Mistaken Identity

Part 2

by Cassia and Siobhan

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    Aragorn entered Strayton as the sun dipped below the tallest of the wood buildings in the small town situated just west of Rivendell. A chill was just touching the evening air as he dismounted and handed the reins of his horse to the stable keeper and the ranger pulled his hooded leather coat tightly about him.
    The stable master took note of the man's attire and, when Strider inquired about the inn, he simply nodded his head up the street and turned back towards the stables, trailing the ranger’s horse.
    Strider nodded and headed to the center of town. He was getting used to the odd looks and the quiet distance that most other humans kept when in his presence.
    The inn was marked by the usual manner of folk coming and going and the downstairs bar was full of patrons when the ranger pushed the doors open and entered the warm, dimly lit room. The innkeeper greeted him warmly, the way he greeted all folk, for every creature that passed through his doors only added to his coffers. So Aragorn was quickly given a room and a mug of ale.
    The ranger kept the hood to his coat up, it helped to keep away those who might be too curious and it allowed him privacy as he seated himself at a table located in the rear of the bar. From this vantage-point his back was against the far wall, and he could easily see every nook and cranny in the place, plus all the comings and goings of the patrons as they passed through the heavy wooden doors.
    As he relaxed into the atmosphere and the beings in the room began to ignore his presence, Strider started to concentrate on the groupings of people, focusing his attention and tuning his hearing to their conversations one by one. His hood hid his eyes and no one could tell where the ranger was looking. Smoke hung thick in the air from the pipes and the weed that was being put to use. The strong, heavy scent was not unpleasant and it masked the odor of the men around him.
    He ignored the smaller beings that sat at the overly large tables, their feet barely touching the floor: hobbits. He had heard of them but as of yet had not had extensive dealings with their kind, for with the exception of one, they rarely, if ever, ventured near Rivendell and he was sure the tiny men had no news of import to him.
    Raucous laughter diverted his attention. A group of men to his left was enjoying the evening – a little too much. The ale had loosened their tongues and one of them spoke arrogantly, boasting of his latest catch. They were hunters by their garb and their weapons. He knew they would be telling each other long tales full of lies, bragging about who was the best at their work, but the catch they boasted of now caused Aragorn’s heart to hammer in his chest and the bile to rise in his throat. He steadied himself and steeled his reactions as he listened, as the man proceeded to describe how he had caught and beaten an elf half to death the previous day.
    "The damn creature never would speak." The dark haired man laughed at his own joke, "Well not anything anyone could understand after we were through with him!" The table erupted in laughter.
    "Now wait just a minute, Seon. You’re telling me you caught an elf bare-handed with no help?" A man with bright blue eyes and hair the color of the earth leaned forward, questioning the braggart. His gaze was skeptical and his face weatherworn.
    "No. That’s the most amazing part," Seon took a gulp of his swill, banging it down harder than necessary on the table, "the fool of an elf walked right up to me! Said he was looking for information and I says right back at him, ‘So’s I!’"
    The table had quieted as they listened to him recount his capture and subsequent torture of the elf. The elf that had been Strider's best friend since the first day he had been brought to Rivendell. It was Moranuen who had befriended him almost immediately when all the other elves had been too busy to entertain the questions of a child. With the exceptions of his brothers and his father, Moranuen had always been the closest to being a part of his adoptive family. He closed his eyes as the men laughed about cutting the elf loose and how the being had barely been able to walk on his own.
    "I shoved one of those wanted posters in his hand and gave him a quick kick to his backside to get him moving out of town." He laughed with the others as he recounted watching the elf try to pick himself up and limp away from them and the fear on the creature’s face.

