Siege of Dread

Chapter 3: A Moment Long in the Making

by Cassia and Siobhan

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You have always been my safe home.
I walk, I run, I burn out into you...
You have always been my safe home.
My whole world has moved on.

I know what I am and I’ll always be,
your reality, is better than I could dream.
All my fears turn from black to white
and I’d stand and fight
the whole world for you.


Aragorn woke because of a soft swish of movement somewhere nearby.  His senses swung suddenly to life and he registered a flood of things at once.  It was dark, the room was cool, if not cold, and he felt a little stiff from sleeping in an unusual position.  There was also someone nearby... no, not just nearby, his keen senses told him.  Right next to him and moving stealthily as if wishing not to wake him.  He felt the soft brush of fingers against the collar of his shirt and half-assumed that either Legolas or his brothers were attempting to do something to him. 

Swift reflexes kicked in and his hand shot up, catching the unknown presence by the wrist in a firm grip.  He opened his eyes to find himself looking into the last set of eyes he had expected to see. 

Ada?” he blinked a little blearily.  Lord Elrond was kneeling on the floor by the ranger, leaning over his human son.  The ranger’s grip on the elder elf’s wrist held him in place, but his elven father’s eyes were as gentle as they were amused.  In his lap, Elrond held a nearly re-filled bowl of cherries with his free hand. 

“Peace, Estel,” Elrond said quietly when he saw that his youngest son’s mind was not quite as fully awake as his body.  

Estel quickly released the elf lord’s wrist, rubbing his eyes. 

Elrond smiled and plucked up the berry nestled in the folds of Aragorn’s shirt collar that had been his earlier goal.  He dropped it into the bowl on his lap, gathering a few more out of the cushions around Aragorn with quick, graceful movements. 

Aragorn realized that the house was still and quiet.  It must be far into the late watches of the night now, and he and Elrond were the only two remaining occupants of the hall. 

Ada?” Aragorn tried to clear the sleep from his voice, but Legolas was not the only one who had enjoyed more than a fair share of wine at dinner last night.  The ranger was not actually hung over, but he was somewhat groggier than usual and his head throbbed a bit.  “What are you doing?” 

Elrond chuckled, a soft, rich sound.  “Keeping you from an hour-long lecture by Celboril tomorrow morning.  I thought perhaps he should not be the one to wake you... especially since... well, let us just say that Legolas and your brothers left you in a... compromising position,” he gestured to the bowl and the cherries that he had now very nearly completely cleaned up.

“Figures...” Aragorn chuckled too, stretching and sitting up, rubbing his temples with a small moan. 

Elrond’s gentle hand came to rest on his shoulder, steadying him.  He had very nearly let the little joke go, as it would be quite amusing indeed to hear just how loud Celboril would be when he discovered Aragorn sleeping amid a mess of cherries, stems and pits.  But the elf lord had had pity on the human, judging that loud shouting was probably not the best thing for his youngest to hear tomorrow morning. 

“You don’t have to do that, Ada, I’ll get it,” Aragorn tried to take the bowl from his father, but Elrond pulled it away from him, squeezing his shoulder reassuringly. 

“No, Estel, it’s all right.  I will do it.  It is not often anymore that I must clean up after my children... but I find that rarity makes the experience less arduous than in the past.”  His warm smile was as light and teasing as it was loving.  

Aragorn tried to protest but nearly fell sideways off the cushion he was sitting on.  Elrond caught him with a laugh and easily helped the human up onto his feet.  “Time for rest, Estel. I think you will find your own bed preferable to the floor, I will take care of this.  Go on, rest now, my child.” 

Aragorn smiled lopsidedly, finding his eyelids difficult to keep open.  Bed sounded deliciously good right now.  “Are you sure?” 

Elrond smiled.  “Yes, Estel, I’m sure.  Now go on and go lie down before you fall down.” 

