"Estel." A soft voice intruded on his sleep and
Aragorn resisted the urge to ignore it.
"Strider, wake up, it is nearly dawn." Legolas
gently shook the sleeping human.
Bleary silver eyes opened and gazed dully at him for
a few seconds.
"Are you awake?" Legolas whispered.
"No," Aragorn answered softly. "I've taken to
sleeping with my eyes open."
Legolas smirked at the human and pushed him gently
over. "Get up. Let us be off."
It took all day to walk to the outskirts of Adirolf.
The sun was just barely tipping the trees in flaming red as they
entered the town and headed for the inn. The merchants were closed for
the night, but the inn keeper always held a good stock of supplies that
could be purchased by late night stragglers, rangers and the like who
didn't especially mind paying the extra tacked on for his services.
Aragorn felt it was well worth the price if they could get what they
needed and be gone before first light.
Legolas walked a step behind the ranger, allowing
the human to take the lead. He wore Aragorn's overcoat, the hood pulled
down deeply over his face, hiding his hair and fair features.
"We'll go to the inn. We can get what we need
there." The streets were deserted by this time of night and the
occupants that were still awake quietly closed their shutters as the
two strangers passed up the middle of the town.
"Friendly bunch," Legolas muttered softly as he
glanced towards a hovel, the owner, glaring at the foreigners, quickly
snapped his windows closed.
"I told you." Aragorn sighed and motioned up the
street. "The inn will be better. Just stay close."
The warm lights of the tavern flooded the dirt
street in front of the inn. Raucous laughter spilled out onto the night
air and the smells of men crowded into too small of a space reached out
to the elf, causing Legolas to wrinkle his nose. "Nice, Strider."
The ranger laughed softly as he pushed the door in.
"Just let me do the talking." As he passed through the entry his
demeanor changed. Legolas found it curious to watch the human as he
blended in perfectly with his surroundings. Aragorn glared at the
patrons, his lips set straight, his eyes half-hooded. His whole
countenance brokered no curiosity and surprisingly the others in the
room kept their distance. He walked slowly up to the bar and raised his
eyes to stare at the bar keeper.
"What can I get you?" The burly man leaned on the
wooden shelf and nodded at the two travelers.
"We need supplies." Aragorn's tone was short,
clipped and completely business.
"There's an extra charge."
"I know." The ranger held the man's gaze.
"Fair enough." The owner stood up, his eyes
softening a bit. "Name's Rixin. What can I get you?"
Strider began to give the man a list of items they
would need. Legolas tuned the conversation out and turned around,
casually leaning his back against the edge of the bar. He eyed the mix
of humans in the tavern, his bright eyes concealed by the hood he still
wore. It interested him. He had never been inside such a place in all
his life. The sounds and smells were crude, but the overall feeling was
of a place where one could get lost if they had a mind to and where no
one would care who you were or what became of you. It interested him.
"Four blankets?" The bar tender was questioning
Aragorn and Legolas looked back at his friend.
"Four," the ranger restated. "You never know when
you'll need extra," he added by way of explanation. His eyes met the
hooded blue ones of his friend and he smiled slightly.
"Alright." Rixin, looked at the list of items he had
scratched out. "It'll take a few minutes to round this up. I'll have
Maree fetch them for you. Why don't you and your friend take a seat.
Can I get you anything while you wait?"
Aragorn nodded. "We'll have two of the house brew."
The hooded figure glanced sharply at the ranger.
Aragorn was sure Legolas was frowning at him, but he simply pushed away
from the bar and walked to the far corner of the room, settling himself
into a chair near the back. He propped his boots on an empty stool and
watched the room intently. Legolas dropped lightly down beside him.
"The house brew?" The disdain in the elf's voice
caused the ranger to smile.
"It might be good." Aragorn shrugged.
Rixin stepped up near the table, "Two house brews.
You gentlemen let me know if you need anything else." He walked away,
shoving an inebriated patron out of his path. The man stumbled and
fell, crashing to the ground, asleep before he hit. The men nearest him
laughed at their friend.
"Nice." Legolas picked up the mug of ale and smelled
it. "Such a pleasant establishment. I can see why you like these
"Funny," Aragorn mumbled. "We'll be out of here
soon. Drink your ale."
The elf tasted the amber liquid. It was smooth and
warmed him as he swallowed it. He nodded slowly and took a bigger
drink. "It is good."
