The Stars of Harad

Chapter 19

by Cassia and Siobhan

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Word of Rhuddryn’s death had spread quickly and been verified by neighboring tribes. The guards having learned that their employer was dead were given the choice of leaving and never returning or facing the wrath of the newly freed slaves. Aragorn had stood in the doorway of the punishment hut and informed them of their choices. His gaze fell hard on Talft and Lur. Neither of the Haradrim would look at him. The sentries truly were the cowardly bullies they had been painted as. As he walked among them cutting their bonds, Legolas and a small contingent of the new owners of the house stood by with their weapons at the ready. It was unnecessary however.

Not one of the guards remained and none of them resisted their expulsion. They would be able to find work elsewhere and, although many of them deserved death for their treatment of the former slaves, Aragorn would not allow any that left of their own free will to be harmed. There had been too much death already and he did not want Cabed or his people harassed by other Haradrim who were looking vengeance.

The best way to start a new life was with mercy and grace, however undeserved it may be, not bloodshed, and the newly freed slaves accepted the young ranger’s wisdom on this and were setting out about it the right way.

On threat of death the former guards were taken to the edge of the compound and released. They left quickly and not a one of them looked back.

When that had been accomplished, the new owners of the house had been truly freed of all their past enslavement. Aragorn and Legolas stayed on an extra month to make sure no retribution was visited upon the Haradrim that remained with the land. Legolas taught the young men how to fight and make their own weapons and Aragorn helped Cabed and the other elders set up the household so that all were equal and no one would ever again be lord over another again.

As time would have it, the day to leave grew near. On the morning of their departure, Legolas followed Sircyn into the main house; his arms loaded down with the burden of wood that they had collected that morning after seeing to the needs of the oliphaunts. He laughed as the Haradrim finished recounting a story about Aragorn’s first days with them and how he had mistakenly thought that the large creatures were simply distant mountains.

Setting the wood down near the large hearth, the elf turned to address his friend and laughingly teased, "Well Strider you would think that you..." His laughter died as he scanned the large room and realized that the ranger was not among Cabed’s clan, who were busy cleaning the house with the other families that were more familiar with the palatial building.

Looking back to Sircyn he questioned the young man, "Where is Estel? Was he not with us when we returned?"

The dark skinned youth shrugged his shoulders in confusion. "I thought he was Legolas. I do not know."

With a quick nod of his head the elf walked swiftly back through the halls and left the house, heading for the west side of the compound. Something in the back of his mind was telling him he would find his friend there.


Aragorn stepped quietly into the abandoned slaves’ tent. The fire ring was empty and cold and the sleeping pallets had long been removed, put to better use inside the house, which those who had chosen to remain now lived in. He smiled sadly as he glanced around the empty tent. He had spent many happy evenings with the Simbani clan under this roof and the memories stopped him momentarily.


That was why he had returned here.

Quickly he moved to his task, searching the dirt floor of the simple building. It was here. He had left it here for its safety. His boot dislodged a small dark stone and he knelt carefully, his fingers brushing away the loose topsoil. A glint of silver caught his attention and he dug his fingers into the dirt, pulling the ring of his ancestor’s out of its hiding spot. He had hidden Barahir beneath his pallet the night that Legolas had returned the ring to him in order to keep it safe, marking its place with a small smooth stone and now at long last he had come back to claim it.

Turning the ring over in his fingers he blew the dirt away from the green emerald jewel that was seated between the two serpents. He brushed the small circle against his leggings, cleaning the delicate metal work until it gleamed in the low light that seeped in through the canvas siding.

Unconsciously he crossed his legs beneath him and sat down as recollections of his life flooded his thoughts. He found himself smiling as he recalled the day his father had given him the ring. Elladan had gone to no small effort to tease the human about the latest piece of his past and his destiny that had been further revealed to him. It had taken his mind off of the great responsibility that always weighted down on him whenever he gave it the least bit of thought. He shook his head slightly in remembrance; his father had caught Elladan in the act... his father.

His mind snagged on the image of the older elf, warrior, lord... father. Their parting had been painful and he swallowed hard in indecision. He had been gone quite some time now. Would they welcome him back? Perhaps it would be better to return to the wilds for a bit longer. He was not at all sure that he was ready to face any of them again.

The ranger’s thoughts were interrupted as the tent flap was quietly moved back and Legolas stepped in. Taking note of the man seated on the ground, the elf breathed a soft sigh of relief. He had thought that perhaps he would find his friend here. Silently Legolas sat down next to Aragorn, his eyes latching onto the silver circle that human was fingering.

