Priceless Treasure

Chapter 12

by Cassia and Siobhan

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Everything I am
And everything in me
Wants to be the one you wanted me to be
I'll never let you down
Even if I could
I'd give up everything
If only for your good
So hold me when I'm here
Right me when I'm wrong
Hold me when I'm scared
You won't always be there
So love me when I'm gone
Love me when I'm gone...

--Three Doors Down

Elrohir’s shoulders rose and fell steadily, his head still resting on his arms against Legolas’ bed. Even exhausted and emotionally run-out, his guard was up and his sleep light.

His head jerked up quickly, his dozing shattered when his sharp hearing detected the sound of barely audible footfalls and a presence that did not seem to be either his father or brother. But it was too late.

As quiet and as lethal as a mountain cat, even drunk and as emotionally disturbed as he was, Mannyn was already behind the elf. One hand clamped tightly on Elrohir’s shoulder while the other jabbed a short, sharp, belithral-laden spike into the side of the elf’s neck, delivering an almost instantly debilitating dose of the potent drug.

For a few moments Elrohir struggled, but his thrashing stilled quickly as the drug raced through his system, shutting down everything but his autonomous responses and rendering him completely unable to move.

"That’s better," Mannyn growled softly, yanking the limp elf up by his long brown hair. Holding Elrohir tightly to his chest with one arm around the elf’s waist, he dragged his conscious but helpless captive down the passage, leaving the other elf still unconscious on the bed.


Elrond was sitting on the edge of Aragorn’s bed, with Elladan by his feet, cross-legged on the floor. Aragorn had been drifting in and out of consciousness for the past five minutes or so, but he was more or less aware at the moment and when Elrond looked up suddenly, he did as well.

In the doorway to their right stood Mannyn. He said nothing at first, but just stared at them with wild hatred in his eyes. In his arms he held Elrohir who sagged limply against him. At Elrohir’s throat Mannyn clutched the hilt of a long, curved dagger. The blade was already pressed so roughly against the young elf’s neck that it had broken the skin and Elrohir’s throat was red with blood beneath the razor edge.

Elrond rose to his feet immediately, glaring daggers at the man who had dared treat his son that way, but a vicious pull on the knife by Elrohir’s already bleeding throat halted him where he stood.

"Move one more inch and he dies, Master Elf," Mannyn threatened coldly. "That goes for your brats too!" he glared sharply at Elladan who had also jumped to his feet.

"Why you-" Elladan’s eyes burned with deadly fire as he advanced a pace on the man holding his twin hostage.

"Elladan!" Elrond’s arm snapped out to the side to restrain his eldest as he saw the way Mannyn’s hand tensed nervously on the knife. The elderly man’s fingers were already trembling with rage and who knew what else; he was in no state of mind to be pushed. He would kill Elrohir at a moment's notice, of that Elrond was deadly sure.

"But he-" Elladan was nearly blind with fury and heartsick with concern. Elrohir was not only his brother but his best friend; they completed one another, almost like two halves to the same person. He couldn’t stand seeing him like this.

"I said stay where you are!" Elrond commanded again, sharply. He knew how Elladan felt, but the younger elf’s over-ready temper was not going to help them at this point.

"That’s smart, Master Elrond, very smart," Mannyn hissed. "I hope you really are as wise as they say, because then you will hear me out and not cause your boy here a premature death!"

Aragorn had sat up with an extreme effort and leaned on his elbows, watching what was unfolding from behind Elrond and Elladan with wide, quiet eyes. He desperately hoped that he had merely slid into another nightmare, but somehow he knew this was only too real.

Elrond’s gaze was deadly and he speared Mannyn with it. There were very few who could have stood up to the sheer wrath in the elf father’s eyes, but Mannyn was filled with so much insane rage and blood-lust that he did not waver.

"I will listen, but you listen to me first, Mannyn, and listen very carefully," Elrond said, his voice quiet but perilous. "If you harm so much as one hair on that boy’s head I swear I will have your life for it and I do not make idle promises or threats. Let him go now, and I will forget this incident. Believe me, Mannyn, you do not want to bring the wrath of the elves down upon your house in this manner. Let him go."

Mannyn chuckled. The crazed glint in his eye suggested that the swelling, frozen rage inside him had indeed finally cracked and shattered his heart and his mind, leaving behind only the mangled shards of anger and revenge twisting inside him. "So you think. But my life matters not, for you cannot take from me that which fate has already stolen!" he laughed again, a self-pleased cackle. "You see, Master Elrond, not even you know everything. I’m dying. Dying! I may not live to see the dawn whether I invite your wrath or not! So you see, I have nothing to lose."

Elrond’s jaw hardened. Now he understood what he had sensed about the human earlier. Mannyn was ill, and it was an illness that was killing his body slowly, just as surely as the rage and hate he had grown inside him had slowly killed his soul.

"I’ve listened to you, now you listen to me," Mannyn continued. "I have no desire for this boy’s blood," his eyes narrowed and fixed on Aragorn, still on the bed behind Elrond and Elladan, "but that one I claim. He took my son from me, leaving me to die a lonely, bitter old man! I want his blood and I’ll have it! So you turn him over to me, or your son will die in his place."

Elrond’s eyes blazed. "You cannot expect me to..."

