Mistaken Identity

Part 7

by Cassia and Siobhan

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    The elf prince had seen Aragorn and Sarcayul fall from the edge of the pathway. From his hiding place he trailed the Silvan elves, waiting for the right moment to free the young human.
    When he had recovered enough from the shock of watching his friend pulled over the cliff face, and realizing that Hebrilith was near, he gave up the safety of the wooded area and ran to the edge of the pathway, calling to his friend.
    Throwing himself down on the dirt path, he leaned out over the edge. He could hear Aragorn calling his name. "Strider!" The elf could see no one but he could still hear the human frantically calling him.
    "Strider, I am right here!!"
    Aragorn’s voice quieted and he allowed himself to calm down, resting his head against his arms still, suspended over his head.
    "Where are you?" Legolas’ voice floated down to him. "I can’t see you!"
    Elladan and Elrohir had heard the commotion and had crested the hill from where they were hunting Hebrilith; their position just above the rogue elf and the chaos that was spreading through Sarcayul’s warriors as Legolas shouted angry commands at them. Not seeing their brother anywhere in the vicinity, they had pressed their horses over the small pass and joined the group of elves that were staring over the cliff.
    "I am here." His voice broke as he called up to them, the pain in his arms catching his breath. "Get me up."
    Elladan threw himself down next to Legolas. "Tell me it’s not Estel."
    "It is." Legolas glanced worriedly at the older twin.
    "Estel!" Elladan leaned out, trying to catch sight of the human.
    "Elladan! I am below the outcropping. I am stuck on a tree root." His voice trailed off as he drew in a shaky breath, it was hard to breathe suspended as he was. "Help me!"
    One of Sarcayul’s warriors glanced over the rock face. "What of Sarcayul?"
    "He’s gone." Aragorn looked back towards the rock face and quietly repeated himself, "He’s gone. I am so sorry."
    The sharp hearing of the elves picked up his torn apology and Elladan closed his eyes, shaking his head at the grief he heard in the human. He turned on Sarcayul’s warrior fiercely and shoved the elf away from the edge. "Get back! All we need is more of you down there."
    Legolas motioned with his head to the group of warriors standing unsure on the pathway, "Go, see to the horses. Get yourselves back to our camp. I know you know where it is, and leave us two of the animals. The one Sarcayul rode and Strider's. Move!" He barked the commands angrily at the elves. His anger rose from his fear for Aragorn and his frustration with Sarcayul for his stubborn refusal to accept the human.
    "I’m going down there." The prince stood and walked to the group of warriors. He grabbed Sarcayul’s horse by the reins and stopped the beast from pacing as he quickly searched through the dead elf’s packs. Pulling a length of rope from the saddlebag, he ran back to the twins and wrapped the cord around his waist. Tying it off, he passed the end of the rope to Elladan, who tracked it quickly around the base of a nearby tree to give them better leverage.
    Legolas stepped to the edge of the cliff, faced the twins, and simply pushed off, disappearing from their sight. The brothers steadily fed him line as he descended down the steep incline. Lightly, he touched down on the rock shelf above Aragorn and called up to the twins to tighten the rope for a moment. He felt the cord pull around his waist as he knelt on the small outcropping and leaned over to stare down at the human.
    Aragorn hung a good four feet below the ledge, his eyes locked onto the elf. Legolas noted the way his hands were turning purple from lack of blood flow, and the crimson stain that was spreading through the rope gave him cause to worry.
    "I’m stuck." The human looked up at him helplessly.
    Legolas smiled softly back down at the man. "I’m so glad you are."
    Aragorn chuckled and rolled his eyes. "Can you get me up from here?"
    "Can you feel your fingers?"
    "No." Aragorn tried to move them, but the ropes about his wrists had been wrenched too tightly.
    The elf nodded and glanced back up towards the cliff ledge. "Elladan! More slack, I’ve found him." The cord eased slightly and loops of it fell around him where he sat. "That’s enough!" he called back.
    Sitting on the ledge Legolas swung his legs over and slipped down the cliff face until he was even with Aragorn. He caught his fingers in the ranger’s coat and drew himself near. Using the rock as leverage, he eased himself underneath the man until he was face to face with the human.
    "I lost him, Legolas." Aragorn’s eyes were huge and sad. "I couldn’t hold onto him. I tried, but..."
    Legolas glanced between them quickly, spotting the place far below where Sarcayul’s broken body lay. Closing his eyes against the sight, he refocused on Aragorn, "Its not your fault, Strider. His lust for vengeance and foolish pride took his life, not you."
