Seventh Stone


by Cassia and Siobhan

First > Next   

    "Estel." A soft voice intruded on his sleep and Aragorn resisted the urge to ignore it.
    "Strider, wake up, it is nearly dawn." Legolas gently shook the sleeping human.
    Bleary silver eyes opened and gazed dully at him for a few seconds.
    "Are you awake?" Legolas whispered.
    "No," Aragorn answered softly. "I've taken to sleeping with my eyes open."
    Legolas smirked at the human and pushed him gently over. "Get up. Let us be off."

    It took all day to walk to the outskirts of Adirolf. The sun was just barely tipping the trees in flaming red as they entered the town and headed for the inn. The merchants were closed for the night, but the inn keeper always held a good stock of supplies that could be purchased by late night stragglers, rangers and the like who didn't especially mind paying the extra tacked on for his services. Aragorn felt it was well worth the price if they could get what they needed and be gone before first light.
    Legolas walked a step behind the ranger, allowing the human to take the lead. He wore Aragorn's overcoat, the hood pulled down deeply over his face, hiding his hair and fair features.
    "We'll go to the inn. We can get what we need there." The streets were deserted by this time of night and the occupants that were still awake quietly closed their shutters as the two strangers passed up the middle of the town.
    "Friendly bunch," Legolas muttered softly as he glanced towards a hovel, the owner, glaring at the foreigners, quickly snapped his windows closed.
    "I told you." Aragorn sighed and motioned up the street. "The inn will be better. Just stay close."
    The warm lights of the tavern flooded the dirt street in front of the inn. Raucous laughter spilled out onto the night air and the smells of men crowded into too small of a space reached out to the elf, causing Legolas to wrinkle his nose. "Nice, Strider."
    The ranger laughed softly as he pushed the door in. "Just let me do the talking." As he passed through the entry his demeanor changed. Legolas found it curious to watch the human as he blended in perfectly with his surroundings. Aragorn glared at the patrons, his lips set straight, his eyes half-hooded. His whole countenance brokered no curiosity and surprisingly the others in the room kept their distance. He walked slowly up to the bar and raised his eyes to stare at the bar keeper.
    "What can I get you?" The burly man leaned on the wooden shelf and nodded at the two travelers.
    "We need supplies." Aragorn's tone was short, clipped and completely business.
    "There's an extra charge."
    "I know." The ranger held the man's gaze.
    "Fair enough." The owner stood up, his eyes softening a bit. "Name's Rixin. What can I get you?"
    Strider began to give the man a list of items they would need. Legolas tuned the conversation out and turned around, casually leaning his back against the edge of the bar. He eyed the mix of humans in the tavern, his bright eyes concealed by the hood he still wore. It interested him. He had never been inside such a place in all his life. The sounds and smells were crude, but the overall feeling was of a place where one could get lost if they had a mind to and where no one would care who you were or what became of you. It interested him.
    "Four blankets?" The bar tender was questioning Aragorn and Legolas looked back at his friend.
    "Four," the ranger restated. "You never know when you'll need extra," he added by way of explanation. His eyes met the hooded blue ones of his friend and he smiled slightly.
    "Alright." Rixin, looked at the list of items he had scratched out. "It'll take a few minutes to round this up. I'll have Maree fetch them for you. Why don't you and your friend take a seat. Can I get you anything while you wait?"
    Aragorn nodded. "We'll have two of the house brew."
    The hooded figure glanced sharply at the ranger. Aragorn was sure Legolas was frowning at him, but he simply pushed away from the bar and walked to the far corner of the room, settling himself into a chair near the back. He propped his boots on an empty stool and watched the room intently. Legolas dropped lightly down beside him.
    "The house brew?" The disdain in the elf's voice caused the ranger to smile.
    "It might be good." Aragorn shrugged.
    Rixin stepped up near the table, "Two house brews. You gentlemen let me know if you need anything else." He walked away, shoving an inebriated patron out of his path. The man stumbled and fell, crashing to the ground, asleep before he hit. The men nearest him laughed at their friend.
    "Nice." Legolas picked up the mug of ale and smelled it. "Such a pleasant establishment. I can see why you like these places."
    "Funny," Aragorn mumbled. "We'll be out of here soon. Drink your ale."
    The elf tasted the amber liquid. It was smooth and warmed him as he swallowed it. He nodded slowly and took a bigger drink. "It is good."
