Chapter 5

by Cassia and Siobhan

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The elf’s silver-blue eyes met the ranger’s with equal surprise.  He had come to Gondor looking for Aragorn, but this was not the way he had intended, or wished to find him.  The fact that Aragorn was one of the two captains he was being brought before both stunned and relieved him a little.  However, if Aragorn had not shown that he recognized the elf first, Legolas would not have let on that he knew the human at all.  Not until he knew whether knowing him would endanger his friend’s position or not.

Mae govannen, old friend,” Legolas’ elvish greeting was soft.  He did not call the ranger by name since he could not be sure what name his friend was currently using; Aragorn had so many, and it had been a long time since they were last together. 

“Thorongil, you know this elf?” Denethor looked questioningly at the other captain.  It was a development none of them had expected. 

Thorongil.  Legolas stored that piece of information.  A small smile nearly touched his lips despite everything.  So, Aragorn was still using the name that Lord Elrond had given him many years ago in Rohan. 

“Yes, I do,” Aragorn nodded.  “We have known one another a long time.  I am certain there has been some kind of mistake.” 

“Because those we know never betray us?” Denethor’s look had a touch of frost in it.  He was obviously thinking of Mardil again.  

Aragorn gathered his patience.  “No, because Legolas has no reason to betray us.  He is prince of the wood-elves of Mirkwood in the north, he has no ties to Gondor, nothing to gain from our losses.” 

“And yet it seems that some of our men are dead by what can only be his hand.” Denethor’s set manner did not change. 

Aragorn realized he was going to have to switch tactics on this.  Denethor was closing his mind to the possibility of Legolas’ innocence simply because Thorongil supported it.  Butting heads with Denethor on the matter would get him nowhere, so instead Aragorn turned back to the captive elf. 

“Legolas, you have heard the charges against you,” Aragorn went down on one knee so he was not standing over the elf.  “Tell us your side of the story.” 

Legolas nodded slowly, his eyes remaining fixed on his friend.  He had told this story so many times; it was exhausting to go through it again for ears that would not believe him.  However, Aragorn at least, he knew would believe him.  So he would tell his story once more for the ranger and ignore the other men present. 

Denethor interrupted when they reached the part concerning the deaths of Elan and Krit.  “So even you don’t deny that you killed them,” he remarked. 

Legolas’ face tightened slightly and a glimmer of pain flickered in his eyes.  “I do not deny or confirm what I cannot be sure of.  The truth is I do not know.” 

“You don’t know?  That means you can think of some other plausible explanation for why your arrows were found to be the sole cause of their death,” Denethor kept his questioning from sounding too accusatory, but the undertone was clear.  He doubted the elf’s story, and not just because he was a friend of Thorongil’s.  Mardil’s unexpected betrayal had made the Captain very wary. 

“No, I cannot,” Legolas answered truthfully.  “But if I am responsible for their deaths, I swear to you by all the Valar that it was an accident.” 

“So now you probably did kill them, but it was an accident.  I don’t like the way your story keeps changing, Legolas.”  Denethor shook his head. 

Legolas set his jaw.  The captain was twisting his words, whether deliberately or out of an over-active sense of suspicion hardly mattered.  “I am not changing what I said. I am simply saying that I am unsure myself.” 

“Just as you are unsure that you gave away their position to the Corsairs?” Denethor raised an eyebrow. 

Aragorn rose to his feet, ready to protest.  Legolas however, spoke first. 

“Of that I am very sure.  I tell you the truth, I am no traitor.  I have no reason to give you away to your enemies.  Someone did, whether an outside informant or someone inside I do not know, but it was not I.”  Legolas did not know how to say it any more clearly. 

“Denethor, he is right.  He has no motive,” Aragorn pulled the other captain aside a little ways and spoke softly so that the conversation could remain between he and Denethor.  “Surely you must see that.” 

“I see that you can be just as blinded by old friendships as I was, Thorongil.  How long has it been since you knew him?  Five years?  Ten?  Longer?  How do you know what he has done and who he has met in that time?  People change.  Friends change.  You aren’t always right about everything.” Denethor said quietly. 

