Legolas was wandering beneath the stars under the beech trees near his
home in his dreams when a sudden sense of danger tugged at him. In his
exhausted, run-down state it was difficult to understand the warning
and his aching body resisted the summons to consciousness, clinging to
the twilight as long as it could, but at last slowly rising like a
bubble rushing towards the surface of a pond he awoke.
Consciousness returned just in time for him to see Mannyn dragging one
of Elrond’s sons down the passage, away from the room he was in. It
looked like Elrohir... or was it Elladan? Legolas couldn’t tell the
twins apart in his groggy state. A moment later he realized he couldn’t
move either. His mind had come back to reality, but his body seemed to
be following more slowly. He had pushed himself far further than was
earlier and was reaping the results now.
He didn’t know how much later it was that he finally managed to pull
himself out of the bed. He automatically reached for a weapon, but
found with a start that he was not wearing his own clothes, but some
completely unfamiliar garments. Not stopping to try to make sense of it
around his pounding head, or look for the missing weapons, Legolas
followed the sound of angry, distraught voices up the passage.
Something was wrong, very wrong, and he knew it.
"No father! You know this is right, you can’t ask me to let anyone else
die in my place, least of all those I love more dearly than life!"
Legolas heard a voice he knew to be Aragorn’s speaking vehemently from
the room ahead. The young ranger’s voice was still far too
weak-sounding for all his determination and the words chilled the elf
"I’m not afraid to die, but I cannot live knowing..."
Legolas could see Mannyn’s back now, and Elrohir’s head slumped back
against his shoulder... he could also see the blood that was dripping
down onto the floor at their feet.
Aragorn caught his father’s eyes. "I’m ready," he whispered, begging
Elrond to see in his eyes that it was the truth. "The choice isn’t
yours, I’m making it. It’s my life to give! Let me go and never regret
it. I’m ready."
The elf prince pressed himself back flat against the wall as he edged
silently forward. He may have missed most of what had happened, but
this bit of conversation was quite enough to let him know what was
Mannyn cackled with wicked glee, very obviously having gone over the
edge of sanity and deep into the cloudy dark of madness. "Time runs
away like blood... so choose. Choose!"
Suddenly the threesome facing Mannyn saw Legolas’ head appear over the
man’s shoulder. In one swift move, the prince reached around and
grabbed the human’s blood-covered knife hand, jerking it away from
Mannyn started and half-turned, howling with inhuman rage and
astonishment. With surprising strength for a human and a man his age,
he knocked the weakened elf back against the wall and tried to twist
his hand away from Legolas. The prince’s head banged painfully back
against the corner of the wall, sending pain lancing through his
awareness. Elrohir’s blood made everything slippery and hard to hang
onto. The knife blade caught the inside of Legolas’ forearm, cutting a
deep groove through his sleeve and gashing him from elbow to wrist.
Elrond and Elladan were there an instant later. Elladan yanked Mannyn
back. Seizing his wrist and twisting it almost hard enough to break it,
the furious elf made the human drop his knife.
Legolas half-sank to his knees, holding his injured arm to his chest,
his weakened body screaming in protest at the sudden exertion he had
forced upon it before it was ready.
Aragorn was moving slower than his brother and father and reached the
spot a few moments later.
With a snarl, Mannyn threw Elrohir, who was still clutched in his other
arm, into Aragorn, throwing the unsteady ranger off-balance as he tried
to catch his brother and resulting in both of them tumbling backward.
Elrond caught both his sons before they hit the ground, steadying and
letting them down gently, his fingers instantly seeking out the flowing
wound at the base of Elrohir’s neck. He had to stop the bleeding and
stop it now.
For a moment Elladan’s attention was distracted with concern for his
brothers and Mannyn took advantage of that. Ripping free of the elf’s
inattentive grip he tossed his head back sharply, nailing Elladan
square in the face with the back of his head and fleeing up the passage.
Elladan reeled back a pace, holding his bleeding nose and mouth with
one hand before he recovered from the shock and took off up the passage
Legolas pulled himself to his feet and hurried after them.
