Dark Visions

Chapter 8

by Cassia and Siobhan

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Legolas woke slowly.  He ached everywhere and someone was gently working on the cut to his arm. 

“Shh...” The whispered voice of Aragorn soothed the elf’s confusion as the man laid the palm of his hand against the prince’s forehead, careful of the purple, bruising welt that crossed his temple, “You are safe.  Let me see to your wounds.”  The words were spoken in elvish and Legolas relaxed back against the cool stone floor.  Lord Elrond’s cloak spread out beneath him gave little comfort save to stave off the chill. 

“Where are we?” the elf murmured softly. 

“We are in a cave north of where we found you last night.” Elrond’s voice cut through the fog in Legolas’ mind, brining him sharply awake. 

“I wasn’t dreaming then, I did see you.”  Legolas moved his head slowly, his blue eyes opening and locking onto the elf lord’s steady gaze. 

He moaned softly as Aragorn laid his mended arm across his chest, out of the way while the ranger gently rubbed a cool ointment against his bruised ribs.  They were hot to the touch and tender; the lotion took some of the pain away, allowing the elf to breathe easier. 

“What happened?  Everything is so foggy and hard to remember.”  Legolas shifted his gaze and stared up at Aragorn where the ranger knelt over him. 

The human brushed the wayward strands of hair out of his eyes and smiled down at his friend.  “We were hoping you could tell us.”  His voice was low but he knew his two elven companions could easily hear him. 

Elrond had moved off to restoke the fire, its burning embers bright beneath the cooled, dead wood.  In moments he had stirred the coals into a good-sized flame. 

“We were attacked just after dark.”  Legolas moved slowly into a sitting position, aided by his friend. “They claimed to need our services, but the horses they brought with them were stolen.” 

Aragorn and Elrond exchanged confused glances.  “Legolas, what were you doing in Rohan and who were you with?  We have been looking for you for over two weeks now.   Trelan was brought to...” 

Lord Elrond’s questioning was cut off as Legolas glanced sharply up at the elf lord. The sudden movement awoke a fierce nausea in him but he ignored it for the moment, steadying himself against Aragorn he leaned forward. 

“Trelan lives?” 

“Yes.”  Aragorn held onto Legolas until the elf’s grip on his arm eased up, “Are you alright?”  He handed the prince a tunic and helped pull it around his sore shoulders, allowing the elf to button it himself when Legolas glowered at him, pushing his hands away. 

“I am fine. Just...” He tried to ignore the warnings from his body.  It felt a lot like the sickness from the lhyguan bite had felt before, but he attributed it to his injuries and the repeated blows to his head.  Concussions could be nasty things.  Changing the subject he pressed for more information. “Where is Trelan? How is he? I was told he was dead.  Scatha said the horses trampled him when they took Kynter.” 

“Scatha?”  Aragorn shook his head, “Legolas, you have to start from the beginning, you aren’t making any sense.”  With a deep sigh he gave in and answered his friend’s question first, knowing the elf would not proceed without hearing how the small warrior fared. “Yes, Trelan is fine.  We left him in Lothlórien with Celeborn and the Lady of the Woods; they are caring for his injuries.  He was most worried about you.  Legolas, tell me what happened, it’s important to me.” 

Aragorn knelt in front of the elf, staring into the slightly glassy-eyed gaze of his friend.  He brushed his fingers gently across Legolas brow, wondering if the prince had a fever. 

“Two weeks ago, Trelan and I were scouting near Dol Guldur, investigating reports that evil was stirring in it once more.  A band of men chased us down without reason, separated us, and drove Avornwen and I to the edge of a precipice.  They spooked her into unseating me and I fell over the cliff.  When I awoke I was in the house of Rohan horse breakers, Émuseld they called it.  I was injured, they gave me medical aid and in return for their services I worked for them.  Last night, men rode in with more than twenty horses, Avornwen one of them.  They steal the horses and resell them.  The horses were coated with mud to keep anyone from recognizing them.  I know all those others were stolen as well and they...”  He faltered as he recounted the events, “They said they killed Freca and his two ranch hands.  The ones who saved me.  Kynter was also there.” 

“Yes, we retrieved them both.”  Elrond motioned to the entrance of the cave.  Morning was nearing but the sky was still dark beyond and the grey hides of the horses stood out clearly in the firelight.  Avornwen bobbed her head in response to Legolas’ attention.  He smiled as she nickered softly, her huge dark eyes watching him carefully. 

