A/N-- Ok. Obvious apologies are due. This update has most definitely been the slowest one yet, and I'm so sorry for making you wait so long. Thanks to those who sent me both friendly and not-so-friendly reminders, those kind of helped get things jumpstarted again. I honestly didn't think I would go out of business for such a long period of time, but I did. Mostly because of writer's block, but also because of laziness and other distractions. I sincerely hope that I wont ever have to keep a story on hold for that long again, because that was really no fun. But now I actually have something established, so it might be moving a bit faster. I cant promise anything, but I'll try to make updates at least once every two weeks. Again, sorry for keeping you waiting, I hope this will make up for it. Anyway, I'm not too confident about this first bit. I just thought it'd be a bit helpful to jump back there a bit, and I did, but it didn't turn out like I wish it had. Well, onwards to the story, then, I'll let you see for yourself.

Disclaimer-- I don't own anything other than Adariel. The almighty J.R.R. Tolkien owns everything else. He rocks so hard.

A soft breeze blew across Lord Elrond's face as he stood upon the balcony outside his room. He inhaled the clean, fresh air of Rivendell, a faint hint of pine smell tickling his nose as the elf lord looked into the distance, enjoying the beautiful, calm sight of the valley. The sun was setting and it cast an orangish glow on the sparkling waterfalls and rooftops of the buildings below.

His gaze traveled across the path that lead outside the valley, and he quickly did a double-take, not sure whether his eyes had seen the hint of movement or whether it was just shadows playing across the ground. He frowned slightly, digging through the shade to discern what the movement had been. His eyebrows shot up in surprise as he recognized the two horses galloping up the path, out of the shadows of the pines.

Elledan and Elrohir were riding up the small cliff-edged path at lightning speed, and even though ideas were already popping up in his head, the elf lord was too far away to see whether one of them was injured. Lord Elrond rolled his eyes and started out of his room towards the entrance to the house. Which one is on the brink of death this time, he mused ironically.

Lord Elrond burst outside in a blast of fresh air, and calmly walked up the pathway to the end of the actual road. He waited as his sons made their way towards him, and his brow furrowed slightly when he saw that neither seemed to be hurt or dying. How odd, he thought. Why would they be rushing as if Sauron himself was on their tail, then?

The twins reached the Last Home in no time, and both dismounted their frenzied horses without even giving them time to stop. Both the horses automatically trotted off towards the stables as soon as their masters were off their back, heading for some well deserved food and rest.

Elledan and Elrohir ran up the last remaining steps to meet their father, who now stood straight and stiff upon the doorstep, already dreading the news his two eldest sons might be bringing.

"Father," Elledan said, with a small respectful nod of his head. "We apologize for barging in this way but this could not wait."

Both twins looked obviously flustered, if not downright alarmed. "What is it then?" Lord Elrond asked.

Elrohir moved forward a little, and Lord Elrond noticed for the first time that his fist was tightly clenched around something. Slowly, he held his hand palm up so his father could see what he had been holding.

The elf lord could barely hold a gasp when he saw the glint of light in his son's hand. The twisted silver, embedded with emeralds, shone against the paleness of Elrohir's palm, reverberating the sun's rays into thousands of small sparks. The ring of Barahir glowed with foreboding darkness, the snake eyes gleaming with a somber light.

"We found it at the bottom of a cliff in the wastelands," Elledan said softly, breaking Lord Elrond's trance. "The ground had been disturbed and showed signs of a struggle. And there were orc tracks," he added, his voice giving away the worry he prevented from showing on his face.

"How long ago was this?" Lord Elrond asked, eyes gleaming with anger resulting from fatherly anguish.

"Nearly two weeks," Elledan said. At his words, Lord Elrond spun on his heels in a flurry of swirling robes and walked swiftly back inside, heading for his quarters. Elledan and Elrohir exchanged worried glances before following their father inside.

"Father, we do not know for sure that anything has happened," Elrohir said, though he himself thought his words sounded false even as he spoke them.

