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Two figures moved beneath the mottled shadows of the large mallorn
trees, quietly talking together. One of the sojourners supported
the weight of the other who limped slowly forward, his useless right
arm clutched tightly to his chest in a rough sling.
In the woods about them swift, light beings ran alongside the pair of
intruders, carefully watching them from their hiding places amongst the
tall trees. Their sharp hearing picked up the quiet conversation
as the elder man turned to the youth he was supporting; one arm wrapped
protectively about the young man’s waist, his free hand tightly
gripping the gnarled wood of his walking staff.
“No, my dear boy, it was not at all funny at the time, but now looking
back surely you can see the humor of it.” Gandalf could not hide
the smile that tugged at his lips as he tried to lighten his
companion’s mood. “The look on your face when I reached
“The look on my face was pain and irritation. I still fail to see
the humor there, Mithrandir.” The young dark-haired man tried to
blow the wayward strands of hair out of his eyes. He was sweating
and breathing hard and the wavy curls stuck fast to his skin. He
tried to concentrate on walking and not on the shape he was in; the
Maia’s attempts to humor him were lost in the ache that throbbed dully
through his body every time he took a step.
“Now perhaps if the roles were reversed and it was you who tumbled down
that incline and ended up pinned beneath the bulk of a dead, six-foot
goblin then perhaps I would be laughing now as well.” He stumbled
slightly and their pace slowed a fraction as the wizard compensated for
the human’s awkward, limping gate.
One of the hidden warriors that tracked their progress made to move
forward but was held back by his superior. The tall grey-headed
being was known to them, but the other was not.
“Now that cut on your thigh is no laughing matter.” Gandalf’s tone
turned serious and he glanced at the makeshift bandage that wrapped
around the young human’s leg; the red stain was spreading again.
With a deep sigh, Aragorn leaned more heavily on his companion and
glanced at the elder being. “Are you quite sure you couldn’t have
handled this yourself? I really don’t want to have to go to
Lothlórien. It’s not that bad.”
“Not that bad.” Gandalf rolled his eyes. “My dear boy, one
does not get in a fight with a mounted wraith and his ground patrol and
come out in the shape that you are in now and say he has a
“I didn’t say I had a scratch.”
“Yet,” the wizard murmured. “Besides we are already in
Lothlórien and have been for sometime now.”
“Can't we just go to Rivendell? My father can take care of this.”
Aragorn drew his breath in with a sharp hiss as he stepped forward,
placing too much pressure on his left leg. A long cut traced the
human’s thigh where the goblin’s blade had cut him. He hadn’t
even incurred the injury in the fight, which only added it his
“We are closer to Lothlórien and they can help you here.
Rivendell is too far in the shape you are in,” Gandalf spoke softly,
worry touching the edges of his age-old eyes.
“What do you think they were doing there?” Aragorn tried to change the
subject, attempting to keep his mind off the ache that had crept back
into his body. He hadn’t wanted to tell Gandalf, but he had known
for a few days before their unfortunate encounter that he had been
getting sick. He could feel the pain deep in his throat when he
swallowed and the tiredness that stole over him was from more than
their all night trek back to the elven territory. It should have
been much cooler in the shade of the leafy trees than it was and he
knew the heat was not from the injuries he had sustained last
“I think they were looking for something,” Gandalf replied
cryptically. He had his suspicions what the wraith had been doing
near the Anduin river and he felt partly responsible for the injuries
that the young man in his company had incurred. He simply had not
realized that the one who searched had begun to concentrate his efforts
in that region of the river once more. He had been wrong.
He didn’t care what Saruman
said about how anything that fell into the river must surely have
washed to the sea by now; the wraith was there for a reason and it was
making Gandalf re-think many things.