“Thank you,” he whispered his gratitude. 

“We should go see to your friends though.  It is possible these horse thieves were not able to carry through on their threats and the horse breakers might need our help.” 

“Please, Lord Elrond, I would like to go back with you.  They saved my life and I was unable to help them last night.” Legolas shook his head, thinking on the three men.  A thought struck him oddly as he remembered Aragorn’s earlier comment and he turned to his friend.  “You were looking for me here?  Why?” 

It was the human’s turn to gaze down at the cave floor, his face flushing slightly in embarrassment.  He had been wrong and the vision had been wrong. He suddenly felt rather silly for all his worrying. 

Elrond noted the emotions playing across the young man’s face and stood to his feet, rounding the fire and moving behind his son.  “Estel is gifted with foresight as are most of his kin.  He is just experiencing its awakening within him and has yet to control what he sees.” 

Legolas frowned at his friend. “What did you see?” 

Aragorn glanced over his shoulder at his father who only nodded.  There was nothing to be ashamed of in seeing the future incorrectly; it was often not as it seemed and in this case at least he was eternally grateful that his visions had not proved totally true. 

“I saw your death,”  he admitted with a sigh. “Over and over every night in my dreams and then in Galadriel’s mirror.” 

“You looked in the mirror?!” Legolas was shocked.  Few were the immortals who had ever claimed to have done so.  Of mortals, it was unheard of.  Legolas himself had never even been to Lórien before, but he had heard many tales about the Golden Wood. 

The man rolled his eyes. “I’ll tell you about it sometime later.  Let’s go check on your friends before it gets too late in the day.” 

“You’ll tell me about it on the way back!” Legolas corrected him as he slowly stood to his feet with the help of the ranger.  “We are not so close that you won’t have time to recount it.” 

With a laugh Aragorn followed Elrond to the mouth of the cave; handing Legolas a small cake of elvish waybread wrapped in a leaf as they walked up to the horses. 

Aragorn grabbed a fist full of Kynter’s mane and vaulted onto the animals back. “Eat that and regain your strength and I’ll tell you all about it,” he teased, extending his hand back down and helping Legolas up behind him. 

The elf hissed softly with the ache that the swift movement caused. 

Elrond had doused the flame and gently approached Avornwen, quietly talking to the horse before carefully mounting the steed.  She walked slower than her counterpart, the elf’s light weight easier on her than that of two riders as she trailed Kynter. 

“Start talking.”  Legolas laid his chin on Aragorn’s shoulder and smiled at the man. 

Aragorn swatted at him, with a playful laugh, “Start eating!” 


When they reached, Émuseld the beams of the stable house were still smoldering in the soft morning light as the three rode up to the remains.  The ranch had been set on fire and the fences of the paddocks were completely broken down. 

Aragorn lent his hand to Legolas as the elf slid stiffly off of Kynter’s haunches. 

“Freca!  Fastred!  Léod!”  Legolas hobbled to the main house.  It alone of all the buildings remained intact. 

A body lay sprawled in the open door way and the elf knelt next to it.  It was Freca; he was dead just like Scatha had promised. 

“No...”  Pushing himself up with the aid of the doorframe Legolas urgently searched through the house.  The living quarters had been torn apart and everything of value had been taken.  The flask that Freca had kept the AntiVen in lay crushed on the wooden floor, its contents spilt out, staining the beams a darker brown.  There was no sign of Fastred or Léod anywhere.  With a sigh Legolas sank down on the bed that his employer had let him use for his first few days’ stay in Émuseld and stared down at his hands.  He had hoped to find them alive.  Although he was not fond of most men, he had come to enjoy the company of these three and it pained his heart that they were gone and he had not been able to help them. 

The sounds of Aragorn calling his name roused the elf and he wearily walked to the doorway, stepping lightly over Freca’s body and stooping to cover his former employer with a blanket out of respect, gently closing the human’s eyes. 

“We found two more.  One in the ruins of the stable and one down near the lower pens.”  Aragorn glanced to the ground, “I’m sorry, Legolas, they are both dead.” 

Holding back his sorrow, the elf dropped down onto the steps of the porch and rested his head in his hands.  He wasn’t feeling well and the creeping fear that he truly was not over the lhyguan poisoning ate at the back of his mind, mingling with the ache in his heart. 

