Curse of Angmar

Chapter 13

by Cassia and Siobhan

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Garith did not want them to go when morning came.  He tried to get them to stay until Taradin returned at least, but the four friends knew they could not linger, as pleasant as that would seem.  They had the prisoners to consider and Rivendell was still a long way distant.
“All right, but if you do insist on going, be careful, all right?” Garith bid them farewell once he saw that their minds were set.  “Our group nearly had a nasty run in with some of those hill trolls back up the way you’re headed.  There hadn’t been any living out that way in a while so we weren’t careful, but a new group seems to have moved in, watch yourselves, and don’t travel at night.” 

Aragorn, Legolas and the twins took his warning seriously, but smiled nonetheless.  

“Don’t worry, Garith, there will be a hurricane in Valinor before we let ourselves get foul of a couple of trolls,” Aragorn assured as they took their leave.  “Say hello to Taradin for me!  And if your paths ever take you near Rivendell, come to see us, any time.” 

“We will,” Garith promised, waving goodbye with one hand while he wrapped his other arm around Estelle’s shoulders.  “In another five months we’ll bring the baby with us!” 

Estelle blushed, but smiled radiantly, giving his arm a soft thump for being so forward about them and their life. 

Aragorn waved one last time and turned back to find Legolas smiling and shaking his head.  Neither of them had even noticed that the young woman was pregnant.  She didn’t show very much yet. 

“If I am not still here, then I may have to come visit you in five months, Estel,” Legolas confided with a distant smile.  “I feel remarkably like a grandfather... or a grand-uncle anyway.”  It was a new feeling for the elf who was an only child, and still considered to be a young one at that. 

Trying to think of Legolas as a grandfather drew such a ridiculous picture in Aragorn’s mind that he could not help laughing out loud.  Legolas gave him a quizzical look which simply succeeded in nearly doubling the ranger over.  “Ouch, this hurts,” he tried to stop laughing, which only made him laugh all the harder, until he had managed to attract Elladan and Elrohir’s attention as well and they were all looking at him like he was mad. 

“And you think I’m strange...” Kaldur remarked.  That made Thil laugh.  

“I’m sorry, sorry,” Aragorn managed to gasp out after a few moments.  “It was just... I got this incredible picture of you Legolas, with a white beard hanging down to your knees like a dwarf and a bunch of little hobbit-sized children running about you!” 

It was Legolas’ turn to laugh at that, as he flashed his friend an indignant look.  “A beard, Strider??  Elves do not grow beards in case you have lived with them all these years and not noticed... unlike some scruffy humans I could mention,” he said, pointedly fingering Aragorn’s short, bristly, and at the moment none-to-well kempt facial hair. 

“Well you know that’s not entirely true,” Elladan put in.  “There is Lord Ciridan, over in the Havens...” 

“ONE exception, and I think that must be the Valar’s idea of a joke, Elladan... the poor elf,” Legolas shook his head. 

“He looks very handsome with his beard!” Elladan protested, since he and his twin knew the elf in question a little better than most of the others present.  They had been to the Grey Havens in Mithlond once or twice with their father when they were younger... and of course when their mother left. 

Aragorn’s eyebrows shot up mischievously.  “Elladan, did you just say that Lord Ciridan looks very handsome?” 

Elladan scowled.  “All I MEANT was that he still cuts a very fine figure, even with a beard.” 

That attempt at rephrasing only made matters worse and even Kaldur, Thil and some of the other bandits began to laugh. 

“I do not know what your problem is,” Elladan muttered, placing Elrohir between himself and the others.  “Elrohir, you have NO idea how lucky you are to be missing all this.” 

Elrohir laughed at the look on his brother’s face and because he could see that everyone else was laughing.  Even if he wasn’t sure what was funny he enjoyed being part of the joke.  He wrapped an arm sympathetically around his twin’s shoulder and gave the others a protective glare. 

“Have you been picking on my brother?” 

When the laughter died down a little, Kaldur shook his head.  He was surprised at how much these people were growing on him.  Given their situation, that was ridiculous.  “You do know that you four make the absolutely sorriest group of jailers I have ever seen or ever hope to see in my entire life don’t you?” he chuckled. 


