Dark Visions

Chapter 9

by Cassia and Siobhan

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Elrond dropped down on his knees and looked down into the ravine.  Aragorn lay on his back, unmoving, the bag holding the lhyguan he had captured rested near his head.  The lizards on the floor of the grotto had scattered when the two bodies fell amongst them, but the initial shock was wearing off and they began to converge on the ranger, hissing and growling angrily at the disturbance.  In their native pattern of aggressive behavior several of the males began displaying the warning signs of attack, their mouths opened wide to show off the sharp incisors that were actually hollowed out to deliver their venomous poison.  Snapping their jaws shut with loud clicks they advanced on the human warily. 

Elrond shouted to his son but, when the man did not move, the elf lord quickly began looking for a way to climb down into the cavern. 

Aragorn groaned softly; he ached and for a moment he wasn’t sure why or where he was.  He could hear his father calling his name and strange rustling and moving sounds as though others were close by, but consciousness was slow to return and comprehending his condition lagged far behind. 


“Don’t move, Estel!”  Elrond called from his position on the rock face, quickly searching out another handhold as he made his way to the grotto floor much more slowly than he would have liked. 

But the lhygians were not fooled and the human’s lack of movement only meant the large creature would be easier to incapacitate. Smelling an easy meal they crawled back towards the ranger, intent on overpowering him. 

The reptile in the bag that lay near Aragorn’s head heard his companions and threw himself into a frenzy trying to find a way out.  The top of the sack slapped the man in the face, bringing him startlingly awake and instantly aware of his situation.  The ranger sat up quickly, glancing around him at the creatures that surrounded him.  His back ached fiercely but he had no time to assess his injuries as a large male lhyguan jumped at him, fangs bared.  Aragorn scooted quickly out of reach of its snapping jaws, kicking the lizard away from him with his boots.  There was no way around the creatures that encroached on him, and the walls of the cavern were too far away for safety. 

Looking desperately about him, the human spied his only hope of protection.  Behind him lay the two stone slabs that had fallen from the walls of the grotto.  They lay one atop the other, braced on smaller rocks so that there was a good-sized crevice underneath them, forming a perfect hiding place.  Grabbing the sack that held the captured lhyguan, Aragorn scooted underneath the dark overhang. He pressed his body back as far as he could, trying to see if the semi-dark held any hidden lizards.  Fortunately for him, it seemed as though the entire lhygian population was out in the bright sun, trying to warm bodies that were naturally cool, so the shaded area was free from any threat.  At least from the inside, where he lay trapped.  Outside the small cave, the lhygians were enraged.  They charged the opening of the crevice snapping and hissing, their long clawed feet digging underneath the fallen rocks, trying to catch hold of the ranger and drag him out. 

A set of sharp talons scraped across his shoulder and Aragorn cried out in pain.  Picking up a small rock he bashed the stone down against the reptilian foot that was clawing for him again.  A shrieking cry from the grotto let him know he had dealt the creature a serious hurt. 

The lhygians scattered back as one of their own howled in pain; their quarry was not going as easily as they had thought.  The perceived threat to their territory escalated and they watched, waiting to see what would happen next. 

Taking the moment of inattention, Aragorn reached out and snagged the broken branches of the small tree he had used for leverage up on the wall of the cave.  Movement by the intruder set the nest off once more and, as he drug the trunk in with him, Aragorn was forced to use the prickly barbed branches as a shield between himself and the lizards trying to unsuccessfully to reach him. 

The lhyguan in the sack had finally gotten its teeth through the burlap and sank its fangs into the heel of his boot.  Without thinking Aragorn slammed his fist against the top of the lizard’s head, dislodging its teeth and driving it to the floor of the cave.  The creature relaxed and did not move.  He hoped he hadn’t killed it; if he got out of this alive there was no way he was going to try to capture another one of them. 


Aragorn heard his father’s urgent calls. 

For his part, Elrond was beside himself with worry.  He dropped down onto a ledge a few feet from the bottom of the grotto.  A lhyguan resting on the shelf turned towards him, snapping its wide jaws at the elf.  With a swift, vicious kick the elf lord dislodged the creature and sent it sprawling back into the mass of writhing reptile bodies below it. 

