Mistaken Identity

Part 9

by Cassia and Siobhan

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    Hebrilith's look hardened as Legolas doubled over and the dark elf started to turn the knife inward, bringing his other weapon up to finish the job, but Legolas took advantage of their close quarters. Circling his good arm up, he knocked the dark elf’s second knife hand away before it could find its target. Instead of trying to pull away, as Hebrilith expected, Legolas moved in closer, ignoring the jolt of pain from the knife still in his side, and whammed his forehead against that of the other elf, knocking his adversary back several paces. Slashing quickly, Legolas landed a deep cut across Hebrilith’s left shoulder, bringing the handle of his other knife down across the dark elf’s hand and making him drop one of his weapons.
    But Hebrilith still had his hand on the knife in Legolas’ side and when he yanked that free, the blinding flash of pain made the elf prince reel. Hebrilith grabbed the opportunity and landed a sound punch to Legolas’ injured side and midsection, swinging around and whacking the younger elf across the face and knocking the blade out of his injured hand. Legolas grimaced and stumbled sideways, but refused to lose his footing. Kicking out hard and twisting away from a second blow, he caught Hebrilith in the knees, causing the dark elf to stumble back and nearly fall down. Unfortunately, the prince was not in good enough shape to press his advantage while he had it. He needed the moment to recoup his own strength.
    Pressing one hand to his injured side, Legolas felt the flow of warm, sticky blood that was making its way freely from the deep wound. Holding his remaining weapon in his good hand, Legolas crouched defensively, watching as Hebrilith regained his footing, ready for the dark elf’s next attack. The elf prince’s breath was coming in short, ragged gasps and yellow spots danced before his eyes, accompanying the burning pain from his side, arm and re-injured leg. Things were looking desperate, but he refused to let defeat be an option. Because he knew that if Hebrilith won, the price would not only be his life, but Aragorn’s as well. Legolas would not let that happen. Not while he had a breath left in him.
    "Give it up, Princeling!" Hebrilith taunted, but his own breath was coming more than a little short. "Is the human worth your life? Leave now while you still can!"
    Legolas did not waste his breath answering, but moved forward, feigning low and driving high. Hebrilith met him and the two locked weapons, parted, locked again, and parted. Legolas was wearying, critically so. Hebrilith could see that, so he kept his opponent moving, forcing Legolas to expend his energy just matching the dark elf’s blows.

    Horror coursed through Aragorn’s veins as he saw Legolas’ knife tremble in the prince’s hand. He had seen Legolas fight on many occasions, but he had never seen his friend this weary. Ugly, dark crimson was spreading quickly across Legolas’ tunic and the young ranger had no way of knowing how badly his friend had been hurt. His own helplessness was maddening and he thrashed desperately against his bonds. Stars and black spots erupted in his vision and his efforts were rewarded by a wave of dizzy nausea that nearly made him pass out. His concussion was not pleased by his vigorous movements, nor the heightened adrenaline and panic that were flowing through him.
    Through blurry, doubled vision, Aragorn saw the two elves tangle and go down, their fight turning into a wrestling match on the ground. He didn’t see how it happened, but another of the knives had been lost and now the two elves struggled for control of the remaining one that hung between them.

    Hebrilith nailed Legolas in the side at every opportunity, using the other elf’s injuries to his advantage. Legolas rolled the dark elf over and over, seeking to avoid giving his opponent the chance to use his weaknesses against him. The two elves’ blond hair fell about them as they struggled, and it was nearly impossible to tell whose was whose.
    Legolas ended up on the bottom again and this time Hebrilith pinned him there, sitting on the prince and locking him down with his legs as they struggled for control of the knife. Hebrilith pressed the blade down towards Legolas’ throat, but the prince fought him and the knife stayed locked between them.
    "You fight well," Hebrilith grit out through his teeth, frustrated by the difficulty he was having overcoming this one, wounded elf. "But against the wrong things! You fight your memories so you can pretend they didn’t happen, so you can hide what’s truly inside you! But I know. You can’t hide it from me. I lived that nightmare. I learned cruelty and I learned it well. Men taught it to me and I have returned the favor!" Hebrilith drove the knife slowly downward, closer to Legolas’ neck.
    "I will never forget. I can never forget!" there was pain as well as twisted rage in the dark elf’s hard eyes. "But you know what it’s like, don’t you? The hands, the eyes, the touch, the beatings, the helplessness... again and again until you want to go mad! And you hate them! Hate them so much you want to kill them all! Tell me it wasn’t so? Tell me you did not rejoice to see the men who did that to you perish! Tell me you did not enjoy the fact that they died a horrible death?! But you can’t, can you?"
    Legolas momentarily closed his eyes, his breath coming quick and fast as the dark elf rubbed his face in things he had worked long and hard to forget. Hebrilith was hitting way below the belt with these tactics. The knife dropped lower, until it was resting against Legolas’ exposed throat and only a little more pressure would end the elf prince’s life forever.

