"Aragorn! Aragorn, stay with me," Legolas eased the ranger gently to
the blisteringly hot earth, wishing desperately for some single bit of
shade or coolness to offer his friend.
"Legolas..." Aragorn murmured his name. "Legolas..."
Overturning the barrow and propping it up on the shovel handle, the elf
tried to create a little protection for his friend. At this point he
did not care if they got in trouble for not working. He had to do
something or Aragorn was not going to make it.
Kneeling by his friend’s side, and using his own body to shield the
rest of the sun away, the prince ran his fingers swiftly through the
ranger’s dark, tangled locks, trying to cool the human’s head somewhat.
Aragorn’s thick tresses were so hot they nearly burnt the elf’s hand.
Aragorn’s heart was racing and it was hard for him to breathe. His
pounding heart demanded more oxygen, but the scorching, heavy air
burned his lungs, making him pant helplessly as the heat wreaked havoc
with his body.
Legolas felt Aragorn’s pulse hammering beneath his fingertips when he
held the human’s wrist. Too fast, much too fast. Deep concern lined
Legolas’ face as he touched his friend’s cheek. It was hot and flushed,
but Aragorn was no longer perspiring. Legolas knew that when humans
became so hot they stopped perspiring, they usually died.
Gently, Legolas laid his palm over his friend’s racing heart. "Slowly
Aragorn, breathe slowly," he soothed quietly in Elvish.
Aragorn had been trying to do just that, but Legolas’ soft touch seemed
to help and the elf’s closeness calmed his body. However the very air
itself continued to burn him like fire and his chest ached with the
heat and need for oxygen.
Firmly but carefully, Legolas pressed his thumb down and a little up
against the lower part of the ranger’s sternum. Whether it actually did
something useful, or just because it gave the human’s overwrought body
something else to think about, the contact, combined with the limited
shade, seemed to ease Aragorn’s breathing a little.
However, Legolas knew it was a battle against time, because if he could
not bring Aragorn’s body temperature down soon and get some fluids into
him, severe and even fatal internal injury could result.
Removing the ranger’s perspiration drenched shirt, Legolas whipped it
rapidly around and around in a circle until it was as cool as anything
could get out in the middle of this desert. He dabbed Aragorn’s flushed
face and pressed the cooled cloth against the base of his armpits,
where the larger blood vessels were nearest to the surface, attempting
to bring down the human’s soaring temperature. The elf alternated
between fanning Aragorn with the shirt, and spinning it to cool it off
and using it that way. It was all he could do. He could only hope it
Back under the canopy near the edge of the field, Nalb glanced over at
Talft as he fanned himself with a large ananab leaf. Even in the shade
the heat was oppressive out here, and the two overseers hated their
job. "Talft, they stopped working. Should we do something?"
Talft wasn’t even watching but was lying on the ground, his eyes
closed, almost asleep. "And have to go all the way out there in this
heat? In the full sun? You can if you want to. They’re probably just
dead anyway. I don’t see how anything could survive these conditions."
Nalb nodded and went back to trying to keep cool. So long as the slaves
weren’t trying to get away, or doing anything else that would get them
into trouble with their boss, they really didn’t care what happened out
It seemed like ages that Legolas struggled to keep Aragorn’s
temperature below critical, and the ranger had long ago lapsed into
unconsciousness, despite his friend’s attempts to keep him awake and
talking, but finally the sun did begin to ride down the western sky and
the air began to cool at least a little.
The elf continued to kneel by his friend, so run-out that he did not
hear the guards approach until Talft grabbed him roughly by the
shoulder from behind and spun him partway round. Slapping Legolas hard
across the face the overseer knocked the prince to the earth on his
side. "If you’re not dead, why aren’t you working?" the Haradrim
Legolas slowly wiped the blood from his mouth with the side of his
hand, not bothering to try to answer such a stupid question. He wasn’t
sure he would have had the strength to formulate a reply anyway.
Fortunately, one was not required and the overseers seemed interested
only in getting out of there as quickly as they could.
Nalb was checking Aragorn.
