Priceless Treasure

Chapter 13

by Cassia and Siobhan

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Legolas was wandering beneath the stars under the beech trees near his home in his dreams when a sudden sense of danger tugged at him. In his exhausted, run-down state it was difficult to understand the warning and his aching body resisted the summons to consciousness, clinging to the twilight as long as it could, but at last slowly rising like a bubble rushing towards the surface of a pond he awoke.

Consciousness returned just in time for him to see Mannyn dragging one of Elrond’s sons down the passage, away from the room he was in. It looked like Elrohir... or was it Elladan? Legolas couldn’t tell the twins apart in his groggy state. A moment later he realized he couldn’t move either. His mind had come back to reality, but his body seemed to be following more slowly. He had pushed himself far further than was safe earlier and was reaping the results now.

He didn’t know how much later it was that he finally managed to pull himself out of the bed. He automatically reached for a weapon, but found with a start that he was not wearing his own clothes, but some completely unfamiliar garments. Not stopping to try to make sense of it around his pounding head, or look for the missing weapons, Legolas followed the sound of angry, distraught voices up the passage.

Something was wrong, very wrong, and he knew it.

"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!" Legolas heard a voice he knew to be Aragorn’s speaking vehemently from the room ahead. The young ranger’s voice was still far too weak-sounding for all his determination and the words chilled the elf prince’s heart.

"I’m not afraid to die, but I cannot live knowing..."

Legolas could see Mannyn’s back now, and Elrohir’s head slumped back against his shoulder... he could also see the blood that was dripping down onto the floor at their feet.

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."

The elf prince pressed himself back flat against the wall as he edged silently forward. He may have missed most of what had happened, but this bit of conversation was quite enough to let him know what was going on.

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!"

Suddenly the threesome facing Mannyn saw Legolas’ head appear over the man’s shoulder. In one swift move, the prince reached around and grabbed the human’s blood-covered knife hand, jerking it away from Elrohir’s throat.

Mannyn started and half-turned, howling with inhuman rage and astonishment. With surprising strength for a human and a man his age, he knocked the weakened elf back against the wall and tried to twist his hand away from Legolas. The prince’s head banged painfully back against the corner of the wall, sending pain lancing through his awareness. Elrohir’s blood made everything slippery and hard to hang onto. The knife blade caught the inside of Legolas’ forearm, cutting a deep groove through his sleeve and gashing him from elbow to wrist.

Elrond and Elladan were there an instant later. Elladan yanked Mannyn back. Seizing his wrist and twisting it almost hard enough to break it, the furious elf made the human drop his knife.

Legolas half-sank to his knees, holding his injured arm to his chest, his weakened body screaming in protest at the sudden exertion he had forced upon it before it was ready.

Aragorn was moving slower than his brother and father and reached the spot a few moments later.

With a snarl, Mannyn threw Elrohir, who was still clutched in his other arm, into Aragorn, throwing the unsteady ranger off-balance as he tried to catch his brother and resulting in both of them tumbling backward.

Elrond caught both his sons before they hit the ground, steadying and letting them down gently, his fingers instantly seeking out the flowing wound at the base of Elrohir’s neck. He had to stop the bleeding and stop it now.

For a moment Elladan’s attention was distracted with concern for his brothers and Mannyn took advantage of that. Ripping free of the elf’s inattentive grip he tossed his head back sharply, nailing Elladan square in the face with the back of his head and fleeing up the passage.

Elladan reeled back a pace, holding his bleeding nose and mouth with one hand before he recovered from the shock and took off up the passage after Mannyn.

Legolas pulled himself to his feet and hurried after them.

"Legolas!" Elrond called after him, but the prince did not hear or, if he did, he did not choose to heed the warning. Elrond knew Legolas was not well yet and did not wish him to overtax himself, but the elf lord had his hands full with Elrohir right now.

They heard the front door open and shut several times, slamming with a bang and sending a freezing draft swirling through the house.

Elrond sighed softly as he pressed a clean, folded cloth against Elrohir’s wound. "Ah Elbereth..." he whispered quietly as he worked. "Don’t let Elladan do anything he will regret."

Aragorn looked up towards where his brother and his friend had disappeared and started to rise, but Elrond’s voice stopped him. "No, Estel. I need you here. Help me with your brother."

Immediately Aragorn’s attention was re-focused on the limp elf in his arms. He held Elrohir’s head and shoulders while Elrond struggled to stop the deadly bleeding. It was harder than it should have been to staunch and Elrond’s brow was creased in concern as he pulled away one soaked bandage and replaced it with another, seeking to pinch the vein on either side of the puncture with his skilled fingers. Yet he couldn’t risk stopping all blood flow to Elrohir’s brain or the young elf could end up permanently damaged. The wounded elf still did not move or respond to their worried entreaties. Only his glazed eyes caught and held theirs.

