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A soft continuous knocking on the large wooden doors
alerted Elrond, Lord of Rivendell, that someone was on the threshold of
his house. He
quickly crossed to the entryway and opened the door.
A dark-haired elf stood in the doorway leaning
heavily on the frame. He
fell forward as the doors opened and Elrond caught the elf, bracing him
Elrond recognized the elf that he held as one of his
own, a friend of
his sons who had lived in Rivendell since he was born. "Moranuen?"
"Lord... Elrond..." Moranuen spoke haltingly, his
message cut off as he
The elf had been badly beaten and his clothing was
torn and stained
with his own blood. As he lost consciousness a piece of wadded-up paper
fell from his hand settling onto the landing. Elrond glanced back into
the house and called for his help, "Celboril!"
The urgency in the elf lord’s voice brought several
servants running to
his aid. Gently they eased the elf away from Elrond and took him to a
guestroom at their master’s bidding.
When they had left the entryway, Elrond stooped down
and retrieved the
paper Moranuen had dropped. He smoothed out the wrinkles and
quickly scanned the contents. The page held a crudely drawn portrait of
an elf with the words "reward, dead or alive" stenciled in block
lettering on bottom – ‘wanted for the murder of five men in the eastern
range' completed the explanation. The elf that stared back at him from
the paper held no resemblance to the dark-haired elf that had returned
to him from the errand he had sent him on and anger burned within the
elven lord at his servant’s mistreatment.
His own sons had left early before sunrise to go
hunting and so he had
sent Moranuen to the town of Strayton to inquire about a letter that
had been received that morning in his household. The very manner in
which it had been delivered had bothered him greatly and he should have
been more wary. Driven into the wooden gate near the road down to
Rivendell was a knife with a threat scratched on a piece of paper that
beware. If you murder any more of my men we will retaliate. Stay
in your valley if you want to be safe."
The elf lord knew that there were bands of men that
roamed the ranges
of the mountains that bracketed Rivendell on either side, but they had
lived in peace for a very long time. It was true that there were more
men moving into the surrounding areas of late, but the hills were rich
with game and there was enough for everyone. This turn of events was
unexpected and it bode ill for the elves in his realm. Thinking to
discover what the source of the men’s complaint was, he had asked
Moranuen to inquire about it and return with information. He had no
desire for confrontation with the humans and intended to work with the
men of Strayton to solve whatever was going on, but it did not appear
that the sentiment was returned.
He moved quickly through the halls of his home until
he reached the
room that Moranuen had been removed to. His servants scattered out of
the way as he approached the bed the elf had been laid on. Gently he
moved the long strands of dark hair away from the bruised face.
"How is he?" Elrond glanced quickly at Celboril.
"Not good, my lord." The elf moved nearer his liege
and touched the
injured elf’s face carefully. "He has several broken ribs and his left
arm is fractured. I’d be surprised if he didn’t have a concussion. I
don’t know what they did to him, but they were cruel." Gently he picked
up one of the elf’s hands and turned it palm up in his own, displaying
bloody rope burns on Moranuen’s wrists. "I can't imagine what he would
have done that could make anyone treat him thus."
In answer to his question Elrond handed Celboril the
Moranuen had dropped; he was sickened by the treatment of the young elf
and trying to contain his anger.
"My lord!" The servant glanced up in surprise, "No
elf in Rivendell
would kill any man!"
Nodding his head slowly he answered the other, "I
know. Nor would they
provoke an attack such as this." He glanced darkly at the wounded elf.
"I think we may have a problem on our hands. But we need more
"If they wouldn’t talk to Moranuen..." Celboril left
the statement open.
"I know, they will not talk to any of us. And I will
not suffer anyone
else to be treated this way." He looked back at his attendant. "Find
Moranuen’s family, ask them to come and stay here while he heals. Clean
him up and I will return to see what can be done for him. I want to see
that arm set quickly as soon as the swelling goes down. If he should
wake, tell me immediately."
"Yes, my lord." Celboril stopped Elrond before he
had left the room.