"Is he dead?" Talft asked dispassionately, walking over and peering
down at the unconscious northerner.
"Not yet," Nalb shook his head.
"You, carry him back to the cart," Talft commanded Legolas and it was
one demand with which the elf was glad to comply. Scooping Aragorn up
in his arms, Legolas made his way unsteadily back to the wagon that had
brought them here, lying his friend carefully in the back and leaning
heavily against the side.
Talft bound Legolas’ hands once more, but didn’t bother with Aragorn
since he obviously was in no shape to go anywhere. Pushing Legolas away
from Aragorn, Talft looped the other end of the elf’s lead rope through
the rear bar of the cart’s frame as it had been on the way down.
Legolas sank to his knees in exhaustion, his head spinning.
"You walk back. And if you fall, I’m not gonna stop, you understand?"
Talft jerked the ropes tighter.
All Legolas could do was nod wearily. He knew Talft hated him, but he
couldn’t even muster up enough energy to hate the man back at the
moment. He was spent and every spare shred of anything he had left in
him had to go towards survival at this point.
Nalb looked a little unsure, the elf appeared ready to drop. "Talft...
can’t he just ride back with the other one?"
"I said no!" Talft snapped, rounding on his subordinate in irritation.
"They didn’t even put in a full day’s work out there, so if he’s still
conscious then he is going to pull his own weight. Now come on, I want
to get back before nightfall."
The journey back was a nightmare for Legolas. Dehydrated, hurting and
exhausted, his only saving grace was that the cumbersome cart could not
go too fast. He was glad that Aragorn was unconscious. The elf kept his
eyes on his friend’s still face as the wagon jostled and shook the limp
ranger; refusing to let his mind take him back to the last time he had
been bound and forced to follow human riders while in this much pain.
That was a very long time ago, and those wounds were thankfully healed.
He had to think of Aragorn now. Aragorn still needed him. Someone had
to help the ranger when they got back. Fixing his friend as his goal to
fight for, Legolas pushed himself on when his body wanted to quit.
Darkness was falling when they pulled back into the main estate and
stopped. Legolas fell to his knees again as soon as they stopped
moving. The nighttime air was cool and the elf shivered. The change
from hot to cold, combined with the over-sensitivity of his sunburn was
hard for his reeling body to deal with. Nalb cut Legolas free and Talft
dumped Aragorn off the back of the wagon.
"You’d better hurry. You don’t want to get caught out after curfew,"
Talft advised with a mocking smile as he and Nalb got back in the cart
and rode off. "See you tomorrow!" he called back and the cruel humor in
his voice was clear.
"What a pleasant thought," Legolas thought dryly, too parched and tired
to speak aloud. Picking Aragorn up with effort, the elf made his way
haltingly back to the Simbani family tent. His friend’s weight was
almost too much for him by this point, but somehow he made it.
Stumbling wearily through the tent door, he fell to his knees again and
couldn’t rise this time. The other slaves were all there and Legolas
was barely aware of them taking Aragorn out of his arms. They were
talking, but he couldn’t hear their words. He could barely see their
faces. His vision wavered uncertainly and he blinked several times to
clear it. When he could see again Cabed was holding Aragorn and Mambre
was sponging the young man’s flushed face, while several other
relatives were trying to keep Sircyn from jumping up and reopening the
mending gash in his side.
"H-he needs water, they wouldn’t give us any," Legolas forced out with
effort, his voice hoarse and thick. "He was t-too hot, but it’s cool
n-now, he should be a-all right if he..." the prince suddenly found
that his voice wasn’t going to work anymore, but he couldn’t think
straight enough to finish his own sentence anyway, so it hardly
mattered. He started to fall sideways, but strong, gentle hands caught
him and he was lowered carefully onto a soft blanket. His head was
lifted and a water gourd was put to his lips, which he accepted
gratefully, once he had seen that the same was being done for Aragorn.
His dry, swollen throat hurt to swallow, but the cool liquid was
Mambre left Aragorn’s side for a moment and came over to Legolas,
laying the back of her cool hand against his cheek. The elf’s normally
fair skin was singed a painful shade of pink. He had a nasty sunburn
and that was going to need some care.