“Yes, Ada,” Aragorn wavered for a moment, before stepping forward and giving his father a hug.  “Thank you, Ada.”  The human hoped his elven father knew he wasn’t speaking just about the cherries.  He meant for everything.  For the way the elf lord had opened his home to the orphaned human, for the way he had given him not only a place to live but a family to belong to, for always being there for him, for loving him. 

Somehow, Elrond did know.  He gave Aragorn a small, tight squeeze before turning him firmly towards the hall leading to his bedroom.  “Good night, ion-nín.  Good night, my son.” 

Aragorn smiled one more time.  “Good night, Ada.”

A sudden thumping sound echoed hollowly through the silent halls of Imladris, causing both Aragorn and Elrond to pause and listen.  A moment later it came again and they realized that someone was knocking on the front door... no, pounding, that was a better word to describe it.  Someone was pounding urgently on the huge double doors in the main hall that had long ago been secured for the night. 

“What in Arda...?” Elrond murmured, setting the cherry bowl down on one of the tables as he walked swiftly out of the feast hall.  

Aragorn adjusted his intended course, trailing his adopted father down the darkened passage ways that led to the foyer.  His weariness receded quickly as his reflexes took over and he readied himself for whatever they might find.  The human could not imagine who would be knocking so loudly at this hour of the night... it could only mean trouble.  He snatched a low burning candle from one of the wall sconces along their route to aid them should they need it, although both father and son knew their way around this house well enough that they could have traversed it with their eyes closed. 

Elrond worked the bolt on the door with a single fluid motion and pulled the portal open, peering out into the starry night to see who had come to his doorstep at this hour. 

Two shadowed figures stood in the archway, one leaning heavily against the other.  When they stepped forward into the light of Estel’s candle, both the elf lord and the human recognized them immediately. 

“Halbarad, Arendur, what’s happened?” Aragorn pressed immediately as the two rangers entered his father’s house.  He assumed they were there for him. 

Halbarad was supporting Arendur and the dim candlelight played faintly across dark, red stains on the young ranger’s torn tunic.  The older ranger walked the younger across the threshold carefully.  He inclined his head respectfully towards Elrond. 

“I’m sorry to disturb you at this hour, my Lord. I would not have had my mission been less urgent,” he apologized.  “I fear that Arendur needs greater help than I can give him and it could not wait.” 

Elrond waved the apology off quickly.  “My house is open day or night to those who have need, Halbarad. Come in and be welcome.”  The elven healer was already checking the younger of the two Dunèdain.  

“Aragorn,” Halbarad turned his gaze upon his leader.  “I had hoped to find you here.” 

About this time Celboril arrived.  His room was near the front of the house and the knocking had awakened him.  

“Celboril, prepare a place for Arendur while I examine him,” Elrond requested of the seneschal.  The elf lord pressed his hand against the youth’s pale, clammy cheek, making a quick decision.  “Bring bedding and bandages to the Hall of Fire, we will lay him out there for the moment.  His body is cold, we must get some warmth back into him.”  Elrond knew that the only fire still burning at this hour of the night in his house was in the great hall, so that was the best place for them at the present.  

“Come, Halbarad. Aragorn and I would hear your news while we help your friend,” Elrond added to the other ranger as he helped shoulder some of Arendur’s weight, leading them away. 

Elrond worked swiftly over the boy and once they were assured that Arendur’s life was no longer in serious jeopardy, Halbarad told his tale wearily. 

“Aragorn, you recall that I had to leave you after the Barrow Downs incident because wargs were plaguing some of the cities we watch over?  Well I met up with a few of the others on my way there, but by the time we reached the cities the wargs had moved on, leaving a line of ravaged villages heading north.  We followed them as quickly as we could, trying to catch up with them and stop their unchecked spree... unfortunately, that seemed to be exactly what they wanted us to do.  Two days past we tracked them into a canyon and they led us into an ambush.  It was not just packs of foraging wargs as we thought; they were working with orcs and had designs more clever than we had given them credit for.  Many of our people were killed, many more wounded.  Most are being cared for on the outskirts of this valley, but for Arendur I was gravely concerned, so I brought him hither with me.  The wargs have disappeared, for now, but I am disturbed that they would attack us in this area that has been safe for so long.  They are a threat that must be dealt with and I came to request your aid in that endeavor.” 

