Dark Visions

Chapter 5

by Cassia and Siobhan

First > Previous > Next   

In the split second before the orc could bring the blade down, Aragorn’s fingers tightened on the handle of his sword and he thrust the weapon upward beneath his attacker’s ribs, piercing the darkened heart.  The orc fell with a stifled cry to the ground.  Elrond stopped, his own weapon dropping to his side as Aragorn turned a weary gaze on the elf lord. 

A shadow behind his father caught Aragorn’s attention and he slipped a dagger from his boot.  Deftly tossing the small knife into the air he grabbed the blade and threw the weapon across the camp with a shout. The dagger passed through the air mere inches from Elrond’s face.  The elf didn’t move nor did he flinch as the blade barely brushed his hair before embedding itself in the neck of an orc behind him.  The creature dropped to the forest floor with out a sound. 

“I think that’s all of them.”  Aragorn glanced around them, his senses still on alert.  He swallowed hard, resting where he was kneeling on the ground, not quite trusting himself to his feet yet.  “Are you all right?” he asked quietly, his gaze falling on his father.  The elf lord nodded, he too was still listening, wanting to make sure they were alone. 

“Estel?”  Elrond asked cautiously, stepping over the dead body of an orc. 

Aragorn waved him off and stood unsteadily to his feet, straightening up slowly.  He pressed his left hand against his still mending collar-bone and groaned softly, it ached deep in the bone.  That last blow had almost been too much.  Quietly he surveyed their wrecked camp; the bodies of the dead orcs littering the tiny glen lay in dark in heaps.  The fire ring had been utterly destroyed; the carcass of one of the foul beasts lay prone across the crushed embers. 

“Well that’s nice.  I am not sleeping here tonight.” He turned his gaze on his father.  The elderly elf was frowning as he ripped a piece of cloth from one of the dead creatures and wiped the edge of his blade clean, inspecting the smooth steel for any nicks or pits it may have picked up in the fight. 

Aragorn watched Elrond for a few moments, fascinated by the warrior that he had seen in the elderly elf only minutes earlier. 

“What do you think they wanted?" The Ranger resumed his inspection of the destroyed glade as the elf lord gazed dispassionately at the bodies that strew their camp. His lips turned up slightly in disgust. 

“Our gear and ourselves if they could have gotten either.  The group was relatively small and from the way they are outfitted they are not soldiers, but marauding raiders, most likely from the mountains somewhere.  We are far enough south to be in danger of such errant scouting parties such as this one.  It simply never occurred to me when we made camp.”  Elrond supposed that maybe it really had been a long time since he had been away from the lands surrounding Rivendell, especially when not traveling with a large host.  He was going to have to be a bit more on his guard. 

A soft laugh drew the elf’s attention to his son who was walking slowly toward him, “Those types of things don’t always occur to me either, which is why I am always thankful when Legolas is traveling with me.  He is... how shall I put it... ultimately cautious about situations like this.  I think it comes from living in Mirkwood.  If he were here I think he mostly likely would have insisted on camping in a different location entirely.”  The ranger glanced quickly into the tree tops above their heads before stooping to retrieve a flat branch, gathering it into a pile that he had started collecting, stacking them on the ground along with various other piece of wood and large leaves that he could find laying on the forest floor. “And he’d be right too.”  Aragorn was walking slowly, gazing intently into the upper reaches of the trees around them again, his preoccupation taking him out of the ring of the small glade. 

“Estel, wait, come here,” Elrond walked after the young human, “I really need to see to your collarbone; that was a vicious blow you took.  You are not yet healed enough, my son.” 

“In a minute. We need to set up camp somewhere much safer. There may be more parties about.” 

Elrond could hear the human’s voice just outside the glen under the shadows of the woods and growing fainter; the ranger was moving away from him. “I think I’ve found the perfect place to rest for the evening.”  Aragorn called back through the forest, his voice taking on an odd strain to it as though his attentions were focused elsewhere. 

Elrond had begun collecting what things were salvageable and picked up the pile of leaves and wood that Aragorn had left stacked up, having a good idea of what his adopted son was up to.  He followed the soft sounds of the ranger's approaching footsteps as he walked back towards the elf, meeting him part way. 