The silence stretched easily between them as the elf waited his friend out. He knew Aragorn had a lot to consider. Today they had planned to leave the Olybryn and turn towards home. The Simbani had been the ranger’s surrogate family for the better part of a human year; Aragorn had bonded with these people when he had no one else. Legolas feared that it might be a difficult parting.

Aragorn passed the ring to Legolas, acknowledging him finally. "If not for you and Barahir, I may never have remembered." The human’s words were quiet and the elf strained to hear him. "I hid it here so that Talft and Lur would not take it from me. I almost forgot that I had left it behind."

The elf’s slender fingers gently brushed the smooth face of the stone. "I would not have let you forget," his words holding more meaning than simply referring to the family heirloom he passed back to his friend.

Aragorn accepted the ring back and laughed softly, "Stubborn elf."

Legolas stood gracefully and extended his hand down to the human. "We should be going. The day is nearly half spent and we have a long journey ahead of us."

With a slight nod, Aragorn accepted the help to his feet and brushed himself off, placing the ring on his left forefinger. "I am not sure I am ready for this, my friend."

Legolas glanced to the floor of the living space, his eyes lighting on the dead fire ring. He knew Aragorn was fully aware of why they had to leave but repeated it softly anyway; it would be good for them both to hear it again. "Estel, the rainy season is coming to the lands northward of us, and beyond that the snow will start to fly. The passes will close for the winter before we reach them if we do not leave now. We have delayed as long as we may. We will need to move quickly as it is. We can tarry no longer. The Simbani are free. The grounds and the Oliphaunts are theirs now and it is obvious that no one intends to give them any trouble. They have their life back and so, my friend, do you." He placed his hand gently on the man’s shoulder. "I have informed Cabed of our intentions and Mambre has prepared food for our journey. They await us at the house."

Aragorn glanced up at his friend, his eyes locking onto the blue ones that stared sympathetically back at him. "Let us be off, Strider. The longer we wait the harder it will be and I do not wish to be caught in the mountains when the first storms come." The elf laughed softly, "I do not think I could survive another winter having to drag you through the passes."

The teasing barb elicited a soft snort of mirth from the man and he smiled at the elf. "You are right, Legolas. I just..." Aragorn refrained from finishing his thoughts. Now was not the time to tell the elf his deepest fears about returning home. They would have that time alone later.

"I know."

Aragorn nodded, knowing that Legolas understood his hesitancy and fully expected to deal with it on the long journey ahead of them.

"Come, the Simbani are waiting and we must go." The elf prince stepped to the canvas entry and led his friend out of the tent for the last time. They walked to the house in amiable silence, each lost in his own thoughts.

Sircyn was waiting on the front step, a rolled up wad of clothing in his hands. He shook the garment out, and let the folds of leather fall down to barely touch the top of the stone steps. The frown on his face as he wrinkled his nose in disgust brought a burst of laughter from the elf as he recognized the piece of apparel.

"Hey!" Aragorn gained the steps quickly and gathered the long leather overcoat in his hands. "Where did you find that?!" He looked in wonder at the young Haradrim.

Confusion touched the young Haradrim’s eyes; "You like it? You may have it!"

"I thought I had lost it." The ranger shrugged into his familiar jacket and smiled to himself. He pulled the collar up to his face and sniffed the interior of the coat before turning a questioning glance on the elf that stood next to him. "This smells like you, but I know it is mine."

Legolas laughed and nodded. "I found it near where you were captured by Seobryn. It had been rolled into a ball and abandoned, buried beneath the forest debris; presumably where you left it. I wore it down here to hide who I was. It worked rather well for a bit anyway," the elf explained as the man inspected the coat.

Aragorn quickly found the mended tear in the shoulder which he did not recognize and he touched his fingers to the expertly sewn patch, raising his eyebrows as he glanced at his friend once more, his silent look begging an explanation.

"Now that is a long story!" The elf next to him smiled and stepped quickly away. "You are lucky I patched it all! Talft and Lur took it and all my things from me when I was found out by Rhuddryn." Legolas turned his attention back Sircyn, "You did not happen to find my bow or quiver in their possessions did you?" He had accepted the Haradrim’s weapons when they had attacked the Seobryn’s warg compound but had missed the feel of his own bow; it was weighted and set just for him, a gift from his father a few years back and he wished to reclaim it. The guards had things stashed all over the house, guard quarters and grounds in sometimes implausible seeming alcoves, and the former slaves were still discovering all the secrets that those places had to offer.

With a quick smile Sircyn leaned back in the entryway and retrieved the weapon from where it leaned against the doorframe. He picked up the quiver from the floor and handed them back to the overjoyed elf. "Are these they?"

