Priceless Treasure

Chapter 14

by Cassia and Siobhan

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A soldier ran into the glen and breathlessly reported that they had secured the area. Dyryn and his men were all dead and there was no further threat. Upon hearing they were safe, Jonath called his men to him, "Break up the camp on the cliff and set it up down here. The wounded will never make the trip up the mountain face."

Aragorn stood slowly to his feet, followed by Eldarion who kept closely to his side. The young prince glanced once more at the body of his captor and the look of fear that passed his face was not lost on his father. "Jonath, no." Aragorn corrected quietly. "Not here." He glanced around the glade with haunted eyes, his own old memories and fears dogging his thoughts. "Let us move a fair pace away. And..." He glanced at his old tormentor, "and have the men bury the dead. I have no more wish to remember them."

Stooping down, the king gently eased his hands under the rotund dwarf’s arms and helped his friend into a standing position, retrieving his dropped crutch and patting the worried dwarf compassionately on the back as he helped him move out of the soldiers way.

Nodding sympathetically at the king’s request, Jonath motioned his men to remove Dyryn’s body from the glen. "We’ll set up camp north of where we descended from the plateau. It is not far from here and we can easily carry Legolas there."

At his instruction several guards began cutting down saplings from the surrounding forest that closed in about the glen, swiftly creating a crude, makeshift litter to carry Legolas on.

Jonath pulled Draecyn aside as Aragorn dropped back down next to Eldarion who had just finished helping the soldier carefully bind Legolas’ wounds. "Set up a tent for the king and Legolas," Jonath whispered.

"I fear he will not linger through the night," Draecyn responded, his voice low to match his superior’s.

"Do not say such things." Jonath pulled the man away from the small family that knelt on the grass. "The king is an expert healer. If anyone can save that elf, it is Lord Aragorn."

"The wound is grievous...," the other was shaking his head. He didn’t like to say it, but he had honestly never seen a man recover from a wound as bad as the elf’s.

The captain of the guard glanced over the soldier’s shoulders and nodded. "Just go quickly, see that there is a place for them out of the elements and away from curious eyes."

Draecyn quickly stumbled out of the glade, commandeering help on his way to their new campsite.

Aragorn glanced sidelong at his son. The youth was trying valiantly to control his breathing around the soft sniffles that caught in his throat. "Come here." The king held the boy's face against his own temple. "Quiet now. It will be well."

"It will not." Eldarion’s words were mere whispers but Aragorn heard him clearly. "It never will be again. It is my fault that Uncle Gimli’s leg is broken and now... because of me, Uncle Legolas will die."

"No one is dying tonight." Aragorn moved back and stared hard into his son’s eyes. "Do you hear me. No one." He glanced quickly at Gimli who was watching him intently. "And it was neither your fault nor yours, Master Dwarf," the king interrupted as the smaller being tried to speak. "This was something that has followed Legolas and I through the years, although we thought it over long ago. If it is anyone’s fault, the fault lies with us and not either one of you."

He stared them both down, smiling softly.

"Is there nothing I can do to help?" Gimli questioned.

"Yes. Pray the Valar spare him. I will do all I can in my power to help him, but in the end, Legolas must decide if he wills to stay with us and fight or leave for other shores." Aragorn looked down at the elf lying so still upon the makeshift litter. He placed his hand gently over the elven heart and let his fingers feel the beating of it. A quiet laugh escaped his lips as he thought back to a time now long past when the elf had complained of Aragorn’s over-attentiveness whenever Legolas was ill. His quiet voice echoed in the king’s memories.

"I suppose it should be comforting to know that if I wake up in a strange place, feeling like a cave troll used me for an anvil, and someone’s got their arms all over me, it’s probably you."

"Rest my friend. I will wake you in the morning," he spoke softly to Legolas.

"Father? What is it?"

"Memories. Memories from a long time ago, something that happened in the past when we were both much younger." Aragorn smiled at the boy.

"Will you tell me someday?"

"Yes, I promise to tell you as soon as we are out of this."

The king’s attention was diverted as Jonath quietly approached them. "My lord, the camp is nearly set up. We should leave this place."

Aragorn nodded silently at his captain and stood to his feet as the soldiers moved in next to Legolas and carefully lifted the stretcher between them.

With help from Aragorn and Eldarion, Gimli was eased back to his feet once more and followed his friend out of the glen.