“Scatha was just that cruel.”  Legolas whispered with sad, weary contempt.  He prayed that his friends had died quickly, not the slow way that Scatha had intended for him. 

“It looks like it was swift,” Aragorn said softly, as if reading the pained thoughts in the elf’s eyes.  He could tell Legolas was grieved over this discovery.  “They went down fighting and felt little or no pain.”  

Legolas gave a small nod, grateful for the information and the fact that his friend had understood without his asking.  “I should have done more,” the elf murmured softly.  “They did not deserve this.” 

“No one does, Legolas,” Aragorn shook his head.  “But you can’t blame yourself for other people’s cruelty.  You did all you could.”  The ranger stepped forward, intending to sit next to his friend when his father came running back to the main house. 

“A group of men approaches from the east,” Elrond informed.  

“Kurnwait is to the east.”  Legolas commented, remembering the times that Freca had ventured into town for supplies. 

Before the elf had finished talking a troop of riders converged on the main house.  The men were, by all outward appearances, soldiers.  Their helmets and weaponry carried the emblems of warhorses and they surveyed the destroyed ranch solemnly. 

A warrior at the head of the group quickly dismounted and approached the elves and the ranger.  Aragorn straightened up and stepped protectively in front of Legolas, his hand resting lightly on the pommel of his sword. 

Without preamble the soldier removed his helmet, tucking it under his arm as he shook back a thick mane of dark blond hair from his eyes.  He was obviously of Rohirric descent. He scanned the house silently, his eyes resting on the body now covered in the open doorway. 

“Who are you and what has happened here?  And pray you tell me the truth, for if you have done this there is no hope for you in Rohan.  Freca was a friend.”  His golden eyes were fierce and he glared from one to stranger to the other. 

Elrond broke the impasse, “I am Elrond, Lord of Rivendell.”  He stepped lightly aside so the soldier could see Legolas more clearly and know that they were unarmed.  “We were searching for our companion, Legolas, heir of Mirkwood.  It seems that the men of this place gave him refuge but they were attacked last night and none escaped.” 

“Except your friend?” The question was a challenge and the young horse lord held them with his intense gaze. 

Aragorn had not yet spoken; he glanced quietly between the soldier and his father. 

“He was able to, yes, and we returned this morning to see if any of the others had also been so fortunate and if we could be of aid.  Regretfully we are too late.”  The elf lord bowed his head slightly, his eyes never dropping the gaze of the man who stood before him. 

With a small motion of his hand the warrior directed his men to search the grounds.  Stepping forward he extended his hand to the elf lord.  “I am Éomund of Eastfold, Third Marshal of the Riddermark.  We are the Rohirrim and Émuseld was a favorite stopping place for my men and I.”  He sighed deeply as the tension of the situation left and he glanced around them, disturbed by what he saw.  “We have been tracking a group of horse thieves for some time.  They steal from the soldiers, from strangers and caravans.  They are a plague, a blight on the face of this fair land.  They take what they like and remark the animals, selling them to whomever will bid the highest and we have never had success in catching up to them.  We were on our way here and had stopped in Kurnwait when we saw the fires in the night sky.  We rode hither as swiftly as we were able.”  The man kicked at edge of the porch in disgust.  “It seems we also were too late.” 

“They rode north-east through the gulches beneath the Old Man.”  Aragorn spoke up. 

Éomund glanced sharply at him, “And who are you, quiet one, that you travel in the company of elves?” 

Aragorn was suddenly at a loss to tell this man who he was.  He was Estel to the elves and Strider to the Dunèdain and people of the North, but this was yet not the time for his right name to be known and none of his other monikers seemed appropriate. 

Elrond noted the indecision and stepped nearer to his adopted son, his eyes fastening on the brooch that clasped his cloak at the neck.  “His name is Thorongil,” Elrond replied, “He is our tracker and our guide.” 

“‘Eagle of the Star’?”  Éomund question curiously, it was a somewhat unusual name, at least in this part of the world, although the young marshal thought it sounded somewhat Gondorian.  It was a credit to his knowledge, or at least his retention of trivia, that he knew roughly what the name meant.  The people of Rohan were not usually much learned in such matters, but Éomund was a close friend to prince Théoden whose father, King Thengel, had lived a good portion of his life in Gondor, bringing back a large store of knowledge from thence. 

