Aragorn had stayed on in Rivendell, unwilling to
leave Legolas until
the elf was well enough to move about on his own. It had been nearly a
week since he had visited the men's camp and in all honesty he had
temporarily forgotten about them.
They however had not forgotten about him.
Elrond had decided it would be nice to break their
morning fast on the
terrace overlooking the Bruinen and requested that their meal be
brought to them there. A light breeze lifted off the water, cooling the
Elladan was arguing the finer points of bow hunting
"I am telling you, Brother, your fletchings are too
long," Elladan spoke
around a mouthful of food, "it's why you overshoot every time."
"Please." Elrohir rolled his eyes, "Everyone knows
the only reason I
never make a clean kill is because you are there whispering in my ear
and throwing me off!"
Legolas started to laugh. Being with the family of
Noldor elves was
always a welcome change to his own. He loved his father dearly, but
Elrond and his sons just seemed to be more casual around each other and
easily given to light-hearted conversation.
Elrond glanced at his sons. Estel was quietly
listening to the
argument, but his eyes could not hold back his mirth. It wouldn’t be
long before he would be adding his own opinion to the conversation just
to keep the argument going. The elderly elf had noticed that his human
son seemed to be adept at keeping the twins stirred up and he smiled to
Just as he had thought, Estel began to speak, but
his words were cut
off as a messenger hurriedly stepped out onto the veranda.
Elladan stood from his seat and Elrohir quickly
moved from his own,
offering the chair to the out of breath warrior. But the elf waved off
the formality, turning quickly to Elrond and bowing.
When the elf lord acknowledged the messenger, the
warrior began to speak.
"My lord, we have discovered intruders." The elf
took a deep breath
trying to still his racing heart.
"Easy, speak slowly." Elrond stood and handed the
warrior a glass of
water, resting his hand lightly on the young elf’s back. When the
messenger had calmed slightly, the elf lord questioned him further.
"Where did you find these intruders? And do you have them now?"
"Yes, my lord, we have them restrained down in the
courtyard." At his
words the elves around the table erupted with action as the younger
ones headed for the doorway followed closely by Elrond and the
messenger. "We discovered them on the south face near the main path.
They were definitely trying to conceal their approach. One of them put
up quite a fight and we had to restrain him. And, my lord," the warrior
paused, "they are human."
The messenger’s last words halted Aragorn in his
tracks and he turned
sharply towards the warrior. Legolas and Elrond stopped up short and
watched with interest as the ranger’s full attention was riveted on the
"Did you say they were humans?"
The messenger glanced at Elrond who only nodded,
encouraging the elf to
"Yes, Estel. They are human. Why do you ask?"
"What did they look like?"
"Like humans?" The elf was confused. Didn’t all men
"No." Aragorn was afraid of the elf’s answer and his
showing. "Are they townfolk? Are they hunters? All men?"
"Yes they are all men. Perhaps, yes, they are
shaded the silver eyes of the messenger but Aragorn did not see it.
"Taradin! I should have thought..." He ran for the
door, bursting out
into the courtyard.
Just as he feared, Taradin, Garith and three other
hunters he barely
recognized were standing in the courtyard, ringed by a contingent of
Rivendell’s warriors. Elladan and Elrohir were questioning the warriors.
Taradin himself was bound and had been forced to his
knees, in order to
restrain him. Garith was in tears, watching the older man from the
side, his hands bound in front of him and guarded by an elven warrior.
"Release them!" Aragorn moved towards Garith and
gently but firmly
pushed the warrior away, severing the young boy’s bonds. The youth ran
to the older hunter and immediately began trying to pry loose the ropes
that held Taradin bound.
Elrond stepped into the courtyard, quickly taking in
the situation. He
nodded wordlessly at the elves who immediately obeyed and released
Aragorn had knelt in front of Taradin and was
cutting through the ropes
that were looped about his chest.
"I’m sorry. Are you all right?" The ranger helped
the man to stand.
"Well except for these damned elves..."
"Don’t." Aragorn turned hard eyes on him. The ranger
stepped in close
to the man. He couldn’t tell the hunter that this was his family, but
would not let the human threaten or curse them either. They were his
Legolas stepped out from behind Lord Elrond and the
men stopped arguing
as they caught sight of the elf they had beaten only a week prior.
Taradin glanced at the elf prince and looked back to
"Yes," Aragorn smiled. "He lives."