"My pack with the herbs and healing potions, was it brought down also?" Aragorn grabbed Jonath by the elbow, steering him back to the center of the glade before carefully picking up the bolt that Draecyn had removed from Legolas’ shoulder.

"Yes, my lord," the captain of the guard nodded slightly confused.

"Good. There is a testing kit in it for poisons. Have the bolt tested and let me know the results." He passed the black arrow to Jonath before quickly trailing the others to the new site.

Aragorn jogged up next to Eldarion, catching up with his family. He pulled the boy close to him and they walked in silence next to Legolas. Reaching over his friend's body, Aragorn placed his hand over the elf’s heart, content to feel the slight rise and fall of Legolas’ breathing; it calmed his fears to know that his friend still remained with them. There was always hope, something he had learned early in his life.

Jonath caught up with the others and walked for a spell quietly beside Eldarion. Aragorn glanced over the boy’s head and smiled at his guard, "Thank you Jonath."

The soldier nodded slowly before piercing his king with a penetrating stare. It was not unlike the look Aragorn used to receive from his adoptive father, Elrond, when he had a lecture in mind. "But when we get back, my liege, we are going to have a serious talk about why it is that they call me your personal guard and what you will tell the queen so she doesn’t have me removed to jail warden."

The lighthearted admonishment worked and Aragorn laughed and shook his head. "Oh, I hadn’t even thought about what I will tell Arwen." He glanced down at Eldarion who was watching him closely. "Or how will we will ever hide the fact that I let you get hurt."

"It's just a scratch." The boy smiled brilliantly.

"A scratch! You sound just like your Uncle Legolas!"

"Well between the five of us, we’ll come up with a right good tale." Gimli piped up from the other side of the litter. He was working hard to keep his spirits up and believe the best. None of them could bear to linger on the fact that Legolas might yet die... They had been through so much together both in the recent and far away past... it just wasn’t conceivable.

"That we will have to," Jonath grumbled lightly.

"At least we have time to think about it." Aragorn’s gaze fell back to Legolas and he sobered once more.

"Do you mean to never tell mother the truth, Father?"

Arching an eyebrow in question he glanced across at Gimli who saved the king from having to answer, "Well, young one, its not often wise to tell the women what you’ve been up to in detail per se, when you’ve been out doing the work that belongs to the males of your kind. See, they just want to know that you’ve returned home and had a good time. Details are for later when the scary parts are well over and they are not displeased with you about anything."

His answer provoked laughter from the king and the soldiers that ringed the small grouping of people and the guards began to quietly reminisce and tell stories about their own dealings with the women in their lives and the messes they had had to try to gracefully talk themselves out of.

In the chatter the king and his friends were temporarily forgotten and Aragorn reached across Legolas and rested his hand on Gimli’s shoulder. The dwarf was starting to slow as they reached the edges of camp. Despite his lightheartedness, the dwarf was obviously still very concerned about the elf. "Worry not, Gimli, Legolas is strong. You came at just the right time, my friend. I don’t know what we would have done had you not been there."

Eldarion noticed that his uncle had slowed and he moved from under his father’s protective arm to walk alongside the dwarf, tucking his shoulder under Gimli’s and smiling at the dwarf. "Father’s right, it’ll be okay Uncle Gimli. I’m so glad you came when you did."

Deep red blushed the dwarf’s cheeks and he tried to redirect the conversation away from himself, growling good-naturedly in embarrassment at all the attention. The small party, surrounded closely by the contingent of the king's personal guards, walked slowly under the wet sodden trees and out onto the wide open plain where the camp was still being set up. To the east the sun could barely be seen through the clouds as the storm began to break up.


The light from the campfires softly lit the interior of the makeshift tent that Aragorn’s men had quickly constructed for him and Legolas. The dim lighting made the elf look even more pale than he was.

Aragorn brushed the backs of his fingers against the prince’s cheek. Legolas was cold to the touch and the king’s breathing hitched slightly as the implications that his friend might not survive this ordeal, even though all the danger be over now, were driven even more deeply into his heart. He had done all that he could for his friend; the rest was up to Legolas. As the night wore on, however, it had become more and more painfully apparent that the elf was slipping away from them despite all that Aragorn could think to do for him.

