Between Darkness and Dawn
Chapter 4: Invitation to Death
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Legolas’ shout distracted the rider, and he straightened in the saddle
reining in the jittery stallion. The horse snorted
defiantly. Their task was complete; it was time to turn home.
“Listen carefully,” the rider in black instructed Aragorn. “My
master has summoned you. If you wish to live, you will make
your way to Angmar before the new moon is half spent. Look for
the mountain with the black spire. If you tarry, you won’t live
to see a new moon ever again. Do not think to look elsewhere for
help, for you’ll never survive. Your time is already running out
and your only hope lies in Angmar. Make all haste for the black
mountain. May the Valar have mercy on you... for no one else
can.” With that warning, the rider spurred his steed and bolted
for the safety of the woods to his left. The horse seemed to melt
into the dark patterned shadows and fade from sight with a clatter of
The elf sprinted across the natural rock bridge, bringing an arrow to
bear on the darkly clad attacker as he disappeared into the trees, but
it was already too late. Legolas raced towards Aragorn’s
position, ready for another attack should the evil beast and its rider
return. Even as he neared the place where they had disappeared,
he could feel the dark touch of the Nazgûl’s presence
receding. Legolas realized the rider may not have been a Wraith,
but he had most certainly operated on behalf of one.
Dropping down next to the ranger, Legolas pressed the human back,
trying to get the man to stop writhing. Aragorn moaned and
shifted restlessly, one hand locked around the arrow’s shaft. He curled
in on himself, trying to stop the fiery pain that was consuming
him. He had been wounded by a drugged or poisoned arrow before,
but it had spread numbness. This one spread pure fire.
“Legolas, it burns,” he groaned softly. “Get it out.”
“I will, my friend. I will. But I need you to lie still for a
moment.” Legolas held the human by his shoulders, trying to get
Aragorn to look at him. He didn’t understand why this had
happened, or why their attacker seemed content to just wound the ranger
and leave. He didn’t have time for questions right now.
Locking his gaze on the elf, the ranger quieted under the prince’s
touch. Unable to remain completely still, Aragorn ground the heel
of his boot into the forest floor while Legolas gently unlaced his
tunic and cut it away from the wound. A dark substance spread out
from the arrow’s shaft, mixing with the human’s blood and running in
small rivulets off his shoulder. The dark, sticky liquid bubbled
slightly where it touched the man’s skin. It truly was burning
Legolas pried Aragorn’s fingers from the haft and once more pushed the
man back against the ground. Reaching across the ranger, he
dragged Aragorn’s pack close and emptied the contents out on the
ground. He grasped a small glass vial that contained several
pebble sized crystals. Emptying the container on the man’s chest,
Legolas chose a good sized stone and pressed it against Aragorn’s lips.
The ranger’s body was tense beneath his hands and the man resisted the medication, groaning through gritted teeth.
“Aragorn, you must help me,” Legolas pleaded with the human, trying
again to unsuccessfully get him to take the crystal. “Take it,
mellon-nín, it is just mentasis. I know you’re in pain but
I have to get this arrow out of you. It will be easier if you are
more relaxed. This foul substance on the arrow is poison, a form
of morgul poison if I am correct. We need to slow down its
spread. You have to cooperate with me or I can’t help you.”
The elf’s voice was collected, but inside he was panicking.
Aragorn’s pain level was increasing and soon he would go into shock.
The mentasis was a byproduct of the mentalyion plant that grew
in the Misty Mountains near Rivendell. The purple, flowering
perennial secreted a substance that, when it came in contact with the
air, would crystallize into small crystal formations. The
secretions held a powerful herb that slowed the body’s systems down and
dulled pain, making the patient very pliant and calm. It required the
wounded party to place the mentasis under their tongue and let it
dissolve. That was Legolas‘ aim at the moment.
Aragorn knew what Legolas was trying to do, but he was having a hard
time thinking rationally. It was all he could do to keep from
knocking the elf off of him and trying to pull the arrow from his
shoulder himself. He wanted it gone and wanted it gone now.
He didn’t care about the damage; all he could think of was getting rid
of the encompassing pain.
