Mistaken Identity

Part 8

by Cassia and Siobhan

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    Stealthily, Hebrilith left the area and circled back up the mountain, placing himself between the mounted elves and the ranger and his companion; checking his traps. He needed to take care of the horses first. The human thought he was so smart bringing them back up this way, well Hebrilith had something fun in mind for them. He had wondered if he would ever have a chance to test his little diversion. It delighted him that today would be that day.

    Elrohir and Elladan picked their way carefully through the undergrowth, silently following their brother and the prince. As the pair picked up the trail and moved out the mounted elves followed.
    Elrohir’s horse spooked and shied sideways. The twins stopped their mounts and listened for any sounds out of the ordinary. The forest still chattered incessantly about them, bugs in the fields, birds in the canopy overhead. They could hear the light footfalls of the ones they followed. It must have been nothing. Elladan motioned for them to continue and pressed his heels against his horse's flanks, urging the animal forward.
    A tiny snap beneath his horse's hoof was all the warning that the twins had. Hebrilith had rigged a snare net, the type that humans and dwarves were fond of using when trapping; the type capable of ensnaring an entire glade at one time. He had staked one edge into the ground and the other side of the net he had tied to green tender saplings, bending their thin wiry trunks backwards close to the forest floor and pinning them there. When Elladan’s horse had triggered the release, the rope holding the trees down had been loosened and the saplings threw the net high into the air as they snapped back and forth their tension gone out of them. The far side of the net had been weighted with rocks and as it flew over the elf’s heads it came swiftly crashing back down behind their mounts.
    The horses reared up at the unknown threat attempting to throw their riders, but the elves were not easily unsaddled and the net quickly caught them all, bearing the steeds to the ground with the twins pinned on top of them.
    Immediately the warriors began attempting to cut the thick, steel-bound ropes away. Their attempt at stealth had been caught, their presence noted and Aragorn and the prince were in danger.


    "Legolas," Aragorn whispered to his friend, "It’s over here, we are almost there."
    "Wait!" Legolas had frozen and turned back the way they had come. "Did you not hear that? I think we are not alone and I believe we have lost your brothers!" The elf prince began to walk quickly back down the path towards the sounds he had heard, thinking the ranger was following him.
    But the ranger hadn’t heard his friend’s warning and proceeded to cross the open glade without the prince. It wasn’t until he had gained the other side that he realized he was alone and a spike of fear shot through him as he turned back to search for his friend.
    A dark shadow erupted from the trees on Aragorn’s left. Without warning, Hebrilith charged the human, he spun at the last possible moment and with the force of his circular movement he smashed his elbow into the ranger’s chin, knocking the man off his feet and stunning him.
    The elf kicked the human onto his stomach and quickly bound Aragorn’s hands behind his back. The ranger came to his senses seconds later. Realizing what had happened, he kicked out with his legs, connecting his boots with Hebrilith’s shin. The unexpected resistance knocked the elf backwards and Aragorn turned over onto his back, trying to right himself.
    Hebrilith recovered quickly and with a lethalness that made the ranger’s blood run cold, the elf removed a long, thin, curved blade from its sheath on his waist. He stalked back to the human and kneeled down on the man, pressing the air out of Aragorn’s lungs with his weight. Without warning he pinned the man to the earth, driving his dagger through the ranger's left shoulder.
    Aragorn arched against the pain. His mind was reeling but with no air in his lungs he couldn’t even cry out and bright spots of light danced before his eyes as consciousness threatened to leave him.
    The elf was speaking to him but he had a hard time understanding the words.
    "Did you?" Hebrilith moved off the human and grabbed a handful of the dark hair slamming the man’s head back down hard against the ground. "Did you really think you could capture me?"
    Aragorn gasped air into his starved lungs as Hebrilith pounded his head hard down against the earth again, "What are you? Just a toy to them? Obviously they care nothing for you or they would never let you come back near me. I have been waiting for you, fool of a human. Did you honestly think I’d let you live after I found you in my home?"
    The quiet rage in the elf scared the ranger and he stared up into the incensed face. He was a having a hard time focusing on the elf and at times it seemed like there were two Hebriliths staring down at him.
    "Oh don’t worry about your friends on the horses. I already took care of them and I will see to your other elven friend too, right after I kill you." He whispered to the man. With a cruel smile he pulled the blade from Aragorn’s shoulder, causing the man to cry out. He forced the ranger’s head to the side, exposing his jugular vein.


