The Stars of Harad

Chapter 13

by Cassia and Siobhan

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Morning found Aragorn sitting with a very ill elf. Legolas had taken a turn for the worse throughout the long night and he moaned softly as the ranger wiped the sweat that beaded on his forehead with a soft cloth. A fever had wrapped the prince in its throes sometime during the night and the ranger was having a hard time breaking through the injury induced illness. He wondered absently if the guards had used poisoned thongs when they whipped Legolas or if the elf had simply been beaten beyond what he could handle.

It had often fallen to the northerner to stay with the sick or wounded and they had found that his talents in healing extended to the injured animals as well. Aragorn had had a knack for knowing just how to heal the sick and exhibited the compassion and patience needed under those circumstances so it was not unusual for the ranger to stay behind during the day and work with slaves who were unable to go out and tend the herds.

Cabed and the family had left early to work with the oliphaunts. Before leaving, he had asked Aragorn if there were anything he could get the ranger to aid him in healing the elf.

"There was a weed were I lived, called kingsfoil. It had tiny white flowers on it and was helpful with illnesses and fever. Do you have anything like that here?" It was a long shot that the northerly common plant would be found in the hot arid planes of Harad but he hoped Cabed could help.

The elder Haradrim had nodded slowly, thinking through Aragorn’s request. There just might be something similar if he could find it growing this time of year. He would send Kidrin back with some in the event they ran across it.

With a sigh the ranger brought his thoughts back to the present as he pressed the square of cloth back into the pot next to him. The day was already heating up and the water had become tepid. Legolas moaned softly, thrashing weakly under the ranger’s gentle touch. Aragorn softly kept up a steady stream of elvish, trying to reach through to his friend but it was to no avail.

The flap of the sleeping quarters was thrown back and Rhuddryn stepped in flanked by two of his guards. Aragorn inclined his head, bowing low in the position where he sat.

"I did not see you out in the fields Adrar. What keeps you in here, are you ill?" The slave owner questioned even as his gaze fell to the form of the elf that Aragorn was caring for. His gaze flicked dispassionately over the one he had come to know as Tyndel. Talft and Lur had obviously done a more than adequate job, as he had suspected they would. If Tyndel lived, he would not soon forget the encounter, which was as the slave owner wanted it.

The ranger carefully steeled his emotions and his face before lifting his head and responding respectfully, "No, master. Cabed requested that I stay with the one you brought to us last night. He is strong yet and my elder believes he could be useful if he recovers from the fever that has taken him."

Rhuddryn pressed his lips together in a tight line and nodded curtly at the response.

"Yes, you seem very skilled in the healing arts." Aragorn’s owner replied hesitantly. "He is an elf Adrar. Have you ever seen one before?" He asked the northerner cautiously.

Aragorn looked down at the prince with feigned interest, "An elf? No. I do not believe I ever have. Is that why his ears are so strange?" He lied, playing the part of the simpleton that he knew the master believed him to be.

Rhuddryn smiled slightly. He didn’t need anything tipping the ranger’s memory and causing him to recall his former life. "Yes, that’s why. Well you be careful Adrar. Elves are dangerous. If he gives you or Cabed any trouble you let me know and we will handle him. You are a good worker and I would hate to see anything happen to you. Do you understand?" He spoke to the man seated before him as though he were a child and Aragorn responded in kind.

"Yes I will, thank you master." Aragorn inclined his head once more until Rhuddryn had removed himself. He swallowed hard and let out a deep breath. He had wanted nothing more than to rip Rhuddryn’s head from his shoulders for the state that Legolas was in now, and the smug, condescending smile he had laid on the ranger, as though he were a prized possession, had angered Aragorn. It irritated him in no small fashion that in the past he had actually thought he was being cared for by the man who pretended to own him. His own weakness sparked his fury further and the helplessness he felt as he sat beside Legolas only fed the hot fire in his heart.

"Come on Legolas," He whispered softly, "I need you to pull through. I can’t do this on my own." He brushed his fingers down the side of the elf’s cheek. "I’m so sorry my friend." Legolas’ breathing was shallow and labored and he turned towards the sound of Aragorn’s voice.