    The same fair face that Strider could see in his mind’s eye as he looked away from the men. When he had visited Moranuen before he had left for Strayton, the elf had still not woken. His face was bruised and his lips were cut, a bandage encircled his head where he had been brutally kicked. Elrond had said they had fractured Moranuen’s skull, he was not sure the elf would be the same if he ever woke. It took every ounce of strength Aragorn possessed to keep his seat and when the group of men called to him, he glared at them through narrowed eyes. Eyes hidden by his hood.
    "Ranger!" Seon called to him from their table beckoning him with a wave of his hand, "Ranger! It's been a long time since any of your kind have visited Strayton. Join us for a drink, and tell us of the world beyond this sorry woodpile."
    Aragorn raised the fingers of his hand and waved the invitation off, "Perhaps later, my friend."
    The hunter, undaunted by the ranger’s decline, turned back to the others and toasted the day’s hunt. Regaling his listeners with another tale that Aragorn was sure was more lie than truth. By the end of the hour the hunter had collected his men and left the tavern barely able to walk himself to the door.
    The man named Taradin watched him go, shaking his head. He leaned over onto the young man next to him and indicated the retreating hunter, "You see that one Garith?" When the younger human nodded he continued, "You don’t want to grow up to be like that. That Seon’s more lie than he is truth. Never exaggerate your kills, everyone will know you’re not worth your pay."
    "Do you believe that, what he said about that elf?" The smaller man looked up at the elder.
    Taradin eyed the lad seriously, "That was the one time I don’t believe Seon was lying. He’s going to bring the wrath of them all down on us."
    "What if that had been the killer elf?"
    "Well, that would have been different, that one would have deserved whatever he got. But my lad, that murderer won't come up and ask you for directions. He’ll simply put a bolt in your heart and walk off and he most certainly would not come into Strayton." Taradin shook his head. "Don’t know where that elf came from but I hope he made it home to his kin."
    Strider had been listening carefully to the conversation. Taradin felt the ranger’s eyes on him and turned towards the hooded man. Leaving his table he approached Strider and motioned back to the now empty seats where he had sat. "Be obliged if you joined us for a drink or two. I, for one, would very much like to hear of the goings-on in other cities."
    "I’m afraid I wouldn’t be very good company right now." The ranger answered quietly.
    Taradin nodded and pressed on, "Very well, but no man should drink alone. Garith and I will only be here for a few minutes more, join us."
    Slowly, Aragorn stood and followed the hunter back to his table and the wide-eyed youth that sat there waiting for them. The youngster fixed Aragorn with a look akin to hero worship, his mouth dropping slightly as the ranger pushed his hood back and fixed his silver eyes on the young hunter. Whatever stories he had heard about the rangers had obviously made a very acute impression on the lad.
    "Strider," he said by way of greeting, smiling at the boy. The young man couldn’t have been more than fifteen. His eyes were green like the forest and his hair red, like the sun at dusk. He had a slight build and still retained his boyish looks. He would have some growing to do.
    Taradin sat down next to the youth and smiled back at the ranger. "His name’s Garith. I took him in when his father was killed a few years back by a pack of wargs when we was out hunting deer. The boy’s mother died in childbirth and seeing as how I never had no kin, he’s become my family."
        Aragorn nodded and smiled sadly. "Good to meet you Garith. My parents died when I was young too."
    "Really?" Garith stammered out. Taradin laughed at the boy and gave him a playful shove.
    "Garith, it's not polite to stare." The youngster looked horrified with himself and attempted to apologize but Aragorn stopped him, easily changing the subject.
    "I couldn’t help but overhear your friend." The ranger fixed dark eyes on the hunter, "Strange conversation for people who live in the shadow of a realm of elves, wouldn’t you think?" When Taradin looked down into this glass and didn’t answer, Strider pressed on, "It has always been my experience that elves do not meddle in the affairs of men, nor do men harass elves. Tell me what has happened that would change all that in the world of men?"
    The hunter sighed deeply and fixed troubled blue eyes on the stranger. "Where have you been lately that you haven’t heard the happenings in the mountains east of Rivendell?"
    Garith spoke quietly from where he sat at Taradin’s side, "There’s a rogue elf living up in them mountains near that elf city that’s been killing men."
    Aragorn leaned forward and eyed the elder hunter. "Are you sure of this?"
    Taradin nodded, "Two of the victims were my men, and I found them. No one should have to die like that." He glanced down at the boy next to him before continuing, "Garith, go fetch us more ale."
    Garith jumped up and wandered merrily off towards the bar in obedience.
    "He’s a good kid." Taradin watched him go, his eyes sad as he watched the youth, making sure he wasn’t given a hard time by the inebriated patrons near the bar, "Tis not for the boy's ears, he hasn’t seen enough of the world yet to know how hard it can be. He’ll learn soon enough." When he was satisfied the boy was doing fine he returned his attention to the ranger and finished his explanation. "They were shot through with arrows. But not so’s they’d die right away if you get my meaning. They were bound, stripped of their clothes and left there to die."
    The muscles in Aragorn’s jaw tightened and he swallowed against the anger in him. Taradin was right, no being deserved to die in fear and pain like that. "How do you know it’s an elf doing it?" He pressed, his emotions repressed, his countenance a mask of false calm.
