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A man walked slowly to a small tent erected in the middle of the
camp. The fires had long ago died and the soldiers who occupied
their bedrolls were sound asleep. The battlefields were silent,
at rest for the moment.
The warrior’s steps dragged slightly with fatigue, weariness from the
long days of battle. A soft sigh escaped his lips as he dropped
onto the stump that had been drug in front of the tent opening – an
With thoughtless familiarity he drew his sword and began to run a rough
whetstone along the blade, sharpening the razor edge and smoothing out
the notches and scratches it had acquired during the long day of
The stars twinkled quietly in the dark velvet of night, catching his
attention, and he turned his eyes towards them, seeking the
ever-familiar star that shone so brightly in the northern quadrant of
the sky. His movements slowed and stilled until he was simply
sitting, gazing at the heavens. The slight breezes moved the
wayward strands of hair gently away from a battle-scarred face. A
cut ran from his upper lip to just under his right nostril, a wound he
had sustained in a skirmish last week. It was healing well, but
it would leave a scar on his face, one that was mirrored in other
similar wounds he carried on his body and on his heart.
The cool winds felt good as they combed through sweat-soaked
hair. The grime of war never quite left the soul even when the
body had been washed clean and he closed his eyes against the memories
of the day. The southerners were fierce warriors; it took all the
cunning and strength of his troops to keep them at bay. They were
insidious, difficult to track and blood-thirsty; nothing like the
peaceful Far Harad tribes that had adopted the ranger years ago when he
temporarily lost his memory. No, the men they fought now sought
victory at any cost, throwing away even their own lives if it meant the
death or injury of their Gondorian enemies. Where the fire of
their hatred had come from Aragorn would never understand.
The world of men had grown tiresome.
As he watched the distant star a word slipped unbidden from his lips
and he remembered a more peaceful time, a more peaceful people - the
ones he called family.
“Eärendil.” The elvish word caused him to smile.
“Milyon dortho a adar a terein nìn. Ingon ha
lù na peltakse aen. I
long for my home and my brothers and father. Perhaps it is time
to return.” The sound of what he considered his native
language, one he had rarely spoken in over fifteen years, rolled easily
off his tongue. He whispered the words quietly to himself,
nodding in agreement. Absently his fingers touched the brooch at
his neck, the one his father, Lord Elrond, had named him for among
Aragorn, known to the men of Gondor he was now Commander over as
Thorongil, gazed across the quiet camp. The sentries on the edges
of the encampment paced relentlessly back and forth, their gaze every
once in a while flickering over to rest on their leader.
Thorongil held their trust and had won their hearts as a good leader
and a decent, caring man. The passage of years and the stench of
war had not changed that, although it had worn the sharp, youthful
edges off of the human... taking a certain measure of his innocence
Slowly the ranger turned captain unfastened his bucklers, laying them
aside. The battle today had been fierce and bloody; his gear
would need some cleaning. Was it not bad enough that they must
guard against the dark shadow of Mordor and fight the ravages of
raiding orc parties that were never fully sated? Must the human
world be intent on slaughtering their own as well?
Men fighting men. Fighting, killing... for what?
Aragorn shook his head sadly; almost ready to condemn his own race, but
the soft, wise voice of an elf cut through his dark thoughts. His
father had told him of the ancient times, of the struggles of the
elves, when immortal fought immortal brother and many were slain.
“Often, my son, freedom and wisdom
are found through pain and war. And as much as it is detested it
is at times unavoidable. You may chose not to have conflict with
a people, but they have the free will to choose to have conflict with
you. Never rush into battle in anger, let fighting be your last
Aragorn smiled at the memory. Such a long time ago. He
recalled that certain lesson, how his father had caught him scuffling
with one of the town children that often found it fun to taunt and
torment the young orphan. When Elrond had broken up the scuffle,
the child had run home to Strayton but not until after Aragorn had
taken it upon himself to make sure he learned just how well the
elvish-raised youth could fight. Well-aimed punches had broken
the child’s nose and Aragorn had been highly angered that his father
had not allowed him to continue teaching the other boy a lesson.
