Mistaken Identity

Part 3

by Cassia and Siobhan

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    Legolas was brought back to consciousness by a slap of cold water and someone shaking him roughly, which did nothing for his throbbing headache.
    Right after his headache, the next thing he noticed was the pain in his leg. Then his wrists... but why did they hurt? With a shock the elf realized that his hands were tied tightly together above his head, with the rope that bound them looped up over a high branch that held him upright and barely allowed his feet to fully touch the ground. Additional coils of rope around his chest and legs held him firmly against the tree at his back.
    For a moment a bright flare of panic at his own helplessness washed over the elf before he got control of himself and pressed it down to a dull fear. What did these men want with him? Forcing his eyes open and struggling to bring the blurry world into focus, he could have sworn that he recognized none of them.
    "Finally, you’re awake," Taradin said somewhat impatiently.
    "What do you want with me?" Legolas forced the grogginess from his voice, keeping it remarkably clear and strong for his condition. "I have very little that is worth stealing and I think you will find me rather expensive quarry if anything ill should befall me," he said calmly.
    Taradin rolled his eyes. "Don’t be cute. I’m sick of you picking off my men and playing games with us. You’ve fooled us before, not now. I want answers and I want them straight. If you’re smart, you’ll cooperate with me," he warned.
    Legolas’ brow crinkled in confusion and irritation. "I don’t know what you’re talking about, release me!" The pain in his head from the repeated blows was bad and it was making it hard to think, so he wasn’t quite sure if the man actually wasn’t making sense, or if he was just having trouble processing what was said.
    Taradin shrugged. "I’ll get it out of you one way or another. If you want to play games with us, I can do that too. He pulled a small flask out of the front of his shirt and uncapped it. "Thirsty?" he asked Legolas, offering him the bottle.
    Actually, Legolas was, but something in Taradin’s eyes concerned him and there was no way he was voluntarily taking anything from these people. Turning his head, he refused.
    With shocking suddenness, Taradin drew back his large fist and slammed the elf upside the head with incredible force, rocketing Legolas’ head back into the tree behind him. Starbursts exploded across the prince’s vision at the treatment of his already battered skull and he nearly blacked out again.
    Legolas wasn’t even aware that Taradin had pressed the flask to his mouth or poured its contents down his throat until he felt a strange burning in the back of his mouth and realized that there was liquid there and his body was swallowing automatically to keep his airway clear. The elf coughed and tried to spit whatever it was out, but he was still dazed and weak. Taradin grabbed his jaw and roughly forced his mouth shut, holding the prince’s nose until Legolas was forced to swallow the rest of the liquid or else choke himself.
    With that accomplished, Taradin released the prisoner and stepped back, watching and waiting. He was sure there was no mistake being made this time. He had seen this elf before, he would recognize him anywhere. And this elf would pay for the cold-blooded murder of his friends.
    Legolas let his head fall back against the rough bark of the tree behind him. Blinking his eyes he tried to clear his mind, as he felt a strange, light-headedness creeping over him. Pain lanced between his temples and it seemed to him that he was having trouble with conscious thought, or at least, his control over his conscious thought.
    Frighteningly enough he felt as if whatever they had introduced into his system was attempting to pry control of his body, his thoughts and his words away from him and place that power in the hands of his captors. The elf steeled his jaw. He was not about to let that happen if he could help it.
    Wave after wave of dull nausea swept over the prince and he closed his eyes tightly against the pain that was spreading slowly throughout his body. When he opened them again he found that the lead man was watching him intently. Obviously they knew very well what Legolas was going through right now.
    "What have you done to me?" Legolas asked through sluggish lips. Even forming the words in his mind seemed hard. He did not like what he felt happening.
    "Ensured that we’ll get a little truth out of you, that’s all," Taradin said darkly, watching the elf’s eyes. They were sufficiently glazed and cloudy now, he knew the dragon water he had administered had taken effect. "With this stuff in you, you can’t lie to us, and that’s good because I’ve got plenty of questions that I want honest answers to."
