They came for Aragorn next, but Taradin stepped near
the ranger and brushed the Warden's man aside, roughly shoving the
slight jailer out of the way. "See here, these two saved me and
Garith. There's no reason to treat them this way! They are
"They come from that elf palace and they's the ones
responsible for damming up the river!" The Warden countered.
Taradin shoved Aragorn behind him, away from the
townfolk. Even angry as they were, none of the villagers really
wanted to cross Taradin, or try to take the ranger from him by
force. He and his men were widely known in this area. The
young human clumsily stumbled back against Gandalf who had been
watching the odd confrontation quietly until now.
The old man caught the ranger and righted him,
holding the human by his arms until he got his feet under him once
"What is this talk of you damming the River?"
The wizard asked Aragorn, his eyes narrowed and intent.
The ranger was torn: he needed Gandalf’s help but,
looking over his shoulder, he spotted Legolas surrounded by the
Warden's men and was loath to leave the prince with the humans.
The elf's gaze was hard and he was tensed. He was not going to
peacefully take much more of their handling. The whole situation
was about to get out of control once more and Aragorn would not allow
his friend to suffer at the hands of these men.
“Estel, talk to me.” Gandalf redirected the
young human’s attention. “What is this they speak of?”
“The ground shaking,” Aragorn blurted out. “The
earth’s trembling created a dam that is blocking the river. The
men in the town think the elves used ‘magic’ to do this and they are
blaming us.” He tried to move back towards Legolas but the
wizened old man held him still, his arms incredibly strong for one with
so many years behind him.
“Gandalf!” The ranger was at his wit's end as the
shouting around the fair being who was held captive not far away
escalated. “They have threatened to kill us because they think we stole
the river!” Aragorn glanced back at Legolas. The elf's eyes
were fixed on the ranger and the wizard.
“Preposterous!” The word rang through the city
square, silencing the arguing. Gandalf gently moved the ranger
out of his way, cautioning the young human to stay, and stalked towards
“You have no say here, old man,” the warden barked
at the wizard. Tempers were high and Warden Nash had been pressed
by the townfolk to fix the river or find someone who could.
“I would watch my tongue if I were you,” Legolas
countered, his voice dark and hard.
The comment earned him a backhanded slap across the
face. “No one was talking to you, elf,” the man who had bound him
Legolas slowly straightened up and glared at the
short man, his eyes finally drifting back to light on Aragorn who was
being gently restrained by Taradin. The hunter did not want the young
man taken by the townsfolk again.
“See here, there will be none of that. You
will release that elf immediately.” Gandalf straightened up to
his full height and glared down at the warden, “It is easy to see that
you are only looking to place blame. No person in their right
mind could accuse another of stealing a river.”
The warden shuffled nervously under the wizard’s
glare. “Well Farmer Biles caught them stealin’ chickens in his
barn this morning. Chicken thieving warrants death here in these
Gandalf appraised the burly man in front of him for
the span of a few seconds before glancing at the elf prince and
breaking out laughing. His deep hearty laughter boomed through the
small square and the mirth in the tone set off those around to quietly
“Chickens?” He glanced at Legolas, “Are times
so bad in Mirkwood that Thranduil’s heir is reduced to stealing
Legolas rolled his eyes, his face breaking into a
smile despite the situation as he stared into the wizard’s mirthful
blue eyes. “Nay, Mithrandir, it is not so. Chickens?
We merely took shelter from the storm. Strider had been trapped
by the ground tremors and we could not make Rivendell by
nightfall. This is the truth, Grey One.”
The old grey head bobbed in understanding. “Release
that elf now lest you bring down the wrath of the King of Mirkwood on
your foolish heads. I dare say all the good farmer’s chickens are
safe and these two young ones had no part in stealing the river.”
He leaned forward emphasizing his words.
For a moment Warden Nash hesitated and looked as if
he would like to argue, but Gandalf's intense gaze almost seemed to
wither the younger man on the spot and presently the warden dropped his
gaze, acquiescing to the wizard's will.