The ranger stepped towards his father. With a slight
smile he winked at
the elderly elf and the elf prince. In the next moment his entire
demeanor changed. Legolas was fascinated by the transformation. The
human stepped back and bowed low to the two elves.
"My lords, these are the hunters that your servant
informed you of."
Aragorn straightened up and looked over his shoulder towards the group
of men. "May I introduce Taradin and his adopted son, Garith. These men
work with him. Forgive me for I have forgotten their names."
The ranger continued the introductions, "And this is
Master of Rivendell." Strider turned towards his elven brothers and
redirected the men’s attention. "These are his son and heirs, Elladan
and Elrohir, masters of this house. Legolas, Prince of Mirkwood, has
recuperating under Lord Elrond's care. Lord Elrond is an expert in the
healing arts and has kindly seen to his restoration."
Taradin and his men followed the ranger’s lead and
bowed to the elves
when the introductions had been made. "I hope that you are well again,
Heir of Mirkwood. And I ask you to forgive me and my men, we mistook
you for an elf that has been killing our companions."
"I trust you have learned from your mistake," Elrond
spoke up. His
voice was low but his tone was firm and commanding.
"Yes, my lord." Taradin bowed again, "It will not
"And yet you were caught sneaking onto our lands."
Elrond clasped his
hands behind his back and stepped down onto the courtyard. "Explain
your actions. Rivendell is open to all who would enter and yet you
treat us as though we were your enemy. Why is that?" dark eyes leveled
the man with their piercing gaze as Elrond stepped close to the human.
Taradin shifted his glance towards the ranger but
Garith, who had
finally recovered from his scare, found his voice. "It’s not his fault,
Lord Elf. We was worried about Strider. He never came back and we was
thinking it was 'cause you all might have thought he was the one who
hurt the other elf there. We was coming to rescue him, with all due
"Garith, hush." Taradin put a protective arm around
the young man and
pulled him back tightly against him. "Its true, your lordship. We just
came to make sure that Strider here was all right."
Elrohir, on the edge of the group, snickered
lightly. His soft laugh
was only heard by the elven ears nearby and his human brother. Of
course the man had been safe but the hunters had no way of knowing
that. Elladan elbowed his twin, silencing the elf.
Elrond glanced at the twin, repressing a smile,
knowing exactly what
was in the thoughts of his son.
"As you can see, the ranger has been well cared
for," Elrond answered.
"Why hasn’t he been allowed to return?"
Aragorn stepped forward, finally realizing why the
men had thought they
needed to sneak into Rivendell. "Taradin, I’m fine. I stayed behind
with Legolas to see to his recovery. I should have sent word or come
back to you. I’m sorry, the mistake was mine."
The hunter looked the ranger over carefully. The
younger man looked
well fed and healthy and under no distress. Convinced that Strider was
indeed all right, he nodded and glanced at his men. "Are we free to go?"
"Of course," Elrond answered, "but we would welcome
your company." The
elf lord motioned back into the interior of the house. "Come and eat
with us. Surely you are hungry?"
Taradin glanced uneasily towards the open door,
thinking over the
offer. There had been so much bad blood between the men and the elves
of late, perhaps it was time to put an end to that way of thinking. He
nodded slowly and met Elrond’s easy gaze, "We would like to join you.
May I send one of my men back so that the others know we are alright?"
"Of course." Elrond turned to a nearby warrior and
addressed the elf,
"Please see that this man gets a horse and is given water and something
to eat before he goes."
The older hunter’s mouth dropped open at the
generous offer and he
turned huge eyes on Strider. The ranger simply smiled and nodded,
escorting the men that were remaining into the house. "Your man will be
well taken care of. The townsfolk are wrong about the elves you know."
"I am beginning to see that," Taradin answered
awestruck as they
entered Elrond’s dwelling and were escorted out to the veranda
overlooking the deep gorge the dwelling was seated on.
Legolas watched his friend with fascination as the
morning wore on. The
ranger deferred to the elves in every matter, treating even his
brothers as the royalty they were. His joking and lightheartedness had
been replaced by a cloak of seriousness and quiet stability. Aragorn
easily mediated between the humans and the elves, keeping himself out
of the way and quietly off to the side until needed or addressed. His
keen eyes watched everyone and when he spoke his words always tipped
the conversations away from a confrontation or misunderstanding, slowly
working the talk around to the subject of Hebrilith.
