Word of Rhuddryn’s death had spread quickly and been verified by
neighboring tribes. The guards having learned that their employer was
dead were given the choice of leaving and never returning or facing the
wrath of the newly freed slaves. Aragorn had stood in the doorway of
the punishment hut and informed them of their choices. His gaze fell
hard on Talft and Lur. Neither of the Haradrim would look at him. The
sentries truly were the cowardly bullies they had been painted as. As
he walked among them cutting their bonds, Legolas and a small
contingent of the new owners of the house stood by with their weapons
at the ready. It was unnecessary however.
Not one of the guards remained and none of them resisted their
expulsion. They would be able to find work elsewhere and, although many
of them deserved death for their treatment of the former slaves,
Aragorn would not allow any that left of their own free will to be
harmed. There had been too much death already and he did not want Cabed
or his people harassed by other Haradrim who were looking vengeance.
The best way to start a new life was with mercy and grace, however
undeserved it may be, not bloodshed, and the newly freed slaves
accepted the young ranger’s wisdom on this and were setting out about
it the right way.
On threat of death the former guards were taken to the edge of the
compound and released. They left quickly and not a one of them looked
When that had been accomplished, the new owners of the house had been
truly freed of all their past enslavement. Aragorn and Legolas stayed
on an extra month to make sure no retribution was visited upon the
Haradrim that remained with the land. Legolas taught the young men how
to fight and make their own weapons and Aragorn helped Cabed and the
other elders set up the household so that all were equal and no one
would ever again be lord over another again.
As time would have it, the day to leave grew near. On the morning of
their departure, Legolas followed Sircyn into the main house; his arms
loaded down with the burden of wood that they had collected that
morning after seeing to the needs of the oliphaunts. He laughed as the
Haradrim finished recounting a story about Aragorn’s first days with
them and how he had mistakenly thought that the large creatures were
simply distant mountains.
Setting the wood down near the large hearth, the elf turned to address
his friend and laughingly teased, "Well Strider you would think that
you..." His laughter died as he scanned the large room and realized
that the ranger was not among Cabed’s clan, who were busy cleaning the
house with the other families that were more familiar with the palatial
Looking back to Sircyn he questioned the young man, "Where is Estel?
Was he not with us when we returned?"
The dark skinned youth shrugged his shoulders in confusion. "I thought
he was Legolas. I do not know."
With a quick nod of his head the elf walked swiftly back through the
halls and left the house, heading for the west side of the compound.
Something in the back of his mind was telling him he would find his
Aragorn stepped quietly into the abandoned slaves’ tent. The fire ring
was empty and cold and the sleeping pallets had long been removed, put
to better use inside the house, which those who had chosen to remain
now lived in. He smiled sadly as he glanced around the empty tent. He
had spent many happy evenings with the Simbani clan under this roof and
the memories stopped him momentarily.
That was why he had returned here.
Quickly he moved to his task, searching the dirt floor of the simple
building. It was here. He had left it here for its safety. His boot
dislodged a small dark stone and he knelt carefully, his fingers
brushing away the loose topsoil. A glint of silver caught his attention
and he dug his fingers into the dirt, pulling the ring of his
ancestor’s out of its hiding spot. He had hidden Barahir beneath his
pallet the night that Legolas had returned the ring to him in order to
keep it safe, marking its place with a small smooth stone and now at
long last he had come back to claim it.
Turning the ring over in his fingers he blew the dirt away from the
green emerald jewel that was seated between the two serpents. He
brushed the small circle against his leggings, cleaning the delicate
metal work until it gleamed in the low light that seeped in through the
Unconsciously he crossed his legs beneath him and sat down as
recollections of his life flooded his thoughts. He found himself
smiling as he recalled the day his father had given him the ring.
Elladan had gone to no small effort to tease the human about the latest
piece of his past and his destiny that had been further revealed to
him. It had taken his mind off of the great responsibility that always
weighted down on him whenever he gave it the least bit of thought. He
shook his head slightly in remembrance; his father had caught Elladan
in the act... his father.
