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Disclaimer: the characters and setting of Middle-earth are the creations of J.R.R. Tolkien and belong to his estate. I do not have permission to use them. This story is written for entertainment only and no monetary profit is being made.
Author's notes: My apologies for the very long delay. There is entirely too much going on in real life that takes my attention away from this story. In addition to other challenges, we are dealing with a family member who is suffering from Parkinson's and dementia. Although I am somewhat on the periphery of this drama, the stress is very high, particularly during the times this person stays at my house. It is a terrible thing to witness the disintegration of someone's mind. It is also a terrible thing to try to navigate the morass that is the American health-care system.
I will work on this story when I can. It will not be abandoned. Even if I only manage to spit out two chapters a year, TSAW will be finished.
On another note, if any of you have enjoyed the sock stealing antics of the cat Tithlam, please send your love to the real cat that inspired the fictional one. On June 9, Maji died after a long illness. I held my sweet calico girl as the vet put her down. She had been a lifelong sock thief, amongst other endearing behaviors – morning conversations and "car rides" in shoeboxes come to mind - and her love of socks prompted me to give that trait to Tithlam. Maji was a wonderful friend, a real little lady, and I miss her.
Many thanks to Lisette for beta reading this chapter.
To See A World by Nightwing
Chapter 46: Koryon
Aragorn held tight to Legolas' arm as they pushed through the crowd, struggling to keep pace with Alun. The soldier was cutting a rapid path directly through the massed people. Aragorn feared what the crowd might do as he limped after Alun, but saw no opportunity to fade into the background after Legolas had revealed himself. For his part, the elf pulled forward strongly, his jaw firmly set. It was apparent that he would object to any efforts Aragorn might make to lead him away from the upcoming battle. The ranger understood. Legolas had finally found some answers long sought regarding the murder of his mother, and if the approaching orcs were indeed the same that had contributed to her death, the elf would desire to strike hard against them. He would do everything in his power to prevent further harm to innocents.
Thankfully, the crowd parted for them without challenge. Wary eyes followed them, particularly Legolas, but Aragorn firmly met every glance thrown their way, and he noted the majority of the people were turning away toward the safety of the prison, obeying the shouted orders of those who sought to lead them from harm's way. A number of the more able-bodied men fell in behind them as they approached the Lord's house.
Alun strode past the guards without hesitation and gestured toward the great doors. "Open them," he said.
After a moment's pause, the men complied. Alun lunged across the threshold and turned down a wide corridor with a floor of dark slate, the walls lined with embroidered hangings. Aragorn hurried to keep pace with him, wincing at the pain in his damaged foot. He glanced around at the richness of his surroundings, but the corridor was darkened but for the light given off by a single torch. "Bring it!" Alun called over his shoulder, and a follower hastened to lift the flame down from its bracket. The group broke into a run as they rounded a turn and halted before a heavy door. A guard stepped forward to unlock it.
They stepped into a spacious room, lit by a tripod holding several lamps. The walls were lined with weapons of all make. Alun threw open a hinged box and began handing swords to the men. "Take whatever, no time for trading. Some of you make for the prison to guard the women and children."
"How can we fight orcs?" a young man asked as he pulled a sword from Alun's hand. "I will do what I can, but my profession is carpentry, not swordplay."
Legolas turned toward him. "Let the archers do their work first. Hold back in engaging the orcs with sword and fist until you have no other choice. The archers must hasten to the rooftops and onto the walls – they should not stay on the ground. All must hide. Lie flat and silent – do not allow yourselves to be seen or heard. Let the orcs fully enter the courtyard and I will prevent them from leaving it again."
One of the door guards, a big red-faced fellow, had been staring at Legolas, and he now glanced sharply at Alun. "You have taken up with this elf? Is he not the one who was imprisoned for murdering Lord Cadean? How do we know he did not lead the orcs here himself? We all know what Ramhar and Malcovan say about his kind." He glanced round at the others, searching for those in agreement with him. "The elf betrays us, and I say he should be returned to his cell in the prison." His blade rasped from its sheath. "Or shall I simply dispense justice now?"
