The Stars of Harad

Chapter 3

by Cassia and Siobhan

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Persistent knocking roused the wood-elves posted as door-wardens just inside King Thranduil’s magic gates. The moon was high overhead and it was deep in the late watches of the night; no one could imagine who would be seeking entrance at this hour, especially since the Elvenking’s palace did not receive many visitors and no one in their right mind traveled at night in Mirkwood.

"Daro!" the sharp, elvish command from inside the gates halted the pounding. "Halt! Who comes thus by cover of dark to Lord Thranduil’s halls? Declare yourself and your business!" the senior warden demanded warily, pulling back and peering through a small slit in the gate, the only part of the huge doors that they could control at the moment.

Two dark-haired elves stood on the other side of the gates, and the guard blinked to be sure that he was not seeing double or being tricked by the dimness of the night. No, the two elves were twins. Elven twins were rare.

"Elladan a Elrohir, Elrondionnath peredhel o Imladris!" a fair voice on the other side of the gate answered back in elvish, declaring the pair to be Elladan and Elrohir, sons of Elrond half-elven, of Rivendell. "We have come a long way and must speak to Prince Legolas."

The warden’s attitude changed when he heard who was there. Elladan and Elrohir were known here, by name at least if nothing else, and of course everyone recognized the name of Lord Elrond.

"Wait here please, we have to unseal the gates," the door-ward instructed the twins before turning quickly to one of his underlings. "Go get the prince." After it was sealed up for the night, only a member of the royal house could unlock the gates again, which was usually done in the morning, after which the other, lesser passwords entrusted to the nobles and servants would work once more.

Even if the twins had not said that talking to Legolas was their intention, he was still the one who would have been sent for, because to the guards, if they had to wake one of their Lords in the middle of the night, Legolas was the obvious choice. He was easier to approach than his father.

The two brothers shifted somewhat impatiently. "Wait here... as if we had a choice..." Elladan mumbled, sizing up the imposing gates with a glance. The twins had ridden hard and slept little to accomplish their journey as swiftly as possible.

"I told you we should have waited until daylight," Elrohir shook his head. "Now they have to wake everybody up."

Elladan ignored his brother.

Legolas hurried down the stairs, into the courtyard, still tying the sash of the long, pale silver robe he had thrown on over his sleep clothes when the servants had woken him.

The stone pathway was cold under his bare feet and helped to wake the prince up a little more as he made his way towards the gate. Legolas did not usually have a hard time coming to full alertness swiftly, but he had recently returned from a rather exhausting border skirmish with some orcs. Then there had been meetings and councils and reports... the truth was he had only lain down to rest for the first time in almost a week not more than an hour before.

"Edro annon o adarnín, leithianín garlch." Raising one hand, Legolas spoke the opening words in a voice that was a lot sleepier than he would have liked to admit. Anyone could say the words, but the gate would only respond to them if said by Thranduil or Legolas.

As the gates slid slowly and silently open, Legolas hugged his arms to his chest and tried not to yawn, which was futile. His hair was ruffled from sleep and completely free of the braids or clasps that he usually wore. The loose strands created a wispy halo around his head that glowed faintly when backlit by the full moon.

Rubbing one hand over his face, Legolas tried to remember who the servant that woke him had said was here. He really hadn’t heard the first part of the soft explanation; it had taken him long enough to figure out the getting out of bed and unsealing the gate part. Some days, or right now, some nights, it just did not pay to be royalty.

Whatever he expected to find, it was not the two figures that entered as soon as the gates had opened enough to allow their passage.

"Elrohir, Elladan?" Legolas blinked in surprise, trying to tell them apart (a difficult task on good days) and then deciding that his brain was too sluggish and it didn’t matter anyway. His greeting was warm, if somewhat slow. He clasped their forearms in turn. "Welcome! What brings you two here?" he was nice enough to not add "especially at this hour of the night?"

A moment later, a concerned look crossed the prince’s face. "There’s nothing wrong is there? You’re not hurt, not in danger?"