His mind snagged on the image of the older elf, warrior, lord...
father. Their parting had been painful and he swallowed hard in
indecision. He had been gone quite some time now. Would they welcome
him back? Perhaps it would be better to return to the wilds for a bit
longer. He was not at all sure that he was ready to face any of them
The ranger’s thoughts were interrupted as the tent flap was quietly
moved back and Legolas stepped in. Taking note of the man seated on the
ground, the elf breathed a soft sigh of relief. He had thought that
perhaps he would find his friend here. Silently Legolas sat down next
to Aragorn, his eyes latching onto the silver circle that human was
The silence stretched easily between them as the elf waited his friend
out. He knew Aragorn had a lot to consider. Today they had planned to
leave the Olybryn and turn towards home. The Simbani had been the
ranger’s surrogate family for the better part of a human year; Aragorn
had bonded with these people when he had no one else. Legolas feared
that it might be a difficult parting.
Aragorn passed the ring to Legolas, acknowledging him finally. "If not
for you and Barahir, I may never have remembered." The human’s words
were quiet and the elf strained to hear him. "I hid it here so that
Talft and Lur would not take it from me. I almost forgot that I had
left it behind."
The elf’s slender fingers gently brushed the smooth face of the stone.
"I would not have let you forget," his words holding more meaning than
simply referring to the family heirloom he passed back to his friend.
Aragorn accepted the ring back and laughed softly, "Stubborn elf."
Legolas stood gracefully and extended his hand down to the human. "We
should be going. The day is nearly half spent and we have a long
journey ahead of us."
With a slight nod, Aragorn accepted the help to his feet and brushed
himself off, placing the ring on his left forefinger. "I am not sure I
am ready for this, my friend."
Legolas glanced to the floor of the living space, his eyes lighting on
the dead fire ring. He knew Aragorn was fully aware of why they had to
leave but repeated it softly anyway; it would be good for them both to
hear it again. "Estel, the rainy season is coming to the lands
northward of us, and beyond that the snow will start to fly. The passes
will close for the winter before we reach them if we do not leave now.
We have delayed as long as we may. We will need to move quickly as it
is. We can tarry no longer. The Simbani are free. The grounds and the
Oliphaunts are theirs now and it is obvious that no one intends to give
them any trouble. They have their life back and so, my friend, do you."
He placed his hand gently on the man’s shoulder. "I have informed Cabed
of our intentions and Mambre has prepared food for our journey. They
await us at the house."
Aragorn glanced up at his friend, his eyes locking onto the blue ones
that stared sympathetically back at him. "Let us be off, Strider. The
longer we wait the harder it will be and I do not wish to be caught in
the mountains when the first storms come." The elf laughed softly, "I
do not think I could survive another winter having to drag you through
The teasing barb elicited a soft snort of mirth from the man and he
smiled at the elf. "You are right, Legolas. I just..." Aragorn
refrained from finishing his thoughts. Now was not the time to tell the
elf his deepest fears about returning home. They would have that time
Aragorn nodded, knowing that Legolas understood his hesitancy and fully
expected to deal with it on the long journey ahead of them.
"Come, the Simbani are waiting and we must go." The elf prince stepped
to the canvas entry and led his friend out of the tent for the last
time. They walked to the house in amiable silence, each lost in his own
Sircyn was waiting on the front step, a rolled up wad of clothing in
his hands. He shook the garment out, and let the folds of leather fall
down to barely touch the top of the stone steps. The frown on his face
as he wrinkled his nose in disgust brought a burst of laughter from the
elf as he recognized the piece of apparel.
"Hey!" Aragorn gained the steps quickly and gathered the long leather
overcoat in his hands. "Where did you find that?!" He looked in wonder
at the young Haradrim.