Alun drew his own weapon and stepped in front of Legolas. "Your ignorance is showing, Coll. I have already killed several men this night. Do not be the next."
Aragorn turned to see several others glancing darkly at the elf. He pulled his dagger free and met their eyes, shaking his head in warning.
"Fools," he heard Legolas hiss in exasperation.
"Stop!" a voice called out behind them. Legolas' guard from the prison, Koryon, thrust himself through the doorway. He glanced round the angry men and swallowed uneasily, his face burning as red as his hair. "The elf did not murder our lord, but was forcibly taken by Ramhar and made to look as if he had. I know this, for I was one of those who accompanied Ramhar on the night of the abduction. The elf has been falsely accused and unjustly imprisoned, and yet he stands here now, offering to help us defend our city."
The men shifted uneasily, murmuring. Coll snorted. "A likely story. We all know you follow Alun about like a puppy, Koryon. What promises did he and the elf make you to set him free?" He pressed forward toward Legolas, and Aragorn stepped between them, growling as he raised his weapon.
Legolas set his hand on Aragorn's shoulder and moved around him, tilting his head toward his accuser. "Coll, is it?" he asked. "We have no time. The orcs are nearly here. Come closer to me, if you will, and look into my eyes."
"What?" the man sputtered. "And have you cast some spell over me?"
Koryon spoke quietly. "I have been alone with him in the dungeon. I have robbed him of his liberty and stood by while others abused him, and yet he cast no spell on me. I feared him as much as you do Coll, but I fear him no longer."
Coll's face darkened angrily. "I fear nothing!" he cried.
"If you do not fear me, then look at me," Legolas said calmly. The big man continued to hesitate, until someone gave him a shove from behind. Bristling, Coll stepped toward Legolas and peered into the elf's face. For a few moments his expression did not change, and Aragorn waited tensely, lest the man attempt to strike at Legolas. Then something caught Coll's attention and his gaze became fixed, his eyes narrowing. A moment later his features paled and he glanced at Alun in confusion.
"Blind?" he stammered. "The elf is blind?"
Alun snorted derisively. "There you have it. He is blind. Highly unlikely he infiltrated our city in the dead of night, gained entry into Lord Cadean's well-guarded house, and murdered the man in his bed, eh? And now, put that sword down. Save it for your real enemies," he snarled. Coll glared at him and turned away, muttering as he rammed his weapon home.
The young man who had taken the blade from Alun looked closely at Legolas. "He is indeed blind. His friend leads him about. How will he stop the orcs?"
"He is the best archer I have ever seen, even without his eyes," Alun said. "He will kill more orcs in one minute than the rest of us could in an hour."
Legolas raised his hands and spoke urgently. "There is little time. Please listen to me! Hold back in silence until the orcs have fully entered the courtyard. Once they are inside, I will keep them there with my arrows and drive them on. I fear it will take too much time to try to bring the gate around. The orcs will simply turn back and break through it, and anyone trying to hold it will be killed. Once the orcs are in the center of the courtyard, loose your arrows upon them. If we do this right they will be hemmed in, and we can bring most of them down before we engage them hand-to-hand. Then the arrows must cease. How many experienced archers have we?"
Aragorn watched the men. Only a handful had begun pulling bows down from their holders in the wall. Most of them were picking up swords. In a corner, two boys were busy piling sheaves of arrows onto a cart. Several guards stood in the shadows and looked steadily at him and Legolas, their faces unreadable.
"Six archers," Alun said, glancing worriedly at Aragorn.
"Better than nothing," Legolas said. "See that they spread themselves out. Those who will be fighting on the ground must block the exits so that no orc can escape the courtyard. Aragorn, help me find a bow. Make it a heavy one."
