Title:  Bitten - Author:  Legorfilinde, Dark Forest Singer - Rating:  PG-13 - Summary:  Aragorn must travel to distant Rhûn and what he finds there is much more than he could ever imagine.  When he fails to return, it is left to Legolas to search for him and bring him home.  But is he too late? - Spoilers:  Some references to earlier works, Bait, Death of a Brother, Dragonrider, Hidden, or Fireside Tales might pop up now and again. - Disclaimer:  I do not own anything that has to do with J.R.R. Tolkien's works, characters, stories, histories, or maps and am not being paid for this piece of fan fiction.

//Well, is he cured or will he be 'wolveranger' from now on?  Let's see.//

Part Sixteen

          The thunderous drums broke the ominous silence of the circle and the masked dancers once again began their madly spinning dance about the edges of the fire lit ring.  Dakmar's strong hand clamped over Legolas' mouth and stifled the cry that rose up from deep within the Elf as he saw Strider's spent body dangling between the pillars of stone.  The Drúath's right arm swung across the Elf's upper chest and roughly rose up under his jaw, pressing back into his throat, choking him.  Dakmar's lips pressed close to the Elf's sensitive ear and the man's harsh whisper echoed within his skull.

          "Do not move!" Dakmar hissed.

          Legolas' battle-hardened instincts reacted to the assault and his hands flew upward, gripping Dakmar's forearm.   He tried to pull the arm free of his neck, but the Drúath was ruthless in his strength and determination to keep the prince still.  The Elf's terror-filled gaze flitted back and forth across the circle as the men began to chant and the Gûladan's body started to shake and twitch as the malevolent black cloud drifted from Strider's still form toward Raduvhar and then it hungrily wrapped itself about the sorcerer's convulsing body.

          "The varázslatos must now do battle with the demon-wolf on the planes of the Shadow Realm.  This is the most perilous time for your friend.  In order to live, he must die and resurrect.  If the spell is broken now the demon will claim him and he will die – never to resurrect again.  He will be doomed to haunt the Shadow Realms forever."  Dakmar's arm cruelly jerked up against Legolas' throat and the Elf gagged.  "Do you understand?"

          Legolas' head nodded once and Dakmar slowly inched his hand away from the Elf's mouth.  When he was certain that the prince would make no further sound, his arm eased off the Elf's throat, but he did not remove it.  Instead, he pulled Legolas backward against his chest and then pulled his body down to the ground.  Once he had forced Legolas onto his knees, he slowly lowered his forearm and slid his hands onto the Elf's shoulders, compelling him to sit back down upon the ground.  Gandalf clasped Legolas' wrist and held it tightly and both stared at the frenzied scene within the circle before them.

          The warriors began to chant louder and stronger, the repetitive words sending magic and power to the sorcerer as his body writhed and jerked.  Twirling and spinning, he battled the amorphous cloud that was the demon spirit.

          "By the powers of Earth, We cast out the beast."

          "By the powers of Air, We cast out the beast."

          "By the powers of Fire, We cast out the beast."

          "By the powers of Water, We cast out the beast."

          "By the powers of Ether, We cast out the beast."

          The drums pounded within Legolas' head and vibrated through his bones and he could feel his heartbeat quickening as the dancers increased their pace, spinning in front of his eyes until they became a nauseating blur of movement.  While the men continued their chant, several of the sorcerer's attendants clasped the possessed magic man and lifted him up, his contorting body thrashing between them as they carried him to the stone altar.  Hastily, they set his struggling form atop the dark stone amid the vials, potions and other magical utensils already there.   One man grasped his ankles while another pressed down upon his shoulders and together they fought to keep the Gûladan's twisting body atop the stone.

          The huge warrior behind the altar retrieved the werewolf skull from off Strider's brow and carried it back to the altar.  He lifted the head above the squirming sorcerer and the dark mist that now totally engulfed Raduvhar.  The chanting rhythm of the men's words grew to a deafening roar.

          "By the powers of the greater werewolf, cast out the beast!" the warrior shouted above the droning of the men and upon the altar beneath him Raduvhar cried out in pain.

          Three deep gashes appeared across his chest, made by the ravaging claws of an unseen beast.  Blood gushed from the gaping wounds and flowed down the sides of the sorcerer's chest, dripping onto the stone of the altar and pooling beneath his back.   And then as quickly as they had appeared, the horrific cuts disappeared and the piercing howl of a wounded beast echoed throughout the forest.  The black cloud whipped and swirled around and over the prone body of the Gûladan and the beat of the drums reached a crescendo.

