“And what happened this
time?” Elrond asked with a long-suffering look as he examined Legolas,
sparing a glance upward at his three sons who were wet, partially
dressed and dripping on the carpet.
“I slipped on the pond...” Legolas started to
“There was an earthquake...” Elrohir said at nearly
the same moment.
“It was my fault,” Aragorn put in quietly.
“No, it wasn’t,” Elladan shook his head. All
four had spoken at more or less the same time.
Elrond raised his hands for peace. “Why do I
even bother? Never mind. I don’t want to know.
Elladan, get me the cleansing herbs and water. Elrohir, mix up a
sleeping draught, unless Legolas would prefer I put the stitches back
in while he is awake?”
Legolas gave his head a small, quick shake. He
had made the mistake of doing that last time, against Elrond’s council.
“I didn’t think so,” the elder elf continued with a
small bit of amusement. “Estel, bring me the needle and thread.”
Aragorn and the twins were themselves skilled at the
art of healing, trained under Elrond’s hand, but Elrond was still the
final authority on the subject and had the greatest ability.
“If you boys aren’t careful, you’re going to make
the prince regret being our guest,” Elrond murmured as he bent to his
“Oh don’t worry, they were just as much trouble in
my home,” Legolas jested, having to grit his teeth around the pain as
Elrond bathed the re-opened cut.
“Legolas!” Aragorn said with the desired amount of
indignity and Legolas laughed, wincing as he did.
“All right, peace now you two,” the elder elf
interjected with authority. “Let me at least patch you up before
you kill one another again.”
Legolas was still asleep and resting
comfortably. Aragorn, Elrohir and Elladan had gone to their rooms
to change and Aragorn had emerged first. He wandered down to the
stables and stood in the doorway, his arms resting on the half-gate,
watching the horses within without really seeing them.
He knew Elrond was there before the elder elf laid a
gentle hand on the young man’s shoulder from behind.
“You’re brooding Estel,” Elrond said quietly,
joining him by the door. “What troubles you?”
Aragorn sighed. It was no good denying
it. Elrond knew him far too well and could always see right
“It was my fault,” Aragorn said quietly. “You
know, you’re right, ever since I met him, Legolas has been getting hurt and it always
seems to be because of me.” Aragorn balled his fists and then
released them. “I try to do things right, but it as you have told
me a hundred times, I am too impulsive, too reckless... I hurt the
people I care about through thoughtlessness... I don’t want to, but I
Elrond watched the boy with serious eyes.
Simply telling the young ranger that Legolas’ injuries were not his
fault would do little good, the elven lord was sure that his sons had
already tried that tactic. Besides, Aragorn’s problem seemed to
go deeper than that.
“Walk with me, Estel,” he invited and together they
wandered towards the gardens. For a long while they walked in
silence through the trees until they reached an area where there was a
stone seat carved out of the rock and many stone arches and
spring-houses dotted the green grass. Pausing under the shade of
one of these, Elrond regarded his young, human son. Above them,
they could hear the gurgling rush of the Bruinen river, flowing on its
way along the top of the cliff far above their heads to the
right. The river was considerably swollen from the recent
rainfall, but it was Elrond’s river and always bent itself to his will,
thus, flooding was infrequent, despite the influx of the melting
mountain snow and soggy weather.
“Aragorn, listen to me,” the elven lord said
presently, and Aragorn knew he was serious because he was calling him
by his right name. “I may seem harsh to you sometimes when I
speak, but it is not what is in my heart. I would that I could
shield you forever from the evil in this world, but such is not your
path, nor mine. You will face much darkness and danger in your
life, Estel, more than perhaps even I can imagine. To survive
what I fear you shall one day have to face, you must learn many things,
not the least of which is caution and restraint. But you are
young, Estel, do not judge yourself by those around you here, because
as dear as we love you, our races are apart and our years vastly
different. I say the things I do only because I worry about you,
Estel, for that is something my father’s heart cannot help. Yet I
am also very proud of you, my son, you have the makings of a great man
inside you. I just want to see that man have a chance to live to
reach maturity,” the elf’s dark eyes twinkled slightly at that last.
Aragorn met his foster-father’s eyes, still
uncertain. “But I-” he would never get the chance to finish, for
at that moment the earth rumbled beneath their feet. It was like
what had happened earlier by the pond, only a hundred times more
The ground beneath their feet jerked sideways as if
some giant had grabbed the carpet of grass and stone beneath them and
yanked it. Just as quickly it seemed to jerk back the other way,
leaving elf and man stumbling for balance as the earth shook madly.
Aragorn was half thrown into Elrond’s arms before
stumbling back and catching hold of the edge of the archway behind him
At that moment there was a great cracking and
snapping sound above them as the groan of moving stone and the snap of
breaking wood was added to the chaos of the moment.
A huge oak tree, growing at a sharp angle from the
steep ravine wall on their right, seemed to groan as its roots were
shaken free of the earth. It toppled down and sideways, landing
atop the already swaying archway that Elrond and Aragorn stood
beneath. Hundreds of pounds of ancient stone and falling tree
descended upon the two beings without a moment’s warning. Elrond
was in the clear, but Aragorn was directly under the path of the
“Estel!” Elrond’s voice was nearly drowned by the
noise around them. Aragorn looked up in time to see the huge
capstone of the arch crashing straight down upon him. He barely
even had time to take in the death that was rushing towards him before
he felt his foster-father’s strong arms grab him and fling him to the
earth. Elrond grabbed the young human by the shoulders,
propelling him out from under the arch as far as he could in the
split-instant that they had. The two beings fell to the heaving
earth, with Elrond landing protectively on top of the young ranger’s
back. A half an instant later the arch, the stones and the tree
crashed down on them.