Aragorn took a deep breath and forced himself to stay calm and rational.  “Is that it then?  Is this about Legolas, or the Corsair threat?  Because I was right about them, then I have to be wrong about him, is that it?  Denethor... I would stake my life on his honor.  Don’t take out on him your dislike of me.” 

“How dare you?” Denethor’s eyes flashed in disgust, but he continued to keep the conversation from the ears of the troops.  “How dare you accuse me of letting my personal feelings interfere with the running of my father’s kingdom!  I suppose you think you could do a better job, and there seem to be many even in my own house who agree, but I have something to tell you: I am capable of doing things myself.  I don’t need you to tell me what to do.  I am sure you would like to be in charge of this, I am sure you would like to be in charge of everything.  Well you are not.  As head of this mission the elf is my prisoner and I will deal with him in my way.”  Denethor’s stress levels were running unusually high after discovering his worst fears true last night and that made him even more quarrelsome and stubborn than usual.  

Aragorn squelched his mounting frustration with some effort.  The very last thing he wanted was for Legolas to become embroiled in his personal problems with the future steward.  “That’s not what I’m saying and not what I want.  I know you are perfectly capable of handling this yourself, I am just trying to give you more information to work with.  Denethor, Legolas is a prince.  Think carefully how you deal with him lest you garner the disfavor of the elves and the wrath of his father.  Gondor does not need any more enemies.” 

“Being royalty does not put one above the law.  How can we know where the loyalties of Mirkwood lie anyway? The enemy whose shadow grows ever on our eastern border was there ere he came back to trouble us. ‘Tis a dark place they say,” Denethor murmured. 

“Yes, it is.  But not because of the elves,” Aragorn refuted. 

“And I do not say it is so.  Elves have ever been our allies, I do not forget that.”  Denethor did not really suspect the elves to have turned against them, but they weren’t talking about elves in general, they were talking about just one.  “Nor do I insist that this one is guilty; however, there is evidence here that cannot be easily ignored and put aside at his word, or your word, alone.  Despite what you think, my diplomacy is not so feeble as may be supposed.  Besides, such talk is fruitless.  His innocence or guilt is not for us to determine, but my father... unless you would like to place yourself above him too.” 

With that Denethor turned away from Aragorn, walking back to the soldiers who had been patiently waiting for their captains to conclude their private conference.  Only Legolas’ elven ears had heard what passed between them, and he understood clearly that there was no love-loss between Denethor and Aragorn.  

“The evidence against the accused traitor is noted, as well as his plea of innocence.  By our laws all such matters must receive a fair and impartial trial before the Steward of the City.  We will shortly be returning to Minas Tirith to bring Lord Ecthelion news of the impending Corsair invasion, so the prisoner can be brought before my father at that time.  Until then he is to be kept safely and without harm under our laws respecting prisoners of war.  Treat him well but keep him bound, as I do not want to risk any unexpected trouble.  You are all dismissed.”  Denethor made his announcement and left, seeking his own tent. 

He had not slept since before they left to find the Corsair harbor yesterday morning and the events of the past twenty-four hours had been draining.  He did not want to go back to his father with the news of what the Corsairs were up to, much less that they had stolen the Osgiliath weapons shipment with comparative ease.  If he had someone to present at that time as a possible guilty party then at least he had done something of use.  Whether the elf was found innocent or guilty after that was up to his father, and the younger man trusted that his father would make the right decision.  That was more than he could say for himself lately, since all he seemed able to do was make or nearly make mistakes that cost people their lives. 

Aragorn followed him.  “Prisoner of war?” he questioned quietly, making sure to keep any hint of disapproval out of his voice since the other man was obviously already very on edge.  In truth however he did not like Legolas being kept prisoner under those terms.  They were far more vague, with less protection and more grey areas than the laws concerning other types of prisoners. 