When the elf pressed the crystal to his lips again, he allowed Legolas
to place it under his tongue. Clamping his mouth tightly shut,
Aragorn held his breath and closed his eyes, fighting the waves of fire
that swept through his body.
For a few minutes the pain was intense. Then, with a sigh,
Aragorn began to relax beneath Legolas. He drew in a deep breath
and let it out gradually as the herb started to work.
Slowly the ranger lowered his head all the way back as his legs
straightened out until he was lying flat against the forest floor,
“Aragorn?” Legolas was half afraid the dose had been too much. He
didn’t have that much experience with the drug and Aragorn wasn’t in a
suitable condition to have been able to judge for himself.
The slightly dilated silver eyes slowly opened and gazed up at the elf.
“Are you with me?” the prince questioned further as he released his hold on the man.
“Yes,” Aragorn answered softly. His words were slurred but he was
coherent. “It wasn’t a Nazgûl, Legolas. It was a man
on a morgul steed.”
The elf nodded encouragingly as he began to quickly clean the wound,
carefully collecting the dark substance so it would not spread and burn
the ranger further.
“Did he say anything to you?” Legolas was trying to keep the
human preoccupied as he worked, also hoping to find out more about what
“Yes.” Aragorn’s voice drifted off and the prince gently tapped the ranger’s face.
“What did he say, Aragorn? You were going to tell me. I
need you to stay awake,” Legolas instructed softly. He spread a
drawing tincture around the shaft of the arrow and prepared to pull the
“He said... my presence has been requested and that I am to go... go to
him. I have less than a fortnight to get there,” Aragorn spoke
softly. His eyes watched the elf’s blue ones. “I don’t
think I want to go.”
Legolas smiled softly. “I shouldn’t think so. Don’t worry
about that now. We’ll figure out what to do next in a little
while. Right now I need to get this arrow out of you.” The elf
spoke slowly and quietly, hoping Aragorn could understand him even if
the ranger was numbed to everything else. The human wasn’t making much
sense, but he would worry about that later.
With a small nod, Aragorn agreed. He gripped the elf’s shoulder
with his right hand and stared up at his friend, waiting.
There was so much trust in the silver eyes that tracked his every move
that Legolas found it hard to proceed. Mentasis or not, Aragorn
was going to feel the arrow when it was removed.
With a pained grimace, Legolas placed his hand over the man’s face,
gently brushing the ranger’s eyelids with his fingertips. Aragorn
obediently closed his eyes and allowed the elf to carefully tip his
head to the side so that his face was turned away from the arrow.
Getting a solid grip on the shaft with his left hand, Legolas held the
ranger down with his right and rose up on one knee. He wanted to
do this in one swift motion to lessen the pain, if at all possible.
“Ready, Aragorn?” he asked quietly, wondering if the man had
slipped into unconsciousness. He halfway hoped the ranger had.
“Yes,” came the soft reply.
Steadying himself, Legolas jerked the arrow straight up, pulling the
shaft and the head out of Aragorn’s body. The man arched against
the pain, crying out as the barbed head tore out of his shoulder
leaving a jagged, gaping gash behind.
With a small moan Aragorn relaxed and stilled beneath his friend.
A quick check proved that he had simply lost consciousness. Part
of Legolas was grateful for the small blessing - and part of him was
worried sick. The arrow wound itself was not particularly
grievous, but it was the fact that the arrow had so obviously been
poisoned that filled the elf’s heart with dread. They were too
far from any inhabited place to get help. His home was on the
easternmost side of the woods. Rivendell laid hundreds of miles
away over the mountain ranges. The Beornings were woefully
inadequate in all but the basic healing arts, often taking their more
critically ill either to Rivendell or one of the human habitations
farther south. If what the rider said was true and Aragorn didn’t
get help soon...
Quickly banishing the negative thoughts from his mind, the elf
concentrated on cleaning the wound. The skin around the cut was
red and feverish. It had been peeled back and burned away in some
areas. Most of the thick liquid had congealed around the arrow
shaft and was easily cleansed, but Legolas was certain that a fair
amount remained inside Aragorn, already in his bloodstream.
