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Elrond walked slowly down the hallway in his house,
a warm mug of tea in his hand. He still hadn’t quite woken, it
was fairly early in the morning yet and they had danced and celebrated
in the Hall of Fire late into the night the evening prior. He was
slightly surprised to note that all of his sons were up and conversing
quietly by the front door with Prince Legolas.
“Morning father,” Elrohir called out cheerfully.
Elrond raised an elegant eyebrow and assessed the
youths. “And what, pray tell, are the four of you doing up so
early? I was certain I would not see a one of you until at least
“We’re going up to the river's head to...” Estel’s
answer was interrupted by his older brother.
“We are going to see how the river is faring and
just to take a look around,” Elladan finished the sentence off
for the human.
Aragorn’s mouth dropped slightly as he glared at his
Elrond simply stood and stared all three of his boys
down before speaking, “And what do you expect to do there?”
“Hunt,” Elrohir answered innocently.
The elf lord glanced at Legolas who had remained
silent through the whole exchange. The prince simply raised his
eyebrows and shrugged his shoulders in feigned ignorance, pretending
not to know of the day's plans.
“To hunt what?” Elrond sighed deeply and
turned back to his eldest, “Must I drag everything out of you?”
“Why to hunt deer, of course, Father. Celboril
said that the cellars were getting low.” Elladan’s expression was
hard to read but Elrond had the distinct feeling that the youths were
hiding something from him.
He slowly resumed his walk to the main room, shaking
his head. “Well mind yourselves. I have heard reports of orcs near the
river’s head. Do not go hunting them.” He stopped and
looked back at his sons. “Do I make myself clear?”
“Well, unless they hunt us,” Estel murmured.
Elladan smacked the back of his head and glowered at the ranger.
“Do I make myself clear? No orcs. I have had quite
enough patching up of young elves and humans around here to last me
well into the next millennium. Stay away from them.” Elrond
stepped back towards them, demanding an answer with his proximity.
The human elbowed his older brother. “Of
course, Father, no orcs, we promise,” Elladan answered for them.
Elrond pierced his youngest son with the sternest
look he could, but the human smiled back impishly. “Unless they attack
us first.” And with that comment Aragorn stepped quickly out of the
range of his brothers and darted out the front door, Legolas fast on
“Elladan.” Their father’s voice was irritated; he
knew how much trouble the four of them could get into.
“Not to worry, Father. I promise you, no orcs, no
trouble, no broken bones or bodies.”
“Well, there’s no telling about that thick skull of
Estel’s...” Elrohir muttered to himself.
“No broken bodies!” Elladan repeated grabbing his
twin and moving quickly for the door.
Elrond watched them go and sighed deeply. “Iluvatar
protect them all, they’ve not a wit about a one of them.”
“Have you no thought for your own preservation?”
Elladan growled at Estel when he and Elrohir had finally caught up with
the ranger. The human ducked the open-handed smack intended for
“How can I, when you keep smacking it out of me.
It’s a wonder there’s anything in there,” Estel threw the old torment
back at his brother sarcastically.
Legolas started laughing, “Estel, that’s not true!”
The ranger rolled his eyes and cast the elf a
doleful glance, “It’s what they keep saying.”
“Would that I had had brothers.” The elf
prince laughed helplessly.
“Oh, why? So they could torment you into
insanity? Here, you can have mine!” Estel threw himself
against Elladan rocking the elf off balance so that he stumbled towards
“Why you little nift!” The twin hollered at the
human as he pelted up the dirt pathway ahead of the elves. In
moments they were all running after the ranger trying to gain the top
of the pass first.
Mist from the falls coated everything in a fine
sheen of water as the companions climbed the edge of the cliff, gaining
the head of the river. By the time they reached the top of the
mountain it was mid-day and the spray from the falls was a welcome
respite during the climb.
They rested at the side of a deep pool that
collected at the edge of the cliff before tumbling from the heights to
crash into the hollowed-out bowl many feet below them, its dull roar a
lulling rumble that hung in the warm, late summer air. There the four
friends shared a meal of dried venison and bread that Celboril had
packed for them that morning.
The small lake they rested beside was visited by all
sorts of animal life as they sat quietly and watched over the glassy
“So what’s it like in Mirkwood these days?” Elrohir
rolled over and glanced at Legolas, his eyes half-lidded, sleepy from
the heat and a stomach full of food.