Aragorn touched the star-shaped brooch at his neck and nodded quickly, “A family heirloom.” He replied as he gazed steadily back at his father for a moment before returning the commander’s piercing gaze. 

“The brooch or the name?” Éomund raised an eyebrow.  

“Both.”  Aragorn answered with a wry smile. 

Éomund shook his head slightly returning the smile. “Strange, but you are not from the south.”  He looked the ranger up and down.  Something about him seemed Gondorian, but his manner and speech were not those of the men of the White City. 

“No, I am of the northern men.” 

With a simple nod the commander accepted the information.  He knew almost nothing of the world to the north of them, so these strange people may well be from there, and at any rate, he sensed no deceit or ill will about them.  That decided, he gave it no more thought and moved back to the matter at hand.  “If they were here only last night they cannot be overly far away yet... if we had a decent tracker in our group we might have a chance of catching up with them,” the last part was half muttered under his breath.  They had had no one with that skill in their group since the last one was killed and his abilities were sorely missed.  Éomund turned back to Aragorn.  “You say the horse thieves went northeast?  How sure are you?” 

“Very.”  Aragorn said confidently, stepping away from the porch and leading the Rohirrim away from the house a few paces, back towards the burnt-out stable, pointing him in the right direction.  He had tracked the horses while Legolas and Elrond searched for survivors.  “They back-tracked the whole lot of them and rounded them through the pastures a few times to throw off anyone that might be looking for them, but I picked up their trail at the top of the hill.  There are gulches and gullies in plenty for them to hide in there.” 

“And they are very familiar with the terrain.  I know, I tried to lose them through there last night and could not.”  Legolas’ breathing was ragged and he closed his eyes, letting his head rest in his hands again.  His pulse was pounding between his temples in a very painful way. 

“Legolas?”  Aragorn walked quickly to his friend’s side.  It was obvious the prince was not feeling well. 

Éomund glanced back at the elf once more, his eyes narrowing.  “You said you stayed on with Freca for a time?  Why?” 

The prince looked up at the human. “I was paying him back for medical aid.” It was the truth, just not the whole truth.  He hadn’t wanted Aragorn to worry and he had truly thought he would find the AntiVen in the house... besides he was so close it shouldn’t matter.  At least, that’s what he told himself. 

“Were you bitten?”  The horse warrior stepped closer, leaning down to look into the elf’s eyes; they were beginning to dilate.  Anyone familiar with these regions knew about the deadliness of lhyguan poison.  If untreated, or if the treatment was interrupted, it would swiftly overwhelm the victim again, nearly as swiftly as if the bite were fresh.  It was a fast, vicious toxin if not kept at bay.  

With a sigh Legolas admitted the truth, “Yes, almost two weeks ago.” 

“Bitten?!?! By what?”  Aragorn crouched in front of the prince, immediately concerned, “Legolas, why didn’t you say so?” 

“I didn’t want you to worry.”  Legolas looked away.  “Besides, I wasn’t thinking very clearly last night,” he rubbed his head.  

“Did you complete whatever treatment they had you on?”  Éomund asked cautiously, quite sure he knew what the elf had been bitten by.  Two weeks... almost long enough... at least that’s how long the breakers kept the horses that the Rohirrim sometimes brought them to receive the life-saving treatments.  But from the way the elf looked...  

Legolas hesitated, staring at the Rohan warrior for a few moments.  The light hurt his eyes and his head was beginning to pound.  He knew the feeling, but didn’t want to admit it.  It couldn’t be coming back this fast, it couldn’t... he had felt well, felt perfectly normal... but then Freca had often warned him that lhyguan poison was not to be underestimated.  


Blue eyes met the silver ones staring hard at him and Aragorn reached out to touch the elf, his fingers gently brushing the prince’s neck and feeling the increased heart rate.  “You didn’t, did you?” the ranger’s voice was soft. 

“No.”  Legolas looked down to his hands; “I was two days from recovering fully.” 

“But surely there is a cure?”  Elrond questioned.  He glanced behind him as the other soldiers began to filter back towards their commander.  “If he was receiving treatment then it can be finished now, can it not?” 

Éomund pushed two of his men towards the far grounds. “Search that way, the thieves are believed to have escaped in that direction.  Helm, look through the house for anything that might be an anti-toxin, they may have had some made up on hand.” 

“It is useless.”  Legolas spoke up, stopping the man who was mounting the stairs.  “They destroyed the house and took everything of value.  The AntiVen was spilt and is no more.” 