Taradin allowed Aragorn to join his friend as the
Warden cut the bonds on the elf’s wrists and pushed the prince
forward. The ranger caught Legolas as he tripped forward and
pulled the elf behind him, backing them both away from the jailers and
nearer Taradin. He turned and looked the elf over, inspecting
Legolas’ wrists. But the prince brushed him off. “I am
“Now as to the matter of the river being stolen as you have so creatively
stated. That was no elf or man’s doing. There is not a magic
among either the elves in Rivendell nor the Rangers that could steal an
entire river.” Gandalf glanced at the people gathered around
them. The morning light was just beginning to streak the sky pink
on the horizon. “Go home good townfolk and rest. You’ve had a
busy night. The river will be returned to you.” He turned and
walked back towards the two friends, “One way or another, if I am
correct.” Gandalf’s gaze landed on Aragorn and he motioned with
his head for the two to follow him as he walked back towards the
outskirts of town.
The ranger and the elf left the hunter’s side after
exchanging a quick thanks, and ran to catch up with the wizard as he
ambled slowly back the way he had come, ignoring the people who now
were dispersing quietly behind him. Taradin watched them go but
did not follow. He felt they were safe with the wizard, and also
that they wanted to be alone with him.
The older man lit up his pipe once more and slowly
walked in the company of the two youths, enjoying the silence for a
spell. At length he spoke.“What is this that the townspeople have
accused you of? River stealing?” He glanced out of the
corner of his eye at the young human.
Aragorn looked to the path beneath them, not meeting
the wizard’s eyes, “The river has been dammed high up near the
falls. The shaking of the earth has done this and not us.”
“Hmm...” The old man nodded his head, slowly
drawing in a deep breath and blowing out a perfect smoke ring.
“And Elrond? Has he done nothing about this? The river
still obeys him does it not?”
Aragorn stopped walking and moved away from them
looking off into the surrounding woods.
Gandalf turned towards the elf who was watching the
young human with worried eyes. Pursing his lips the wizard pressed the
elf prince, “Tell me, Legolas, what has happened that Elrond no longer
controls the river?”
“It’s my fault!” The ranger's words ripped
from him brokenly and he turned back towards his two companions
angrily, “And do not say it isn’t.” He pointed at the elf. “If it
weren’t for me my father would be fine, the river would be restored and
the townfolk would not have another reason to hate elves.”
He glared at the wizard and the elf before dropping
his gaze back to the dirt path they walked on and quietly continuing,
“My father is dying, Gandalf, and no one can save him. We have
not the skills and he alone has the wisdom to use Vilya. There is
not a one under the house that would try, not even my brothers, I am
sure of this.”
Legolas gasped softly as he heard the name mentioned
of the powerful ring. He had heard of them, of course, the three
rings of the elves. But none knew where they lay hidden.
This was a perilous secret indeed. Gandalf smiled at the elf,
“That is not common knowledge, young prince, and you would do well to
forget you heard it.”
“Let him know. What does it matter now?”
Aragorn glanced up at Legolas despondently. “Elrond will not live and
the power will pass. We will destroy the ring before it can be
Gandalf raised an eyebrow and glanced between the
two friends. He doubted that Aragorn knew much about what he
spoke, for a ring of power was not so easily un-made, but the ranger
was young yet, and obviously full of grief and guilt.
“I have tried talking with him. Do you see
with what I have to deal, Mithrandir?” The elf shook his head and
returned the even gaze.
Aragorn glanced up at his friend confused.
Legolas simply smiled back and continued, “This is the other resource I
was speaking of. Young human,
do you think your father is the only one on Middle-earth to know the
healing arts? Mithrandir has been practicing such since before
you or I were born.”
Gandalf laughed aloud as the ranger turned huge eyes
“How old are
you?” The ranger asked in bewilderment before he could stop
himself. He had met the wizard once or twice before in his
father’s house when he was quite a bit younger, and had come to know
him a little, but as a child he had never stopped to consider that
Gandalf might be older than just an old man, even though Aragorn knew
him to be a wizard.
“Heir of Isildur, shame on your head. Have you no
manners?” The wizard tried to feign a look of disdain but the
laughter in his eyes was unconcealable.
The human stuttered, trying to apologize, but was
waved off by the wizard, “Never mind you.” He laughed. “Yes
I am old, older than your father and older than this youngster
here.” He pointed his thumb at the elf by his side, provoking a
laugh from the prince. "Even if I have not spent all my years
here on Middle-earth." As usual his words were a riddle, but his
younger companions did not attempt to decipher them.
