Cling and Clatter: Part VIII
by Jules

Freedom at Last

If you're on your own
In this life
The days and
Nights are long
When you think
You've had too much
Of this life
To hang on

From his somewhat limited viewpoint Legolas witnessed Aragorn's ungraceful slump to the floor beside the ogre that had tried to claim his life. Concern erupted in the Elf's heart as his friend lay unmoving on the floor, accompanied by severe irritation that his body wouldn't co-operate. His senses were unhindered even as his body was weak, and he knew that the other two guards would be returning any minute for their comrades. Adrenaline surged though the Elf as he heard footsteps in the far distance and he forced his body to role away from the comforts of the cot to tend to his fallen companion.

He landed on all fours on the hard wooden floor, ignoring the sharp impact on his knees and palms and making his way towards Aragorn. The Ranger had yet to move and did not stir as Legolas neared the still form. Sweat sheeted from the Elf in his exhaustion for his fever had broken, but the infection had dramatically weakened his body. Gritting his teeth again Legolas crawled the last few meters to the humans' side to better see his friend's injuries. A sizable gash ran the length of the human's right temple, still bleeding slightly and obviously the reason for his unconsciousness. As gently as he could the archer probed the injury, his skilled fingers searching for a fracture or break in the bone. Aragorn seemed to stir slightly at the pressure, his face contorting slightly in pain as the elf's fingers worked over the wound. Brown eyes flickered open to meet concerned blue as the footsteps neared the cottage again. Voices came with the footsteps, but they echoed not of anger and violence, but instead of heartache and thinly concealed grief.

"Is anyone alive in there?" a voice called in westron, sounding nothing like the glutteral language of the guards.

" Aye, but we are wounded and I fear the enemy will return shortly" Legolas returned with as much strength in his voice as he could. He aided Aragorn into a sitting position as the footsteps came towards them. There were gasps and cries as they found the body of the healer still within the corridor. A single person entered the back room where the two were trying to rise.

" You must help us, we must leave this place before the guards return" Legolas pleaded, still struggling to support the woozy Ranger as he tried to rise. They made a sorry sight, the human clad in torn rags sporting an ugly head injury, while the elf was clad only in his undergarments with a bloody bandage covering the better part of his thigh. The intruder took pity on them, helping them towards the cot before departing and bringing new clothes, another dagger for each of them, food and an old workhorse.

" I know these aren't much" The kind villager spoke quietly as he returned " But the clothes are clean, the daggers sturdy and the horse is strong" He handed over the supplies, adding some healing herbs into the bundle while the two somewhat painfully dressed.

" We thank you kind sir, we would repay your kindness but we have naught to offer" Aragorn said as he shakily stood and grasped the villagers' hand in thanks.

" The animal you rode is still in the yard, if I return it to the guards they'll pay a reward. Consider your debt abolished" The men shook hands once more before aiding Legolas in standing and helping him out to the waiting horse. The horse was indeed strong being a Clydesdale and easily supported the weight of its two riders. Legolas sat in front, gently taking up the reins and speaking quietly to the animal. Its ears twitched back and forth as it listened to this strange creature who could communicate with it. It understood its message and started a gentle loping canter back towards the village gates.

For hours they loped away from the kind people with whom they took refuge, stopping only when darkness fell and both were too weary to continue. Aragorn dismounted first, leaning against the animal till the world stopped spinning at crazy angles. The elf soon followed, grimacing as weight was put on his injured leg. Although his healing abilities had started to kick in his body was terribly weak from his fight with infection. The elf spoke quietly to the horse before relieving it of its bridle and letting it wander to graze. He hobbled back to where Aragorn sat going through the bag given to them by the townsfolk. Both parties eagerly received the small amount of food, Legolas not having eaten for many days and Aragorn being too concerned with other matters to eat. They broke the bread between them, grateful for the meager meal it offered. When they had finished Aragorn took a closer look at the herbs that was wrapped within, they were nothing compared to the vast diversity of the healers' but they would have to do for now. Legolas limped over to a nearby stream and filled the empty water skins with the clear cool liquid before returning to where Aragorn sat hunched over sorting leaves of different herbs. Legolas tossed a skin to the Ranger who drank heartily. Wiping his mouth Aragorn motioned the Elf to sit next to him, wincing to himself as the Elf painfully lowered his body to the ground. As gently as he could the Ranger removed the bloody bandage and poultice, silently berating himself as the Elf cried out in pain. He wished desperately for some painkilling herbs but knew only antiseptics and disinfecting medicines were given to them. He bathed the wound in clean water and packed more herbs within it before wrapping a clean bandage around his friend's thigh. Legolas was lying back against the grass by this stage, sweat dripping off his brow as he fought the urge to once again cry out. His dignity shattered as racks of pain surged through his battered body.

" Relax Legolas, I have finished" Aragorn said as he offered the Elf a hand in rising. Once Legolas was comfortable Aragorn tended to his own injury, cleaning the site with water before applying some herbs to prevent infection setting in. He knew the nausea and disorientation would dissipate of their own accord as his own body healed.

The moon rose high in the sky as the Ranger took the first watch, allowing his weakened companion the luxury of rest while he kept alert for any sign of orcs or guards. The hours past swiftly for the Ranger, who spent most of his guard in deep contemplation. He replayed the events of the past few days in his mind, from being captured himself and taken to the prison, to finding his long missing friend in a worse condition that he thought possible. The escape and the flight through the woods, his concern for Legolas as the infection took hold in his body, the healer, the battle to save each other and finally freedom once again. Weariness began to take hold of his mind in the early hours of the morning and he woke the Elf to take over from him. Vacant eyes cleared and focused as the hand of the Ranger gently shook his shoulder, summoning the Elf from whatever dreams were playing through his mind.

Yawning Legolas sat and positioned himself where he could easily see the surrounding countryside and watched the Ranger fall into an exhausted slumber. He felt good being out in the open, away from cells and cottages and dusty roundyards. He'd not looked upon the stars in many nights and tonight he gave them his full attention, singing softly to himself as he named the constellations and remembered the stories behind them. The Elf continued his watch till the first rays of light shone down through the early morning mist. Another day had begun, but this day was a day of freedom.

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