    Unwinding a second length of rope from his belt, the elf wrapped the cord around the human’s waist, tying the man off to himself. When he was content that the knots would hold, he drew his boot up to his hand and slipped a small knife from inside it.
    "I am going to cut the ropes." He held the human's gaze intently. "It will probably hurt." When Aragorn nodded, he continued, "A lot, Strider. Don’t worry about holding on to me, I have you."
    Aragorn nodded as the elf slipped the sharp blade between the palms of his hands and cut the bindings from his wrists. He groaned in pain as his arms fell to his sides, the muscles in his shoulders, released from the tension, contracted sharply and the blood flowing to his fingers was more painful than anything he had imagined. He fell against the elf, trying unsuccessfully to keep from crying out as the prince pulled him tightly against him, shouting to the twins to pull them up.
    Aragorn breathed in deeply, filling his lungs that had been unable to expand as his body hung from the side of the cliff.
    "Stay with me, Aragorn." the prince whispered in his ear as they were slowly pulled to the edge of the cliff. He shifted one arm and pressed the man’s head against his shoulder as the human tensed.
    "Where would I go?" the ranger ground out through clenched teeth, trying to ignore the pain his body would not dispel.
    Legolas laughed softly. "You know your father is going to kill us."
    "Wouldn’t be the first time." Aragorn closed his eyes and tried to relax as blood flowed once again through his extremities.
    Hands reached down and pulled the pair the last of the way to the edge, dragging them to the far side of the pathway before they were cut loose of one another. Aragorn made no attempt to rise but simply lay where he was. His heart was hammering in his chest, the adrenaline in his system was finally abating and he began to tremble uncontrollably. His shoulders ached and he still couldn’t feel his fingers. His eyes were closed tightly as he worked to calm himself now that the danger was over and it surprised him slightly when he realized that someone was holding his hands.
    He opened his eyes and stared up at Legolas. The elf was gently massaging the man's fingers in his hands, trying to get the blood to flow back into them and feeling to return. Elrohir draped a blanket over the human as Elladan kept watch.
    "We aren’t alone." The elder twin whispered at his companions. He stood very still, watching a small grove of trees. A flock of birds burst from its canopy. "We need to move now."
    "Give me a minute." Legolas was watching Aragorn worriedly; the young human was worn out from his ordeal.
    "No, Elladan’s right." The ranger glanced about them. "Hebrilith is nearby. When he discovers I am not dead, he will try again. We have to go."
    "Can you make a fist?" Legolas released the man’s hands. Aragorn concentrated but his fingers would not fully cooperate. Elrohir quickly wrapped strips of cloths around the cuts left in the soft flesh of his wrists by the rope bindings. The human winced, drawing his breath in sharply as his brother tied them off.
    "Until we get to camp that will have to do."
    Aragorn nodded and stood to his feet with some help. He was surprised when Legolas gently wrapped his arm around the man’s shoulder and herded him quickly towards one of the horses that Elladan had pressed next to the mountain that bracketed the path, using the hill itself as a shield.
    "You won’t be able to ride if you can’t grip the reins, so you’ll ride with me." The elf gracefully mounted the horse and reached back down. Aragorn raised his hand up towards the elf and cried out in pain when the prince grabbed his forearm to pull him up. Legolas immediately released him and slid off the horse. "Your shoulder could be dislocated."
    "We haven’t got the time!" Elrohir jumped from his mount and raced towards them. Locking his fingers together he caught Aragorn’s boot in his hands and boosted the human up. Legolas steadied him as he gained his seat and swung up behind the man, wrapping an arm lightly around his waist while holding the reins in his other.
    Elladan was waiting for them, his bow drawn and notched as Elrohir gained his mount again and turned the horse to follow his brother down the mountain.
    "He will be waiting. Ride and do not look back. I will cover us," Elladan whispered to the others. "Go!"
    Elrohir and Legolas spurred their horses forward and raced back down the path towards their camp. As soon as they were away from the safety of the rock overhang, Hebrilith targeted them.
    Legolas wrapped himself around the ranger and shouted at his steed, urging it on as Elrohir followed fast on his heels. The twin dropped the reins of his mount and, unslinging his bow, he notched two arrows and released them towards the area where the attack originated. Between he and Elladan, they were able to drive Hebrilith back with their barrage of arrows, effectively covering their escape.


