Mistaken Identity

Part 5

by Cassia and Siobhan

First > Previous > Next   

    Aragorn had stayed on in Rivendell, unwilling to leave Legolas until the elf was well enough to move about on his own. It had been nearly a week since he had visited the men's camp and in all honesty he had temporarily forgotten about them.
    They however had not forgotten about him.

    Elrond had decided it would be nice to break their morning fast on the terrace overlooking the Bruinen and requested that their meal be brought to them there. A light breeze lifted off the water, cooling the sun-drenched deck.
    Elladan was arguing the finer points of bow hunting with Elrohir.
    "I am telling you, Brother, your fletchings are too long," Elladan spoke around a mouthful of food, "it's why you overshoot every time."
    "Please." Elrohir rolled his eyes, "Everyone knows the only reason I never make a clean kill is because you are there whispering in my ear and throwing me off!"
    Legolas started to laugh. Being with the family of Noldor elves was always a welcome change to his own. He loved his father dearly, but Elrond and his sons just seemed to be more casual around each other and easily given to light-hearted conversation.
    Elrond glanced at his sons. Estel was quietly listening to the argument, but his eyes could not hold back his mirth. It wouldn’t be long before he would be adding his own opinion to the conversation just to keep the argument going. The elderly elf had noticed that his human son seemed to be adept at keeping the twins stirred up and he smiled to himself.
    Just as he had thought, Estel began to speak, but his words were cut off as a messenger hurriedly stepped out onto the veranda.
    Elladan stood from his seat and Elrohir quickly moved from his own, offering the chair to the out of breath warrior. But the elf waved off the formality, turning quickly to Elrond and bowing.
    When the elf lord acknowledged the messenger, the warrior began to speak.
    "My lord, we have discovered intruders." The elf took a deep breath trying to still his racing heart.
    "Easy, speak slowly." Elrond stood and handed the warrior a glass of water, resting his hand lightly on the young elf’s back. When the messenger had calmed slightly, the elf lord questioned him further. "Where did you find these intruders? And do you have them now?"
    "Yes, my lord, we have them restrained down in the courtyard." At his words the elves around the table erupted with action as the younger ones headed for the doorway followed closely by Elrond and the messenger. "We discovered them on the south face near the main path. They were definitely trying to conceal their approach. One of them put up quite a fight and we had to restrain him. And, my lord," the warrior paused, "they are human."
    The messenger’s last words halted Aragorn in his tracks and he turned sharply towards the warrior. Legolas and Elrond stopped up short and watched with interest as the ranger’s full attention was riveted on the elf.
    "Did you say they were humans?"
    The messenger glanced at Elrond who only nodded, encouraging the elf to speak.
    "Yes, Estel. They are human. Why do you ask?"
    "What did they look like?"
    "Like humans?" The elf was confused. Didn’t all men look alike?
    "No." Aragorn was afraid of the elf’s answer and his frustration was showing. "Are they townfolk? Are they hunters? All men?"
    "Yes they are all men. Perhaps, yes, they are hunters." Understanding shaded the silver eyes of the messenger but Aragorn did not see it.
    "Taradin! I should have thought..." He ran for the door, bursting out into the courtyard.

