It was still pre-dawn when Taradin was awakened by
the soft sounds of
movement in the camp. The fire had died down to hotly glowing embers
and in the slight light he could barely make out the dark form of
Strider seating himself on a horse behind the wounded elf they had
caught and tortured the day before. He made his way quietly through the
sleeping camp until he stood next to the mounted ranger.
"I’ll be back later. I need to get Legolas to
Rivendell as soon as
possible." Aragorn glanced down at the man. In fact, Legolas had taken
a turn for the worse during the night and he feared that any delay
would only lessen the elf’s chances of healing.
"For what it’s worth Strider, I truly am sorry we
hurt your friend,"
Taradin said quietly.
The ranger nodded. Wrapping his arm around the elf’s
chest, he held
Legolas in place in front of him and grasped the reins with his free
hand. "Do not hunt the dark elf, Taradin, and do not use that dragon
water on anyone else. Stay in camp and wait my return."
They locked eyes for a moment, the younger man
warning the older with
his gaze. Legolas moaned and shifted in his grasp and the ranger’s
attention was diverted. Taradin had understood and he slapped the
horse’s haunches, sending the steed into a quick trot down the mountain
path. "I hope he makes it," the old hunter spoke quietly to himself.
He hadn’t noticed that Garith had woken and stepped
up behind him,
watching the ranger speed off with his elven friend, "Me too," he
Part way down the mountain Legolas stirred and tried
to move out of
"Easy." Aragorn tightened his grip on the elf and
slowed the horse down
to a walking gait. "It’s alright, I’ve got you."
"Where are we going?" Legolas moved his arms up to
ribcage, crossing his hands over the top of the ranger's.
"Mine or yours this time?"
Aragorn laughed. "Mine. It's closer."
"I do not wish to see your father in this shape,
Aragorn," Legolas grit
out between his teeth. He had his pride after all, and it was not his
wish to be continually entering Lord Elrond’s house in this manner.
"And he will not pleased to see you either." The
ranger shook his head
as he thought of the reception that would await them. "Actually he will
not be pleased to see me dragging you home half-dead again."
"I am not half-dead," the elf protested with mild
"Aragorn..." Legolas warned the ranger darkly.
"Well you aren’t exactly well are you?" teased the
human. "One of these
days our fathers are going to ban us from being around each other –
it’s rather bad for our health or haven’t you noticed?"
"Don’t make me laugh." The elf leaned hard against
Aragorn’s arm and
moaned as the pain in his body flared through his awareness, causing
him to fight against the waves of nausea that assaulted him. The
jouncing of the horse’s gate was grating painfully on every injured
muscle and broken rib in Legolas’ body.
The horse stumbled beneath him, its foot slipping on
the loose dirt.
Aragorn tightened his grip on Legolas, inadvertently pressing against
the elf’s broken ribs as he kept himself and his friend upright in the
saddle. The pain was overwhelming and the prince cried out, slumping
"Legolas?" He pulled the elf’s head back against his
the reins and letting the horse slowly pace down the road to Rivendell.
"Legolas!" Brushing away the strands of hair from the prince’s face he
noted that the elf had lapsed back into unconsciousness, his eyes
closed. "Stay with me," Aragorn whispered to his friend, "We are almost
Aragorn turned in the saddle towards the shouted
greeting. His brothers
emerged from the forest to his left and galloped up alongside the
The twins took in the situation and Elladan’s
expression turned from
one of joy to seriousness. "What happened?"
"Or should we ask what happened again?" Elrohir
chimed in sarcastically.
"Oh very funny, Elrohir. Legolas was caught by
Taradin’s men." Aragorn
glanced at his eldest brother who was glaring at his twin. "Can you
ride ahead of me and let father know we are coming?"
"Estel, do you know what he’s going to do when he
hears you are
bringing the prince home three steps from death’s door again?" Elrohir
glanced between his two brothers, staring down their glares, "Well I
one do not want to be the one that breaks it to him." He stared at
"I don’t have time to argue with you," Aragorn
rolled his eyes. "GO!"
"I agree. I don’t want to tell him either. I can
just imagine his
response." Elladan closed the space between his horse and Aragorn and
reached out to lift the prince’s head up slightly. "He’s unconscious.
