A hundred days have made me older
since the last time that I saw your
A thousand lies have made me colder
and I don’t think I can look at this
But all the miles that separate...
they disappeared now when I’m
dreaming of your face
--Three Doors Down
Once free of the dying building, the ranger stopped on the edge of the
glen, grabbing the elf and halting his forward motion. They
turned to gaze on the meadow as the barn listed to the right and slowly
collapsed on itself, with the shrieking tear of breaking wood. A
dust cloud exploded out from it and hovered over the forest for moments
before being swept away by the gentle south winds.
Legolas glanced at the ranger out of the corner of his eyes, gauging
the human’s response.
“That was fun,” Aragorn whispered softly as the sounds of the woods
slowly crept back into the forest around them.
“It was not.” Legolas’ reaction caused the ranger to start
laughing but his mirth was cut short as the elf took hold of his
injured wrist, causing him to inhale with a sharp hiss. The
lacerations on the soft skin were aggravated and not healing
“Let us go back to the river we passed before finding this place and
clean this up,” the elf said softly, gently probing the cuts for
fractures that could be hidden. His own newly freed wrist looked
no better and Aragorn quickly pulled out one of the old shirts they had
found in the cave back on the plains of Nurn, ripping it into lengths
as they walked back the way they had come.
“I thought that barn was going to come down on our heads,” Aragorn
teased lightly as they knelt by the small stream. He plunged his
hand into the cool water and cringed as the icy liquid raced around the
Next to him Legolas was doing the same, carefully washing the dirt and
grime of Mordor from the wounds. “It very nearly did,” the
elf finally replied. He was surprised to find that Aragorn was no
longer next to him and glanced over his shoulder to see the ranger
stripping out of his coat and tunics. Seating himself near the
water's edge, the prince grinned playfully as he questioned the human,
“What do you think you are doing?”
“There is a pool just to our right that is deep enough, so I am washing
this dirt and filth from me. It is in my hair, in my...” the
ranger wrestled a boot from his foot and tossed it over his back, “in
my teeth, and between my toes. I haven’t been clean in
weeks. I hate that feeling.” Walking by the elf, Aragorn
waded slowly out into the water, his splayed fingers causing ripples
across the smooth surface as he played them over the water.
Reaching the deepest part of the river, he crouched down submerging
himself in the icy flow and raking his fingers through his tousled
When the ranger came up for air, he saw Legolas on the shore removing
his own leather boots and smiled as the elf waded out towards him,
carefully undoing what was left of the braids that kept the hair out
of his eyes. He shook the blonde tresses loose so they fell over
his shoulders and down his back. The elf’s chest and back were
decorated with various bruises and whip marks and Aragorn’s smile
changed to one of concern as his friend drew close. It had been
some time now, but Legolas still had not healed. It was as if his
body had been incapable of healing in Mordor and the wounds were all as
fresh as if they had been given yesterday.
The elf was smiling, however. “Really? And here I always
thought you enjoyed being
The ranger didn’t respond to the joke and Legolas noted the way the
human frowned as he drew near and stopped a few feet from the man.
“I didn’t know.” Aragorn stated simply. “I’m so
sorry.” If those injuries told a tenth of what Legolas must have
been feeling during their whole journey, then the elf must have been in
excruciating pain most of the time. He hoped he had not taken the
usual elven healing abilities for granted and pushed his friend too
Legolas glanced down at his torso and examined the slowly healing marks
and scars. When he looked back up the smile he laid on the ranger
surprised the man and the elf responded to the unasked question.
“Have you not looked at yourself?” he chided quietly, “and I
imagine that those bite marks from the wraith’s mount will need tending
to as well.”
Quickly glancing at himself Aragorn noted the bruises that colored his
chest and ribs, the boot marks that still striped his arms in black and
blue from the beating he had taken from the orcs. It seemed that
neither of them had really been able to heal. The tightness in
his upper shoulders from the black creature’s teeth diminished as the
icy water cooled the inflamed flesh and he had almost managed to forget
“Turn around. Let me have a look,” the elf prompted easily.
While the ranger did as he was told, Legolas eased himself into the
pool, leaning back and submerging his head in the cool stream.
His hair caught in the current and the tangles were fingered out by the
brook’s eddies. Rising back up the elf pushed the long strands of
hair out of his face, wringing the ends in his hands as he approached
Aragorn was watching him over his shoulder, smiling slightly as the elf
touched his chin and redirected his gaze back forward. Pushing
the ranger’s wet locks of hair off of his neck and shoulders, he
inspected the bite marks on the man’s back.
