The Stars of Harad

Chapter 10

by Cassia and Siobhan

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Tell me what it’s like to be with you
Remind me of the things we used to do
And tell me that this time will never end
Tell me what it’s like, tell me again.

Every time you stay
It never feels quite the same
And every time you go
It hurts a way you'll never know


Legolas looked around carefully, the delay chafing at him. He had had no opportunity to get close to Aragorn yesterday, but today he was guarding the herds in the north pasture, which happened to be the same place that the ranger was working. He wanted to go speak to his friend right now, but he did not wish to draw attention to the ranger or himself while the other overseers were around, so he kept to his own tasks and whittled distractedly at the new arrows he was fashioning. He had more than enough really, but the elf did not take kindly to sitting idly by; he needed to be doing something.

Finally the time came when the overseers were away in another part of the field and the slaves were more or less all occupied with their own tasks. Aragorn finished forking the last bales of dried grass off the back of the cart for the Oliphaunts in this herd to feed on and hopped down off the lowered gate of the wagon. Sircyn drove the cart away for another load while Aragorn retrieved two large buckets of ground-up feed and began walking back towards the feeding area with it.

Grabbing his chance, Legolas caught up with Aragorn and quickly pulled him behind the grain bins, where it would not be so easy to be seen. "Aragorn, quick, back here."

The young ranger seemed totally surprised and flinched at the unexpected move, half expecting to be struck for something as he stumbled around to see who had dragged him back here, nearly dropping the buckets.

"You’re brown as a nut, my friend!" Legolas smiled at the ranger’s obvious surprise. A faint white scar stood out against the tanned skin on the human’s temple and the prince resisted the urge to feel angry at whatever had happened to his friend; he had found him, that’s what mattered. "I barely recognized you at first. But come, I think I know how we can get you out of here-"

Aragorn blinked several times and pulled back. He recognized the tall, golden-haired man as the new overseer his master had employed, a sharpshooter, or so the other slaves said, but he didn’t understand what the man wanted with him. For a moment, and a moment only, something else about the fair being in front of him tugged at his mind, but the residue of the memory struck oddly and he felt the beginnings of a headache grip him almost immediately. Realizing with a start that he was staring at the other man, Aragorn dropped his gaze quickly. "Can I do something for you, sir?" he asked quietly.

It was Legolas’ turn to blink. When Aragorn had not seemed to react to his presence the other day, Legolas had assumed that it was because of all the guards present... but he didn’t understand it now.

"Aragorn..." Legolas wasn’t sure what to say. ‘It’s me?’ Wasn’t that obvious? What was wrong?

"Adrar," Aragorn corrected quietly, thinking the overseer had his name wrong.

"What?" Legolas was really confused now.

"Adrar, that’s my name... but you may call me Aragorn if you wish," the human added quickly, not wishing to make the other man upset.

The elf prince was at a complete loss. "Estel... don’t you know me?" he took his friend by the shoulders, trying to get Aragorn to meet his eyes, disbelief running through him and turning his blood inexplicably cold. If his eyes did not tell him that this was his friend, he would think he indeed made some kind of mistake... but there was no mistake, save, it seemed, in the Dùnadan’s mind. Legolas was reminded horribly of the time when the bounty hunter Dyryn had overdosed his friend on a nasty drug called Belithral. Aragorn hadn’t known him at first then either... but this was different. Aragorn was not visibly injured, not in pain or under the influence of anything. He simply did not seem to have a clue what the elf was talking about.

"I – you – " Aragorn shifted uncomfortably. His headache was getting worse and he wanted the overseer to let him go back to work before he got into trouble. The other guards would beat him if they caught him idling and not doing his job. "Yes, I saw you yesterday, you work for my master. Is that all, sir?" he backed away a little. He hated it when the guards played this game with him, acting as if he should know things he didn’t. It frustrated him. He hated it.

Legolas felt a knife pass through his heart. Aragorn truly didn’t remember him! But how was that possible? He resisted the urge to shake the young human. "Estel, what has happened to you?" he half implored, half demanded in shock, reaching out to touch the scar on his friend’s temple as fear grew inside him. "It’s me, Legolas!"

