Seventh Stone


by Cassia and Siobhan

First > Previous > Next   

    Several other men were coming out of the trees now and Legolas recognized Deollyn and a few of the others from the alley in Adirolf several nights past. The elf regarded them with surprise and dismay. It was one of the few times in his life that he had been taken completely by surprise and he could not imagine how in the world these humans had been able to sneak up on him without his noticing their approach. True, he had been high up in the tree and all but oblivious to what was happening at its base, since his attention was flung outward towards the path ahead, but still... And by what wizardry or ill chance had they been able to actually find he and Aragorn when they had been so careful? Something was wrong here. Very wrong, but Legolas was given no time to think about it.
    "The tables are turned now aren't they?" Paxcyn observed somewhat darkly, still angry over the slip these two had given him upon their last encounter. "You're not going to waltz out of this so easy."
    "What do you want with us?" Legolas demanded coldly, although he knew full well. "We have done you no wrong that I know of. Release me."
    "Oh no. You've led us a merry chase, but it ends here," Deollyn cut into the conversation.
    "We want what's ours and you have it," Paxcyn said with sharp-edged firmness, his breath hot against the side of his captive's face. "We know you have the map and we'll take it, or your life."
    Legolas did not like the man's proximity to him and tried to turn away. In response, one of the men punched him in the stomach quite unexpectedly.
    The prince doubled forward, jerking painfully against the knife at his throat.
    Paxcyn yanked him upright again, this time twisting Legolas' arm behind his back as well. "Where is the map?"
    Legolas did not reply. It did no good to deny their having it, and leading these men back to Aragorn was not an option. So he kept his peace and said nothing.
    "What's the matter, freak? Can't talk for yourself when your friend isn't around?" Deollyn sneered at Legolas' silence. Pulling his own knife he ran the edge lightly around the back of Legolas' left ear, pausing by the base of the graceful point that it tapered into, unique to elves.
    "You know," he remarked to Paxcyn. "With a few changes he wouldn't look so different from us..." His thumb tightened on the top of Legolas' ear, pushing it back against the blade behind it.
    Several of the men chuckled and a chill that he could not help ran up Legolas' spine. He twisted against the arms that held him, but he was pinned quite firmly and couldn't get anywhere near his weapons, or break the hold that trapped him.
    "So tell me," Deollyn whispered with a twisted smile, his face a few inches from that of the prince. "Do elves bleed red? Let's find out."
    His fingers tightened, and he meant to cut the tips off the elf's ears, but he never got the chance.
    "Move one more inch and we'll see the color of your blood!" a hard, angry voice warned loudly and an arrow snapped into the tree by Deollyn's head. The men immediately turned towards where the arrow had come from. The sun had only just begun to rise and it was hard for their eyes to pierce the shadow of the trees in the direction from which the shot had originated.
    This worked to Aragorn's advantage as he swiftly and quietly circled around, now that they were all looking one direction, and snuck up behind them. Before Paxcyn knew what hit him, Aragorn clubbed him with the handle of his sword, causing the big man to stumble forward and release his hold on Legolas.
    The elf wasted no time in putting his newfound freedom to good use. Dodging those that would wish to retake him, he reached Aragorn's side swiftly.
    By now Paxcyn had recovered and Deollyn and the others had swung around to face the new threat. They were quickly overcoming their surprise and deadly intent was in their eyes.
    Neither the ranger nor the elf had any wish to linger any longer. Turning, the two friends darted away into the trees. Aragorn started to angle to the left, but Legolas stopped him, turning them onto a different course. "I saw the gates, Strider, they're this way!" he explained briefly.
    Aragorn had no breath to spare and simply nodded, following his friend's lead. Turning and darting between the trees, the young ranger glanced over his shoulder and saw that Paxcyn and his friends had produced horses from wherever they were hidden and were now riding down on them with alarmingly swift speed.
    The forest aided them because it slowed the horses, who could not navigate the narrow zig-zags between the trees as easily as the two on foot could, and the swaying branches and thick trunks blocked any attempt at clear arrow shots. However, as they sped towards the end of the wood, Legolas worried about the open plain he had seen beyond. The horses of their pursuers would eat that open distance up like wildfire. But there was nothing else for it.
