Finally the fun stuff. The oh so very fun stuff! I'm so excited I won't keep you waiting with author's comments.
Arwen swiftly made it to her husband's side after the deliverance of the horrible news that another citizen had been killed and took the king's arm in hers.
"Who was the victim?" Aragorn asked, over his shoulder, his back facing the group and his voice void of emotion.
"A boy on the lower level. A group of guards heard a scream, but when they arrived it was too late," Meretis explained, hating to bear such ill news.
"The symbol?" Legolas enquired.
The guard nodded, "It was there, drawn in blood as always. Ten lightning bolts piercing a circle."
"Ten," Aragorn muttered. So many to lose already, especially in a time of peace, but if three more should die, the Mornarad would be successful.
"Very good, Meretis. Go back to your duties, I will be there shortly," Aragorn said with little conviction, for he was obviously lost in thought. The hour had grown late as they sat in counsel and the king knew that they had done enough that night, for they were all weary from their travels and the hardships the day had presented.
"I believe we are finished for this night," Aragorn stated a few moments later, turning to all others in the room. "I will go and witness this crime for myself, and also offer my condolences to the child's family. You should all try to find what rest you may, for the day has been long, and tomorrow shows no signs of shortening." As he spoke of rest, the former ranger was careful not to look at Legolas, for the elf would take the comment badly if made directly.
The elf in question ensured he would be denied his wish though by stepping forward.
"I will come with you," Legolas offered, moving towards the doorway with the king. Aragorn sighed in exasperation as he took hold of his friend's arm. Despite the elf's assurances that he was well, Aragorn was of yet unconvinced he was in a completely healthy state, and did not wish to put him at any greater risk. He knew the best thing for the elf, and the hardest to get him to do, would be to stay in the palace and rest.
"Legolas …" he began what would clearly be a reprimand and a refusal of his company, but the elf cut him off before more could be said.
"Aragorn please do not treat me as a child with some grave illness that must be protected from the outside world. I have told you I am well, and I hope you would value my word enough to believe me of such things," Legolas said with the first signs of impatience. But his words spoke of truth, he was well for the time, though how long he would remain so under the pressure of Kirithnin's darkness was anyone's guess.
Seeing the truth in his eyes, Aragorn could not deny his friend, but he would set to him some limitations. Still holding the elf's arm he led him into the hallway, away from all listening ears and forced him to meet his gaze. Then, his voice low and serious, he began.
"Legolas, I have heard your words and know you speak the truth, but you have admitted also that Kirithnin is affecting you in ways as yet unknown. Now, I will not ask that you restrict your movements or stand by idly as this evil takes hold, but I will ask you to be careful. And I will have your word, your promise, that if these attacks persist, or grow in intensity that you will tell me immediately. I will not have you falling needlessly under this darkness, nor will I have you suffering in silence when your friends wish to offer you aid."
The elf was somewhat taken aback by the fierce passion in Aragorn's voice. It was clear he meant every word he had said, and they were spoken only out of concern and friendship, but Legolas found it hard to agree. For millennia he had been a warrior, an independent protector of others, and he found asking for help to be one of the hardest things for his proud nature to endure. Still, because of his love for the king, and their long standing friendship, he would honor Aragorn's request as best he could.
He tilted his head but did not break the man's gaze, "You have my word, and my thanks."
"Good. Let us go then," Aragorn bid him, leading the way down the hall.
Left alone in the conference room, Gimli looked to the Lady Arwen to excuse himself as well and was surprised to see her shoulders had suddenly slumped with weariness and her eyes were half lidded. He grumbled under his breath; clearly she had been withholding the true extent of her exhaustion from Aragorn, even after lecturing Legolas of the same thing, and he supposed it was now his duty to see to her.
"My lady," he began, stepping closer to her chair and offering his hand. "May I escort you back to your chambers? I do not think you have had quite as much rest as you need this evening."
She smiled at him, warming the dwarf's heart, and took the offered hand, making no attempt to deny her weariness.
"Thank you Gimli," she said with soft sincerity as they entered the hallway. Gimli dutifully took her to her room on the next floor. She thanked him again as he asked of her well being and was assured she was fine. He bid her a good night and then left the palace swiftly in hopes of catching up with Aragorn and Legolas.