Legolas’ gaze was unfocused as he allowed his eyes
to fix on the gently rippling water and his answer was soft and
wistful, “Well, if you mean is it anything like this? Then the
answer would be no, although it used to be.” He breathed in the high
mountain air deeply, thinking on his home, “Mirkwood used to be
beautiful, but the woods have fallen over the years into
darkness. The power of the elves keeps the evil at bay, yet it is
not what it once was.”
Aragorn lay on his stomach next to Legolas,
listening to the prince talk about his home. The young ranger’s
face and arms overhung the rocky drop-off into the deep pool and he was
completely motionless, perfectly still as he searched the depths of the
“You’ll never catch anything, Estel.” Elladan
glanced over at the human. His youngest brother held one of his
arrows over his head waiting to plunge it into the water, trying his
skill at spear fishing. If the human heard him he didn’t respond,
his breathing was slowed and his eyes were fixed.
“It’s been a while since we were able to visit
Mirkwood for any amount of time. Why the last time we were there
for your and Estel’s judgment was only the second time in oh what...?”
Elrohir scrunched up his face and turned to his twin, “How long has it
Only Elladan was not in the space he had occupied
moments before. The elf was quietly sneaking up on his younger,
human brother in an attempt to scare the ranger.
Elrohir quickly took note and kicked Legolas’ booted
foot, redirecting the prince’s gaze.
Although he wasn’t watching what was going on behind
him, Aragorn had been listening intently and when the conversation
lulled he immediately redirected his attention. Searching the
water in front of him for the reflection of his brother, he
waited. In moments he was rewarded for his patience. The
glassy mirror of the water clearly showed Elladan stalking up behind
him with a devilish smile on his face. As the elf leaned over the
supposedly unsuspecting ranger, Estel turned onto his back underneath
his brother. Dropping the arrow he pulled his knees up to his chest and
catching the elf on the soles of his boots he pushed upward and back,
pitching Elladan into the lake over his head. He twisted around
and jumped back from the edge as the elf shot to the surface of the icy
water, sputtering in surprise.
Elrohir and Legolas were beside themselves with
laughter and Aragorn slowly walked backwards to hide behind them, using
them for a shield as Elladan hefted himself out of the pool. The
ranger grabbed Legolas when the prince stood, trying to get out from
between the two of them. The human ducked behind the prince’s
back, holding onto the elf’s shoulders and using him as a barrier.
“You will be sorry that father ever kept you when I
am through with you,” Elladan growled, trying to circle around Legolas
and get a clean shot at his brother.
“Now wait a minute! None of this was my fault!”
Legolas raised his hands to fend off the angry, wet elf as his friend
turned him to the right and pulled them a few feet farther away from
“Elrohir, a little help here please!” the
ranger shouted to the twin.
“Not on your life, little brother,” Elrohir backed
away. “I have no death wish as you apparently seem to.”
“Come on, Elladan,” Aragorn ducked and spun Legolas
toward his brother again, keeping squarely behind the prince’s back.
“Fair is fair, you were going to throw me in and don’t you dare deny
“I deny nothing, especially the fact that when I get
my hands on you, you are dead.” The Noldor elf grabbed the prince
by his forearms and jerked him away from the cowering ranger.
Legolas, finally free from the melee, quickly
stumbled to Elrohir’s side. “Should we help?” he asked as the
ranger nimbly avoided the elf that was after him.
“No way,” Elrohir, laughed helplessly. “Let
them have at it.”
“Now Elladan, you know you can’t take me home beat
up. You promised father.” Aragorn jumped to his left vaulting
over a fallen tree and using the downed pine as a barrier between
himself and his brother. “Besides I am your little brother, you have to protect
“No, you are a ranger.” Elladan feinted to the
left, causing Aragorn to step to the right in an attempt to get away,
but the ruse put the human closer to the elf and the warrior grabbed
the man, hauling him bodily over the fallen tree and locking his arms
around the human’s neck, dragging him back towards the lake. “And, as
you are always so fond of telling me, you can easily take care of
yourself,” he growled quietly in the ranger’s ear.
Legolas and Elrohir watched wide-eyed as the elf
picked the human off his feet and pulled him to the water's edge.
Aragorn reached out toward them begging, “Help!” His voice a mere
squeak as his windpipe was constricted.
Elladan glanced at the two who immediately stepped
back, hands up in surrender. Returning his attention to the
ranger, he smiled wickedly at the man. “No help this time, little
“I don’t feel right, just letting him throw Strider
in there like that...” Legolas kept his eyes on the two as they
struggled near the pool’s edge, each trying to over-balance the
“Shall we?” Elrohir smiled devilishly at the
The elves were so involved in the roughhousing and
so thoroughly enjoying themselves that they were not paying attention
to their surroundings. The warnings from their father that
morning went unheeded and they did not hear when the forest fell silent
around them. The soft sounds of twigs snapping evaded notice,
overridden by their laughter.
