Curse of Angmar

Chapter 4

by Cassia and Siobhan

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The sun warmed the mid-day sky as the small party of elves and rangers left the Lone-Lands and Weathertop behind them.  Halbarad and Arendur had rejoined them earlier in the morning, reporting that the other rangers they had sought out and spoken with had no more information on the alleged Barrow-wight threat. 

They were making towards Bree at a good clip when Aragorn held up his hand, signaling a stop.  The high fen and uncut grasses waving on either side of the road tossed lightly in the gentle breeze, but there was some stir in them that was not put there by the wind.  Someone or something was hiding nearby. 

Aragorn’s battle instincts came immediately to the front of his consciousness, wary of ambush.  Halbarad had been talking to Arendur and had not noted the possible threat, but halted when Aragorn did, looking around. 

The elves, a little ahead of their human companions, had also sensed something amiss and quickly backtracked up the road without needing a signal from Aragorn.  Elladan and Elrohir drew their bows and concealed themselves around the bend in the path while Legolas joined the men. 

The elf prince slid to his friend’s side.  “There’s something out there,” he whispered to Aragorn, but his expression was not one of alarm, rather of puzzlement.  “I do not sense evil... but I do not know what it is.” 

A small rustle on their left made them look up sharply once more.  Despite what he sensed or didn’t sense, Legolas’ fingers went to his bowstring, just in case.  

But Halbarad’s brows furrowed and he lowered the sword he had drawn.  “I think we are overly watchful, my friends, ‘tis a small creature or I’m no scout.  Most likely a badger or hedgehog of some sort.” 

“Badger or hedgehog indeed!” an indignant voice spoke up from somewhere below the normal eyesight level of the men and elves present.  They all looked down in surprise as a small man stepped out of the grass, brushing off his already tidy green waistcoat with a sense of injured dignity.  No, it wasn’t a small man, one look at the broad bare feet and the round cheerful face told you that.  This was a hobbit.  And one who was quite far from home, which was not usual for their kind. 

Legolas just stared, surprised and a little curious.  He alone in the party had never seen one of this race before.  “What is it?” he remarked in wonder without thinking much about how that sounded. 

IT is a hobbit, good sir,” the small, curly-headed being huffed a little more.  “And I would have expected a bit more courtesy from one of the Firstborn.” The hobbit’s bright eyes narrowed inquisitively.  “But then you’re not from around here, are you?  You’re wearing Rivendell clothes... more or less... but you look Silvan to me.  However, I feel as if I’ve seen you before... bother, I can’t place it.  Memory is one of the first things to go, they say.” 

Aragorn almost laughed.  He had forgotten that although Legolas had spent a great deal of time in Rivendell since they had became friends, the wood-elf had never had occasion to come this far west or to cross paths with any of the local hobbit population before.  “And what, pray tell, is a hobbit of the Shire doing so far from home, alone, and, forgive me for saying it, hiding in the grass like an egg poacher?” Aragorn asked with good humor, sheathing his sword while the other rangers did the same. 

“Egg poacher!” The hobbit bristled slightly.  “Never done such a thing in my life.  I was just being cautious if you want to know.  Not all the big folk one meets out here are to be trusted.  When I heard the elf I figured it was safe to come out.  Bad men generally do not associate with the Firstborn.  I see that there’s no rule regarding rude men however... who are you anyway?”  The question was directed at Aragorn. 

“I’m a Dúnadan, my good hobbit, a ranger.  You have naught to fear from us I promise.  I apologize if I have insulted you, it was not my intent, but you gave us rather a start I fear,” Aragorn bowed slightly as he introduced himself, sweeping his arm out to the side in a gesture for peace.  He was a little surprised at this hobbit’s knowledge about elves.  Few these days outside the rangers had much to do with elves or elvish lore. 

Elladan and Elrohir, hearing the conversation gave up their hiding place and re-joined their friends.  Their gaze lighted on the hobbit with amusement.  “Mister Baggins, we didn’t expect to meet you out here.  Not on your way to Rivendell to commandeer father’s library again are you?” they jested. 