Elrond could no longer see his son amidst the teeming throng of lhygians.  The possibility... no, probability, that Aragorn was buried under that mass was sending ribbons of horror and nausea rippling throughout the elf’s consciousness.  

“Estel, answer me!” he called, raising his voice above the sounds of the lizards that moved below him.  Unsheathing his sword, the elf lord dropped the last few feet to the floor of the cavern.  A snapping reptile lunged at Elrond and he sliced the creature in half mid-jump, kicking the dead body away from him and clearing a path before him with smooth, rapid moves as he made his way swiftly and with methodical grace towards the rocks his son had taken refuge beneath. 

“Father! Under here, I can’t get out! I’m trapped!” Aragorn finally responded, shoving the branches viciously at one of the lizards that was trying to wrestle through the foliage. 

Lashing out with his sword and using his boot toes as weapons, Elrond was able to fight his way to the mound of rocks that covered his son.  Leaping lightly atop the rocky formation, the elf lord kicked out at a mid-sized lhyguan that was using the slab as a resting place.  The lizard’s body tumbled off the side of the natural shelter and rolled into the frenzy around Estel. 

Their ire peaked; the lizards on the ground tore the one that the elf had kicked over the ledge to pieces. 

Quickly removing his cloak, Elrond began beating back the lhygians that clogged the entrance to the crevice where Estel was hiding.  The dark flying object startled them and they began to scurry out of the way.  The elf could hear his son speaking to him and his heart calmed a bit.  His initial reaction to seeing the human overwhelmed by the creatures had frightened him more than he wanted to admit. 

“Estel, when I tell you to, come out quickly!” Elrond’s voice was taut, but controlled.  

“Yes, Father!” The ranger kicked at a lhyguan that had locked its teeth around the hard leather of this his boot sole.  The creature would not let go and he slammed his foot against the roof of the rocky enclosure.  The heat on the floor of the grotto was intense; sweat beaded on his face and ran through his hair, plastering the wayward strands against his neck and cheeks, but the ranger didn’t let go of the shrub he was using as a shield; it was his only defense.  

The lizard that had locked its jaw on his boot released its grip and twisted quickly on its side, opening its mouth and reaching for the ranger’s calf, intent on sinking its fangs into the leg muscle.  Aragorn tried to scoot farther back.  He saw the reptile moving in and felt its jaw graze his leg, but the lhyguan let go at the last moment, its head falling down near his thigh as its body jerked spasmodically.  The ranger noticed with a mixture of disgust and relief that the creature had been cut in two. 

“Now Estel! NOW!” His father called to him from directly above, pulling his sword back to his side and swiping swiftly at another beast that came too close. 

Needing no further prompting, the ranger rolled out from under the crevice, pushing the branches of the bush out before him and crouching just beyond the opening of his shelter.  His father knelt above him on the rocks, extending his hand down to the human, but Aragorn leaned back into the dark interior, quickly grabbed the burlap sack, and swung it into his father’s open hand. 

Without thought the elf lord tossed the sack aside next to him and reached back down, grabbing the collar of Aragorn’s overcoat and pulling the young man up with him onto the large rock. 

Aragorn was breathing hard and trying to calm his racing heart.  He wiped his forehead against the sleeve of his coat. 

Elrond quickly looked the human over.  His son seemed to be all right despite the fall into the cave, but he also realized the ranger was running on adrenaline and any injuries he might have taken would be discovered later in the day when the danger was far behind them. 

“Are you ready?”  Elrond gripped Aragorn’s arm tightly and redirected the young man’s gaze.  The human was staring at the floor of the grotto as the lhygians pressed underneath the rocks, looking for their prey, not quite yet seeming to realize that it had moved away.  He glanced up at the elf lord. Taking in a deep breath and letting it out slowly, he nodded.  

Aragorn noticed for the first time that his father held a bloodied sword in one hand and his tattered cloak in the other.  The lizards had latched onto the elven fabric, ripping the edges of it as he beat them back from the opening of the tiny cave his son had been trapped in. 