The ranger guided his friend to the wall and reached for the largest bow he saw, a pale half-arc with a tapered handle at the center, and nocked ends made of horn. Legolas took it from him and bent it, fixing the string in place. He drew it back and nodded. "This will do. Is there a quiver?"
"Right here, and already filled."
Legolas slung it over his back and buckled it. "Give me two. And I will need more arrows."
"You will have them."
"Everyone out!" Alun called. "Get to the courtyard and hide yourselves! Archers upon the roofs and walls, swordsmen on the ground. We must not fail in this," he added. "If the orcs retreat back into the city, we cannot hope to take them. We must stop them now, in the courtyard." He positioned himself behind the laden cart and began helping the boys push it through the doorway. Aragorn gathered two bundles of arrows into his arms and followed, the elf at his heels.
As the group hastened from the armory, Aragorn caught a glimpse of two shadowed figures standing further down the darkened hallway, watching. Frowning, he tapped Alun's shoulder and gestured toward them. Alun stared for a moment, and then shouted furiously. "What the devil are you doing here? This is no place for women! Get to safety!"
"We will stay here and guard the armory," one of them called back. She stepped forward, and Aragorn saw a flash of dark hair and pale eyes beneath her hood. "Someone must stay behind, lest the orcs gain entry to the Lord's house and try to take the weapons." Her taller companion remained further back in the dimly lit hall, but the ranger glimpsed a fall of red hair, and wondered if this woman might be yet another sibling of Koryon, who had run ahead of them and had not seen her.
"I have no time for this," Alun said angrily. "Or I'd lock you both in the weaving rooms myself! Very well, do what you will, but stay out of the courtyard. Block the armory door once you are within."
The courtyard had emptied, and all was now silent. If not for the odd shadow here and there of men hiding round corners and squatting low upon the roofs as they positioned themselves, Aragorn would have imagined the place deserted. The windows of the busy infirmary were darkened. The people, for all their fear and confusion, had dispersed quickly and efficiently.
Alun, who had taken a bow for himself, turned to Aragorn and Legolas. "I will stand with you."
"Let us hide near the main entrance of the courtyard, where the orcs will enter," said the elf. "We will keep them from withdrawing, provided none of your men are in the way of our arrows." He raised his head, testing the air. "At least the breeze is to our advantage – they will have trouble catching our scent."
They crouched behind the wall at the gate, concealed by a row of shrubbery. The moon was down, the sky black. Aragorn glanced up, wishing there was a bit more light to fight by, though in truth there would be no fighting on his part at all. He had not the strength for it, for he still suffered greatly from fatigue and sickness, and his foot and hands ached with sharp pains that made him bite his lip at times. He would stand beside Legolas to ensure that the elf had a steady supply of arrows, and he would be the one to drag his sightless friend to safety should the battle turn against them.
"How dark is it?" Legolas whispered. His hand was over his shoulder, fingertips roaming over the feathered ends of the arrows in the two quivers on his back. He pulled several of the shafts up slightly to loosen them.
"Very," Aragorn told him.
"Good." The elf nodded in satisfaction as he drew the hood of his cloak up to cover his golden hair. He wrinkled his nose. "I can smell them, Valar help me, but I do not hear their tread. Aragorn, will you go up the wall? Tell me what you see."
Teeth gritted, the ranger pulled himself up, hugging the stones like a spider. He slid carefully over the top on his belly and looked toward the road. Some distance off, a dark mass of orcs milled about under the flare of torches. "They have stopped," he called down.
"Why do they delay?" Alun muttered.
"More cautious," responded the elf. "Perhaps their suspicions are aroused, as they can no longer hear the cries of the crowd."
"Or," Aragorn added grimly, "They have been waiting for their fellows. There are more of them now."
"How many?" Legolas asked.
"I cannot say for certain. Perhaps sixty."