    Just as he feared, Taradin, Garith and three other hunters he barely recognized were standing in the courtyard, ringed by a contingent of Rivendell’s warriors. Elladan and Elrohir were questioning the warriors.
    Taradin himself was bound and had been forced to his knees, in order to restrain him. Garith was in tears, watching the older man from the side, his hands bound in front of him and guarded by an elven warrior.
    "Release them!" Aragorn moved towards Garith and gently but firmly pushed the warrior away, severing the young boy’s bonds. The youth ran to the older hunter and immediately began trying to pry loose the ropes that held Taradin bound.
    Elrond stepped into the courtyard, quickly taking in the situation. He nodded wordlessly at the elves who immediately obeyed and released their captives.
    Aragorn had knelt in front of Taradin and was cutting through the ropes that were looped about his chest.
    "I’m sorry. Are you all right?" The ranger helped the man to stand.
    "Well except for these damned elves..."
    "Don’t." Aragorn turned hard eyes on him. The ranger stepped in close to the man. He couldn’t tell the hunter that this was his family, but he would not let the human threaten or curse them either. They were his family.
    Legolas stepped out from behind Lord Elrond and the men stopped arguing as they caught sight of the elf they had beaten only a week prior.
    Taradin glanced at the elf prince and looked back to Aragorn. "He lives?"
    "Yes," Aragorn smiled. "He lives."
    The ranger stepped towards his father. With a slight smile he winked at the elderly elf and the elf prince. In the next moment his entire demeanor changed. Legolas was fascinated by the transformation. The human stepped back and bowed low to the two elves.
    "My lords, these are the hunters that your servant informed you of." Aragorn straightened up and looked over his shoulder towards the group of men. "May I introduce Taradin and his adopted son, Garith. These men work with him. Forgive me for I have forgotten their names."
    The ranger continued the introductions, "And this is Lord Elrond, Master of Rivendell." Strider turned towards his elven brothers and redirected the men’s attention. "These are his son and heirs, Elladan and Elrohir, masters of this house. Legolas, Prince of Mirkwood, has been recuperating under Lord Elrond's care. Lord Elrond is an expert in the healing arts and has kindly seen to his restoration."
    Taradin and his men followed the ranger’s lead and bowed to the elves when the introductions had been made. "I hope that you are well again, Heir of Mirkwood. And I ask you to forgive me and my men, we mistook you for an elf that has been killing our companions."
    "I trust you have learned from your mistake," Elrond spoke up. His voice was low but his tone was firm and commanding.
    "Yes, my lord." Taradin bowed again, "It will not happen again."
    "And yet you were caught sneaking onto our lands." Elrond clasped his hands behind his back and stepped down onto the courtyard. "Explain your actions. Rivendell is open to all who would enter and yet you treat us as though we were your enemy. Why is that?" dark eyes leveled the man with their piercing gaze as Elrond stepped close to the human.
    Taradin shifted his glance towards the ranger but Garith, who had finally recovered from his scare, found his voice. "It’s not his fault, Lord Elf. We was worried about Strider. He never came back and we was thinking it was 'cause you all might have thought he was the one who hurt the other elf there. We was coming to rescue him, with all due respect, sir."
    "Garith, hush." Taradin put a protective arm around the young man and pulled him back tightly against him. "Its true, your lordship. We just came to make sure that Strider here was all right."
    Elrohir, on the edge of the group, snickered lightly. His soft laugh was only heard by the elven ears nearby and his human brother. Of course the man had been safe but the hunters had no way of knowing that. Elladan elbowed his twin, silencing the elf.
    Elrond glanced at the twin, repressing a smile, knowing exactly what was in the thoughts of his son.
    "As you can see, the ranger has been well cared for," Elrond answered.
    "Why hasn’t he been allowed to return?"
    Aragorn stepped forward, finally realizing why the men had thought they needed to sneak into Rivendell. "Taradin, I’m fine. I stayed behind with Legolas to see to his recovery. I should have sent word or come back to you. I’m sorry, the mistake was mine."
    The hunter looked the ranger over carefully. The younger man looked well fed and healthy and under no distress. Convinced that Strider was indeed all right, he nodded and glanced at his men. "Are we free to go?"
    "Of course," Elrond answered, "but we would welcome your company." The elf lord motioned back into the interior of the house. "Come and eat with us. Surely you are hungry?"
    Taradin glanced uneasily towards the open door, thinking over the offer. There had been so much bad blood between the men and the elves of late, perhaps it was time to put an end to that way of thinking. He nodded slowly and met Elrond’s easy gaze, "We would like to join you. May I send one of my men back so that the others know we are alright?"
    "Of course." Elrond turned to a nearby warrior and addressed the elf, "Please see that this man gets a horse and is given water and something to eat before he goes."
    The older hunter’s mouth dropped open at the generous offer and he turned huge eyes on Strider. The ranger simply smiled and nodded, escorting the men that were remaining into the house. "Your man will be well taken care of. The townsfolk are wrong about the elves you know."
    "I am beginning to see that," Taradin answered awestruck as they entered Elrond’s dwelling and were escorted out to the veranda overlooking the deep gorge the dwelling was seated on.

