Curse of Angmar

Chapter 19

by Cassia and Siobhan

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The occupants of the house woke slowly and late.  The sun had already ridden a third of the way into the sky by the time anyone stirred under the beams of Rivendell. 

Estel stumbled down the hallway, peeking in on the prisoners.  They were sprawled on the floor and the mattresses snoring loudly.  A couple of Taradin’s men looked up from where they were waking and nodded groggily.  The ranger frowned as he advanced down the hallway.  Someone was singing horribly and the words made no sense.  It was this awful noise that had roused him.  He had a sinking suspicion he knew exactly who was responsible. 

Moranuen stood in the hallway, his sword drawn and a glower on his face.  “Estel, shut it up now.  If you don’t, I will.  He hasn’t quieted since he woke earlier and he is driving me to insanity.  He speaks nonsense and he cannot sing!”  The tall elf pointed into the room where Kaldur was being kept. 

“Say, tell me, did Legolas teach you that glower?” Aragorn could hear Kaldur interrupt his own song and ask from the interior of the small room, “You know he has it down pat, taught it to that tall fellow with the scary walking stick too.” 

Moranuen rolled his eyes and stepped out of the way as the man laughed at himself and took up his off tune song once more. “Estel.” 

Aragorn stepped onto the threshold trying to get the thieves attention.  If he didn’t shut up he would wake the entire house. “Kaldur.” 

The robber leaned on the window sill staring out into the gorge, his song hitting a high note really badly. 

Aragorn winced, “Kaldur!” He called louder. 

“Estel, shut him up!” Legolas padded quietly down the hallway after the ranger. 

“KAL!” Aragorn yelled loudly, finally garnering the others attention.  Briefly he wondered why they always expected him to do something with Kaldur.  

The highwayman spun around, a smile on his face.  The change in the robber from the previous day was nothing short of amazing and Aragorn wondered if Kaldur truly believed he would come out of this all right or if this was just another act to cover his nervousness for the coming day.  

“Oh there you are, mate!  And how are we this morning?  That wing of yours feeling any better?” Kaldur stepped up onto the bed and crossed it in a jump, landing lightly next to Aragorn. 

“Quiet! The house sleeps yet.” Strider pushed the robber back into the room, with his left hand. “If I didn’t know you better I’d think you’d stolen down into the wine cellars already this morning.  Sleep well did we?” he asked sarcastically. 

The response garnered a quick laugh, “Like a drunkard on the bar bench.,” Kaldur answered patting the bed affectionately.  

Legolas grimaced and turned away, walking back towards the dining hall.  His stomach was growling and he could not put up with the highwayman’s antics this early in the morning. 

“So what’s the grand plan for today, Strider?” The slightest hint of sobriety and anxiety touched the bright eyes that watched the ranger and Aragorn was instantly, acutely aware that the act was simply covering up the thief’s anxiety. 

“Well, now that you’ve woken the house, I would say breakfast for starters and then we’ll see what Lord Elrond has to say.” The ranger glanced back down the hall as Taradin and Thil exited their room followed by the other hunters and the thieves they were dragging along with them.  He smiled as Celboril met them at the head of the hall and directed them to the dining room. 

Kaldur leaned against Strider, trying to see round the doorframe, “You know, I was thinking. Don’t suppose he’d be willing to trade anything... say for letting us walk out of here on our own, now would he?” 

With a lopsided grin Aragorn glanced at Moranuen who rolled his eyes and looked to the far wall, muttering in elvish.  

“Of course you had to save the insane one and bring him home.  Why couldn’t you lose him along the way?  Fost him off at Bree, feed him to a wight?  I am sure there were lots ways Estel, lots of ways to lose one like this.”  

It took all of Aragorn’s restraint not to break out laughing when he glanced back at Kaldur.  Some of Moranuen’s suggestions even started to sound appealing as the master thief began to talk again. 

“What did he say?” Kaldur asked, leaning harder on the doorframe and glancing around Strider at the tall, dark-haired elf. 