"Please, I don’t know what you’re talking about..." Aragorn shook his head. "I’m not Eztal or Aragorn or whoever you think I am... please don’t make fun of me. I need to return to work." In the beginning, he would have been curious at someone who claimed to know him, but the guard’s constant teasing had hardened him to it by now; besides, the longer he was around this man, the worse the pain in his head was becoming. He was nearly dizzy with it now and didn’t understand what kind of game the overseer was playing with him, or how he was making him hurt like this. It wouldn’t be the first time the guards had taunted him over his inability to remember his past, acting as if there were things he should remember and didn’t. The overseers could be very cruel sometimes.

"Yes you are!" Legolas protested, a sick, sinking feeling making him almost ill. "You are Aragorn, son of Arathorn, you are Strider, Ranger of the North, you are Estel, adopted son of Lord Elrond, you are my friend!"

Aragorn gave a small cry and stumbled backward, dropping his buckets as his hands flew to his head and he fell to his knees. Bright flashes of pain pounded between his temples. The words hurt, they hurt... he didn’t understand why this was being done to him.

"Strider!" Legolas knelt quickly by his friend’s side, laying his hand gently on the young man’s back. The human was in pain, but he didn’t know why.

"Please..." Aragorn pulled away, turning hurting, frightened eyes up at the elf. He couldn’t distinguish the fact that it was his own mind, and not the other being, that was causing him this pain. "Please I haven’t done anything to you, I work hard, I don’t make trouble, don’t do this to me... I-I haven’t..."

"Is there a problem, sir?" a respectful, yet obviously concerned voice interrupted them and Legolas jerked, looking up quickly to see a tall, dark-skinned man standing close by, watching them with guarded, but worried eyes.

Legolas rose quickly and the older slave moved closer to Aragorn, dropping his hand down to touch the ranger’s hair gently as he looked at the spilled buckets and the young man’s trembling shoulders.

Cabed kept his eyes low and his tone neutral despite how his heart hurt at seeing Adrar like this. He knew the guards tormented the young man sometimes, but he hated to see it happen.

"Adrar’s still new, sir. If you need something, I can help you." Actually Aragorn had been there for quite a long time already, but Cabed counted on the new overseer not knowing that.

Legolas shook his head slightly, still in shock. "No, no, I..." he wasn’t even sure what to say.

Cabed tensed slightly, mistaking the elf’s meaning. Unobtrusively, he moved so he was standing protectively in front of Aragorn, who was still kneeling on the ground, holding his head and rocking back and forth. "Please you, sir, Adrar’s been hurt, some things aren’t all the way there in his mind," the elder slave touched his fingers to the side of his forehead to convey what he meant. "He’s trying very hard, sir, please understand. If there’s a problem I’ll fix it. I’ll get this mess cleaned up and we won’t lose no time. Please don’t get him in no trouble, he’s a good worker, I apologize if he made you upset, I promise it will not happen again."

Legolas just shook his head numbly. The other man thought he needed to protect Aragorn from him. From HIM. The elf’s mind was reeling, but he managed to shake his head again. "No, he did nothing wrong. I don’t wish him any trouble..."

"Then we’ll be back to work right away," Cabed helped Aragorn quickly to his feet and led the young man away swiftly. "Thank you, sir."

Cabed walked next to Aragorn, directing him over to a small bench that sat in the sparse shade of a scrub brush tree. The older slave motioned Sircyn to him and quietly told his son of the spilled feed buckets. Without another word the young slave nodded, and walked around to the back of the bins, followed by two others who had seen the need and gone to aid him. Kneeling in front of the younger man, the older Haradrim watched Adrar carefully as the ranger closed his eyes and focused on breathing. Slowly the pain in his head receded and he looked up into the worried eyes of his elder.

The warm touch of the man’s large hand on his knee settled Aragorn’s fears and he smiled softly at the Haradrim. "Thank you, Cabed."

"Adrar, what happened back there? Did he hurt you?"

Aragorn shook his head, his eyes huge with confusion, "I don’t know, Cabed. I don’t know." He glanced behind him to the tall grain bins, his voice low as he recounted what had occurred, "The master’s new sharpshooter dragged me behind the bins. He said he knew how to escape and he spoke like he knew me but..."

The ranger pressed his eyes tightly closed as the image of the fair-haired being reclining beside a clear blue lake flashed through his mind; the person was smiling and speaking to him as he laughed. Aragorn grimaced as a sharp spike of pain cut through his mind, renewing the ache that had started to go away.