"No, no," Elladan quickly shook his head. "We’re fine, there’s no danger. I’m sorry to wake you, I suppose maybe we should have waited until morning." He avoided Elrohir’s good-natured "I-told-you-so" look.

Legolas waved the apology off, half-hiding another yawn behind his hand. "Nonsense, you know you are welcome here by sun or moon. I wouldn’t want you to have to spend any more nights in the woods than you have to at any rate. They are not always a friendly place these days. Come, why don’t we go inside?"

Legolas turned and took a few steps forward before one of the guards coughed discretely to catch his attention. "M’Lord, that’s the garden path."

"Right, right," Legolas nodded quickly, flushing slightly at having turned down the wrong walkway and turning swiftly onto the right one. He was too tired to really be embarrassed though. "Of course. Sorry."

Elladan and Elrohir exchanged amused grins. They had never seen Legolas quite so sleepy and it was very humorous to say the least.

A sudden thought struck Legolas and he had to turn around yet again. Putting his hand back up in the direction of the gates and mumbling some rapid words that the twins couldn’t really catch, the prince commanded the gates to seal themselves again. "Father would have my hide if I left them unlocked again," he murmured with a chuckle. "I have to apologize; you’ll find me a much better host in the morning. It’s... it’s been a long fortnight. Say... where is Estel? Is he with you?" the prince’s face brightened at the thought. He had not seen his friend in some time.

"No, no he’s not," Elrohir said quietly, and the abjectly downcast tone of voice was unmistakable. "That’s... that’s sort of what we have come to see you about," he admitted as Legolas led them into the palace and down the halls leading to the prince’s rooms. They all walked quietly so as not to wake anyone else needlessly.

Legolas froze and turned to face them, his eyes searching theirs in the dim light as his mind slowly shook out the cobwebs and weariness turned into alarm. "Why? What’s wrong? Is he missing?"

"Not exactly missing..." Elladan shook his head. "It’s a long story, Legolas, I think we’d better wait until morning, as you said."

Legolas opened the door to his chambers and let them in, but he was having none of it. "Oh no. You think I could rest after hearing that? Come, sit, I’ll have some of the servants bring us something to drink. And you can tell me what’s wrong with Aragorn that could bring the two of you this far and make you travel by night in Mirkwood."

Hot drinks were brought and once they were all comfortably seated around a small table by a freshly stoked fire in Legolas’ chambers the prince turned expectant eyes on his two visitors.

"I don’t know where to start..." Elladan gazed over the top of his mug, realizing that he hadn’t thought of what exactly he was going to say to Legolas when they got here, so intent had they been on making the journey.

"Considering I’m a little foggy right now, the beginning would be a good place," Legolas smiled wryly. "Where’s Estel? Why are you worried about him? I can tell you are."

"Well that wouldn’t be the beginning," Elrohir shook his head. "You see, it all really started when Arwen came home."

Legolas nodded although he didn’t understand. "Has she been away long? I did not see her when I stayed with you, so I assumed she was still in Lórien."

"She was, and she is again. She practically lives with Grandmother these days," Elladan admitted. "Which is for the best I think. The world is changing too much; she is safer in Lothlórien."

"If I remember her aright... she would not think she needed to be kept safe," Legolas chuckled. "But what does this have to do with Aragorn?"

"We’re getting to that," Elladan assured. "You see, Estel didn’t know we had a sister, he’d never met Arwen before... now I wish to goodness that she had been around when he was small."

"But maybe it wouldn’t have made a difference, we don’t know..." Elrohir put in, quietly continuing his brother’s thought as they often did for one another.

"It seems that some things are just meant to be sometimes, even if we don’t understand them," Elladan agreed, finishing the thought off.

Legolas rubbed his temples. "Elladan, is it me, or are you two not making sense?"

"Aragorn fell in love with Arwen," Elrohir finally just said it straight out. "And she has feelings for him too, although not yet the same as he does... but my heart misgives me that she is only fighting the inevitable."