Legolas and Elrohir rushed Elladan and had nearly
reached the elf’s position when their advance was stopped, blocked by
arrows that rained down around them. The shaft of one whistled by
Legolas’ head, its fletchings brushing the top of his shoulder.
The prince dropped into a crouched position and whirled on his
boot-heels, gazing intently into the forest behind them. Elladan
forced Aragorn to the ground beneath him, holding the human down
protectively, stunned by the attack, their play fighting forgotten as
he scanned the edges of the glade.
Their weapons lay in the midst of the small camp
they had made, a few yards from where they now were. Risking the
exposure, Legolas ran back towards the campsite and quickly collected
the bows, slinging their quivers over his back as arrows bit into the
dirt near his hands, throwing up small rocks and debris. He
turned to see the brothers running for the edge of the cliff, shouting
at him to join them. Aragorn’s eyes were huge and he
stopped, momentarily glancing behind the prince as their attackers gave
up the cover of the forest.
“Legolas!” He shouted the warning before Elladan
grabbed him and drug him to the edge of the water at the top of the
Legolas spun, bringing up his bow and notching an
arrow in one smooth motion. The orc that stepped from the shadow
of the trees was instantly felled. But more took his place.
In moments the glade was filled with orcs and they
rushed the elves that were trapped on the edge of the falls.
“Here! Follow me!” Aragorn shouted as he
nimbly jumped out into the water, his foot making contact with a
submerged rock. The stone was slippery with moss and the current
pulled at his leggings as he righted himself and leapt again.
From where the elves were at the edge of the water it appeared that the
ranger was walking on the top of the lake, teetering on the lip of the
falls, but as they neared the point he had jumped from, they too could
see the natural bridge that the submerged stones made just inches under
the water’s swirling surface. Elladan pushed Elrohir in front of
him, grabbing the prince and jerking him out of the way as a an arrow
whizzed through the air where the elf’s head had just been. The
projectiles hit the surface of the lake, causing ripples in the water
that made the rocks' positions harder to judge.
Elladan retrieved his bow from Legolas and returned
fire, covering their retreat. The prince jumped to a stone midway
across the lake and turned back, notching his bow with two arrows and
releasing them with deadly aim. He called for Elladan to follow
them as he kept the orcs from attacking the elf.
Elrohir was right on Estel’s heels, jumping from
stone to stone behind the human. The ranger was nimble and
fleet-footed for a man but he still had a hard time keeping his feet
under him; it was much easier for his elven companions. Elrohir
had intended to be close enough in the event that Estel slipped. One
misplaced foot here and the unfortunate one who had stumbled would be
over the side of the falls. The elf reached out and righted his
brother as the man tried to balance on a particularly slippery
The orcs had gained the edge of the lake but they
were loath to cross the water, renewing their attack with ferocity on
the intruders. The press of the onslaught reached Elrohir and
Aragorn and the two were forced to duck as the orcs' arrows narrowly
missed them, falling about them into the water. Aragorn turned to see
how Elladan and Legolas were faring, but the misstep proved
critical. As he turned the human lost his footing and pitched
forward, back toward the lake, trying desperately to right himself.
“Estel!” Elrohir leaned out to grab the ranger just
as the orcs loosed a volley of projectiles their way. One of the arrows
found its mark and embedded itself deeply into Aragorn’s right
shoulder. The force of the weapon threw the human backwards. His
feet slipped out from under him and, before he even knew what had
happened, he fell over the falls.
Elrohir froze, all of his senses stunned by the
quick sequence of events that he was unable to stop. He leaned
out over the falls, barely hearing Legolas as he called for
Aragorn. The elf prince reached the rock that the twin stood on
and wrapped his arm around Elrohir’s waist, pulling the elf back.
“We must cross, quickly. We can search for him when
we reach the other side and safety. Come!” He wrested the twin away
from the edge and gave Elrohir a shove. When the elf started
moving again, Legolas swallowed the fear that was threatening to
overwhelm him. He had seen his friend fall, had watched from
helplessly far away as the human’s face turned from pain to shock to
fear and it seemed as though the ranger had fallen in slow motion off
the rock where he now stood.