    "Who are you? What do you want with me?" Legolas asked, wincing and rubbing his forehead against the side of one of his bound arms, wishing he could rub out the headache. Taradin’s voice throbbed painfully in his head and he wished he could escape the ache of it.
    "I’m one of those people you’ve been trying to kill, elf!" Taradin said with controlled anger. "Or don’t you pay attention to who you’re shooting at anymore? I was a friend of Elbamir and Zarrinor and I will see you pay for what you did to them!"
    Legolas’ brow creased in growing confusion, which added to his pounding headache. "I don’t know what you’re talking about! I’ve never seen you before in my life. Let me go."
    Taradin struck the elf across the face, knocking Legolas’ head back into the tree behind him again and making a small trickle of blood run down the corner of the prince’s chin.
    Legolas stifled a moan at the pain that the blow caused to explode across his senses. Many more like that and he was going to black out again, whether Taradin wanted him to or not. His head lolled limply to the side and for a few moments he did not have the strength, or the will, to raise it again.
    Taradin grabbed the elf’s long hair near his scalp on one side of his skull and tugged Legolas’ head up. "I’m not going to play games with you elf! I want to know why you’re killing my people, and if there are any more of you involved in this!"
    "I don’t know what you’re... talking about..." Legolas licked his bleeding lip. What else could he tell them? The drug in his system was robbing him of much ability for rational thought, but he was beginning to think that these men must have mistaken him for someone else. "I don’t know who you think I am, but I’m not."
    "Right. Then who are you?" Taradin demanded harshly.
    Being bound and questioned by these men, especially now that this drug had put him into a highly suggestive state, was bringing back evil memories to the prince’s mind, memories of the last time he had been taken captive, beaten and questioned by men. They had wanted to know who he was too. Legolas’ sluggish, reeling mind seized up and refused to allow an answer. He would not tell these men who he really was. He didn’t know them, the truth could be dangerous. Besides, he doubted they would believe him. "Not whoever you think I am..." Legolas’ words slurred slightly. It was the truth, just not all of it.
    Taradin scowled. "Right. Garith, get me another vial of the dragon water. One obviously isn’t doing the trick." Legolas was right, the man would not have believed who his captive was even had he been told at this point.
    The young man complied, although he hesitated slightly when handing it over. "This is pretty potent stuff... I thought you weren’t supposed to give more than one dose at a time?"
    Taradin shrugged. "Maybe it’s different for elves. They’re not like us. Besides," his look turned dangerous, "it’s not like he’s got very long to live anyway."
    Uncorking the small bottle, Taradin ordered Legolas to drink it and to the elf’s surprised horror, he did as he was commanded. Obviously, the drug was working better than Taradin thought it was. The only reason Legolas did not speak was because he did not know what they wanted.
    The man’s reasoning was faulty. Two doses of dragon water were too much for anyone’s body, man or elf alike.
    Legolas pressed himself back against the tree, fighting the urge for his knees to buckle under the double assault of the drug. He began to tremble as the overdose took full affect. His heart pounded as if it were trying to beat out of his chest and his breathing caught and hitched spasmodically, leaving him gasping for air. He twisted his wrists feverishly in the bonds that held them over his head, but to no effect. The drug tore at his mind, creating a blinding haze of pain inside his head, so sharp that he actually saw rending flashes of light obscuring his vision and making the world a hazy yellow color.
    The elf gasped in pain, moaning softly between shuddering breaths as the drug ripped the last of his ability for conscious, rational thought away from him, leaving his mind a confused jumble, overridden with blinding agony.
    "Are there others?!" Taradin demanded. "Where were you operating from? Tell me!" he was nearly shouting and Legolas flinched away from the loud sound.
    "I-I don’t k-know..." Legolas murmured helplessly, shuddering as the dragon water coursed violently through his veins.
    "You’re lying!" Taradin struck him roughly in the stomach and Legolas doubled over as far as the ropes allowed him. "Where?!"