Outside the palace walls, Meretis led the man and elf through the city to the next unfortunate victim. The lowest level was quite a journey from the palace and wanting to use as much speed as possible, the group had opted to make it on horseback. The night was not yet over so the blackness was thick on the streets and though the faded sun would not be rising for several more hours, citizens were already up, peering out of windows and doorways, knowing another murder had taken place and too disturbed to even attempt sleep once more.
The acting captain of the guard noticed the many glances his king sent in way of his citizens and said to him, "The people are understandably frightened, my lord. The murder took place just around this corner."
"They almost appear too scared," Legolas commented as he spotted a small child in a doorway with tears rolling down his cheeks.
Aragorn agreed, "It would take more than rumor and gossip to cause such fear. These people either saw or heard all that happened, and most likely did nothing in their terror. It would be best to speak to as many as possible; some one may have seen something vital."
Meretis nodded in agreement and promised to assign several men to the task.
"See that they take notes and have them report back to me," Aragorn added. Meretis made no reply as they had reached the site of the murder. A group of guards stood around the perimeter, keeping away any citizens that may have come to peer at the site. Thankfully, the people of Minas Tirith were either too terrified or respectful to do such things and their presence served only to mark the area of the site. In the center of the sanctioned off space a single trained guard was inspecting the scene, looking for clues of the perpetrators, or anything out of the ordinary. Next to him lay a body, covered respectfully by a black cloth and as yet untouched. Crimson blood trailed from beneath the covering, creating a red stream through the stone cracks that all were careful to avoid.
Aragorn took in a deep breath, dismounted from his horse, and then approached the horrid scene. Legolas freed himself of Jarinel as well, but left the king to inspect the body and nearby surroundings while he opted to walk about the perimeter, senses on full alert, and eyes scouring the ground and horizon.
Kneeling on the ground, Aragorn reached out and pulled back the sheet covering the body, relieved he did not recognize the blank and bloodied face staring back at him. The eyes of the boy were open, a deep hazel, and he looked not in peace but forever frozen in terror. Aragorn closed the boy's eyelids, then looked further, trying not to become ill. Blood was everywhere, on the ground, clothes and limbs of the boy, all stemming from the vacant hole in the child's chest where his heart had been beating soundly only hours ago.
Dropping the sheet back, Aragorn turned to the guard inspecting the scene and recalled his name as Garen, "Did you find anything?"
"Not yet, my lord. It is the same as all the others have been. The heart is cut out and no clues are left except for this," he pointed to the ground. A circle of blood, with ten piercing lightning bolts. Aragorn nodded, expecting as much; clearly these men, as sinister as they were, knew what they were doing and left behind no clues as to their identity.
"Do we know who the boy is?" he asked, staring at the lost soul once more.
Garen nodded, "Another of the guards recognized him as Yurin, son of Yuleth. He was thirteen."
Aragorn brought a clenched fist to his mouth to hold back his cries of indignation. He reached out a moment later and took hold of the sheet once more, noticing the boy's bloodied arm was not completely covered. Before hiding him away again, he saw the palm of the child's hand had been cut with a long gash and seemed noticeably burned.
"Is this normal?" he asked Garen, pointing to the burn marks.
"Yes, that is always there. We cannot fathom how it may be caused," the guard replied with a shrug.
Aragorn stood then, having seen all he needed. He had not truly hoped to find any clues or great revelations this night, but he had been determined to see for himself the crimes that were being committed in his city, and put a face to those being killed.
"Very good, all of you, carry on," he said to the guards in the area that had been given the grisly task of looking after the crime scene.
A dozen yards away, Legolas was slowly making his way down the opposite end of the street, away from the corpse and guards. With each step he took he scoured the ground closely in all directions, looking for dropped items or perhaps a footprint that had somehow been left behind, but he found nothing. Almost at the end of the street he stopped at a hay cart parked beside a storage building. He bent down and picked some of the hay off the ground, knowing someone had probably run into it and knocked the straw out. Now standing at full height, he froze and allowed the hay to fall to the ground as the very real feeling of being watched crept over him. He did not tense or give any indication that he sensed the boring eyes at his back, but focussed on listening to the sounds in the dark street. He blocked out all movement and noise to his right from Aragorn and his guards and then concentrated closely on all errant sounds to his left.
There it was.
The faintest hint of heavy breathing, caused by the worry of being discovered, the barest sound of a scuffle as nervous feet shifted on the cold stone – no more than 100 yards, behind him and to the left. Knowing where his watcher stood for sure, Legolas turned sharply and found his prey.
