Mellon Chronicles

The Seventh Stone

Chapter 1

by Cassia-(T) and Siobhan-(T)

"Seventh Stone" art by Cassia

"The Seventh Stone" art by Cassia-(T)

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Tall ships and tall kings
Three times three,
What brought they from the foundered land
Over the flowing sea?
Seven stars and seven stones
And one white tree.


    The night birds did not dare stir and only one or two of the braver crickets let out a peep to break the sudden silence that moments before had been sheer chaos.
    Trelan stood slowly from where he had fallen beneath the bulk of the orc he had just slain. The ground was littered with corpses of the dead creatures.
    "Strider?" Legolas looked around them for signs of the human. "Raniean, where is Strider?"
    The warrior glanced around them, dazed momentarily as he recovered from the battle. Orcs strew the ground around him and their blood dripped from his sword as he searched the immediate area for the human. This was not how they had expected the night to turn out.

    The four friends had left Rivendell nearly a week ago, traveling south to the Gap of Rohan on their way back to Mirkwood. Lord Elrond had sent them off with full provisions and blessings for a safe journey. He had declared the northern pass off limits until the whereabouts of the Nazgûl that had enslaved Legolas could be determined. Winter would set in within the next few months and Elrond had asked that Aragorn return home before the pass was closed over the Misty Mountains by the seasonal snows.
    For once their journey had been easy and light. In the company of the Silvan elves the ranger had felt right at home. The evenings were still warm, although the mornings held the chill of autumn on their breath. They had made good time, staying to the forests and traveling from early light till just after dusk.
    Finding a tiny hollow in the forests that they traveled, the elves and the human had made camp last night. The small meadow was surrounded by gently sloping hills ringed with golden-hued trees, their leaves just beginning the threat to drop. Trelan had built a roaring fire and they had roasted a wild boar on crude spits that Raniean fastened for them.
    Whether it was the smell of the roasting meat or the light of the fire that drew them, none would ever know.
    They had been taken unaware by a band of orcs near midnight; the small hills that sheltered them had also shielded the presence of their enemy. They lay in wait until the fire started to dim. Legolas had been uneasy, unwilling to bed down; a disquiet had kept him up, gnawing at his consciousness.
    When the first attack came he had roused the others and countered the wave of orcs that rushed them, but more had only taken their place.
    The battle lasted longer than it should have, the fell beasts intent on taking down their prey. And so the orcs had driven them from their campsite, consuming their supplies and carrying them off with them, much to the dismay of the travelers.