Elrond took note of his younger son’s intent and
easily addressed the
"You mentioned earlier that your men have been
killed by an elf?"
Elrond watched the hunter carefully as he asked the question.
Taradin laid his fork down on his plate and nodded,
glancing up at the
elven lord, "Yes they have. We thought Legolas here was him, there’s
quite a resemblance between the two. Can’t seem to track him down or
stop him. And no disrespect meaning but if we could put him down we
The elf lord’s gaze did not drop and Taradin was
forced to look away
from the piercing eyes. "It is true we have heard of this elf. However
an elf cannot be easily tracked and caught by a human if he does not
want to be. You see the problem?"
"We caught him alright." The hunter on Taradin’s
left pointed his fork
Legolas stopped mid-bite, pausing to level an
unreadable glare at the
man. He was doing an admirable job of looking past what had occurred
the last time he had been with these men, but they didn’t need to push
"That was because he was not expecting you to be
hunting him. Nor did
he have any reason to believe you would be," Aragorn spoke quietly from
the side, his words leveled and hard. "Do you see the difference?"
The hunter locked eyes with the ranger until Taradin
"Derent, behave. These here elves aren’t related to that one out there
in the woods. Now mind your manners or I’ll have you sent back too."
"I see your point though, Lord Elrond." Taradin
sighed heavily and
draped his arm across the back of Garith’s chair, subconsciously
touching the youth to make sure the boy was fine. "Do you have any
suggestions? Could we perhaps work together?"
Elrond smiled and leaned forward, steepling his
fingers as was his wont
when he had a plan in mind. "Perhaps our companies could work together
to find this elf and stop the killings."
"Any help you could give us would be much
Elladan and Elrohir exchanged knowing glances,
smiles pulling at the
corners of their fair lips.
"I would accompany Strider back out to the men’s
camp and assist,"
Legolas spoke up first, glancing at his friend.
"Very well. You are mended well enough to do so. And
I will send my
sons to give their aid also. They are skilled trackers and bowmen.
They will be an asset to your endeavor." Elrond glanced at the twins
who both nodded in understanding, repressing their obvious delight.
Plans were quickly made and Lord Elrond saw that
provided to the hunters. The generosity would go far in healing
relations, he hoped. Within the hour the hunters and the elves were
mounted and headed out. Hebrilith’s true identity and background had
been withheld from the men of Strayton; it was a little known secret
that would go with the elf to his grave to protect him as much as to
Elrond stood once more on the steps of the house
courtyard. He called to his youngest son, "Ranger, I would speak with
you a moment."
Aragorn moved from the line of beings heading out
and steered his horse
back towards his elven father, a smile on his face that the others
could not see.
He bent near the elderly elf, "What is it, Father?"
he asked softly.
Legolas reined his horse in a few yards away from Aragorn’s, giving the
ranger a moment of privacy with his elven parent.
"Be very careful my son. Do not underestimate
Hebrilith. With these men
hunting him, he will have become even more dangerous than before."
"I understand," The dark silver eyes stared down
into the deep blue
ones. "Don’t worry father, I will be careful."
Elrond laid his hand on the young man’s thigh,
stopping him from
leaving, "Watch out for Legolas and your brothers as well. Not all the
men will look kindly upon their presence in camp. See that they are not
left alone with the hunters just yet. They think they are always safe
and sometimes they overstep their limitations. Among men they are never
safe. You will be their safety. Do you understand?"
Aragorn laid his hand on top of his father's and
squeezed it. "Yes, Father, I do. I will bring them home safely."
"And yourself as well, Estel." He stared hard into
the smiling eyes.
"Always," the human replied with a light laugh.
Elrond shook his head and stepped away. "Now be off
with the two of you
before they return to find out what has happened."
Elladan and Elrohir were waiting just outside the
archway that led to
the main path. When Legolas and Aragorn joined them, they raced to
up with the retreating humans.
The help of the elves had been easily received by
the company of men.
The fact that the Noldor elves were darker haired and dressed
differently helped the hunters to accept them more readily than they
did Legolas. The men seemed to stay far away from the prince, giving
him a wide berth. Whether the shun was intentional because the elven
prince so resembled Hebrilith, or out of guilt because they had beaten
the elf half to death Aragorn never discovered. But the distance gave
the elves and the ranger time alone and privacy.
