Priceless Treasure

Chapter 8

by Cassia and Siobhan

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Dyryn glanced across the fire watching the ranger closely. Outside the cave they sheltered in, the wind howled as another storm began to build. Aragorn was breathing hard, and he shivered uncontrollably where he sat curled into a fetal position against the far wall, but his eyes were clearing and he returned the stare of his captor. Fever-wet hair clung to the sides of his face and fell into his eyes and he brushed his shoulder against his cheek to clear the wayward strands from his vision as he sniffed, trying to still his breathing.

"Time for another dose I see." The bounty hunter smiled slightly as he grabbed his knife and the vial of Belithral from his pouch.

As he rounded the fire the human on the floor of the cave tried to scoot farther away from his advance, shaking his head, his eyes filled with fear. The only thing that kept him from evading Dyryn was the fact that the hunter had tied Aragorn’s hands to a stake and driven it into the rocky floor.

"No, please." Aragorn shook his head moving back as far as he could, his eyes filling with tears. "No more. I swear I’ll stay here, I’ll give you no trouble, please...please." His begging tapered off to a mere whisper as Dyryn crouched in front of him, "...please..." Aragorn knew he wouldn’t survive another dose of the drug. The hallucinations alone were killing him. If the Belithral didn’t stop his heart that was already beating far too fast in his chest, the emotional strain of the lies that the drug was forcing him to live through would. The momentary times of lucidity were too few and too far in between, it was crushing him.


Dyryn stopped and watched the shivering man. Even if he had wanted to there was no way he could control the ranger if he didn’t keep him on the drug, in fact it would probably be mercy if the doses killed the young man before Mannyn got a hold of him, the bounty hunter thought with a cold smile.

"Sorry." However the look he gave the ranger was anything but sympathetic.

Aragorn shrank from the man as he pushed the ranger’s sleeve up high on his arm. The inside of Aragorn’s elbow was bruised and red from the continued abuse of the drug. Dyryn picked up his knife and made a tiny prick in the hollow of the man’s arm. Quickly he poured the thick drug on a piece of dirtied cloth and pressed the liquid against the wound. The substance bonded with the blood and was carried into his system almost at once.

Fear spiked hotly through Aragorn’s awareness. He had minutes before the drug took effect. It tingled where it entered his system and it felt like it was setting his nerves on fire. He gasped and tried to pull away. "I can’t..." His breath came in ragged gulps and he began to hyperventilate, "I can’t do this again." He stammered between breaths.

"You don’t get a choice." Dyryn’s voice grated oddly in his ears, loud over the ringing that was a side effect of the Belithral.

"NO!" The ranger pulled against his bonds unfeeling of the pain that laced his wrists as he jerked the stake from the floor of the ground. He had been working for over an hour to free his hands and his attempts finally paid off. The stake popped up from the cold earth and snapped backwards throwing the ranger off balance. He fell back, hitting the wall of the cave behind him.

The outburst from his prisoner took Dyryn off guard, the man should have been sedated far beyond the ability to escape, perhaps he had indeed given him too much Belithral.

The shock of being free caused Aragorn to stop momentarily and stare into the surprised face of his captor. Realizing he had no time to spare he pulled his legs up and kicked out at Dyryn, catching the hunter in the chest and pressing him back.

The wind was knocked out of the bounty hunter and he rolled over, catching himself on his hands while trying to force air back into his lungs.

Aragorn lurched to his feet, staggering for the entrance of the cave. He had nearly reached the lip of the short tunnel when Dyryn caught him. The bounty hunter shouted at the retreating form, causing the ranger to turn a startled look his way. With a quick strike Dyryn smashed his fist into the side of the man’s head, splitting Aragorn’s lip open once more and causing the ranger to reel unsteadily.

The drug in his system had very nearly wrenched control out of Aragorn’s grasp once more. Fear alone kept him fighting. His hands were still bound to the spike that Dyryn had held him captive with and he grasped the wooden peg, driving it deep into his tormenter’s shoulder as the bounty hunter lunged at him.

Dyryn screamed in pain, pulling back from the unexpected attack. It was all the distraction that Aragorn needed as he turned and fled from the cave into the biting storm that was just beginning to blow. He stumbled in the snow, not caring where he was heading only knowing that he had to get far away. The adrenaline and Belithral prevented him from feeling the stinging bite of the wind and the icy sleet that fell about him.

"Get back here, damn it!" He heard Dyryn calling after him as the bounty hunter stumbled into the snow, easily following the erratic path his prisoner wove through the knee-high drifts.

