Nightshade
by Peaceangel

Beta: Tularia
Rating: NC-17
Pairing: FPS: Aragorn/Legolas, Original
Character/Legolas
Disclaimer: The LOTR characters do not belong. No copyright infringement is intended and this is nonprofit story telling!
Warning: Takes place during the Quest. Some violence and explicit sexual encounters. This is a vampire/lotr story. Please let me know what you think: email at earthdanser AT verizon.net
Thanks for reading!

Aragorn trudged up the winding trail, feeling winded as they had been steadily going up the side of the mountain for several hours now. Behind him the dwarf persevered but soon Legolas would be telling the Man it was time to stop for the sake of their friend. The Elf had scouted ahead of the others and it seemed he was about to turn back when his head snapped back up the meandering path through the rocks.

Aragorn trotted faster to catch up to the Archer who had stopped and seemed to be staring at something. A breeze was picking up strands of gold from the Archer’s silky hair and sending it in all directions. It felt cool against the Man’s hot face and he slowed his pace, reveling in the feeling.

“What is it, my friend?” he asked, when he finally made it to the Elf’s side. “Do you see something out there?”

Aragorn stopped next to the Prince of Mirkwood and stared into the darkening forest that loomed in front of them. He had not expected the woods to become so dense when they cleared this mountain trail. The vegetation had been fairly sparse for the last several hours. It was mostly rocks, which made the Dwarf happy.

“Nay…I do not see anything.” But the Elf continued to stare into the trees nonetheless.

Aragorn smiled at the distracted Archer. The Elf could lose himself in a single flower petal. He stepped closer, and placed a warm hand against the Archer’s cool neck, making the Elf start.

Legolas cast a disapproving look at the Man and turned to see if the Dwarf had observed anything. Aragorn ignored the Archer’s stern look of warning and stepped closer to the taut body. It had been too long since he had held the Archer in his arms and he was feeling an overwhelming urge to do exactly that. Sensing the Man’s mood, the Elf stepped away from the human.

“Gimli will see us,” he whispered.

Aragorn sighed and let his hand drop, but not before letting his fingers caress the delicate point of an upswept ear. The Elf gasped and the Man smiled knowingly. Legolas’s frown deepened. He had told himself he’d put a stop to this situation with Aragorn weeks ago. The Ranger was compelling on so many levels. Legolas could not help but be attracted to him. But until the Man had approached him in Lothlórien, Legolas had never dreamed that the Ranger would even consider a relationship with him. He knew the Man was betrothed to Arwen Undomiel. Supposing it was grief, following Gandalf’s death, which lowered the Man’s resistance to stress, Legolas had allowed Aragorn’s advances. Unfortunately, the relationship did not end in Lórien as Legolas had anticipated, and the Elf found himself growing deeper in affection than was wise. This dalliance was doomed to end, and Arwen would eventually be Aragorn’s Queen.

He did not want to speak of his feelings for the Man. It was pointless to do so. The Man had a destiny. But Legolas did not want to put his heart on the sacrificial alter, either. He was brought out of his reverie by the sound of the Dwarf standing suddenly beside him.

”Well, why have we stopped? Are you admiring the scenery, Elf?”

“I thought you may require a rest, Master Dwarf,” responded the Archer, with a challenging tilt of his chin.

“Nay,” barked the dwarf, “We dwarves feel rejuvenated around so many rocks.”

“Then I suggest you bring some with you,” said the Elf with a smile as he indicated what lay before them.

The Man chuckled. “I think we should rest before going in there. What do you say, Gimli?” asked the Ranger.

“Aye, I think it is a fine idea, if you and the Elf require rest,” the Dwarf was already laying on his back before finishing the sentence. Within moments his snores filled the air. Aragorn pulled the Elf around the bend of some large boulders silently. The Archer reluctantly went along.

“Aragorn,” the Elf began, “I don’t think we should…”

He next words were muffled as the Man’s mouth came down on his hungrily. Strong hands traveled up his chest and slithered around to his back drawing him forcefully against the Man’s bulkier body. Legolas moaned into the Man’s hungry mouth as the Man’s tongue sought and found entrance past the Elf’s lips.

The Man’s hands expertly undid the Elf’s snaps to his tunic and slipped inside to rub against the silky silver undershirt. He brushed the erect nipples underneath the fabric and the Elf moaned again.

Aragorn’s mouth left the Elf’s sweet lips to suckle at the Archer’s throat and slowly travel to a delicious ear. His tongue followed the delicate swirl and he whispered, “What was that you were trying to say a moment ago?” He closed his lips over the point to suck gently.

The Elf gasped, his hands now clutching onto the Man who tormented him so. Despite his over heated blood and his pressing erection against the Man’s thigh, he stammered, “I don’t …ah…think its …a good idea to do this…”

The Man’s hands were now working their way under his clothing and swept across his enflamed skin. Fingers grasped his nipples and squeezed them painfully. The other hand had slipped into his leggings and was already releasing his erect shaft from the confines of his clothing. The Elf gasped helplessly, unable to do little more than grip the Man by the shoulders in order to keep from collapsing.

“Hmmm…”said the Man, “I think this is a very good idea.” Now the Ranger’s mouth was traveling down his throat to the exposed skin of his chest. The lips closed around his nipple and the mouth suckled on him forcefully. The Man’s hand pumped his cock, fingers tugging mercilessly on the length of him, smearing the drops of moisture at the tip around the shaft. Legolas tried to stifle his moans as the hand slipped and glided around him relentlessly, bringing him to the very peak, then backing off again.

“Ah…Aragorn, you are driving me insane!”

The Man chuckled around the nipple he was still tormenting. “Nay, my Elf, it is you who drive me insane.” The Man’s hand returned to it’s previous furious pumping and lights flashed behind the Elf’s eyes as he was brought helplessly to orgasm.

Before the stars cleared from his vision, Legolas was on his back and the Man’s shaft was entering his nether port. It burned but at the same time the invasion was overwhelmingly exhilarating. His shaft became hard again as the Man’s cock filled him, rubbing against his prostate. “OH…Aragorn!” he screamed. The Man’s mouth came down on his and the Man’s tongue invaded his mouth as the cock pulled out and slammed back in again. The Man lifted his hips without breaking the kiss to drive his shaft deeper into the beautiful captive Elf. This time they both came explosively, their mutual orgasm spiraling and taking them over the top into another realm.

When reality reasserted itself, the Elf found the Man lying pleasantly on top of him. Aragorn stirred and pulled back to look into the Elf’s striking eyes. They were always a deep shade of indigo after lovemaking. He stroked the pale cheek and the silver hair, gazing deeply into the lovely face. The exhausted Elf looked back at him, still a bit dazed. Aragorn smiled at the expression of unmasked innocence. He leaned over and softy kissed the silky lips.

“Legolas.” It was a sigh past the Man’s lips.

When he heard his name uttered with such reverence, the Elf could do nothing but smile sweetly at the Man. He knew eventually this would have to end, but, wrapping his arms tightly around the Ranger, he decided not to think on such unhappy thoughts for now.

Deep in the forest an ancient mind watched the pair with interest. Something stirred inside the dusty tomb of the Ancient’s heart. A flicker stirred to life. Legolas. The Elf’s depth of feeling mingled with pain was somehow familiar. The sad expectation of loss was something felt by the Ancient long ago.

He could see the Elf in the mind of the Man. Truly stunning. The Man obviously thought so. More beautiful even than the Man’s so called ‘lady love.’ Such nonsense seemed to be part of the ways of men even still, after so many centuries. No matter about that. He wondered what it might be like to let his feet touch earth again. It had been thousands of years since he felt dirt between his toes or air to pass dry lips into the empty cavity of his body. Would it be as he remembered? The thought seemed tiresome. Perhaps he would stay where he was and simply watch from here. Movement required effort, something he’d given up long ago. A vision of the pearly white beauty of the young Elf appeared before him. A ripple of disturbance marred the Ancient’s stillness. Great beauty was always disturbing.

Gimli awoke with a start. Aragorn was smoking his pipe and the Elf was fooling around with his hair. Elves. So prissy. The Dwarf sat up stiffly. He cast a disgusted look at his companions. The Man was looking at the Elf again. It seemed he could do nothing else as far as Gimli could tell. The Elf was humming happily, eyes fluttering over the Man’s face, then quickly flitting away again.

“Well,” he grumbled loudly causing both of his companions to start from their silence. He smiled in satisfaction. “Isn’t anyone going to go hunt us some food?”

Aragorn shot him an annoyed look but the Elf was already climbing over a group of boulders towards the woods. “Tell me what you would like, Master Dwarf, and I will fetch it for you,” said the Elf happily.

Gimli sent him a knowing smirk then merely shouted after him, “I don’t care, Elf, as long as you catch quickly!”

Aragorn followed the Elf’s progress toward the tree line suddenly feeling a bit of trepidation. He stood. “Legolas!”

The Elf turned to look up at him, before stepping into the trees. He gave the Man a quizzical look.

“Don’t go too far in!” called the Man.

Aragorn could tell the Elf was puzzled but nodded and raised a hand in understanding. Aragorn turned to see the Dwarf also looking at him in confusion. The Man shrugged and returned to look at the forest. The Elf was no longer anywhere in sight. He didn’t know why but a fluttering of butterfly wings had taken up residence in his stomach. He wanted the Elf to return .

Legolas’s steps took him past the first row of trees and it was as if a strange diffuse light covered the unusually silent forest. He hesitated and looked behind him. Nothing there but the trees. He could still see the Ranger, standing and peering in his direction, although the Man would not be able to see him in here.

Legolas walked further into the woods, forgetting the Ranger’s command, as he looked into the odd mist that surrounded him. It was unusually still and a strange sleepiness covered the forest. Gimli may have to wait longer than expected for his rabbit. The Elf’s sharp eyes and ears could detect no movement what so ever. This was very strange. His steps took him further into the woods.

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It was somehow very beautiful, Legolas thought as he looked up at the quiet leaves. The trees were old and twisted into man like shapes, their knotty heavy branches warped at odd angles around each other. Bright red foliage created a canopy over his head and the leafy ground crunched under his soft footfalls. He had a desire to climb the tallest tree to have a look around but a soundless voice whispered it was better to stay on the ground. He began to hum. A pleasant lethargy was making his limbs heavy. ‘Lay down, and rest’ came the silent whisper.

It seemed like a good idea. There wasn’t anything else for him to do, was there? Thoughts of his companions receded to the back of his mind as if they had been fragments of a dream. He could linger for a while. Time after all was meaningless to an immortal. ‘Yes,’ came a lamenting whisper.

Legolas laid his head on the pillow of red leaves, his golden hair fanned about the Elf’s porcelain face creating a halo. The canopy above his head was so thick almost no sunlight penetrated the forest and he let his eyes travel over the intricate patterns of the interlaced branches above him. They curled sinuously around each other, partners in an ancient dance of twining life. He wondered at the sadness in the trees. They hugged each other and sang a song of lamentation. Something terrible had happened here long ago. Now only the trees remembered it.

Legolas felt tears moisten his Elf eyes. Life was precious. A dance to be enjoyed despite the ever-changing cadence of the song. A gentle mist rose from the leafy ground around him. A breath wafted past his face and he closed his eyes to experience it more fully. The fine mist, coalesced into thick clouds, as it swirled around the golden form of the Archer. Lips unused to smiling curled upward, diaphanously, at the young Elf’s optimism. The nervous trees rustled their branches in a shiver of warning that went unheard. The Elf’s senses were busy taking in the gently assault of the misty form above him.

A moistness played over the Archer’s lips and tickled his ear. The Elf sensed longing and a tiny ember of hope within the whisper that touched him tenderly. Sadness filled the Elf for the Ancient’s loneliness. One so eager for companionship and so resigned to a fate of solitude. It chilled the Elf. It reminded him a little of his feelings for the Man, so close, so desirable and yet so unattainable. He rolled over, letting his face touch the leafy ground as hands of vapor teased and stroked his warming flesh. The caresses became bolder, more tangible. He opened to the seeking mouth and questing fingers. They were unused to gentleness but Legolas smiled to feel the effort put into it now. He wanted to tease and say he was not so fragile after all, but his voice would not obey him.