"Legolas!" Elrond called after him, but the prince did not hear or, if
he did, he did not choose to heed the warning. Elrond knew Legolas was
not well yet and did not wish him to overtax himself, but the elf lord
had his hands full with Elrohir right now.
They heard the front door open and shut several times, slamming with a
bang and sending a freezing draft swirling through the house.
Elrond sighed softly as he pressed a clean, folded cloth against
Elrohir’s wound. "Ah Elbereth..." he whispered quietly as he worked.
"Don’t let Elladan do anything he will regret."
Aragorn looked up towards where his brother and his friend had
disappeared and started to rise, but Elrond’s voice stopped him. "No,
Estel. I need you here. Help me with your brother."
Immediately Aragorn’s attention was re-focused on the limp elf in his
arms. He held Elrohir’s head and shoulders while Elrond struggled to
stop the deadly bleeding. It was harder than it should have been to
staunch and Elrond’s brow was creased in concern as he pulled away one
soaked bandage and replaced it with another, seeking to pinch the vein
on either side of the puncture with his skilled fingers. Yet he
couldn’t risk stopping all blood flow to Elrohir’s brain or the young
elf could end up permanently damaged. The wounded elf still did not
move or respond to their worried entreaties. Only his glazed eyes
caught and held theirs.
"It’s th-the belithral," Aragorn said with concern as he watched his
brother’s symptoms, blinking hard to clear the double vision creeping
up on him. "That’s why he’s like this. Mannyn must have given him some.
It does something to your blood..."The young ranger remembered all too
well those hellish days on the mountain when even a split lip refused
to stop bleeding for hours.
Elrond nodded in understanding. Pressing Aragorn’s hand over the
compress on his brother’s wound, the elf lord quickly mixed up another
hythinyns draught like he had used to detoxify Aragorn earlier.
"How long does it last, Estel?" Elrond needed to know more about this
drug, having only dealt with its waning effects on Aragorn and not
knowing what it was like at full potency.
"It depends on the dose." Aragorn was trying hard to keep a clear head
although a painful haze was creeping into his brain again. "Dyryn
wanted me to be able to move, so after that first time he only gave me
little amounts until my body had built up a bit of a tolerance to it
and he started upping the dosage..." Aragorn pressed his eyes shut
against the horribly fresh memories. "It causes complete paralysis for
the first fifteen to twenty minutes. Then, then you can move again, but
every motion is a struggle, even blinking. That lasts for hours and
hours. And it gives you waking nightmares, hallucinations," he finished
Elrond glanced with silent compassion at Aragorn’s drawn face,
imagining the kind of pain the young human must have been going
through. "It’s over, Estel," he whispered gently as he administered the
hythinyns to Elrohir. "And we’re going to get your brother through this
as well. I just hope..." he looked away.
"What?" Aragorn was not about to let the elder elf off that easy. "It’s
Mannyn and Elladan, isn’t it?"
Elrond smiled, soft and sad, as he met the young man’s eyes, nodding
almost imperceptibly at his son’s keen observation. "It’s not that I do
not wish justice for what that man has done..." Elrond glanced somewhat
fiercely down at his bloodied, pale son and then back up at Aragorn,
whose eyes were still haunted from the horror he had been through of
late. "But... I fear for Elladan. His temper has always been hot, and
after what happened to his mother it has only increased. If he kills
Mannyn in the rage he is in now... it will wound his spirit deeply,
perhaps forever... and then even if Elrohir lives, I may yet lose a son
because of that madman." The elf lord swallowed hard and looked away.
It was not a choice he could make for Elladan, no matter how badly he
wanted to. The younger elf was going to have to choose for himself and
live with that choice.
Aragorn laid his hand atop Elrond’s on Elrohir’s bandage and gave it a
gentle squeeze. "We have to trust," he whispered softly, "that Elladan
is stronger than that, and that he had a father who raised him to know
the difference between justice and vengeance. And Legolas is with
them... He will help if he can."