Legolas blinked several times. "Wait, wait, I think I must be more tired than I know. I thought I just heard you say that Aragorn... and Arwen..." The serious, nodding faces of the twins made his voice trail off.

"What did your father say?" he asked quietly. Somehow this wasn’t too surprising for him. It was a shock, yes, but knowing Aragorn... somehow it was not so hard to imagine that the young ranger would fall in love with an elf, or the most beautiful elf on Middle-earth for that matter.

"I don’t know exactly, we weren’t there. He talked to Estel... and Estel left nearly the next day. The rangers sent for him, something to do with Rohan and the south. He left and wouldn’t let us go with him. He’s been out on his own with them before... I do know that he’s an adult, and it’s not that I don’t think he can handle himself, Legolas, no matter what Estel thinks I think," Elladan shook his head sadly. "But... the way he left..."

"It was like he was saying goodbye," Elrohir picked up the explanation. "Like he didn’t want us as his family anymore... or else thought that we didn’t want him. He was not in an emotionally stable state of mind and we fear that if something should happen... he would not be able to handle it as well as he might otherwise. Legolas... I’m not sure he even means to come back. The look in his eyes when he left, it frightened me. It was as if he had given up everything he had to live for, as if he had no hope." That was the true fear that weighed most heavily on both of the brother’s minds.

"But both Estel and father have forbidden us from going after him... it would only make the situation worse." Elladan shook his head in frustration. "Estel doesn’t want us around and Father doesn’t even know we’re here," he added quietly.

Legolas’ face had creased in concern and his eyes reflected sorrow over the pain he saw in the twins, and that he knew Aragorn must be feeling. He knew even better than Aragorn’s brothers how much the young human's secret fears that he truly belonged nowhere, that those he loved would one day reject him, had plagued the ranger’s life since childhood. This situation must surely have convinced Aragorn that he was right and the heartache would be unbearable. The twins were correct; wherever he was, Aragorn was in no state of mind to be facing danger alone. Even if he were not in danger... he obviously needed someone to talk to; someone who was not involved in the situation.

"Then someone else has to go," Legolas said with conviction.

"Aragorn trusts you, Legolas. You’re the only person we know who he’ll let close to him now that he’s shut us out. Someone needs to talk to him... and we cannot. I know it’s a lot to ask, maybe we shouldn’t even have come, but if you would think about it, we..."

"Think?" the elf prince looked incredulous as he rose swiftly from his chair. "What is there to think about? Of course I’m going." If all they said was true, which Legolas did not doubt, then Aragorn would very much need a friend right now.

"Do you know where exactly he was heading?" Pulling an empty satchel from a cupboard, Legolas tossed it on his bed, crossing over to his dresser.

"Not precisely," Elrohir shook his head. "He spoke of the south, and we overheard the message that was delivered to him from the rangers, he didn’t know it but we did. There was some mention of West Emnet, down near the Gap of Rohan. At least, that’s where the problem they were discussing seemed to come from. If he was actually going to go there is uncertain, but he told us he may be gone for a long time, so I think it likely. We rode with haste, but it is now more than a fortnight since he left, so he is probably well on his way by now."

Legolas was busy pulling things out of drawers. He had barely unpacked from his last foray, there wasn’t much he had to get together to be ready to leave again... except that his pack was being particularly stubborn about opening. "I’ll leave at light first..." Legolas caught himself messing up his words and carefully switched them around again. "I mean first light."

Elladan and Elrohir smiled. "Thank you, Legolas, we knew we could count on you. Estel loves you like a brother you know... and, and after everything you and he, and we have been through, I begin to understand the feeling," Elladan said quietly, but with heart-felt sincerity. "However..." he could not wipe the grin from his face no matter how hard he tried. "I think it would be best if you got a little rest first, dear friend," he remarked with considerable restraint as he carefully turned Legolas’ pack upside right so that the prince was no longer trying to open the immovable bottom seam.

Legolas chuckled at himself after he realized what he had done. "Yes, I think maybe for once you are actually right."