"I’m here." Aragorn shook his head, leaning forward to wipe the cool cloth across the elf’s bruised chest. All he could do was wait. It would be a long day and he hoped the elf would still be with him at the end of it.

That night when the other Olybryn returned, Legolas had improved little and the worried look that etched itself into Aragorn’s features had deepened. The other slaves were not yet sure they trusted this new northerner yet, and in fact not at all sure they could ever trust anyone who had been one of the guards once, but he was Adrar’s friend, and so they would do their best by him, for the sake of the one they had adopted into their clan.

Cabed knelt next to Aragorn, letting his thickly callused hand rest gently on the pale elf’s forehead for a moment, judging the fair being’s still raging temperature. "We looked for the plant you described to us Adrar, but we could not find it, I am sorry. It is possible it does not grow this far from the land of the white ones. But we did bring you more Klii and even some Bani, Syna went all the way to the far fields to get it for you." The elder Haradrim passed Aragorn several small bundles of healing herbs and roots that were native to this particular land.

Aragorn had actually been the first to ascertain the fever-fighting properties of the Bani plant. He had not understood at the time, why he could look at a plant and know, or at least guess at, what kind of useful properties it might have, no more than he had known why he knew so much about the healing arts. Now of course, it all made sense and Aragorn remembered the many, many hours spent in the gardens, or the study, or the wilds, with his foster father. Lord Elrond’s gentle hands guiding his as he mixed his first poultices, turning over plant leaves, paging through books, showing the young human every different way there was to tell if a plant was helpful or poisonous and what kind of traits belied what kind of properties. With the memories, beautiful as they were, came a stab of pain that now had nothing to do with his healed injures. This one attacked his heart, not his head.

Aragorn took the herbs from Cabed, nodding his thanks. He couldn’t deal with those feelings right now. Legolas needed his attention; this situation needed his attention. He had his memory back, but that didn’t mean he knew how to deal with all the emotions that came with it yet.

"How does he fare?" Cabed questioned quietly, giving Aragorn a much-desired distraction from his own train of thought.

"Not well. He is strong, his body is fighting, but he has taken very grievous hurt..." Aragorn wasn’t sure what else to say. Looking at Legolas’ injured body still made his heart burn hot within him. Too often. Too often had Legolas been hurt, or suffered because of him. He knew the elf never wanted him to blame himself, but it was hard not to sometimes.

"Do you think he will die?" Cabed’s voice was still gentle, but he did not avoid the question. The Simbani had learned long ago that shying from the mention of death did not prevent its happening. The guards abused people, or punished them, and sometimes... many times, they died. It was a part of their lives, even if it was heartbreaking; it was the way things were.

"I hope not," Aragorn shook his head earnestly, unable to keep the pain out of his eyes. "I just don’t know... by morning we should know, one way or another."

"You mean to sit up with him again then?" Mambre asked with motherly concern. She would not try to dissuade him, but that didn’t mean she didn’t worry for the young man.

Aragorn nodded. He was weary, but Legolas’ condition was grave and could swing either way at a moments notice. "He is my friend. I don’t think he’d even be here if it weren’t for me," he whispered, realizing that he didn’t know how exactly Legolas *had* ended up here, beyond the bit that the elf had told him earlier, but that was a story for another time he supposed.

The young ranger tilted his elven friend’s head gently to the side, moistening Legolas’ cruelly split and swollen lips. The prince stirred and moaned, trying to draw away.

"Shhh, shh, hush Legolas, it’s all right my friend. It is just I, just Aragorn. No one’s going to hurt you any more. It’s all right..." Aragorn soothed softly in Elvish, quietly talking and repeating himself just so that Legolas could hear the sound of his voice.

The young ranger felt eyes on him and glanced up. Sircyn was watching them from across the tent and it was not an entirely friendly gaze he was laying upon the wounded elf. The moment the young Haradrim caught Aragorn’s gaze on him he looked away, turning back to the others and pretending to play with Kidrin.