    The hunter dropped his eyes, his lips tightening as he remembered, "I found that foul creature standing over two of my men. Elbamir, he wasn’t dead yet. I chased the elf off, think I might have surprised him or I would be dead now too. Was lucky that’s all." He stopped and collected himself before continuing, "Elbamir said that the elf was the one that killed Zarrinor and the elf forced him to watch. He said the elf admitted to killing them all. All them men that’s gone missing here the last few years, said he hated men and Middle-earth needed to be rid of them. Elbamir died in my arms. I’ve known him since we was little, he didn’t deserve to die that way. Rinvan, my sharpest shot was hit by that demon but we got away before he could catch us. We been hunting him ever since."
    Garith walked back up to the table, balancing three huge mugs of ale, and seated himself excitedly across from Aragorn, his youthful exuberance causing a smile to pull at the corners of the ranger’s mouth as he thanked the young man for the drink.
    Taradin continued, "We spotted him once up on the mountain high above the northern pass into Rivendell, strangest of all places being that high up, but never again that near that area. Always since we seen him, he’s been down by the ruins, haunting that forsaken place close by the north pass just above the gorge of Rivendell. We try to stay away from there, but the boys do have a want to catch that elf. Our men aren’t the only ones to go missing." He glanced at Garith and ruffled the boy’s hair as he looked fondly down into the huge green eyes.
    The youngster turned to Aragorn watching him carefully before questioning the ranger, "Don’t suppose you could help us Mr. Ranger, sir?"
    Aragorn smiled slightly. "Please, it’s Strider. I might be interested in joining your party if Taradin wouldn’t mind the company for a few nights. I’d like to see if I couldn’t track down that elf for myself. Be interested in finding out who he is."
    The hunter nodded and extended the invitation, "You’re welcome to join us, we are heading back out tonight. We just stopped into town for a few more supplies."
    "What’s your business in that area if you don’t mind my asking." Aragorn leaned forward resting his chin on his hands.
    "No, not at all." Taradin leaned back in his chair, tipping the wooden seat until it rested on only its back two legs. "We are hunters, we live here in Strayton and do our hunting above Rivendell in the good seasons. Been real safe until just a few months back, leastwise for us that is. Don’t know what’s got into those elves. Posted a warning on their gate myself, day before yesterday. No creature owns the whole woods like that. Them sending out assassins on us just ain’t very neighborly. They coulda just asked us to go and I would have packed my men out of there."
    Aragorn sighed deeply; this was worse than he thought. There was a dark elf in the woods hunting men and now the men had turned against every elf they encountered. No good would come of this, "Have you spoken with the lord of Rivendell?"
    Taradin snorted in disgust, "Nah, there ain’t no talking to elves. Seon and his men caught one in town day before yesterday, roughed him up a bit, but he wouldn’t spill anything."
    "Roughed him up a bit?" Aragorn's eyes grew dark as they spoke so easily about his best friend. "From what I heard they nearly killed him. How do you think that will look to the residents of Rivendell?"
    The accusation hit the hunter more deeply than he wished to admit and he brushed the challenge aside, not caring to deal with the situation at the moment. He wasn’t so sure he wouldn’t have done the same thing had he been in Seon’s place, if he had thought the elf was the rogue that is. The whole affair was starting to grate on the men’s nerves and he was afraid that it would only end badly.
    Dismissing the ranger's question he shrugged, "Well, them elves can take a whole lotta beating. Besides I guess they finally let him go and sent him home with a message." Taradin took out a yellowed square of paper from his pocket. It was a copy of the wanted poster that Aragorn had seen earlier. The hunter unfolded it and smoothed out the creases before passing it to the ranger. "This is the elf we are looking for."
    Aragorn eyed the drawing for the second time that day, the difference in the elves striking home harder now that he had heard the callousness with which the men of Strayton considered the elves. "Odd, it doesn’t look anything like the elf Seon beat up."
    Taradin’s eyes narrowed, "What would you know about that elf, ranger?"
    Aragorn returned the dark stare, "I overheard Seon talking about him. He said the elf had dark hair. According to the description, this one is blonde."
    The ranger’s gaze and the truth in his statement made Taradin uncomfortable and he took a drink of ale before muttering, "You seen one elf you seen ‘em all. They all related anyway." He shrugged off the feelings of guilt that ate at his stomach.
    Aragorn bit back his frustration and the sigh that almost escaped his lips. He had had quite enough of bigotry over the last few months but sometimes it seemed all of Middle-earth was tainted with its stain.
    Taradin changed the subject, turning the question back on the ranger. "What, you ain’t no friend of them elves now are you? Didn’t think you rangers were friends of no one."
    Aragorn waited his timing and shrugged his shoulders, staring at the man. "I’ve known my share of elves. Just interested in the goings on here in these parts." He handed the paper back and took one more drink of the ale, draining his mug.
    The hunter re-pocketed the wanted sign and followed suit. "Well we best be back to camp. They’ll be wondering if we’re all right or not. Garith, go pay the man." Taradin handed the youngster a few coins and pushed away from the table. "Care to join us?"
    Aragorn nodded and before long the three of them were on their way, Aragorn having notified the innkeeper that he would not be needing a room for the night after all.
    Taradin’s camp was not far away, but the stars were already pulling themselves from their slumber by the time they got there. The camp was somewhere between fifteen to twenty men strong, but many of them were already bedded down for the night. Fires burned low and after a round of general introductions with the men that greeted them, Taradin showed Aragorn to an unoccupied sleeping place and bid him a good night.