Barely visible peaking out from behind a building up the road, the man's eyes could be seen widening as his quarry turned and theirs eyes met. Legolas saw fear in the man. He feared discovery and he feared the elf, proving it was not simply a curious bystander that he was dealing with. That fear was all he needed and Legolas was moving, chasing after the man who just as quickly turned and fled down the alley he spied from.
"Aragorn, this way! Hurry!" Legolas shouted as he ran, not turning as he knew the former ranger had heard him and would follow. Reaching the mouth of the alleyway he saw the man was now at its end and turning right. Legolas did not slow in his pursuit, but grinned in satisfaction as he noted that he was much faster than the man and would catch up with him shortly.
Aragorn heard Legolas shout and turned just in time to see the elf disappear down the alleyway, clearly in pursuit of someone or something. The king leapt into action immediately, following as best he could and ordering his guards with him.
"Follow me!" the king shouted as he ran, only two guards did not follow him, knowing someone must remain to watch over the scene. It hardly mattered though, Aragorn was far ahead of them all, being in the finest shape, but Legolas and the man they pursued were many steps ahead of even him.
It was immediately after this outburst that Gimli arrived from the palace, having finally been able to track down his friends. He saw Aragorn and most of his guards take off down the street and asked one of the few remaining guards what was happening.
"The elf is chasing after one of the murderers," the guard replied swiftly. "Lord Elessar and the rest are also in pursuit but far behind."
"Damn elf, why does he get to have all the fun?" Gimli grumbled, but a mere headstart had never deterred him before and he also took off after the group.
"Stop!" Legolas shouted as he ran, though he knew it was most likely a futile act. The man was fast and though the elf was faster, the spy had a considerable head start and also seemed to know where he was going.
He does not flee randomly, he's leading me somewhere. Perhaps some planned escape route, or some sort of trap. What a wonderful time I picked to leave my bow behind, Legolas thought ruefully, as he ran without the comfort of the bow and quiver on his back. That did not mean he was defenceless, he still had his long knives, but would have to be much closer to use them properly.
Up ahead the man turned again, but Legolas was still gaining. Seeming to sense this, the elf's prey decided new tactics must be employed and stopped suddenly at a tall building. He pulled open the door and ran in, but could not risk taking the time to lock it.
Legolas had seen the man fairly clearly by now; he was average height and build, with straight brown hair that reached just past his ears. His clothes were common and not to be especially noted; it would be extremely easy for him to slip away should he find a crowd somewhere to hide in. The elf knew he could not let that happen. He hauled open the door, and rushed inside.
He found the building to be crowded and cluttered within. He saw no trace of his quarry, so did not move far from the doorway in case he waited in ambush. As his keen eyes scanned the room that was filled with large machines and sacks of grain and flour, his hand glided towards his back and freed one of his knives. The building was clearly a flour mill and the large number of machines, stacks of barrels and supplies made it possible for the man to be hiding anywhere. But he seemed to have no intention of hiding, he was still trying to make his escape as Legolas saw moments later.
At the far side of the room a ladder stood against a wall, leading to a large hole in the ceiling where equipment and supplies could be passed down. The man was on the first few rungs on the bottom and making his way up the long climb to the top. Legolas resheathed his knife; despite the monstrosities this man had committed if he was in fact a member of the Mornarad, the noble warrior in the elf would not allow him to strike down a fleeing enemy in the back. Instead he took chase once more, leaping over logs and flour bags to reach the man before it was too late. By the time he made it to the bottom of the ladder, the man was halfway up. Confident he could catch him, Legolas began to climb, focussed on his prey and only vaguely hearing the sound of the door to the building opening once more as Aragorn caught up in the chase. He saw his friend ascending the ladder, but did not spot the man they pursued.
"Legolas?" He called out in question, and also to alert him to his presence.
"He's on the roof!" Legolas called back, now almost at the top. Though he could see nothing yet, he heard the sound of the man's footfalls above him; he was already running again and Legolas was becoming tired of this chase. Pulling free his knife once more he climbed the last three rungs with only one hand. He reached the top to see his quarry was indeed running and had almost reached the next rooftop.
