The little procession had picked up quite a
following by the time they made it into the heart of town. Half
of Strayton seemed to have turned out and there was not a single
friendly face in the crowd.
Aragorn and Legolas exchanged worried glances.
They were feeling worse and worse about this by the minute.
“We’ve fallen into a hornet’s nest this time my
friend,” Legolas murmured to Aragorn as they were pushed and jostled
through the growing throng. Aragorn had to agree.
Out of the corner of his eye Legolas thought he
caught sight of someone... someone who seemed familiar. An
elderly man with a long grey beard, whose calm, piercing eyes looked
out of place amidst the near riotous throng. The prince could not
be sure however, and when he looked back a second time the face was
gone, lost in the crowd.
They reached a small, stout building that was half
sunk into the ground and were ushered inside. The building turned
out to be the town’s prison.
They were pushed down the stairs that led to the
prison and Aragorn stumbled. A hard shove made him lose his
balance and he fell down the stairway, the fall doing nothing good for
his sore body. One of their guards kicked him in the ribs to get
Legolas did not take that very kindly and shouldered
the guard sideways before he could kick Aragorn again. “That is
completely uncalled for,” the elf’s voice was icy.
The guards laughed. “Listen to
pretty-boy! You can’t order us around elf!” Just to prove
their point one of them aimed another kick at Aragorn, who was in the
process of rising.
Calmly, Legolas shoulder-checked the fellow again,
despite the warning look from Aragorn. The guard stumbled,
missing his mark.
The man’s face grew stormy. “You know, for
having ears like that, you don’t hear so well, do you?” he taunted the
elf, playing with Legolas’ pointed ears. Several of the others
thought that looked fun and joined in. Under any other
circumstances, Aragorn would have found the incredibly annoyed,
long-suffering look on his friend’s face humorous, but not at the
moment. The guards were teasing the elf unmercifully, tugging at
his ears and slapping him, lightly at first, then not so lightly,
playing with their prisoner and making fun of his fair features.
Aragorn was surprised that Legolas was dealing with
this as well as he was. He remembered a time when the elf prince
would not have quietly suffered the touch of any man, much less the
kind of handling that these men were giving him. Indeed, there
was a time these men would have died for touching the prince like
this. Legolas shook his head, pulling disdainfully away from his
Suddenly one of them socked the defenseless elf
roughly in the stomach. Legolas doubled over, sharp pain from his
side lancing through his awareness and almost making him stumble.
The fist came down again and Legolas hissed softly between his teeth as
it knocked the air out of his lungs.
“Enough,” Warden Nash stopped things before they had
a chance to get really ugly. “Lock them up.”
Aragorn and Legolas were half-dragged, half-shoved
into the small cell. Their hands were cut free and the door
slammed shut behind them. There was one small, barred window set
high up on the far wall of the cellar-like prison, almost ground level
with the earth outside. The wall of the jail that faced inward,
into the rest of the building, was made of floor-to-ceiling bars with a
heavy door. From the look of the people on the other side of
those bars, this was probably the safest place for them to be at the
Legolas was still holding his healing side and
trying to catch his breath, but he sat down on the floor quickly so
that Aragorn wouldn’t notice and worry about him.
Aragorn also took a seat and the two friends sat
calmly with their backs against opposite walls, gazing out impassively
at the guards and villagers crammed into the small building. When
the people outside finally found that they could get no rise out of the
prisoners, they slowly disbanded, muttering angry words.
Finally just the Warden and a few of his men were
“What exactly do you intend to do with us?” Aragorn
asked quietly. True, he may not have wanted to go back to
Rivendell and face his brothers, but being thrown into jail was not an
alternative he would have chosen. “Prosecute us for river-theft?”
“For crimes against the people of Strayton,” the man
answered, obviously un-amused. “And you won’t find that a
laughing matter, believe me. But don’t worry, you’ll get a
hearing first, for what it’s worth.”
Neither Aragorn nor Legolas had a high opinion of
how much good that would do them.
“You can’t really think to hold us responsible for
an earthquake, can you?” the young Ranger shook his head. This
whole situation was ludicrous. It might have been funny if it
hadn’t been so potentially dangerous.
“Well,” the Warden replied casually as the two
friends’ confiscated weapons, which had been brought along, were hung
on the wall by the door. “There’s always Farmer Biles’ charge,”
he replied with a small, unsettling grin. “And around here, we
hang chicken thieves. Enjoy your stay, gentlemen.”