Estel touched his father’s shoulder gently, searching the intense blue eyes that watched him, “Are you alright, Father?” he asked in elvish.  Those words came so much easier to him when under stress than common did. 

Glancing back up to the edge of the ravine, the elf lord nodded.  “Yes, I am, but we need to get out of here and back to Émuseld quickly.  I shouldn’t like to be here when they figure a way to up.” He nodded towards where the Lhygians were now trying to clamber up the sides of the ledge the elf and the ranger were standing on.  So far they were finding the sides too slick to climb up from the ground, but eventually they would realize they had only to climb the wall behind in order to reach the ledge.  “And I fear that every moment now may be critical for Legolas.”  He stooped to retrieve the burlap sack, hefting the heavy bulk over his shoulder.  “Is it dead?  I need it alive, Estel.”  He questioned as he felt the limp creature against his back. 

“I hit it on the head.  It grabbed my boot and I couldn’t get it to let go.  I don’t  think I hit it hard enough to kill it,” Aragorn admitted, glancing around them at the lhygians, most of which had now tired of trying to reach the elf and the human but still clogged their only path back.  When he looked up again he noticed that Elrond was slowly turning around, sizing up the cliff walls with his sharp eyes. 

“There.”  The elf lord pointed to the wall on the left.  The cliff face was riddled with pockets and ledges: easy hand holds for a quick climb out of the grotto. 

Shrugging out of his overcoat the ranger nodded and jumped off the rock, beating back the creatures that scuttled out of his way.  With a well placed kick he slammed the soft underbelly of a dominant male with his boot toe, lifting the creature off the ground and flinging it into the middle of a mating fight.  The chaos that erupted as the lhygians were interrupted drew the attention of the reptiles that were nearby.  The rest that were unfortunate enough not to move out of the way were forcefully shoved aside by the elf and the man as they made their way to the cavern wall. 

Aragorn leapt up to the lowest ledge. Turning quickly on his boot heels, he knelt and extended his hand down, grasping his father’s forearm and pulling the elf up next to him. 

Elrond balanced easily on the thin shelf.  He turned to look up and find the next foothold when the lhyguan in the sack he carried suddenly came to life.  The reptile thrashed against the elf lord’s back, startling Elrond, and he dropped the sack on the ledge next to him.  The trapped creature hissed from within its burlap prison.  With a slightly amused look Aragorn glanced from the sack to the elf. 

“I guess I didn’t kill it after all.”  He smiled as his father shook his head and breathed deeply.  

“I would guess not.”  Glancing back above them Elrond pulled himself up to the next foothold. “Hand that thing up to me when I reach the ledge above.” 

It took them longer than they expected to make it to the lip of the grotto.  Lugging along a struggling burlap sack had not made the task any easier. 

Elrond knelt on the edge and pulled Aragorn up.  The ranger lay down in the long waving grasses on his stomach and just rested for a moment.  Elrond sat down next to him with a heavy sigh, his hand resting lightly on the human’s back between his shoulders. 

“Let’s not do that again, shall we?” Aragorn muttered from his prone position. 

“Are you hurt, my son?”  Elrond questioned, “That was quite a fall you took.” 

Aragorn didn’t move.  In all truth he wasn’t sure he was all right.  With all the fighting and in the attempt to escape as quickly as possible he hadn’t allowed the minor aches and pains to even touch his mind, but now... 

Breathing in a deep sigh the ranger turned slowly over onto his back and stared up into the blue eyes of his father.  A small smile tugged at his lips.  

“Well?”  Elrond couldn’t help the slight worry that tinged his question. 

With a quiet laugh Estel closed his eyes and relaxed. “I think tomorrow I may ache... quite a bit, but right now I am fine.”  He turned to look over his shoulder, pulling at the tattered edges of his shirt and gingerly fingered the cuts in his shoulder that one of the lhygians had inflicted.  The deep scratches stung a bit.  “Well, maybe just a scratch.” He mumbled under his breath, half grinning at the irony of what had now become a much-used phrase as well as a joke between he and Legolas...  Legolas.  Aragorn’s mind once again re-focused on his friend with worried urgency.  