"Where will I find you, my lord?"
Elrond didn’t turn back when he answered, he needed
to think, he needed
to be alone for a bit. "In the common room, Celboril. I will be there
the fire. I have some thinking to do, but I will return shortly." With
that explanation he left the room.
Aragorn stepped lightly into the main room of his
father’s house. A
fire was burning brightly in the alcove and the rich muted smells of
dinner wafted through the warm air under the vaulted beams of Rivendell.
Elrond was seated before the fireplace, his tall
frame wrapped in a
large wingback overstuffed chair, his eyes fixed on the dancing weaving
flames, allowing himself to be mesmerized by their interaction as his
mind was lost deep in thought.
His meditations were distracted as his youngest son,
his human son,
entered the room and dropped down onto the veranda next to him. The
young man brushed long dark locks of hair from his face and fixed the
elf with silver eyes. He didn’t speak, he simply watched his elder,
waiting the other out. Growing up in an elven home had shaped the young
human differently than he would have grown up had he not lived among a
race millennia his senior. He had learned the art of patience and
Elrond watched him for a few moments without
speaking until the human
started to smile at him. Smiling back Elrond nodded at the young man.
"How was the hunting, Estel?"
"Good. We found a small herd not far from here."
When his father simply
returned to watching the fire the ranger spoke again. "How was your
Elrond glanced back at the boy and raised an eyebrow
never ask how my days go."
"I never find you just sitting quietly before the
"And what is so odd about that, young one?" He
smiled at the human.
"Well you just have that same look on your face,
like the time you
found out that Elrohir had broken his leg when he took that dare from
Elladan and tried to jump the falls."
"Oh yes," Elrond shook his head and chuckled softly.
"That was fun.
Thank the heavens they have stopped that nonsense."
Estel glanced quickly down at his hands, his whole
slightly as the elderly elf watched him. Elrond’s eyes narrowed as he
considered the human, "Estel?"
The act of overstated innocence was not lost on the
elf and he leveled
the young ranger with a serious glare. "Is there something I should
know?" His sons had been known to pull some of the most idiotic stunts.
They had a penchant for daring each other.
Estel fidgeted with the heel of his boot where it
lay across his thigh.
"No," he answered innocently and then, trying desperately to change the
subject he continued, "But you do
look like something’s wrong." The
man turned serious and leaned forward, "What is it, Father?"
Smiling slightly and letting the redirection go,
Elrond gazed back at
the dancing flames and steepled his fingers as he thought through the
day’s events. "Very well, it’s probably best I don’t know," he conceded.
"You couldn’t be more right," Estel whispered to
himself, shaking his
head and rolling his eyes.
Elrond had heard the slight comment and had just
started to speak when
Elladan and Elrohir entered the common room, stopping up short when
they saw the serious look on their father's face.
Elrohir broke the silence first. "You told him
didn’t you Estel!"
"You swore you wouldn’t!" Elladan glared at the man.
The human stared wide-eyed at his brothers, shaking
his head vigorously.
"Tell me what?" Elrond raised his eyebrow in
question of his two sons.
Elladan wouldn’t look his father in the eyes and Elrohir suddenly found
the carpet very intriguing.
"I think I hear Celboril, I better go see what’s up
he might need help
in the kitchen." Elrohir tried unsuccessfully to exit the room, but his
brother grabbed the back of his tunic, stopping his forward motion as
his father rose from his seat.
"Estel told me nothing of what the three of you were
up to today,"
Elrond rounded his chair as he spoke, "and I am not sure that I want to
hear it anyway." He motioned to the couch where Aragorn sat quietly.
"Sit. I have something of importance that I need to discuss with the
three of you."
The twins immediately obeyed, seating themselves on
either side of
their human brother. It was rare that their father spoke like this and
the sudden seriousness of the situation bore down on them.
"I was just about to tell Estel what took place here
while you were
gone hunting this morning." He paced to the front of the room and stood
with his back to the brothers, quietly resettling the wood in the
fireplace with an iron tool that stood nearby.
