Curse of Angmar

Chapter 11

by Cassia and Siobhan

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But it’s not the way it used to be right now
You’ve come so far to just let this go my friend
The same way you did the last time
You’ll break if you fall
Don’t make the same mistakes
You’ve got to believe in yourself this time

--Three Doors Down

Kaldur stood, looking wildly about him between the various barrows.  He had been taken some distance away from where the elf and the ranger had been lost and all the craggy mounds appeared alike in the moonlight.  His breath frosted on the air before him with each pant as he tried to calm his breathing and remember.  Closing his eyes, he settled the fear rising in his heart.  He had to remember.  A small smile crept onto his face but the terror of the place held him fast and he raised his hands slightly as if trying to ward it off while he concentrated.  They were here, he knew it, he could feel it. 

“Which one!” bellowed Gandalf.  He had run out of patience and his heart was warning him that they had very little time left. 

“Shh... no yelling, that’s not going to help me remember now,” Kaldur whispered, touching his finger to his lips as he locked his gaze on Gandalf.  Walking to the edge of the man-made hills, Kaldur took a deep breath and spun around, turning back to look at them, trying in his mind’s eye to remember where he had passed.  He ignored the tall wizard who had moved next to him and was glowering down at the bandit. 

“You must be the one who taught Legolas how to frown like that. Why is it all you people have that same look going on?  Must have taken years to perfect that glower.” Kaldur spoke aimlessly, filling the unearthly quiet with the sound of his voice before Gandalf interrupted him. 

“If you do not tell me which one it is, the right one this...” 

“There! That one!”  Pointing to their right Kaldur scrambled back down into the low valley and ran towards a particularly tall barrow.  He dropped to one knee and scanned the area, his fingers brushing through the cold, wet grasses.  It was difficult, bound as he was but a few feet behind him the bandit was rewarded for his diligence as his hand touched a cold hard object.  The blade.  It was the small blade that he had thrown down to mark the barrow. 

“Yes this is it!”  The highwayman stood holding the marker and pointing with it towards the barrow.  “This one!  Hurry up and get them out!”  He patted the side of the grassy mound, dropping the knife quickly into a pocket of his long vest. 

Gandalf had gained his side, Elladan close on the wizard’s heels.  The Maia simply pushed the smaller human out of the way, glaring at him sternly.  Kaldur danced just out of reach but stopped when Halbarad cleared his throat, shaking his head when the bandit laid an innocent, wide-eyed gaze on the ranger.

Elrohir stood off a bit, not getting too close.  The dread of the evils that inhabited the barrows filled his heart and without his sense of hearing he felt vulnerable and defenseless.  He did not like the Barrows, he never had and now that feeling was worse than ever.  The younger twin moved away from Halbarad and stood in front of the captive bandits, watching intently as Gandalf placed his hand on the sealed-over entrance to the barrow. 

“Told you I’d find it I did!  Never forget a thing I don’t.” The highwayman tapped the side of his head with his forefinger, “See?  Old Kaldur still comes in handy.  Good thing you had me here to help you out.” The bandit carried on behind Elladan until the elf turned a glare upon him. 

“Keep quiet or I will feed you to the wight myself and then you won’t have to worry about the villagers,” the twin threatened softly. 

Kaldur’s eyes grew wide as he raised his eyebrows at the thought of being handed over to a wight and he ran his fingers across his mouth with a flourish as though sealing it shut with the motion.  The threat however didn’t wipe the grin from his face as Elladan simply shook his head and turned back to see how Gandalf was faring. 

“Get back up the hill with your men.” The elf twin motioned the thief away from them.  When Kaldur finally moved off, encouraged by Halbarad’s motions to join them, Elladan turned back to see how Gandalf was faring. 

The wizard was pressed against the mound of dirt, listening intently. “Strider?  Legolas?  Can you hear me?” Gandalf called, his voice so commanding that it seemed even the layers and layers of earth dare not try to block him. 

“Mithrandir?” Legolas’ voice came back to him muffled, faint and filled with fear. 

At first the prince thought he was hearing things, but then he knew he was not.  He did not know how the wizard came to be there, but he did not care; his and Aragorn’s only hope rested in the Istar’s hands.  “Mithrandir!  We must get out of here!  I’m losing Estel!” 

The wizard’s expression turned even graver at the hint of panic in the elf prince’s usually collected voice.  “Is Strider alright?  Legolas listen to me and calm down.  Is Strider conscious?” Gandalf spoke slowly and loudly as he leaned against the now firmly closed off door. 

