Author's Note: This story contains several references to another short story of mine, "Parting", where Legolas' stallion Tuilinn had his first appearance. You can find the story posted on this website as Chapter Four in my "Dawn of Friendship" collection or you are welcome to try and read "The Thief" on its own. :)
Title: The Thief
Author: Silivren Tinu
Beta: the one and only Imbecamiel (((hugs)))
Summary: When someone tries to steal something important from Legolas, Halbarad learns a lesson about the elf and his horse. Characters: Aragorn, Legolas, Halbarad, two horses, and one thief.
Disclaimer: I do not own anything that is recognizable from "Lord of the Rings", but I do own the plot and Tuilinn. I probably own the thief, too, but I don't insist on keeping him. (g)
- The Thief -
Halbarad could not help smiling at the sight that greeted him when he stepped out of the forest into the small meadow. His intrepid chieftain and the deadly elven archer who happened to be his best friend were lying side-by-side stretched out in the grass, as if they did not have a care in the world. Rarely had he seen those two so relaxed.
Aragorn seemed to be asleep or dozing, one arm draped over his face to shield his eyes from the bright sunlight. There were some individual blades of grass tangled in his dark curls, as if he had been rolling in the meadow before. Halbarad chose to overlook that detail. Legolas' eyes were open, but the ranger could not tell whether he was walking in elven dreams or watching the white clouds drifting lazily over the blue sky above.
The Prince of the Woodland Realm was supposed to be recovering in Rivendell after a period of intense fighting in the dark woods of his home, but had chosen to accompany Aragorn and his rangers on one of their missions instead. Halbarad had no idea how the wood-elf had ever succeeded in convincing Lord Elrond to let him go, but he had long since decided that there were some things he did not really want or need to know.
The last two weeks had been strenuous for all of them, and more than once Halbarad had had reason to be grateful for the presence of the elf among them. They had had to deal with a group of outlaws who were terrorizing three villages, and when it finally became clear that the head of that group was an influential businessman who was known and respected in all three villages things had almost gone awry.
The villagers had been far more willing to trust the word of said businessman than that of a bunch of strange rangers until Legolas had suddenly ridden right into their midst, eyes blazing with barely concealed anger at the way his friends were being treated, and looking every part the prince he was. The villagers, most of whom had never seen an elf before, had been both awed and intimidated by the sudden appearance of the ethereal-looking creature, allowing Legolas to take control of the situation.
Using all the diplomatic skills his father had worked long and hard to instil in him, and making use of the superstitious awe the villagers showed towards him, the wood-elf quickly convinced them to listen to the rangers instead of disregarding and ridiculing them. Aragorn had finally been able to present the proof they had found for their accusations, and the outlaw-problem had been solved once and for all, though it had not gone off without a last, vehement fight.
After the villagers had taken everyone involved into custody, the rangers and the elf had left and set up camp in a small forest a good distance away from the last village they had been in, intending to rest for some days and care for the two among them who had been wounded during the fight. When all the necessary tasks were done, Aragorn and Legolas had withdrawn to the beautiful meadow at one side of the forest, feeling the need for some quiet and solitude for a while.
Unable to ever completely stop worrying about his chieftain's safety, Halbarad had gone to unobtrusively check on them after some hours had passed. Reassured by the peaceful image in front of him, the ranger was just about to retreat when he spotted a movement out of the corner of his eye. Aragorn's bay horse and Legolas' grey stallion were grazing in the shadow of a large oak tree at the edge of the forest, but there was a third, smaller shape moving under the trees, slowly edging closer to the big stallion.
Halbarad frowned. It seemed trouble insisted on following them these days. Pretending not to have noticed anything out of the ordinary, he walked out of the forest and sauntered over to the human and the elf resting on the ground, dropping down beside them as if he had intended to do so all along. Neither of the two stirred, but Halbarad was well aware that he would have cold steel at his throat and an arrow pointed at his heart by now if he had been perceived as any kind of threat.