    "Strider, I don’t hear your brothers, I think we should go back," Legolas called softly to the human scanning the surrounding forests. When his friend didn’t respond, the elf looked over his shoulder and realized for the first time that the man had gone on without him. "No!" He turned and ran headlong back for the glade where they had last been. He heard the human cry out and reached the end of the glade as the rogue elf pressed the man’s head to the side, ready for a quick kill.
    "Let him go, Hebrilith!" Legolas stalked forward, his bow strung and notched. "Let him go, now." The elf prince stopped part way into the glade as the rogue elf turned quickly towards him.
    Hebrilith smiled and looked back down at the human. "Care to watch me take your friend out?" He lifted Aragorn’s head and beat it hard back against the forest floor, just for spite, as he stood and faced down the angry elven prince.
    Hot anger flared through Legolas and he stepped closer, "Move away from him and do not touch him again," he cautioned dangerously.
    Aragorn tried to lift his head but it hurt so badly. The woods seemed to be spinning slowly around him and he could see the stars moving in and out between the trees.
    "I’ll kill your friend," taunted the rogue elf.
    "And I will kill you." Legolas motioned the elf away from the prone human. "Move now."
    "Really?" Hebrilith crossed his arms, a slightly amused grin on his face. "Will you now?" Slowly he picked up his foot and pressed his boot down against Aragorn’s throat. Leaning down slightly, he taunted, "I think not."
    Aragorn struggled weakly against the new abuse, panic at the lack of air and a sudden sense of wrongness flooding his awareness. Hebrilith wasn’t afraid of Legolas. He had no fear that the elf prince would shoot him. It almost seemed as though he wanted Legolas to try. Why?
    Legolas stared unflinchingly at the dark elf. Hebrilith laughed lightly and stepped away from Aragorn and towards the prince, allowing the ranger to breathe again. He opened his hands palms out, displaying his lack of weapons or defense. "Well, shoot me. Isn’t that what you came here for?" Something like a deep look of satisfaction crossed the elf’s face.
    Aragorn rolled slowly over onto his side and awkwardly moved into a kneeling position just out of Hebrilith’s range of sight.
    As Legolas increased the tension on his bow, the wood beneath his hands quivered slightly. The movement was odd and the prince frowned as he concentrated, attributing the waver in his weapon to his own nerves. He had known this moment was coming, but still he was unprepared to kill the elf in cold blood even though he knew it must be done. Hebrilith could not be allowed to continue to harm men or other elves and if Legolas didn’t stop him, he would surely kill Aragorn.
    Aragorn watched between the two elves. The seconds slowed immeasurably as he looked from his friend to the rogue. Something was seriously wrong. Legolas’ bow wobbled slightly under the increasing pressure – the image of finding the bow in the wrong place earlier that morning flashed through Aragorn’s mind. He glanced at Hebrilith. And cold fear shot through his veins as he realized that that wasn’t a look of satisfaction on the rogue elf’s face: it was amusement. Everything that happened since this morning clicked in the ranger’s mind – Hebrilith had sabotaged their weapons.
    "Legolas, No!" he called out in warning to his friend, trying to gain his feet.
    The elf prince started to release the arrow when his friend called out to him. He allowed the arrow to fall from his fingers and turned his face away from the bowstring, moving the bow away from his body. The arrow clattered to the forest floor and his bow snapped backwards, the powerful tension released in it as the string broke in half and whipped wildly outward. One half caught his hand and slashed across the top of his fingers, causing him to cry out and drop the bow to the ground. The other half lashed into his hair. Had he not turned his head away, the force of the tension released when the string broke would have cut his face open, perhaps even blinding him. Now he knew why his bow had been moved. Somehow, Hebrilith had indeed gotten past all of them, he had been in their camp last night and had carefully nicked their bowstrings. If they had thought to use them, the strings would have snapped just as his had done, causing horrible damage to their users.
    Hebrilith turned on the human in pure rage. He slammed the man backwards with his forearm causing Aragorn to stumble as he tried to regain his balance. The force of the impact split his temple and he slumped to the ground, half conscious.