Legolas glanced at Aragorn after the Warden left and
the guards settled down to their pastimes. “Pleasant sort of
man. You know, I’m building such fond memories of these
people...” he remarked softly enough so that only Aragorn would hear
him, his voice dripping with sarcasm.
Aragorn shook his head and ran his hand over his
face. “How do we always end up in these situations?”
“Do you really want an answer to that?” Legolas
inquired with a raised eyebrow.
“No,” Aragorn shook his head and rested his arms
across the tops of his bent knees, pulling them up almost to his
chin. “Are you all right?”
Legolas nodded, checking his side. “It’s
tender, but I don’t believe it will tear again unless I get too near
any more ponds...” he grinned slightly.
“No,” Aragorn returned the small grin, but his eyes
remained serious. “That’s not what I meant. Are you all right?... with this?” he
gestured around them slightly. The young ranger feared that the
men’s mistreatment and their present imprisonment might have triggered
some of Legolas’ painful memories from his past. That was ground
that he had learned to tread very lightly upon since coming to know the
Legolas caught the drift of his friend’s worry, but
just smiled softly. At one time, their present situation would
have been incredibly difficult for the prince to endure... but not
now. The elf realized that he was truly free of the past at last
and in the midst of everything that was going on, it was an unexpected
bright spot to realize that.
“Well if you mean am I all right with us possibly
getting hanged for stealing some farmer’s scrawny chickens that we
never even saw...” Legolas remarked with a wry grin, “What do you
Aragorn almost laughed and kicked his friend’s boot
lightly. Even though Legolas hadn’t answered him, he had.
And Aragorn liked the change he saw.
Suddenly the hard stone floor trembled beneath them
and they both looked up sharply. Another aftershock!
Aragorn pressed himself tightly against the wall and Legolas jumped
into a crouch as the walls around them shook. Dust fell from the
ceiling and the bars rattled and creaked as the structure groaned.
The guards panicked and dashed up the stairs,
getting out as quick as they could.
Aragorn and Legolas had no such option. They
Elladan raced quickly up the stairs. “Anyone
in here? This structure is unstable and in the path of the flood
waters, everyone needs to get out!” he shouted the warning that had
become almost automatic by now.
On the far west side of the gorge that Rivendell was
set into, there were a number of houses and structures left over from
an ancient town whose roots had never taken. Most of the
structures were abandoned, but wandering hunters, nomadic tribes and
the destitute often haunted the deserted buildings. Many of the
crumbling structures had already been taken down by the earthquake, and
those that remained were highly unstable.
Elladan, Elrohir and three other elves were combing
through the ghost town as quickly as they could, hoping to prevent
unnecessary loss of life. Already they had found three or four
unfortunates who had not understood their danger.
This building was at least three levels high and
shaped like a giant U. Elladan raced down the dark, damp hallways
of the second floor. “The river is rising, this whole area is
being evacuated, if there’s anyone in here, you must get out!” he
called the warning.
The gully below the falls was nearly filled.
The river was jumping its banks in half a dozen places and already two
of the levies they had worked so hard to build had been washed
away. It was beginning to look as if there was very little they
could do but try to get everyone out.
Without warning, the earth heaved in the grip of the
Elladan stumbled to one side, catching himself
against one of the stone walls. Dust filled the air and the floor
suddenly tilted sideways under his feet...
Outside, Elrohir had just hurried a hunter and his
son out of one of the nearby shacks when the tremor sent everyone
racing out of the buildings as quickly as possible.
Four elves were in the clearing. Elrohir
looked around for his brother as the buildings around them shook
unsteadily. “Moranuen, where’s Elladan?”
Moranuen pointed at the large building in the center
of the vacant town. “I saw him go in-”
With a shrieking groan the building they were
looking at suddenly toppled sideways, collapsing on itself with a
“...there,” the elf finished in breathless horror.
“No... Elladan!” Elrohir shouted his brother’s name,
running towards the still settling debris.
Moranuen and the other two elves grabbed Elrohir,
holding him back and keeping him from rushing into danger as one of the
building’s remaining walls tumbled down with a crash.
Elrohir struggled with them as the wreckage settled,
his cry echoing against the wooded hills. “ELLADAN!!”