Casting a furtive glance at the horses and the forest, he saw that the figure beneath the trees had frozen, but not withdrawn. The ranger lay back, resting on his elbows and looking up at the sky and the clouds.
"Legolas?" he asked, keeping his voice down.
"Mm-hm?" was the sleepy answer.
"I believe someone is trying to steal your horse."
"He's welcome to," the elf murmured and closed his eyes.
Halbarad blinked, wondering if his friends were more exhausted than he had thought them to be. If he had been the owner of such a magnificent horse, that certainly would not have been his reaction to such news.
Looking over at the horses, he saw that the grey stallion was slowly moving away from them, always keeping close to the trees and the shade they offered, while Aragorn's bay had stopped grazing and seemed to doze, standing with his head lowered and one leg bent, only his ears and his tail twitching from time to time to drive off importunate flies.
The blooming meadow, the horses, the dancing butterflies, and the sparkling water of a gurgling brook running right through the midst of the meadow would have been a perfect picture of beauty and peace, if it had not been for the shadowy figure under the trees, who was steadily moving closer to the big, grey horse. Halbarad shifted his attention back to his two lethargic companions.
"Legolas, I do not think you understand – someone is trying to steal your horse!" he repeated, trying to convey the urgency of the matter.
The elf's eyes opened again. "You already said that," he commented, shifting his weight a bit and putting one arm under his head.
Aragorn sighed and opened one eye to glare half-heartedly at his second-in-command. "It is impossible to get any rest with you two around," he complained, rolled to his side, and closed his eye again.
Halbarad was beginning to think that his definition of sanity differed greatly from that of his two companions. "As unwilling as I am to disturb anyone's rest," he said, a note of sarcasm creeping into his voice, "I hope you do realize that one of us will have to walk back to Imladris since he will be without a horse a few minutes from now!"
The figure had now moved out from under the trees, allowing Halbarad to see that it was a shabbily-dressed man, armed with a sword and a bow. The soon-to-be horse thief drew carefully closer to the seemingly oblivious elven horse, a rope held ready in his hands. The ranger watched both man and horse worriedly, considering simply getting up and taking matters into his own hands.
"Perhaps you should do something, Legolas," Aragorn muttered before the other ranger could move. "He might be harmed."
"He knew the risk, didn't he?" the elf replied, unimpressed.
"By the Valar, Legolas!" Halbarad exclaimed. "He is a horse! He does not know anything-"
"Halbarad," Aragorn interrupted gently, both his eyes open and fixed on his friend now, "we are not talking about Tuilinn."
Halbarad shook his head, feeling increasingly frustrated. "I still believe you could do something better right now than sit here and talk in riddles!"
He prepared to rise, but a firm hand closed around his arm, holding him back. "Watch," Aragorn ordered calmly, propping himself up on one elbow and looking over to the horse and the man, who was no more than an arm's length away from his intended prey now. Used to obeying his chieftain's commands without question, the older ranger did as he was told.
Legolas did not move a muscle.
Tuilinn finally stopped grazing, raised his head, and for the first time deigned to take notice of the man sneaking up on him. The stallion stood completely still for several moments, eying the stranger and the rope in his hands. The man spoke soothingly to the beast, slowly raising his hands and preparing to slip the rope over the head of the horse. Tuilinn's neck arched as if in compliance.
A split second later there was a sound of teeth snapping shut and hooves stamping the ground, accompanied by an alarmed shriek. Legolas smirked, not bothering to take a look at the drama unfolding in front of them. Tuilinn reared with an angry whinny, lashing out at the presumptuous being in front of him with his hooves, causing the thief to retreat hastily, stumbling, into the forest. The rope was dropped and fell to the ground, forgotten.
The big horse whinnied again and jumped forward, forcing the thief to throw himself out of the way of stamping and kicking hooves and snapping teeth. The man whirled around and took to his heels, with the stallion in hot pursuit.
"I believe he was not in the mood for games this time," Aragorn commented idly, after the sounds of screaming and whinnying had finally faded into the distance, and the meadow had returned to its previous peaceful state.