    "Quickly, Aragorn!" Legolas ran ahead of the ranger, leaving the safety of the forests behind. He crossed the stream that fed the small lake in front of the westernmost door of Moria and ran for the stone fortress. The great doors stood ajar and one would not have known from looking at them open that they sealed without a trace when closed.
    Aragorn fled from their pursuers, his progress only slightly slower than the elf's. It was all the advantage Paxcyn needed. He spurred his horse on, gaining the ranger as the man crossed the riverbed.
    Paxcyn slipped his boot out of the stirrup and brought the metal rung down hard across the back of Aragorn's head as he passed the man, throwing him hard into the river.
    Legolas turned when he heard his friend cry out. He saw Strider fall and try to rise. The ranger staggered, as the world spun around him and he dropped to his knees.
    Deollyn sped out of the cover of the forest, following his captain. Seeing the downed man he aimed his steed for the ranger, jumping out of the saddle when he had reached the wounded man. Deollyn landed on Aragorn's back and pressed the ranger's face into the water, holding him down.
    Strider thrashed wildly, trying to throw his attacker off, but the blow to his head left him near blacking out. His lungs screamed for air as he tried to push himself up beneath the strong arms that held him down. Blackness pulled at his consciousness and his fighting stilled as his body gave way and water filled his lungs.
    Deollyn shoved the man down hard once more, slamming the ranger's face into the river rocks as he felt Aragorn go limp beneath him, a cruel smile decorated his face - for mere moments.
    A projectile hit Deollyn squarely in the chest and he was surprised when he looked down to see an elven arrow protruding from his heart. He was dead before he fell back into the stream, the current gently tugging his body away from where the ranger's floated, face down and unmoving.

    Drawn by the shouting and clamor close at hand, a short, stout dwarf with a red beard stepped out of the doorway to see what the commotion was. A small grouping of dwarves had gathered and were animatedly watching something on the opposite side of the small lake that pooled in front of Moria's back door. Rorin pushed his way past a few of them for a better view.
    "Hey now, what is going on here?" The rotund dwarf squinted into the noonday sun and watched a lithe blonde figure run across the rocky plateau, shouting at men on horses. He was even more surprised to see the being stop and turn back towards the doorway, calling his own name. Frowning at the person, Rorin stepped farther away, walking slowly around the lake. Dawning recognition lit his face with shock and he turned to the dwarves behind him yelling, "Come on, men! That there's Legolas the elf! He's in trouble!"
    The dwarves rushed from the mine and spilled onto the plateau, their axes and swords at the ready.
    Paxcyn heard the war shout and turned to see the smaller beings heading for he and his men. The horsemen had nearly encircled the elf and were trying to take the prince by force. However, with this new threat, Paxcyn knew they would be sorely outnumbered. Calling to his men he headed back into the woods, pointing the tip of his sword at the elf as a warning. Legolas however was too intent on getting to Strider and did not even note the intended threat.
    Aragorn had not risen from where he had fallen and Paxcyn's raiders had delayed Legolas in coming to his aide. The prince heard the dwarves rushing up behind him, but paid them no heed. Stumbling into the waist-high water he quickly grasped Aragorn by his overcoat, turning the human onto his back, and drug him back to shore.
    The ranger wasn't breathing as the elf dropped down next to him. Rorin ran up to Legolas and stared down at the human. It had been almost a year since he last saw the ranger and the elf, but now was not the time for surprise or greetings. Aragorn's face was pale and his lips were lightly tinged an alarming shade of blue.
    "How long?" The dwarf knelt next to the prince and immediately began feeling for the ranger's pulse. "How long has he been without air!?" he shouted again when Legolas did not answer him right away.
    The elf was breathing hard and his fear choked off his words. "Minutes." He glanced at the dwarf, "Minutes only."
    Blood ran across Aragorn's forehead where Deollyn had smashed his face down against the rocks. It pooled in the water that dripped from his hair. At least Aragorn was not just yet treading the misty halls of waiting, for dead men do not bleed, but he was out of time.