Aragorn stirred in Cabed’s arms and moaned softly. Legolas caught
Mambre’s wrist gently in his hand, his eyes finding hers for a moment.
"Please," he whispered, his eyes going to Aragorn who was starting to
wake up. "I’m all right. See to him first."
Mambre doubted very much that the elf was anywhere near all right, but
she nodded and moved back to her husband and the young man they had
adopted as another son.
"Now will you believe me?!" Sircyn glared fiercely at his father who
would not return his son’s angry gaze. "Maybe when we have lost these
also, maybe that will be enough to make you listen! What will it take?
The master’s taergs are better cared for than we!" He was nearly
shouting, but his anger was not directed solely at the occupants of the
tent nor did it stem from them.
Mambre glanced at her son sorrowfully as he lowered his voice, emotions
choking off his words as he spoke, "How many must we loose? Will they
be like Sinar and Jabek and all the others the masters have take from
us in order to make examples for us and to teach us? What will you do
when it is Kidrin or Syna or myself? Must it go that far?" He swallowed
hard, finally dropping his gaze to the floor; "I for one cannot let
another one go. You made me accept Adrar as a kindred. Why? So I could
lose him, watch him die slowly? It is time we stopped being slaves and
acted as the people we are. Adrar is no slave. His friend has told me
who he is. They will help us take the compound back as we told you; we
have a plan, a good one. It can work. But we need your help." When he
looked up once more there were tears in his eyes and Cabed was watching
Legolas hardly dared to breathe in the still quiet of the tent that
followed Sircyn’s emotional outburst. It was up to Cabed now. Either he
would help them or he and Aragorn would have to find another way to
survive and escape their imprisonment.
"Please." Sircyn begged.
Shifting slightly on the blanket he lay on the elf turned his attention
back to the elder. Aragorn stirred lightly, falling in and out of
consciousness, drawing Cabed’s gaze back to the young man. Shakily he
brushed the hair from the northerner’s flushed cheeks and stared down
into the silver eyes that opened slowly.
"Cabed?" Aragorn tried to speak but the words would not come. He
mouthed the man’s name, barely whispering.
"He has a father." Sircyn’s voice drew his elder’s eyes back up to
focus on him. "So do I. Don’t I?"
"Yes. Yes you do." Cabed answered as Aragorn lost consciousness once
more, his head falling gently against the older man’s chest. "And you
are right. Our people were not always slaves. We were once a proud
people." The elder’s voice was soft and remorseful, his thoughts
focused far in the past to the stories he had heard about the way his
people used to live.
"And you can be again." Legolas whispered, his voice rough and soft
from the abuse of the heat. "Let us help you. Your son is right, you do
not deserve to lose any more of your people. You are not goods or
beasts to be worked and owned, you are people, just as much as anyone
else. You should be free Cabed." Although soft, Legolas’ tone was
intense. He knew what it was to be owned, to be a treated as a thing
and made to know how little you mattered... this wasn’t his first
experience with slavery and the months he had spent here watching all
that went on had only confirmed his dislike of the despicable practice.
"You need to conserve your strength young one." Mambre knelt back next
to the elf, as Syna passed her several large, thick leaves from what
appeared to be a succulent plant. She rubbed the stems briskly in her
The elf tried to smile at the woman, her choice of words warming his
heart, but his lips hurt and they cracked when he moved them too much.
"They can figure out their problems without bothering the two of you.
Much more out of either of you and it won’t matter what you think. You
won’t be with us long, you understand me?" She was leaning over the
prone elf, staring hard into his blue eyes, the tinges of a smile
twitching the corners of her mouth.
With a simple nod Legolas acquiesced. He eyed the leaves she held, the
soothing scent of their freshly broken stems just barely noticeable to
his heightened senses.
Seeing his curiosity she held one of the fat, long leaves up so he
could see it better. The skin of the leaf was tough and thick and the
edges were covered in small, dark blunted barbs.