“However I sense something more to all this,”
Gandalf became suddenly somber and moved off the path, seating himself
on a large rock and looking up into the dark silver eyes of the man,
“Something more bothers you, young human. Tell me what it is.”
Aragorn hadn’t told anyone his true feelings and yet
he found himself at ease talking to the wizened old man who was almost
a stranger; something about his eyes and the tone of his voice.
“It is my fault.” He stated simply.
“What is your fault?” Gandalf pressed
him. Legolas quietly seated himself next to the wizard and
“Everything.” Aragorn looked about them for a
minute, thinking through his life.
“It was my fault when Elrohir broke his arm. I dared
him back to fight a warg with no weapons. I was the one that surprised
Elladan when they were hunting and caused him to shoot himself in the
foot. It was my fault that Sarcaulien was killed. Had I not
been there he would not have died. Neither him nor his brother,
for Sarcayul would have never hunted me down and been near Hebrilith in
the first place. I get in the way. I get hurt more easily and
more often and...,” he lifted a hand and pointed at Legolas, “and I
have even almost gotten the prince killed more than once! Sometimes I
even wonder if it wasn’t my fault that my human father died. I
lived, he did not. Why can’t I stop people from getting hurt? Why? I
know that I am not fast enough, not sharp enough, not wise enough.” He
ticked off all the self-incriminating, condemning thoughts in his head,
laying them out for inspection. “I am constantly reminded of how short
my life span will be and how careful I must be and I am not!”
He stopped his tirade and stared sorrowfully at the
old man, the kindness in Gandalf’s eyes almost causing him to choke on
the next words he spoke, “and it is my fault that my father is now
dying and Rivendell and all in this valley are in danger. He
pushed me out of the way instead of moving himself. If I had not
been so sullen that morning we would not have been walking near the
arches by the gardens. He would have been in the house, safe,
when the ground shook and everything fell apart, but because of me he
was not.” The ranger stopped himself and stared hard at the wizard.
Gandalf pressed his lips together, thinking hard and
staring at the young human. “My that is quite a list you have
accumulated against yourself. You have been busy. Well the
best thing we can do with you is to put you out of your misery.”
“Mithrandir!” Legolas laughed at the wizard and
gently nudged the older man.
“What?!” The grey-headed man turned toward the elf,
laughing. “You heard the boy. He’s a hazard.”
“He is not.” Legolas chuckled at the jest
defending his friend. He stood from his seat and reached out to
touch his friend’s arm, redirecting the ranger’s gaze.
“No, perhaps not.” Gandalf smiled at the human
and bid him sit next to him on the large rock. The old wizard gazed
into the sad eyes of the man and he touched the ranger’s face with his
weatherworn hand. “Youth often learns from error. And you, my dear boy,
are young still.”
The older man rested his hands in his lap and
glanced at the elf, “But he is a human who has also been raised by
elves, elves who in all rights are more resilient, faster and fairer
than he. And they do excel at letting those around them know such.
Don’t tell me no, young prince.” Gandalf smiled as Legolas
started to protest. “Its no wonder the boy has a hard time
dealing with the tragedies around him. You’ve grown up imperfect,
Estel, as all humans do, in a nearly perfect world.” Gandalf
chewed on the end of his pipe absently. “T’would be enough to drive any
human to insanity,” he murmured good-naturedly glancing once more at
“No butsm” Gandalf cut Aragorn’s protest off. “This
is life, my boy. People die, even elves. Lives are cut
short. Friends are hurt and when the earth trembles, rivers are cut off
at their source and things fall apart, sometimes landing on the people
we love. And the secret is,” his voice lowered conspiratorially,
“no one is to blame. Things just happen sometimes. It is the
course of life and it is not your fault. There are forces at work
here that are larger than us all. Do not doubt yourself and do
not question the love of a father that would sacrifice all to save
you. You have more value than you realize, I think. It is
the bane of all men to sell themselves far too short of their intrinsic
Dark silver eyes searched the old blue ones for any
hint of distruth, but found none. Slowly the human nodded and
“There now! See?” Gandalf rocked backwards, smiling
slightly, pleased with himself as though they had just fixed all the
errs of the world. Slowly the wizard stood to his feet and
continued to walk down the path out of Strayton that would lead them
back to Rivendell.