Dyryn quickly caught up with the drugged ranger and tackled him into the snow. The man struggled weakly against the bounty hunter, thrashing beneath his weight as he was pinned down.

"Now come on, get up." He grabbed the rope between Aragorn’s fists and hauled the man to his feet. "Don’t make this harder than it has to be."

Aragorn resisted but he was beginning to forget why he was fighting and the image of the man before him shifted nauseatingly from Dyryn to his father, morphing swiftly into Elladan and then into a distorted picture of Legolas’ face.

"No!" He struggled, pulling back from his captor, "NO!"

"Legolas!" Aragorn’s voice ripped through the forest as he called out, not knowing if he was even hallucinating or not. He had no hope of being heard. He also had no knowledge that the elf was in fact tracking him.


Legolas stopped and stood perfectly still, listening to the wind and the trees and the sounds of the forest around him. He had begun to think he had chosen the wrong path, for there had been nothing all day to give him any indication that anyone had passed this way. Dusk was nearing and darkness swiftly descending, even though he could not see the onset of night for the storm that was building blocked all and cloaked all in the dull grey of its fury, but he swore above the whistling howl of the wind he had heard his name. Someone was yelling and the sound was coming from just over the next hill. He ran swiftly to the edge of the hollow he was in and crested the small knoll on the opposite side. His keen eyes picked up the shapes of two men struggling below him. The warm glow of a campfire spilled from the mouth of a cave a few yards behind them and a steep cliff dropped away half a dozen meters to their right.

"Father! Please!" The call for help was Strider’s. He had found the ranger. Pelting down into the valley the elf’s swift quiet approach caught the bounty hunter unaware as he was bodily thrown away from his prisoner.

Aragorn fell back into the snow. The dark shape that loomed over him frightened him and he began to crawl away, knowing only that somehow he was free again. He needed to get far away into the forests where it would be dark soon with the failing light, somewhere safe where he couldn’t be seen.

Legolas stared down at the human who lay in the snow, cowering at his feet. He had no time to consol or comfort the ranger as Dyryn rushed him, grabbing the prince about the waist and throwing him hard into the snow beside Aragorn.

The elf struggled with the human that pinned him down. He was stronger than the bounty hunter and easily flipped the man off of him, pulling his feet up to his chest and kicking the man over his head. He stole a quick glance at Aragorn, noting the direction that the ranger was slowly limping away in. He could track him with ease once he disposed of Dyryn.

The bounty hunter had gained his footing once more and quickly withdrew a blade concealed in his boot. "You again! How many times do I have to kill you, elf?" he spat, circling the prince slowly, dancing closely in and jabbing the weapon forward, feinting at Legolas, trying to catch him off guard. But the elf was too fast for the man, even though Dyryn’s dwarvish traits made him a more formidable foe than a normal human would have been. The prince’s anger flared and he crouched down, widening his stance, refusing to dance with the man any longer. Dyryn jumped forward and the prince rushed him, sidestepping the man and hooking his ankle around the hunter’s leg, he tipped the human backwards off balance, wresting the knife from Dyryn’s grip as the man fell back into the snow. Kneeling on the man’s chest, Legolas pressed the blade against the hunter’s neck and glared down at the man. Even after everything this fellow had put he and Aragorn through, the elf would not spill blood needlessly, nor would he cut a man’s throat when he was down and defenseless.

"Do not follow me. And do not pursue the ranger. I will kill you if you persist." He leaned down, whispering the words fiercely and giving the knife a good shove, so that it broke through the human’s skin.

A peal of thunder broke above them shaking the mountain that braced the small valley where they fought as the storm gained strength. Surprised by the reverberations of the sound, Legolas glanced up.

Dyryn took advantage of the elf’s momentary distraction. Grabbing the blade he pulled the knife from this throat with one hand and slammed his balled-up fist into the side of the prince’s head, knocking Legolas off of him and back into the snow. The hit was a lucky near miss, barely contacting that point behind Legolas’ jaw that would have caused the elf to black out. As it was, the blow stunned the prince and he stumbled back to his knees when he tried to rise.

Dyryn stood over the elf, smiling down at him with barely contained glee.

"Now who is going to kill whom?" he taunted, raising the blade over the reeling prince.

The ground shook slightly beneath their feet and a dull distant roar overshadowed the natural sounds of the forest about them.