“Come on, get up here.” Halbarad met Kaldur part way up the hill, motioning the robber in his direction.  Taking the man by the elbow, he escorted the thief back to where the others were still sitting on the slope.  “Now stay put,” the ranger commanded darkly. 

Once back up out of the valley Kaldur moved slightly away from his men, choosing to stand on the far side of his companions where he could get a good view of what was going on below.  Halbarad glanced over at the highwayman a few times, contenting himself that the man would not try to escape. 

Losmir was not as patient in biding his time as his leader, and he had been constantly working the knots on his bonds.  His hands were nearly freed when Kaldur glanced back him, his eyes narrowing as he watched his men.  Something was wrong; they were antsy and watching Losmir closely with furtive glances. 

The small stirrings behind him caught Kaldur’s attention and he turned to glance back at his captured crew once more. 

Breaking free of his captivity, Losmir lunged forward, kicking an unsuspecting Halbarad in the back of the knees and dropping the man to the ground.  As the ranger fell the thief pulled Halbarad’s sword from his sheath.  He tossed the sword into the air so it spun end over end and grabbed the hilt, bringing it down hard against the ranger’s skull.  Even with the injuries he had recently taken, Losmir was still a formidable foe.  Caught by surprise while his attention was fixed on the frightening scene in front of him, Halbarad crumpled into the grass and did not move.  He hadn’t even had a chance to cry out. 

With the ranger out of commission, Losmir set his sights on escape.  The only thing standing between him and freedom now was the deaf elf that stood with his back to him a little further up the hill.  Losmir heard Kaldur yell his name but was too intent on escape; he would deal with his traitorous leader another time.  First he intended to get out of here... his hand tightened on the hilt of the sword.  Kaldur he would hunt down at his leisure, but right now his anger would sate itself with the lifeblood of the elf who was in his way.  He could not tell the twins apart, nor would he have cared if he could have.  All he cared was they would pay, just like he had promised.  Losmir always kept his word in these matters. 

Elladan spun around at the sound of Kaldur’s shouted warning, but the elf who needed it most could not hear call. 

“No!” The anguished cry was the only reaction Elladan had time to give as his mind registered in a flash that, as far away as he was, he could never reach his brother in time to save him. 

Kaldur was already running up the small hill on Elrohir’s right.  The elf, still unaware of his danger or what was going on around him, stood watching Gandalf intently, worried for Estel and Legolas.  He frowned as Elladan turned towards him.  The look on his twin’s face was one of surprise and horror but he did not understand the reason behind the warning.  Had something happened to Estel? 

Kaldur slid behind Elrohir, shoving the elf out of the way as Losmir swung out with the sword he wielded.  Stepping into the blow, Kaldur raised his bound hands and used the down swinging arc to sever the ropes that held him.  The momentary surprise that his actions won him were all he needed to outsmart his former second-in-command and he ducked low under the next swipe of the sword.  Swinging upward, Kaldur slammed his fist into Losmir’s midsection, doubling the robber over and sending him off balance.  The sword fell from his hands as his captain danced out of the way of his clumsy attempts to defend himself.  Losmir stumbled forward under the impact of Kaldur’s fists as they connecting with the small of his back, sending him sprawling. 

Tumbling down the grassy incline Losmir bumped up against the mound of a barrow. Its blackened doorway, one of the few still open, yawned like a mouth behind him.  A low, groaning moan escaped from inside the tomb and he tried to move away, but was prevented from doing so as Kaldur’s foot pressed down against his chest.  The tip of a sword scraped the underside of Losmir’s chin, forcing him to glance up into Kaldur’s eyes.  

Elladan left Gandalf and ran to his brother’s side, but Elrohir was all right and still didn’t even know he’d been in any danger so Elladan stooped quickly to check on Halbarad, leveling warning glares at the other bandits who looked as if they would like to use the distraction to try something. 

“Don’t even think about it!” the elf warned, swiftly drawing his bow to keep them covered.  The elder twin glanced over his shoulder down the hill were Kaldur and Losmir were fighting.  The two bandits were going to have to work their own problem out; he had his hands full up here and at the moment he couldn’t bring himself to care very much if they killed each other. 

“Why are you helping them?” Losmir sputtered, shifting uneasily under his former leader’s intense gaze.  “We have to get out of here!  You had the leverage we needed but you’re too soft to use it.  It’s why we never made the big hauls, it’s why you would have lost the lot of them.  They’d have sided with me over you given a chance to really think about it.” 