"Wait, what do you mean ‘for once’?" Elladan’s tone rose with gentle mock-indignation. "Maybe that’s why Estel likes you so much, you’re as bad as he is."

Legolas was too tired to retort, so he just shook his head with a smile. "Out. Now. I hate to admit it but I am weary beyond what an elf should be and I’m going to sleep where I stand pretty soon. You may use my guest chambers. Tomorrow I’ll set about finding that wayward brother of yours and try to talk some sense into him."

The brothers acquiesced and moved towards the doorway to the adjacent rooms. They paused in the archway and turned back to see that Legolas had already fallen asleep, lying on top of his quilts, with miscellaneous items still strewn all over the other half of the bed.

Sharing a gentle smile, the twins pulled an extra blanket from the tangle of supplies dumped on the bed and covered the sleeping prince. Obviously, Legolas had not been joking when he told them it had been a rough fortnight for him. And yet he was already ready to jump up and take off again if it meant helping the man he had named Strider. Yes, they understood why Aragorn liked this elf so much.

"Do you really think he would have just taken off and tried to leave tonight if we hadn’t stopped him?" Elrohir remarked with a grin as they availed themselves of Legolas’ guest chambers.

"Probably," Elladan shook his head as he blew out the candles. "And he most likely would have fallen asleep on the way to the door. I told you, he’s too much like Estel in some ways," he chuckled. "Ready to up and leave at a moment’s notice in the dead of the night..."



"Isn’t that what we did?"

"Shut up and go to sleep, Elrohir."

Silent laughter whispered quietly in the darkened rooms. 


Saruman had seen the men approaching his tower when they were still a few miles away. By the time they reached his dwelling the Maia was standing on the tall black stone steps that led into Orthanc.

A rough, weathered man on a horse skidded to a stop on the gravely dirt path that led to the dark tall spire. Quickly dismounting, he bowed slightly in deference and approached the entry.

"What have you brought, Seobryn?" The wizard’s voice was deep and calm but the tone brokered no hesitation.

Glancing into the frowning face of the sorcerer, Seobryn fought to keep his emotions from showing. He hated dealing with the wizard. Saruman was difficult, intolerant and demanding and every time he graced the human with his glance, Seobryn was sure the white being could see straight through him.

"Well?" Saruman hated repeating himself. He watched idly as the two men that Seobryn had brought with him into Isengard dismounted and held the horses still while their employer discussed business.

Saruman had not invited them in nor even asked them to ascend the stairs, so Seobryn was forced to look up at the wizard and give his recount.

"The breeding goes well. But it goes very slowly, my lord." The trader tried not to wince when the frown on the wizard’s face deepened and he continued quickly, nervously twisting the thick sealing ring on his left forefinger. "Of the wargs you sent down, only a few have survived. They do not do well in the southern reaches they were not bred for the temperatures or the lack of humidity. The survivors are sluggish and temperamental. They despise the taergs and do not cooperate."

"Did you expect that they would?" Saruman descended several steps causing the human to back up. "I did not send them down there for you to make them comfortable, I sent them down to aid in the crossbreeding. I want that new creature."

Swallowing hard, Seobryn mustered his courage and stepped forward locking eyes with the wizard, "My lord will be pleased to know that we do have one that appears to be a successful cross between the taergs and the wargs. It is young still and we do not wish to remove it from the climate but if it pleases you I will see it brought back with us on our return trip."

The wizard’s ire seemed to abate somewhat as he pondered the man’s words. "A successfully bred creature?"

"Yes my lord." Seobryn was slightly puzzled. Hadn’t the wizard received his letter? It seemed not. If he ever saw that fool he’d sent with it again he’d wring his neck. The idiot orcs with him must have been no better.

Nodding slowly a thin cold smile stretched the Istari’s lips and he descended the steps gaining the man’s side.

Seobryn held his ground and waited, watching as the wizard removed a canvas bag and a sealed letter from an inner pocket in the folds of his clothing. He handed them both to the trader.