It had been an unusually dry summer, which was a boon to the travelers, but the good weather could not last forever, of course, and on the second night after leaving Garith’s camp a heavy rainstorm broke loose.  It rained most of the night, but fortunately they were prepared and no one became too wet or uncomfortable.  The rain continued on late into the morning, but by afternoon the skies had cleared enough to allow them to move forward again. 

Because of the delayed start, they pressed on into the evening much later than they usually did and long dark purple shadows were stretching out across the land before they began to think about making camp.  Unfortunately the terrain they found themselves crossing was neither promising nor welcoming.  Steep hills of loose rocks and shale rose up around and before them, working their way out of the eroding earth and creating a crisscross of gullies and canyons.  Usually a thin carpet of green covered the undulating, craggy hills, but the near drought that year had left the area dusty and mainly barren. 

Last night’s torrential rain had slicked down the dust and turned it to mud, but the rocks were so thick here that there was not much chance of getting truly muddy.  Unfortunately, the slick rocks themselves provided another difficulty.  They were extremely treacherous to walk across because they were prone to slipping on one another and shifting suddenly under one’s feet.  This was no problem for the elves, or the ranger, but the bandits were having a hard time of it and one of the less coordinated humans had already almost sprained an ankle.  That would slow them all down in a way that no one wanted to accept, so the elves and the ranger tried to move their prisoners along with extra caution. 

Legolas listened uneasily as the stones shifted and complained under the clumsy tread of their prisoners.  

“Strider,” he walked a little closer to his friend, maneuvering with seemingly effortless grace over the jagged ground.  “I don’t like this.  These hills are not entirely stable.  It has been too dry, and now this sudden rain... the rocks speak a warning to us if we are not careful.” 

Aragorn nodded. He didn’t have the elven affinity with nature, but these seemingly unending canyons and hills were making him uncomfortable too, not to mention the trouble they were having with the prisoners.  Although most of them other than Kaldur spoke little anymore, it was still like herding a large group of five-year-olds around: extremely trying and difficult.  

Eventually, they realized that having the bandits bound in a line as they were was only making matters worse. 

The group was trying to make it up the side of a steep, rocky hill which led to a summit that several other canyons dropped away from in different directions.  It was easy to get turned around in the bottom of the ravines, so they needed to take the high ground for a little while and find the best and quickest route out. 

Every five steps forward resulted in three backward, however, as the bandits tried to scramble up the incline, only to slip, bound hands scrabbling uselessly as they ended up sliding backwards, dragging the rest of the line with them. 

Kaldur had better balance and coordination than some of the others, but even so, bound as they were there was little he could do.  After a few more exhausting minutes he simply let himself flop down onto his stomach the next time someone fell and dragged them all back.  He lay there for a few moments, catching his breath. 

“Look, we’re really not trying to be difficult this time, see?” he panted slightly, his fuzzy black braids falling into his face and clinging to the perspiration there.  “But this isn’t working out too well if you ask me.  We’re like a bloody great lot of oliphaunts stuck on a short leash.” 

Aragorn sighed.  “As much as I hate to admit it, Kaldur has a point. We’re going to have to cut them separate again for a little while or someone’s going to get hurt,” he said at last, wiping the perspiration off his own face with his sleeve.  He wasn’t having THAT much of an easier time climbing than the bandits were and he didn’t want to imagine trying to do it while bound to someone else... he could still remember the problems he and Legolas had had when they were chained together and trying to move through Mordor. 

Elladan and Legolas concurred with him without argument.  They saw the same facts that he did, and they didn’t want anyone getting truly hurt, nor did they wish to continue the painfully slow snail crawl that they were being forced to maintain. 

Aragorn took hold of the rope that dangled from where Kaldur’s hands were bound behind his back to where Thil’s were bound in front of him and began working the knots.  He didn’t want to cut the rope because they didn’t have a lot to spare and would have to redo this all when they were safely out.  He knew these bandits were just waiting for a chance to jump them and run.  He didn’t let Kaldur’s friendly manner or the other bandits’ complacent attitudes fool him for a minute; they would act if they thought they had half a chance. 