"Not good," Alun muttered. "I must warn the others." He broke from them and raced across the shadowed courtyard.
"Aragorn, your cough…" the elf said.
Aragorn tipped the flask and swallowed the last of the brew Arath had given him, grimacing at the taste of the final bitter dregs. But it had helped him with his throat, whatever the ingredients might be, and he knew he would seek out the recipe from the hill-man - should they both survive the night.
Legolas shook his head. "I do not know if I can deal with sixty orcs," he said quietly. "Have they bows as well?"
Aragorn squinted. "I see a few. We can only do what we can do, Legolas. The rest is out of our hands."
Alun ran back to them and took up his position beside the elf, his features set determinedly. "We fight."
Training his eyes again on the orcs, Aragorn saw that they had resumed their march toward the courtyard. "They are coming," he hissed as he slid down the wall.
Beside them, Alun growled softly and raised his hand, signaling to someone on the other side of the courtyard. Legolas nocked an arrow to the string and slid past him, taking the position closest to the open gate. Then the elf seemed suddenly to melt into the rough wall behind him. Aragorn stared for a moment, not for the first time admiring his friend's uncanny ability to hide himself, whatever the circumstances, by simply standing still.
The tramping of the orcs' heavily shod feet was easily heard now, followed shortly by their ragged breathing. They sounded like so many beasts, slavering and growling at a meal. Their weapons grated and clashed as they marched. And then the first one was at the courtyard entrance, halting not twenty feet from the elf. Legolas appeared not even to breathe. His eyes were closed, his brow furrowed in concentration as he listened.
The orc swung its head round, turning in their direction. Its face was hideous, broken and creased by countless scars. In the flare of torchlight, the creature's eyes burned red. It seemed to stare directly at them, and for a few frozen seconds Aragorn feared that they had been detected. Then it turned the other way, raising its nose to the air and inhaling deeply. Motioning to its comrades, the orc strode into the courtyard.
Alun, standing to Aragorn's right, met the ranger's glance with wide eyes. They watched in tense silence as the orcs ventured into the gateway. They were not moving quickly enough to suit Aragorn, who gritted his teeth in frustration as they halted again, with much peering and snuffling. Their leader had paused once more. Hand raised, he looked around him suspiciously, and then with a guttural bark, began to turn away. Aragorn's heart sank. Pursuing the orcs back down the road and engaging them amongst the buildings of the city would be fruitless. The small band of men would never be able to take them. An ambush in the courtyard had been their best chance of eliminating the orcs, or at least severely lessening their numbers. Beside him, Alun swore under his breath.
The orcs had begun to follow their leader back through the entrance when a shout came from the other side of the courtyard. Snarling, the head orc spun around and glared into the darkness. Aragorn stared into the courtyard, stunned. On the far side, a man stood alone, holding a torch aloft.
"Koryon! What the devil is he doing?" Alun hissed. Taking several steps forward, Koryon suddenly flung his torch at the creatures and bolted at top speed toward a darkened corner of the courtyard. With a growl, the orc leader started after him. The others fell in behind with a roar.
"He draws them in!" Aragorn cried as the orcs thundered past. He waited until they reached the center of the courtyard. "Legolas, that's the lot! We have them where we want them."
"Where is Koryon?" the elf demanded as he raised his bow.
"He has gone on, I cannot see him."
Legolas and Alun shot together, and two of the creatures fell, shrieking. Arrows began raining down upon the enemy from the rooftops as the hidden men began firing. The orcs fell back, glancing round them in confusion. They groped for their own bows to return fire.
Aragorn stood beside Legolas, who released a steady barrage of arrows. Alun grunted in satisfaction as another enemy fell to one of his shafts. The man looked confident and alert, as if he could fight for many hours yet, and Aragorn drew strength from the sight of elf and soldier firing side-by-side.
