Hello everyone!

This was just a little piece I had in mind as having a buncha cool scenes and whatnot. Hope you like! (And P.S., NO, I will NOT translate 'Kenshin to Iu Imi' into English! GET A DICTIONARY AND TAKE A CLASS!! BUAAHAHAHAHAAAAH!!!) (Well, maybe later. Basically Kaoru is dying and Kenshin has to figure it out and let her know how he feels before she dies of a broken heart. Nothing big )

Ahem. (smack smack) Here's tha ficcy. (P.S. again, I totally made up Telerin's name. Does anybody know what that means in elvish? Am I calling him "BeaverQuack" or something? Oh well, so long as it isn't reely stupid or silly, I'm okay with it. He's only in a few chapters.)

And this is not slash, for those of you who are wondering.

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IMMORTAL STRANGER

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The forest was beautiful this time of day. Yellow-green leaves and fresh shoots emerged from the soft ground in sprigs, and the dark, rich brown of the branches contrasted prettily with the new green of the thick leaves adorning them. Squirrels were playing happily above the human villagers in the dirt roads, and it was one of those days when work seemed a sin.

The little village was bustling with activity, but not overflowing. It was fairly small, with a good bit of distance between them and the next village, but not so small or far away as to be in trouble if some ill were to befall anyone. The thatched roofs and thick wooden walls of the huts and barns were very well made; even now there were repairs being done to one of the smaller sheds. Men stood on rope ladders and scaffoldings with hammers and sawdust on their persons, joking amiably about how they would drink when they were done.

Shops stood open on every street, and ruddy, thick-necked, burly men worked away in their smithies, carpentry houses, and tanneries, some with adolescent apprentices at their sides. Women on the cobblestones stood winnowing or weaving, making cotton and wool cloth and other wares for the next batch of merchants when they arrived. The younger children played with sticks, dolls and other things, chasing each other around the front of their houses while their mothers swept the front steps or peeled apples and potatoes for supper. It was the perfect picture of uncorrupted prosperity.

Despite this, Arad loved to be away from the town and out in the woods. Things were much more interesting out there, and he almost always had a new story to tell when he came back from across the brook. After he returned, he thought to himself, he would most likely stop by the tavern to hear what new tales the hunters had to tell. The stories from the hunters were more interesting than anything else in the village, save perhaps those of the occasional ranger. They were the only men to ever leave the village on a regular basis, and Arad's ambition was to become one of them the moment he came of age.

Arad was a stout young man, almost twelve, and old enough to be out on his own (although his mother would definitely have argued that point.) Like his mother, he had grey-green eyes that sparkled like lakewater, but his father's hair shone through a tawny brown, wavy and sun-lightened. His skin was well-tanned, like that of an outdoor-going boy would be. The features were still young, not at all unpleasant with a hint of childish snub to the nose, but his brow and jawline were angular and quite fetching.

The boy wore only a thin, light-brown jerkin and a stained, off-white shirt with dark trousers. His bare feet felt good as soon as they hit the dew-soaked grass on the other side of the fence, and he strolled leisurely under the branches of the ancient oaks, basking in the warmth of the day.

The sound of the brook grew closer as time wore on and Arad quickened his pace in apprehension. Finally the edge of the forest receded, and he breathed in the scent and sight of the water, watching in appreciative contentment as it wound through the fold, bubbling. The young man sat in a patch of moss between the knobby protruding roots of an ancient tree, lying back and folding his arms behind his head. Sunlight dappled his skin, filling him with a pleasant heat.

'I wish mother would come see this,' he thought. 'So terribly worried about her linens being dirtied all the time... Oh well. All the more time for me.'

Arad was just thinking of making his way to the water's edge when a slight flash of gold caught his eye. Beneath the shadows of the trees, something had moved in the treetops, and it was large; too large to be anything ordinary.

The boy sat up slowly, trying not to attract attention with sudden movements. Wargs and various stray creatures from the mountains sometimes wandered by, but Orcs were rarely seen, so if he was lucky, it wasn't one of those. The Elves of Rivendell lived to the north, mysterious, seemingly ethereal beings who rarely associated with humans and, in the opinion of children and even some adults, a very frightening people. Not much was known about them, but opinions on the Firstborn varied immensely. At eleven years old, Arad had never left the village, let alone seen any other being besides a Man.

