11. The First Move
"Ah, Chicago. Home sweet home," sighed Elladan, spreading his arms wide and throwing his head back as he, Elrohir, and Legolas stepped off the plane from New York City. "How I have missed you and your industrial smoke."
This drew the expected and desired snicker from Legolas, but Elrohir was not so amused. "Something is wrong," he murmured, completely ignoring his twin; Elladan let his arms drop to his sides as he listened. "I do not know what, but … the sense of the shadow is stronger here. Can you feel it?"
Legolas, who had already looked drawn and concerned in Elladan's opinion, nodded slowly at Elrohir's words. "I can," he admitted, becoming contemplative as they made their way in the press of the crowds to the baggage claim. But more alarming was when Legolas lowered his voice and murmured, "Heltha-ha i thiad o Yrch. Im al-isto i athrad sen heltha-ha."
It was not a matter often discussed amongst the threesome (what times they were together), Elladan reflected, but Legolas' sense of the shadow and imminent threat was more acute than that of his half-Elven companions; it was, perhaps, one of the few weaknesses of the blood of Men in the twins' veins. However, the weakness worked both ways; Legolas was not as strong as Elrond's sons, nor as quick to adapt to the ever-changing modern world. In any case, when Legolas spoke of the sense of Orcs, the twins heeded him without question, despite the bizarre quality of the statement; Orcs had been wiped off the Earth long ago. "That is strange, but I do not doubt you," Elrohir replied softly, also choosing to speak in Sindarin. "Do you think that the Dark Lord has somehow managed to begin anew an army of those wretches?"
"It is possible," Elladan conceded worriedly, his brow wrinkled in consideration. Orcs were the product of the earliest Elven thralls of Morgoth, whom he had mutilated and tortured until they became the horrid, bent creatures that had beset Middle-Earth. Was Sauron strong enough now to perhaps capture a few Elves and begin building Orcs again? Or had some escaped notice all these thousands of years? So much is unknown! Elladan thought, frustrated, as he located and dragged his handbag off the baggage ramp.
Legolas shuddered slightly as he bent over to retrieve his suitcase from the revolving baggage claim. "I hope I am mistaken," he gave a heartfelt sigh. "Their destruction was one of the few blessings of the Breaking."
Elladan concurred on that matter, but he did not say so. "We should take precautions as if you are not," he counseled even as a wicked thought sprang to his mind. He allowed a slow, nasty smile to spread across his face until Legolas raised his eyebrows at him, almost daring him to speak what was on his mind. "And I think we have a few weapons you might want to consider carrying, Legolas."
It was Elrohir's cue, and he sprang upon the moment like a grasshopper in the spring. "Archery will only take you so far, my dear Mirkwood archer, and guns have improved considerably since the American Revolution."
"And the American Civil War," Elladan put in, throwing an arm over Legolas' shoulder to steer him to the waiting chaperoned car and noting with some delight that the Silvan Elf was beginning to give him the Look – a stern, royal stare that dared the twins to continue in this vein.
But of course we must take you up on that offer, Elladan thought sweetly as Elrohir continued, "Or even since World War I. You'd be amazed how precisely you can place a bullet even half a mile away, with a sniper rifle. Much better range than your bow—"
That was the breaking point; Legolas shot Elrohir a glare that could have cowed a Ringwraith when such things roamed the Earth. "I have not been blind these last fifty years," he informed the twins crisply, flicking his gaze to Elladan as if to remind the half-Elf that he, too, was part of the conversation. "I am quite up-to-date on the matter of firearms." And with that, he climbed into the back seat of the provided car.
He did not seem to feel as if any elaboration was necessary. Elladan climbed in after Legolas and Elrohir joined them; the latter son of Elrond directed the driver to the twins' apartment and they were off. "And what do you mean by up-to-date?" Elladan finally prompted.
Legolas ignored him for a moment in favor of searching his suitcase for something unspecified. He resurfaced empty-handed. "Just that," he finally replied.
"Oh, come now," Elrohir shook his head as he buckled his seat belt. "Can you shoot a gun? Well, I know you can shoot one, but are you any good with the modern version?"
Legolas just smiled a smile that promised a swift death to any enemy that crossed him. Truly the Elf had good reason to be wired; he would, with any luck, be seeing Aragorn's descendant that very evening. Elladan envied him, but the twins' meeting with their great-grandnephew to the nth degree would have to be delayed a bit – if only to prevent for the poor fellow the possible intimidation of meeting three very strange strangers at once.
Elladan grinned back. "I hope you brought a concealed weapon permit with you from your home, my friend."
"Of course," Legolas answered with the air of superiority that he was so good at conjuring. "One cannot face a Dark Lord without a weapon or two at his constant disposal, after all."
But Elrohir's face was drawn again, and Elladan knew his own features were a mirror image of his brother. "The threat seems to grow with each step we take," Elrohir murmured. "I pray only that we are not too late."
"As do I," nodded Legolas, immediately sober and serious.
"As do we all," Elladan agreed softly.
* * *
It had been such a long day.
Allen Evanston trudged up the steps to his apartment and yawned. Grading student essays was not precisely conducive to clear thought; reading any large number of them at once seemed to have a numbing effect on his brain. After spending the last two hours of his workday doing just that (his assistant, a graduate student, had called in sick today), he wanted to eat a pint of ice cream, watch the news, and go to sleep. And he planned to do just that.