    Legolas turned back in time to see his friend fall to the forest floor. "Strider!" But even as he called out, he knew he was too far away to stop the dark elf. He ran forward trying to intervene, but Hebrilith was not about to let the man get away again. He had had enough of the two of them. It was time to kill the human; he could deal with the other elf afterwards.
    Aragorn couldn’t move. He couldn’t breathe, he couldn’t think. His overly abused body betrayed him and refused to respond to any of the jumbled commands coming from his brain.
    Hebrilith knelt over his prey, ready to finish the young ranger off completely. The long, wicked knife gleamed in the elf’s fingers as he drew back his hand...
    Suddenly a swift, booted foot kicked the knife out of Hebrilith’s grip. A second kick knocked the dark elf off of Aragorn and onto his backside on the ground.
    "This one is not for you!" Legolas said fiercely as he put himself protectively between the young human and the dark elf who sought his friend’s blood.
    Hebrilith retaliated with surprising speed from the suddenness of the attack and Legolas had to jump to the side to avoid a sweeping blow from the other elf’s knife. In an instant, Legolas’ own weapons were in his hands, one blade in each fist as was his wont.
    Hebrilith matched his opponent, drawing a second knife of his own and for a moment they circled each other warily. When Hebrilith attacked it was with the lightning swift responses and graceful moves of the elves. Legolas countered just as swiftly, evading one sweep, stepping under the follow-up jab and returning with his own blows that were just as skillfully evaded.
    Aragorn tried to pull himself up off the ground, tugging against his bound wrists, but his head whirled dizzily as the serious concussion he had sustained made his vision blur. Falling back and catching his breath, he could do little more than watch helplessly as Legolas and Hebrilith turned and whirled, sometimes almost faster than sight, slashing, parrying, ducking, dodging... locked together in their graceful dance of death. It was both terrifying and oddly beautiful in a horrid sort of way. Aragorn had never seen two elves fight one another with deadly intent before and the young Dùnadan was dismayed to see that Hebrilith seemed to be every bit as good a fighter as his friend was.
    Hebrilith rolled away underneath one of Legolas’ advances and Legolas jumped lightly to the side only just in time to avoid a swipe aimed for his legs. Both were holding their own, but neither seemed to be able to get an advantage.
    "This has nothing to do with you, son of Thranduil!" Hebrilith spat at the prince. "Leave the human to me to face the fate that all his race deserves! He’s not worth your consideration!"
    "He is my friend, Hebrilith! The killing must stop! You can’t live this way forever. You cannot punish all for the sins of a few!" Legolas reasoned as they circled again. The two elves’ eyes never left one another, watching for an opening, a misstep... any sign of weakness.
    Hebrilith jabbed and Legolas deflected the blow, returning with a sweep of his own, which Hebrilith sidestepped. Lashing out with the side of his foot, he caught Legolas’ still-healing leg. Grabbing Legolas’ arm he tried to spin the other elf around onto the point of his blade, but Legolas twisted his wrist and threw his body to the side, flipping Hebrilith over his back instead. The dark elf landed as easily as if he had meant to do that and lashed out with a rapid series of double-handed slashes and strokes that drove Legolas back a few paces, causing the prince to have to go on the defensive. They both knew that this was a contest that only one of them could walk away from alive.
    "Your friend?" the dark elf sneered, his beautiful face twisted with cold rage. "How can any elf call a human friend after all they have done amiss in this world? Especially you, little whore of Dorolyn! Or did you enjoy what they did to you there?!"
    Legolas’ jaw tightened and his eyes flashed deadly fire. He hadn’t realized that Hebrilith knew of his own past, but since this elf seemed to know their every move before they made it, he shouldn’t have been so surprised. The other elf’s words had a far more unsettling effect on the prince than he would have liked to admit.
    Hebrilith followed his last jab up with a twisting, sweeping stroke, which Legolas sidestepped. Unfortunately that was what the dark elf had expected him to do. As Legolas moved to the side, Hebrilith was already there, and Legolas only just got his arm up in time to keep the dark elf’s knife from cutting straight into his throat. With no time for a proper block, Legolas caught the knife with his unprotected forearm. The sharp elven blade bit deeply into the prince’s flesh and Legolas could not help wincing as he jumped back, making the knife tear a ragged gash along his arm as he yanked it away.
