The elf prince had seen Aragorn and Sarcayul fall
from the edge of the
pathway. From his hiding place he trailed the Silvan elves, waiting for
the right moment to free the young human.
When he had recovered enough from the shock of
watching his friend
pulled over the cliff face, and realizing that Hebrilith was near, he
up the safety of the wooded area and ran to the edge of the pathway,
calling to his friend.
Throwing himself down on the dirt path, he leaned
out over the edge. He
could hear Aragorn calling his name. "Strider!" The elf could see no
one but he could still hear the human frantically calling him.
"Strider, I am right here!!"
Aragorn’s voice quieted and he allowed himself to
calm down, resting
his head against his arms still, suspended over his head.
"Where are you?" Legolas’ voice floated down to him.
"I can’t see you!"
Elladan and Elrohir had heard the commotion and had
crested the hill
from where they were hunting Hebrilith; their position just above the
rogue elf and the chaos that was spreading through Sarcayul’s warriors
as Legolas shouted angry commands at them. Not seeing their brother
anywhere in the vicinity, they had pressed their horses over the small
pass and joined the group of elves that were staring over the cliff.
"I am here." His voice broke as he called up to
them, the pain in his
arms catching his breath. "Get me up."
Elladan threw himself down next to Legolas. "Tell me
it’s not Estel."
"It is." Legolas glanced worriedly at the older twin.
"Estel!" Elladan leaned out, trying to catch sight
of the human.
"Elladan! I am below the outcropping. I am stuck on
a tree root." His
voice trailed off as he drew in a shaky breath, it was hard to breathe
suspended as he was. "Help me!"
One of Sarcayul’s warriors glanced over the rock
face. "What of
"He’s gone." Aragorn looked back towards the rock
face and quietly
repeated himself, "He’s gone. I am so sorry."
The sharp hearing of the elves picked up his torn
apology and Elladan
closed his eyes, shaking his head at the grief he heard in the human.
turned on Sarcayul’s warrior fiercely and shoved the elf away from the
edge. "Get back! All we need is more of you down there."
Legolas motioned with his head to the group of
warriors standing unsure
on the pathway, "Go, see to the horses. Get yourselves back to our
camp. I know you know where it is, and leave us two of the animals. The
one Sarcayul rode and Strider's. Move!" He barked the commands angrily
at the elves. His anger rose from his fear for Aragorn and his
frustration with Sarcayul for his stubborn refusal to accept the human.
"I’m going down there." The prince stood and walked
to the group of
warriors. He grabbed Sarcayul’s horse by the reins and stopped the
beast from pacing as he quickly searched through the dead elf’s packs.
Pulling a length of rope from the saddlebag, he ran back to the twins
and wrapped the cord around his waist. Tying it off, he passed the end
of the rope to Elladan, who tracked it quickly around the base of a
nearby tree to give them better leverage.
Legolas stepped to the edge of the cliff, faced the
twins, and simply
pushed off, disappearing from their sight. The brothers steadily fed
him line as he descended down the steep incline. Lightly, he touched
down on the rock shelf above Aragorn and called up to the twins to
tighten the rope for a moment. He felt the cord pull around his waist
as he knelt on the small outcropping and leaned over to stare down at
Aragorn hung a good four feet below the ledge, his
eyes locked onto the
elf. Legolas noted the way his hands were turning purple from lack of
blood flow, and the crimson stain that was spreading through the rope
gave him cause to worry.
"I’m stuck." The human looked up at him helplessly.
Legolas smiled softly back down at the man. "I’m so
glad you are."
Aragorn chuckled and rolled his eyes. "Can you get
me up from here?"
"Can you feel your fingers?"
"No." Aragorn tried to move them, but the ropes
about his wrists had
been wrenched too tightly.
The elf nodded and glanced back up towards the cliff
More slack, I’ve found him." The cord eased slightly and loops of it
fell around him where he sat. "That’s enough!" he called back.
Sitting on the ledge Legolas swung his legs over and
slipped down the
cliff face until he was even with Aragorn. He caught his fingers in the
ranger’s coat and drew himself near. Using the rock as leverage, he
eased himself underneath the man until he was face to face with the
"I lost him, Legolas." Aragorn’s eyes were huge and
sad. "I couldn’t
hold onto him. I tried, but..."