We’ll ride back with you."
With a nod from the ranger, the three brothers
headed quickly home.
"Just once I would very much like to see you come
walking in under your
own power." Elrond glared darkly at his youngest son as the human
reined the horse to a stop inside Rivendell’s inner court. Elrohir’s
mount skidded to a stop and the elf threw himself out of the saddle,
handing the reins off to a servant that stood by waiting quietly.
Aragorn began to protest, "I am fine, it’s..."
But Elrond cut him off, "I would like to see you both come in without
needing any aid, either of you."
"Probably not likely in your lifetime, father,"
Elladan muttered as he
dismounted and walked over to help his brother with the wounded elf.
"Told you he’d be less than pleased to see you."
"Elladan, you aren’t improving my mood at all."
Elrond walked up next
to the horse that Aragorn sat on and looked up at his son. The ranger
had wrapped one arm around Legolas' waist, with his free hand he
the elf’s head where it rested against his shoulder. "Tell me Estel,
The ranger began to explain as he shifted the
unconscious elf in his
arms. Slipping off the horse, he gently pulled his friend with him. The
twins quickly came to his aid, grabbing hold of Legolas and shouldering
his weight until Aragorn had safely dismounted.
"I found the rogue elf’s lair. It's near the high
pass, by the ruins up
that way. I also know what he looks like."
Elrond motioned the boys into the house after a
cursory exam of the elf
prince; the dark look on his face had deepened to a scowl and the twins
stopped and turned back. Aragorn’s eyes lighted on Legolas’ still form.
"He looks like Legolas. He is a Silvan elf, although what he is doing
this far west I have no idea."
The human looked back up at the elf lord, "Taradin
and his men captured
Legolas as he was traveling here. They thought he was the rogue.
Legolas said he would come visit in a fortnight." Aragorn looked down
and sighed. "I had forgotten completely or I would have been looking
for him. I did not come back to camp until late last night and... it
was too late already."
Elrond motioned the twins into the house and Aragorn
near, following them in. He continued his explanation. "They overdosed
him with dragon water and when he could not tell them what they wanted,
they tried to beat it out of him." The ranger grabbed the eldest twin's
sleeve and directed him away from the guest quarters into a larger
room. "Please let him stay here." When Elrond nodded his agreement, the
brothers laid the elf down on the soft bed.
Aragorn immediately went about lighting the small
glow lamps situated
in the corners of the bedroom and pulled the curtains shut against the
bright morning light. "He has a leg wound where one of those idiots
shot him." The ranger’s anger was rising again and he turned away,
trying to control his emotions.
"This has to stop!" Elladan gazed hard at his
father. "First Moranuen,
now Prince Legolas... They can’t keep doing this to us! Let me go out
there with a contingent. I will see to it that they leave our woods."
Elrohir looked up from where he sat on the bed next
to the elf prince.
"Father?" Elrond’s attention was divided. Memories surfaced in his
mind, lost, forgotten ones, the face of a young, fair-haired elven
child. It couldn’t be though or could it?"
"I think he wakens." The elven twin leaned over the
prince and spoke
quietly to him in the grey tongue.
Aragorn whirled around and moved close in, lending
comfort with his
"Hmm.." Legolas smiled slightly up at the worried
faces around him. "I
remember this place." His voice was soft and rough.
"Yes, well one day I would very much like to see you
walk into it
instead of being carried in, young prince." Elrond smiled down at the
"So would I." Legolas gazed at Aragorn. "I really
The human laughed softly, "Me too. You’re kind of
heavy you know that?"
Pain seized the wounded elf as he tried to laugh and
he turned on his
side pulling into himself. Elrond pushed the younger elves out of the
room and attempted to clear his youngest son out of the way as well,
the human was having nothing of it. He knelt on the floor next to the
bed, near the prince’s head, talking quietly to him as the elf worked
on calming his breathing and relaxing.
"Estel, I will work better with you out of the room."
"Yes father, I know." The human simply walked back
into the small
fresher unit and retrieved a soft cloth and a bowl of water.