"That is true, Father. We have no real proof that anything bad has come upon Estel and Legolas. The tracks could have been older than we thought them to be, and the ring's location might be a simple coincidence," Elledan joined in, trying to support his brother even though they both knew there would be no way of reassuring their father.

The elf lord rounded down on his sons, his eyes burning. "That ring was Aragorn's only heritage from his father. He has guarded it with his life since it was given to him, and I can see no other reason why he would have lost it than if something had gone wrong in the wastelands." Elledan and Elrohir looked at each other again, frowning.

"Father, even if something has happened to them, there is nothing we can do for them," Elrohir said, choosing to appeal to logic. "They have gotten themselves in trouble before, and if anyone can overcome the unknown dangers of the deserts, they can. We do not know for sure that anything has happened, and even if something has, it does not forcefully condemn them."

Lord Elrond stayed quiet, pacing across the room and casting occasional glances at his twin sons. Finally, he sighed and tiredly sat down in the arm chair next to the window.

"I suppose you are right. Both of you. Yet I cannot help but worry over where this will lead us. If something has indeed happened to your brother, I want you two out there looking for him. So that is where you will be," he said, his eyes fixed on his sons'.

Elrohir nodded. "Yes, Father."

With a last look to their father, the twins turned back around and walked out of Lord Elrond's quarters in unspoken agreement to head to their own rooms.

Though each knew of the slim chances of finding their brother and friend out in the wilderness of the wastelands, neither would willingly admit that facts to themselves, and much less to their father. All they could really do now was repack their things and head out once more, hoping against hope that somehow they would find a trace of their companions.

Legolas wasn't sure what it was that pulled him back from his state of unconsciousness, though when he became aware of movement around him, he quickly jerked upright, his vision refocusing as he warrior's instincts took over. It took him a few moments to remember where he was, but his memory was quickly jogged when his eyes met the looming figure of a unusually large orc framed in the doorway, its outline flickering along with the torches outside.

Legolas cast a glance towards Aragorn, who was crouching on the floor, every muscle in his body tensed, propped as still as his gaze, which lay motionless on the orc at the door. Feeling his friend's eyes on him, he looked back briefly and nodded shortly, acknowledging his awareness.

Legolas quickly scanned the room for the elf maiden who, no doubt, had been woken as rudely as he had. He found her cradles in the corner of the room, her wavy hair casting eerie shadows across her face. Her glimmering green eyes were fixed upon the orc in the doorway, and though her hand trembled visibly upon her knees, her stare stayed steadily intense.

The orc smirked smartly as he looked upon the scene in the room, then stood aside from the door, only to be replaced by two of his smaller kinsman, who promptly walked to the corner where Adariel lay. Each one grabbed her by the arm and yanked her up to her feet. The elf winced slightly as the orcs' claws dug into her skin, and Legolas eyed the single drop of blood that dripped down her bared arm.

Two more orcs followed into the room, one going to Legolas, the other to Aragorn, both of whom had jumped to their feet the second the orcs had walked in.

The first set of orcs walked off towards the door, dragging the elf along with them. Just as she passed them, Adariel looked back at the elf and man, and the small hint of a hopeless smile flashed on her face before the unbroken mask of set determination slid back into place and her gaze turned back to the door and the unseen enemy beyond it.

As soon as they had passed through the door, the grip on Legolas's shoulder tightened and he was roughly pushed towards the door. The elf shrugged the beats off, casting hateful look in his direction, but the only response was a tightened grip and meaningless grunt.

The pair was pushed down the dimly lit hallway, and the only sound breaking the vibrating silence was their echoing footsteps and the clanging of the orcs' swords against their belts.

The hallway soon opened up into another room, and Legolas's heart leapt as he recognized the tall wooden post standing solidly in the middle of it, the roughened leather straps hanging off its end. He cast a searching look in the elf's direction, but was merely met with the same determinedly blank glare, still fixed towards the leading orc's back. One look at Aragorn showed him the same fear was sprouting inside his friend, and they silently nodded their understandings.

Adariel was led wordlessly to the pole at the center of room while Legolas and Aragorn were pinned hardly against the wall by their escorts.

