Shielding her eyes from the suns first sharp rays, Fin scanned the bank of the swiftly moving river. She turned back to her companion, who was resting next to a tree. It was fairly warm and the sun was just beginning to rise. It would get even warmer.

She finally spotted the leaves of the plant she was looking for. Taking a sharpened stick, she jabbed at the base of the plant and dug up the round soft root of the plant. She dug up several more and headed back to where her companion sat.

As she approached the elf, she noted that his eyes were closed, which meant that he was beyond tired. They were both exhausted, in pain, and extremely dirty, but she felt that he was worse off then she.

She touched his shoulder lightly, bringing him awake. "Come", she said and he rose to follow her.

They made there way back to the river's edge and walked along it looking for a spot where the current slowed or pooled. After several minutes, they found a place where the bank jutted into the land creating a small pool. There were large flat rocks along this edge, and it was shaded by several trees.

She motioned for him to sit, and then settled herself beside him. She took the two roots and handed them to him. He looked at her with a puzzled expression. She took her own roots and placed them on the surface of the flat rock. She took a smaller rock and began to pound the roots. As the root broke apart, a foamy substance appeared.

The elf still wore a puzzled expression. At this point, Fin simply stood and walked to the edge of the river. She quickly removed the filthy leggings and tunic she wore and lowered herself into the water. Her body was bruised and she had dried blood on her shoulders and upper back from the beating she had received for helping Legolas. The water was cool and clear and felt wonderful against her hot, dirty skin. She pounded the root for several more minutes, creating quite a bit of foam. She took the foam and worked it through her hair, then over her skin, scrubbing hard. She lifted each leg to wash and when she was done, she ducked under the water to rinse.

When she surfaced she turned to the elf and said, "It's for washing".

He followed suit, and soon they were both submerged in the cool river. With the remaining foam, Fin washed and rinsed out the clothing they had both been wearing. She then rose out of the water and spread the clothing on the rocks to dry. She turned and looked at the elf as he floated in the pool of the river on his back. His eyes were closed and he was humming softly to himself.

"I do not even know your name" Fin said to him. "I am called Fin"

The elf replied without even opening his eyes "I am called Legolas"

Chapter 2

"I think it is safe to rest for awhile. We need to rest if we are going to go back for your friend" Fin said. "We have to wait until dark"

Legolas nodded, anguish tearing at his heart to think of Estel still trapped in the place that he and Fin and just escaped from. He still did not understand how they had been able to get away, but they had been separated from Estel and could not find him.

Legolas and Estel had been captured and held by a large band of orcs and goblins for the past two months. They had been traveling and scouting north of Mirkwood and were caught in an ambush. Unconscious, they were carried away and had no idea exactly where they had ended up.

There were other elves and humans being held also. The camp of the orcs was situated near a large cave, and the captives were put to work digging and mining in the cave. The orcs were searching for something. They worked the captives without mercy.

The cave was in a clearing and there were several clumps of trees around it. During most of the day, the captives were forced to work in the cave. The rest of the time, they were chained together and held in an area outside, in back of the cave. The trees offered little shelter, but here it did not rain often, anyway. The captives were treated badly, barely fed, and allowed little time to rest.

Legolas and Estel were separated and were able to only catch glimpses of each other over the course of their days. The orcs looked for reasons to beat their captives, and Legolas and Estel both had had their share of punishment. Legolas felt extremely weakened from the lack of food, rest, and being forced to work deep in the cave, away from sunlight and trees.

Fin had been working alongside him for several days. The captives were not allowed to talk to one another or associate in any other way. At one point, Legolas had stumbled and fallen hard. An orc guard had started to beat and kick him, cursing him to stand and get back to work. Fin had unthinkingly intervened, trying to help Legolas stand, and had earned a severe beating for it.

She was left on the floor of the cave that night, unconscious. Legolas was distraught that another being was treated in this manner for trying to help him, and he had to be dragged away from her still form that evening as the orcs led the captives away.

The next morning she was gone. His mind reeled as he thought that she must be dead. The orcs had worked them hard until the following morning, and when they captives emerged from the cave, Legolas had caught a glimpse of Estel. Their eyes met and relief showed in both. Estel's group was being led into the cave as Legolas' was being led back out. It was then that he spotted Fin. She had bruises on her face, but he could not tell what other injuries she may have had. He was relieved that she lived, yet distraught to find her in the company of several large orcs. What happened then, he still did not understand.

Fin was pushed roughly aside as one orc lunged at another. The other drew his weapon and the orcs fought. This drew the attention of other orcs, and soon, the captives stood alone. Fin crawled on hands and knees away from the fight. She turned and sat and watched. Several more orcs joined in the fight.

Soon, there was complete chaos. Dozens of orcs were fighting each other, and the captives were left pretty much unguarded. Fin stood on unsteady feet and backed up to where the other prisoners stood watching the melee. Orc bodies littered the ground and the fighting grew intense.

Fin turned to Legolas, grabbed his hand, and pulled him away. The orcs that were outside the cave were too preoccupied to be watching the captives, and the orcs that were inside the cave were not aware of the battle that was going on.

As Fin and Legolas headed for the trees, the other captives also turned in different directions and ran. As they ran, Fin bent and picked up an orc blade that had been dropped and handed one to Legolas.

Just as they were under cover of the trees, some orcs that had gone into the cave re-appeared and took note of what was happening. Shouts from them caught the attention of the orcs that were fighting, and the orcs that still were on their feet turned and began chasing after escaped captives. Fin and Legolas had had a slight head start and they were a bit further away than some of the others. Because the captives had run off in so many directions, and because there had been so few orcs still alive, Fin and Legolas found themselves being chased by only four orcs.

"I must go back," Legolas whispered breathlessly to Fin "My companion is still there, inside the cave, I cannot leave him there"

"A friend?"

"Yes"

"We must lose these orcs first, then we will return for your friend"

They were weak from the months of hardship and their recent beatings and the orcs soon caught up to them.

Legolas was prepared to defend Fin for her sacrifice for him earlier, but was surprised to find he did not have to.

Hearing the orcs approaching, Fin had slowed and turned to face them.

"We make a stand here, I cannot keep running," she said.

The orcs advanced, grinning. They anticipated an easy victory over the weakened beings in front of them. They underestimated their opponents badly.

The first orc rushed forward, his sword raised over his head to strike the first blow. Legolas met his blade with his own and sparks flew as the two met. Legolas thrust his blade around and to the side and took the orc by surprise when he nearly cleaved him in half at the waist. The orc dropped at his feet.

Another orc swiftly approached Legolas as the other two advanced upon Fin. Legolas worriedly glanced at Fin before turning his attention to his orc. Swords clashed and swung. At one point, the tip of the orc's sword swept too close and sliced into Legolas' left arm. He stumbled back clasping his sword hand to the wound. Blood ran between his fingers. His opponent dropped his guard thinking that Legolas was done for, and raised his sword over his head to finish the job. Legolas quickly swung his weapon in a wide arc, beheading the orc neatly.