Aragorn, not about to be put off by his friends’ easy change of subject, smacked the elf lightly, "Do not think I am going to forget about this, my friend." He ran his fingers lightly over the dark stain that spread out from the sewn edges, apparently from blood.

Legolas laughed aloud and nodded, "I wouldn’t dream of it."

By this time most of the Simbani clan had gathered around the two northerners joining in their laughter and knowing that their friends were leaving.

Looking slowly around them Aragorn sobered and smiled sadly, his gaze redirected as Cabed stepped forward.

"I will miss you my son." He spoke softly, his voice rough with the emotions he was trying to hide.

Aragorn found that the words he intended to speak stuck in his throat and he simply nodded, pulling the old Haradrim close to him and holding him tightly. "I’m sorry." He whispered to the man he had grown so fond of.

"It is well." Cabed stepped back from the ranger and smiled. "You have a family that needs you and you have helped this family more than you can possibly know." The older man graced Legolas with a smile, "Both of you have."

Legolas bowed slightly to the patriarch.

"But now you must go, before the snows of the northern places keep you from returning. Know that your home here will always be open to you." Cabed stepped back slightly as Mambre pressed forward her arms laden with the goods she had so carefully wrapped for them to see them through to their journeys end.

Aragorn pulled the woman into a tight hug, when Legolas had relieved her of her burden. "Thank you, Mambre." He kissed her temple lightly, brushing away the tears that spilled over her cheeks gently with his fingers. "I will come back if ever I can, I promise."

With a simple nod she moved away, taking her place next to Cabed.

Legolas had quietly melted to the back of the crowd, loading their packs while Aragorn said his good-byes to the large clan he had lived with, giving his friend the time and space he needed. Slinging one bundle on his back he handed a similar one to the ranger as the man stepped off of the stairs his hand clasped around Sircyn’s upper arm in farewell.

With a last glance behind them and a parting wave the two friends walked down the dusty front path, heading northwest. Legolas did not speak, knowing that his friend was having a hard time with the emotions in his heart and mind.

A small cry from behind them stopped the elf and man in their tracks and Aragorn spun around at the sound of his Haradian name.

"ADRAR!" the tiny voice cried. Kidrin vaulted off the porch and ran towards the northerner.

Kneeling in the dirt, Aragorn held his arms open as the child threw himself into the man’s embrace. "What is it, Kidrin?" he asked quietly as the little boy clutched tightly to the ranger’s coat.

"Don’t go," the child whispered softly.

Aragorn swallowed hard and laid his cheek on the boy’s head. "I have to, Kidrin, but I will miss you terribly."

"You’ll forget me." The child buried his head on the ranger’s shoulder.

Aragorn closed his eyes tightly against the tears threatening to overwhelm him. "I could never forget you," he answered softly.

Kidrin pulled back and looked down to his hands. He held a small toy oliphaunt that Cabed had carved for him and hesitantly offered the treasure to Aragorn. "I want you to have him." He whispered through his tears, looking up into the silver eyes that watched him carefully, "Then every time you see him you can think of me."

The ranger slowly accepted the toy and pressed it carefully into a breast pocket. "I'll keep it right here, close to my heart just like you will always be." He smiled at the child he held before glancing over the boy’s head to his foster family once more.

Standing slowly to his feet, Aragorn patted the youngster on the head and pushed him gently back towards Mambre. "If ever you need me, I will be there for you, and I will come back, I promise. You take care of each other."

"You keep your promises, ranger," Sircyn called after them. "My brother," he added more quietly but the title did not escape the sharp ears of the ranger who turned back once more.

"You know I will!" Aragorn smiled at Sircyn, before following Legolas out into the orchards that ringed the large dwelling. The elf clasped his shoulder gently once they were out of sight of the main house. "We'll come back," he spoke softly, adding reassuringly to his friend when he noted the tears in the ranger’s eyes. "Strider, we will come back."

Aragorn nodded slightly, turning towards his friend and finally smiled softly. He knew deep in his heart the elf was right. They would come back. Passing out from under the shade of the canopy of the large trees the two crested a small hill. The man turned one last time and gazed back before they pass out of sight again. Sircyn, Cabed and Mambre holding Kidrin had waiting for them and stood on the porch, waving goodbye.

With a deep sigh the ranger walked slowly down the far side of the hill heading towards home with his friend. The northern expanse of Harad swept before them endlessly and he found his pace picking up to match the elf’s. It would be good to return to the northern reaches of Middle-earth. His heart longed for the woods and mountains of his people and he was surprised to find that he was indeed eager to be off.