Kaldur held the sword tip dangerously close to Losmir’s jugular vein.  “What we, Losmir?  Maybe I’m helping them because as of yet they haven’t betrayed my trust and tried to stab me in the back... Although I’m sure your first thought was going to be to get the rest of us free, not just run off and save your own hide...” His tone suggested that that was actually not at all what he thought.  “Of course maybe,” he smiled.  “I just don’t like ye.  And neither do the men if they’ve got any sense.” 

“Traitor!” Losmir spat. 

“Well ain’t that the pot calling the kettle black?” Kaldur laughed.  “You’re a fine one to talk... You really thought you could lead them, didn’t you?  You thought you could cross me and I would simply disappear?” Leaning down harder Kaldur’s eyes narrowed as he whispered viciously, “You were wrong, mate.” 

Out of the corner of his vision Kaldur saw the ghostly form of a bony hand reach outside the darkened barrow opening.  Slipping the sword up the side of Losmir’s chin he kicked the man towards the doorway, backpedaling quickly as the wight grasped Losmir’s foot and pulled the unwilling victim into the barrow with him.  The screams of the trapped human echoed in the unearthly wail of the evil that inhabited the ancient tomb. 

Before the doorway could seal itself properly, Kaldur reached inside his long vest and brought out one of the small black boxes he had pilfered from his own hideout earlier.. Striking his blade against a small piece of flint embedded into the top of the box, he lit the device and tossed it into the barrow. 

“Get down!” Running back towards his men, he yelled a warning.  Elrohir was standing a small distance away, where Elladan had moved him to keep him out of danger.  He was quite near, but looking around in semi-confusion as he knew things were happening and it was frustrating him that he didn’t know what.  Of course he could not hear Kaldur, but the bandit knew that and purposefully set his course so that he slammed into the younger elven twin, bodily forcing him to the ground.  “Get down!” 

Kaldur’s hands covered Elrohir’s already damaged ears and he instinctively curled around the elf, shielding him from the debris as the barrow exploded. Shards of stone and splinters of wood shot through the air as the mound collapsed upon itself.  The groaning of the earth was coupled with the shrieking wail of the angered wight as its haunt was destroyed and its spirit displaced, forced to flee back to Mordor, seeking out its master. 

The dark of night seemed to deepen as the wight passed out of the valley and the terror of its presence was like a heavy weight on the living inhabitants as it fled. 

Silence fell in the small meadow as though every living thing was holding its breath.  A slight wind had picked up and slowly dispersed the cloud of dust that hung in the thick summer air. 

Carefully, Kaldur rolled off of Elrohir and glanced down at the elf to see if he had survived the blast. 

“Fool!” Gandalf thundered, storming towards the bandit captain. 

Kaldur flipped over on his back and tried to move away from the imposing form of the tall wizard.  His head was still ringing from the explosion and he didn’t have his balance quite yet. 

“What were you thinking?!  Do you want to bring every wight in this place down upon us?!  Have you no sense at all?” Gandalf followed the small man as he backed away.  “I have never met anyone as entirely without intelligence as you seem to be.” 

“I’m sorry I can’t hear you.”  Kaldur smiled irritatingly up at the wizard, “My ears.  The explosion and all.”  He pressed his pinky finger into his ear and moved it around, “They’re not working.” 

“Neither is your brain.” Gandalf bent over and glared at the bandit.  Through whatever magic he used the wizard darkened the night around them and appeared to grow even taller as the bandit stared at him, “If you so much as move from this position or speak even one word I will take care of you myself, do you understand?”  The Maia’s words were soft and lethal as he spoke and the bandit below him pressed farther back against the wet grass. “Do you!?” 

“Yes.”  Kaldur smiled up at the wizard, his sense of inane humor overcoming the situation, “Crystal clear, no questions about it.” 

“Good, then keep quiet!”  Gandalf turned and stalked away. 

Sitting up, Kaldur rubbed the back of his neck and twisted his shoulders trying to work the kinks out of his back.  The blast had hurt more this time than the last one; he was getting too old to be playing with explosives at such a close range.  It surprised him when Elrohir came and sat quietly next to him in the grass. 

The elf didn’t say a word, just watched as Gandalf stalked back to the barrow they were trying to free Aragorn and Legolas from. 

After a few moments Elrohir spoke up, “Yes.  He always talks like that,” he said quietly. 

Kaldur chuckled softly. “How did you know I was thinking that?” 