    Rorin brushed the elf out of the way and stood over the still body of the human. He placed his hands atop one another, interlacing his fingers and forcefully pressed them against Aragorn's sternum. The man convulsed under the pressure with no results. Rorin repeated the move several more times before the ranger began to cough up water.
    "On his side!" Rorin stepped away from the human and instructed the prince, "Turn him on his side, help him to breathe, quickly."
    Legolas swiftly eased Aragorn over onto his side, holding the man in place. He gently brushed wayward strands of hair from the ranger's face as Aragorn coughed the water out of his lungs and took ragged, labored breaths, not quite conscious yet.

    "That's it, Strider, breathe." Legolas spoke quietly in elvish, rubbing the man's back while he calmed his body. A shaking wet hand gripped the elf's and Legolas eased the human onto his back, pulling the ranger against him and allowing Aragorn to rest in his arms.
    "You scared me," Legolas whispered.
    "I s-scared myself," Aragorn stuttered through the shivers that wracked his body.
    Rorin dropped down in front of him and leaned in close to the man, "Welcome back, Strider." He smiled broadly as the ranger looked up at him.
    "Rorin." Aragorn smiled into the round face. "Good to see you." He clasped the dwarf's shoulder.
    "What say you come inside and we have a look at those wounds of yours?" Rorin poked his finger ungently against the cut on Aragorn's head causing the man to wince and pull back.
    He could feel Legolas' hand against the back of his head where Paxcyn had hit him with stirrup.
    "Good Master dwarf! I'll thank you not to torment Strider anymore." The elf glowered at the smaller being as Aragorn flinched away from his touch. "The manners of dwarves leave a lot to be desired."
    "As do the opinions of elves." Rorin stood and crossed his hands over his chest glaring back at the prince. "Say... weren't you dying when you left here last?" the dwarf crinkled his bushy eyebrows in recollection.
    "Sorry to disappoint you," Legolas retorted dryly.
    "Enough, you two." Aragorn pressed himself up, trying to gain his footing only to fall back against Legolas who had risen with him. "Let's just go inside shall we?" He glanced carefully over his shoulder into the woods looking for their attackers.
    "Are they gone?" he questioned Legolas.
    "For now." The elf followed his gaze over the heads of the dwarves that encircled them. Gently he led the human inside the walls of Moria.


    Legolas elbowed the human seated next to him at the large round table. Balin was entertaining his men, regaling them with a tale of the old days. For the comfort of their guests, the dwarves had taken them to a guard tower some distance up the mountain, above and slightly to the east of the gates.
    Legolas of course had never been fond of caves, but now Aragorn had discovered that he could not enter the deep, darkness of Moria, even lighted as it was by the presence of the dwarves, without an upwelling of dark and evil memories. The result of his last trip here had been anything but good, yet it was more than that that disturbed the ranger, although he did not know it. There was evil stirring again in Moria, if indeed it had ever really slept. Balin and his dwarves had claimed the vast realm as theirs, but the old terrors that held it were not about to let go so easily. Yet Aragorn and Legolas realized not what it was that they sensed, and thought only that the evil memory of their last trip made the mines an unwelcoming place.
    At any rate, Balin had quickly seen their discomfort, especially Aragorn's since he was already ill and off his strength from his near death experience, and ordered that accommodations be made here in the upper guard house.
    Balin was still talking. He had drifted away from tales of the elder days of Durin's folk and was in the middle of one reliving his own adventures now. In truth, it was an interesting story, but Legolas was not paying a great deal of attention.
    At his side, Aragorn's head was beginning to nod, unnoticed by the dwarves as Balin gave a greatly embellished account of how he and his companions had mistakenly camped in the doorway of a Goblin hole in the Misty Mountains many, many years ago.
    "Stay awake, Estel," the prince whispered in elvish.