Aragorn sighed. He knew Sircyn didn’t trust easy, but the other young slave had become dear to the ranger and he hoped Sircyn could learn to accept Legolas as he had accepted him.

Slowly, quiet fell and the slaves dropped off to sleep, leaving Aragorn alone to his vigil, and the company of his newly returned memories of the past, and concerns for the future. 


Mambre smiled when she got up the next morning and saw the two northerners. Aragorn had fallen asleep, half curled up with and around Legolas. Painstakingly careful to avoid his friend’s injuries, Aragorn had managed to find a way to be near the elf without aggravating any of his hurts. To Mambre, they looked rather like children, like Sircyn and Syna when they were younger. The two friends’ heads rested together, golden hair mixing with dark curly locks in the dim predawn light. With one hand Aragorn still lightly monitored the rise and fall of his friend’s chest, even in slumber. If anything changed with the elf’s condition, he would know and awaken immediately, but outside of that, it might take a small oliphaunt stampede to wake the exhausted young man up. Legolas’ fever had finally broken in the wee hours of the morning and Aragorn had only just drifted off to sleep not a full two hours ago.

The slaves were quiet in their morning preparations, trying not to wake the two sleepers. They succeeded, for by the time Aragorn opened his eyes, daylight had already warmed the air and the interior of the tent. Aragorn started mildly, realizing both that he had fallen asleep, and that he had slept in. Then he wondered what woke him, and realized that Legolas had moved beneath his hand.

Blinking a couple of times, Aragorn turned his head slightly and found himself looking into his friend’s face. Legolas’ eyes were open. When he saw the young ranger looking at him, the elf smiled, albeit a trifle weakly, around his injured lips. "Good morning Estel." His soft, slightly rasping tone turned wry. "I suppose it should be comforting to know that if I wake up in a strange place, feeling like a cave troll used me for an anvil, and someone’s got their arms all over me, it’s probably you." After all, it wasn’t the first time. The elf laughed, which was painful, so he tried to stop, which only made him laugh a little harder, especially after seeing the somewhat surprised and bleary look that his friend gave him.

"Huh? Oh..." Aragorn quickly started to withdraw the arm that was still draped over his friend’s side, a little too sleepy yet to catch the prince’s joke.

Legolas realized his friend wasn’t fully awake yet and gently captured the young human’s wrist, pulling his arm back to where it was, although moving at all was still very painful. "I was joking Strider. I – It... it really is comforting. How long have I been out?"

"A day or so," Aragorn informed, pulling himself up onto his elbows and checking Legolas over. "I was really worried about you for a little while there... but I guess if you’re feeling well enough to start giving me grief again, you must be on the mend." He grinned impishly.

"You’re lucky I think it would hurt too much to smack you for that," Legolas chuckled wearily. The truth was he still felt miserable, but he could feel his strength returning slowly.

Aragorn helped the elf drink some of the water that Cabed and Mambre had made sure was left for them. Legolas wasn’t ready to eat yet, he still hurt too much, but Aragorn knew elves didn’t always need as much sustenance as humans, so he wasn’t too worried about that, and let Legolas have his way. Instead he just built up the smoldering coals into a small fire once more and heated some of the water, making a soothing tea for his friend.

"How did you know?" Aragorn asked presently, after the prince had finished his drink.

"Know what?" Legolas stared up at the tent ceiling. It wasn’t that he didn’t want to look at his friend, but unnecessary movement was still not a pleasant option.

"Where to find me."

"Wasn’t easy," Legolas chuckled. "When you disappear Estel, you disappear! I took a chance that you were heading down into Rohan, and then tracked you as best I could. There was more chance involved than skill really... although; perhaps chance is the wrong word. Providence I think would be better," the elf turned his head slowly, favoring the young human with a soft smile.

"I don’t know if I’d call this providence..." Aragorn murmured, shaking his head.

"Stop. Stop right there. You start blaming yourself for anything for an instant Estel and I will get up if only to flatten you," Legolas said seriously, starting to raise himself up on his elbows.

"All right, all right!" Aragorn actually laughed, hurrying forward and gently pressing Legolas back down. "I stopped! Now lay still before you’re the death of us both!"

