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familiar characters, places, or features belong to me.
They are the brain children of Master Tolkien and
owned by his enterprises and or New Line Cinema.
Last Edited: 1-10-04
Right Side of Justice
"I amar prestar aen, han mathon ne nen, han mathon ne chae a han moston ned 'wilith."
"The World is changed; I can feel it in the water, I can feel it in the earth, I can smell it in the air."
Galadriel's words remained true. Her wisdom rang clear and untainted through rock and age. She had spoken of a different period of change, but now the wheel rolled ponderously again. The world was changed and with it its peoples, lands, and waters. Even those that remembered the goings on of the old world were changed with the turning of tides and rising of mountains. Dagor Dagorath had been the epilogue of Middle-earth's long and colorful tale, but had been only the prologue of a new and equally colorful age that was the dawn of Man's time.
But as it were, some of
the Firstborn did not remain in what eternal land was offered as harbor to them
at the end of their world; and with the coming of the new, some wished to greet
it, to nurture it - or were simply called by a higher purpose to sail for a
different life as friend and family departed to an equally unknown, but
Or were they, those that stayed upon the new soil that was still damp from creation, the ones that stepped forward?
History would weave itself as it always did for age upon age, but this time the Elves would nare be mentioned in its making - though they were very much involved...
Chapter 1 - Reasons to Act
It was an untamed land where only the hardy of muscle and will could find any life worth mentioning. Men were stronger then, not so given to physical pleasures and niceties, as they simply could not be found in such a country. From the outside looking in, one might wonder what dysfunctional thinking prompted men to leave well founded towns with all the latest modern effects to head away from the east across a land so flat that water droplets would bead where they dropped.
Land, they said, land was what they yearned for. But it was more than territory. Something beyond the crowded streets and the bustle of population that called to the heart and soul of the free man. From the inside looking about themselves, these leathered pioneers saw something more precious than comfortable housing or stage plays - land and a place to sink their roots and start something new and unspoiled. Not all was so flat and arid as it seemed on first glimpse, for beyond the horizon of tumbleweeds and the bleached bones of monsterous cacti that had fallen from wind or age, there was green and wild.
But the call of the unspoiled did not beckon to the race of Men alone.
The peak of high summer had flooded over the easterly side of the great state of Texas in all its scorching glory. The humidity rose with it and added a nearly insufferable height of discomfort, but only nearly so. One never could quite acclimate to the oppressive heat no matter how long one resided in this region. Still, Man, beast and plant continued to tick through life.
Amidst the heat and humidity, one went on with his labor. He was of no remarkable stature or build, slighter than most in fact, but with strong shoulders and hands accustomed to the rough sinews of rope sliding through their grip. A hat, worn and shaped to comfort, was tipped far over his eyes, shadowing his features as he kept his head tilted downward and slightly to the side, his attention obviously centered.
The horse was a fine animal. From looking at its deep russet coat and well defined muscles, the clean lines of his legs, it was impossible to tell that at one point in the creature's lifetime it had been nothing but loose skin and bones with a fiery temper to boot. Now it moved flawlessly, tucking his head and giving to the slightest bump of the reins, showing willing submission in his every move. Indeed, there was really no need for bit, nor saddle.
"Done it again, I see. Gone and turned an old nag to a piece of stock worth his weight in gold." The Mexican that stood at the outer edge of the round pen shook his head with a smile that cracked across dry, scraggly features like a gorge in a desert of thorns.
The rider shifted his weight back, settling into the saddle with a subtle movement. The bay horse halted, the reins slack against his neck, never having been touched. Leaning forward on the pommel of the saddle and head still tipped downward with eyes hidden beneath his hat, the rider spoke softly. "None of these creatures are simply pieces of stock, Benito," it was said with a slight tone of reproval. His head slipped up, the shadow over his eyes lessening to reveal guardingly a youthful face whose lips twitched into a small smile, "I'd keep every one of them if I could."
The old man slipped the loop of rope over the protruding top of the gatepost and pulled it open. "Ah, Mateo, they're only horses! I still do not see what appeals to you so when all they do is eat our food and then expel it again for us - or more accurately, me - to clean up!"