“Here, let me help you.”  Aragorn stepped out of the half-gloom of the woods, and, seeing the load his father carried, quickly wrapped his arms around the upper half of the stack of tree limbs, intending to help ease the burden.  Unfortunately the weight of the wood was too much for his injuries to sustain and he fell to one knee in an attempt not to drop the load he carried, unsuccessfully stifling a small cry. 

“Enough.”  Elrond dropped his burden on the ground and steered the ranger over to a large boulder, forcing the human to sit down.  “Let me see to your shoulder now.  Not another excuse. We’ll build our loft in a moment.” 

Aragorn winced as his father pressed his hands underneath the ranger’s tunic and gently felt the healing bones.  Moving the tunic back from near the youth’s neck Elrond’s sharp eyes detected the darkening bruises from where the orc had hit his son.  “How does it feel?  Can you move your arm at all?” 

“A bit.”  Aragorn painfully tried to rotate his right arm, unsuccessfully attempting to convince the elf that he was all right. 

“Estel.”  Elrond’s tone was a warning in itself.  He rummaged through his sack and pulled out a white piece of cloth. 

“I am not putting that back on.  I fully intend to build us a flet and climb up there myself.”  Aragorn stiffly stood and rounded the rock, keeping the boulder between him and his father. 

“You may help build a flet and you may climb up there by yourself but you will wear this sling again until that arm and shoulder have had some rest.”  Elrond laid the cloth on the rock and glanced up at the tree next to him. “This one will do.”  With that said the elf lord easily vaulted into the lowest branches of the tree, climbing halfway up it where the thick limbs crossed one another and were wide enough to carry the weight of a human and elf. 

“Hand me up the wood, Estel.”  The disembodied voice of his father floated down to him, the elf lord’s form hidden in the thick gloom. 

“I cannot see you.”  Aragorn hefted a flat limb and lifted it above his head.  A soft blue glow brightened slightly in the tree, emanating directly overhead and he smiled up into the eyes of the elf lord, “Oh, there you are,” he teased lightly as he slowly handed the wood and greens to Elrond, pulling himself and their supplies up with him at the last. 

The loft, as Elrond had called it, was far more sturdy than any flet Legolas and he had ever constructed as far as the ranger could remember.  The elf lord had padded the wooden platform with the large fronds from the forest floor, their scent adding a familiar fragrance to the tree top dwelling. 

His father scooted to the back of the thrown together shelf, intending to make room for his son as Aragorn edged up on to the loft.  The human stood uncertainly, glancing from the trunk of the tree at the elf’s back to the elf lord himself. 

“What is it, Estel?” 

“Well, its just that...Legolas always lets me...makes me...” the ranger sighed in resignation and admitted the reasons for his hesitancy to his father, “I sleep by the tree and he sleeps by the edge.” 

Try as he might Elrond could not stifle the small laugh that the admission provoked.  “You mean to say that he fears you will fall off in the middle of the night?” 

Aragorn blushed and the color that rose in his cheeks was not hidden from his father.  “It’s not that... well maybe it is.”  He glanced in embarrassment out into the night around them.  “Mostly it's just that Legolas can’t sleep cause I fidget and toss in the night, this high above the ground.  I just sleep better with the tree at my back.”  He smiled ruefully down at his father as he inched around the elf, his hand braced against the tree that formed the back of the platform. 

Elrond easily slid out of the way and moved towards the edge of the flet, trying to contain his laughter.  “Oh, Estel, forgive me, sometimes I forget you aren’t elven.” He reached towards the boy, pulling him closer away from the safety of the trunk as the ranger seated himself wearily onto the platform.  “Let me have a look at that shoulder again.  I have some ointment here that will help to take the ache out of the bones.”  

Gently brushing the long wayward strands of dark hair away from the youth’s neck, the elf lord worked the soothing lotion into the bruised collarbone.  “So Legolas taught you how to build flets did he?”  He tried to preoccupy the ranger with quiet conversation as he rotated Aragorn’s shoulder and reset his right arm in the soft sling. 