"Elladan, don’t!" Legolas placed himself between the elf and the human
who was on his back in the snow, cackling with crazed madness despite
having been half-smothered.
The two elves had pursued Mannyn out of the house and into the
snow-covered courtyard. There, Elladan had caught up with the man and
taken him down. Legolas had gotten there just in time to keep Elladan
from throttling the life out of the old man.
"Get out of the way! You saw what he did to my brothers! I’m going to
rip his heart out and feed it to the wargs!" Elladan shouted at Legolas
over the howl of the wind. There was a fierce rage burning in the
dark-haired elf’s eyes that Legolas had never seen before in the twin’s
usually pleasant and playful face.
"Don’t act before you think or you may regret it!" Legolas shook his
head in concern. The prince shivered at the cold around them. His body
was still critically weak and being out in the storm once more was
quickly sapping whatever strength he had.
"Get out of my way!" Elladan shoved Legolas roughly and the prince
stumbled, falling into the snow on top of his injured arm and staining
the whiteness beneath him with his blood.
Legolas cried out softly, rolling over and clutching his arm, shivering
violently from the freezing cold that was seeping back into his hurting
body. He didn’t feel strong enough to rise, but his pained blue eyes
looked up and caught Elladan’s raging grey ones.
Elladan stopped dead in his tracks. What was he doing? Was he so intent
on his own revenge that he was willing to hurt Legolas to get it? What
did that make him?
"When someone wrongs you, Elladan, you have a choice..." his father’s
voice came back to the elf clearly. Elladan took a deep breath and
reached his hand down to help Legolas rise. He knew there was only one
choice to make, and it was not the one he had been pursuing. "I’m
sorry," he whispered as he pulled Legolas to his feet. "I’m sorry."
Mannyn had scrambled to his feet as soon as the elves’ attention was
away from him and bolted for the darkness of the estate’s outlying
buildings, laughing hysterically as he plunged into the freezing night.
Deep in the shadows ahead, the sharp elven eyes behind the fleeing man
saw the glitter of yellow fangs and the darker blackness of large
bodies, low to the ground.
"Mannyn! Stop! Don’t go there!" Elladan and Legolas called after him,
but the old man did not heed them and a moment later it was too late.
The wargs, which the elves had seen prowling around on their way here,
must have come in through the frozen-open gate the same as their own
party had. The beasts sprang on Mannyn with a snarl as he ran
heedlessly straight into the midst of their pack.
Neither of the elves had their bows with them and although they moved
as quickly as they could, by the time they broke up the wargs and sent
them scattering away into the darkness, it was too late. Mannyn was
Elladan just stared for a moment, breathing hard. He suddenly found
that he actually felt sorry for the old man, despite everything. The
elf looked down at his own hands and closed his eyes, realizing how
very close he had come to making the biggest mistake of his life.
Beside him, Legolas was almost gasping for breath, the cold air
chilling his lungs and making them ache. The prince’s legs buckled
suddenly and he fell to his knees in the snow.
Stooping, Elladan quickly wrapped Legolas’ good arm around his shoulder
and once more supported the elf prince for the journey back into the
When the two elves entered the bedroom they found Elrohir lying on the
bed, his wounds bandaged. The bleeding had stopped and Elrond was still
bending over him. Aragorn half-leaned on the edge of the bed beside his
brother and Dolmè, who had heard the commotion, was standing in
the corner of the room with wide, concerned eyes.
Elladan eased Legolas into a chair and Aragorn made his way over
quickly, wanting to look at the prince’s injured arm.
"Stop it, Strider. You look ready to fall over yourself. I’m fine, go
sit down," Legolas tried to brush him off, but the ranger was stubborn
even though he truly did not look at all well.
Elrond came over and took Legolas’ arm from Aragorn, gently shooing the
young man back to sit on the edge of the bed. Elrohir was out of danger
and now they were simply waiting for the drug to completely leave his
system and release him back to them.