“Yes, Thorongil.  His case is connected with the Corsairs, and by making that harbor on our lands they have opened hostilities.  You got your war.  I hope you’re happy.”  Denethor shoved aside his tent flap and went inside, letting the flap fall down behind him in a gesture that said the other captain was definitely not invited inside. 

Aragorn sighed, considering the closed tent flap before him for a moment before turning away.  He needed to speak with Tarcil and some of his other men about last night's events and order the changing of the camp guard and the rotation and placements of the border sentries since Denethor had retired, obviously leaving all such duties to him.  First, however, he caught up with the soldiers who were taking Legolas back to the guard tent. 

The elf did not look good and it both worried and grieved the ranger.  He knew how hard this must be for the prince. 


The guards stopped out of respect for the captain when Aragorn reached out and touched Legolas’ arm. 

Legolas looked up; his eyes weary and full of questions about his fate and his future. 

Aragorn knew the elf had probably heard everything he and Denethor said earlier.  He wished he could set his friend free now but he knew that, in one thing at least, Denethor was right.  Unless some other exculpatory evidence showed itself, Legolas would have to stand trial before Ecthelion. It was the law and he was bound to uphold it.  However, although the evidence against Legolas was compelling, it was not so airtight that no holes could be found.  Ecthelion would be much more reasonable than Denethor in this matter, especially knowing he held an elven prince.  If Aragorn could just keep Legolas safe between here and Minas Tirith, he hoped that all would be well.  However, from the prince’s drawn and somewhat battered countenance, he doubted the elf had had an easy time of it so far. 

“You do believe me, Thorongil, don’t you?” The questioning gaze in Legolas’ eyes was honest as he quietly asked what he most feared.  Aragorn had changed and he could see that.  He looked older, his face had grown graver and his manner of speaking and interacting with these men was different.  The elf had never really seen the effect that a mere fifteen years could have on a mortal before, having never taken an interest in any until his friendship with Aragorn.  It had actually taken him a moment to recognize his old friend and his aching, weary heart desperately hoped that the closeness that had been between them once had not faded with time.  He knew it had not on his side, but for Aragorn... he did not know. 

“Of course I do,” the absolutely surprised look on Aragorn’s quickly put the elf’s fears to rest.  Obviously there had never been a doubt in the ranger’s mind. 

Looking into his eyes, Legolas could now see the same man he had always seen there.  His friend’s heart had not changed.  The elf let his breath out in a small, relieved sigh. 

“It will be all right, Legolas, I promise you,” Aragorn assured quietly.  “Lord Ecthelion is a good and a just man. You will receive a fair hearing and I will speak on your behalf.  We will get this sorted out...” a small smile touched his lips.  “As you did for me when I was in your home many years ago, yes?” 

Legolas smiled slightly at the memory.  If Aragorn said it would be all right, then he would trust his friend.  “But without the spider part, all right?” 

Aragorn laughed.  “Yes Legolas, without the spiders.” 

The soldiers were totally lost, but did not comment.  Their captain’s business was none of their affair. 

“Captain Thorongil?  Captain Thorongil?” a voice called from across camp and Aragorn grimaced slightly, he knew he had duties to attend to, although he hated to leave Legolas.  It had been so long.  He had missed his friend so much.  The ranger gave his friend’s arm one last squeeze. 

“I have to go, I have things I have to take care of...  Legolas... I won’t let anyone harm you.  It will be all right.”  He could tell the elf was still uncomfortable and apprehensive of his situation. 

Legolas nodded.  “If you tell me it will be, mellon-nín, then I trust you.” 

Aragorn nodded back seriously, knowing the elf was placing his life in his hands.  He was determined not to fail his friend. 


Legolas was seated in the center of the guard tent with his back against the tent’s main support pole.  His hands, still firmly bound behind him, had also been tied to a stake which was driven securely into the ground, making sure that he could not move more than three feet in any given direction. 