A quiet moan escaped the human’s lips and he shut his eyes tightly, nodding in answer to the question.  Breathing in slowly as Elrond eased his arm back against his chest and held it there gently he continued to speak. “The first I built by myself fell out from underneath us.  Don’t you know he never lets me live it down.”  Aragorn laughed softly at himself, “It really was funny though and thank the Valar neither of us was hurt.” 

Elrond was shaking his head in amusement. His dark eyes watched intently as his son inched back towards the tree’s tall trunk and eased down onto the fronds that lined the loft, carefully positioning himself on his left side, the faintly glowing light of the elf aiding him.  The youth smiled at his father.  He felt worse than he wanted to admit; the surprise attack by the orcs had worn him out and he hated those feelings of weakness. 

“Thank you, Ada.  It does feel much better now.” The ranger spoke softly, his words easily falling into elvish. 

“Good.  Were you injured anywhere else?”  The elf lord questioned as he lay down, wrapping himself in his cloak and pillowing his head on his arm.  His son’s eyes reflected the dim glow he cast about them as the human tried vainly to remain awake.  “Estel, don’t fight it.  Let your body relax and rest. You need the sleep.” 

Aragorn pulled away from the hand that reached towards him, a mischievous grin pulling at the corners of his mouth, “Do not try that elven trick on me again!  I’ll fall asleep on my own, thank you.” 

Laying his hand gently on the young man’s shoulder Elrond laughed, “I wouldn’t dream of it.  Besides Galadriel always was better at that than I.” 

Relaxing back against the trunk, Estel blinked slowly.  “See, this is how Legolas and I are always getting into trouble.  We never go seeking it; somehow it simply always finds us.” 

“You expect me to believe...” Elrond cut their quiet conversation off, rolling swiftly onto his stomach and pulling himself silently to the edge of the flet. 

Something stirred below them. 

In seconds Aragorn had awkwardly joined him, peering intently into the darkness below their hiding place. 

A small party of orcs passed beneath them, their shuffling gait loud in the night stillness.  Everything in the forest silenced as they passed, grunting and talking to one another in their coarse, gravelly voices.  Their complaints carried easily on the slight breezes and the two watchers could hear the evil beasts discussing their slain comrades and wondering where their murderers were hiding even now.  The hulking black form of a warg padded next to its masters, scenting the varying smells.  Neither it nor the evil creatures that accompanied it detected the elf and the ranger high above their heads. 

Elrond gently tapped Aragorn’s shoulder and the two pulled back from the edge of the platform, quietly lying back down and watching one another, waiting until the sounds of the woods crept back into the trees around them, their soft cacophony like a symphony to the two. 

“We are safe now.  They know not where we have gotten to and they will not pass this way again,” Elrond whispered, his voice barely heard by the ranger. 

Aragorn nodded in understanding; he had long ago learned to read what people were saying without having to fully hear it.  Years of wandering with Legolas had given him that edge.  His thoughts turned once more to his friend and he grimaced, shaking his head slightly at the edginess that dogged his heart and waking moments. 

“Tomorrow we’ll resume our search.  We will find him, Estel.”  Elrond comforted. 

“I know.”  Aragorn was far from sure but the words of his father went far to soothe his worried heart and he closed his eyes, content in the fact that for the moment they were safe and he was one step closer to finding his friend. 


Legolas shivered violently, yet he felt as if his body was on fire.  Heat radiated off him and his hair clung to the sides of his fever-damp face.  Inside he felt as if he were burning up, yet his skin was unaccountably cold and tense shudders wracked his frame.  For one who was unaccustomed to having to feel the presence of either hot or cold, the sensation was distinctly disconcerting, as well as miserable. 

If the elf prince had ever had the flu, or anything of that nature, he would have likened his current state to that but, being an elf, Legolas had never been ill, so the only thing that this reminded him of was the hellish state he had been left in after having been given too much Dragon Water to drink, or some of the worse fevers he had had after being injured.  But even that hadn’t felt quite like this. 

The elf prince moaned softly and opened his eyes, attempting to work the blurry world into focus.  A hand rested on his forehead to check the state of his fever.  It was not the hand of another elf. 