    Legolas nearly sobbed at the agony spearing through him. He couldn’t breathe. He felt like he was suffocating and his body’s warning signals kicked in, adding panic to his already over-loaded senses. The throbbing pains of Taradin’s questions were like knives inside his head, yet he couldn’t answer, he couldn’t give them what they wanted because there was nothing there. He couldn’t make it stop, couldn’t satisfy the harsh demands being placed on him. He didn’t know!
    "I-I c-can’t..." he was almost sobbing now. The substance in his blood was demanding that he give them what they wanted and he was unable to obey.
    Taradin and his men took no pity on the elf. "What were you doing in the ruins? Where were you going?" the questions pressed harder and harder until Legolas felt as if he were going to scream.
    "What were you doing there?!" the question came again.
    "A-Aragorn..." Legolas was almost fully delirious by now and he no longer even knew what he was saying. He never would have said anything about his friend otherwise. "Aragorn..." he had been going to see the young ranger, but right now he couldn’t find strength or breath or peace of mind enough to even finish a thought. He winced and dropped his head forward, battling incredible pain.
    Taradin was beside himself with rage. Two doses of dragon water in him and the creature still wouldn’t talk? What kind of inhuman beast were they dealing with? "If you want to be stubborn, I can teach you not to be," he threatened darkly.
    Picking up a thick branch from the pile of firewood, Taradin struck the elf in the ribs. Once, twice, three times... Legolas cried out helplessly, much too far gone to attempt any kind of control over his hurting body.
    Several of the other men followed his lead, picking up clubs of their own. When they all started in on him, Legolas did not even have enough breath to scream. He felt himself slipping away swiftly, falling towards the darkness of either death or unconsciousness, he knew not which, nor did he care, so long as it took him away from the agony that he was in right now.
    "Aragorn..." delirious, he called out for his friend before the darkness claimed him.


    Aragorn made his way up the hill, deep in thought. He walked slowly back to the men’s camp, still disturbed by the fact that the dark elf hadn’t killed him outright. It was almost as if the elf had thought he recognized the human. He was wondering what a Silvan elf was doing this far from his people’s lands and what his father would say about the rogue’s strange actions, when a young man came running up the path towards him.
    Garith saw him and ran out to meet the ranger before he was even fully in sight of camp.
    "Strider, you’ll never guess what happened while you were gone!" Garith said excitedly, obviously pleased with himself.

    Aragorn repressed a small smile at the younger man’s enthusiasm. At fifteen, Garith was the youngest of Taradin’s group. On the whole, Aragorn had found these men to be a lot more impulsive and less... scrupulous, than the Dunèdain, or other rangers he was used to working with. But they weren’t a bad lot...
    Garith didn’t wait for the ranger to speak, but continued on breathlessly. "We caught him! We caught the dark elf!"
    Aragorn’s eyebrows quirked upward sharply as they entered the camp. "Really? How did you-" the young man stopped short, horror shooting up his spine when he saw the fair-haired elf that was bound to the birch tree on the opposite side of the campfire. The elf’s hands were tied together over his head, suspended from a tree branch above him, and a second coil of rope around the elf’s chest and legs held him in a standing position. The fair being’s head had fallen forward and his golden hair spilled about his face, clinging to fresh blood that marred one corner of the elf’s smooth mouth and right temple. His body hung heavily against the ropes that held him.
    The young ranger froze, his face going pale. Oh no. This couldn’t be happening.
    Garith was still talking, not having noticed the change in his companion’s demeanor. "Gave us a hell of a lot of trouble. Taradin gave him a double-dose of the dragon water, but he still won’t talk..."
    Aragorn finally shook off enough of his shock to find words. "You idiots!" he nearly shouted as Garith’s last words sunk in. "By the heavens, what have you done?!" Crossing the camp quickly, Aragorn brushed his friend’s hair gently back from his face, lightly examining the elf’s wounds.