Pushing the man back into room, Aragorn tried to talk some seriousness into him.  “Look, Kaldur, the best thing you can do for yourself and your men right now is to say nothing.  Let Legolas and I do the talking.  You ever heard that saying ‘seen and not heard.’?” 

“Maybe once or twice...maybe.”  He held up his hand weaving it back and forth in feigned indecision, “Never believed in it.” 

“Obviously,” Moranuen growled from his position behind Estel. 

“You know, I was thinking that this tall fellow might be related to that blond elf friend of yours Lega-whats-his-name.  They got that same glare thing going on.  You ever noticed that? Or is it just an elf trait?” Kaldur pointed at Moranuen, a grin spreading across his lips as he moved his hand in front of the elf’s face indicating the deep scowl that Mora wore at the moment. “See?  That whole eyebrow thing.” 

Aragorn batted the man’s hand away and had to look back down the hallway to collect himself and keep from laughing.  Quickly, before he lost what composure he had, he changed to a deadly serious tone and fixed the thief with a hard stare.  

“Look, Kaldur, I am not kidding.  Silent as a grave do you hear me? Do you understand?  It’s important, for you and your men.  I cannot stress that point enough.” 

Kaldur ran his fingers across his lips as though locking them in place and with a flourish of his wrist pantomimed throwing away the invisible key. 

“We’ll see how long that lasts,” Moranuen growled as he stepped away from the door, ordering the prisoner out. “Follow me.” 

“Not long I can assure you.” Kaldur laughed as he obeyed, leaving the room as Aragorn stepped aside, “Shall I walk like you too?” the robber affected an air of haughtiness and stepped in line with the elf.  Kaldur did an incredibly passable job of miming Moranuen’s exact movements, only in an exaggerated fashion. 

“Estel!” Moranuen growled, turning just as Strider grabbed the small robber and pushed him behind his back.  “Easy, Mora, lets just get through this morning and Mr. DeCahr and his men will be leaving our house, all right?” He smiled weakly, trying hard not to laugh. It was amazing how quickly the small man got underneath the calm elven exteriors.  Moranuen’s anger dissolved as he watched the thief glance over Aragorn’s shoulder with one wide eye, watching him carefully. 

With a shake of his head, Moranuen turned and walked towards the dining hall.  “The humans and the prisoners will be eating in here,” he informed them. 

The room was full and only one seat remained for Kaldur.  Aragorn walked him in and pressed the thief down in the chair, giving him a stern look that was returned with an irrepressible smile. 

“Lord Elrond is on the veranda and has requested that you and Moranuen dine with him.” Celboril called quietly from a door set in the far wall. 

“Come on, Mora.”  Aragorn reached behind him and pulled the elf with him, pressing the warrior out in front of him as they walked on to the veranda. 

As they passed out of the dining hall Kaldur called out, “Hey, you’re a human.  How come you don’t have to eat in here with the rest of us?” 

Aragorn turned around glaring. “Silent as the grave.” He pointed at the dark haired man threateningly. 

“Right.” Kaldur sat back down meekly, “Right.” He smiled ingratiatingly and pressed the palms of his hands together bowing slightly in feigned repentance when Taradin pointed his fork at him. 

“It’s going to be a long morning,” Moranuen elbowed Estel, who started laughing, no longer able to control his mirth.  

Aragorn almost wished he could keep Kaldur around here for a little while; it was highly amusing to watch his elven friends become so swiftly irritated.  However, the ranger had a feeling that such a ridiculous idea would endanger not only Kaldur’s life but his own for suggesting it.  That very thought set the human to laughing again. 


Elrond leaned forward, resting his chin on his steepled fingers as he listened to the elves and Aragorn while they talked around the breakfast table about what should be done with the prisoners.  The deeds of the bandits had been brought out into the open as well as their many bumbling attempts at escape and the resulting danger they had caused.  Various thoughts on forms of punishment had been bandied about, but it was Aragorn’s idea of having the prisoners pay off their debt by working with and for the people of Strayton that gained the most support. 