    It was before the sun had risen when Aragorn woke and stirred from his resting place. He quietly rose and stole away from the sleeping camp. He intended to go search out the area that Taradin had told him about where they had originally surprised the dark elf and he did not want any of the hunters tagging along with him; he knew he could travel quicker and more quietly on his own. He did not think as the others did, that the elf had simply been walking through the forest in that area hunting the men. The fact that the men had not glimpsed the elf there again bothered him. If he were an elf he would make sure to draw the intruders away from his abode, keeping his sanctuary clear of them. He tried to put his thoughts into those of the dark elf’s. How would he think? How would he act? Where would he go?
    The forests where the elf had originally been seen were thick and old and the ways and passages through them were overgrown and dark. The area did not hold the sense of evil that he thought one might expect, but Aragorn had the distinct feeling that he was being watched and so he kept his guard up, treading lightly, his passage through the undergrowth silent.
    The path he was on suddenly disappeared and the tracks ended. In frustration he stopped and looked around him, smelling the wind, listening to the sounds about him. His sharp eyes caught a break in the foliage to his right and on impulse he walked towards the odd pattern that had been created in the green carpet. A very light, slightly overgrown, but well-used path lay hidden beneath the leafy canopy. Only an elf could use the same path repeatedly and not bear the foliage down with his weight. Tracking elves was something that the best human hunters had a hard time with, but the ranger knew what to look for, what to expect. He picked up the barely perceptible run and tracked the rogue high into the forest, following the minute, telltale signs.
    Presently Aragorn came upon a small glade set against the hills on the edge of the upper forests where the foliage turned to small brush and stunted trees. The tiny glade backed up against the face of a sheer granite cliff. Trees hugged the rock face and grew down the sides, their boughs bent low towards the ground, lichen and moss covered the rock around them. But there was a scent on the air that was foreign to the forest. Spices mixed with the smell of burning wood. The scent was old but yet not quite swept away; testimony to the presence of a human or some being.
    Aragorn cautiously walked forward, drawing his sword from its scabbard, the metal singing quietly as it was unsheathed. The wind sighed through the gorge below him, sweeping up through the forests and brushing past the ranger as it climbed up the mountain. The trees at the foot of the granite bowed under its gentle onslaught and the flicker of metal beyond their branches caught the human’s attention.
    Confused, Aragorn stepped forward and parted the foliage. Astonished, he stood still on the threshold. Behind the covering of the trees the granite had been hollowed out in the shape of an inverted bowl. Less a cave and more a deep shallow, the natural concave have been turned into a dwelling place. Aragorn surmised that this was where the dark elf lived as he entered the now empty hovel, scanning the interior quickly.
    A small hammock hung suspended to the left. Metal spikes had been hammered into the rock face and the sleeping bed had been hung between them in the curve of the shelf. To his right was a small desk that sat in front of a bookshelf carved from the rock itself. It held a few precious books and a journal lay open on the desk, an old quill laid near it. A near empty ink well, perched precariously on the bookshelf, attested to the fact that the lair was used, and often. Aragorn turned the open book towards him. The words inside were penned in elvish, but that was no hindrance for him and he quickly read the last few lines.