When Aragorn didn't answer, Legolas glanced at the
man. "Strider?" The ranger was intently watching a table off to their
right. Several patrons had gathered around and were listening to a
couple of nearly drunk men brag. Aragorn leaned back in his chair,
tipping the seat onto its back legs and shifted closer to Legolas.
"Listen to their conversation. That one there on the
left, in the green tunic, he says they have a map that leads to some
treasure of the ancient world... one of the lost seeing stones I think.
I only heard snatches of their talk but I could swear that's what he
said," Aragorn whispered the words to his companion.
For a moment Legolas didn't follow his friend's
meaning, then he realized the significance. "A palantir?" Legolas
turned his sharp hearing towards the hushed conversation. That was
strange talk indeed for such a place as this. At first glance the elf
would have wagered that none of the men in this room had enough wit to
even comprehend what the lost seeing stones of Nùmenor were,
much less claim to have any knowledge of them.
"Yes. What do you make of it?" Strider glanced at
For several minutes the elf sat silently and
listened to the talk at the table adjacent from them; his shadowed eyes
memorizing their faces. Aragorn sipped from his mug and pretended not
to notice, refraining from asking any of the thousands of questions
screaming in his mind. Elrond had told him vague stories of the
palantiri. Originally he said, there had been seven, but of those it
was thought that few, perhaps only two or three, remained. If the tale
he had overheard snatches of was true and someone had discovered the
whereabouts one of the seeing stones of the ancient kings, lost so many
years ago and now nearly forgotten, Aragorn was determined to find it
before they did. No one knew exactly who they had fallen to now or
where they lay hid, and such knowledge could be dangerous in the wrong
hands. He wished he knew where Gandalf were.
"Legolas?" The ranger whispered softly.
The elf held up his hand, quieting the human for a
few more minutes until the table of men broke up.
"You always were a bag of wind Glecyn!" One of the
men pushed out of the group, shaking his head, "Where do you find these
tales?" A few others followed, voicing their disbelief as well.
"Treasure maps, crystal balls... you're cracked!"
"It's true I tell you!" A dark-haired man shouted
after them, "and it's gotta be worth a fortune to someone! We'll be
rich and you'll be sorry you didn't believe us then."
"Sit down, Rigo, let them go." The man named Glecyn
pulled his dark-haired partner back down into an empty seat. "Less for
us to have to share."
As Aragorn watched the group disband, his attention
was drawn to a table next to where the two braggarts were sitting, now
quietly talking back and forth. Three men sat at the far table,
intently watching Rigo and Glecyn. In all truth half the room was
watching the two inebriated patrons after the loud outburst that had
ended in the taunting and joking at the expense of the partners. But
the demeanor of the men that Aragorn had his eyes on was unsettling.
Their gaze did not shift away after the commotion had died down and
they did not converse amongst themselves nor drink from the mugs before
them. It was as though Rigo and Glecyn held their rapt attention.
Legolas noticed them also and glanced at Aragorn out
of the corner of his eyes. "They will be trouble. They have no good
intentions I fear."
"I agree." Aragorn took a swig of ale and turned
towards his friend as Rigo and Glecyn walked past their table, heading
for the door. "What did you overhear?"
The elf did not answer outright but motioned with
his head towards the three men. They had gained their feet and were
following the others out, paying the bar tender quickly and leaving the
establishment on the heels of what seemed to be their prey.
"Tell me, Legolas, what did you hear?" Aragorn
watched as they left, his eyes still locked on the men as he questioned
"You were right." The prince leaned forward and
moved slightly closer to the ranger. "They do indeed claim to have a
map that leads to a secret chamber that holds one of the missing
palanitri. Which one, I do not know."
Aragorn turned his full attention on the elf.
"The one named Rigo was bragging of stealing the map
from a poor farmer along their way here to Adirolf. They performed some
task for the old man and he could not pay so he offered them the map in
return for their service, said it was worth something and supposedly
led to treasure. It seems they couldn't read the writing but somehow
they are assuming that it does indeed speak of a palantir, although
they do not know that name and regard it only as some kind of mystic
crystal ball. I am not convinced they really even know what the seeing
stones are, except by uncertain legend. However, by what means and to
what end they have decided and discerned all this I know not."
The two sat in silence for several moments.
"Shall we go after them?" Legolas questioned softly.
"It could be nothing but the rambling ignorance of drunkards, but if it
truly is a palantir..." he let the implications hang in the air between
"I know. I just..." Aragorn's response was cut off
as a red-haired, slightly overweight woman approached their table.