“And you shall have it,” Elrond nodded as he wound bandages around Arendur’s wounds.  “I shall summon as many warriors as can come at first light.  They should be ready to leave by the following day at the latest.  Will that help you?” 

Halbarad nodded gratefully.  “That would be well.  You have my thanks.  It may be that the foul beasts have already retreated to their haunts in the mountains, but if they are still at large in the valleys they should be dealt with if possible.” 

Aragorn nodded, it was never wise to leave a threat like that standing if it could be avoided.  “When the warriors are ready, I will accompany you and them.” 

Elrond smiled at both rangers as he rose, laying a blanket gently over Arendur’s now unconscious form. 

“Yes, and if you go we can rest assured that Legolas and your brothers will follow.  But tonight you all must rest.  I shall have Celboril prepare a room for you if you wish Halbarad, but Arendur should stay here by the fire for now,” the elf lord offered. 

“Thank you, but I will stay with Arendur,” Halbarad shook his head, touching the youth’s matted curls gently. 

“Then I shall have Celboril bring bedding to make you comfortable here.  And you, my son,” he turned to Aragorn who looked prepared to stay and keep conversing with Halbarad, “Are going to get some rest now and let them do the same, are you not?” 

Aragorn smiled wryly at his foster father, sharing a quiet laugh with Halbarad.  “Yes, Ada.” 


The darkness of the woods concealed him as he stood on the edge of ridge in the predawn.  His breath ghosted on the air as he watched the house settled in the large valley far below.  Lights in the huge, ornate windows were lit one by one, casting their warm glow on the courtyards and outer regions of the gardens that surrounded the elven dwelling. 

Away down in the secluded rift, movement stirred in various quarters, as if some kind of muster were underway.  A dark grin quirked twisted lips into a smile. 

“You see?” he whispered into the fading darkness.  “What did I say?  You strike against the rangers and the elves will rush out to help them... the fools.”  He wanted them to gather; he wanted them all in one place, but did not intend to give them time to be prepared. 

It had been centuries that he had waited for this very day.  He glanced at the barely brightening sky, a few hours more wouldn’t hurt.  Next to him a large, black form padded up quietly and stopped, squinting down into the valley.  The animal barely resembled its distant cousin, the wolf, from which it had long ago been bred.  It nuzzled the smaller creature that was fixated on the house below.  Distractedly, the orc reached over and scratched the fur around the warg’s small ear.  A deep rumbling purr issued from the creature’s throat. 

“Today you will hunt,” he spoke softly to his mount.  “Today you will feast on elf.” 

The warg mumbled a staccato growl, testing the air with its sensitive nose. 

“I don’t see anything,” A voice interrupted the rider’s conversation with his mount as a second warg-rider approached.  “Just a vale shrouded in morning mist.  Your eyes must be keen.” 

It was true, Guruth’s senses were incredibly keen for an orc, but he knew this was not the case at the moment.  Without acknowledging the other in any way, the lead orc answered calmly as though speaking to a child.  “No, Tmarkz, you do not see it because they do not wish you to see it.  The old elf who lives there, the Healer, he is very powerful.  They hide this valley, make it not to be seen by eyes like ours... but they cannot hide from me.  I have touched one of them, I have seen into their collective souls.  It took many years, but I learned to see it clear as day.  It’s there.  Look harder...” 

Tmarkz blinked, slowly, he began to think he could see vague shapes moving in the mist, but only barely.  “The ones you seek, they have not been heard from in years, are you sure they live there still?” 

“Yes.”  Guruth patted the warg next to him and folded his black, gloved hands across his chest.  “I know they do.” 

