This piece was written for the Estel Angst Central's 'Spiders' competition. Hope you like it!

Disclaimer: Don't own, don't sue. Do own my OC, don't copy.

Rating: PG—mild violence.

Notes: My original character is Lady Mirwen (nicknamed Miir), the same one who appears in most of my LOTR fics. She is half elf and half Falanassi (an immortal, mostly extinct race), and was taken in by Elrond after her parents died at the Last Battle—as such, she is Aragorn's elder adopted sister. She's a half-elf, but here she is mostly referred to as a full elf. As a Falanassi, she is with the Fellowship, but no canon events are changed because of that.

Anyway, enough of my babbling. Enjoy!

"So, did you take any wrong cuts after that?" the dark-haired woman teased the hobbit.

"No, we had Strider with us." Merry answered, and Pippin chimed in with:

"He said his cuts, short or long, don't go wrong."

"What?!" Two voices hissed the word incredulously—this exclamation was followed by a pair of disbelieving snorts, and then a peal of stifled laughter from the woman.

"He told you that?" Legolas queried, his blue eyes bright and amused. "Oh, little ones, the stories we could tell you…"

"What are you going to tell them?" a deep voice inquired as Aragorn came up behind the foursome. "Miir, you have a fiendish grin on your face, and that worries me."

Mirwen shook her head, her smile wry. "Aragorn, you've been misleading the little ones."

"How so?" The man cast her a look of utter confusion.

"You said your cuts, short or long, don't go wrong." Legolas replied pointedly. "Aragorn, your sister and I can witness to the untruth of that."

"I was just trying to reassure them…" the Man grumbled.

The two immortals looked at each other and laughed. "Had you said that to us, we'd be even more uneasy."

"Can you tell us the story behind that?" Pippin cut in, looking from face to face.

"Which one shall we tell, Miir?" Legolas lazily asked the woman. "Trolls? Wargs? Orcs?"

"Dwarves?" The glint in her dark eyes gave the blond prince pause. The Elrondion—or Elrondiel, for that matter—innocently evil look could match the Thranduilion one for sweetness ladled over devilry, and this particular expression was sending shivers down his spine.

Outwardly, he shuddered. "No, most definitely not. Spiders—and that one shortcut—then?"

"Tell away." Mirwen's smile grew bigger and much more smug. "I'll step in if you miss anything."

"You two do enjoy embarrassing me, don't you?" Aragorn muttered.

(Many years ago…)

Aragorn walked through the forest, enjoying the distinct lack of rain. His journey down from the North had been a miserable one, with far too much rain that had left with him with a wrenched ankle from a nasty fall. Mirkwood actually looked cheerful for once.

However, as the day wore on, the skies became gloomier and darker. As a fat raindrop splattered on his forehead, Aragorn swore, looking around for a place to weather out the storm and hopefully get closer to the Palace where he was bound. The mouth of a nearby cave gaped invitingly—just as he prepared to duck inside, a disturbing image of the singularly large Mirkwood spiders popped into his mind.

Shaking his head, the Ranger plunged into the cave. The network of caverns spanned most of Mirkwood, so this was only a shortcut… wasn't it?

The pair of elves sheltering in the oak's canopy looked up when another elf appeared on a limb. "Highness, Lady, the scout just reported in—there's a stranger near the west caves."

Legolas glanced at the dark-haired woman sitting with her back to the tree trunk. "Well, Mirwen? Shall we go over?"

"Why not?" Moving with practiced, economic grace, she strapped on weapons and an oilcloth-wrapped bundle of torches, then smiled at the prince. "We'll save your men the trouble. Let's go."

The blond elf looked over at his captain. "Keep the squad here. Wait for my orders."

As the other immortal nodded, the Prince of Mirkwood and the lady warrior of Imladris vanished into the trees.

Aragorn tossed his pack down with a sigh of relief. This far into the cave, it was a bit musty and very dark, but at least it was dry. As he sat down on a rock to rest, an odd rustling sound brought him to his feet, sword halfway from its sheath.

"Hello?" he called out uncertainly.

Silence, then more rustling, clicking sounds.

Feeling decidedly nervous, Aragorn began backing toward the exit, his sword out and held in front of him. He had only taken a few steps when a huge mass slammed into him, sending him staggering forward with a cry of pain as his injured ankle twisted beneath him. Recovering his balance, the Ranger stabbed out at his attacker. There was an inhuman shriek of rage and pain—then more bodies hit Aragorn, bearing him to the floor. His sword was knocked from his hand as he hit the stone hard.

As he blacked out, Aragorn's last sensation was a sharp stab in the muscle of his neck…

"There are tracks going in, but none coming out." Mirwen commented as the two elves arrived at the caves. "Too heavy for an elf, but too big for a dwarf."

"That would make them a human's prints, pen-neth." Legolas replied, examining the footprints as his companion stepped just inside the cave's mouth to light torches. "A rough, scruffy human, most likely."

She snorted softly, but made no further reply as she held out a burning torch for him—just as Legolas' hand closed around the torch, there was a yelp of pain, then a hair-raising screech of agony. Mirwen gasped, staring at Legolas with horror written all over her face. "I know that voice." she whispered.

Blue eyes grim, Legolas drew a long-knife as Mirwen freed her one-handed sword—then the two rushed into the cave. They rounded a corner, skidding on the slick stone—and came face-to-face with a host of spiders. The torchlight gleamed off far too many eyes and mandibles—then the two elves spotted a still form, almost totally wrapped in webbing. With that, all caution was thrown to the winds.