"You the ones that ordered all them supplies?" she
asked cheerfully. When they nodded she pointed over her shoulder with
her thumb. "Then they's over there waiting for you. Just pay Rixin on
the way out. Hope I remembered everything for you." Without waiting she
turned and walked off to the back of the bar and left through the
Aragorn smiled and chuckled lightly. "I think that
was Maree." He glanced back at the elf and sobered immediately as their
former conversation floated back to him.
"We should find out if its true, Strider." Legolas
eyed him anxiously. The thought of a palantir in the hands of men like
that bothered him deeply. The seeing stones were not toys or things to
be bartered by the ignorant. They were royal heirlooms made by the
Noldor, maybe even by Fëanor himself in ages long forgotten, and
were part of the high, elder days that seemed to be fading ever farther
and farther from the memory of Middle-earth.
The ranger nodded slowly and stood to his feet.
"Let's go collect our things and see if our friends aren't nearby. They
were too drunk to have gotten very far."
It was only a matter of moments before Aragorn had
paid the bartender and he and Legolas divided the supplies between
them, strapping them in packs upon their backs.
The night air had chilled and the full moon rode
high in the darkened sky. As they stepped into the muddied dirt street,
Aragorn stopped and stared up the alley. The bar door closed behind
them and they were able to better see that a group of men had gathered
not far away. A small struggle was ensuing but who the combatants were
they were unable to tell.
A short, sharp cry pierced the night and one of the
men dropped to the ground and did not rise, his blood mingled with the
pooled water beneath him, turning the street a darker shade of black.
"Glecyn!" the scream caused the ranger to jump and
glance at Legolas. They had no time to react as a dark shape broke from
the huddle of men and staggered up the street towards them, the others
running to catch up with their prey.
The man raced by Aragorn and crashed into Legolas.
His tunic was stained with blood and his eyes were glazed and haunted.
He grasped the elf, trying to right himself, but his body was failing
from the fatal wound he had sustained; it was Rigo.
His attackers approached the ranger more slowly,
wary of the strangers.
"I'm sorry," Rigo whispered in Legolas' ear, as he
pressed his head near the elf's hooded face. He quickly thrust his hand
into the prince's quiver before his life fled him and his body fell
limply against the elf.
Legolas lowered the man slowly to the ground. The
front of Aragorn's overcoat that the elf still wore was stained with
the man's blood and the elf turned to the human in confusion as he
slowly rose back to his feet. He would never get used to death or the
swift heedlessness with which mortals inflicted it upon one another.
"Who are you?" one of the men questioned Aragorn as
he brushed by the ranger and knelt next to the dead body, rifling
through the man's pockets. "It's not here either," he turned and spoke
to the men who had followed him.
"Were these men with you?" the ranger answered by
way of a question. He reached casually behind him and dragged the
prince with him as he attempted to walk past the small group that was
slowly trying to stop up their exit, effectively blocking them into the
"I asked you a question," the same dark-haired man
spoke. His voice was quieter and held a harder edge than before as he
stood to his feet and walked back in front of the ranger.
"We've only stopped for supplies. We don't know your
business and we don't care. We'll be leaving now." Aragorn's voice
hardened to match that of the other man.
"I don't think so." The glint of a dagger caught the
ranger's eye and he stiffened imperceptibly.
"What is it you want?" he asked the man directly in
front of him who had unsheathed his knife.
"Just give us the map and we'll let you leave," the
man said with quiet menace.
Aragorn was confused; he glanced back at the dead
man behind them and frowned at the men blocking his path. "I don't know
what you are talking about. We just left the tavern. We don't even know
these men." He indicated the still bodies in the street.
"Paxcyn, maybe they don't know," the assailant who
originally questioned them addressed the leader of the small group.
"That one does." Paxcyn raised his hand, pointing
the tip of the dagger he held at Legolas' heart. "That fool drunk gave
it to him before he died."
Aragorn glanced over his shoulder at Legolas. The
elf shook his head slightly. Rigo had given him nothing that he knew of.
"What, you don't talk?" a man near the elf spoke up.
"Shut up, Deollyn," Paxcyn barked at the man. He
turned his attention on Legolas. "Just give it to us and we'll give you
no more trouble."
Legolas glanced at Aragorn, unwilling to reveal his
identity by speaking, but slowly losing his patience with these men who
had mistaken him for the map holder.
"He doesn't have whatever you're looking for. I
suggest you take a
second look at the two men you killed. Perhaps in your haste you
killed them too quickly," Aragorn replied evenly.