Tmarkz watched his captain for several long moments.  All orcs possessed naturally long life, but Guruth was the oldest orc he had ever met, indeed, the oldest that any of them had ever known.  Horrible, mauling scars covered his body and they all believed it was his hatred for the elves and his desire for revenge alone that kept him alive through the many things he had survived.  Few even knew the tales from his past, but Tmarkz did.  The scars he bore had twisted Guruth’s face into a cruel mask that matched the dark depths of his blackened heart.  This orc was a leader to be feared, one to be followed without question, and follow him they had.  It was no small thing that the dark creature could hold his minions to his will so tightly that they would prepare to attack what seemed to them an empty valley, doing battle with an enemy their eyes could not yet perceive. 

Tmarkz glanced behind him into the forest that braced the edge of the cliff.  A massive contingent of orcs, wargs and riders rested beneath the darkened canopy, their camps stretching away out of sight as they sat gathered around the now dead fire rings, drinking and entertaining each other with tales and displays of strength. 

They were a mixed lot to behold, this army that had formed under Guruth’s leadership, drawn by his promises of plunder and mayhem.  Over half came from the southern mountain passes, regions that Guruth’s kin had once called home.  Yet many, many more had been added to their company as Guruth slowly gathered to him the scattered remnants of the northern goblins who had been left leaderless and bitter after the disastrous battle on the slopes of the Lonely Mountain several decades ago.  Some had even wandered thither from much further south, leaving the protection of the Dark Land for a life less structured, but no less driven. 

For years now, Guruth had trained his company for this moment, for this blow that would shatter the peace of the valley below... for this revenge.  And it would be sweet.  Very sweet. 

“We will start with that group.  They shall be our bait.  There, see?”  The older orc’s voice brought Tmarkz’s drifting attention back to the deep, mist-clad rift. 

Tmarkz saw nothing, but didn’t want to say so.  Guruth grinned, he knew that the underling was still blind to what he was watching, but liked the fact that he was not ready to question his authority. 

A party of elves on foot and horseback was leaving the courtyard.  They crossed the bridge that spanned the Bruinen and headed for the woods north of the orcs' position. 

“Just wait, Tmarkz, you’ll see them in a moment,” Guruth purred softly, tracking their progress with his dark eyes.  Beside him, Guruth’s warg rumbled softly in her throat.  She didn’t have to see the elves; even this far away she could smell them. 

A few minutes later, Tmarkz started as he saw the group of hunters emerge from the fog as they left the protective confines of the valley behind and became fully visible to even his untrained eyes. 

Guruth’s warg growled, a low warning sound as Tmarkz’ mount crested the small ridge and glanced down at the hunting party that was just disappearing into the woods.  His focus was drawn to the large, matriarchal warg but she was not interested in his attentions and nipped at his shoulder, sending him skittering backwards.  The hair on her neck and back stood on end and she stiffened when he approached again more slowly. 

Much like her master she was, a leader among her kind to be feared.  This pack of wargs was hers.  Most of the cubs that followed with the pack were hers.  She tolerated no challenges to her authority and put down every usurper that vied for her position.  Now was no different and she was not interested in the younger male’s advances; she wanted to track the elves. 

When the last of the elven company had faded into the woods and were no longer visible to the naked eye, Guruth turned his attention back to his second-in- command. 

“Tmarkz,” he barked the orc's name, “Get your mount under control.  I don’t want them fighting today; I want them single-minded.  Understand?” 

Guruth walked past the other warg rider as Tmarkz grabbed his warg by the ear and turned the large creature away from the matriarch, pulling the beast alongside him and chiding the warg.  The creature bared its fangs and rumbled at being checked, but did not buck the smaller being’s authority, for now. 

“Were they in the hunting party?”  Tmarkz asked as he jogged to catch up with his leader.  He did not feel the need to specify what ‘they’ he meant.  He doubted that Guruth had thought of much but them for the past few years.  Tmarkz’s warg, Shelzahk, having had enough of being chastised, had sulkily joined the others who were bedded down on the outskirts of the orc encampment. 