The elf dug quickly through the tumbled contents of the ranger’s bag,
looking for any more of the drawing ointment he had originally
used. It was all spent. Trying to maintain his calm, the
elf mixed together the few herbs he could easily recognize as being
good for this type of wound. Gently he placed it in and around
the cut, laying leaves of athelas over the mixture before applying the
bandage. He knew the kingsfoil did little good in his hands, but
he hoped that it would aid Aragorn’s body anyway.
When Aragorn came to, it took him a moment to realize where he
was. The sun was just beginning its slide down the sky behind
them and the meadow valley was bathed in the low light. Long
shadows stretched across the Langflood towards the western edge of
Mirkwood. The day had already been spent.
His body felt oddly disjointed from his consciousness. His hands
and feet wouldn’t respond to his commands and he had a hard time just
opening his eyes. As the world slowly came back into focus and
feeling began to spread through him again, he discovered that he was
being held and gently rocked. A softly singing voice floated on the
warm late afternoon air and he knew at once that it was Legolas who
The elf’s arms were crossed in front of Aragorn, holding him tightly
and he sat resting with his back against Legolas’ chest.
Breathing in deeply, he alerted the prince that he was awake and the
elf stopped singing.
“Strider?” Legolas asked, leaning around and gazing at his friend.
“Where are we?” Aragorn mumbled, trying to find his voice.
A flagon of water was pressed to his lips and he drank greedily.
Legolas moved out from behind the ranger, gently leaning the man
against the trunk of the large tree they were seated beneath.
“We are still in the meadow near the Langflood, about fifty yards from
where you were struck down.” Legolas knelt in front of the man
and gazed into his eyes, judging his friend’s state of awareness for
himself. “Do you remember anything?” he questioned gently.
It took a moment for Aragorn’s thoughts to coalesce.
“I was headed home,” he started to explain. He frowned as the
memories darted away, flitting on the edges of his thoughts.
Shifting against the tree caused his wound to flare and he winced,
fingering the bandage curiously.
When the memories came back they flooded his mind all at one time, shouting for attention.
Aragorn gasped and turned back towards the elf who was watching him
intently. “It was a man on a horse. A dark horse. At
first I thought it was a Nazgûl but he was no Wraith, Legolas.”
The words hastily tumbled out of the man and he reached out to grab the
elf’s arm as he spoke. “He said that I was to go to Angmar if I
wanted to live. He cautioned me not to return home or go to
anyone else. He said my only hope lay in making it to the black
mountain before the new moon was half spent.”
Aragorn searched his friend’s face for some response. The elf had
gone deathly pale as the ranger recounted the words.
“Legolas, what did he mean? Who has summoned me?” Aragorn had a
feeling he already knew, but he needed to ask anyway. He was
desperately hoping that Legolas would contradict his fears.
Unfortunately the elf could only confirm them.
“The kingdom of Angmar was broken a long time ago, by your ancestors in
fact; as I am sure you are aware. Yet dark rumors have long
whispered that the Witch-king’s castle remained untouched and that,
since the power of your people waned, he returns to inhabit it at
times. A dark terror dwells in those hills. Some of the
Mirkwood exiles, who passed through that land when they returned from
beyond Carn Dûm with my Uncle, told us that it is a barren place,
full of malice. Beyond their words, I know little. But this
I do know, Strider, that if we have been summoned thus, we are in
danger.” Legolas divulged all he knew and had heard of the dark
castle. “I can think of no one other than the Witch-king who
would wish us to go to Angmar. If that is true, and this wound is
his doing, then it is grievous indeed.”
Legolas’ words echoed the ranger’s own thoughts. What Legolas did
not express was what he truly feared. If all their suppositions were
true, it was likely not even Lord Elrond could save Estel, even if they
could get him there on time. The elf’s heart recoiled painfully,
refusing to allow that thought to remain. There was no way he was even
going to consider losing his friend.
