His skin was flushed and warm and the wound itself was red and puckered. Legolas had filled the hungry looking mouth with the juice of crushed Athelas leaves but the ravaged wound had not yet yielded to the medicine. Aragorn slipped in and out of awareness, sometimes crying out in pain, sometimes staring blankly ahead as Legolas shielded him from the light rain that fell now and then. Raindrops shimmered silver on the elf's hair. They beaded his nose and lips. The cloak which had covered them both shone an iridescent green as sudden sunlight caught the elf and ranger lying pressed against the moss covered rocks hidden in the tall grass.
"Look Aragorn the sun comes to great you on this wonderful day." Legolas said but Aragorn did not respond. The pain had gone so deep inside that he heard nothing at all. He slumped forward as Legolas kissed his hot brow. But the elf raised him to his feet, and supporting the ranger's weight began clearing a path for them through the grass.
They had been very fortunate to escape the raiders alive. Fierce were the Haradrim and merciless were their warriors. Coming upon them had been unexpected for they had lain silent and hidden in the towering grasses of the plains hoping to escape with their bounty undetected. It had been the quiet sigh of a young warrior that had alerted Legolas to their presence, but too late. They were already within their midst.
Like demons had they risen from the tall grasses frightening in their glaring reds and ochres. Aragorn's horse had reared up, so unaccustomed to their harsh scent was it and spilling the ranger from his seat bolted. Legolas had dismounted then, letting his own mount loose. Back to back they had fought surrounded by nine warriors. The first skirmish had seen three dead from the combined skills of the young ranger and doughty elf. But then an unforeseen arrow had caught the ranger at midriff. Crying out in surprise he had fallen to his knees...
The plains seemed endless to Aragorn, each step bringing jarring pain to his belly. He wondered why he was not lying down when the ground was so soft underfoot. Something was carrying him along, making him move, forcing him forward. It wouldn't let him rest. At times he would protest, wanting a respite from the pain, at times he would just bear it. He wondered when it would end. Soon he thought it could not go on forever.
"Look the forest lies ahead," Legolas whispered to pale and trembling Aragorn. "Soon we will be safe."
It appeared that the ranger heard him for he raised his head and looked up at the sky. But Aragorn had not heard, it was an errant breeze bringing coolness to his brow that gave to him a measure of relief. There were no birds in the sky he noticed. It was a clear and brilliant blue. He wondered where they had all gone.
Legolas paused for breath, he was beginning to feel a bit tired. He carried the full weight of his friend and though extremely hardy he had suffered two deep slashes across the chest provoking an unaccustomed weakness in him. His tunic was blood soaked yet given a few hours of complete rest he would recover entirely. But he could not stop now, not until he reached the shelter of the forest there were three Haradrim warriors yet alive.
They descended on Aragorn like carrion birds, thinking the wounded young ranger an easy target. But Legolas leapt in the midst of them slashing wildly like an orc beserker. That had given Aragorn the reprieve he needed to rise to his feet and he had fought on until one more of the Haradrim was downed. But then a blow to his middle from a wily warrior of the Haradrim had put paid to his efforts. Gasping in pain he had almost been slain but yet again Legolas had been there, blocking the deadly blow with his body. A shout of pain had been ripped from the elf as the jagged blades of the enemy ripped into his flesh but he had lunged forward even in the face of death and with his twin blades removed the neck of the enemy. The remaining warriors had pulled back in the face of such a vicious reprisal, wonderment and respect he saw on their faces. They stood silent and still as he had pulled Aragorn to his feet, they had watched with one arm crossed over their chest and he backed away to disappear into the long grass. He did not know their custom but even he knew that they had not given up. They had given him time, time to flee, time to recuperate before the hunt began in earnest.
A white heron flew up from grass and Legolas froze for an instant, then clasping his hand across Aragorn's mouth pulled him down to the ground. He hardly dared breathe. Surely the warriors were near. He slithered lower almost invisible in the grass, forcing Aragorn prone.