Balancing himself gracefully and appreciative of the sturdiness of the ladder, Legolas did not give chase but instead hefted up his long knife and with deadly accuracy launched it through the air. A scream of pain tore through the night as the blow landed as planned and the elf could see the hilt of the knife protruding from the man's left thigh as he fell to the ground. Legolas took another step up the ladder, as the man writhed in agony, his escape successfully halted.
The whistling of the wind and the soft scuffling of feet behind him was the only warning Legolas received before the pipe hit him. He had only turned enough to see the flash of metal and brief outline of a figure before the world dimmed, spun, and then exploded in pain as the man with the pipe struck him squarely in the temple, sending him spinning. All his senses seemed to leave him for a moment as the sudden shock to his system caused him to lose all ability for movement or thought. A moment passed and he was amazed to see that even with his mind unresponsive and dulled by agony, his hands had somehow known enough to stay tightly gripped to the ladder rungs and not let him fall. His safety was not permanent though as Legolas sensed the man behind him had pulled back to swing again. The next blow would undoubtedly knock the elf out completely, or even kill him if strong enough. Legolas could not bring up his arms in defence, for he would then drop to the hard stone below, and saw only one way to avoid the blow.
As the pipe neared his head for the second time he released his grip on the rungs and allowed himself to fall for only a moment, then quickly latched back onto the ladder. The movement had dropped him three rungs lower, but had saved his skull from being bloodied as the assailant missed him entirely. The man no longer had a clear shot of the elf's head, for he had dropped past the roof now, but needed to ensure that he and his companion would not be followed further, so he brought the pipe down one final time before he fled. The powerful blow landed soundly, as proven by Legolas's shocked exclamation of pain as his fingers were crushed by the relentless metal and his grip on the rungs had no hope of holding.
With his hands now useless, he tried to find some sort of hold with his legs, even as he felt himself falling, but his head was still pounding from the earlier blow and he found he had no balance. The air whistled by him, almost pulsing in time with the throbbing in his skull and hands.
He knew then he was falling, and it was a long way down.
Aragorn ran across the machinery filled room trying to reach Legolas and the man he pursued. The floor was littered with equipment and tools, making it hard to find a clear path. The former ranger had no trouble climbing over objects or skirting through the smallest spaces, but his guards entering behind him were moving extremely slow in comparison. It did not take long for Aragorn to reach the ladder on the far wall. He looked up and saw Legolas had reached the top. Sheathing his sword he moved to join him but stopped when the ladder shook and a sickening echo came from above. He looked up to see the elf slumped against the rungs, barely holding on, and for only an instance he could see a brief image of a man wielding some sort of weapon.
"Legolas!" Aragorn called out in surprise and nearly raced up the ladder, but sense and training held him back from following his instincts to aid his friend. Legolas's grip appeared weak, meaning he would most likely fall long before Aragorn could reach him and there was nothing below to break the elf's descent except for unforgiving stone.
Unsheathing Anduril once more Aragorn stepped back from the ladder and moved beside a high stack of bagged flour. The bags were kept upright only by the thick ropes holding them up and already they leaned unsteadily. Aragorn pulled back Anduril and severed the two thick ropes in a single slice, then swiftly moved away from the avalanche that would surely follow. Once a safe distance away he looked up once more just in time to see and hear the pipe strike again with sickening accuracy, this time against Legolas's knuckles. The elf's grip was lost immediately and he began to fall, just as the first few bags of flour fell in place below the ladder. Aragorn prayed it would be enough as his friend plummeted for what seemed hours and landed squarely on the landing pad provided. A great cloud of flour flew up in the air upon impact, but Aragorn was not so foolish to think it had been a soft landing. The flour had been packed hard and would have little give, but he may have saved his friend from several broken bones at least. The stack he had cut free was very high though and more bags continued to fall after the elf had landed, covering him and hiding him from sight.
"Legolas, can you hear me?" Aragorn called out when the avalanche had ended as he ran forward in search of the elf prince. His guards had made it through the clutter by now as well and helped him pull away the fallen bags and clear the clouds of flour from the air. A harsh coughing was their first hint to the elf's location and soon the group removed the last bag, finding a flour covered, coughing, moaning, but very much alive, Legolas beneath.
Aragorn reached for him to help him from the debris of the fall, "Legolas, are you hurt?"
The elf was still dazed but shook his head, still coughing for the moment and then looked up the ladder and announced, "You may still be able to catch them … one's wounded … they won't be moving fast."