“We can’t go there,” Aragorn argued, unintentionally sliding into
Legolas’ use of ‘them’ as a plural. Gingerly he moved into a more
comfortable position as his body woke from the effects of the
mentasis. “You can’t go there, Legolas. He’ll recognize
“My friend, I think he already has or we would not be sitting here like
this now,” Legolas answered softly. It was painfully obvious that
for some reason they had been hunted down and intentionally attacked
now, when they had no hope for help. He had the sinking feeling
that this might have even been the whole purpose behind the raid on the
Beorning village. Only someone as powerful as a Nazgûl
could have brought that about. The Beornings had never been the
targets... they were. Now here they were, hundreds of miles from
any possible means of help. If it had been a trap, then it was a
wickedly clever one. The prince held no illusions that the
message had been meant for Aragorn alone. If this was the
Witch-king’s doing, the evil one knew very well that Legolas would
abandon a friend in trouble. He was right.
“We’ll go to my father then,” Aragorn pressed on, unwilling to accept
the fate that seemed to be chosen for them. “He’ll know what to
do. He can make an antidote for whatever they’ve given me.
He’s the best healer, Legolas. We’ll be safe there.” The ranger
kept talking even though the elf was shaking his head.
“Strider, it would take us over a month to get back to Rivendell.
You’re a healer, assess your symptoms honestly and tell me you truly
think you have that long,” the elf said quietly.
“We can’t just go to that place and submit to a Nazgûl!”
Aragorn was beginning to panic as their options narrowed. “That’s
as good as walking into the jaws of death! There has to be
another way,” he whispered, staring into the the elf’s blue eyes.
Legolas didn’t answer right away. Standing on his feet, he gazed
skyward. Judging from the amount of light they had left he
realized that they were staying the night here. Silently he
walked off and began to collect rocks for a fire ring. He was
terrified of the thought of being anywhere near the Úlairë
and even more afraid that Aragorn would die no matter what choice they
made. All of this was his fault, in more ways than one.
Aragorn’s quiet question drifted towards the elf. He made sure to
stay where the ranger could see him as he collected wood for the fire,
but his mind and thoughts were too jumbled, fearful and recriminating
for him to deal with Aragorn’s cares as well as his own at the moment.
Realizing Legolas needed a few moments, Aragorn relaxed back against
the trunk of the tree. He wanted to get up and help, but his body
ached and his shoulder was throbbing once more. He watched as the
elf silently constructed a fire ring and began stacking the wood.
Unable to stand the pain from his wound any longer, he grabbed his pack
and began digging through it for something that might ease his
Legolas had a small fire going by the time Aragorn found that which he
sought. He fumbled with a small pouch, trying to untie the
knot. Slender hands stopped his awkward movements and the ranger
glanced up at the elf that knelt next to him.
“Elladan tied it shut. He always uses these stupid slip knots,”
Aragorn explained quietly. “They get stuck sometimes. I
guess I won’t have to worry about that anymore.” He tried to lighten
the mood but fell very flat.
Legolas’ gaze snapped up to lock onto the ranger. He sat down
slowly next to the man. “What do you mean?” The question held a
sharp edge stemming from barely concealed distress.
“Legolas...” Aragorn took a deep breath. There was no use denying
the truth. He trusted Legolas enough to be completely honest with
him. “Legolas, we’ve been friends for too long to lie to each
other, or ourselves. We both know I’m not going to make it,” the
ranger’s voice was soft, but frank. Aragorn shook his head and
continued when the elf tried to interrupt him.
“No, my friend, listen to me. I’ve been thinking about it.
We are, as you say, more than a month out from Rivendell. Your
people cannot help me even if we could reach them and neither could the
Beornings. Where then, do we go? Angmar? That’s not a
real option; it’s only putting a different and likely more horrible
face on death. I won’t go there. I won’t take you there.”
The ranger stared hard at the elf.
His thoughts had been running over all the same paths as Legolas’ had
been. The prince had been thinking through every option, trying
any way to find a solution that didn’t involve going to Angmar.
The only one he hadn’t thought of was the one that the ranger had
“You’re not going to die,” Legolas stated flatly.
“Not tonight, no,” Aragorn replied lightly, with a small smile.