When Elrond simply continued to stare at the young human, Aragorn pressed himself up on his elbows and met the stern stare, “Father, I am fine.  Or at least, I will be.  Nothing life-threatening, I promise.”  He stressed each syllable as the smile that crossed his face even wider.  Was he forever going to be having this conversation with his father?  Or come to that, any elf he traveled with?  The bag near his hip thrashed wildly and the ranger flinched, scooting away from the trapped lhyguan. “Besides it is Legolas who needs our help now.” 

“I will want to see to those cuts on your back before the day is through.”  The older elf stared hard into the smiling eyes of his youngest son.  “We don’t need any more surprises.” 

With a slight nod, Estel resisted the urge to roll his eyes, “Yes, Father.” 

Reaching out, the ranger grabbed the tied off top of the sack and stood slowly to his feet, holding the bag away from his body until the reptile calmed down.  Moving quickly he grasped the lizard behind the head, holding the thick neck in one hand and tucked the lhyguan, bag and all under his arm, pinning the reptile against him.  His shoulder ached but he ignored the pain.  A loud hiss answered the imprisonment, but the animal stopped moving. 

“How sure are you that you can re-create an antidote?”  he asked his elven father once more, just to settle the fears that nipped at his consciousness.  

Elrond stood to his feet, retrieving Aragorn’s overcoat and his own cloak from where they lay on the ground. 

“Very sure, Estel.”  The elf lord replied patiently once more as he beat the cloth against his leg before securing his cloak quickly around his neck, “But if what Éomund said is true, about the ferocity and toxicity of the poison, then we best return with all haste.  I will need every moment we can spare to create a new antidote.” 

With a curt nod Aragorn paced his father as they ran back to Émuseld.  The danger of the lhyguan grotto fell away with every step as they headed back and the dread of Legolas’ future began to weigh heavy on his mind once more. 


When they reached the ranch house, Aragorn passed the captured lhyguan off to his father who headed immediately for the kitchen area of the living quarters, calling out to one of the soldiers to follow him and bring the elf lord’s knapsack with him.  The human, however, moved quickly to the back of the house, seeking out the room where he had left Legolas. 

Aragorn heard his father’s voice behind him as he walked swiftly away, “Estel, I may need your help before this over.” 

“Yes, Father,” the young human replied quietly, knowing full well the elf had heard him, but intent on seeing to the welfare of his friend. 

Helm met him in the hallway and the grim countenance of the soldier’s face sent icy shockwaves through Aragorn’s heart. 

The soldier saw the look on the other man’s face change as Aragorn quickly tried to push by him and he caught the Dùnadan’s shoulders, stopping him.  “Thorongil, wait,” he bid him quietly.  

Aragorn paused and looked into the Rohirrim’s eyes, fearing what he would find.  “Is... is he...” 

“No,” the horse soldier shook his head quickly.  “He still lives, but... I am not sure for how long.  Thorongil, listen to me!” Helm was insistent as he caught and held the younger man’s arm when Aragorn tried to push past him again after hearing those dreadful words.  

“I have seen cases of lhyguan poisoning before,” Helm kept his voice low so the conversation was just between he and Aragorn.  “And I have never seen anyone fail quite this fast.  I don’t understand it. I have said nothing to him about this... sometimes hope is the best medicine one can offer.  I’m sorry to have to tell you, but you seem to be close to him and I thought someone should know.  I’m sorry.” The soldier’s manner was gruff and yet his eyes showed compassion.  

“I put salve on his wounds to close them. They aren’t bleeding anymore and he’s still conscious, but he is not doing well.  And... and I wanted to warn you.  Sometimes in the late stages of its progression this venom renders the victim unable to speak or respond, but they’re still in there.  If,” Helm looked gently into the hurting eyes of the younger man.  “If that happens... it means his time is almost up, but... just talk to him.  Just be there with him so he knows he’s not alone.  Sometimes that’s the last gift we can give them.”  Helm’s voice was quiet and his eyes spoke of much hard-earned and hard-learned experience.  He had seen many men die, on the battlefield and off it.  He knew of what he spoke. 