It was at that time that Elrond had sat him down and begun instructing
the young man about war, fighting, battle and the nature of the beast –
“I would wish for you that you may
never experience war, but I fear that I would wish in vain.
However, I foresee that that is not in your future for some time, my
son.” He had pulled Aragorn into a tight embrace and gently kissed the
boy’s head before looking him over for injuries.
Aragorn smiled softly as he remembered the way Elrond had touched his
cheek, the elderly elf’s eyes so sad at the thought of his son’s
future... and he had been right. Aragorn fought back the memories
of the men slain earlier that day, the southerners who had lost their
lives so needlessly and his own men who would not return home to
families and loved ones. How would he ever tell them? Some
of them had been his friends.
What road had he traveled that had brought him here? His thoughts
filtered through his time with the Rohirrim, the free-spirited, proud
people of the horse lords who roamed and protected the
Riddermark. That was long before he had come to Gondor. He
followed his memories down through to his recent past, lighting on that
fateful day when Éomund, no longer such a youth as he had been,
had introduced him to the Steward of Gondor, Ecthelion II.
The tired warrior dropped his gaze to his hands; hands that held his
sword, now cleaned from the blood that had stained it earlier.
The elvish writing interwoven on the ornate handle, perceptible only to
one who knew how to identify it, caught his attention. Waves of
memories washed over him once more and he fled into their sweet
release, letting the faces of friends that he had lost be replaced by
dear ones from his younger years.
He thought of Legolas, perhaps the best friend he had ever had or ever
would have and wondered how the elf was faring. The last news
from the north he had received was months and months out of date, but
it seemed that all was mostly peaceful and he was glad that none of his
dear ones in the north were facing anything like he was down
here. He wondered if they ever thought of him as they went about
their lives. He knew his father did, for every now and again he
would still receive letters from the elf lord. He treasured those
touches of home, but he wondered if Legolas or his other friends
remembered him still.
It was so easy in the day-to-day stress of battle to forget. The
sheer overwhelming necessity to stay alive replaced all thoughts of
family and friends with its obsessive drive to return home that night,
to save the man next to you, to simply make it through the day.
Aragorn realized with a touch of sorrow that he hadn’t even thought of
Legolas or his brothers or his father in a few days.
“I miss you, mellon-nín,”
he whispered again to the dark of night, “but I am glad you are far
from this place. Perhaps I will come to you soon. To all of
Yes, the world of men was wearing on him. If they could secure
Gondor’s borders and stop the push of the Haradrim through the southern
road by summer’s end, then perhaps that would be enough and he could
leave in good conscience. The thought struck him that this was
what his heart had been planning all along.
Aragorn glanced quickly up again as the winds stirred around him;
something was coming. Nothing had changed, the night was still
peaceful, the men still slept, yet everything was different and nothing
was the same as it had been only a few moments ago. Whether it
was his foresight or just intuition he was not certain, but one thing
was as clear as the bright night sky - his future lay with men only a
short while longer. It was time to go home.
He missed the smell of Rivendell in the mornings when the dew was still
on the ground. He had forgotten how it felt in the valley when
the wind would chill slightly before the snows fell. And most of
all he missed the ring of his brother’s laughter and the warmth of his
father’s hearth. The ranger’s heart lay in the woods, in the
hills... his spirit ached for the elves, for home. A smile
touched his lips as his desires hardened into resolution.
Soft footsteps alerted him to the presence of another. Tarcil,
his second-in-command, approached him softly. The Gondorian
warrior was worried over his Captain, for it seemed that Thorongil
slept rarely of late and his heart seemed weighed down. The
Commander walked quietly up to his superior’s tent.
Aragorn turned at the soft question. A small smile that did not
reach his eyes greeted the soldier.
“Yes, Tarcil. What is it? Shouldn’t you be sleeping with the
others? What keeps you awake?” He glanced up at the man who
stopped in front of him. The Gondorian bowed his head slightly
out of respect.
