Priceless Treasure

Chapter 3

by Cassia and Siobhan

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Legolas ran lightly across the top of the snow under the glittering mid-day sun. He had not stopped to rest last night and felt sure that he was gaining on the mysterious stranger who had taken Aragorn. The ground began to slope sharply upwards and he realized that he was already well into the foothills of the Misty Mountains. The man on horseback had tried to cover his tracks, but Legolas could see right through that and was not deceived.

He had already found where the ones he pursued had made camp last night and pressed forward, hoping to catch up very soon.


Dyryn had slowed his pace a little today, confident now that he was not being followed. Aragorn was draped over the front of his horse again, his hands bound behind him this time. The young ranger drifted in and out of awareness, but at the moment he was unconscious once more. Dyryn had no intention of carting him all the way across the mountains like this, but keeping him at least mildly drugged was not a bad idea. He feared that this one would be a handful if he ever got his full strength together. Evening was waning towards night once more and the mountains now rose under and around them in earnest.

Topping a small, narrow ridge, Dyryn happened to look over his shoulder. His eyes narrowing, he turned further back in the saddle, to see if his vision were playing tricks on him in the fading light. It was not.

Down below, a figure was coming this way, and it looked like the being was following Dyryn’s tracks.

The bounty hunter swore silently. He thought he had been careful, but the truth was, he had never dealt with elves to any great extent before. Casting his gaze forward as he urged his horse on, he spied a long rope bridge that spanned a deep chasm in the rock face. He had been this way before, although he had not intended to have to take it with a horse and an unconscious prisoner, but he had a plan.


For a brief moment, Legolas saw the outline of a horse and rider up on the top of the ridge before they quickly disappeared. Pushing himself faster, the elf hurried up the side of the steep incline, his light, quick feet leaving barely any impression on the top of the snow.

When he made the lip of the rise, he saw Dyryn below on foot, leading his horse across a narrow, swaying rope bridge that connected this plateau with the next. It was extremely dangerous taking a horse across a bridge of this kind and someone had to be willing to take a lot of risks to do so. Across the horse’ back, another form was draped. And it was that form that the elf was concerned about.

Dyryn had to half coax, half beat his horse to get it to try the bridge, but it followed him in the end and, by the time he saw the elf come into view, he was already three-quarters of the way across.

Legolas scrambled down the slippery, snow-slick escarpment that led to the bridge, trying to get there before the others made it across. Although it was old, the swaying pathway was sturdy enough. However, he had no doubts that the man ahead of him intended to cut the opposite end of the bridge once he was safely on the other side. There was no other reason to justify the risk the man was taking. There was also no way Legolas could jump a chasm this wide and finding another way around would take days.

The only thing that kept the elf from shooting the bounty hunter where he stood was the fact that the horse would probably panic if its master were killed and, in their current position, that would lead both the horse and Aragorn to their deaths.

Dyryn looked over his shoulder and swore. The elf had gained the bridge. He was going to have to change tactics again. Pulling his knife he yanked Aragorn’s limp head up by the hair, placing the blade against his throat.

"All right don’t move another step if you want him alive," he shouted, turning back towards Legolas and letting the elf see what he meant.

Legolas, already in the middle of the bridge, froze, glaring at the man, his fingers resting on the strings of the drawn bow in his hand. He could kill Dyryn, but that would still be putting Aragorn’s life in grave danger, and Dyryn knew it.

"Go ahead and shoot me if you want to risk it, but even if you’re faster than me, you know the slightest start is going to cause this brute to panic full out and I think you can imagine what a bucking horse would do here..." Dyryn warned the elf, slowly backing up as he spoke and pulling his skittish, nickering mount with him, his knife never leaving Aragorn’s throat.

Legolas stood still, following the man with his burning gaze. Dyryn was unfortunately right; he wouldn’t risk Aragorn’s life that way.