"Give these to your employer," he hefted the pouch in his hand slightly as he gave it over. "Tell him this will help take some of the stubbornness out of those problematic creatures. Once they taste this they will be much more compliant. I will not have that be another excuse for slow or shoddy work, you understand?"

Fighting the urge to shy from the wicked smile that touched Saruman’s lips, Seobryn accepted the bag, tucking it into his tunic and nodding.

"Time runs short as does my patience. When next you come I expect to see this proof of your success, if not, I will not be pleased. I expect you to give Rhuddryn a full accounting of our meeting, as well as the letter, he should know of my displeasure." Saruman’s gazed bored through the trader until the man dropped his glance, nodding obediently. His admonishment delivered, the wizard’s tone changed abruptly. "Have you and your men received the parts and supplies that my servants brought to you?"

"Yes Lord Saruman. Your men met us at the gate and I have sent the rest of my men back to camp with your generous provisions. The warg parts will be very useful."

Soundlessly the wizard turned and mounted the steps, their conversation over.

With a sigh Seobryn turned and walked back to the horses. Two of his men, Malk and Chadoc had already mounted their steeds and Chadoc urged his horse forward, meeting his employer halfway, the reins of Seobryn’s stallion in his hands. He held the horse steady as the trader gained his seat.

Silence hung between the three humans as they turned to make their way back out of Orthanc, the unnatural quiet spooking the horses, which shied beneath their owners.

"Let’s go." Seobryn whispered gruffly to his men, the sooner they were away the better he would feel about that whole transaction. He couldn’t shake the feeling that they were on dangerously thin ice with the wizard.

"It’s not too late to back out of this." Chadoc spoke quietly leaning towards Seobryn, as they slowly cantered out. He hated their recent dealings.

The older trader stared at him for a few moments considering the suggestion, but Rhuddryn’s pay was better than decent and he enjoyed living in the south as opposed to the colder, wetter regions of Middle Earth. Enduring the wizard’s ire was worth it so far.

"It’ll be fine Chadoc. Let's just go." He started to spur his horse forward when a dark voice stopped him floating over the gardens of Isengard.

"Failure is not an option."

The sound of the words sent a shiver up Seobryn’s spine and he whirled around in his saddle but there was no sign of the white wizard anywhere, only the foreboding façade of Orthanc silently watching them.

Spurring his horse into a gallop the trader headed for the gates of Isengard, he wanted to get away from the one who seemed to know his every thought. He needed to be far away from this place.

High up in his tower Saruman watched the fleeing humans. He glanced idly back into the interior of his study. A small hunched over orc waited patiently for him.

"How did it go, my lord?" the dark creature questioned.

Walking back into the chamber the Istari seated himself at his desk before turning his attention to the foul servant. "They are humans, Skarmazh; how do you think it went?"

The orc snickered softly before resuming to attend to his masters needs.


Legolas was not exactly able to leave at first light as he had intended, because he had neglected to remember the fact that of course, his father would want to know all about where he was going and what he was doing. At first, the prince was somewhat leery about the King’s reaction to this, since he had not always approved of Legolas’ friendship with Aragorn, but that had softened considerably since the human had helped them win the kingdom back from Thranduil’s deranged brother several years ago, so Legolas hoped this would not be as difficult as it once would have been.

Thranduil eyed his son closely.

"Legolas... when you hardly knew him, you went into exile to save his life, you disappear with him for years at a time, you left Mirkwood alone in the dead of the worst winter in recent memory to track him across the mountains, without a word I might add, and proceeded to be gone all winter yet again..." Thranduil shook his head at his son, yet Legolas was relieved to see at least a faint glint of humor behind his father’s stern face.

"Now you barely come back alive from fighting orcs and the next day intend to leave again for... how long, Legolas?"

Legolas met his gaze without wavering. "I don’t know. It may be a very long time, Father. I’m sorry to leave for such a length, but the orcs are gone, for now at least. The borders are secured, Raniean and Trelan are more than capable of holding them in my absence... this is something I have to do. He’s my friend. I would have your blessing on it, Father, but will go without if I must."