Mateo dismounted outside the gate, running a hand down the length of the horse's neck. "Only?" he repeated, throwing a wry glance over his shoulder at Benito. He looked back to the horse, placing a hand under its chin. "Did you hear that friend? He just demeaned you!" The horse bobbed his head and gave a whicker that ended in an affronted snort. "You see, you've hurt his feelings." The bay stomped a hoof ill-temperedly. "You had better apologize."
Benito for all his years in the company of Mateo, was by now used to his friend's eclectic way of personifying the creatures. Yet sometimes when he observed the horseman from afar, it seemed nigh impossible to deny that the man dealt with the beasts in a way in which no other was capable. Mateo was as strange as his ways and even after all these years, Benito had come to the conclusion that what his eyes saw was either a mirage of old age and too many years on his feet in the hot sun, or, Mateo was gifted in a supernatural way. Benito opted for the former.
"My apologies, flea bitten beast." Pulling his bandanna from his neck, he tossed it at Mateo. "Wipe up; you smell like them."
The rider laughed softly, doffing his hat.
Legolas watched Benito wander back to the shelter of the shade under the eave of the house, some ways away. He was limping again, Legolas noticed. Bad heat waves and severe cold usually accentuated it. Putting to use the bandanna, he dipped it into the trough of water that the horse was currently taking advantage of. Legolas looked down at the sopping cloth, and then to the cool - if not a little murky - water, then to the horse.
With abandon, Legolas threw propriety to the wind and dropped to his knees, submersing his head up to his shoulders. He stayed that way for as long as he dared, then came back up, scrubbing his hands over his face. The refreshing liquid streamed down his back and chest, cooling and revitalizing everywhere it touched. A second time he plunged his head under, this time taking in mouthfuls. He figured that if it was good enough for the horses to drink, it was good enough for him. A lifetime of hard physical work out here in these lands and time had tempered that old proclivity for fastidiousness. Oh, he was still set on an orderly life style, but the little things were not so important to him anymore.
Ai, if only his father could see him now, covered with grime and dirt, hair plastered to the sides of his face and working free of the leather tie... Indeed, the son of King Thranduil a rancher and a drifter for some thousand years since the shores changed and history had faded from Man's recollection of the old ways and their true past.
He shook his head as he resurfaced, wondering what his father's reaction would truly be if he found out just where life had swept him off to. Perhaps he didn't want to know.
His reverie was broken by Benito's warning cry from the porch. He had risen to his feet from where he sat beating leather into shape and was pointing east. Riders, was his call.
Legolas swept the rogue hair back from his face and narrowed his eyes against the glare of the sun. Benito was right. Riders, silhouetted against the horizon were drawing nearer, a sizable cloud of dust following in their wake as hooves churned the dry ground. A frown furrowed his smooth brow as he donned his hat once more. They were from town judging by their attire, well off as well and certainly not dropping by for pleasent afternoon tea.
The impending situation did not bode well. So rare was it that any soul happened by his homestead for any reason, it simply did not happen - especially a posse. A suited posse, no less. But then, his visits to the town were few and far between as well. None really knew him, except by word of mouth spun in the form of tales and rumors. By Benito's recitations of these gossips, Legolas was either a dangerous criminal, a gunman running from the law, or some other ghostly personage. It had given him many laughs to listen to the Mexican's stories, even though they weren't his so much as the townsfolk. Still, he regretted that they used his name as a way to scare little children into submission.
The mind was an odd thing, he concluded. His visits to the town were few and far between, and hardly anything worth mentioning. Yet, whenever he happened by, for days afterwards he would be the talk of the town. He had done nothing to provoke the myths spread about him, but, he wondered, perhaps that was why those stories were weaved. Nothing, gave a mighty lot of room for speculation.
As the riders drew up their horses, Legolas was already striding towards them, his hat pushed down over his eyes. "Good afternoon to you, sir," greeted one whom Legolas did not recognize from the settlement. He was of average height and weight, though his features were sharp. A pencil thin mustache was trimmed to a point, and no stitch of his suit was out of place. Legolas gave no word, but nodded cordially. "Fine day, is it not?"
Benito came up beside him, hands still working to soften the new strip of leather made for reins. "Depends, Mister, on if you're inside with a lady fanning your face or outside doing useful things."
He scathed Benito with a sharp look. "What may I do for you?"