He took a deep breath and turned to Fin. His eyes opened in amazement as he watched her battle her two orcs at once. Her sword sung with neat precision, meeting her opponent's harsh thrusts. She dodged a blow from behind and flipped the sword in the air and catching in underhand, she thrust backward and into the chest of the orc at her back. She quickly pulled her weapon out, just blocking a swing from the other orc's blade. Her movements were quick and sure-footed, but Legolas could tell that she was growing weary. He saw years of training in her fighting.

In seconds he was at Fin's side and simultaneously, they swung their blades. The orc could not block both, and Fin's sword sunk deep into the orc's side, nearly splitting him in two.

Quickly looking around and listening to ensure no other orcs were following, the two backed away from the fallen orcs and headed into the surrounding woods.

They got only a few hundred yards and Legolas put a hand on Fin's arm to stop her.

"My friend" he said.

"We will return. We must recover a bit if we want to help him. Besides, the orcs will be on their guard and it would be too dangerous. Come" she said, taking his hand.

Legolas nodded, quickly looked back, and then reluctantly followed Fin.

They traveled all that day and through the night until they were ready to drop. The land was flat and dry and fairly easy to traverse. Here and there a lone tree stood, but for the most part, there was very little growth. They didn't call this area the land of the exiles for nothing. They spoke very little, caught up in their own thoughts and fatigue. Legolas thought of Estel, and hoped that the escape of some of the prisoners would not be taken out on the ones that remained. The thought of his friend being tortured or killed filled him with terror.

Fin thought only of putting one foot in front of the other. She knew her companion was worried and his injury concerned her. They needed to put some distance between themselves and the orcs. If they wanted to save the others, they would need to recover in safety and prepare.

Shortly before sunrise, they stopped at the edge of a river. They both dropped to the ground in exhaustion, and slept as the moon dropped beyond the horizon.

Chapter 3

After bathing, they dressed and sat in the shade. It was very warm, the sun shone down from a cloudless sky.

"We must return under cover of darkness. I only hope Estel is not inside the cave when we get there."

"Your friend is called Estel? Is he elvish?"

"Nay, a human, but like a brother to me."

"I am but half-elven" Fin replied as she let her gaze drop.

"Where are you from? You are not Silvan or Nordor"

Avoiding the question entirely, Fin changed the subject "We should rest. We will have time to talk later. If we are to free your Estel, we must get our strength back. You wound looks like it has begun to heal. The cleansing root is good for wounds, it cleans very well. I do not think it will trouble you further."

With that, Fin leaned against the tree, the subject closed for now. She did not have an answer for it anyway.

Legolas woke a few hours later to find Fin seated by his side. A small fire was going, and he smelled food. Several arrows lay at her side, fletched with the feathers of the bird that was currently roasting on the fire. Apparently, he was the only one who had rested.

"I am sure you are hungry, so help yourself" Fin said when she realized he was awake.

"Did you not rest?" he replied.

"Nay, I could not, but I am glad you did."

He picked up an arrow and studied it. "This is good workmanship. How did you do this without tools?"

"Ash is good for arrows, and I found many Ash trees growing there" she said as she pointed to a grove of trees on the other side of the river. "I used the orc sword to cut them and some sharp rocks to shape them. They are not the best, but they will do."

He looked at her in amazement. "You swam the river?"

"Aye, it is not too far and I like to swim."

Legolas shook his head in amazement, and then glanced back at the swiftly moving river. She was a very strong and determined she-elf.

"Ash is also supple enough to shape into a bow. We will need more than orc swords to get your friend."

"Why are you helping me? Do you not want to go back to your home? You risk your life for ones you do not even know." Legolas finally asked.

"He is your friend"

"Yes, but he is not yours"

Fin stopped and dropped her hands into her lap. Legolas reached to pick one up. She turned to look at him and her eyes were sad.

"I do not have a home."

"Where are you from?"

"Nowhere., anywhere" she replied softly.

"Where did you grow up? Who taught you to fight and to craft weapons?"

Legolas studied his companion. Her complexion was fair and pale, her eyes were a light blue, and her light brown hair fell to her waist. She was small but powerfully built. He could not place her among any of the elf clans that he knew. She was not Nordor, or Silvan, nor did she look to have come from Lothlorien.

Drawing in a breath she looked away and closed her eyes. Legolas was about to repeat his question, when she turned to look at him. A small tear was trickling down her cheek.

"I have traveled throughout most of my life. I have learned from many," she replied over brightly.

"You are alone?"

"Do not be concerned with my situation, Legolas. I am content with my lot. I am fortunate to be here with you. I wish to help you rescue your friend."

Legolas let the subject drop. He reached over and helped himself to some of the food. He carefully pulled the bird apart, it smelled so good and he had not eaten much that was decent in quite awhile. He ate as he watched her return to her task of shaping the bow. She used a rough edged rock to smooth the shaft. She then reached into a small basket he had not previously noticed and picked up a handful of sand. She used it to further smooth the wood.

"Where did the basket come from?" he wondered aloud.

"I made it from grasses that are growing along the riverbank." she replied.

"You have been very busy when you should have been resting. You are wounded and weary."

"I am used to going without much sleep. The orcs do not let their captives rest for very long" she replied with a small grin.

"You were with them long?"

"Yes"

"I am still trying to figure out what happened and why we were able to escape"

Fin stopped again and looked at Legolas. "Orcs are not very bright," she said.

"This I know, but it does not answer my question. Do you know what happened? You were with them when the fight started."

"Ahh, I started the fight" she replied with a grin.

"What! How!"

"The small minds of orcs can be easily persuaded. They fought over me."

"Why"

"I had interfered one too many times and they were going to, you know."

"Kill you?"

"Yes" she sighed. "I had nothing to lose, I suggested to one orc that the other did not want me killed, and they began to argue. Well, it got slightly out of hand."

"Aye, it did. You should not have taken such a risk"

"It was not risk. I have done such a thing before. When there are too many orcs, the prisoners suffered more. I had found a way to make there numbers manageable."

Legolas shook his head. What kind of life had this she-elf led that would inspire her to take such chances? How long had she been captive? Had she really always been alone? He could not imagine a life alone. He longed to see his father again, and to be among the trees of Mirkwood, his home. He could not imagine how he would feel if he had no place to return.

Fin picked up the bow and examined it in the fading sunlight. Legolas watched as she cut a hair from her own head with the orc blade and used it to string the bow.

"Because these arrows have only wooden points, we will need to hit the orcs where they are most vulnerable. They will not penetrate armor or mail."

Legolas nodded. Fin began working on another bow. She had another long piece of ash ready and she began working it with the orc blade, rocks, and sand. Legolas watched her before saying "I would like to help. What can I do?"

"Ummm, how about working on more arrows?"

They sat side by side throughout the afternoon working on the weapons. As the sun was setting, they were ready.

"We should have a plan" Legolas said, "We cannot just walk into an orc camp"

"I think that the orc's will have recaptured all the prisoners they could by now. They will not venture too far from the cave, at least they never have. I feel sure they will not be expecting any prisoners to return on their own. That would be most unexpected. We will have the element of surprise" Fin replied.

"It will be a surprise, that is for sure. We must wait until Estel is out of the cave. Many of the orc's were killed fighting each other, so the prisoner's will not be as well guarded as before. That should make our job easier. How are you with the bow?"