"Aerovala." She stated simply as she squeezed the plant. It oozed a
thick green substance onto her fingers that she gently began spreading
over Legolas’ burned chest and arms as she explained, "We discovered it
in the south mûmakil fields. Them creatures were breaking them
open one day rubbing their tough hides against the broken stems. We
found it is good for burns, it will help take the sting out."
The elf breathed in deeply, closing his eyes, and held his breath as
the cooling gel from the plant soothed the unrelenting pain that had
set in from his burned skinned. He’d had worse burns than this before;
much worse, but the amount of skin that was affected this time had an
undesirable effect on his nervous system. Legolas found himself
shivering slightly as the evening breezes found their way in near the
gaps under the bottom of the tent were it was pegged to the floor.
"I would rather you used this on Aragorn." Legolas spoke quietly to
Mambre. "He is much worse than I."
"Hmph, so you have said. Cabed!" Mambre called back to her husband,
interrupting his conversation with Sircyn. She did not bother turning
to look at the man but kept a steady glare on the elf, her look
somewhere between irritation and humor, "You bring Adrar over right
now. I can get no cooperation out of this one when he is constantly
worried about that boy."
"Mama we’re planning out tomorrow what we need..." Sircyn answered, his
protest cut off as his mother turned and glanced at him warningly.
"I don’t care none what you be planning. You plan all you like, but
you’ll do what I say if you want your brother and his friend to
survive." She snapped at the boy. "Syna go out and fetch more water and
see if Tanani’s clan has anymore Aerovala, take Dena with you and be
careful, don’t you be getting caught. I canna handle no more hurt
children. Off with you now, quickly."
Cabed stood, carefully holding the ranger as Syna and her sister snuck
out into the dark night. He walked Aragorn around the newly stoked
fire, moving off towards the far wall of the tent away from the heat
where Mambre was tending Legolas. Blankets were quickly spread out to
receive the ranger as the family members gave up their sleeping spaces
for the wounded.
"So we will go together tomorrow and defeat them?" Sircyn’s soft voice
broke in. The injured slave had ignored the others protests and picked
up his bed, following his father and laying his blanket down on the
other side of Legolas, slowly easing down onto it. "Tomorrow I will be
well enough to go out with you. We can harvest all the nandani we need
to drug the guards once the master is gone. The root is plentiful near
the watering hole we will not be seen there. I know for certain that
Nenil’s clan will aid us. The master has been allowing them to oversee
his wine cellars. And you know how the guards cannot stay out of them
when he is gone. Nenil says if we supply them with enough nandani they
will see to it that we will have no troubles from Talft and his men."
Sircyn leaned over Legolas and touched Aragorn lightly as the ranger
gained consciousness once more; the jostling of moving him from one
place to another had woken him. "Adrar?"
The northerner watched the Haradrim blearily, his gaze roaming between
Legolas and Sircyn. "I am dreaming?"
"No. You are not Estel." Legolas touched him very lightly; afraid of
aggravating any burns the human may have sustained.
A small smile touched the ranger’s lips; "You look awful."
Legolas rolled his eyes, trying to smile with cracked, dry lips, "I
wouldn’t be talking if I were you, human." He teased lightly.
"I wouldn’t be talking at all if I were either of you. Now rest or I’ll
separate you again." Mambre chided, lifting Legolas head and touching a
water gourd gently to his lips once more.
"Sircyn, tomorrow the Simbani will join you to overthrow the masters."
Cabed’s voice was soft and held the slightest tinge of resignation as
he sat down next to Aragorn.
The silver-eyed human watched him carefully; "You should be free."
With a smile Cabed motioned with his head towards Legolas, "Your
friend, he says the same thing."
"Well he’s right." Aragorn spoke quietly, his voice just a whisper from
the day’s aggravation left under the merciless sun. The water they were
forcing in him slowly was doing the trick and away from the heat of the
fire his body was slowly cooling down. He noticed Legolas shivering and
reached out to the elf shakily.
The prince carefully laid his palm in the upturned one offered him.