The elf was used to this arrangement by now and did not struggle with his bonds.  He leaned his head back against the pole behind him; his gaze half-lidded and weary.  The long journey and recent events had taken their toll on him, but finding Aragorn here had at least been a welcome development.  He felt a bit better about his prospects of getting a fair trial at any rate, since Aragorn said that Ecthelion was a just man and now he also had a captain of Gondor on his side. 

Time moved by slowly, but he didn’t mark it much.  Still, it was well after noon when the midday meal was brought and left next to Legolas as it usually was.  The elf barely even looked at it.  They could do many things to him, but they couldn’t make him an animal to eat out of their hands or off of the ground like their pet dog. 

A headache was slowly wrapping itself around the prince’s forehead from behind and he sighed softly.  He wondered if Aragorn would come to see him when he was done with his duties or if that would be politically dangerous for the ranger.  Friendliness was not one of the things that he had seen in Captain Denethor’s eyes when he looked at the one he knew as Thorongil and from the conversation he had overheard, it sounded as if there were trouble in the ranks. 

A few moments later, as if in answer to his thoughts, the tent flap was pulled back and Aragorn entered, along with the sentry who had been standing guard outside, but now entered as well as he admitted the senior officer. 

“Everything has been taken care of, sir,” the guard saluted Aragorn.  “The prisoner has been secured and fed.” 

Aragorn took in the scene before turning a cold glare on the sentry.  “I can see that he’s been secured, but as for fed... you expect him to eat like that?” 

“He can reach the food, sir, if he wants it,” the soldier replied respectfully, obviously not having given the matter much thought at all. 

Aragorn’s face darkened a shade.  Yes, he supposed that was true, if the proud elf consented to eat like an animal and he knew Legolas well enough to know that the prince would quite readily starve first.  “He is a living being, not a beast to keep chained up, Gariss.” 

The young man shifted uncomfortably under his superior’s obvious disapproval.  “I’m just following Captain Denethor’s orders, sir.  Sir, he’s an elf, sir, untie him and he’s as good as gone.  It’s my head if a prisoner I’m guarding escapes, sir.”  Gariss’ nervousness was apparent in his slightly repetitive speech.  “The ones who brought him in said it was what they have done thus far, sir,” he offered up as if to try to prove that no harm was being done. 

That information, however, only raised Aragorn’s blood pressure a few notches higher.  “I see,” he said quietly and there was no mistaking the ice in his eyes.  Stooping down on one knee the captain pulled the dagger from his belt and deliberately cut the knotted, twisted ropes that bound the elf’s wrists and held Legolas’ arms to the stake behind him. 

“I take full responsibility for him,” the look on Aragorn’s face dared the younger officer to say anything as he quickly cut and removed the distasteful, knotted halter from around his friend’s shoulders, sliding the remaining loops off over the elf’s head.  “If Captain Denethor is so worried, then I will personally guard him while he eats.”  The sentry looked about to protest but Aragorn cut him off.  “Is there a problem with that?”

“N-no, sir!” Gariss quickly shook his head, not about to question the fiery look in his superior officer’s eyes. 

“Good,” the Captain’s tone lost some of its harsh edge.  “Then you may go back to your post.” 

“Yes, sir,” the younger man nodded, appearing to be only too glad to quickly duck back out of the tent and take up his place outside the entry once more. 

Legolas rubbed his sore wrists and flexed his stiff, aching fingers.  He felt as if he had almost forgotten how to use them.  Still favoring his throbbing digits, the elf brushed the loose hair out of his face and treated Aragorn to a somewhat wry smile.  “You frightened him,” he nodded at the entry to the tent where the guard had recently exited. 

Aragorn snorted softly as he seated himself on the ground next to Legolas.  “Thoughtlessness is not becoming of anyone.  These are good men but some of them have a lot to learn.”  The ranger took one of the elf’s hands in his, gently massaging feeling back into fingers that were obviously still stiff and hurting. 

Legolas drew his breath in slightly, but gave no other sign of discomfort as he let the human rub his hands.  Still, Aragorn frowned because the elf’s slender fingers felt swollen and the pale skin was beginning to flush hotly as blood rushed back to areas where it had long been restricted. 