"Fair, not as skilled as Silvan, I am afraid, but I feel I will be able to hold my own."

Chapter 4

They gathered up all the orc swords and the new bows. Fin had made quivers to hold the arrows from the sleeves of her tunic. Turning in the direction of the setting sun, they began their return to the orc cave. They were able to move faster because they were better rested. The moved on throughout the night, stopping only once or twice to rest.

Along the way, Fin tarried to dig up roots and she handed one to Legolas with the explanation "Chew on it. It is good for energy". The root had a sweet taste. Legolas wondered again where she had learned such things.

As the sun rose they found a few small apple trees that had fruit and they picked several to eat along the way.

Neither had spoken for hours, each lost in their own thoughts. Finally Legolas said, "I am not sure exactly where we are. Estel and I were carried to the cave by the orcs after we were both unconscious. I do not know how long we traveled that way".

"We were along the River Rhunning, I think. That would make Mirkwood to the west about a weeks walk. About the same distance to the north are the Grey Mountains."

The sun was beginning to sail lower in the sky when they approached the area where the orc cave was located. Fin pointed to the trees above, and they both silently climbed up. From the new vantage point they could see into the clearing in front of the cave. There were only a dozen orcs outside of the cave. They could see no prisoners. They were either inside the cave, or chained together around the back of the hill.

"I cannot tell where they are" Legolas whispered, "we will have to wait to see".

"We need to get closer" Fin replied and without waiting for a response, she made her way silently to the next tree. Legolas followed her and they came within a hundred feet of the cave entrance.

"I do not feel right about this risk you are taking." Legolas said when they settled into the tree to wait.

"I take it upon myself, you do not need to be concerned. I have had many encounters with orcs, I do not fear them."

"You are either very brave or very foolish" Legolas replied with a slight grin.

"I have nothing to lose" Fin responded quietly.

Her response shocked him; he did not know what to think. Someone with nothing to lose has nothing to love. How could someone find themselves in such a situation? So many questions went through his mind once again. He did not want to pity her, she did not ask for pity, but he found it hard not too. There were many times in his life when he had been alone. He could not understand how she could have endured living a life alone.

He glanced over at her. She was resting with her head back against the tree trunk, her eyes glazed in a restful state. He remembered that she had not rested before; she had not really rested for the last several days at least, so Fin could rest for a few hours.

At dusk, he roused her, and they anxiously awaited any movement from the camp.

It didn't take long for the noise of prisoners moving to reach their ears. As they watched, a long line of captives exited the cave, all disheveled, dirty and extremely weary. Several dozen orcs came along with their prisoners from the cave. If the orcs followed past procedures, the prisoners would be halted, chained and returned to the trees on the other side of the cave entrance. Legolas and Fin would need to act before Estel was chained.

"Which one is your friend?" Fin questioned.

"He is near the front. His tunic is gray, and his hair is dark" Legolas indicated with a nod in Estel's direction. Estel's head was facing toward the ground. He was unaware of his friend's location. In fact, he thought Legolas dead, and his heart was in despair.

"I have seen him before. He still posses some strength."

"They have wargs," Legolas said.

"Where"

"Just beyond the trees" Legolas replied pointing to the mouth of the cave. "I can hear them." There were several small clusters of trees on each side of the cave's mouth.

"They were not there before. There are too many orcs"

"Aye"

"We need a distraction"

Chapter 5

The words were barely out of her mouth and Legolas barely comprehended there meaning when Fin sprung silently from the branch on which she had been sitting. She landed silently on the next tree. Legolas looked at her in shock. What is she doing, he thought.

Nocking an arrow to her bow, she sighted on the orc at the head of the line of prisoners. The arrow was let loose, and before it even found it's target, Fin had again leapt lightly into another tree. The orc targeted dropped to the ground as another arrow, this one from a slightly different direction, found another mark. The second orc dropped before the others realized what was happening. Legolas was unsure what to do. Should he follow suit and launch an attack of his own, or should he drop to the ground and try to get to Estel?

Within seconds, another orc fell from an arrow that came from the direction of the cave. The orcs on the ground were spinning to try and see their attacker. Some prisoners ducked, placing their hands over their heads to protect themselves. Estel stood and scanned the trees until he spotted Legolas on a branch. Even thought the elf blended perfectly with his surroundings, Estel knew what to look for. He was puzzled because the arrows had not come from his friend's direction. He must have help, Estel thought.

Another orc fell. This arrow came from the same direction as before, and now the orcs focused their attention to the figure standing at the top of the mouth of the cave. They rushed forward, but Fin was out of their reach. This was the distraction Legolas had been waiting for. He paused to let loose several of his own arrows, each finding a target on the ground. Then he leapt from the tree and landed on the ground cat-like.

The prisoners were now making haste to escape. Several orcs realized this and began to chase and capture them. Estel stooped over the fallen body of an orc and relieved him of his weapon. He spun looking for enemies, but all the orcs were pre-occupied. Legolas ran over to join him.

"You are a sight for sore eyes, my friend."

"As are you, Estel."

"I thought you dead several days ago in that fight. Many of the other prisoners were recaptured and then killed"

"Nay, I was lucky"

"Who is your friend?"

"She is called Fin, and she is indeed a mysterious creature"

"Well, I think she could use our help." Estel replied.

With a nod, the two friends advanced on the orcs, who all had their backs to them. From her high vantage, Fin loosed the last of her arrows. She noted Legolas and his friend advancing toward them. She leapt lightly into a tree that stood next to the cave. As she righted herself and spun to face the orcs, she felt a pressure slam into her right shoulder that almost knocked her from the tree. She looked down to see an orc arrow protruding from her shoulder. In moments, her sleeveless tunic was saturated with blood.

Legolas cried out in dismay, and several orcs turned. He rushed forward, and shot several arrows before slinging the bow back over his shoulder and pulling the orc blade he carried from his belt. He and Estel slashed and spun, felling orcs after orc.

One orc's blade got close enough to Legolas to slice him across the chest, drawing blood. The sudden pain caused him to withdraw an intense breath, as he staggered back several paces. Orc's are clumsy fighters, and no match for an elf, even a wounded one. Legolas spun around quickly and slashed at the orc, slicing its head neatly from its body. He turned to find two other orcs had taken his place. As he fought on, he glanced toward Estel and to his great relief, saw his friend was holding his own. Half a dozen dead orcs lay at his feet.

Estel concentrated his efforts on keeping the orcs away from the warg pen. They could not afford to have those foul creatures let loose. He parried and spun and his blade sank into orc after orc. By now he was sporting several nicks and cuts, but nothing serious enough to slow him down.

Just when Legolas thought they were beginning to overwhelm their opponents, a new sound brought fear to him. The snarling and growling of wargs could be heard, closer than ever. He suddenly realized that one of the orcs had gotten to the wargs and released them. Now they had a new foe.

