Cling and Clatter: Part VII
by Jules

If you feel like letting go
Hold on
If you think you've had
Too much of this life
Well hang on

The ranger watched silently as his friend suddenly became animated, only to empty his stomach on the floor and once again succumb to the darkness. Sweat still sheeted off the Elf's pale skin, soaking the sheets beneath him and sending constant beads running off his brow. The elderly woman rose to refill the pails of water allowing Aragorn a small amount of time and privacy with his companion. The human spoke words of encouragement to the feverish Elf, insisting that he fight the infection eating him from the inside, and that he not give in to the welcoming light of death and rebirth. He was unsure if Legolas could hear him or not, but he felt compelling to speak nonetheless, willing the Elf to live by his thoughts and words alone. Yet the Elf lay and still and pale as before on the small cot before him.

Hearing footsteps closing behind him he yielded the small stool to the healer and aided in placing fresh herbal cooling clothes on the heated flesh. Somewhere in his semi-conscious state the Elf felt something chilled and cold come in contact with his skin and flinched, sucking in his breath and he tried in vain to move his unresponsive body away from the contact. The healer took this as a good sign and repeated changing the clothes as they heated, alternating between herbal and plain cold water. They knew if they used too many herbal clothes the herb would turn toxic within Legolas' already heavily infected blood and do more harm than good. The Elf ceased his meager protests and once again became still and silent, as if he lacked the sheer energy to make his displeasure known.

For hours the two carers' silently changed clothes, replacing slightly warm ones with ice-cold fresh clothes. Time ceased to have meaning as they toiled, combining their expertise and willpower to help the valiant Elf in his struggle. Hours and days passed with only few glimpses of movement within the limp Elf. Every once in a while he repeated he earlier protests and tried to move away from the contact of the cold clothes but little more progress was made. Exhausted the healer bade to get some much-needed rest while Aragorn still sat vigil over his friend. He cut extra clothes from some rags the healer had left, leaving the long knife by the head of the bed in case he needed to cut more rags. He soaked those he had in the herbal water and applied him to the few exposed areas of flesh they were still racked with sweat. The fever had still to break and Aragorn was more concerned than ever that his friend may not pull through this. He felt humiliated that the Prince of Mirkwood could live through tremendous battles, slay dozens of orcs with naught but his bow and arrows, and to possibly die from an infected horse kick. As he replaced the cloth on his friends' brow he heard a curious sound from outside the cottage. Far away sounds of screams and cries, coupled with the sound of galloping hooves made Aragorn once again on his highest guard. Had the evil villagers from their slavery finally tracked them down? He placed the long handled knife in Legolas' still hand, closing the unresponsive fingers under the elf held the weapon loosely. He rose and took a cautious look out the tiny window only to see the blur of a galloping horse. Then the gallop stopped, the clatter of a highly-strung, badly educated horse being roughly pulled to a stop reached Aragorn's ears. They'd seen the horse he and Legolas had used to escape on. He should have known the animal was distinctive with its large obvious branding, yet his concern for Legolas had allowed him to forget such a small, yet such an important thing.

A close loud voice rang over the din of screams and hooves, the language though familiar to Aragorn during his slavery, was filled with excitement and violence. A cold sweat broke on Aragorn's brow. No doubt they knew where he was, and they would come for their slaves once more. He gripped the small dagger within his hand and wished fervently for his sword and his bow. The healer was making her way towards the only entrance to the cottage to see what the din was when Aragorn cursed and called after her. As she reached the door and turned towards the sound of his voice the heavy wooden door sprung forward, closely followed by a villager the size Aragorn had never seen before. The burly creature took one look at the elderly woman before him before slitting her throat and pushing the limp body out of his path. Aragorn shrank back into the shadows as his only escape was cut off, instantly glad Legolas was not easily recognisable under all the clothes that covered his pale skin. The creature advanced and was soon joined by his companions, four in total. Fortunately their horses broke loose from where they hastily tethered them; forcing two to chase after the flighty animals if they wanted any hope of not walking back to their hideous homes. The remaining two still advanced, quickly checking all rooms they passed before arriving in the back room where the human and Elf where.

Almost completely concealed in deep shadow of a corner Aragorn let the enemy come within range. He only had one dagger and two opponents and to his horror they headed straight for the small cot that housed his companion. Not willing to let Legolas be discovered he let fly with his dagger, striking the closest one to the Elf in the neck, neatly severing the artery on the left side. The human was no totally defenseless as the hulking monster turned away from the cot and directly towards him. He came forward to the challenge, knowing he stood a better unarmed in the open rather than blocked in a corner. He ducked the incoming dagger's arc and picked up a small pot from the bench, emptying its contents as he blocked another incoming blow. His opponent was swift and accurate, quickly ridding Aragorn of his newly acquired shield.

He searched frantically around for something he could use, receiving a more than glancing blow to his temple when he wasn't quick enough dodging another strike. Disorientated and more than woozy he staggered towards the table, his legs desperate for reprieve while his hands still looked for a weapon. The ranger grew desperate as the creature towered over him, its leer at his weakened state obvious. Its arm raised high above its head, eager for the death strike, but never completed its arc. A knife imbedded itself within the monsters back, piecing the ribcage and rupturing its large heart. Grasping at its back the monster faltered and fell, causing a great crashing sound as it connected with the wooden floorboards. In his final moments before blackness claimed him Aragorn saw Legolas' arm fall weakly back to the bed, the hand devoid of the knife that saved his life.

'Cause everybody hurts
Take comfort
In your friends
Everybody hurts

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