The knots were stiff and difficult, but the rope was slowly coming undone.  Aragorn really didn’t like the idea of having six separate people to worry about between the four of them rather than a nicely grouped whole, but they could not camp in these hills.  As Legolas had pointed out, this area was too unstable.  However, night was swiftly drawing upon them.  He remembered Garith’s warning very well and had no intention of being foolish.  The only answer was to do whatever it took to move faster so they could be out of here sooner.  

Legolas, Elladan and Elrohir were working the knots on the other connecting ropes and presently all the prisoners were separated.  

Elladan coiled the pieces of rope and hung them on his belt.  The thieves were still individually bound, but they would no longer be a detriment to each other’s own progress.  That should speed things up a little. 

“Now, it’s getting dark and anyone trying to run across these rocks in the dark could break a leg or their neck, so don’t try anything,” Elrohir warned, seeing the bandits stirring slightly as they enjoyed the freedom of no longer being bound to one another. 

“Like you could do anything if we did, stone head,” one of the bandits muttered with a half sneer because he knew the elf couldn’t hear his retort. 

Elladan did however.  The bandit suddenly found himself picked up by the shoulders of his shirt, his feet dangling above the ground while he looked down into the dark, stormy eyes of an angry elf.  “Do not speak to my brother like that if you know what is good for you.” 

The man nodded quickly, his eyes wide.  He gasped slightly when he was set down and Elladan gave him a good shove to get him moving. 

Kaldur chuckled as he worked his way up the hill, shaking his head at the unfortunate man who stumbled up next to him.  “That weren’t smart, mate.”  His dark eyes caught and held the other fellow’s for a moment.  “Don’t try nothing until you know you can pull it off.” 

The other bandit nodded slightly, silent understanding passing between them.  Kaldur had a plan, or was forming one. 

As they reached the top of the rise, however, the opportunity to put whatever he was planning into motion was taken away from him.  Several of the other bandits, not possessing the patience or cleverness of their leader, decided that now was a good time to make a break for freedom. 

As soon as they saw what their companions were doing, the rest followed suit, the end result being that they all split separate ways, making a break for different gullies, spreading their guards too thin to capture them all. 

Kaldur cursed quietly, this was ill-planned and ill-executed, but they wouldn’t get another chance for anything better now, so he might as well make the best of it.  Sprinting for the drop to the right, he slithered and slid down the slope, kicking up a shower of rocks and earth as he went. 

Aragorn reined in the urge to find some choice words himself, and was surprised to hear Legolas sharply mutter something that sounded an awful lot like dwarvish as the prince whipped out his bow and strung an arrow, whipping it off and forcing one of the fleeing bandits to duck, slowing his flight a little.  The problem was that Legolas didn’t actually want to kill anyone, so other than keeping their heads down there wasn’t much he could do... although at the moment putting an arrow in someone’s leg or arm didn’t sound so bad. 

The four friends scattered nearly as swiftly as their escaping quarry.  Elladan and Elrohir took off after the three who had headed down into the canyon to the left while Aragorn went for the two fleeing straight ahead and Legolas raced after Kaldur. 

Kaldur slipped and slithered down the slope, jumping a narrow fissure and gaining a second, even steeper slope.  He could hear someone pursuing him and risked a backward glance.  Oh hang it all, why did it have to be that elf?  He tried to move faster, his bound arms a useless impediment behind him.  

Legolas gained swiftly on the fleeing bandit, easily leaping the rift after him and catching up with him on the second hill.  Kaldur stumbled and fell, but rolled quickly onto his back, kicking up hard and catching Legolas in the chest and chin.  

Legolas didn’t waste time berating himself for not having seen that coming.  Instead he dodged a second kick and dropped his weight down onto the bandit, knocking him back to the earth and preventing him from getting up.  The two of them rolled over and over on the hard rocks.  Kaldur fought like a cornered wildcat, but ultimately he should have known he had no chance. 