Another shimmer of leaves was his only warning as a tall, lithe figure dropped from the trees and landed in a crouch on the soft ground. Arad had already pressed himself as far back into the foliage as he could, eyes wide in disbelief as the creature straightened and looked up into the trees. A moment later another leapt down beside him, and he smiled at his companion as he rose. With that smile, the boy knew from the tavern tales that these must be Elves.

The two Elves were unlike anything he'd ever seen. They could easily have been twins; obviously male but definitely effeminate with willowy figures and delicately handsome faces. Their leather jerkins were of a dusty green and blended perfectly with the surrounding forest, and beneath them at the neck he could see a glimmer of sparkling silver-blue; a tunic of the most beautiful fabric. It corresponded with the gleam of their eyes and contrasted in angelic beauty with the spun-gold of their flowing hair, which was bound in braids on either side of their heads. Strapped to each of their backs was an exquisite bow and full quiver, and the taller elf carried a pair of slender, ornately-handled knives.

They spoke to themselves as they went slowly to the water's edge, long legs taking graceful, twin strides as they walked and making no sound even on dry dead leaves. The language was as beautiful and graceful as their appearances, flowing from their tongues like a spring. Arad didn't make a sound as they passed him, thanking the heavens for their mercy as they wandered away from him, further upstream.

After a few minutes, the young man felt confident enough in his patch of mosses to peer carefully over the large roots. The taller elf was sitting comfortably on a large boulder about ten meters away, one leg braced against the rock and the other dangling towards the water, his soft suede boots not even scraping as he moved. The shorter elf was sitting cross-legged on the bank, conversing softly with his friend. Apparently the two Eldar were merely having a quiet day out, just as he had been.

Then Arad was surprised to hear them say something he recognized.

"But I can't do that to him, my friend. He is but a child," the taller elf spoke sternly. "You cannot punish the many for the sins of the few. It is not his fault that he is human." For a moment the boy's heart was in his mouth, thinking that he had been seen. But then his companion answered him.

"I know, my lord," the shorter replied, switching to Westron as well. His expression was troubled. "But... I cannot help but see how it bothers you. If Estel makes you uncomfortable, you should not have to associate with--"

"It is not the boy that makes me uncomfortable," he interrupted. "My own memories make it so. It is up to me to rid myself of them. It would not be fair for me to alienate him simply because of his bloodline. Besides, Estel is as close to Elven as you can get in a human."

The short elf said something under his breath in elvish, and the taller laughed happily, but abruptly the two were silent in mid-laugh, and went still as death. Arad had just begun to lose some of his fear, entranced and fascinated by the two elves' discourse, when a growl sounded somewhere behind him. The boy looked to his right-- and screamed in terror as a drooling, snarling creature breathed hot air into his face from above.

A warg of unbelievable size was looming over this new, easy human meal and savoring the moment. Choosing present danger over uncertain fears, Arad scrambled over the roots toward the strangers and tripped, falling flat on his stomach. Both beings had already risen and in a flash had shot from their seats, pelting up the bank to his aid. The tall elf had both knives out and ready with his companion at his back, bow notched with a smooth, glistening arrow.

"Help me! Please!" Arad yelled pleadingly, his eyes flowing with tears as the creature laid a plate-sized paw on his back, ready to rip the skin from his bones. Claws extended from musty fur, the points pressing into him--

The boy blinked and the short elf's arrow was missing. The warg howled in earsplitting pain; Arad turned to see yellow feathers protruding-- just barely-- from its ham-sized shoulder, the tip poking out of its back through the shoulder blade on the other side. The young man stumbled, dragging himself away from the writhing monster behind him, and the short elf pulled the young human up into his arms, away from the attacking beast.

The tall elf was already engaged in combat with the warg, slashing from all directions and driving the dark beast back with a flurry of swift strikes, making him fall. Arad had never seen anyone move so fast. A screeching cry of pain ripped from the warg's throat, and in sudden retaliation he lashed out furiously from the dirt, tearing a long gash in the blond being's chest before he could dodge.

"Legolas!" the elf screamed, tightening his hold on the boy. Arad looked on in horror from his rescuer's arms as the tall Elf was knocked off his feet and into a tree trunk, crumpling to the ground like a rag doll.