Aragorn swallowed raggedly around the choking obstruction that was beginning to constrict his throat, unable to respond.  Helm seemed to understand and just released the ranger’s arm, inclining his head towards the bedroom.  

Aragorn nodded numbly and quickly entered the room.  Legolas was lying still on the bed.  His face and his hands, folded on his chest, were almost as pale as the bed coverings.  For half an instant Aragorn’s heart stopped beating.  Then the elf’s eyes fluttered open, having heard the familiar footsteps. 

“Estel?” Legolas said somewhat blearily.  Blinking the young man into focus the elf graced his friend with a weary, rueful smile.  “Sorry, Thorongil I mean,” the elf’s voice was hoarse and faint, but still managed to carry humor in it.  “And you were worried about you remembering what you’re going by today,” the elf murmured.  “I do hope you realize what a terrible bother it is for your friends...”  The elf broke off, coughing into his hand, his breathing wheezing a little as he pressed his head back against the pillows, closing his eyes for a moment. 

When he opened them again Aragorn was sitting on the side of the bed and holding his hand gently, pressing the back of his other hand to Legolas’ burning forehead.  The young man’s eyes betrayed his heart-rending concern although he was trying to hide it from his friend. 

“We captured one of the creatures. Father’s working on the antidote right now.  How are you feeling, Legolas?” 

Legolas smiled, tightening his fingers around his friend’s where they lay clasped against his chest.  “That, my friend, would qualify as one of those stupid questions people ask when they do not know what to say,” he said with a small chuckle.  “I feel miserable.” 

Aragorn allowed himself to laugh, although it stuck a little in his throat as he brushed the elf’s damp hair back from his face.  

Legolas sighed.  “What is it now?  You are terrible at hiding things from me, you know, and I’m too tired to guess, so you had better just tell me.” 

Aragorn didn’t answer right away and Legolas’ fever-bright eyes narrowed.  “It’s Helm, isn’t it?  He said something to you.  He’s a good man, Est - Thorongil, but he worries too much... I’m going to be fine,” the prince assured with confidence, although Aragorn could feel the elf’s body trembling under his hand as if the prince was very cold.  “With two such remarkable healers as you and Lord Elrond here, how could I not be?” Legolas grinned, trying to get his friend to smile back.  

Aragorn did, clasping the elf’s hot fingers and bringing them up to his lips in a gentle kiss.  “Of course you will be, mellon-nín.” 

Legolas started coughing again, the spasms nearly seeming to cut off his airway.  Alarmed, Aragorn quickly helped his friend sit up, wrapping his arm around Legolas’ shoulders and holding him as the wracking coughs shook the elf’s slender frame.  In a momentary lull, Legolas let his head fall back to rest lightly against Aragorn’s shoulder.  

“This is more or less where we started, isn’t it, dear friend?” the elf rasped softly between wheezing breaths.  He could tell his body was failing, not matter what he tried to pretend for Aragorn.  “You remember?  The poisoned trap, in Mirkwood...” Another choking cough.  “We didn’t trust you then... I didn’t... I’m sorry.  I feel as if that were a lifetime ago somehow, in another world...” Legolas let his fingers drift weakly up to touch Aragorn’s arm as he turned around, seeking the ranger’s eyes.  

Aragorn barely remembered the incident at this moment, but it came back when the prince mentioned it.  The human shook his head, trying to silence the elf.  “Shh, save your strength, Legolas, it’s all right.” 

“Maybe...” Legolas leaned away a little, concentrating on breathing as he tried to force air into his sluggish lungs.  “But... Estel?  I wanted you to know... If... If I...” the prince trailed off and did not finish.  “I’m glad our differences did not keep us apart,” he said instead, with a small smile.  “Or we would have missed discovering how much we had in common.” 

“I am glad too, Legolas.”  Aragorn had to look away and blink a few times before he was safe to meet his friend’s eyes again, but the prince’s eyelids were closed now and he seemed to be struggling.  Another coughing fit seized the prince and this time it did not ease. 

Each convulsion left the elf gasping and reeling for air as the toxins in his blood swelled his airways closed more and more.  The coughing gave way to rapid, shallow wheezing and Legolas’ hand tightened in Aragorn’s sleeve, balling desperately as the elf slumped forward, fighting to draw air into his lungs.  