“Estel?” Legolas murmured blearily.  His cloudy mind didn’t register that it had been over a month since he last saw the ranger, or how highly unlikely it was for Aragorn to be anywhere near here, wherever ‘here’ was.  All he knew was he was hurting and disoriented and usually when he was in that state, the young Dùnadan was close at hand.  Odd how that worked. 

“No, Freca.  Just lay still.  You’re going to live,” a gruff but not unkind voice spoke nearby, making Legolas start slightly.  The accent was that of Rohan.  “You may not feel like you want to for a little while, but you will.” 

Legolas realized that the man near him was a complete stranger, so were the other men he could only vaguely sense nearby.  The elf stiffened.  He didn’t feel threatened by these people, but past experience had not led him to be comfortable being vulnerable around most mortals.  

“Where am I?” Legolas tried to keep his voice from shaking.  He felt horrible.  Truly horrible.  “Who are you?”  The prince winced.  His tone had betrayed much more fear than he intended.  He wanted to sit up, but he felt too dizzy and ill to attempt it. 

“You’re in Émuseld, above East Emnet.  My men found you up in the rocky places of the Wold.  I’m Freca and you’re in my house.  You were bitten by a lhyguan.  My people saved your life and brought you here.  Now just lie still and rest or you’ll wish you were still unconscious.  Trust me, I’ve seen a lot of these cases.” 

Legolas relaxed because he could not afford to remain tense.  If these people intended to harm him, then there was nothing he could do about it and they probably would have done it already.  “Where’s Trelan?” he murmured as he remembered what had happened before his fall. 


“M-my friend... another elf, did you find another elf?” Legolas was starting to shiver again, the violent trembling taking over him as darkness began to edge his vision. 

“Sorry, we found you alone.  Now be still, it’ll pass faster if you save your strength.  Be still...” 

But if Freca said anything else, Legolas did not hear it, for the shadow world had pulled him under again and he knew no more. 


“Rise and shine,” an overly rough hand shook Legolas out of his slumber and the elf winced, trying to pull away.  The jarring sent waves of pain and nausea through his aching body and the loud voice made his head throb. 

“Come on now, wake up,” Freca was still shaking the elf. 

Legolas rolled over and fixed the man with a slightly blood-shot glare.  “I am awake.”  Silently, he reflected that he would have to have been dead to not be. “What is it?”  The prince passed his hand over his face, trying to dispel the deep ache behind his eyes, but it was no use, even the slightest movement of his gaze made his eye sockets throb as if he were looking into the sun.  

“What is it?  You’ve been down for nearly two days, it’s time you got up and started moving around.  You have to work the toxins out of your system now with activity, or they will continue to linger much longer than you’d like.  Come on, get up,” Freca said with an overly annoying amount of cheerfulness. 

Legolas moaned softly.  Two days?  He only remembered waking up once since the accident and his perception of time was totally lost.  Had it really been two days?  The elf started to sit up only to have the world crash down upon his shoulders.  Legolas found himself flat on his back again and not quite remembering having gotten there.  His head was buzzing and he thought he just possibly might need to throw up.  That was a very unique feeling and he decided he did not like it one bit. 

Freca took the elf’s arm and dragged him upright again, wrapping the prince’s hands around one of the bedposts next to Legolas to help him remain upright.  This time Legolas managed, but he was not sure he wanted to. 

“I do not feel well,” he murmured softly, letting his hot forehead fall to rest against the cool, rough wood of the bedpost.  It was a massive understatement.  Even his hands hurt.  No, just one hand.  Legolas looked at the bandage wrapped around his right palm and tried to figure out what it was for. 

“Of course you don’t!” Freca shook his head.  “I told you.  You were bitten by a lhyguan,” he nodded towards the bandage that Legolas had just been looking at.  “You’re lucky to be alive.  You wouldn’t be if some of my men hadn’t found you right after it happened.  Them are nasty creatures.  You’re over the worst, but you’re gonna feel like dragon spit for a few more days yet.  However, the best thing to do is to get active right away and not let the poisons sit around idle in your body.” 

