...80 years before...
Legolas knelt silently in the snow-clad bushes; his light-colored cloak
and jerkin helping him blend in with his surroundings. Ahead of him was
a small spring, the center of which still flowed, unfrozen. He had
intended to drink from it, but something put his senses on the alert
and his keen eyes scanned the area, trying to determine if he were
alone or not.
The Misty Mountains loomed large and snow-clad behind the prince. He
had left the steepest terrain behind and was now in the sometimes
rolling, sometimes jagged and craggy foothills of the range. Legolas
had made this journey more than once in his life, for he was now not
many days travel from Rivendell, but never had the way been so harsh
and imposing. The worst was now behind him and that was a blessing.
Unfortunately, the last blizzard had totally obliterated the trail he
followed, although Legolas told himself it was only a matter of time
until he picked it up again. He would not
admit defeat when he was
this close. Aragorn and his kidnapper could not be that far ahead
now... not at the rate that Legolas had been driving himself.
The elf could not find the source of whatever he had sensed, so he slid
silently out of the bushes and moved towards the stream. The water he
carried with him kept freezing and had to be thawed out over a fire
before it was useable. Legolas had not bothered to waste time on that
for at least a day or so, but knew that he could push himself only so
far without water.
Many animal tracks leading to and from the riverbank showed that the
prince was not the only one who had found this river to be a source of
much needed refreshment in a frozen wasteland.
It was doubtless a prime hunting spot, but Legolas did not have time
for hunting, although he certainly could have stood some food. Raniean
had not been exaggerating when he pointed out that Legolas was not
prepared for a journey such as the one he had undertaken. What supplies
he had had with him had run out over a week ago. Legolas had barely
taken time from his quest to sleep, much less hunt. Truly, to a degree,
his body did not need much... but he had extended himself beyond his
reserves some time ago and, although he hated to admit it, he really
could have stood a good meal about now.
That was beside the point to the elf, however, because his chief
was the fact that, at the moment, he had no idea where his friend and
the man who had captured him had gone.
Legolas knelt lightly on the ice that was much too thin to have held
the weight of anything but an elf. Cupping his hand, he drank from the
clear stream, abating his thirst.
Suddenly he stopped, his senses going to full alert. There was
someone nearby. He could hear them... but only just. Whoever it was was
being extremely quiet.
Rising slowly to his feet, Legolas drew one of his knives and held it
loosely at his side, keeping his motions small and unnoticeable. He was
nearly fully recovered from his previous injuries and felt prepared to
handle whatever was out there.
Behind him. The sense he was getting was coming from behind him.
The prince clenched his blade tightly in his fist, his jaw steeling.
Whoever was back there was going to get a lot more than they bargained
for if they tried anything.
Legolas was tired, hungry, frustrated and even a little cold, not to
mention being worried half to death about Aragorn. He was in no state
of mind to be trifled with and would need very little provocation at
this point to take someone’s head off for them if they thought to
The presence was close now. Legolas realized he could barely hear the
other, but he could feel him. Turning swiftly the prince brought his
weapon up in warning, spinning to see of what nature this new threat
was. He was not prepared for what he found.
"Legolas?" The dark-haired elf blinked once in surprise, backing up a
step at the ferocity in Legolas’ glare. From behind it had been
impossible to know who it was that knelt and drank from the stream, for
the hood of the fur-lined jerkin Legolas was wearing under his cloak
covered the prince’s golden hair.
"Elladan?" Legolas was no less surprised to see one of Elrond’s twin
sons than Elladan was to see the prince. Legolas dropped his weapon
back to his side, re-sheathing it. "What are you doing here?"
"Hunting. This bitter winter has made game difficult to find, even near
Rivendell. This stream is a favorite watering spot for many creatures.
Elrohir and I had hoped to bag a deer... we never expected to catch a
prince instead." Elladan chuckled. "But I should be asking you that.
This is after all a lot nearer to our home than yours. What on earth
could have brought you over the mountains in this weather? Please don’t
tell me Estel came with you. I should hope he at least had more sense
than that." The dark-haired elf’s smile was light as he whistled
through his fingers, signaling for his brother to come out of his
hiding place upstream.
"Estel has been taken," Legolas said simply. He had not the energy nor
inclination to try to be delicate about it.
