Disclaimer: I do not own Lord of the Rings or Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
Mirkwood Forest, October 11, 3000, Third Age
"I... have to keep... on riding... I cannot... stop...” Aragorn muttered deliriously.
He did not dare close his eyes for even one second for knew that if he stopped fighting and gave in to the numbness that was slowly spreading through his limbs, he would undoubtedly perish. He could feel the poison creeping through his blood, doing its intended damage and he fought it with every ounce of strength he possessed. He knew it was of no use, but he tried anyway.
Aragorn did not wish to succumb to death, not when he had yet so much to accomplish.
His Adar always warned him to mind his safety and insisted Aragorn not travel without at least one guard present, but as usual, Aragorn was too stubborn to listen. He did not want to be caged simply because he was the last of his line. He did not even want to be the last heir of his accursed line. All it ever brought his family, was heartbreak and misery.
Aragorn felt his eyes droop and willed himself not to close them. He could do nothing but hold on to his horse, Amrún, with all the strength he could muster and curse his ill luck.
He had been on his way home to Rivendell from an extended visit to Mirkwood when he stumbled upon a band of orcs. He had dispatched them swiftly and efficiently, but not before being cut by one of their blades. He silently berated himself for getting distracted enough to be wounded by an orc weapon. It was foolishly reckless and he should have known better. It was common knowledge that orcs poisoned their blades and arrows. He had mistakenly allowed his attention to drift for but a second, and now he was going to to pay the price.
Aragorn was uncertain of his next course of action. He could turn Amrún around and try his best to make his way back to Thandruil's halls. Surely, some elves on patrol would find him stumbling around and take him to a healer. But Mirkwood was a dangerous place. Orcs would be the least of his troubles if he entered Mirkwood forest alone, wounded, and delirious. Aragorn had no desire to face one of its many spiders, not in his current state.
The alternative was to make his way towards Rivendell and pray he possessed the strength to make such a lengthy journey. The road to Rivendell was longer, but not as dangerous as riding around Mirkwood on the brink of death, unable to defend himself from the creatures he would undoubtedly encounter would he try to make his way back to king Thandruil's palace-cave. Aragorn decided to make his way towards Rivendell instead. It was most likely his best chance at survival.
He briefly contemplated tying his hands to his saddle, but even his fever-clouded mind recognized the danger in that action, and swiftly dismissed the thought. His strength would have to be enough. Amrún knew the way. He held on tightly and urged Amrún to make haste to Rivendell. He clenched his teeth in pain, but also felt relieved when his horse, as if instinctually feeling Aragorn's need, started to gallop at a pace that suggested he was being chased by the Nazgul.
Aragorn kept his mind focused on home, as if he could halt the coming sickness with the power of his mind alone. He thought of Elrohir and Elladan and how good it would be to see his brothers again. Long had it been since Aragorn had seen the twins for more than a fortnight. He was curious about what kept them from Rivendell, and repeatedly asked them, but Elladan and Elrohir would not say. Aragorn knew that he was not the only one wondering, for he has seen his adar watching the twins like a hawk, waiting for them to let any information slip. They hadn't as of yet.
He tried his best to think of his home and family, to stay conscious. After some time, however, Aragorn finally admitted to himself he could not hold on for much longer. He would fall of his horse soon, he could feel his strength waning. He hoarsely whispered instructions to his horse to lower his pace, and tried holding on as best he could. He did not wish to die, he had no intentions of dying young, like so many of his forefathers before him, so he would have to think of something before the end found him. He watched with detached resignation as the reins slipped from his hands, unable to even move his fingers to halt the action. The last thing he saw before he succumbed to darkness was the grass as he landed.
He awoke with a groan. 'Not dead yet,' he thought through a haze of pain. He turned his head slowly, teeth clattering from the bone-chilling cold that coursed through his veins. Through the muddle that clouded his mind, he picked up the faint stirrings of hoof beats. He turned to the sound, fighting the nausea, uncertain of what to expect.