"Slowly, Adrar. Why were you on the ground, you were in pain?" Cabed did not like the idea that the guard had been speaking of such things to the young northerner. It was very likely that he was trying to set Aragorn up to get him in trouble. Attempting escape was a severe crime; it could get Adrar killed.

The young slave shook his head fiercely; trying to dispel the fragmented recollection as the shards of his memory painfully pierced through his consciousness. "I see his face in my mind, but I don’t remember him. It is like when I sleep. Sometimes when I close my eyes, I see so many faces... but I don’t know who they are. I don’t know if they are just phantoms that my mind creates, or if they have some substance somewhere. When I try to remember it hurts. It hurts badly and it feels like my mind is on fire." Aragorn glanced up into the dark eyes. "I’m sorry, Cabed."

The dark-skinned slave gently ran his fingers down the side of Adrar’s face, tracing the welted scar that ran the length of his temple. The old wound was healed and the scar was fading slowly, but the deeper injury to the young man’s mind for whatever reason was not yet mended. Perhaps it never would be.

"Stay away from him, Adrar; he will get you in trouble. But do not worry, young one, in time your memory will return, if that is what you are experiencing and he is not merely telling you lies, like the others, which is what I suspect."

"And if it does not?" Aragorn questioned, his voice a mere whisper. "If my memory does not return, ever?"

"I’ve told you before. If it does not you have nothing to worry about. You have a family right here." Cabed thumped his own chest with his fist and smiled at the younger man. Sircyn rounded the grain bins and walked towards his father and his adopted brother.

"Now, are you able to finish the work?" Cabed stood to his feet as his son gained his side and passed him one of the buckets, once again full of feed.

Aragorn smiled at the two and nodded, taking the bucket from his elder. Even now the pain had receded and the memories had submerged once more into the darkness of his past recollection where they were no longer so sharp and intrusive. He ignored the slight ache that tinged his heart and cheerfully followed his family out towards the fields as Sircyn called the oliphaunts back to feed. 


Legolas moved silently in the gathering dusk, not wishing to alert either the people in the tent or any of Rhuddryn’s other guards and employees of his presence. In the shadow of the falling darkness, the Simbani clan tent glowed faintly from the light of the fire within, the cheery yellow radiance wavering and flickering, casting vague shadows of the occupants upon the tent walls as they moved around the small enclosure. A thin tendril of smoke rose from the vent in the roof. Inside, the pleasant, rolling buzz of comfortable conversation rose and fell, dotted by occasional laughter.

The elf’s sharp ears heard Aragorn’s voice raised in an amused chuckle over something that had been said or done and a woman’s voice playfully scolding either the ranger, or the person who had spoken to him. Legolas settled down with his back against a tree about fifteen yards away from the tent, carefully hidden in the dense foliage so that he could not be seen. Folding his arms across the top of his knees as he drew his legs up to his chest, he watched the small, glowing tent silently.

He was glad that these people had adopted Aragorn; they obviously looked out for him and protected him as one of their own, which may have been the only reason the ranger had survived this long. He was glad that the young human was not alone, that he had people he could laugh with... The elf closed his eyes tightly for a moment as their encounter earlier in the day played back through his mind. His breath hitched in his throat for a moment before he caught himself and forced his body to calm. He was glad, but... he missed his friend. Missed him terribly.

He had gone through so much to find the young human and now...

The fear in Aragorn’s eyes when he looked at him this morning would not leave his mind and it hurt the elf. After everything they had been through and all they had been to each other, his friend did not know him. Worse, Aragorn believed that he was a slave and that that condition was somehow natural. The prince saw none of the fiery resistance he would have expected from the man he had once known. Aragorn’s submission and acceptance of the situation pained Legolas deeply, as did the unusual amount of fear he had seen behind his friend’s eyes.

"What did they do to you, Estel?" Legolas’ whispered breath fogged on the normally hot air. As soon as the sun set the temperature dropped dramatically, creating nights that could potentially become quite chilly. "And how can I get you back?"

There was no answer but silence of course, and Legolas let his chin drop down to rest on his arms. Aragorn could not seem to stand being around him. His very presence appeared to distress the ranger, so if this was as close as the elf could get for the moment, then here he would stay and watch over his friend from a distance.