"What do you mean, 'taken'?"
Elladan demanded, his whole attitude
changing abruptly. Elrohir arrived and looked questioningly between
Legolas and his brother.
"Who took him, where?" Elladan fixed his gaze firmly on Legolas.
"I don’t know who." Legolas shook his head, rubbing his hand over his
face. "As for where..." he gestured back at the mountain, letting them
figure it out.
"Why?" Elrohir was still trying to get up to speed but, since no one
there really knew what was going on yet, he was not at a great
"I do not know," Legolas’ voice was tense. He was glad he had met up
with Aragorn’s brothers, but they were looking to him for answers he
did not have. "I do not understand all that has happened. I simply know
that he was taken in the shadow of the eastern side of these mountains
and I have not been able to catch up with them since. But it was a
deliberate attempt and, for whatever reason, the man who took him wants
your brother very much."
The twins were trying to absorb all this information. Elladan frowned
as Legolas touched his forehead again, rubbing his temples.
"Legolas, are you all right?"
"I’m fine," Legolas would never admit to otherwise. "I’m just worried,
and frustrated and... and I’ve lost their trail," he confessed quietly,
looking away. He was responsible. Estel’s safety had been in his charge
and he had failed to keep him from harm.
"You followed them all the way across the mountains... but where is
your gear?" Elrohir looked around. The prince carried almost nothing
"I did not have the luxury of choosing the hour, nor the manner of my
departure," Legolas said somewhat testily. He didn’t mean to be
irritable, but he did not know what he was going to do now and having
to give that kind of news to Aragorn’s family was not pleasant. His own
sense of failure was difficult to handle.
Elrohir gazed hard at the blonde elf, realizing what a good deal of the
prince’s problem was. Elves drew strength from the living world around
them, but in the mountains everything was frozen, cold and dead. With
no supplies and no food, Legolas must surely be feeling the wear of the
long journey. "Come, come back to our camp. You can tell us the full
story over lunch and we can decide what to do next."
Legolas nodded. He hated delay, but right now he had no idea which
direction to go anyway and perhaps the twins would be able to shed some
light on this puzzle. And, although he would never admit it, lunch
didn’t sound too bad either.
Back at the twins’ base camp, the three elves talked while they ate,
although only Legolas was really eating, Elladan and Elrohir were too
concerned and intent on what the prince had to say to worry much about
food. The more Legolas talked, the darker their countenances became.
Anyone who dared harm their little brother was in serious danger.
Legolas had just gotten through recounting finding the dead horse and
signs of a struggle. "Then I found a curious thing," he pulled the
leather wallet from his pocket. "This. It was hidden in the snow and
must have been lost in the struggle. It has a rather large sum of money
Elladan took the wallet, looking inside and poking quickly and
uninterestedly through the thin gold coins it held. They were of common
make and told little about the bearer.
Elrohir, who had moved over so he could look over his brother’s
shoulder, caught one end of the wallet and pulled it up a little. He
gave a soft cry and turned the object all the way over, pointing and
drawing his brother’s attention to the small flourish etched into the
Elladan’s face paled a shade. "Oh Elbereth... we might have guessed."
"Guessed what? Elladan, might have guessed what?" Legolas’ full
attention was taken and he edged nearer, trying to understand what they
saw, but the small design still meant nothing to him.
"This is the crest of the house of Wealdholte," Elrohir explained
slowly. "They live away to the south-east of Rivendell some distance
and they were once a very influential human presence in these parts
many, many years ago. Their house has dwindled and their line failed in
these recent years, although their wealth remains great."
"What does that have to do with Estel?" Legolas interjected when
Elrohir paused, seeming lost in disturbing thoughts.
"All that was left of their house was an old man named Mannyn and his
youngest son, Mearces," Elladan picked up, his voice dark as he ran his
thumb in thoughtful circles over the small design. "Mannyn’s older
child died in infancy and his wife passed on giving birth to Mearces,
so it was only the two of them left. Mearces was his father’s pride and
joy, his whole world... unfortunately that led to an untempered
arrogance in the young man. He thought he could do anything he wanted
and his father bought him out of any trouble he got into. One night he
got drunk in a local inn and started harassing one of the young ladies
that worked there. Aragorn was in the tavern and intervened on the
girl’s behalf. This was only shortly after Estel returned with us from
Mirkwood, following the lifting of the two of yours’ exile."