“Lord Denethor requests your presence. He wants to discuss the
casualties and our plan of attack for tomorrow. But if you
like...” The man faltered, unsure if his opinion should be voiced
aloud. He had learned that in times like these it was not always
wise to speak openly what was on one's mind.
Aragorn raised an eyebrow, tilting his head to the side and encouraging
the warrior to proceed. “What is it, Tarcil? It is all right, you
may speak freely. We are alone.”
With a small nod the warrior continued, “It’s just that, if you like I
will tell Lord Denethor that you are sleeping. You need not
recount the day with him now. Surely it is more important that
you get some rest. You seem... well, my lord, you seem overly tired of
late. A good night’s sleep would do you well; he cannot deny you
that. And...” Tarcil shifted slightly. “Well, beg
pardon sir, but sometimes he seems to forget that you are the same rank
as he and aren’t bound to report to him. I mean no disrespect, he
just seems to request a lot of you, that is all.”
The man’s worry over his commander touched Aragorn’s heart and he stood
slowly to his feet. Re-sheathing his sword and dropping the
sharpening stone down on the wood stump, he clasped the soldier’s
shoulder affectionately and turned the warrior toward his own
bed. “Worry not, Tarcil. Denethor is simply concerned about
the outcome of the war. He wishes to give his father a good
report of this day. I will see to it that he can and then I will
When the Gondorian turned back on his leader with a questioning look,
Aragorn laughed softly. “I promise, now off with you. I can't
have a sleepy second-in-command tomorrow; we have that valley pass to
take back before this over.” He gave the man a gentle shove and
watched as the soldier nodded, pleased with his commander’s answer, and
walked off to find his own bed.
For the first time in months Aragorn realized his heart was light,
thrilled with the decision to head for home at the end of this warring
season. He walked off to find the other Captain and give him the
report he sought.
Legolas Greenleaf turned his face towards the sun, enjoying the
blissful caress of its warmth and the gentle brush of the breeze
through his long golden hair. He loved the trees of his home, but
sometimes it was good to leave the shadow of the wood and walk in the
green meadows where the shadow that had fallen over his home did not
He had not left Mirkwood for the better part of ten years. Not a
long time for an elf, but just long enough for the prince to enjoy the
prospect of a change. Considering the fact that for the first
two-thousand years of his life he had hardly left the forests of his
home at all, it was ironic that he could consider a mere decade of any
significance at all. But, the prince supposed, his close
associations with the human world these past few decades must have
rubbed off on him a little.
The rolling countryside of Gondor rose up to meet the elf and his light
steps moved swiftly across the green grass as he breathed the sweet
springtime air. It wasn’t just the change of scenery that was
inspiring him and he knew that; it was the prospect of being reunited
with a very dear friend whom he had not seen in some time.
The passing seasons had fled away so quickly... it did not seem like
fifteen years since he and Aragorn had parted last on the green fields
of Rohan. Again the strange paradox of an elvish - human
friendship was apparent, because to an elf, those fifteen years seemed
of small consequence. Legolas was unchanged, the passing years
mattered little to those of the immortal race. And yet... Legolas
knew that for Aragorn those years were probably long ones. That
was the way with the human world. Everything happened so quickly
and so much changed almost overnight. It was almost frightening
Legolas had once heard Lord Elrond refer to the human race as a bright
flame, and the analogy fit well. For while they came and went so
quickly as it seemed, their passion for life burned hot and bright,
warming those near... at least that was certainly true for his and
Aragorn’s relationship, the prince knew.
That was indeed the reason that Legolas had undertaken this journey in
the first place. He knew not how the human wheel of time would
spin things, but he wished to see his old friend again before many more
seasons passed. A part of his heart was almost fearful... he
really did not know how it was with humans... would the years have
changed Aragorn very much? Would the young man he had come to
know and love as such a dear friend still remember him in the same way,
or did time change things like that in the world of men?