    Aragorn groaned softly and touched the back of his head. It was throbbing and he ached. He had declined the food that was brought to them as nausea had settled into his stomach after his wounds had been seen to. His head was swathed in a bandage that wrapped around it, binding up the cut to the front and a nasty gash in the back from Paxcyn's stirrup. Legolas had been incensed when he saw the ugly cut, but there was nothing he could do save let the dwarf healers tend his friend.
    Legolas pressed Aragorn's hand gently away from the bandage, answering his friend's soft moan. "The healers said you can't sleep for a bit."
    "I don't care what they said," the human growled back at him. He was tired and he ached. He turned weary, dilated eyes on the elf.
    Shaking his head in regret, the elf stared back at the man. The dilation in the ranger's eyes was receding, but slowly. He had been warned if he were allowed to sleep too soon, he could lapse into a coma from the head injuries he sustained and never wake again. There was no arguing with the man when he was tired and so the elf simply sighed and calmly replied, "Then stay awake for me. If I have to sit here and suffer one more tale of the old glory days of the dwarves, then the least you can do is keep me company."
    Aragorn laughed slightly and smiled, gingerly nodding his head.
    "Here," Legolas pushed a mug of warm tea in front of the man, "drink it."
    "No, I'm not hungry," Aragorn declined.
    Legolas leaned over, never looking at the human, but pretending to pay attention to Balin he smiled slightly and whispered, "Drink and do not make me make a scene." This had become quite a running joke between them by now.
    A small snicker accompanied the shove as the ranger pushed the elf away from him and grabbed the rough, clay mug. The warmth felt good in his hands and, as he passed the drink under his nose, the smell seemed to calm the rolling in his stomach and he took a small sip.


    He drummed his fingers in agitation on the overly ornate chair arm. Waiting was not one of his better attributes. He made a mental note to meditate on that later. He would need patience if his plans were to be seen through to their ends. Odd, but living in Middle-earth had not helped the impatience that clawed at his heart, or perhaps it was just the incompetence of the men in his employ. He had toyed with the idea of using orcs instead. Although dimwitted at times, they were obedient to a flaw.
    "My liege." A deep, rough voice interrupted Sauruman's thoughts and he turned to the door near his right, motioning to the human who stood on the threshold.
    "What have you discovered?" The wizard's voice was soft and seductive; his eyes seemed to pierce through the man who stepped warily before him.
    "It is as you have said. The human and the elf are holed up with the dwarves in Moria. There is no way to take them while they stay there." The man raised dark eyes and glanced at the tall white-haired sorcerer. He had heard tales of this one but had passed them off as myth when he had been approached by the Maiar for his services.
    "Drelent, your kind tests my patience. I grow weary of waiting for the map. The ones I sent out before you have failed me repeatedly. I want you to take your men and bring back the map, or that elf and his companion, whichever you must. But I want that seeing stone and I will pay you well for your assistance. I care not what you do with Paxcyn and his men. They have not pleased me and they will be rewarded for their blunders." Sauruman leaned forward and glared at the human. He wondered what type of a man this one that stood before him was. Drelent was thin with a gaunt face. A scar marred his left cheek, running from the corner of his eye down his cheekbone. Grey tinged his dark hair and he stood easily in the presence of the wizard, his hand resting lightly on the pommel of his sword. Sauruman smiled slightly, the gaze one might give to a creature it has just purchased.
    "Are you sure, my lord?" Drelent shifted his weight; uncomfortable with the stare the wizard laid on him. It seemed to bore through to his heart. "I know of Paxcyn and he is good hunter, he never loses his prey and has never forfeited on a job."
    Sauruman glanced behind the human, slowly focusing on the window in the anterior room. He sighed with feigned patience, "They are idiots. They have let the map slip through their fingers twice now. I wish for no more delays."
    "May I ask how you know of this? It took my own man days to return information to me."
    "I have my spies. They, unlike others who serve me, do not lie." Saruman turned his attention back to the man. "Do you have a problem with obtaining the item?"
    "No, my lord." Drelent frowned, thinking over the situation. "I'll need a few extra men though."
    "Take all you want, make sure they can be trusted. Take orcs for all I care, simply bring me what is mine."