“Probably wondering how I knew you were thinking that, aren’t you?”  Elrohir glanced at the bandit a slight grin on his face. 

Kaldur nodded, his own grin widening.  It was humorous having a conversation with someone who couldn’t hear him. 

“Everyone asks that, the first time they meet him.” Elrohir spoke quietly, not needing to explain further.  His eyes riveted to the barrow that held his adopted brother. 

With a nod, Kaldur pulled his knees up to his chest and rested his head on his arms, watching the activity below him.  He was incredibly tired. 

Halbarad had recovered from the surprise attack and Elladan had joined him to keep an eye on the rest of their captives when he saw that Elrohir was still fine. 

On the inside of the stone and earth mound before them, however, things were not as well.


Legolas pounded on the walls of the barrow.  Dirt rained down on him coating his hair and getting in his eyes. He blinked rapidly, trying to clear his vision.  The hounding terror had not left but he tried desperately to ignore it. 

Beside him Aragorn leaned hard against the concave wall, the will of the wight was winning and he could barely stay awake.  He was trying to for Legolas’ sake, but every time he lost to the wight it was harder to fight his way to back to consciousness.  His breathing grew shallower and shallower as deadly cold sleep seeped into his mind covering his thoughts like a dull, numbing blanket. 


The ranger slipped sideways, resting against Legolas again, the dead weight of his relaxed body forcing the elf to catch him and lower them both quickly to the ground. 

“Mine.”  A low hissing voice sounded in the darkness behind him. 

“He is not!  Not yours!”  Legolas pulled Aragorn in front of him, shielding him with his own body and propping him against the dirt wall.  By this point he was frantic with fear.  Gandalf seemed to have left and there was no way out.  The elf had just about expended as much of himself to keep them safe as he could and he felt the dark, pervasive evil clutching at his failing defenses.  The muffled sounds of an explosion from somewhere close by was followed by a rain of dirt that showered down on them.  The very structure of the barrow itself seemed compromised.  Panicked, the elf tried to dig through the burial mound.  It should have been an easy task but the dirt stuck fast to the walls and never crumbled free. 

A thrill of terror passed through the elven heart, nearly stopping it as the wight brushed Legolas’ shoulder with its cold, bony hand.  “You are mine,” it whispered. 

Turning swiftly the prince whipped out one of his elven blades and forced the glow around him to brighten slightly although it took almost everything he had left inside him.  

“I am not!”  The elf stepped back, tripping on Aragorn’s still body.  Legolas threw his left arm back, steadying himself against the cave wall as the wight flinched away from the pure light that emanated from the elf; more deterred by that then the weapon in his hand. 

“Legolas?”  Gandalf’s voice sounded far away and muffled. 

Holding his blade out to ward off the evil presence, Legolas half-turned towards the call.  “Gandalf!  You must hurry. Aragorn is lost to it;  I cannot wake him!”

The desperation in the elven voice alarmed the Maia.  The wight was very powerful and every spell and command the wizard had used thus far had been fully countered by the evil within. 

“Enough of this.”  Gandalf muttered.  Waving his hand over the glowing crystal set into the top of his staff, he elicited an even brighter gleam.  Glancing over his shoulder to make sure that everyone was far enough away, he placed the tip of his staff against the barrow and called out to the occupants inside. 

“Legolas, move to the far side of the barrow!” 

“I cannot! The wight blocks our path!”  The elf’s voice was hedged with a nearly palpable fear. 

“Listen to me, Firstborn, and do as I tell you!”  Gandalf took a deep breath knowing just how hard it would be for the elf to obey him. 

Legolas closed his eyes and sagged down next to his friend. “Aragorn, by the Valar I swear to you now, I will never go underground with you again in my immortal life.”  Taking a deep breath he grabbed the ranger by the tunic and shifted the human over his shoulder. 

“If it opposes you, simply walk through it.  It cannot own you; you are not mortal.  Trust me on this, young one.”  Gandalf pressed closely to the barrow, hoping that the elf could overcome the fear that choked him. 

“I will, Gandalf!  Whatever you are going to do, do it now!”  Legolas pushed away from the earthen wall and ran towards the opposite side of the cavern. 

The fingers of the wight caught in his clothes and snagged in the tangles of Aragorn’s wavy locks, but the elf did not stop until he reached the far wall.  Dropping to the ground he covered the unconscious human with his own body, his face buried in the ranger’s hair. 