    Now as the normal sounds of the forests began to fill the quiet of the glen once more, Legolas realized that his friend was not among those standing. The elves glanced worriedly between them, uncertain where to look for the human.
    The ranger stumbled back into the glade moments later, breathing heavily, "They took everything, there's nothing left." He leaned over resting his hands on his knees as he caught his breath.
    "You followed them?" Raniean asked incredulously, glancing from the man to Legolas. Aragorn only nodded in reply as the prince approached him.
    "Strider, you are insane." Legolas bent down to stare into the human's eyes. "Are you all right?"
    "I'm fine." He slowly straightened up. "I just thought I might be able to salvage something."
    "Nothing is worth salvaging from orcs, Strider." Trelan dusted himself off and collected his arrows from the strewn carnage about them. "I suggest we move on quickly."
    "We'll need supplies. We can't make the trip through the Gap of Rohan with nothing, not even a blanket between us." Aragorn glanced at the elves; they were trying not to smile at the man. "Oh fine! Well I need supplies then, and I wouldn't mind another bed roll. I can't believe they took those too!"
    He glared out-right at his friends as they laughed aloud. "We can use the trees to sleep in, Aragorn. Its safer and warmer there," Trelan offered.
    "No, you can use the trees to sleep in," the ranger quickly countered. "I remember the last time I tried that."
    Legolas laughed even harder at the memory. "Oh I remember the last time as well. No thank you, Trelan. I need to sleep too."
    "Very funny." Aragorn jerked a piece of leather from the body of a dead orc and cleaned the blade of his sword off on the hide, throwing it back down. "Well, we aren't but a day's walk from Adirolf. It's not the best of places to visit, but we ought to be able to pick up a few supplies there." He winced as his arm began to throb from a cut taken in the battle. Slowly he rotated his shoulder, trying to work out the stiffness in the joint.
    "Were you injured?" Raniean eyed the man carefully.
    "No," Aragorn absently answered as he helped collect the elves' arrows from the corpses. "It's just a scratch, nothing at all really."
    Legolas stopped and glanced at the ranger. "The last time you said it was nothing, your shoulder was dislocated from that fall you took with Sarcayul."
    Aragorn rolled his eyes and ignored the elf.
    The human stopped at the sound of his elven name and slowly turned towards his friend. "I'm fine."
    "I'll decide that. Your brothers would have my hide if I let a cut from an orc blade go untended." Legolas stalked towards the man.
    Reluctantly, Aragorn seated himself on a fallen log, muttering, "My brothers would have a fit if they knew we were anywhere near orcs."
    "Exactly." Legolas crouched down near his friend. "Now, let me see it."
    Aragorn shrugged out of his overcoat and unbuttoned his shirt, pulling his left arm free of the tunic to expose the ragged cut to his upper arm. The wound was bleeding freely again, having been pulled away from the shirt. He winced as Legolas prodded the cut, cleaning it out with water from his flask.
    "How does it look?" Raniean stepped over a dead orc and pushed in close by Legolas. The prince moved slightly aside so the tall warrior could glimpse the wound.
    "It looks bad, but it isn't feverish." Legolas glanced up as Trelan pressed in. "I think there was no poison, but we'll need to watch it." He looked between the two warriors. "Were either of you hurt at all?"
    They both shook their heads.
    "No, of course not. Just the human," Aragorn muttered, resting his head in his good hand.
    Legolas laughed and softly cuffed the man. "Stop that. You'll live." He pulled Aragorn's shirt back over his shoulder and stood, smiling down at the man. "Besides I seem to remember that you were the one that saved Trelan from the warg that orc released on him."
    Aragorn shrugged back into his overcoat and turned a small smile on the elf in question. "You should have seen your face."
    Raniean apparently had, because he laughed merrily at his friend's expense.
    "I wouldn't laugh if I were you, Raniean." Trelan warned as he turned to leave the glade. "I am sure there are a few things the prince would be interested in hearing about you."
    The tall warrior immediately shut his mouth and glared at the shorter elf.
    "Ran?" Legolas questioned with a raised eyebrow.
    "It's nothing, my lord." Raniean jogged to catch up with Trelan, elbowing the smaller warrior as they left the battle scene.
    "We do need supplies." Aragorn repeated himself once they had walked a short distance.
    "Agreed." Legolas stopped and turned towards the man, "Let's head for Adirolf then."