“If there was an antidote then it can be recreated.”  Elrond stated calmly, although he was concerned about the level of distress he was sensing.  Something here seemed wrong.  “What ingredients is it comprised of and what does it counteract?” he questioned. 

“The AntiVen was created by Freca’s great-grandfather.  The formula was passed down through the years from one generation of horse breakers to another.  Freca would have passed it along to the next generations if he had been allowed that opportunity.  Only the three men who worked here knew what it consisted of.”  Éomund glanced apologetically at the three friends.  “As for what it counteracts, a native lizard the size of a cat calls the northern downs of Rohan its home.  They are ill-tempered and eat anything they can find, including men and horses.  Their bite is lethal and without the antidote your friend will not survive the day.  What I do know is that the doses are divided into two per day for two weeks in order to purge the poison from the system.  Your friend here has already missed at least two unless I’m mistaken.” 

Legolas shook his head slightly.  “One, this morning,” he corrected, rubbing his temples slowly.  

Éomund’s eyes narrowed.  Only one?  The elf had missed only one and he was already feeling this badly?  The warrior’s calm gaze fixed on Legolas once more, “You are feeling nauseated and ill aren’t you?” 

The elf nodded slowly, not wanting to admit what that meant, but having no choice. 

“It’s beginning to attack his system again.  I know of no one who has... who had,” he corrected himself sadly, “the AntiVen but Freca.  It was part of his business and he never gave away his secrets.” 

Elrond listened intently, his sharp mind already formulating an antidote to the venom.  The intricacies of anti-toxin were no mystery to him, and although each poison was different, there were certain general principles that could be applied as a starting base.  “Where can I find one of these lhygians?” 

“You wish to trap one?” The soldier stared at him in astonishment before laughing and turning to look over his shoulder.  “No one searches out a lhyguan, they run from it.  Believe me when I say these creatures are not to be trifled with.  They are much meaner than they look and more deadly than I can say.  Not to mention the fact that they are seldom to be found out in the open.  You can’t just walk out looking for one; you could go for days with no luck.” 

“If I can find one I believe I can recreate the antidote.  But I need a sample of the poison to work with in order to do so.  Then, with Legolas’ help in reporting the symptoms I should be able to do this in time to save him if you tell me where I may find one of the creatures.”  Elrond pierced the human with a deadly glare, “There must be some places that they prefer, some type of environment that they favor. Think hard.” 

Éomund could think of an answer, but he was loath to mention it because it would be little better than sending these two to their death if they chose to go there.  “There is a place... but none go there and live.  I would not send you thither.” 

Elrond’s demanding gaze was unrelenting.  “Our care is not in your keeping, although I thank you for your concern.  But if there is a place, I would know of it, and swiftly.  This is our friend’s only hope.  It may be that we will fail, that is always a risk, but if we do not try then failure is certain.  And at least I will know I have done everything in my power to try.” 

Éomund’s men were mounting up behind him, ready to be off, but their commander stopped them.  Dividing the group up he commanded four of them to remain behind and keep watch over what was left of Émuseld, to help bury the dead and to protect the elf that was ill if the other two decided to follow through on their foolhardy attempts to coral a lhyguan.  The majority of them would track the horse thieves in the direction that Thorongil had pointed them.  His scouts, such as they were, had confirmed that the northerner was correct and the trail led away into the gulches. 

Mounting his horse he leaned back down, his arms crossed atop his thigh as he addressed Elrond.  “The lhygians have just begun mating season.  They congregate to the southwest of here, in a grotto where they find mating partners and lay their eggs.  Normally they are not fast for a ground lizard, but this time of year they are unusually quick and even more ill-tempered than ever.  I would use great caution in approaching them. Men have tried before to go there, in hopes of wiping out the threat while so many of them are congregated together.  None have ever come back alive.  When they are in groups, they are a hundred times as deadly as they are alone, but it is the only place you will find them for the next few weeks.” 

His steed pranced beneath him and Éomund danced the horse in a tight circle, facing the elf lord once more, “One other thing.  The bite causes the blood to have difficulty thickening and once bitten it is easy to bleed to death.” Éomund glanced at the bandages on Legolas’ neck that disappeared beneath his tunic.  True enough, red stains were already beginning to show through, although the wounds should have been well on their way to being closed by now.  “My men will stay with your friend until you return.  They are well skilled in dealing with such injuries and will give him the attention he needs while you are away.” 