The rumbling in the earth increased and Dyryn staggered backwards, attempting to maintain his balance. The rushing sound built into a deafening roar and Legolas glanced behind the bounty hunter in wide-eyed fear as he saw the face of the mountain behind them fall down towards the small plateau where they fought in a tumbling tidal-wave of white. The percussion of the thunder had triggered an avalanche high up on the peak where the snow had been accumulating, awaiting just such relief as this.

Legolas leapt to his feet; lighting softly on the top of the snow and darting towards the woods in the direction that Aragorn had drug himself off in earlier.

Dyryn, not so quick or light-footed, tried to follow the nimble being, but was cumbered by trying to run through the deep snow and was caught by the front wave of snow and debris that swept off the mountainside plummeting to the base of the cliff below. Legolas heard him screaming, his voice barely audible above the rushing swell of snow that crushed down behind him and turned just barely in time to see the man vanish.

The ground beneath the prince jumped and bucked with the force of the tonnage that spilled down from the peak. Only his ability to stay atop the snow kept him from being pulled under and swept away as Dyryn had been, but it would not save him forever; the snow was moving too fast under his feet and he could not remain upright much longer. At the last moment, Legolas sprang from the forest floor into the tree nearest him, pulling himself high up into its branches as the edges of the white flood crashed by and then receded at the base of the trunk. He had barely escaped the avalanche.

Legolas slowly let out the breath he had been holding and glanced back across the plain where they had just been. It lay covered in a blanket of snow, the surface broken by the jutting planes of frozen plates of ice and rocks ripped from their resting places and thrown down the side of the mountain. The cave that Aragorn and Dyryn had taken shelter in was buried under dozens of feet of snow. Of the bounty hunter there was no sign.

Legolas leapt lightly down from the tree he had taken refuge in and picked his way carefully to the edge of the newly displaced snow; it lay in ripples like frozen waves, strewn beneath the tall trees.

From there, he quickly picked up Aragorn’s trail and tracked the ranger back into the forest. He needed to find the human fast; night was nearly upon them and there would be no starlight to guide them soon. He had run only a few moments before spying the form of the man now slowly crawling on hands and knees in the deep snow.

Aragorn flinched and cried out at the sight of the being who had caught up to him as Legolas gained his position and knelt down next to him.

"No!" He raised his hands up trying to shield himself from the images that swam before his eyes.

Gently Legolas gripped the rope that bound the man’s hands and quickly severed the bonds. The human whimpered softly when the elf produced the knife and he cringed away from the glint of the blade. "No." His voice a mere whisper. "Please, not again."

"Aragorn?" Legolas slowly resheathed his knife, "Aragorn what happened to you?" He noted the way the human shook uncontrollably, shaking that had nothing to do with the chill that hung in the air.

The ranger was unresponsive to the elf’s attempts to stop his flight. The human continued moving away from the prince, pushing the other away. Nothing he said made any sense to the prince. It seemed to Legolas that Aragorn did not even know who he was and nothing he did stopped the human’s weak frantic attempts to escape him.

"Aragorn? Aragorn!" Legolas shook his friend, desperately demanding an answer. The young ranger’s eyes were glazed and when he looked at the elf he didn’t seem to really be seeing him. Aragorn flinched in fear and tried weakly to scoot away, fumbling in the snow and shivering hard as he scrabbled backwards, frozen fingers barely feeling the wet bite of the ice-cold powder he was sitting in.

"L-Leave me alone... p-please just l-leave me alone..." Aragorn begged stuttering through frozen lips, total un-recognition on his face. That last bit of exertion had taken too much out of the ranger. His body was fast succumbing to the cold and the severe drug reaction that had been building up over time. Dyryn had used the Belithral on him far too frequently and in doses far larger than he should have. Aragorn’s reaction to the modified poison had been growing slowly worse and worse until now it was very literally robbing him of rational thought and reason.

"Aragorn, it’s all right, it’s all right!" Legolas struggled to catch the young human’s shoulders. Frightened and irrational, Aragorn fought the elf. His frozen, confused mind could not comprehend that Legolas was not Dyryn as his vision blurred, the sound of the elf’s words grating oddly in ringing ears. Striking out he caught Legolas in the chest and mouth with his wildly swinging fists.

Legolas reeled back from the unexpected blow, tasting blood and realizing quickly that Aragorn was not in his right state of mind. Gently catching the human’s wrists he held them still, keeping the young ranger from striking him again.

Aragorn thrashed and struggled, but was too weak to put up a real fight and Legolas pinned him on his back in the snow easily enough.