“Your father would say the same thing young
human. And speaking of him, if Elrond yet lives, then why don’t
we go see if we can't call him back from that place where he is
resting. I have a feeling that Rivendell needs him, not to
mention his youngest son.” He smiled down fondly at the ranger.
They walked for sometime in quiet. Aragorn was
thinking over all the things that Gandalf had said and Legolas allowed
him the time to himself though he was dying to ask the ranger a
question. Finally he could stand it no longer and with a smile he
could not contain he turned towards Aragorn.
"Strider, please," his soft voice broke the morning
stillness, "Tell me something."
you get Elladan to shoot himself in the foot?"
Gandalf burst out laughing, "Thank you, Legolas, I
wondered that very thing myself."
Aragorn shook his head and started to laugh at the
memory, reliving the episode.
The old wizard reached a hand out to the ranger and
patted his shoulder, his worn face crinkled with mirth at the tale.
"Enjoy theses times my boy, stability and seriousness will come to you
The trio reached Rivendell by mid-morning. For
sometime they had paced the Bruinen, noticing that the dry streambed
had been slowly filling and gaining the edges of its banks. The
torrents of water that filled it were dark and muddy and carried trees
and debris with it on its mad rush to join the Mitheithel River before
ending in the sea. Storm clouds threatened to break open on the
travelers at any moment, adding their deluge to the swollen waterway,
their distant rumbling an ominous warning that only increased the
urgency of the travelers. Aragorn hoped Gandalf could help in
When they reached Elrond’s dwelling, Aragorn
preceded his guests into the house, opening the huge, ornate doors and
allowing them entrance.
The interior of the house was oddly quiet and dark,
and a thrill of fear coursed through Aragorn as he wondered at the
possibilities of what that might mean.
Movement to his left caught the ranger’s attention
and he turned as Celboril exited a room at the end of the darkened
hallway and cautiously approached them.
“Estel? Is that you?”
“Celboril! What has happened? Where is
everyone?” Aragorn looked about them, questioning the servant.
“Estel! We feared for you safety. Thank
Iluvatar you are in one piece.”
The relieved smile slipped from the servant’s face
as he glanced around them. “Those that haven’t left for the
higher ground went out to the lower lying areas to warn the vagabonds
and the travelers that use the forgotten towns near the valley’s
floor.” The elven servant glanced back down the hallway to the
lighted door at the far end, “Your father is still here. I have been
keeping watch over him.”
Gandalf separated himself from the small group and
headed down the passageway. Aragorn watched him go.
“Has there been any change? Has he
woken?” the human implored.
Celboril simply dropped his eyes and shook his head.
A moment of uneasy silence fell on the three as
Aragorn shifted his glance away from them, staring into the dark
recesses of Rivendell.
“Strider,” Legolas' voice brought the human
out of his thoughts. “Let us go see if we can be of help to
Aragorn nodded and touched Celboril’s shoulder, “Is
there any food and water in the house?” When the servant nodded
he continued, “Will you please bring some so that Gandalf may eat if he
has want to?”
The elf nodded once and walked swiftly off to the
With a deep sigh Aragorn turned back to
Legolas. The elf prince was already heading down the hall in
search of Gandalf but the ranger found himself hesitant to join them.
Legolas stopped in the doorway and watched as the
old wizard went about his business, humming softly to himself.
The elf stepped back into the darkened hallway, his eyes seeking his
friend's. He smiled at the worried human and waved him
down. “Aragorn, come see. It will be well now that
Mithrandir is here.”
The human couldn’t help the smile that crept onto
his face as he joined his friend. He stopped in the doorway,
surprised at what he found. The old wizard had already started
several small pots of athelas to boiling, their sweet wholesome
fragrance filling the room and bringing cheer to the hearts of the
weary travelers. Gandalf had unwrapped the soiled bandage from
around the elf lord’s head and was gently going about cleaning the deep
cut Elrond had taken when he was crushed by the archway.
Stopping his administrations he looked at his old
friend for a few moments. “Now just where have you gone to?