Shouting battle cries, Legolas and Mirwen charged forward, wildly swinging both torches and their weapons. The press of spiders was so thick that every blow, no matter how uncontrolled, found a mark in spider bodies. The spiders were packed so rightly that they could not escape the two frantic warriors. Screeching and shrieking, the beasts finally found a way to flee to their dens.

As Legolas ran to the limp body, he nearly stepped on an all-too-familiar hand-and-a-half sword. As he knelt to scoop it up, Mirwen ran past him, tenderly lifting the web-bound form in her arms. "Let's get you out of here, little brother."

On the way out of the cave, Legolas halted to retrieve the man's discarded pack, then looked at the elven woman. "Can you get him to the talan?"

She nodded absently, face still pale beneath her golden-bronze skin. "Don't you worry, Greenleaf, I can carry him."

"I'll meet you there, then. I have to recall the patrol."

By the time Legolas and the patrol arrived at the talan, Mirwen already had water boiling and now knelt by the unconscious Ranger, inspecting the web that bound him. Sighing, she drew a belt-knife and cut the web, starting to peel it away carefully.

Legolas joined her, his pale fingers finding a cut end and patiently working it loose. "Is he in danger?"

Mirwen sighed, tucking a stray bit of hair behind her pointed ear. "Not as far as I can tell—I know he's been poisoned, and he is fairly battered—" she pointed to a rising lump on the Ranger's head. "—but he will live. Get his shirt off and flip him over for me, please?"

The prince did as requested while Mirwen brought over the hot water and her healing supplies. Selecting a few herbs, she soaked them in the hot water and applied them to the ugly stab wound in the human's shoulder. He moaned, but did not stir as the woman tended to his injuries.

When the man's superficial wounds were seen to, Mirwen checked the poisoned wound, peeling away the herbs to inspect the gash. There was a greenish substance oozing from the wound—wiping it away with a grimace, she moistened the leaves again and pressed them back over the wound, before turning to examine the lump on his head.

"How do you think he got that one?" Legolas commented, watching his friend idly. She was his equal on the battlefield, but when it came to healing, he knew only a little more than rudimentary first aid, while she had been trained as a healer by her foster-father, Elrond of Imladris.

She shrugged. "Probably when he fell." Her long-fingered hand found the appropriate leaves and wet them into a compress, pressing it against the lump. In an exasperated but fond tone, she muttered, "Thank the Valar for his thick skull—it probably saved him worse damage."

Just then, the human moaned, his eyelids fluttering. "Wha'—happen'd?"

"Silly human," Mirwen chastised gently. "Haven't you had enough experience to know that Mirkwood caves can be hazardous to your health?"

Aragorn's eyes opened, and bleary silver eyes focused on the woman crouching beside him. "Miir?"

"Aye, me." She cuffed him lightly. "What in Arda were you thinking?'

"To get out of the rain," he muttered, raising a hand to touch his head and hastily withdrawing it when his elder sister smacked the hand reprovingly. "I already had a wrenched ankle and didn't want to get soaked again."

Mirwen rubbed the bridge of her nose with a sigh as Legolas came closer, looking down at the man. "Keep still, I need to see to that spider bite," she commanded, then frowned when he tried to move. "Keep still! You're just as bad as Legolas!"

Both males looked affronted but the elven woman was not paying attention to either one, and poked Aragorn's shoulder firmly. "If you don't keep still, I swear I shall knock you out with my dagger hilt."

"All right, all right." The man allowed his sister to minister to him, but squirmed when her fingers touched a sensitive spot. "Ouch, Miir! I'm not made of wood, you know!"

Her patience clearly at an end, Mirwen unsheathed a dagger and held it up with a raised eyebrow. Thinking that her raised eyebrow made her look scarily like their foster-father, Aragorn meekly submitted.

"Come now, Miir, I'm not as bad as he is!" Legolas protested. "I don't squirm as much."

"No, but you're just as stubborn when it comes to staying still." Mirwen retorted without missing a beat. "All right, Estel, you can sit up now."

As the human sat up, she settled back into a sitting position, regarding him with wry amusement. Legolas spoke for both immortals, shaking his head. "How on earth do you get yourself into these scrapes, Estel?"

"I was only trying to take a shortcut…" Aragorn muttered.

"Shortcut?!" The two elves exclaimed the word simultaneously, then looked at each other and burst out laughing.

(Many years later)

Pippin and Merry were staring at the elves in shock. "You mean Strider walked into a spiders' den?!"

Nods, and a chuckle from Mirwen. "To be fair, he was much younger back then, and he has learned much since then."

"Or so we hope." Legolas teased, dodging a playful cuff from the Ranger. The blow was returned, and soon the elf and the Ranger were engaged in a friendly tussle.

"Gentlemen?" When Mirwen's voice broke in, two sets of suddenly-too-innocent eyes—one silver, one blue—were turned on her. The she-elf held up a dagger with a meaningful smirk and eyebrow quirk. "Allow me to point out that I am perfectly capable of hauling both of you along by the feet."

"We understand, Miir." Legolas assured her, looking as innocent as only an inveterate mischief-maker could.

"Of course." As Mirwen turned to face the hobbits, she rolled her eyes, making Pippin grin. "They are a very bad influence, little ones," she murmured softly, ushering them down the trail. "But I would not change them for anything or everything in Arda."