Confusion touched the young Haradrim’s eyes; "You like it? You may have
"I thought I had lost it." The ranger shrugged into his familiar jacket
and smiled to himself. He pulled the collar up to his face and sniffed
the interior of the coat before turning a questioning glance on the elf
that stood next to him. "This smells like you, but I know it is mine."
Legolas laughed and nodded. "I found it near where you were captured by
Seobryn. It had been rolled into a ball and abandoned, buried beneath
the forest debris; presumably where you left it. I wore it down here to
hide who I was. It worked rather well for a bit anyway," the elf
explained as the man inspected the coat.
Aragorn quickly found the mended tear in the shoulder which he did not
recognize and he touched his fingers to the expertly sewn patch,
raising his eyebrows as he glanced at his friend once more, his silent
look begging an explanation.
"Now that is a long story!"
The elf next to him smiled and stepped quickly away. "You are lucky I
patched it all! Talft and Lur took it and all my things from me when I
was found out by Rhuddryn." Legolas turned his attention back Sircyn,
"You did not happen to find my bow or quiver in their possessions did
you?" He had accepted the Haradrim’s weapons when they had attacked the
Seobryn’s warg compound but had missed the feel of his own bow; it was
weighted and set just for him, a gift from his father a few years back
and he wished to reclaim it. The guards had things stashed all over the
house, guard quarters and grounds in sometimes implausible seeming
alcoves, and the former slaves were still discovering all the secrets
that those places had to offer.
With a quick smile Sircyn leaned back in the entryway and retrieved the
weapon from where it leaned against the doorframe. He picked up the
quiver from the floor and handed them back to the overjoyed elf. "Are
Aragorn, not about to be put off by his friends’ easy change of
subject, smacked the elf lightly, "Do not think I am going to forget
about this, my friend." He ran his fingers lightly over the dark stain
that spread out from the sewn edges, apparently from blood.
Legolas laughed aloud and nodded, "I wouldn’t dream of it."
By this time most of the Simbani clan had gathered around the two
northerners joining in their laughter and knowing that their friends
Looking slowly around them Aragorn sobered and smiled sadly, his gaze
redirected as Cabed stepped forward.
"I will miss you my son." He spoke softly, his voice rough with the
emotions he was trying to hide.
Aragorn found that the words he intended to speak stuck in his throat
and he simply nodded, pulling the old Haradrim close to him and holding
him tightly. "I’m sorry." He whispered to the man he had grown so fond
"It is well." Cabed stepped back from the ranger and smiled. "You have
a family that needs you and you have helped this family more than you
can possibly know." The older man graced Legolas with a smile, "Both of
Legolas bowed slightly to the patriarch.
"But now you must go, before the snows of the northern places keep you
from returning. Know that your home here will always be open to you."
Cabed stepped back slightly as Mambre pressed forward her arms laden
with the goods she had so carefully wrapped for them to see them
through to their journeys end.
Aragorn pulled the woman into a tight hug, when Legolas had relieved
her of her burden. "Thank you, Mambre." He kissed her temple lightly,
brushing away the tears that spilled over her cheeks gently with his
fingers. "I will come back if ever I can, I promise."
With a simple nod she moved away, taking her place next to Cabed.
Legolas had quietly melted to the back of the crowd, loading their
packs while Aragorn said his good-byes to the large clan he had lived
with, giving his friend the time and space he needed. Slinging one
bundle on his back he handed a similar one to the ranger as the man
stepped off of the stairs his hand clasped around Sircyn’s upper arm in
With a last glance behind them and a parting wave the two friends
walked down the dusty front path, heading northwest. Legolas did not
speak, knowing that his friend was having a hard time with the emotions
in his heart and mind.
A small cry from behind them stopped the elf and man in their tracks
and Aragorn spun around at the sound of his Haradian name.
"ADRAR!" the tiny voice cried. Kidrin vaulted off the porch and ran
towards the northerner.
Kneeling in the dirt, Aragorn held his arms open as the child threw
himself into the man’s embrace. "What is it, Kidrin?" he asked quietly
as the little boy clutched tightly to the ranger’s coat.