"Who are you? What do you want?" the elf demanded, his entire body tense, looking for an opportunity to act as Dyryn backed off the bridge and onto solid ground once more, dragging the horse with him. Aragorn’s head bobbed limply on the edge of the knife, his dark hair hanging about his face, flecked with snow.

"I don’t see as how that’s any of your business," Dyryn called back. "I won’t even ask the same of you... although I usually like to know a body’s name before I kill them, but with you, I’ll make an exception!"

With these words the horse’s feet cleared the last few inches of the bridge and with amazing quickness Dyryn dropped the knife from Aragorn’s throat, flashing down to slash one of the thick, supporting cables that held up the sides of the swinging overpass.

The bridge jerked crazily and Legolas slid sideways, his boots slipping and skidding on the snow-covered, wooden slats beneath his feet. There was no time to run. The prince was in the direct center of the bridge; there was no way he could make the safety of either side in time.

Therefore, Legolas did not waste precious seconds trying. Grabbing the thick cord that had been the right-hand railing, now made slack and useless by Dyryn’s actions, the elf twisted the wide rope around his right arm and wrist, grabbing it tightly with both hands as Dyryn severed the other railing support cable. The bridge jerked as the straining ropes snapped, flipping the floor of the bridge on its side.

Legolas fell to his knees and slid sideways across the tilting boards, unable to stop himself. His weight pulled the straining row of wood-slats over even further, tipping the scales and causing what was left of the groaning bridge to flip completely upside down. Legolas felt free air open out beneath him and registered a jolt of panic, even as his grip on the dangling railing tightened firmly.

Finishing what he started, Dyryn severed the last two cables that still fastened the floor of the ruined bridge.

With a sickening, stomach-turning jolt, Legolas felt himself free-falling with the now useless tangle of rope and wood as it plummeted downward into the gorge. The ropes around his arm jerked tight, keeping him bound up with the bridge as it rushed down and to the side, swinging like a giant pendulum towards the other cliff wall to which it was still fastened.

Legolas gave a soft, stifled cry when the ropes pulled tight; the shock of the jolt nearly yanking his shoulder out of its socket as his full weight hung from one arm. The rock face of the far cliff was rushing up to meet him and there was nothing he could do about the impending impact.

The force with which he slammed into the jagged stone wall stole the elf prince’s breath and for a few moments the world was painted in shades of hazy yellow and black as his lungs fought to expand again and his body screamed at him as though he had been punched by a stone giant.

He started to slip, but quickly caught himself, gripping the ropes still wrapped around his arm tightly and bracing his feet against the sheer wall in front of him, attempting to gain some purchase.

Untwisting his arm from the ropes and grabbing the wooden slats that had once been the floor of the bridge, Legolas used them like a ladder, beginning to climb up the long, long distance to the top of the cliff from which he had come moments before. Suddenly he felt a shiver run through the boards under his hands. Put under too much stress at an angle they were not meant to support, the ropes still fastened to the rocks above were fraying on the sharp edge of the cliff and slowly beginning to unwind. Every time the elf prince moved, the cables scraped back and forth across the razor rocks, further severing the bridge’s tenuous hold.

Legolas stopped moving and held perfectly still, hugging the bridge as it swayed gently in the wind that whipped through the narrow gorge. Even that much motion made him slip a little further down as the groaning ropes continued to stretch perilously.

The prince quickly realized he’d never be able to reach the top before the straining cables gave way. Looking down he saw the snow-clad bottom of the ravine many, many feet below. It was nearly as far away as the top of the cliff, but having to choose one or the other, it was a better risk to try putting himself as close as possible to the ground before the bridge came down completely.

Changing his course of direction, the elf started climbing down as fast as he could, the bridge shuddering and jerking ominously under his hands. He was still dangerously high up when the straining cables finally gave way. Once again Legolas found himself free-falling through the frosty air. No matter how many times something like that may happen, one can never be completely prepared for it. The deep, deep snowdrifts at the base of the ravine cushioned the force of his landing somewhat, but only a little.