Legolas’s body responded to the Ancient’s caresses, wanting to give pleasure as well as receive it. No one should be so lonely. The body above him, unpracticed in ways of love, thrummed to the ancient rhythm. Surprise emanated from the one that was older even than the Elves and breaking with tradition, it let this youngling set the pace.

Legolas was happy to share his joy for life with this Elder. It was not right for one so full of power and promise to wither into disuse. The Elf’s sweet caresses aroused flesh long hardened into bitter stone. His rosy lips sprinkled kisses that teased the cold marble body into remembering its sinuous origins. The Elf’s tender innocence filled the Ancient with the bubbling warm taste of life. Not just any life, but the brilliance of a Wood Elf suffused the Ancient’s veins. It was a powerful elixir, heady and sweet; it was the taste of sunshine and green leaves. The trees above swayed in alarm, despairing at the sacrilege. A wave of decaying leaves rained down on the entwined pair.

The two immortals, one borne of darkness and one of light, rocked together ignoring the shrill protest of the trees. Like the entwined branches above them, they clamped to each other in feverish desire. A moan filled the air like the tolling of a church bell. It’s deep tone dragged on the fading mist long after the mystery faded and the forest wept.

Afterward the Elf lay for a time, alone in the leafy nest, cold and hunger creating an empty space within him. The taste of the Ancient still lingered on his lips. His tongue darted out greedily to taste the salt and bitter copper traces. His body felt tired and heavy. He was empty. He closed his eyes and let the darkness take him.

Strong hands gently shook him and he was forced to finally open his eyes. Aragorn and Gimli were bent over him, with looks of anxiety and worry marring their faces.

“Legolas, come on, wake up, mellon nin,” said the Ranger. “Come on, open your eyes.” The Elf grumbled and tried to push the Man’s hands away. He liked it in his dream place and didn’t want to wake up. Where was the Ancient one?

“Legolas! Open your eyes, meleth,” commanded the Ranger, again, worry making his tone very stern. The Elf responded to it however and forced himself to look up at the Man. The sun was declining in the west and the creeping darkness made the woods even more imposing. Long shadows sprawled upon the mossy ground in twisted shapes. The bent trees spoke of tragedy.

Aragorn helped him to sit up and his head swooned. The Elf groaned, clutching his temples. The Man held him close while his hands roamed over the Elf’s body searching out possible injuries.

“Are you hurt? Can you remember what happened?” asked Aragorn. Gimli looked on anxiously, and periodically peered into the darkening forest around them.

“What do you mean?” asked the Elf. He was very confused. Nothing had happened.

Aragorn traded looks with the Dwarf. “You never came back from your trek to hunt something for us to eat. We have been looking for you for hours.” The Elf was still clutching his pounding head. He looked up at the Man, blearily. Aragorn continued, “When we found you, lying here, we couldn’t wake you up. Something happened…” Aragorn didn’t mention the fact that the Elf had been partially undressed when they found the Archer. He had looked like he’d been attacked by something.

“You don’t remember anything?” asked the Ranger again, carefully marking the Elf’s changing expressions.

Legolas averted his eyes. He only remembered the Ancient. But he did not want to say anything about that. It must have been a dream, he told himself. A strangely erotic dream.

“Legolas?” asked the Man, again, anxiously.

“Nay,” snapped the Archer, “Nothing happened!”

Aragorn and Gimli exchanged startled looks. This was very unlike their good natured Elf.

“Alright,” soothed the Man, looking worriedly at the dazed Elf. “Its too dark for us to go on tonight. We need to make camp.” He looked at the Dwarf.

“Aragorn, we passed that clearing a ways back, at the foot of those rocks. I say we go there for the night. We’ll be able to make a fire and set watch up on the boulders.”

The Man nodded. It would serve as a good look out point and, like the Dwarf, he knew they were not alone in this strangely quiet forest.

“Are you all right to walk?” he asked the Elf.

Legolas nodded, still holding his head in his hands. He had been ignoring the conversation of his companions. His mind was trying to piece together what they were going on about. But he was distracted by a strange longing in his soul. He felt…lonely. It was an odd feeling. It was as if he missed something…or someone.

“Come on, then,” said the Ranger, softly. The Man’s voice pulled him back from his drifting thoughts. Legolas climbed slowly to his feet, missing the worried looks exchanged between his friends. He swayed and might have fallen had not two sets of hands reached out to steady him.

“How do you feel?” asked the Man, holding on to the Elf by the shoulders.

Legolas had trouble focusing his eyes on the Man’s face. He nodded, “I’m fine now,” just before fainting in the Man’s arms. Gimli let out an alarmed cry.

“Legolas!” Aragorn caught the swooning Elf and held him in his arms. The Man examined the Elf as best he could in the waning light. He looked at the Dwarf shakily. “He’s still breathing,” he said in a tight voice. “I want to get away from this area. Lets go to the spot you spoke of and I can examine him more closely by the light of a fire.” Aragorn scooped the unconscious Archer up in his arms. They set off at a brisk pace.

By the time they reached the location it was almost completely dark. Gimli hastily built a fire while the Man set the Elf down on a soft mound of earth. As the flames roared to life Aragorn knelt by the Elf’s side and began to undress him.

“What are you doing?” asked the Dwarf, over his shoulder.

“I need to see if his is wounded somewhere that I had not noticed earlier. There must be a reason for this unconsciousness. There is no head wound that I can detect, no bumps to suggest he received a concussion.”

“He looks pale,” said the Dwarf, quietly, “I mean more than usual.”

Aragorn nodded grimly. He examined the Elf’s flawless skin seeing no knife wounds or other obvious signs of injury. Aragorn sighed, and as he sat back on his heels, reached out to stroke the Elf’s silver moonlit hair. He was aware of Gimli’s stare but he didn’t care. Damn it. He didn’t care if the Dwarf knew of his feelings for the Elf. He didn’t care if all of Middle Earth found out about them.

He sensed, more so than saw, the Dwarf lean forward, and was about to snap at the Dwarf for his nosiness, when Gimli exclaimed, “What’s that?”

Aragorn glanced at the Dwarf’s narrowed eyes and looked down at the sleeping Archer. He brushed the soft hair back, away from the ear, and tilting the Elf’s face he saw the two pinprick holes in the Archer’s neck.

A chill ran through the Ranger’s body at the foreboding sight.

“What could have done that?” said the Dwarf in a hushed whisper. Aragorn bent to examine the odd wounds more closely, cold fingers running down his spine as he touched the two holes.

“It looks like a bite of some kind,” said Aragorn, incredulously. “Gimli, hand me my pack. It may be poison!”

The Man fashioned a poultice of herbs designed to counter act most types of poisons known to the Ranger that would be lethal to an Elf. He could now only pray and wait for the Elf to regain consciousness.

Gimli took the watch so the Man could stay close by the Archer’s side. Aragorn laid down next to the Elf and, uncaring of what the Dwarf may think, he wrapped the Elf into his arms. Worry ate at the Man and he did not let himself sleep. After some hours of light dozing, he disentangled himself from the Elf, and told Gimli to go sleep. He sat by the Archer, holding the Elf’s hand in both of his own.

Aragorn gazed into the serenely beautiful face of the Elf. He had never met anyone so tantalizing or so desirable. When their affair began, he knew the Elf had not taken the Ranger’s interest seriously. Aragorn smiled at the thought of the Archer ‘helping’ the Man through his grief. Aragorn knew better.

What had begun with desire was turning, he knew, into something far more serious. He sensed that the Elf’s feelings were also deepening. Which was probably why Legolas was trying to push the Man away, Aragorn reflected, with sudden insight. Although Elves might have dalliances, they truly only mated for life.

Aragorn looked down at the still beauty. He stroked the too pale cheek with his fingers. He had not spoken to the Elf about what would happen after the quest was over. Assuming they all survived, and he fulfilled his destiny to become King of Gondor. He was expected to marry the Evenstar and through such a union bring together the realms of Men and Elves. Aragorn’s stomach clenched, as it almost always did, at the thought of that particular future. His interest in Arwen had been a young man’s infatuation. He did not love her anymore than she loved him.

He leaned close to the sleeping Elf and placed a tender kiss upon the silken lips. “Wake up, my love,” he whispered. But although the Elf stirred, he did not awaken that night, nor the next.

It was not until the morning of the following day that the Archer finally stirred. “Legolas!” The Man grabbed him gently and embraced him. When Aragorn pulled back he was met by a puzzled stare from those gorgeous blue eyes.

“Aragorn, what is the matter with you?” asked the Archer, bewildered.

Before the Man could speak the Elf was nearly smothered in another hug, this time from the Dwarf. “Lad, you’re finally awake! I needn’t tell ya’ we’ve been a might worried about you.”

Legolas sat up, looking at his two companions in utter astonishment. “What is wrong with the two of you?”

“Legolas, how do you feel, mellon nin?” asked the Man worriedly, examining the Elf’s eyes in the light.

“I feel fine.”

“Hmmmph!” said the Dwarf, “the last time you said those words you landed in a dead faint. And that was two days ago.”

Legolas looked at the Ranger incredulously. The Man nodded. “Do you remember any of that?” he asked.

Legolas’s brows drew together in a look of concentration. Finally, he looked to Aragorn for reassurance as he said, “I don’t remember anything about that.”

The Man reached a comforting arm around the Elf’s shoulders. “It doesn’t matter,” he told the Archer. “You seem to be much better now. That’s all that is important.”

Legolas leaned against the Man’s warm frame and allowed the Man to hold him, despite Gimli’s observant eyes. He was rather shaken to learn that he had been asleep for two days.

“Gimli, could you please prepare some water for tea and perhaps something to eat,” asked Aragorn. He needed time alone with his Elf.

The Dwarf did not argue. As Gimli moved out of range, Aragorn leaned forward and placed a gentle kiss on the Archer’s brow. “I was nearly insane with worry, my Elf.”

Legolas blushed a soft pink, and ducked his head at the attention from the Ranger. Aragorn smiled, and drew the Elf in for another kiss, this time on the lips.

Legolas looked at him, longingly. “Aragorn, I fear…” Legolas stopped abruptly. What could he say to the Man, that the Archer was falling in love with him? Such an admission could only burden the Man further.

When he did not continue, the Man asked, “What, Legolas? What is it that you fear?”

But the Elf had averted his eyes and merely shook his head. “Nothing. Pay me no mind. I must still be a little confused…” he hedged.

The Ranger’s eyes narrowed in suspicion but the Dwarf’s return prohibited further discussion. While the Archer had been unconscious, Aragorn had found himself thinking a great deal about the future. He was finding it increasingly difficult to consider a future that did not include this Elf by his side. He tightened his arm around Legolas as Gimli handed the Archer a cup of herbed tea.

Legolas looked at the Ranger, questioningly, but said nothing. Despite his earlier conviction to put an end to this ill-fated romance, he could not deny he liked the Man’s attentions.

By the next day they were ready to continue their journey. The Elf appeared fully recovered. They proceeded through the woods, making sure to stay together and keeping alert to their surroundings.

The Elf seemed to be guiding their steps, somehow intuiting the easiest path through the trees. It was a surprise to them all when, by mid-day, they came to an odd place in the woods, where the trees loomed particularly large and formed a cathedral like steeple above them. In the center of this grove like setting the three travelers came upon what looked to be a man-made building. It was in ruins but it was made of stone and was closed up tight like a sepulcher.

The three stopped in front of the house-like structure. Aragorn stepped close to the sealed doorway and looked up at the runes etched above the entrance. Legolas stirred uncomfortably a few feet behind.

Aragorn tried to decipher the scrollwork but finally gave up. “It is an old dialect that I don’t recognize.”

“Stay away from it Aragorn,” said the Elf wearily. Both Man and Dwarf turned questioning eyes upon the Archer. The Ranger moved back to the nervous Elf, taking in the agitated expression on the beautiful features.

“What is it, Legolas? Does it mean something to you?” asked the Man.