    "Legolas! Don’t listen to him!" Aragorn shouted desperately, murderously angry at the games Hebrilith was playing on his friend. He knew Legolas’ own insecurities on this subject, knew that Legolas had already been having his own doubts... now the dark elf was using those doubts and those old hurts as a deadly playing piece.
    The young ranger blinked rapidly, trying to see which of the two sets of fighting elves were real as he finally dragged himself halfway to his knees. "You are so much more than he says you are!" Aragorn struggled to stay conscious.

    Aragorn’s voice pulled Legolas back from the seductively hopeless power of the dark one’s words. His grip on the knife handle tightened.
    Hebrilith scowled at him. "Yes, yes, listen to the little human. Yet he has not the strength to save himself, or you. Men are weak! They deserve to die!"
    Legolas’ eyes hardened. "So you say. Yet I have learned much from this one, about forgiveness and letting go of the past, something you should have done long ago, Hebrilith!" the prince ground out between his teeth. "I do not deny that I was not sorry to see the men who hurt me die! But I did not take their lives, and I have not sought the lives of others to pay for their crimes!"
    Legolas looked squarely into Hebrilith’s cold eyes. "I am not like you Hebrilith. I never will be." For the first time, Legolas really believed that as he said it, and the resolve strengthened him.
    Hebrilith growled in anger and pressed down hard against the knife, leaning on his arm and adding the weight of his body to force the weapon downward.
    Suddenly, in one quick move, Legolas risked swinging one arm free of the struggle and struck Hebrilith upside the head, his curled fist seeking out the soft spot just below the dark elf’s ear and jaw, which were pressure points unique to elves.
    The move worked and Hebrilith’s eyes rolled back in his head as he was momentarily stunned. Legolas seized the advantage to roll him over and gain the upper position, placing the tip of the knife directly over the dark elf’s heart for the cleanest, fastest kill. Yet... the prince hesitated. It was hard, hard to think of taking the life of someone who could not fight back. He knew that Hebrilith intended to kill both him and Aragorn, he knew that Lord Elrond was probably right, there was no other way... yet warrior though he was, Legolas was not a killer by nature or inclination.
    Hebrilith blinked slowly as the stun wore off, and Legolas knew he may be losing his chance, but when he looked down at the elf below him he felt such incredible sadness... so deep it nearly broke his heart. If compassion was a weakness, then it was one of Legolas’ faults.
    Hebrilith took in the situation, but did not move. He knew that Legolas could kill him instantly with a move, but the elf prince hesitated... he didn’t know why. "Do it," he said darkly.
    "Hebrilith..." Legolas shook his head slowly. "I don’t want to kill you."
    The elf looked up at Legolas with a slightly nonplussed look on his face. "Then you really aren’t like me," he said coldly.
    "Hebrilith, let us help you," Legolas pleaded softly. "Lord Elrond and the others... they would help if you let them! You could be free... if you just let go of your hate and your pain..."
    Hebrilith met Legolas’ eyes with a surprisingly honest stare. "It’s far too late for that," he whispered. "There is no help for me in this life."
    Away through the trees they heard the sound of people approaching. "Estel? Legolas? Estel!!" it was Elrohir’s voice calling desperately from a distance off.
    Hebrilith’s face tightened. "I will not be taken a prisoner! I will not live behind bars again!" Moving suddenly, Hebrilith grabbed Legolas’ hands and forced the knife down, into his own heart.
    Shocked by the sudden, unexpected move, Legolas pulled away from the knife, bending forward quickly, but it was too late for Hebrilith.
    "It’s better this way..." the dark elf murmured as his eyes closed. "If you wanted to set me free, son of Thranduil... you have..." Then he breathed no more and his spirit fled away, free at last of the tortured existence it had led.
    Legolas folded the dead elf’s arms over his chest, removing the knife. "May you find peace for your hurting soul in the halls of Mandos," he whispered quietly.
    Moving slowly and painfully to Aragorn’s side, Legolas used the bloody knife to cut the ropes between the Dùnadan’s wrists and ankles. Aragorn didn’t know if it were Hebrilith or Legolas’ blood on the knife. Aragorn could hardly sit up on his own, so Legolas helped him up and the young ranger leaned slightly against his friend.
    "Aragorn... you’re hurt..." Legolas blinked several times to keep his own vision clear.
    Aragorn laughed weakly, but his eyes reflected his true concern. "That’s the pot calling the kettle black, isn’t it?" he asked, observing his friend’s bloodstained appearance.
    Legolas smiled but was too weary and drained to retort.
    Elladan burst into the clearing with Elrohir not far behind. They took in the situation quickly. Hebrilith dead on the ground, Aragorn half leaning against Legolas, with the elf prince bending over him... they did not yet see Legolas’ injuries.