As much as he longed to simply grab his friend and drag him out of here, take him back to Rivendell maybe and see what Lord Elrond could do for him... he knew that was impossible. Rivendell was many long months of travel away from here. The way things stood now, Aragorn would never go with him willingly and he feared the emotional trauma he would cause by attempting to force the young human to do anything, especially since remembering seemed to physically hurt Aragorn. So Legolas would be patient and he would wait. Wait for whatever wounds still burned in the human’s mind to heal. He felt certain that Aragorn had not truly lost his past, but it was buried deep and the prince did not know what it would take to bring it back. Yet that didn’t matter... someday it would come back and he would be here when it did, he would wait however long it took. If it took years, he would wait years.

Legolas buried his face against his sleeves. He wouldn’t give up on his friend, ever. Nor would he betray the weighty trust placed in his hands by Elladan and Elrohir. He would someday bring their brother back to them, or he would spend the rest of his life trying.

The occupants of the tent were settling down for sleep and a soft, melodious sound made Legolas look up again. Some of the slaves were singing, soft and low. It was a comforting, peaceful sound and it comforted the prince to think that somewhere in there Aragorn was falling asleep to the gentle tones of its rhythm.

"Sleep well, Estel..." the elf murmured softly in the darkness. "Sleep well, my friend. I miss you." 


Tell me what it’s like to be with you,
Remind me of the things we used to do
And tell me that this time will never end
Tell me what it’s like, tell me again.

Everything I fear
Shows itself every time you’re here.
And everything I know
Leaves with you every time that you go...


Aragorn filled the watering buckets from the deep well and headed back out to the fields. It was nearing midday and Cabed had asked him to fetch them all something to drink.

"What you got there, Adrar?" The sound of the guard's taunting voice stopped the ranger in his tracks.

Fear filled his heart as he looked to the ground and answered softly, "I was sent to bring water back to the others. It is nearly midday." He silently cursed his carelessness at being caught alone and out of sight like this.

"That so?"

Aragorn glanced up quickly as Talft walked towards him, joining Lur who stood towering over the ranger. The tall, dark guard smirked as he saw the slight glance. He stepped nearer the cowering slave and gave the man a good shove. They harassed all the slaves, but the young northerner was their favorite to pick on. There was something uniquely vulnerable about him and they liked to see his fear of them. They had given him more than enough reason to have that fear.

"Please. I am on my way back out." Aragorn replied softly, moving around the Haradrim and walking slowly away from them, hoping that taunting was all they had in mind.

"Did I say you could leave?" Lur called out, his voice low and dangerous.

Aragorn swallowed hard and stopped. He closed his eyes as he fought back the apprehension that pounded in his heart. Why couldn’t they just leave him alone? He did his job; he was a good worker. He flinched involuntarily as he heard the quiet snap of a whip being shaken out.

"Hey, Adrar," Talft walked up behind the slave and placed his hand on the young man’s shoulder. "You don’t have to be in such a rush."

He couldn’t handle it any longer, the taunting, the abuse. Without thinking, Aragorn shrugged out from underneath Talft’s hand and proceeded to walk away. If he could get far enough away from the immediate grounds and out onto the field someone else would be able to see them. The guards weren’t supposed to be cruel to the slaves, but it happened anyway. He looked up, desperately searching for any sight of Cabed or Sircyn, but the slaves had followed the oliphaunts to the far side of the pastures.

The stinging bite of the whip wrapped around his ankle, cutting through the light cotton legging he wore. He cried out as the leather thong tightened and jerked backwards, pulling his foot out from under him and dropping him roughly to the ground. The buckets tipped and spilt their contents out, the water quickly soaked into the hard packed dirt. Aragorn winced. Why did everyone seem intent on making him drop whatever he was carrying? Why couldn’t they just leave him alone?!


Legolas stood in the shade of one the small brush-trees that dotted the plains. He leaned back against the skinny trunk, bracing himself with one foot on the rough wood. His keen eyes turned to the rolling hills that backed the oliphaunt pens. The morning had been uneventful and he was only halfheartedly watching for the wild taergs that plagued the compound, his mind wandering back to the previous day, when the sound of a familiar cry assaulted his ears.