Legolas pinned him firmly on his back with his bound arms caught under him and the highwayman stopped struggling, knowing the end of a fight when he saw one.  Legolas held a fist full of Kaldur’s dirty, cream colored shirt and brown leather over-vest in his hand, placing his weight against the man’s shoulder to immobilize him as he sat on the human’s hips.  

Small rocks pelted down the slope around them, knocked loose by their struggle.  Not far away Legolas could hear other scuffles taking place; whether it was Aragorn, Elladan or Elrohir though he couldn’t tell, but he heard the rocks shifting and groaning and shaking loose even as they were around Legolas and Kaldur.  It was an unsettling sound.  

Kaldur was breathing hard, but Legolas looked only slightly ruffled, the blood in the corner of his mouth the only sign that there had even been a struggle.  Interesting, the bandit couldn’t help thinking.  These elves were a force to be reckoned with and no mistake.  

Legolas wiped the blood from his mouth with the back of his free hand, but although his gaze was hard and irritated, it held no maliciousness.  

“Now, I really don’t have to pull a weapon on you, do I?” Legolas questioned gruffly, his free hand sliding back to rest on one of the ivory handled knives protruding from the quiver harness over his shoulder.  

Kaldur shook his head.  “No need, no need at all.” 

“Good.”  The elf rose, dragging the human up with him.  

“You know,” Kaldur commented as Legolas forced him back towards the direction from which they had come.  “This really wasn’t my idea...” 

“Shh!” the command was sharp, but it wasn’t just irritation with Kaldur that made it so.  There was a hint of alarm in the elf’s voice that made the hair on the back of the bandit’s neck stand on end.  

The rocks were speaking to Legolas, trying to warn him, trying to tell the elf to get out... but where?  There was no where to escape to.  A moment later the audible rumbling began, along with the scuffling scurry of a hundred tiny rocks shifting and rolling out of place... and the deep throaty rumble of those rocks dislodging bigger ones.  

No.  No.  No... not good!  Legolas’ thoughts went racing wildly and he fairly pushed Kaldur up the hill ahead of him.  They did NOT want to be at the bottom of the ravine when this hill came down.  

“Move!  MOVE!”  the elf commanded and for once Kaldur complied without argument.  The two of them scrambled up the rocky hill just as its solidarity began to dissolve beneath them.  

Ahead, Legolas saw Aragorn appear from the other direction.  The human was stumbling and trying to catch his footing and Legolas realized that the slide that was starting wasn’t just affecting the slope he and Kaldur were on, it was affecting the entire range as one slide triggered another, and another... it was as he had feared.  This entire area was now extremely unstable and it was about to come down, carrying the beings caught atop it to destruction at the same time. 

The ground seemed suddenly alive under their feet, rolling, rumbling... slipping away from them.  All stability vanished, giving way to a churning downhill rush.  Rocks both large and small hurtled down from higher up the incline, moving ever faster as they whistled through the air, striking down hard only to bounce up again and continue their tumbling flight.  Some smashed into pieces as they collided with one another or the hard earth, sending dozens of sharp new projectiles into the melee. 

Legolas struggled to dodge, to move, to stay upright... but it was as if the whole area had suddenly become a deadly enemy.  

He saw Kaldur stumble and fall, instantly carried out of sight by the rockslide.  The elf had a moment to feel a stab of regret that the man’s bound hands had made him more vulnerable before the struggle to survive took over his entire thinking process.  

He whipped his head around, looking for Aragorn again, but he couldn’t see the ranger now.  Some of the flying rocks slammed into the back of Legolas’ knees, sending him sprawling forward.  Once down amid that terrible, violent rush, things became truly frightening.  

“Legolas!” Aragorn must have been near and seen him fall because the prince heard his friend shout his name before the sound was torn away by the crashing of stone.  

The elf tumbled several times, being carried down the hill along with the landslide that wanted to bury him.  His own hair whipped around his head, throwing dirt in his eyes and half-blinding him.  The air was choked with dust now despite the rain last night as the surface rocks tore loose, sliding on the layer of damp surface mud, revealing the dry earth beneath and further aggravating the landslide. 