The two companies held camps apart. The elves bedded
down a good
hundred yards from the hunter’s camp, allowing the keen elven ears to
hear the conversations that the men had, but too far from them for the
men to hear their quiet talking.
They had looked for the past couple of days for the
dark elf, staying
to the high pass and the areas where the hunters had claimed to have
This particular morning, Legolas and Aragorn had
split off from the
twins and the hunters had taken the day to resume their trade; they
still had families to feed and the presence of the Noldor elves in the
woods seemed to bolster their confidence. The twins found themselves
the center of welcome attention.
However the entire situation had unnerved Legolas
and he found himself
lost in his thoughts as Aragorn scouted around the small glen they had
decided to rest in for the moment.
Legolas sat, quietly perched on the stone with his
hands folded on his
knee and a distant expression on his face. Distant and sad.
Aragorn sat down next to his friend, but Legolas did
not stir or
acknowledge his presence. The young ranger glanced sideways at his
"Elladan said they would meet us back in camp by
Legolas nodded absently and made a non-committal
sound that was
supposed to serve as an acknowledgement. Aragorn was not impressed.
"Elrohir burnt down the camp because he found a
giant spider’s nest in
your bedroll," the young ranger continued without changing his tone of
voice, but looking side-long at his friend to see if Legolas was even
paying any attention to him at all.
Legolas wasn’t. He nodded again. "That’s good," he
responding automatically to his friend’s tone of voice, without having
heard a word he said.
Aragorn resisted the urge to laugh. Half a moment
later a strange look
crossed Legolas’ face as his friend’s words finally registered.
"What?" he turned a bewildered look upon the human.
Aragorn laughed, he couldn’t help it. "Weren’t you
listening to a word
Legolas gave the young ranger a slightly withering
glance, but the
corner of his mouth twitched in an almost smile. "Apparently not," he
"What are you thinking about that’s got you so
asked, settling himself back on the rock and pulling his knee up to his
"Many things," Legolas sighed, gazing out at the
horizon as his look
turned distant again.
"Like..." Aragorn prodded.
Legolas shot him a wry grin. "You humans are
extremely nosey, you know
Aragorn nodded unashamedly. "Yes. So...?"
Legolas rolled his eyes and stood up, crossing the
clearing and leaning
against a tall oak tree, his gaze continuing to be far away. Aragorn
"You don’t like what we’re doing, do you?" Aragorn
"I’ve seen it in your eyes."
Legolas sighed deeply and met his friend’s eyes at
last. "No. I don’t
like it. And yet... I know it is right. We must do what we must do..."
there was a struggle behind the elf prince’s clear silver-blue eyes
that Aragorn did not yet fully comprehend.
"I know it’s hard, he’s one of your own kind..."
Aragorn started, but
Legolas shook his head, cutting him off.
"No, it’s not just that. Don’t you understand,
Strider?" pain filtered
through the elf’s gaze. "When Taradin’s men mistook me for him, they
weren’t making as big a mistake as you might think... There is more
about us that is alike than simply how we look." Legolas’ voice was
Aragorn wore a frankly puzzled expression. He could
not see a thing
about his friend and this cold-blooded killer that was at all similar.
"He wasn’t always evil... you remember what Lord
Elrond said? About
what happened to him?" the hurt in Legolas’ eyes was deepening.
Aragorn ached for his friend’s pain, but did not yet
follow his train
of thought. "It’s tragic, yes..."
Legolas shook his head and looked away, no longer
able to meet his
friend’s eye. "But don’t you see? That could be me." The words were a
Aragorn’s brows furrowed deeply. "Legolas..."
"I was hurt by men, Aragorn," Legolas stared
steadily out in to the
trees, not looking up. "Badly hurt. They tortured me because I was an
elf, because I was different than them and they wanted to own me, body
mind and soul. I hated them. I spent a long time almost hating a whole
race for what King Melèch and the men he gave me over to did to
me in Dorolyn so many, many years ago." Legolas had not spoken openly
about any of this in years. He had dealt with the feelings, especially
since meeting Aragorn, but he had not yet spoken of the experience, or
its affect on him.
Aragorn didn’t say anything, but laid his hand
gently on his friend’s
shoulder. There really was nothing he could
say at this point. He
knew a little about what had happened to Legolas so many years ago.
