back
around the fire and slowly came up alongside Aragorn.
Legolas fixed his eyes on the boy and the ranger
followed his gaze, "I
thought I told you to stay over there."
"I thought you might like some water for your
friend." He held up a
deerskin bottle. "I fetched it from the stream, it’ll be nice and cool
and it’ll help him get that toxin out of his system. He hasn’t had
anything else since we..." Garith looked down guiltily and shoved the
water skin at the ranger before quickly backing away from the two.
Aragorn closed his eyes, shaking his head, inwardly
again for what had happened to Legolas.
"Don’t." The quiet word averted his attention and he
looked back at the
elf. Legolas had read his thoughts on his face.
"I never thought you’d take the high pass. I thought
you would come
down through the rift. If I had known I would have gotten word to you."
Aragorn’s voice was soft and full of regret as he brushed the long
strands of blonde hair away from the elf’s clammy face.
"Word of what?" Legolas questioned as the human slid
his arm beneath
the elf prince and helped ease him up, careful of the wound to his leg,
so he could drink. He handed Legolas the water skin and pressed his
fingers against the bottom of it, indicating he wanted the elf to drink.
When his friend obeyed, he answered, "Don’t worry
yourself with it now.
We’ll talk about it later."
Legolas dropped the water bottle and curled in on
himself. He wrapped
his hands around his stomach and turned away from the ranger. Alarmed
Aragorn leaned over him pulling the elf’s hair away from his face,
"I’m going to be sick." He moaned softly.
Aragorn took the deerskin bottle from the elf and
set it aside. He
pressed his friend gently back down onto the blanket beneath him and
quickly shed his own coat, wrapping it around the shaking elf.
Turning back to the men around the fire he caught
Taradin’s eye, "I’m
taking the prince to Rivendell, first thing tomorrow. He’s got too much
dragon water in him. I can’t even get him to keep water down. The elves
there will be able to help him." The worry in the ranger’s eyes was
unconcealed. "Think next time before you pour that stuff into someone."
He refocused his attention on the wounded elf, but
Legolas had passed
"I’ll send some of the men with you." Taradin
Aragorn did not turn to acknowledge him. "That won't
be necessary. I’ll
"You’ll be in elf territory."
With a sigh Aragorn responded slowly, his words
sharp and biting, "I
will be fine. It is you who should be worried." The ranger laid his
hand over the elf's heart and let the steady beat calm his anger. He
was thankful that the prince’s heartbeat had finally begun to return to
normal, only skipping every now and then.
When he spoke again his voice was calmer, "I will
need a horse."
Taradin nodded even though the ranger had not turned
around yet. It had
been a statement, not a request, and after the abuse they had heaped on
the man’s friend it was the least they could do.