Mistaken Identity

Part 4

by Cassia and Siobhan

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    It was still pre-dawn when Taradin was awakened by the soft sounds of movement in the camp. The fire had died down to hotly glowing embers and in the slight light he could barely make out the dark form of Strider seating himself on a horse behind the wounded elf they had caught and tortured the day before. He made his way quietly through the sleeping camp until he stood next to the mounted ranger.
    "I’ll be back later. I need to get Legolas to Rivendell as soon as possible." Aragorn glanced down at the man. In fact, Legolas had taken a turn for the worse during the night and he feared that any delay would only lessen the elf’s chances of healing.
    "For what it’s worth Strider, I truly am sorry we hurt your friend," Taradin said quietly.
    The ranger nodded. Wrapping his arm around the elf’s chest, he held Legolas in place in front of him and grasped the reins with his free hand. "Do not hunt the dark elf, Taradin, and do not use that dragon water on anyone else. Stay in camp and wait my return."
    They locked eyes for a moment, the younger man warning the older with his gaze. Legolas moaned and shifted in his grasp and the ranger’s attention was diverted. Taradin had understood and he slapped the horse’s haunches, sending the steed into a quick trot down the mountain path. "I hope he makes it," the old hunter spoke quietly to himself.
    He hadn’t noticed that Garith had woken and stepped up behind him, watching the ranger speed off with his elven friend, "Me too," he whispered.

    Part way down the mountain Legolas stirred and tried to move out of Aragorn’s grasp.
    "Easy." Aragorn tightened his grip on the elf and slowed the horse down to a walking gait. "It’s alright, I’ve got you."
    "Where are we going?" Legolas moved his arms up to encircle his ribcage, crossing his hands over the top of the ranger's.
    "Mine or yours this time?"
    Aragorn laughed. "Mine. It's closer."
    "I do not wish to see your father in this shape, Aragorn," Legolas grit out between his teeth. He had his pride after all, and it was not his wish to be continually entering Lord Elrond’s house in this manner.
    "And he will not pleased to see you either." The ranger shook his head as he thought of the reception that would await them. "Actually he will not be pleased to see me dragging you home half-dead again."
    "I am not half-dead," the elf protested with mild irritation.
    "Near dead."
    "Aragorn..." Legolas warned the ranger darkly.
    "Well you aren’t exactly well are you?" teased the human. "One of these days our fathers are going to ban us from being around each other – it’s rather bad for our health or haven’t you noticed?"
    "Don’t make me laugh." The elf leaned hard against Aragorn’s arm and moaned as the pain in his body flared through his awareness, causing him to fight against the waves of nausea that assaulted him. The jouncing of the horse’s gate was grating painfully on every injured muscle and broken rib in Legolas’ body.
    The horse stumbled beneath him, its foot slipping on the loose dirt. Aragorn tightened his grip on Legolas, inadvertently pressing against the elf’s broken ribs as he kept himself and his friend upright in the saddle. The pain was overwhelming and the prince cried out, slumping forward.
    "Legolas?" He pulled the elf’s head back against his shoulder, dropping the reins and letting the horse slowly pace down the road to Rivendell. "Legolas!" Brushing away the strands of hair from the prince’s face he noted that the elf had lapsed back into unconsciousness, his eyes closed. "Stay with me," Aragorn whispered to his friend, "We are almost home."

    Aragorn turned in the saddle towards the shouted greeting. His brothers emerged from the forest to his left and galloped up alongside the ranger’s horse.
    The twins took in the situation and Elladan’s expression turned from one of joy to seriousness. "What happened?"
    "Or should we ask what happened again?" Elrohir chimed in sarcastically.
    "Oh very funny, Elrohir. Legolas was caught by Taradin’s men." Aragorn glanced at his eldest brother who was glaring at his twin. "Can you ride ahead of me and let father know we are coming?"
    "Estel, do you know what he’s going to do when he hears you are bringing the prince home three steps from death’s door again?" Elrohir glanced between his two brothers, staring down their glares, "Well I for one do not want to be the one that breaks it to him." He stared at Elladan.
    "I don’t have time to argue with you," Aragorn rolled his eyes. "GO!"