“I am still inclined to agree with Estel.”  The elf lord broke into the conversation again.  “Although I am not favored towards these men for the pain and suffering they have caused the peoples of Bree-land, nor yourselves as you have informed me.” He held up his hand stopping Legolas and Aragorn from interrupting him, “but as Prince Legolas has pointed out, they have also acted in ways that show they are not totally irredeemable.” 

Elrohir was watching his father closely, picking up nearly everything that was being said.  His long dark hair covered most of the bandages that were pressed against his ears and for some reason their presence comforted him, blocking his healing eardrums from the air and the vibrations that often caused them to ache.  Elladan touched his hand questioningly and he nodded, quietly answering the unspoken query, “Yes I understand all that has been said.  And I agree.” His eyes were locked on his father’s as Elrond stopped and looked at him.  Of them all, Elrohir had suffered the most as a result of the robbers’ actions. 

“You believe they will be able to change if they are given this clemency, my son?”  Elrond asked the younger twin quietly.  

“I do not think we can know for certain, but from what we have seen I would say that it is likely that at least some of them will.  I think that if they are given the chance and choose to try, they can become good citizens of Strayton, if the townspeople will have them.”  Elrohir looked thoughtful.  It was a little difficult putting across everything he wanted to say when he couldn’t really hear it, but he was learning to work around that.  

“There really are no guarantees that they won’t simply go back to their old ways when their sentence is done, but at least they will have been given the chance, and I think that is all we can do,” he continued, smiling slightly.  “Thil was very kind to me, even when they took us captive, and he helped me greatly.  Taradin should be allowed to take the boy with him if Thil will have it. I get the feeling that a change of company is all he really needs.”  The deaf elf looked around the table at the others.  Most were nodding in agreement even though he could not hear their murmured assents. 

“Then it is decided. Taradin and his men will take the thieves into Strayton.  The prison warden can decide where they can best work off their debts and who would be wisest to help these men integrate into a useful lifestyle. And Taradin can keep Thil in his employ if that is what he desires.” Elrond glanced at Aragorn, the ranger was uneasy.  “Estel?  Do you disagree? This was your idea and I found it to be the most just.  What troubles you?” 

“It’s just... well, Kaldur.”  Aragorn glanced at Legolas; their knowledge of the man’s background led the ranger to believe the solution would never sit well with the head thief; neither would he long remain in such a situation if he could help it.  

There really was no way to avoid the fact that once turned over to the Warden, the prisoners were out of Rivendell’s control and completely under Strayton’s jurisdiction.  Elrond could and would mandate certain terms, but after that it was out of the elves’ hands.  

They all knew that the captive bandits would most likely be lodged in the prison as a matter of safety, at least until their work programs were established.  Possibly even after that as well, although they would only be returning there at night.  That was by no means an unreasonable situation for most... but for Kaldur... Aragorn suspected that his wounds went a little too deep in that direction for him to submit peaceably.  The Prison Warden would not be able to make him useful against his will, and if in the end he attempted harsher measures to keep the irrepressible bandit under control... Aragorn would have broken his word in more ways than he cared to count.  Yet on the other hand, Kaldur’s disruptive presence would only hinder the progress with the other bandits and inflict on the good people of Strayton a headache that they did not deserve.  

“I think something else should be arranged for him,” Aragorn said quietly.  

“He will serve his time like the others,” Elrond replied coolly.  After learning all the trouble the man had gotten them into and the fact that it was indeed partly Kaldur’s fault that Aragorn and Legolas had ended up in a barrow in the first place, let alone his responsibility for Elrohir’s hearing loss and the beaten state of the twins, the elf lord was not kindly disposed to the obnoxious human.  “I understand your reservations about his past but, Estel, I will not bid the people of Strayton do anything that would endanger their own citizens. He must be kept in the prison with the others, at least at first.  There is nothing to keep any of them there otherwise.” 

Aragorn nodded.  “I know, Ada, but...” his voice dropped lower.  “I gave him my word.” 

Elrond fixed his son with a steady, searching gaze, as if trying to understand what Aragorn had seen in the other man that he would make such a promise when keeping it appeared to be counter-productive, not to mention difficult.  