    Hebrilith glared at the retreating forms. He still could not understand why they had saved the human. He was frustrated that his attempt to kill the man had gone awry again and confused that the elves had thwarted him. Straightening slowly from his hiding place, he walked back to his camp. There would be more time, there would be another opportunity and he would not fail and if any of the three of those elves got in his way again...
    He smiled softly to himself committing their faces to his memory. He had plans to make.


    The three horses tore into the makeshift camp, stirring up the dry dust of the pathway in their wake.
    Sarcayul’s men stood from the fire they had started and cautiously walked towards Elladan. Leaderless and confused they were unsure as to what their next move should be.
    The elder twin glared at the elves and they stepped back. "Sarcayul is gone. He died because of his own stubborn pride. You came here hunting my brother, in my lands. You are no longer welcome. Tomorrow you will leave by way of the vale pass. Do not go back the way you came, for it is dangerous." Without a backward glance he turned away from them and stalked toward Legolas and Aragorn.
    "Elladan?" an elf called to him. When the Noldor elf turned back the warrior continued, "We would help."
    "You have helped enough." He brushed their request aside. "I’ll speak to you about it in the morning if I have changed my mind."
    Aragorn slid to the forest floor, leaning back against the trunk of the large tree behind him and closed his eyes.
    "Don’t touch me." He whispered as a hand was laid gently on his shoulder. His whole upper body was on fire and even the slight pressure hurt.
    He didn’t pay attention to the elves as they talked quietly about him a few steps away.
    "I think his left shoulder was dislocated. The weight on his body was enough to do this." Legolas glanced at the human.
    "Then you know we have to set it." Elladan glanced between the two elves and the prince grimaced, remembering how the dwarves had set his own shoulder when it had become dislocated in Moria.
    Aragorn opened his eyes and watched them warily as Legolas approached him and knelt down in front of him. "What?"
    "I need to see your shoulder for a minute."
    The ranger arched an eyebrow, not moving his arms from where he had them resting across his midsection.
    "I think your shoulder is dislocated."
    "That’s all right." Aragorn had no intentions of suffering any further and was hoping to put the elves off.
    "No, it’s not," Legolas laughed lightly. He picked the man’s left arm up and gently moved it. The pain almost caused the human to jump to his feet as he tried to get away from the elf.
    Aragorn simply wrapped his good arm around his hurting left one and hugged it to him. "See? I’m all right." He scooted a bit away from the elf.
    With a wry grin the elf answered him, "No, you are not."
    Elladan knelt near his right and Elrohir stepped in front of him, blocking his path. For a second the human actually panicked.
    "Your shoulder is dislocated. If we set it quickly the worst of the pain will be over." Elladan placed his hands against the human’s right shoulder and held him in place against the tree.
    "I don’t think this is a good idea." Aragorn looked from one elf to the other. Legolas braced the young ranger as best he could on the man’s left side and glanced at Elrohir who leaned over and gently grasped Aragorn’s arm.
    It took every ounce of strength the man had to not cry out as his brother carefully but forcefully reset the bones in the shoulder socket. He slumped forward, his head resting against Legolas as Elrohir gently placed his arm back across his chest.
    "I’ve had enough for one day." Aragorn said quietly, his voice muffled by the elf prince’s tunic.
    "Me too." Legolas sympathized with the man, gently wrapping his arms around the ranger, thankful that the human was simply alive. "Why don’t you rest?"
    Aragorn nodded against the elf and let himself be lowered to the forest floor. He pulled the edges of the blanket around him that Elrohir had draped across his shoulders and closed his eyes, letting his body slowly relax. His shoulder did feel better, but the stress of the day had taken its toll and within moments the human was sleeping lightly near the fire.