Legolas’ chest and back were slammed repeatedly against the jagged rocks as the flying stones grazed him.  His mind wanted to freeze in panic and pain, but he knew that would mean death, so he forced himself to think clearly.  Digging his hands in and twisting his body he managed to yaw to the side, giving himself a more vertical position on the hill slope and slowing his downward tumble.  Using the moment of purchase to scramble back to his feet he only just got out of the way in time to avoid a huge, horse-sized bolder that tumbled its way down the hill, pulverizing the rocks where he had been lying a moment before into mere gravel. 

Aragorn appeared at Legolas’ elbow, hugging one arm tightly to his chest and pulling the elf urgently sideways with the other.  Speech was impossible above the din all around them, but fortunately, unnecessary.  Legolas trusted Aragorn implicitly and followed him without hesitation. 

The ranger and the elf ran across the shifting, roiling ground and Legolas saw their goal: a small ledge in the hill where the natural bedrock of the moraine jutted out to create a shallow, but effective natural shield against the deadly missiles hurtling down from above. 

The underside of the jetty of stone was bathed in shadow, but the two friends scrambled over and dove under it without hesitation.  It was likely their only chance to keep from being killed.  

Something warm and far too soft to be stone grunted and wiggled away as Aragorn rolled into the shallow recess under the low projection.  

“Kaldur!” in the shadow of the stone, Legolas’ sharp eyes could still clearly make out the bandit’s features as he pressed himself further to the side, allowing more room for the two newcomers.  

“In the flesh, I think,” Kaldur grit his teeth slightly as he spoke.  Blood ran down his temple, but it looked to be a superficial wound only.  “Just can’t lose you anywhere, can I?” 

Above them the crashing and shattering of the rocks was terrible, shaking the earth and sounding louder than thunder claps as the rockslide pounded the sturdy stub of earth that served as their protection.  

The rock above them looked old and worn; it had been here a long, long time and endured the ravages of nature for centuries.  They could only hope it would endure this one as well. 

For what seemed like an age of breathless minutes, the landslide crashed by them, sometimes spitting stinging, biting shards of stone into their tiny refuge and causing the two men and the elf to burrow back farther into the recess.  Then, finally, the roar turned back into a rumble, and the rumble died down to a mere patter of stones skipping down the face of the newly re-designed hillside.  

In the ensuing stillness, the breathing of all three occupants of the enclave sounded very loud and harsh in their own ears. 

“Well... that was a mite too close for comfort, wasn’t it?” Kaldur rhetorically asked himself, his voice still a little shaky. 

Legolas shook the dust out of his hair and slid forward towards the open air, scanning to see if the danger was truly past. 

“It seems that everything has stabilized once more...” he turned back towards the others and stopped.  “Aragorn?” 

Aragorn had not yet spoken or moved, and Legolas now saw that the ranger still had his back pressed against the low stone wall, the angle forcing him to be half-curled over his knees.  The human had his right arm clutched tightly to his chest, and his breathing was ragged, but deep, as if he were trying to slow it down. 

“Aragorn!” Legolas scooted forward, concern quickly turning to alarm as he saw the pinched look of pain on his friend’s face. 

“I’ll be all right,” Aragorn said slowly, scooting out a little so that he could straighten up, but otherwise moving as little as he could.  “Just give me a moment, Legolas, I’ll be all right.” 

His arm was burning and his fingers felt numb.  A rock had struck his elbow, smashing his forearm between the tumbling rock and the stone ledge he had been balancing against.  The result was agonizing, but he knew that if he gave himself a few minutes, he could get it under control. 

“I’m sure you will, but I still want to know what is wrong,” Legolas shook his head, visually checking the human over swiftly.  His friend looked all right, except for whatever was wrong with his arm. 

Gently, Legolas laid his hand on Aragorn’s forearm, feeling heat radiating off of it through the ranger’s torn sleeve.  He didn’t try to move the limb, but just let his hand rest on it, sending waves of comfort through his touch.  

“Is it broken?” the elf asked quietly.  “Is anything broken?” 