The ranger feared his father’s displeasure with him over this, but Elrond’s eyes were not upset, they were simply questioning.  

“Estel went to Kaldur at my request, Lord Elrond.  I do not deny he has caused no end of trouble, but his heart is not evil.  He did save us,” Legolas put in quietly, breaking the uncomfortable silence that had fallen.  

“More than once,” Aragorn continued. “Who has ever heard of a man distracting four hill trolls at one time?” 

“Insanity, that’s what it was,” Elladan spoke up with a slightly dry smile.  “Although it did work,” he added quietly as he rubbed his still sore wrists.

Ada, please?” Aragorn asked softly. 

Elrond sighed.  “What do you propose?” 

“It would be better if you did not know.” Aragorn didn’t flinch from the hard stare the elf laid on him at those words.  He knew that Elrond would not openly agree with his plan. It would be better to discuss it with the elf lord later, when they were all in much better health. 

Elrond narrowed his eyes and watched the human for a few moments.  He did not know exactly what his son was planning, but he trusted him and could see that Estel felt strongly about this.  It was good to see Aragorn feeling confident enough in himself once more to want to do whatever it was he felt was right, even if his father was dubious about what that entailed.  Elrond knew he could not prod Aragorn to accept his destiny one moment, and then treat him like a child the next.  If the human were someday to be a king and a leader, he had to be allowed to follow his own judgment.  The elf lord smiled wryly when he found that that thought touched off a small wave of resistance.  Was that the father in him that wanted Estel to always remain his child, his charge?  He could have laughed at himself.  Certainly you would think an elf as old and as wise as he would know better.  

“Legolas and I will take him and deal with him ourselves.”  Aragorn knew now what he needed to do.  He had not discussed it with the elf, but the ranger was confident that his friend would agree with him. 

“As you wish then.  I trust you, Estel, and I trust your judgment.  But I want you to impress upon him the error of his ways so that he will not forget.” Elrond cautioned as the elves began to push back from the table eager to send the hunters and prisoners on their way. 

“He will know, Lord Elrond,” Legolas nodded, glancing sideways at the ranger.  He had no clue what Estel was up to but he was willing to go along and trust Estel to tell him later.  

As they exited the room, Aragorn pulled the elf close and directed them out away from the others.  Quietly he whispered his intentions to the prince. 

Elrond watched them both go.  He saw the surprised look on Legolas’ face and the smile the elf turned on the human.  Aragorn’s questioning gaze dissolved into relief as the prince readily agreed to whatever it was that the ranger had whispered to him.  He chuckled silently.  Oh, Estel, did you not know he would agree with you on anything? 

The guests were informed of the decision to leave for Strayton and were quickly assembled on the steps of the courtyard after their mid-morning meal.  Moranuen and Celboril followed a few moments later with supplies and food for the daylong trip.  Two horses were provided for the wounded men that could not travel easily and the prisoners were once more tied up and strung together on a long lead rope. 

Aragorn stepped down into the courtyard, smiling at his father as he moved around the elf lord.  Elrond was overseeing the whole affair and gave his human son a covert glance.  He knew the ranger was up to something, just what he was sure he did not want to know.  He had put the matter in Aragorn’s hands and he would let it go at that.  He did trust his son, and his son’s judgment.  

Legolas followed close on the ranger’s heels, two black strips of cloth in his hands and a wicked smile on his face.  He trailed Estel as the ranger quietly cut the rope that connected Kaldur to the end of the string of prisoners and pulled the man out of line.  The prince stepped lightly behind the thief and placed one strip of cloth quickly over Kaldur’s head, using it as a gag and tying it off in place.  When Legolas used the last strip to blind the thief, Kaldur panicked, his breath coming in quick, short gasps. 

“Legolas?” Aragorn turned back to the elf who laid his hands firmly on the robber’s shoulder and pulled the smaller man back against him. 

“Be still and trust us,” Legolas whispered. “Strider is keeping his promise to you.” Slowly Kaldur’s breathing eased but he remained tensed under the elf’s hand. 