Elrond had been there, and had once told young Estel the story of how
very close Middle-earth had come to having the horrible power of the
Gondraukos unleashed upon her. Aragorn had been significantly younger
then, and Elrond had seen fit to gloss over some of the worst parts of
the tale, but the young man could fill the missing pieces in for
himself with an adult mind now, and he could guess just how badly and
how deeply Legolas had been hurt. It had been something he understood
since meeting the elf, and although it no longer stood between their
friendship, many of the little ways that Legolas still reacted to
things sometimes told Aragorn that the elf prince had not put the
experience as fully behind him as he liked to think.
"When I found you on the eves of Mirkwood that first
continued softly, ashamed of himself. "Part of me wanted to leave you
there." He glanced somewhat warily at his friend, afraid of what kind
of reaction such a confession would bring.
Aragorn just smiled and squeezed the elf’s shoulder
tighter. "But you
"No," Legolas sighed slightly in relief. "I
couldn’t. And I am very
glad now that I did not. I would have lost a dear friend. You have
opened my eyes to many things, Aragorn, not the least of which is that
just like elves, men are all very different, and need to be considered
individually, not as a whole. But I can’t help thinking... if things
had been different... if I had not had my father and Lord Elrond there
after it happened, helping me through the pain that those men left
behind in my heart, my body, my mind... If I had never met you... would
I have ended up so different than him?"
Legolas’ eyes searched Aragorn’s for an answer and
the young Dunadan
swallowed hard, wishing he had one.
"Legolas... I don’t know what-ifs, but I do know
this: you may have
been hurt, but you did not turn around and start hurting in return. You
may have not liked, or even hated men, but you didn’t start killing
every one of them you could get your hands on. You didn’t let your hurt
consume you, and that was a choice
Legolas, a choice you made.
Hebrilith made that choice too, and he chose poorly. You are not like
him Legolas. You’re not."
Any argument the elf might have made was cut off as
the sounds in the
forest around stopped. Silence fell like a net on the glade and the
ranger immediately unslung his bow, listening to the stillness for any
signs of its source.
Legolas crouched near him, studying the far side of
the glen. He
motioned the human under the covering of the woods and quietly stepped
back into the shadows near him. Whatever was approaching either did not
realize they were there or was simply hunting them.
The brush on the edge of the shallow rustled and a
large male warg
entered the open meadow. He lifted his head, smelling the air for hints
of his prey. A low growl emanated from his throat and he pulled his
lips back, revealing long sharp teeth. Small yellow eyes pierced the
half shadows where the ranger and the elf hid and the evil creature
laid his ears flat against his head as he saw the two hiding there.
"He sees us," Aragorn whispered to Legolas who was
crouched just in
front of the ranger.
The elf simply nodded and raised his bow, sighting
in on the beast. The
warg was unaffected by the sight of the weapon and crept steadily
nearer, the promise of a meal overriding his self-preservation.
Half-way across the glade Legolas loosed his arrow,
neatly felling the
animal. The two remained concealed for several moments after the beast
fell dead. The forest sounds had still not returned.
Cautiously, Legolas moved out from their hiding
place, slowly stalking
towards the dead creature's side. He motioned for the ranger to remain
beneath the forest's protective shadows but the human trailed him,
ignoring the warning.
The elf shot the human a glare over his shoulder but
stopped short of
reprimanding the ranger. Something, rather yet someone, had caught his
eye. His keen sight had seen the ever so slight movements in the
underbrush across the way. And he was certain that he had glimpsed the
dark outline of another pressing back against the trees.
Aragorn approached the tensed elf slowly, searching
area for what might have triggered his friend to stop and move into a
He barely breathed as he crouched beneath the
darkness of the trees,
watching the two beings in the glen. Such odd partnering, that an elf
should be accompanied by a human. He wondered at what it meant and why
the elf would suffer himself to be in the company of a man. It mattered
little. He would relieve the elf of the burden the human was to his
existence. Hebrilith drew his bow, the tip of his arrow aimed for the
In a split second, Legolas spotted Hebrilith
concealed in the brush
under the far trees, he saw the arrow loosed from the elf’s bow and
knew the target.
There was no time to shout a warning. The prince
threw himself to the
forest floor, kicking his feet out in a sweeping arc and catching the
ranger’s ankles, tangling the man’s legs in his own and toppling the
Aragorn, caught completely unaware, and surprised by
his friend’s swift
movements, fell hard to the earth. The arrow screamed through the empty
air he had just occupied, snagging his right sleeve and slicing across
his arm, barely cutting through the skin as he fell.