    When Aragorn awoke he lay unmoving where he was, wrapped in a warm blanket and tucked in Elrohir’s cloak. He watched the late night fire and listened to the quiet conversations of the elves and humans in the camp. His body ached, but not the fiery ache from earlier. Now the pain was just a dull, over-all feeling.
    No one had noticed that he had awakened and he took advantage of the inattention, concentrating on the quiet argument that his twin brothers were having with Legolas.
    "There has to be a way to draw Hebrilith out. We can suffer no more accidents or injuries." Elladan leaned forward, speaking softly.
    "I think it would be best to send the hunters home also. You saw what the dark elf tried to do to Estel." Elrohir glanced at Taradin and back to Elladan, "They are a liability to themselves and to us." Sarcayul's warriors had already left, heeding Elladan's strong advice to them earlier. Legolas hoped they would go back to Mirkwood and find a new path now that Sarcayul's questionable influence was removed.
    "I agree with Elrohir. In the morning we can ask Estel to send them home." Legolas looked over at the still form of his friend. A smile brushed his lips when he saw the silver eyes watching him.
    The twins turned to stare at the human as he slowly rose, clutching the blanket and cloak tightly about him and seated himself stiffly in their circle.
    "How long have you been awake?" Elladan asked, ruffling up his hair.
    "How do you feel?" Legolas leaned forward and interjected before the human could answer.
    "I feel better." He nodded at his friend. "And I have been listening to your talk. I think it's good to send the men away and I will explain the necessity of it to them. I also have an idea of how to draw Hebrilith out so that no one else gets hurt."
    The elves leaned in and listened intently while the man explained his idea.
    "That’s insane!" Elladan sat back, staring hard at his human brother.
    "You must have hit your head on that rock outcropping, Estel. What are you thinking?" Elrohir glared at him shock, "It’ll never work."
    "We won’t let it work." Elladan muttered darkly.
    "No, Estel has a good point." Legolas looked between the twins. "He is right, Hebrilith will come after him. He alone knows where the rogue lives and he has been in his dwelling. That by itself is enough to mark him out for death in Hebrilith’s mind. Allowing himself to be used as bait is the best way. The dark elf will not come after us, but he has been hunting Estel."
    The twins both protested at the same time.
    "It’s a stupid idea," Elladan cut the argument off.
    "It is not a stupid idea!" Aragorn countered. "It can work. Besides the three of you will be right there the whole time. He’ll never get to me." The ranger smiled at the elves, totally confident in their abilities to protect him.
    Elrohir looked to the far side of the camp and did not speak. Elladan simply glared at the ranger, shaking his head.
    "What?" Aragorn raised his hands palm out in question. "You don’t want anyone else hurt, I already am, there’s nothing to lose."
    "Good argument, Strider," Legolas muttered sarcastically, smiling at the human.

    "Elladan." The young ranger reached out and touched his brother on the arm, drawing the older elf’s eyes back down to stare into the human ones. "You have the hard job. The three of you must put him down. Mine will be easy, nothing will happen to me with you there."
    Silence fell over the small group. Elrohir picked up a branch and shifted the logs in the fire quietly, stirring up the embers. Legolas glanced to the men’s campfire and noted that the humans were starting to retire for the night.
    Elladan spoke first, "It is a good plan, Estel. I just wish you were not the bait. You’ll be the death of me yet, little brother." He sighed deeply and locked eyes with his twin.
    Elrohir dropped his gaze nodding his head. "But we can’t let Hebrilith get a hold of Estel."
    The others nodded their agreement.
    "So what do you think, should we go up the high pass tomorrow and track back into Hebrilith’s territory? I am sure we won’t get far before he finds us." Aragorn was plotting out the most logical course of action. He fully intended to lead the elves straight to the rogue elf’s lair.
    They discussed the specifics late into the night, agreeing that taking the fight to the elf was the best route. Aragorn would send the men home first thing in the morning and they would head out.
    When the plans had been decided and the twins had moved off to rest for the night, Legolas unrolled his bedding and laid it next to Aragorn’s, carefully propping his bow up against the trunk of a tree not inches from his head and within quick reach should he need it.
    He rolled over and looked at Aragorn. "You’re sure about this, Strider?"
    The ranger glanced at the elf sleepily. "It needs to stop, Legolas. I am not worried, you’ll be there." He smiled and closed his eyes. "Go to sleep. I think tomorrow may be a very long day."