Legolas glanced between them quickly, spotting the
place far below
where Sarcayul’s broken body lay. Closing his eyes against the sight,
refocused on Aragorn, "Its not your fault, Strider. His lust for
vengeance and foolish pride took his life, not you."
Unwinding a second length of rope from his belt, the
elf wrapped the
cord around the human’s waist, tying the man off to himself. When he
was content that the knots would hold, he drew his boot up to his hand
and slipped a small knife from inside it.
"I am going to cut the ropes." He held the human's
gaze intently. "It
will probably hurt." When Aragorn nodded, he continued, "A lot,
Don’t worry about holding on to me, I have you."
Aragorn nodded as the elf slipped the sharp blade
between the palms of
his hands and cut the bindings from his wrists. He groaned in pain as
his arms fell to his sides, the muscles in his shoulders, released from
the tension, contracted sharply and the blood flowing to his fingers
was more painful than anything he had imagined. He fell against the
elf, trying unsuccessfully to keep from crying out as the prince pulled
him tightly against him, shouting to the twins to pull them up.
Aragorn breathed in deeply, filling his lungs that
had been unable to
expand as his body hung from the side of the cliff.
"Stay with me, Aragorn." the prince whispered in his
ear as they were
slowly pulled to the edge of the cliff. He shifted one arm and pressed
the man’s head against his shoulder as the human tensed.
"Where would I go?" the ranger ground out through
trying to ignore the pain his body would not dispel.
Legolas laughed softly. "You know your father is
going to kill us."
"Wouldn’t be the first time." Aragorn closed his
eyes and tried to
relax as blood flowed once again through his extremities.
Hands reached down and pulled the pair the last of
the way to the edge,
dragging them to the far side of the pathway before they were cut loose
of one another. Aragorn made no attempt to rise but simply lay where he
was. His heart was hammering in his chest, the adrenaline in his system
was finally abating and he began to tremble uncontrollably. His
shoulders ached and he still couldn’t feel his fingers. His eyes were
closed tightly as he worked to calm himself now that the danger was
over and it surprised him slightly when he realized that someone was
holding his hands.
He opened his eyes and stared up at Legolas. The elf
massaging the man's fingers in his hands, trying to get the blood to
flow back into them and feeling to return. Elrohir draped a blanket
over the human as Elladan kept watch.
"We aren’t alone." The elder twin whispered at his
companions. He stood
very still, watching a small grove of trees. A flock of birds burst
from its canopy. "We need to move now."
"Give me a minute." Legolas was watching Aragorn
worriedly; the young
human was worn out from his ordeal.
"No, Elladan’s right." The ranger glanced about
them. "Hebrilith is
nearby. When he discovers I am not dead, he will try again. We have to
"Can you make a fist?" Legolas released the man’s
concentrated but his fingers would not fully cooperate. Elrohir quickly
wrapped strips of cloths around the cuts left in the soft flesh of his
wrists by the rope bindings. The human winced, drawing his breath in
sharply as his brother tied them off.
"Until we get to camp that will have to do."
Aragorn nodded and stood to his feet with some help.
He was surprised
when Legolas gently wrapped his arm around the man’s shoulder and
herded him quickly towards one of the horses that Elladan had pressed
next to the mountain that bracketed the path, using the hill itself as
"You won’t be able to ride if you can’t grip the
reins, so you’ll ride
with me." The elf gracefully mounted the horse and reached back down.
Aragorn raised his hand up towards the elf and cried out in pain when
the prince grabbed his forearm to pull him up. Legolas immediately
released him and slid off the horse. "Your shoulder could be
"We haven’t got the time!" Elrohir jumped from his
mount and raced
towards them. Locking his fingers together he caught Aragorn’s boot in
his hands and boosted the human up. Legolas steadied him as he gained
his seat and swung up behind the man, wrapping an arm lightly around
his waist while holding the reins in his other.
Elladan was waiting for them, his bow drawn and
notched as Elrohir
gained his mount again and turned the horse to follow his brother down
"He will be waiting. Ride and do not look back. I
will cover us,"
Elladan whispered to the others. "Go!"
Elrohir and Legolas spurred their horses forward and
raced back down
the path towards their camp. As soon as they were away from the safety
of the rock overhang, Hebrilith targeted them.