"You heard him, get after them quickly, and be careful!" Aragorn ordered, his guards swift to comply. Garen and several others quickly began to ascend the ladder, while Meretis and several more went back outside to see if they could follow the fugitives' trail from there.
Meanwhile, Aragorn freed Legolas from the wreckage of his fall and put him onto solid ground once more. He had stopped coughing but now cringed as he held his hands motionlessly in front of him and more collapsed than sat when Aragorn guided him to the floor. The man reached up to probe the injury at the elf's temple, noting the blood that came from the wound. Legolas closed his eyes as it was inspected but did not flinch away.
There would be a mighty bruise in the morning, but Aragorn found no signs that the skull had been fractured in any way, which relieved him. Then he looked into his friend's eyes, noting their large size and slow response and sighed.
"Your head will be fine in time, but you have a note-worthy concussion," Aragorn reported, again gently prodding the elf's temple.
"Really? And I had thought the world had simply decided to start spinning without me," Legolas replied his voice sluggish but his lips curling in a smile at his own attempt at lightheartedness.
"Nay, t'is only you. I will prepare you some tea when we get back to the palace that should help with any pain you may feel," the man cringed as he moved his focus downwards. "Let me see your hands."
Aragorn reached down to pry the hands away from the elf's chest, but Legolas hissed in pain and his whole body flinched away, his arms still tight against him.
"Do not touch them, not yet. The initial hurt has not yet left, give me a few minutes more," Legolas requested. Having known such hurt before he was confident that the throbbing pain would soon relent and he would regain his mobility shortly.
Aragorn nodded, understanding. There was little that could be done to tend to such hurts truthfully, he was more eager to see for himself if any bones had been broken, for that would be grievous to the elf's spirit. He was about to suggest that Legolas should attempt to stand so they may get him back to the palace, but he turned to see the door to the building open once more admitting a slightly winded and upset dwarf.
"What is the meaning of this? How dare you go running off without me in such ways?" Gimli immediately launched into a tirade as he spotted his friends, no longer in pursuit of murderers but sitting around idly. "There was a time I recall when we hunted together. The three hunters we were. Now you are content to be just two I see. Well, do not reform on my behalf. I should … oh … I should …"
"But Gimli, we are the three hunters still," Legolas interrupted. "This is much as our trek across the plains, as I recall, for you seem to enjoy standing at the back and displaying your great strength as you fight to keep up with our pace."
Aragorn caught on and smiled, "We would hate to break our tradition in any way, after all."
The two expected the dwarf to reply with another biting comment and were surprised when he took several steps closer and changed the topic altogether, "Why elf, I hope my complaints about your food has not led you to attempt baking, for if so you are off to a rather bad start."
Legolas was confused for a moment and then noted Gimli's chuckle and inspected himself. He had not yet had time to look, or care, about his appearance but glancing now he saw he was covered from head to foot in a thick layer of flour. His hands were still in agony, giving him no way of brushing himself clean at the moment, so he went along with the jest.
"I did try and have not quite succeeded as you can see, but at least I brought enough food to perhaps begin to feed your mighty appetite," the elf smirked, indicating the dozens of bags of flour littering the floor. Gimli laughed, taking the comment with a good heart as he finally reached the two. Legolas was yet to rise, patiently waiting for his hands to stop throbbing so he may push himself up on his power. The pain was relenting, but slowly. Aragorn stood to meet the dwarf though and the jest left his stout frame as he finally noted the blood dripping down the elf's head, and the way he cradled his hands to his chest.
"What happened to you both?" Gimli asked finally, not seeing any reasonable way of putting together the pieces before him. Legolas was injured and covered with flour, Aragorn had a mild sprinkling of white powder and was uninjured, the guards were running off in all directions, and there was not a member of the Mornarad in sight.
"I suppose we have been hunting. I found a man was spying on us as we investigated the crime scene in the street. He fled with fear when I spotted him; I have no doubts he works for the Mornarad or is one of them," Legolas replied. He stopped talking when a wave of nausea rolled over him, but Gimli thought he had meant to pause and groaned.
"I do enjoy your dramatic gestures, elf, but please continue," Gimli said gruffly. Seeing Legolas's state, Aragorn continued for him.
"He took chase after the man and followed him here. He tried to escape on the roof and when Legolas went to follow the man attacked him."