The wound was for the most part clean, but one particular break in the
skin was inflamed and hot to the touch. The open cut was jagged
and not healing well. Cupping his hands, the elf washed the cut
out repeatedly with the cool, clean water.
Aragorn flinched slightly under the cold touch but held still.
“It will heal,” Legolas spoke quietly, keeping the man’s attention
occupied as he cleaned the grit and dust from the cuts. “Besides,
what a tale you will be able to tell your family. I know of no
one who has been bitten by a wraith mount and lived to tell it. You’ll
be the first.”
“Just what I always wanted,” Aragorn ground out as the elf finished
cleaning the wounds.
“Come on.” Legolas waded back to the shore, ignoring the ranger’s
sarcastic comment. “Let us clean those strips of cloth in the
stream and bind our wounds. I would like to continue homeward before we
lose the light.”
“Agreed.” Aragorn waded past the elf, pushing his friend back as
he headed for the shore. “Last one there cleans the cloths.”
Not to be outdone, the prince grabbed the ranger’s ankle and twisted it
out from underneath him causing the human to stumble into the knee-high
water as the elf sprinted past.
With a shake of his head, Aragorn stood from where he had fallen and
stepped ashore, dropping lightly next to Legolas who couldn’t stop
laughing. The dark glare the ranger laid on him only caused the
elf to laugh harder. The fair being’s mirth was contagious and
Aragorn jerked the strips of the old shirt from his friend’s hand,
laughing as he cleaned them on the rocks submerged in the stream and
drying on them on the stones that rested at the shores edge. The
two talked quietly in the small clearing as they wrapped one another’s
injuries, and within the hour they were shrugging back into their
clothing, the noonday sun having dried their skin and leggings
Aragorn’s comb had somehow survived the whole ordeal wedged into a
corner of his knapsack where Legolas found it after scrounging through
the entire pack. He had combed his hair out sufficiently and now
braided the long tresses as they walked, his fingers deftly weaving the
blonde locks into perfect braids that he fastened behind his
It felt good to have his hair up and back once more. He hadn’t
had the strength to do anything with it in Mordor.
The ranger handed the elf his bow and Legolas slung it over his back
where it tapped gently against his quiver. It pleased him to be
able to carry them both once more and his spirit brightened even
further. They were free and he was walking on Aragorn’s right,
the position he usually took but had been unable to, restricted by the
manacles as they had been. Aragorn glanced at his friend out of
the corner of his eyes, an impish smile on his face. Without prompting,
the elf knew that look and took off running, the human racing next to
him as they headed home, their laughter light on the afternoon
No matter what time of year it was, there was always a breeze that
found its way through Imladris and tonight was no different.
Legolas stepped out onto the ledge that overlooked Rivendell, joining
Aragorn on the rocky edge. The night was warm and the breeze that
lifted up from the valley floor carried the coolness of the river that
cut through the steep-sided rift.
Fireflies gathered in the lower reaches, moving in dense knots through
the trees or darting here and there in pairs and triplets. The
fires of Rivendell were burning low and only a few of the panoramic
windows showed the soft light of evening glow lamps.
Legolas turned at the sound of contentment that Aragorn breathed out in
a soft sigh, smiling in the darkness of the early morning.
“It’s good to be home, Legolas,” Aragorn whispered as though
afraid to wake the sleeping inhabitants of the house below.
With a small nod the elf glanced back down in the rift. “What do
you say we go home so I can
get some sleep,” the prince
commented dryly around a rare yawn.
The journey back to Rivendell had been a long one. The last three
days of it they had pushed hard, knowing they were so close and not
wanting to have to wait any longer. Aragorn was unwilling to stop
unless it was absolutely necessary. He had been driven by the
desire to reach his home and had hardly slept in his relentless push to
reach the fair valley. To him it had seemed an eternity since he
had seen Rivendell.
With a small laugh the ranger began to follow the nearly imperceptible,
winding pathway that led down into the valley on the opposite side of
the Last Homely House. He found the hidden footbridge that few
who traveled there knew of and within the hour the two friends were
quietly walking up the large stone steps.
They had met no one on their way and he was surprised that even
Celboril was not awake at this time of the night. Taking caution,
the ranger looked in on the elf that served his father. The
elderly elf slept quietly in his tiny home that adjoined the larger
house. Satisfied that all was well, Aragorn eased the huge,
Warm light spilled out into the courtyard and Legolas nearly ran into
the human as he paused in the doorway, breathing in the rich, sweet
scents of his home. The clean wisps of athelas floated to him
accompanied by the smells of the remnants of dinner. Old wood,
ancient books and the smell of the rushing river below brushed past him
through the open-aired house.