    When Aragorn didn't answer, Legolas glanced at the man. "Strider?" The ranger was intently watching a table off to their right. Several patrons had gathered around and were listening to a couple of nearly drunk men brag. Aragorn leaned back in his chair, tipping the seat onto its back legs and shifted closer to Legolas.
    "Listen to their conversation. That one there on the left, in the green tunic, he says they have a map that leads to some treasure of the ancient world... one of the lost seeing stones I think. I only heard snatches of their talk but I could swear that's what he said," Aragorn whispered the words to his companion.
    For a moment Legolas didn't follow his friend's meaning, then he realized the significance. "A palantir?" Legolas turned his sharp hearing towards the hushed conversation. That was strange talk indeed for such a place as this. At first glance the elf would have wagered that none of the men in this room had enough wit to even comprehend what the lost seeing stones of Nùmenor were, much less claim to have any knowledge of them.
    "Yes. What do you make of it?" Strider glanced at him.
    For several minutes the elf sat silently and listened to the talk at the table adjacent from them; his shadowed eyes memorizing their faces. Aragorn sipped from his mug and pretended not to notice, refraining from asking any of the thousands of questions screaming in his mind. Elrond had told him vague stories of the palantiri. Originally he said, there had been seven, but of those it was thought that few, perhaps only two or three, remained. If the tale he had overheard snatches of was true and someone had discovered the whereabouts one of the seeing stones of the ancient kings, lost so many years ago and now nearly forgotten, Aragorn was determined to find it before they did. No one knew exactly who they had fallen to now or where they lay hid, and such knowledge could be dangerous in the wrong hands. He wished he knew where Gandalf were.
    "Legolas?" The ranger whispered softly.
    The elf held up his hand, quieting the human for a few more minutes until the table of men broke up.
    "You always were a bag of wind Glecyn!" One of the men pushed out of the group, shaking his head, "Where do you find these tales?" A few others followed, voicing their disbelief as well. "Treasure maps, crystal balls... you're cracked!"
    "It's true I tell you!" A dark-haired man shouted after them, "and it's gotta be worth a fortune to someone! We'll be rich and you'll be sorry you didn't believe us then."
    "Sit down, Rigo, let them go." The man named Glecyn pulled his dark-haired partner back down into an empty seat. "Less for us to have to share."
    As Aragorn watched the group disband, his attention was drawn to a table next to where the two braggarts were sitting, now quietly talking back and forth. Three men sat at the far table, intently watching Rigo and Glecyn. In all truth half the room was watching the two inebriated patrons after the loud outburst that had ended in the taunting and joking at the expense of the partners. But the demeanor of the men that Aragorn had his eyes on was unsettling. Their gaze did not shift away after the commotion had died down and they did not converse amongst themselves nor drink from the mugs before them. It was as though Rigo and Glecyn held their rapt attention.
    Legolas noticed them also and glanced at Aragorn out of the corner of his eyes. "They will be trouble. They have no good intentions I fear."
    "I agree." Aragorn took a swig of ale and turned towards his friend as Rigo and Glecyn walked past their table, heading for the door. "What did you overhear?"
    The elf did not answer outright but motioned with his head towards the three men. They had gained their feet and were following the others out, paying the bar tender quickly and leaving the establishment on the heels of what seemed to be their prey.
    "Tell me, Legolas, what did you hear?" Aragorn watched as they left, his eyes still locked on the men as he questioned his friend.
    "You were right." The prince leaned forward and moved slightly closer to the ranger. "They do indeed claim to have a map that leads to a secret chamber that holds one of the missing palanitri. Which one, I do not know."
    Aragorn turned his full attention on the elf.
    "The one named Rigo was bragging of stealing the map from a poor farmer along their way here to Adirolf. They performed some task for the old man and he could not pay so he offered them the map in return for their service, said it was worth something and supposedly led to treasure. It seems they couldn't read the writing but somehow they are assuming that it does indeed speak of a palantir, although they do not know that name and regard it only as some kind of mystic crystal ball. I am not convinced they really even know what the seeing stones are, except by uncertain legend. However, by what means and to what end they have decided and discerned all this I know not."
    The two sat in silence for several moments.
    "Shall we go after them?" Legolas questioned softly. "It could be nothing but the rambling ignorance of drunkards, but if it truly is a palantir..." he let the implications hang in the air between them.
    "I know. I just..." Aragorn's response was cut off as a red-haired, slightly overweight woman approached their table.