"That’s better," Legolas grumbled, wincing as he settled back.

"But how did you know?" A confused look suddenly crossed Aragorn’s face. "How did you know to even look? I know your kind have foresight, but..."

Legolas just smiled. "Well my ‘foresight’ came packaged as two rather unexpected visitors who have a horrible notion of what visiting hours are."

Aragorn blinked. Of course, he should have known. "Elladan and Elrohir." He wasn’t exactly sure how he felt about that. He was even a little surprised that they had cared.

Legolas watched him intently. "Yes. It was Elrohir who gave me Barahir to give to you. He said he hoped it would make you remember that there were people who loved you. I don’t think he ever could have imagined just how true those words would end up. Are you angry Estel?"

Aragorn shook his head, not quite ready to speak.

"Well good!" Legolas leaned back again. "You shouldn’t be, unless you really *wanted* to spend the rest of your life as a slave down here."

Aragorn laughed, but his eyes were still uncertain. "Did they tell you anything else?"

Legolas closed his eyes before opening them again. "I know about Arwen."

"And?" Aragorn prompted, his insides unexpectedly seizing up.

"And what? I’m not surprised. My friend you have set your gaze on a high prize, but not an impossible one. And from the little I know of her, I think that if her heart was willing, you two would make a perfect pair. Just don’t race her, all right? She does not play fair." Legolas smiled at the ranger’s somewhat stunned face. It was almost ironic, because he had come a very long way and through a lot to have this conversation.

Aragorn didn’t know what to say. He had been afraid of Legolas’ reaction... prepared a million different explanations... but the elf’s total acceptance floored him.

"Aragorn..." Legolas started, but whatever he was going to say was lost when the tent flap was pushed inward quickly.

Syna and Sircyn stumbled through the entry. Syna was supporting her younger brother’s weight, his arm wrapped around her shoulder, but considering he was nearly a head taller than her, it was not easy.

"Sircyn! Syna! What’s wrong? What happened?" Aragorn jumped quickly to his feet, helping ease Sircyn to the ground before he fell down. The young Haradrim was holding his ribs tightly, his face pinched in pain. To Aragorn’s great alarm a dark red stain was spreading across the front of the young man’s shirt.

Quickly laying Sircyn down, Aragorn pulled his arm away and pushed his torn shirt up to reveal a deep gash in the young slave’s side that was bleeding freely.

"The Master’s brought a couple of new Oliphaunts into the herd," Syna was explaining breathlessly. "They’re wild, hard to control, not like the others. They’re not tamed yet and won’t listen to us. We put them in the pens on the north side of the field, but the fence broke. One of them got Sircyn when he was trying to calm it!" the girl was on the brink of tears, but controlling herself well. "Father wanted to come back with him, but he couldn’t, they’re still trying to round up the wild ones and need every man they have. I’m supposed to go back right away as it is... Adrar, is he going to be all right?" The slaves still called Aragorn by the name they had come to know him by for the most part, and that was all right with the young ranger. He had so many names already a few more hardly mattered.

"Of course I am, I’m going to be fine," Sircyn protested in irritation, although he winced in pain. "Don’t fuss, all right? It’s just a scratch!"

Legolas laughed despite himself and rolled his eyes, catching Aragorn’s gaze. "Oh, where have I heard *that* before?"

Aragorn shot him a withering glare before turning back to his new wounded charge. "Well it could be a deadly scratch if you don’t be still and let me help you," he remonstrated.

"Thank you Syna, I’ve got him now. Don’t worry, he’s going to be fine." he assured the young girl who was obviously torn between concern for her brother and her need to get back and help make sure no one else got hurt.

"Thank you Adrar," the girl squeezed his shoulder gratefully before having to tear herself away.

Aragorn skillfully washed and bound up Sircyn’s ribs. The gash was deep and without treatment it could cripple the Haradrim. He touched the young man’s face gently, staring down into the pain filled eyes and smiled, "It’s not that bad." He teased quietly, "I think you’ll survive."

"Though I may not want to." Sircyn finished the joke that had run between them for the past few months.