Silver eyes met and locked until the elder elf
relented, shaking his
head. "Why Iluvatar thought I needed any more sons is beyond me." He
teased the young human. Gently catching Legolas’ shoulders, Elrond
the elf onto his back once more and began to carefully inspect the
bruised wounds to the prince’s upper body.
Aragorn slipped his knife from its sheath and cut
away the bloodied
legging around the elf’s thigh where the arrow had deeply bit into the
muscle. He gently began to clean the wound as his father tended to his
friend, slowing his movements considerably when Legolas drew his breath
in sharply from the pain.
"I’m sorry." Aragorn whispered, catching his
friend’s gaze. "I’ll be
Legolas didn’t respond. He was in too much pain to
speak and the effort
was not lost on the elf lord.
"It would be best if you slept through this." He
smiled softly at the
prince. "It would be less painful."
Aragorn glanced between his father and his friend.
nodded slowly, fixing his eyes on the human. Elrond left the room and
the ranger moved to sit on the bed near the elf prince. "You can trust
Legolas barely smiled. "Young human, I trusted Lord
Elrond before most
of your human father’s ancestors were ever born. It will be well."
Elrond re-entered the room and stopped in the
doorway. He listened
quietly as the two friends talked softly, letting them have a moment
before he cleared his throat. Both turned to look at him; a smile
graced the prince’s face but worry and guilt edged the eyes of the elf
lord’s son. He would have to speak with his youngest later about the
Stepping up near the bed Elrond held out a warm mug
of thick yellow
liquid, a slightly acrid smell lingered in the air. Aragorn took the
cup from his father’s hands and smiled down at Legolas. "Looks like I
get to drug you again. I guess next time it’s your turn."
"There will absolutely be no next time." Elrond leaned in
the two, glaring between them in mock indignation. "Is that perfectly
understood?" The warning garnered slight laughter, having done its job
in lightening the mood.
Aragorn slipped one hand under Legolas’ head and
raised him slightly
up, with his other he gently pressed the cup to the elf’s lips, tipping
it ever so slightly. Instinctively, Legolas' hand came up and gripped
the ranger’s forearm as he took a sip of the warm liquid. It didn’t
cause his stomach to react and, at Aragorn’s prompting, he took a
drink, relaxing slowly as the drug took effect and he drifted into
Elrond stepped quietly into the bedchamber. A fire
was burning softly
in the stone fireplace throwing warm shadows around the room. Legolas
lay on the large bed finally breathing easily, his face turned towards
the wall, and his left leg bandaged and elevated on a small mound of
pillows to help stave the bleeding. The warm confines of the room had
lulled its occupants to sleep.
Aragorn sat on the floor, leaning back against the
tall bed, his head
tipped back and resting against the mattress, hands in his lap. He was
Elrohir had commandeered a large overstuffed chair.
familiarity with the house caused them to be careless with the
furniture at times. The younger twin sat sideways in the soft recliner,
his head resting on one arm and his legs draped over the other, snoring
softly. Elladan had pulled a small stool near the bright flames warming
his back, his unfocused eyes betrayed the fact that he was dozing,
Elrond eased himself down in an empty chair and
watched his sleeping
sons. His eyes stopped on the form of the human, so relaxed and yet
the elf knew that under the circumstances his every awareness was
focused on the bed behind him. If Legolas even turned over the ranger
would be awake instantly. Sensing someone watching him, Elrond glanced
back at his eldest, smiling slightly at the young elf who sat there
"Don’t worry, he won’t wake up." Elladan smiled at
the older elf,
speaking quietly so as not to wake the others, "The only thing that
could wake him now is if Legolas regained consciousness."
"I was just thinking that." Elrond smiled absently
and glanced out the
large window that decorated the southern wall. Night had fallen and the
stars could just be seen.
"What is it, Father?" The young elf noticed his
"This is my fault you know." The elf lord leveled
the warrior with a
"I don’t understand." Elladan frowned and leaned
"Hebrilith." Elrond took a deep breath and let it
out with a sigh. He
stood to his feet walking slowly to the picture window, his eyes not
seeing the darkened night but reliving a time long ago. Elladan didn’t
push his father; he knew the elder elf would speak when he felt like it.