As Elrond gently and expertly bound up Legolas’ injury, his eyes sought
Elladan’s, almost fearing what he would find there. "Mannyn?" he asked
"He’s dead," Elladan replied, equally soft. "But I did not kill him."
Elrond let his breath out slowly in a small gesture of relief and
smiled at his son. Elladan returned the smile.
"The wargs got to him before we could stop them. I’ll bring the body
in. It should not be left like carrion for those foul beasts," Elladan
said after a moment, turning to go back out. He hesitated, looking to
Dolmè. "If there are no others who have a claim to the duty, I
will see that he is buried as soon as the storm breaks."
Dolmè shook her head, speaking for the first time. "He’s got no
kin, not even no friends I fear. I’ll make up a place for ‘im to lie
until then..." She paused. "I’m sorry. I’m sorry this had to happen to
you all. I don’t think any of you deserved it."
"It’s not your fault, Dolmè," Elrond assured gently, finishing
with Legolas and rising. "And everything has worked itself out in the
end. I’m only sorry that Mannyn brought this upon himself. Such a sad
A soft sound behind them made them all turn. Elrohir was stirring and
Aragorn was bending over him. The young ranger looked up with a smile.
"He’s coming out of it."
Elrohir moaned softly, his hand going to his hurting neck. Elrond
pushed his son’s hand back down gently so he wouldn’t disturb the
"All right, that is the last
time I let Estel make the drinks..." he
moaned with a weak grin at his little brother’s concerned face. "Ooh, I
feel worse than when I let you talk me into that stupid drinking game
with doctored ale pints..." He stopped and glanced somewhat sheepishly
at his father, whose eyebrows were raised and then back at Aragorn who
was flushing in embarrassment. "Oh, I forgot. I wasn’t supposed to
mention that, was I?" He chuckled softly, wincing at the pain his mirth
Aragorn laughed quietly. "Hey, it wasn’t me this time. You were
sleeping on the job!"
"Only because you wore us all out," Elrohir murmured good-naturedly.
"Honestly, Estel, you humans do lead exhausting lives..."
All of them laughed softly, glad that they were all alive, and together.
...80 years later...
The captor that stood over Jonath’s king waved his bow impatiently.
"Choose!" he yelled at the man that kneeled before him. For his part
Aragorn did not flinch nor back down, but the pain reflected in his
cut through the guard as he quietly crept closer to the glade opening.
The soldier watched as Aragorn buried his face in the shoulder of
Legolas’ cloak. It looked as though the elf were dead, he was so pale
and still in the king’s arms. Jonath and his contingent had moved
stealthily down the embankment, easily picking up Eldarion’s blood
trail when they reached the base of the cliff. Morning had dawned and
the bleak grey light it lent had been enough for the men to track the
elf and the king. It had been no small thing to carry the dwarf down
the steep incline as he had insisted upon going with them and the
guards had repeatedly had to shush the short being as he incessantly
complained about their method of transporting him.
"If you would like I will leave you right here and come back for you
later or you can keep silent and my men will bring you with us. The
choice is yours." Jonath had whispered fiercely into the scowling,
scrunched up face of the dwarf, indicating that he would leave Gimli
right on the side of steep path down. After his mild threat the dwarf
had said no more, but displeasure was written in every line of his
Such thoughts were far from the captain’s mind now though as he
motioned his men to quietly surround the small glade. Once they had
neared the enclosed glen, it had been easy to find their quarry as
Dryryn’s voice carried on the early morning breeze. The old bounty
hunter’s accomplices were so intent on the happenings with their
employer and Gondor’s king that they did not notice the royal guard
until it was too late. None of them had a chance to warn Dyryn and he
continued his tirade, threatening to kill either the king’s son or the
elf that Aragorn held tightly to him and Jonath’s men cut them down
quickly and silently.