"Don’t go," the child whispered softly.
Aragorn swallowed hard and laid his cheek on the boy’s head. "I have
to, Kidrin, but I will miss you terribly."
"You’ll forget me." The child buried his head on the ranger’s shoulder.
Aragorn closed his eyes tightly against the tears threatening to
overwhelm him. "I could never forget you," he answered softly.
Kidrin pulled back and looked down to his hands. He held a small toy
oliphaunt that Cabed had carved for him and hesitantly offered the
treasure to Aragorn. "I want you to have him." He whispered through his
tears, looking up into the silver eyes that watched him carefully,
"Then every time you see him you can think of me."
The ranger slowly accepted the toy and pressed it carefully into a
breast pocket. "I'll keep it right here, close to my heart just like
you will always be." He smiled at the child he held before glancing
over the boy’s head to his foster family once more.
Standing slowly to his feet, Aragorn patted the youngster on the head
and pushed him gently back towards Mambre. "If ever you need me, I will
be there for you, and I will come back, I promise. You take care of
"You keep your promises, ranger," Sircyn called after them. "My
brother," he added more quietly but the title did not escape the sharp
ears of the ranger who turned back once more.
"You know I will!" Aragorn smiled at Sircyn, before following Legolas
out into the orchards that ringed the large dwelling. The elf clasped
his shoulder gently once they were out of sight of the main house.
"We'll come back," he spoke softly, adding reassuringly to his friend
when he noted the tears in the ranger’s eyes. "Strider, we will come back."
Aragorn nodded slightly, turning towards his friend and finally smiled
softly. He knew deep in his heart the elf was right. They would come
back. Passing out from under the shade of the canopy of the large trees
the two crested a small hill. The man turned one last time and gazed
back before they pass out of sight again. Sircyn, Cabed and Mambre
holding Kidrin had waiting for them and stood on the porch, waving
With a deep sigh the ranger walked slowly down the far side of the hill
heading towards home with his friend. The northern expanse of Harad
swept before them endlessly and he found his pace picking up to match
the elf’s. It would be good to return to the northern reaches of
Middle-earth. His heart longed for the woods and mountains of his
people and he was surprised to find that he was indeed eager to be off.
Thoughts of his enslavement fell farther behind him with every step and
each day his time with the Simbani became more memory as Aragorn
followed the elf out of Harad and into the hilly reaches of Gondor.
They needed to make the pass near Isengard before the first snow. If
they kept to their pace and no ill befell them they would reach
Rivendell on the eve of Winter.
Aragorn tossed the pieces of wood he had collected into a pile on the
ground and collapsed on his bedroll next to Legolas with a sigh. The
elf watched with amusement as the man flopped over backwards and tucked
his arms beneath his head, gazing into the darkened night sky.
Another sigh escaped the ranger’s lips and a small smiled tugged at the
corners of his mouth.
"What is with you tonight?" The elf laughed, leaning back against the
rock that he sat in front of.
"Eärendil," Aragorn spoke the one word softly.
"Yes?" Legolas glanced towards the expanse where the bright star
twinkled in the depths of night.
"I haven’t seen it for so long." Aragorn turned his head and gazed at
the elf, "When I was a slave, I looked every night into the sky,
searching, but I did not know what I was looking for. Yet in my heart
there was an ache, because I knew something was missing that should
have been there." He redirected his attention back to the star, "and
tonight for the first time since we left Harad, I can see it again."
Legolas smiled softly and gazed into the heavenly expanse overhead. It
was indeed good to see the stars of home again. The ranger was not the
only one who had missed them.
"You know what I miss now?" Aragorn spoke wistfully, his eyes still
locked on the point of light so far away, like his thoughts at the
moment. "I miss their singing," he answered his own question without
Legolas watched his friend quietly, allowing the human time to think
through his thoughts and perhaps share them out loud if he chose to.