The companions had been taken unawares early in the evening the day
prior as they had set up their camp near the shores of the river Anduin
on their way south. Gandalf’s presence had been requested by the
steward of Rohan to aid in talks with the Easterlings. The wizard
did not believe the truce would hold, but he had been willing to
accompany Rohan’s leader and assist him in any way possible. This
setback bode ill for the tentative peace that had settled in the
The Maia had sensed their attacker first, but even he was not prepared
for the sight of the wraith lord mounted on a huge flying beast that
swept in low over their campsite. The wings of the large creature
brushed the tops of the trees that bracketed the edges of the waterway,
beating the air in a slow, rhythmic thrum as it swept up the middle of
the river. The beast’s howls echoed across the waterway,
competing with the hair-raising wails of its rider. Seconds later
the orcs had converged on them without warning. With Gandalf
concentrating on their winged master, Aragorn was left to take care of
the ground patrol that accompanied the wraith.
The orcs seemed as shocked to find the human and the wizard as the two
companions had been to see them, so Aragorn had the element of surprise
on his side. The fight had been short, swift and brutal.
The last of the orcs had put up the greatest amount of
resistance. The wraith lord, seeing his servants decimated and
unable to withstand the power of the Maia alone and without the bidding
of his master, had hastily retreated, blending into the darkening sky
before Gandalf could stop him.
When Gandalf had turned his attention back to Aragorn, there was one
orc left, and that one had nearly gotten the upper hand by the time the
wizard was able to lend a hand. The two warriors struggled
together on the edge of a small knoll that dipped back into the
woodlands. The foul creature pressed Aragorn’s blade against him,
his overpowering strength giving him the advantage. The ranger
widened his stance and shoved his opponent back with all his might,
giving him a split second reprieve. Ducking under the orcs
sweeping blade, Aragorn narrowly missed being decapitated at the same
instant that Gandalf sent a pulse of power straight at the creature,
snapping its neck as it arced against the unseen hand that shoved it
forward...into Aragorn, toppling them both down the grassy knoll.
When Gandalf reached the young human he lay pinned underneath the body
of the dead orc, his right shoulder dislocated and his collarbone
broken beneath the weight of the black creature. The orc’s blade
had torn a jagged cut in the ranger’s leg as they tumbled down into the
Unwilling to wait out the youth’s injuries and worried about poisons in
his system, Gandalf had bandaged Aragorn’s wounds as best he could and
headed them out that night towards the elves' woodland fortress deep in
Lothlórien. He needed to leave the ranger somewhere safe
until he was healed and proceed to Rohan as quickly as possible,
without his young traveling companion – a thought with which he was not
at all comfortable for some reason.
That was how they had ended up limping through the woods towards Caras
Galadon so early in the morning.
“If we are in Lothlórien, where are the elves?” Aragorn glanced
around them. He had grown more uneasy the deeper they had walked
into the woods.
With a small laugh Gandalf, swept his staff in a lazy circle. “Why, all
around us, and they have been for some time.” He glanced at the
human who limped stiffly beside him, holding on to the Maia for
support. “Remember, Aragorn, you are not in Mirkwood or Rivendell,” he
The ranger sighed deeply. “What I wouldn’t give to be standing in front
of Thranduil, listening to one of his lectures on the carelessness of
youth right now. Or better yet home,”
dark silver eyes returned the searching glance, “listening to my father
A burst of laughter broke from the wizard’s lips. “My dear boy, if we
were at your home your father would more than likely be lecturing me
and not you.”
For the first time since their encounter with the wraith, Aragorn
smiled. “And that is truly why you don’t want to take me home right
now, am I not correct?”
“In part, yes. But I really must make with all haste to
Rohan. And as much as I hate to leave you behind, this is the
safest place for you now.” The Maia stopped their forward motion,
his hand clutching his staff crossed protectively in front of Aragorn
as much to hold the wounded human up as to stop him from proceeding.
Wearily the ranger glanced up into the piercing blue gaze of a
dozen armed elves.
“Good morning and well met,” Gandalf addressed the warrior that stepped
out from among those arranged in front of the travelers.
“You are known to us, Mithrandir.” The elf’s blue eyes appraised the
man that stood beside the Maia, “but the human is not.” The
warrior spoke in the grey tongue out of habit. It wasn’t that the
Lothlórien elves were rude, but they were not accustomed to
allowing strangers into their sanctuary.