“It was hard to tell, but if they weren’t they will surely be in the muster.”  Guruth stopped walking and eyed Tmarkz. “There was a ranger with the hunters though, and a younger golden-haired elf.  Not the older one who lives here, but the younger one whom I have seen only rarely.  When it is here it keeps company with the ranger; I’ve watched them.  They are much too friendly with the elves here.  Kill them both; make sure they are dead.  It is also time to end our trouble with the rangers, they’ve served their purpose.  There are a few of them in that section of the woods there, the ones that we allowed out of the last ambush.  See that they do not escape again, kill them all.  They can track us and I won't have them ruining this.  No one will ruin it this time.” 

Tmarkz nodded and started to move in step with his captain when the older orc turned on him, grabbing a fist full of the other’s jerkin and pulling him close, “Do NOT kill our quarry should you find them first.  If anyone kills them I will feed him to the wargs.” His voice was low and dangerous as he gave his orders.  “They are for me alone.” 

Nodding in understanding, Tmarkz stumbled slightly backwards as Guruth released him.  “What if they are not here?  What if we cannot capture them?” 

Turning a feral grin on his second-in-command, Guruth answered, “Don’t worry about that.  If they escape capture they will still come to us.  I intend to make sure that they will have no other options.” 

Kicking out the only remaining fire, Guruth rallied his troops.  It was time to move out, the element of surprise was with them and he had waited long enough. 

“Tmarkz, take all the wargs and half their riders.  The other half will come with me and Shelzkahz will lead those on foot.  You know my mission.  The rest of you will go with Tmarkz and draw the elves and rangers away from us.  You may kill all of them...” Guruth turned towards his second-in-command and raised an eyebrow.  Did the other remember his warning? 

He did. 

“You may kill them all but the ones Guruth described to you last night.  You will recognize them by their weapons if nothing else should you meet them.  If you kill the wrong elves, you forfeit your life.  Understood?”  Tmarkz instructed as he had been instructed.  When an affirmative roar met his ears he continued,  “A ranger and a golden-haired elf are with them.  The master wants them especially dead.  All rangers we encounter should find us as their last encounter.”  He laughed evilly, evoking an affirmative round of cheers. 

“Then go! We’ll wait your signal before we make our move.”  Guruth patted his warg affectionately on her flank, “Go on, Mrdhdúk, lead your pack out, make me proud.”  The warg snarled, barring her fangs and charging off in the direction that the hunting party had been seen.  The riders mounted their steeds quickly as the pack of wargs followed their leader. 

In moments, Guruth and the remaining orcs were standing alone beneath the trees. 

“How long do we wait, my lord?” an orc soldier asked, glancing uneasily down into the shrouded valley below. 

“Until I tell you differently,” Guruth answered coldly, walking back to the ridge and resuming his vigilant watch.  They dare not risk getting too close to any of the areas that the elves patrolled.  Not yet.  They had a few more hours to kill before the elves of the hunting party called for help and then, when Rivendell had emptied of its warriors and all the sentries had come running to the scene of the slaughter, then... He nodded to himself and smiled as he thought through his plan.  Yes... then it would be time.  It was worth waiting for.  Getting his hands on them was worth waiting for. 

The cold air carried his frosted breath out over the valley.  Soon it would carry the scent of blood as well. 


Legolas stopped, holding up his hand and calling for silence.  He looked around, wondering what it was that had caught his attention.  He saw nothing but waving, whispering trees surrounding them.  The hunting party was well out of the valley now, out in the wilder-lands surrounding Imladris. 

The prince had gladly joined the party that morning.  It had been weeks since they had gone out with the other elves.  They had been staying near the house of late and recuperating slowly from their latest misadventures. 

Legolas had already fully recovered and both the twins were mending well.  Aragorn too had finally recovered from the bruises and breaks he had sustained, although he healed more slowly than his elven companions did.  Legolas was surprised when he realized how much time had slid by so quickly since they had come home from their little wight hunting expedition. 

Home... Legolas almost laughed.  It wasn’t his home, but there was something about this place that invited everyone to think of it thus. 

Indeed, the months had passed swiftly under the rafters of the Last Homely House, the days uncounted, the hours unnoticed.  Time seemed to nearly stand still in the peaceful dwelling.  It wasn’t until Celboril had complained about the storehouses being bare that the younger elves had even considered going back out to hunt again.  It had been good to lay their weapons aside for a while and not have to fear what waited around the corner.