Still, on a beautiful day like this one Legolas couldn’t let his heart
rest on those faint, nagging doubts. It was going to be good to
see his friend again and borrowing trouble from a possible future did
no one any good.
Mirkwood and Rivendell kept in much better contact than they had in
former years and thus Legolas had remained updated on Aragorn’s
whereabouts, for Elrond had his ways of knowing what was going on in
the world and often his thoughts strayed to his youngest son, now so
many years absent. So it was that Legolas knew he would find
Aragorn in Gondor, in Osgiliath to be precise, or so the last word he
had on the subject had said. Although exactly what nature of
business the human had there or other such particulars the elf prince
Save for one venture into these lands some years past on his way to
Harad, Legolas knew nothing of this area of the world, so he simply
followed the Great River, remembering from his previous trip that
Osgiliath lay near the Anduin.
Upon crossing a hill and rounding the steep bend at its base, Legolas
saw in the not so very far away distance a small troop of men laboring
along the southward road. They had many wagons and pack animals
with them, but by their armor and the devices on their shields, they
were soldiers of Gondor, not traders.
Legolas had known there were others in the general area for some time
now, but the presence had not felt evil or threatening, so he made no
effort to alter his path.
Almost just as he came into view of it, he saw disaster strike the
One of the wagons, heavy laden with bulky items swathed in protective
burlap, jolted in a deep rut, upsetting its load. The heavy
contents shifted sharply to one side, placing a great deal of stress on
the rear axle of the wheel that was still in the rut. The
strained joint snapped suddenly, causing the cart to topple sideways,
directly onto the two soldiers walking beside it.
Reacting quickly, Legolas sprinted towards the site of the accident,
reaching it almost before the other soldiers in the party did.
Caught on the good wheel that had skidded sideways and driven deeply
into the earth, the heavy wagon teetered precariously over the heads of
the two men trapped beneath its weight, threatening to crush them
completely at a moment's notice.
Only one other soldier was already present. The others, having
been strung out over a greater distance, were still arriving on the
scene. The soldier was valiantly leaning his shoulder into the
slipping cart, trying to save his friends, but the wagon just dipped
Bracing his back against the center of the tipping wagon and planting
his feet firmly, Legolas pushed back against the crushing weight.
The groaning load creaked to a halt. The man who had been pushing
started at the fair being’s sudden appearance and just stood for a
moment, staring in surprise as the elf supported the weight of the
heavy load alone.
“Push!” Legolas told the man somewhat shortly. Now was not the time for wonder.
Whatever was in the cart was truly heavy and Legolas could feel the
strain against his taut muscles. He was at least as strong as any
two men, but he could not support the wagon indefinitely by
himself. The soldier quickly pulled himself together and threw
his weight next to Legolas’.
Fortunately the few minutes Legolas had bought them were enough, for
the other soldiers arrived on the scene very quickly and through their
combined efforts the cart was righted, freeing a pair of severely
bruised but unbroken soldiers.
Legolas stepped back, pulling out of the way and straightening his
tunic as the two men were retrieved and the broken cart stabilized.
Presently a tall man with dark hair turned his attention towards the
newcomer. The white plume on the soldier’s crested helmet set him
apart as the ranking officer of the group.
“Most welcome is the help that comes unlooked for,” the young man
managed to find gracious words and not stare at the elf as was his
first inclination, which was more than could be said for some of the
others who were gawking with unrestrained curiosity.
The lieutenant shot his men a withering glare and everyone quickly went
back to their business, hurriedly unloading the now useless wagon and
distributing the extra load onto their other carts. “For your
timely aid we are sincerely grateful. Forgive my men, but we do
not often see any of the Firstborn in these parts anymore, although I
hear that that was different once. Might I know who we are
indebted to and to what errand we owe this happy chance?”
The man was courteous but, Legolas could tell, cautious. He
wanted to know who this stranger was and what he was doing here, but
without seeming so rude as to ask outright. The elf smiled
“I am Legolas, son of Thranduil of the woodland realm. I journey south
towards Osgiliath seeking a friend I have not seen in some time.