Legolas nodded, he was following so far. It was amazing how long ago
the events of his and Aragorn’s forced exile and eventual return now
seemed; if the current situation were not so serious, he would have
laughed at himself, he was almost picking up Aragorn’s human conception
Elladan was still talking. "When Mearces woke and sobered up, he was
incensed that someone who was, he felt, beneath him, had dared treat
him like that. He sent ‘messengers’ to find Estel..."
"Thugs you mean," Elrohir muttered. "What they really wanted was to
find him alone in a dark alley to deliver their ‘message’."
Elladan inclined his head in agreement. "They did not count on finding
him in Rivendell. Much to their chagrin, all they could do was deliver
Mearces’ challenge and demand for satisfaction. Now Mearces was at
least six or seven years Estel’s senior and fancied himself quite a
swordsman, but Aragorn knew that he was the more skilled of the two.
Our brother didn’t want trouble and he didn’t want to harm the other
young man over so trivial a matter; however, in the end Mearces left
him no choice but to accept the challenge or be labeled a coward. The
height of irony was that after the challenge was accepted, old man
Mannyn tried to buy Aragorn off and bribe him to run; he never tried to
discourage his son from the idea, however. Of course Aragorn would
sell honor for money so the fight took place." Elladan sighed.
"Elrohir and I acted as Estel’s seconds and went with him to the
location that Mearces had selected. In all honesty, Legolas, Aragorn
acted far more honorable about the whole situation than I might have
when I was his age. He tried his best to disarm his opponent without
seriously injuring him and took several nasty knocks himself because of
it. But in the end Mearces moved the wrong way at the wrong time and
ended up taking mortal injury. He died in his father’s arms. For this
Estel was truly saddened, as were we all. Unfortunately Mannyn’s sorrow
went swiftly to bloodthirsty rage. Of a truth, Legolas, if Elrohir and
had not been there I do believe he would have had his son’s hired
ruffians kill Aragorn where he stood."
Elrohir nodded, his face sorrowful as he remembered. "But wealthy and
powerful as he was, Mannyn wanted no quarrel with Rivendell or the
elves, so he was compelled to let Aragorn go. Yet he swore vengeance on
him, saying that he would put a price on Estel’s head so high that he
would have to be afraid of his own shadow."
"For the first several weeks we were all on guard and for a time Father
kept Estel close to home, wary of Mannyn’s threatened retribution,"
Elladan easily picked up the thread once more. "Then Moranuen came back
from Strayton half dead and we first found out about the trouble with
Hebrilith. You know what happened after that..."
Legolas grimaced slightly at the memory. Yes, he knew what happened
after that. He had been the next elf brought back to Rivendell beaten
almost to the point of death because of the dark elf’s murderous forays
among the local human population.
"All was quiet again for a time that summer that you spent with us,
then there was the earthquake and the Witch-king and... well, to be
honest I think we all forgot about it," Elrohir admitted. "When you and
Estel left for Mirkwood, it was almost nothing more than a memory. I
suppose we all more or less decided that Mannyn’s words were nothing
more than meaningless threats spoken in a grief-stricken rage, since
naught was heard on the matter since then..."
"Apparently we were wrong," Elladan’s eyes turned cloudy once more.
"And Estel’s paying the price."
None of them liked the sound of that.
"We’ve got to get back to Rivendell and tell father. It’s a three or
four hour ride to Mannyn’s house from home, but it’s at least triple
that to make it home from here, if we ride hard," Elrohir rose swiftly
to his feet, beginning to gather up their gear. His brother joined him.
Legolas rose, but seemed to be hesitating in indecision over something
as the brothers quickly broke up camp.
"Are you coming, Legolas?" Elladan called back over his shoulder as
un-picketed their horses.
Making up his mind, Legolas shook his head. "I’ll slow you down, you
will go faster if one of your horses is not burdened with a double
rider. Now that I know the direction they are heading, I... I want to
see if I can pick up their trail again."
Elrohir looked a little worried. "Legolas... are you sure it wouldn’t
be better for you to come with us? We have no way of knowing how far
ahead of you they are, they may already be to their destination... and
there are at least three different paths that they could have taken to
get there, take the wrong one and you could miss them entirely."