    "You the ones that ordered all them supplies?" she asked cheerfully. When they nodded she pointed over her shoulder with her thumb. "Then they's over there waiting for you. Just pay Rixin on the way out. Hope I remembered everything for you." Without waiting she turned and walked off to the back of the bar and left through the pantry door.
    Aragorn smiled and chuckled lightly. "I think that was Maree." He glanced back at the elf and sobered immediately as their former conversation floated back to him.
    "We should find out if its true, Strider." Legolas eyed him anxiously. The thought of a palantir in the hands of men like that bothered him deeply. The seeing stones were not toys or things to be bartered by the ignorant. They were royal heirlooms made by the Noldor, maybe even by Fëanor himself in ages long forgotten, and were part of the high, elder days that seemed to be fading ever farther and farther from the memory of Middle-earth.
    The ranger nodded slowly and stood to his feet. "Let's go collect our things and see if our friends aren't nearby. They were too drunk to have gotten very far."

    It was only a matter of moments before Aragorn had paid the bartender and he and Legolas divided the supplies between them, strapping them in packs upon their backs.
    The night air had chilled and the full moon rode high in the darkened sky. As they stepped into the muddied dirt street, Aragorn stopped and stared up the alley. The bar door closed behind them and they were able to better see that a group of men had gathered not far away. A small struggle was ensuing but who the combatants were they were unable to tell.
    A short, sharp cry pierced the night and one of the men dropped to the ground and did not rise, his blood mingled with the pooled water beneath him, turning the street a darker shade of black.
    "Glecyn!" the scream caused the ranger to jump and glance at Legolas. They had no time to react as a dark shape broke from the huddle of men and staggered up the street towards them, the others running to catch up with their prey.
    The man raced by Aragorn and crashed into Legolas. His tunic was stained with blood and his eyes were glazed and haunted. He grasped the elf, trying to right himself, but his body was failing from the fatal wound he had sustained; it was Rigo.
    His attackers approached the ranger more slowly, wary of the strangers.
    "I'm sorry," Rigo whispered in Legolas' ear, as he pressed his head near the elf's hooded face. He quickly thrust his hand into the prince's quiver before his life fled him and his body fell limply against the elf.
    Legolas lowered the man slowly to the ground. The front of Aragorn's overcoat that the elf still wore was stained with the man's blood and the elf turned to the human in confusion as he slowly rose back to his feet. He would never get used to death or the swift heedlessness with which mortals inflicted it upon one another.
    "Who are you?" one of the men questioned Aragorn as he brushed by the ranger and knelt next to the dead body, rifling through the man's pockets. "It's not here either," he turned and spoke to the men who had followed him.
    "Were these men with you?" the ranger answered by way of a question. He reached casually behind him and dragged the prince with him as he attempted to walk past the small group that was slowly trying to stop up their exit, effectively blocking them into the alley.
    "I asked you a question," the same dark-haired man spoke. His voice was quieter and held a harder edge than before as he stood to his feet and walked back in front of the ranger.
    "We've only stopped for supplies. We don't know your business and we don't care. We'll be leaving now." Aragorn's voice hardened to match that of the other man.
    "I don't think so." The glint of a dagger caught the ranger's eye and he stiffened imperceptibly.
    "What is it you want?" he asked the man directly in front of him who had unsheathed his knife.
    "Just give us the map and we'll let you leave," the man said with quiet menace.
    Aragorn was confused; he glanced back at the dead man behind them and frowned at the men blocking his path. "I don't know what you are talking about. We just left the tavern. We don't even know these men." He indicated the still bodies in the street.
    "Paxcyn, maybe they don't know," the assailant who originally questioned them addressed the leader of the small group.
    "That one does." Paxcyn raised his hand, pointing the tip of the dagger he held at Legolas' heart. "That fool drunk gave it to him before he died."
    Aragorn glanced over his shoulder at Legolas. The elf shook his head slightly. Rigo had given him nothing that he knew of.
    "What, you don't talk?" a man near the elf spoke up.
    "Shut up, Deollyn," Paxcyn barked at the man. He turned his attention on Legolas. "Just give it to us and we'll give you no more trouble."
    Legolas glanced at Aragorn, unwilling to reveal his identity by speaking, but slowly losing his patience with these men who had mistaken him for the map holder.
    "He doesn't have whatever you're looking for. I suggest you take a second look at the two men you killed. Perhaps in your haste you killed them too quickly," Aragorn replied evenly.