Aragorn shook his head.  “I don’t think so.  I can still move all my fingers at least.  The arm hurts, but I think it is only slightly fractured at worst.” 

Legolas ignored his friend’s propensity for understatement and laid his other hand under the injured arm, his eyes meeting Aragorn’s in a silent request.  “May I?”  They seemed to ask. 

Aragorn nodded, releasing his death grip on his wrist and allowing the elf to gently take his arm between his hands and rotate it in small, easy motions to check its mobility.  

The ranger sucked his breath in and closed his eyes, willing the pain away.  Right now he was hurting too much to assess his own injury objectively, so he appreciated his friend’s help.  The elf moved the ranger’s arm a little to the right and his elbow screamed in pain, causing the Dúnadan to moan slightly and press his eyelids tighter shut.  When he opened them again Legolas was squatting close, watching him with compassionate silver-blue eyes as he laid the man’s arm back upon his breast.

“It is not fully broken,” the elf concurred.  His medical knowledge was limited, but as a prince and a warrior he had been taught field-care principles at least, and throughout his life had had much call to practice and refine those skills.  “However, I do fear that it has been compromised, however small the fracture may be.  The structure tissue around the elbow has also taken harm.  The arm may need nothing more than immobilization, but I would feel better if Lord Elrond or one of your brothers checked it as soon as possible, just to be sure.” 

Aragorn nodded, then his face suddenly clouded a shade further and he looked around.  Scooting forward to the edge of their little refuge he raked the rubble-strewn landscape with his sharp gaze.  “Where are they?  Where are my brothers?” 

Legolas stood up quickly and scanned the area with his even keener sight... but Aragorn’s searching gaze found the elf’s eyes apologetic when they turned back on the ranger. 

“I don’t see them, Estel,” the prince said quietly.  They both knew what that could mean, but both refused to accept it.  “But then, I don’t see any of the other bandits either.  They scattered much and I cannot see beyond this small valley.  It is possible that this slide did not affect any of the other canyons,” he quickly added hopefully. 

“Then we had better find them,” Aragorn said resolutely, rising to his feet and stifling the pain-induced dizziness that swept through him at the motion.  For a few moments he had to lean against the stone ledge they had just hidden under as he regained his strength. 

Legolas nodded, compassionately overlooking Aragorn’s difficulty, since he knew the ranger did not want to be seen as weak at the moment.  The prince glanced back at Kaldur, whom they had both all but forgotten.  The bandit was reclining on the rocky ground on his side, propped up on one elbow since his hands were still bound behind him.  When the elf’s gaze fell on him he smiled and cocked his head to the side as if to say: hello, remember me

Legolas wasn’t sure what to do.  He had never had a companion he would be more glad to lose, but they couldn’t just set the bandit free, and they couldn’t very well tie him up and leave him here until they got back either, as there might be wild animals about...  Stars but this prisoner was ending up being so much more trouble than he was worth. 

“We take him with us,” Aragorn answered Legolas’ unspoken question, pushing away from the rock and attempting to use the strap of his quiver as a temporary sling for his hurting arm. 

Legolas raised his eyebrows dryly.  “I was afraid of that.”  But the barb was spoken with a small amount of humor.  

The elf moved over to help Aragorn with his makeshift sling, padding the arm with a spare tunic that was quickly retrieved from the ranger’s pack and then using the quiver harness to immobilize the limb.  It was a crude arrangement at best, but it would have to serve for the present.  

Aragorn unbuckled his belt and struggled to one-handedly switch his sword from his left side to his right side now that he could no longer draw it with his usual arm.  Again, Legolas came to his assistance, and the ranger did not complain. 

Legolas reflected for a moment, as he tied the scabbard back down around Aragorn’s right thigh, that the more gracious ease with which the ranger accepted help these days was a subtle shift in his friend’s personality.  It spoke in a certain level of acquired self-assurance that came with maturity.  When he had first known the ranger, the young human was very resistant to the idea that he should ever need any assistance, or that there was anything he could not handle just as well as his elven companions.  However, that need to prove himself seemed to have settled down somewhat as Aragorn grew older, for the mature ranger Legolas knew now did not need to prove that he was capable, he simply was capable.
The elf chuckled.  It certainly made life a whole lot easier.  