In short order, many orcs lay scattered on the ground, but the creatures had spotted their assailants and begun to take a toll on them as well. More than one man fell to an arrow, plummeting from the rooftops of the lord's house and the infirmary. Gradually, the orcs began to turn back toward the entrance, seeking the source of the greatest number of arrows flying toward them, and at that moment the leader raised its head and fixed its red eyes on Aragorn. With a scream, trampling over its own dead, it started for him at a run.
Alun cursed. "They've made us!" he cried. "Run, Aragorn! Take Legolas and fly!"
The orcs raced forward. As Legolas stepped away from the concealment of the shrubbery, Aragorn attempted to grasp his arm and pull him back, but the elf shook him off. Planting his feet in the earth, Legolas redoubled his efforts, his hands whipping between quiver and bow too quickly for Aragorn to follow. The elf's eyes glittered furiously in the darkness, his teeth set in battle rage. He emptied one quiver and started on the other, switching his bow hand with ease. Aragorn struggled to drag him away. "They are almost upon us!" he gasped, dodging as an arrow streaked past his head. "There are too many, even for you."
Suddenly, two more archers were beside the elf. Hooded and cloaked, they took up positions near Legolas and loosed their arrows, and to one of them the orc leader finally fell, blood gushing from its mouth. The remaining creatures retreated under this new onslaught, shrieking in rage, and ran to find cover.
"What has turned them?" the elf shouted as he sent another arrow streaking toward the orcs.
"Two men have joined us," Alun said. "And lucky for us that they did. Keep shooting! We are driving them back!"
As Aragorn struggled to refill Legolas' empty quiver, he glanced at the new arrivals. He observed them silently for a moment, watching them handle their weapons with skill, and quietly turned away with a smile.
The orcs scattered, and some started for the infirmary. "Stop, Legolas! They make for the buildings. The time for arrows is past." Alun threw his bow down and pulled his sword from its sheath. At his shouted order, the men who had been waiting on the ground broke from cover and raced to engage the enemy. The clash of metal rang out as the courtyard exploded into chaos.
Alun clapped Legolas on the back. "Marvelous shooting, Legolas! I've never seen anything like it!"
The elf lowered his bow as Aragorn guided him behind the concealment of the shrubbery once more. "But it was not enough to hold them back," Legolas said. "We must thank our new friends for their assistance. Without them, it would have gone badly for us."
"Indeed. Wait!" The soldier called to the newcomers, but the two figures had already begun retreating back along the wall. At his cry, they turned and waved to him. One of them pulled her hood back, revealing a cascade of red curls. The other looked at him through pale eyes, grinning impishly. Alun gasped. "What the devil do you think you're doing? I told you two to stay inside! Have you lost your wits?"
The two women from the armory, for indeed it was them, turned away laughing. The elf, tilting his head to listen, laughed as well. "Warriors," he said.
"They are not warriors, Legolas!" Alun shouted. "They are women! I'll have their hides tanned! I'll see they spend the rest of their days in the scullery! They are driving me mad! She – she – oh, Valar."
Aragorn looked at the angry soldier and grinned. "Which one do you love?"
Alun sagged against the wall, crestfallen. He ran his hands over his face. "I love them both. The red-haired one is Koryon's sister, and we have – an understanding. We will marry in the summer. The one with the eyes is my sister. They'll be the death of me," he added with a groan.
"How can they be the death of you?" the elf asked curiously. "They just saved your life."
Alun stared at the elf as if seeing him for the first time, and then he turned his eyes again toward the retreating women. "Valar's breath," he whispered in bewilderment. "So they did." He shook himself and looked at the mayhem in the courtyard. "I'd best be getting to it. Keep out it, you two. You both look ready to drop. Stay hidden, and Valar willing, we'll meet again come daylight. Farewell." With a nod, he ran toward the fray.
Aragorn took Legolas by the elbow and led him some distance down the wall, where the shrubs grew thick and tangled. "Let us sit here," he said. "It's as good a place as any to wait it out."