Several of the other prisoners, seeing the twosome fighting, picked up weapons of their own and joined in. Others simply ran away, only to be brought down by an orc, or worse, by a warg who enjoyed the chase. Glancing up into the tree where he had last seen Fin, Legolas realized she was no longer there. As he fought both orc and warg, he looked around. His inattention almost cost him dearly as he was roughly pushed to the ground from behind by one of the last wargs standing. His weapon fell from his hands and landed several feet away. He could feel the hot, foul breath of the warg on his neck and the heavy weight of its body on his back. He waited to feel the bite of its teeth on his neck. Suddenly the weight lifted and he looked up to see Fin with a small dagger in one hand and her orc sword in the other, it's hilt buried in the body of the warg. He nodded gratefully at her as he got to his feet.

Legolas quickly scooted out from under the warg. Taking several steps he retrieved his weapon. When he looked up again, Fin had disappeared. He looked around and the sight he found filled him with horror. Fin was backed up to a tree, an arrow protruding from her shoulder, and a large warg stalking her. She was too far for him to reach her and the warg was tensed to spring. Fin had only the dagger left in her hand. Running in her direction, he watched as the warg sprung and landed on Fin, bearing her to the ground. The glint of the knife shown briefly, and he heard her cry out in pain and fear.

Estel had managed to slay the last orc and turned and saw Legolas running toward the warg. He ran over as well. Legolas grabbed the bow from his back and let loose two arrows at once. They both found their mark into the back of the wargs head, and it slumped to the ground in silence. Before he could reach Fin, he saw her bunch her legs under the warg and push it away with a grunt.

"Ugh, warg breath" Fin said as she began to sit and scoot back against the tree. She was breathing heavily and Legolas saw that the shaft of the arrow protruding from her shoulder had broken off in the warg attack.

The warg's claws had raked deep cuts across Fin's chest and right arm and they were bleeding freely, as was the wound to her right shoulder.

"I am pleased that you are still alive after doing such a foolish thing" Legolas said to her as he knelt. Estel had reached them as well by now and also knelt to help.

"It worked, did it not? We got your friend and the orcs and wargs are dead. I would call that a success." Fin replied and turning to look at Estel she said, "I am called Fin"

"I am called Estel, and I am in your debt"

"I do not wish for you to be indebted to me." Fin replied. She closed her eyes as she shifted to try and get more comfortable. She was in pain and she was dizzy from the lose of blood. She was also not used to being this close to a human.

"I would ask that one of you remove this arrow from my shoulder as I cannot do it myself. Once before I tried this, and it was a near disaster."

Estel placed his hand over the arrow wound and applied pressure to stop the bleeding. He inspected the wound and noted that it was not too deep, but he was concerned that the arrow was poisoned, as was usually the case with orc arrows.

"It is not deep, I can pull it out. Legolas, place your hands on her shoulders"

Fin tensed, waiting for the painful pull. She closed her eyes and took a deep breath.

"That was quite a performance" Estel commented as he gripped the arrow shaft "You handle yourself with a bow and sword quite well"

Her mind sidetracked briefly by his comment, he felt her relax slightly, and in that moment, he pulled the arrow out. Her eyes grew wide in pain and she arched her back. She slumped back against the tree, breathing heavily.

"Now that was fun," she commented. Estel raised one eyebrow at her comment as he pressed his hand again over the wound and hoped the pressure would stop the bleeding that had begun again. He looked over the scratch marks and wished he had supplies to treat her. He did not even have water to clean the wound with.

"I think we need to move before too long, I do not think it is safe to linger here," Legolas said as he stood.

Fin nodded and began to rise. She could barely make it too her feet. Legolas grabbed her good arm and helped her stand. She swayed slightly and cursed inwardly at her weakness.

"We should probably head back toward the river. It is far enough away and in the general direction we need to travel," said Legolas, "but it is far, and I do not know if Fin can make it."

"I am strong and can travel. We do not know if more orcs will show up. Let us see if the orcs left us anything we can use, and then leave this place."

Legolas was concerned with Fin's paleness and the dark circles under her eyes. The arrow could have been poisoned.

Legolas and Estel quickly ran about, and soon found the place where the orcs had disposed of the belongings of the prisoners. Here they found their packs, bedrolls and weapons. Legolas' bow was shattered but his quiver was intact and he fastened it on his back. Fin slowly joined them and picked up a quiver of arrows and another pack. She and Legolas still had the bows she had made.

The moon began to rise in the east as the threesome set out toward the river. They traveled about an hour before Fin started to have trouble. Legolas noticed her stumbling and lagging behind. He stopped and turned and noticed she had stopped to lean against a tree to catch her breath.

"I do not think she can go much further. We need to stop now and tend to her wounds." Legolas whispered to Estel.

"Aye, my friend. Your wound also needs attention." Estel said as he pointed to his friend's chest. Legolas had all but forgotten his own wound. It did not bother him, but he knew it needed to be cleaned to prevent infection.

Legolas walked back to Fin and helped her the rest of the way. They made camp in a small glade. Beside it ran a small trickle of a stream. Estel took a small bowl from his pack and filled it with water. Using some torn strips of cloth from a blanket, he washed Fin's wound. She closed her eyes when he finished and drifted off into sleep. Estel then tended to the gash on Legolas' chest and the other nicks and cuts they had both received.

"I do not know what to make of your friend" Estel said.

"She is quite unusual." Legolas replied and proceeded to tell Estel all he knew about the she elf.

"You are right, she does not look Nordor, or Silvan, but I think she shows some resemblance to some of the elves of Lothlorien. We need to get her to Mirkwood or Rivendell so her wounds can be better treated. I am afraid the arrow was tipped with poison.""

"She is alone, and very closed in. My attempts to find out more about her have not been successful. She simply changes the subject."

"Your father may be able to help her."

"Aye, Thranduil would accept her, and she could find a home in Mirkwood if she wished, but why would she have not done so before?" Legolas replied thoughtfully.

"That is part of her mystery."

"The night is half over, we should rest if we are to be traveling at dawn."

Estel nodded in agreement and spread his blanket next to the fire. In no time, he was asleep. It took Legolas a bit longer as the riddle of Fin puzzled his mind. Why would an elf choose to be alone? There had to be a reason. Perhaps his father would be able to help solve this riddle. Finally, Legolas drifted off.

When she was sure both were asleep, Fin opened her eyes. Could she have heard correctly? Was this elf sleeping before her the son of Thranduil of Mirkwood? This thought horrified her and she knew she would have to leave before either of them woke up. She quietly rose to her feet, fighting the dizziness she felt. She swayed slightly and she shook her head to try to clear her mind. After a few seconds, she felt slightly stronger and she bent to retrieve her meager possessions off the ground.

Slinging the bow over her shoulder, she glanced at the elf and his human friend. She thanked them both silently and headed off into the night.

Chapter 6

Legolas woke first just as the sun was peeking over the horizon. Sitting up he noticed Fin was gone. He quickly jumped up and nudged Estel awake. When he realized that all of Fin's belongings were gone as well, he knew she had left them in the night.

"She is gone," Legolas said as his friend sat up and rubbed the sleep from his gray eyes.

"It is possible she has not gone far. Maybe she went for water or firewood."

"Nay, all her possessions are gone as well. Why would she leave?"

"She is weak and could not have gotten far. The poison will slow her down and we need to catch up to her or she could die."