    Drelent nodded hesitantly, the mention of orcs sending eerie shivers up his spine. "As you wish, my lord." The man backed warily out of the circular room.
    Saruman watched him leave, disdain marking his severe features. He had wondered often why men still existed. Someday, someone would have to do something about that mistake of nature. He smiled slightly, his lips turning up in a cruel sneer. Perhaps one day he would be that one. With that thought in his mind he descended from his seat and wandered to the back of the room; there was a pet project he needed to tend to. As he opened the secret door in the rotund room the high-pitched keening cry of orcs could just be heard. Pleased with his traitorous dealings, he descended the steps into the hidden bowels of Orthanc. Patience, yes he would need patience, but only for a little while longer. The door to the upper chambers swung silently shut.


    Legolas sat perched in the open window of the guard tower, the map spread out in his lap. The moonlight spilling into the high window glowed and glinted on the moon runes etched into the paper. He had spent the better part of the night attempting to decipher the ancient language that the directions had been printed in with little results. It was neither elvish nor dwarvish, but a writing that was foreign to him. He let his eyes rest on the distant stars, his thought flung far ahead of them toward home.
    Soft sounds drew his attention and he glanced back into the dimly lit room. Aragorn shifted where he lay on a pallet near the far wall, sleeping soundly. When he had finally been allowed to sleep the dwarves had left them and retired for the night, bringing in two sleeping beds and food and water for their guests. The guard tower was usually empty of such comforts, used mostly to watch over the gates of the mine in times of war.
    Legolas glanced back out into the night, casting his eyes down to the forest that they had left only that morning. Barely visible under its darkened canopy across from the lake, the elf could just make out Paxcyn's camp, the fires of the human's site flickering through the branches of the obscuring trees. He sighed deeply. There was no way to exit without being seen. They would need to plan how and when to leave Moria in order to make the best escape. He turned weary eyes down to the paper once more. The gently glowing words seemed to blur together and he pressed the palms of his hands against his eyes, another sigh escaping his lips.
    "Come and rest."
    The softly spoken words startled the elf and he turned in the window to glance back at the ranger. Aragorn's dark silver eyes were watching him sleepily, lit by the moon's glow, shadowed by his unkempt hair.
    "Why are you awake?" he whispered to the human as he jumped lightly down and approached the ranger's cot.
    "Because I heard you sighing." Aragorn smiled softly. "Come take your ease, my friend. Morning will be here soon enough."
    "Are you having trouble sleeping? Do you hurt?" Legolas crouched down next to the human's pallet as Aragorn raised himself up on his elbows. The elf gently brushed his hands against the bandage that encircled the man's head, tucking the edges of it back in on itself where it had come loose.
    "No. I am fine." The ranger shook his head and glanced out the window. "It was good of Balin to put us up here for the night. I could not have slept inside Moria. I do not wish to enter there ever again." The shivers that coursed through his body had nothing to do with the chill in the air.
    Legolas nodded in understanding, reaching out to touch the man on his shoulder, pulling the human's blanket up around him. "It is just as well. I have no desire to be inside another cave for a very long time. I don't care what they say, that is just a big hole in the ground, nothing more than a cave." The elf smiled as Aragorn laughed.
    "Get some sleep, Legolas. We'll leave tomorrow." The human laid his head back down on the small pillow he had been given and glanced up at his friend.
    "That might not be so easy." Legolas pulled his cot closer so their heads would be nearer each other, making it easier to talk in the night. He lay down on the stretched skin and pulled his blanket about his shoulders, turning so that he faced Aragorn.
    "Why?" the man asked quietly, suddenly worried.
    "Paxcyn and his men are encamped in the woods below. They will note our leaving. They will be waiting." Legolas breathed in deeply, letting sleep steal over him slowly. "Worry not, Strider. We will find some way to elude them." He glanced at the man and smiled. "Go back to sleep. You need the rest."
    A soft snort answered him and he smiled as sleep stole over him, the soft sounds of Aragorn burrowing back under his blanket calming his heart. The morning would bring its own set of worries; it would do no good to trouble on them tonight.