Author's Notes (For Disclaimer See Chapter one): Two months?! It's been TWO months since I posted?! Well, I can give excuses, but the first and foremost being…I HATE THIS CHAPTER! Let me tell you guys, I had the worst case of writer's block when it came to this chapter. I have an outline of the entire story, so I know where I want to go, but I just couldn't seem to get there! Agh! Well, the end result is a not-very-good chapter. I'm sorry, guys! Truly I am! Please don't give up on the rest of the story just because of one bad post. Please? Also, I finally have a reliable Sindarin dictionary, and so my Elvish should improve exponentially now. (Yes, Esta was changed to Sérë. I found out that Esta wasn't a real Elvish word, so I replaced it with the correct one.)
One more note: new posts may become few and far between, and may be shorter then the last two. Many of you want me to hurry to the parts of the teasers - and don't worry we'll get there! – but it may take a little time. I'm taking a full load of courses (and all that entails – papers, homework, tests, etc.), I'm working 30 hours a week, we're starting practice for our Christmas program (I'm the director), Judo club practices Tuesdays and Thursdays, and I've got choir practice, and dance classes to attend (Whew! That's a lot in a week!). So, as you can see, my writing time is going to be cut into little itty-bitty teeny-tiny pieces. I'll keep going, and post when I can, but if you don't hear from me for a while, that's the reason: Life finds a way (as stated by Ian Malcolm) – but for me, Life gets in the way! So, there you are. I'm sorry!
OK, I'm done now.
Thank you's: Four major 'THANK YOU's to go out. They are:
Cassia of the 'Mellon Chronicles, who told me about the translation program "Dragon Flame."
X_eLLe_x who sent me to a fabulous site positively loaded with info (www.elvish.org).
Anolinde who introduced me to the 'Council of Elrond,' a truly awesome place.
And last but DEFINITELY not least, Erin's Daughter who sent me the complete Sindarin Dictionary Project.
Thanks a million, guys! You just aided me in a matter of National Security. Hannon le!
MidnightMidlight: Did you think the first chapter was funny, or the second? The first was supposed to be, and the second…well, if you enjoyed it I'm glad – for whatever the reason. Thanks a lot!
Anolinde: I am now an official member of the Council of Elrond. I love this site! Thanks for pointing it to me; I now use it as my main dictionary for this fic. By the way, if you think that the last chapter was a cliffhanger, you're going to hate me come future chapters. Grins evilly Stay tuned!
Nightshade3: I love your stories! You have a serious gift, friend! I'm glad you liked my own, but I hope that you'll keep going in your talent, as well. I hope to see more soon!
X_eLLe_x: Thanks for the info on the site. When I first went there I spent like two hours just exploring everything, and now I have it book marked. You're right; it's a great page. Thanks a lot.
Wilwarin: Patience, patience. Good things come to those who wait… Well, not always (cause I may disappoint you, though I'll try not to), but I'll try to make it worth your while. Oh, and BTW, this isn't my first fic, only my first fic with lots of action, so I may not be too good at writing the fight scenes, but again I'll try my best!
White Wolf1: Legolas and Aragorn are my two favorite guys in LotR. Having them as best friends just seems to fit. I'm honored that such a wonderful writer as you is waiting for a story from me. You are fabulous, friend, and thanks a million!
Fantasia of the Moon: Grins and looks innocent Now why would I want to hurt our favorite little elf? Oh, yeah, that's why! Cause it's so fun! So don't worry, plenty of Leggy hurting in this story! Just watch!
Gemstone: Oh, Aragorn and Legolas are both going to be neck deep in lots of boiling liquid; you'll see! Thanks a lot for your encouragement, though. I'm really glad that you think that my characters are believable; I work hard to make them that way. On a side note, when we were talking about the Twins: yeah, I'll take either/or, but what I meant was that what I'd really want would be a two-for-one – if you catch my meaning. Wiggles eyebrows That's what I want to ask Santa for Christmas. Grins evilly
Lil-Warrior-Gal: Wipes tears from cheeks Would you come live with me? I need someone like you to talk to everyday! Cries harder Thank you so much! You have no idea what your words mean to me! Thank you! On a side, don't dis your own talent, girl! You can do anything, and don't ever say that you aren't good enough, cause you got whatever you need in you! Don't short-change yourself. You go for it!
Tamara: I'm glad that you liked it! I'll keep going as fast as I can! Thanks a lot!
Evil Spapple Pie: Grins Tired are we? Yeah, after you pointed out some of the mistakes in the first chapter I worked doubly hard on the second one. I'm glad it paid off! As for the beta thing, let me think about it. I know that I need one, but… I dunno. I'm shy. What if… Gah! Never mind that ramble. Let me think about it. I may.
Newmoon: I'm glad you liked the second part! Also, I was agreeing with you on the Leggy/Ara friendship thing. Me no like slash either. It's a shame cause I'll see some story with a great plot, and then I can't read it cause of the slash. But ah well. I hope you'll stick around for more of my non-slash fic!