Before the boy could react, the warg was on its feet and charging them. The short elf leapt into the air, reaching upward for the branches of the tall trees, but his eyes were unsure; he could not leave his prince thus. The effort was futile, however, as in his anger the creature jumped up and caught the ethereal being in the back, its sharp claws rending his flesh like paper. The elf cried out and fell hard to the earth, knocked to the floor. He cradled the unknown human protectively beneath him as the warg towered over them in triumph.

"No!" A scream that sounded unnatural from such a kind, gentle voice echoed over stone and brook, into the forest.

The elf was doubled over on top of him, sheltering Arad from the beast's powerful blows and gasping in pain. Arad felt warm blood drench his clothing and soak into his skin, wracking shudders overtaking him as he felt the two of them almost lifted into the air by strong jaws. Terror was choking him, making him retch; he knew the end was near.

The boy heard a twanging sound and a swift whistle before the warg fell like a puppet whose final string had been cut. The ground shook with the weight of the animal as it collapsed, holed through the heart by Legolas' arrow.

In seconds the boy felt the elf's weight leave him, pulled off by his companion. "Telerin? Telerin!" Legolas' voice rose with panic.

For a few moments Arad lay there shivering, his breathing heavy with fear and adrenaline as he observed the giant, black beast lying dead behind him. After gaining back some level of breath, he pushed himself up shakily on his arms, looking around to see the tall elf holding his friend in his arms, lying propped up in his lap.

"Telerin don't leave, do not leave me my friend, hold on!" he begged him, fear taking root in the blond being's eyes. "Telerin-- Stay awake, mellon-nin!"

"--Nn-- I am sorry, my prince--" the shorter elf rasped, blood dripping from the corner of his mouth. The beautiful eyes were already beginning to glaze over. "I have failed-- I have failed you--"

"No, Telerin--"

"--I-- wished-- to serve you longer, my lord--" he managed, watering eyes spilling tears. "But-- at least-- we saved the boy-- I had to do it, Legolas, I had to save the boy--" The elf coughed up a mouthful of blood as it came up his throat, trembling with cold and weakness. A smile spread across his face as he gazed at his prince through sightless eyes. "I have-- obeyed your wishes, my lord--" He chuckled softly. "--Do not-- punish-- the many for-- the sins of the few-- hm?"

"Telerin," Legolas choked, wrapping him tighter into his embrace.

"Arad?! Arad, where are you?"

"Speak up, boy, if you c'n hear us!"

"Arad! Son, answer me!"

That voice startled Arad out of his trance, and he realized his father and the other eleven hunters were quickly approaching them. The sounds of the battle must have caught their attention and drawn them back to the village.

Alerenn was the leader of the twelve hunters in their village, and he knew his son's voice the moment he'd heard him cry out. Arad's scream had scared the living daylights out of him, and the man had immediately insisted they turn from their hunt and head for the brook. Now the dozen Men stood at the forest's edge, watching Arad in surprise and shock as they registered the blood soaking his clothing.

"Arad, what happened?! How did--?" Alerenn stepped forward quickly, his green and tan clothing showing up well on the light stone bank. His eyes were greatly worried, and his voice was harsh as he knelt and began feeling the child's body for wounds. "Where are you hurt, my son?"

"I'm-- not hurt, father," he told him squeakily, his eyes following the forest line until they reached his rescuers.

Alerenn followed his gaze, and a short gasp escaped him, brow furrowing, eyes widening. "Elves," he muttered.

The other hunters were surrounding them immediately, drawing arrows and swords hastily. "Everyone hold your fire," Alerenn shouted. "Hold! Restrain them until I direct you further." The man turned to his son. "Arad. You are not hurt?"

"No, father," Arad shook his head vigorously, hoping his body was telling him what his shock-clouded mind could not seem to express. "They-- That warg attacked-- They saved me, father, the shorter elf-- He shielded me with his body--"

"Telerin, please," Legolas said frantically, eyes riveted on the dying elf in his arms. Arad and his father watched the scene unfold before them, and it spoke more clearly than anything Arad could have said. Telerin had begun convulsing weakly, his hand reaching spasmodically for his lord's. Legolas saw the wandering hand and grabbed it, holding it fiercely yet tenderly to his chest. The raw fear in the elf's eyes was scaring Arad, almost worse than the warg. It wasn't right that such a being should have to experience such a horrible thing.