Frightened, Aragorn scooted further onto the bed, pulling Legolas back against his chest and putting his hand on the elf’s heaving diaphragm.  

The prince’s body was tense, scared and spasming.  Legolas’ crystal blue eyes were wide with the desperate struggle for oxygen and the fear only made his aching lungs and airways tenser.  This had been happening more and more frequently as the poison progressed, but this was the first time it had actually stopped his breathing altogether. 

“Shhh, breathe deep, Legolas, slowly, slowly...” Aragorn pushed his own fear aside so that his body would be a calming presence for his friend.  Taking slow, deep breaths himself he held Legolas back against his chest so that the elf could feel the steady rise and fall.  “Don’t be afraid, breathe with me, come on, Legolas, breathe with me, slowly...” 

Legolas gasped desperately.  He could breathe out, but no air seemed to come in to replace it, leaving a vacuum in his lungs that made bright flashes dance before his eyes.  He felt Aragorn’s warm, calming presence surround him, willing him to breathe, willing air to return to his lungs.  He felt the human’s chest rise and fall at his back and tried to match his own, frantic gasps to that rhythm.  

“In and out, Legolas,” Aragorn soothed softly, whispering into his friend’s ear as his hand pressed encouragingly against the elf’s chest, rubbing soft circles in synch with his breathing.  “In... and out... and in...” he was relieved to feel the elf’s body beginning to respond and risked breaking his concentration away for a moment.  

“ADA!” he called urgently, lifting his head and turning away so he wasn’t shouting in Legolas’ ear.  “Lord Elrond!” he quickly corrected himself, although it didn’t matter since Helm was the only one to hear them and he wouldn’t know what the elvish word meant.  

Elrond came quickly when he heard the alarmed tone in his son’s voice and he saw the two friends on the bed.  The elf prince’s lips were tinged blue but his breathing was beginning to slow and gradually match itself to the deep, relaxed pace of the Dùnadan behind him.  

“He can’t breathe,” Aragorn informed quickly, although Elrond had already guessed the trouble.  

Checking the prince’s pulse, the elf lord found that Legolas’ heart was racing erratically.  Gently Elrond laid his hand on the younger elf’s chest, above Aragorn’s, willing the swelling airways to open.  

Slowly the gasping wheezes became steadier and more regular as Legolas felt air beginning to seep back into his tortured lungs.  

When Legolas was finally breathing on his own again, Elrond straightened up.  Aragorn kept holding him just in case, however, and the elf prince slumped limply back against his shoulder, exhausted.  Perspiration soaked the elf’s light tunic and clung to his clammy brow.  Aragorn felt Legolas’ weak breaths stir his hair and his heart ached, he hated to see his friend like this.  

“Well that was fun...” Legolas muttered weakly with an apologetic smile as he turned his head towards Aragorn. 

“You have an odd idea of fun, my friend,” Aragorn shook his head with a small, encouraging smile.  

“And you have an odd idea of staying out of trouble,” the elf observed, glancing meaningfully at the torn shirt and deep red scratches across Aragorn’s other shoulder which the prince could see clearly now.  

Aragorn chuckled softly and shifted Legolas a little.  “Are you feeling good enough to lie down again?  I’ll be right back.” 

Legolas nodded and Aragorn scooted around, letting the prince ease back against the pillows.  

Touching Elrond’s arm lightly Aragorn questioned, “Do you need any help with the lhyguan?” 

Elrond could tell that the human wanted to talk to him alone, out of Legolas’ earshot.  The elf lord nodded.  “Helm is helping me but he’s a little... leery about holding the creature still while I get the sample I need.” 

Aragorn followed the elf lord back towards the kitchen, pausing for a moment in the doorway and fixing Legolas with a concerned look.  “You will be all right for a few moments, won’t you?” 

Legolas rolled his eyes and waved his hand, gesturing for the ranger to leave.  “Go!  You know I hate it when you hover.” 

Aragorn shook his head and quickly caught up with his father.  