“Legolas, how long have they kept you tied up this tight?” he glanced disdainfully at the pile of cut ropes he had shoved into the corner. 

The elf shrugged with attempted indifference.  “Since my arrest, a little more than a month ago.”  His hands were burning and tingling but it was good to be free again. 

Aragorn’s eyes flashed with concern and anger and his hands actually stopped their automatic rubbing for a moment.  “A month ago?” he echoed in disbelief. 

“The treachery I am accused of occurred near Dalthad, and our course was changed in order to head to Minas Tirith.  Bandits near Hegdegon and a flood below Graveshead slowed our progress and changed our course considerably.” Legolas pulled his hands away quietly from Aragorn’s unintentionally tightening grip. 

Yes, a month was definitely a slow journey time between Dalthad and Lithaint, especially for soldiers on the march, but that wasn’t what had frozen Aragorn’s thinking processes.  With a gentle touch the ranger traced the dark red impressions that the tight ropes had left upon the soft flesh around Legolas’ wrists.  The elf had been bound and carted around in this manner for over a month?  It made the human’s ire rise hotly. 

“And they treated you thus?  As you have been treated here, the whole time?  Did they never release you?” Aragorn’s voice was soft, and yet a little dangerous. 

Legolas met his friend’s gaze with eyes tinged in shades of weary sadness.  He gave a short, tired nod to the affirmative.  “They are afraid of me, Estel,” he whispered quietly before catching his mistake.  “I’m sorry, Thorongil,” he amended quickly, resting his face in one hand and pressing against his temples in an attempt to clear the headache that was droning in the back of his skull.  He usually didn’t slip with Aragorn’s names like that and he hoped the guard hadn’t heard.  Not that it really would have made a difference, but still...  Everything was suddenly so hard to concentrate on. His weariness overtook him as his vision blurred nauseatingly. 

The ranger was watching the elf closely when suddenly Legolas simply fell forward and Aragorn was compelled to catch his friend to keep the prince from slumping over face-first onto the ground. 

“Legolas?  Legolas!” Aragorn shook the elf’s shoulders gently as he pulled his friend upright again, letting Legolas’ weight rest against his body for the moment.  There was surprisingly little weight to worry about, even for an elf, and Aragorn noticed perhaps for the first time how much thinner Legolas was from the last time he had seen him.  The prince had always been slender but at the moment he seemed to be bordering on anorexia. 

Legolas blinked slowly, his eyes gradually coming back into focus.  He looked up at Aragorn’s concerned face in confusion.  He flinched slightly at the strong grip on his bruised shoulders.  “W-what just happened?” 

Aragorn’s smile was colored with concern as he released Legolas and let the elf sit back up on his own.  “You fainted, my friend.” 

“Fainted?” Legolas protested mildly, shaking his head with a grin.  “I think not!  I was just...” he seemed unable to come up with an adequate explanation that his dignity could live with, so Aragorn filled the gap for him with a wry glint. 

“Resting your eyes for a moment perhaps?  Trying to get better acquainted with the ground?  All right you passed out then if you prefer it said that way, but the fact of it remains.  And I want to know why...” the human pressed the back of his hand to Legolas’ forehead, but of course the prince had no temperature, elves didn’t get sick.  “Has it happened to you before?” 

“Maybe occasionally,” Legolas glared darkly at the human and pushed his hand away.  “Just this week.” 

Instead of being put off Aragorn caught the elf’s hand and held it. The prince’s fingers were trembling, if only very lightly.  New concern flashed through the ranger’s eyes.  Legolas was far weaker than he would like to admit. 

“Legolas, when was the last time you ate?” 

“I don’t know,” the elf shrugged the question off as easily as he had the others.  “I think since before I was arrested.”  To Legolas’ great dismay and consternation he found that he was not strong enough to pull his arm free of Aragorn’s grip until the human eased up and allowed him to do so. 