Elladan and Elrohir glanced at the ranger but he
shoulders, for he had yet to discover what bothered their father.
turning around Elrond continued, "Moranuen was beaten today when I sent
him into Strayton on an errand for me."
"What!" Aragorn leapt to his feet, "Where is he? Is
he all right?"
Moranuen was the human’s best friend in Rivendell
other than the
Elrond turned back to his youngest son and reassured
him, "He is
resting Estel, but I will not lie to you. He is not well. He was badly
beaten by the men in the town. He is under our roof and he and his
family will stay here until he is well enough to leave. That will not
be anytime soon, I am afraid."
Aragorn tried to step forward, his worry for his
friend overriding the
conversation, but Elladan grabbed his coattail and pulled the man
backwards, tipping him far enough off balance that he fell back onto
the couch. Elrohir shifted over against the ranger and, placing his arm
on the human’s shoulder, he leaned gently down pinning him in place.
"I would hear the rest, Father," Elrohir softly
spoke as he glanced at
his human brother. "It will be all right, Estel."
"In time, Moranuen will be just fine. You may visit
him later, right now
there are other matters that must be dealt with first." The elven lord
then went on to explain the note posted on the gate of their road and
passed the trio the paper that Moranuen had brought back with him.
"This cannot be allowed to continue, Father. We must
find out who this
elf is that they claim is killing their men and stop whatever is going
on." Elladan handed the wanted sign over to Estel who shared it with
"You are correct but, as you can see, we can send no
more of our people
out of this valley without them being in danger. We will have to take a
very different route." His eyes lighted on Estel who was frowning down
at the picture of the elf on the wanted poster. Elladan and Elrohir
exchanged worried looks over their brother’s head before focusing on
"This looks nothing like Moranuen. In fact this
looks nothing like any
Noldo elf that I know." He glanced up when no one answered him.
Wondering what it was that he had missed, he looked from one serious
face of his family to another and quickly rewound the conversation that
had just been spoken, running it back through his attentive
As he caught up with the essence of where his father
was leading, he
nodded slowly in understanding. "I can come and go and not be in
danger. I am a man, they will not attack me."
"Yes, Estel, that is exactly what I was thinking."
Elrond paced back to
the chair and lowered himself into it, staring intently at the young
"You cannot think to send him alone! Look at what
they did to Moranuen. What guarantee do we have that they will not
treat anyone who leaves
these gates in much the same way?" Elladan voiced his concerns.
"He is a human, Elladan, so they will not bother him
as they would the two
of you, and I would know what is going on so that we can bring this to
an end. Estel’s childhood here is at an end. Soon everyone will know
that a Dùnadan frequents Rivendell even if they do not know his
ancestry or his upbringing." He smiled at the man. "His presence here
has been a well kept elven secret for many years but that time is over.
Still most have not associated Estel with our house and he has the name
Legolas gave him as an alias, as well as others. He could easily fit
into this group of men and discover the truth about them. It is
important to me."
"I can do this." Aragorn leaned forward eagerly,
garnering a smile from
his adoptive father.
"I know you can, my son." Elrond locked eyes with
the boy. "I want you
to be careful though. These men are not like the Dunèdain, they
run on their own set of rules. Otherwise Mora would not have returned
as he did. Be wary, be observant, use what you have been taught. See if
there is any validity to their accusation that an elf is murdering men
in the eastern range. If that proves to be the case then we will need
to deal with it. But we will
deal with it, and not they."
"Of course, Father. I will leave tonight. May I have
the letter that was
posted on the gates?"
Elrond passed the scrap of paper to the human.
"Taradin." Estel repeated the name committing it to
passing the written threat back. "I’ll see what I can find out and I
will return by the end of the week with word." He looked at his
brothers as he made the last statement. If he didn’t return by that
time they would know to come looking for him.
Elladan nodded seriously as Estel glanced at him.
"Then come, let us get you prepared." Elrond stood
from his seat and
held his hand out to the young man. "I imagine you’d like to see
Moranuen before you go and I will have Celboril prepare some food
to take with you."