    Deollyn leapt forward and grabbed Legolas' hood, jerking it back. "What are you? Some kind of a..." The man's voice faltered as the elf's blonde hair fell around his shoulders and he stuttered in shock, "a... an elf?"
    "It's a blasted elf!" another man muttered incredulously.
    "What kind of a human keeps company with elves?" Paxcyn's dagger scraped the underside of Aragorn's chin. "Do you know what we do to their kind that comes sneaking in here?"
    Aragorn breathed out slowly and balanced his weight; tensing his muscles, he waited until Paxcyn glanced back at Legolas. In one swift move the ranger stepped closer to the large man, grabbing his arm and twisting the dagger out of his hand. He used his attacker's weight against him and slung the man around in front of him, holding the dagger beneath Paxcyn's throat.
    Paxcyn's men scattered outward, thrown off by the suddenness of the ranger's movements. It took them only seconds to recover from their initial shock. Deollyn pulled his sword from its scabbard and pointed it at Legolas.
    "Release him," Deollyn growled at the ranger, "or I will split your pretty friend in two."
    "I think not." Strider's voice was low and the smile he turned on the man was anything but friendly. "We are leaving now. Whatever you are looking for, I suggest you take it up with your dead friends." He began to back slowly away from the group, dragging Paxcyn with him.
    "You'll regret this," Paxcyn growled at him.
    "Meeting you?" Aragorn jerked his arm more tightly about the man's throat. "I already do." The ranger glanced at the elf and switched to the grey tongue, calling his friend to follow him, "Come on, Legolas."
    "No." Deollyn advanced on the prince, who was standing perfectly still, gazing intently out into the forests. "This one knows something." The man took another step towards the elf and flicked the tip of his sword against the side of the prince's face, cutting a fine crimson line across the elf's cheek bone. Legolas flinched at the unexpected action and jerked away.

    "Don't you, little elf?" Deollyn stepped even closer, but was stopped abruptly as arrows whistled through the air, appearing seemingly out of nowhere and embedding themselves into the dirt around the man's feet.

    Legolas raised one fair eyebrow and glanced at Deollyn, "I believe I will be going with the ranger." He glared at the man in front of him, thoroughly irritated with the human as he slowly wiped the blood from his cheek with the sleeve of the overcoat, his eyes flashing.
    "I'd let him go if I were you," Strider called back.
    "Deollyn. Let it go." Paxcyn glanced over his shoulder at the ranger. "We'll catch up with them later."
    Legolas stepped lightly around the man and walked past Aragorn.
    "Smart man," the ranger spoke quietly to Paxcyn. He shoved the fellow forward and walked slowly backwards a few steps before turning around and joining Legolas.
    An arrow streaked past Aragorn's head, landing with a soft, warning thunk in the dirt behind them, staving off any thought of attack by Paxcyn and his men as the ranger and the elf quickly left town, disappearing into the edge of the forest.


    "What was that all about?" Trelan asked, wide-eyed as he helped Legolas set down the pack the elf was carrying.
    "They think we have something those two dead men claimed to have found." Legolas frowned at Aragorn. "That was close."
    Aragorn shucked his pack off and set it on a fallen log, swiping long strands of hair out of his eyes. "Too close." He glanced back down into the valley the town was set into, intently watching for any movement. "I don't think we've seen the last of our friends either."
    The human turned a brilliant smile on the two warrior elves. "That was perfect timing for the two of you. I wasn't sure how we were going to get out of that one." With a sigh he glanced at Legolas.
    "We followed you to the edge of town and waited. We thought you might need an extra hand." Raniean laughed as he divided up the provisions they had purchased. He tossed a bed roll to Trelan. The soft blanket smacked the elf in the head and he glared at his friend, much to the amusement of Aragorn.
    "Oh sure, go ahead and laugh." Trelan retrieved the roll from the forest floor. "I'll get you back." He smirked at Aragorn before turning to Raniean and growling, "And you too my friend."
    "Aragorn," Legolas whispered his friend's name. He was crouched on the ground, reorganizing the supplies in his pack, and had dumped his quiver out on the earth. The arrows lay skewed on the grass as he smoothed out a rumpled piece of old, yellowed paper. He knew for certain that it had not been there before.
    The ranger turned at the sound of his name and sobered immediately when he saw what Legolas held. He knelt beside the elf and unfolded the corner nearest him. The map shimmered softly in the faint light; the words reflected the moon's glow and seemed to come alive as they held it out between them.