Aragorn could feel the heat from the elf’s burned skin and held
Legolas’ hand up to the dim light of the fire behind them.
"Legolas you are sunburned, badly." His brow furrowed in concern as he
concentrated on the words he wanted to say.
"Is that your professional opinion?" The elf murmured softly, with a
light chuckle. "Do not concern yourself." He was finally safe, Aragorn
was conscious and they were in good hands. The burning from his abused
skin had begun to subside and he allowed himself to calm down enough to
rest. "The burn I got outside Eowioriand was much worse, this is
"Nothing?!" Aragorn spoke slowly, the word slurred as he glanced up at
Mambre when she leaned over Legolas. Gently she took the elf’s hand
from her adopted son’s and lathed it in the green, sticky ointment she
squeezed from the prickly leaf before laying it back in the ranger’s
waiting hand. With a small smile the young northerner closed his eyes
and relaxed, falling deeply into a much-needed sleep. His body was worn
out beyond anything he could remember and his mind, unable to even form
words anymore, sought release. The coolness of evening had finally
descended just like Legolas had promised and the quiet darkness was a
soothing comfort. He sighed deeply as sleep stole his thoughts away.
"Estel? Estel!" Legolas struggled weakly against Mambre but she held
him gently down.
"You leave that one alone now," She chided, "He’s only resting and he
needs his sleep he does. His body is finally cooling off." She gently
pressed the backs of her fingers against Aragorn’s cheek, nodding to
herself, pleased with the fact that his skin was not as hot as it had
been. "He’ll be down for a few days. You’ll have plenty of time to talk
with him then." She silenced the elf’s arguments with a soft smile.
A cool hand lay gently on Legolas forehead and stilled his attempts to
rise. It was Sircyn. "You are in no better shape, relax. Mambre knows
what to do. Unfortunately being over come by the heat is something we
are very familiar with." He smiled at the elf as he rested on his side,
propped up on his elbow. "Besides Adrar would have my hide if I let you
hurt yourself." He quickly moved into a sitting position and grabbed
the edges of a lightweight sheet that Mambre unfurled, shaking it out
over the elf’s prone body. Between the two of them they lay the soft
cotton carefully across Legolas’ chest to keep him from cooling too
much in the cold of the desert night. "Now you rest. He won’t go
anywhere in the night and I’ll be right here. Mambre will take care of
The young slave lay down next to the elf, facing Legolas so the new
slave would not be startled or afraid during the night, his bright eyes
watching as the prince slowly allowed sleep to steal over his weary,
The quiet sounds of a day well begun woke Aragorn with a terrible
headache. He moaned in spite of himself, surprised that the sound came
from him. Slowly, achingly he rolled over on the thin blanket and
stared at Legolas.
The elf sat cross-legged, his head bowed down between his shoulders as
Mambre gently rubbed aerovala ointment on his bare back and neck. He
laughed softly at something the female Haradrim had said, their voices
too low for Aragorn to quite catch. The tent was empty except for the
three of them as the others had left for their daily chores.
Mambre glanced over the prince’s shoulders and smiled at the young
"Well look who is with the living once more." She teased gently as her
dark eyes watched her adopted son.
Aragorn squinted at the two; yawning from where he lay, unwilling to
move and unsure if he could answer.
Legolas glanced up at him and smiled but Mambre gently tapped his head,
pressing it back down so his chin rested against his chest as she moved
his long blonde hair out of the way and spread the cooling green liquid
across the burns on his shoulders and neck.
"You feeling better?" She asked quietly.
Aragorn nodded, adjusting his body to a more comfortable position. His
skin, though more used to the intensity of the sun here in the south,
had not escaped the heat’s wrath and his back ached with a slight
sunburn where the low neckline of his shirt had not protected him. The
ranger rolled onto his stomach with a soft grunt to alleviate the pain.
Not satisfied with the younger man’s lack of response Mambre pressed
him. The time she had spent that morning talking with Legolas had left
her with questions that she found unsettling.