    Legolas watched his friend with fascination as the morning wore on. The ranger deferred to the elves in every matter, treating even his brothers as the royalty they were. His joking and lightheartedness had been replaced by a cloak of seriousness and quiet stability. Aragorn easily mediated between the humans and the elves, keeping himself out of the way and quietly off to the side until needed or addressed. His keen eyes watched everyone and when he spoke his words always tipped the conversations away from a confrontation or misunderstanding, slowly working the talk around to the subject of Hebrilith.
    Elrond took note of his younger son’s intent and easily addressed the situation.
    "You mentioned earlier that your men have been killed by an elf?" Elrond watched the hunter carefully as he asked the question.
    Taradin laid his fork down on his plate and nodded, glancing up at the elven lord, "Yes they have. We thought Legolas here was him, there’s quite a resemblance between the two. Can’t seem to track him down or stop him. And no disrespect meaning but if we could put him down we would."
    The elf lord’s gaze did not drop and Taradin was forced to look away from the piercing eyes. "It is true we have heard of this elf. However an elf cannot be easily tracked and caught by a human if he does not want to be. You see the problem?"
    "We caught him alright." The hunter on Taradin’s left pointed his fork at Legolas.
    Legolas stopped mid-bite, pausing to level an unreadable glare at the man. He was doing an admirable job of looking past what had occurred the last time he had been with these men, but they didn’t need to push their luck.
    "That was because he was not expecting you to be hunting him. Nor did he have any reason to believe you would be," Aragorn spoke quietly from the side, his words leveled and hard. "Do you see the difference?"
    The hunter locked eyes with the ranger until Taradin intervened, "Derent, behave. These here elves aren’t related to that one out there in the woods. Now mind your manners or I’ll have you sent back too."
    "I see your point though, Lord Elrond." Taradin sighed heavily and draped his arm across the back of Garith’s chair, subconsciously touching the youth to make sure the boy was fine. "Do you have any suggestions? Could we perhaps work together?"
    Elrond smiled and leaned forward, steepling his fingers as was his wont when he had a plan in mind. "Perhaps our companies could work together to find this elf and stop the killings."
    "Any help you could give us would be much appreciated."
    Elladan and Elrohir exchanged knowing glances, smiles pulling at the corners of their fair lips.
    "I would accompany Strider back out to the men’s camp and assist," Legolas spoke up first, glancing at his friend.
    "Very well. You are mended well enough to do so. And I will send my sons to give their aid also. They are skilled trackers and bowmen. They will be an asset to your endeavor." Elrond glanced at the twins who both nodded in understanding, repressing their obvious delight.

    Plans were quickly made and Lord Elrond saw that provisions were provided to the hunters. The generosity would go far in healing relations, he hoped. Within the hour the hunters and the elves were mounted and headed out. Hebrilith’s true identity and background had been withheld from the men of Strayton; it was a little known secret that would go with the elf to his grave to protect him as much as to protect Rivendell.
    Elrond stood once more on the steps of the house overlooking the courtyard. He called to his youngest son, "Ranger, I would speak with you a moment."
    Aragorn moved from the line of beings heading out and steered his horse back towards his elven father, a smile on his face that the others could not see.
    He bent near the elderly elf, "What is it, Father?" he asked softly. Legolas reined his horse in a few yards away from Aragorn’s, giving the ranger a moment of privacy with his elven parent.
    "Be very careful my son. Do not underestimate Hebrilith. With these men hunting him, he will have become even more dangerous than before."
    "I understand," The dark silver eyes stared down into the deep blue ones. "Don’t worry father, I will be careful."
    Elrond laid his hand on the young man’s thigh, stopping him from leaving, "Watch out for Legolas and your brothers as well. Not all the men will look kindly upon their presence in camp. See that they are not left alone with the hunters just yet. They think they are always safe and sometimes they overstep their limitations. Among men they are never safe. You will be their safety. Do you understand?"
    Aragorn laid his hand on top of his father's and squeezed it. "Yes, Father, I do. I will bring them home safely."
    "And yourself as well, Estel." He stared hard into the smiling eyes.
    "Always," the human replied with a light laugh.
    Elrond shook his head and stepped away. "Now be off with the two of you before they return to find out what has happened."
    Elladan and Elrohir were waiting just outside the archway that led to the main path. When Legolas and Aragorn joined them, they raced to catch up with the retreating humans.