Pushing off from his resting-place he whirled back towards the slave quarters, his sharp eyes seeking out the source of the distress. "Aragorn?" He spotted Talft and Lur working over a slave that lay cringing on the ground. The whistle of Talft’s whip reached the sharp elven ears and without thinking Legolas ran towards his friend, shouting at the other guards.

Neither of the Haradrim heard the elf’s approach over the sounds of their own laughter and taunting. The whip cut the back of Aragorn’s shirt, drawing blood.

"Come on, Adrar. Tell us where you’re from! You don’t even have half a brain. Why, the master keeps you around only for our entertainment." The tall guard brought the lash down hard intending to strike the young ranger again, but the lash never reached its mark.

Legolas stepped over the prone body of his friend and raised his forearm up, catching the whip on the leather vambrace he wore. The thong wrapped quickly around the hard leather and the elf grasped the end of it, jerking the weapon out Talft’s hand.

"Leave him alone!" Legolas growled at the two men, backing them down slightly as he advanced on them.

"Hey, you have no authority over us!" Lur stepped towards the elf but quickly moved back as the prince glared at him, coiling the whip up in his hands and throwing it into the other guard’s face.

"And you have no reason to beat this one." Legolas continued to speak as he backed the two away from Aragorn, "How do you think your employer would like to hear that you slowed down the slaves today? Do you think that would please him at all? Now be off with you. Surely there is something else you can be doing besides tormenting the workers." His tone was low and dangerous and he didn’t back down when Talft pointed the handle of the whip menacingly at the elf.

When they finally turned and left, Legolas quickly walked back to Aragorn’s side. The young human was trying to sit up, but his back was bleeding and the cut to his ankle was painful. The elf gently placed his hand between the man’s shoulder blades and softly spoke to the ranger.

"Do not rise just yet. Lie still and let me have a look at you."

At the sound of the words Aragorn gasped and turned towards Legolas, looking over his shoulder at the elf. But he did not see the sharpshooter's face, he saw the face of an elf, an elf who was bending over him, his hair falling down about his shoulders, exposing his pointed ears and they were in a cave... a tunnel and the elf was speaking to him much the same way. The vision shifted so rapidly that the human cringed slightly, the same elf jumped in front of him as a swarm of black creatures rushed them, his own hand was trapped and he heard his voice calling out a name.


"Strider! You remember?" The elf leaned down close to the human, "Strider?"

The pictures faded as quickly as they had come and Aragorn found himself staring at his master’s new employee once more. The pounding in his head grew intolerable as he tried to hold onto the images that flashed through his mind.

"Aragorn?" Legolas whispered as he watched the human’s pained reaction to his nearness.

"It hurts." He touched his palms to the sides of his head, trying to push the pain of remembering away, "Make it stop." Images of other elves mirrored themselves on his tightly closed eyelids and a cascade of emotions tore at his heart.

"What!? Strider you must tell me what’s wrong." The elf was at a loss. His very presence seemed to pain the young man. Aragorn’s breath was coming in ragged gasps and he cried out through gritted teeth before collapsing into unconsciousness.

"No. NO!" Legolas felt for the human’s pulse it was there, strong and steady. He must have simply passed out. Quickly gathering the ranger in his arms the elf picked him up and walked back towards the sleeping tent that he had stood guard over last night.

He shouldered his way through the opening and laid the ranger gently down on the nearest blanket, turning him onto his stomach so he would not further aggravate his wounds. The odd sensation of being watched alerted the elf to the presence of another in the room and he glanced up quickly. A small child sat perfectly still in the far corner, watching them quietly. It was obvious by the crudely carved oliphaunt shaped toys that he held that he had been playing inside the safety of the tent.

Huge, dark eyes watched the elf fearfully.

"Go get your father quickly," he instructed the boy.

The child hesitated for only seconds, his gaze falling to Aragorn before fleeing from the tent.

Legolas wasted no time. He knew he had mere minutes before Aragorn’s adopted family returned, and they would not react well to his presence here. Quickly he ripped a strip from his outer tunic and, pouring water from his own flask, tended the deep cuts on Aragorn’s ankle and his back, wrapping them in the soft, light cloth. He kneeled next to the man, his hand gently touching the ranger’s head.

"Estel, wake up." He spoke in elvish quietly, "Come back, my friend."