"Nay," Legolas proclaimed, finding his voice once more. "There were two. One waited for me at the top while the other fled to draw my gaze. I struck the first with my knife, but the second came from nowhere." He did not look up when he spoke but was concentrating on his hands, which he had pulled away from his chest and now stretched ever so slowly.
Aragorn pondered that for a moment. It was a good plan of escape, and very well executed, as proof of both men's disappearance. It had almost a strategic, military calculus to it. He shook away such thoughts for the time, "Either way, you fell from the ladder and are now in your present state."
Gimli looked up at the ceiling; it was very high, as such factories need be to fit all their equipment, and the dwarf did not want to imagine falling from such a height. "And the flour?" he asked, motioning towards Legolas and his soiled clothing.
"I suppose, I am to thank for that. I cut the bags free when I saw he might fall," Aragorn said, only now truly realizing the mess he had made as he looked over the clutter of the floor.
Legolas began to pull his feet underneath him, now content with the movement he found in his hands. He stood slowly but without support, brushing away the helping hands of both his friends, and then met Aragorn's gaze, "You have my sincere thanks, Aragorn. My landing would not have been so enjoyable if not for your aid."
Aragorn tilted his head in acceptance; both knew no such gratitude was necessary between them, but it was appreciated.
"Your hands?" the king asked, noting they now hung free at his sides.
Legolas lifted them and flexed the muscles slowly, still in pain, but proving they were functional, "Nothing broken, my bow shall be wielded with the same skill it was before."
"Which was not very much to begin with," Gimli said in jest, but Legolas's head was still throbbing and he did not have the energy to engage the dwarf in their game of wits, so let the comment stand without reply. Gimli was clearly put out by this, and appeared apologetic for trying to contest the elf while injured.
Legolas tried to stretch out his back and legs, finding them stiff and incredibly sore. He froze as a stabbing pain shot through his spine, and wondered if he was perhaps hurt more deeply than he thought.
Aragorn had not yet left his side and showed no signs of doing so, and saw when he grimaced, "Are you hurt elsewhere?"
Trying to straighten, Legolas shook his head, "Nay, only bruises."
Aragorn lifted an eyebrow; his face showed a considerable amount of pain for just bruises. Legolas noticed this and met his gaze, and when the man would not relent, added, "They are large bruises."
Despite appearances, Aragorn believed him about his injuries but just to be certain asked, "Do you recall the promise I had you make?"
"Yes Aragorn," Legolas replied, somewhat exasperated. "I was not struck so hard as to forget such things. I am sore, nothing else."
Gimli scoffed, but Aragorn was content it was the truth. Again the door to the building opened, admitting Meretis and his men, none looking enthusiastic or proud in the least.
"I take it you did not find them," Aragorn guessed by their crestfallen appearance and lack of prisoners. Behind the three companions the other guards were returning down the ladder once more, also empty-handed.
"No, my lord," Meretis replied, sounding ashamed. "They seemed ready for escape, they had their routes chosen well, and disappeared in areas we could not easily follow."
"We encountered the same," Garen added from behind. "We found blood on the roof, but beyond that they left no trail or sign of where they may have gone."
"Did you find my knife, by chance?" Legolas asked, trying to sound casual but Aragorn and Gimli both sensed his desperate hope. The guard shook his head.
"There was nothing."
Legolas nodded but made no reply. Visibly he was unaffected, but his friends knew he was grieved by the loss for not only did Legolas use his weapons, he made them a part of himself, as did the man and dwarf.
"We'll get you a new one, even shinier than the last," Gimli promised at his side, forcing the elf to smile.
"Come then, there seems nothing more for us to do here," Aragorn announced despondently, greatly grieved that they had lost their prey, for they would have been of immeasurable aid in stopping these madmen. His guards bowed in consent as always, and filed from the mill. As Meretis passed Aragorn stopped him and added, "Remind me also to ensure the owners of this place are reimbursed for their losses."
"Of course, Lord Elessar," Meretis said and was dismissed. Aragorn turned his attention to his two remaining companions, frowning when he found Legolas now leaning against the dwarf's strong shoulder.
Joining his other side, the king asked, "Can you make it back to the palace?"
Legolas nodded, "My strength will hold, I need only guidance for the world still slants beneath me."