Quickly, they broke camp and Estel scanned the ground to determine the direction that Fin had headed. Elves leave very little trace of themselves, but Estel was a skilled tracker and he picked up her trail quickly. They did not know how much of a head start Fin had, and they broke into a jog as they headed north in her tracks.

"I do not understand why she would leave. Maybe we should not be following. Perhaps there is a reason for her actions," said Estel as he bent to examine some tracks. "She turned to the east, look her tracks go in this direction." He looked ahead. "Legolas, what do your elf eyes see?"

"It is very flat and dry, there is very little growing here. I cannot pick up any movement yet. She must have had quite a head start."

"Why would she be heading into the land of the exiles? No one travels there, it is dangerous, especially for elves and men alone."

They paused to drink from their water bottles. "There is something about her, she is sad, but she would not let it show. She pretended to be content with her situation, but I do not think that is so. I have never met anyone so independent. She is wild, like the wind," Legolas said.

Estel looked over at his friend curiously. Had this she-elf made such an impression on his friend? Legolas was an extremely private person, not one to talk of his feelings. They usually showed through his actions. Something about his comments made Estel wonder if Legolas was feeling more than plain curiosity toward Fin.

The continued on for several more hours. Legolas could now make out a figure moving slowly miles ahead. At the rate they were going it would be several hours before they caught up.

Chapter 7

Fin stumbled along under the hot sun. She was headed toward the trees surrounding the Sea of Rhun, a place she knew well. She could feel the poison working through her system as the day past, and prayed to Valar to have the strength to continue on to her destination.

She was unaware that she was being followed. As a matter of fact, the thought had not even crossed her mind that Legolas and Estel would be concerned enough to bother with her. In her long life, she had not had many dealings with other elves or even humans. No one had cared enough about her to be concerned for her in any way.

The sun was beginning to head into the west and Fin felt that her strength would not last much longer. Her wounds ached, as did her head. She was sweating and she felt very warm. Her mind felt foggy and she was dizzy. She concentrated on simply putting one foot in front of the other. Several times she stumbled to her knees, each time it took a little longer to get back on her feet. Her water was gone, and now her mouth was dry.

In the near distance, she saw a small clump of trees and headed toward them. Just to be out of the sun and in the shade would help. It was only a few hundred feet away. Again she stumbled, falling to her knees. The wind had picked up and was whipping sand up into her eyes. She wiped them with the back of her hand. She tried to stand, getting one foot underneath her, but her legs refused to bear the weight any longer. She hung her head down, her face out of the wind, as she crawled on her hands and knees. Finally, as the last of her strength left her and the poison took control, she slumped onto her stomach on the hard, dry ground. She could go no further.

Chapter 8

Legolas could still see the figure in the distance. It was definitely Fin. He saw as she stumbled and fell and rose again several times. She was still at least a mile away when he saw her go down for the last time.

"She has fallen, we must hurry" Over the past few hours as they had followed Fin through the dry lands, he became more and more aware of how he was feeling. How could this elf have had such an effect on him? He did not feel pity, yet he wanted to comfort her, he knew she was strong, yet he wanted to take care of her. Was it that she did not seem to need anyone, yet she needed a friend more than anything? His mind was in turmoil as they quickly approached the fallen body of the she-elf.

She lay in the dust, on her stomach, he face turned to one side. One arm was bent out over her head and the other was useless at her side. Her clothes were filthy with dirt and sweat. Her eyes were closed and her face was pale, dirty, and bruised. Legolas approached her first and carefully rolled her onto her back. He laid two fingers at her neck, feeling for a pulse. It was weak and her breathing was shallow.

Estel had jogged ahead to the grove of trees that lay ahead and turned back and waved an arm for Legolas to bring Fin. He scooped her up easily, she was very light. He hurried over to Estel, who was looking for the best place to set up a small camp. A dozen yards into the grove, they found a small stream and made their camp next to it.

"She is very weak, I can barely feel her heartbeat." Legolas had gathered up wood for a fire and had laid out his blanket for Fin. He gently placed her on top of it, close to the fire. Estel searched his pack for his small medical kit. Thankfully, the orcs had not damaged anything, in fact, it seemed as though they had not bothered to even look in any of the packs.

Legolas removed the bandage from Fin's wounded shoulder. They had not bandaged the warg's scratches; Estel felt they would heal better if left exposed to the fresh air. The arrow wound was red and hot. It had also been bleeding again.

Estel warmed water over the fire and sprinkled a small pinch of cleansing herbs into it. He tore off a strip of the blanket he carried and began to clean the wound. Legolas began going through his own pack to find something to use for bandages.

Estel undid the clasp at the top of Fin's tunic and leaning her slightly forward, her gently pushed the tunic to the side, away from her wounded shoulder. As he did, he noticed a strange mark on her right shoulder blade. It was elf runes representing the letter "E". Estel knew immediately what it meant. He had never seen an elf with this mark before. It was a dread thing to behold.

"Legolas, she bears the mark of the exiled"

Legolas' head whipped around as he stared in shock at his friend. He quickly moved to Estel's side and Estel lifted Fin's shoulder once again. There was no mistaking this mark. Legolas knew what it meant; he had even witnessed it being given.

This mark was burned into the right shoulder blade of any exiled elf in order to mark them for life. This was part of the ultimate punishment, the elf that received this mark was forbidden to have any contact with other elves, forbidden from ever again returning home. Having made this discovery was cause for extreme concern.

"We do not know why, my friend." Estel said to his wide-eyed friend. "Let us reserve judgment until such a time as she can explain."

This explains so much, thought Legolas. Why she is alone, why she can take care of herself, why she has nothing to lose.

"I should not be helping her. Do you understand? I should be abandoning her right now to death. But I cannot." The last statement came out in a whisper.

"That is because you have compassion, my friend."

Estel finished cleaning the wound. He then applied a healing salve to it. He needed to observe her in order to determine how much poison was in her blood. He covered the wound with another bandage. Lifting her head up slightly, he tricked water into her mouth. It ran down her face and chin, leaving streaks in the dirt on her face.

The sun was once again beginning to sink. The horizon was etched in reds and pinks, and a fair wind blew in from the north. Legolas sat to the side of the fire, his mind full of worry. Where had she received this brand and why? Elves were exiled for many reasons, some more serious than others. What could this strong, self-reliant she-elf have possibly done to warrant the penalty of exile?

"I will go fill our water skins and try to find something to eat" Estel said as he rose. He quietly walked away into the growing darkness, leaving Legolas alone with his thoughts.

No wonder she could not answer my questions. She couldn't tell me, I wouldn't have accepted her help if I had known. She was purposefully heading this way, this is the land of exiles. I wonder if she has friends here. She will have many questions to answer when she awakens. No wonder she left us, she knew she was not supposed to be around us. But, yet, she had helped us?

His mind was so full of thoughts that he did not notice Fin's eyes open. She blinked several times. She dared not move and arouse the attention of whoever was near her. She glanced around nervously and her eyes settled on the back of an elf with long blond hair. He appeared to be alone, facing away from her. She chanced to pick her head up slightly to get a better look. There was a fire going, and it appeared as though a hasty camp had been set up.