Elladan leapt on to the submerged stone behind him
and followed the prince’s gaze over the falls. The water tumbled
and frothed in angry billows at the bottom of the gorge. Mist from the
furious pace of the falling water obscured their view and it was
difficult to see if any one lay at the edges of the deep pool below
“Go!” Elladan shouted at Legolas, following the elf
to the other side of the lake. Elrohir stood on the bank, waiting
to catch them as they jumped the last span and together they ran into
the safety of the covering trees.
They could hear the orcs on the opposite side of the
lake but they were out of arrow range and the foul creatures would not
follow them over.
Quickly Elrohir led them to the edge of the cliff
and showed them the natural path down that he had found. The granite
rocks of the cliff had been broken over the years by wind and water and
they provided a steep-sided stairway that wound to the floor of the
rift. The mists made their descent precarious and more than once
one of them slipped and nearly fell, but they made it successfully down
the to the base of the falls without any trouble from the orc raiding
Legolas could not help remembering the last time he
had climbed down into this gorge in search of Aragorn not so very long
ago. The weather was much more agreeable this time, but his heart
no less apprehensive and he hoped that he would once again find his
friend alive and in one piece. Yet his heart misgave him and fear
for the young ranger’s safety made him feel cold even under the bright
At the bottom of the cliff they fanned out calling
to Estel, searching the edges of the lake. The ranger was nowhere
to be seen and there were no tracks near at hand on either side of the
river that indicated anyone had left it recently. Elladan waded
out into the middle of the pooling water, fighting the current.
"What are you doing?" Elrohir called out to his
"I'm going to see if he is trapped underneath."
"But if he is trapped..." Elrohir stopped talking,
he couldn’t even speak the words.
"I know that, Elrohir! You think I don’t?!" Elladan
was standing in the water yelling at his brother, his fear turning to
anger and causing him to lash out.
"Elladan, please, go see if Strider is
trapped. I will help you if you find him." Legolas moved to
stand next to Elrohir, draping an arm around the upset elf’s shoulder.
Elladan nodded curtly and dove under the water.
"It was my fault." Elrohir’s words were soft and
filled with self-loathing.
Legolas turned to Elrohir and raised his eyebrow.
"Estel." The elf choked back a sob. Tears were
welling up in his eyes and Legolas had to look away to keep his own
emotions at bay.
"It was not," the prince replied, his voice rough as
he lost the war with his own emotions.
"Our fingers touched for just a second... but then
he slipped away. I couldn’t hold onto him!"
Elladan surfaced in the middle of the lake and
quickly dove back in. It was hard to see in the churning water
and the undertow from the falls kept trying to drag him back against
the rocks of the cliff. He felt blindly along the bottom of the
sandy floor, his fingers snagging on rocks and submerged logs.
His lungs felt about to burst when Elladan finally realized he needed
to head to the surface, but the current pulled at him, grabbing his
clothing and wrapping its invisible fingers in his heavy tunic,
dragging him backwards. He fought the pull of the water
frantically, slowly gaining ground against it.
When he broke through the water, Legolas and Elrohir
had waded out into the lake and were calling out his name.
"Elladan!" Elrohir stumbled towards his
brother and helped the elf stand to his feet, wading back out of the
lake. "You were down so long."
Elladan slipped down onto the bank and buried his
head in his hands. "I couldn’t find him."
"I'll try looking." Legolas stripped quickly
out of his tunic, dropping it to the ground near Elladan and waded into
the water, diving in when it reached to his chest. He
systematically searched the floor of the lake, trying to get as close
to the rock wall as possible with out being sucked in by the undertow.
In a few moments he was joined by the twins and the
three spent the next few hours searching the entire area.
"He is not in there." Legolas waded out of the
lake last, joining the elven brothers on the beach. "Perhaps he
was washed downstream. Let us search the edges of the banks." The
prince was unable to give up or allow himself to think that his friend
was dead. They had not found his body, so there was still a
"Good idea." Elrohir nodded his agreement,
scooping up their sodden tunics and stuffing them into his
knapsack. "Elladan and I can take this side. There is a
narrow part in the river where you may cross to the other. How is
"Very well, let us try it." Legolas nodded grimly,
praying silently in his heart to Iluvatar that they would find his
friend and soon. He glanced back to the top of the falls and
followed them slowly down with his eyes. Shaking his head against
the dark thoughts in his mind and the sorrow winding its way through
his heart, he started out after the twins, hoping they would succeed
The three elves moved slowly down the river
following the stream back down the gorge, calling out Estel's name
again and again.