The elf nodded. In the quick glimpse Aragorn got of his face before he pulled his hood close, Aragorn could see that he looked weary. Settling on the ground beside the ranger, Legolas carefully placed the bow within reach.
"You shot well, mellon-nin," Aragorn said.
"Did I?" the elf asked, drawing his legs up. "I was unable to tell how many orcs I felled."
"A good many," Aragorn said. He watched the fighting, knowing that his friend waited for details. "I think their numbers are lessened by more than half, and for that, the men will thank you. They have a chance of defeating the enemy now. Orcs possess strength and cruelty, but are completely without order. If the men devise a strategy… Ah! I see Alun. He directs his men to strike hard at their center – those who are not locked in their own individual fights throughout the courtyard. And the second orc commander has just fallen."
"I do not relish simply sitting here now," Legolas said. "I know that we cannot fight, and yet I wish to be doing something beside hiding."
Aragorn nodded in understanding. Despite their weariness and pain, the burdens of the night would grant neither elf nor ranger rest. Too much was at stake.
A flurry of movement caught his eye as he glanced to his left. The windows had been lit again in the infirmary, and the doorway was wide open, admitting the injured. He watched as a man, clutching at his wound, approached the door. A guard, who appeared to refuse him entry, stopped him. A moment later an old woman came out, wiping her hands on a cloth. Her firm voice rose even above the clash of weapons and the cries of the wounded. She pushed the guard away and helped the injured man inside.
Legolas, who had rested his head against the wall, sat erect again. "Brina!" he said softly.
"Brina? The healer who cared for you when you were imprisoned?"
The elf smiled. "You must meet her. I hope we will have the chance."
"I think we will," said Aragorn. "More orcs have fallen. I think our friends have won the battle for the courtyard."
As if in answer to his remark, a sudden cheer rose from the men. The sounds of fighting lessened, with the last of the orcs being pursued and cut down as they tried to flee the scene. Aragorn saw Alun, grinning ear to ear, standing with his comrades under a blaze of torches.
"But what of the city?" Legolas asked. "That remains unknown."
"The dawn will bring more news," Aragorn said. "For now, we will remain concealed here until Alun comes for us. He will tell us where to go. I look forward to meeting your healer," he added. "I want to know what medicine she used to ease the pain in your head." He glanced at Legolas, who had lifted his hands to massage his temples. "I think you could use some of it now."
The elf did not answer. Aragorn turned his gaze to the infirmary again as another man was carried to the door. "They are hard pressed. Those who work as healers will have the longest night of all."
"It will not be night much longer," said Legolas. "Daylight is nearly here." He sighed and lowered his hands. His face was troubled. "My head does pain me, but there is something else. A shadow presses…"
Aragorn looked in alarm at his friend. Legolas had half-risen, groping for his bow. "What is it?" the ranger hissed. "More orcs?" He turned to the wall, to climb again and have another look down the road.
Legolas grasped his arm, stopping him. "No, not orcs. A coldness… I cannot explain it..." Eyes wide with alarm, the elf spun to face the long expanse of wall to their right, hidden in darkness. He yanked an arrow free of its quiver. Aragorn turned with him, dagger in hand, struggling to peer into the roiling shadows for the source of the elf's disquiet.
From the gloom, a cloaked figure appeared. Aragorn froze as it slowly approached and the blackness seemed to follow. He found himself faced with the inexplicable urge to run. Standing his ground, he pointed his weapon. "Stay back!" he commanded. "Why do you come here?"
The cloaked man laughed. His eyes gleamed within his cowl, shifting from Aragorn to Legolas. "You have lost me my city, Elf-Prince," he said in a voice that chilled Aragorn's blood. "My orcs are destroyed."
"Malcovan!" Legolas gasped. The arrow sprang from his bow, but the sorcerer, with a sweep of his staff, shattered it in mid-flight. With a cry, Aragorn threw his dagger, but the man evaded it just as easily. "Fools," the old man mocked. "I am not so easy to kill as that." As Aragorn lunged for him, the sorcerer raised his hands and began speaking.