“It is a warning to stay away,” said the Elf, mysteriously.

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The Man glanced back at the Dwarf . Taking hold of the Elf’s hand Aragorn urged Legolas to look at him. The Elf seemed to have a far away look in his eyes. “Do you recognize that writing above the door?”

The Elf shook his head, “Nay, but I know we should keep moving. Now.” His manner was becoming more urgent. Aragorn looked wearily at the unusual structure and a sense of foreboding filled him as well. Coming to a decision, he called to the Dwarf who was lingering about the door and poking experimentally at the seal.

“Gimli, move away from it. We are going on.” Aragorn took the Elf by the hand and with a nod to the Dwarf began to stride purposely away from the structure.

As they walked across the clearing, a preternatural stillness fell upon the woods. Aragorn sensed the Elf’s sudden agitation but before he could question the Elf further a pair of yellow eyes pierced them from the darkness of the trees beyond. Aragorn froze. He pulled his sword from its scabbard, staying close to the Elf who seemed increasingly dazed to his surroundings. Gimli hefted his axe.

A growl came from the woods directly in front of them. Soon growls issued from other directions and the Man realized they were surrounded. The yellow eyes drew closer until the Man could see the long snout and the bared fangs of the wolf. The other members of the pack followed its lead and slowly emerged from the trees. The lead wolf stared at the Ranger as if sizing him up.

”Legolas,” whispered the Man, “your bow…”

The Elf seemed to come out of a trance and notched an arrow in his bow, aiming for the lead wolf. It lunged at him as the other members of the pack attacked the Man and the Dwarf.

Aragorn had a beast at his throat. He had raised his sword and pierced the side of one animal only to find another in its place. He had managed to get an arm up just in time and the beast had its jaws clenched around the meat of his forearm when the animal was knocked loose by Gimli’s club.

The beasts had apparently not had much stomach for a fight and disappeared into the woods as quickly as they had surfaced out of it. Aragorn leaned for a moment onto Gimli’s shoulder and looked around for the Archer.

“Legolas?” he called out. The Dwarf also just had realized that the Elf was not among them. He gripped his axe nervously as he circled the area. “Legolas!”

There was no answer, Gimli turned to the Ranger, “Is it possible he got carried off?”

Aragorn’s eyes scanned the ground for any telling signs, his stomach clenched in anxiety.

They circled the clearing yet again as the Ranger studied the ground. “There are no prints, and it does not look as if he was dragged off.”

”He went after them, then?” offered the Dwarf.

The Man shook his head, perplexed. “I do not think Legolas would do that. He did not seem himself, Gimli. It was as if something was distracting him…”

The Dwarf looked at the Man, speculatively. “The beasts that attacked us stopped suddenly and turned tail. I wonder why?”

“Let’s scout the woods,” said the Man. They traversed the area around the stone temple in a large circle. After several hours their explorations simply brought them round again to their starting point.

The Man found his eyes returning to the silent stone structure. Gimli followed his hardening expression. Suddenly, Aragorn moved forward until he was standing again at the stone entrance. “Gimli, bring your axe.”

Aragorn looked down at the Dwarf. “I want this door opened.”

Gimli, son of Gloin, went to work. This was no Dwarf door, it’s seal was visible and easily accessible. It might take a little time, but Gimli was not going to back down from this challenge.

The door finally opened and the stale air greeted them with a whoosh as the vacuum was released. Thick dust drifted up off the floor as they took a tentative step within the murky interior.

Aragorn stopped. “We need a light,” he whispered. He fashioned a torch from a long thick branch and a strip of fabric. Once lit, he and the Dwarf stood at the entrance of the stone structure that appeared much larger within than what the shape of it on the outside would have suggested. The ring of light from the torch followed them as they stepped again past the threshold. It fell upon a grisly sight.

“Bodies!” exclaimed the Dwarf, at the macabre sight. “It’s a crypt!” Gimli looked as though he might have second thoughts about entering the spooky interior.

Aragorn glanced at the warrior in mild annoyance and stepped resolutely over to one of the many sarcophagi that lined the long expanse of wall on either side. Two very stately coffins were prominently displayed at the far end of the structure on a raised dais. Gimli stayed where he was as the Ranger leaned over the first coffin. The Man’s startled gasp nearly made the Dwarf jump out of his skin.

“What?” whispered the Dwarf in a strangled voice.

“The top of the coffin is clear. I can see the body within,” said the Man in a hushed tone. “Gimli, come over here and look at this.” The Dwarf hesitated, then finally walked to the Man’s side. After some shuffling, he leaned to look and gasped as well.

“I don’t understand,” said the Dwarf, “Is he dead?” The occupant of the beautiful glass coffin was a dark haired nobleman by appearance. He looked as though he might have just died, or as if he was merely sleeping. The white skin had a bluish tinge to it and the body was as still as marble.

Aragorn moved to another coffin on the opposite wall, then to the next one after that, and on down the line. “They are most certainly dead,” he finally said, “but preserved perfectly it would seem.” He voice was filled with wonder. “This tomb is ancient. That is obvious. It resembles some I have seen in Rohan. But I have never seen anything so elaborate as this crypt or like these coffins. These people had some unusual craftsmanship.”

“It’s morbid if you ask me,” grumbled the Dwarf, casting nervous looks at the sarcophagi. “We Dwarves lay our departed in the earth and do not yearn to look upon their empty shells. I don’t like it in here, Aragorn. Lets go out and look for the Elf. There is no living thing in here.”

Aragorn was continuing to explore further into the mausoleum. The Ranger moved up to the podium where the two ornately decorated coffins lay. The first was gilded in fine white marble and gold. The ornate script must tell the story of the occupant. Curious the Man leaned over the entombed occupant.

“Gimli, this one is not like the others! The body is decomposed…only bones and some clothing are left. I wonder why that should be…”

Gimli did not move from his spot by the entrance. For some reason he was feeling more and more nervous as the sun outside was starting to set. The chamber within was getting darker.

“Aragorn, that’s very interesting but I think it’s time we….”

His words were harshly cut off by the Man’s yell of alarm. “Legolas!”

The Dwarf ran passed the silent coffins toward the Man, heart pounding, and stopped in shock as he stepped upon the podium. The first ornately decorated sarcophagus contained a decayed skeleton, still dressed in the finery of royalty. This was obviously someone very important and much loved as heaps of dried flowers and jewels surrounded the deceased. A golden circlet sat upon the bony temple, which still boasted stiff remnants of what once must have been a lustrous mane of hair. The vacant eye sockets stared at the glass lid of its enclosure. That black stare and the jaw, having dropped open long ago from muscle loss, in an approximation of a soundless scream, trapped the occupant into an attitude of eternal horror. The bones of the hands were wrapped around a decayed wedding wreath traditionally placed upon the heads of the bride and groom in certain human bonding ceremonies.

The second coffin, cast in black marble and edged in precious metals, was what had captured the Man’s rapt attention. Aragorn had a horrified look upon his face as he stared through the glass cover. The Elf lay within the golden coffin, arms folded across his waist in peaceful slumber. His skin was white as snow, long dark lashes brushed against the high cheekbones in imitation of sleep. The rosy lips were slightly parted in a pout but no breath stirred past them. The golden tresses looked to have been brushed to drape like shining silk over the slim pale shoulders that peeked alluringly, from under the garment of gold and silver, in which the Elf had been attired. A crown of precious jewels adorned the fair brow and an enormous emerald ring placed carefully upon one slender finger. Silver leggings and soft suede boots encased the Elf’s legs. The Prince was a vision of exceptional beauty. Aragorn pressed his shaking hands against the cold glass, his breath fogging it as he gaped at the ghastly sight of the sweet Elf laid out in parody of death’s silent repose.

“Valar!” exclaimed Aragorn, “Help me to get him out of there!” Before the Man could attempt to lift the thick transparent lid of the sarcophagus, an accented voice rang out in the stillness.

“Do not seek to disturb the Lord’s favorite, Mortal Creature.” Aragorn and Gimli whirled to face the dark haired nobleman who had been the occupant of the first coffin they’d discovered, the one closest to the door.

He looked like an unreal thing, white skin stretched like leather and eyes gleaming hollow in the sunken face. The creature grinned, inhuman fangs accentuating the gesture into a hideous grimace.

Gimli axe almost slipped through his suddenly slick and shaking hands. Beads of sweat poured into his bushy eyebrows, as he stared in stunned horror at the reanimated dead sentinel. The creature sniffed perversely at the Dwarf.

Aragorn had raised his sword as well, and voice shaking, addressed the supernatural being before them. “What are you and why is our friend here?”

“You needn’t worry about the pale beauty. He will be well cared for,” said the gaunt being with a hint of a sneer, “As for what I am…I will be happy to acquaint you.” Without any further preamble, the thing seemed to glide upon the very air as it lunged for the Ranger. Aragorn’s sword came up to meet it and the thing landed directly upon the metal shaft. Aragorn felt the sword run through the falling body but realized almost too late that the thing was still moving and still coming for him.

Cold hands wrapped around his throat and he gagged at the foul stench that assailed his nostrils as the thing’s grinning face came close to his. Before he could draw breath to scream, the thing was off him. It’s head lay several feet away from the still twitching body, Gimli’s axe having served them well. Aragorn was breathing heavily and spared a look of gratitude for the Dwarf before gesturing to the glass coffin that still contained the Archer.

They both turned to the sarcophagus when sounds of thuds came from behind them. With a look of horror passing between them, they glanced back to confirm the fear that had seized them both. The bodies of the others were awakening from their unnatural slumber.

“Gimli! Hurry! Help me lift it…”

Together they tried to push the heavy glass lid up off the coffin that imprisoned the Elf. “It’s too heavy!” cried the Ranger, “Break the glass!”

The Dwarf hefted his axe high above his head as the Man skipped out of the way. Behind them three of the corpses had climbed out of their coffins while others were slowly stirring to wakefulness. With a silent prayer upon his lips, Gimli brought the blunt end of his axe crashing down on the glass lid, as far away from the Elf’s face as possible. The glass shattered, the resounding sound bouncing off the stone walls of the crypt, as lethal shards flew in all directions. “Quick! Get him out, Aragorn!” yelled the Dwarf.

With a frantic look behind him, Aragorn reached into the coffin for the Archer. He brushed shards of broken glass off the Elf and lifted the limp body into his arms. Blood oozed from several superficial slashes in the Elf’s skin from the sprayed glass but thankfully nothing had impaled the helpless Archer. Clasping the unconscious Elf to him, Aragorn turned to find himself staring at no less than twenty gruesome corpses. The smell of the Archer’s blood seemed to be arousing them. Sniffing the air they shuffled closer to the three warriors, many eyeing the bleeding Elf.

The Dwarf, with sudden inspiration, grabbed the fallen torch. He brandished it in a wide arc in front of them, a trail of black smoke curling up to the ceiling. With animal like snarls, the vampires backed away from the threat of the flame, but there were too many of them.

“Argh!” growled the Dwarf, “Back devils, back!” Gimli inched forward slowly with Aragorn close behind him. The Man shifted the light form of the Archer over one shoulder and drew his sword. Several of the demons backed up almost to the wall.

”Ha!” cried the Dwarf, triumphantly. “So, you foul unnatural things…afraid are ye? Never been up against a Dwarf, I’ll warrant!”

Aragorn could see the dark shapes of the undead glide back from the single flame and decided not to question their good fortune. He slowly stepped down from the platform, behind the Dwarf. As the demons continued to back up against the wall Aragorn became very uneasy. The creatures were not leaving the structure and the three warriors would have to pass through the horde of the undead to escape. He hesitated.

“Gimli,” he said in warning for the Dwarf to slow his forward movement.

At that moment one of the forms that was pressed against the wall, latched onto the bricks with its fingertips and slithered in a distorted motion that defied gravity, a few feet up the wall towards the ceiling. It continued to face them with interest as it moved insect like on its hands and feet. The Dwarf cursed in renewed terror and backed up. Several of the creatures ascended like spiders up the walls of the crypt, and moved in opposite directions in an attempt to circle the Man and the Dwarf.