Blessed was the soft earth and grass beneath. Aragorn almost wiggled with pleasure as his tortured body relaxed against the cool earth. Above him some silver thing tickled his face. He smiled thinking it an errant stalk of grass.
One blade was in his hand before he had even begun to move. He covered Aragorn as best he could with his cloak, leaving the barest of spaces for the ranger to breathe. He moved sideways and outward in the tall grass. There was an uneasy silence in the air a sense of waiting. A whisper of sound came from his right. Legolas went onto his belly then, there was a scrape of cloth to his left and then nothing else. Legolas went utterly still.
For a long time there was no sound except the wind moving briskly through the grass. Aragorn looked up at the waving heavy heads of the grasses as they swayed in the breeze. He pulled the light cloth from his face and reached up to touch them but the movement pulled something deep inside and he moaned. Before he could take another breath there was an explosion of noise. A demon burning as red as a sun covered the sky. Aragorn's eyes grew round and his lips parted in surprise. A growl issued from the monster and Aragorn felt cold fear course through him. It pushed the pain aside and made him remember the morning. His fingers twitched towards his sword even as he realized he was alone and unarmed.
There was a blur of gold and green and suddenly red rain poured from the sky. Aragorn jerked as a gush of warm red liquid bathed him in fire...
Covered from head to toe in the blood of his enemy, lips pulled back in a snarl, Legolas looked more like demented Uruk-hai than Mirkwood elf, but Aragorn sighed in relief as the elf stooped next to him blades out. The elf scanned the grasses around them for more movement but it had become eerily still. Aragorn grabbed at his sleeve. Looking down Legolas realized the Aragorn had temporarily gotten over his fevered delirium.
"We must move, try not to make a sound," whispered the elf.
Nodding in assent the ranger bit his bottom lip as the elf lifted him off the ground.
Still hunched low to the ground Legolas began to make his way through the long grasses of Gondolin with his precious encumbrance. He had gone a goodly distance before he heard a scream of denial far off to their left. He stopped then, laying Aragorn as gently as possible on the earthen carpet of the plains.
"I will return." He whispered briefly before he vanished very much like a wraith.
It took all the control that Aragorn had, to not let loose the scream that had been building in his throat. Though gentle Legolas could not have prevented their combined movement from jarring at the wound in his belly. On the verge of tears Aragorn clutched trembling fingers to his stomach and squeezed shut his eyes seeking desperately in his mind for a pleasant thought, a memory, something to alleviate his pain and then it came to him...
The elf did not return until the skies had turned dark and the air very cool.
Lost in his reverie Aragorn did not mark the passing of time. He saw only the gardens of his long ago elven home and smelled the ripening flowers on the trees in the great garden. Once again he could see his father Elrond half- elven, resplendent in his robes of office. Great was his voice as he spoke, a smile touching his narrow face as he pronounced the opening of the solstice games...
Pain exploded in his belly with a sudden sharpness.
There was a scuffling in the darkness, a harsh ripping followed by a frantic sob and a desperate panting. There was the explosive slap of flesh against flesh and the young ranger cried out. He twisted his head away from his aggressor in hurt surprise his eyes squeezed shut. Legolas had tried to be as gentle as possible but the wound had become swollen and hot. If it were not tended to properly, soon the redness would spread and then would come the burning fever and death.
"Hush, little one." Legolas crooned pushing away Aragorn's trembling hands as the ranger tried to pry the elf's fingers loose. He wiped away the ranger's tears and then cupping the back of Aragorn's head and poured a clear elixir into his mouth past his dry lips.
It was sweet and dry and Aragorn licked his lips eagerly as the vial was removed.
"Not so fast Estel, only a little for you." Legolas said smiling ruefully as Aragorn reached for the vial like a greedy suckling child.
"Please," begged the ranger in little above a whisper, but Legolas had already secreted it away.