MidnightMidlight: Hey, you get two 'thank yous' in one chapter! Thanks a lot. By the way, that was no cliffie. I'll show you a REAL cliffie in a few chapters… Laughs manically
Jadelyn Rashwe: Ahhh, but are they leaving voluntarily, that's the question. Thanks a million for your review, and I hope you'll enjoy this chapter!
Calad Ú-Sila (Erin Camm Agarwaen)
No Light Shines (On Blood-Stained Hands)
Rachel, The Lady Tigress
The night wore on with no sign of Thordir's return. After the meal Melolie served the two travelers a large slab of sweet bread drizzled with a tangy, flavorful honey. She answered questions about the welfare of the people still in the camp quickly enough, but of the mystery and of those missing she would say nothing.
Finally, about an hour before midnight, Thordir returned from his post. Legolas and Aragorn were weary, both from the fast pace that they had set and from the skirmish with the orcs earlier, but neither would rest until they had heard the story of the disappearing Rangers.
Thordir stood in front of the fire for a moment before turning to face the young Dúnadan and Elf. "I know that you want answers for your questions," he began. "But I'm not sure I have any to give you. I can only tell you what we know, and that is not much." He sat at the table and sipped the hot tea that Melolie placed before him, and began his tale.
"In truth, the strange happenings began several years ago. There was a mighty earthquake a few summers back, and that's when we first began to notice something was odd. After the shake, things went back to normal for a time, but the woods and mountains seemed strange. The animals became timid and frightened. Hunting became more difficult and we were forced to venture father and farther out in search of game. Then, occasionally at night, we began to hear a strange cry coming from the forests." At this point the older Ranger looked at Strider with a puzzled, almost frightened look. "Aragorn, I know almost every single creature common and uncommon to Middle-Earth that walks these lands, and yet never have I heard cries such as these before. It is a deep, hollow sounding call that makes the hair on my neck shiver. It is…a disturbing sound." Thordir paused for a moment, before drinking deeply of his tea. He continued.
"After a while the cries stopped, and we began to believe that whatever it was that had been making the sounds had moved on. Then mysteries started again. Caladar – you remember Caladar, the young boy who was always daring you to climb the rock face when you visited as a child, and then claimed that he was no where near that area when you fell? – was the first. Caladar began to act strangely. He would stay away for long periods of time, and when he did return it seemed to be with reluctance. He would re-supply only the essentials before roaming out again. I thought at first that he may have come across a young lady and wanted to spend as much time with her as he could, but when he began miss his night-watches, I confronted him about it. He has often been reckless but never irresponsible. When I said something about it to him he became angry and violent. He told me that I was a controlling old man, and that everyone around him was conspiring against him. Of course I told him that it wasn't true, but he wouldn't listen to reason! He came to me later that day and apologized, but I could still see that something was troubling him. I told him that it was all right, and asked him if he would be available for his shift that night, and he agreed. When his shift came, he was indeed there as he promised, but when his relief came, no trace of him could be found. I was angry, for I believed that he had left his watch on purpose. When daylight came a few of the other Rangers and I went to track him to see which way he had left. What we found that morning was one of the oddest things that I have ever seen.
"We found clear prints from where he stood watch. He had paced back and forth, but never for a long distance. Then, his tracks indicated that he walked very quickly to the top of the ridge, and from there…they just vanished. We searched in all directions but those prints at the top of the hill were the last traces of him to be found. We were all very puzzled, as Caladar was never that skilled at stealth. Still, we thought that he had left of his own free will, and believed that he would return when he wished. After several months had passed we thought that maybe he meant to stay away, but then one of the younger Rangers found something in the woods a few leagues east of here." The old Ranger stood up and went to a chest nestled up against the wall. Opening it, he pulled out a jagged piece of cloth and handed it to Strider. It was torn and stained, but Strider and Legolas could see that it had once been a serviceable cloak of Ranger make. Legolas took the cloak and held it up. A great tear ripped one end from the other, and now the young man could see clearly that what he had thought was just dirt and wear had a very distinct pattern. Strider looked back up to Thordir.
"This is blood," he commented, and looked back down. "A lot of blood."
With a sigh Thordir dropped his head to the table. Strider could see that the old Ranger blamed himself for his lack of inattention to Caladar's disappearance. "Yes," the older Ranger whispered. "The area where it was found was soaked with it. No human could loose that much blood and live."
Strider reached over and gripped Thordir shoulder. "Do not give up hope," he encouraged. The older Ranger looked back into Aragorn's brilliant silver eyes.
"You think that we may find him alive?" He asked incredulously. Strider smiled slightly.
"I don't know what to believe yet." He answered. "But I do think that until we find more proof that I will continue to believe in my heart that all will be well."
Strider could tell that Thordir was loosing his hope, and that he needed any encouragement that the younger Ranger could give him. Thordir smiled slightly and, after a moment continued.