They came again. Every time they come closer. Don’t they know they aren’t welcome here? Why are they allowed in these mountains I wonder. This range was given to me. These humans weren’t like the last. These were harder to kill, but it was enjoyable nonetheless and I was able to hone my skills. How lax I have become. Their boots will make nice sheaths for my tools and I have been wanting a pair of sleep shoes.

Their companions are still nearby. I wonder what treasures they will give up at their deaths? My food runs low again so I must leave to hunt; perchance I will meet up with the men again. Why Iluvatar ever created men I will never know.

    The journal left off there. The entry was dated that morning although the date had a question mark beside it as though the writer were not entirely sure what day or year it truly was. The ranger looked about him with new insights into the writer’s mind. He noticed for the first time the articles that were definitely not of elven nature. The small stack of clothing, neatly folded and placed in a niche in the rock. Removing one dark green shirt, he shook the tunic out and fingered the tear near the right shoulder; there was dried blood on the cloth. A small pile of assorted shoes lay on the floor, some already had been taken apart, their leather and soles having been put to some other use now that their owners no longer needed them.
    Aragorn shuddered involuntarily as the last entry in the journal repeated itself in his mind-

    Why Illuvitar ever created men I will never know.

    His father was right; this truly was a dark elf. Something inside the ranger resonated; he had been here too long. He needed to leave and leave now. His brothers had taught him to trust his instincts and they were screaming at him to get out. He replaced everything as it had been and crept back to the hidden entrance. Every sense was alert as he stepped out into the glade. It was quiet in the surrounding forest, but he could still hear the buzzing of the grass bugs and the sounds of the birds in the canopy above him.
    Making quickly for the edge of the clearing Aragorn had almost gained the trees when he paused mid-step; the sounds of the forest about him had abruptly ceased. Slowly, he gazed around him, turning back to stare at the elf’s hidden lair. He froze in his tracks and watched as the rogue elf stood before his makeshift home, bow drawn and arrow notched, his eyes locked on the young ranger. He had approached so quietly that Aragorn had not even heard him.
    The ranger was sure that his heart was sighted by the tip of the arrow aimed at him. Cautiously, he turned to fully face the elf. The warrior was not of Noldor descent. His hair was blonde and long and swept back from his face by a catch at the nape of his neck. His eyes were blue and his face was fair. His clothing, though worn, definitely resembled that of the wood elves and his body was lithe and strong just like one accustomed to living in the forests. If Aragorn hadn’t known better, at first glance, he would have thought he were gazing at his friend Legolas. But as he watched the Silvan elf, he could see the differences, differences lost on most humans who thought all elves looked alike. He was slightly surprised to notice that the elf was lowering his bow. The ranger raised his empty hands slightly palms up, showing the elf he was unarmed. He really hadn’t come to battle the rogue, he was just seeking information.