    The help of the elves had been easily received by the company of men. The fact that the Noldor elves were darker haired and dressed differently helped the hunters to accept them more readily than they did Legolas. The men seemed to stay far away from the prince, giving him a wide berth. Whether the shun was intentional because the elven prince so resembled Hebrilith, or out of guilt because they had beaten the elf half to death Aragorn never discovered. But the distance gave the elves and the ranger time alone and privacy.
    The two companies held camps apart. The elves bedded down a good hundred yards from the hunter’s camp, allowing the keen elven ears to hear the conversations that the men had, but too far from them for the men to hear their quiet talking.
    They had looked for the past couple of days for the dark elf, staying to the high pass and the areas where the hunters had claimed to have seen Hebrilith.
    This particular morning, Legolas and Aragorn had split off from the twins and the hunters had taken the day to resume their trade; they still had families to feed and the presence of the Noldor elves in the woods seemed to bolster their confidence. The twins found themselves the center of welcome attention.
    However the entire situation had unnerved Legolas and he found himself lost in his thoughts as Aragorn scouted around the small glen they had decided to rest in for the moment.
    Legolas sat, quietly perched on the stone with his hands folded on his knee and a distant expression on his face. Distant and sad.
    Aragorn sat down next to his friend, but Legolas did not stir or acknowledge his presence. The young ranger glanced sideways at his friend.
    "Elladan said they would meet us back in camp by nightfall," Aragorn informed him.
    Legolas nodded absently and made a non-committal sound that was supposed to serve as an acknowledgement. Aragorn was not impressed.
    "Elrohir burnt down the camp because he found a giant spider’s nest in your bedroll," the young ranger continued without changing his tone of voice, but looking side-long at his friend to see if Legolas was even paying any attention to him at all.
    Legolas wasn’t. He nodded again. "That’s good," he murmured, obviously responding automatically to his friend’s tone of voice, without having heard a word he said.
    Aragorn resisted the urge to laugh. Half a moment later a strange look crossed Legolas’ face as his friend’s words finally registered.
    "What?" he turned a bewildered look upon the human.
    Aragorn laughed, he couldn’t help it. "Weren’t you listening to a word I said?"
    Legolas gave the young ranger a slightly withering glance, but the corner of his mouth twitched in an almost smile. "Apparently not," he admitted.
    "What are you thinking about that’s got you so preoccupied?" Aragorn asked, settling himself back on the rock and pulling his knee up to his chest.
    "Many things," Legolas sighed, gazing out at the horizon as his look turned distant again.
    "Like..." Aragorn prodded.
    Legolas shot him a wry grin. "You humans are extremely nosey, you know that?"
    Aragorn nodded unashamedly. "Yes. So...?"
    Legolas rolled his eyes and stood up, crossing the clearing and leaning against a tall oak tree, his gaze continuing to be far away. Aragorn followed him.
    "You don’t like what we’re doing, do you?" Aragorn queried softly. "I’ve seen it in your eyes."
    Legolas sighed deeply and met his friend’s eyes at last. "No. I don’t like it. And yet... I know it is right. We must do what we must do..." there was a struggle behind the elf prince’s clear silver-blue eyes that Aragorn did not yet fully comprehend.
    "I know it’s hard, he’s one of your own kind..." Aragorn started, but Legolas shook his head, cutting him off.
    "No, it’s not just that. Don’t you understand, Strider?" pain filtered through the elf’s gaze. "When Taradin’s men mistook me for him, they weren’t making as big a mistake as you might think... There is more about us that is alike than simply how we look." Legolas’ voice was quiet.
    Aragorn wore a frankly puzzled expression. He could not see a thing about his friend and this cold-blooded killer that was at all similar.
    "He wasn’t always evil... you remember what Lord Elrond said? About what happened to him?" the hurt in Legolas’ eyes was deepening.
    Aragorn ached for his friend’s pain, but did not yet follow his train of thought. "It’s tragic, yes..."
    Legolas shook his head and looked away, no longer able to meet his friend’s eye. "But don’t you see? That could be me." The words were a whisper.
    Aragorn’s brows furrowed deeply. "Legolas..."