Legolas wrapped himself around the ranger and
shouted at his steed,
urging it on as Elrohir followed fast on his heels. The twin dropped
the reins of his mount and, unslinging his bow, he notched two arrows
and released them towards the area where the attack originated. Between
he and Elladan, they were able to drive Hebrilith back with their
barrage of arrows, effectively covering their escape.
Hebrilith glared at the retreating forms. He still
could not understand
why they had saved the human. He was frustrated that his attempt to
kill the man had gone awry again and confused that the elves had
thwarted him. Straightening slowly from his hiding place, he walked
back to his camp. There would be more time, there would be another
opportunity and he would not fail and if any of the three of those
elves got in his way again...
He smiled softly to himself committing their faces
to his memory. He
had plans to make.
The three horses tore into the makeshift camp,
stirring up the dry dust
of the pathway in their wake.
Sarcayul’s men stood from the fire they had started
walked towards Elladan. Leaderless and confused they were unsure as to
what their next move should be.
The elder twin glared at the elves and they stepped
back. "Sarcayul is
gone. He died because of his own stubborn pride. You came here hunting
my brother, in my lands. You are no longer welcome. Tomorrow you will
leave by way of the vale pass. Do not go back the way you came, for it
dangerous." Without a backward glance he turned away from them and
stalked toward Legolas and Aragorn.
"Elladan?" an elf called to him. When the Noldor elf
turned back the
warrior continued, "We would help."
"You have helped enough." He brushed their request
aside. "I’ll speak
to you about it in the morning if I have changed my mind."
Aragorn slid to the forest floor, leaning back
against the trunk of the
large tree behind him and closed his eyes.
"Don’t touch me." He whispered as a hand was laid
gently on his
shoulder. His whole upper body was on fire and even the slight pressure
He didn’t pay attention to the elves as they talked
quietly about him a
few steps away.
"I think his left shoulder was dislocated. The
weight on his body was
enough to do this." Legolas glanced at the human.
"Then you know we have to set it." Elladan glanced
between the two
elves and the prince grimaced, remembering how the dwarves had set his
own shoulder when it had become dislocated in Moria.
Aragorn opened his eyes and watched them warily as
him and knelt down in front of him. "What?"
"I need to see your shoulder for a minute."
The ranger arched an eyebrow, not moving his arms
from where he had
them resting across his midsection.
"I think your shoulder is dislocated."
"That’s all right." Aragorn had no intentions of
suffering any further
and was hoping to put the elves off.
"No, it’s not," Legolas laughed lightly. He picked
the man’s left arm
up and gently moved it. The pain almost caused the human to jump to his
feet as he tried to get away from the elf.
Aragorn simply wrapped his good arm around his
hurting left one and
hugged it to him. "See? I’m all right." He scooted a bit away from the
With a wry grin the elf answered him, "No, you are
Elladan knelt near his right and Elrohir stepped in
front of him,
blocking his path. For a second the human actually panicked.
"Your shoulder is dislocated. If we set it quickly
the worst of the
pain will be over." Elladan placed his hands against the human’s right
shoulder and held him in place against the tree.
"I don’t think this is a good idea." Aragorn looked
from one elf to the
other. Legolas braced the young ranger as best he could on the man’s
left side and glanced at Elrohir who leaned over and gently grasped
It took every ounce of strength the man had to not
cry out as his
brother carefully but forcefully reset the bones in the shoulder
socket. He slumped forward, his head resting against Legolas as Elrohir
gently placed his arm back across his chest.
"I’ve had enough for one day." Aragorn said quietly,
his voice muffled
by the elf prince’s tunic.
"Me too." Legolas sympathized with the man, gently
wrapping his arms around
the ranger, thankful that the human was simply alive. "Why don’t you
Aragorn nodded against the elf and let himself be
lowered to the forest
floor. He pulled the edges of the blanket around him that Elrohir had
draped across his shoulders and closed his eyes, letting his body
slowly relax. His shoulder did feel better, but the stress of the day
had taken its toll and within moments the human was sleeping lightly
near the fire.
When Aragorn awoke he lay unmoving where he was,
wrapped in a warm
blanket and tucked in Elrohir’s cloak. He watched the late night fire
and listened to the quiet conversations of the elves and humans in the
camp. His body ached, but not the fiery ache from earlier. Now the pain
was just a dull, over-all feeling.