“It’s progressing much faster than it should,” Elrond spared Aragorn from having to explain his worries once they were in the kitchen again, but he kept his voice low to avoid Legolas’ elvish hearing.  

Aragorn nodded, worry etched into his face.  “Helm said...” 

“I know,” Elrond nodded, his deep eyes grave.  “He told me the same and I could feel as much in the prince’s body.  Aragorn, I cannot be sure, but it is my guess that this poison affects elves more seriously than it does humans.  Much more seriously.  I fear we do not have as much time as we thought.” 

Aragorn nodded, blinking rapidly to keep the sting behind his eyes contained.  Somehow hearing his own fears confirmed from his father’s mouth brought it home even more painfully.  

“Estel,” Elrond whispered quietly, catching the young man’s shoulder.  “Do not despair.  It just means that I will have to work twice as fast to get the antidote ready.  Now help me with our scaly friend here...” the elf lord led Aragorn towards the table where the captive lhyguan was still thrashing around in its sack.  It had nearly eaten through one end and it was high time to do something with it.  

With Aragorn and Helm’s help Elrond was able to get a sample of the creature’s venom before it was quickly placed in a new sack.  The Rohirrim was for killing it, but Elrond’s say on the matter prevailed and instead Helm reluctantly agreed to take it back up into the hills a ways and release it.  

Aragorn was chafing to get back to Legolas, and Elrond wasn’t sure how wise it was to leave him alone either, so after the elf lord had collected the various things he needed, both of them returned to the bedroom.  To be successful in recreating the AntiVen in the ever-shrinking amount of time they had left, Elrond would need Legolas’ input. 

Legolas’ weary eyes raised to greet them, but he did not speak.  He was feeling too tired... much too tired... 

He answered Elrond’s questions about the flavor, consistency and size of the dosage he had been on, but even that seemed to weary the weak elf and as Elrond put his full focus on the mixture he was creating in a small bowl on Freca’s night-table, silence fell over the room.  

Aragorn was sitting next to Legolas on the bed once more, when the prince tugged softly on his sleeve.  “I don’t... feel well...” the elf murmured, his face creased in pain as he rolled onto his side, clutching his stomach. 

It took a moment, but when Aragorn realized what his friend meant he hurriedly retrieved a large kettle from the kitchen since Legolas was too weak to get out of the bed.  Helping the elf sit up and holding his shoulders supportively as the prince curled over the kettle, Aragorn gently rubbed Legolas’ back as the elf retched, involuntarily loosing the contents of his stomach.  The prince’s tentative breathing hitched and choked, not helped at all by the nauseous spasm of his stomach.  

If he had been feeling better Legolas would have been embarrassed by the loss of control over his body that he was experiencing, but as it was his head hurt too violently and he was too ill to feel much of anything else.  

Aragorn cared for his friend with great tenderness, holding Legolas until he was done and then helping him lay back down again, bringing a cool drink of water to wash his mouth with and a damp cloth to lay against his hot forehead.  

Legolas gazed up at the ranger with a small, grateful smile.  “Is this what it is like to be sick?” he murmured hoarsely, remembering when Aragorn had been ill some time ago and he had very naïvely wondered what it felt like.  The elf chuckled wryly.  “I don’t know how you humans survive...” 

Aragorn smiled, dabbing his friend’s face with the cooling cloth.  “Yes, this is what it feels like to be sick.  Welcome to the wonderful world of being mortal.” 

Legolas moaned slightly.  “I’d like to leave again, thank you.” 

Aragorn laughed.  “Soon my friend, soon...” 

Silence stretched between them for a few moments, and Legolas shifted his position feverishly.  He’d rather talk to Aragorn then just lie here and hurt with no distraction, but he was too weak to do much talking himself.  Instead he asked a question.  

“What was it like?” 

“What was what like?” Aragorn didn’t understand.  

“The mirror... what was it like when you looked in the fabled mirror of the Lady of the Golden Wood?” Legolas made his question clearer.  “I have heard stories about it, but half thought it to be a fable.  I have been wanting to ask you since you told me.” 