    As he gazed at Aragorn, the elf dropped his bow slightly. The eyes of the young human reminded him of someone he once knew and the resemblance of spirit threw him off his guard. But it couldn’t be. That one’s mate had left years ago; it was impossible was it not? And this was no heir of the Noldor; it was a human. The oddity of it stopped him. His mind fell to memories long ago lost to him and yet so seemingly recent; how long had it truly been? He turned his attention to the gorge of Rivendell, wondering to himself. And yet this human had been in his things, knew where his home was; he could not let the man live. Raising his bow he sighted back on the man, but where the ranger had been standing moments before there was no one. The dark elf smiled slightly to himself. Let the man go back and tell his friends, let them all come. He would wait for them and he would not let them get away this time, not any of them, not even the ranger with the curious eyes. Stalking back into his lair, the rogue elf prepared for the inevitable.

    Aragorn ran and did not look back. He could not hear the elf pursuing him but he did not wait to find out if he would. It had surprised him when the elf had dropped his weapon and he found it very odd that the rogue warrior had looked toward Rivendell. The ranger could have sworn that there was longing in the elf’s eyes as though he were reliving some memory from his past. However that moment of inattention was all the young human had needed and he had taken the opportunity to flee.
    When he had reached the path back to the hunter’s camp, Aragorn finally slowed down and stopped, listening carefully to his surroundings for any hint of a pursuer. But no sounds assaulted his ears save the soft noises of the forest and the rapid beating of his own heart. Leaning over, the ranger rested his hands on his knees and caught his breath, waiting for his heart to slow down before he began the final walk back to camp.
    He knew the elf would be watching for him now. He had been caught in the rogue’s territory, so there would be no safe way of walking back in. He had been targeted; he would need to be extra careful that he did not endanger the hunters any more than they already had themselves. With all the information that he had sought now in his possession he would need to find a way to return to Rivendell and inform Elrond. Aragorn had the very distinct suspicion that the elderly elf would be more than interested and probably not at all surprised when he told him what he had discovered.


    Legolas Greenleaf turned his face towards the rising sun as it worked its way up the eastern sky. He had broken camp when the glowing orb was still extracting itself from the distant horizon and had already covered a good distance since then.
    All yesterday and today he had been slowly descending down the western foothills of the Misty Mountains and today he hoped to make Rivendell by sundown. A fortnight ago, the Prince of Mirkwood had promised to pay a visit to his young friend Aragorn, adopted son of Lord Elrond and that was where he was going now.
    The journey between Mirkwood and Rivendell and the path over the Misty Mountains was hardly an easy one, but Legolas had encountered no serious problems or obstacles. The only real trouble he had had was discovering that hunting packs of wolves and wargs were ranging near the rift that he would have normally taken to get to Rivendell. However, even that was no more than a mere inconvenience, for it simply meant that he had to take the high pass over instead. The high pass was a little bit longer and added at least a half a day’s travel onto his trip, but that was not too much of a price to pay to avoid having to deal with any warg packs, especially since Legolas traveled alone.
    Originally, the prince had thought to bring Raniean or Trelan, or some of his other friends with him, but for one reason or another none of them had proved to be available at this time and Legolas preferred traveling alone to traveling with any kind of royal escort. His father had long ago given up trying to force the young prince to take his guards with him when he went out. Legolas could take care of himself.
    Yet no one could have foreseen what would happen, and certainly Legolas himself had no premonitions that morning as he made his way lightly through the trees and down a sloping hill towards a dished valley, dotted with the ruined remains of some once-mighty fortress or dwelling that was now busy crumbling itself slowly into the dust.

    From a distance off, several pairs of eyes caught the elf’s unconcealed movements and their brows darkened.
    Taradin watched the elf pick his way nimbly across the crumbling ruins with a dark scowl. "There you are again then, you devil," he muttered quietly to himself. "Well the shoe’s on the other foot this time, isn’t it?"