    "Estel! Estel are you all right?!" Elrohir dropped to his adopted brother’s side, concern etched across his features.
    "I told you this was a bad idea!" Elladan sank down on the other side. "Estel you could have been killed!" He gently moved the ranger’s cloak from his shoulder and inspected the knife wound the man had sustained.
    "Yeah... I know," Aragorn regarded them wryly. He flinched slightly from his brother's attention to his shoulder and simply held his throbbing head, while the elf tried to staunch the bleeding. "Next time I volunteer to be bait, please just shoot me first, all right?"
    "I may take you up on that, brother!" Elladan shook his head, obviously relieved beyond words to find his little brother alive.
    "Hebrilith is dead then," Elrohir said softly, glancing over at the still form.
    Legolas nodded slowly, battling the haze in his vision. "I-I think he actually wanted it... he..." suddenly Legolas fell backward, consciousness fleeing him without his leave.
    "Legolas!" Aragorn and the twins said at nearly the same time. Elladan checked the prince’s vitals while Elrohir moved Legolas’ bloodstained hand away from his side, revealing the nasty-looking injury concealed beneath.
    Aragorn pressed forward, despite his own wooziness. "He-he fought Hebrilith to save me... I think he was hurt pretty bad. We’ve got to get him back to father..."
    "We will Estel, we will," Elladan assured as they quickly bound up Legolas’ wounds to stop the worst of the bleeding. The wounds were serious, but not fatal, and nothing that couldn’t be healed completely in Rivendell.
    "You know..." Elrohir couldn’t help shooting his human brother a small grin. "This really is going to top it all off, I hope you realize. Father is going to get  so tired of you dragging this poor prince back to him to get fixed up... honestly, do you two hunt out trouble, or does it just find you?"
    Aragorn gave his older, elven brother a withering glare, but was spared from answering because Legolas was waking.
    "I heard that," the elf prince murmured as Elladan helped his twin brother maneuver their semi-conscious guest onto the back of Elrohir’s horse. "I can walk," he protested. "Just once I’d like to enter your house under my own power..."
    "Not today," Elrohir held Legolas still with a firm hand as he swung lightly up behind the prince. "You’ve lost a lot of blood, my friend, don’t make this more complicated for us all."
    Aragorn laughed as he struggled to his feet, only to stagger and have Elladan catch him.
    "That goes for you too, Estel," Elladan added, fixing the young human with a dry look that wiped the smile off the Dùnadan’s features.
    "But I’m fine! It’s just a little knock on the head, a flesh wound that’s all..." Aragorn protested, but his brothers would have none of it and in the end he was seated on Elladan’s horse with his older brother’s arms wrapped firmly around his waist. In reality he supposed he oughtn’t to complain so much. His head was still hammering so painfully he was surprised that no one else could see the sparks flying and his shoulder throbbed incessantly from the knife wound. The young ranger tilted unsteadily to one side, but his elven brother’s strong arms were there to keep him balanced and secure.
    "Rest now, Estel, you’ve had a rough couple of days... kidnappings, cliffs, attempted murder... I think you’ve got some kind of new record going." Elladan shook his head as he settled his little brother’s weight back against his body more fully. He glanced sideways at where the prince of Mirkwood was similarly situated in Elrohir’s protective hold. The elder twin shook his head, letting his chin rest lightly against Estel’s dark, wind-tossed hair. "You know, Legolas, I’m beginning to think that you’re a bad influence on our little brother!"
    "Me?!" Legolas protested. "I had a perfectly normal life until your brother inflicted himself upon me! Just look what has happened since!" The jest was gently meant and they all knew it.
    "Normal, right," Aragorn rolled his eyes, then winced because that hurt. "Father’s not going to like this at all, is he?" he sighed as they made their way through the woods. It seemed he was forever ending up in trouble for his jams and scrapes... but they weren’t his fault... really... well, maybe a little, but...
    "Oh just wait until he hears about your brilliant bait idea..." Elrohir shook his head, an impish glitter in his eyes. "You really outdid yourself, Estel, even for a human..."
    "Hey, it worked didn’t it? Maybe not like we planned..." Aragorn protested.
    "Nothing you come up with ever works like it’s planned!" Elladan laughed.
    "You know, you two went along with it, Elladan. What do you think Father’s going to think about that?" Aragorn mumbled with semi-playful grumping.
    The twins exchanged a look. "Oh, Valar," Elrohir sighed. "We’re all going to be in trouble."
    It was so ridiculous that they all laughed a little, despite everything.

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