"She is awake" came a voice from behind. Estel came into view, hovering over her. Fin realized that it was Legolas who had been sitting with his back to her. Her breath caught in her throat and she felt dizzy and light headed all of a sudden. Why did they follow me??

"How does your feel? I think the orc arrow was poisoned, that is why you felt so weak. I have cleaned it and applied a healing salve that I think will help, but we will need to keep an eye on it to be sure."

Fin nodded. She looked into Estel's kind gray eyes, and saw no threat or intent to harm. What did he want with her that he would have followed her so far?

"Why." she began, her throat dry and rough.

Legolas was suddenly aware of her weakness and moved forward to help her take a drink from the water skin. He was wary, and Fin could see it in his eyes.

"Why have you followed me" she finally finished.

Estel, not quite understanding the question, glanced at Legolas before responding with his own, "Why did you run away?"

She did not answer, could not answer. "Is it because you are an exile?" Estel offered softly.

Her eyes flew open and she gasped aloud. They had seen. They knew what it meant, and yet. and yet they had still helped her. Fin was very confused. Nothing in her experience had prepared her for this situation.

She attempted to rise, but felt very weak. A small groan escaped her lips. Legolas reached out and helped her into a sitting position. She drew her knees to her chest, rested her hands upon her knees, and met Legolas' blue eyes with her own.

"I am an exile. I am truly sorry I did not say so before now. I was concerned about you, Estel, and you, Legolas. I only wanted to help. I should not; I have brought great danger to you both. That is why I left." Looking at Legolas, she added, "And I now know who you are, Legolas Greenleaf, son of Thranduil."

He stared back at her with a puzzled look. Why should it matter who he was? "I do not understand, Fin. Why is that important?" He asked, but as the words came from his mouth, he dreaded the answer.

"It was because of Thranduil that I am living the life of an exile", she whispered back without looking. She was ashamed and could no longer meet his eyes. Legolas looked to Estel. His head shook slightly. Estel laid a steadying hand upon Legolas' shoulder, encouraging him to ask the next question that was in both their minds.

"What happened, I wish to know."

Drawing in a deep breath, Fin finally looked up and bravely met Legolas' eyes.

"My mother was a healer, a midwife. She was raised in Mirkwood, but because of her knowledge, she traveled to other elven realms to offer her healing services to those who would to learn them. It was on one of these journeys that she met my father. He was an elf friend and highly respected. Before she even realized she was carrying me, he was killed in a cave in Moria. I was born after his death, I never even knew him."

"She eventually traveled back to Mirkwood, because the king's wife was expecting her second child. She was expected to attend to the queen when she gave birth."

Legolas began to tense as he realized where Fin's story was leading.

"The queen's time came and things did not go well. I was but a child, but I remember her saying that the queen had not been well and that she worried for her health. The queen was very weak, and the birth did not go well. The queen died along with her daughter." The last part came out in a whisper. Estel was motionless, listening intently to a tale he could not quite comprehend. Legolas was shaking.

"Elinor" Legolas stated quietly, "She was to be called Elinor."

"Who?" Estel was still puzzled.

"My little sister"

Chapter 9

Fin was physically and mentally drained. She took the water that Legolas offered and tried to settle down, calm her breathing, and rest. Before long, her eyes glazed over, and she fell into an unrestful slumber.

Legolas could not believe how fate would have brought this young elf into their midst. He knew about the ill-fated birth, and remembered his own anguish at the passing of his mother. It happened so long ago, yet the ache of her absence still bothered him. His father however, was beyond reasoning. He was too distraught to think rationally. Legolas quietly explained to Estel how his father had blamed the midwife for his own beloved's death and had sought to punish her. Since he and his son would forever be deprived of the loving presence of the queen, he would forever deprive the midwife and her young daughter the presence of their people. He exiled them both, marking their shoulders with the "E" rune so all would know.

"I was barely old enough to understand, yet I remember the look of fear on Fin's face and the pleading of her mother not to harm the child. I watched as both were marked. I remember the screams of pain. I do not know what happened to them after, they must have been escorted to the edge of Mirkwood and forced to leave."

"Not many elves receive the sentence of exile. It is a cruel punishment. Elrond has told me that to many it is as good as a death sentence, they give up, they cannot bear to go on living. What must it have been like for a mother and child?"

"They must have traveled this way, but I wonder what happened to her mother?"

"I believe you are right, Legolas. I have known others who traveled to the Sea of Rhun, to the places that the exiled lived. It is a lonely, forgotten place. It can also be very dangerous."

"What will happen to her now? Exile is for life, but she did not do anything to warrant such a sentence. I do not believe even her mother deserved such a sentence. The blame was wrongly placed, my mother did not die due to the negligence of another."

"We will have to wait and ask her. She must be confused and scared. I have never heard of the ban of exile being lifted, but considering that she risked her life to save us both?"

"I do not know, Estel. My father does not like to admit he was wrong. Even bringing her back could subject her to further punishment. Possibly even a death sentence."

"Well, we are going nowhere right now. She needs rest. We will think further on this in the morning."

"I will take the first watch. I do not think I could sleep."

Estel nodded and lay back on his bedroll. He was very tired, the day had been long. He closed his eyes and was soon asleep. Legolas began to patrol the perimeter of their camp in ever increasing circles. When he was satisfied that they were indeed safe from harm, he climbed into a tree above his sleeping friend and made himself comfortable on a thick branch.

The strength that Fin had shown when telling her tale to them both was amazing. He truly admired any creature that was so self-reliant. How long had she been alone, and what had she been forced to do to survive? He felt his father would never overturn such a sentence; he had never done so in the past. But Thranduil usually could be counted on to make clearly thought out judgments, and the one he had pronounced on Fin and her mother was not made by a clear mind, but one filled with grief.

He glanced at Fin. She was sleeping restlessly, her head moving slightly in her dreams. He climbed down from the tree and knelt beside her. He placed a hand on her forehead and felt a slight warmth. From poison or infection, she had become feverish. Legolas pulled back the covering on her shoulder wound. It looked like it was beginning to heal, but the scratched she had gotten from the warg were red and weeping. A warg's claws could be dirty, and now these wounds looked infected.

Legolas rummaged through Estel's pack and found the healing salve he had used earlier. Tenderly, Legolas applied it to each scratch. As he worked, he sang to her in elvish. When he was done he looked into her face and saw that she was awake.

"Are you thirsty"

Fin nodded and Legolas helped her drink from the water skin.

"You have a fever. The scratches are infected. I do not think the fever is from the poison arrow."

Legolas poured some water onto a cloth and placed it on Fin's forehead. He continued to wipe her hot face in silence. She watched his every move.

"I am grateful for your help, but you know that I must leave. It places the both of you in danger being in my company. I would not repay your kindness in this way."

"When you are well enough to travel, then we shall decide what to do. I do not see helping you as a danger, especially way out here."

"I have seen Mirkwood patrols this far out before."

"Aye, I believe that is so, but usually only in times of crisis do our patrols come out this far."

There was silence between them for several minutes before Fin spoke again.

"I remember you."

Legolas met her eyes. He thought back to the time of his mother's death and before.