          Legolas stared at the altar transfixed as the demonic ebony fog began to transform and shift into the form of a snarling man-beast and the two opponents twisted and fought upon the top of the altar and then suddenly they tumbled to the ground in a tangled mass of limbs.  The attendants backed away and let the combatants fight in this treacherous and deadly battle.  The demon's clawed hands wrapped around the sorcerer's neck and Raduvhar struggled beneath the weight of the beast, now in a physical form and very much alive.

          The chanting grew in its intensity and the drums beat faster and Legolas could feel the air about him hum and come alive with power and energy.   His eyes turned from the battling figures and looked to Strider and he could see his friend's body jerking and twisting as if it were a toy being battered about by unseen giants.   A hideous cry brought Legolas' head jerking back to the sorcerer and he saw the brilliant flash of the silver knife in the Gûladan's hand and then it plunged into the heart of the black beast.   A blood-chilling shriek penetrated the maddening sound of the chanting and the drums.

          Strider and the demon screamed in unison and then both fell forward.  The beast writhed upon the ground at the sorcerer's feet for one brief and mesmerizing moment before it altered shape and reformed, once again becoming the shifting black mist.  A monstrous whirlwind swept through the circle and then coned upward into the heavens, sucking the black cloud into its midst and then it vanished from sight.  The ranger hung between the stone columns, his head against his chest and did not move.  Horrified, Legolas stared at his friend, unable to discern whether he lived or breathed.  The sorcerer staggered toward the altar and raised his arms skyward, the silver knife lifted high above his head, the black blood of the demon dripping from its sharp edge.

          "I, Raduvhar, thank you Talaj for your aid, and I release you from this circle!" he commanded.

          His booming voice continued as he named the other elements in turn, returning these spirits to their abodes, but to Legolas time had stopped and he was not aware of anything around him save the sight of the ranger's unmoving body, still chained and hanging between the towers of stone.  He was not even aware that he had moved until he found himself kneeling in front of Aragorn, cradling the man's head upon his chest as he smoothed the damp hair back away from his friend's pallid face.

          The masked attendants materialized out of the smoky haze and loosened the chains, releasing Strider's wrists from the iron rings and he fell forward into Legolas' arms.  The Elf slowly eased the ranger down to the ground and placed a shaking and frightened hand upon his chest, gently touching the glaring imprint of his hand still visible upon the ranger's pale flesh.  Strider's eyelids slowly opened and his dazed eyes stared upward, unseeing.  His lips trembled and he tried to sound out words, but only a harsh croaking hiss emerged and Legolas placed his fingertips upon the man's mouth and whispered.

          "Shhhhh, do not try to speak, mellon nin."  A shuddering sob choked back any further words he might have uttered and he clasped Strider's cold hand with his own.

          Dakmar suddenly appeared at his elbow and placed a comforting hand upon the Elf's shoulder.  "Bring him," he said softly, and Legolas nodded that he understood, still unable to speak.

          He slid his arms beneath Strider's gaunt body and easily lifted the ranger up and into his arms and then turned to follow Dakmar.   He carried Strider toward the Gûladan's lodge and followed the Drúath as he guided him to a small, back room within the large building and then carefully placed the ranger onto a pallet that had been earlier prepared for him.  One of the sorcerer's young acolytes entered the room carrying blankets and cloths and another soon followed with a basin of water and healing unguents.

          Dakmar gently clasped the Elf's forearm and pulled him away from the bed.  "Come," he said.  "They will see to his injuries.  You may return to him when they have finished."

          Legolas was reluctant to leave Strider's side, but slowly nodded and allowed the warrior to lead him away to a small alcove near Strider's room.  Mithrandir stood within the hallway outside waiting for him and smiled as he saw the Elf approach.   The maiar clasped Legolas' elegant hands between his own and nodded his bearded head, his eyes over bright and shining.

          "It is done," he murmured.  "He is free of the beast."

          Legolas' eyes shut briefly and he squeezed the wizard's hands in return.  When he could find his voice, he asked.  "How long before he fully recovers?"

          The wizard's smile faded and he shook his head.  "No one can say.  Perhaps in the morning we shall know more once the Gûladan has recovered his strength and we may speak with him."

          "I wish to remain here with him," Legolas replied.

          "Of course," Mithrandir nodded.  "Strider will need you now, more than ever.  I shall return to you both tomorrow."

          Dakmar placed a hand upon the Elf's shoulder and when Legolas turned to face him, the warrior nodded his head toward Strider's room.  "He asks for you."