“Aragorn! There are too many of them, they are surrounding us!”

The two warriors backed up frantically, stepping back up to the dais behind them as two of the things were now crawling across the ceiling towards them.

“Aragorn!” cried the Dwarf, again. “This is not good! Do you have any ideas?”

“I wish I did, Master Dwarf…” said the Ranger, as he continued to back up.

The Elf began to stir over Aragorn’s shoulder. The Man lowered the Archer into his arms as Legolas’s eyes fluttered open. Aragorn held the Archer against him as he whispered frantically, “Legolas, stay still! We are in trouble.”

The urgency in the Man’s tone brought the Elf fully awake and he gaped at the hellish scene around them. Clutching onto the Ranger, Legolas whispered, “Put me down, Aragorn.”

The Ranger lowered the Elf to his feet, keeping a firm arm around the lithe form as the Man’s steel eyes watched the slow progress of the things that were closing in on them.

“We’ll have to make a run for it,” whispered Gimli frantically.

“Nay!” said the Elf, stepping out of the Man’s grasp.

“Legolas stay close!” cried Aragorn.

The Elf stepped in front of the Man and the Dwarf and commanded in a tone of authority, “You will stop!”

The Man and the Dwarf gaped in disbelief. The vampires halted their progress reluctantly.

“What happened?” choked the Dwarf in astonishment.

“Not now, Master Gimli,” said the Elf in a tight voice. Legolas took hold of the Man and the Dwarf by the arms and pushed them hurriedly off the dais. They moved rapidly down the center aisle past the leering horde of corpses, which followed them with their eyes.

“Hurry!” whispered the Elf, urgently.

As they moved past the threshold into the cold night air, the three broke into a run through the clearing and into the trees. Legolas stopped suddenly and the others halted, doubling back.

“Come on, why did you stop?” cried the Man.

“They’ll come after us, what’s wrong with you Elf?” urged the Dwarf, simultaneously.

“You must go! Quickly, Aragorn, Gimli, you have to go now! I …I can’t come with you.” Legolas looked at the Man with wide frightened eyes.

Aragorn grabbed the Elf roughly by the arms. “What are you talking about? You are not staying!” He began to drag the Elf without waiting for Legolas to respond. The Dwarf peered into the darkness, still holding the torch.

“Hurry, Aragorn, they are coming!” cried Gimli in terror.

“Nay, Aragorn, I cannot go!” the Elf was struggling in the Man’s arms to free himself.

“Legolas! What is wrong with you?” demanded the Ranger as he struggled to maintain his grip on the Archer, dislodging the beautiful crown from the Elf’s brow.

“Aragorn, hit him in the head if ye must! I tell you they are coming…we must move!” cried the Dwarf again. “Stop it, you crazy Elf, you’ll get us all killed!”

“I should think you would thank him, Master Dwarf. I would have killed you long ago if not for sweet Legolas.”

The three froze, eyes searching the darkness for the owner of the powerful voice that resonated musically through the trees. It seemed to come from all around them. Aragorn peered frantically into the woods trying to locate the source of the commanding voice, his arms still locked firmly around the now shivering form of the Elf.

Legolas turned slowly in the Man’s arms to look into the trees. Aragorn followed the Archer’s wide-eyed stare. A cloaked man emerged slowly from the mist. Legolas began to stir as if he would approach the mysterious figure but Aragorn’s hands clamped onto the Archer, drawing him close. The Ranger drew his sword.

A deep chuckle floated on the breeze.

---------------------------------------------------------- --------------------------------------------------

“Aragorn.” The voice was rich and resonant. Not unlike the chiding voice of a bemused parent who had observed the misbehavior of a wayward child. It reverberated within the Man’s mind, setting his teeth on edge. “I see your thoughts, Ranger.”

The dark hooded figure glided closer but the face was shadowed. A long fingered hand rose invitingly, palm extended toward the Elf. Aragorn crushed the Archer to him defiantly.

“You will not take Legolas.” The Ranger quelled the fear he felt as he clutched the Elf to him.

“Estel,” Dark tones of reproach echoed in the silent wood.

A buzzing sound whirred in Aragorn’s ears and a swirling kaleidoscope of images assailed his mind. He gasped in confusion. Elrond stood before him, from some distant memory, looking at him with mild reproach. “You cannot control everything, Estel,” he chided. “Some things we must accept.”

“Nay,” cried the Ranger at the image of Elrond. “I will not let Legolas be lost to that foul abomination!”

“You judge harshly what you do not understand!” Gandalf the Gray now took the place of his foster father. Gandalf’s light gray eyes blazed in anger at the Man. The Wizard stepped shakily forward, leaning on his staff. “You cannot give the Elf what he needs. You know this. Your destiny will force you onto another path, Aragorn.” Gandalf looked at him, beseechingly, “What will become of him when it is time for you to marry the She-Elf? Is he to stand by silently and watch you live your life?”

“Nay,” Aragorn shook his head, “I love him! I will not abandon him…You are trying to confuse me! Show your self to me! Or are you afraid?”

“Elessar…” Galadriel regarded him sadly, “there are things in this world that you must simply accept. I know it is difficult for you, young one, but that is the way of things.”

The Man froze as long forgotten images of his mother’s death flooded back to him from the locked vault that his child’s mind had sealed them in long ago. He gasped in anguish as the raw emotions of his bereft childhood were mercilessly released from their protective confines.

“You see, Estel. There are some things that you simply cannot control.” The resonant voice was almost benevolent. The Elf slipped from the Man’s nerveless hands as Aragorn fought the disorienting bombardment of the breached memories. Memories of his childhood in Imaldris, when the awareness of his humanity separated him from his beloved elven family, memories of when he learned of his heritage, his decision to become a Ranger which was, nevertheless, in accordance with prophecy. They flooded his mind, immobilizing him.

Gimli stared in stunned silence as the Man slowly slipped to the ground in a boneless heap. He rushed to the Ranger’s side, grasping the frozen Man by the shoulders. The Elf moved as if in a trance past his two companions towards the Ancient.

“Legolas, don’t go with that unnatural creature!” Gimli called after the Elf. But the Archer’s face was a blank as he slipped gracefully into the arms of the Vampire.

Gimli released Aragorn and hefted his axe resolutely. He faced the Dark Menace and planted his feet like tree trunks, weapon raised. “Over my dead body will you take the Elf from us,” the Dwarf growled.

The Dark Being may have smiled behind the shadows of his hood. A white hand came up to point a finger toward the Dwarf’s heart. “So be it.” The words dropped like ice and Gimli knew this moment might well be his last.

The Dwarf clutched his axe, prepared to meet death on his feet. But Gimli, son of Gloin, was not going to go down without a fight. He prepared to lunge at the Prince of Darkness and if luck were with him, he’d decapitate the thing before the death bolt hit his heart.

The opportunity never came. The slender form of the Archer turned to face the Vampire, coming between the Ancient and the Dwarf. The Elf’s slender hand captured the Vampire’s pointed finger and lowered it from the target of the Dwarf’s chest. He enfolded the cold hand into his own and brought it carefully to rest against his own chest.

“Nay,” said the Elf softly, struggling to come out of the strangely compliant state he had been nudged into. He tilted his face up to the Elder Being knowingly. “You promised me.” He raised his pale arms up to embrace the Dark One and leaned his golden head against the Being’s shoulder. “You will keep your promise and let them leave unharmed.”

A white bony hand lifted to caress the Archer’s golden hair as dark eyes widened in wonder at the Elf’s boldness. The Ancient leaned his cheek on top of the golden head. He sighed deeply, inhaling the Wood Elf’s scent. White fingers ran through the silky strands and slipped underneath to caress the softness of the long neck. “I did promise,” the musical voice said after a few moments.

The Elf smiled pleasantly and looked up into the shadowed face. “Release Aragorn.” His hand came up to stroke the marble face under the hood. “Release him from the enchantment, and I will stay with you willingly.” His fingers skimmed past softly parted lips, pausing to receive the gentle kiss that skimmed the pad of his thumb.. The Ancient’s arm tightened around him possessively. Legolas molded his body sinuously to the Vampire’s wiry frame, with a teasing smile.

The Ancient’s lips curved upward. This youngling knew how to play him. He leaned forward to taste of the Elf’s sweet lips. They parted for him and he sent his hungry tongue questing into the inviting warmth. He longed to bite and drink from his beloved but he resisted.

He pulled back from the eager mouth beneath him and looked into the blue orbs. “Very well. I will release him. But he must leave the woods. He is your past, I am your future.”

The images faded from the Man’s mind as rapidly as they had come. Aragorn climbed shakily to his feet with Gimli’s help. He stared at the Dark Vampire that embraced the Archer possessively.

The Vampire’s head was bent close to the Elf’s as if they shared some silent communion. Then Legolas turned to face the Man. The Elf’s eyes again had that far away expression. He did not quite look at the Man when he spoke. The cold white hands of the Ancient rested on the Elf’s shoulders in a gesture of ownership.

“You will be allowed to leave unharmed, but you must never return here. Go now.”

“Legolas,” the Ranger began to stride forward but the hooded figure raised a hand threateningly.

“You will not be given a second chance, Ranger. For the Elf I have spared you, but do not test me further.”

He wrapped the Elf in the folds of his cloak and they disappeared in the mist. The Man ran after them but the thickening fog obscured his vision.

“Legolas!”

Gimli ran up next to the Man and peered into the fog. “Well? What do we do now?” Aragorn looked into the mist for a time then down at the Dwarf. “We leave.”

Gimli gaped at the Ranger as though he had grown a second head. “Have you lost your mind?”

Aragorn laid a hand on the Dwarf’s shoulder. He leaned forward and whispered, “Fill your mind with the thought of us leaving. We can’t do anything while it is still night and they are awake!”

“Ah!” the Dwarf nodded his understanding and filled his mind with images of leaving these cursed woods. Visions of mithril caves and winding tunnels filled his mind. That should be enough to throw off anyone who might be eavesdropping on his thoughts.

Legolas walked next to the Ancient whose arm stayed loosely about his waist. “Tell me of your lover who lies in the casket,” said the Elf softly.

The Ancient’s body drew closer to him, a paroxysm of pain lancing through the Vampires old bones. His hand wrapped around the Archer’s delicate fingers and drew them to his mouth for a soft kiss. He paused his steps and looked into the face of his new Consort.

“Why do you ask me this? I have spoken of it to no one.”

The beautiful Elf smiled sadly. “I know it causes you pain. I wish to share it with you.”

The dark eyes of the Ancient glistened in the moonlight. Emotions stirred within him that he could never have guessed he was still capable of. He leaned his head to touch his dark brow to the Elf’s fair head. “Young one, your beauty captured my interest but your sweetness has taken captive that which I thought I no longer possessed, my heart.”

“Then share with me what you have guarded so jealously all these millennia. Release this poison that has kept you imprisoned.”

The Ancient wrapped his arms around the fair Elf and summoning the spirit of the wind they lifted gently into the air. Legolas smiled broadly, clutching onto the body of his Vampire lover and let himself be carried up over the trees. The Vampire held the precious body close to him and directed their passage to the top of a wooded hill. He brought them down on the peak. They stood there looking over the vast forest below.

“Once,” he said at last, “I was the Lord of this land. I fell in love with a maid. She loved me as well. I made her my Consort and we lived for a time in happiness, as men reckon it.” The Ancient was a still as marble except for the gentle swaying of his cloak on the breeze. At last he moved to sit upon a rock.

Legolas walked over to him and sat on the Ancient’s lap. The Vampire’s arms came around his waist. “I went on a journey and when I returned I found my land had been invaded and my lover abducted. I hunted for her and I found her. She was taken by a Vampire. He would have killed her but I begged him to take me instead. He agreed.”

The Ancient stopped his story and looked off into the distance. He was brought back from his nightmare thoughts by the soft cool hand of the Elf on his cheek. “Go on,” said the Elf in his dulcet tones.

“The Creature took me and instead of killing me, well…you see, do you not?” His hand gestured towards himself.

“He turned you into a creature of the night. But, why?”