"Yes, something like that." Aragorn glanced back at Legolas, who lay near the fire, watching the slave and the ranger carefully. Smiling knowingly at the elf he turned back to the young slave, "I need you to do me a favor."

"I am afraid I am in no position to be of much assistance." Sircyn grimaced, his hand wrapping carefully over the top of the bandage Aragorn had just placed on his wound.

"This is an easy one. I need to go take your place in the fields. We can't endanger the others by having both of us removed from the work, especially if there are wild oliphaunts running around out there. And I would not see the wrath of Rhuddryn and his men fall on either of you." Aragorn sat down and moved so that Legolas and Sircyn had a clear view of each other across the dying fire. "I need you to keep Legolas company while I am gone and watch over him. He does not know what life is like here. Can you do that for me?" The ranger shifted his gaze from the elf to the slave at his side.

Sircyn did not answer but gazed hesitantly at the prince, and nodded slowly. Aragorn gently touched the young man’s shoulder, "Thank you. I will back at midday to see to your wound and to take care of you both. I will make sure the guards give you no grief." With a smile he stood slowly to his feet and walked to Legolas’ side.

He knelt down next to the elf who was smiling at him, shaking his head slowly. "As if I need the company, let alone the protection." Legolas spoke softly in Elvish.

"Humor me my friend, you need both. Sircyn is not so bad. He just is a bit untrusting of strangers. You cannot blame him, look at their lives. Keep an eye on him. If he gets worse, let me know. I will send Kidrin back throughout the day to make sure you both are all right. Don’t hesitate to call for me if either of you are in discomfort." He leaned closer to the elf; "Do you understand me."

Legolas smiled back at the human, it was so good to have his old friend back that he found himself simply nodding.

Leaning forward Aragorn touched his forehead gently against the elf’s, closing his eyes for a moment, just glad that the prince was recovering. "It’s good to have you here my friend."

Legolas’ hand slipped behind the ranger’s head and held him in place, "It’s good to have you back Strider. I have missed you."

With a small laugh, the man moved slowly back to stare into the blue eyes. "I have to go." He spoke in common glancing between the two. "Take care of each other." He called back as he walked to the tent flap and stepped out, closing the entry back down.

They could hear him outside, speaking hesitantly to the guards that stood near the tent, explaining that one of the slaves had been gored and the other was too weak to join them in the fields.

"I will return at midday to look in on them. The master has said that I may be here when there are injured." Aragorn further explained, keeping his eyes down and his tone inoffensively quiet.

"Fine be on your way." One of the sentries snorted at the report and gave the ranger a shove.

Legolas listened to the sound of his friend’s footsteps until they passed out of hearing. The flap to the tent was snapped back and a guard thrust his head into the sleeping room. He glanced warily at the two injured slaves before backing out and closing the entry after him.

"They will bother us no more for the rest of the day now." Sircyn spoke quietly, glancing at the elf though slitted eyes, sizing up the other. "Adrar speaks highly of you."

"His name is Estel." Legolas gazed at the ceiling of the tent for a few moments before slowly turning his head and piercing Sircyn with a sharp gaze. It hurt to move fast and his head still swam from the beating he was getting over.

The young slave rolled over painfully and glared at the elf. "You know nothing. You were not here when he was thrown into our tent. You did not help him through the dark times when he woke with night terrors; you were not the one that helped him regain a sense of dignity after all the abuse he endured at the hands of the masters. In fact your very presence caused him great pain up until yesterday. Adrar is our brother now."

"You may think you know the one you call Adrar, but he has been my brother for far longer than you could know." Legolas replied.

"You are an elf! What would you know of the ways of men?" Sircyn spat at the fair-haired being.

"You are right, I am an elf. I will tell you what I know of *that* man." Legolas matched the slave’s hard, harsh tone, but his eyes softened slightly as he thought on his friend, "He seems to trust you so I imagine he would not mind you knowing more about him."

The slave across the fire quieted and nodded, wanting the other to continue.