Legolas just clung to the bedpost and nodded.  All he wanted to do was lie down again, but if he needed to be up and moving then that’s all there was to it and somehow he would have to manage.  His mouth felt incredibly dry and there was a very bad taste in it.  “May I have some water please?” 

Freca dipped a cup of fresh water out of a pail in the corner of the room and passed it to the elf.  Legolas drank slowly, finding that his throat hurt, but when he was done he felt slightly better. 

“You want something to eat?” the man inquired.  Legolas shook his head, letting one arm wrap lightly around his stomach.  He didn’t feel ready for that yet.  The elf was surprised to see that Freca was holding another cup out towards him after taking the first one back.  The elf took it and looked down at the warm, slightly amber liquid uncertainly. 

“Drink,” Freca commanded when it became apparent that Legolas didn’t get the drift. 

“What is it?” the prince questioned, holding the cup away slightly.  It had an odd odor and the smell turned his already troubled stomach. 

“The only thing keeping you alive,” Freca said casually.  “We call it AntiVen.  It’s our own formula, and I might add the only thing that fights lhyguan poison.” 

Legolas was confused.  “I thought you said I was bitten two days ago.” 

“You were, and you survived the first twenty-four hours which are the worst part, but don’t think that means you're out of the woods yet,” Freca shook his head.  “You’re definitely not from around here, are you?  If you knew anything about lhygians you’d know that their poison remains in a person’s body for at least two weeks.  Most of the time it’s fatal within the first few hours.  People in these parts have lost a lot of horses and more than a few people that way in past.  But my boys and I have the only remedy for it, however, you have to have morning and evening doses of AntiVen each day for the next two weeks to keep the toxins under control, or they’ll still kill ya.  I’m sorry to say that you’re gonna be feeling ill for quite a while, but eventually the side effects will wear off a bit.  If you stay on the AntiVen, you’ll be right as rain in a fortnight.”  Freca explained as he moved around the room.  It made Legolas feel too ill to try to follow the man with his eyes, so he didn’t know what exactly the fellow was doing.

Having to take on faith that these people knew what they were talking about; Legolas raised the cup to his lips and drank.  His stomach protested and he gripped the post he clung to a little harder, remaining still as he tried to battle with his own nausea. 

“What’s your name then if you don’t mind my asking?” Freca said when it seemed apparent that Legolas was not going to comment on what he had just been told.  “And what is an... well, one of your kind, doing out here?” 

“Legolas,” the prince was too ill to think of taking an alias.  Besides, it didn’t matter, these men wouldn’t know him from the next elf.  “I was riding with a friend near the borders of the forest. We were attacked.” 

“You were near Fangorn?” Freca interrupted. 

“No,” Legolas shook his head.  Obviously they must now be nearer to that ancient wood than to the forests of his home, although he did not realize he had fled quite so far south.  “Mirkwood.  We were pursuing some orcs across the river Limlight, but lost their trail.  It was then, on the Downs that we were attacked.  The men who assaulted us were after our horses.  I do not know what became of my friend; we were separated and pursued.  I was forced into a rocky area... my horse was frightened and I think she threw me.  I... I don’t remember anything else,” Legolas closed his eyes.  Worry for Trelan was eating at his heart again. 

He told the truth, just not all of it.  He and Trelan had been sent down to southern Mirkwood to check on rumors of stirring in the supposedly vacant Dol Guldur.  There they had found a band of orcs who strangely enough did not want to fight, but ran away from the elves as if they were under orders that they could not risk jeopardizing.  Legolas and Trelan had pursued them, but the trail was lost with the crossing of the Anduin and then the Limlight, and although the elves felt sure that the creatures had gone down through Rohan, they had decided to abandon the trail and return home with the strange tidings, when they were attacked.  But these humans didn’t need to know that.  It did not concern them. 

Freca inclined his head as he pulled a jingling set of leather and metal off a hook on the wall and slung it over his shoulder.  If Legolas had been feeling better he would have recognized it as a halter. 

“Well, Legolas, you need to move and I need an extra set of hands, so follow me,” Freca headed for the door in the rear of the room rather than the one that led out into the rest of the house.  