The man gave a smile, one that did not sit well with Legolas's foreboding feelings. It was far too preditorial for his liking. "Ah, now that is the question, my good man." He thrust out a hand, "The name is Marshall Godard, we're from the town and have come par the suggestion of some accomplices."
Legolas took the proffered hand guardingly, eyeing Godard from under the shadow cast over his eyes. He offered back no name. "What was this referral for, might I ask?"
Godard's smile sharpened. "That you may! You see," he laid a hand out, "I'm in the market for some horses."
Immediately, Legolas withdrew his hand, folding his arms across his chest. His eyes flitted briefly over the posse's horses. They were lathered with sweat, wild-eyed, and stiff-mouthed. Not one could stand an uplifted hand without dancing away. No horse of his would be passed to any men that treated their animals such.
"What if I told you this referral was inaccurate?"
Godard's smile never wavered. "I'd say that from the looks of that herd over there, you're being too modest." He nodded in the direction of the grazing herd beyond the rough fencing. They were a fine lot, the finest in the region, some said in the whole of Texas.
"They aren't for sale," Legolas stated, his arms unfolding and dropping to his sides.
Feet shifted ever so slightly as Godard laughed a demeaning laugh. "You don't seem to understand." He stepped closer, a bit too close for Legolas's liking, but he made not move to relinquish his ground. "I'm willing to pay a handsome price for your stock, more than you could if you tried to sell them yourself."
"I have no need for your money, Mr. Godard. I'm quite well off as it is."
His fellow riders shifted behind him. Legolas noted the tension in their arms, and did not miss that more than one of them let their hands slid toward their hip. Godard and his cronies obviously were not used to being turned down. Placating smile in place without falter, Marshall Godard patted Legolas on the shoulder. Steeling himself, Legolas refused to move away from the unwanted comradely gesture. "Perhaps you don't, but," his smile turned almost sinister, "perhaps there's other things you'd barter with."
He had had enough of this badgering. "I said, no Mr. Godard. Good day." Legolas gave no tip of his hat.
"You're making a mistake, Wrangler, "the intruder admonished, his smile tightening and the lines about his eyes narrowing. "I sincerely hope you have a change of mind."
But Legolas's back was already turned, though his hand stayed ready for action lest it was needed.
Benito eyed the riders, his face, mapped with innumerable creases and gullies, nearly disappeared as he frowned. "Away with you buzzards! There's no meat for you here."
Benito missed the look that passed over Godard's face. It could be likened to that of a serpent having successfully lured its prey into its jaws.
"Should have shot them when you had the chance," Benito grumbled across that night's meal.
Legolas shot him a look as he spooned the cooling stew into his mouth. It was far too hot to eat anything warm on a day like this. "Maybe I should have, but I didn't."
The old mexican gnawed on a particularly tough chunk of meat in the stew. He had been far from amiable company since the departure of Marshall Godard. He made it clear that he thought no good would come of it, and reluctantly, Legolas had to agree that that was his gut feeling too. "So that's that? No more gunslinging? No more murdering the evil in their sleep?"
"Señor Benito, have you been down at the saloon recently?"
Benito set his utensils down on his plate, leaning back with hands on his thighs. "No, no. But perhaps some such action would be appropriate at this time?"
He leveled Benito with a stern gaze. "Did you not have enough killing in the war?"
Benito turned sullen at this mention. His eyes turning as fiery as his spirit, no matter his age. That was where their friendship had been forged. On opposing sides, fate had brought them together. Benito resolutely decided not to go into the sentimentalities at this time when he was trying to be assertive. "But it was one worth fighting," he retorted, "Like slaying those suit-toters." He paused, stabbing his fork at a carrot. "Why you were involved I still don't know, and I refuse to believe it was because you agreed with their agenda."
"Benito, I refuse to get into this argument again," Legolas warned.
"Oh-no, I was not the one that brought that can of beans out!" The old man leaned over the table and poked Legolas in the chest. "Don't go blaming old Benito for what he didn't do."
Legolas set his elbows on the table and returned the gesture. "Then don't go calling old Mateo a gunslinger."
"But you are! I've seen you with my own eyes. But old? You talking about yourself, you whippersnapper?" Benito gave a barking scoff. "I don't see any age lines or cares creasing your brow."