    Red blood flowed freely from the cut in his sleeve, staining the emerald fabric and running down over the prince’s hand, making his grip on his weapon slippery. Legolas recovered quickly, driving his opponent back with a quick series of slashes and forcing his right hand to remain closed tightly about the hilt of his knife despite the blazing pain that it caused.
    "It stings, doesn’t it?" Hebrilith glowered coldly, meaning much more than Legolas’ injury. "You don’t fool me!" the dark elf hissed, his eyes slitting as he circled for another opportunity. "You and I, we’re no different. You hide your hate and fear under words and platitudes that you have been taught, but I see it inside you. You claim this human is your friend, but you run from him when he gets too close."
    Another series of moves drove Legolas back again. The prince grit his teeth against the pain of his injury and the fury that Hebrilith’s taunting words were building in his chest. Fury... and pain. Fear. Those last two emotions disturbed Legolas, for they should not have been present. Did some part of him fear that Hebrilith was right? The uncertainty tossed the elf off-balance, putting him more and more on the defensive.
    Hebrilith’s lips twitched in a feral grin. "Oh yes, I’ve been watching you. I know more about you than you know about yourself. You’re a liar, Legolas, Greenleaf! And the most pathetic thing is that you lie to yourself!"
    Legolas knew that Hebrilith was trying to psyche him out, taunt him into making a mistake... the frightening thing was that it was almost working. The elven prince steeled his resolve and tried to close his mind and heart against his opponent’s words.
    Aragorn watched the confrontation with growing horror. He hated what he saw Hebrilith trying to do to Legolas and wanted to yell, wanted to tell his friend not to listen to anything the twisted elf said! But he was afraid of tossing off Legolas’ concentration, so he kept silent and twisted against the bonds on his arms and wrists. His head was still throbbing and blurring mercilessly, but he struggled anyway.
    "You don’t know me half as well as you think, Hebrilith!" Legolas shot back. Both elves were beginning to breathe hard now as the fight dragged on and the intensity level only kept increasing. "Maybe it wasn’t as far behind me as I thought it was, but I will never, EVER be like you!" He shoved his opponent’s blade back on itself, cutting low and swinging sideways to extract himself from the cornered position that Hebrilith had been attempting to maneuver him into. As he spun away, Hebrilith brought the hilt of his knife down in an unexpected move, driving it painfully into Legolas’ wounded arm. At the same moment he brought his knee up into the prince’s healing thigh once more. The harsh shot of agony from his injuries, both old and new, threw Legolas’ concentration off a tad and the elf prince stumbled, ever so slightly. With an orc, or a man as an opponent, the small slip would have made very little difference, it was only a moment of inattention, but in a battle between elves, it was all that Hebrilith needed.
    The dark elf drove one dagger around behind Legolas’ neck, forcing the prince to move closer him to avoid the blade, at the same time thrusting the second one forward at waist-level. They were barely three inches apart and Hebrilith’s grin hardened cruelly as he watched Legolas’ eyes register both shock and pain as the long knife slid into the prince’s side. Legolas moved sideways at the last moment as he felt the slick pain of the blade enter his body, twisting away in a desperate effort to keep the weapon from its intended path into his vital organs.
    "No!" Aragorn’s cry echoed in the fighting elves’ ears, but they were too locked in their own life or death struggle to pay the hapless human much attention.
    Legolas’ movement made the knife catch on one of his ribs instead of going straight into the unprotected soft tissue of his belly, as had been its original aim. The sharp blade skittered along the bone before sliding off and hitting another. Bouncing off this one as well, the knife dipped and slid between the next two ribs, burying itself deep into the elf prince’s side, but damaging nothing immediately fatal. The pain however was shockingly indescribable and momentarily debilitating. Hebrilith twisted the knife sharply and Legolas cried out without meaning to, doubling forward.

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