"Aragorn, Aragorn it’s me! It’s Legolas. It’s all right, it’s all right..." Legolas tried to get through to the struggling human. Aragorn’s eyes were wide and frightened in a way Legolas had never seen them before. Half-frozen, half-dried blood clung to the corners of the ranger’s mouth and the side of his face. Dark bruises marred his face, neck and hands and Legolas was sure the ranger’s wet, frozen clothing hid even more. The young man looked as if he had very literally been through hell and Legolas’ heart wrenched inside him. If Dyryn were still alive, Legolas would have killed him for what he had done to his friend.

Aragorn squirmed and shivered weakly under the elf’s grip. "P-please... not again... please leave me alone..." the young ranger stuttered brokenly, shuddering from cold and fear.

Legolas’ eyes stung from more than the wind. "Aragorn, Aragorn... Estel..." he pleaded for Aragorn to understand him, speaking in elvish for he knew that sometimes that tongue had a greater effect on his friend than the speech of men. "You have nothing to fear from me, my friend, your tormentor is gone. Do you hear me, Aragorn? He is gone! Come back to me, come back, Estel... please..."

Aragorn blinked several times and took a deep shuddering breath. Something about the elvish words seemed to calm him, just as Legolas had hoped. His blurry eyes struggled to make out the face above him through the driving wind.

"L-Legolas?" Aragorn murmured, dim recognition finally coming over his face. He was half afraid to believe it was truly his friend this time and not just another drug induced hallucination.

Legolas smiled, gently warming the side of his friend’s pale face with his hand. "Yes, yes. Aragorn, it’s me."

Aragorn let his head sink back in the snow in relief. "I-I thought y-you’d never f-find me..." He shakily reached up towards his friend.

"I’m sorry it took so long, I’m sorry, Strider," Legolas rose, gently pulling the young human out of the snow. Aragorn was much too weak and far too frozen. They had to get out of this weather and soon. But where could they go?

Aragorn wavered on his feet. His strength was completely gone and his head fell weakly against Legolas’ shoulder.

Legolas quickly pulled his own cloak off and wrapped it around Aragorn’s shivering shoulders, supporting the young man. "We have to get to shelter, Aragorn, all right?" he said gently. "Can you walk?"

Aragorn nodded. "O-of course I-I can..." he took one step and nearly fell back into the snow. His frozen, bruised legs refusing to carry him any farther.

"That’s what I thought," Legolas said with a soft smile. Scooping Aragorn up in his arms despite the ranger’s feeble protests, Legolas half-held, half-shouldered his friend’s weight and began descending from the foothills, heading in what he hoped was more or less a westerly direction.


Legolas stumbled, Aragorn’s weight driving him down into the snow that he had been walking on top of until he fell. Quickly he scrambled back to his feet. He had been carrying Aragorn for the better part of two hours, but the storm had slowly been picking up and the roaring wind was blowing full at them, blinding him behind its vicious white curtain.

Aragorn was chattering audibly and his skin was far too pale. One glance at the human’s ashen face and Legolas knew that they had to get out of the wind now, or nothing would be able to help his friend.

Desperately his keen eyes searched the swirling whiteness for some sign of anything that might shelter them. Suddenly, the ground failed under his feet and Legolas found himself half-falling, half-sliding downward in a tumble of snow and wind.

The blizzard was so thick now that the elf had not even been able to see that he had come to a cliff edge and walked right off it. Fortunately the cliff was only ten or fifteen feet high at most, and the snow at the bottom padded their landing.

The bottom of the cliff was minimally protected from some of the worst of the eddying blasts of wind, so Legolas scooted back against the rock wall as far as he could, pulling Aragorn with him. Any shelter was better than none, and going further when he could not see more than two or three inches in front of them was obviously a dangerous proposition, especially since Legolas knew absolutely nothing about the lay of the land in these parts. They would have to wait the storm out and hope that it lessened quickly.

"I-I’m so-so cold..." Aragorn shivered helplessly, delirium starting to tug at him again. The young ranger was totally spent and the drugs that were still in his system had not let go of him yet, wreaking havoc with his ability to stay awake.

"I know, I know you are," Legolas soothed, pulling Aragorn closer still. The young ranger’s shaking frame was icy cold against the elf’s body. It felt as cold as the storm, or colder. His exposed skin was nearly the same color as the snow. Alarmed, Legolas pulled off his fleece-lined jerkin. Ignoring the stinging cold as it bit through his tunic he wrapped the thick shirt around Aragorn’s shoulders, pulling it up to cover the Dùnadan’s head and holding the human close to himself to better share his body heat. "Just hold on, everything’s going to be all right. Stay with me, Strider."