"Hebrilith was a child when your mother and I were
first married. His
family lived in Lothlorien and when he was very young some men raided
the woods there and captured several elves, Hebrilith among them." He
stopped, frowning in remembrance. "We were able to rescue all of them,
but the child..." His voice fell off and he shook his head sadly.
Elrond turned back to elf and continued, "No one
ever found Hebrilith.
He had been given to a very wicked man who used the boy as an object
of curiosity." He glanced over at Legolas, his thoughts returning to
the first time he had met the prince and the cruel captivity that the
young elf had endured so long ago. "Much as Legolas was used once. The
child was treated ill and grew up in hostility. He learned early on to
hate men and he learned the lesson well. It was driven into his heart
and carved in his memories." Walking back to the chair, Elrond sat back
"Finally, many years later, Hebrilith killed his
captor and escaped. He
returned to his parents and the elves in Lothlorien, but he had been
scarred too badly."
"Physically or emotionally?"
"Both. But the physical part we were able to heal.
The emotional part
was too far beyond our skills." Elrond’s eyes were sad as he remembered
the fair-haired being, "He did not get along well with others after his
return, not even others of our kind. He began to withdraw and the elves
grew fearful of him. It was thought best to banish him, when he became
uncooperative, choosing to live in seclusion in the woods."
The elf lord smiled to himself. "Your mother," he
shook his head
fondly, "she felt for the boy. You and Elrohir were mere infants when
his banishment was considered. Her heart was always big enough for the
least of the beings on this earth. She petitioned the court to allow
the boy to live here in Rivendell." He glanced at Elladan, "Her request
was granted. Of course I had agreed."
Elrohir had awoken and was watching his father
intently. "Why would you
do this?" He spoke softly.
"I too have been a captive, more than once. I know
what the pain can be
like, how it does not go away. How one must fight it every day. I know
what it is like to be elven and to not be, to be accepted and to not
be. In a moment of weakness, I allowed the boy to live here near
"Nay, not weakness, Father, compassion." Elrohir
"Whatever moved us then was ill-advised. Hebrilith
chose to live in the
mountains alone. He was at peace when he was away from all else and he
was fine when undisturbed. We would see him from time to time when he
had need. But as he became more self-sufficient, his visits grew less
frequent. Over the years I had lost track of him. In all truth I was
not sure he was still alive. When your mother left for the undying
Lands, that was the last time I saw him. He was on the bluff
overlooking the bay, watching as she left."
Elrond ran a hand over the back of his neck as he
softly. "I had heard of rumors of people, men, meeting their ends in
the mountains near where Hebrilith had chosen to reside. I always
attributed their deaths to their own ignorance of the mountains; it is
easy to lose one's way or footing there. As men have grown more
abundant and as they now range farther into territory they never before
occupied, they are meeting with things far older than their race and
more deadly than they are equipped to deal with."
Aragorn moved slightly, stretching slowly as he
woke, the soft voices
finally working their way into his consciousness. Elrond graced the
young human with a small smile and it was returned from the bleary-eyed
When he caught sight of his brother’s serious
glances the smile slipped
from his face and he jumped to his feet turning toward Legolas, but the
prince was fine. Confused at the tension in the room, he glanced back
his father who had risen from his seat and crossed the room to stand
behind the boy. "Legolas is well. He is just resting, let him sleep. I
was explaining to Elladan and Elrohir that I know who this dark elf
that hunts the high ranges is."
Surprise lit the ranger's face and he easily allowed
himself to be
pressed back down to the floor as Elrond stared seriously at him, "I
want you to be very careful when you hunt the dark elf, do you
understand me, Estel? I would rather that you did not go at all, but I
know I cannot keep you from it."
Aragorn looked between his father and his brothers
in concern. Elrond
crouched in front of the boy, eye level with the human, "You must
promise me this. Hebrilith hates men. He was taken by them, my son, and
he could never get over what was done to him. He will not hesitate to
kill you. In fact if he sees you with your brothers or Legolas or even
with other men, he will single you out and go after you first. I want
you to be very aware of your surroundings at all times. Do you
"Yes, Father, I promise." Estel’s words were mere
whispers, but his
response satisfied the elf lord.