Thoughts of his enslavement fell farther behind him with every step and each day his time with the Simbani became more memory as Aragorn followed the elf out of Harad and into the hilly reaches of Gondor. They needed to make the pass near Isengard before the first snow. If they kept to their pace and no ill befell them they would reach Rivendell on the eve of Winter. 


Aragorn tossed the pieces of wood he had collected into a pile on the ground and collapsed on his bedroll next to Legolas with a sigh. The elf watched with amusement as the man flopped over backwards and tucked his arms beneath his head, gazing into the darkened night sky.

Another sigh escaped the ranger’s lips and a small smiled tugged at the corners of his mouth.

"What is with you tonight?" The elf laughed, leaning back against the rock that he sat in front of.

"Eärendil," Aragorn spoke the one word softly.

"Yes?" Legolas glanced towards the expanse where the bright star twinkled in the depths of night.

"I haven’t seen it for so long." Aragorn turned his head and gazed at the elf, "When I was a slave, I looked every night into the sky, searching, but I did not know what I was looking for. Yet in my heart there was an ache, because I knew something was missing that should have been there." He redirected his attention back to the star, "and tonight for the first time since we left Harad, I can see it again."

Legolas smiled softly and gazed into the heavenly expanse overhead. It was indeed good to see the stars of home again. The ranger was not the only one who had missed them.

"You know what I miss now?" Aragorn spoke wistfully, his eyes still locked on the point of light so far away, like his thoughts at the moment. "I miss their singing," he answered his own question without being prompted.

Legolas watched his friend quietly, allowing the human time to think through his thoughts and perhaps share them out loud if he chose to.

"They were so musical, the slaves I mean. And the tune that they hummed every night..." His voice dropped quietly as he remembered, "I can hear it in my mind. I fell asleep to it every night while I was there. I wish I could hear it now."

"Shall I sing it for you?" Legolas laughed gently, teasing his friend.

"Oh very funny. I doubt you could you sing that one anyway. Only the slaves sung it and only when it was dark. Cabed said that it was an old lullaby that the women used to hum to sing the children to sleep. And those children grew up and they would sing it every night until it just became a ritual."

Legolas thought for a moment, he too could hear the Haradrim’s lullaby in his mind. Softly, quietly, he hummed what he could hear in his heart and in moments the soothing tune filled the small campsite.

Aragorn rolled over on his side, his star gazing all but forgotten, a huge smile on his face as he looked in rapt attention at this friend. The elf was gazing at the stars overhead, focused on listening to the melody that sifted in his mind. The last soft note hung in the air and the elf smiled slightly as he listened to the song.

"Was that the one?" Legolas finally whispered, breaking the spell that had fallen over them.

"Yes..." Aragorn still lay staring at the prince in disbelief, "but how did you...?"

"I used to go out almost every night and stay by your hut. I heard them singing." The elf turned a brilliant smile on the human, "I too loved their music. They reminded me of my people in some ways."

"Thank you." Aragorn smiled at the fair-haired being. The ranger’s eyes were half lidded and he laid his head down on his arms as he watched his friend. "For never giving up on me, for, for everything, Legolas."

"Estel, I could not let you go alone." The elf spread his bedroll out on the ground bedside the fire and lay down upon it watching the human. "When I heard how you left Lord Elrond’s house and then discovered that you might have been killed by Seobryn and his men..." Legolas stopped speaking and stared at the fire for a few moments, "I have not been that frightened in a long time. I am not ready to lose you yet, human," he threw the word at his friend, like the slang that it was occasionally used as.

Aragorn laughed and gave the elf a gentle shove; "Well obviously not even a herd of oliphaunts could do that."

"You do realize, don’t you," Legolas pushed himself up on his elbows and stared seriously at the ranger, "that when Elladan and Elrohir hear you, heir to the throne of Gondor, have been playing nursemaid to those wretched creatures for over half a human year that you will never live it down."

The man rolled his eyes, unable to control his laughter, "You cannot tell them! Do you hear me?"

"And pray tell, my friend, what shall I tell them you were up to?" Legolas shook his head, smiling all the while, "I was sent to find you and it has taken me over two years to do so. We will have to think up something very ingenious indeed if you hope to keep this from them. Although..." the elf was again shaking his head, "there will be no hiding that darkened skin of yours. You will have to tell them truth."

Aragorn sobered and glanced into the fire. "In all likelihood it will not be necessary. I am not sure I wish to return hom- to Rivendell just yet."


"Hear me out, Legolas." Aragorn stopped his friend’s argument. He moved into a sitting position and grabbed another piece of wood, throwing it onto the fire, feeding the small flame, "You already said my brothers told you why I left. Did they also tell you what it has done to us, to our relationship?"

