By Some Evil Spell

Elizabeth Goode

Part I

**************************************************************************** ****************

"This rain is interminable! I am soaked through, and the saddle is becoming quite slippery."

"Stop your complaining, Elladan. You are not the only one of us upon whom the rain falls." Elrohir flashed his twin a smile. "It falls on Estel and I as well, though perhaps not on the Prince of Mirkwood."

Legolas favored Elrohir with a roll of his eyes. "I cannot repel the rain, but the cloak I wear has truly done wonders in that respect. Have you no cloaks?"

Elladan made a face at Legolas' back, but pulled his warm cloak from his pack. Elrohir did the same.

"Estel, have you a cloak, brother?"

The young Ranger did have a cloak, and had been wearing it for the duration of the hunting trip. Unfortunately, he was still cold and wet. Legolas turned around to see his human friend and immediately felt guilty. Estel's dark hair was plastered to his head. Water dripped from his hair and face down his neck and thus infiltrated the elven cloak. Although he was trying valiantly to hide it, Estel was shivering.

"Estel! Have you no sense? For a man who just killed twelve orcs and three wargs, you have a remarkable lack of self-preservation."

"My spare cloak was ruined by a careless elf who shall go un-named at this moment." The young human coughed, a sound that more than resembled the name, "Legolas."

The Prince of Mirkwood laughed. "Let it not be said that I will not admit fault when fault is mine. For the record, I will say that I would not have ruined it had a human not jostled my elbow while I wore the borrowed cloak!"

Estel smiled. "Clumsy lot, humans. No sense of self-preservation, I've been told. However, for all our faults I seem to remember a particular elf- prince about to have his arm chewed off by a slobbering warg. It is fortunate that a human with a good sense of elf-preservation was nearby."

At Estel's joke, Elladan and Elrohir groaned. "Please, have mercy upon us and stop your terrible jesting before I fall to the ground. Can we not stop to rest a bit? Home is not far now, and we are weary from fighting."

Legolas stopped his horse and the others did the same. "We need a rest, and then we must ride for Rivendell before this weather worsens. We elves may not be in danger of catching cold, but it is still most unpleasant to be outdoors right now."

The three elves and the young ranger had been scouting the perimeters of Rivendell for Lord Elrond and Mithrandir. They Grey Pilgrim had been visiting for a long while, and spent many hours in Elrond's study. Elladan had been so curious to hear what his father and the kindly wizard were discussing at so great a length, that he had been caught listening at the door. Similarly, Estel and Legolas had been caught trying to hear from the hedge outside the window. When Elrohir was also discovered hiding behind the draperies, the wizard had sighed, and reluctantly admitted that because they would be the ones sent to investigate, that perhaps they ought to be told what to be alert for.

From Mithrandir and Elrond, they learned that the threat of Sauron was once again growing. The wizard would not be as specific as they wished that he would, but the small amount of information that he gave was enough to chill the four of them to the bone. The first part of their mission was to ride the perimeter of Rivendell, staying alert to the possibilities of increased numbers of orcs, wargs, and other creatures of evil. After returning to Rivendell to report on their findings, they were to ride next to Mirkwood to do the same, and to inform Legolas' father, King Thranduil, of the growing threat.

Of course, things rarely turned out to be as easy as they seemed. They had quickly discovered that Mithrandir was right. Within three days, they had their first altercation with orcs. Two weeks later, the three elves and the ranger had killed more orcs and wargs than they had thought to see in a lifetime. That Imladris was now only a short distance away was a most welcome fact.

Legolas signaled to the others that they should wait for a moment. Throughout their journey, the Prince of Mirkwood had often experienced a feeling of profound wrongness. It was not something that he could easily describe, though he had tried. Elladan and Elrohir had both tried to meditate to understand what it was that put their friend on edge, but had been unable to feel the sensation for themselves. Estel worried so when Legolas felt it, that the Mirkwood elf had stopped voicing his concern. The last several times that Estel had asked if Legolas was all right, he had assured the young human that they would discuss it with Elrond upon their return.

They led their horses to the edge of the river to drink, and Elrohir dug into his pack to find an extra cloak for Estel.

"Here, brother. Put this on."

Estel shook his head stubbornly. "I am fine."

Elrohir did not take 'no' for an answer. He took his human brother by the shoulders, yanked off the wet cloak and replaced it with the dry one. "None of us are 'fine'. We are tired and soaked to the bone. Orc and warg blood stains our clothing. You killed more of the foul creatures than I. At least allow me to lend you a cloak."

Sighing, Estel accepted his brother's offer. "Thank you. I - "

A loud crack of thunder cut him off, and a zigzag of lightning appeared in the sky. Spooked, the horses began to prance nervously, and their riders had to keep a tight hold on the reins to keep them from running away. Another bolt of lightning struck a tree, setting the top of it on fire.

Standing at the edge of the river, Estel faced the woods. Elrohir's back was to the trees, but he saw the look of horror that crossed his foster brother's face. Estel sprang forward with a speed that was more elven than human, throwing Elrohir out of the path of danger. The entire top half of the lightning-stricken tree landed on Estel, pinning him to the riverbed.

The next several moments were a blur for the three elves. Elrohir lay where he had landed, staring stunned at the place where his human brother had stood. Elladan ran to the water's edge, frantically shouting Estel's name. Legolas felt his stomach lurch and wondered briefly if that was what it felt like to be ill.

It was Legolas who found Estel near the riverbank, pinned beneath the tree, and it was Legolas who managed to stir the young Ranger to consciousness.

"Estel! Come back to the light, my friend. Open your eyes."

Estel did not move, and the elf-prince was forced to try a more drastic

method. He drew back his hand and slapped Estel's face, not too hard, but hard enough that the human opened his eyes and let out a pained groan.

"Legolas ... hurts ... "

The elf comforted as best he could, smoothing the hair out of Estel's face. "Shh. You are trapped, but we will soon have you out. Can you keep your head out of the water for me?"

Estel nodded, and the elves went to work. Elladan and Elrohir stood at either end of the tree, while Legolas lifted from the center. The timber creaked, but did not budge, except to threaten to crush Estel even more thoroughly. Estel's cries stopped them from any further attempts to move the tree with physical force.

"It cannot be moved, not by us, and not without killing him. We must ride for help, Rivendell is not far." Elladan stated the situation succinctly, and Legolas agreed. Elrohir still stared wide-eyed at the form of his foster brother trapped beneath the tree.

"It is my fault. I should be the one who lies where Estel does. I will ride for help."

Legolas nodded his agreement. "Elladan, stay with him. We will fetch Elrond, and Mithrandir as well, if he has not yet departed."

When Elrohir and Legolas rode away, Elladan sat down in the river beside Estel and held him, determined to keep Estel's mind anywhere but on what was happening.