Deollyn leapt forward and grabbed Legolas' hood,
jerking it back. "What
are you? Some kind of a..." The man's voice faltered as the elf's
blonde hair fell around his shoulders and he stuttered in shock, "a...
"It's a blasted elf!" another man muttered
"What kind of a human keeps company with elves?"
scraped the underside of Aragorn's chin. "Do you know what we do to
their kind that comes sneaking in here?"
Aragorn breathed out slowly and balanced his weight;
muscles, he waited until Paxcyn glanced back at Legolas. In one swift
move the ranger stepped closer to the large man, grabbing his arm and
twisting the dagger out of his hand. He used his attacker's weight
against him and slung the man around in front of him, holding the
dagger beneath Paxcyn's throat.
Paxcyn's men scattered outward, thrown off by the
suddenness of the
ranger's movements. It took them only seconds to recover from their
initial shock. Deollyn pulled his sword from its scabbard and pointed
it at Legolas.
"Release him," Deollyn growled at the ranger, "or I
will split your
pretty friend in two."
"I think not." Strider's voice was low and the smile
he turned on the
man was anything but friendly. "We are leaving now. Whatever you are
looking for, I suggest you take it up with your dead friends." He began
to back slowly away from the group, dragging Paxcyn with him.
"You'll regret this," Paxcyn growled at him.
"Meeting you?" Aragorn jerked his arm more tightly
about the man's
throat. "I already do." The ranger glanced at the elf and switched to
the grey tongue, calling his friend to follow him, "Come on, Legolas."
"No." Deollyn advanced on the prince, who was
standing perfectly still,
gazing intently out into the forests. "This one knows something." The
man took another step towards the elf and flicked the tip of his sword
against the side of the prince's face, cutting a fine crimson line
across the elf's cheek bone. Legolas flinched at the unexpected action
and jerked away.
"Don't you, little elf?" Deollyn stepped even
closer, but was stopped
abruptly as arrows whistled through the air, appearing seemingly out of
nowhere and embedding themselves into the dirt around the man's feet.
Legolas raised one fair eyebrow and glanced at
Deollyn, "I believe I
will be going with the ranger." He glared at the man in front of him,
thoroughly irritated with the human as he slowly wiped the blood from
his cheek with the sleeve of the overcoat, his eyes flashing.
"I'd let him go if I were you," Strider called back.
"Deollyn. Let it go." Paxcyn glanced over his
shoulder at the ranger.
"We'll catch up with them later."
Legolas stepped lightly around the man and walked
"Smart man," the ranger spoke quietly to Paxcyn. He
shoved the fellow
forward and walked slowly backwards a few steps before turning around
and joining Legolas.
An arrow streaked past Aragorn's head, landing with
a soft, warning
thunk in the dirt behind them, staving off any thought of attack by
Paxcyn and his men as the ranger and the elf quickly left town,
disappearing into the edge of the forest.
"What was that all about?" Trelan asked, wide-eyed
as he helped Legolas
set down the pack the elf was carrying.
"They think we have something those two dead men
claimed to have
found." Legolas frowned at Aragorn. "That was close."
Aragorn shucked his pack off and set it on a fallen
log, swiping long
strands of hair out of his eyes. "Too close." He glanced back down into
the valley the town was set into, intently watching for any movement.
"I don't think we've seen the last of our friends either."
The human turned a brilliant smile on the two
warrior elves. "That was
perfect timing for the two of you. I wasn't sure how we were going to
get out of that one." With a sigh he glanced at Legolas.
"We followed you to the edge of town and waited. We
thought you might
need an extra hand." Raniean laughed as he divided up the provisions
they had purchased. He tossed a bed roll to Trelan. The soft blanket
smacked the elf in the head and he glared at his friend, much to the
amusement of Aragorn.
"Oh sure, go ahead and laugh." Trelan retrieved the
roll from the
forest floor. "I'll get you back." He smirked at Aragorn before turning
to Raniean and growling, "And you too my friend."
"Aragorn," Legolas whispered his friend's name. He
was crouched on the
ground, reorganizing the supplies in his pack, and had dumped his
out on the earth. The arrows lay skewed on the grass as he smoothed out
a rumpled piece of old, yellowed paper. He knew for certain that it had
not been there before.
The ranger turned at the sound of his name and
sobered immediately when
he saw what Legolas held. He knelt beside the elf and unfolded the
corner nearest him. The map shimmered softly in the faint light; the
words reflected the moon's glow and seemed to come alive as they held
out between them.