    "I was hurt by men, Aragorn," Legolas stared steadily out in to the trees, not looking up. "Badly hurt. They tortured me because I was an elf, because I was different than them and they wanted to own me, body mind and soul. I hated them. I spent a long time almost hating a whole race for what King Melèch and the men he gave me over to did to me in Dorolyn so many, many years ago." Legolas had not spoken openly about any of this in years. He had dealt with the feelings, especially since meeting Aragorn, but he had not yet spoken of the experience, or its affect on him.
    Aragorn didn’t say anything, but laid his hand gently on his friend’s shoulder. There really was nothing he could say at this point. He knew a little about what had happened to Legolas so many years ago. Elrond had been there, and had once told young Estel the story of how very close Middle-earth had come to having the horrible power of the Gondraukos unleashed upon her. Aragorn had been significantly younger then, and Elrond had seen fit to gloss over some of the worst parts of the tale, but the young man could fill the missing pieces in for himself with an adult mind now, and he could guess just how badly and how deeply Legolas had been hurt. It had been something he understood since meeting the elf, and although it no longer stood between their friendship, many of the little ways that Legolas still reacted to things sometimes told Aragorn that the elf prince had not put the experience as fully behind him as he liked to think.
    "When I found you on the eves of Mirkwood that first time..." Legolas continued softly, ashamed of himself. "Part of me wanted to leave you there." He glanced somewhat warily at his friend, afraid of what kind of reaction such a confession would bring.
    Aragorn just smiled and squeezed the elf’s shoulder tighter. "But you didn’t."
    "No," Legolas sighed slightly in relief. "I couldn’t. And I am very glad now that I did not. I would have lost a dear friend. You have opened my eyes to many things, Aragorn, not the least of which is that just like elves, men are all very different, and need to be considered individually, not as a whole. But I can’t help thinking... if things had been different... if I had not had my father and Lord Elrond there after it happened, helping me through the pain that those men left behind in my heart, my body, my mind... If I had never met you... would I have ended up so different than him?"
    Legolas’ eyes searched Aragorn’s for an answer and the young Dunadan swallowed hard, wishing he had one.
    "Legolas... I don’t know what-ifs, but I do know this: you may have been hurt, but you did not turn around and start hurting in return. You may have not liked, or even hated men, but you didn’t start killing every one of them you could get your hands on. You didn’t let your hurt consume you, and that was a choice Legolas, a choice you made. Hebrilith made that choice too, and he chose poorly. You are not like him Legolas. You’re not."
    Any argument the elf might have made was cut off as the sounds in the forest around stopped. Silence fell like a net on the glade and the ranger immediately unslung his bow, listening to the stillness for any signs of its source.
    Legolas crouched near him, studying the far side of the glen. He motioned the human under the covering of the woods and quietly stepped back into the shadows near him. Whatever was approaching either did not realize they were there or was simply hunting them.
    The brush on the edge of the shallow rustled and a large male warg entered the open meadow. He lifted his head, smelling the air for hints of his prey. A low growl emanated from his throat and he pulled his lips back, revealing long sharp teeth. Small yellow eyes pierced the half shadows where the ranger and the elf hid and the evil creature laid his ears flat against his head as he saw the two hiding there.
    "He sees us," Aragorn whispered to Legolas who was crouched just in front of the ranger.
    The elf simply nodded and raised his bow, sighting in on the beast. The warg was unaffected by the sight of the weapon and crept steadily nearer, the promise of a meal overriding his self-preservation.
    Half-way across the glade Legolas loosed his arrow, neatly felling the animal. The two remained concealed for several moments after the beast fell dead. The forest sounds had still not returned.
    Cautiously, Legolas moved out from their hiding place, slowly stalking towards the dead creature's side. He motioned for the ranger to remain beneath the forest's protective shadows but the human trailed him, ignoring the warning.
    The elf shot the human a glare over his shoulder but stopped short of reprimanding the ranger. Something, rather yet someone, had caught his eye. His keen sight had seen the ever so slight movements in the underbrush across the way. And he was certain that he had glimpsed the dark outline of another pressing back against the trees.
    Aragorn approached the tensed elf slowly, searching the surrounding area for what might have triggered his friend to stop and move into a defensive posture.