“It’s not funny, Estel.” Legolas was angry and it showed through
in his tone. “You think I would agree to just sit here and wait
for you to die? That’s not an option either. I won’t let
“You can’t stop it now, my friend. If what the Wraith’s messenger
said is true, then the only ones who could make a difference now are
either too far away, or somewhere we aren’t going.” Aragorn tried
to reassure the elf and convince himself at the same time. “I have herbs that will help when it gets...”
His words were cut off as
the elf wrenched the knapsack away from him and walked to the far side
of the fire, throwing the bag to the ground.
“Stop it!” Legolas shouted at the ranger. “How can you think like
that? And what of me, or your family?” The elf touched his
heart before pointing over the hills behind them. “What of us?”
Stalking back around the camp he knelt in front of the ranger and
glared at the man. “You went into Mordor after me and convinced
me not to give up this life. You made me believe I had something
to live for. When I died in the mountains your father valued my
life so much he was willing to risk his own to bring me back. And
now you sit there and have the audacity to tell me that you just want
to let go as if your life means nothing? You think I will just
let you slip away and not fight for you as you have for me?”
Tears streamed down the elf’s face. “How dare you,” he whispered.
“It is the Witch-king, Legolas. I only thought to protect you,”
Aragorn spoke quietly. His eyes were large in the firelight and
tears of his own collected on their edges. How could Legolas
think this wasn’t hard for him? Of course it was! But what
choice did he have? They had to be realistic.
“Do you think I never want to see my family again? Or
Arwen? Do you think I want to leave you or Middle-earth now,
this way? Do you think I want to die?” The ranger shook
his head. “I don’t know what else to do. I know you
wouldn’t let me go to Angmar alone, but how can I endanger you by
asking you to go there with me? How can I ever bring you anywhere
near that evil creature’s clutches again? Better one life than
two. You will not think of yourself. You will risk yourself
for my sake. I know you, Legolas.”
“As if you haven’t done the same for me.” Legolas’ quiet words
stopped the ranger. “Let me return the favor. Or at least
let me pay the debt of my own folly.” The elf dropped his head,
pressing his palms against his eyes as if to pretend he was tired and
hide the tears that were escaping them.
“No!” the elf snapped, cutting his friend short. “Do not dare
tell me this is not my fault. The Nazgûl obviously wanted
to catch us alone and I did a good job of making sure he could.
If I had allowed Raniean and Trelan to come with us our circumstances
would be different. We may not have had to chase the Beornings
and walk into this trap, or at the very least we would not now be
alone. We could go to Angmar while someone else went to your
father and my father and tell them what happened and get help.
But father was right about me. I’m foolhardy and I can’t be
trusted. My stupid pride has endangered your life and made sure
no one will ever know what has happened to us.”
The prince’s shoulders shook with a repressed sob. If Aragorn died he would never forgive himself.
“You are none of those things, my friend.” Aragorn’s soft voice made
the elf lift tear-stained eyes to meet the human’s gaze. “You
couldn’t have known this would happen, no one could. Everyone
makes mistakes; that doesn’t make this your fault. We can’t live
in the past now and wonder about what-if’s. We have to try and
face the future. That is all we can do.”
Legolas nodded, wiping his eyes hurriedly. He was by no means
ready to let go of his own self-condemnation over the situation, but he
did agree that the future was what was important now. A future
in which he was not going to let his friend die.
“You are right, mellon-nín. We have walked into worse
predicaments than this and escaped. We can do it again.
Together we will find a way out of this. We will survive,
Estel, both of us. But we must hold onto hope and do whatever it
takes.” Legolas fixed Aragorn with a firm gaze. “Whatever
it takes,” the elf repeated.
“Are you saying you think we should go to Angmar?” Aragorn whispered, almost disbelieving.
“Yes. I am saying we must go. If that is the only way for
you to live, then that is where our course lies. There must be an
antidote there. The dark one may have his plans, but we can have
our own as well. We’ll find the cure and we’ll make it out
again. We have before.” Legolas reached out and gripped the
ranger’s right arm, giving him a gentle squeeze. “Just don’t give
up on me yet. Do you understand, my bull-headed adan?” The
softly spoken taunt worked and Aragorn pulled the elf against him.
“I promise, no giving up,” he whispered into the elf’s ear.