“Who knows,” said the Ancient with a sigh. “Perhaps he was lonely too. I told my lover to go away. She wanted to join me…but I could not bring her over.”

The Ancient stared off into the night and then after a pause, continued. “I did not wish to be parted from her, yet I loved her too much to condemn her to an endless night of living death. So I loved her from a distance. I would have watched over her all the days of her life,” he said wistfully, pain filling his words with a melancholy thickness. “I thought I could watch as she wedded another, … when she’d have children. And when old age would eventually come for her…I thought I’d be strong enough to stand by her side and comfort her until the end…”

Legolas looked at the Ancient with growing confusion. The Vampire looked guiltily at the ground. “I thought I loved her enough to be that strong…but I was not. I tried to release her, you see?”

“I don’t understand,” said the Elf with some anxiety.

“She began to live her life again. Without me. She married again. And I roamed the night and watched. I wanted her to be happy.” The Ancient seemed to be seeking something in the Elf’s blue eyes, understanding, perhaps.

“And then one night, I realized that I could not watch her go on with her life while I was forever bound to this darkness, so I went to her…to say good bye. I was going to leave, but I had to hold her in my arms one last time…and…” The Ancient cast about, haunted eyes darting to the ground, unable to finish.

“You…you killed her?” asked the Elf with a shiver, blue orbs dilating in disbelief.

The dark head dropped.

“Yes,” he looked down at his white hands, turning them over in the moonlight, “ I killed her.” The Being lowered his head upon the Elf’s shoulder, eyes vacantly staring into the forest below. “I did it… knowing that when she left this world I would truly be alone.” The Vampire raised his head and looked off into the distance. “And so I have been.”

The Ancient reached long white fingers to touch the Elf’s soft skin, “Until now…”

Legolas stood silently and walked a few paces from the Ancient. Dark anguished eyes followed him.

“Will you stay with me, Legolas? Give yourself to me in all the ways she did not?”

A shiver ran through the Archer’s form as the sapphire eyes looked despairingly out over the dark forest. He was trapped. Soon this Ancient One would seek to claim the Elf, to bestow upon him his Vampire Kiss. He would either succeed in turning the Elf into one of them, or he’d kill him. Just like the hapless victim that still lay on display, on the stage, in her marble coffin. He’d be yet another unwilling character, forever trapped in this demented fiend’s melodrama of self punishment.

Aragorn! How he longed for the Ranger. But at least the Man and the Dwarf were safe. Legolas knew, no matter what, he would never seek out the Man the way this sad creature had sought out his lover. He would never hurt Aragorn.

Cold white arms wrapped around him from behind. Legolas turned to look up at the hooded being. “I do not blame you,” came the melancholy voice. “You fear me, now.”

Legolas reached up and pushed the hood back from the marble white face. He gazed into the piercing blue eyes and ran a gentle hand through the dark shiny hair, releasing it from its clasp at the nape of the neck, so that it cascaded to the Ancient’s shoulders. The Elf’s fingers stroked the masculine line of the jaw and traced the aristocratic tilt of the high cheekbones and the angular features of the severe beauty of the face. “I have always feared you.” He said softly.

“But you stay with me,” said the deep melodic voice, a small smile tugging at the pale lips.

The Elf smiled back and tilted his head to receive the gentle kiss that was bestowed upon his eager mouth. “Do I have a choice?” he asked, when the kiss ended.

“No,” whispered the cool lips against the Elf’s skin. The lips traveled from the corner of the Elf’s mouth to the fine line of the jaw. Cold lips brushed against his skin, “And neither do I.” The voice was sad, but the hungry mouth moved with increasing vigor to nibble on the Archer’s earlobe. Legolas moaned as the mouth moved up the swirl of the ear to the sensitive point.

Icy fingers rested on the Elf’s neck, holding him still as the mouth bestowed hungry kisses along the nape of his neck. The fingers traveled down to unfasten the ties at the wide neck of the golden garment. It loosened and opened to drop off the Elf’s slender frame. The pale beauty of the Elf’s lean muscled torso shone like a jewel in the moonlight. The Vampire gasped to behold the perfection of his Elven lover. Stone cold hands touched the skin of the Elf’s chest, and with increasing boldness caressed the contours of the youthful body.

He dropped his dark head to take the Elf’s nipple into his mouth, fangs grazed the sensitive flesh, making the Archer gasp. Strong arms clasped the Elf to him as his mouth worked on the erect nub. A small drop of blood trickled from the punctured nipple and the Vampire suckled on it vigorously, drawing groans from the Elf that rang into the stillness of the night. The captive Elf arched backwards, head flung back so that his hair rippled like a waterfall of flame in the light of the stars and the white column of his throat presented itself like a succulent fruit.

Long fingers tugged at the Elf’s erect shaft, releasing it from it’s restrictive clothing, as the leggings were pushed roughly down around the Archer’s thighs. Legolas would have collapsed under the onslaught of the mouth on his nipple and the long fingers that closed around his elfhood. His skin goosed in the cold night air. But the strong arm held him still while his body was manipulated and caressed. Almost to the brink of release, the Elf groaned in disappointment as the mouth left his tormented nipple to nip its mate. Duel lines of red painted the Elf’s skin as a thick drop of blood traveled down his abdomen from the worshipping mouth on his other nipple. The red lips travel hastily up across his chest to the collarbone. A rough tongue dragged across his clavicle to his shoulder. The hand increased its tempo almost driving the Elf to the point of orgasm, and then stopped for one maddening moment, before starting on him again.

He did not notice when the tantalizing mouth moved to the sweet flesh of his exposed throat until the lips and teeth grazed his flesh. A prickling of fear s skated down his spine. Still clasped in the Ancient’s embrace, Legolas recovered his voice enough to utter, “Will you kill me?”

Sharp teeth pulled at his skin, then lips whispered huskily against his throat, “I will not kill you.” The expert fingers resumed their work, with renewed vigor and as the hand pumped him mercilessly the Elf felt his head swoon. A kaleidoscope of colors swirled before his eyes as the tide of passion finally broke over the top and carried him passed the brink. He convulsed helplessly in the Vampire’s steel embrace. His voice rose in a groan that became a scream, for a pleasure so profoundly piercing it was nothing less than torment. Passion unlike anything he had ever felt before assailed his senses. He clutched at the ancient’s shoulders as the mouth on his throat gushed full of bright red blood.

With the light of the dawn came renewed confidence. Aragorn and Gimli foraged through the woods gathering all the dry timber they could carry. The Ranger also searched the underbrush for a particular tuber that was known for its combustible qualities when placed too close to flame. “This root could prove invaluable,” he told the Dwarf. He put these carefully in a separate pack. “I have been thinking all night about stories and myths that I’d heard while traveling with the Rangers about creatures that are called the ‘undead’,” he told the Dwarf.

“Ay,” Gimli grunted, “I’ve heard tales of them, too. Nosferatu. It was all myth and legends told around the camp fire to scare children or the dim witted. Or so I thought.”

Aragorn nodded as he bent to gather more of the thick yellow roots. “I never would have believed it possible, had I not seen with my own eyes, that such a thing could exist,” he said as he rose to put the cuttings into his bag. After a few moments of quiet gathering, he said, “The tales I’ve heard say they drink the blood of the living and so they are immortal. Those that they do not kill become infected.”

Gimli looked at the Ranger as he stashed more of the roots into his pack.

“Aragorn,” the Dwarf looked at his feet before continuing, “What if …well, is it not possible this Vampire wants Legolas to become like them?”

Aragorn did not look at the Dwarf as he cleaned his knife with a violent motion. “What is your point?”

“We want to save him but…what if, when we find him, ..what if he’s been turned?” The Dwarf did not back down from the Man’s accusatory stare.

“Legolas is not staying with that creature, Gimli. He is coming home with us!”

The steel gray eyes dared the Dwarf to pursue the dread topic.

Gimli nodded in acquiescence. “Aye, Lad,” he whispered, “we will get him back.”

Aragorn resumed his walking, stopping to poke savagely at the ground here and there. “It is not easy to kill them,” he finally continued, “Beheading and fire. But little else, according to legends, anyway. Some obscure plants that don’t grow around these parts any more, as far as I can see, also can be lethal to them or weaken them enough to be subdued.”

“But these are all legends, Aragorn. How do we know what could really work against such powerful creatures?” the Dwarf asked.

“You hacked that thing’s head off. It stopped him well enough,” said the Ranger.

The Dwarf grunted in agreement. “But running your sword through him did nothing,” Gimli reminded him. “Yet they did seem afraid of the fire…” he added speculatively, running his fingers through his beard.

“Yes,” agreed the Man, “they did seem afraid of that.” Aragorn looked up at the bright sky. “And it seems that the legend about them not moving around in daylight is also true.”

Gimli also paused and looked at the sky. It was midday. They would not have too much time to execute their plan. He didn’t want to think about what might happen if they failed to retrieve the Elf and get away before nightfall.

With arms loaded, they made their silent way to the crypt, wearing twin looks of grim purpose. They slowed their steps as they approached the structure.

“This had better work, Aragorn. I fear that even the Elf, with all his considerable charms, won’t be able to save our hides a second time. That Lord of the Undead seemed to mean it what he said about no second chances,” said the Dwarf worriedly, leaving off the fearful thought, this time, that the Elf might be in no condition to offer any help.

The Man paused and looked at the ruined mausoleum. His stern mouth was set in a line of stubborn resolve. His Elf was in there and Aragorn was going to get him back before another sunset went by.

It was silent, as only the house of the dead could be, yet the two warriors fearfully tiptoed their way to the entrance. Gimli tried to breathe silently, fearing the very pounding of his heart might be sufficient to awaken the ghoulish inhabitants of the tomb.

The stone entrance had been resealed. Setting down the wood, Gimli moved to the door with his axe. He uttered a brief prayer to the Dwarfish gods and very shortly, the door was pulled free with a scraping sound of rock dragged against rock. Armed with torches the two warriors stood upon the threshold and peered into the ominous gloom. Sweat trickled down the Dwarf’s brow. The Ranger clamped a reassuring hand on Gimli’s shoulder, and with an exchanged look of determination, the two friends stepped into the lair of the slumbering vampires.

The coffins were all shut tight against the midday sun and their silent occupants lay sheltered within their marble stillness. The Man and the Dwarf moved with stealth and rapidity as they carried heaps of dry timber into the structure. Gimli arranged bundles of wood around each of the sarcophagi. Aragorn handed him the bag of tubers to spread evenly over the wood piles. He sprinkled a thin trail of the roots from one coffin to the next. Gimli’s heart beat so loudly in his chest the sound of it echoed in his ears. Every scrape and footfall seemed to bounce loudly off the stone walls and floor. He eyed the quiet white faces in anxiety as he moved about.

Aragorn whispered close to his ear, “Don’t light them until I get Legolas clear.” The Dwarf nodded his understanding, positioning himself near the entrance. Sweat poured down his back as he watched the Man move down the aisle toward the two far coffins. The Dunadain moved rapidly past the first and stopped at the second. It was empty.

Gimli saw the Man’s shoulders slump and after a moment of trepidation moved deeper into the interior to finally stand by Aragorn’s side. “What is it?” he whispered frantically.

The Man did not respond but Gimli easily saw that the casket which had previously housed the Archer was now unoccupied. They had not anticipated that Legolas would not be there.

“Aragorn,” Gimli laid a hand on the Man’s shoulder. “did you check all the others?” But he knew that the Man had, just as Gimli himself had been continuously scanning the white faces of those in the coffins. The Elf was simply not here, and presumably, neither was the Lord of these und1ead subjects.

“What should we do?” asked the Dwarf, nervously looking at the rows of coffins between them and the exit. Dusk would be upon them in perhaps another hour. The Man stood quietly, still staring at the empty sarcophagus. He slowly walked to it, as if in a trance, and gazed into the empty coffin, remembering how the Elf had looked while encased behind the cold glass.

“Aragorn?” the Dwarf was becoming worried. It was not often that the Ranger looked defeated. In fact, Gimli had never seen this Man give up. The Dwarf walked up to him and laid a hand on the Ranger’s shoulder. “We will find him, Aragorn. We wont give up. I’m fond of that Elf you know.”