Padding quietly into the foyer, Legolas touched his friend’s shoulder
and pointed wordlessly to his room up the stairs. The elf’s eyes
were half-lidded and he moved slowly towards the staircase, hoping his
friend would understand.
With a small nod Aragorn quietly mouthed, “Go ahead, I’ll be right up.”
He smiled to himself as the prince raised his hand in acknowledgement
and stepped to the far right on the bottom stair, remembering how the
wooden case would creak if one placed weight in the middle of it.
Aragorn turned his attention to his father’s den as Legolas silently
gained the top of the steps and soundlessly entered the room reserved
him. The lights were still burning in the study hall although
they seemed to be dimmer than usual as if they were slowly burning
out. He wondered if Elrond was still up at this hour and so he
tiptoed into the large living area.
Stopping on the threshold, Aragorn stared at the far side of the
room. A large wooden desk took up nearly a third of the
wall. Behind it were shelves lined with books from the floor to
the ceiling. Aragorn had spent many an afternoon in this very
room studying or simply reading his favorite stories. It was a
passion he had picked up from his father.
But it was not the objects in the room that held the ranger’s
attention, it was the elf that had fallen asleep at the desk, his head
cradled on his crossed arms as he breathed deeply, unaware that anyone
stood watching him.
"Ada." The years seemed
to fall away as Aragorn watched his
father sleeping. How many times had he found the elder elf here
in much the same way, collapsed across his latest treasure of a book,
having fallen asleep while reading it late into the night?
The cool evening breezes stirred the ornamental curtains that draped
the large picture window and Elrond moved slightly at their
touch. Aragorn shrugged out of his worn leather coat and crept
silently to his father's side, gently laying the long jacket over the
elf’s shoulders. He crouched down near the seated elf lord and
gazed into the half-lidded eyes, dilated with deep sleep.
Fifteen years was a long time for a human even though it seemed so much
shorter for an immortal elf. Elrond, however, was entirely
unchanged. He still looked just the same as he did the day they
said goodbye in Rohan so many seasons past.
Hesitantly, Estel reached out and brushed a stray lock of dark hair
away from his father's face, a small smile touching his lips as he
watched the elf sleep. It was not often he had the opportunity to
do so, as Elrond was very hard to catch unaware, but the elf lord had
not been expecting his son home tonight, or in the near future at all
for that matter. There had been many a night the ranger doubted
he would ever see his family again. It seemed almost surreal that
he was finally here now.
Aragorn glanced at the book that Elrond was sprawled across and was
surprised to see a sheet of paper lying over the top of the open
tome's page. The beginning of a letter was barely visible
underneath the elf's fingers and Estel noticed for the first time the
ornate pen that rested beside the book, having fallen from its master’s
hand. The ranger craned his neck trying to see to whom his father
had been writing. As he read the partial letter tears formed in
Although it has only been a fortnight since I last wrote, it seems an
eternity that I last saw you. Elves are not supposed to mark the
passage of time, but so far I have been unable to convince my heart of
that. It has been long since I last had word from you, and I am
no longer sure that these messages are even reaching you my son, but
all I can do is write and send them with a prayer.
My hope is that you are well and the
campaign goes forward in your favor. Remember to check your heart
in the midst of battle, it is easy to take privilege and abuse it.
Your brothers have kept me busy in
your absence. Only yesterday I
The rest was obscured by the elf lord’s hand.
"Oh, Ada." Aragorn
stood to his feet and tenderly kissed his
father on the head before quietly exiting the room. He hesitated,
his hand hovering over the elf lord's shoulder. He wanted nothing
more than to wake the elf and tell Elrond he was home, but he couldn’t
bear to disturb his father’s sleep. His own weariness betrayed
him now that he had reached his destination and he was finally
beginning to feel how truly tired he was.
Yawning quietly the ranger stretched stiffly and walked to the
threshold of the room. He stopped in the doorway and glanced back
one last time, smiling at the familiar sight. Deep inside he felt
something in his heart give way and relax. A small sigh escaped
his lips as the reality weighed down on him that he was truly
home. Legolas found his joy in the woods, Aragorn found his joy
Climbing slowly up the stairs the ranger glanced in each of the
darkened rooms of his brothers only to find them empty. The twins
were obviously out on some errand or hunting trip that required them to
be away for several days as their rooms were kempt, but dusty. He
hoped they would return soon, for he longed to be near them once
Removing a glow globe from the hallway wall sconce, Aragorn checked in
on Legolas and found the elf sprawled across the bed. He had
collapsed on top of the sheets, not even bothering to remove his
boots. Aragorn laughed quietly as he shifted the sleeping elf
more fully onto the large bed.
