Part 2

by Cassia and Siobhan

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    “And what happened this time?” Elrond asked with a long-suffering look as he examined Legolas, sparing a glance upward at his three sons who were wet, partially dressed and dripping on the carpet.
    “I slipped on the pond...” Legolas started to explain.
    “There was an earthquake...” Elrohir said at nearly the same moment.
    “It was my fault,” Aragorn put in quietly.
    “No, it wasn’t,” Elladan shook his head.  All four had spoken at more or less the same time.
    Elrond raised his hands for peace.  “Why do I even bother?  Never mind.  I don’t want to know.  Elladan, get me the cleansing herbs and water.  Elrohir, mix up a sleeping draught, unless Legolas would prefer I put the stitches back in while he is awake?”
    Legolas gave his head a small, quick shake.  He had made the mistake of doing that last time, against Elrond’s council.  
    “I didn’t think so,” the elder elf continued with a small bit of amusement.  “Estel, bring me the needle and thread.”  
    Aragorn and the twins were themselves skilled at the art of healing, trained under Elrond’s hand, but Elrond was still the final authority on the subject and had the greatest ability.  
    “If you boys aren’t careful, you’re going to make the prince regret being our guest,” Elrond murmured as he bent to his work.  
    “Oh don’t worry, they were just as much trouble in my home,” Legolas jested, having to grit his teeth around the pain as Elrond bathed the re-opened cut.
    “Legolas!” Aragorn said with the desired amount of indignity and Legolas laughed, wincing as he did.
    “All right, peace now you two,” the elder elf interjected with authority.  “Let me at least patch you up before you kill one another again.” 


    Legolas was still asleep and resting comfortably.  Aragorn, Elrohir and Elladan had gone to their rooms to change and Aragorn had emerged first.  He wandered down to the stables and stood in the doorway, his arms resting on the half-gate, watching the horses within without really seeing them.
    He knew Elrond was there before the elder elf laid a gentle hand on the young man’s shoulder from behind. 
    “You’re brooding Estel,” Elrond said quietly, joining him by the door.  “What troubles you?”
    Aragorn sighed.  It was no good denying it.  Elrond knew him far too well and could always see right through him. 
    “It was my fault,” Aragorn said quietly.  “You know, you’re right, ever since I met him, Legolas has been getting hurt and it always seems to be because of me.”  Aragorn balled his fists and then released them.  “I try to do things right, but it as you have told me a hundred times, I am too impulsive, too reckless... I hurt the people I care about through thoughtlessness... I don’t want to, but I do.”
    Elrond watched the boy with serious eyes.  Simply telling the young ranger that Legolas’ injuries were not his fault would do little good, the elven lord was sure that his sons had already tried that tactic.  Besides, Aragorn’s problem seemed to go deeper than that. 
    “Walk with me, Estel,” he invited and together they wandered towards the gardens.  For a long while they walked in silence through the trees until they reached an area where there was a stone seat carved out of the rock and many stone arches and spring-houses dotted the green grass.  Pausing under the shade of one of these, Elrond regarded his young, human son.  Above them, they could hear the gurgling rush of the Bruinen river, flowing on its way along the top of the cliff far above their heads to the right.  The river was considerably swollen from the recent rainfall, but it was Elrond’s river and always bent itself to his will, thus, flooding was infrequent, despite the influx of the melting mountain snow and soggy weather.
    “Aragorn, listen to me,” the elven lord said presently, and Aragorn knew he was serious because he was calling him by his right name.  “I may seem harsh to you sometimes when I speak, but it is not what is in my heart.  I would that I could shield you forever from the evil in this world, but such is not your path, nor mine.  You will face much darkness and danger in your life, Estel, more than perhaps even I can imagine.  To survive what I fear you shall one day have to face, you must learn many things, not the least of which is caution and restraint.  But you are young, Estel, do not judge yourself by those around you here, because as dear as we love you, our races are apart and our years vastly different.  I say the things I do only because I worry about you, Estel, for that is something my father’s heart cannot help.  Yet I am also very proud of you, my son, you have the makings of a great man inside you.  I just want to see that man have a chance to live to reach maturity,” the elf’s dark eyes twinkled slightly at that last.
    Aragorn met his foster-father’s eyes, still uncertain.  “But I-” he would never get the chance to finish, for at that moment the earth rumbled beneath their feet.  It was like what had happened earlier by the pond, only a hundred times more intense. 
    The ground beneath their feet jerked sideways as if some giant had grabbed the carpet of grass and stone beneath them and yanked it.  Just as quickly it seemed to jerk back the other way, leaving elf and man stumbling for balance as the earth shook madly.
    Aragorn was half thrown into Elrond’s arms before stumbling back and catching hold of the edge of the archway behind him for balance.  
    At that moment there was a great cracking and snapping sound above them as the groan of moving stone and the snap of breaking wood was added to the chaos of the moment.  
    A huge oak tree, growing at a sharp angle from the steep ravine wall on their right, seemed to groan as its roots were shaken free of the earth.  It toppled down and sideways, landing atop the already swaying archway that Elrond and Aragorn stood beneath.  Hundreds of pounds of ancient stone and falling tree descended upon the two beings without a moment’s warning.  Elrond was in the clear, but Aragorn was directly under the path of the falling tree.
    “Estel!” Elrond’s voice was nearly drowned by the noise around them.  Aragorn looked up in time to see the huge capstone of the arch crashing straight down upon him.  He barely even had time to take in the death that was rushing towards him before he felt his foster-father’s strong arms grab him and fling him to the earth.  Elrond grabbed the young human by the shoulders, propelling him out from under the arch as far as he could in the split-instant that they had.  The two beings fell to the heaving earth, with Elrond landing protectively on top of the young ranger’s back.  A half an instant later the arch, the stones and the tree crashed down on them.