“Gimli,” the Man’s voice was strained and thick, “I can’t fail him.” The Ranger turned his gaze upon the skeletal remains of the Vampire’s last love interest. He reached out and rested the palm of his hand on the cold glass. “I can’t …” He did not finish his sentence.

The Dwarf walked up to the sarcophagus and looked down at the decomposed body. “You won’t lose him, Aragorn. I promise you, that stubborn Elf will be back in your arms before this is over.”

Aragorn’s head snapped up at the canny Dwarf. “You know?” he asked.

The Dwarf smirked, “Did ya really think I wouldna’ notice? The way you two have been glowing and carrying on since we left the Golden Wood. Why do you think I took so many naps?”

Aragorn smiled, despite himself. “What think you on it, then, Master Dwarf?”

The Dwarf paused. He did not think anyone would ask him his opinion about such a relationship. But he was knowledgeable enough on issues of politics and on the burdens and expectations, which would be placed upon the future King of Gondor. The heir of Isiuldur was ‘the hope of men but could have none for himself’. Gimli didn’t hold much stock in prophecies that predicated global success on personal failure. “I think…” he said reflectively, “that only a great man, …a truly great man, could be worthy of the Prince of Mirkwood. That Man is you laddy”

The Man’s eyes misted over as he smiled faintly in gratitude. Aragorn looked down at the body beneath his hand, still on the glass. “I love him, Gimli.”

How easy the words came now. Now, he thought dismally, when he might never again see the beautiful Archer. Gimli averted his own eyes as the Ranger tried to blink the sudden moisture away. And so he missed the look that passed over Aragorn’s face as the Man’s eyes narrowed and peered more closely at what lay beneath the glass.

Gimli gazed down at the unsettling sight of the bereft skeleton. He felt helpless. Why was the Elf not here? “Aragorn,” he said thoughtfully, “he must have another lair, this Vampire Lord. Perhaps he knew we could not stay away.”

Aragorn looked up from his curious perusal of the coffin, following the Dwarf’s thought with sudden anxiety. “If he thought we’d come back, then…why should any of them have remained? Unless…”

Further discussion was halted by the startling and resounding sound of the stone door slamming shut, plunging the crypt into sudden darkness.

Gimli jumped nearly a foot into the air, and almost dropped his torch. Nothing stirred but the flickering of the two torch lights. “It’s a trap!” cried the Dwarf, hefting his axe high. Aragorn drew his sword in a swoosh of metal.

Silence and the harsh breathing of the two warriors filled their ears. “Aragon?” Gimli’s voice was a strained whisper that bordered on hysteria.

“ Stay calm,” whispered the Man. Aragorn stepped around the coffin he had been inspecting and took a few hesitant steps off the dais and down the aisle, straining his eyes to see toward the end of the great tomb. He hurried back to the Dwarf. “Gimli, it is a trap and time grows short. Quickly, help me with this …” He walked around the perplexed Dwarf to the coffin with the decomposed skeleton.

“Aragon…what are you going on about? We’re trapped in here with these things! We’ve got to get out before the sun sets!”

“We will, Master Dwarf, but first there is something here that I just noticed.”

Gimli stammered, terror growing to unmanageable proportions. He was about to say something when a scraping sound froze the very marrow of his bones. They were waking.

“Gimli!” called Aragorn, who was trying to budge the heavy glass lid. “Break it now!”

The Dwarf was jarred out of his frozen fright by the sounds behind him. He brought his axe down on the lid of the sarcophagus with a nightmarish sense of déjà vu. The glass shattered just as it had before and Gimli watched the Man reach in as he had previously only this time a rotten corpse lay under the Man’s searching hands. The Dwarf wondered briefly if perhaps the Man had lost his senses as he reached into the casket and lifted the bony arms of the long dead consort. But Aragorn was untangling the bony fingers from their timeless grasp on the wedding wreath. He took the dried circlet and stashed it inside his coat.

“Now Gimli!” cried the Man as he leaped from the dais and ran for the sealed doors. As he did so he touched his torch to the bundles of dried faggots that were heaped around one of the coffins, whose occupant was slowly rising from its slumber. The bundle caught ablaze in an instant, helped along by the tubers whose flammable sap acted as a lighting fluid. The occupant of the sarcophagus let out a shrill scream as flames licked up the sides and into the enclosure. The fire spread within moments to the next coffin, following the trail of crushed yellow roots that fueled its passage.

Gimli ran at Aragorn’s heels, touching his own torch to one of the bundles of wood and tubers on the opposite side of the aisle and managing to push a disoriented vampire back into the burning casket. Screams rent the air that was becoming thick with smoke. The undead bodies were now clamoring to get out of their enclosures. The flames that were rapidly engulfing the coffins nearest the dais caused a sufficient distraction for the two warriors to bolt down the aisle undeterred. A large chunk of tuber caught fire near the foot of the platform and erupted. The resultant explosion rocked the floor, tossing the Dwarf to the ground. Aragorn pulled Gimli onto his feet and flung the Dwarf to the sealed stone door as he unsheathed his sword. Aragorn swung the blade in a wide arc at a vampire that sailed for the two warriors. He managed to decapitate the thing in a single blow while Gimli frantically worked at the exit with his axe.

“Hurry!” cried the Ranger as the creatures now scrambled up the sides of the mausoleum in a panic and aimed for the two warriors. Smoke was filling the chamber and screams came from the direction of the platform as more of the undead, too slow to awaken from their slumbers, caught fire within their coffins.

The scraping of stone signaled the opening of the door, Aragorn attempted to thrust his sword through one of the vampires that lunged for them. It merely slowed the creature down and he felt its hands on his throat as the doors opened more fully behind him. Gimli’s axe came down on the creature from behind, dislodging it from the Man. Aragorn lifted his sword again and this time managed to sever, it’s head. The Man and the Dwarf piled out of the burning structure and without saying a word moved together to push the stone door back in place, sealing the vampires inside the burning crypt.

Heat emanated from the closing door as another small explosion rocked the interior of the tomb. Aragorn grabbed Gimli’s arm and pulled the Dwarf with him away from the structure. More explosions could be heard from within its walls and distant shrieks filled the night . They ran several feet away into the woods, then halted and peered at the burning building. Black smoke billowed into the night time sky like a beacon. They huddled together, breathing hard.

“Well,” said the Dwarf, still winded, “at least we don’t have to worry about that horde any longer.”

Aragorn nodded as he pulled out his flask and took a long swallow of water. He offered the flask to the Dwarf who accepted it gratefully. Gimli took a long grateful drink of the cool water before handing it back. The Man took another long drink, making a face as he swallowed hard, the cool liquid soothing his irritated throat.

The Dwarf looked past him at the burning structure. The door was still sealed, reassuring him that none of it’s tenants had escaped. “Now what?” he asked the Man. Aragorn had sat down on the ground and reached into his coat. He chewed on something as he contemplated their options.

“Now, Master Dwarf, we wait.”

They did not notice the blue sapphire eyes that studied them from the darkness of the dense woods.

He walked in the dark forest smelling odors he’d never before noticed. He could tell where animals had been moments prior to his passage and where they were headed, in their mad desire to run from him. His bare feet touched the earth yet seemed removed from it. His senses had always been sharp, but now he could feel the heat of every living thing and taste it’s essence upon the wind.

He walked through the night, like a shade, suspended somewhere between this world and the next. And a profound hunger grew within him. His preternatural eyes saw all things in the strange new hues and shades of the night. He could see the heart beating inside the breast of an eagle that flew close to the ground, as it extended its wings to glide in a pulsing red haze over the grasses. He could smell the fear of the field mouse that the eagle caught so easily within it’s talons. He could taste the red blood of the small struggling creature as it’s tiny heart burst in the crushing grip of the hunter. The smell filled his senses. But smelling was not enough to soothe such great hunger.

Pausing for a moment, he sent his questing mind outward until he located his prey. He darted into the underbrush and stony fingers snatched unerringly upon the small rodent. It wiggled in his hand and the warmth of it’s small body tantalized his skin. Ravenous, he brought the tasty morsel to his lips. The hunger grew sharper as his nostrils filled with the warm aroma of fear. Thirst pierced his belly like the deep burrowing point of a knife. He sank his teeth into the warm flesh of the squirming body and gasped in pleasure as the hot liquid squirted onto his parched tongue. Images of night foraging and forest meanderings filled him. That and the taste of terror began to stave off his hunger. It was a simple repast.

He gulped greedily, holding the tender treasure clamped to his mouth with shaking hands. Beads of sweat dampened his brow as he drank deeply. When the swoon ended, he dropped the emptied carcass and absently wiped the blood from his hands on the dewy grass. He could not remember falling to the ground and he picked himself up slowly. He was supposed to do something. His Lord had told him. But his hunger had been so great. Now his body felt warmed again. His appetite, however, could not be fully satisfied with so small a meal and already the pangs of hunger began to gnaw at him again.

The wind shifted and he extended a soft pink tongue between sharp teeth to taste the fresh scent upon the air. It was sweet! It was heady and intoxicating. It drew him uncontrollably through the nightshades to a clearing. He felt ravenous for the taste of this heady new liquor. Oh, his body sang in glorious anticipation of drowning himself in the sweet, sweet nectar. He glided over the soft earth, living things shrinking away from his slim form as though the cold draft of death itself had just passed over them. The plants shivered in the chill wake of his passage and the trees moaned in desolate lamentation. But he could no longer hear them. Only one thing now attracted his senses and all his will was bent upon it.

Between the leaves of the trees, he spied them. Two succulent morsels. The bright red beating of their hearts was pulling him forward. He almost could not contain himself. He had the incredible urge to rip and tear, and drink, until he could not hold any more. But he summoned some strength, some strange …something, curiosity perhaps, that bade him to pause and to watch.

Voices floated to him. It was hard to listen, hard to pay attention at first, because the smell was so strong and so demanding. His lips parted to let the taste touch his tongue. One was thick and pungent with the taste of mead and salty red meat. The other, lighter yet robust in the way of old books, wine, cheeses and pipe weed. And musk. He swallowed reflexively, his mouth watering. But the voice of the Man caught his attention again. He forced himself to put the powerful hunger aside for yet another moment.

He drifted closer, red-rimmed eyes scanning the Man, forcing himself to ignore the red beating of his mortal heart. It was the Man’s face that drew him. Lined somewhat in the way of mortals, it was a face suffused with warmth and intelligence, with a familiar steel gaze that would, in times past, soften when it looked upon him and breathed his name. Legolas. In another reality, he knew that was his name. At that moment, the Man looked up, and although his human eyes surely could not detect him, the steel gaze penetrated the fog that had enshrouded his mind.

Gimli looked up from his contemplation when the Ranger stood abruptly. Scrambling to his feet, as well, the Dwarf turned to look into the darkened woods where the Man peered with a look of concentration. Gimli gasped as a glint of gold passed through the trees. In an instant, it was gone, yet the sudden feeling of being watched remained.

“Did you see that?” stammered the Dwarf, clutching his axe tightly.

Aragorn nodded but did not draw his sword. He stepped around the Dwarf and peered into the darkness around them. The moonlight may have been playing tricks on their eyes or someone out there was moving in a slow circle around them. Aragorn had a strong feeling on who that someone might be. His heart started to beat faster in both anticipation and fear.

With a deep breath and ignoring the sudden shiver that ran down his spine, Aragorn stepped forward and said in a commanding voice, “Come out and show yourself.” The Ranger stared into the darkness, and said more softly, “There is no need to hide.”

At first there was nothing, then like a mirage that flickered in and out of reality a golden apparition floated silently through the trees. Long silver hair trailed on the breeze behind the delicate form of the moon’s newest stepchild. Pale white feet touched the earth, leaving no print, and a lithe form draped in glowing gossamer silks materialized before their stunned eyes.