"They were so musical, the slaves I mean. And the tune that they hummed
every night..." His voice dropped quietly as he remembered, "I can hear
it in my mind. I fell asleep to it every night while I was there. I
wish I could hear it now."
"Shall I sing it for you?" Legolas laughed gently, teasing his friend.
"Oh very funny. I doubt you could you sing that one anyway. Only the
slaves sung it and only when it was dark. Cabed said that it was an old
lullaby that the women used to hum to sing the children to sleep. And
those children grew up and they would sing it every night until it just
became a ritual."
Legolas thought for a moment, he too could hear the Haradrim’s lullaby
in his mind. Softly, quietly, he hummed what he could hear in his heart
and in moments the soothing tune filled the small campsite.
Aragorn rolled over on his side, his star gazing all but forgotten, a
huge smile on his face as he looked in rapt attention at this friend.
The elf was gazing at the stars overhead, focused on listening to the
melody that sifted in his mind. The last soft note hung in the air and
the elf smiled slightly as he listened to the song.
"Was that the one?" Legolas finally whispered, breaking the spell that
had fallen over them.
"Yes..." Aragorn still lay staring at the prince in disbelief, "but how
"I used to go out almost every night and stay by your hut. I heard them
singing." The elf turned a brilliant smile on the human, "I too loved
their music. They reminded me of my people in some ways."
"Thank you." Aragorn smiled at the fair-haired being. The ranger’s eyes
were half lidded and he laid his head down on his arms as he watched
his friend. "For never giving up on me, for, for everything, Legolas."
"Estel, I could not let you go alone." The elf spread his bedroll out
on the ground bedside the fire and lay down upon it watching the human.
"When I heard how you left Lord Elrond’s house and then discovered that
you might have been killed by Seobryn and his men..." Legolas stopped
speaking and stared at the fire for a few moments, "I have not been
that frightened in a long time. I am not ready to lose you yet, human,"
he threw the word at his friend, like the slang that it was
occasionally used as.
Aragorn laughed and gave the elf a gentle shove; "Well obviously not
even a herd of oliphaunts could do that."
"You do realize, don’t you," Legolas pushed himself up on his elbows
and stared seriously at the ranger, "that when Elladan and Elrohir hear
you, heir to the throne of Gondor, have been playing nursemaid to those
wretched creatures for over half a human year that you will never live
The man rolled his eyes, unable to control his laughter, "You cannot
tell them! Do you hear me?"
"And pray tell, my friend, what shall I tell them you were up to?"
Legolas shook his head, smiling all the while, "I was sent to find you
and it has taken me over two years to do so. We will have to think up
something very ingenious indeed if you hope to keep this from them.
Although..." the elf was again shaking his head, "there will be no
hiding that darkened skin of yours. You will have to tell them truth."
Aragorn sobered and glanced into the fire. "In all likelihood it will
not be necessary. I am not sure I wish to return hom- to Rivendell just
"Hear me out, Legolas." Aragorn stopped his friend’s argument. He moved
into a sitting position and grabbed another piece of wood, throwing it
onto the fire, feeding the small flame, "You already said my brothers
told you why I left. Did they also tell you what it has done to us, to
It was Legolas’ turn to cast his gaze down from that of the man’s.
"Yes, they did." He quickly glanced up to see how the ranger would
handle the admission.
"Then what you probably don’t know is that I think Arwen feels the
same... I think she does... rather, I hope she does, but what does that
make me then, Legolas? If I hope that she returns my feelings, knowing
what I know it would mean?"
Legolas said nothing because he knew that his friend was not really
looking to him for an answer. Aragorn needed to get his thoughts worked
out and the elf was willing to listen in silence until he could say
The young ranger looked at his hands. "But then, she may think I am
only a foolish child, she has every reason to. I don’t know, Legolas...
I can’t help the way I feel when I think of her, even now! And yet I
know it breaks my family’s heart. My father and I..." He stopped,
his voice faltering, "we...there were words. All that was said in
parting was not kind or taken right. They don’t want me there, Legolas.