"It’s th-the belithral," Aragorn said with concern as he watched his brother’s symptoms, blinking hard to clear the double vision creeping up on him. "That’s why he’s like this. Mannyn must have given him some. It does something to your blood..."The young ranger remembered all too well those hellish days on the mountain when even a split lip refused to stop bleeding for hours.

Elrond nodded in understanding. Pressing Aragorn’s hand over the compress on his brother’s wound, the elf lord quickly mixed up another hythinyns draught like he had used to detoxify Aragorn earlier.

"How long does it last, Estel?" Elrond needed to know more about this drug, having only dealt with its waning effects on Aragorn and not knowing what it was like at full potency.

"It depends on the dose." Aragorn was trying hard to keep a clear head although a painful haze was creeping into his brain again. "Dyryn wanted me to be able to move, so after that first time he only gave me little amounts until my body had built up a bit of a tolerance to it and he started upping the dosage..." Aragorn pressed his eyes shut against the horribly fresh memories. "It causes complete paralysis for the first fifteen to twenty minutes. Then, then you can move again, but every motion is a struggle, even blinking. That lasts for hours and hours. And it gives you waking nightmares, hallucinations," he finished quietly.

Elrond glanced with silent compassion at Aragorn’s drawn face, imagining the kind of pain the young human must have been going through. "It’s over, Estel," he whispered gently as he administered the hythinyns to Elrohir. "And we’re going to get your brother through this as well. I just hope..." he looked away.

"What?" Aragorn was not about to let the elder elf off that easy. "It’s Mannyn and Elladan, isn’t it?"

Elrond smiled, soft and sad, as he met the young man’s eyes, nodding almost imperceptibly at his son’s keen observation. "It’s not that I do not wish justice for what that man has done..." Elrond glanced somewhat fiercely down at his bloodied, pale son and then back up at Aragorn, whose eyes were still haunted from the horror he had been through of late. "But... I fear for Elladan. His temper has always been hot, and after what happened to his mother it has only increased. If he kills Mannyn in the rage he is in now... it will wound his spirit deeply, perhaps forever... and then even if Elrohir lives, I may yet lose a son because of that madman." The elf lord swallowed hard and looked away. It was not a choice he could make for Elladan, no matter how badly he wanted to. The younger elf was going to have to choose for himself and live with that choice.

Aragorn laid his hand atop Elrond’s on Elrohir’s bandage and gave it a gentle squeeze. "We have to trust," he whispered softly, "that Elladan is stronger than that, and that he had a father who raised him to know the difference between justice and vengeance. And Legolas is with them... He will help if he can."


"Elladan, don’t!" Legolas placed himself between the elf and the human who was on his back in the snow, cackling with crazed madness despite having been half-smothered.

The two elves had pursued Mannyn out of the house and into the snow-covered courtyard. There, Elladan had caught up with the man and taken him down. Legolas had gotten there just in time to keep Elladan from throttling the life out of the old man.

"Get out of the way! You saw what he did to my brothers! I’m going to rip his heart out and feed it to the wargs!" Elladan shouted at Legolas over the howl of the wind. There was a fierce rage burning in the dark-haired elf’s eyes that Legolas had never seen before in the twin’s usually pleasant and playful face.

"Don’t act before you think or you may regret it!" Legolas shook his head in concern. The prince shivered at the cold around them. His body was still critically weak and being out in the storm once more was quickly sapping whatever strength he had.

"Get out of my way!" Elladan shoved Legolas roughly and the prince stumbled, falling into the snow on top of his injured arm and staining the whiteness beneath him with his blood.

Legolas cried out softly, rolling over and clutching his arm, shivering violently from the freezing cold that was seeping back into his hurting body. He didn’t feel strong enough to rise, but his pained blue eyes looked up and caught Elladan’s raging grey ones.

Elladan stopped dead in his tracks. What was he doing? Was he so intent on his own revenge that he was willing to hurt Legolas to get it? What did that make him?

"When someone wrongs you, Elladan, you have a choice..." his father’s voice came back to the elf clearly. Elladan took a deep breath and reached his hand down to help Legolas rise. He knew there was only one choice to make, and it was not the one he had been pursuing. "I’m sorry," he whispered as he pulled Legolas to his feet. "I’m sorry."