The king sat cross-legged on the ground. A wadded up bedroll across his bent legs served as a makeshift pillow for Eldarion, who lay asleep in his father’s lap. Aragorn absently stroke the boy’s tangled, dark hair.

His thoughts rolled through the day’s events and he closed his eyes tightly against the fear and sorrow that constricted around his heart. Eldarion was fine. Besides a few cuts and bruises the boy was unharmed. He leaned down and buried his face in the young man’s hair, gently kissing the top of his head. Eldarion stirred and pressed closer to his father. It had been with nervous reservation that he had asked to stay with Aragorn that night, his large eyes looking shyly up at his father through the wayward strands of his unkempt hair. Aragorn would never have refused him and he was glad that he had not. He needed the company now more than ever.

Shifting slightly, the king reached out for his pack and retrieved a small sack. He dumped the contents of the bag into his hand, the dried grasses and flowers spilling over his palm. Blowing gently on the athelas, he added the herbs to a small pot of the mix boiling away merrily near Legolas’ head. The sweet smell filled the tent and washed away the ache in his heart, soothing and comforting. Eldarion smiled softly in his sleep and relaxed and even Legolas’ shallow breathing seemed to lose its ragged edge. If it did nothing else for the situation, at least the herb was a calming influence.

"Legolas," he spoke softly in the grey tongue to his unconscious friend, "you cannot leave me. It is I who am supposed to go before you. It just can’t be your time. Do you hear me?" He rested his free hand on the elf’s forehead. "Come back to me, Legolas. Come back to the light." Letting his head fall forward, the king allowed the tears to slip from under his eyelids. "Please," he whispered, not even knowing if anyone heard.

Legolas was finally at peace. It was quiet here where he was now and it did not hurt as it had before. He lay still in the calmness that surrounded him, allowing the blanket of comfort to smoother him with its soothing silence. He had a choice and he knew he must make it soon, but he was unwilling to leave this place. Relaxing further in the calmness, he ignored the quiet pleadings that barely touched his ears as he slowly let go.

Aragorn watched as the elf’s breathing lessened, each intake more shallow than the last. Legolas had chosen. The elf was dying.

A small sob escaped the human’s lips as he leaned forward over his friend, "No." He gently shook the elf, unwilling to let him leave, unwilling to believe that their long friendship should end like this.

"Legolas, no." His tears dropped onto the elf’s tunic, staining the forest green suede an even darker shade. "Listen to me..." But his voice faltered and he could not go on.

Snatches of a tune that he had heard long ago on such a night, when he had had to choose between the painful embrace of life or the temptingly sweet oblivion of death drifted back to him, words of warmth, a life-filled song full of the images of light and home and he began to hum the simple, sweet melody, softly singing the words of the parts he could remember.

Penetrating the comfortable oblivion that was pulling him in, something stirred Legolas; something woke him and wouldn’t let him rest any longer. It was time, it was time to go, or to stay. He had to decide. He pushed away the voices in his memory, unwilling to choose. His father and mother had now both gone on to the Undying Lands. His people were nearly all gone, had left Middle-earth long ago. The voices cried to him, pulling him back, telling him there was no home to return to, nothing worth fighting for on the other side of all that pain. So who was it that sang to him and why did the song sound so sad when those words should have come from a merry heart? The elf tried not to think, tried to simply block out the longing that he heard. There was no reason to go back, that was the way of pain; he knew, he had come from there.

"Legolas, please..." Soft, broken words clearly cut through his indifference, breaking the song for a beat before it was taken up again.

"Estel." The word slipped softly from his lips. He was wrong, he did have a reason to return. Aragorn lived yet in Middle-earth and he had left Trelan and Raniean with the elves in Ithilien. They were not all of them gone and he was not alone. There was much to be done, more to return to. The darkness began to recede, draining away like rain water. He had chosen. There was no reason to remain here in the shadow.

"Legolas?" Aragorn leaned forward, trying not to waken Eldarion. He was sure that he heard the elf speak his name. "Legolas, come back."

The comfort of the softly spoken words helped lead the elf back to consciousness. The touch of his friend guided him through the pain to waking. Aragorn’s worried face was the first thing the elf saw as he tried to focus his eyes. He grimaced with the pain of the wounds he had sustained earlier and his breathing caught slightly. "Estel?"

"You live." Aragorn’s voice was so full of relief he almost choked on the words.