"No, he was not," Legolas agreed. "I think he was still annoyed that I did not allow him to bite the villagers who crowded him."
"I cannot blame him," Aragorn said sympathetically. "But it was quite entertaining to watch the last thief sail through the air after he tried to mount him."
Legolas chuckled softly. "That it was."
Halbarad shook his head once again. "I am beginning to understand why elves do not have any problems with horse thieves," he said.
Aragorn nodded. "It is almost impossible to convince an elven horse to do something it does not want to do, especially when you are not its rider and when it has no reason to trust you," he confirmed. "I do not think that Tuilinn's character is entirely due to his being an elven horse, though. Tuilinn is… well, he is one of a kind," he finished a bit lamely.
"Tuilinn does not take well to strangers, and he very much dislikes any attempts at stealing him," Legolas explained. There was a mischievous sparkle in his eyes when he added, "In fact, I can remember only one horse thief who has ever succeeded in stealing him."
Aragorn stifled a groan.
His curiosity aroused by the reaction of the younger ranger, Halbarad asked, "Who was it?"
Legolas smiled, obviously enjoying making his friend squirm. "Your chieftain," he answered.
Halbarad raised an eyebrow.
"It cannot really be called 'stealing'," Aragorn protested. "I was about four years old! Besides, I would never have done it if I had known that I would not live it down for the rest of my life!"
Legolas' smile grew broader, but he did not comment on his friend's words. They both knew Aragorn would have 'stolen' the horse anyway, whatever the consequences. It was one of the fondest memories both of them had of Aragorn's early childhood. "For some inexplicable reason, Tuilinn has always been fond of Aragorn," he merely said.
Aragorn mock-glared at him. "I think it is about time to call your horse back."
"Why?" Legolas asked, his eyes narrowing. "That man wanted to be a horse thief, so he should learn right away how much fun that profession can be. Besides, Tuilinn hasn't had any opportunity of playing for a long time."
"Legolas!" Aragorn warned.
The elf sighed. Reluctantly, he sat up and turned to the forest. Without any warning he gave a shrill whistle, making Halbarad wince. Moments later, a smug-looking stallion came trotting out of the forest, tossing his head proudly and nickering a soft greeting. He came to a halt beside his rider, nuzzling the elf's cheek and blowing into his hair. Legolas gently shoved the big head away from him in Aragorn's direction.
"He wanted to call you," he told the stallion, "so you should go and annoy him."
The stallion did as he was told, and Aragorn soon realized that his time for resting was over. Extricating himself from the horse's playful caresses, he rose, sending another glare at his smirking friend.
"I think I had better go and look after our horse thief," he announced. "I am a healer, after all. Besides, I want to make sure he has learned his lesson."
"One of us should come with you," Legolas said, a hint of concern in his voice, and Halbarad nodded. He had been about to make the same proposal.
Aragorn looked at both of them. "I am able to cope with a single horse thief," he said, trying not to sound exasperated.
Legolas and Halbarad exchanged a glance. "I guess he will not be in a state to cause too much trouble anyway," the elf murmured and lay back down.
Aragorn turned and strode off towards the forest.
When his chieftain had vanished between the trees, Halbarad turned and looked down at the elf beside him. "You knew he was there," he stated.
"I think we would be dead by now if we would allow a simple horse thief to sneak up on us like that," Legolas answered with a smile.
Halbarad grunted and rose to his feet. "Tell me if he fails to return," he said.
Legolas nodded. "Halbarad?"
"I appreciated the warning, even if it was unnecessary."
Halbarad paused for a moment, meeting the elf's gaze. "You are welcome," he said.
The ranger turned and began the short walk back to the camp, convinced that his friends were quite capable of dealing with any upcoming trouble on their own.
- The End -
Additional A/N: Since Legolas mentioned that "Tuilinn would object strongly against being stolen" in my story "Parting" I always wanted to write a story about what would happen if someone actually tried to steal him. I hope you had as much fun reading this story as I had writing it. ;-) Reviews are, as always, very welcome. :)