    "I agree. I don’t want to tell him either. I can just imagine his response." Elladan closed the space between his horse and Aragorn and reached out to lift the prince’s head up slightly. "He’s unconscious. We’ll ride back with you."
    With a nod from the ranger, the three brothers headed quickly home.


    "Just once I would very much like to see you come walking in under your own power." Elrond glared darkly at his youngest son as the human reined the horse to a stop inside Rivendell’s inner court. Elrohir’s mount skidded to a stop and the elf threw himself out of the saddle, handing the reins off to a servant that stood by waiting quietly.
    Aragorn began to protest, "I am fine, it’s..."
    But Elrond cut him off, "I would like to see you both come in without needing any aid, either of you."
    "Probably not likely in your lifetime, father," Elladan muttered as he dismounted and walked over to help his brother with the wounded elf. "Told you he’d be less than pleased to see you."
    "Elladan, you aren’t improving my mood at all." Elrond walked up next to the horse that Aragorn sat on and looked up at his son. The ranger had wrapped one arm around Legolas' waist, with his free hand he cradled the elf’s head where it rested against his shoulder. "Tell me Estel, what happened?"
    The ranger began to explain as he shifted the unconscious elf in his arms. Slipping off the horse, he gently pulled his friend with him. The twins quickly came to his aid, grabbing hold of Legolas and shouldering his weight until Aragorn had safely dismounted.
    "I found the rogue elf’s lair. It's near the high pass, by the ruins up that way. I also know what he looks like."
    Elrond motioned the boys into the house after a cursory exam of the elf prince; the dark look on his face had deepened to a scowl and the twins stopped and turned back. Aragorn’s eyes lighted on Legolas’ still form. "He looks like Legolas. He is a Silvan elf, although what he is doing this far west I have no idea."
    The human looked back up at the elf lord, "Taradin and his men captured Legolas as he was traveling here. They thought he was the rogue. Legolas said he would come visit in a fortnight." Aragorn looked down and sighed. "I had forgotten completely or I would have been looking for him. I did not come back to camp until late last night and... it was too late already."
    Elrond motioned the twins into the house and Aragorn quickly stepped near, following them in. He continued his explanation. "They overdosed him with dragon water and when he could not tell them what they wanted, they tried to beat it out of him." The ranger grabbed the eldest twin's sleeve and directed him away from the guest quarters into a larger room. "Please let him stay here." When Elrond nodded his agreement, the brothers laid the elf down on the soft bed.
    Aragorn immediately went about lighting the small glow lamps situated in the corners of the bedroom and pulled the curtains shut against the bright morning light. "He has a leg wound where one of those idiots shot him." The ranger’s anger was rising again and he turned away, trying to control his emotions.
    "This has to stop!" Elladan gazed hard at his father. "First Moranuen, now Prince Legolas... They can’t keep doing this to us! Let me go out there with a contingent. I will see to it that they leave our woods."
    Elrohir looked up from where he sat on the bed next to the elf prince. "Father?" Elrond’s attention was divided. Memories surfaced in his mind, lost, forgotten ones, the face of a young, fair-haired elven child. It couldn’t be though or could it?"
    "Yes Elrohir?"
    "I think he wakens." The elven twin leaned over the prince and spoke quietly to him in the grey tongue.
    Aragorn whirled around and moved close in, lending comfort with his presence.
    "Hmm.." Legolas smiled slightly up at the worried faces around him. "I remember this place." His voice was soft and rough.
    "Yes, well one day I would very much like to see you walk into it instead of being carried in, young prince." Elrond smiled down at the elf.
    "So would I." Legolas gazed at Aragorn. "I really would, Estel."
    The human laughed softly, "Me too. You’re kind of heavy you know that?"
    Pain seized the wounded elf as he tried to laugh and he turned on his side pulling into himself. Elrond pushed the younger elves out of the room and attempted to clear his youngest son out of the way as well, but the human was having nothing of it. He knelt on the floor next to the bed, near the prince’s head, talking quietly to him as the elf worked on calming his breathing and relaxing.
    "Estel, I will work better with you out of the room."