Legolas shivered slightly against the chill that invaded his own frame, both from Aragorn’s frozen body and the freezing air around them. Even an elf was not immune to the bitter bite of the air this night. It was simply too cold.

"L-Legolas I-I can’t see you..." Aragorn’s eyes were glassing over again.

More alarmed than he wanted to admit, Legolas tried to stay calm for his friend’s sake. "That’s all right, you can hear me. I am here. The storm cannot last forever. It will all be over soon, I promise, Aragorn, I promise."

Aragorn shuddered violently, grasping for his friend’s arm with numb, unbending fingers. "D-don’t leave me... please, don’t leave me like t-they did..." a raw sob choked the young man’s throat as he slid back into the dream-like state between reality and feverish nightmare.

Legolas pressed his eyes shut in anguish for his friend’s pain. He pulled Aragorn’s head up against his chest so the young man could hear his heartbeat and know he was near. "I am here, Aragorn, and I won’t leave. That I swear by Elbereth herself. I will not leave you!"

"I’m so tired... so tired... I feel I could s-sleep forever..." Aragorn murmured into Legolas’ tunic.

Aragorn’s body was failing him at last and Legolas realized horribly that his friend was dying in front of his eyes.

"No! Aragorn, Aragorn! Stay with me! Dartho Aragorn, Dartho mellon nîn, ú-awartha i arad, an i tinnu, egor pada i guruthos nîf-ned anannch lîn... bellch le, iston le, pulch ortheri sen gala helch le, ú-dâf ha mânch haeron!" Legolas pleaded desperately, gently rocking the young man. "Hold on Aragorn, hold on my friend, do not forsake the day for the twilight, nor tread the shadows before your time... You are strong, I know you are, you can beat this creeping frost, do not let it take you away!"

"D-don’t leave..." Aragorn whimpered hoarsely, locked once more in his own private nightmares that Legolas could not seem to break into nor free him from. "Don’t leave me, please... I’m sorry... please... father... father! Don’t l-leave me again..." the words were mere heartbroken sobs. "I’m so c-cold, s-so c-co..."

Frustrated by his powerlessness to help his friend, Legolas tried his best to calm the ranger, but to no avail. Aragorn was too far gone to hear him. It seemed now that the young Dùnadan had no will left to live, as if the hallucinations had drained him of whatever hope and desire for life had been left in his frozen, hurting body.

Aragorn murmured something more, but Legolas could barely hear, much less understand him, for the young man was sliding too far away. The human’s eyes closed and his head lolled against the elf prince’s chest.

Legolas choked back the lump forming in his throat and held his friend tightly. Closing his eyes he held onto Aragorn with everything he had. He was not strongly gifted in healing, nor in those skills that humans and hobbits sometimes referred to as ‘elf magic’, but whatever power was in him he used in the desperate struggle to keep Aragorn from sliding over the brink into the abyss from which a mortal could never return.

Whispering words of light, life and encouragement, warm fires and sun on the springtime flowers into Aragorn’s ear, the elf prince gave everything he had to the effort. If it were possible, he fed some of his own strength into the ranger’s failing body, infusing hope and a certain amount of warmth from his presence and his words.

Aragorn stirred ever so slightly and Legolas took it as a hopeful sign. Softly, he began singing to the ranger in a sweet, clear voice. A warm and life-filled song full of the images of light and warmth and home. Aragorn barely seemed to notice or respond, but Legolas kept on, hoping to be able to give the young ranger something to hold onto, however slim, some connection with the waking world so that his spirit would not completely fly away as it seemed wont to do.

The elven voice thrummed softly in his chest as he sung, a comforting resonance that sounded in the ranger’s ear, pressed against the prince’s heart. And somewhere deep inside his delirious stupor, Aragorn did indeed hear Legolas’ song and feel the thin thread of warmth and hope that the elf prince sought to hold out to him, and Aragorn clung to it tightly as oblivion reached up to swallow him whole. But his life was slowly slipping away between his fingers, blown off upon on the savage winds that raged around them, whipping the young ranger’s dark curls around his face and mingling them with the pale gold of Legolas’ waving locks.

Legolas committed all his strength and everything that was in him to his song and the young man it was supporting. So intent was he that the elf did not notice the creeping chill overtaking his own body as the deadly cold seeped into him little by little, sapping his strength, his energy, his life.

Around them, the storm just kept growing fiercer and more intense.