They had put their trip off several days already, but now, with the prospect of being on the move tomorrow with Halbarad and the other warriors being called up, they could delay the hunt no longer.  They would never hear the end of it when they returned if they left while the pantry was still in need of refilling. 

Now that they were out in the forests again, Legolas realized how much he had missed them: the whispering of the trees as he walked, the feel of the ground beneath his soft booted feet.  However, the deeper they went the more it sounded as though the forests were warning them, cautioning, trying to dissuade them from moving forward and the messages he was receiving were confusing. 

“What is it?” Aragorn mouthed the words silently to his friend as he gained the elf’s side. 

Pointing into the trees and then pointing at his ears, the prince wordlessly told the ranger that the woods were speaking to him.  His frown gave indication that the message was not a good one. 

Unease stole over Aragorn as he glanced quickly about them.  The elven hunting party had fanned out over the nearby hill in search of game and the few hunters he could see were waiting for a signal from the human or the Sinda elf that it was safe to proceed. 

The signal never came. 

Without warning, Legolas shoved Aragorn aside and fired an arrow into the woods on his right, quickly restringing another as the forest erupted with sounds and chaos.  Wargs charged them from the side and orcs rushed from every direction, attacking the hunting party. 

Where had they all come from?  How had they gotten so close so silently?  These were questions that they did not have time to ponder as the dark wave crashed into them. 

“Elrohir!” Aragorn yelled to his brother as he cut down an orc, spinning aside as the dying creature tried his best to kill the ranger. 

Unprepared for the dark tide, they were sorely outnumbered as the woods were flooded with the evil beasts.  They needed help and they needed a diversion.  Needed it quickly.  Aragorn had faced down some incredible odds before, but he was no idiot; he knew that the small hunting party would never survive this vicious and overwhelming onslaught. 

Knowing what his brother was asking for, Elrohir leapt into the nearest tree, scaling its heights and breaking through the leafy canopy.  Facing towards the rift that he could barely see from his position, he placed a horn against his lips and blew three rapid blasts on it.  The sound echoed through the hills and rang down into the vale far behind them. 

Elrond, standing on the veranda with Glorfindel discussing how many warriors should be sent to the aid of the Dunèdain, heard the signal.  His head snapped up sharply, alarm sparkling in his ageless eyes. 

Three blasts, sharp and urgent. 

It was the most dire distress call they possessed, used only in cases of great emergency.  That in itself was alarming enough... even worse however, was that he recognized the call as having come from one of his sons' horns. 

In moments Rivendell was thrown into action.  The already assembling elven warriors heard the distress signal and hurried to help. 

Lookouts on the ridges saw the battle taking place from a distance and observed with shocked horror the wave upon wave of dark creatures pouring out of the forest.  Unless something happened, the hunting party would be overwhelmed in mere minutes.  Already they were being rapidly forced back towards Rivendell.  After they fell, there would be no barrier to keep the dark tide from sweeping down into the valley beyond. 

The sentries’ signal horns took up the urgent call, echoing their own message to every corner of the vale. 

Wake!  Wake!” the clear signal of the message horns rang out.  “Peril is upon you, defend your homes, defend your lives, make haste!

Elrond gripped the wrought metal railing of the veranda.  He had not heard the sentries ringing such a dire message in years.  Millennia even, not since the dark days before the Last Alliance when Rivendell had almost been overwhelmed. 

Glorfindel’s head was cocked to the side as he listened intently to the wildly clamoring tale of the signal horns.  “The valley is in peril of attack,” he breathed, almost disbelieving as he turned his gaze back upon the dark-haired elf across from him. 

Elrond’s grim face said he already knew... and somehow, his children were out there in the forefront of it all. 

Glorfindel did not need to wait for instructions; he already knew what to do.  Vaulting the veranda railing to save the time of passing back through the house, he hurried out towards the knots of elves swiftly forming in the courtyard beyond.  He saw Moranuen and called to him, beckoning the younger warrior to him as he shouted out commands to the others. 