All too soon Aragorn's eyes closed. Legolas sighed in relief. They needed to move and the speed at which he would go would have brought great pain to Aragorn he knew. Without another delay he slung Aragorn over his left shoulder and holding onto him tightly began to run. Only a whisper of sound like the sigh of the wind through the long grass did he make, but he knew without a doubt that the last of the warriors tracked them.
No young untried blade was the warrior but a veteran of many a bloody war. He ululated his grief into the night and swore by the blood of his fallen friend to kill that macabre creature of light. Never before had he seen such skill in an enemy, never before such stealth and cunning displayed, yet even as his head acknowledged the might of the enemy, his heart turned to stone. Soon the gold hair of the creature would adorn the leather cord around his neck. He gently placed a bloody palm upon the chest of the young warrior who lay sprawled upon the earth, his heart stopped forever. He rubbed away the blood from the slack face and kissed his cold brow. Then the Haradrim got to his feet.
The cry that went up brought a shiver to the elf as he stood poised at the edge of the sea of grass, the forest stood some two miles away, yet Legolas did not move for the moon's light lit up the night and he could see plainly there was no cover at all across that short distance. It would become a race for safety, one that Legolas would not win for encumbered by Aragorn he would not be able to defend their backs. He went to one knee brow furrowed as he thought. Though no human would, he could hear the light sounds of the warrior as he searched the long grasses of the plains, all too soon Legolas knew he would find their trail, for his blood and Aragorn's blood stained the thirsty ground.
The Haradrim paused at the edge of the sea of grass. He was bent low to the ground alert for the slightest whisper of sound. Though he had followed a telltale ruby trail through the grasses he had not found the fell creature and was afraid that the elf had slipped past him somehow. He scanned the area before him. The plains were bathed in the silver light of the moon. There were no rocks or hillocks nor rifts or dells just bare earth right up to the edge of the forest... and one other thing. The warrior squinted at it in the moonlight. It was the body of a man in dark rough clothing, sprawled on the brown earth. The companion of the creature. The man had been gravely wounded he remembered. Mayhap the elf had forsaken him, or the man had died finally, or it was a trap to draw him out.
The warrior smiled and settled down to wait.
Time seemed to march slowly as the night unfolded, twice the warrior retreated into the long grass to answer nature's call. There had not been so much as the odd night bird ambling along, neither had the man even moved slightly. Definitely dead then, no one could remain thus for such a length of time. The night grew cold and rain began to fall, light at first and then with increasing force. Yet still the warrior waited. The rain pelted the man on the ground and the warrior who stayed hidden, it began to pour and water ran in rivulets upon the ground.
Finally the Haradrim stood, he had waited long enough. He could feel the weight of the approaching dawn. Disappointment ran through him, he had wanted to kill the elf so badly, eight doughty warriors lost to one creature. He spat in disgust and approached the body on the ground. He would claim his prize from the head of this man, though it was but a poor substitute. He drew a short wicked dagger from his waist. He looked around him once more just to be sure, then swooping down grabbed at the head of the corpse. The dead man's head was mostly covered by the hood of his travelling cloak and the warrior impatiently jerked it aside.
Golden hair spilled into his hand and before he had finished a surprised breath, the fell burn of steel filled his throat, the warrior choked as his life blood filled his mouth and stared incredulously into the merciless eyes of the elf.
Legolas pushed the body off his sword and the Haradrim fell wetly to the ground. The elf was soaked to the skin for Aragorn's clothes were not impervious to the rain. He hurried to the edge of the long grass for Aragorn had lain there all this time. Dressed in the elf's clothes the ranger was fast asleep, curled contentedly on his side protected from the rain by Legolas' long elven cloak.
The elf could not help but grin.
"Wake mellon nin, we must make haste to the forest," he said.
Aragorn peered at the elf through half lidded eyes, "It is raining," he said.
"Indeed it is." Legolas replied.