The air around them seemed to compress, becoming heavier, weighing heavily and pressing the two beings down.  An electricity played through the stale atmosphere inside the barrow and built till it nearly hummed inside the elf’s head.  Legolas covered his ears and stifled the gasp of pain.  He was aware of nothing but the aching pressure in his lungs and head. 

The wight screamed in anger, its piercing cry shooting through the elf’s heart. 

“GANDALF!” Legolas barely recognized his own voice.  

With a burst of power, the walls of the barrow exploded outward.  A shimmering white bubble around the Maia protected him from the flying debris that raced after the ripple of light moving outward in a perfect circle away from the middle of the Downs. 

The wight, seeing what it was up against, shed the corpse that it had been using and fled quickly, leaving a trail of fear and terror in its wake that rippled like the waves on a pond across the meadow.  The bandits cringed as the ethereal spirit blew past them, leaving the land of the free peoples on its way back to its master. 

In the center of the field two figures lay illuminated by the moonlight, wrapped tightly around one another and as still as death. 

Kaldur jumped to his feet but Elrohir grabbed the smaller man and pulled him back down.  “No, wait.”  His own fears ate at him, but he knew they should let Gandalf deal with this situation first.  He watched intently as the wizard walked slowly towards the unconscious companions. 

Elladan was already running into the meadow, not prepared to wait.  Halbarad glanced anxiously back at the men he was guarding, knowing this would be the perfect opportunity for them to make a run for it. 

“You all stay put or you’ll join Losmir.  Don’t be giving that ranger any trouble now, you hear me?”  Kaldur called to his men, noting the ranger’s concern.  He smiled casually at Halbarad.  He really wasn’t fond of the man but he didn’t want any more of his men killed or injured.  They were a good lot and followed orders well, they just got a little led astray sometimes.  He hadn’t given up hoping that they were all going to somehow get out of this... they just had to avoid doing anything stupid.  After that last little display of the wizard’s power, he decided that trying anything with these people right now would definitely classify as stupid.  His gaze drifted back to the meadow as Gandalf and Elladan crouched down next to Aragorn and Legolas. 

The elven twin gently pulled the elf prince off of his adopted brother.  Soot and dirt covered them both.  

Aragorn was barely breathing, still trapped in the near-death sleep brought on by the wight.  

Gandalf wrapped one of his large hands around the younger man’s head, his thumb touching Aragorn’s right temple, his index finger brushing the left.  It was hard to hear the words he spoke and Kaldur was positive he wouldn’t have understood a one of them, but whatever transpired had worked.  The ranger took in a deep breath, releasing it in a soft moan.  He glanced groggily around him as Gandalf pulled him slowly to his feet. 

“My word...” a soft voice breathed, and Kaldur looked up with a start to find that there was a hobbit standing quite close to him, although he was certain there had been no one there a few moments ago. 

Legolas had recovered somewhat as well and was being led away from the destroyed barrow by Elladan who carefully walked the partly conscious elf around the chunks of dirt and stone that littered the meadow.

Legolas held Elladan’s shoulder tightly for balance, but his senses seemed to be slowly coming back to him. 

Gandalf, guiding Aragorn, gave a sharp look of surprise when he saw Bilbo standing near Elrohir and Kaldur and his brows furrowed. 

For a moment, Bilbo looked equally surprised, as if he hadn’t expected to be noticed.  He half-glanced down at his hand in his pocket before his fingers found the smooth, round object that must have slid off his finger without him noticing it.  That was happening more and more often of late and it troubled the hobbit.  But his gaze was unconcerned when he smiled somewhat sheepishly at Gandalf.  “I was worried.  We Baggins’ don’t run out on our friends in trouble.” 

Gandalf shook his head, a small smile touching his lips.  “So I see.  Well since you decided to not heed my good advice, come and make yourself useful.  I should have known he’d never stay behind...” the wizard muttered the last part half to himself and half to Aragorn as he eased the younger man down onto the ground.  Bilbo hurried over to help, although Aragorn was a bit too large of a man for him to be very useful. 

The ranger was still trembling lightly in a state of semi-shock, but his eyes were beginning to clear and focus once more as he came back to himself, shaking off the last remnants of the cold darkness that had tried to swallow his soul.  

“What was that?” Aragorn whispered softly as he was guided to a seat on the cool grass, some distance away from the barrows.  Legolas was seated next to him and Gandalf draped a blanket over the elf’s shoulders.  Bilbo took a second one from Elladan and wrapped it around Aragorn’s shoulders as well, getting to it before Gandalf could.  The wizard looked amused and Aragorn smiled a shaky thanks to the hobbit. 