Legolas rolled up into a crouched position and fired
back on Hebrilith’s
The action was totally unforeseen by the rogue elf
and his utter
surprise threw him off guard. Why would the elf protect the human? The
arrows embedded in the tree trunks inches from his face were proof, but
he had no time to ponder the oddity of the situation as Legolas ran
towards the dark elf’s position, his bow already re-notched.
Hebrilith turned and fled. He was not prepared to
face down this elf
and he had never thought to kill one – yet. The fear he felt inside was
a strangely foreign feeling and he had no appreciation for the emotion
or the ones who were causing it. He hadn’t known this feeling in many
centuries. Pressing it down, deep inside himself, Hebrilith locked it
away with his anger and hatred; he would use it later. All things could
be useful, he had learned, and today had taught him something new –
elves had been corrupted by men.
Aragorn gained his feet unsteadily and ran after
Legolas. It took all
his skills to keep up with the elf. The nimble being ran through the
forest lightly, dodging branches and roots that reached out to snag the
clumsier human that followed him. The ranger rounded a large tree and
almost ran headlong into Legolas.
The elf stood perfectly still, ready for the
slightest hint to direct
him. His breathing was only slightly labored and his every sense was
thrown outward. Aragorn knew better than to speak; the prince had lost
the dark elf’s trail and was using every bit of his expertise to
relocate his prey. The ranger used the small respite to catch his
breath. He turned around and backed close to the elf, protecting them
from behind in case Hebrilith had doubled back and was intending to
take them from that position by surprise.
The forest erupted with sound to their left. A small
flock of birds
exploded from the canopy of trees and shouts and cries of men could be
heard. Legolas was gone in an instant, heading for the sounds of chaos.
"Legolas! No wait!", Aragorn tried to warn his
friend off, but the elf
was intent on tracking Hebrilith and did not heed the ranger’s warnings.
"Damn elf." The man muttered under his breath as he
ran after the
prince. The shouts had been those of men, not of elves. If Legolas came
upon the men and they in their fear and distress mistook him once more
for the dark elf... He didn’t want to think of the repercussions.
The ranger burst into the glen moments after the
elf. Taradin’s men had
Legolas surrounded and the elf had not backed down to them one bit.
"Release me, let me go after him!" Legolas anger
showed in his eyes and
he had not dropped his bow, his chest heaving from the exertion of
tracking the rogue and his frustration with the men in his pathway.
At the sound of his name the hunter looked up from
where he knelt over
a wounded man. Quickly standing to his feet, the older man caught sight
of Strider running into the small open area where they stood.
"Taradin!" Aragorn shouted at the hunter when he saw
surrounded by the man’s companions. He pressed his way past the
hunters, taking up position in front of Legolas and glaring at the men
who encircled them, "Put your weapons down."
"I can’t hear him any more." Legolas pressed in
close to the ranger and
whispered, frustrated that he had lost Hebrilith’s trail.
"Easy." Aragorn whispered back, not dropping his
gaze from the men
Taradin pushed into the circle, shoving his men out
of the way. "Put
your weapons down. Its Strider and his friend, Legolas." The hunter
walked up to the ranger and pressed the man’s sword aside, smiling
sadly at the elf. "Sorry you two, but we just had a run in with that
killer elf you’re hunting."
Muttered apologies floated to the three of them as
the band of men
stood down and dispersed. Tensions were still high and they turned
their gazes out into the surrounding trees, jumping at the small sounds
of the forest, ready to attack any intruders.
Legolas dropped his bow to his side and relaxed. "He
is gone. I have
lost his trail. I can’t hear him, and I know not which way he left
here." Aragorn nodded and rested his hand on the tense elf’s shoulder.
"Its all right, we’ll find him again later." He
spoke the words softly
in the grey tongue, knowing how frustrated his friend was. Turning back
to the hunter he questioned the man further, "What happened here
The big man sighed, "That damned elf, what do you
call him, rogue? He
came running into our campground. Never seen anything like it. I think
he didn’t realize we were here. Scared the men good. Caught us all by
surprise. He shot Chalhden before we could even respond. I didn’t see
where he went after that, all hell broke loose. A couple of my men ran
after him I think."