    The sun rose and it set but the small band pushed on without halting to rest again. It was growing late when they finally stopped, the sun having once again fled the forests where they walked hours ago. Aragorn paced to the edge of the woods they were in and overlooked a small grassy valley, its depth glittering with the tiny, winking of firebugs that darted to and fro on the gentle breezes.
    "We can't all go." He turned back and glanced at the elves. A slight shimmering glow exuded from them in the full darkness of night. One had to know to look for it, but Aragorn had long ago become used to the faint brightness of the elves. "You are all elves and Adirolf's inhabitants are not open to strangers. You will be certain to draw attention. Strangers passing through are barely tolerated when they are human, but your presence there would go ill. I cannot protect you all and I do not wish a fight with the people there. I need to slip in, gather what we need and leave. But I'll need a bit of help packing everything back."
    Legolas nodded, "Fine then, I'll accompany you. Raniean and Trelan will wait here." He did not laugh at Aragorn over the suggestion that either he or his elven companions needed the human's protection. Of course they could take care of themselves, but he knew what his friend meant. On more than one occasion, humans' mistrust of elves or elves' mistrust of humans had caused them both more grief than they cared to remember. It was better to avoid trouble than invite it whenever possible.
    The elf frowned as the human looked him up and down. "Wait a minute," Aragorn shrugged out of his hooded cloak and passed it to Legolas, "You can't go like that."
    The elf stepped back from the proffered clothing. "I am not wearing that."
    "Legolas, you're an elf, have you not noticed?" Aragorn sighed in frustration. "Even if you use your own cloak you still look like an elf! We need no more trouble than we have already garnered and I do not wish to attract attention." He stepped closer to the fair being and shoved the coat at him. "Now put it on!"
    The elf wrinkled his nose, "It smells like..."
    "It smells like me!" Aragorn cut him off.
    "Oh and here all along I thought that was Trelan." Raniean laughed as he glanced at the glaring elf. "Please, my prince, wear the cloak. If we cannot accompany you then at least we will know you are safe. That garb alone will keep anyone from getting too near you."
    "You are all so very funny, do you know that?" Aragorn was getting irritated. Being woken up from a sound sleep by a pack of orcs, spending a good part of the night battling for his life and walking for the next twelve to fifteen hours straight with companions who didn't even seem tired had not put him in a good mood to begin with. The evening was not especially warm and he needed help with the supplies. Indeed they would not reach Adirolf until sunrise if they left now but should they cross paths with any of the villagers, he wanted to be prepared. His arm was throbbing and his temper was growing short. He would have rather worn his overcoat himself but had thought it smarter to keep Legolas safe. He frowned at the laughing elves and threw the coat across a fallen log. "Fine, I'll go by myself."
    "No, Strider, wait! Legolas grabbed the ranger's coat from where it lay and ran after the human.
    "We were just teasing!" Raniean called out after them.
    Aragorn just shook his head, his irritability showing through. He was tired, frustrated and they were without supplies because of the band of raiding orcs. He hated Adirolf and was loathe to have to go there. The last time he had been in town he had nearly been robbed, beaten and killed, and of his own choice he would never return. However, their journey was going to take them far to the south and they would need the food and bed rolls if they were to make it.
    Legolas caught up with his friend and grabbed the man by the arm, slowing him down. "Strider, I'm sorry, we were only teasing you." The elf shrugged into the worn overcoat and pulled the hood up around his head to show his compliance. "I did not mean to anger you."
    The ranger allowed himself to be stopped and watched as his friend fiddled with the buttons on the jacket, his frustration slowly ebbing. "Here, let me." Aragorn stepped forward and lightly brushed the prince's hands away. "It's all right, Legolas. I think I am just tired and I hate Adirolf about as much as I hate orcs. It's an unpleasant town full of thieves, thugs and bandits, but we have no choice. The bartender there is helpful to the Dunèdain at least. We can get what we need from him."
    "I understand." Legolas tried to stifle a laugh as Aragorn tucked stray locks of the elf's blonde hair behind his ears, concealing them in the dark hood.
    "What?" Aragorn glared at the elf.
    "Well, it's just that no one has dressed me since I was very young." A small smiled crept onto his face. The man in front of him simply stared down the elf until the prince stopped laughing. Normally Aragorn would have joined his friend, but he was too tired and too worried for humor.
    "If they find out you are an elf they will not let you be. In all likelihood you will be detained... and worse. Much worse. They have no love of outsiders and have never befriended Rivendell or any who come from thence. I would not see you beaten like Mora, or like what happened with Taradin and his men before they knew you, and that is exactly what will happen if these people discover who you are. Do you see why I am so adamant about this? It's not funny." Aragorn spoke quietly, his weariness showing through.
    Legolas easily slipped out of the coat and handed it back to the confused human. He drew the man aside, deeper into the forest and pushed the ranger down on a bed of pine needles. "Sleep." The elf stared hard into Aragorn's eyes. "You are weary, you are wounded and that is a nasty combination in a human." When Strider started to protest, Legolas sat down cross-legged next to him. "I mean it. We can go tomorrow, we'll be there by dusk. You need the rest. It is not wise of us to travel into a hostile town with you so overly tired."
    Aragorn didn't protest. It was true enough - the elf knew him well. He hated the weakness and the delay but one more day wouldn't hurt.
    "Trelan and Raniean will be fine. They'll keep camp while we are gone and tomorrow, knowing them, they will steal to the outskirts of the city and wait for us there." Legolas removed his bow and quiver, laying the weapon in his lap and the quiver within reach, near his left leg.
    Aragorn unslung his pack, the only item to have survived the orc attack, and laid his head down on it, stretching out underneath his overcoat and staring at the elf. "I'm sorry, Legolas."
    The elf smiled slightly and reached out towards the man, covering the human's face with his slender hand. "Go to sleep. I hate it when you are tired; you become quite grumpy."
    The man laughed slightly and relaxed, leaving his eyes closed. He trusted the elf to watch over him through the night. "Wake me before dawn."
    "Of course, Strider," Legolas answered softly, watching as the man's breathing slowed and evened out as he quickly fell asleep.