The world was hazing and his head still rang as the ranger fought the darkness that hedged his sight. He tried to turn towards the sound of the voice but was stopped by the elf as Legolas carefully pressed the human’s head back down onto the blanket beneath him, facing away from the prince.

"No, don’t look at me just yet. It seems to hurt you and I wish you no more pain, you have had enough." The elf’s voice broke and the human found it odd that the guard was upset. They usually never cared what the slaves were feeling, most didn’t seem to think they had feelings at all.

"Who are you, really?" Aragorn questioned. The marksman did not act at all like any of the other guards. He was very strange. He wondered if maybe, just maybe he had known this person before... A sharp stab of pain that threatened to put him back out again made Aragorn pull back from that train of thought.

"Oh, Strider." Legolas shut his eyes tightly closed, his hand gently touching the human’s head once more. "I hope you can remember."

"I want to," the human whispered softly.

"Then that is enough for now." Legolas glanced at the tent opening. "Your family is coming. Here, I have something for you. Take it and maybe it will help you remember." The elf leaned over the human and pressed a tiny circle of cold metal into the man’s palm. Legolas closed the ranger’s hand into a fist, holding it there with his own for a moment. "I’ll bring you something later for the pain, after it is dark. I will leave it near the door. Let your elder know."


When Aragorn finally turned over, the elf was gone. He opened his hand and stared at the silverring that sat there, a beautiful green jewel mounted between two serpents. The fair face of a dark-haired man flashed in his mind and he quickly tightened his hand back around the ring as the memory shot a small spike of pain through his mind. The sharpshooter was right, whoever he was; the ring would help him to remember, but he wasn’t sure he could deal with the anguish of the memories and the ache in his body from the beating at the same time. As he relaxed back onto the floor he was surprised to find that the deepest pain that assaulted him was the ache that had started beating in his heart when the elf had tended him out on the grounds. Something was missing in his life and his heart knew what it was; he just couldn’t understand yet what it was saying.

The tent flap was jerked open and Cabed stumbled into the darkened interior followed by Sircyn.

"He was right there! I saw him!" Kidrin was pointing to where Aragorn lay, "It was the new one, the other adrar."

"All right, be still Kidrin." Cabed knelt down next to Aragorn. The young ranger painfully eased up into a sitting position, with the help of Sircyn.

"He did that to our Adrar!" Kidrin was pointing at Aragorn.

The young man smiled at the child and shook his head slowly, "No, the other adrar did not do this to me, he does not carry a whip." Aragorn glanced at Cabed; "It was Talft and Lur. I was clumsy and got caught by them when I was returning with the water. The sharpshooter stopped them and brought me here." The ranger hissed slightly with the renewed pain to his ankle, gently touching the bandage that the elf had placed there temporarily. "He said he would return tonight with something for the pain."

Cabed glanced at Sircyn who stood once more in the entryway keeping watch. A dark look marred the young Haradrim’s face as he turned back to watch Adrar. He didn’t trust the masters or the overseers and did not like the attention that the northern sharpshooter was paying to his friend. It could be dangerous. "How did he know this was your tent?"

Aragorn glanced at his friend and shook his head. "I do not know. Perhaps he watched as we returned from the fields."

"You did not bring him here?" Cabed questioned as he rechecked the younger man’s wounds.

The ranger glanced down to the ground, his eyes lighting on his closed fist, fearful of opening it up, "No." He whispered, "He – I... I was unconscious."

"Adrar!" Sircyn stepped in and quickly knelt by the fair-skinned slave, looking him over carefully. "What did he do to you?"

"Nothing." The questions were wearing on him. The answers were so far out of reach that he grew tired of grasping for them and the pain of the surfacing memories wore him out.

"You must tell us." Cabed softly touched the slave’s arm, fearing the worst. The guards could be very cruel and Tyndel had been exhibiting far too much interest in Adrar for their comfort.

"Cabed, I swear he did not hurt me. Not intentionally anyway. His voice and the things that he spoke, they reminded me of..." Aragorn stopped speaking and looked back down at his tightly clenched fist.

The elder followed his gaze and gently pried the ranger’s fingers open. Aragorn flinched and closed his eyes, turning away from the sight of the ring, but not before the face of another dark-haired being flashed in his mind... or was it two? But no, they both had the same face... "What have you there, Estel?" the being questioned as they both looked down at the ring. He swallowed hard against the nausea that threatened him and breathed deeply, calming the stirring in his heart. He realized that Cabed was speaking to him and he had not heard what the elder had said.