Legolas did not remember the actual moment of impact, but only the sensation of opening his eyes a few minutes later and wondering if his body even remembered how to breathe. It was the second time he had had the wind knocked out of him in the past few moments, but this time it seemed as if he were physically incapable of inhaling. It was an odd, surreal feeling. He wasn’t breathing, but his body was not afraid; it simply seemed as if time had stopped, like a river frozen in the midst of its course. Snow had fallen down over him, and its icy stillness was almost absolute. The odd, over-quietness that snow produces by soaking up and dampening the other sounds around added to the disconcerting effect.

How long that moment lasted he would never know, but reality came rushing back with a jolt as his lungs expanded spasmodically. He found himself gulping in air as feeling came flooding back to his body. He instantly wished it had not.

Stifling a moan, the elf slowly pulled himself upright and onto his hands and knees, half-crawling, half-digging his way out of the loose snow-mound he had fallen into. If there was some part of his body that didn’t ache, he did not know what it was. It was truly a miracle that nothing had been broken, or at least, he didn’t think anything had been. However, wrapping his throbbing right arm around his midsection as he shook the snow out of his clothes and hair, he decided that he had most definitely sprained his arm and bruised at least a few ribs.

Taking a deep breath to clear his head, Legolas looked up at the crooked ribbon of sky that marked the top of the canyon, far overhead. He truly was lucky to be alive, but it was going to take him at least two or three days to make it out of this ravine and back up there. The elf held his frustration only barely in check. That was precious time he could ill afford to lose.

Dark shapes moving against the snow made the elf prince turn quickly to the right. Lurking in the shadows of the far wall, two or three dozen sets of glowing eyes regarded the stranger who had fallen into their den.

Legolas tensed, his good left hand going immediately over his shoulder, reaching for his quiver, only to realize that he had lost his bow when the bridge was cut, and most of his arrows in the fall. Fortunately, his knives were still in their sheaths, and he grabbed one of those instead as the burning eyes stalked closer, circling him. White fangs glistened in the shadows as the beasts came closer.

The prince’s eyes narrowed as he gripped his weapon with his uninjured arm. Just what he did not need. Wolves.


Aragorn shivered uncontrollably, but at least it meant he could move again. The belithral was slowly wearing off, leaving him weak and dizzy as it reluctantly eased up on its hold.

Lying on his side by the fire, hands still bound, Aragorn forced his hazy mind to work, attempting to find any opportunity to escape. None presented itself.

"Rest up while you can," Dyryn kicked him lightly as he walked by. "I’m not going to wear out a good horse carrying us both like this. Tomorrow you start pulling your own weight, got it?" He was relieved to have lost the elf earlier that evening. Now that that threat was gone, they could afford to move a little slower and not place so much stress on his mount.

"Who are you?" Aragorn was blinking hard just to keep his eyes focused. "What do you want with me?"

Dyryn ignored him completely and only the lonely howl of the wind gave any reply.

"Where are we going?" Aragorn tried again, although darkness was already pulling at his senses again.

"Over the mountains," Dyryn replied, looking ahead into the swiftening swirl of falling snow.

For a few moments, Aragorn’s mind registered what a dangerous idea that was at this time of year and in this weather, but protesting would have done no good, and he was too weary anyway. The blowing wind gently lifted his consciousness and swirled it away with the eddying flurries.

Somewhere far in the distance. A wolf howled.


Legolas’ breath was coming quick and fast, frosting in the dark, biting air. Run. Fight. Run. Fight. The past few hours had been nothing but a struggle to survive. The wolves knew this canyon better than he did; this was their home. Every turn he took to get away from them only brought him up against impossible rock walls or more wolves.

If he had had his bow, this would have been significantly less of a problem. However, the fact was that with only his knives, he could not get rid of any of the wolves attacking him unless they actually got close enough to reach, and by the time they were that close, he was in trouble.