          Legolas brought his hand up to his shoulder and covered the warrior's hand with his own.  Their eyes met and locked and then he nodded to the Drúath.

          "I thank you and your people for his life."

          Dakmar smiled and merely nodded his dark head.  Then he stepped aside and allowed the Elf to return to his friend.  The attendants were just leaving as Legolas entered the small room and he quickly moved to Strider's bedside.  The young boys had washed away the blood from the ranger's face and had bandaged his cut forearm.  They had also bathed his body and pulled the blankets up and over Strider's chest and Legolas could just see the edges of the soft linen that bound his chest.  His eyes closed briefly and a pained and sorrowful expression washed over his beautiful face as he vividly recalled the burned and bloodied impression of his palm upon Strider's flesh.

          As he silently sat upon the edge of the cot, Strider's eyes slowly opened and eventually focused upon the Elf.   His hand reached up and Legolas swiftly clasped it between his palms.

          "I am here mellon nin," he said quietly.  "Are you in pain?"

          The ranger shook his head, his eyes momentarily closing, and when they opened again, they seemed clearer, yet weary.  "Tired," he rasped.  "Very tired."

          Legolas placed his hand upon the ranger's forehead and was relieved to find it cool and dry.  He brushed the dark hair to the side and looked intently down into the silver eyes of his friend.  "The beast is gone?"

          Strider nodded slightly.  "I no longer feel the evil weighing upon my soul," he murmured.

          Legolas smiled and squeezed the ranger's hand tightly.  "Rest now, Estel.  You are safe.  I shall be right here."

          Strider mumbled a response, yet even Legolas' keen ears could not understand what was said, and he carefully placed the ranger's arm back down onto the bed.  He rose from the cot and sank down upon the furs and hides beside the bed and leaned his back against the wall.   He rested his arms across his raised knees and settled back to keep a silent watch over his friend's sleep.


          Legolas was not aware that he had been sleeping until the firm hand upon his shoulder shook him to full awareness.  He anxiously turned to the ranger's bedside, but the deep voice beside him reassured him that the human was well.

          "He is resting," the Gûladan answered the question in the Elf's eyes.  "I wish to speak with him alone.  Get some nourishment, bátyja lékek*.  You may return to him when we are finished."

          Legolas started to protest, his eyes lingering upon the ranger's prone form, but he silently nodded his head and gracefully rose to his feet.  With a deferential bow to the elder Drúath, he quietly left the room and Raduvhar sat down alongside the dozing ranger.

          "Legolas?" Strider asked as his eyes slowly opened.

          "I asked him to leave us for a moment," the Gûladan replied.  His dark eyes stared down at the pale ranger, searching the man's face for any evidence of the evil that had so recently plagued him and seeing none, continued.  "He will return to you soon." 

          It took a great deal more effort to rise than he thought it would, but Strider managed to push himself up onto his elbows and he looked back at the sorcerer with a tense and anxious gaze.  When he spoke, his voice was ragged and hesitant.

          "Am I truly cured?" he asked quietly.

          The Gûladan nodded, and a slight smile played at the corners of his mouth at the relieved sigh that escaped Strider's lips.  "The evil has left you."  He paused.  "The spirit of the wolf, however, remains."

          Strider's eyes filled with renewed fear and he sat completely upright, wincing with the effort.  "I don't understand?" he gasped.   "If I am cured, what do you mean the spirit of the wolf remains?"

          The sorcerer laughed softly and placed his hand upon the ranger's chest, gently pushing him back down onto the bed.  "I think you know," he said calmly.  "You have wandered alone for much of your life.  You are cunning and resourceful and you have the valor of one who has known much adversity.  Yet you would also sacrifice your life for the benefit of others."  Raduvhar's gaze traveled to the doorway where Legolas had only recently left the room.  "For one in particular."

          He turned back to face the ranger.  "The spirit of the wolf gives you great power.  That is why evil wished to claim you for its own.  By defeating it, you have grown stronger.  Use the wolf, young ranger," the sorcerer said as he rose from the bedside.  "He will be your strength."

          Strider stared at the sorcerer, unable to sort out his confused and conflicting thoughts, but before he could speak, the Gûladan waved his hand over the ranger's eyes and he swiftly fell back into a deep and dreamless sleep.  When Legolas returned to his bedside with a platter of food and a flagon of sweet wine, he found the ranger sleeping soundly and the sorcerer no where to be seen.   Smiling, he quietly set the tray and wine aside and sat back down beside the bed, nesting his hands behind his neck as he leaned back against the furs.  He could wait.  There would be time enough to talk later; time to heal – for both of them.

The End

*spirit brother