Just because Rivendell had not seen war in several thousand years did not mean it had forgotten how to fight, or that it was unprepared. 

As soon as the call went out, everyone who could took up weapons and headed out to find the hunting party, and the attackers.  The stable hands released all the remaining horses and the animals met up with the warriors on the cobbled bridge.  Snorting and nickering they urged their fair riders to hurry and mount them so they could be away towards where the distress call was still crying for help. 

Suddenly Elrohir’s horn fell silent, although the other warning signals continued to clamor. 

Elrond closed his eyes for a moment.  His fingers played lightly across the ring on his hand.  Always, he maintained a watchful protection around the whole valley, but right now his children, and the threat, were outside of Rivendell and outside his reach.  Stretching himself and pulling some of his attention away outward he extended his reach to the woods beyond his realm that were shuddering at the turmoil tearing them apart, at the spilling of the blood of the elves they loved so dear.  Elrond’s hands tightened as he tried to send more of his strength and protection towards the violent battle now taking place.  Valar protect them, please, protect them all. 

Glorfindel and Moranuen led the assembling elves in the direction that Elladan had told them they were heading earlier that morning with all haste.  A sizeable war party had been gathered in a matter of minutes, speaking well of the efficiency with which Rivendell was prepared to deal with such an emergency when it arose. 

Elrond walked quickly through the house, making his way to the courtyard.  He stood on the flagstone steps watching the last of the warriors head out.  He had an ill, unsettled feeling that he could not pinpoint, a darkness that touched deep memories flitting across the past, but simply would not light.  With a deep sigh he turned and walked back into the house.  He should be prepared for anything. 

As he crossed the threshold, a darkness swept behind him and the elven lord turned quickly, expecting to find someone or something behind him.  The courtyard was empty and quiet.  There was no one there.  The birds sang softly in the trees overhead.  He raised his eyes to the hills across the way and tried to pierce the darkness of the forests.  There it was again... a familiarity with evil that he should not have felt. 

Guruth stood on the far side of the cleft, watching the healer through slitted eyes.  A feral grin spread across his face as the elf finally turned back and walked into the house. 

“What?  Do you see him?” a slight, stooped-over orc standing just behind Guruth asked softly. 


“Then we go now?” the raspy voiced creature asked, his enthusiasm getting the better of him. 

“No.”  Guruth shifted his stance and watched the northern woods.  Soon they would be returning, the wounded ones.  Then it would be the perfect time.  “We have but a little more waiting,”  Guruth answered softly before turning a wide grin on his companion, “and then we will go.” 

The response garnered a guttural laugh that silenced the woods around them. 


The woods were choked with orcs and wargs.  Fighting them in the forests was proving deadly.  The wargs blended in well with the darkened undergrowth.  Most of the elves had taken to the trees to better deal with the threat, but Aragorn and his elven brothers had remained on the forest floor in an attempt to cut off the attack from the ground.  They had lasted much longer than they should have against these odds.  The elves were proving their worth in battle and an unseen force seemed to be aiding them as well, confusing their enemy and slowing the dark creatures’ movements.  It was a subtle effect, but noticeable nonetheless.  Elladan and Elrohir knew enough to sense their father’s handiwork from a distance, even if no one else recognized what it was that was helping them. 

A second horn resounded through the woods, followed quickly by a third.  There were two parties coming to their aid now. 

“Who?” Legolas shouted to Aragorn as he kicked a dead orc away from him.  Spinning viciously into a third, he slit the creature’s throat with his elven blades. 

Aragorn was locked in a hand-to-hand battle with a warg rider that he had knocked from its mount and did not answer.  The orc had gotten the upper hand, pinning the man on his back and holding him down with his weight.  He pressed his short-bladed scimitar close to the ranger’s throat.  The small, black-handled blades were favored by the warg riders who made it a point to keep them razor sharp. 