    Legolas moved easily across the broken ground, unaware of the men that watched him. He felt sure that there were others in the area somewhere, but whether they were friend or foe he did not know. However, this close to Rivendell he was not particularly worried.
    Suddenly Taradin looked up to see that the man beside him had risen and laid an arrow across the strings of his longbow. The fellow was tracking the elf in his sights, about to fire.
    "Hamset! No!" Taradin leapt to his feet just as the arrow left the bow, slightly spoiling the archer’s aim.
    "You idiot!" Taradin shouted. "I wanted him alive!"

    The ruins dropped away sharply on their eastern edge and Legolas leaped lightly down, not perturbed by the eight-foot drop. The prince had just jumped off when his sharp eleven ears picked up the distinctive sound of a bow twanging. Mid-air, there was no way he could react to the perceived threat and a moment later he felt a sharp, burning pain lance through the side of his left thigh, about five inches above his knee.
    Startled by these events, Legolas was unprepared to land and hit the ground hard, his injured leg giving way under him so that he ended up pitching to his hands and knees on the stony earth.
    Wincing, the elf rose quickly to his feet, obviously favoring the left. He spared a quick glance down to see the sickening sight of the arrow protruding from his lower thigh, but had not the time to do anything about it. Whoever had shot him was still out there and he had better get to cover quickly. Unable to keep from limping, Legolas quickly put the face of the plateau he had just jumped off of between himself and the direction from which the arrow had come.

    Taradin swore at having lost the element of surprise as he watched the elf limp swiftly away. "Get down there and get him! Now!" he shouted at his men, but they were already in motion. With a wave of his arm, Taradin motioned for his men on the opposite side of the plateau to move in.

    Pulling his own bow off his back and fitting an arrow on the strings, Legolas peered warily around the edge of his hiding place, but from this angle could not see anyone, nor get a clear shot at them even had he been able to.
    The elf grit his teeth against the pain radiating from his injury as he forced his leg to support him, hurrying towards the woods about three-hundred yards distant. Besides the scanty cover of the ruins, this area was wide and open, a terrible place to be trapped if someone was shooting at you. Legolas intended to get to some suitable cover as soon as he could.
    Taradin’s men burst from around the other side of the ruins, right on the elf’s heels.
    Legolas considered turning to fire at them, but already slowed by his injury, he did not want to risk the time it would take, especially since for whatever reason, they were not shooting at him at the moment.
    The elf stumbled, but pressed on, infuriated by the clumsiness brought on by his injury. He could never outrun them like this, or even get enough distance between them so that he could make use of his bow without making himself vulnerable.
    Reaching the trees with the men literally right behind him, Legolas slung his bow back over his shoulder as he sprang up to catch hold of the lower branch of a white oak, grimacing as he pulled his injured leg up onto the limb with him. He was reaching for the next branch above his head, when one of the men caught hold of his injured ankle, yanking the elf’s foot out from under him.
    Legolas grabbed for the branch to steady himself, going for his knives. He didn’t get the chance, for at that moment one of the men grabbed the arrow still protruding from his leg and used it like a handle, yanking down hard.
    The sudden, shocking burst of agony swept over Legolas’ senses, flooding all his perceptions with a haze of pain as his feet were half-pulled, half-slipped out from under him. The abrupt jerk ripped the arrow completely out of his leg, pulling Legolas downward as it did so. The elf tried to catch himself as he fell, but the tangle of hands grabbing and clutching at him threw off his balance and hampered his attempt.
    Legolas twisted away as he slammed into the ground on his hands and knees, landing more heavily on his injured side than the other, causing another brilliant flash of pain to jolt through his leg. The elf was given no time to collect himself, for before he had even finished hitting the ground, one of the men brought the hilt of a sword down violently across the back of the elf’s skull.
    Legolas crumpled forward to the ground, dazed by the powerful impact. Two more equally vicious blows rendered the stunned elf unconscious.

    Taradin arrived at just about that time. He looked darkly at the elf’s unmoving form, until he was quickly assured that the prisoner was unconscious only. "Good," he grunted as the unresponsive elf was bound and hefted up between two of his men. "This one’s got a lot of answering to do before he dies. Take him back to camp!"

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