Legolas looked out across the frozen terrain. He couldn’t explain it,
but something in his heart was speaking to him... it was telling him
that for whatever reason, he needed
to stay on the trail he had
followed to this point.
"My heart tells me they are out there yet. I know nothing about Mannyn,
or the situation you have spoken of, I will be of little use to you
there. Out here maybe I can still do some good. I’ve followed them this
far... I just can’t give it up now." Legolas didn’t know how better to
explain it, but in his heart, he held the silent fear that even if
Mannyn’s house were indeed the intended destination, Aragorn might not
make it that far, if the signs he had read in the snow before he lost
the trail were any indication of his friend’s state of health.
Elladan eyed Legolas sharply for a moment. He could tell that the
prince was not being entirely forthcoming with them about something.
He was right. Legolas had not shared with them the many indications he
had found about how poorly their brother seemed to be doing. He had not
mentioned the blood and other disturbing things he had read in the
snow. It was enough to have told them that he suspected Estel was being
kept subdued by drugs with a captor who could be utterly ruthless. The
elven prince had not wished to further distress the twins without need.
After a moment Elladan shook his head. Whatever Legolas was hiding, he
didn’t have time to push for it. Aragorn’s life could be hanging in the
balance. "All right then, if they are heading for Mannyn’s house, of
which I am certain, then they will have to either take the long pass to
the right, down past the base of these trees and through the canyon, or
the narrow way up that hill and around the cliff face, or they will
have bypassed this valley entirely and gone around the other side of
yonder gorge and be making their way down from there. If you find him,
Legolas, make with all speed for Rivendell. Even if we are not there
Glorfindel, Moranuen and the others will protect he and you if there is
any serious trouble. Be careful, we do not yet know what exactly we are
Legolas nodded. "And if I find nothing I shall still make my way to
Rivendell, praying heaven that you have been successful where I failed."
The twins nodded and quickly kicked their horses up to a fast gallop,
disappearing down the hill in a matter of moments.
For a few seconds Legolas stood still, feeling the wind on his face and
listening to the subtle sounds of the earth around him, trying to
decide which way he should go. Finally he chose the path that bypassed
this valley and sloped away to the southeast. It looked the easiest way
to go if one was on foot and dealing with an unwilling companion.
He could only hope he had chosen wisely.
Lord Elrond’s gaze was hard and flinty; his hands were clenched tightly
inside the black leather gloves that he wore.
Elrohir, riding on Elrond’s right side, momentarily reflected that he
would not want to be anyone who crossed his father at the moment.
Glancing across the neck of Elrond’s coal black steed at Elladan,
riding on their father’s other side, Elrohir decided that the same was
true of his brother.
Elrond had listened to his sons’ tale quietly and then ordered the
horses made ready almost as soon as they had finished speaking. They
needed to pay Mannyn a little visit, and the sooner the better.
The scent of snow was heavy in the air as the early afternoon sun shone
down on the three travelers. Its rays gave light, but no warmth. Yet
these were elves so it mattered little to them.
When they reached Mannyn’s house, they had to wait for someone to open
the main estate gates. This was finally done by a little old man with a
limp who seemed to think that visitors were an uncommon and somewhat
frightening sight, especially if those visitors were elf lords. Mannyn
did not receive many guests these days.
The three elves rode into the courtyard, the echoing of horse hooves on
stone muffled by the snow that blanketed everything. The old hostler
and gatekeeper left a single, uneven set of tracks in the untouched
snow as he blustered about, trying to figure out how to take the elves’
horses as they dismounted, since the beautiful creatures had no bridles
"Is Mannyn at home?" Elrond inquired, his voice echoing hollowly in the
"Yessir, he’s here all right," the small man bobbed his head in a
friendly, if somewhat nervous manner. "If you want to wait I can tell
him you’re here, Mr...?"
"That’s all right, we’ll announce ourselves," Elrond nodded briskly at
the small man, brushing right by him and heading for the main house.
The hostler would never have dreamed of opposing anything the elf lord
said, but he shook his head as he led the three horses, which he found
followed him willingly enough now that they had been released by their
masters, into the stables. Master Mannyn was a man who prized his
solitude. He was not going to be pleased with his unexpected visitors.