“Hey!” Thil had turned and watched in horror as Kaldur was separated from them and further restrained, “No, you promised!”  

Taradin stepped near the young man and quieted him. “Let Strider be. He knows what he is doing and he won’t hurt your friend.” 

Stepping down into the courtyard, Lord Elrond fixed the prisoners with a stern stare and a weighty silence descended.  

“You are being released into Taradin’s custody.  He will take you into Strayton where you will work off your debt in the employ of the people of the town.  It is not slavery and you are not being sold to anyone.  You are to work where you are placed for the next three years and part of what your labor earns will be sent to recompense the people of Bree for their losses on your account.  After that, if you so desire, you may remain in Strayton and make an honest living for yourselves there.  Consider this your second chance at life and use it well.  If you will not cooperate, you may serve your time in jail. It is your choice.” He turned to Thil, “Taradin has asked for the opportunity to retain you with his company for your allotted sentence.  He believes you have skills in healing and, from what I have heard, I agree with him.  If you wish, you may remain with him.” 

“What of Kaldur?” the youth asked quietly, his eyes seeking out his former employer once more.  The lad was distressed over the handling of the man who had treated him like a younger brother for the past few years. 

“He will be dealt with by Strider and Legolas, he will not accompany you.  His fate is for him alone and not up for discussion.”  When Thil glanced back at the elf lord, Elrond nodded once to the youth, his eyes softening slightly as he took in the boy’s distress, “Now your decision is before you.  What will you chose?” the older elf asked more softly. 

Thil glanced back at Taradin. The hunter smiled down at the boy encouragingly, stepping up behind him. 

“Are you willing?” the old hunter asked, “The work is hard and the days are long.  You’ll stay in my house and you’ll be like one of my own. But you will work off what you owe and you’re welcome to stay on after that.”  

The young man smiled up into the bright eyes of the old trader.  He’d always wondered what it would be like to be part of a real family.  “I’d like that, Mr. Taradin.” 

“It’d just be Taradin, son,” the hunter corrected as he cut the ropes binding Thil to the line of thieves. “Now off with you, over there with Markess.  He’ll be showing you part of your responsibilities. You do what he tells you and I’ll be with you in moment.” 

“Thank you, Lord Elrond,” Thil whispered as he moved toward where Markess stood.  Halfway cross the courtyard he stopped and turned, running full out towards where Aragorn guarded Kaldur.  

The ranger motioned the startled elves away, keeping them from blocking the young man as he approached the bound highwayman.  Wrapping his arms around Kaldur, Thil hugged the older thief. “I don’t know what’s going to happen from here, but I ain’t never going to forget you.  Thank you Kal.  I owe you for everything,” he whispered through the dark, tangled braids that fell around Kaldur’s face. 

“I’m right proud of you, lad, don’t never forget that neither,” Kaldur whispered back roughly around the gag as best he could.  Thil understood.  //“You prove yourself with them people; show ‘em what I know you can do.  You won’t be getting no better chance then this.”// Kaldur added mentally what he was unable to physically as he felt Thil’s arms tighten around his shoulders in one final farewell.  He was glad the lad was getting a new start somewhere he’d be able to flourish.  Thil was one heck of a sweet kid, but he made a lousy bandit.  

Stepping quickly away and nodding slightly to Aragorn, Thil turned and headed back to stand near Markess.  He had to believe that somehow the ranger was going to keep his word and Kaldur would not come to permanent harm, whatever fate held for him.  Markess draped his arm around the boy as the lad wiped his eyes on the sleeve of his tunic, giving him a gruff, but comforting squeeze. 

“That’s done then.”  Elrond nodded to the hunters. “Taradin, you are welcome in the halls of Rivendell anytime you pass this way.  It has been good to have you here and quite... interesting, under the circumstances.  Perhaps the next we see you, your stay will be longer.  May the Valar protect you on your way home.” 

The hunters started the climb up, out of the valley, trailing their prisoners and the wounded who brought up the rear.  They headed for the southern pass, wending their way back towards town. 