Mannyn had scrambled to his feet as soon as the elves’ attention was away from him and bolted for the darkness of the estate’s outlying buildings, laughing hysterically as he plunged into the freezing night.

Deep in the shadows ahead, the sharp elven eyes behind the fleeing man saw the glitter of yellow fangs and the darker blackness of large bodies, low to the ground.

"Mannyn! Stop! Don’t go there!" Elladan and Legolas called after him, but the old man did not heed them and a moment later it was too late. The wargs, which the elves had seen prowling around on their way here, must have come in through the frozen-open gate the same as their own party had. The beasts sprang on Mannyn with a snarl as he ran heedlessly straight into the midst of their pack.

Neither of the elves had their bows with them and although they moved as quickly as they could, by the time they broke up the wargs and sent them scattering away into the darkness, it was too late. Mannyn was already dead.

Elladan just stared for a moment, breathing hard. He suddenly found that he actually felt sorry for the old man, despite everything. The elf looked down at his own hands and closed his eyes, realizing how very close he had come to making the biggest mistake of his life.

Beside him, Legolas was almost gasping for breath, the cold air chilling his lungs and making them ache. The prince’s legs buckled suddenly and he fell to his knees in the snow.

Stooping, Elladan quickly wrapped Legolas’ good arm around his shoulder and once more supported the elf prince for the journey back into the house.

When the two elves entered the bedroom they found Elrohir lying on the bed, his wounds bandaged. The bleeding had stopped and Elrond was still bending over him. Aragorn half-leaned on the edge of the bed beside his brother and Dolmè, who had heard the commotion, was standing in the corner of the room with wide, concerned eyes.

Elladan eased Legolas into a chair and Aragorn made his way over quickly, wanting to look at the prince’s injured arm.

"Stop it, Strider. You look ready to fall over yourself. I’m fine, go sit down," Legolas tried to brush him off, but the ranger was stubborn even though he truly did not look at all well.

Elrond came over and took Legolas’ arm from Aragorn, gently shooing the young man back to sit on the edge of the bed. Elrohir was out of danger and now they were simply waiting for the drug to completely leave his system and release him back to them.

As Elrond gently and expertly bound up Legolas’ injury, his eyes sought Elladan’s, almost fearing what he would find there. "Mannyn?" he asked quietly.

"He’s dead," Elladan replied, equally soft. "But I did not kill him."

Elrond let his breath out slowly in a small gesture of relief and smiled at his son. Elladan returned the smile.

"The wargs got to him before we could stop them. I’ll bring the body in. It should not be left like carrion for those foul beasts," Elladan said after a moment, turning to go back out. He hesitated, looking to Dolmè. "If there are no others who have a claim to the duty, I will see that he is buried as soon as the storm breaks."

Dolmè shook her head, speaking for the first time. "He’s got no kin, not even no friends I fear. I’ll make up a place for ‘im to lie until then..." She paused. "I’m sorry. I’m sorry this had to happen to you all. I don’t think any of you deserved it."

"It’s not your fault, Dolmè," Elrond assured gently, finishing with Legolas and rising. "And everything has worked itself out in the end. I’m only sorry that Mannyn brought this upon himself. Such a sad waste..."

A soft sound behind them made them all turn. Elrohir was stirring and Aragorn was bending over him. The young ranger looked up with a smile. "He’s coming out of it."

Elrohir moaned softly, his hand going to his hurting neck. Elrond pushed his son’s hand back down gently so he wouldn’t disturb the bandages.

"All right, that is the last time I let Estel make the drinks..." he moaned with a weak grin at his little brother’s concerned face. "Ooh, I feel worse than when I let you talk me into that stupid drinking game with doctored ale pints..." He stopped and glanced somewhat sheepishly at his father, whose eyebrows were raised and then back at Aragorn who was flushing in embarrassment. "Oh, I forgot. I wasn’t supposed to mention that, was I?" He chuckled softly, wincing at the pain his mirth caused.

Aragorn laughed quietly. "Hey, it wasn’t me this time. You were sleeping on the job!"

"Only because you wore us all out," Elrohir murmured good-naturedly. "Honestly, Estel, you humans do lead exhausting lives..."

All of them laughed softly, glad that they were all alive, and together.

...80 years later...

The captor that stood over Jonath’s king waved his bow impatiently. "Choose!" he yelled at the man that kneeled before him. For his part Aragorn did not flinch nor back down, but the pain reflected in his eyes cut through the guard as he quietly crept closer to the glade opening.