Trying to size up the situation, the captain of the guard was taken by
surprise as Gimli limped up next to him, brushing the soldier out of
his way. Jonath glared at his second in command as Draecyn quickly
moved forward to intervene, attempting to hold the smaller being back
out of the way but it was too late. The dwarf had quickly taken in the
situation and his gaze fastened on his dying friend in the middle of
"NO!" Gimli’s heavily accented shout rang through the glen. Dropping
his makeshift crutch, he stiffly stepped onto the edge of the hollow.
Bracing himself on his good leg, the dwarf hefted his doubled-headed
axe and threw the heavy weapon into the glen with a shout akin to a war
Surprised by the interruption, Dyryn turned at the sound of the dwarf’s
shout. Rage was etched on his face at being found out and hindered in
his desires for vengeance. There was no time for the bounty hunter to
move as the flashing blade of the axe flew end over end towards him.
The axe head buried itself in his chest, lifting him off the ground and
throwing him across the glade away from the man that knelt in the
grass holding the elf prince.
Kolir’s head jerked up in surprise but, before he could react, one of
the soldiers’ arrows found his heart and he fell soundlessly, the bolt
on his weapon never having the chance to release.
With a pained cry Gimli fell to the forest floor, grabbing his broken
leg high up on his thigh and rocking back and forth, trying to stave
the sweep of pain from the pressure he had placed on it. Draecyn
quickly to the ground next to the small being, talking quietly to
Gimli, unable to shift his gaze from the happenings in the middle of
Aragorn, shocked by the sudden turn of events, stared speechlessly at
men. Legolas had lost consciousness and was not even aware that they
were no longer in danger. Aragorn tore his gaze from Gimli’s pained
glance and looked at the pale, motionless face of the elf he held.
It had all happened so fast that it almost seemed surreal, and Aragorn
barely process that the threat that had been was no more. It didn’t
seem possible that it could have gone away so quickly. With his
friend’s life slipping away between his fingers, he couldn’t even feel
relieved just yet.
"Legolas?" Aragorn called softly. Strands of hair plastered his face
and fell into his eyes unheeded as he gently shook the elf. There was
no response save the slight rise and fall of the prince’s chest.
Gimli struggled to break free of Draecyn’s gentle restraints, intent on
entering the glen. "Legolas? Legolas!"
Jonath stepped carefully over the fallen dwarf and approached the king
Taking note of the intentions of his men and unsure if the clearing was
safe Aragorn called out a warning to them, "Jonath! Do not enter, keep
the men back! There may be more traps. I do not know how many were
set." He glanced about them wildly, trying to glimpse any trip wires
that might still be hidden under the grass and leaves. Fear kept him
rooted in his place.
Behind him Eldarion was vehemently shaking his head, trying to get the
attention of the men. Tears streamed down his fair cheeks as he glanced
at Dyryn’s dead body. He couldn’t get far enough away fast enough.
The young boy’s movements caught the captain’s eye and he relayed the
message. "Eldarion says there are no more traps, my lord."
Aragorn turned quickly to look at his son. The youth’s huge blue eyes
were locked onto his and he slowly shook his head, "There are no more,
Eldarion shook his head once more, a soft sob breaking through the gag.
Turning back to Jonath, Aragorn plead with him, "Then quickly, help us!"
Guards poured into the grassy hollow taking up a defensive ring as
Jonath dropped into the grass in front of his king. Blood covered
Aragorn’s tunic and the captain was afraid that some of it was the
man’s. "Are you hurt?"
Aragorn’s pain-filled eyes rose to meet the other's gaze, tears
sparkled brightly on their rims. "No. No, I am not. Please, Jonath, get
Eldarion down. Please hurry. I think he’s hurt." He looked back at the
boy; blood stained his chest and ran in rivulets down his wrists mixing
with the rain that drizzled lightly on them all. Aragorn wanted to do
himself, but he had only one set of arms and right now he still feared
to release Legolas, lest the elf let go of life entirely.
With a curt nod Jonath quickly stood to his feet and crossed to stand
in front of Eldarion as Draecyn took his place in the grass in front of
Aragorn, gently easing the elf out of his liege's arms and examining
deep wounds he had sustained. Carefully they lay the elf on his side as
Draecyn fingered the bolt that protruded from his back.