"I also remember you." He thought of the day when Fin and her mother had been branded and forced to leave. He remember the crying and whimpering of the small elf as her mother carried her away through the forest surrounded by the guards of Mirkwood.

"We played together in the palace halls when my mother was attending someone there. You would hide and make me try to find you. You would get so angry because I always could." A small smile broke out on her face at this memory.

"I think you peeked."

"Nay, you were a very noisy child."

"Can I ask you a question?"

"Yes, but I do not know if I can answer."

"How long have you been alone?"

Fin was silent for a minute. She wanted to trust this elf, but getting too involved was not a good idea. Still, what harm could it do? They would soon be parted and most likely not see each other again. That thought was unsettling.

"My mother and I left Mirkwood under guard. We were alone. My mother had traveled quite a bit before I was born, and she was familiar with the area surrounding Mirkwood. We headed east, toward Rhun. I remember endless days of walking in silence. We hid from orcs and men. I was frightened and I did not understand what was happening. We arrived, after several weeks, at the edge of the forest that surrounds the Sea of Rhun. My mother said there would be others there like us."

"Yes, I have heard that many of the exiled traveled there, but also that many outlaws and thieves made it their home as well."

"Aye, that is so. But we were not a threat, and my mother was a healer. We were able to trade her skills for things we needed to survive."

Fin paused here, her mind thinking back to the first few years of their exile.

"You know it is said that the sentence of exile for many is as a sentence of death. Those punished cease to live, their bodies just go on until they die from a broken heart. That is how it was with my mother. I think she lasted as long as she did because I was very young. I was barely out of childhood when she faded finally. I have been alone ever since."

"I am sorry. You did not deserve to live such a life. I want you to know that I truly believe the death of my mother could not have been prevented by even the most skilled healer. Neither of you deserved the punishment that my father handed out that day."

"It is in the past, Legolas. It cannot be changed. We must all make the best of what life gives us. I am fortunate that I was stronger than my mother. I refused to let myself give in to despair."

"You are very strong. But I think now you must rest. I will wake Estel and he will check your wounds."

Fin relaxed and let sleep take her. She drifted into a deep sleep. Legolas gently shook Estel awake.

"How fare's our friend?" He said as he sat up rubbing his eyes.

"She has a slight fever, but I think not from the arrow wound. I believe the scratches are infected."

Estel checked Fin's wounds. "You are right. Her body will heal this on it's own. The wounds are clean. She just needs time. Why don't you take some rest, my friend? I will keep watch till morning."

Legolas reclined back onto Estel's sleeping roll and let his thoughts drift. His eyes soon glazed over in the sleep of elves.

Chapter 10

Legolas awoke as the first touches of light reached the hollow where they were camped. The sky was clouded over, and he could smell rain in the air. Dark clouds overhead were heavy with moisture and the blowing wind promised to get stronger.

"I am afraid we are in for a storm," said the human as he poked at the fire and added wood to the flames.

"Aye, you are right. I sense a heaviness in the air." Legolas glanced over to where Fin had been resting and was startled to see her gone.

"Do not worry, my friend. Her fever is gone, and her wounds are beginning to heal. She is at the nearby stream. She will not run. Of this I have her word."

"Has she spoken to you? Will she come back with us?"

Estel looked over at his friend with sad eyes.

"Aye, we have spoken. She refuses to accompany us to any elven realm. Fin does not wish to place you or I in harm's way. She knows her situation is a threat to us. She is very stubborn, much like another elf I know," he finished with a slight smile.

Legolas sighed. He was at a loss as to what to do. He felt compelled to help Fin, he was unsure why, but his feelings for her were deep. Friendship? Or a bit more. He could not tell. He was deep in thought and failed to notice Fin return to the fireside. She gracefully sat down next to him, and silently waited for his attention.

"I know what you are going to say. I have decided I cannot place either of you in danger. If you care for me, you will respect my wishes," she whispered.

"My heart feels torn in two. I know what you say is wise, and my head would listen to such wisdom, but my heart refuses."

Suddenly, in the distance, a crash of thunder could be heard. All three beings looked up as small drops began to fall.

"Pack up, my friends, I feel we need to move to a more sheltered spot. This storm looks to become dangerous." Estel could feel electricity of approaching lightning in the air. Thunder rumbled ominously in the distance.

Estel checked Fin's wounds once again. He decided to leave the bandage off the arrow wound, as the air would be good for it. The poison had worked it's was out of her system quickly. She had explained to him during the night that the orcs tended not to use any deadly forms of poison when guarding slaves or prisoners, as they were too valuable a work force. It was just enough to be debilitating so they could quickly recapture anyone who had escaped.

Fin and Legolas quickly packed up their belongings. Fin moved slightly slower, her shoulder was still painful and stiff. Legolas helped her shoulder her pack and bow, and the three of them set off.

"I know this area fairly well. When the rainy season comes, you do not want to be caught on the low grounds. I have seen mudslides and washouts take everything, trees, animals, even people and elves." Fin led them north toward the mountains. "Higher ground is ahead, and shelter in a cave or under an outcrop."

Within minutes the rain began to get heavier and the wind began to blow. By the time they reached the foothills of the northern mountains, they were all drenched. The sky was gray as slate and clouds hung heavily in the air.

"Be on your guard. There may be orcs about." Legolas felt out with all his senses. He could not feel any danger or threat, but it was difficult to determine with the noise of the storm blowing around them. Estel began to shiver with cold and wet that the other two had not felt yet, elves being more impervious to such things. Before too long, Fin spotted a dark spot in the distance along the edge of a rock fall. Darting ahead to investigate, she found a small opening in the cliff edge. Peering into the darkness, she sniffed the air. Detecting no foul odors, she cautiously stepped inside. It was dark and cool, and more importantly, dry. She turned and exited and waved to Legolas and Estel to join her. Estel barely paused before entering, grateful to be out of the rain. Legolas, however, did not enter right away.

Fin turned to look at him. "I know elves are not suppose to enjoy places such as this, but under the circumstances, I think it is better than being outdoors. It is not very deep, and we shall stay near the entrance." She took his hand and led him inside. He reluctantly followed. Being inside caves made him nervous.

"We shall just have to make this place a bit more homey, that's all." Fin looked about. A small stack of wood was just inside the door, it was apparent that this cave was used before. Quickly with Estel's help, Fin got a small fire going. It did much to warm both the cave and the being inside. The light it provided enabled them to see the inside of the small retreat. It was little more than a large hole, just big enough for the three travelers to stretch out a bit. The ceiling sloped downward from the entrance to the back of the small cave leaving just enough room to sit at the back.

Once their bedrolls were shaken out, Fin began to remove her clothing, placing it next to the fire to dry. Her two companions looked uncomfortably at each other and quickly averted their eyes from the slender figure of the she-elf standing nude in front of the fire. Her hair was wet and hung down her back. She glanced at her companions, wondering why they sat in wet clothing still. They both had turned away from her, and she thought she saw a slight pink tinge grace the cheeks of the elf. She got the uneasy feeling that she had done something wrong and quickly picked up her blanket and wrapped it around her body. Legolas met her eyes and gave he a slight smile before looking away again.