Elrond knocked on the large door of the house. As they waited for it to
be opened, Elladan scanned the area around them with a suspicious eye.
"If he’s hurt Estel..." the young elf muttered under his breath.
Elrond touched his eldest’ arm lightly. "We don’t know that yet,
Elladan." He looked between his boys. "Let me do the talking,
The twins nodded.
A few moments later the door was opened by a round, pleasant faced,
middle aged woman in an apron. She had flour on her hands as if she had
been baking and was busy dusting it off on the apron around her middle.
She looked a little surprised to see the three elves, but smiled warmly
"Well hello, gentlemen! What can I do for you?" she inquired,
unconsciously straightening her tousled hair and rumpled clothes.
"We have come to speak to Lord Mannyn. Will you please tell him that
Lord Elrond of Rivendell and his sons are here?" Elrond introduced
himself to the woman, whose eyes got a little rounder, if that were
"Right this way, my lords," the woman led them into a large room off of
the main hallway. It was obviously an audience chamber of sorts, but it
had not seen use in many years from the looks of it.
Large dust cloths were thrown over most of the furniture in the room
and although it was obviously well kept up, a thin layer of dust had
settled in the not-so-easy-to-reach places.
The woman flushed slightly at the state of the room and bustled about,
yanking off dust covers until there had been a suitable number of
chairs cleared. "Sorry, we’ve not had visitors in a while," she
admitted what they could already guess, kicking the offending coverings
into a bundled lump behind the door.
"You gentlemen just have a seat then, my name’s Dolmè. I’ll let
Master Mannyn know you’ve come and put on some tea."
After Dolmè left, Elrond sat down, but Elladan and Elrohir paced
until their father ordered them to sit. It seemed a very, very long
while later that the door opened again, but it was not Mannyn, only
Dolmè, now sans apron and rumples, and carrying a glistening
silver platter heaped with fresh baked buns and a steaming pot of tea.
There was no mistaking that she was a lot more nervous than she had
She poured out the tea while chatting about the weather until Elrond
caught her eyes. "Dolmè, we’re here to see Mannyn."
"Of course, of course you are," she nodded. "He- that is, the Master...
he’s not in the best of health you know, and he’s, well... he’s not
seeing anyone today," she finally got it out.
Elrond rose quietly, but there was irritation etched in the polite
lines of his face. "Please tell Mannyn that my sons and I are waiting.
We will not take much of his time, but it is vitally important and we must speak with him."
Dolmè nodded miserably. "Yes, sirs, I’ll tell him."
Elrond watched her leave with sympathy. He didn’t want her job.
Nearly an hour later, Mannyn finally made an appearance. He was a
gaunt, pale man, yet there was nothing at all about him that seemed
frail in any way. Perhaps that was because of the hidden fire behind
his dark, deeply circled eyes. Although the elves quite rightly
suspected that his being ‘too ill to see them’ was simply a put-off, it
was not a far stretch of the imagination to see that Mannyn truly did
not look well.
"What are you doing here?" Mannyn’s voice was crisp and to the point.
"Can’t you understand what it means when a man says he wants to be left
Elladan and Elrohir exchanged peeved looks at the human’s rudeness, but
Elrond refused to be baited.
"We will not trouble you long," Elrond assured, gesturing for Mannyn to
sit as if he were in his own house, rather than being the guest.
Mannyn glared at him, but did sit down.
Elrond sat across from the elderly human, watching Mannyn closely. His
manner was politely diplomatic, but his eyes were piercing and searched
the man before him for any trace of deception. "I will be brief and
straight to the point," the elven lord kept Mannyn fixed in his gaze.
"I want to know what is this that I hear about you putting a price on
my son’s head?"
Mannyn’s scowl deepened. "I have no idea what you’re talking about. It
seems to me that your sons are fine," he glanced between Elladan and
Elrohir with a sneer. "Which is more than I can say for mine." The
words were hard. Cold. Bitter. "Besides, what interest would I have in
them? Is this all you have come here to trouble me with?" The old man
started to rise, but was fixed in his place when Elrond pierced him
with a glare.
"We are not finished Mannyn.