The concussion the elf suffered was indeed severe Aragorn thought as he again checked the injury, noting the fast spreading bruise and severe dilation of the eyes, but he was also confident Legolas would not be long affected by it, for the prince was known for having a head not easily dented.
"We will not move too swiftly then, but we must go," Aragorn said, leading the way and holding open the door for his friends. They arrived back at the murder site a few minutes after the guards, but the men had taken the time to prepare their horses so they may hurry back to the palace. None would say it aloud, but all knew that the king and dwarf would be anxious to ply the elf with healing herbs and send him to rest, and that Legolas would be just as determined to avoid their ministrations at all costs.
"Come laddie, your beast awaits," Gimli grumbled upon seeing Jarinel with the other horses. Legolas smiled though and patted the horse's muzzle affectionately. Then the animal sneezed and a cloud of flour flew up from the elf's clothes. The three companions chuckled for Legolas had yet to try and rid himself of the flour that covered him, making him still appear rather ridiculous.
"I am sorry for the state you find me in, my friend, but it was not by choice," Legolas whispered to Jarinel.
Aragorn took the reins of his horse from Meretis and quickly mounted while the elf stroked Jarinel's mane once more and whispered softly to it in elvish.
A young guard stood near the horse and elf, shuffling his feet as if nervous. He had been put in charge of readying Jarinel for the ride back to the palace and had just spent a panicked few minutes searching in vain for the horse's saddle, which of course did not exist. The young man did not know this and was ready to step forward and apologize for his carelessness, but before he could speak the elf had mounted the horse with infinite grace, despite his injuries, and was sitting tall and proud upon its back, seemingly needless of saddle or rein.
The older guards laughed inwardly, having seen the distress of their companion but choosing to say nothing; they took great joy in the look of surprise and relief on the young man, who now knew slightly more about the Eldar.
Gimli came to the side of the horse, watching the elf closely to see that he was steady. After closing his eyes for a moment to try and find that perfect balance all elves had, Legolas looked down to see Gimli beside him. He put out his hand to help the dwarf up, but Gimli hesitated.
"I can ride with Aragorn if you like," Gimli said, not wanting to burden the elf who still had to make it to the palace with his injuries unchecked.
"Come, you hate riding with saddle almost as much as I. Besides, you can assure me that Jarinel moves straight ahead as we go, for in my mind I am sure our path will appear crooked," Legolas said, not withdrawing his hand. Clearly the elf's vision had yet to right itself and Gimli was eager to be of assistance so took the hand, missed Legolas's wince as his fingers were tested, and took up his place behind the elf.
Aragorn trotted over to the pair, "Are you ready my friends?"
Legolas leaned closer to Jarinel's ear and whispered, "Aphad Aragorn. Im u maer an tegi."
The horse whinnied in response. Legolas then turned to Aragorn, "Quite ready."
They made it back to the palace without incident and with little conversation. It was not only the concussed eyes of the elf that appeared longing for rest, but the guards, king and dwarf all rode with weariness as well. The day had been long, the night even longer, and the next day would most likely bring more of the same, which none looked forward to.
They had barely three nights left to stop the Mornarad from plunging the world into darkness, as they had begun in Gondor. And though the three friends, and all of Minas Tirith, were desperate to stop them, all had to admit, they had no idea how.
Follow Aragorn. I am not fit to guide you.
Oh, this has been so fun to write so far! Well, I got this chapter out today which I was happy about, but I am moving to a new house tomorrow so please bear with me if the next chapter is not ready for some time. I don't know when I'll have internet again and I'm scared. hugs her internet I'll get you back somehow!
Anyway, onto my great reviewers! Oh, and thank you all for proving me right about the quote. My silly friend didn't know what she was talking about, 'pointy arrows', ha!
Reviewers (all of whom will receive virtual cookies and hugs):
Firnsarnien –Oh, I'm sorry the boy couldn't live, the Mornarad needed their sacrifice after all. Your gleefulness about Legolas's sickness makes me smile and get all giddy again just thinking about it. That's a good theory about the future of the fic (everyone seems to be trying to figure this one out) but as with everyone else, you will be getting no hints. Your enthusiasm is much appreciated though, as well as your long review.
