Eyes of Fire

Chapter One

Disclaimer: I don't own Lord of the Rings

Summary: See Despair for the summary

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Legolas looked at the target stuck to the tree in front of him. He took an arrow out of the quiver on his back, and notched it to his bow. He drew the arrow back past his ear...

"Excuse me?"

Legolas jumped, and spun round, accidentally loosing the arrow. It missed the cheetah behind him, whizzing past just over its head.

Legolas stared at the cheetah. "Was it my imagination, or did you just say something?" he asked.

The cheetah just stared back at Legolas. The elf prince noticed that its eyes were very strange. They were the colour of fire, and appeared to be glowing with a strange light. It had a small build, and was slender.

Legolas took another arrow out of his quiver, notched it to his bow, and pointed it at the cheetah. He had no desire to kill it, but if it attacked him, then he would defend himself.

The cheetah followed Legolas' movements with her eyes, but otherwise made no move towards the elf prince. Legolas was just beginning to lower his bow when the cheetah spoke again.

"I need your help," she said. Legolas knew that it was a woman the moment she spoke because her voice sounded like a woman's - low and husky.

Legolas lowered his bow even further, but watched the cheetah with some suspicion. "What do you need help with?" he asked warily.

"My name is Astarai," the cheetah answered. "I am one of the Mistaytas."

Legolas stared. The Mistaytas were supposedly a tribe who had the ability to take on three forms-an animal, a human, and a half form. While they were children, they were able to try out any animal form they wished. However, when they reached their 18th birthday, they had to choose one animal form to change into. But...

"I thought that the Mistaytas were just a myth," Legolas commented out loud. Then, he wondered if his question might cause offence to Astarai.

Astarai looked sad. "Yes," she agreed. "That's how we want it. If we're believed to be a myth, then there is less chance of us being attacked."

Legolas frowned a little as something occurred to him. "Why aren't you in your human form, Astarai?" he asked.

"Do you think that I'd be talking to you in this form if I had a choice?" Astarai demanded, sounding annoyed.

"I'm sorry."

Astarai closed her eyes, and slowly shook her head from side to side. "Its not your fault," she said.

Legolas was relieved that she had closed her eyes for a moment. Her eyes disturbed him. They seemed to see too much. Their colour was also extremely unusual.

A sudden thought occurred to Legolas. "Are you trapped in your animal form?" he wanted to know.

Still with her eyes closed, Astarai nodded.

Legolas put his arrow away, placed his bow on the ground, and then stepped forward so that he was by the Mistayta's side. He touched her back gently, feeling sympathy and compassion towards her.

Astarai opened her eyes again, and looked at Legolas. The elf prince flinched inwardly, but, outwardly, remained calm. He'd never seen eyes the colour of fire before, and they were a little unnerving.

"How did it happen?" Legolas asked gently.

Astarai lowered her head. "Someone found out that we really exist," she whispered. "They arrived with an army. I was away at the time. When I came back, it was to find all of my people gone. But there was a wizard there. He..." Astarai broke off, and started to cry.

"Don't cry, Astarai," Legolas said softly, hesitatingly reaching out and putting his arms around Astarai's neck in a warm hug. "You don't have to worry. I'll help you regain your human form. And find your people!"

It was too bad that Legolas didn't see the strange, almost sly glint in Astarai's eye.

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