They may think they do, but that’s just because they’ve gotten so used
to protecting me. I don’t want them to have to look out for me because
they think I am the hope of men! If they care, I-I want it to be for me as it was in the past. But I
fear that in their hearts... it will never be the same, Legolas. I
can’t live that way, knowing that some part them will always resent me,
even if outwardly it all seems well. I can’t." Aragorn looked away. "It
is better not to see them at all," he whispered softly.
"You are right, I don’t know about that, any of it, I could not begin
to guess what is in either yours or Arwen’s hearts, I have never felt
as you do. But what I do know, Estel, is your father and brothers are
worried sick about you and not just because you are Isildur’s heir,
Aragorn! But because you are a part of their family! And no one faults
you for falling in love with Arwen... Whatever they may feel about what
it could possibly mean, they don’t blame or resent you for that which
you cannot control. She is the most beautiful of your father’s people.
Who can blame you?" He smiled when Aragorn met his gaze. "Do not punish
them because you are confused right now about your feelings for her.
You are after all still Elrond’s son, Estel, brother of Elladan and
Elrohir. They miss you; can you honestly say that you do not miss them
also? No matter what you think, they do want you to come home."
Legolas’ soft words and easy acceptance of Aragorn’s secret fears and
feelings quieted his troubled mind and roused in him a deep desire to
return to the ones he called his family. So long... so long he had been
away. So long he had not even remembered. He simply nodded as he held
the elf’s gaze.
With a smile the prince turned over on his side facing away from the
fire and pulled his blanket around his shoulders. "Then let us get some
rest and tomorrow we can head for the Gap of Rohan."
"Yes. I would like that very much. I do miss home...a
lot." He spoke softly, gazing into the flames, listening to his
heart. "A lot."
Legolas could hear the human moving quietly around the campfire and
resisted the urge to roll over to see what he was up to. He was too
tired himself and needed to rest.
Aragorn sat for a moment, thinking through what the elf said. He
glanced about them into the dark night. He had grown used to sleeping
with several other people pressed closely up against him at night and
he shivered unconsciously. It seemed suddenly so cold and dark. He
watched Legolas, trying to gauge if the elf had fallen asleep or not.
Although he had been trying since they had left Harad, he couldn’t
sleep like this. Attempting to move quietly he picked up his bed roll
and lay it out behind the prince, carefully lying down next to the elf
and turning his back to Legolas’. Ever so slowly he inched backwards
until his shoulders barely touched the elf’s. Comforted by the
closeness of his friend, he finally relaxed, the fire mesmerizing his
overly tired mind.
Legolas felt the gentle brush of his friend against him, their
shoulders barely touching and he smiled slightly as he turned and
looked over his back at the human. Softly he began to hum the slaves’
lullaby, smiling as Aragorn sighed slightly and released his worries
into the darkness of sleep.
The leaves rustled gently on the cool fall breeze as Elrond walked
through the gardens that flanked Rivendell. His thoughts were far way,
wandering through memories and worries, snagging on the emptiness that
ached in his heart. It had been two, nearly three years since he had
seen his youngest son and he had only just a month ago closed off
Estel’s room, keeping its contents safe until the boy... no he was a
ranger now, until the ranger returned home. He stopped and glanced to
the forest floor. There was no fooling his heart. No matter how old
Estel became or how long he stayed away, the human would always be his
How he longed to see that smiling face just once more before winter set
in yet again. Never in his immortal life had the passing of simple,
human years seemed so long as the past few had. No word, no news. Not
even the rangers knew what had become of the lad. If Aragorn still
lived, then he had rejected them utterly and did not seem to want any
part of his elven family.
Elrond passed into the front courtyard of Imladris causally, unaware of
where his walking was taking him, so lost in thought was he. It took
the elf lord by surprise to hear the ring of boot-heels on the stone
walk and he turned towards the entry, freezing midstep.