"I could not go."

"You almost did."

Legolas nodded slightly. "Yes. I almost did."

The smile on the human’s face warmed the elf’s heart. "But I couldn’t leave. You sing horribly, my friend, and you have the words all wrong." Legolas laughed softly, around the pain.

"You prissy elf." Tears flooded the man’s eyes and he leaned over and kissed the elf gently on his forehead. "I just can’t lose you yet."

"You aren’t. I swear, I’ll stay." Legolas held the man against him, his hand holding the back of Aragorn’s head gently.

When the king slowly sat up, Eldarion moved in his sleep, murmuring in agitation, caught in a dream somewhere. Aragorn gently quieted the boy, laying his arm around the slim shoulders until Eldarion stilled.

"How is Eldarion? Is he all right?" Legolas turned his head to watch the two, smiling as the father comforted the young man.

Aragorn returned the smile knowingly, "He is fine. He suffered only cuts and bruises. Dyryn did not drug him or torture him. One of them cut his chest," The king lifted the boy’s tunic to carefully inspect the bandage that rested over the young man’s heart. "He will have a scar but he will be fine."

Legolas tried to move, but the jarring aggravated the damage that his body had sustained and he bit his lips to keep from crying out.

Aragorn carefully grabbed the edges of the bedroll Eldarion’s head rested on and moved the boy out of his lap, turning his full attention on the elf. "Here now, stay still." He pressed his hands lightly down on the prince’s tunic and held him in place. His fingers gently turned back the bandages that covered the holes in the elf’s body. "Do not move, my friend. Your body needs time to heal. Your wounds are not good."

Shaking his head in regret, the king’s eyes met the blue ones locked onto his. "I am so sorry," he whispered in elvish. "I should have listened to you. You were right. None of this would have happened if I had not been so stubborn."

"Estel," Legolas laid his hand on the human’s shoulder as the king bent over him. "You could not have done otherwise, it was Eldarion. If it had been anyone else that Dyryn took, things would have ended up differently. That is why he took your son. He knew you would not think straight in regards to your own." The elf glanced at the boy sleeping soundly in the corner of the tent. "It was worth it."

Aragorn glanced back at his son, a smile creeping onto his face unconsciously, "It was. Thank you." He turned to gaze back down at his friend. "But it’s even better now that you are back."

The sounds of voices had alerted Jonath from his post just outside the entrance and he cautiously peeked his head into the tent. "Are you alright, my king?"

Aragorn turned towards the captain of his guard, "Yes Jonath," He moved slightly aside so the warrior could see that the elf was watching him also. "Legolas has decided to stay."

A huge smile split Jonath’s face, and he sighed in relief, "Well good. Because I know of one very grumpy dwarf who has been highly agitated for the past few hours."

"Where is Gimli?" Legolas questioned. "Is he recovering?"

Jonath looked guiltily at Aragorn who motioned the man out with his hand.

"What?" Legolas turned worried eyes on his friend. "What happened?"

"Nothing really." Aragorn tried to hide the smile that crept onto his face, his act of feigned innocence reminded the elf of their early years.


Aragorn laughed lightly, "I had him drugged. I have discovered that Dwarves become nearly unbearable when they are worried. He was very cranky, Legolas, and he was giving my men fits and I was afraid he would only injure himself further. So I put some of those sleeping herbs my father was so fond of using on us in his ale." The king looked guiltily at the elf. "He’s been asleep for some time now and the camp has had some peace."

"Strider!" The elf stared wide-eyed at the man in shock. "I cannot believe you did that. You know he’ll never let you live it down."

"He doesn’t have to know I did it." The human leaned over the elf, smiling. "Now come on and help me here." He gently slid his hands under the elf’s back and eased the prince over onto his side. "I need to take a look at the wound in your shoulder."

Carefully he tended the wound, allowing the elf to lean against him for support. After repacking the puncture with athelas, he helped Legolas lie back down. The elf still looked too pale for him, but he returned the pained smile that graced the fair being’s face. "I am so glad you are back."

With great weariness the elf sighed, allowing himself to slip back into sleep. "So am I, Strider, so am I," he whispered.

"Rest, my friend."

"Wake me in the morning?" the elf replied, the old request causing the king to laugh quietly.

"First light," Aragorn answered.

With a soft laugh, the elf fell back to sleep.