Aragorn quirked an eyebrow.  “Are you laughing at the clumsy human again, Legolas?” he inquired with a small smile. 

“Nay,” the prince quickly shook his head as he rose to his feet.  “I was simply remembering our younger days.” 

Aragorn liked the way Legolas referred to it as ‘their’ younger days, even though in truth they were only the human’s younger days, for Legolas had physically changed little or not at all over the long years of their friendship.  Still, he liked the bond, the oneness that Legolas accepted when he said things like that.  

“Well then that is cause for laughter,” the ranger said, allowing himself a small chuckle as well.  “But now we have a job to do.” 

Legolas nodded.  “All right, Kaldur, it seems the heavens have a cruel sense of humor after all and we are still doomed to one another’s company.  Come,” he summoned the bandit, who had already been in the process of rising to his feet.  “...Quietly,” he added as an afterthought. 

Kaldur shook the dust and gravel off of his clothes, eyeing the rocky terrain.  “Not going ta make it across there very well without me hands...” he observed.  

Legolas shot him a look.  After what had just happened?  The man had to be insane to think they would untie him.  

“You’ll manage.  And don’t try anything like that last little stunt again,” the elf warned as they set out, picking their way along the slope.  

“I may not have the patience to chase you again, so next time I may just shoot you.”  Legolas wouldn’t kill Kaldur, and they all knew that, but Kaldur figured that if the elf were peeved enough he might just wing him intentionally.   Not a good thought.  

They placed the bandit between them, with Aragorn in front and Legolas following watchfully behind.  

Kaldur shook his head as if any thoughts of trouble were the farthest thing from his mind, keeping his balance as best he could.  “I can’t believe you still don’t trust me,” he took on an injured tone.  “WHAT have I ever done to give you that opinion?  I ask you?” 

“Terrorized the countryside masquerading as a barrow-wight, robbed dozens of people, nearly killed my friends and I, escaped and tried to escape several times...” the elf ticked the reasons off on his fingers.  “Tried to run again about five minutes ago and caused a deadly landslide... Need I go on?” 

Kaldur whistled.  “Well then that’s some memory you’ve got there, sure enough.  But what about saving you two by bringing that wizard to get you out of the barrow?  Hm?” 

Legolas actually laughed.  The bandit annoyed him, but sometimes it was almost funny.  “Gandalf would have turned you into stone if you hadn’t.  Tell me one thing you’ve done that didn’t benefit you personally.” 

“True...” Kaldur admitted as he walked carefully between the two.  “But I mean to ask you, what’s a body to do if they don’t look to their own concerns?  Then of course there’s those moments of insanity that overtake one, like saving your deaf elf friend from Losmir.  Had nothing to gain from that did I now?” 

Legolas didn’t respond and Kaldur just grinned to himself.  He liked being thought of as unpredictable.  Oddly enough, he was beginning to like the infuriatingly serious elf too.  

Aragorn, in the lead, smiled slightly at the exchange.  Legolas rarely let people bait him that much, but then Kaldur seemed to be a... unique individual on most counts.  Then he tuned the conversation out as his attention flung outward, searching for any sign of his brothers.  

Silence descended as they walked down the path where they had last seen Elladan and Elrohir chasing the bandits... and each step carried a new weight of dread.  This hillside was as mangled as the others, perhaps even more so.  It was as if a giant hand had swept the area, redesigning everything.  

They continued on grimly as the lengthening shadows blended together into night.  The growing darkness only made their search all the more difficult, but they pressed forward slowly, calling and calling for the twins as they went.  Kaldur even started calling for some of his men... wondering if anyone could have made it alive out of this mess. 

Aragorn and Legolas exchanged glances.  There had not been that much time elapsed from the bandits’ flight to the rockslide.  They should not have been this far apart from Elladan and Elrohir when the slide hit... where could they possibly be?  And were the answers ones they wanted to find?

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