I speak of the ranger, Strider, whom we
call Estel, and you know that. I know that you blame him for the death
of your son. I am sorry for your loss, as a father I can understand-"
"You don’t understand anything!"
Mannyn spat, suddenly fierce. "How
could you? No one has taken your sons away from you! No one has cut out
that piece of your heart!"
"Not yet," Elrond replied, still maddeningly calm. "But it is against
such an event that I have come here. Where is Estel? Who did you hire
to find him? Whoever it was left this behind." Elrond brought out the
wallet that Legolas had given to his sons.
Mannyn’s eyes remained hard and unchanged. "I do not know where the
ranger is, nor do I care. I am not his keeper. Neither do I know how
you have come by something from my house, unless I assume that your
family are pickpockets as well as murderers. But I’ll tell you this Lord Elrond, if something were to
befall him, I would dance on his
grave!" Mannyn had worked himself up into quite frenzy. His words
dissolved into a coughing fit.
Elrond’s brow crinkled, his ire was hot inside him, but he did not let
it rule him. He would not be drawn into a fruitless argument, nor a
shouting match with the cantankerous old man. Instead he turned the
conversation to a totally unexpected direction. "You are not well," he
An expression of severe disdain crossed Mannyn’s face. "So now you
notice? Well talking to rude visitors who make baseless accusations has
not significantly improved my cold any."
"You do not have a cold." Elrond shook his head, he was a healer, he
knew these things. "Have you had anyone look at you?"
Mannyn just snorted in derision and stood. "I want your fake concern no
more than your fake sympathy! I just want you gone. You think I have
that ranger brat? Go ahead, search!" he flung his arms out, gesturing
at the house around him. "Look to your heart’s content until you are
satisfied he is not here, and then be gone and NEVER let me see you
Elrond rose gracefully, but his dignified features were set in stone.
"If you say he is not here than I will believe he is not here, but mark
my words Mannyn, wherever he is, if ill befalls him, I will hold you
With that, the elven lord turned on his heel and strode out of the
room, his robes swirling behind him. Elladan and Elrohir had left
somewhere early on in the conversation, although no one save Elrond had
marked their passing. It was just as well; they would never have been
able to keep silent. They now rejoined their father in the hall by the
"And what did you find?" Elrond asked softly as they fell into step
with him. He already suspected their answer however.
"Estel is not here. Or if he is they have hidden him well. There seems
to be no one here at all except for Mannyn, Dolmè and the little
hostler. That seems to be the usual arrangement for them," Elrohir
Dolmè saw them off in very apologetic tones, more so when they
opened the front door and found that while they were inside another
blizzard had kicked up in full earnestness.
"Oh my land, you can’t go out in that!" Dolmè shook her head in
"Dolmè! Make sure those meddlesome elves are on their way or
I’ll have your head!" Mannyn’s voice shouted up from the back rooms.
"Oh dear," Dolmè shook her head again, obviously flustered. "I’m
so sorry... I..."
Elrond laid his hand gently on her shoulder. "It’s all right. We will
be fine, but... Dolmè... if you see a young man brought here,
dark hair, silver eyes..." his voice trailed off.
"I’ll let you know if I can," Dolmè whispered softly. "If the
master is up to some kind of vendetta, I’ll not be part of it."
"Thank you Dolmè," Elrond squeezed her arm lightly before
pulling his hood up and stepping outside.
The wind howled loudly and snow was blowing everywhere. It was not a
storm the elves would have chosen to travel in, but they had obviously
worn out their welcome here and there was nothing for it but to attempt
the long ride back to Rivendell.
"I do not think you overlooked him," Elrond inclined his head a little
against the wind, picking up the thread of his previous conversation
with his sons. "When we arrived the snow was deep and old, but there
were no tracks save our own in the courtyard. No one has been here
before us. Besides, Mannyn was too confident. He would not have offered
to let us search if he were hiding Estel here."
"But we know he’s behind
this," Elladan shook his head.
Elrond nodded slowly. "Yes, I am certain of that... but if Estel is not
here then there is little we can do about it yet."
They paused in the courtyard, considering the wild storm raging about
Elrohir’s soft voice spoke what they were all thinking. "If Estel isn’t
here... then that means he’s still out there, somewhere. In this."
A silent shiver that had nothing to do with the cold around them ran
through the three elves’ hearts.