Elrond nodded and laid his hand on the boy’s
shoulder as he stood once
more. Turning to the twins he continued, "Hebrilith must be put down.
Obviously, his heart has fallen into darkness and he can no longer be
allowed to live. He has become more bold and men will simply continue
to spread into the mountains and Hebrilith will hunt them."
Elladan started to protest but the elf lord stopped
him, "It is mercy,
my son. He has lived a long life but he cannot live with others; it is
torment to him. It will be in kindness that his wanderings here are cut
short. He is... twisted inside. He has obviously allowed his hate to
eat away at him until darkness is all he knows and whatever light was
in him once is hidden and trapped by the evil he has let take his
heart. Only in death can he be set free. It is something I should have
done myself years ago but was loathe to."
Elladan nodded, glancing at Elrohir. Something
unspoken passed between
the twins and they both looked at Estel. Elrond watched the silent
communication with interest and he knew in that instant they had vowed
to keep Hebrilith from killing again or coming anywhere near injuring
their human brother.
"We will see it done, Father." Elladan smiled at the
elder elf. "You did
what you thought best. There is no shame in that."
Estel had the distinct feeling that he had been left
out of something
very important. As was his wont to do, he sat quietly listening to his
father and brothers gleaning any information from them that he could.
Elrond noticed the boy's over-attentiveness. It was
a trait the young
human had learned growing up in a house of elves millennia his senior
and the elf lord had a feeling it would suit him well in his life to
come. He smiled softly at the ranger. "Your brothers will fill you in
on the details when Legolas awakes."
"I am awake," a soft, slurred voice spoke from the
bed where the elf
prince lay, "although I am not sure I wish to be."
Aragorn scrambled to his feet and leaned over his
friend, his eyes
bright and a smile spreading across his face. "How do you feel?"
"Horrible. I ache." The elf smiled back.
Elrond gently moved his son aside and pressed in
close to the bed.
Aragorn, unwilling to leave, simply sat on the edge of the bed and
watched as the elf lord carefully opened Legolas’ tunic and pressed his
hand against the young prince’s ribs, feeling the swelling around the
broken bones that were beginning to mend.
Legolas drew his breath in slightly, closing his
eyes at the touch. His
chest was discolored from the beating he had taken and every muscle
seemed to protest the gentle touch of the elf lord.
"It will take you a couple of days before you are
well enough to get
out of bed," Elrond said quietly. The elf prince nodded as Elrond’s
hand covered his forehead, "At least your fever is gone, young one. You
gave us quite a scare."
"Us?" Legolas pressed one elbow beneath him, raising
himself up to look
around the room. When he caught sight of the twins still seated where
they were he chuckled, "Oh good."
"At least you won't be wanting for company while you
heal. They have made
your room their permanent residence." Elrond glanced back at Elrohir
and raised an eyebrow at the youth.
Elrhoir gazed back at his father open-eyed in
question. A small throw
pillow smacked him in the face, lobbed at him from across the room by
"He means respect the furniture." Elladan growled
from his stool as his
brother smiled sheepishly and righted himself in the chair. When their
father had turned his attention back to the elf prince, Elrohir chucked
the pillow at Elladan with more force than was necessary. The elder
twin caught it but, before he could retaliate, Elrond’s voice stopped
them both, "I saw that. Don’t think I didn’t. And do not throw that
pillow again, Elladan. There are decorations in this room older than
both of you that I can no longer replace." He glanced over his
Aragorn snickered. His humor was cut short however
as the small pillow
clobbered him in the face and sent him off balance so that he fell back
against the bed. Elrohir began to laugh helplessly as Elrond turned to
glare at his sons. "Elladan!"
"I have no idea how that happened, Father," the
eldest twin replied, his
face the very essence of innocence.
His act was not lost on the elf lord who simply
stared at the warrior
until the younger elf dropped his gaze with a guilty smile. "How old
Elrohir was trying unsuccessfully to still his
"Shut up, Elrohir!" Elladan growled softly, "You are
only a minute
Legolas laughed softly at the brothers, his hand
crossing his chest to
keep from drawing in too much breath as the ache in his body restricted
"I can remove them if you like," Elrond teased,
looking at the twins out
of the corner of his eyes.