"Your friend says you have a family. This is true?" She glanced quickly
at the ranger before concentrating on the elf once more. She was not
sure she wanted to hear the truth but she knew she must. It was hard
somehow, to imagine Adrar with another family. Hard to admit that he
wasn’t really theirs.
Again the northerner nodded. It hurt to think and his mind was fuzzy
and worn as though he had been awake for a very long time. Legolas
looked up at the human trying to gauge how his friend was doing.
"Strider, are you in pain?"
At the elf’s soft questioning the young man swallowed hard, his throat
thick and tight and answered quietly, "I am fine. I am just very tired
and I ache."
Legolas smiled and nodded, "Mambre was worried about you."
"And you weren’t?" The Haradrim snorted at the prince, garnering a soft
chuckle from Legolas. Moving around the elf she sat between the two and
proceeded to methodically work over the burns on his arms.
"I will be fine, Mambre." Aragorn whispered, reaching out to touch the
woman who had been his mother for the past six months or more.
"When we are free you will leave." She glanced behind her at the young
man, hating the sadness in her own heart. She knew she should be happy
for him. She wanted to be happy for him.
He simply nodded, his glance flitting quickly to Legolas, who shook his
head slightly, the touch of sorrow in his eyes alerting the ranger.
"And you think I will forget you?" Aragorn asked quietly.
"You have a mother." She stated simply. "I will be nothing to you."
"I had a mother. I loved her very much, but I barely remember her."
Mambre stopped her ministrations and looked at her hands before turning
around and facing the northerner she had accepted into her clan.
"Of course I loved her, and her memory... it will never leave me. But I
never really knew her. She died when I was very young. I was raised by
two brothers and a father." He continued to explain. Slowly he wrapped
her slender, sun-wrinkled hand with his own fingers, "You are the first
mother I have truly known." He laughed as he thought on his family for
moment, "Except my brother, Elladan, but he hates it when I call him
Mambre laughed and swatted at the boy, "Adrar. I just hate to see you
go. You have brought such joy and happiness. We never laughed so much
as when you joined our clan."
"Yes well that’s what happens when you let a northerner loose in the
mûmakil fields." He smiled, the laughter catching in his swollen
throat and turning into a painful coughing fit.
Legolas grabbed a gourd of water near his bedroll and scooted closer to
the human, helping Aragorn as he tried to sit up and still his
breathing. Tipping the water flask to the ranger’s lips, the elf
carefully meted out the refreshing liquid, limiting the amount that
flowed through the neck of the slender gourd so that Aragorn would not
choke. The elf’s skin was still flushed a bright red and the burn
seemed concentrated on his back, shoulders and the tops of his forearms
When he had slaked his thirst for the moment, Aragorn pushed the gourd
back and gently pressed his fingers to Legolas’ hand, feeling the
slight heat that the sunburn gave off.
"Are you all right?" Correcting himself quickly the ranger held up his
hand to stall the elf’s answer and turned to Mambre who had slowly
gained her feet and was getting ready to exit the tent. "Mambre, is
Legolas all right?" He knew better than to hope for a useful answer
from his friend.
She walked stiffly back to the two and stood behind Aragorn. He glanced
up at her from where he sat a smile on his tanned face.
Her dark eyes twinkled as she returned the smile and nodded her head,
"He’ll live." Bending over she took the younger man’s head in her hands
and kissed the top of his hair, "And so will you, my son."
Aragorn grasped her hand and gave it a gentle squeeze, "Thanks to you,
"Ah," She brushed the compliment aside lightly, "There was someone
looking after you other than I."
"Yes, Ilúvatar," Legolas muttered under his breath, "He always
keeps the foolhardy and the trouble prone alive."
"Something you should be very familiar with by now." Aragorn smiled
wickedly at the elf.
"Only since I’ve met you, young human."
"Oh please don’t start the ‘my life was normal’, lecture," Aragorn
moaned rolling his eyes, "I think I have heard that one a thousand
"And if we live through this I imagine you will hear it a thousand
more. Get used to it!"