"I’m sorry, what did you say?" He asked the other to repeat the question.

"Do you know what this is?" Cabed held the ring out to the ranger.

Aragorn snatched it quickly back from the elder and tightened his grip about it. It felt familiar in his hand but...he shook his head slowly. "I can see pieces of memories in my mind. But it hurts to remember, it hurts horribly, and that was why I passed out." The ranger sighed deeply and finally met the older man’s gaze, "That is the truth, I swear it to you."

The old Haradrim nodded his head, turning to look at his eldest son. "We must get back to the fields or we will be missed. We will talk more about this tonight."

Aragorn attempted to rise and follow them out, but Cabed pressed him back down. "You stay here the remainder of the day. Tomorrow you will have to go but today you will stay off that foot. I cannot risk you near the oliphaunts with an open wound like that. It will become infected too easily."

"They’ll notice."

"They’ll not notice if it is as you have said. Lur and Talft are cruel but they are also cowards. They will not be near our fields again this day. Stay, my son, and rest."

Aragorn sank back down to the ground and dropped his gaze guiltily. It seemed he was always causing trouble lately.

"It will be well, Adrar, you will see." Cabed stopped at the threshold and turned back towards the young slave.

With a small smile Aragorn nodded his head. He hoped it would be. Gently fingering the ring, he tried it on several fingers on his right hand. It fit a couple of them but did not feel right. He tested the silver circle on the forefinger of his left hand. It slid easily over his knuckle and settled into place as though it had naturally fit there always. Turning his hand so that he could see the deep green jewel set in the middle of it, he gazed at the stone for a long moment. Was it really his? Before he realized what he was doing Aragorn found himself thinking about it and trying to recall exactly when and why he would have acquired such a piece of jewelry. Surely slaves were never given treasures such as this.

Memories surfaced and assaulted his senses, momentarily throwing him off. He heard a deep melodious voice speaking as if to him, "It is called the Ring of Barahir, for it was a gift to Barahir and his descendants in reward for the saving of Finrod Felagund’s life, many, many years before your father’s father was born." And saw himself hand the ring back to a person who looked just like Rhuddryn’s sharpshooter. The young faced northerner smiled warmly at him...

Aragorn gasped as much from the shock of the clear memories as from the pain it lanced through his temples. Bright sparks exploded on the edges of his vision as the memory was ripped from him by the ache in his head. He lowered his head into his hands, the cool metal of the ring touching gently against his throbbing temple. Excitement and fear warred in him. The sharpshooter was right. The ring was helping him to remember, but did he really want to know?

He had a life. He was Adrar, Master Seobryn’s personal slave. He was a member of the Simbani clan and he helped to shepherd the oliphaunts on Master Rhuddryn’s land. He had a family now; he wasn’t just a slave. He belonged and the work was good. The people he saw in his fragmented memories did not look like him; they couldn’t be family members. He laughed softly at himself at the absurd thought, realizing he didn’t look like he was related to Cabed or Sircyn any more than the faces in his recollections...except maybe the older wise-eyed man with the long brown hair. But what if who he had been before was not someone he wanted to be? What if this was better?

What if it was not?

A tiny voice in the back of his mind kept questioning quietly. It all just felt wrong; how could it be right?

With a deep sigh, Aragorn removed the ring from his finger and pulled his sleeping pallet up from the floor, exposing the earth beneath it. It would never do to have Talft or Lur catch him with the ring. They would only insist that he had stolen it and he would be punished and the ring taken from him. Quickly and quietly he dug a shallow hole in the dry ground and placed the ring into it, covering it with the displaced dirt. He would need a way to be able to find the ring later if he wished, something to remind him where he had hidden it. Sometimes their pallets were moved around as people came and went and it would do no good to hide the token only to be able to never retrieve it. He spied the small collection of rocks that Kidrin had been saving and selected a smooth oval stone. Pressing the rock into the ground above the place where he had buried the ring he laid his pallet back on top of it and eased down on his back.

He could feel the small rock jutting slightly out of the ground as it touched his spine near the base of his neck and he smiled softly to himself. Wondering what type of person he had truly been, he fell into a light sleep.

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