"That was foolish." Legolas turned back towards the
hunter, he had been
trying to pick up any hint of where the elf had run off to.
"Maybe so, but we’re a might tired of that elf
coming in and shooting us
up whenever he gets a hankering too."
"We were chasing him. I think we drove him into your
camp. That was our
fault, I’m sorry." Aragorn looked around them at the destroyed campsite.
Taradin waved off the apology, "We weren’t bedding
down here, just
stopped for some mead and to clean the catches from this morning. It
was fine hunting till just now." He smiled ruefully at them, his eyes
taking in the elf, "Sorry about the scare my men gave you. You still
look an awful lot like that rogue. ‘Cept there’s something about your
eyes that’s a whole lot kinder to look at. Looking at the eyes that
creature has is just like looking at death, they’re dead inside if you
get my meaning." He shuddered slightly but shook off the dark mood with
a hearty laugh, "I think the mead’s still good and warm, will you have
some with us?"
Two hunters crashed through the forest depositing
themselves in the
middle of the campground and disrupting the calm that had just
resettled. One dropped to the ground breathing heavily, the other
leaning against his companion, resting his hands on his knees as he
"We followed him, Taradin. But he got the best of
us. Seemed a bit more
frightened than usual. Didn’t even fire back at us when we tried to
fell him." The man gulped in air before talking again, "Then all of a
sudden we realized he was just gone. Couldn’t find his trail or
"Got afraid that’s what we did." The hunter seated
on the ground spoke
up, "We came back straight away after that."
"That was smart," Aragorn answered as he stepped
forward offering his
water bag to the men.
It was received readily with nodded thanks. But
their conversation was
interrupted by a shout.
"Taradin!" Garith called frantically from where he
knelt by Chalhden.
The hunter glanced at Aragorn and Legolas. "There
are just days when I
hate hearing my name." He stalked over to the fallen man muttering to
himself, "This is one of them."
Legolas watched as the hunter knelt down near the
wounded man. "Wait."
He called out, moving quickly near the small knot of men who parted as
he stepped close. Aragorn trailed him protectively, not comfortable
with his friend in their midst after what had just happened here.
The elf knelt next to the others and pushed Taradin
carefully inspecting the wound. They had been about to remove the arrow
that was embedded in Chalhden’s shoulder, but the elf prince had noted
that the arrowhead protruded from the back of the man – it had nearly
gone straight through the human, pulling it back out would cause only
Aragorn knelt next to his friend and examined the
exit wound. "I wonder
if he used poison on the tips?" the ranger quietly asked.
"It can’t be pulled back through, it is double-edged
and will only
cause more damage."
A soft groan emanated from Chalhden, interrupting
them. Aragorn stood
and stepped over the prone man, kneeling down near the hunter’s face.
Taradin had cleared his men away and pulled Garith from the immediate
area, giving the ranger and the elf the room they needed. After having
watched the ranger keep his friend alive through the night when they
had overdosed him on dragon water, he did not doubt that the man knew
what he was doing.
"What’s the trouble?" Taradin questioned. Chalhden’s
followed Aragorn’s every move.
"The arrow has nearly exited his shoulder in the
back, pulling it out
as you were prepared to do would only do him more harm."
"What do you propose?"
Aragorn glanced at Legolas who was holding the man,
from rolling onto his back. The elf nodded and slipped one of his elven
knives from its sheath.
Chalhden tensed as he saw the blade and Taradin
jumped forward, "Now
wait just a minute!"
"No," The ranger pressed the hunter back, "Legolas
will need to cut the
arrowhead off..." He stalled, unwilling to say the rest, "After I push
it all the way through." The old hunter started to protest but Aragorn
continued, "There could be poison on it, Taradin, we have no way of
knowing and, trust me, it will be less painful."
Taradin glanced at Chalhden who only nodded. The
pain was making him
sick and he knew that he needed their help.
"Relax, it will be quick." Legolas spoke kindly to
the man, who watched
Aragorn knelt back next to the man, placing his left
hand on Chalhden’s
shoulder and grasping the arrow shaft with his right. He smiled warmly
down into the green eyes and tried to get the hunter to relax, "So your
name is Chalhden?" At the man’s nod he kept up the light banter.
Legolas saw what he was doing and waited him out, ready whenever the
ranger was. "You an archer or mainly a sword man?"