The world abruptly tilted, and Aragorn tumbled to his knees. He stared, mesmerized, as the sorcerer's fingers danced and weaved before him. He felt cold tendrils creep over his flesh, winding round him. Struggling, he fought to draw back, to close his eyes as whirling images of terror sprang into his mind. Dimly, he was aware that he was hearing the language of Mordor, and he felt that the words would drain his life. Even more faintly, he knew his friend's arms were around him. The elf was calling his name fearfully, and then he heard the voice of Legolas shouting in Elvish, fighting to balance the evil of the foul language with the beauty of his own. He was failing. Aragorn groaned, shuddering as his breath faltered and his thoughts faded.
Someone yelled out, and a body collided with his, sending him sprawling to the ground. Legolas fell away. Aragorn rolled, shaking his head, fighting to clear his vision. Someone was grappling with the sorcerer. Legolas? Gasping painfully, Aragorn staggered to his feet as a scream of agony rent the air. The sorcerer threw his attacker to the turf, pulling his blade free of the body. Aragorn cried out, fearing it was Legolas. Then he caught sight of the elf standing a short distance off. Legolas was breathing hard, bleeding from his arm but otherwise unhurt. It was another man that lay crumpled at the sorcerer's feet.
"I fear I must take my leave of you, Prince Legolas," Malcovan whispered hoarsely. "Accept this dying man in remembrance of me, until we meet once more. And we will, I promise you that. This is not over."
The sorcerer turned and fled into the blackness. With a scream of rage, the elf whirled and flung his dagger after him. It vanished into the shadows. White-faced and trembling, Legolas stumbled forward. "Aragorn!"
Aragorn grasped the elf's arms. "I am here, mellon-nin. It is someone else he has hurt."
Together they reached the side of the injured man and knelt beside him. Aragorn gently turned him over, and gasped in dismay. "Legolas, it is Koryon!"
"No!" the elf cried. His hands hovered helplessly over the fallen guard.
Aragorn pulled the young man's shirt up, grimacing at the deep wound in his side. Blood bubbled from Koryon's mouth as he struggled for breath. His eyes, wide and frightened, sought Aragorn's. "I tried to stop him," he wheezed. "He was about to run Legolas through with - with his sword. I pushed him to safety - "
The elf looked stricken. "I felt the blade glance off my arm as I fell. You took the blow intended for me?" he whispered.
Aragorn tore his cloak free and draped it over the suffering man. "You saved us, just as surely as you did at the battle for the courtyard, when you made the orcs follow you," he said. "Had you not acted, we never would have been able to destroy them."
"Both times, I really wasn't quite sure what I was doing," Koryon said. "I was afraid… I wonder if I shall ever stop being afraid."
"Every man feels fear, Koryon," Aragorn told him. "But the brave man acts despite his fear. The brave man acts as you did."
Koryon's mouth twitched into a smile, which faded just as quickly. He shuddered, moaning softly. Legolas turned toward Aragorn. "Help him," he begged. "He cannot lose his life for mine!"
The ranger gently laid a hand on Legolas' arm. "His wound is too great," he murmured. "I can do nothing."
Koryon's eyes had started to go white. His body quivered as he drew breath. "I am cold," he said faintly. "Is – is my city safe?"
"Your city is safe," Aragorn said, adjusting the cloak more closely. "The sorcerer has lost his hold over it, and has fled. It would have gone differently if not for you."
Koryon's glazed eyes found the elf. "Legolas, I wanted to atone for - for what I did to you earlier. I am sorry. Please - tell my grandmother…" He struggled to speak further, but he coughed, and the blood welled in his throat.
Legolas bowed his head in anguish. Raising the young man in his arms, Aragorn held him close as he died.
To be continued…
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