“I am Aragorn of the Dunédain, a friend to Gandalf the Grey,”
the man introduced himself, speaking elvish perfectly. He touched
the fingers of his left hand to his forehead and bowed slightly, as
much as his wounds would allow.
The warrior hid his surprise well, his stoic gaze drifting wordlessly
to the wizard for further explanation.
“I need you to care for this one for me. The Lady Galadriel will
know him, even though you do not, and I am sure she will welcome him
here. I have business that cannot be delayed or I would stay
myself. Will you escort us to your Lady?” The wizard spoke
common, not needing to impress either of the young beings he stood with
and feeling a sense of urgency as Aragorn leaned more heavily against
Thinking through the situation for the fraction of a second, the elf
nodded curtly and pushed back through the warriors behind him, “You
will follow me,” he instructed as he led them on.
“You mean to leave me with these elves that do not especially want me
here?” Aragorn whispered through gritted teeth as he forced his body to
move once more, “Please I beg you take me with you. The last time this
happened I was accused of murder and exiled.” He smiled slightly
as Gandalf glanced at him a huge smile tugging at the corners of the
old wizard’s lips.
“My boy, I think you will find the welcome warmer than you did in
Mirkwood at first; these elves are your relatives. Galadriel is
in a very distant way your Great Grandmother, your father is her
Son-in-law.” He meant to put the youth’s mind at ease with his words
and was surprised when a soft bark of laughter escaped the ranger’s
“My relatives. Oh joy. And I have made such a stunning first impression
already.” The sarcastic comment caused the wizard to laugh out loud,
his mirth contagious.
“Don’t make me laugh, Gandalf, it hurts.”
“Arwen might be here,” the wizard whispered conspiratorially.
“WHAT!?!?” Aragorn stopped moving and pulled back, staring at the older
man. “Who told you?”
With a small shake of his head the wizard wrapped his arm back around
the young man’s waist and started them moving again. Their guide
was watching the outburst, one fair eyebrow quirked upward in silent
question as he waited for them to catch up.
“I know all sorts of things,” Gandalf replied with a quiet laugh. “Not
to mention the look on your face when reference is made of her.
It’s only obvious.”
“It’s not that obvious,” Aragorn grumbled darkly.
“More than you know.” Gandalf glanced back to see why their guides had
stopped. “Ah, here we are.” The wizard deftly changed the
subject, redirecting his companion’s gaze. “That, Aragorn, is
where your relatives live.”
“Caras Galadon,” the elf next to him spoke quietly as they looked
on the huge forest palace of the Lothlórien elves.
“I can’t walk any farther.” Aragorn gently pushed himself away from
Gandalf and eased down onto the ground at the base of a tall
tree. A huge spiraling staircase wrapped the massive trunk and he
was half afraid that the wizard intended to force him to climb it.
Closing his eyes, the ranger rested his head against the rough bark and
tried to relax. The bright light of the midday sun hurt his eyes,
but here under the interwoven canopies the lights were soft and
comforting. The darkness behind his closed eyelids beckoned and
before he realized it, Aragorn had fallen asleep.
When he woke it was to the gentle brush of fingertips on his cheek,
moving the wayward strands of hair away from his face. Feverish
silver eyes opened and he was surprised by the beauty of the elf that
knelt before him. Her gaze was piercing as though her eyes held
all the wisdom of the universe beneath their transparent depths, but
the look she gave the young man was full of compassion unlike the
warriors they had met earlier. Her proximity startled him and the
ranger jumped slightly, banging his head back against the tree behind
him. He winced and reached up to touch his head, but the elf
crouched in front of him gently took his hand in her own, turning his
palm over and letting her fingers lightly play over the ring that
Galadriel turned to glance up at Gandalf and the wizard stiffly knelt
next to her. “It is as you say, Mithrandir.” She spoke softly and
Aragorn found himself enraptured by the sound of her voice.