"Archery." The man ground out relaxing slightly as his attention was
diverted. He didn’t notice when Aragorn tensed his hand on the arrow
"Well that’s good." The ranger smiled at the man,
"Then this little
flesh wound won’t stop you hardly at all."
Chalhden smiled slightly but his response was cut
off as Aragorn
pressed the arrowhead the rest of the way through his back. He cried
out with the sharp intensity of the pain. Legolas had been ready. He
quickly cut the head from the shaft, grabbing the arrow tip, and nodded
at Aragorn who just as quickly pulled the shaft back out. The hunter
fell forward as the arrow came free and the ranger caught him, easily
moving aside as Taradin and Garith took over. The younger man quickly
scooted beneath the wounded hunter and supported him as Taradin cleaned
and bound the areas where the weapon had penetrated.
Aragorn joined Legolas who had moved off to a patch
of sunlight. He was
carefully examining the arrowhead, turning the sharp metal in his
fingers and allowing the sun to play on the tips of the cruel point. It
gleamed red with the blood still clinging to it.
Legolas turned to his friend, "Not that I can see.
But that does not
mean it is not there." He glanced over his shoulder at the hunters,
"Let us get back to camp and we can test it there."
Aragorn walked back to Taradin, "We should go. Come
back to the base
camp. We can test the arrowhead there and we have medicines to treat
The old hunter nodded and called his men to him. In
temporary camp was broken down and the hunters were headed back to
base. Legolas and Aragorn brought up the rear, keeping watchful eyes on
the forest around them.
Hebrilith watched from his vantage point high in the
trees as the men
left. He followed Legolas’ actions carefully, interested in an elf
helping men but obviously not well liked by them. The elf seemed
somehow familiar. That human had called him Legolas. Was this
Thranduil’s heir? Did Thranduil even realize that his son was in the
company of men? There was no logic to it that the dark mind could
conceive. He would need to watch, he wanted to watch and see just what
became of an elf who lived among humans. He was patient, he could wait;
however, he had no intentions of missing the ranger they called Strider
When they arrived in camp they were met with a
roaring campfire and
meat cooking on the slowly turning spits. Elladan and Elrohir were
tending the fire, preparing dinner. They had brought down two of the
large wild pigs that roamed the forests around Rivendell and were
waiting for the others to return.
They listened intently to the tales of the brushes
the men and Legolas
and Aragorn had had with Hebrilith, unnerved by the near miss on their
younger brother’s life.
"Estel that was too close." Elrohir accompanied his
brother back to the
far side of the camp. Although the hunters had an easy alliance with
the elves, the two companies still kept separate from each other.
"I was fine." The ranger dropped down wearily on his
was there." He smiled impishly at the elf.
"Yes, well, tomorrow Legolas will not be if we
follow the men’s plan,"
Elladan interjected, walking up next to the human and glaring down at
"You worry too much." Estel smiled back up at the
elf, pushing at the
soft boots to get his brother to move away. "It’ll turn your hair gray."
Elrohir snickered at the comment, garnering him a
glare, "That would be
funny. Not even father has gray hair yet."
"Laugh all you want, my brother, but just wait till
we have to report
back to father that Estel was injured because he was hunting Hebrilith
"He doesn’t have to know and I wasn’t injured."
"This time," came the dark reply.
Aragorn pushed at Elladan again. Giving up, he
jerked his blanket out
from under the elf’s boots and rolled up in it. "Besides, he’ll only
know if you tell," the man muttered.
Legolas laughed lightly as he seated himself near
the fire. "Nothing
will happen. Estel can take care of himself. He can take the northern
pass near where the men will be hunting while we go farther east. They
will all be on the look out for Hebrilith and he will be within easy
access of their temporary camps."
Elladan started to disagree.
"He is a ranger after all." Legolas continued,
smiling at the glares
from the elven twins and rested his head on his arms, drawing his knees
up to his chest as he redirected his gaze into the fire.
"Thank you Legolas," muttered the half asleep man,
"At least someone
realizes I am fine on my own."
A short laugh stirred the man, "I did not say that,
young one." The
elf’s blue eyes twinkled with merriment as he glanced at the human. "I
said you were a ranger."
With a snort of disgust Aragorn dismissed them all.
Growing up with
elves could be a great disadvantage, too, he was beginning to think. In
the morning they would head out and see if they couldn’t track
Hebrilith. He would show them all then.