Outwardly, Legolas smiled wryly. Inwardly though, it was another matter. Oh, they're there, mellon. They are simply hidden inside. Benito's years did not come to count a second in Legolas's lifetime.
"Clean those plates for me, hijo. These joints won't take the abuse you put them - "
The explosion that rent the heavy night air, sent shockwaves through the house, shaking sidings loose and causing the ground to heave beneath their feet.
Benito cursed fluently in his native language and caught himself on the table once the short, but sharp upheavals had ceased. "Bloody beetles, what was that?"
Legolas gave only a moment's pause before his shocked brain put two and two together. Two words slipped from his mouth before he flung his body into instinctive action.
Benito had only to blink once, and when he reopened his eyes, Legolas was gone.
Fire leapt from the dying remains of the barn he and Benito had worked so hard to build. But the building was the least of his concerns.
There had been six horses stabled in that barn. The explosion had nearly leveled the building.
Rage boiled in his veins, sending pulsing shots of hot blood coursing through his body to every nerve ending. Tearing himself away from the terrible scene, he scanned the horizon. There it was, accompanied by the sound of hooves; seven men in black and on horseback galloping through the gate that lead into the main pasture land. They carried whips. In that instant he knew their next target.
Lifting his fingers to his lips, he let ring a shrill whistle. He needn't wait long before from out of the gathered gloom, an overo of mostly dark coloring burst from somewhere to his right. This was his horse, the free ranger that would come to no other.
The horse did not slow his pace as with great loping strides he ate up the distance between him and the Elf. Rolling back on his heels and slipping the shotgun into its place in the harness on his back, he timed his leap, catching the horse's mane as he tore past without pause. The fact that he bore no saddle or bridle was of no matter to either.
Leaning low over the horse's neck, Legolas whispered into his ear, "Speed Toril, follow the ones who have hands stained with innocent blood."
By the time Benito emerged from the cabin, Toril had faded from sight. The rustlers had a fair head-start on them, but Legolas had the advantage of knowing where the horses would be and the aid of his keener senses and sight for navigation.
They were gaining steadily,
Toril's legs churning beneath him like that of a
steam engine. Then came the first report of a colt and
a moment later he heard the hiss of the bullet, far from its target. Legolas
waited to draw his weapon, staying low and light on the horse's back.
A second report, the shot went wide. These men obviously could not shoot, ride, and herd at the same time. The shrill bugle of a mare notified him that they had found the herd before he could reach them by some terrible fate. Toril's lungs heaved as a great cry blasted forth in answer to the distressed screams of the herd.
Then they were on them. Toril acted on instinct, twisting to move the herd away like cattle. Legolas' rifle scraped from its harness at his back. With eyes narrowed, the muzzle swung 'round as Legolas straightened. He sighted along the barrel in the darkness, compensating for the sudden turns of Toril. Finger tightening on the trigger, the first rider fell between his sights. His finger slipped back.
The man fell into the flying hooves of the herd, swept away to meet his just end.
Toril took a sharp roll-back, ears pivoting with his legs as he moved to head off a terrified creature straying from the herd. Legolas had to catch hold of the horse's mane at the unexpected maneuver. To his left, he saw another rider racing them to the beast. Suddenly, he reined his horse harshly to a halt. Legolas caught sight of the empty brass casing too late as it spun a taunting serpentine in a glint of moonlight.
The stray horse screamed, and fell.
A mad yell of rage boiled from Legolas's soul as the rider also cried a command to the five remaining riders. Their whips dropped. There would be no stopping what came next. The herd began to fall, one by one as the bullets brought them down. He brought the rifle to bear, but it was a futile cause.
The horses, mad with fear as bullets hissed into their midst, stampeded without a care. Toril was forced to swing away, lest they be taken down in their frenzied flight. Easy targets and mindless in their plight, the horses stood no chance. Toril took a hit to the shoulder, but three more riders fell before the deed was done. Legolas could not push Toril to make chase to reap vengeance, though in all likelyhood, the horse would have gladly done so until he ran himself into the ground.
The moon rose and a silver-blue light bathed the vale. Legolas slid from Toril's back, his mind numb with hatred and grief as he looked on the slaughtering ground of twenty-one horses.