They all knew it was a very generous and courteous offer, but Aragorn started to protest anyway; he knew how uncomfortable Legolas was with humans that he did not know. 

“Thorongil,” the elf used his friend’s new name, “It will be well.  I will stay inside until you return.  The bed I used when I first came is in there.”  Turning to the Rohirrim captain he bowed politely as he stood unsteadily to his feet, “I thank you.” 

“May the Valar watch over you and your friends.  We will return to see how you fare once our business with these thieves is accomplished.”  Éomund spurred his horse forward and led the soldiers out of sight over the far hill. 

“Let’s get you inside before we leave.” Aragorn hooked his arms around Legolas’ waist and steered his friend into the house as the soldiers that remained with them carefully picked up Freca’s body and removed him for burial. 

Gently the ranger lowered the elf onto the bed, flinging back the blankets and bed-sheets. 

Legolas laughed softly, and Aragorn stopped to gaze down into the upturned face, “And what is so funny?” 

“You.” He whispered softly, “You and your many names.”  Legolas coughed as his laughter caught in his throat, “And now you have a new one, Thorongil.” 

Aragorn shook his head.  “If only I can remember them all!  Seriously Legolas, I fear that some morning I shall wake up and forget which one I am going by today!” he muttered sarcastically. 

“That I would like to see,” the elf chuckled.  “But I like your latest addition; it suits you.”  Legolas laid back on the pillows that the human pressed under his head before pulling the sheets over the elf. 

Placing his hands on either side of the elf’s head the ranger leaned over the prince and spoke quietly to him in elvish, “You stay with me, Legolas Greenleaf.  My father will find a cure.  I only wish you’d told us sooner...” 

“I know, I’m sorry.  But there wasn’t anything that could have been done.”  The elf smiled slightly at the frown his friend fixed him with and gave up trying to explain.  He was weary and tired and his body ached.  “Don’t be angry with me, Estel... I’m sorry...” Legolas’ voice was unusually weak and soft as his hand reached up to clasp the young human’s shoulder.  He felt incredibly drained and it was almost unbelievable how fast he could feel his body succumbing. 

Aragorn’s head swam dizzyingly with a sudden sense of having experienced this moment before and his heart seized up inside of him when he realize that this was the very instant he had seen in Galadriel’s mirror. 

“Don’t be angry with me, Estel...” Those were the very words. 

“By the Valar Legolas, you cannot give in to this.  You must hang on until we return, do you understand?”  Aragorn’s voice held a tone of desperation that scared the elf. 

“I will, I promise.” The prince spoke quickly, searching Aragorn’s face and trying to bury his weakness since he saw how much it was scaring his friend... but that didn’t seem to be all that was bothering the ranger.  “What is it?” 

“Thorongil?”  Elrond called to his son from the doorway, a soldier stood just behind him.  “We had best be going.  The sooner we are away the sooner we can return.  We have precious little time.  Helm has offered to stay with Legolas while we are gone.” 

Aragorn nodded, closing his eyes tightly against the memories and fears that had surfaced.  Leaning quickly down, he kissed the elf gently on the forehead.  “Hold on and wait for our return, my friend.” He spoke quietly, for the elf’s ears only. 

Legolas’ hand slipped gently from his shoulder and the prince nodded once.  “Go and come back quickly. And don’t get into trouble on the way!”  He smiled softly at the human, “I promise I’ll wait,” he reassured. 

With a small nod, Aragorn stood and followed his father from the house.  Each step he took was dogged by the knowledge that this was the future he had seen in the mirror and he greatly feared the outcome. 


Elrond quickened his pace to keep up with his adopted son.  They headed southwest as Éomund had instructed them, searching out the grotto where the Rohirrim had said they could find the large lizards like the one that had bitten Legolas.  Helm, one of the warriors that had stayed behind in Émuseld had informed the elf lord that it was only a two-hour walk to the nesting grounds.  The sun had just barely established itself in the sky and by all rights the elf was sure they would have enough time to return and create an antidote by the evening, so he was slightly surprised at the tension and distress he felt from the young man that was walking briskly just ahead of him.

Aragorn glanced over his shoulder again, but the house was out of sight by now, blocked by the rolling grassy hills that comprised this area of the Riddermark. 

"Legolas will be all right Estel.  Helm seemed like a decent man and I believe he will watch out for the prince." 