    "Yes father, I know." The human simply walked back into the small fresher unit and retrieved a soft cloth and a bowl of water.
    Silver eyes met and locked until the elder elf relented, shaking his head. "Why Iluvatar thought I needed any more sons is beyond me." He teased the young human. Gently catching Legolas’ shoulders, Elrond eased the elf onto his back once more and began to carefully inspect the bruised wounds to the prince’s upper body.
    Aragorn slipped his knife from its sheath and cut away the bloodied legging around the elf’s thigh where the arrow had deeply bit into the muscle. He gently began to clean the wound as his father tended to his friend, slowing his movements considerably when Legolas drew his breath in sharply from the pain.
    "I’m sorry." Aragorn whispered, catching his friend’s gaze. "I’ll be more careful."
    Legolas didn’t respond. He was in too much pain to speak and the effort was not lost on the elf lord.
    "It would be best if you slept through this." He smiled softly at the prince. "It would be less painful."
    Aragorn glanced between his father and his friend. Finally Legolas nodded slowly, fixing his eyes on the human. Elrond left the room and the ranger moved to sit on the bed near the elf prince. "You can trust my father."
    Legolas barely smiled. "Young human, I trusted Lord Elrond before most of your human father’s ancestors were ever born. It will be well."
    Elrond re-entered the room and stopped in the doorway. He listened quietly as the two friends talked softly, letting them have a moment before he cleared his throat. Both turned to look at him; a smile graced the prince’s face but worry and guilt edged the eyes of the elf lord’s son. He would have to speak with his youngest later about the matter.
    Stepping up near the bed Elrond held out a warm mug of thick yellow liquid, a slightly acrid smell lingered in the air. Aragorn took the cup from his father’s hands and smiled down at Legolas. "Looks like I get to drug you again. I guess next time it’s your turn."
    "There will absolutely be no next time." Elrond leaned in close to the two, glaring between them in mock indignation. "Is that perfectly understood?" The warning garnered slight laughter, having done its job in lightening the mood.
    Aragorn slipped one hand under Legolas’ head and raised him slightly up, with his other he gently pressed the cup to the elf’s lips, tipping it ever so slightly. Instinctively, Legolas' hand came up and gripped the ranger’s forearm as he took a sip of the warm liquid. It didn’t cause his stomach to react and, at Aragorn’s prompting, he took a longer drink, relaxing slowly as the drug took effect and he drifted into unconsciousness.


    Elrond stepped quietly into the bedchamber. A fire was burning softly in the stone fireplace throwing warm shadows around the room. Legolas lay on the large bed finally breathing easily, his face turned towards the wall, and his left leg bandaged and elevated on a small mound of pillows to help stave the bleeding. The warm confines of the room had lulled its occupants to sleep.
    Aragorn sat on the floor, leaning back against the tall bed, his head tipped back and resting against the mattress, hands in his lap. He was asleep.
    Elrohir had commandeered a large overstuffed chair. The boys' familiarity with the house caused them to be careless with the furniture at times. The younger twin sat sideways in the soft recliner, his head resting on one arm and his legs draped over the other, snoring softly. Elladan had pulled a small stool near the bright flames warming his back, his unfocused eyes betrayed the fact that he was dozing, albeit lightly.
    Elrond eased himself down in an empty chair and watched his sleeping sons. His eyes stopped on the form of the human, so relaxed and yet the elf knew that under the circumstances his every awareness was focused on the bed behind him. If Legolas even turned over the ranger would be awake instantly. Sensing someone watching him, Elrond glanced back at his eldest, smiling slightly at the young elf who sat there watching him.
    "Don’t worry, he won’t wake up." Elladan smiled at the older elf, speaking quietly so as not to wake the others, "The only thing that could wake him now is if Legolas regained consciousness."
    "I was just thinking that." Elrond smiled absently and glanced out the large window that decorated the southern wall. Night had fallen and the stars could just be seen.
    "What is it, Father?" The young elf noticed his father’s distraction.
    "This is my fault you know." The elf lord leveled the warrior with a heavy gaze.
    "I don’t understand." Elladan frowned and leaned forward.
