I think you all will like this chapter; I had a lot of fun writing it. I know it took a long time, I hope this will be the last of my delays.
Chapter 13: Hunted
Bravery means not showing fear when you are in danger and wish to turn and run. Stupidity means never being afraid in the face of danger.
Aragorn was not as afraid as his brothers were for his wellbeing. Knowing that he had gone through a miserable state of mind made it easier for him to accept what was happening but it also allowed him to slip back into the misery that he had suffered from months before. He thought that it was helping him to deal with what was happening; his brothers and friend thought otherwise and were terrified for his mental and physical health.
"I am worried," Elrohir whispered to his twin as they rode in the dark. It was six days since they had seen the bounty hunter and they were only three days from their home. They were no longer in the rocky terrain that the twins and Legolas had found disdainful. Instead, they were in the snowy, cold environment that meant it was winter in the north. This was an environment that could easily make their little brother very sick if he was not kept warm and protected from the snow. "I fear for Estel."
Elladan nodded to Elrohir and replied, "I fear for him as well, Elrohir. At the moment, however, let us concentrate on those that have been following us for the last two days."
"Legolas is still close to them, is he not?" Elrohir questioned.
The elf-prince had looped around to follow their trackers as soon as they had been sensed. His hope, and that of the twins, was that he could surprise them and attack when they made camp for the night. He and the twins had figured that it was not more than two people tracking them, a number that Legolas could easily handle alone if worst came to worst.
"He should be," Elladan replied. "Let us hope that he is safe." Elladan was worried for his little brother and worry for his friend was ebbing away at him too. He knew the risk Legolas was taking of tracking the people who tracked them, but he also had confidence in Legolas and knew he could take care of himself.
Legolas was close to the people he was tracking and he knew that they were getting ready to make camp. He hoped that they had not sensed him yet so that he could overtake them when they rested.
Killing the people was something that he was loath to do but he knew that he may have to. He was hoping that he might be able to pay them off with the gold and silver he had gotten from the twins for just that purpose.
His tracking skills told him that the bounty hunters had stopped so he did the same, not letting his guard down just in case. An attack from an outside source was not something that he was going to let happen so he hoped that he was safe for the time being.
Aragorn stirred and nearly fell off of his brother's horse, something he would have done if Elladan had not caught him. "Thank you," he mumbled.
"Are you hungry?" Elrohir asked. He reached into his saddle bags and pulled out some food that his brother could have.
"No," Aragorn replied. He looked around and frowned at the dark. "How late is it?"
"Late," Elladan responded. "You need to eat." He was worried for his little brother and knew that he would not be able to battle the cold, or infection in his wounds, if he did not eat and he got sick.
"Where's Legolas?" Aragorn asked, looking around and not seeing his friend. "Did he go home? What is happening, Elrohir?" he asked, looking at Elladan whose horse he shared. Illness was muddling his thoughts, as was the sleepiness, and he wished that he could think properly.
Elrohir and Elladan exchanged concerned glances. It was not often that Aragorn mistook the twins and it worried them both.
"Do you not remember, Estel?" Elrohir asked. Seeing that he didn't get a response from the human he said, "Estel?"
Aragorn jerked. "Sorry?"
Elrohir sighed. "Rest, Estel. Tomorrow afternoon we will stop so that you may sleep."
When Legolas was certain that the bounty hunters were sleeping, he dismounted and tethered his horse so that he could walk to their camp on foot. It was not far, and he knew better than to bring the mare since she might spook or make noise. He made sure his weapons were concealed but easily accessible, and that the money he hoped to use as a bribe was hidden.
He entered the camp with a feeling of anxiety and made sure to keep himself alert. It only took him seconds to realize why he was anxious – the horses of the bounty hunters were standing beneath a tree but their owners were nowhere to be seen. If they had been sleeping, as Legolas had thought they were, they would have been near their horses.
His elven senses and instinct were what told him to duck and when he heard an arrow embed itself in a tree close to where his head had been, he knew he was just in his feelings of anxiety.
The bounty hunters jumped from the trees and Legolas soon noticed that there were not two, but six of them. He cursed his luck and knew that he would have to fight since the bribes he possessed were not nearly enough for six people.
His mind suddenly went to the horses and he turned to look at them, knowing that two horses could not carry six humans such a long distance in such a short amount of time. When he looked to where the horses were tethered he felt sick, there were not six horses like there were people, but ten, most of them hidden by the trees and stones.
He took in his surroundings in a matter of seconds before he turned back to the bounty hunters. "Why do you travel together?" he asked. He knew bounty hunters normally traveled alone.
Curses were going off in his head as he tried to buy time, thinking of a way to escape. He could not fight six people, and he knew that four more had to be close since their were ten horses and none of them carried a heavy load.
"None of your concern," one of them growled, moving towards Legolas.
Legolas reached for his bow and notched an arrow, pointing it at the man that was advancing on him. He knew he could kill him and possibly two or three others, but he didn't want to kill any of them. "Stop or I will shoot," he threatened.
"So will we."
Legolas looked to see he was surrounded. He knew it would be fruitless to shoot the man when he was so dreadfully outnumbered, so he lowered his weapon. "I will not harm you if you let me go."
"I don't think you're in a very good position to bargain," one of the other men said. "How about you put your weapons down and come with us like a nice elf who makes no noise."
Legolas' inner warrior was furious at being taking prisoner by these men but he knew it would do him, and his friends, no good if he fought the men and lost his life. For the first time in his life Legolas surrendered his weapons without a fight and allowed the men to take him prisoner.
"Where is Legolas?" Elladan asked his twin, looking around for their friend. He had a bad feeling about Legolas and hoped that his feelings were wrong.
It was now two days since Aragorn had woken and asked them that same question and now they were only hours from Poln and the borders of Rivendell. Their friend, and the bounty hunters, were nowhere to be seen and it was scaring them quite a bit.
"I do not know," Elrohir responded, trying to think of other things. "I am sure he is fine. If something has happened to him, I am certain we would know. Right now let us worry about Estel and what the snow will do to him if it gets any colder."
The snow had been falling nonstop for three days and there was a very thick blanket on both the ground, and the three riders. It was very cold and the cold had made Aragorn quite sick.
"We will be home soon," Elladan said. "I hope Legolas catches up with us by then."
Aragorn was awake and listening to the conversation between his brothers. He felt very groggy and the fact that he was sick didn't help him to follow the conversation. "I'm ready to go home," he said wearily.
Elladan patted his brother's leg. "I know you are, we will have you home in a few hours and Ada will be able to take care of you."
"Alright," Aragorn agreed, his voice hoarse and lethargic. "I guess I will be happy to see him."
Elrohir raised an eyebrow when he heard what his brother said. "Did you not miss Ada, Estel?" He knew his brother was sick and that his mental state was suffering again, but he thought that his little brother would want to see their father.
"It's not that," he replied. "I just…" he trailed off, not wanting to speak anymore. He had been experiencing strong feelings of nostalgia and he didn't really want to talk to his brothers. He knew that they would just think it was his sickness and that was something he didn't want to explain to them when he felt so terrible.
Elrohir sighed, figuring that his brother was worried that he would be in trouble with their father. "We must hurry, Elladan. It will be dark soon and it will be even colder."
Elladan nodded and quickened their pace.