Mambre stood shaking her head as the two bickered back and forth. She
stepped in between them and thrust a handful of aerovala leaves at
Legolas, pointing at Aragorn and instructed them both, "I have to go
now and see to the others. You," she glared playfully at the elf, "put
that on Adrar, his burns will ache soon. There is plenty of water for
the both of you." Pointing at a small stack of corked gourds she turned
towards her adopted son, "I expect you to drink it all your bodies need
it. Now behave and don’t argue while I am gone. All I need is for you
two to be attracting the guards with your nonsense."
She left the tent with their laughter hanging in the air. Closing the
flap on the sleeping room she headed out to the fields. Her other
children and her husband would be gathering for mid-day break and she
wanted to be there to collect the nandani they had harvested during
their morning’s work. It would need to be prepared for tomorrow. The
thick root when crushed formed a tasteless odorless toxin, which in the
right doses would knock an oliphaunt out for hours. They were going to
be busy. She sighed deeply, fearing the relentless passage of the day.
If only she could stop time and let it sit here for a while. Sometimes
change even good change was difficult to face.
"Is anyone awake in here?" Sircyn’s accented voice called out as he
threw the flap to the tent aside and bent to pass into the low opening.
"Well we were asleep until you woke us. I hope it’s important." Aragorn
replied sarcastically from the corner where he and Legolas sat.
The fire had been started some time earlier in the late evening but the
two friends had moved from the perimeter of the ring. Aragorn was fully
dressed, his tunic laced up the front concealing the sunburn that was
quickly fading to tan. Legolas however had not replaced his shirt and
although his elven skin was healing swiftly, the burn still chaffed and
pained him when clothing touched it. He smiled brightly as he gazed up
at the family that entered.
"Pray tell your day went well and you were able to find all that you
sought," he commented cryptically knowing the guards could still be
Sircyn quirked his lips in a semi-grimace and shook his head, stepping
over the spread out sleeping pallets until he reached the two friends
and dropped heavily down beside them.
Aragorn took Legolas’ hand in his own and stretched the prince’s arm
out, lathing the pinked skin with the soothing green gel that had been
aiding his healing. The elf concentrated on the Haradrim and his quiet
words as the cool ointment reduced the ache to a dull roar that he
Sircyn glanced back to the tent entrance, his eyes mere slits as he
spoke quietly, "They would not let us bring any wood or the nandani
with us. They forced us to leave everything in the woodsheds. Most
likely to stoke their own fires through the night tomorrow."
"Then we’ll need to steal out and retrieve it tonight. They’ll never
notice it is gone in the morning. I doubt even Talft and Lur are that
observant." Aragorn shook his head in disgust. The small hitch in their
plan could be easily remedied. At Sircyn’s nod the ranger stood swiftly
to his feet only to weave unsteadily as the room spun around him
crazily. He crashed back to the floor landing on one knee.
Legolas leapt to his feet and steadied his friend, easing him gently
back down on the mats. Aragorn held his head gingerly in his hands as
things slowly stopped their circling and his vision returned to normal.
"You are not yet able to be about. Rest some more, tomorrow will be
tiring enough. I will go with Sircyn to help retrieve the herbs," the
elf cautioned him softly, laying his hand on the top of his friend’s
"We will not be caught." Legolas glanced at Caleb who was protesting
their leaving. "I will see to it."
The Haradrim was shaking his head. "There are guard patrols and even
wild taergs that sometimes come into the compound. No, being that far
from the tents and the others is not good."
Aragorn grabbed Legolas’ wrist gently with his hand, raising his voice
above the commotion in the tent, "They will be safe, Cabed. You can
trust Legolas." Carefully he turned and glanced up at his elder.
Knowing he was fighting a losing battle, Cabed pierced his eldest son
with a stern look. Sircyn glanced away from his father and faced
Legolas; "Then we both go, come." He stepped to the tent flap and
listened carefully before easing the canvas away from the entry.
Aragorn tightened his grip on the elf’s wrist and glanced up at the
prince, "You be careful I don’t want to have to come rescue you." A
lopsided smile decorated his tanned face.