The soldier watched as Aragorn buried his face in the shoulder of Legolas’ cloak. It looked as though the elf were dead, he was so pale and still in the king’s arms. Jonath and his contingent had moved stealthily down the embankment, easily picking up Eldarion’s blood trail when they reached the base of the cliff. Morning had dawned and the bleak grey light it lent had been enough for the men to track the elf and the king. It had been no small thing to carry the dwarf down the steep incline as he had insisted upon going with them and the guards had repeatedly had to shush the short being as he incessantly complained about their method of transporting him.

"If you would like I will leave you right here and come back for you later or you can keep silent and my men will bring you with us. The choice is yours." Jonath had whispered fiercely into the scowling, scrunched up face of the dwarf, indicating that he would leave Gimli right on the side of steep path down. After his mild threat the dwarf had said no more, but displeasure was written in every line of his wrinkled brow.

Such thoughts were far from the captain’s mind now though as he motioned his men to quietly surround the small glade. Once they had neared the enclosed glen, it had been easy to find their quarry as Dryryn’s voice carried on the early morning breeze. The old bounty hunter’s accomplices were so intent on the happenings with their employer and Gondor’s king that they did not notice the royal guard until it was too late. None of them had a chance to warn Dyryn and he continued his tirade, threatening to kill either the king’s son or the elf that Aragorn held tightly to him and Jonath’s men cut them down quickly and silently.

Trying to size up the situation, the captain of the guard was taken by surprise as Gimli limped up next to him, brushing the soldier out of his way. Jonath glared at his second in command as Draecyn quickly moved forward to intervene, attempting to hold the smaller being back out of the way but it was too late. The dwarf had quickly taken in the situation and his gaze fastened on his dying friend in the middle of the glade.

"NO!" Gimli’s heavily accented shout rang through the glen. Dropping his makeshift crutch, he stiffly stepped onto the edge of the hollow. Bracing himself on his good leg, the dwarf hefted his doubled-headed axe and threw the heavy weapon into the glen with a shout akin to a war cry.

Surprised by the interruption, Dyryn turned at the sound of the dwarf’s shout. Rage was etched on his face at being found out and hindered in his desires for vengeance. There was no time for the bounty hunter to move as the flashing blade of the axe flew end over end towards him. The axe head buried itself in his chest, lifting him off the ground and throwing him across the glade away from the man that knelt in the grass holding the elf prince.

Kolir’s head jerked up in surprise but, before he could react, one of the soldiers’ arrows found his heart and he fell soundlessly, the bolt on his weapon never having the chance to release.

With a pained cry Gimli fell to the forest floor, grabbing his broken leg high up on his thigh and rocking back and forth, trying to stave the sweep of pain from the pressure he had placed on it. Draecyn dropped quickly to the ground next to the small being, talking quietly to Gimli, unable to shift his gaze from the happenings in the middle of the glen.

Aragorn, shocked by the sudden turn of events, stared speechlessly at his men. Legolas had lost consciousness and was not even aware that they were no longer in danger. Aragorn tore his gaze from Gimli’s pained glance and looked at the pale, motionless face of the elf he held.

It had all happened so fast that it almost seemed surreal, and Aragorn could barely process that the threat that had been was no more. It didn’t seem possible that it could have gone away so quickly. With his friend’s life slipping away between his fingers, he couldn’t even feel relieved just yet.

"Legolas?" Aragorn called softly. Strands of hair plastered his face and fell into his eyes unheeded as he gently shook the elf. There was no response save the slight rise and fall of the prince’s chest.

Gimli struggled to break free of Draecyn’s gentle restraints, intent on entering the glen. "Legolas? Legolas!"

Jonath stepped carefully over the fallen dwarf and approached the king cautiously.

Taking note of the intentions of his men and unsure if the clearing was safe Aragorn called out a warning to them, "Jonath! Do not enter, keep the men back! There may be more traps. I do not know how many were set." He glanced about them wildly, trying to glimpse any trip wires that might still be hidden under the grass and leaves. Fear kept him rooted in his place.

Behind him Eldarion was vehemently shaking his head, trying to get the attention of the men. Tears streamed down his fair cheeks as he glanced at Dyryn’s dead body. He couldn’t get far enough away fast enough.

The young boy’s movements caught the captain’s eye and he relayed the message. "Eldarion says there are no more traps, my lord."

Aragorn turned quickly to look at his son. The youth’s huge blue eyes were locked onto his and he slowly shook his head, "There are no more, my son?"

Eldarion shook his head once more, a soft sob breaking through the gag.

Turning back to Jonath, Aragorn plead with him, "Then quickly, help us!"

Guards poured into the grassy hollow taking up a defensive ring as Jonath dropped into the grass in front of his king. Blood covered Aragorn’s tunic and the captain was afraid that some of it was the man’s. "Are you hurt?"