    He barely breathed as he crouched beneath the darkness of the trees, watching the two beings in the glen. Such odd partnering, that an elf should be accompanied by a human. He wondered at what it meant and why the elf would suffer himself to be in the company of a man. It mattered little. He would relieve the elf of the burden the human was to his existence. Hebrilith drew his bow, the tip of his arrow aimed for the ranger's heart.

    In a split second, Legolas spotted Hebrilith concealed in the brush under the far trees, he saw the arrow loosed from the elf’s bow and knew the target.
    There was no time to shout a warning. The prince threw himself to the forest floor, kicking his feet out in a sweeping arc and catching the ranger’s ankles, tangling the man’s legs in his own and toppling the human.
    Aragorn, caught completely unaware, and surprised by his friend’s swift movements, fell hard to the earth. The arrow screamed through the empty air he had just occupied, snagging his right sleeve and slicing across his arm, barely cutting through the skin as he fell.
    Legolas rolled up into a crouched position and fired back on Hebrilith’s position.

    The action was totally unforeseen by the rogue elf and his utter surprise threw him off guard. Why would the elf protect the human? The arrows embedded in the tree trunks inches from his face were proof, but he had no time to ponder the oddity of the situation as Legolas ran towards the dark elf’s position, his bow already re-notched.
    Hebrilith turned and fled. He was not prepared to face down this elf and he had never thought to kill one – yet. The fear he felt inside was a strangely foreign feeling and he had no appreciation for the emotion or the ones who were causing it. He hadn’t known this feeling in many centuries. Pressing it down, deep inside himself, Hebrilith locked it away with his anger and hatred; he would use it later. All things could be useful, he had learned, and today had taught him something new – elves had been corrupted by men.

    Aragorn gained his feet unsteadily and ran after Legolas. It took all his skills to keep up with the elf. The nimble being ran through the forest lightly, dodging branches and roots that reached out to snag the clumsier human that followed him. The ranger rounded a large tree and almost ran headlong into Legolas.
    The elf stood perfectly still, ready for the slightest hint to direct him. His breathing was only slightly labored and his every sense was thrown outward. Aragorn knew better than to speak; the prince had lost the dark elf’s trail and was using every bit of his expertise to relocate his prey. The ranger used the small respite to catch his breath. He turned around and backed close to the elf, protecting them from behind in case Hebrilith had doubled back and was intending to take them from that position by surprise.
    The forest erupted with sound to their left. A small flock of birds exploded from the canopy of trees and shouts and cries of men could be heard. Legolas was gone in an instant, heading for the sounds of chaos.
    "Legolas! No wait!", Aragorn tried to warn his friend off, but the elf was intent on tracking Hebrilith and did not heed the ranger’s warnings.
    "Damn elf." The man muttered under his breath as he ran after the prince. The shouts had been those of men, not of elves. If Legolas came upon the men and they in their fear and distress mistook him once more for the dark elf... He didn’t want to think of the repercussions.
    The ranger burst into the glen moments after the elf. Taradin’s men had Legolas surrounded and the elf had not backed down to them one bit.   
    "Release me, let me go after him!" Legolas anger showed in his eyes and he had not dropped his bow, his chest heaving from the exertion of tracking the rogue and his frustration with the men in his pathway. "Taradin!"
    At the sound of his name the hunter looked up from where he knelt over a wounded man. Quickly standing to his feet, the older man caught sight of Strider running into the small open area where they stood.
    "Taradin!" Aragorn shouted at the hunter when he saw his friend surrounded by the man’s companions. He pressed his way past the hunters, taking up position in front of Legolas and glaring at the men who encircled them, "Put your weapons down."
    "I can’t hear him any more." Legolas pressed in close to the ranger and whispered, frustrated that he had lost Hebrilith’s trail.
    "Easy." Aragorn whispered back, not dropping his gaze from the men around them.
    Taradin pushed into the circle, shoving his men out of the way. "Put your weapons down. Its Strider and his friend, Legolas." The hunter walked up to the ranger and pressed the man’s sword aside, smiling sadly at the elf. "Sorry you two, but we just had a run in with that killer elf you’re hunting."
    Muttered apologies floated to the three of them as the band of men stood down and dispersed. Tensions were still high and they turned their gazes out into the surrounding trees, jumping at the small sounds of the forest, ready to attack any intruders.
    Legolas dropped his bow to his side and relaxed. "He is gone. I have lost his trail. I can’t hear him, and I know not which way he left here." Aragorn nodded and rested his hand on the tense elf’s shoulder.
    "Its all right, we’ll find him again later." He spoke the words softly in the grey tongue, knowing how frustrated his friend was. Turning back to the hunter he questioned the man further, "What happened here Taradin?"
    The big man sighed, "That damned elf, what do you call him, rogue? He came running into our campground. Never seen anything like it. I think he didn’t realize we were here. Scared the men good. Caught us all by surprise. He shot Chalhden before we could even respond. I didn’t see where he went after that, all hell broke loose. A couple of my men ran after him I think."
    "That was foolish." Legolas turned back towards the hunter, he had been trying to pick up any hint of where the elf had run off to.
    "Maybe so, but we’re a might tired of that elf coming in and shooting us up whenever he gets a hankering too."
    "We were chasing him. I think we drove him into your camp. That was our fault, I’m sorry." Aragorn looked around them at the destroyed campsite.
    Taradin waved off the apology, "We weren’t bedding down here, just stopped for some mead and to clean the catches from this morning. It was fine hunting till just now." He smiled ruefully at them, his eyes taking in the elf, "Sorry about the scare my men gave you. You still look an awful lot like that rogue. ‘Cept there’s something about your eyes that’s a whole lot kinder to look at. Looking at the eyes that creature has is just like looking at death, they’re dead inside if you get my meaning." He shuddered slightly but shook off the dark mood with a hearty laugh, "I think the mead’s still good and warm, will you have some with us?"