Legolas was not sure he could, but he did not want to show this man that much weakness.  Standing seemed a daunting task, but the prince found it easier than he feared.  The anti-venom drink he had been given had helped his dizziness a little and he made it to the door without mishap.  The bright sunlight outside assaulted his senses and he had to stop for a moment, holding the doorframe and swaying slightly as he gathered his strength. 

“Close your eyes, and stand in the light for a moment,” Freca had backtracked, seeing the elf’s hesitation.  “It’ll be easier when you open them again.” 

Legolas did as he was told and was surprised that when he opened his eyes again he found that the fierce pain had faded back to a dull ache.  He blinked a few times adjusting to the brightness. 

“All right, good, come on then,” Freca was off and moving again across the windswept grass, passing around the side of the house.  The day was clear and the sun shone brightly on the rolling green hills that spread out around them. 

“Where are we going?” Legolas’ mind was still a little foggy. 

“Down to the stables.  Fastred and Léod are out looking for our missing horses again and I need a hand.  Here, hold this,” Freca passed the halter to Legolas. 

Legolas quickly found out that Émuseld was not a town as he had at first thought upon hearing the name, but rather a large estate that was comprised mostly of horse pastures and two long rows of stables.  There was also a strange, fenced-in ring with a sandy floor to the right of the stables, as well as Freca’s main house, and a smaller building nearby.  All were fashioned in the manner of the Rohirrim: pointed roofs and thick wooden beams, with images of horses and other beasts carved into the doorposts. 

Entering the first stable and moving through the low, thatch-roofed structure, Freca stopped by a stall that held a large, black horse.  The animal shied back from him, snorting and pawing its hooves in warning.  The stall was not big enough for it to evade his reach, however, and Freca caught the horse’s head, holding it still as it tried to jerk free.  Quickly, he tied a piece of cloth over the animal’s eyes and it quieted some, but it was still trying to pull away from the human’s touch. 

“All right, I’ll hold him, you put the halter on,” Freca’s voice was choppy as he strained to hold onto the horse.  It was putting up a good fight, even blindfolded. 

Legolas stared down at the contraption in his hands.  He had had very little call to have to do this in his life, because he generally used no reins or bridle when he rode.  Yet he did know the principles behind it more or less.  If he were feeling better, it would have been easier, but he tried to push aside his weakness and proceed.  The horse did not make matters easier by jerking its head around and attempting to pull up, so the man and elf could barely reach him.  Sliding the nosepiece on quickly and pulling the straps up over the horse’s ears, Legolas paused, realizing something was wrong. 

The horse swung its head to the side, clipping Freca’s chin sharply and making him let go.  The man swore and spit blood, yanking the halter away.  “Don’t you know anything?  You have to get the bit into his mouth first!” 

Legolas was feeling poorly and increasingly irritated, but he also felt a bit foolish.  “I’m sorry.  I have not done this in a long time.  I don’t usually ride with reins.” 

Freca looked at the elf as if he were either lying or still more muddled from the poisons than he had thought.  Shrugging, the man pointed at the agitated horse.  “Fine, then you hold his head and I’ll put the halter on.” 

Speaking softly in his native tongue, Legolas reached out for the horse’s head.  When he caught it, the animal snorted a few times, but did not try to pull away.  Instead he stood very still, bringing his head down and allowing Freca to hook his thumbs in the horse’s mouth and slip the bit easily over his tongue, sliding the bridle on without trouble as Legolas just loosely held his head with one hand on his neck and the other on his jaw. 

Freca quietly made note of the effect the elf had on the horse.  This could work out all right and perhaps not be a total loss after all. 

After the horse was haltered and put on cross-ties, Freca prepared to see to his hooves, but first he took Legolas to a long table at the end of the stables.  Many twisted leather strips, rope cords and bits of metal were laid in a heap on one end, while a few finished bridals hung against the back wall. 

“Here, see if you can get some of these sorted out and properly strung. You can look at these here if you need an example of how they should be.”  Freca gave the elf a light task to do because he knew that Legolas was still coming out of the worst of the detoxification period.  But around here if a person was able to work, they did.  “In a little while we’ll go back to the house and you’ll take another little lie down.  I’ll return in a bit.”  With that Freca went back about his own work. 