“It’s not that.”  The ranger’s pace quickened as the walked downhill. 

“We will have plenty of time to come up with an antidote.  The nesting grounds are close enough.”  Elrond tried to understand. 

Aragorn shook his head, his eyes searching the horizon, avoiding the questioning gaze of the elderly elf.  

Elrond let the silence hang between them, listening to what wasn’t being said.  “What did you see?” he finally asked, his intuition leading him to the question. 

He must have hit close to the subject for the ranger faltered and glanced at him sharply, slowing his gait to a stop.  Turning towards the elf lord he hazarded an explanation, “Do you remember when I told you I saw Legolas die in the vision when I looked in Galadriel’s mirror?”  He continued when the elf nodded, “I thought that was averted the night that we found him in the company of those thieves.  I thought we were safe and that that future was no longer a possibility.”  The ranger’s gaze fell to the ground at his feet as he gathered his thoughts. Legolas' voice echoed in his mind. “I was wrong.” 

The simple admission took Elrond by surprise but he waited out the human, wanting Aragorn to explain further in his own timing. 

“When we were in the house,  Legolas spoke the exact words that I saw him speak before he died, in the vision.  That was the moment that Galadriel’s mirror showed and now I fear that it may follow through.  He may die, Father.  We might have been too late after all.”  Aragorn’s gaze was locked on to the elf’s, begging him, daring him to deny what he feared. 

“If that is so and you have seen this moment then we have no time to spare.  The future is ever changing and it may be that we are not too late, that it is still only a possibility.  Not even the wisest can tell these things, my son.”  Grabbing the ranger’s arm the elf lord started them walking briskly again. 

“How sure are you that you can create an antidote?” Aragorn matched his father’s steps. 

“Very.” Elrond stated simply, holding his sons gaze. 

With a slight nod the ranger took off running, “Then let us make all haste, for I am not pleased with the future I saw.  I fully intend to change it!” 

Elrond smiled at the hopefulness in the young man as he raced to catch up with the fleet-footed ranger.  He had no time to think on such things as he followed the human who was cutting a quick path through the rocks and hillocks, finding the fastest route in the direction they had been pointed. 

“Come on, Father!” he called over his shoulder; “You don’t need me to slow down for you do you?” he taunted, a wicked grin on his face. 

“Brat.”  Elrond muttered, increasing his speed until he was side by side with the young human, matching his every move. “One does not live six-thousand years to be bested by a child.”  He grinned at the ranger before running ahead of him.  His lithe form dodged stones and missteps, gracefully fleeing ever closer to the grotto. 

“You’re lucky you aren’t Elladan or Elrohir or I would make you eat those words!” Aragorn called after him, pacing himself in his father’s wake.  It felt good to be running in the wilds.  And for a few moments he actually forgot the fears that dogged him.  The wind rushed through his hair, combing it away from his face and filling his lungs with the sweet scent of the long grasses.  The form of the elf racing before him brought a smile to his face and he relished the moment, reveling in the fact that his father was an elf and he had had the privilege of being raised by the fair beings.  Thoughts of the future, his and his friend’s, were lost in the fleeting joy of the immediate present.  

The moment of peace ended swiftly as Elrond slowed his pace and cautiously approached the edge of the plateau they were on.  Aragorn matched the elf’s stride and eased up next to his father, leaning out slightly over the incline. 

He frowned looking at the floor of the open cavern.  For all intents and purposes it looked uninhabited, a false lead.  Large slabs of rock overlapped one another at the base of the cliff, looking as though they had been shorn from the very walls of the grotto itself.  A few sparse scrub bushes grew here and there, poking their hearty greenery out from the oddest of places, even decorating the steep inclines, growing horizontally out at awkward angles seeking the sun from cracks in the cliff face. 

Aragorn glanced back at his father but the elf lord raised his hand, cautioning silence and pointed back into the grotto.  “Watch the floor of the ravine.” He barely whispered, his eyes riveted into the cavern below them. 

Redirecting his gaze once more, Aragorn watched the bottom of the cliff.  The rocks and sandy floor of the grotto sparkled in the sun. 