Aragorn raised his eyebrows as he turned to his brothers. “You know him?” 

Elrohir nodded.  “Of course we do, and so do you, Estel, although you may not remember.  First came through Rivendell years ago when you were about ten I guess, dragging a whole lot of dwarves with wagging beards and tired ponies... what a merry sight they were!  Surely you must remember something; Gandalf was with them and they talked to father quite a long time.” 

Vague remembrance filtered slowly through Aragorn’s mind.  But it was a long time ago for him and he had been only a child. 

“Estel is it?” Bilbo eyed the ranger.  His many visits to Rivendell gave him cause to know that name even if he had not met the man in many years. 

“Bilbo here has been quite a frequent visitor to Rivendell these past few years since you’ve been gone,” Elladan further explained.  “Always trying to pick father’s brain for stories of the elder days and spending hours translating and poring over old texts that I will admit not even I find an interest in.” 

“I don’t know where the world is going these days, when young people no longer take an interest in their own history...” Bilbo shook his head sagely, but with an impish smile. 

“Young people?” The twins laughed.  “You should talk, Bilbo, we’re both of us far older than you even if you are getting old now for a hobbit...” 

“Oh, so getting old now am I?” Bilbo laughed despite himself.  “Well then, looking at young Estel here I do feel old... excuse me, Dúnadan if you prefer that name,” the hobbit smiled at Aragorn.  “I don’t really remember you, I fear, as at the time we seem to have met I had... many other things on my mind, but I know your brothers and look forward to making your acquaintance.”  Bilbo shook Aragorn’s hand. 

“Well now we all know who each other is, but that doesn’t tell us what you are doing out here, Mr. Baggins,” Halbarad pointed out. 

“Bilbo, please, no need to stand on formalities among friends.  Actually my trip is quite pointless now as I was on my way to Rivendell to bring tidings of these odd doings around the Barrows.  Creating quite a stir in the Four Farthings it is and I said to myself that if anyone knows about the ancient things in these parts, it’s the elves.” 

Legolas smiled.  “And how do you know that is our errand?” 

Bilbo flushed slightly.  “Well I couldn’t help overhearing you talk as you came on...” 

Aragorn laughed.  “Not an egg poacher then, but a spy.  But well met it seems.  What can you tell us of this whole troublesome business?” 

“Not much, I fear,” the hobbit shook his head.  “Just that there is a considerable to-do about it all.  Folks as far away from the Downs as Bree and the Shire are afraid to go out at night.” 

“Did you not pass through them on your way out here?” Elladan inquired. 

“Certainly not!” Bilbo shook his head.  “Do I look like a fool?  I bypassed the Old Forest and the Downs entirely.  But folks are talking.” 

“Well, it seems that the mystery still looms before us then, and we had best be on our way again.” Aragorn glanced towards the west and their goal, still many miles away.  “Will you be accompanying us then, Bilbo, or going on to Rivendell?” 

“I have quite enough work on my book waiting for me at home, I need no more at present, therefore, I shall accompany you,” the hobbit said decidedly.  “As far as Bree anyway.  If there is anything out there in those dreadful Barrows I certainly don’t want to meet them.  I’ll have quite enough of a mystery on my hands trying to figure out where I know you from, Mr...” he nodded towards Legolas and waited to be supplied with a name. 

“Legolas, son of Thranduil of Mirkwood,” Legolas bowed slightly. 

“Ah!  Well now that explains it,” the hobbit seemed relieved.  “A wood-elf, I should have guessed.  I probably saw you at the battle of the Five Armies with your father.  And if not, you do look remarkably like your father, that hair isn’t too typical for your people.”  He left out the part about having been an uninvited guest in Legolas’ home for quite a long time without the wood-elves’ knowledge. 

Legolas laughed.  “Well, Mr. Baggins, you certainly do seem to get around.  I cannot ever recall having seen you before, but your name is familiar although I knew not the manner of being to which it belonged.  My father still wears the gift you gave him on high occasions; I am honored to make your acquaintance.” 