She sat down next to the fire, her back to Estel and Legolas. She felt embarrassed to realize it was not appropriate for her to disrobe in front of them. What must they think of her? "I am sorry, I am not used to being around others," she offered as an explanation. She lowered her head, sighing. She could not turn around and face them. She heard a slight shuffle, and then felt a hand on her back. She tilted her head just enough to look and see that it was Legolas. She took in a deep breath, and turned to look at him, her head still bowed.

"It is alright, do not worry. We are not offended, just surprised." His heart went out to her. She had been around others so little that she did not even know what was acceptable and what was not. He could make out a small tear making it's way down her cheek. She squeezed her eyes shut to stop the next one and quickly reached up to brush it away with the back of her hand.

On the other side of the fire, Estel took off his wet cloak and spread it out next to Fin's clothing. He then reached down and pulled his shirt over his head. This he spread next to his cloak. He looked over at the surprised look on his friends face. "What.it was a good idea!" he said with a laugh. Fin smiled and looked up at Legolas, who broke out with a grin and a laugh.

"So tell me, how is it that an elf and a man travel together? I have often heard it told that elves and men do not get along, although my mother Hanaan, most definitely an elf, and my father Halofin, a well respected man, did get along famously. I am here as a result of than!

The rest of the day, as the rain poured down outside, Legolas and Estel told Fin about their lives and adventures together. She managed to give little information about herself in the process, always keeping the subject on them by asking numerous questions. Estel was telling her a tale that detailed how he came to live in the house of Elrond and Legolas let his mind wander. He thought about how he could possibly help Fin. Could he speak to his father? Thranduil was a reasonable man, and many years had passed since the time of his mother's death. Lifting the ban of an exile was not easy. There had to be special circumstances involved, important reasons for doing such. It would have to be justified as it could cause more trouble. But she was alone, and he wanted to try. He felt something for this she-elf, what he was not sure, but at least a friendship.

The rain had lightened to a mere drizzle. The wind had abated. It was too late in the day to travel any further and the weather was still not suitable for it. Fin had excused herself and at the back of the cave, discreetly got back into her clothing.

"Legolas." Estel called looking at his friend who'd been staring out into nothing.

"Yes.?" he replied.

"You were daydreaming, friend."

"Oh, I am sorry, I was thinking"

"About something important, I'll guess, for you had a very serious look on your face."

"Actually, I was thinking about Fin."

Fin looked at him with a puzzled look on her face. "What about Fin?" she replied.

"Well, I think that you should return with me to Mirkwood. I can speak to my father and tell him how you helped us get away from the orcs. I will try to convince him to lift the ban of exile from you." He blurted this out all at once.

Fin, who had picked up a stick, began poking it at the fire. "No, I do not wish to go through that." She seemed a bit agitated and Legolas was puzzled as to why. "I told you before, I am content with my lot. I do not wish for help." Her voice had begun to rise. She looked him straight in the eye. "I do not think I could bear the disappointment" she finished with a whisper.

Legolas gazed back at her, sadness in his eyes.

"And I do not need your pity." She stood abruptly, snatched her bow and quiver off the floor, and fled from the cave. Legolas stood to go after her, but Estel restrained him.

"Let her go. She will return."

Legolas glanced worriedly to the cave entrance, and then sat back down at the fire.

"She's right."

"What do you mean?"

"What would happen if you brought her before your father, and even after arguing her case before him, he still refused to repeal her exile? What then? She would again have to face the humiliation of being escorted from Mirkwood's borders under guard; he could even lock her up just for returning. Is that what you want?"

"No, but Estel, it's not right. She needs to be around others. She cannot go on living alone for the rest of her life. She has come to mean a lot to me."

"I know, mellon nin, but she is not asking for help, pity, or anything else. She told me that she pretty much goes through life looking for the good in everything. Sometimes it gets her into trouble, but often she is surprised to find friendship, as she has done with you and I. Maybe she trusts too easily, but in that way, she is not always alone."

Legolas let these thoughts sink in. Estel was very wise for one so young. Perhaps there was a way to help her, but he knew that ultimately they would have to part, that he and Estel would have to leave her alone. "You are right, Estel. That would be a cruel thing to put her through again. I will speak to my father, but should he change the ruling, we will just have to come back and find her again." At this thought, he smiled up at his friend.

"Well, we will need more wood if this fire is to last through the night. And I am hungry. One of us should hunt us up a meal!" Estel stood and headed for the door.

"Wood we need, but I have already taken care of the hunting" Fin said as she stepped back into the cave with several fat rabbits hanging from her hand. She turned to face Legolas. "I am sorry I ran. I know you just want to help. Again, I am not used to being around others. I usually don't have to consider anyone's desires other than my own, nor be concerned about anyone but myself. I do not know any other way." She looked into his eyes. "I shall have to learn if I am to have friends such as you and Estel." Fin smiled as he looked down at her. "You will just have to teach me."

"Gladly" Legolas and Estel replied together.

Chapter 11

Estel banked the fire to last through the night. The three friends were warm, dry and had eaten their fill of a delicious meal prepared by Fin. Along with the rabbits, she had gone out and found roots and greens to stuff them and season them with. Estel had commented on the fine meal and Fin had teased that he probably would have said the same about a meal of shoe leather he was so hungry.

"In the morning I will be heading east toward Rhun. I have a dwelling there along the northern bank. I built a flet in a huge oak no more than a dozen yards from the shores of the sea. It is a very wooded area, and it is quiet. That is where I will be, should anyone want to find me" Fin stated with a mischievous grin. She was sitting next to the fire, basking in its warmth. She began braiding her long hair. Estel knelt at her side, lightly kissed her on the forehead, and headed to his bedroll. "Good night, Estel"

"Good night, Fin."

He rolled onto his side, his back to the fire, and was almost immediately asleep. Legolas watched her as she slowly and gracefully braided her hair into several plaits, then braided them together into one large plait. When she was finished, she let her hands drop into her lap. Legolas picked one up and placed it on his cheek, feeling its warmth.

"I am glad I have met you, Fin, daughter of Hanaan and Halofin. I will do what I can on your behalf. Whatever happens, though, you shall always be my friend." She was touched by his words and she reached up to brush her fingers against his face.

"I was not looking for a friend, and I have found two. I am still concerned that by associating with me, you place yourself in danger. Most people I have met in my life would not do such a thing, for anyone. While I would be very sorry to give up two such friends, if it becomes to much of a risk, I would understand if you could not continue our friendship."

"You risked your life for both of us, and you did not even know us, or consider the consequences to yourself. A friend such as that is rare, and worth such a risk. In the morning, I will head to my home and do what I can for you. My father is not an unreasonable elf. It has been long since my mother's death. Perhaps there is a way. Either way, I will seek you out soon."

Fin lay out on her blanket, close to the fire. Legolas stretched out and lay so that his head was near hers. He listened to her breathing, and noted when it deepened and she slept. He propped himself up on an elbow and gazed at her. I will seek you out, my friend, he thought as he watched her. She shifted in her sleep and in the light of the fire, he saw a small smile on her face.

In the morning, when Legolas awoke, Fin was gone.

TBC