"Estel was raised by elves. He was orphaned when he was a young child. His human family was killed by a party of raiding orcs and he was brought to the home of a powerful elven lord. I did not have the opportunity to meet Estel until a few years ago." Legolas laughed slightly, "When he literally fell into my life. Until then I hated humans and had hated them for centuries. I saw no good or benefit in your kind at all and almost left Estel to the wilds. You think you have been treated badly by your master? I know the depravity of men. I know how bad it can be and how much it can hurt. When I met Estel I hated him for what had been done to me years before he or his father’s father was ever born, and I visited that anger and mistrust on him." Another small laugh escaped the elf’s lips, "And the hatred that took centuries to build in me, he destroyed in a few months."

"Centuries?" Sircyn repeated the word, intrigued. "Just how old are you?"

"A few thousand years, not very old by my people’s standards." Legolas smiled as the young slave’s mouth dropped open.

"Estel became like a brother to me," the elf continued. "He proved to me that not all men are evil. He has sacrificed himself to save my people and myself countless times. And he has shown that there is honor and goodness in the human race."

"So what right do you have to come here and take him with you? He was happy with us when he was Adrar. You think that he has not had an effect here on my people?" Sircyn shook his head and eased back down on the mat below him with a soft moan. "My people have always been trapped between the oppression of our own warlords on one side, and the oppression of the northerners on the other. My father was taken from his family and they were killed before his very eyes by a northerner. We have hated the northerners for as long as I can remember. They have lorded over us for their power, their wealth and their desires, enslaving my people and forcing us to work for them. And then one night they threw Adrar into our tent. I wanted to throw him back out and let the taergs have him." He glanced sideways at the elf to judge the other's reactions, "But my father wouldn’t let me. He protected Adrar and sheltered him and taught him how to survive and Adrar taught us how to love those who were different from us. He taught us that skin color and race made no difference. He did for my family what he has done for yours. Why won't you let him stay?"

Legolas laughed softly, shaking his head, "Oh, Strider." He spoke the words in Elvish, he should have known his friend would have made peace with these peoples as well, "He was named Estel on purpose." The elf switched to common and glanced once more at Sircyn, "In my people’s language it means hope. He is very important to my people and the race of men back where we come from. He cannot stay here. His destiny lies up there. He must return. He has a family that needs him back and they miss him terribly. They sent me to find him and bring him home. We need your help, and in return we can free you and your people as well. If you will trust us and if you will let us."

Legolas winced and sucked in his breath holding it as the pain shot through his body. He closed his eyes tightly shut and willed the spasms in his healing back to stop. When he opened his eyes, Sircyn had dragged his pallet around the nearly spent fire ring and laid it down next to the elf’s.

"Here, let me." The slave dipped his fingers into the herbal poultice Aragorn had been using on the injured elf. "Turn over." When the prince slowly obeyed, Sircyn gently worked it over the still healing welts that marred the elf’s back. "Adrar...I mean Estel has been teaching me what he knows of the healing arts."

Sircyn quietly worked over the elf for a few minutes before speaking again, "It has been very difficult, losing people that I love. They are killed in our work or by the guards or by the master himself if he wills it. They are taken from us and murdered before our very eyes as lessons to us. It is hard to learn to like someone, let alone accept them as your family and then have them taken from you."

The slave lay down next to the elf and gazed into the blue eyes. "Adrar has been here less than a year, but I consider him like a brother. I do not wish to lose him."

Legolas smiled and laughed lightly. The herbs, doing their work, began to dull the pain and lull him to sleep, "Estel is not one to be easily gotten rid of. In all likelihood he will drag me back here on any excuse to visit you and your family." The elf’s voice grew soft as sleep overtook him; "But he must be allowed to leave. I have come for him. He is my friend. His father misses him. You must let him go." The elf’s body went limp as he fell into unconsciousness, his voice trailing off quietly.

Sircyn watched the sleeping elf long into mid-morning when Kidrin came hesitantly back.

"Adrar sent me, Sircyn. Do you need him?" The child crept closer glancing at the sleeping elf, still not at all used to the half-lidded sleep of the fair-haired being.