When they were sufficiently out of sight, Aragorn motioned with his head to the north passage and Legolas pulled Kaldur with him, careful to keep the man walking on the steep path that led away from Rivendell towards the distant mountains. 

Legolas kept his hands on Kaldur’s shoulders, guiding the blinded man so he did not stumble.  He could tell Kaldur was tense and unsure about all this, but he would find out soon enough what was going on.  The bandit could stand a little bit of uncertainty. 

Nearly an hour later, they had reached the top of the grade and Aragorn called a halt to their travels. 

“It’s rather nice traveling with him so quiet.” Legolas taunted lightly as he pulled Kaldur to a stop at Aragorn’s signal.  “I could get used to this.” 

“You are enjoying yourself far too much, Legolas,” the ranger chuckled quietly as he slipped his elven blade from its sheath. 

Kaldur heard the sound of a blade leave a sheath and his whole body tightened.  He really did not know what to expect. 

Taking Kaldur’s hands in his own, Aragorn deftly cut the rope that bound them while Legolas slid the blindfold and the gag over the man’s head, releasing him. 

“What was that all about?”  Kaldur objected.  “There was no call for that, I wasn’t going to try anything!”  He was obviously troubled by the treatment and slightly disoriented.  He stepped away from his two guards, stumbling backward a bit.  He kept his hands out to the sides a little, palms outward as if showing he wasn’t trying anything, worried about what exactly they intended to do with him now.  

“Calm down,” Aragorn quietly reassured him, “It was for the sake of your men so they would be frightened enough to think the worst was planned for you and so you couldn’t follow them where they are going.” 

“They have a new life ahead of them. Without you around they may actually make it.” Legolas eyed the man with a raised eyebrow.  “I do not suggest your going back for them.” 

“Besides,” Aragorn smiled slightly.  “Lord Elrond said we should make sure we did something you’d remember.” 

“Well I don’t know about the others, but you frightened me good!”  Kaldur stepped a bit further back from the elf, suddenly aware that he was no longer restrained in anyway.  “But if you’re not intending to take me out here ta slit me throat, then...?”  

“You’re free to go, Kaldur.” Strider commented quietly.  When the thief cocked his head to the side and questioned them with a silent inquiry, Aragorn laughed at the quizzical look on the man’s face. 

“Come again, mate?” 

“You saved our lives more than once,” Legolas answered.  “We don’t forget that.” 

“Even though you endangered Elladan and Elrohir’s lives,” Aragorn put in with a pointed look.  “Honestly though, we wouldn’t have made it home alive without you.  You told me one time I was a horrible warden, well for your information, you’re a terrible highwayman.” 

At this Kaldur burst out laughing. “That I am, mate, that I am.”  Extending his hand, he vigorously shook Aragorn’s, “And I thank you, both.” He eyed the elf.  “I’ll miss our little talks together.” He laughed at his joke when Legolas rolled his eyes. 

“Kaldur, you won’t get many second chances,” Aragorn tried to warn the dark-haired man.  He was not so foolish as to think Kaldur was about to change his ways, but he hoped the other man would at least be more careful.  

“Ah but mate, they’ll have to catch me first,” the thief smiled warmly at the two friends. 

“Well it was pretty easy for us,” Legolas replied flatly. 

To which the robber curtly answered, “Yes, but you’re an elf and he,” Kaldur eyed Strider soberly for a moment, “he’s nearly one as well.  I won’t be for makin’ that mistake twice.” 

“I should hope not,” Aragorn chided as the three of them began to descend the pass.  The ranger and elf accompanied the newly freed prisoner through the rough terrain as much for his protection as for their own desire to spend one more day with the infuriating, and yet strangely engaging man.  Besides... they wanted to make sure he wasn’t going to circle back and go after his men.  

“What will you do now with no men and no brilliant plan to sweep the local city into a panic?”  Aragorn teased, more than curious as to the robber’s intentions.  Strange as it seemed, he almost hated to see the man go.  He had a feeling their paths might not cross again.  The sun was fleeing the sky and soon night would be upon them.  The path they were on would eventually lead to the dwellings of the Beornings, across the mountains.  