No one had noticed that he had awakened and he took
advantage of the
inattention, concentrating on the quiet argument that his twin brothers
were having with Legolas.
"There has to be a way to draw Hebrilith out. We can
suffer no more
accidents or injuries." Elladan leaned forward, speaking softly.
"I think it would be best to send the hunters home
also. You saw what
the dark elf tried to do to Estel." Elrohir glanced at Taradin and back
to Elladan, "They are a liability to themselves and to us." Sarcayul's
warriors had already left, heeding Elladan's strong advice to them
earlier. Legolas hoped they would go back to Mirkwood and find a new
path now that Sarcayul's questionable influence was removed.
"I agree with Elrohir. In the morning we can ask
Estel to send them
home." Legolas looked over at the still form of his friend. A smile
brushed his lips when he saw the silver eyes watching him.
The twins turned to stare at the human as he slowly
rose, clutching the
blanket and cloak tightly about him and seated himself stiffly in their
"How long have you been awake?" Elladan asked,
ruffling up his hair.
"How do you feel?" Legolas leaned forward and
interjected before the
human could answer.
"I feel better." He nodded at his friend. "And I
have been listening to
your talk. I think it's good to send the men away and I will explain
necessity of it to them. I also have an idea of how to draw Hebrilith
out so that no one else gets hurt."
The elves leaned in and listened intently while the
man explained his
"That’s insane!" Elladan sat back, staring hard at
his human brother.
"You must have hit your head on that rock
outcropping, Estel. What are
you thinking?" Elrohir glared at him shock, "It’ll never work."
"We won’t let it work." Elladan muttered darkly.
"No, Estel has a good point." Legolas looked between
the twins. "He is
right, Hebrilith will come after him. He alone knows where the rogue
lives and he has been in his dwelling. That by itself is enough to mark
him out for death in Hebrilith’s mind. Allowing himself to be used as
bait is the best way. The dark elf will not come after us, but he has
been hunting Estel."
The twins both protested at the same time.
"It’s a stupid idea," Elladan cut the argument off.
"It is not a stupid idea!" Aragorn countered. "It
can work. Besides the
three of you will be right there the whole time. He’ll never get to
me." The ranger smiled at the elves, totally confident in their
abilities to protect him.
Elrohir looked to the far side of the camp and did
not speak. Elladan
simply glared at the ranger, shaking his head.
"What?" Aragorn raised his hands palm out in
question. "You don’t want
anyone else hurt, I already am, there’s nothing to lose."
"Good argument, Strider," Legolas muttered
sarcastically, smiling at the
"Elladan." The young ranger reached out and touched
his brother on the
arm, drawing the older elf’s eyes back down to stare into the human
ones. "You have the hard job. The three of you must put him down. Mine
will be easy, nothing will happen to me with you there."
Silence fell over the small group. Elrohir picked up
a branch and
shifted the logs in the fire quietly, stirring up the embers. Legolas
glanced to the men’s campfire and noted that the humans were starting
to retire for the night.
Elladan spoke first, "It is a good plan, Estel. I
just wish you were not
the bait. You’ll be the death of me yet, little brother." He sighed
deeply and locked eyes with his twin.
Elrohir dropped his gaze nodding his head. "But we
can’t let Hebrilith
get a hold of Estel."
The others nodded their agreement.
"So what do you think, should we go up the high pass
tomorrow and track
back into Hebrilith’s territory? I am sure we won’t get far before he
finds us." Aragorn was plotting out the most logical course of action.
He fully intended to lead the elves straight to the rogue elf’s lair.
They discussed the specifics late into the night,
agreeing that taking
the fight to the elf was the best route. Aragorn would send the men
home first thing in the morning and they would head out.
When the plans had been decided and the twins had
moved off to rest for
the night, Legolas unrolled his bedding and laid it next to Aragorn’s,
carefully propping his bow up against the trunk of a tree not inches
from his head and within quick reach should he need it.
He rolled over and looked at Aragorn. "You’re sure
about this, Strider?"
The ranger glanced at the elf sleepily. "It needs to
stop, Legolas. I am
not worried, you’ll be there." He smiled and closed his eyes. "Go to
sleep. I think tomorrow may be a very long day."