    "Hebrilith." Elrond took a deep breath and let it out with a sigh. He stood to his feet walking slowly to the picture window, his eyes not seeing the darkened night but reliving a time long ago. Elladan didn’t push his father; he knew the elder elf would speak when he felt like it.
    "Hebrilith was a child when your mother and I were first married. His family lived in Lothlorien and when he was very young some men raided the woods there and captured several elves, Hebrilith among them." He stopped, frowning in remembrance. "We were able to rescue all of them, but the child..." His voice fell off and he shook his head sadly.
    Elrond turned back to elf and continued, "No one ever found Hebrilith. He had been given to a very wicked man who used the boy as an object of curiosity." He glanced over at Legolas, his thoughts returning to the first time he had met the prince and the cruel captivity that the young elf had endured so long ago. "Much as Legolas was used once. The child was treated ill and grew up in hostility. He learned early on to hate men and he learned the lesson well. It was driven into his heart and carved in his memories." Walking back to the chair, Elrond sat back down heavily.
    "Finally, many years later, Hebrilith killed his captor and escaped. He returned to his parents and the elves in Lothlorien, but he had been scarred too badly."
    "Physically or emotionally?"
    "Both. But the physical part we were able to heal. The emotional part was too far beyond our skills." Elrond’s eyes were sad as he remembered the fair-haired being, "He did not get along well with others after his return, not even others of our kind. He began to withdraw and the elves grew fearful of him. It was thought best to banish him, when he became uncooperative, choosing to live in seclusion in the woods."
    The elf lord smiled to himself. "Your mother," he shook his head fondly, "she felt for the boy. You and Elrohir were mere infants when his banishment was considered. Her heart was always big enough for the least of the beings on this earth. She petitioned the court to allow the boy to live here in Rivendell." He glanced at Elladan, "Her request was granted. Of course I had agreed."
    Elrohir had awoken and was watching his father intently. "Why would you do this?" He spoke softly.
    "I too have been a captive, more than once. I know what the pain can be like, how it does not go away. How one must fight it every day. I know what it is like to be elven and to not be, to be accepted and to not be. In a moment of weakness, I allowed the boy to live here near Rivendell."
    "Nay, not weakness, Father, compassion." Elrohir spoke softly.
    "Whatever moved us then was ill-advised. Hebrilith chose to live in the mountains alone. He was at peace when he was away from all else and he was fine when undisturbed. We would see him from time to time when he had need. But as he became more self-sufficient, his visits grew less frequent. Over the years I had lost track of him. In all truth I was not sure he was still alive. When your mother left for the undying Lands, that was the last time I saw him. He was on the bluff overlooking the bay, watching as she left."
    Elrond ran a hand over the back of his neck as he continued more softly. "I had heard of rumors of people, men, meeting their ends in the mountains near where Hebrilith had chosen to reside. I always attributed their deaths to their own ignorance of the mountains; it is easy to lose one's way or footing there. As men have grown more abundant and as they now range farther into territory they never before occupied, they are meeting with things far older than their race and more deadly than they are equipped to deal with."
    Aragorn moved slightly, stretching slowly as he woke, the soft voices finally working their way into his consciousness. Elrond graced the young human with a small smile and it was returned from the bleary-eyed human.
    When he caught sight of his brother’s serious glances the smile slipped from his face and he jumped to his feet turning toward Legolas, but the prince was fine. Confused at the tension in the room, he glanced back at his father who had risen from his seat and crossed the room to stand behind the boy. "Legolas is well. He is just resting, let him sleep. I was explaining to Elladan and Elrohir that I know who this dark elf that hunts the high ranges is."
    Surprise lit the ranger's face and he easily allowed himself to be pressed back down to the floor as Elrond stared seriously at him, "I want you to be very careful when you hunt the dark elf, do you understand me, Estel? I would rather that you did not go at all, but I know I cannot keep you from it."
    Aragorn looked between his father and his brothers in concern. Elrond crouched in front of the boy, eye level with the human, "You must promise me this. Hebrilith hates men. He was taken by them, my son, and he could never get over what was done to him. He will not hesitate to kill you. In fact if he sees you with your brothers or Legolas or even with other men, he will single you out and go after you first. I want you to be very aware of your surroundings at all times. Do you understand me?"