"M-My lord," the stricken elf breathed. "I-- cannot--"

"Telerin, you have to live," Legolas pleaded futilely. "You must see the White Shores, my friend. We will see them together, years and years from now!"

Telerin shook his head. "No... I will-- be s-seeing them sooner..."

"Telerin!"

The hunters exchanged uncertain glances with one another. Alerenn motioned that they should lower their weapons, carefully. It didn't appear as though the strangers were going to be much of a threat, and slowly each man complied, keeping arrows at the ready should they be needed. The taller elf was holding his friend's head against his, tucked beneath his chin, his body was securely trapped in his arms... Alas, his spirit was not. As Legolas watched, Telerin's breath eased out, and he ceased to shiver.

Legolas face screwed up in pain, his head bowing. Telerin was gone.

Arad felt tears pour down his face, and despite the hunters standing nearby, he felt no shame; at least, not in the tears. One of the magnificent elves was dead, and it was all his fault. Alerenn stepped forward warily, stopping at the elf's hunched shoulders.

Legolas knew the Men were there, but everything was blocked out from the pain of losing Telerin. His left arm held his companion, refusing to let go, and his right hand lifted to cover his face, holding his head in his palm and shielding him from view with a curtain of golden hair. Sobs built in his chest that refused to be released, and the pressure in his lungs was crushing.

"Sir," Aleren tried quietly, placing a hand tentatively on the elf's shoulder, "I am sorry."

For a moment there was no answer.

"You cannot understand."

"I have lost loved ones in my time as well. I can guess," Aleren said in a subdued tone. "Please sir, my son and I are grateful to you for what you and your friend have done. Let us bring you to our village. We will bury your friend."

"No," Legolas shook his head.

The hunter was slightly confused, but then he saw his arm still wrapped around the body. "I understand. Would you like us to help you bring him to the village?" He waited patiently, allowing the being time to collect himself. The signs of trauma and shock were all too clear.

Legolas' hand gradually lowered, and slowly he looked up at the man with reddened eyes, face bathed in tears. "You do not know what it is like. He was my first friend as a child," he told him, glassy eyes searching for some understanding in the mortal's gaze. "I have lived with him for over two thousand years."

Aleren's eyes widened in shock and he turned to look at his son. Arad was as undeniably floored as he was. If knowing someone, loving someone for a century and then losing them was bad... how could the elf stand this? The implications alone sent a pang through Arad's young, tender heart.

"I cannot leave him," Legolas finished, taking a deep, shuddering breath and returning his gaze to his friend's still features.

"Of course," Aleren managed. "If... If you will come with us, we will take you to our home."

"I thank you," Legolas replied softly.

Wiping tears from his eyes, he tried to rise and lift the body, but then a sharp, ripping pain in his chest sent him crashing to the floor with a gasp, the two hunters nearest scrambling to catch him before he hit stone. One man with a dark beard caught the lifeless corpse and raised it up. "Hunh," the man sounded surprised. "He don't hardly weigh nothin' at all."

"Father!" Arad yelled, remembering. "He's hurt! The warg got him in the chest, I saw it!"

Aleren looked down at the elf panting in his comrade's arms and saw that indeed, not all blood there was from the dead elf. "Take him to my house," he ordered. "Bring the other."

Arad followed the man holding Legolas as the hunters departed, and watched as his face creased in pain. "Don't die," Arad asked him under his breath. "Please don't die." The elf's blue eyes opened and locked onto his. Arad realized suddenly that he must have heard him, and for a few moments as the man moved along, that piercing gaze held him, and he blushed with embarrassment.

The boy was startled when Legolas brushed two fingers briefly across his face. Before the golden-haired elf slipped away into unconsciousness, Arad thought he heard him say one more word.

"Estel..."

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Well? Likey? No likey?

I am NOT-- repeat-- NOT giving up The Firstborn at Helm's Deep. The computer totally crashed and we had to get a whole new hard drive, so while I didn't lose what I wrote thanks to back up, I had to wait until we had a word processor that could read. I want it to have a lot of happenings in it as well; thank my friend David for a whole new part I added. Everyone who was wondering what Elrond is doing will be quite happy.

Mata!

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