The elves of Mirkwood did not traditionally use horses on their patrols. Unless it was for lengthy journey outside of the woodland realm, horses were more of a hindrance than a help. The creatures that lived in the forest were fast and vicious, and the horses scared easily. Even the most hardy war-horse grew nervous around the giant spiders. Aragorn did not fault them. Even he feared the abominations.
The sound drew near and Aragorn was certain now, it was not something he imagined. He tried to stay alert, but the fever and nausea proved too much for him to fight. The only thing he saw was a black horse. Before he could name the rider as friend or foe, all his strength left him as the poison claimed him.
The next time he woke, he could feel the heat of the fire warming his skin. He briefly wondered who had lighted a fire, but the thought left him swiftly as he gave in to exhaustion.
"Hey, take it easy, you're okay, I've got you."
The voice drifted through his mind and Aragorn tried to focus on it, but found he could not.
"You don't need to worry about anything other than getting better, okay? I've got you and I won't let anything hurt you, I promise."
Although he had no reason to trust the voice, he did. Not only because he had no other choice, but because the voice sounded so certain that nothing could happen to him while she was with him, he could not do anything but believe her. Her... he finally realized. It was a woman's voice. Before he could think about it more deeply and wonder what exactly a woman as doing in an orc-infested forest, and how exactly she was planning on protecting him, he felt the fever overtake him.
He dreamt of the Crown of Gondor and the Sceptre of Annúminas dipped in blood. He saw death everywhere he looked and the Great Eye watching with satisfaction, whispering words of evil in his ear.
"You never wished to be king, the burden is too much for one like you to bear," it whispered.
"You are nothing like the great kings of old, you will never succeed. Give in. There is no need to fight the darkness for darkness can be your greatest ally."
Each time he came close to giving into darkness, she was there, dabbing his forehead with a damp cloth, speaking to him about things he did not understand. When he opened his eyes the first time, out of his mind with fever, trying to outrun Sauron's voice, she was there. His guardian of green and gold. Her beautiful eyes never leaving his. Silently encouraging him not to give in, to continue fighting his invisible foe.
He was mad with fever drifting in and out of consciousness but every time he awoke, he heard her voice telling him about faith, willow trees and Angels and their struggle against darkness. He wondered if she ever stopped speaking, for he always heard her, and after some time, her voice even drowned out Sauron's whispers as she spoke about glory, dawn, and sacrifice.
Aragorn wondered who she was, and if perhaps she was a fever-induced delusion, his mind had created to help him stand against the darkness. He willed himself to open his eyes and wake up from the nightmare but couldn't bring himself to do so. His eyelids were too heavy and his mind reasoned it could not be a nightmare if she was there. He focused on her voice, trying to decipher the strange words she often used and the slight unidentified accent.
"You know I've been sick like this once, well not really like this, because it was pretty much a self-induced fever. But I did hallucinate some pretty wicked things when I was out of it - which turned out not to be a hallucination in the end but a real child killing monster called the Kinder Stud- although why he was called a stud I'll never know 'cause he was ugly! Anyway he- you know what, never mind, I haven't been sick like this."
Her voice stayed with him even through his dreams guarding him from the darkness chasing away his fears, like the only light in a dark-infested cave. Her soothing touch kept away the bone chilling cold, and brought him serenity. When he woke up from his fever three days later, she was gone, and no trace of her existence could be found.
Let me know what you think?
There will be a sequel. I will also be writing more stories for this series. It's not over yet, we still have the ring-years to cover, and give or take 19 years before the Fellowship take off on their quest. So there's still fun to be had. Next up--Elrond worries for his sons.. Their behaviour as of late has been strange, and what in Eru's name is that bird bringing them every time it flies by?
A very big thank you to DeepBlueJoy for helping me with this One-shot. I couldn’t have done it without her. DeepBlueJoy, check her out. She’s an awesome beta with a lot of patience with my illiterate ass.