    Two hunters crashed through the forest depositing themselves in the middle of the campground and disrupting the calm that had just resettled. One dropped to the ground breathing heavily, the other leaning against his companion, resting his hands on his knees as he spoke.
    "We followed him, Taradin. But he got the best of us. Seemed a bit more frightened than usual. Didn’t even fire back at us when we tried to fell him." The man gulped in air before talking again, "Then all of a sudden we realized he was just gone. Couldn’t find his trail or nothing."
    "Got afraid that’s what we did." The hunter seated on the ground spoke up, "We came back straight away after that."
    "That was smart," Aragorn answered as he stepped forward offering his water bag to the men.
    It was received readily with nodded thanks. But their conversation was interrupted by a shout.
    "Taradin!" Garith called frantically from where he knelt by Chalhden.
    The hunter glanced at Aragorn and Legolas. "There are just days when I hate hearing my name." He stalked over to the fallen man muttering to himself, "This is one of them."
    Legolas watched as the hunter knelt down near the wounded man. "Wait." He called out, moving quickly near the small knot of men who parted as he stepped close. Aragorn trailed him protectively, not comfortable with his friend in their midst after what had just happened here.
    The elf knelt next to the others and pushed Taradin gently away, carefully inspecting the wound. They had been about to remove the arrow that was embedded in Chalhden’s shoulder, but the elf prince had noted that the arrowhead protruded from the back of the man – it had nearly gone straight through the human, pulling it back out would cause only more damage.
    Aragorn knelt next to his friend and examined the exit wound. "I wonder if he used poison on the tips?" the ranger quietly asked.
    "It can’t be pulled back through, it is double-edged and will only cause more damage."
    A soft groan emanated from Chalhden, interrupting them. Aragorn stood and stepped over the prone man, kneeling down near the hunter’s face. Taradin had cleared his men away and pulled Garith from the immediate area, giving the ranger and the elf the room they needed. After having watched the ranger keep his friend alive through the night when they had overdosed him on dragon water, he did not doubt that the man knew what he was doing.
    "What’s the trouble?" Taradin questioned. Chalhden’s pain-filled eyes followed Aragorn’s every move.
    "The arrow has nearly exited his shoulder in the back, pulling it out as you were prepared to do would only do him more harm."
    "What do you propose?"
    Aragorn glanced at Legolas who was holding the man, keeping Chalhden from rolling onto his back. The elf nodded and slipped one of his elven knives from its sheath.
    Chalhden tensed as he saw the blade and Taradin jumped forward, "Now wait just a minute!"
    "No," The ranger pressed the hunter back, "Legolas will need to cut the arrowhead off..." He stalled, unwilling to say the rest, "After I push it all the way through." The old hunter started to protest but Aragorn continued, "There could be poison on it, Taradin, we have no way of knowing and, trust me, it will be less painful."
    Taradin glanced at Chalhden who only nodded. The pain was making him sick and he knew that he needed their help.
    "Relax, it will be quick." Legolas spoke kindly to the man, who watched him warily.
    Aragorn knelt back next to the man, placing his left hand on Chalhden’s shoulder and grasping the arrow shaft with his right. He smiled warmly down into the green eyes and tried to get the hunter to relax, "So your name is Chalhden?" At the man’s nod he kept up the light banter. Legolas saw what he was doing and waited him out, ready whenever the ranger was. "You an archer or mainly a sword man?"    "Archery." The man ground out relaxing slightly as his attention was diverted. He didn’t notice when Aragorn tensed his hand on the arrow shaft.
    "Well that’s good." The ranger smiled at the man, "Then this little flesh wound won’t stop you hardly at all."
    Chalhden smiled slightly but his response was cut off as Aragorn pressed the arrowhead the rest of the way through his back. He cried out with the sharp intensity of the pain. Legolas had been ready. He quickly cut the head from the shaft, grabbing the arrow tip, and nodded at Aragorn who just as quickly pulled the shaft back out. The hunter fell forward as the arrow came free and the ranger caught him, easily moving aside as Taradin and Garith took over. The younger man quickly scooted beneath the wounded hunter and supported him as Taradin cleaned and bound the areas where the weapon had penetrated.
    Aragorn joined Legolas who had moved off to a patch of sunlight. He was carefully examining the arrowhead, turning the sharp metal in his fingers and allowing the sun to play on the tips of the cruel point. It gleamed red with the blood still clinging to it.
    Legolas turned to his friend, "Not that I can see. But that does not mean it is not there." He glanced over his shoulder at the hunters, "Let us get back to camp and we can test it there."
    Aragorn walked back to Taradin, "We should go. Come back to the base camp. We can test the arrowhead there and we have medicines to treat Chalhden’s wound."
    The old hunter nodded and called his men to him. In minutes the temporary camp was broken down and the hunters were headed back to base. Legolas and Aragorn brought up the rear, keeping watchful eyes on the forest around them.


