Title: What Lies Within

Beta: TC angel face ( . ?userid=370422 )

Summary: A darkness older than anyone can remember has awoken in the gloom of Mirkwood, hungry for blood and vengeance. From the shadows it targets the Prince Legolas and his friends. Soon this evil has wormed its way into their kin and it looks as if this battle may prove harder than any they had ever fought before.

Canon Notes: Set pre - LotR with mild canon tweaks, including our own specifics on vampire anatomy, as Tolkien gave little detail. Aragorn was raised in Elrond's home literally, and Elladan and Elrohir are his adoptive brothers. They are close friends with Legolas, and the four have a tendency to get into trouble.

Disclaimer: We own nothing and we aren't making any money (wish we were), so please don't sue us! All the toy soldiers will be returned to the trunk once we are through.

Author's Notes: A vampire fic? Why the heck not, they are canon afterall. TC came up with the initial idea, but the bunny kind of dragged me away with it. ;)

Rating: PG-13 for entire story

Warnings: Eventual gore and angst.

What Lies Within

by Fairy Laughing and TC

Prelude

Mirkwood had once been called Greenwood the Great for at sometime it had been the greatest of the forests of Middle Earth, even all of Arda. The trees were wide and their branches spread far to form a huge canopy. One could feel very small in Greenwood, and even smaller in Mirkwood where the trees had grown into dark presences, havens were dark creatures lay in wait. Spiders had nearly taken over half the wood, save the area guarded by the wood elves. The palace, where the elves resided, was a safe place, a sanctuary whose doors were often closed to travellers who were not elves or elf-friends.

Yet deep within the caverns, where even the daylight was as dark as a shadow, and the shadows pitch-black, fear slept. These were the natural caves that had formed beneath the surface millions of years before, and now something over a millennium old was awakening. Even the oldest and wisest of the elves, the immortals who walked Middle Earth, knew not of the evil that was rousing in the depths of Mirkwood, concealed in the subterranean gloom beneath the earth.

Eyes - dark, glittering jade orbs - opened quickly and closed again as dirt tumbled into them. Claw-like hands with long nails reached up through the soft earth, pushing it aside as it drew itself up. Then the figure, male in appearance though exceedingly thin, emerged from the cavern's soft floor in a shower of dust and small stones, stretching emaciated limbs covered with grey skin. He then gave a great yawn, opening his mouth to reveal a row of pearly white teeth, sharpened to fangs.

'At last.' He thought, to himself, carefully examining the sleek, bat-like wings that rested on his back. They were free of the wounds that had marked them so long before, healed by time and rest. 'At last I am awake again...'

A rough laugh issued from cracked lips, his head tilted forwards so that grimy red hair cascaded before his face as the laugh rose in pitch. Soon he threw his head back and gave a gleeful cackle, the tone rising to manic level. Near the mouth of the cavern, Mirkwood's giant spiders fled fearfully, tripping over their long legs.

What Lies Within

by Fairy Laughing, with help from TC

Chapter I: Delay in the Old Woods

Beneath the interlacing branches of tall, dark trees passed four figures on horses in the misty dusk, their breaths coming in puffs of smoke in front of them. Though the deciduous trees were all bare, the evergreens above gave some protection against the lazily falling snow. It was the dead of winter, and bitterly cold, especially at night. They had intended to be in the Mirkwood palace before nightfall, but as it looked now they would need to ride throughout the night, despite the dangers of the old wood. It was, after all, even more dangerous to halt for the night in times like these. Legolas, the blonde wood elf native to the forest, and the crowned Prince of the kingdom, gave a sigh, for he knew that they would easily loose their way in this fog, but his companions seemed to be disregarding his warnings.

These warnings were well founded, for someone watched them from the shadows, unable to see them but fully aware of their presence for they were near him. So near that he could nearly smell their blood; he could feel the steady pulse of their hearts, beating wildly, with blood so like his own, yet very much different. He listened to it gushing through their veins and licked his lips, thinking about how thirsty he was... so very thirsty for fresh blood. After feeding on spider blood for the last month, he was so thirsty for something more substantial. Three were immortal elves, he could tell, and the other a young mortal man, for his heart was different. It beat faster, and less regularly, but with greater strength and passion when compared to the elves' efficient indifference. Hissing, he drew closer to get a better look at the blonde elf. Was that the elf that he thought it was? It could not be... but perhaps one of his descendants.