Sitting back, the ranger smiled at the fair being before him. He
was not at all sure that going to Angmar was the best idea, but it did
seem to be the only one. If Legolas had hope, then he would try
to maintain his own. He was glad the elf was with him. He
knew deep in his heart that if Legolas were not here now, he would not
“Now, if you’ll be so kind as to bring me back my bag, my shoulder is
killing me and I know I have some white willow in there,” Aragorn
With a start Legolas realized the ranger had been trying to find
something before he snatched the knapsack away. Quickly
retrieving it and pulling the pouch out once more, Legolas sat back
down in front of the ranger and handed the items to the man. He
retrieved a small jar and gently spread the ointment over the deep cut, slathering it with the numbing gel.
Aragorn sighed as the pain receded, soothed by the elf’s
ministrations. When Legolas had re-bandaged the wound the ranger
handed him the small bag. It was full of pulverized willow bark
and vantium leaves, a pain remedy with which the prince was familiar.
Legolas laughed easily as he slipped the flap open and poured the herbs into the palm of his hand.
“Were these the herbs you were talking about that would help?” he asked softly, eyeing the ranger with a sheepish grin.
“Yes,” Aragorn admitted. “For the pain. That was all I meant, my
friend.” He returned the wide smile as he handed over the small
pot to boil and soften the medicine. He was aware of what Legolas
had thought he meant.
“Forgive me,” Legolas apologized as he added water to the herbs and set
the pot near the flames. Scooting back he rested against the tree
next to Aragorn.
The ranger gently nudged the elf causing the prince to laugh.
“Fussy elf,” he muttered as Legolas leaned back against him. “I
have some nice herbs for you,” he teased lightly.
“You aren’t going to let me live it down, are you?” Legolas murmured good-naturedly.
“Of course not,” Aragorn replied. “It’ll be a great one to tell to my brothers when we get back.”
Legolas laughed. He rolled his eyes at the thought of trying to
explain that one to the human’s adopted family. Yet he would
gladly do so, if only they had the chance to ever see them again.
The prince’s thoughts drifted to his own family as silence fell between
the two friends. His father was expecting him home. It
wouldn’t be the first time things had not turned out quite the way
Thranduil wanted. The king would be angry, but Legolas had to
believe that when he explained the situation, Thranduil would
eventually forgive him. He couldn’t leave the ranger to die
anymore than Aragorn would abandon him. Legolas wished he could
somehow send word but knew that was impossible. He would have to
make his explanations and apologies when he returned home. When, not if, he told himself sternly. They would return home
– both of them.
He glanced at Aragorn. The ranger had scooted down and rested his
head on the elf’s shoulder. He watched the fire wearily, the
hypnotically weaving dance of the flames lulling him to sleep.
Legolas didn’t move. The man needed to rest, his body had suffered a
great deal that day.
They could head out tomorrow. Legolas smiled to himself as
Aragorn relaxed fully against him. Tonight they would just rest.
Packing up their belongings had taken longer than usual the next
morning. Neither the ranger nor the elf spoke much. They
set out in silence and the dread of their path hung heavy upon them.
They had not gotten far before Legolas stopped Aragorn, turning the man
away from their northern path. Aragorn realized they had reached
the same place they had split company the day before. Was it only
yesterday they had dreaded leaving one another? Well now they
were together, but under what circumstances...
“Estel, we cannot take this
where we are going.” He grasped the
man’s hand and fingered the silver and emerald ring on Aragorn’s
forefinger. “You can’t even hide it in your things, as it will be
discovered and it is sure to be recognized,” the elf pointed out.
With a sigh the ranger shook his head. Of course. Barahir could not make this journey, it would betray him.
“I hadn’t even thought of that. But I can’t just leave it.
It’s a family heirloom.” He winced and rubbed his sore shoulder.
It hurt worse today than it had yesterday and the ache was making him
edgy. The ring meant more to him than just lineage; its history
made it a meaningful symbol of friendship between the world of elves
and men. The green stones had been cut in Valinor. It was a
relic from the First Age and not the kind of item one simply laid aside.