    Barely half-conscious and still under the influence of the dragon water, Legolas flinched at his touch and tried to draw back. His eyes were unfocused and hazy and he did not seem to recognize his friend, if he even saw him. He had passed out earlier, only to come back to a hazy semi-awareness about fifteen minutes ago. Yet it was as if he were trapped between two worlds, hanging somewhere in limbo and fully aware of neither.

    Hot anger burned bright inside Aragorn’s chest as he quickly pulled a knife from his boot and cut the ropes that held his friend’s hands strung above his head. Legolas slumped forward limply and Aragorn caught him. The elf hissed in pain at his touch and the young ranger began to fear that his friend had taken more hurt than he could see.
    "What are you doing Strider, are you crazy?!" Taradin demanded as he stalked quickly over. "He might get away! Have you forgotten what I told you this devil did to Zarrinor and Elbamir? What they looked like... How they died... He doesn’t deserve our mercy!"
    Aragorn’s eyes flashed as he defiantly cut the rest of the ropes and lowered Legolas gently to the ground. His mind was still whirling. He hadn’t known that Legolas was anywhere in the area, and guilt washed over him as he realized that the prince had probably been on his way to Rivendell to see him, just as they had planned a fortnight ago. "I haven’t forgotten, Taradin, but you have let your anger and your hate blind you! You have the wrong elf!"
    Taradin’s brow furrowed darkly. "What are you talking about Strider? We caught him skulking about the ruins, just like he was the other night when he shot at us!" He did not like being rebuked by the younger man, nor the idea that he had captured and tortured the wrong person. It was impossible... wasn't it? "Look I don’t care if you are a Ranger. This is my territory and my people. I give the orders. Now you put him back up there or I’ll-"
    "Don’t be a fool!" Aragorn shook his head angrily as he checked Legolas’ vitals. The elf’s heart was beating way too fast and his skin was clammy. His body trembled softly and his breathing was uneven at best. People could die from being given too much dragon water, and somehow Aragorn felt sure that Taradin and his people had been none too careful about how much they administered.
    "Taradin, I’m telling you, you have made a grave mistake! This elf is my friend! He’s saved my life more than once, you think I wouldn’t know him? This is Legolas, son of Thranduil and prince of Mirkwood!" Aragorn said as he gently unclasped Legolas’ dirty, torn tunic. His ire raised several notches at what he found there. Deep, purple-black bruises mottled Legolas’ chest, shoulders and torso. Just looking at them was painful. If the elf had no broken ribs it would be a miracle.
    Some of the bruises had crisp, clear edges and Aragorn guessed that Legolas had been clubbed repeatedly with a blunt object, probably after he had been tied to the tree, judging from the placement of the bruises. The elf moaned softly as Aragorn passed his hands probingly over his bruised ribs. The moan turned into a sharp hiss when he pressed on the third rib down and Legolas convulsed upward slightly, confirming Aragorn’s fear that his friend had at least one broken rib, probably more.
    Aragorn soothingly pressed his friend back down and turned a hard glare on Taradin, who was trying to process Aragorn’s shocking words. "You’d better pray he lives, Taradin," the young ranger said darkly. "Or you won’t have to wait for King Thranduil to seek retribution on you, I’ll demand satisfaction myself."


    The fire burned low and still Aragorn sat attentively by his friend’s side. He had done what he could for the elf, there was nothing to do now but wait. If by morning Legolas had not taken a turn for the better, Aragorn was going to take him back to Rivendell, to Elrond, mission be damned.
    Garith sat quietly nearby, watching them. He felt incredibly guilty about his part in all this, now that they knew they had the wrong person, and had tried to help Aragorn as much as he could.
    Legolas stirred and murmured, still delirious. "Aragorn? Aragorn..."
    Aragorn bit his lip and gently placed his hands on his friend’s shoulders. "Shh... shh... it’s all right Legolas. It’s all right." He could not admit to belonging to that name here in the midst of Taradin’s people, who knew him only as Strider.