The lady's arms were lifted roughly above her head and tied to the post and she acquiesced to it without any resistance, almost with acceptance. This time, however, she was placed so that her back pressed sharply against the pole and her body was stretched out against it. As the orc walked away smugly, her eyes closed and she rested her head back against the hard wood, her lips moving silently as if in prayer. For a brief moment, Legolas was flooded by the grief and fear that poured over her fair features, creasing her brow in anguish, quivering lines that told tales of pain and loss. Yet the wall was rebuilt almost as quickly as it had been torn down and she looked up once more, looking dead straight ahead of her, a determined spark shining in her emerald eyes.

The first larger orc walked back towards her, a short, crude bow clenched in his hand and a smirk on his face. He walked to the opposite side of the room so that his back was facing Aragorn and Legolas.

"Ready, elf?" he said to the lady's face, spitting the words out with all the disgust he could muster.

The elf's face was hidden behind the beast's broad back, yet both friends could clearly imagine the hatefully indifferent look on her face.

"Must you truly bother yourself with asking this question every time?" Her voice sounded rather weak, yet full of conviction and hatred.

An equally hateful grunt emanated from the orc, and he swiftly walked back from her, a bitter snarl on his lips. He whipped around to face her again once he had stretched a distance of about 10 feet between them. His gloved hand reached into the leather quiver that hug by his hip, and he pulled out a long, black arrow, its end crowned in crooked crow feathers. Without taking his eyes off the elf, he slowly uncorked a small vial that hung by the quiver, and dipped the sharp arrow tip inside it.

When he pulled it out, the end was dripping a thick black substance, and the orc's smirk grew as an unwanted flicker of fear flashed across the lady's face.

Legolas's gaze darted quickly between the elf and the orc, trying to follow their wordless communication. The liquid was obviously a poison of some sort that the lady clearly recognized, and feared. Legolas had witnessed her face a great many fearful things during the short time he had been in her presence, and he had yet come to see that uncontrollable fear in her eyes.

His jaw clenched in anger and the orc's grip on his arm tightened as he involuntarily lurched forward in an attempted motion that, had it been completed, would have most likely ended with a orc carcass. Whatever the poison's effects were was not something he wanted to see ­­.

A struggle similar to Legolas's was being delivered by Aragorn, whose normally passive gray eyes shone in fury towards the massive orc.

In response to the two friend's opposition, the orc simply raised his bow, his thick fingers gripping the hard wood tightly. He slowly cocked an arrow, still not taking his eyes of the elf in front of him. The two bystanders continued to struggle against their captors, hopelessly trying to pull away from their grips as they watched the orc pull back the creaking string.

The bow's indignant creaks and screeches echoed dully around the room, silencing each of its inhabitants. A low, brief whimper broke past the elf's lips and her emerald eyes shone tearfully, her body involuntarily inching back as much as it could within its bonds.

A deafening silence filled the room, everyone's eyes fixed unblinkingly on the steady arrow tip. With the smirk still intact upon his twisted face, the orc pulled the string back another inch, letting a last creak reverberate around the room.

When Legolas had almost resorted himself to think that the orc would hold his position for eternity, he moved.

In less than a moment, the arrow was sent flying through the room, its end feathers whistling sharply. Legolas stared in horror as it pierced through the air and his mind realized what had happened. Everything around him was happening as if in slow motion as he came to terms with the changes that had been made.

After what seemed like an enormously long time for an arrow's flight, it finally came to a stop.

A clear scream rang out, filled with surprise and anger. A strange heaviness hung over the room, and Legolas looked upon the scene as if through a sort of dream-like veil.

However, it couldn't have been more real. Shock still holding its grasp over his body, Legolas watched helplessly as Aragorn sank slowly to his knees, a black tuff of tattered feathers protruding from his stomach.

A/N-- Ooh, almost-cliffie-ish ending. Would you look at that. It's not that bad, though…Anyway, reviews are much appreciated, I write faster when I get feedback. So review! Review, review, review!