I am glad that I could be of assistance, although I think you had
better secure the weapons you are transporting more tightly before you
continue if you wish to keep such from happening again,” the prince
offered helpfully. He knew they would not know his or his
father’s name, but introduced himself properly anyway since he had
nothing to hide.
“We also follow the road to Osgiliath,” a hint of suspicion crept into
the man’s voice as he eyed the elf. “You know your way around
here well then?”
“Not well,” Legolas shook his head, his tone cooling as he understood
that the human did not trust him. “I have been here only once
before and I did not stay long for my errand at that time called me
down into Harad.”
“Harad?” The officer’s ears perked up at the name and his body posture
stiffened slightly; that was disquieting news given their current
political state. “Tell me, Legolas, how do you know what we
carry?” It was supposed to be more or less of a secret.
“And why do you travel thus from the far lands alone? Our scouts
have given no report of you, although you must have been near us for
some time now. What brings you to seek an elf in the lands of
“I do not require a bodyguard nor a companion to slow me down,” Legolas
said somewhat briskly. Caution was one thing, suspicious prodding
was another. He had done nothing to earn this man’s distrust,
nothing except being different, and the prince was tired of his race
always placing him in a suspicious light when he walked among
humans. “And I am not following you, if that’s what you are
asking. If your scouts did not observe me I cannot account for
their lapse. As for the person I seek, I do not count only elves
among my friends, but men as well, else I would not trouble you with my
presence.” He would say no more of Aragorn to these or any men
because he knew that his friend’s very existence was a carefully
guarded secret and his affairs really were no business of theirs
anyway. “As for your cargo, if you wish to hide what it is do not
wrap it so tightly that one can see the shapes of breastplates and
swords through the burlap. Now, if everything is under control, I
will be on my way and bother you no more.”
“Wait,” the soldier shook his head. “Your pardon, Legolas, I did
not mean to seem rude or ungrateful, nor was it my wish to offend, as
it seems I have done. My name is Alcarin, lieutenant commander of
the Ramanna division. It is my job to be wary, but I believe you
mean us no harm. You are welcome to travel with us for a time if
you will, since our roads lie together and perhaps give me a chance to
make amends for my initial greeting. Much of Gondor’s history
lies with the elves or so they tell me, but I have never had the chance
to know any of your kindred for myself. The times we find
ourselves in now have given us reason to be cautious and wary of anyone
not known to us.”
Legolas smiled somewhat dryly. “Do you make such an offer out of
sincere desire for my companionship or to keep me near so you can
maintain a watch on me until you decide if I truly am whom I say?”
The lieutenant met Legolas’ smile without embarrassment at being
guessed out. “Perhaps a little of both. You are free to do
as you will, of course, but the offer stands if you care to take it.”
Legolas chuckled softly. Humans. So suspicious. “I
fear that I much prefer to travel alone,” the prince admitted.
“But if you wish it, and to prove that I have no ill intent in your
lands, I will go with you as far as the Dalthad.” Legolas knew
the humans would only slow him down, but he also knew that despite the
lieutenant’s gracious words the soldiers could detain him if they truly
thought he was a threat to their mission.
The prince was quickly realizing that he had stumbled upon no ordinary
column of troops conveying supplies. This party was guarding a rather
large arsenal of newly crafted weapons and armor. Legolas
hazarded a guess that they were dwarf-work that the Gondorians had
contracted for, which would make them even more valuable. That
understanding made Alcarin’s skittishness about strangers who appeared
out of nowhere and were going the same direction as they were even more
Legolas did not know that Gondor was currently at war with the Haradrim
forces in Near Harad, but if he had he would have understood even
better how unsettling his earlier introduction had seemed.
Besides, he knew that the burden of proving his good intentions lay on
him since he was the stranger in these lands. It would be no
different should a human have entered his father’s lands.
“Good, then we may travel as friends,” Alcarin smiled, obviously
Legolas took the extended hand and nodded.