Aragorn swore silently to himself, understanding what had happened.  Of course the soldiers would not have intentionally starved their prisoner, but they had made the near fatal mistake of believing that if Legolas truly got hungry enough, then he would eat what was given him in whatever manner was necessary.  What they had not counted on was elven pride and a body nearly strong enough to match.  Nearly, but not quite. 

“Slept?” the ranger continued quietly, noting his friend’s weary appearance. 

Legolas’ carelessness was uneasy.  He was obviously trying to not worry or anger his friend, but it was not working.  “I sleep... sometimes,” he hedged, looking away before giving up with a sigh.  It took too much energy to lie when Aragorn could see right through him.  “But not well, lately.  I am tired, but sleep does not come to me.  I... I do not rest well in bonds,” the last part was whispered so soft Aragorn almost couldn’t hear it. 

“Legolas, you aren’t eating or sleeping, and you wonder why you’re fainting?  Excuse me, passing out?” Aragorn shook his head, unable to help smiling at the glare his friend momentarily fixed on him.  “I fear your pride may be the death of you yet,” he murmured with painful fondness.  He couldn’t blame the elf for his sense of dignity but, when it endangered his health like this, Aragorn wished his friend were not quite so stubborn. 

The ranger was trying hard not to be angry at the people who had done this to Legolas, he was trying to convince himself that they had thought they were doing the right thing... it wasn’t working.  Not at all. 

Pushing the food that had been left a little earlier closer to where Legolas was sitting, Aragorn nudged it towards him.  “I’m sorry I’ve kept you talking, I told the guard I was going to be with you while you ate.” 

Legolas looked at the food but surprisingly seemed to have little interest.  “Thorongil, I... I’m not hungry really... looking at it makes me ill now.” He turned his head away.  He didn’t understand.  For a while his hunger had been extreme, but now the thought of food made him almost nauseous. 

Aragorn fixed Legolas with a steady, commanding gaze.  “Legolas, you need to eat.  You are far too thin, your body is burning itself up with nothing else to run on.  It has gone too far, that’s why you don’t think you’re hungry anymore, but you need to eat. Trust me, my friend, all right?” 

Legolas nodded.  He knew that.  It just seemed to take so much energy to get himself to do what he knew he needed to right now.  It was easier with Aragorn’s encouragement.  He really did think he was going to become ill, but he made himself start picking at the food anyway. 

While Legolas ate, Aragorn filled him in about the details of his life and all that had happened since they last parted company in Rohan so many years before.  And somewhere between relating humorous misadventures in his service first to Thengel and then to Ecthelion, and reliving favorite memories from their past together, the spark of light and happiness began to creep back into Legolas’ weary eyes and his appetite returned.  There was real color in his face by the time he was done eating; most of it brought on by laughing at Aragorn’s engaging story-telling skills. 

Legolas still felt a little weak, but the headache and lightheadedness that had been a constant companion for a long time now was finally starting to ease and his smile was becoming more relaxed.  A small corner of his mind was relieved to find that it was almost as if no time had passed at all between he and Aragorn. 

“You know, this wasn’t exactly the circumstances I had in mind when I set out to visit you, but still...” Legolas shrugged with a half-grin.  “Dinner, stories, talking with a dear friend... perhaps I shan’t judge the hospitality of these people of yours so poorly just yet.” 

Aragorn laughed, but silently reflected to himself that in truth, Legolas was handling their treatment of him thus far easier than Aragorn was handling finding out about it.  That was something of a switch for them. 

“Well don’t get too comfortable. When you’re done eating, I fully intend to see why you flinch when I touch your shoulders and I will not accept any arguments to the contrary.” 

Legolas rolled his eyes as he finished the last of the food and washed it down with water from the drinking horn Aragorn passed him. 

“And now I feel as if I am back in Rivendell listening to one of Lord Elrond’s lectures.”  He grinned wryly but acquiesced without a fight, undoing the ties down the front of his tunic and letting the garment slide off his shoulders.  In truth it felt good to get the shirt off for a little after having been bound up in it for so long.  Some of the seams and creases were still wet.  “Well, since I could never prevail with him or you, I won’t wear myself out trying.” 