Aragorn realized that Legolas needed distraction from his pain and was only too glad to help in any way he could.  “Well, it was like nothing I have ever experienced before.  I saw so many things... I don’t think I was even consciously aware of everything I saw.  Some things it was more as if I felt them than saw them, and some things were very clear...” Aragorn intentionally did not talk about what he had seen concerning Legolas, because as he sat here holding his friend’s hand those horrifying memories simply hurt too much.  

“I saw a lot of things I didn’t understand, and some that seemed to come out of stories of long ago.  I also saw myself and my brothers when I was younger and some things that I hope were only fantasy, and not the future, such as Rivendell surrounded by enemies, awash in a dark sea of orcs...” 

“That was no fantasy at least,” Elrond put in quietly from the corner of the room he was working in.  “Nor was it the future.  That was the past you saw.  The long distant past... before either of you were born.  Before the fall of Sauron.” 

“Really? I never realized they were that close,” Aragorn shuddered slightly.  

Legolas watched with sleepy contentment.  He liked listening to Aragorn and Elrond talk.  It eased his headache even if his weary mind could hardly follow what they said.  

“They were,” Elrond nodded as he carefully measured out a spoonful of amber liquid from a little vial he had taken out of Freca’s supply cabinets.  The horse breaker had had quite a store of herbs and medicines on hand, and the elf lord didn’t have too much trouble guessing what they were, either by sight, taste or smell.  

“It was a war that we in the west nearly lost.  Rivendell held out a long time, but we could not have lasted forever.  Mithlond, the Grey Havens, were about to fall, although Gil-Galad and all that were left of his folk defended them with their lives.  Sauron almost had the mastery he desired.  It was the Númenoreans, your ancestors, my son, who turned the tide.  They sailed into the Mithlond from Númenor in their tall ships and drove the forces of Sauron back before them like chattel.” 

The soft, quick smile that Elrond graced his youngest son with seemed a wish to remind Aragorn that there was much good and bravery in his heritage, as well as the weakness that he knew the young man feared.  

Legolas’ eyelids felt heavy.  “I learn something new whenever I am with you both...” he murmured.  “They never told those stories in my home.” 

“I fear, young Greenleaf, that your father was not over-fond of men and so it does not much surprise me that tales of them did not take a large place in your upbringing.  No more than you probably heard of the courage of Durin and how he and his fellow dwarves were the only thing that saved my warriors and I when we were overcome by orcs near the Mines of Moria during that same war,”  Elrond said with a small smile.  

“Dwarves?” Legolas cocked an eyebrow slightly.  “No, I don’t think you’d ever hear my father or anyone in his earshot who had any sense say a good word about them.  But at least some things have changed...” Legolas squeezed Aragorn’s hand weakly, pulling it up to rest on his chest.  

For the first time he noticed the fading blisters on the fingers of Aragorn’s left hand.  The prince’s brow creased in foggy concern.  “Don’t tell me those creatures burned you as well as scratched you.” 

“No,” Aragorn shook his head with a rueful grin.  “That... well, it seems that Galadriel’s mirror does not like to be disturbed,” he said very quickly, knowing what the elf would say. 

Legolas actually smiled full-out.  “You touched it didn’t you?  I swear, Aragorn, you touch everything!” 

“You know he’s been like that since he was a child,” Elrond put in helpfully, glad for anything that made the elf prince smile. 

“Go ahead and laugh,” Aragorn muttered good-naturedly.  “Both of you.  But if it weren’t for my insistence we wouldn’t be here now.” 

“And I’m glad you’re here, Estel,” Legolas whispered quietly, his eyes beginning to glaze.  “Whatever happens...” he coughed slightly and shifted his position.  “I’m glad you’re here.” 

Then the prince seemed to drift away and his eyes unfocused, staring into space.  His hand slid limply out of Aragorn’s and fell back to his side.  

A nearly paralyzing zing of terror shot through Aragorn’s heart as he groped after the prince’s limp hand with fingers that had been burned in the same attempt not so long ago.  But this was no vision now, it was real.  Horribly so.  

“Legolas?  Legolas!” the ranger cried his friend’s name as he clasped the slender, lifeless fingers to his heart, but the elf did not respond. 

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