"Is this what I think it is?" Aragorn asked quietly,
glancing at his
"Yes. It was in my quiver. Rigo must have dropped it
in there before he
died." Legolas stared at the runes on the map. "I can only read parts
of it. This is no ordinary writing: see how it glows." He brushed his
fingers lightly over the glowing letters. "It is some form of moon
writing. This is elvish, but these... these words here are not. I do
not know what they are."
"Is it what we thought?" Aragorn pressed his
forefinger against the
"It is indeed a map to a hidden palantir. Or so it
claims to be,
although I have no recollection of a city where it indicates the
location of the seeing stone." Legolas moved the human's hand away
gently, indicating the words beneath his fingertips. "This word here
is elvish for 'seeing stone' and these", he ran his fingers under the
delicate sentences inscribed on the edges of the map, "these are the
tale of why the stone was concealed, but some of the words have been
worn off." He indicated the ratted edges of the old map.
"What have you there?" Raniean knelt down on the
other side of Legolas
and stared at the intricate pictures depicting part of Middle-earth.
"Why that's a map!" Trelan leaned over Raniean and
glanced at the paper.
"Good thing we have you along, Trelan. We never
would have guessed,"
Raniean glanced over his shoulder at the smaller elf and answered
The short warrior gave his friend a good shove,
pitching the elf
"Stop it you two." Legolas glanced at Aragorn. "This
The ranger nodded and pressed closer to his friend,
trying to see the
map better. "Is that not the Gap of Rohan, there below where the seeing
stone is said to be located?"
Legolas nodded once in answer.
"That lies on our path. We need to go see if it's
still there. It is not
a prize for treasure hunters; we can't let it fall into the wrong
hands." Aragorn shook his head, unconsciously resting his hand on his
"Agreed." Legolas quickly collected his arrows and
replaced them in his
quiver. "Ran, go watch our backs. Those men will be after us. They were
right; we do have the map and we are safe here no longer."
"My lord," Raniean hesitated. "Should we not get
this information to
someone better suited to handling one of the stones when it is found?"
"Ran, has a point," Aragorn interjected, "We need to
get word back to
my father and yours of the detour we will be taking and perhaps my
father can find Gandalf. We could use his expertise in this matter.
There is much about the palantiri that has been forgotten..." The young
human looked thoughtful. "I wish I had paid more attention when Elrond
spoke of them."
"If you should meet up with those men from the town
you will need our
help." Trelan didn't like the thought of leaving them alone.
"We'll be fine," Aragorn replied absently as he
lightened the supplies
he carried, shifting the pack onto his back.
"Oh yes, I'll be fine, I have Strider." Legolas
glanced out of the
corner of his eye at the ranger, trying to hide his smile as the human
started and glared at him.
Trelan and Raniean, however, could not contain their
mirth quite as well
and they burst out laughing.
"Hey!" Aragorn slung his bow over his shoulder and
stood to his feet,
challenging the elves.
"Estel, I am only teasing." Legolas refolded the map
and slipped it
into an inner pocket on his tunic. "It is a good idea to let our
fathers know. Heaven knows mine is going to have my head anyway. No
need to make it worse by being even later without sending word. And I
would feel much better if Mithrandir were here also. His wisdom and
knowledge would be a great asset."
"I say we make for Moria. When we were last there
Balin said his people
had control of both gates, so there must be an outpost on this side of
the mountain as well. We can stop there for more supplies." Aragorn
glanced back into the valley. Dim shadows caught his attention.
"I would feel better if we accompanied you. I do not
splitting up, Trelan is right." Raniean rested his hand on Legolas'
shoulder and stared hard at the prince, letting his gaze linger
meaningfully on the thin cut across Legolas' cheekbone.
"I understand your hesitation, and I would rather
have your company,
but this is important. A palantir is no small thing to fall into the
wrong hands." The prince glanced at the smaller warrior. "Trelan, go,
warn Rivendell and ask Lord Elrond to send for Mithrandir if he can
find him." Legolas turned back to Raniean and wrapped his hand around
the warrior's forearm. "Ran, please, head with all speed to my father's
and inform him of my delay..." Legolas resisted the slight wave of
regret that tugged at him. Further prolongation of his return to
Mirkwood was going to do nothing but irritate whatever problems might
result between himself and his father over his long absence and tardy
response to his father's summons. But it couldn't be helped. This was
important and could not be put aside. His father would just have to
wait a little longer. "Let him know the seriousness of the situation.