It was Legolas’ turn to cast his gaze down from that of the man’s. "Yes, they did." He quickly glanced up to see how the ranger would handle the admission.

"Then what you probably don’t know is that I think Arwen feels the same... I think she does... rather, I hope she does, but what does that make me then, Legolas? If I hope that she returns my feelings, knowing what I know it would mean?"

Legolas said nothing because he knew that his friend was not really looking to him for an answer. Aragorn needed to get his thoughts worked out and the elf was willing to listen in silence until he could say something useful.

The young ranger looked at his hands. "But then, she may think I am only a foolish child, she has every reason to. I don’t know, Legolas... I can’t help the way I feel when I think of her, even now! And yet I know it breaks my family’s heart.  My father and I..." He stopped, his voice faltering, "we...there were words.  All that was said in parting was not kind or taken right. They don’t want me there, Legolas. They may think they do, but that’s just because they’ve gotten so used to protecting me. I don’t want them to have to look out for me because they think I am the hope of men! If they care, I-I want it to be for me as it was in the past. But I fear that in their hearts... it will never be the same, Legolas. I can’t live that way, knowing that some part them will always resent me, even if outwardly it all seems well. I can’t." Aragorn looked away. "It is better not to see them at all," he whispered softly.

"You are right, I don’t know about that, any of it, I could not begin to guess what is in either yours or Arwen’s hearts, I have never felt as you do. But what I do know, Estel, is your father and brothers are worried sick about you and not just because you are Isildur’s heir, Aragorn! But because you are a part of their family! And no one faults you for falling in love with Arwen... Whatever they may feel about what it could possibly mean, they don’t blame or resent you for that which you cannot control. She is the most beautiful of your father’s people. Who can blame you?" He smiled when Aragorn met his gaze. "Do not punish them because you are confused right now about your feelings for her. You are after all still Elrond’s son, Estel, brother of Elladan and Elrohir. They miss you; can you honestly say that you do not miss them also? No matter what you think, they do want you to come home."

Legolas’ soft words and easy acceptance of Aragorn’s secret fears and feelings quieted his troubled mind and roused in him a deep desire to return to the ones he called his family. So long... so long he had been away. So long he had not even remembered. He simply nodded as he held the elf’s gaze.

With a smile the prince turned over on his side facing away from the fire and pulled his blanket around his shoulders. "Then let us get some rest and tomorrow we can head for the Gap of Rohan."

"Yes.  I would like that very much.  I do miss home...a lot."  He spoke softly, gazing into the flames, listening to his heart. "A lot."

Legolas could hear the human moving quietly around the campfire and resisted the urge to roll over to see what he was up to. He was too tired himself and needed to rest.

Aragorn sat for a moment, thinking through what the elf said. He glanced about them into the dark night. He had grown used to sleeping with several other people pressed closely up against him at night and he shivered unconsciously. It seemed suddenly so cold and dark. He watched Legolas, trying to gauge if the elf had fallen asleep or not. Although he had been trying since they had left Harad, he couldn’t sleep like this. Attempting to move quietly he picked up his bed roll and lay it out behind the prince, carefully lying down next to the elf and turning his back to Legolas’. Ever so slowly he inched backwards until his shoulders barely touched the elf’s. Comforted by the closeness of his friend, he finally relaxed, the fire mesmerizing his overly tired mind.

Legolas felt the gentle brush of his friend against him, their shoulders barely touching and he smiled slightly as he turned and looked over his back at the human. Softly he began to hum the slaves’ lullaby, smiling as Aragorn sighed slightly and released his worries into the darkness of sleep. 


The leaves rustled gently on the cool fall breeze as Elrond walked through the gardens that flanked Rivendell. His thoughts were far way, wandering through memories and worries, snagging on the emptiness that ached in his heart. It had been two, nearly three years since he had seen his youngest son and he had only just a month ago closed off Estel’s room, keeping its contents safe until the boy... no he was a ranger now, until the ranger returned home. He stopped and glanced to the forest floor. There was no fooling his heart. No matter how old Estel became or how long he stayed away, the human would always be his son.

How he longed to see that smiling face just once more before winter set in yet again. Never in his immortal life had the passing of simple, human years seemed so long as the past few had. No word, no news. Not even the rangers knew what had become of the lad. If Aragorn still lived, then he had rejected them utterly and did not seem to want any part of his elven family.

Elrond passed into the front courtyard of Imladris causally, unaware of where his walking was taking him, so lost in thought was he. It took the elf lord by surprise to hear the ring of boot-heels on the stone walk and he turned towards the entry, freezing midstep.

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