The soldier spoke softly. "It needs to come out, my lord. He is
unconscious, so it would be best to
remove it quickly and now. I know not if there was poison on it."
With a simple nod Aragorn agreed and pulled Legolas against him as
Draecyn gripped the ugly black shaft of the bolt. Taking a deep breath
and bracing his other hand against Legolas’ shoulder, the guard swiftly
pulled the weapon free. He placed the arrow carefully on his pack so he
could test it for poisons later.
The soldiers were buzzing around Legolas now, pressing folded cloths
tightly against his wounds. Aragorn touched his friend’s clammy
forehead softly. "Dartho
Legolas..." he quietly whispered for the elf to hold on before turning
to look to his son.
Jonath had finally finished removing Eldarion’s bonds and the prince
pushed brusquely past the captain. Unwilling to let the man look him
over, the boy rushed to his father’s side and fell into the king’s
Aragorn held the frightened child tightly, fearful himself of the way
their situation had almost ended, for the lives that he had
almost lost. His son and his lifetime friend, the most priceless
treasures he had... and yet he still might lose Legolas. Stopping the
negative thoughts, he gently pushed his son back, carefully looking the
boy over, noting the cut to his palm and the deep ‘x’ carved over his
heart. Swiftly taking the boy’s arm and pushing his sleeve up, Aragorn
was relieved to find that there were no cuts, no marks. Dyryn had not
used the belithral on Eldarion as he had threatened.
However, the boy was trembling.
"You are hurt. Where?" The young prince simply shook his head no,
unable to trust his voice.
Pulling his son back tightly against his chest Aragorn whispered
softly, rocking the boy back and forth, "It’s alright. He’ll never hurt
you again, I swear it. I am so sorry, Eldarion. So sorry..." He pressed
his eyes closed. "I never meant for this to happen."
Gimli was inconsolable and his fierce stubbornness made it difficult
for the guards to see to his leg and make sure he had not wounded
himself further. "Aragorn! Aragorn, how is Legolas?" He swatted the
hands away from him that tried to hold him still, "Get me up! Get me up
now I say! I need to be there. Aragorn!"
Unable to deal with all that had just happened and the requests being
laid on him, Aragorn caught Jonath’s attention and motioned to the
"Please bring him here before he hurts himself further or one of the
men. He is only upset. Let him see that Legolas lives and it will be
well." The king sighed and smiled slightly, "Otherwise he will never
Turning his attention back to his son, Aragorn eased the boy onto the
grass next to him as Gimli dropped heavily down on the other side of
Draecyn, his thick stubby hands gently reaching out to Legolas.
"Legolas?" His unanswered question was more of a soft, choked whisper
took in the blood that covered the elf’s tunic and the unnatural
paleness of his friend’s face. It was just as he feared. Legolas would
give of himself, his own life, before he let anything happen to anyone
"Damn elf..." the dwarf murmured inconsolably, his rough fingers
wrapping tightly about the prince’s graceful, cold hand. "What do I
keep telling you? You never listen to me, never... Legolas, Legolas
don’t do this to me." The last was so soft it was almost inaudible.
Draecyn quietly bandaged the wounds using strips of cloth from a spare
tunic that he had had in his pack. He moved aside so the dwarf could
scoot in closer.
"You mustn’t die," Gimli continued, softly talking to the elf. He
turned huge dark eyes on Aragorn, imploring the king known for his
healing talents, "You can’t let him die. Please don’t let him die."
Aragorn reached out a trembling hand and gently gripped Gimli’s
shoulder; it surprised him how spent he truly was. "I promise I will do
all in my power to keep him with us," he vowed, dropping his hand to
the elf’s face. "Legolas, you cannot go my friend. You cannot go."
But Legolas was far beyond the reach of their words, or the touch of
their sorrow, treading a line that became more and more blurred the
further away it led him.