Kelsey – You also have intriguing theories about this fic, but I must respond with 'no comment'. You'll just have to keep reading. By nature, I meant what us humans would think of, like mother nature. The trees, the wind, the soil. I'm afraid some of my tolkien knowledge is limited and I don't know the differences between your options really. But as the evil spreads first the plants die, the sun fades, then when it becomes all powerful (after the last sacrifice) the people would then start dying as well.
Yutine – Well no worries about that elf torture. There's more to come too.
Happy Reviewer – I am also not a huge Arwen fan, not sure either, but I felt she was needed in the story, if not to expose Legolas than to comfort Aragorn. Also, she does have a small part to play but not until near the end if my plot doesn't change on me. Many thanks for liking my helm's deep vignette as well. They won't even tell us when the EE DVD comes out! They're like "The Holidays" which holidays? When? It's not fair. (I'll stop whining now)
Cosmic Castaway – I did take too long I'm sorry, please read this chapter slowly then, for as I said the next one may be some time with me moving and all.
Punk Rock Pirate – Thanks for answering my question, much appreciated. And I did update so I hope you enjoyed.
Niani – Hope this was enough elf angst for now, more is to come in future chapters. Watching movies with subtitles, that's interesting, I can understand too because sometimes people are mumbling and you really don't want to miss those important lines. Really the only movie I do that for is BlackHawk Down, mostly because for the life of me I couldn't understand them on my first viewing and I didn't want to miss Orli's or Ewan's lines.
Legolas's garden light – I appreciate that you thought my filler wasn't boring. They're the more difficult chapters to write and try to make interesting and I'm glad it worked. Legolas angst is pretty much in the story no matter what. Even if the Mornarad don't do anything to Legolas I would probably just strike him with lightning or something and say that god likes h/c too.
Joee1 – "Shameless Legolas torture"? Me? puts on a halo and wings I could never hurt that poor elf, it's the nasty characters in my story that do it. No, I do not believe Legolas to be the youngest elf in Arda, but the angst will come either way.
Lady-Daine – Please, point out all you like! I really try to get my tolkien facts right so I don't mind at all when people correct me. I had heard several different views on what happens to Arwen when she becomes mortal and not knowing the right one just fit the specifics to fit my story, but I appreciate the facts. And I'm glad you didn't think the last chapter was boring, I was kind of worried it would be. And thank you for all your kind words on my writing style, it greatly boosts my confidence when writing.
Snow-Glory – Yes, the drinking game scene (while brief) is shown somewhat on the DVD. There's a documentary, which is really boring as a whole, but they talk about Legolas and Gimli's friendship and then show a good chunk of the scene. Legolas is really uncomfortable in a room full of drunk men and Gimli's gets him to drink, it's great. You are right though, Legolas and Gimli will never stop fighting. I can imagine Gimli putting an insult on his tombstone just to get in the last word. Arwen will play a slightly larger role, but not until near the end, I am keeping her around for a reason though.
Wellduh… - I never find your reviews sound sour. They're just right.
Star-Stallion – Hope this was enough Leggy angst for the time. I try to pack enough in to satisfy the angst quench, but you also have to be careful to keep him mobile so he can get hurt more later.
LotrFaith – Answer to your questions: Legolas feels the darkness because he is the only full elf in Gondor, it really has nothing to do with Brelan. Yes, Legolas (and Arwen slightly) get very weak and can feel it when the Mornarad murder a new person, that's what happened on the stairs in chapter 3. He recovers a few moments later, but is a little bit weaker. The victims are not intentionally getting younger, but with Minas Tirith in such a state of fear the Mornarad's pickings for sacrifices are getting thin. The babies will attempt to be protected but there's no guarantees is there? I don't mind answering questions, I just won't give away any major future events. Your interest and time is greatly appreciated though.
Templa Otmena – Your reviews are so helpful! When you point out the strong things in each chapter I go back and read them to see what makes them good and it helps me run more like that in the long run. I am sorry I had to kill the boy so mercilessly, but the Mornarad are .. well …merciless. Don't worry about not reviewing, I understand. I probably won't be around for awhile as is.
Deana – So impatient. I post a new chapter and all you want is more, more, more. It's okay though, I do the same to other authors.
Also thanks to NycteaScandiaca, Leela74, Soar, Sylvester1, hobbitkiller, gwyn, and imcristiel for your reviews.
Love you all, please tell me what you think. More angst, less angst, have I found the perfect angst balance? Should I stop using the word angst so much? It's up to you!!! Many thanks, Robinyj :-)