Gimli swallowed. He never thought he’d see a more beautiful vision than the Lady of the Wood. Yet this starry creature of the night was in every way as mysterious and alluring. But the danger could not be hidden by the loveliness of the form. Their Elf stood several feet away, a pale glow about his form as in the way of all Elves, but now with skin so callously white it cast the Dwarf’s thoughts back to the harsh marble faces of the corpses, as they had lain within their coffins. The brilliant azure eyes were rendered even more striking, rimmed as they now were in a red ring of fire. They were the eyes of a predator. Lips, stained red like wine, neither pouted nor frowned as the creature drew closer. The Elf’s movements were slow and cautious, as he glided over the earth to view the two warriors from a position of safety or, Gimli thought strategically, from a position of unfettered attack.

The shuttered face of the Elf remained impassive…as if he did not quite remember his two former companions. Gimli tightened his hold on his axe as the Ranger moved slowly forward with hands raised in a pleading gesture. The exquisite vision of the Elf halted, eyes fixed upon the Man.

“Legolas,” the Ranger uttered the Elf’s name in a coaxing fashion. “You know me, mellon nin.” The Ranger walked closer to the frozen apparition. The Elf was as still as marble, as the Man slowly approached him.

Gimli, swallowed, sweat now pouring profusely from his brow. He didn’t like this. The Elf was not remembering them. If anything, it looked to the Dwarf that his one time companion might be sizing them up for his next meal. Although the beautiful face remained impassive, the eyes gleamed with an unnerving intensity that reminded Gimli of the horrid stares of the vampires.

“Aragorn,” he whispered frantically, “he’s changed! Don’t be a fool!”

“No,” said the Ranger, quietly, as he continued his slow approach towards the Elf. “Legolas would never harm me.”

He was now within a few feet of the Archer. The Elf had not moved as the Man slowly made his way towards him. Aragorn stopped a couple of feet away. The steel gaze of the Ranger held the reddened blue orbs of the Elf and a flicker of emotion passed over the familiar pale features of his lover. The Man’s scent was distracting, it heightened his hunger but it also awakened some part of his mind that was struggling to throw off the fog. His pale hand rose in the air and white porcelain fingers reached out to touch the grizzled beard and the familiar brown curls. The curls slid softly between his fingers and a clear ray of light poked a hole through the mist that clung to his thoughts.

“Aragorn?” the voice of the Elf was soft and uncertain. A look of anguish passed over the Archer’s face.

The Ranger took the cold hand gently into his and drew the Elf towards him. The Elf drifted forward as the Man’s firm grasp tugged on him. The heady scent of the Human filled him, and hunger gushed up from deep within him again. How could he enfold this mortal in his arms and not taste of the honey sweet nectar so close to his mouth? The Vampire’s commandment to kill swiftly returned to him in a rush and he shuddered.

“Legolas,” breathed the Man. The Man’s warm tones washed over his anxiety, quieting the sudden rippling of fear. Aragorn’s arms came around him and drew him into a familiar embrace. He was being wrapped in protection and desire. He smelled it on the Man. It was a scent of belonging. It was his own scent that he detected, that still lingered on this Mortal’s skin. He belonged with this Man. As if awakening from a dream, the Elf rested his pale golden head on the familiar warm shoulder. The Man brought his arms up around the slim creature. He sighed into the Elf’s shinning hair. “Yes, my love.”

“Aragorn.” The Elf’s breath was a whisper against his skin. The Man pulled back and cupped the Elf’s face in his hands. Red tears trailed down the pale beauty’s shining white skin.

“I am here, Mellon. I won’t leave you,” whispered the Man, thickly. “I love you, Legolas.”

The Elf smiled through his tears faintly. “I remember,” he said in a tone of relief.

Aragorn gazed deeply into the red-rimmed eyes and saw the familiar open innocence of his Elf. He pulled the beloved face closer and pressed his lips on the red mouth. The lips parted and his tongue cautiously entered the enticing cavern, grazing against sharp teeth. He felt the mild prick and the gentle sucking as the coppery taste of his own blood mingled in the kiss. He pulled back and whispered against the succulent lips, “Do not drink, my love.”

The Elf’s lips grazed against his and in a trusting voice he whispered, “Nay, my Ranger, I will not drink from you. Although I desire it, I will not without your permission.”

Aragorn crushed the sweet body against him and swore silently to never be parted from his lover again. He claimed the red mouth fearlessly for a second time. His tongue plunged into the inviting recess and kissed the Elf passionately.

“Aragorn!” Gimli’s voice suddenly intruded on his deep happiness at having his lover back in his arms. “Aragorn, don’t do it!” the Dwarf was saying fiercely.

Aragorn did not relinquish his hold on the Elf when he broke the kiss and turned to the Dwarf. “No need to fear, Master Dwarf.” His gaze returned to the sweet sapphire eyes of his lover. “I told you,” he said more softly, “Legolas won’t hurt me.”

The Elf smiled sweetly up at him.

“Well,” retorted the garrulous Dwarf, “that may be, but I think we may have another problem.”

Aragorn turned questioning eyes towards Gimli and then he saw it. A strange dark cloud, unlike anything the Ranger had ever before seen, was moving towards them against the wind.

The Elf gasped and pulled out of the Man’s arms. “No!”

“Legolas?” the Ranger did not hesitate to grab unto the Elf, lest he run off. They clung to each other as the dark cloud sailed towards them and the wind began to whip at them.

Legolas grabbed the Man by the shoulders and cried in anguish, “You must flee, Aragorn! He will kill you!”

The wind was now tugging at their clothing and the Archer’s silvery mane flew about his face. “Nay,” shouted the Man, “I will not leave you here with him. We will finish this now!”

As if on cue the dark cloud descended to the ground before them and in a swirl, it coalesced into the dark form of the Vampire. Piercing blue eyes riveted upon the Elf in tragic accusation of betrayal. “No…” whimpered the Elf, clutching onto the Ranger. The dark figure began to stalk towards them, black cape flapping around him like giant bat wings, as the angry gale increased in ferocity. “No!” shouted the Elf, again, in defiance. Legolas pushed the Man behind him in an effort to protect the Ranger.

The dark Ancient covered the distance in a few long strides, and grabbed the Elf by the throat. “I told you to kill him!” the Ancient growled in twisted fury. Before Aragorn or Gimli could react the Elf was hurled through the air, and slammed into a tree with such violence the blow would most certainly have killed a mortal. The Elf slid in a boneless heap upon the ground.

Aragorn pulled out his sword in a cry of rage but he was snatched up by the throat, like a rag doll, and yanked into the arms of the Vampire.

“Now you die,” spat the Vampire. Gimli watched in horror as the Ancient’s fangs sank with a crunch into the Ranger’s neck.

---------------------------------------------------------- ----------------------------------------------

Veins bulged with fury, in the Vampire’s neck, as he gulped down the spurting fountain of red blood. The Human thrashed madly in the Ancient’s iron embrace. But his movements were starting to slow. Aragorn’s heart was succumbing to the sudden drain. The Ancient smiled to himself as this Human’s end approached. But his smile faltered as he detected a peculiar odor, that in his haste, he had failed to notice before. It was familiar. All at once, the Vampire shuddered in between swallows and a wave of nausea forced the Ancient to pause, his own dark heart stammering and tripping. The Vampire’s hands shook, threatening to let the Ranger slip from suddenly nerveless fingers. He peeled his mouth off Aragorn’s neck. The gaping wound continued to pulse blood. Beads of sweat covered the Man’s face. Blue eyes stared at the Ranger in disbelief and a shadow of fear crossed the marble countenance. Aragorn forced his eyes open and stared back, a look of cunning entering the steel of the Ranger’s gaze.

At that moment, the Vampire’s body jerked and the Man was abruptly released from the slackening fingers. Gimli’s axe protruded from in between the Ancient’s shoulders, when the fiend swung round to face the Dwarf. The Vampire grabbed the Dwarf with two shaking hands about Gimli’s throat and started to throttle him, but the cold fingers were not as strong as they used to be. Poison coursed through him as his body shook with the tainted drought of the Ranger’s blood. His mind reeled at the realization of what must have happened. His unsteady grip on the Dwarf was suddenly dislodged, altogether, by the stumbling form of the Elf. Gimli fell to the ground with a grunt, and backed away as the Vampire hissed with bared fangs at the beautiful Archer, who latched onto the Ancient’s arm in desperation.

Blood oozed down the side of the Elf’s head, and looking more and more like death warmed over, he clung to the Ancient, as much to keep from falling as to thwart any further attacks on the two warriors. “Please!” begged the Elf, “don’t hurt them…”

The Vampire snarled at him and grabbed him by the throat, forcing the Archer to his knees. “You betrayed me!” he snarled, grabbing a fistful of blond hair with his other hand. He leaned close to the Elf’s upturned face as the Archer gasped and tried to pry the iron grip from his throat. “I should kill you!” he whispered, teeth bared. “But instead I’ll make you watch me finish off your Ranger. Then we will have eternity together, my Angelic One, enough time for me to repay you for your disloyalty.”

The Elf gasped against the crushing fingers but his eyes widened as a dark silhouette fell over the Ancient’s shoulder. Red eyes lanced through the darkness as a hand came around the Ancient’s throat and pulled him off the Elf in one fluid movement that had the Vampire sailing through the air. The fiend crashed into the trees. As if suspended on invisible wings, the Ancient sprang back out of the trees to land on unsteady feet. He gasped to behold the electrified form of the newly made Vampire.

Aragorn eyes were red glowing embers of rage. Standing tall, he stepped between the fallen Elf and the Ancient Vampire. Power thrummed through his once-human frame and his suddenly acute senses bombarded him with a plethora of information about his surroundings. The forest was frozen in its awareness of the vampires in its midst. Terrified animals pressed themselves into the shadows. The rapid heart beat of the Dwarf filled Aragorn’s hearing and he could smell the fear wafting off his stunned friend. Behind him, the gentle Elf gaped in amazement at his transformation. He could smell the sweet desire that simmered off the Elf’s skin as his lover’s eyes traveled over him, taking in the voltage of power that emanated from his newly made form. Aragon raised his eyes to the Ancient with a smug smile and a challenging tilt of his chin.

The Ancient’s narrowed eyes flashed dangerously. He did not miss the sudden sizzle of desire that leapt between the Elf and the Ranger. Snarling in pure hatred, the Ancient lunged at the Dunadan. Aragorn bared his long white fangs and leapt to meet the Ancient Creature who had Sired him into this Realm of the Undead. Like two titans, who would each lay claim to a beauteous prize, they clashed under the stars.

A funnel of energy rose into the air around the two supernatural creatures, lifting their hair and clothes in a vacuum of crackling power. Locked in a contest of supremacy as only those who had once been Men could understand, or appreciate, the two Vampires grappled. Marble fingers closed around throats and the two straining bodies rose into the air, frozen within the current of power that hummed back and forth between them, creating a living sculpture of death.

“You dare rise against me, Fledgling? I have given you immortality,” spat out the Vampire, without slackening his assault.

“You tried to kill me, and you took Legolas against his will,” growled the Ranger, feeling his power match the Ancient’s easily.

“You cannot match me, Young One. The Elf is mine and you will be dust come sun rise,” sneered the Vampire.

Growling, the Ranger flung the Vampire off him into the treetops, black cape flapping wildly about the hurtling figure. The Ancient caught a tree limb and catapulted back at the Ranger, colliding with him in mid air. They spun out of control, tumbling toward the ground.

Spinning around each other, hands locked about the each other’s throats, Aragorn released his grip on the Ancient and reached into his coat for the circlet of dried plants that had been clutched in the hands of the corpse bride. Aragorn wrapped it around the Ancient’s throat and crushed the powdery leaves releasing a pungent odor. The herbs began to smoke as soon as their oils touched the undead flesh. The Vampire screamed as its corrosive properties afflicted him. Aragorn hastily pulled his burnt fingers off the potent herbs. Aragorn felt the fumes burn his eyes and nose as he continued to fall to the ground. Screaming wildly the Ancient thrashed to pull the smoking fiery choker from his throat. He plummeted to the ground while the Ranger landed a small distance away on his back. He climbed shakily to his feet and ran to the Vampire’s now still body. A pungent smoke rose from the inert form.