A small smile broke across her lips as she glanced at the young human
who was watching her so intently. “But I fear there is more
damage in his body than you realize.” She pressed the palm of her
free hand against Aragorn’s forehead, the fingers of her right hand
seeking out the pulse that beat in his left wrist that she still
held. Aragorn found himself flinching slightly as she moved
closer to him. “Do not be afraid. You are safe here.” She spoke
quietly to the man.
Standing gracefully she turned and glanced behind them, addressing
someone that Aragorn had not realized stood just beyond her. “He
is ill.” The regal looking elf she spoke to nodded and at his
command two warriors raced off heading deep into the woods.
Gandalf frowned into the tired eyes that gazed dully at him. “You
thought to hide it from me.”
“I get sick, Gandalf. I am human. It would have been nothing more than
a cold if we had not run into that wraith. I would have been
fine.” He spoke quietly, a little disoriented by all the sudden
attention. How he simply wished for his own bed and family.
“You are missing your own?” Galadriel asked the ranger as though she
could read his mind, which was not far from the truth. Aragorn
simply nodded as a lordly elf with long flowing blonde hair stepped
next to Gandalf and drew him aside.
“You say you met up with a wraith? Near our borders?” The
elf questioned the Maia worriedly, his conversation hidden in
“We did.” Aragorn whispered as the female elf knelt once more by his
She smiled softly as she realized that the human could understand their
language. “Of course I should have know he would have taught you to
speak the high tongues first, did he not?” she asked cryptically.
Aragorn wasn’t sure if he was just too sick to understand her
questioning or if the question had even been meant for him.
Seeing his confusion the lady continued, explaining herself
softly. “I am Galadriel, Lady of these woods, and the one who
speaks with Mithrandir is my husband, Celeborn.”
“Arwen’s grandparents.” Aragorn was surprised that he had spoken
out loud, his thoughts were fuzzy and it hurt to think. Of course
he had heard of them before, chiefly from Arwen when they had been
together, since she spent far more time here than her brothers or
father did. He closed his eyes. Just perfect. This
was not the kind of first
impression he would have liked to make.
“Yes. My daughter is Arwen’s mother.” She let the meaning
sink in slowly as she undid the sling that held Aragorn’s arm to his
chest. He winced and drew his breath in, holding it against the
pain that movement brought on.
Galadriel continued speaking, “We have the knowledge to reset your
shoulder and your collar bone. The wound you incurred in battle
will heal well, but your illness...” She stopped and gazed into the
fever bright eyes, “I have not dealt with the likes before. That
is something that we have little knowledge of here for few are the
outsiders who pass beneath these trees and elves do not get sick, young
“I know.” Aragorn muttered darkly. “My brothers constantly remind me of
the fact.” Had he been more himself and felt less like he was on
the verge of passing out once more he probably would not have
interrupted the elven Lady.
“I imagine they do. And that brings me to my point.” She smiled
as Aragorn blushed, realizing his mistake. “There is one that I know of
that has knowledge of healing for both men and elves and that one is
Elrond. He has just taken leave of our borders; Celeborn has sent
sentries to call him back. He will be here shortly and he will
know what to do.”
“My father was here?” He spoke the words in elvish; it was easier to
concentrate on his native language. He didn’t think to ask how
they had known to send runners even before he and Gandalf arrived in
Caras Galadon, but in time he would learn that there was nothing which
passed the borders of this land of which Galadriel was unaware.
Galadriel tipped her head slightly at the words. She had known that her
son-in-law had taken the human in and given him refuge, but then Elrond
had fostered all the heirs of Isildur; she had not realized that this
young man had also won the elf lord’s heart and taken on the role of a
“Yes,” her answer echoed oddly in Aragorn’s ear, as though he were a
long way away from the one who spoke it, “he is on his way. Hold
on until he gets here young one. It will not be long.” The Lady
of the Woods’ words circled in his mind and the ranger was not sure he
had even heard them with his ears or they had simply been spoke into
the darkness of his thoughts.
“Rest...just rest...” His tired body could not resist and he
slipped away into unconsciousness.