    Garith scooted forward slightly. "He keeps calling that name," the young man said softly. "Earlier, after Taradin gave him the dragon water, when we were... when they- when they thought he was the dark one," Garith said uncomfortably, obviously not wishing to say: "when we were beating him" to Strider’s face. "He called that out several times."
    Aragorn let his head sink into his hand, turning away so that Garith could not see how the words affected him.
    "Does that mean something to you?" Garith inquired, peering curiously at the young ranger.
    Aragorn shrugged. "Somebody we both know." He attempted to be light, but the fact that Legolas had been calling for him when he was drugged and being tortured tore at his heart, along with the burning knowledge that he had not been there. Legolas had been there for him when the orcs had him in Moria, but when Legolas needed him...
    Aragorn pressed his palms into his eyes, taking a deep breath. Legolas was going to be all right. This was going to work out, somehow...
    When Legolas called out to him again the ranger could stand it no longer and leaned over the elf prince. Quietly slipping into the grey tongue he spoke softly, knowing the elf could easily hear him. He gently placed his hand on his friend’s chest and stilled his movements.
    "Legolas it is Strider. I am here, it’s all right now. I am so sorry, my friend." The elf stirred at the sound of his voice, the words soothing his fears and nightmares. When he saw the effect his words had he chastised himself for not doing so earlier.
    "Strider, how do you know elfspeak?" Garith started to move closer to hear the ranger's words more clearly, but Aragorn quickly raised his hand and stopped the young man.
    Legolas was slowly regaining consciousness.
    "Course he talks elfspeak," Taradin looked up from where he sat across the fire, slowly burnishing the edge of his sword with a whetstone, "he’s a ranger Garith. What’d you expect? They all speak it."
    Aragorn was sure that wasn’t true but he let the statement slide as he moved nearer Legolas, blocking the elf’s view of the rest of the camp. He didn’t want the first face his friend saw to be that of the men that had beaten him earlier.
    "Garith," The ranger turned back to the young man, "could you move around the fire and stay over near Taradin until Legolas is fully awake."
    "You think he’ll be trouble?" Garith eyed the elf warily.
    "I think you and the men beat him and I don’t think he’s going to want to see you right away." Aragorn’s words had more of bite to them than he had intended. "I’m sorry Garith, just give us some space all right?" He smiled gently at the youth as the boy nodded and moved to sit next to Taradin.
    Legolas' hand touched Aragorn’s where it lay on the elf’s chest, bringing the human's attention quickly back to the wounded prince. "Legolas?"
    Legolas' head hurt and the light from the fire was so bright. He was slightly surprised to find that he was lying on the ground and no longer bound. Someone was leaning over him speaking his name but it was hard to focus.
    "Ara..." The ranger pressed the fingers of his free hand gently against the elf’s lips, quieting him.
    "No, it’s me, Strider." He smiled down into the bleary silver-blue eyes.
    Legolas was at once tense beneath his hand. Aragorn was hiding who he was and it alarmed the elf.
    The ranger felt the change in his companion and immediately put him at ease, "No, it’s all right. I am using the name you gave because we are still in the camp of men. They do not know who I am and they mistook you for someone else. They know now they were wrong." He spoke the words in elvish and felt free enough to partly explain the truth to Legolas since it was obvious that no one here could understand them. The elf’s eyes were locked onto his but he hadn’t relaxed. "We aren’t far from my house. Tomorrow I am going to take you there. I’ll think up something."
    Legolas tried to look around them at the others nearby, he could hear them and he was not at all comfortable in the situation he found himself. Aragorn caught the side of his face with his hand and redirected the elf’s eyes back to his own. "I’m sorry I wasn’t here for you."
    "It hurts." Legolas winced curled in on himself slightly, "Hurts to breathe."
    Aragorn sighed, leaning forward until his forehead touched the elf’s, "I know," he whispered, "you have a broken rib and a lot of bruising, my friend, and your leg is not doing well where that arrow was ripped from it."