“Smart,” Aragorn treated the elf to an amused smile.  His face quickly sobered however when he took in the dark black and blue bruises that circled the elf’s upper arms and wrapped around both his chest and back.  Bruises layered on top of bruises, some old, yellowed and fading and some painfully fresh, marred the prince’s otherwise flawless skin.  It was obvious that they had come from the chest-halter Aragorn had only recently freed Legolas from. 

Aragorn ran his fingers lightly over the bruises, trying to push back the heated flame rising near the surface of his emotions again. 

“There isn’t anything you can do for them, Thorongil,” Legolas said quietly, slipping his tunic back over his shoulders once more now that he knew his friend’s concerned curiosity had been appeased.  “They just need time.” 

Aragorn nodded slowly, trying to find his voice.  Legolas’ matter-of-fact attitude was almost hard for him to deal with.  He was angry and he didn’t understand why Legolas didn’t seem to be. 

“I’ll bring some liniment later, that may help a little,” he said at last, before catching the prince’s gaze as Legolas carefully re-fastened his tunic. 

“Legolas... you know you don’t ever have to hide what you’re feeling from me, don’t you?” he asked quietly. The prince had been taken captive by humans and ill treated; Aragorn knew that had to have been hard for his friend and hoped that Legolas did not think he had to hide his heart from him because he somehow considered these to be Aragorn’s people. 

Legolas observed his friend’s latest bout of silent anger quietly and saw the pain behind the ranger’s eyes, but it wasn’t what Aragorn thought.  As strange as it seemed, he did not hate the Gondorians for the way they had treated him, not even Castamir... well... maybe almost him. 

“I feel... weary,” Legolas dropped his eyes to his hands.  “I’m not angry or hiding anything from you, honestly I’m not, Strider.  I’m just... drained.”  He could tell his friend did not understand so he tried another tact.  “Thorongil, tell me truly, did you hate my father when he exiled us?  When he could not refuse Sarcayul’s request of blood rights on you because of lack of evidence?” 

“I never hated your father, Legolas, you know that,” Aragorn shook his head.  He had not thought about those years in a long, long time.  “I may have... strongly disagreed with him,” he smiled.  “But I never hated him.” 

“And I do not hate these men for thinking I am guilty when even I would think so if I did not know better,” the elf said quietly.  “And they are not wholly wrong... I am no traitor, Thorongil,” he turned his eyes on Aragorn, sad eyes full of guilt and pain.  “But a killer... I know not.” 

Understanding hit Aragorn hard.  “Legolas, you don’t know you killed those men, and if you did it was an accident, you said so yourself.” 

The elf’s eyes were layered with aching guilt, his voice was vehement.  “Does that excuse it?  They were children Aragorn!  They must have been dragged into the woods as captives, but it was I who ended their lives, I can see no other way around it!  I am considered one of the finest archers of my people, how could I make a mistake like that?  Accident though it be, it is inexcusable.”  The prince looked down, absently rubbing his chafed wrists.  “I would not be punished for a treachery I did not commit, but I do not protest paying for my error or my carelessness,” Legolas whispered softly before meeting his friend’s eyes again with an anguished gaze. 

Aragorn’s heart twisted as he realized what his friend was telling him.  “I don’t care what you think, Legolas, you didn’t deserve this,” he shook his head, understanding at last that Legolas accepted what had happened as the price he paid for the accidental deaths of the two young soldiers in the woods.  Some part of the prince thought he deserved it. 

Legolas smiled wearily, resting his hand on Aragorn’s forearm.  “You’re a good friend, Thorongil.  It eases my care to know that you are here.” 

Aragorn clasped Legolas’ arm back and squeezed reassuringly.  “You once helped me when everyone else thought I was guilty. I swear I will be as true to you as you were to me.  We’ll see this mess through together, Legolas. I promise I will help you and the truth will come out.  Everything will be all right, I promise.” 

Legolas’ smile brightened a few shades as he held his friend’s eyes.  “You’ve never broken a promise to me yet, Thorongil. I know you won’t now.  Thank you, my friend.” 