"Elladan, just try to keep up!" Estel, the young human, cried as he gave his foster brother's horse a swift slap on her hindquarters. She whinnied and jolted forward, breaking into a gallop with Elladan clinging to her back. Estel was laughing as he spurred his stallion on, matching Elladan's speed along the pathway. Elrohir, the identical twin to Elladan, turned to Legolas with a look of helplessness before he too spurred his mare to match their pace. Legolas growled in frustration, and tried to catch up the fleeing sons of Elrond. Estel was in the lead, his horse kicking up snow and exhaling huge bursts of steam. Soon, the path grew narrow, and Elladan and Elrohir were riding next to one another, but if they did not break apart soon, they would run into a tree.

Elrohir quickly pulled his reins to the left, slipping between the thick trunks. "Stop!" he commanded his mare in elvish, but to no avail, for something seemed to have spooked his normally well-mannered mount. "Stop, I said, stop!" He continued, his voice edged with panic as they continued to run through the dense shrubbery. Elrohir clutched the reigns tighter, his knuckles turning white, and drew himself nearer to his mare's warm body so that he would not strike his head on low branches. Eventually she drew to a halt, and he slid off, staring as she pawed the ground with one hoof and snorted, her nostrils flaring. She was still uncomfortable, but no longer in a complete panic. Idly stroking her frothy coat, Elrohir wondered what could have frightened her so. His answer spoke to him.

"Help me!" Cried an elvish voice, small and child-like. Elrohir turned to see a little elven girl in a tattered dress, barely enough for the snowy weather, standing a short ways away from him in a patch of moonlight that broke through the branches. Her face was ashen, and her wide blue eyes streaming with tears.

"What is amiss, little one?" Elrohir asked, approaching the girl openly after tying his mare to a nearby tree.

"I am lost!" She cried, allowing Elrohir to wrap his cloak about her.

"All is well," He soothed, rubbing her back, "You are from the city in these woods?"

She sniffed and nodded, wiping her eyes on his cloak.

"My companions and I are headed there; we shall take you home," he gently clasped her small hand, "I am Elrohir, what is your name?"

"Aini."

Elrohir found it most curious that she was so far out alone, and asked her, "Are you alone, Aini?"

The girl shook her head, hiccupping softly, "My brother is still in the cave. He was attacked by spiders... can you save him?"

"Where is he?"

She grasped Elrohir's hand tightly, and led him to a place where a cave mouth yawned open, pointing one finger towards it, "In there."

His expression turned grim; Elrohir knew that there was little chance of the girl's brother living still, but perhaps if she was still alive, then so was he. "What is your brothers' name?"

"Aiden."

"Thank you. Now, wait out here." He instructed, releasing her hand and unsheathing his long sword. Then he ventured forth into the foreboding darkness. The air smelt of spider webs, mildew and dust and he waited a few moments for his eyes to adjust before peering around. But still the shadows held fast, and the cavern remained veiled to his sight.

"Aiden!" Elrohir called, cautiously taking a few more steps into the inky blackness, "Aiden, are you here?"

'Do you live?' Elrohir mentally added.

A sudden sound, somewhere between a hiss and a growl sounded behind Elrohir and suddenly something landed on his back. It's limbs held fast as he struggled, twisting and turning in an attempt to dislodge the attacker, the cavern too dark for him to make out its form. It was light, but very strong, and very agile, for as much as Elrohir desperately tried to reach it, it kept moving about.

At some point he managed to get his sword behind himself and stab at the attacker, only achieving one solid hit which then earned him a sharp pain in his neck; a bite, he realized.

Elrohir gasped, his equilibrium thrown off with the added weight and pain. He toppled, face-first, towards the ground, the attacker still clinging to his back. Slowly Elrohir felt himself grow dizzy, his senses melting into vague, hazy messages. His limbs ceased to work, growing numb and freezing. Then he knew that he could not remain conscious for much longer; the shadows pulling at his mind grew too strong and at last Elrohir sank into the welcoming oblivion.

- - -

To be continued...