    "Yes, Father, I promise." Estel’s words were mere whispers, but his response satisfied the elf lord.
    Elrond nodded and laid his hand on the boy’s shoulder as he stood once more. Turning to the twins he continued, "Hebrilith must be put down. Obviously, his heart has fallen into darkness and he can no longer be allowed to live. He has become more bold and men will simply continue to spread into the mountains and Hebrilith will hunt them."
    Elladan started to protest but the elf lord stopped him, "It is mercy, my son. He has lived a long life but he cannot live with others; it is torment to him. It will be in kindness that his wanderings here are cut short. He is... twisted inside. He has obviously allowed his hate to eat away at him until darkness is all he knows and whatever light was in him once is hidden and trapped by the evil he has let take his heart. Only in death can he be set free. It is something I should have done myself years ago but was loathe to."
    Elladan nodded, glancing at Elrohir. Something unspoken passed between the twins and they both looked at Estel. Elrond watched the silent communication with interest and he knew in that instant they had vowed to keep Hebrilith from killing again or coming anywhere near injuring their human brother.
    "We will see it done, Father." Elladan smiled at the elder elf. "You did what you thought best. There is no shame in that."
    Estel had the distinct feeling that he had been left out of something very important. As was his wont to do, he sat quietly listening to his father and brothers gleaning any information from them that he could.
    Elrond noticed the boy's over-attentiveness. It was a trait the young human had learned growing up in a house of elves millennia his senior and the elf lord had a feeling it would suit him well in his life to come. He smiled softly at the ranger. "Your brothers will fill you in on the details when Legolas awakes."
    "I am awake," a soft, slurred voice spoke from the bed where the elf prince lay, "although I am not sure I wish to be."
    Aragorn scrambled to his feet and leaned over his friend, his eyes bright and a smile spreading across his face. "How do you feel?"
    "Horrible. I ache." The elf smiled back. "Everywhere."
    Elrond gently moved his son aside and pressed in close to the bed. Aragorn, unwilling to leave, simply sat on the edge of the bed and watched as the elf lord carefully opened Legolas’ tunic and pressed his hand against the young prince’s ribs, feeling the swelling around the broken bones that were beginning to mend.
    Legolas drew his breath in slightly, closing his eyes at the touch. His chest was discolored from the beating he had taken and every muscle seemed to protest the gentle touch of the elf lord.
    "It will take you a couple of days before you are well enough to get out of bed," Elrond said quietly. The elf prince nodded as Elrond’s hand covered his forehead, "At least your fever is gone, young one. You gave us quite a scare."
    "Us?" Legolas pressed one elbow beneath him, raising himself up to look around the room. When he caught sight of the twins still seated where they were he chuckled, "Oh good."
    "At least you won't be wanting for company while you heal. They have made your room their permanent residence." Elrond glanced back at Elrohir and raised an eyebrow at the youth.
    Elrhoir gazed back at his father open-eyed in question. A small throw pillow smacked him in the face, lobbed at him from across the room by his twin.
    "He means respect the furniture." Elladan growled from his stool as his brother smiled sheepishly and righted himself in the chair. When their father had turned his attention back to the elf prince, Elrohir chucked the pillow at Elladan with more force than was necessary. The elder twin caught it but, before he could retaliate, Elrond’s voice stopped them both, "I saw that. Don’t think I didn’t. And do not throw that pillow again, Elladan. There are decorations in this room older than the both of you that I can no longer replace." He glanced over his shoulder, "Behave."
    Aragorn snickered. His humor was cut short however as the small pillow clobbered him in the face and sent him off balance so that he fell back against the bed. Elrohir began to laugh helplessly as Elrond turned to glare at his sons. "Elladan!"
    "I have no idea how that happened, Father," the eldest twin replied, his face the very essence of innocence.
    His act was not lost on the elf lord who simply stared at the warrior until the younger elf dropped his gaze with a guilty smile. "How old are you?"
    Elrohir was trying unsuccessfully to still his laughter.
    "Shut up, Elrohir!" Elladan growled softly, "You are only a minute younger."