"No, please." Legolas smiled up at the elf lord.
"Let them stay, it is
good to hear laughter."
"All right then." Elrond stood and looked around the
room. "I’ll have
food sent in for you shortly." He smiled fondly down at the human
seated on the bed near his friend."Be sure you keep them in line,
Estel. I do not need the prince injuring himself any further because of
"Not to worry, Father," Aragorn smiled brilliantly
back at the elf.
"Oh yes, he’s a big threat," Elladan said under his
"Very scary," Elrohir chimed in sarcastically.
Elrond glanced a warning at the two and growled,
"Behave." With that he
turned and left the friends to themselves, their laughter reaching his
ears as he walked out into the hallway towards the kitchen.
Elladan and Elrohir had retired to their own rooms
for the evening,
leaving Aragorn alone with Legolas. The elf prince was seated on his
bed propped up against a sea of pillows that the brothers had scavenged
from all over the house. Aragorn stirred the dwindling fire, stoking
"Aragorn, go to bed. You look like you could fall
over," Legolas teased
the ranger as he slowly straightened from tending the fire.
"I will." The human stumbled to the overstuffed
chair opposite Legolas’
bed and fell into it.
bed." The elf smiled at the sleepy ranger. "I’ll be fine."
"I know." Aragorn stretched himself out in the easy
chair and watched
his friend through slitted eyes. "I’m sorry, Legolas."
The elf’s demeanor changed and he quieted
immediately. "Aragorn, it’s
not your fault." His voice was soft; they had been over this before.
The human turned his gaze away and watched the fire.
"I wanted to kill
Taradin when I found you. I wanted to kick myself for leaving. If I had
been there, none of this would have happened." He shook his head, his
thoughts dark with the memory of finding his friend strung up like a
criminal. "When I saw you there..."
"Aragorn." Legolas' voice stopped his reminiscing.
"I am fine. You are
the one who rescued me. If it were not for you, for your return, those
men would have killed me - they made it very clear. You stopped all
The ranger was shaking his head but the elf ignored
him, "How do you
think I felt when I stood on the other side of that rockslide and
listened to the orcs torturing you?"
"That was different." The young man leapt to his
feet and paced the
"It wasn’t different at all." Aragorn rounded on the
elf but Legolas
didn’t stop, "No, it wasn’t different at all. You were being tortured
and I got there after the fact. After the fact Strider."
"They said you called my name." Aragorn’s voice was
soft and slightly
Legolas looked down at his hands. "I did?"
"They had drugged you." Aragorn seated himself on
the bed and leaned
over. "If I had waited for someone to go with me instead of stealing
out of camp on my own, I would have been there."
The elf wouldn’t meet his eyes. Bits and snatches of
memory were coming
back to him. Angry words, blurry faces, the pain... he almost shuddered
as his mind slid backwards, mixing old memories with the new. And the
old memories were more painful.
"Legolas?" Aragorn's concerned voice drew him back.
The prince shook his head, "Memories."
"Yes, of other men!"
"But not you. None of this was your fault and it was
not even really
Taradin or his men’s fault either." He stared hard at the human. "They
thought I was Hebrilith. If he had been a man and done to my people
what this elf has done to yours, I am not sure that we would have
handled him any more gently than they."
He knew Aragorn was not convinced and it was no use
arguing with a
human when tired, he had learned that well when they were
traveling together on their way to the Mines of Moria. The elf smiled
at the tired face watching him. "Go to sleep, Estel. In the morning it
will be better. Besides I was wondering what kind of trouble we could
stir up in your woods and it seems that it has found us." He laughed at
himself and pushed the ranger off his bed. "Go, so I may sleep."
Finally the ranger smiled back at him, his mind
weary from the day and
slow from being overly tired. He paced back to the deep, cushioned
and curled up in it.
"Your own room, human," Legolas chided fondly.
"This is my room," he muttered back at his friend as
he closed his eyes
and, laying his head on his arm, he was instantly asleep.