The ground was moving, writhing, undulating...it was alive.  Thousands of the large lizards moved over and around one another reveling in the heat of the mid-morning sun.  Their tan and slate mottled bodies blended perfectly with the rocky ground cover, nature’s camouflage for life in northern Rohan.  Listening harder, the ranger could hear their throaty growls and hissed warnings as several of the males fought over the attentions of the females, warding off the younger lhygians and securing their place in the mating hierarchy.  Now that he knew what to look for and where to look, Aragorn noted that a few of the lizards had crawled up a pace from the floor of the cavern and lay sprawled on ledges about the cliff face enjoying the warmth of the day, uncaring of the frenzy below them. 

Elrond shook out a canvas bag that he had brought with them.  The large flour sack had come from Émuseld’s kitchen and would just do the trick.  They needed to capture one of the lizards alive in order to properly sample its venom as they had planned. 

Glancing over his shoulder at the older elf, Aragorn pointed wordlessly to a spot just below them. 

With a small nod Elrond stepped closer to the ranger as the human kneeled quietly on the ground, lying flat out near the edge of the ravine, and slowly inched his way forward. 

A large lhyguan lay sleeping a few feet below the lip of the cliff’s edge, sprawled across a deep ledge in the rock face.  Aragorn was sure he could reach the ledge and surprise the lizard before the creature could escape.  A shadow to his left caught his attention and he waited patiently as his father stepped over his prone body and lay down next to him. 

“Below us on the shelf.  I believe I can get down there and catch the lhyguan that is sleeping.”  Aragorn glanced back over the lip of the grotto once more.  The lizard he was watching was no more than ten feet below them.  A large scrub bush grew at an odd angle just above where the lhyguan lay.  It would make the perfect ladder.  

Carefully, the ranger sat up and slowly lowered himself over the edge on his belly, the tips of his boot toes just balancing on the thick trunk of the rangy bush.  His gaze was cast below him, intently watching the large reptile to make sure he didn’t wake it.  The heat of the day and the warm air that constantly blew up from the basin of the grotto had lulled the creature into a deep sleep.  Being this far up from the floor of the cavern the lizard did not fear any enemies or contemporaries and its false sense of security made it vulnerable. 

Glancing quickly back up at the elf, Aragorn reached towards his father, taking the burlap bag from Elrond.  The trick was going to be getting the large lizard in the bag in one quick motion, before it had a chance to strike back or bite.  The creature was by no means small and if it once began to fight it could probably put up a stiff resistance.  On a cliff edge this narrow, with no room to maneuver, that could be deadly.  

“Be careful, my son,”  the elf lord whispered. 

Aragorn felt the small tree that held his weight shift lower in the crevice it was wedged into, groaning in protest of supporting him. 

With a grimace the human stepped quickly off the branches, his shoes barely scuffing the rocky surface as he quietly approached the lhyguan. 

With calculated moves Aragorn placed the open end of the bag on the far side of the lizard.  Taking a deep breath and bracing himself he scooped the lip of the bag towards himself, taking the reptile off guard and rolling the lhyguan into the sack in one smooth move. 

The lizard, taken totally by surprise thrashed wildly inside the knapsack, kicking and attempting to bite through the course fabric.  It writhed in panic, throwing its weight against the ranger as the human quickly tied off the opening. 

Arching its back and thrashing itself in a whip-like fashion the lhyguan slammed its body into the ranger’s.  The awkward position that Aragorn was standing in was compromised as the long, muscular body of the huge lizard smashed into him.  His boots slipped as he was shoved backwards and he flailed with his free hand, trying to right himself.  Grabbing blindly, Aragorn’s fingers caught the smaller branches of the bush next to him and held onto them tentatively as he tried to gain his footing. 

Elrond was calling to him from the edge of the cliff, uncaring if their presence disturbed the mating reptiles.  He held his breath as his son glanced up at him in alarm, his eyes wide as the bush he was holding onto was ripped from its precarious hold on the rock face and, with a rending tear, broke in half. 

Aragorn fell forward, trying to cling to the edge of the rocky ledge.  The bag that held the lhyguan had slipped from his fingers.  The creature inside was still in a panicked rage, thrashing wildly and slamming into the ranger’s face. 

The rush of air all around him and the horrible feeling of weightlessness startled the ranger as he fell backwards away from the cliff, his fall sending him hurtling towards the floor of the rocky grotto and the seething mass of deadly reptiles collected there. 

Elrond dropped lightly down on the cliff ledge only seconds after his son had slipped from the edge, his fingers grasping only air as he tried to catch the human, his horrified cry echoing through the grotto. 


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