Morning came very quickly and it took Aragorn a bit
of persuading to
convince Taradin and his men to leave the mountain while the elves
tracked the rogue. Reluctantly the group of hunters left.
Taradin turned in his saddle and glanced back at the
let us know when it's safe to return?"
"You have my word."
The hunter nodded, that was good enough for him. He
smiled at the man
and waved his goodbye, "Then happy hunting to you Strider. Watch
yourselves." Prodding his horse he galloped after his men.
Aragorn turned back to the camp to find the elves
slightly upset. They
were carefully inspecting their bows and their quivers.
"What’s wrong?" the ranger walked up next to Legolas
and frowned at
them as he sensed the seriousness that had fallen over them.
The elf prince looked up from his inspections. He
was running his hands
carefully along the spine of his bow, feeling for fractures or
anomalies in the smooth wood. "My bow was on the ground on the far side
of the tree this morning. I did not leave it there last night." He
frowned at the ranger.
"You think one of the men moved it?"
"What reason would they have? They were never near
our side of the
camp," Elrohir spoke up. "But my bow was also moved during the night."
"Is there anything wrong with them?" Aragorn took
the weapon from his
brother’s hand and stepped into a patch of sunlight, letting the bright
morning light play along the wood, hoping to detect any damage that
might have occurred. "I see nothing," he continued, handing it back.
"Neither did I," Elladan replied, "but the fact that
they have all been
moved bothers me greatly."
"Did you see tracks of anything nearby? Animals?
Men? Elves?" Aragorn
asked the last with anxiety, if Hebrilith had been in their camp last
night they could be in more serious trouble than they realized.
"Nothing." Legolas shook his head as he slung his
bow over his
shoulder. "I cannot imagine that anyone could have gotten past the
watch and approached us
without our knowing. I suppose it must have
been nothing more than the strong night winds. Still... it is
Elrohir walked back to the others, circling two
horses near the dying
fire and holding the reins of one out to his twin. "We’ll stay a good
pace behind you two, but we will keep you in sight at all times."
Elladan fastened the strap of his quiver across his
chest and mounted
the horse his brother had brought to him. "If you get into trouble or
see anything, signal us."
Legolas nodded and he and Aragorn set off down the
trail, back towards
"Estel!" Elladan’s voice stopped the pair. "Don’t
get yourself killed,
I really do want to be able to return home and face Father."
Aragorn smiled, "You worry too much! We’ll be fine."
The twins allowed the friends to climb a good pace
into the woods
before they set out, paralleling their path on the northward passage.
When they had finally reached the high pass it was
there had been no signs of Hebrilith.
"You don’t think he would have followed the men do
questioned Legolas as he searched the wooded area for the path he had
discovered earlier in the week that would lead them to Hebrilith’s lair.
"It’s unlikely that he would stray far from these
tugged at the ranger’s sleeve and pointed towards the barely trampled
edge of what appeared to be a little used pathway. "Is this it?"
"Yes, that’s it." Aragorn stepped onto the run and
turned eastward. Now
that he knew what he was looking for, it was easy to see where the
hidden path ran under the forest's overgrowth. He glanced behind them
for a glimpse of the twins but did not see them.
Legolas looked over his shoulder and listened
carefully, "I can hear
them, they are just beyond that hedge there. They will move out when we
"I can’t hear them." Aragorn stilled his breathing
and focused his
hearing, but only the sounds of the forest floated to him on the light
breeze as they walked up the barely visible path.
The elf prince laughed softly and turned to the
ranger. "Strider, you
don’t have elven ears and you never will. Trust me, they are still
Hebrilith watched the odd pair from his hiding
place. He let the elf
and the human pass by him and waited patiently. They had spoken as if
there were others nearby. He had nearly given up when two elves
appeared on horseback, whispering quietly and watching the ground. They
easily picked their way through the foliage and silently followed the
ones on foot.
So that was how they wished to play this. Hebrilith
smiled to himself;
that was well. He had prepared for just such a surprise as this. Ever
since he had found that ranger in his home, he had set about protecting
it. He was ready. It didn’t matter this time that they were elves. They
had protected that human, the one who had violated his home. In the
end, if he had to kill them all to get to the ranger, what were three