Legolas sank down on a stool next to the table, resting his head in his hands for a moment.  He hated feeling this weak and achy.  He hated it.  He did not question why Freca was asking him to do these things.  These people had saved his life, and if they needed a little help he wouldn’t begrudge them that.  Especially since he apparently needed to be moving around anyway; even if his hurting body wanted nothing more than to crawl into a dark shadow and go back to sleep. 

Pushing his hair back from his face, Legolas picked up one of the partially formed halters and began straightening out the twisted leather straps, glancing at the ones on the wall to make sure he was threading them right.  The halter shook ever so slightly in his hand and the prince realized with extreme annoyance that he was trembling.  Clenching his fist harder he forced himself to stop. 

Several hours later, Legolas had made good headway through the mess on the table, but he could no longer force his eyes to focus on anything.  A burning headache was throbbing between his temples and he was feeling sick to his stomach again.  Leaning his elbows on the edge of the table and pressing his palms into his aching eyes, Legolas tried to clear his head. 

He jerked when a hand touched his shoulder.  The elf hadn’t even heard the human approach and that showed how bad off he was. 

Freca glanced over the newly fixed and cleaned halters hanging against the wall with approval.  The elf felt hot under his hand.  Enough work for now; this one needed to rest again. 

“Léod and Fastred are back.  Finally found the missing horses if you can believe that,” Freca chuckled.  “Come on, its lunch time.” 

Legolas stood up but had to grip the table ledge to stay steady.  “I think I just want to lie down for a little.” He touched the fingers of his bandaged hand lightly to his temple, closing his eyes for a moment. 

“You will, after you eat something. It’s been two days now, you have to keep your strength up, come on then,” Freca said decidedly.  He was obviously used to giving orders and having them obeyed.  It grated slightly on the prince’s nerves, for he was not accustomed to being bossed around in this manner, but he tried to remain civil anyway. 

Freca, Léod and Fastred cooked outside and ate around their fire.  They appeared to be the only permanent occupants of Émuseld, although Freca said that they hired temporary hands as needed depending on how busy they got.  But it was a slow time for them at the moment and only these three were needed. 

The elf really did not feel hungry but, to please the men, Legolas ate lightly and put up with a host of questions from Fastred and Léod who were fascinated to no end to meet a real elf.  They had gotten the idea into their heads that he must be from Lothlórien, because that was the only place they had ever heard of in connection with elves before.  Eventually, after being continually corrected, they more or less accepted that he was from Mirkwood, although they knew little of that place save for what fearful tales told and seemed slightly unsettled by the thought that their new companion came from thence. 

After they had eaten, Legolas was finally allowed to lie down again on a blanket they brought out for him in the shadow of a nearby tree while Fastred and Léod cleaned up the remains of the meal and Freca sharpened his leather-working tools. 

It felt good to be still and be able to close his eyes, but Legolas’ mind wouldn’t rest.  “How soon until I am able to travel?” he inquired, not caring which of the three men took the question as being directed at them so long as one of them knew the answer.  Even ill as he felt, he was worried about Trelan and the sooner he could go searching for his friend, the better. 

“Two weeks,” it was Freca’s voice who answered and Legolas’ eyes opened in surprise.  He leaned up on his elbows despite the ache it caused. 

“Two weeks?” he didn’t want to imagine feeling this miserable for that long. 

Freca shook his head, amused.  “Don’t get yourself in a lather just yet.  You won’t feel this bad the entire time.  In two or three days you should begin to feel quite decent again.  By the end of the week you won’t hardly know there’s anything wrong with you.  BUT remember what I said?  You don’t get those AntiVen doses twice a day you’ll be just as dead as if we hadn’t wasted our time on you.” 

Legolas sank back again a little.  “Oh.  Would you be able to show me how to make it?  I have to leave as soon as I’m able...” 

Fastred laughed.  “Show you how?  Oh I’m sure you’d like that.” 

They were all laughing but Legolas didn’t see anything funny about it. 