    Hebrilith watched from his vantage point high in the trees as the men left. He followed Legolas’ actions carefully, interested in an elf helping men but obviously not well liked by them. The elf seemed somehow familiar. That human had called him Legolas. Was this Thranduil’s heir? Did Thranduil even realize that his son was in the company of men? There was no logic to it that the dark mind could conceive. He would need to watch, he wanted to watch and see just what became of an elf who lived among humans. He was patient, he could wait; however, he had no intentions of missing the ranger they called Strider again.


    When they arrived in camp they were met with a roaring campfire and meat cooking on the slowly turning spits. Elladan and Elrohir were tending the fire, preparing dinner. They had brought down two of the large wild pigs that roamed the forests around Rivendell and were waiting for the others to return.
    They listened intently to the tales of the brushes the men and Legolas and Aragorn had had with Hebrilith, unnerved by the near miss on their younger brother’s life.
    "Estel that was too close." Elrohir accompanied his brother back to the far side of the camp. Although the hunters had an easy alliance with the elves, the two companies still kept separate from each other.
    "I was fine." The ranger dropped down wearily on his pallet. "Legolas was there." He smiled impishly at the elf.
    "Yes, well, tomorrow Legolas will not be if we follow the men’s plan," Elladan interjected, walking up next to the human and glaring down at him.
    "You worry too much." Estel smiled back up at the elf, pushing at the soft boots to get his brother to move away. "It’ll turn your hair gray."
    Elrohir snickered at the comment, garnering him a glare, "That would be funny. Not even father has gray hair yet."
    "Laugh all you want, my brother, but just wait till we have to report back to father that Estel was injured because he was hunting Hebrilith alone."
    "He doesn’t have to know and I wasn’t injured."
    "This time," came the dark reply.
    Aragorn pushed at Elladan again. Giving up, he jerked his blanket out from under the elf’s boots and rolled up in it. "Besides, he’ll only know if you tell," the man muttered.
    Legolas laughed lightly as he seated himself near the fire. "Nothing will happen. Estel can take care of himself. He can take the northern pass near where the men will be hunting while we go farther east. They will all be on the look out for Hebrilith and he will be within easy access of their temporary camps."
    Elladan started to disagree.
    "He is a ranger after all." Legolas continued, smiling at the glares from the elven twins and rested his head on his arms, drawing his knees up to his chest as he redirected his gaze into the fire.
    "Thank you Legolas," muttered the half asleep man, "At least someone realizes I am fine on my own."
    A short laugh stirred the man, "I did not say that, young one." The elf’s blue eyes twinkled with merriment as he glanced at the human. "I said you were a ranger."
    With a snort of disgust Aragorn dismissed them all. Growing up with elves could be a great disadvantage, too, he was beginning to think. In the morning they would head out and see if they couldn’t track Hebrilith. He would show them all then.

First > Previous > Next