Seeing his friend in trouble, Legolas strung his bow and targeted the orc’s back.  His shot went wild as a warg barreled into the elf, blindsiding him.  The beast knocked the prince down and rolled him underneath its bulk as it charged past him. 

Springing back to his feet, Legolas watched as the wolf-like creature turned and skidded to a stop on the dew-wet grass.  Aragorn had finally turned the tables on his opponent.  Placing his booted feet against his attacker’s abdomen he kicked the orc over his head and rolled away, grabbing his sword from where it had fallen in the struggle. 

The warg’s attention snapped to its rider as it saw its master free of the human.  At a gesture from its master, the warg darted towards the orc.  Aragorn raced to Legolas’ side in the span of a heartbeat.  Time slowed as the orc leapt onto his steed’s back and the two dark creatures turned towards the elf and the ranger. 

Thoroughly fed up with the warg, Legolas was prepared.  He strung two arrows on his bow and leveled them between the warg's eyes.  His stance was solid and he let the breath leave his lungs, steadying his aim even further.  Aragorn flipped his hunting knife in his hand, catching it on the blade edge and flung the weapon at the orc rider.  His knife cut through the air, streaking towards the advancing threat.  Still Legolas waited, counting the seconds, watching everything unfold as if in slow motion. 

Aragorn’s blade hit the rider square in the throat, throwing the orc off the back of the warg.  The larger beast, aware that he had lost his master, faltered for a heart beat, enough of a hesitation for the elf.  Legolas’ fingers barely moved and the long bow reverberated with the release of the arrows.  The projectiles struck the warg through its thick skull and the beast fell dead a foot from its intended prey. 

Breathing hard, Aragorn glanced around them.  For the moment, the fighting seemed scattered away from their position.  He clasped Legolas’ shoulder and smiled weakly at the elf, “Nice shot.”  Another blast from a horn calling for help echoed to their left, bringing Legolas back to his original question. 

“Who else has come?”  He glanced behind, them wary, tense. 

“The first call was from Rivendell.”  Aragorn pulled the elf with him as he raced towards the northern glens just beyond the ridge where they were.  “The second was the rangers'.  The rest of Halbarad’s party was camped out here somewhere nearby.”  He called over his shoulder and faltered, his footsteps slowing as watched half the company of warg riders split from the fight and head for he and Legolas. 

The elf saw the horror reflected in the human’s eyes and followed his gaze. 

Tmarkz had seen the ranger and the golden-haired elf that Guruth had pointed out to him earlier attempting to flee from the fight.  Calling Mrdhdúk and spurring his own mount on, he routed half the wargs and their riders, calling to them to make sure the pair did not escape alive.  If he had learned anything from the years of service to Guruth, it was to make sure his leader’s wishes were followed through. 

Legolas reacted faster than his friend, grabbing the ranger and racing down the gully on their left.  There was no fighting an onslaught that massive; they would both be killed.  The elf could just see the water’s head from where they were.  If they could reach the lake before the wargs, they could possibly put the body of water between them and their pursuers.  He heard the large animals crashing through the forest behind them, racing alongside and just reaching the open glade before them. 

“Run, Aragorn!” the elf cried as they raced down the incline toward the shallow part of the river that flowed from the deep pool beneath the Bruinen’s head.  The thunder of the falls filled their ears, mixing with the pounding of their own hearts and making them shout to be heard. 

Suddenly, their plan of escape was blocked as a large female warg leapt onto the bank, her hind legs just stopping her large body from skidding backwards into the lake.  More warg riders appeared on the edges of the glade, seeming to materialize out of the mists that rose from the banks of the lake where it touched the rim of the forest. 

Backing up slowly, the ranger bumped into Legolas.  Instinctively he grabbed the elf’s sleeve as the two of them retreated warily.  With their backs to the deepest part of the lake and every other direction crawling with wargs and orcs, all avenues of escape had been effectively cut off.  The ring of black creatures tightened menacingly around them. 

Aragorn’s foot splashed into the lake behind them and he held on tightly to Legolas as he steadied himself. 

They could retreat no farther.  They were trapped.

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