    "Is this what I think it is?" Aragorn asked quietly, glancing at his friend.
    "Yes. It was in my quiver. Rigo must have dropped it in there before he died." Legolas stared at the runes on the map. "I can only read parts of it. This is no ordinary writing: see how it glows." He brushed his fingers lightly over the glowing letters. "It is some form of moon writing. This is elvish, but these... these words here are not. I do not know what they are."
    "Is it what we thought?" Aragorn pressed his forefinger against the silver lettering.
    "It is indeed a map to a hidden palantir. Or so it claims to be, although I have no recollection of a city where it indicates the location of the seeing stone." Legolas moved the human's hand away gently, indicating the words beneath his fingertips. "This word here is elvish for 'seeing stone' and these", he ran his fingers under the delicate sentences inscribed on the edges of the map, "these are the tale of why the stone was concealed, but some of the words have been worn off." He indicated the ratted edges of the old map.
    "What have you there?" Raniean knelt down on the other side of Legolas and stared at the intricate pictures depicting part of Middle-earth.
    "Why that's a map!" Trelan leaned over Raniean and glanced at the paper.
    "Good thing we have you along, Trelan. We never would have guessed," Raniean glanced over his shoulder at the smaller elf and answered sarcastically.
    The short warrior gave his friend a good shove, pitching the elf forward.
    "Stop it you two." Legolas glanced at Aragorn. "This is serious."
    The ranger nodded and pressed closer to his friend, trying to see the map better. "Is that not the Gap of Rohan, there below where the seeing stone is said to be located?"
    Legolas nodded once in answer.
    "That lies on our path. We need to go see if it's still there. It is not a prize for treasure hunters; we can't let it fall into the wrong hands." Aragorn shook his head, unconsciously resting his hand on his sword-hilt.
    "Agreed." Legolas quickly collected his arrows and replaced them in his quiver. "Ran, go watch our backs. Those men will be after us. They were right; we do have the map and we are safe here no longer."
    "My lord," Raniean hesitated. "Should we not get this information to someone better suited to handling one of the stones when it is found?"
    "Ran, has a point," Aragorn interjected, "We need to get word back to my father and yours of the detour we will be taking and perhaps my father can find Gandalf. We could use his expertise in this matter. There is much about the palantiri that has been forgotten..." The young human looked thoughtful. "I wish I had paid more attention when Elrond spoke of them."
    "If you should meet up with those men from the town you will need our help." Trelan didn't like the thought of leaving them alone.
    "We'll be fine," Aragorn replied absently as he lightened the supplies he carried, shifting the pack onto his back.
    "Oh yes, I'll be fine, I have Strider." Legolas glanced out of the corner of his eye at the ranger, trying to hide his smile as the human started and glared at him.
    Trelan and Raniean, however, could not contain their mirth quite as well and they burst out laughing.
    "Hey!" Aragorn slung his bow over his shoulder and stood to his feet, challenging the elves.
    "Estel, I am only teasing." Legolas refolded the map and slipped it into an inner pocket on his tunic. "It is a good idea to let our fathers know. Heaven knows mine is going to have my head anyway. No need to make it worse by being even later without sending word. And I would feel much better if Mithrandir were here also. His wisdom and knowledge would be a great asset."
    "I say we make for Moria. When we were last there Balin said his people had control of both gates, so there must be an outpost on this side of the mountain as well. We can stop there for more supplies." Aragorn glanced back into the valley. Dim shadows caught his attention.
    "I would feel better if we accompanied you. I do not like this splitting up, Trelan is right." Raniean rested his hand on Legolas' shoulder and stared hard at the prince, letting his gaze linger meaningfully on the thin cut across Legolas' cheekbone.
    "I understand your hesitation, and I would rather have your company, but this is important. A palantir is no small thing to fall into the wrong hands." The prince glanced at the smaller warrior. "Trelan, go, warn Rivendell and ask Lord Elrond to send for Mithrandir if he can find him." Legolas turned back to Raniean and wrapped his hand around the warrior's forearm. "Ran, please, head with all speed to my father's and inform him of my delay..." Legolas resisted the slight wave of regret that tugged at him. Further prolongation of his return to Mirkwood was going to do nothing but irritate whatever problems might result between himself and his father over his long absence and tardy response to his father's summons. But it couldn't be helped. This was important and could not be put aside. His father would just have to wait a little longer. "Let him know the seriousness of the situation. Strider and I will do our best to retrieve the seeing stone and return it somewhere safe. We will make for Mirkwood as soon as we have it."