“Look, Legolas, I don’t think you understand how this works,” Freca said when he saw the highly irritated look on the elf’s face.  “We here in Émuseld are the only ones who know how to make the anti-venom for a lhyguan bite.  It’s what you might call a trade secret.  My father passed it on to me as his father did before him and Fastred and Léod here have been sworn to secrecy.  If just anyone knew how to make it, there wouldn’t be any reason for folks to come and buy it from us, now would there?” 

Legolas pressed his palms into his eyes again with a deep, weary sigh.  He was hurting and irritable and not in the mood for a recitation of Freca’s business policies.  “I thought you said you were horse breakers,” the elf mumbled, wishing this headache would allow him to think properly. 

“We are,” Freca was calmly working a sharper edge on his awl.  “And we’re a lot more.  Horses are our main trade if you want to know the truth.  Folks bring theirs to us and we saddle-break them.  Catch some of our own wild ones to break and sell sometimes as well.  But we also treat sick horses, and that’s how the AntiVen came into existence originally.  Lhygians are native to this particular area you see, and so we often get horses being brought in with bite wounds.  My grandfather’s the one who discovered the cure and we’ve been saving both horses and people with it for years now.  HOWEVER, treatment isn’t free and it isn’t cheap.”  He pointed the tip of his awl at the elf.  “You, my friend, have already built yourself quite a tab to be paid off.  Forgive us for not asking first, but we made the leap of assuming you’d rather be alive than dead and we could work the details out later,” the human chuckled. 

Legolas scowled; the profit-conscious mindset of these humans was not one he completely understood.  Whether that was because he was an elf, or because he was a prince, Legolas didn’t know.  “You would let people die if they can’t pay you?” 

“Of course not!” Léod seemed insulted by the suggestion, glancing up from his work with a dark look.  “What do you think we are?” 

Freca shook his head.  “We didn’t let you die, did we?  All I’m saying is that we don’t do something for nothing and those that can’t pay cash for a large enough supply to last them the whole time it’s needed find another way to work things out.” 

The elf prince stared quietly up at the leafy branches of the tree over his head, watching them move slowly in the wind.  “I suppose I should ask what you mean by that, since I am most likely about to find myself in that position.”  Of course he and Trelan had not left home without some traveling money, but they usually did not need much and in any case, Trelan had been the one carrying their purse.  He didn’t suppose that these men would believe him if he promised to return with money for them... even if he did tell them his father was a king, it would mean very little here in Rohan; they barely knew where Mirkwood was to begin with and Freca at least did not seem the trusting type. 

Freca already knew that the elf didn’t have any money on him.  Or anything of quite enough value to cover the cost of his treatments.  “Don’t let that worry you.  You can work it off, like the others have.  We don’t keep a lot of workers around here, just the three of us usually, but we can always use an extra hand with the horses and the chores.” 

“You mean then that I can be your slave,” the prince’s voice held an unmistakable edge of disdain.  He had served humans before, more than once, and it had never been a pleasant experience.  He was liking his current situation less and less. 

Freca stopped working and leveled his gaze with that of the elf.  “No.  That is not what I said, nor what I meant.  I don’t know how things are where you come from, but we don’t believe in slavery here in Rohan.  We never have. We work hard, but we are free people.  I’m not asking you to work for us, I’m asking you to work with us, just until the poison is completely out of your system.  Then, when you’re finished with your treatments, you’re free to go whenever you want, or you can stay and hire on with us for a longer time if you so desire of course. Still, the choice is yours, master elf.  I’ll not force you to do anything.” 

Legolas closed his eyes and draped his arm over his face, blocking out the light which was beginning to hurt again.  He let his breath out slowly.  Truly, he supposed, Freca was not being unreasonable with him... but that didn’t mean he particularly liked the situation.  “And what choice would that be?  To leave and die, or to stay and trade a day of work for another day to live?” 

Freca ignored the tone of the elf’s voice and shrugged, returning to his work.  “Put it however you like, it’s still your decision.” 

Legolas was silent then, for there seemed to be nothing left to say.  Freca was right.  It might be his decision, but he had very little choice.

First > Previous > Next