Ruffling the human’s hair, Legolas gave a small laugh and stepped close
to Sircyn, "Not to worry, human." The elf glanced at Mambre and she
nodded, moving to the ranger’s side, a flask of water in her hands.
Legolas followed Sircyn down the path that led to the oliphaunt pens.
The Haradrim knew the way even in the dark and easily sidestepped the
pits and rocks that dotted their way. The elf had no trouble following
the slave; his eyes easily adapted to the bright nights. Roots from a
manga tree crossed their trail and Sircyn turned to warn the prince.
The young Haradrim stopped in his tracks, his eyes wide as he stared at
the elf in the shadow of the large fruit tree. Here the branches
blocked the light of the moon and the faint glow that accompanied the
elf shimmered in the darkness.
"What! What is it?" Legolas crouched and looked about them, his senses
thrown outward ready for whatever had startled his companion.
"What are you?!" Sircyn
whispered fiercely, stepping back from the elf.
"What?" Legolas was confused and shook his head, glancing about them.
"There is a light about you." The slave stepped back nearer and touched
the elf cautiously.
"Oh..." The prince tried to hide his amusement; he had not given his
appearance a second thought. But these people had never seen his kind
and there was much about elves that even the northerners did not know.
"Yes, my people are people of light. Do not worry. It will not draw
attention to us. The moon is full tonight and the stars are bright;
they will shield my light."
Sircyn nodded slowly, trying to come to terms with the new information.
"Are we close?" Legolas whispered, trying once more to get the youth’s
attention focused on the task at hand.
With a quick glance around them, Sircyn nodded once, turning and
heading stealthily out towards the plains, "We are nearly there. Follow
The moon was indeed high and full as they slipped out from under the
cover of the master’s shade trees. In the open they were vulnerable
should anyone be watching. For the most part the guards never watched
the pastures at night. The taergs were no match for the oliphaunts. It
was only when the humans were present did the wild predators attempt to
attack, hoping to drag off a slave. At such times the herds were
vulnerable and the young at risk from the large felines.
Legolas could see the mûmaskil huddled together on the field.
Their quiet shufflings and guttural speech soft in the night, reached
his sensitive ears and he turned and gazed out over the pasture lands.
The moon cast a blue silver glow upon the grassy tundra; the effect of
the soft light was not lost on the elf who smiled contentedly as he
watched the herd. Movement on the edge of the field to their right
alerted him and he tensed slightly even as Sircyn called out to him.
"Over here, the wood and nandani weeds are over here." The slave
unlatched a low wooden shed and swung the short door open. He glanced
inside unaware of Legolas’ over attentiveness. "They always let us take
back to our tents the herbs and wood we have collected. It never even
occurred to me that they would want it all for their own with the
master leaving. You don’t know what it’s like when he is gone. The
master is a fair man for the most part, but some of his guards are
ruthless and cruel and they do not care what they do to us."
Legolas backed slowly towards the shed, glancing quickly back toward
Sircyn. In the shadows, a deeper shadow moved and the glint of black
eyes alerted the elf. He spoke calmly to the slave, not wanting to
alarm the human if it were unnecessary. He hoped the creature that
advanced slowly on them was not what he feared, "Does no one inform
your master?" His quiet voice questioned.
"Who do you think he would believe his trusted guards or a his slaves?"
Sircyn replied sarcastically with more bite than he intended. He was
moving the wood around seeking the small bag of nandani roots that they
had gathered throughout the day. It was secreted against the wall of
the shed, protected by a pocket of timber. With a smile he pulled the
cache out and stuffed it inside his vest.
"I found it." Sircyn sighed in relief as he stood up and grasped the
edge of the shed door.
"Shhhh..." Legolas backed slowly towards him; "We are not alone. Do not
move." The elf whispered fiercely, his eyes locked onto the feral ones
that watched the two beings intently.
Sircyn turned towards the prince and followed his gaze into the dark
shadows beneath the shade trees that bracketed the oliphaunt fields.
Shifting red eyes caught the light of the full moon and a low growl
caused the slave to freeze in place.
"A taerg." The Haradrim breathed quietly, his fear palpable.