The elf was wearying. His right arm was clumsy and useless and his hurting body was betraying him. Although he was leaving a trail of dead wolf bodies in his wake, it seemed that two new ones appeared to replace every one that was fallen. He had to get out of here.

Turning a corner, Legolas found himself trapped in a narrow box canyon, the walls slanting steeply upward. The wolves were right on his heels. One snapped at his ankles, trying to trip him, trying to bring him down. Legolas spun to the opposite side, kicking the brute hard and making it fall back with a howl.

Suddenly an unexpected weight made him lurch sideways as pain blossomed across his unprotected right shoulder. Jerking and whipping himself around much faster than his injured body liked, Legolas threw off the beast that had jumped down on him from the rocks above, wincing as its teeth were ripped out of his shoulder. In one swift move he pinned the creature to the wall with his blade.

The elf staggered almost drunkenly as he pulled his knife free. Warm blood ran down his arm and his body screamed at him that he was very nearly spent.

The wolves, frenzied by the scent of fresh blood, pressed their attack closer. Legolas retreated as far as he could, putting his back against the wall, but he knew he could not hold this position forever. Already another wolf was attempting to climb the narrow ledges in the cliff face on the right, wanting to drop down on him from above as the other one had.

Legolas steeled his jaw against his own weakness. If the wolves could make it up there... he risked another glance at the wall behind him. It slanted up sharply, but was not entirely perpendicular. There were handholds, however slight they may seem... it was his only chance.

With no other choice, Legolas sprang upward, grabbing a handful of rock and earth, clinging tightly to the face of the steep incline and scrabbling even higher towards the top of the ravine. The wolves howled in rage, leaping up to snap at his boots. One caught the leather around his ankle, trying to jerk the elf back down.

Legolas grimaced as the vicious tug yanked him backward, straining his injured arm and making his hold on the slippery stones slide sharply.

Kicking out and down as hard as he could with his other leg, Legolas caught the beast in the eyes, knocking him back to the ground.

Forcing his bleeding, burning shoulder to work much harder and faster than it wanted to, the prince scrabbled up higher, out of the reach of the wolves below before allowing himself to rest for a moment once more.

This cliff was too steep for the wolves to climb, although they tried the walls nearby in a futile attempt to reach their fleeing prey.

Legolas looked up. The rock face he was climbing disappeared from sight in the darkness above. Closing his eyes he hugged the cliff, trying to gather his depleted strength. His right shoulder was sending him urgent warnings that it was not going to support him much longer, and his right hand was trembling, but the only choice he had was to keep going up. Gritting his jaw and pushing himself on, Legolas kept climbing; seeking out the shallow, slippery notches that barely supported even his light weight.

The long climb was a nightmare. When Legolas finally dragged himself up over the lip of the rise he just lay still on his back in the snow for a few minutes, breathing deep and looking up at the stars visible through the mouth of the canyon. Although it felt as if he had been climbing for hours, he had in fact only worked his way up to another level of the gorge he had fallen into.

Slowly rolling onto his side and sitting up, Legolas held his bleeding shoulder tightly. It stung fiercely and the pain made him woozy. Struggling to his feet he took refuge in a small knoll nearby. Blood continued to seep between his fingers as he sank down with his back against the wall.

More gracefully than one would have thought possible for working one-handed, Legolas managed to clean and bind the wound, using the remainder of the bandage to hold the injured limb against his chest in a makeshift sling. His arm was not dislocated, he would have recognized that feeling, but the strained tendons and torn muscles burned almost as badly as the wolf bite. He was going to have to rest for a little to give his body a chance to start recovering before he could move on. The prince was spent; he could go no further tonight. In the morning, he would start finding a way out of the gorge.

Pulling his knees up to his chest and curling lightly over his injured arm and ribs with his back still against the wall, Legolas let himself drift off into a light, healing sleep.Yet he kept his slumber shallow enough that he would have plenty of advance warning should anything else decide to go wrong this night.