And without me? What I have told you about that?” The old
wizard spoke softly to the unconscious elf, laughing softly as he
recalled some joke they had held between them. Reaching out a
weathered, wrinkled hand he covered the elf’s forehead with his palm
and closed his eyes. The two friends watched it all in silence.
In a few moments the older man opened his eyes and
sighed, his eyes holding the slightest hint of sorrow. “Well,
we’ll find you there too.” He muttered to Elrond as much as to
“Gandalf?” Aragorn questioned from the
“Oh come in! Come in!” The wizard waved them
in. “Don’t stand out there in the doorway. Your father will be
fine, young Estel.” Gandalf graced the man with a warm smile
before turning his back on them and mixing an odd assortment of
condiments together in a small bowl he had procured.
Aragorn glanced at Legolas who only shrugged and
pushed the ranger inside, seating himself in a large chair where he
would be out of the way but had a clearer view of the room.
“What is that?” Aragorn tried to peer around
Gandalf’s shoulder but the wizard moved just enough so that the human
couldn’t quite get a good look.
“Trying to discover my secrets now are we?” He
turned around still slowly stirring the contents of the bowl. “Healing
potions older than your father here that’s what it is. Now out of
my way, human, I have quite enough help with myself thank you.”
He smiled to take the sting out of the reprimand and motioned with his
head to the other side of the bed.
Legolas laughed softly at the gentle rebuke,
garnering him a glare from the ranger as Aragorn moved around the bed
and gently took his father’s hand in his own.
Gandalf took the thick ointment he had created and
lathered it generously on the wound to Elrond’s head. The
remaining portions he rubbed into the bruises and wounds that covered
the elf’s upper body.
“Would you be so kind as to rebind that cut on your
father's head, Estel? There is clean bandaging behind me in my
satchel.” Gandalf instructed the ranger.
Legolas stood from his seat and fetched the
bandaging, handing it across the bed to Aragorn.
Carefully, the man raised Elrond’s head and began to
wrap the clean cloth around the deep gash, tucking the end off in the
bandage itself and gently laying the elf’s head back on the
pillow. Helping Gandalf see to his father’s wounds was good for
the human’s heart and the stress in his features slowly began to fade
as the athelas did its work, affecting also those that were
administering to the wounded elf.
Aragorn looked up and caught Gandalf smiling at him,
“Good work Estel. Although I expect nothing less from a son of
Elrond’s.” He chuckled at his own words.
Any response was cut off as the doors to the house
banged loudly open and someone ran in, calling for Celboril.
Legolas and Aragorn skidded into the hallway and found Moranuen
frantically calling for help. He caught sight of the two and
pelted up the passage.
Aragorn caught him, stopping his forward motion and
held him while the elf tried to regain his breath.
“It fell...” he gasped through his ragged breathing.
“He was in it. Couldn’t get to him...we need help.”
“Who? What? What happened Mora?”
Aragorn leaned down and tried to look into the elf’s eyes. He was
doubled over, panting hard from his run up the vale. The panic in
his friend’s voice scared the ranger.
“We’ve no time,” Moranuen responded breathlessly.
“It’s ready to come down any minute. You’ve got to come help.”
Gandalf moved from the bedside and stood in the
doorway. “Slow down, young elf. There is help to be had. Tell us
plainly what has happened.” His deep voice settled the elf’s
panic and he finally stood slowly up having eased his breathing
Moranuen locked eyes with Aragorn and the gaze the
elf laid on him caused fear to shoot through his heart.
“Aragorn, Elladan and Elrohir were clearing out the
abandoned buildings near the base of the gorge.”
“Yes, we know that,” Legolas encouraged the elf when
he stopped talking.
“There was another tremor. The buildings there
are not as stable as they are here at Rivendell.”
“Mora, what?” Aragorn grabbed the elf by his
arms, forcing his friend to look him in the eyes. “What happened?”
“Elladan.” Moranuen spoke the elf’s name,
cringing when he saw the fear pass through his human friend’s eyes. “He
was trapped in one of the buildings when it fell. We cannot reach
him, we have been trying all night. Elrohir finally sent me back
for what help I could find. And the dam we erected by the
falls... it's near the breaking point. We haven’t much time or we
will lose him.”