"What are you doing?" Legolas’ sleep-groggy voice questioned.
"Helping you be more comfortable. Now be quiet or you will wake
the house." Aragorn began unlacing the prince’s boots.
"Stop that. Go to bed, Estel," Legolas whispered, waking
more fully as the soft leathers were slipped from his feet. "Even my
mother hasn’t taken my boots off in ages." Legolas’ mother was of
course long gone, but he was too sleepy to slice hairs right now.
The soft sounds of laughter caused the elf prince to press himself up
on his elbows.
"Well your mother never lived with Celboril. He hates it when we
fall asleep with our boots on and I don’t rightly want to hear one of
his lectures." Aragorn's voice trailed off oddly and Legolas
squinted in the low light, trying to perceive what was wrong.
"Aragorn? What is it?"
The smile that played at the corners of the ranger’s lips eased the
elf’s heart some. "It’s just that...well, I haven’t gotten a good
lecture from Celboril in years. I actually don’t think I would
mind one so much right now." He smiled fully at Legolas as he
moved to the overstuffed chair in the corner and removed the quilt that
was draped over it. Walking back to the side of the bed, he
the comforter across his friend who had lain back against the soft
bedding. The sharp elven eyes were watching the ranger closely as
he seated himself on the side of the bed.
"Your heart is lighter, Aragorn. It was time you came home."
"I never realized how fully I missed them all until tonight," Aragorn
whispered. He rested his hand on the elf prince's
shoulder and gave it a gentle squeeze. "Never realized how tired
I am either." Standing slowly he glanced down at Legolas. "Sleep well,
Legolas rolled over on his side, pulling the quilt around his
and burrowed into the warmth. "Good night, Estel," he countered
softly as Aragorn picked up the glow globe and stepped back into the
The ranger’s room was closed and as he had suspected everything was
there just as he had left it years ago. He smiled as he fingered
the carved wooden oliphaunt that sat on his nightstand next to his
shell night-light, mementoes of a life full of hardship yes, but more
importantly, full of love. Carefully moving them over, Aragorn
set the glow globe down on the small stand. It was apparent that
Celboril came in here frequently, for the place was dusted and tidy as
though simply waiting for its owner to reoccupy it. He noted with
a smile that it was actually less dusty than his brothers’ rooms, since
Celboril probably expected them to pick up for themselves.
The glow globe behind him sputtered and died, throwing the room into
darkness. It had been so long since he had been in his own room
that he was momentarily unfamiliar with the lay of the furniture.
Walking towards what he hoped was the mantle, where he knew the matches
were kept, he stumbled over the trunk that sat at the foot of the
bed. Unbalanced by the unexpected obstacle he fell face forward
onto his bed and slipped off the side before catching himself.
It surprised him when a gentle glow slowly filled the room and he
turned quickly, bracing himself against his mattresses, trying to
maintain his balance.
In the doorway stood a tall figure holding his re-lighted
nightlight. The small lamp glowed brightly once more,
illuminating the face just beyond it.
"Estel?" The deep, rich voice was unmistakable.
Aragorn couldn’t help the smile that spread across his face as he
gained his footing and approached the elf lord.
"I thought I was simply dreaming when I heard your voice
upstairs. I had fallen asleep thinking of you. You were in
my study were you not?" He held out Estel's coat as he placed the shell
light back on the nightstand.
Aragorn took the jacket and tossed it on the bed next to him as he
stepped into his father’s open arms.
"I missed you so much," the ranger whispered as the elf crushed the
human tightly against. “I didn’t mean to wake you.”
"It is well. I am glad you did, for I wondered if you would return
soon. I had hoped you would." Elrond's voice was soft as he
held the younger man, "We received word not long ago that the Corsairs
had been driven back, although I was uncertain about whether the
campaign continued on afterward."
Aragorn breathed in deeply, remembering the rich smells associated with
his father, the athelas and
herbs that clung to him even when he was
not working with the medicines. "It is over, they are safe.
I couldn’t stay any longer."
There was more to that statement than the ranger had willingly
but Elrond did not push the matter just yet as he gently pulled back
from his child and looked him over.
"You have grown into quite a man, Aragorn."
"Please, call me Estel." A small shadow passed over the ranger’s
eyes and Elrond recognized it at once as the heaviness of a war-weary
Smiling softly Elrond repeated himself, "You have grown a lot, my
Estel." He pulled the chair around to the side of the bed as
Aragorn seated himself on the tall mattresses and began to pull his
"Legolas is here as well?" It was a guess, but one he was fairly
confident of. After all, they had had word that Legolas had left
to visit Aragorn quite a long time ago and as far as Elrond knew
Thranduil had heard naught of his son since then, although considering
how long Legolas had disappeared the last time he went off to hunt the
human down, the elven-king was not overly concerned yet. Besides,
the door to the guest room that the elf prince always used when staying
in Rivendell had been ajar when he passed it a few moments
"Yes." Aragorn met the piercing gaze of the elf lord. "He needs rest,
Father. He has been through a lot and his spirit is now just
returning. I fear, however, that his strength lags behind,
he will not tell me so himself."