“Don’t know.”  Kaldur glanced across the vista they were afforded by the plateau they walked across.  Ahead in the far distance twinkled the lights of some small mountain village.  “Might be something interesting I can scrounge up in that town there yonder.  Who knows what sort lives down there, or what legends they pass around at night.”  Kaldur laughed as he feigned terror at an imagined foe.  He glanced at Aragorn out of the corner of his eye, quickly sobering.  “You’re a man of your word, Strider, the first I’ve ever had the pleasure to meet.  Ye can be sure that’s one thing I won’t forget.  Thank ye.”  He stopped and the two companions knew that he was bidding them farewell. 

“Keep out of trouble, Kaldur.” Strider laid his hand on the smaller man’s shoulder. “We can’t come and bail you out every time you know.” 

“Me?  Always.”  Kaldur answered with a flourish as he danced backwards, out of reach.  “Hey, I’m Kaldur DeCahr.”  His smile was infectious and he waved to the two friends as he turned and strolled away. 

Curiosity got the best of Legolas and he called after the man before he got out of sight, “Kaldur... what exactly were in those boxes anyway?” It was a question he had had for a long time but had not asked.  The only part of the whole mystery that yet remained unresolved. 

Turning back to the friends, Kaldur walked backwards a few steps as he answered. “Stones.  Just... stones.  But they smelled mighty queer.  I honestly don’t know what they were.  ‘Twas Losmir who introduced ‘em to us, but even he didn’t know what they was, only what they did when you put ‘em in something and lit it.  Said he stole a sack of ‘em by mistake from a dark storehouse of a crazy wizard he worked for once away to the south...” 

Legolas laughed and shook his head, holding up his hands.  “All right, all right Kaldur, never mind.  You don’t have to invent stories for us anymore.  You may keep your secrets.” 

Kaldur laughed as he waved one last time and turned walking away into the growing night.  “That one weren’t no story this time, friend,” he chuckled to himself and started singing one of his off-tune songs to himself. 

“You think whoever lives out there is safe?” Legolas asked quietly as he and Aragorn turned to ascend the path and head for home, Kaldur’s singing floating to them on the night air. 

“Not a chance,” Aragorn laughed. “I think I’ll send Elladan and Elrohir to check in on them once they are well enough.” 

The lights began to sparkle in the darkening sky as the song of Kaldur DeCahr ghosted softly on the warm evening breezes.  The slight chill in the air spoke of the onset of fall when the forests shed their greenery and rested for the winter.  The promise of rest spoke to the hearts of the friends, calling them home to Imladris.  It would be good to relax in the healing halls and let the calm of winter soothe the wounds that summer had incurred. 

“Do you think we did the right thing?” Legolas asked quietly after a few moments, although his own heart already provided the answer. 

Next to him, Aragorn nodded.  “I doubt Kaldur will ever change, he’s bound to create more mischief wherever he goes, but ultimately... there are worse threats out there.  I would fear more how captivity, when merged with a past like he carries, might twist that genius of his into something darker and more ruthless.” 

“My father would give you what I believe Kaldur called ‘the angry eyebrow look’ over a sentiment like that.  But I, for one, agree with you,” Legolas said lightly, glad that this was not Mirkwood and he did not have to contend with the responsibilities of his royal title at the moment. 

The ranger smiled.  “One of the small advantages to not really being in charge.  You are freer to... interpret the rules as you see fit.” 

As the two friends walked slowly back towards the waiting welcome of the Last Homely House, Legolas turned a small, wry smile upon his friend.  

“So... speaking of fathers... How exactly are you going to explain to Lord Elrond what we have just done?” 

Aragorn shrugged.  “Easy.  It’s all a matter of timing.” 

“I see...” the elf eyed his friend.  “And when pray tell do you think would be a good time?” 

Aragorn seemed to be considering this.  “Oh, I’d say about... ten years after I’m dead.” 

Legolas laughed and gave his human friend a small shove.  “Oh Strider...” 

The End

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