"When the cloak was found, we were saddened and shocked. Caladar was a good man, and a fine warrior. We didn't believe that he could have met his end so soon. Yet still, although we wondered what had become of him to make such a tear in his cloak and such an amount of blood to be spilt, we believed that he had encountered nothing more then an unfortunate accident or perhaps he had come across a band of orcs or even a group of brigands. The area where it was found is still very much unsettled, and something of that sort could have indeed happened to him. However, we think now that we were wrong. Caladar was the first, but he wasn't the last.
"A few weeks after we found the cloak, some of the other Rangers began to act in a similar manner, but we ignored it. They would avoid us, their kin, and leave abruptly. We worried, but again, we couldn't force them to stay in Sérë if they did not wish to. Some of us wondered if perhaps we had done something to incite this rebellion, yet still we passed it off as childish foolishness. But we began to realize that we were wrong when the disappearances began in earnest. People would vanish from their watches. We would go to relieve them only to find them missing. Others would go off on errands and never return. These were grown men, responsible, so we do not believe that it was of their free will. Yet we could find no trace of a struggle or fight. Indeed, we could find no trace of anything. We would track the movements of the missing person, only to have the tracks stop - vanish – as if they had simply stepped into the air." He stopped and looked down at the ragged cloth that Legolas still held. "Caladar's cloak wasn't the only one found, either. Sometimes it was a tunic, or a pack, or some other article, but always the amount of blood found at the site was phenomenal. That was when people began to worry and become suspicious of each other. Some of the Rangers believe that there is a murderer among us. This was only a few weeks ago, but it made us realize that Sérë was beginning to fall apart." Thordir stopped his tale and for a moment stared into the fire. He looked back at Strider.
"You should not have come, Aragorn," the old man whispered. "The Rangers are frightened and scared, and they do not trust their own anymore. It became even worse when Mendant's little girl disappeared." He sighed, and shook his head. "That was an odd thing. No one, not even her family knows how she was taken that night. Mendant left her sleeping with her mother and two brothers when he left for his night-watch, but when he returned she just wasn't there. He was on the rise, and swore that no one entered or left the camp that night. Because of this, almost everyone left is convinced that the evil is from one of us. They are suspicious, and untrusting, even of their own kin. That's when we sent out Hunt and the others, telling you and the rest of the absent Rangers to stay away. It was for your own safety, yes, but also because the Dúnadain don't trust anyone anymore." The old Ranger stopped his tale and studied Aragorn for a moment. "They won't trust you either, even though your father was once the leader among us." He said quietly.
At this statement Strider noticed Legolas's head turn in puzzlement, and smiled. "He means Arathorn," the younger Ranger explained. "My biological father. He was once the leader among the Dúnadain before he died. If he had lived I would have become leader after him." The young man deliberately refrained from saying 'his real father,' for in his eyes, Elrond was his real father, for all that he had not been born of him.
Strider looked back to Thordir. "So that's it then," he said angrily. "Less then a fourth of the Rangers remain, and Sérë is crumbling all due to these strange disappearances. Why? Don't the Dúnadain have faith in their own kin anymore? We don't even know that the others are dead yet! Why haven't you banded together and sent out warriors and search parties to see if some other clues could be found? Why do you turn your backs on the only help available – each other? This is not the camp that I left many years ago, and these are not the people that I call my kin!" He looked at Thordir. "Tomorrow call an assembly of the remaining Dúnadain. We will get to the bottom of this. I will not let Sérë fall!"
The older Ranger bowed his head in agreement and fought to hide a smile. "Just like his father," the Ranger mumbled. "Just like his father."
The three warriors sat in silence for a moment. When it became obvious that nothing more was to be accomplished that night, Melolie reappeared and shooed the men from the table. "You've said all that needs to be said tonight," she told them as she prepared the bedding for Aragorn and Legolas. "Tomorrow more things will be done, but for now, off to bed with you." The two exchanged an amused glance at the mothering, but neither argued. The hard day was beginning to catch up to them and they gratefully settled into the extra bed that Melolie had provided. They said their goodnights to their hosts, and were asleep even before they heard the replies.
The morning sun was just beginning to shine her light upon the dark earth when an agonizing cry shattered the peaceful morning. The scream was loud and pain-filled and caused the Ranger and the Elf Prince to tumble out of bed with weapons at the ready in their hands. The two looked around for a moment, but could find no threat or foe to face.
"What has happened?" Legolas demanded, confused, for he could see nothing amiss. Then the cry sounded again, and this time they recognized the direction from which it came…the room next to their own. They hurried through the doorway, to find Thordir standing in the center of the room with a look of anguish on his face, and tears streaming from his eyes. Aragorn dropped his sword and rushed to the older man. "Thordir, what is wrong?" He demanded. "What has happened?"
The other Ranger just stood there and didn't reply. Aragorn gave him a small shake. "Thordir? Thordir! Pace! Pace, what has happened?!" At this the old Dúnadan seemed to pull himself from his pain. He looked at Aragorn while tears ran helplessly down his face.
"Melolie," he whispered. "Melolie's disappeared!"