Legolas and Gimli had been watching the battle from the ground. Now the Elf scrambled away from the repulsive odor that assaulted his nostrils. While Gimli moved closer, cautiously, to prod it with his boot.

Aragorn glided over the prone figure of the Ancient and stood before the Elf, power emanating from him in shimmering gusts of heat. Gimli looked fearfully at his two transformed companions. Aragorn spared him a quick look and seeing the abject terror in the Dwarf’s face merely nodded, before wrapping his arms wordlessly around the stunned Elf and lifting them off the ground. The Dwarf shrank from view in a matter of moments as they two twilight lovers rose into the night sky.

Legolas clutched at the powerful Vampire that carried him over the clouds. He looked in awe at his lover’s pale face. Aragorn’s eyes burned into him and desire flared and crackled between them. They came to a rest on a soft patch of earth only a short distance away.

Within seconds Aragorn’s mouth was on him. Teeth sank into willing flesh and blood painted their passion red with lust and hunger. Growls of desire filled the night air. The silvery beauty of the Elf was magnified to his vampire eyes that saw in deeper shades than his human vision could ever have. He clasped the shining beauty to him and undressed the body with swift motions. Legolas moaned in his arms, weakened by the additional loss of blood. Aragorn lifted his swooning lover and carried him to a soft mound of grass.

The taste of the Elf in his mouth was an intoxicating potion. With the sweet flow of the Prince’s essence came images and impressions of the Archer’s life. Mostly however, the undeniable and steadfast love for the Ranger flowed through the link. Aragorn had to taste it again, only a little, he told himself as he bent over the prone naked figure. He kissed his way down the Elf’s body, feeling his erection supremely needful within the binding of his own clothes. Marble hands groped at the Elf’s delicate curves and dips. He fondled the white column of flesh that rose from the ash blond thatch of hair at the juncture of the Elf’s thighs. Unable to resist, he lowered his lips to the succulent flesh.

Legolas arched under him with a groan as the sharp fangs pricked his stiff elfhood. The Vampire drank and sucked on his throbbing erection until the Elf spurted his glowing seed down the Ranger’s throat. The earth rose up under him and dizziness forced Legolas to clutch onto the grass for support. Legolas groaned as the mouth continued to work on him, bringing him erect again, mercilessly. The Elf clasped the dark head of hair, but his head swooned from the blood letting.

“Aragorn, please, no more,” he whispered, feeling the earth tilt again violently. He was released abruptly, and in his disorientation found himself pulled up onto the Vampire’s lap. He leaned his head heavily on Aragorn’s shoulder as his hips were lifted and the Ranger’s shaft was pushed inside of him. He pushed himself down against the invading rod as it dragged against his sweet spot. Groaning loudly, Legolas clutched onto the powerful arms that held him as the Vampire pumped into him. The maddening tempo increased to a frenzied peak, and the sharp fangs took him again as Aragorn’s mouth clamped onto the Elf’s sweet throat. They both came violently, as Aragorn’s seed spurted inside of the Elf, and Aragorn’s mouth came off the tender flesh to growl his satisfaction. The Archer collapsed onto the Ranger, the curtain of golden hair fanned over his face like a shroud of fading starlight. Breathing heavily, Aragorn held onto the spent body, stroking the Elf tenderly.

“My love, are you all right?” questioned the Ranger, worriedly, as the blood lust receded and some measure of sanity began to return to him. The Elf did not respond.

“Legolas?” Aragorn frantically lowered the still form to the ground. The Elf’s golden head fell back against his arm as he did so, revealing the stark red wound against the marble white flesh of the Elf’s throat. “Legolas!” No breath passed over the bloodless bruised lips.

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The wind howled through the twisted branches of the trees and the forest wailed its practiced dirge at the sad tableau. As before the dark enchantment claimed its victims: love lost and madness claimed. The trees watched the spell wind foreword. Like mourners trapped eternally at their own funeral the woods watched the love story come to its tragic end, yet again.

The dark curls swayed in the wind, as the head of the Vampire pressed against the still form of the golden beauty. White was the skin of the precious Elf. Motionless the form of the delicate creature that had so recently walked the night. The trees, forlorn sentinels to the timeless drama, swayed in protest. But to what avail?

“No….” whimpered the Vampire, madness tugging at his consciousness. “No! Legolas, No!” He raised his head and grabbed the shoulders of the Elf, and shook him violently. “NO! You will not die!”

He pounded on the chest of the quiet form. And then lifted up the limp body onto his arm in desperation. “YOU. WILL. NOT. DIE!” He screamed into the blank face. He ripped at his own wrist, with his fangs, spurting a bright red fountain from the severed artery. Aragorn brought the lifeblood to the Elf’s mouth and forced the lips open. Red gore drizzled down the Archer’s chin as he tried to press the wrist to the Elf’s mouth.

“DRINK!” He screamed frantically into the Prince’s face.

The trees swayed violently around them in agitation. This was a new piece to the drama. “Drink, Legolas…do you hear me?” the Ranger begged as rain started to softly pelt against him.

Aragorn clutched at his beautiful Elven lover. Legolas could not die! Aragorn was not going to allow his sweet Elf to pass into darkness. Never! “DRINK!” He screamed in despair, “YOU WILL LISTEN TO ME, LEGOLAS, DRINK!” cried the Ranger above the shrill howling of the wind. The forest roused itself, leaves rustling loudly, the earth itself seemed to shudder beneath them.

Lightening flashed above their heads and without warning the heavens opened up above them. A torrential rain was unleashed, drenching the earth. The twisted forms of the trees contorted madly, screaming their song into the storm, adding their voice to the commands of the Ranger. Roots twined, and slithered through the muddied ground, in small imperceptible movements.

“Drink Legolas, please….please my love! Please don’t die…I would rather die, if you would but live…” The Ranger continued to press his bloodied weeping wrist to the succulent full lips. Tears red as blood flowed from his preternatural eyes and he did not see anything around him but the precious glowing treasure within his arms. He did not care to look up to see the slipping roots of the trees, nor notice them dragging their tall inert forms over the soft earth.

Aragorn was much too busy feeling the slightest motion of the lips against his skin. The gently drawing on his arm, so small that he was not sure his fevered mind had not created it. But as he stilled his pleading voice and lowered his face close to his lover, he felt the gentle sucking again. He dared not move, but whispered in frenzied hope, “Yes, my dearest, yes take it. Take it all. Drink and come back to me.” The sucking grew stronger and a moan escaped the fallen Elf as he began to draw more ravenously on the elixir of Aragorn’s blood.

His fluttering eyes rolled back and forth and the bright confident face of his Ranger danced before him. “I love you, Legolas. I want you to be by my side forever. Only you, Dear One. Only you…” The image faded and awareness returned to him enough to sense he had to stop from drinking more than the Ranger could afford to lose. He pulled his sweet red mouth off the fountain and pressed his weak fingers onto the wound, sealing it from losing more.

He did not yet open his eyes, although he sensed the extreme concern in the Ranger whose breath stirred anxiously against his cheek. “Legolas?” asked his forlorn and worried lover. He knew the Ranger was feeling horrified by what had almost happened and he longed to soothe him. But something else tugged relentlessly now at the Elf’s awareness. The trees. They sang to him! They sang of freedom at long last. A horrid cycle now finally ended after millennia. Freedom from an unspeakable curse of a dark enchantment that had claimed so many lives and destroyed so many loves.

He smiled to feel their joy, their lightness, their release at long last. “Legolas? My sweet, please talk to me.”

He opened his sapphire eyes and looked at the Man. “Legolas! Your eyes…they’re not…” The Man gasped at the sudden swoon that took him. His vision zoomed crazily in and out, sharper then grainy. He closed his own eyes against the strange sensations. When he opened them again, gone was the crystal clear layered vision of the vampire sight: the pale light of the stars seemed distant again and the darkness around them thicker.

And then he saw them. The rain had stopped and he suddenly beheld a questionable vision. The trees now stood in a small tight circle around the two lovers. Before his uncertain eyes, Aragorn watched in fascination as the twisted limbs did in fact bend of their own volition. Slim branches sinuously slipped around each other, then unfurled. Long tapered finger like shoots, closed around the softness of one another. Shaggy mounds turned into faces with long bushy hair, eyes now blinked and lips pursed. Limbs morphed slowly into arms and legs. Slim saplings stretched carefully as bark was slowly turning into skin. Hands now clasped at flesh instead of the hapless rough scraping of branches tossed in the wind.

Out of the trees the shades stepped forth. Pale forms like marble, skin so white it shone in the darkness and languid gazes of fire and ice. Aragorn slowly released his grip on the weak Elf, and cautiously stood to face the vampires.

He stood motionless as the circle tightened around them, dimly aware that out of a thick bramble of bushes tumbled the disheveled form of the Dwarf.

“Aragorn…oh…” Gimli stopped dead in his tracks at the sight of the vampires that stood like statues among the trees.

One of the beings stepped foreword. She looked like a young girl but Aragorn knew better. He stepped protectively in front of the fallen Archer. The girl smiled at him and raised a hand towards Legolas.

“Do not be afraid. He is hurt. Let me help.” She easily stepped passed the Man and knelt to touch the Elf on his head. Her fingers traced his face.

“Young one, you saved us with the power of your love. You did not give into the blood lust like those before you.” Her hand glowed white and the Elf’s wounds slowly faded. They gazed into each other’s eyes for several moments. “You are worthy, indeed,” the girl said.

She stood then and faced the Man. “You, Ranger, also saved us. You did not give up. Thus the chain is broken.” She laid her hand over his heart and Aragorn felt a pleasant warmth suffuse his body.

The vampire silently returned to the others. They turned their backs on the warriors, walked into the trees, and faded from sight.

Aragorn gaped into the sparse woods. No longer were they surrounded by a lush and ancient forest. Only slender saplings and healthy evergreens remained. The pall of mist that had lain thick upon the land since when they first entered these woods had now lifted. The air was clean and fresh. A stirring by his side brought him back from his thoughts and he turned to help the Elf to his feet.

“Legolas.” He placed both hands on the Archer’s shoulders and looked at the poor bedraggled Elf. His hair was strewn about, and blood covered his skin. He looked beautiful, thought Aragorn. Taking the Archer into his arms, he kissed him soundly on the lips. The Elf smiled up at him, when the Man pulled away, then blushed at the polite sound of a throat clearing a few feet away.

Aragorn realized they were both naked and Gimli was studying his shoes with intense fascination. The Ranger smiled and quickly retrieved the clothing that had been so hastily discarded. It was bloody and torn but it would serve until they could come up with something else.

Finally, Gimli walked over to them when all were properly dressed. “Master Elf. Aragorn. I am very glad to see ya lads. Are you all right?”

“Aye, Gimli. We are ourselves again,” said the Elf softly, looking up at Aragorn.

“But, Aragorn, what happened? Where did they all come from and where did they go?” asked the Dwarf, his beady eyes scanning the woods nervously.

“That is a good question, Master Dwarf. I wish I knew”, responded the Ranger, who caressed the cheek of the Elf’s face. Legolas smiled and looked at the Dwarf.

“Does it matter,” said the Elf who had snuggled back into the Man’s arms. “They were cursed, now they are free. The forest is singing its joy!”

Aragorn smiled down at the Elf in his arms.

“But, I don’t understand, how did you defeat the old one that started all this trouble,” asked the Dwarf as he started to pick his over the mounds in the earth where the liberated trees had once stood..

Aragorn handed him what was left of the wolfsbane and garlic wreath. “Master Gimli, sometimes it pays to listen to old legends.”

The Dwarf accepted the dried herbs and sniffed at them curiously before pocketing them, just in case. He turned to look back at the two lovers, and with a slight smirk, said, “Now, if ya dinna’ mind, I for one would like to leave these infernal woods and find some nice cozy rocks or better yet, a cave to rest in. I am due for a nap, ya know.” He winked at the Ranger as he led their way.

“Aye, Master Gimli,” said the Ranger a bit loudly, taking his Elf by the hand and falling in step behind the Dwarf, “now that you mention it, you do look rather tired. A nice long nap is in order.”

Fin.

 

 

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