"You were right, I should have killed the cowards when I had the chance."
Benito watched while wringing his sweaty palms as Mateo slipped one round after another into the rings on his belt. His eyes were flinty and his movements deliberate. "Mateo," Benito grasped him by the shoulders, his thumbs pressing hard to make sure he had the other's attention. "You must be rational, as hard as it is."
Mateo wrenched back, "I am being rational! This is justice and they shall get their just rights."
"Think, Mateo! Those were lawmen, men with power behind them! Did you not see their attire? Who else here would wear such idiotic clothing?"
"Their law is not mine if it justifies these atrocities. Is it not clearly stated that it is usually an offence to blow up a peaceful rancher's barn? Don't even mind about the animals then!" The fire flared brighter in his infuriated eyes, a growing, righteous anger that festered first in his heart. "Hiding behind the name of the law - all the while perverting the very thing called authority - will do them no good if they cannot wield a weapon." Twin colts slipped soundlessly into their place, nestled low and at easy access.
Benito was left slightly lacking for words to follow up Mateo's brief, but heart conceived speech. "And besides," he continued lamely from his first excuse, "Maybe I, we, were wrong. There are plenty of fresh faced idiots in this dirt basin. Perhaps they had all won a collective gamble, bought themselves a new livery, drunk one to many drinks – prompting their idiotic behavior." Benito threw up his hands. "But that's besides the point."
"What is your point?"
"You have no sure evidence to conclude that they were even involved."
"I need none."
He opened his mouth to protest, but shut it upon further noting the flinty expression. His hands went back to working themselves nervously. This was doomed, he felt it! No matter how skilled Mateo was, good could not come of such a strike. That was saying a lot as he had witnessed first hand the lad's prowess with all manner of firearms, and it was not limited to firearms, oh no.
Mateo was dangerous, candiedly put, not simply all brawn and speedy reflexes. Mateo was cunning, his mind worked constantly it seemed, even when no expression showed on his face. In the war, where they had met at gunpoint at the Battle of Bexar, Benito had been privy to the extent of Mateo's abilities. He later admitted freely to Mateo's face that that had been one of the most terrifying experiences of his life. Nothing had come to compare since then.
No doubt was in his mind that Mateo could bring down each and every one of the perpetrators in a night. But he would be hounded for the rest of his life, never able to live for long in one place. Benito, however, didn't know that Mateo could not do so even now.
The other contingency was still the unsure conclusion that Marshall Godard was involved by some means. Though it was the most probable theory, there was still that to consider. Mateo had a good heart, never one to kill without need. If he reaped vengeance on the innocent, he knew Mateo could never live with that blood forever staining his hands. It was as he tried to conceive a better way, that enlightenment struck Benito in the form of a simple notion, one passed down from generation to generation.
"I have a very sound idea to which that I think you may want to hearken."
A/N: First chapter, many notes may follow as explanation.
Number one, I tried my hardest to avoid using the word 'man' in reference to Legolas. I was able to do so when speaking from his side of the fence, but when Benito for example is observing him, there were a few instances in which I could not keep from doing so. My apologies for that contingency.
Secondly, and most importantly, I hope to make it clear that this is not a story in which I explain how and under what circumstances some elves remained to the beginning of this period of time. That has already been covered in works such as Scribe's "The Patient" and Victoria's "Unblinded" (Shameless plug, go read!). I'm hoping to give insight into what happened through the long years leading up to the times they so wonderfully expand on and record in their masterpieces. So this is a "When, and what happened" not a "How it happened" retelling. This is not to say that I am totally going at this without a notion as to how it might have happened logically. I'm falling on Dagor Dagorath for my excuses.
Thirdly, I promise, with all my heart and will, to try and make this as believable as possible and plausable. In all it's ugly glory, this is most likely an AU, Valar help me, but I can't avoid it if I really am going to go ahead and write this monstrosity.
Fourthly and lastly, since I have no self-control this time 'round and am posting this as I go with only a forethought beyond the readers, expect many of those cursed editing runs in which I go back and most likely mess up the earlier chapters. I'm terribly sorry about this.
Those three, now wait, four, issues being stated, I hope I didn't leave anything to important out. I'm honestly looking forward to your thoughts with great zeal!
Your humble writer,