Thranduil’s face softened and he sighed. "Of course you have it, Legolas. I would be a fool indeed to have not learned how useless it is to try to change your mind when it is made up, especially where that Dùnadan is concerned." The king smiled, laying his hand on his son’s shoulder. "Go, find your friend, do whatever it is you need to do. My heart and my prayers go with you."

Legolas smiled warmly and clasped his father’s arm. "Thank you, Father."


Legolas was busy placing the last of his gear across the back of his horse when the twins found him. They were both dressed, packed and ready to leave once more as well, for they had to return home with all haste if they hoped to keep their doings to themselves. If Legolas had been going to Rivendell, their paths would have lain together, but Legolas had decided instead to head straight for the grasslands of Rohan, since it seemed probable that that was where Aragorn had most likely ended up.

"How did it go with your father?" Elrohir asked after a moment. Once, when they were all much younger, necessity had caused the twins to spend a summer in Mirkwood. They had learned very quickly that Thranduil was not Elrond and they could not get away with half the stunts they pulled at home. The twins hoped that this situation had not inadvertently caused any difficulty between Legolas and Thranduil; the last thing they wanted was to spread the family trouble around.

"Surprisingly well," Legolas admitted with a half-grin, knowing there was a time when his father would have flat-out forbidden him from such a quest, especially since it concerned humans and Noldorian elves. "Since the day he first came here your brother has been changing minds, and hearts."

Legolas paused when he saw the shadow of hurt that chased itself across the brothers’ faces when they thought of Estel. "I’m sorry," he apologized softly.

"Don’t be, it’s true," Elladan shook his head, his emotions near the surface, but well restrained. "Estel has always been like that. So giving, so trusting... it opens hearts, as well as getting him into every scrape conceivable. Maybe if we’d been a little more open, when he tried to share his heart with us, he’d have known that we..." the elf did not finish. He had already said more than he intended to.

Elrohir looked away. Something silver glistened behind his long black lashes and he blinked several times, pretending to have gotten something in his eye.

Legolas’ heart ached. He had always admired and even slightly envied the relationships shared by the twins, their father and their human brother. It was so close, so comfortable, so warm and loving. To see it being pulled apart like this... it was nothing less than painful.

"Estel will be all right," Legolas said quietly. "I’ve watched your family; I’ve seen it under the best of times and the worst of times. What you have together," he gently touched Elladan’s chest, above his heart. "Is strong. Nothing can break it forever. Despite how it must feel, I know that Estel loves you both very much, and in his heart, he knows you love him too. I will speak with him, and the Valar willing, when his task is complete, I will bring him home safely to you."

Elladan and Elrohir couldn’t speak at the moment, but they both hugged Legolas tightly. The blonde elf was no longer thrown off by the emotional contact and hugged them back. He had learned already that Aragorn’s family was much more affectionately demonstrative than his own, and he had come to appreciate that.

"It seems as if you’re always doing that, Legolas. I don’t know whether to thank you, or apologize, but bring yourself back safely too while you’re at it," Elladan chuckled hoarsely, his voice slightly choked at the old joke. "We’ll have enough explaining to do to father by that point."

"Here," Elrohir pressed a small silver circle into Legolas’ palm. "For Estel, when you find him. May it help him remember that his life is neither empty, nor meaningless, and there are those who love him dearly."

Legolas nodded, carefully tucking the ring of Barahir into one of the safest, inmost pockets of his tunic. "All will be well, I promise you."

Leaping lightly up onto his horse, Legolas said his last farewells. All was in order and he was ready to leave. He had already handed over the border patrols he had been commanding to Raniean and Trelan, who wished their friend well in his quest. They would have gone with him if they could, but they knew they were needed here. The orcs on their boundaries had been quelled, but not defeated, and Legolas could not have left in good conscience if he did not know that he was leaving his home in the most capable of hands.

Waving farewell to Elladan and Elrohir, Legolas urged his mount out of the courtyard. He had no way of knowing what the future held for either he or Aragorn, or how very different it would be from anything he expected that morning when he rode out of the gates and left his home behind him.

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