“Captain Thorongil?” Gariss hesitantly poked his head back into the tent.  “Pardon me for interrupting, sir, but the scouts are returning; you wanted to be notified.” 

Aragorn nodded, giving Legolas a last squeeze and rising to his feet.  “I’m sorry, I have to go, but I’ll look in again before bed-down tonight.” 

Legolas nodded.  He knew that Aragorn had many responsibilities as a commander of these men. 

Gariss looked visibly distressed as Aragorn started towards the exit.  “S-sir... the prisoner...” 

“What?” Aragorn paused, his gaze not entirely friendly. 

The younger man swallowed hard.  “I-I have my orders sir, he has to stay bound.” 

Aragorn turned sharply on his heel so he was facing the guard.  “Well I am giving you new orders. You have his word and mine that he’s not going to try anything.  Leave him be.” 

Gariss looked as if he wished the earth would swallow him whole.  “I can’t do that.  M-my orders come from Lord Denethor. Unless he says otherwise I am bound to obey.  Please sir... he’ll have me flogged if I start ignoring his directions.” 

Aragorn clenched and unclenched his fists.  He was going to have to talk to Denethor about this, but as much as he hated it he knew Gariss was right. They were both of them bound to obey the future Steward’s commands, no matter how much the ranger hated it. 

Kneeling back by Legolas’ side, Aragorn’s eyes begged for forgiveness.  “I’m sorry, Legolas, he’s right.  I will speak to Denethor about this first thing, but for right now...” 

Legolas nodded slowly, understanding his friend’s predicament.  “Do what you have to do, Thorongil. It’s all right.” 

Aragorn sighed heavily as the elf calmly extended his arms in front of him.  The ranger hated this.  He would have given anything not to have to do this. 

Ripping a long strip of cloth out of his under tunic, Aragorn first wrapped Legolas’ chafed wrists gently with the soft rag before lightly coiling a short length of rope around his friend’s hands, over the protective cloth.  The knot he tied was barely tight enough to hold anyone, let alone an elf if he really wanted to escape, but it satisfied the security requirement for the present. 

“Forgive me Legolas,” he whispered softly.  “I will get this restriction changed as soon as I can.” 

Legolas shook his head; he could see the pain in his friend’s eyes.  “Thorongil, you haven’t hurt me.  All soldiers must do their duty. I understand that better than you may ever know.  Go now, you have work to do.  I will be all right.” 

Aragorn inclined his head, grateful and still ashamed all at the same time.  “I’ll be back as soon as I can.  Try to get some sleep while I'm gone.” 

Legolas just nodded.  

“The prisoner is secured,” Aragorn said somewhat tartly to Gariss as he exited the tent. 

The younger man looked miserable.  “It’s not my doing sir...” he whispered softly. 

Aragorn was silent for a moment before his voice softened slightly.  “I know, Gariss,” he touched the younger man’s shoulder lightly to show that he was not truly angry with the guard.  “I know.” 

The captain’s attention was suddenly distracted as a lone figure stumbled into camp, calling for help from the soldiers. 

“Gariss, make sure Legolas is not bothered.  He needs to rest.”  Aragorn ordered quickly as he ran towards the center of the disturbance.  The man was a civilian and from the looks of his clothing he must have traveled from Lithiant.  He held his left arm with his right hand, blood seeped through his fingers and the broken haft of an arrow protruded from the wound he was holding.  As the soldiers gained his side he fell to his knees, breathing heavily. 

The man was frightened and speaking rapidly as Aragorn knelt next to him and calmly spoke to him, quieting his fears.  “Speak slowly, tell me again.  What happened?” 

The townsman grabbed the front of Thorongil’s tunic pulling the commander closer to him, as he repeated himself.  Aragorn gently wrapped his own hand about the one that held onto him so tightly.  The man was shaking, he was going into shock but his words quieted under the touch of the Gondorian commander. 

“They came back...” he gasped.  “Corsairs!”

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