"What happened to the two of you this time?" Elrond watched the
young man, his heart at ease now that his son was home. He had
hoped for this so many nights. From Aragorn’s words the elf lord
gleaned the information that it had apparently not been an easy road
home for the prince and his youngest son.
"Legolas was taken by the Gondorians as a prisoner of war and in a raid
on our camp I lost him to the Corsairs who sold him to Mordor as a
slave." The ranger undid the laces on his tunic and eased the
shirt off his shoulders as he spilled the events of a year or more into
one weary sentence.
Elrond’s heart seized at the mention of his son in Mordor but when he
saw the scars that decorated his son’s upper arms and torso, marks of
war, he momentarily laid the fear aside. The worry must have
shown in his eyes for Aragorn reached out and touched the older elf
"Father, I am fine. They are scars only."
With a slight nod Elrond leaned forward. "I know that, my
son. And they will heal with time." He placed his palm
against Aragorn's chest, near his heart. "It is the scars in here that
worry me." He smiled gently as the ranger's fingers wrapped
around his. "Tell me, Estel, it is important. Does the Lord
of Mordor know you were there?"
Aragorn glanced down quickly. "Yes. He might. Although he
would not know me by any name other than perhaps Strider. The
wraith that kidnapped Legolas years ago found us and I am sure we were
recognized." The silver eyes looked back up once more, "But he does not
know who I am. Is that
what you are asking?"
A small sigh of relief escaped the elf lord and he nodded. "Yes.
I was not aware that you had gone so far south. Discovery by the
Dark Lord would have been dangerous indeed."
Pulling the sheets back, Aragorn stretched out full on the bed, lying
on his side, his eyes fixed on his father. Sleep was wearing on
his mind and he was finding it harder and harder to come up with the
answers to the elf lord’s questions.
Sensing that the human was not going to be able to remain awake and
knowing he had more questions than Estel had answers for at the moment,
Elrond stood and pulled the sheets back over his son’s shoulders.
Aragorn turned so that he was staring full into the elf lord’s
face. He had longed for this for so many weeks now. When
they were in Mordor he despaired of ever making it back home. But
now...he smiled sleepily as Elrond leaned down and kissed his
It mattered not how old the human was, he would always be Elrond's
youngest son. The elf lord touched the side of the ranger’s face,
his fingers gently tracing over the man's brow, causing him to close
"Rest, Estel. Just rest." The elvish command pressed
forcefully down on the human's consciousness. It had been years
since Elrond had used that trick on the human and it worked as well now
as it did then, although it was hardly necessary. "Tomorrow we
will have plenty of time to speak. Sleep now."
"Ada...” The darkness of
slumber pulled at the human though he resisted
"Yes?" Elrond stared down at the man who was barely awake.
"I'm glad you're here," Aragorn murmured sleepily.
"I'm glad you are here as well, Estel." Elrond moved the small
night light to the mantel and let it rest there, its gentle glow barely
filling the room as it burned itself out slowly.
In his heart Elrond could hardly wait until Aragorn woke and they had
time to talk more. He was sure there was much they needed to
discuss... and he wanted to talk to Legolas as well. Aragorn had
not elucidated on his earlier comments much, but from their brief
speech and the heart-weariness he could see in Estel, Elrond surmised
that although the two had actually come home under their own power,
they were still both of them nursing inner wounds that needed
healing. Elrond’s smile was soft. He knew that here was
perhaps the best place for them to do just that. He also knew
that the twins would be excited to see their brother. They were
expected home tomorrow morning and would be eager to spend time with
Elrond paused in the door way and glanced back at Estel one last
time. "Thank you," he whispered silently to Ilúvatar as he
walked back to his own room. Two of his children had returned and
from the sounds of it they both would need some attention... oddly
enough that familiar scenario was strangely nice and comfortable to
walk back into. He smiled as he passed by Legolas' door, pulling
it closed a little further so the elf would not be disturbed tomorrow
morning. The young prince spent so much time under his roof that
the elf lord very nearly considered him one of his own by now.
As Elrond lay down in his own bed, it seemed the very house around him
sighed contentedly. All was as it should be in the fair halls of
the last Homely House.
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