“It was evil.” Legolas was staring at the grass in front of him, his fingers knotted tightly in the blanket around his shoulders although he did not physically need its warmth.  “It was evil... like Mordor,” the last part was barely a whisper.  “Like him.” 

The elf bowed his head and breathed slowly, rocking slightly back and forth.  He was healing well, but as he had told Aragorn earlier in their journey, some things took time to repair.  Legolas’ experiences in Mordor were one of those things.  The evil they had just faced was too close, too near to the oppressive darkness and terror he had experienced there.  Barrow-wights held far too much in common with ringwraiths for the elf’s comfort.  He had withstood the evil creature, but the mental and emotional cost had not been light. 

Aragorn, beginning to come out of his own daze, caught his friend’s words and looked over sharply.  Scooting closer he instinctively wrapped his arm around the elf’s shoulders, drawing the shivering being partway into the folds of his own blanket with him, although he knew that it was not cold which was afflicting his friend. 

“But you bested it, Legolas.  It couldn’t have you and you didn’t let it have me,” he whispered back. 

Legolas allowed it when Aragorn pulled him closer, letting the ranger rest his arm around the elf’s strangely chilled shoulders.  He sighed and gave a small chuckle as he looked up to meet his friend’s somewhat bleary, but concerned gaze.  He knew that of everyone here, Aragorn alone understood what he meant, understood what facing that evil again so soon after having almost been broken by it did to the elf’s spirit.  And yet, just as when he had faced down the wight, although his body felt drained to the last ounce of strength, his spirit came away stronger from this encounter.  It seemed that healing truly did come in very, very strange ways sometimes. 

Legolas gripped the fingers of Aragorn’s hand on his shoulder lightly and gave them a squeeze.  “No, mellon-nín, it shall never have either of us,” he spoke quietly in elvish. 

Gandalf, standing behind them, smiled and laid one gnarled hand on the side of each of their heads.  “You two lead a charmed life, I hope you realize that.  I warrant you keep the Powers above working overtime on your behalf.”  There was a smile in his voice, and the burden of care that the evil left behind lifted from their hearts at his touch. 

Pressing forward, Elladan and Elrohir hugged first Aragorn, then Legolas and then Aragorn again, so great was their relief. 

“Aragorn, when we heard you were inside the barrow... I thought my heart would stop, brother,” Elladan confided in elvish as he held the ranger tight.  

Aragorn smiled and gave him a playful squeeze.  “You just didn’t want to face Father after coming home without me.” 

“Well that too...” Elladan smiled.  “So sorry, Father, we lost the hope of mankind today...” he deadpanned and Aragorn punched his shoulder lightly, causing Elrohir to laugh.  The younger twin didn’t say much anymore since his hearing loss, but his grin was huge.  

Gandalf shook his head at them, amused.  “Hush, speak not too many words about your brother thus in open company,” he chided. 

The younger beings obeyed, but thought no harm of their words since they spoke in the elvish tongue, which would be completely unfamiliar to any of the prisoners present. 

Bilbo, however, caught the entire exchange, having learned the higher tongue many years ago.  He said nothing, tucking the information away in his mind as he brought Aragorn and Legolas some warm mugs of tea that he made over the small fire Halbarad had started. 

“I’m glad you’re all right,” Aragorn nodded at the hobbit as he wrapped aching fingers around the warm cup.  “You had us very worried.  I’ve never seen anyone who could vanish quite as fast as you can,” he smiled. 

Bilbo smiled back, the discomfort that flittered across his face so fleeting that it was unnoticeable.  “Yes, well, we hobbits are good at that sort of thing.  I’m sorry I ran out on you both in the woods, but I didn’t think I’d be much good so I went for help.” 

“And help you found,” Gandalf laid his hand on the hobbit’s short, curly head in a fond, friendly manner.  These two were obviously very old friends.  “Even if you are a troublesome hobbit who doesn’t listen to good advice...” 

“And no better help could we have asked for than you, Mithrandir, thank you,” Legolas nodded, feeling very tired. 

Gandalf nodded.  “I think it would do both of you good to rest now.” 

Halbarad and Elladan were getting the prisoners securely bedded down for the night and the elf prince was tired, but... 

“Is it safe here, so close?” Aragorn voiced Legolas’ unspoken thoughts. 

Gandalf smiled.  “It is safe.  Fear not, my friends; no creeping wraiths shall stir us this night.  Not while I am here.”

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