    Legolas was taking small breaths and holding them as long as possible as waves of nausea warred with the pain in his chest. "What else?"
    "The water you were forced to drink is a toxin, a drug." Aragorn sat back on his heels and looked down into the pain filled eyes. "Damn, I should have been here." He cursed himself reverting to common speech. He gently dipped a cloth in a small bowl of cool water and wiped the perspiration from the elf’s face.
    "Poison?" Legolas queried slowly. He had had more than his share of scrapes with various toxins in the past year or so.
    "No," the ranger shook his head switching back to elvish, "no, you just wish it was. It’s more like a – a truth serum of sorts. It’ll wear off. In time." He smiled slightly trying to lighten the situation. "It’ll wear off faster if we get some fluids in you."
    When Legolas shook his head the ranger laughed, "Now you wouldn’t want me to make a scene would you?"
    The elf glared at him darkly. "Are they all still here?" Meaning the ones who had beaten him earlier. He was shaking slightly, his body’s reactions beyond his control.
    Aragorn’s gaze hardened and he looked over his shoulder at the men in the camp who were watching the two friends with great interest. "Uhm, yes." He switched to common and raised his voice, "But they won't give you any more trouble now and they are sorry they ever did." He glared back at Taradin who dropped his gaze. Garith had edged his way back around the fire and slowly came up alongside Aragorn.
    Legolas fixed his eyes on the boy and the ranger followed his gaze, "I thought I told you to stay over there."
    "I thought you might like some water for your friend." He held up a deerskin bottle. "I fetched it from the stream, it’ll be nice and cool and it’ll help him get that toxin out of his system. He hasn’t had anything else since we..." Garith looked down guiltily and shoved the water skin at the ranger before quickly backing away from the two.
    Aragorn closed his eyes, shaking his head, inwardly chastising himself again for what had happened to Legolas.
    "Don’t." The quiet word averted his attention and he looked back at the elf. Legolas had read his thoughts on his face.
    "I never thought you’d take the high pass. I thought you would come down through the rift. If I had known I would have gotten word to you." Aragorn’s voice was soft and full of regret as he brushed the long strands of blonde hair away from the elf’s clammy face.
    "Word of what?" Legolas questioned as the human slid his arm beneath the elf prince and helped ease him up, careful of the wound to his leg, so he could drink. He handed Legolas the water skin and pressed his fingers against the bottom of it, indicating he wanted the elf to drink.
    When his friend obeyed, he answered, "Don’t worry yourself with it now. We’ll talk about it later."
    Legolas dropped the water bottle and curled in on himself. He wrapped his hands around his stomach and turned away from the ranger. Alarmed Aragorn leaned over him pulling the elf’s hair away from his face, "Legolas?"
    "I’m going to be sick." He moaned softly.
    Aragorn took the deerskin bottle from the elf and set it aside. He pressed his friend gently back down onto the blanket beneath him and quickly shed his own coat, wrapping it around the shaking elf.
    Turning back to the men around the fire he caught Taradin’s eye, "I’m taking the prince to Rivendell, first thing tomorrow. He’s got too much dragon water in him. I can’t even get him to keep water down. The elves there will be able to help him." The worry in the ranger’s eyes was unconcealed. "Think next time before you pour that stuff into someone."
    He refocused his attention on the wounded elf, but Legolas had passed out again.
    "I’ll send some of the men with you." Taradin offered quietly.
    Aragorn did not turn to acknowledge him. "That won't be necessary. I’ll be fine."
    "You’ll be in elf territory."
    With a sigh Aragorn responded slowly, his words sharp and biting, "I will be fine. It is you who should be worried." The ranger laid his hand over the elf's heart and let the steady beat calm his anger. He was thankful that the prince’s heartbeat had finally begun to return to normal, only skipping every now and then.
    When he spoke again his voice was calmer, "I will need a horse."
    Taradin nodded even though the ranger had not turned around yet. It had been a statement, not a request, and after the abuse they had heaped on the man’s friend it was the least they could do.

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