Strider and I will do our best to retrieve the seeing stone and return
it somewhere safe. We will make for Mirkwood as soon as we have it."
"As wish you my lord," Trelan answered as he
readjusted his pack. He
glanced at Raniean and the warrior nodded his head.
"We will go back toward Rivendell and I can take the
northern pass. It
will be quicker and we will be safer together until Trelan reaches Lord
Elrond," Raniean addressed the prince.
"Go swiftly and may the Valar watch over your path,"
Legolas bid his
Without a glance backwards the two warriors silently
raced off through
the darkened woods, back the way they had come.
Legolas walked to the edge of the cliff and followed
down into the valley.
"They are coming." The human whispered.
Several dark shapes rode out of town on horses,
heading up towards the
hills in the direction of the two friends.
"Trelan and Raniean are away. We should be as well."
Legolas left the
cliff and darted back into the forest, "Come, Aragorn. We'll head for
Moria. We will find safety there."
Two days passed without event and the ranger and elf
made the most of
them. Aragorn and Legolas covered the distance before them swiftly and,
since they knew they were being hunted, they took even greater care to
leave no tracks, no trace for Paxcyn and his men to follow. They were
drawing very near to the west entrance of Moria now. Neither of them
knew exactly where it lay, but they remembered Balin telling them that
he and his folk had re-opened both the east and the west gate. From
what they could recall having heard of its general location, they knew
they must be getting close now, although their actually finding it was
going to depend a lot more on chance than either of them liked.
Neither of them really relished the idea of going
into the mines again,
even if they could find the doors, but they knew that it was the only
place between here and Rohan that they were sure to be able to
re-supply without their presence being given away to those they wished
to avoid, and the gap of Rohan was still a long distance off.
When the third day dawned with still no sight nor
sign of the men who
had pursued them, the two friends felt fairly confident that they had
given Paxcyn and his mercenaries the slip.
Legolas, as usual, was up before the dawn. The
previous night they had
made camp in a large, sprawling strand of woods that crossed their
path. Legolas felt fairly certain that beyond the forest they would be
able to see the mountain walls close at hand, and hopefully some sign
that they were going in the right direction to find what they sought.
It had been too dark last night by the time they
stopped for even the
prince's keen eyes to see anything, but now he wished to take a look in
Silently, Legolas left Aragorn still sleeping and
made his way quickly
through the quiet woods. Last night they had passed a particularly tall
pine that seemed to be higher than the other trees. If he could get up
into the top of it, the elf knew he should have a good view of the
surrounding area and a better idea of where they were and what
direction they should take from here.
Finding the tree without difficulty, Legolas
shimmied easily up the
long, bare trunk until he could reach the first of the lowest branches
and worked from there. It took the elf several minutes to make his way
to the top, but the climb was well rewarded. Just as he had suspected,
the pine was the tallest thing in the immediate area, and the prince's
keen elven eyes were able to see for miles in every direction. The
woods stretched out under him to the right and the left, unbroken and
rolling, obscuring sight of all that happened beneath their branches.
Behind him he could see the direction in which they had come, but
Adirolf was now much too far behind them for even his vision. Ahead of
them and slightly to the right, the grey, craggy face of the mountains
rose up steeply in the not-so-far-off distance.
A stream separated the woods from the rock face, but
gratified to see what looked like a huge doorway standing partially
open in the face of a sheer cliff some distance off. A shallow pool lay
near the gates and the newly rising sun glinted dully on its waters.
Unless he was greatly mistaken, those had to be the western gates of
Moria; there was no other purpose for such an entryway into solid rock.
Legolas descended the tree quickly, satisfied with
the result of the
expedition. Leaping lightly to the ground from the lowest branch, some
twenty feet in the air, the elf landed cat-like on his feet, letting
his knees bend to absorb the impact with the soft, springy earth.
Suddenly, a swift, sharp blow to the base of his
skull sent him
lurching forward, off balance. At the same moment an arm snaked around
his neck from behind, pulling him back, and he felt the sharp, rough
bite of a dagger against his throat. A second arm wrapped around his
chest, pulling the elf back tightly against the one who held him.
For an instant Legolas struggled against his captor,
but a sharp tug on
the knife under his chin put a stop to that. The rough blade dug into
his flesh and the man holding him was not being gentle nor careful.
"Now, now, none of that, little elf, none of that,"
a familiar voice
hissed in his ear. It was Paxcyn.