    Morning came very quickly and it took Aragorn a bit of persuading to convince Taradin and his men to leave the mountain while the elves tracked the rogue. Reluctantly the group of hunters left.
    Taradin turned in his saddle and glanced back at the ranger. "You’ll let us know when it's safe to return?"
    "You have my word."
    The hunter nodded, that was good enough for him. He smiled at the man and waved his goodbye, "Then happy hunting to you Strider. Watch yourselves." Prodding his horse he galloped after his men.
    Aragorn turned back to the camp to find the elves slightly upset. They were carefully inspecting their bows and their quivers.
    "What’s wrong?" the ranger walked up next to Legolas and frowned at them as he sensed the seriousness that had fallen over them.
    The elf prince looked up from his inspections. He was running his hands carefully along the spine of his bow, feeling for fractures or anomalies in the smooth wood. "My bow was on the ground on the far side of the tree this morning. I did not leave it there last night." He frowned at the ranger.
    "You think one of the men moved it?"
    "What reason would they have? They were never near our side of the camp," Elrohir spoke up. "But my bow was also moved during the night."

    "Is there anything wrong with them?" Aragorn took the weapon from his brother’s hand and stepped into a patch of sunlight, letting the bright morning light play along the wood, hoping to detect any damage that might have occurred. "I see nothing," he continued, handing it back.
    "Neither did I," Elladan replied, "but the fact that they have all been moved bothers me greatly."
    "Did you see tracks of anything nearby? Animals? Men? Elves?" Aragorn asked the last with anxiety, if Hebrilith had been in their camp last night they could be in more serious trouble than they realized.
    "Nothing." Legolas shook his head as he slung his bow over his shoulder. "I cannot imagine that anyone could have gotten past the watch and approached us without our knowing. I suppose it must have been nothing more than the strong night winds. Still... it is disturbing."
    Elrohir walked back to the others, circling two horses near the dying fire and holding the reins of one out to his twin. "We’ll stay a good pace behind you two, but we will keep you in sight at all times."
    Elladan fastened the strap of his quiver across his chest and mounted the horse his brother had brought to him. "If you get into trouble or see anything, signal us."
    Legolas nodded and he and Aragorn set off down the trail, back towards Hebrilith’s lair.
    "Estel!" Elladan’s voice stopped the pair. "Don’t get yourself killed, I really do want to be able to return home and face Father."
    Aragorn smiled, "You worry too much! We’ll be fine."
    The twins allowed the friends to climb a good pace into the woods before they set out, paralleling their path on the northward passage.

    When they had finally reached the high pass it was mid-morning and there had been no signs of Hebrilith.
    "You don’t think he would have followed the men do you?" Aragorn questioned Legolas as he searched the wooded area for the path he had discovered earlier in the week that would lead them to Hebrilith’s lair.
    "It’s unlikely that he would stray far from these parts." Legolas tugged at the ranger’s sleeve and pointed towards the barely trampled edge of what appeared to be a little used pathway. "Is this it?"
    "Yes, that’s it." Aragorn stepped onto the run and turned eastward. Now that he knew what he was looking for, it was easy to see where the hidden path ran under the forest's overgrowth. He glanced behind them for a glimpse of the twins but did not see them.
    Legolas looked over his shoulder and listened carefully, "I can hear them, they are just beyond that hedge there. They will move out when we do."
    "I can’t hear them." Aragorn stilled his breathing and focused his hearing, but only the sounds of the forest floated to him on the light breeze as they walked up the barely visible path.
    The elf prince laughed softly and turned to the ranger. "Strider, you don’t have elven ears and you never will. Trust me, they are still behind us."

    Hebrilith watched the odd pair from his hiding place. He let the elf and the human pass by him and waited patiently. They had spoken as if there were others nearby. He had nearly given up when two elves appeared on horseback, whispering quietly and watching the ground. They easily picked their way through the foliage and silently followed the ones on foot.
    So that was how they wished to play this. Hebrilith smiled to himself; that was well. He had prepared for just such a surprise as this. Ever since he had found that ranger in his home, he had set about protecting it. He was ready. It didn’t matter this time that they were elves. They had protected that human, the one who had violated his home. In the end, if he had to kill them all to get to the ranger, what were three elves?

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