Aragorn’s pain-filled eyes rose to meet the other's gaze, tears sparkled brightly on their rims. "No. No, I am not. Please, Jonath, get Eldarion down. Please hurry. I think he’s hurt." He looked back at the boy; blood stained his chest and ran in rivulets down his wrists mixing with the rain that drizzled lightly on them all. Aragorn wanted to do it himself, but he had only one set of arms and right now he still feared to release Legolas, lest the elf let go of life entirely.

With a curt nod Jonath quickly stood to his feet and crossed to stand in front of Eldarion as Draecyn took his place in the grass in front of Aragorn, gently easing the elf out of his liege's arms and examining the deep wounds he had sustained. Carefully they lay the elf on his side as Draecyn fingered the bolt that protruded from his back.

The soldier spoke softly. "It needs to come out, my lord. He is unconscious, so it would be best to remove it quickly and now. I know not if there was poison on it."

With a simple nod Aragorn agreed and pulled Legolas against him as Draecyn gripped the ugly black shaft of the bolt. Taking a deep breath and bracing his other hand against Legolas’ shoulder, the guard swiftly pulled the weapon free. He placed the arrow carefully on his pack so he could test it for poisons later.

The soldiers were buzzing around Legolas now, pressing folded cloths tightly against his wounds. Aragorn touched his friend’s clammy forehead softly. "Dartho Legolas..." he quietly whispered for the elf to hold on before turning to look to his son.

Jonath had finally finished removing Eldarion’s bonds and the prince pushed brusquely past the captain. Unwilling to let the man look him over, the boy rushed to his father’s side and fell into the king’s waiting arms.

Aragorn held the frightened child tightly, fearful himself of the way their situation had almost ended, for the lives that he had almost lost. His son and his lifetime friend, the most priceless treasures he had... and yet he still might lose Legolas. Stopping the negative thoughts, he gently pushed his son back, carefully looking the boy over, noting the cut to his palm and the deep ‘x’ carved over his heart. Swiftly taking the boy’s arm and pushing his sleeve up, Aragorn was relieved to find that there were no cuts, no marks. Dyryn had not used the belithral on Eldarion as he had threatened.

However, the boy was trembling.

"You are hurt. Where?" The young prince simply shook his head no, unable to trust his voice.

Pulling his son back tightly against his chest Aragorn whispered softly, rocking the boy back and forth, "It’s alright. He’ll never hurt you again, I swear it. I am so sorry, Eldarion. So sorry..." He pressed his eyes closed. "I never meant for this to happen."

Gimli was inconsolable and his fierce stubbornness made it difficult for the guards to see to his leg and make sure he had not wounded himself further. "Aragorn! Aragorn, how is Legolas?" He swatted the hands away from him that tried to hold him still, "Get me up! Get me up now I say! I need to be there. Aragorn!"

Unable to deal with all that had just happened and the requests being laid on him, Aragorn caught Jonath’s attention and motioned to the dwarf.

"Please bring him here before he hurts himself further or one of the men. He is only upset. Let him see that Legolas lives and it will be well." The king sighed and smiled slightly, "Otherwise he will never settle down."

Turning his attention back to his son, Aragorn eased the boy onto the grass next to him as Gimli dropped heavily down on the other side of Draecyn, his thick stubby hands gently reaching out to Legolas.

"Legolas?" His unanswered question was more of a soft, choked whisper as he took in the blood that covered the elf’s tunic and the unnatural paleness of his friend’s face. It was just as he feared. Legolas would give of himself, his own life, before he let anything happen to anyone else.

"Damn elf..." the dwarf murmured inconsolably, his rough fingers wrapping tightly about the prince’s graceful, cold hand. "What do I keep telling you? You never listen to me, never... Legolas, Legolas don’t do this to me." The last was so soft it was almost inaudible.

Draecyn quietly bandaged the wounds using strips of cloth from a spare tunic that he had had in his pack. He moved aside so the dwarf could scoot in closer.

"You mustn’t die," Gimli continued, softly talking to the elf. He turned huge dark eyes on Aragorn, imploring the king known for his healing talents, "You can’t let him die. Please don’t let him die."

Aragorn reached out a trembling hand and gently gripped Gimli’s shoulder; it surprised him how spent he truly was. "I promise I will do all in my power to keep him with us," he vowed, dropping his hand to the elf’s face. "Legolas, you cannot go my friend. You cannot go."

But Legolas was far beyond the reach of their words, or the touch of their sorrow, treading a line that became more and more blurred the further away it led him.