"All right, rise and shine," Dyryn said with malicious over-cheerfulness while dragging Aragorn to his feet, and then removed the ropes that bound his ankles, but left the ones that tightly held his hands bound in front of him.

Aragorn steeled his jaw and resisted the urge to throw up. He felt as if he had the world’s worst hangover and his head was three times too large for his body. He was alert and aware all the same, however, and as the bounty hunter turned to pick up another length of rope to connect the ranger’s bound wrists to the saddle of his horse he made a critical mistake. He turned his back on Aragorn.

Bringing his fists down hard between Dyryn’s shoulder blades, Aragorn knocked the man to his knees, attempting to grab the knife from the bounty hunter’s belt.

Dyryn reacted with speed that unfortunately did him credit. Grabbing Aragorn’s ankle, he yanked the young man’s feet out from under him. The two of them tussled in the snow and Dyryn attempted to pin the younger man underneath him. Aragorn smashed his fists into the side of the bounty hunter’s head, backpedaling swiftly in the snow and scooting on his back, attempting to work around the fact that his hands were still bound. His movements were slowed by the lingering effects of the drugs he had been given and his heart pounded unnaturally fast at the exertion, doing nothing to aid his light-headedness.

Pulling his knife, Dyryn slashed at the ranger, driving him further back in the snow and making his movements more urgent. Aragorn dodged the sweeping thrusts, scooting on his elbows and trying to shake his assailant off but, with his hands tied tightly together as they were and Dyryn giving him no time to do anything but dodge, he could not get up and so his options were limited.

Dyryn purposefully punched the young man right over his arrow wound, making Aragorn’s world reel with pain. It was only a momentary distraction, but unfortunately it was enough. The bounty hunter got his knife up against the side of Aragorn’s neck, pressing down sharply.

"Quit it now kid! You’re worth more to me alive than dead, but you’re still worth something dead, so don’t push your luck!" he threatened harshly.

Reluctantly, Aragorn stopped struggling. Frustration welled inside him and he silently vowed this was a temporary defeat only. Dyryn must have seen that resolve in his eyes and scowled deeply.

A sharp blow across the face caught Aragorn by surprise, knocking his head back into the snow and making him taste blood. A second, vicious blow split the ranger’s lip. Aragorn tried to twist away from the unexpected abuse, but Dyryn knelt on his bound arms, sitting on him and pinning the ranger down as he hit him a few more times for good measure, pounding him until Aragorn stopped resisting. His head felt as if it were spinning and he was seeing double.

"I see you’re going to be a trouble-maker," the bounty hunter growled, wiping his own bleeding mouth, his eyes burning with anger at the trouble his captive had given him. "I guess maybe I will give you a little something to keep you sedated after all."

Anchoring the ranger’s bound wrists firmly with one hand Dyryn used the other to push Aragorn’s sleeve up his arm. Without moving his weight off of the ranger’s chest, the bounty hunter cut a small line in the crook of Aragorn’s elbow, administering the belithral to the wound on the end of a wadded rag. He only gave a little this time, however, because he still needed Aragorn to be able to move, he just intended to take a little of the fight out of him, not incapacitate the ranger as he had in the past.

The drug was no less fast-acting than ever and Aragorn could actually feel it racing through his system. It turned his stomach and sped up his heart as he felt his limbs become leaden. He closed his eyes against the odd, disturbing things that it made him see. Ogres and fairies and strange, commonplace things that just made no sense.

Dyryn dragged Aragorn to his feet and pulled him back towards camp. Tightly tying a second length of rope around those that already bound the young ranger’s wrists; Dyryn finished fastening the other end to the saddle of his horse.

Aragorn was struggling just to breathe and stay on his feet, swaying unsteadily.

Dyryn looked back over his shoulder with a cruel smile. "Don’t worry, kid. When I’m through with you, you won’t have enough energy left to cry, let alone try anything like that again," he promised.