“Of course not...” the elf said thoughtfully, considering their options.
“Then what do you suggest?” Aragorn asked, shielding his eyes against the rising sun.
Legolas glanced about them quietly for a few minutes, his gaze roving
over the sparse forests that bracketed the eastern face of the Misty
Mountains. Turning slowly around, he peered across the Langflood
and stared longingly into his own woods, the forests he had loved
since he had been a child. They called to him even now, begging him to return
and not leave again so soon.
That was it, his forests were the answer.
With a questioning glance he held his hand out towards the man, asking silently for the ring.
Aragorn slipped it easily from his finger, trusting the Silvan elf
implicitly. As he dropped the ring into Legolas’ palm he was
struck by a moment of irony. A long time ago, another
golden-haired elf had given this ring, the symbol of the house of
Aragorn’s forefather Barahir. Now he was in turn entrusting it
back into the keeping of an elf. Not too remarkable perhaps,
given its many different guardians, both human and elven, over the
years. However, the irony came because, for some inexplicable
reason, Legolas had always reminded Aragorn of the image his childhood
mind had created to fit the stories of Finrod Felagund. In their
current situation, that comparison, however strange, did not sit well
with the ranger.
With agile steps, Legolas ran lightly back across the river using the
same stone pathway he had yesterday. Aragorn followed him much
more slowly, watching his steps carefully on the slippery rocks.
By the time he had caught up with Legolas, the elf was standing near a
large, old tree that sat just inside the edge of the forest. The
giant oak had a hollow in its trunk near the base. Grasses had
grown up around the dark opening and leaves blown by the winds had
nearly covered the scar. Legolas crouched down near the hole and
pushed the greenery away, exposing the hiding place. He smiled up at Aragorn who was nodding in agreement.
“But wait!” the ranger dropped down next to the elf and dug quickly
through his pack, pulling out an empty leather pouch that had held some
sort of herb at one time. “Here, we’ll put it in here. At
least it will help to keep it safe from the elements until we can
He held the tiny bag open, allowing the elf to drop the silver circle
inside. Pulling the strings shut, he tied it off just as
Elladan had taught him and passed it back to Legolas.
“How will we ever find it again?” Aragorn asked as Legolas rose and helped the ranger to his feet as well.
“It shouldn’t be too hard,” Legolas answered, glancing back at the
ford. “First there is the river and the crossing that we
used. It is straight out from this tree. Secondly,” the elf
paused in his explanation and pulled one of his daggers from its sheath
on his back. Quickly and deftly he carved an intricate pattern
into the bark of the tree. The cuts were superficial and did not
harm the tree. Given a few years they would heal over and no one
would ever know they had been there.
“There,” he spoke softly, stepping back and allowing Aragorn a closer
look. “That is my mark. If I were with a group of wood
elves they would know that I had been here. Normally I would show
the direction I had gone as well, but not this time. This time it
only shows that I was here. This will help us find the right
tree, but mean nothing to anyone unfriendly. If Raniean, Trelan
or one of my company should find this sign, they will know to look
about further to see if I have left anything. Anyone else will
simply assume it was for another party and will ignore it.”
Aragorn nodded slowly. He glanced back across the river in the
direction of Rivendell. It occurred to him suddenly that he
didn’t know what would happen if no one ever found the ring
again. They were heading into darkness and it seemed to envelop
his heart for a moment, squeezing tightly and shutting out all hope.
“I just...I...” The ranger’s words faltered and he stared back at his friend.
“I know,” Legolas answered softly. He understood his friend’s
hesitancy and fears. He had been thinking the same thing.
He hoped that if the worst should happen, Raniean or Trelan would
someday chance to come this way and find Barahir. He wasn’t
altogether positive that he and Aragorn would pass this way again, but
he wasn’t about to let the ranger know his thoughts.
“We’ll come back for it,” he reassured softly as he led them back
across the river and north towards the snow capped peaks of
Angmar. “I promise you, Strider, we’ll retrieve it on our way
home.” He smiled at the ranger and wrapped his arm around the
man’s shoulder as they walked.
He vowed not to let himself think differently, even as he silently said his goodbyes to the forests around them.