    Legolas laughed softly at the brothers, his hand crossing his chest to keep from drawing in too much breath as the ache in his body restricted him.
    "I can remove them if you like," Elrond teased, looking at the twins out of the corner of his eyes.
    "No, please." Legolas smiled up at the elf lord. "Let them stay, it is good to hear laughter."
    "All right then." Elrond stood and looked around the room. "I’ll have food sent in for you shortly." He smiled fondly down at the human seated on the bed near his friend."Be sure you keep them in line, Estel. I do not need the prince injuring himself any further because of you all."
    "Not to worry, Father," Aragorn smiled brilliantly back at the elf.
    "Oh yes, he’s a big threat," Elladan said under his breath.
    "Very scary," Elrohir chimed in sarcastically.
    Elrond glanced a warning at the two and growled, "Behave." With that he turned and left the friends to themselves, their laughter reaching his ears as he walked out into the hallway towards the kitchen.


    Elladan and Elrohir had retired to their own rooms for the evening, leaving Aragorn alone with Legolas. The elf prince was seated on his bed propped up against a sea of pillows that the brothers had scavenged from all over the house. Aragorn stirred the dwindling fire, stoking the embers.
    "Aragorn, go to bed. You look like you could fall over," Legolas teased the ranger as he slowly straightened from tending the fire.
    "I will." The human stumbled to the overstuffed chair opposite Legolas’ bed and fell into it.
    "No, your bed." The elf smiled at the sleepy ranger. "I’ll be fine."
    "I know." Aragorn stretched himself out in the easy chair and watched his friend through slitted eyes. "I’m sorry, Legolas."
    The elf’s demeanor changed and he quieted immediately. "Aragorn, it’s not your fault." His voice was soft; they had been over this before.
    The human turned his gaze away and watched the fire. "I wanted to kill Taradin when I found you. I wanted to kick myself for leaving. If I had been there, none of this would have happened." He shook his head, his thoughts dark with the memory of finding his friend strung up like a criminal. "When I saw you there..."
    "Aragorn." Legolas' voice stopped his reminiscing. "I am fine. You are the one who rescued me. If it were not for you, for your return, those men would have killed me - they made it very clear. You stopped all that."
    The ranger was shaking his head but the elf ignored him, "How do you think I felt when I stood on the other side of that rockslide and listened to the orcs torturing you?"
    "That was different." The young man leapt to his feet and paced the large room.
    "It wasn’t different at all." Aragorn rounded on the elf but Legolas didn’t stop, "No, it wasn’t different at all. You were being tortured and I got there after the fact. After the fact Strider."
    "They said you called my name." Aragorn’s voice was soft and slightly choked.
    Legolas looked down at his hands. "I did?"
    "They had drugged you." Aragorn seated himself on the bed and leaned over. "If I had waited for someone to go with me instead of stealing out of camp on my own, I would have been there."
    The elf wouldn’t meet his eyes. Bits and snatches of memory were coming back to him. Angry words, blurry faces, the pain... he almost shuddered as his mind slid backwards, mixing old memories with the new. And the old memories were more painful.
    "Legolas?" Aragorn's concerned voice drew him back.
    The prince shook his head, "Memories."
    "Yes, of other men!"
    "But not you. None of this was your fault and it was not even really Taradin or his men’s fault either." He stared hard at the human. "They thought I was Hebrilith. If he had been a man and done to my people what this elf has done to yours, I am not sure that we would have handled him any more gently than they."
    He knew Aragorn was not convinced and it was no use arguing with a human when tired, he had learned that well when they were traveling together on their way to the Mines of Moria. The elf smiled at the tired face watching him. "Go to sleep, Estel. In the morning it will be better. Besides I was wondering what kind of trouble we could stir up in your woods and it seems that it has found us." He laughed at himself and pushed the ranger off his bed. "Go, so I may sleep."
    Finally the ranger smiled back at him, his mind weary from the day and slow from being overly tired. He paced back to the deep, cushioned chair and curled up in it.
    "Your own room, human," Legolas chided fondly.
    "This is my room," he muttered back at his friend as he closed his eyes and, laying his head on his arm, he was instantly asleep.

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