Halbarad and Arendur were quite a ways ahead by now and stopped to call back to the rest of the slow moving party.  “Are all of you going to stand around and chat the whole day or are we moving foreword?” the elder ranger teased. 

“Coming, Halbarad, we’re coming,” Aragorn called back as they moved onward.


Bilbo sat upon a downed tree trunk that had been pulled near the brightly burning fire, listening to the men and elves discuss their next move.  They were just on the outskirts of Bree, having made camp in the forests that bracketed the easternmost parts of the fenced-in town. 

“No, I want to go into Bree.  I believe we can learn a lot from the townsfolk and this is the perfect time.” Aragorn glanced between Legolas and Halbarad. 

The older ranger shook his head, a wry smile crossing his face.  “Don’t tell me you are going to drag these elves in there with you.  I know what you’re thinking, Strider, and it has promise but you know the risk.  No one will talk to you and they surely will not speak to three elves.” 

“I don’t need any of them to talk to me, I just need them to be talking,” the younger man argued his point. 

“You aren’t thinking of...” Legolas eyed Aragorn suspiciously, his eyes narrowing as the ranger turned a brilliant smile on him.  “You are.” With a sigh the elf turned and walked back to the fire, dropping down next to the hobbit. 

“What?  He’s thinking of what?”  Elladan moved closer into the midst of the conversation. 

“Don’t ask.  I’m staying here, Strider.”  Legolas called out to the man as he tossed another fallen branch onto the flames. 

“Oh no you are not.”  Aragorn turned towards the prince. “I need those ears of yours, my friend.”  He laughed softly as the elf glared at him. 

“You have two other elves to torment with your insane plans.  Pick one of them. I hate those places.”  Legolas begged to be released but the ranger simply shook his head.  Aragorn depended too much on Legolas and knew that the environment they were heading into would not toss off the elf.  Although the prince would have liked to deny it, after their time in Harad he had more experience blending with humans than most elves.  Estel trusted his brothers implicitly, but he wanted Legolas at his back too. 

Arendur’s laughter redirected Aragorn’s attention and he raised his eyebrows in question.  “You think I am insane as well?” he questioned the younger man. 

“I think,” Arendur replied as he retrieved his weapons from were they rested against a nearby tree, “that I will accompany Halbarad to the Downs and see if we can verify any of these strange reports we have received.” 

“It’ll be safer there,” Halbarad whispered loudly as he pulled his companion with him, heading for the mist-shrouded hills on the far side of Bree. 

“Wait!” Bilbo jumped up from his perch near the fire.  Thus far he had quietly tried to keep up with the conversation, but a nagging fear had gotten the best of him and he interrupted the plans.  “You don’t mean to leave me here alone, do you?  I mean...well its just...” the small being stuttered slightly, trying to make his request known without appearing to be afraid, even though he truly was.  “I mean you’re not just all going to go off now, are you?”  he finished off his question quietly, his voice falling soft as he spoke. 

Aragorn responded first, his compassion for the small being caught at his heart.  Of course the hobbit would be afraid.  He had been on his way to Rivendell for help.  Crossing the camp in a few paces, the ranger dropped down in front of Bilbo on one knee, putting himself eye level with the hobbit, his eyes locked onto the dark ones that watched him cautiously. 

“I had no intentions at all of leaving you here alone.  One of my brothers will stay in camp with you.  Your hearing is nearly as good as any elf’s and the two of you will be able to keep the fire going and the camp safe.”  Aragorn smiled slightly, “How would that be?”  He lowered his voice to keep the conversation between himself and the hobbit, “They are both excellent marksmen, you couldn’t be in better hands.” 

Straightening slightly the halfling nodded in agreement, “That would do nicely, thank you.” 

Standing to his feet Aragorn glanced over his shoulder at the rangers on the far side of camp, “That’s settled.  Shall we?”  Halbarad shook his head slightly matching the grin on Aragorn’s face.  “Oh, your coat if you would, my friend?” Estel reached out towards the older man. 