    "As wish you my lord," Trelan answered as he readjusted his pack. He glanced at Raniean and the warrior nodded his head.
    "We will go back toward Rivendell and I can take the northern pass. It will be quicker and we will be safer together until Trelan reaches Lord Elrond," Raniean addressed the prince.
    "Go swiftly and may the Valar watch over your path," Legolas bid his friends farewell.
    Without a glance backwards the two warriors silently raced off through the darkened woods, back the way they had come.
    Legolas walked to the edge of the cliff and followed Aragorn's gaze down into the valley.
    "They are coming." The human whispered.
    Several dark shapes rode out of town on horses, heading up towards the hills in the direction of the two friends.
    "Trelan and Raniean are away. We should be as well." Legolas left the cliff and darted back into the forest, "Come, Aragorn. We'll head for Moria. We will find safety there."


    Two days passed without event and the ranger and elf made the most of them. Aragorn and Legolas covered the distance before them swiftly and, since they knew they were being hunted, they took even greater care to leave no tracks, no trace for Paxcyn and his men to follow. They were drawing very near to the west entrance of Moria now. Neither of them knew exactly where it lay, but they remembered Balin telling them that he and his folk had re-opened both the east and the west gate. From what they could recall having heard of its general location, they knew they must be getting close now, although their actually finding it was going to depend a lot more on chance than either of them liked.
    Neither of them really relished the idea of going into the mines again, even if they could find the doors, but they knew that it was the only place between here and Rohan that they were sure to be able to re-supply without their presence being given away to those they wished to avoid, and the gap of Rohan was still a long distance off.

    When the third day dawned with still no sight nor sign of the men who had pursued them, the two friends felt fairly confident that they had given Paxcyn and his mercenaries the slip.
    Legolas, as usual, was up before the dawn. The previous night they had made camp in a large, sprawling strand of woods that crossed their path. Legolas felt fairly certain that beyond the forest they would be able to see the mountain walls close at hand, and hopefully some sign that they were going in the right direction to find what they sought.
    It had been too dark last night by the time they stopped for even the prince's keen eyes to see anything, but now he wished to take a look in the daylight.
    Silently, Legolas left Aragorn still sleeping and made his way quickly through the quiet woods. Last night they had passed a particularly tall pine that seemed to be higher than the other trees. If he could get up into the top of it, the elf knew he should have a good view of the surrounding area and a better idea of where they were and what direction they should take from here.
    Finding the tree without difficulty, Legolas shimmied easily up the long, bare trunk until he could reach the first of the lowest branches and worked from there. It took the elf several minutes to make his way to the top, but the climb was well rewarded. Just as he had suspected, the pine was the tallest thing in the immediate area, and the prince's keen elven eyes were able to see for miles in every direction. The woods stretched out under him to the right and the left, unbroken and rolling, obscuring sight of all that happened beneath their branches. Behind him he could see the direction in which they had come, but Adirolf was now much too far behind them for even his vision. Ahead of them and slightly to the right, the grey, craggy face of the mountains rose up steeply in the not-so-far-off distance.
    A stream separated the woods from the rock face, but Legolas was gratified to see what looked like a huge doorway standing partially open in the face of a sheer cliff some distance off. A shallow pool lay near the gates and the newly rising sun glinted dully on its waters. Unless he was greatly mistaken, those had to be the western gates of Moria; there was no other purpose for such an entryway into solid rock.
    Legolas descended the tree quickly, satisfied with the result of the expedition. Leaping lightly to the ground from the lowest branch, some twenty feet in the air, the elf landed cat-like on his feet, letting his knees bend to absorb the impact with the soft, springy earth.
    Suddenly, a swift, sharp blow to the base of his skull sent him lurching forward, off balance. At the same moment an arm snaked around his neck from behind, pulling him back, and he felt the sharp, rough bite of a dagger against his throat. A second arm wrapped around his chest, pulling the elf back tightly against the one who held him.
    For an instant Legolas struggled against his captor, but a sharp tug on the knife under his chin put a stop to that. The rough blade dug into his flesh and the man holding him was not being gentle nor careful.
    "Now, now, none of that, little elf, none of that," a familiar voice hissed in his ear. It was Paxcyn.