Sircyn nodded slowly, he had been thinking long and hard about all the things Legolas had said. If the elf was right then he knew how to help Adrar. "Yes Kidrin, fetch Adrar quickly, tell him that I need him."

The boy turned and raced out of the tent calling for Adrar as he ran.

A little while later Aragorn pelted back to the tent, fear dogging his every step. He threw the flap to the tent aside and rushed in, falling on his knees next to the two wounded beings.

"What, what is wrong?" His hand immediately reached out to touch the unconscious elf, brushing the hair away from the fair face and quickly tracing down Legolas’ neck to feel the steady pulse. "Sircyn are you all right? Kidrin said you needed me, what’s wrong?" He seated himself between the two patients, his hand never leaving his friend as he turned to the slave. He gently felt the Haradrim’s forehead with his free hand but Sircyn stopped him, grabbing his wrist easily and pulling the ranger’s hand away, resting it on his chest, trapped there by his own hand.

"Estel." The slave spoke the ranger’s elven name. "Legolas said it means hope in your native language."

Aragorn glanced quickly behind him at the elf before returning his gaze to the human and nodding slowly.

"He also said that you have a family back where he came from and they miss you."

Aragorn swallowed hard and glanced to the floor of the tent nervously. His family. He hadn’t thought about them in a very long time.

"Legolas said you are needed back in your own lands. He said you have done for him and his family what you have done for mine." He continued when the ranger looked back up at him, the deep silver eyes holding the steady gaze of the dark ones that watched him. "You must be free. You were born free. Forgive me... I simply didn’t want to lose you, for you have been like a brother to me." Sircyn swallowed hard. "But Legolas is right. And if you will help us become a free people again, I will see you returned to your own, I swear it." He released the ranger’s hand and gazed steadily into the silver eyes that watched him.

Legolas’ hand brushed Aragorn’s wrist and tightened around it. The ranger glanced down at his friend and smiled softly. "I told you to be nice, I didn’t tell you two to swap embarrassing stories about me." He gently teased the elf.

"We didn’t." Legolas breathed in deeply, waking slowly, he smiled back, "We were saving those for supper time when the whole family is gathered about."

Sircyn laughed softly; "I bet you have some good ones too don’t you? Well I could tell you about the time that a three month old oliphaunt mistook Adrar...sorry Estel, for its mother. Followed him around EVERYWHERE."

Legolas raised an eyebrow and glanced at his friend, "Nursemaid to a mûmakil?"

"All right enough out of both of you. There must be something more interesting to talk about than me!" Aragorn protested good-naturedly.

It was silent in the tent for a moment before Legolas shook his head and answered quietly, "No, I don’t think so."

"You nift." Aragorn gently cuffed the elf upside the head.

"Actually I asked Kidrin to send for you, because I know how to overthrow the master... if you two are serious." In truth, Sircyn had been thinking about this for a long time, but never had had reason or impetus for it to go beyond thinking. No one else in his family or his clan seemed to take an interest, and his father would have forbid him to speak of it anyway. They had seen too many people die attempting escape. But Sircyn’s plan didn’t involve escape, and now that he had someone to listen to him, he took the chance.

"Master Rhuddryn has a secret plot of land that he does things on. The slaves taken there never return and at night you can hear the most unearthly keening coming from that direction. I have never ventured that far but I know where it is. And in two sunrises, the master will be gone for three days. The guards are lax then; they get drunk on the wine he stores in the cellars. They abuse our people every year at this time, but if we are ready for them and if my people will join us, I know a way we can overcome them with your help, Estel, and your knowledge of herbs." Sircyn pressed himself up on his elbows and stared hard at the northerner. "Will you help us be free as Legolas has said you can?"

Aragorn glanced once more at the elf who stared up at him.

"Yes, I believe we can. And I have a very good idea of what Rhuddryn is doing on that far acre of the farm. We will help you," the ranger promised.

"Then I am with you," Sircyn nodded seriously. "But I have to warn you, the others may not wish to join us at first. They may need convincing. Understand Estel... this is all we’ve ever known. They’ll be scared."

Aragorn smiled and rested his hand on the other young man’s shoulder. "Then we’ll have to help them find their courage."

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