Halbarad knew what the ranger had in mind and he easily removed his overcoat and tossed it towards Aragorn.  The young ranger handed it over to Legolas who accepted it without question. 

“We’ll see you at first light then,” Halbarad called back to them. Silently the pair left the glen, their passing almost imperceptible even to elven ears. 

“That just leaves one thing,” Aragorn glanced at the twins, “Which of you would like to stay with Mr. Baggins and which one would like to accompany Legolas and me to Bree?” 

The twins glanced silently at one another for a few moments as though pondering if they wished to choose either. 

“I’ll stay with Bilbo then.”  Elrohir spoke quietly; his answer was for his brother's ears alone for the moment. 

“As you wish, El.  Are you sure?” 

The elf turned and threw a smile over his shoulder at his younger human brother. “I think I am very sure. I have no idea what Estel has in mind for the two of you, but I get the distinct feeling that I will be safer here in the hobbit’s company.” 

“Good choice,” Legolas muttered, standing to his feet and stretching out his hand to Aragorn who was shrugging out of his worn leather coat. “You have no idea how glad you will be.” 

With a snort of laughter the ranger handed off his coat to the prince who passed it to a confused Elladan.  After digging in his pack Aragorn produced a long strip of colored cloth - a turban he had borrowed from his father before they had left.  He had anticipated just such an encounter as tonight would bring. 

Elrohir walked around the fire and watched in barely contained mirth as Legolas shrugged into Halbarad’s coat.  The human’s scent on the clothing was not strong and did not bother him.  He accepted the cloth from Estel and began deftly winding the long piece of fabric around his head, binding his tresses up in the length.  Wordlessly the prince turned towards Aragorn for his inspection.  This was nothing new to the two of them; they had gone through this ritual many times in the past by now.  The ranger glanced first at one side of the elf’s head and then the other.  Legolas had missed covering up the tip of his left ear and the human gently moved a strip of the fabric swath down so that the point was concealed.  Satisfied, he nodded at the prince, glancing over the elf’s shoulder at his older brother who stood wordlessly watching, holding the ranger’s coat. 

“Now for you.”  Aragorn clasped his friend on the shoulder as he moved past him. 

The prince couldn’t help laughing as Elladan backed up slightly, wary of the human’s approach. 

“What is this, Estel?  Where are we going that we can't be known as elves?”  Elladan took a step farther back from his brother as the man grabbed the coat and held it out for the elf to put on.  “I am not putting that thing on.” 

“Yes you are.  Because I need you and Legolas and unless you want to attract a crowd of gawkers you can't go into the Inn of the Prancing Pony looking as you do.”  Aragorn stepped forward, smiling to himself as he remembered Legolas’ very similar reaction many years ago. 

Elladan stepped back. 

“The what?” The elf pressed the ranger away from him as Aragorn tried to drape the coat over the elf’s shoulders.  “Why would I want to go there?” 

“It is a local spot and there will be local people gathered there tonight who will be more than happy to talk all about the goings-on in the Barrow-downs.  By this time they have had sufficient amounts of mead and ale to loosen their tongues.  Now come on.”  Aragorn stepped forward again effectively trapping the twin between himself and the firepit, holding out his long-coat for the elf to wear.  “Put this on.”  His voice held no room for debate.  “I’ll not have anyone questioning you or Legolas and I don’t need to attract any more attention than necessary, but I do need those ears of yours and you are coming.” 

“I think I hear Halbarad calling.” The elf frowned, looking for any way out.  “I should probably make sure he’s all right.” 

Dropping the coat to his side Aragorn tipped his head and glanced at the elf, they were running of out time.  The men’s tongues soon would be loosened by the mead they were drinking and the ranger wanted to reach the pub before the drink went to their heads and made the over-exaggerate or, worse, pass out. 

“You aren’t afraid, are you?” Aragorn pulled out the childhood taunt.  It worked every time one of them proposed a dare that the other did not want to follow through on. 