"Don’t think to put me off with your words!" Mannyn snapped, his thread of patience incredibly fragile. "Consider long and hard, oh mighty elf lord, before you answer me. That ranger’s not your son though you protect him; he’s as human as I am and no kin to elves. So unless you would trade his life as more dear than your own flesh and blood you will do as I say!"

Aragorn’s face was pale. Pushing himself to the edge of the bed he swung his legs down over the side. His head spun dizzily at the movement and at being upright, but he pressed it aside. "He’s right," the young man’s voice was quiet and resolved.

Elrond’s firm hand on his shoulder kept the young human from trying to stand up. "Be still, Estel," the elf told him quietly, then turned back to Mannyn. "You do not know everything either, Mannyn, as is obvious. Estel is my nephew by blood, no matter how many generations removed, but I say to you he is my son as surely as those that were born of my wife. And no child of mine will I sacrifice to feed your twisted sense of revenge! Estel fought a clean fight with your son, one he did not even desire. Let it go and do not compound tragedy with atrocity! Free Elrohir and release your misguided claim on Estel’s blood." Elrond was usually an extremely composed being, but Mannyn had pushed him past the edge of patience.

"You are not in your own house, Lord Elrond, and you cannot give orders," Mannyn’s voice grew cold. "If you insist on claiming the ranger then do so, but the choice is still set before you. Give him up to me, or I’ll slit this one’s throat right now! I would prefer the former, but either way will still give you the opportunity to experience the pain that I have felt because of those you claim as yours..."

Mannyn pressed the knife down harder and a soft moan of pain escaped Elrohir’s unresponsive lips. The drug held him still in its clutches and he was only semi-conscious, but he heard what was being demanded in return for his life and tried to force himself to speak, to tell them not to comply under any circumstances! But the words would not come; he did not have that much control over his body.

"Don’t think I won’t do it!" Mannyn threatened when no one spoke. With unexpected brutality, he moved the knife down and cut a quick, deep slash across the side of the base of Elrohir’s neck, deftly slicing the artery that lay near the surface there and causing bright, crimson blood to flow with alarming freedom. Elrohir’s body jerked reflexively, eliciting another soft, moaning gasp.

Elladan started and looked like he wanted to tear Mannyn’s head off, but he held himself still, knowing that any action on his part would only lay his brother’s life upon his head.

"Time is running out now, isn’t it?" Mannyn snarled. "You’re a healer, how long would you say he has until he bleeds to death? Mere minutes? Less than that? So choose swiftly before your choice is made for you! Which one will you save?"

Elrond saw the glazed, drugged pain in his son’s eyes as the ugly dark stain spread swiftly across the front of the young elf’s tunic, and the elf lord’s heart twisted inside him. Mannyn was right. Because of its location and at the rate that wound was bleeding, Elrohir had less than minutes to live if nothing was done. If he or Elladan moved, Elrohir was dead; if they did nothing, he would still die. Yet Elrond could never give Estel up to this man! How could he choose between his sons like this? It was unthinkable.

"You ask the impossible!" the elf lord was closer to losing control then anyone had ever seen him before and his voice trembled. Helpless anguish and ire pulsed through his heart, causing each throb to take his breath away. Elrohir’s life was draining away in front of him, but the only thing that would save his life was equally unthinkable...

Aragorn roughly shrugged Elrond’s hand off his shoulder, forcing himself to his feet and trying to push past the two elves in front of him. "Let him go!" he rasped slightly, wavering on his feet. He would never, ever let either of his brothers die for him! There was no choice to make, the answer was clear. "You can have me, let him go!"

Elladan grabbed his youngest brother somewhat roughly, holding the weakened ranger back and shooting an anguished, confused look at his father.

"No, Estel..." The gaze that Elrond turned on the young human ripped Aragorn’s heart in two. There were actual unshed tears in the elderly elf’s eyes, anguish that the ranger could not begin to understand tearing his father’s heart apart. Aragorn set his jaw. There was no sense in this. They had to hurry or it would be too late! There was no question in the young man’s mind that it needed to be he and not Elrohir who died today; surely Elrond had to see it too.

"No father! You know this is right. You can’t ask me to let anyone else die in my place, least of all those I love more dearly than life!" Aragorn staggered slightly as he tried to pull away from Elladan’s grip. He was still incredibly weak, but his voice was firm and determined.

"I’m not afraid to die, but I cannot live knowing..." He shook his head in frustration, his words tumbling and eluding him as his injured body clamored for his attention. It wasn’t completely true that he wasn’t afraid, but he was more terrified of the idea of living and knowing what his life had cost. Confound it all, why didn’t they just let him do what he had to do?!

Aragorn caught his father’s eyes. "I’m ready," he whispered, begging Elrond to see in his eyes that it was the truth. "The choice isn’t yours, I’m making it. It’s my life to give! Let me go and never regret it. I’m ready."

Elrohir’s face was deadly pale and his eyes were half closed, his breathing shallow and ragged. Time was running out and Mannyn’s impatient glare watched the argument with cruel amusement. With any luck both the elf and the ranger would die. He would like that very much.

Elrond’s counsel was sought by many and his wisdom renowned... but at this moment no wisdom or counsel in the world could help the elf lord with the impossible situation at hand.

Mannyn cackled with wicked glee, very obviously having gone over the edge of sanity and deep into the cloudy dark of madness. "Time runs away like blood... so choose. Choose!"