Roughly grabbing the overcoat out of his brother’s hands, Elladan quickly shrugged into the leather jacket, his nose wrinkling slightly, “This smells like...” 

“It smells like me!  What is it with you elves?”  Aragorn glared in mock indignation, silencing the giggles from the prince who stood across the fire.  They had had this conversation before.  Almost exactly. 

“I told you that thing needed a good airing out,” Legolas confessed innocently. 


“My, this is better than when the Sackville-Bagginses and the Brandybucks get together to discuss the proper methods for the growing of pipe-weed.”  Bilbo smiled, reminiscing to himself.  “Say,” He leaned over next to Elrohir and lowered his voice, “are they always like this?” 

“Worse.”  Elrohir glanced at the hobbit out of the corner of his eyes. “This is pretty good for them, actually,” he whispered back. 

“Fine!” Elladan buttoned up the leather coat concealing his elvish attire.  “Fine!  Let's go then.”  He frowned at his brother, his irritation showing through slightly. 

“Wait, you aren’t quite ready.”  Aragorn stepped closer to his brother reaching behind him and grabbing the folds of the hood that lay against the elf’s back. 

Legolas turned away, walking a few paces into the woods, unable to stifle his laughter. 

Gently Aragorn pulled the large hood up and over his brother’s head, tucking the wayward strands of dark hair back in around the elf’s face. 

Crossing his arms irritably, Elladan glared at the human as Aragorn pressed the elf’s hair around his ears, fully concealing them and stepped back to admire his handiwork. 

Nodding slowly he smiled at the twin. “The glare is good too; it’ll keep any of the curious away from our table.” 

“I’m going to have to bathe when we are through,” Elladan growled. 

“You look lovely,” Aragorn taunted, quickly touching the sides of the elf’s face and planting a kiss on his forehead. 

The teasing had reached Elladan’s limits of toleration and he shoved his brother back.  “I swear, Estel, I will make you pay for this,” he growled, stepping towards his brother threateningly. 

Aragorn moved back in close to the older elf. “Oh! Really?  Seems to me I remember a time you dressed me in that outfit of mothers when I was younger against my will.  And then, convincing me the house was empty, you dared me to run into the Hall of Fire where father was in actuality having a council meeting that you knew full well all about?  Hmmm?  Yes, let us talk about revenge shall we?”  The ranger glared back at Elladan, “Glorfindel excused himself to escort me out when I tripped on the edge of the dress trying to get out of there.  It took me weeks to come out of my room after that!  At least I have dressed you like a man.”

“Not much of an improvement,” Elladan mumbled darkly, but the smile that tugged at the corners of his lips offset the slur. 

Legolas stumbled back into the circle of light, his giggles inhibiting his breathing as he spoke.  “Really, Elladan, this isn’t the bad part.  This, my friend, is the easy part.  I’ve been where you are.”  The elf smelled the collar of the coat he wore. “Actually I prefer the way Estel’s jacket smells, I’m used to it.  Would you like to trade?” 

“Stop it!”  Aragorn was laughing now as Elrohir nearly fell off the log he sat on; the conversation having taken such a light bent, the elf was consumed with laughter.  “No you can't trade coats!  Although I’m sorry, my friend, I hadn’t thought about the smell for you.  We need to get going.  We have no time to waste; Bree is one half of an hour away and already night is well upon us.  The gate guard may not allow us access as it is.”  Aragorn started to head towards the town fully expecting the elves to follow him. 

Sounds behind him alerted the ranger and he turned to find that Elladan had quickly shrugged out of the leather coat and was holding it out to Legolas.  Aragorn simply rolled his eyes as the two elves traded jackets. 

With a laugh Elrohir rose from his seat and helped Elladan conceal his ears and long braided hair once more beneath the hood of Halbarad’s coat this time. 

“This is much better,” Legolas smiled impishly at the ranger as he quickly pulled the familiar overcoat around his shoulders. 

“Elves,” Aragorn growled at Legolas as he turned and led his companions away from the camp.  He threw a brilliant smile at the youngest twin as he walked passed the hobbit and elf.

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