It was not that Allen hated his job – quite the opposite. He found his students to be on the whole very engaging and intelligent, a joy to teach, and the subject material had been his passion for years. There was something to be said for the natural remedies and herb usage of 250 years ago, and the pseudo-science of placebos, superstitions, and myth had played a great role in the world of medicine for many hundreds of years – even thousands. He loved teaching these things. And of late, the research team he had been working with had been making great progress. Just the other day he had received a report from one of his co-workers entailing the discovery of a few very ancient carvings in the French dig site depicting the use of some sort of healing herb that had not been seen depicted before. There is some sort of writing underneath the carving, but what it could mean is currently beyond us, the report had said. Carbon-dating puts the artifact at about 15,000 years of age. Which meant that herbal remedies had seen its start far, far earlier than Allen had ever dared imagine. He was planning to fly out to the site during the upcoming Christmas break and take a look.
It was just days like this – when the weather was windy, chilly, and a bit rainy, the classes were dull and the news slow, and the grades were due – that exhausted Allen.
He put the key in the lock to his small apartment – Allen made a goodly amount of money, but when one was a bachelor living alone there didn't seem a point to buying a large home – jiggled it just so, and opened the door.
He knew something was wrong the moment Huan, his dog, failed to greet him at the door. Huan was a relatively elderly mutt with a deep sense of dignity and routine. He always greeted Allen at his door with a bark, licking his hand gratefully, before trotting off to lay beside Allen's favorite chair until Allen either joined him or took him on his walk. But today, when Allen stepped into the front foyer, there was no Huan. Instead, there was frantic barking.
Huan was not a stupid dog, but neither was he cowardly; wherever he was, there was the threat that caused him to make so much noise. However, Huan's definition of a 'threat' ran from an armed robber to a trapped squirrel. Since the door remained locked and all seemed in order, the second seemed far more likely than the first. Allen sighed, somewhat amused, and trekked into the kitchen where Huan growled and barked, his hackles raised.
It was clear he had been mistaken.
Allen froze when he found himself on the wrong end of a semi-automatic handgun. It rested in the hand of an average-built man in a neatly pressed black suit and sunglasses; Allen searched his face, but it was amazingly nondescript. "Good evening, Mr. Evanston," said the man calmly. "I am pleased to make your acquaintance."
Allen said nothing, surprised and unsure how to approach the situation. He felt panic surge up within himself, but he sternly pushed the rush of fear down. This was no time to lose his head. How did he get in here? Got to call the police. Don't try and fight him, it'll only cause trouble. "What do you want?" he asked slowly, raising his hands. Huan continued to growl.
The man ignored the question. "Are you Elessar Telcontar's Heir?" he asked in the same cool, indifferent tone.
"Who?" Allen asked automatically, utterly confused. Elessar Telcontar? Is that Italian? "I don't know what you're talking about," he said more slowly when the questioner's eyebrows drew together in a slight frown behind his sunglasses.
Huan barked again. Allen patted his head and murmured, "Shh, Huan." But Huan continued to snarl low in his throat.
"You know not?" the man asked in that same toneless calm. "Then it does not matter." He hefted his gun as if to fire.
Several things happened at once, then. Allen's mind went into overdrive, managing to cram several hundred thoughts into the space of a second. I can't believe I'm going to die this can't be real! was predominant; he threw himself the ground and shouted for help. Huan sprang from the floor and sunk his plenty-sharp teeth into the man's hand. And the man dropped dead.
Allen blinked as his attacker slumped to the ground next to him, the side of his head ruined; he had the sickening thought that if the man's brain was no longer in his cranium, it had to be spread all over the kitchen floor. He shuddered instinctively; Huan whimpered softly, a keening noise, and released his grip on the man's hand.
And the man evaporated!
Allen felt his eyes widen as the dead man's body seemed to waft away like so much smoke, leaving only a thin slip of paper with symbols scrawled across it. What … what was …
He didn't even realize he'd spoken aloud until he heard a disgusted noise and looked up to see yet another intruder – this one a tall, slim man with youthful features and his long blond hair pulled back into a ponytail. He held a Browning handgun; a silencer had been screwed onto the end. "The new Orc," he said softly in answer before crossing the linoleum floor and crouching in front of Allen while Allen sat up. Huan started barking as soon as the stranger got too close; the man looked at Allen's dog and smiled slightly. "Be calm, friend," he murmured, scratching the dog's ears – and Huan fell silent, his tail wagging. "Are you all right?" the man asked Allen.
The Twilight Zone. I'm in the goddamned Twilight Zone! Nearly getting shot, men talking to dogs and bodies evaporating into thin air? What had happened to his life? "I don't know," Allen answered, placing a hand over his chest and willing his heart to stop beating quite so fast. "What the hell was that? And who on earth are you?"
The man gazed at Allen with deep green eyes that seemed somehow … inhuman. Unnerving. Somewhat uncomfortable, Allen looked away. "That was an attempt on your life, Allen Evanston," said the man evenly. "And I am … a friend." The man picked up the piece of paper that had been left behind by the man with long fingers and frowned at it. "There will be more men like that one," he continued, slipping the paper into his pocket. "The one who wants to kill you will not give up easily."
"Why would anyone want to kill me?" Allen asked, bewildered. "I never … I'm just a college professor! Who could I have pissed off so badly?"
"It isn't your profession, Dr. Evanston," the man said, catching Allen's eyes again. "It is your birthright and bloodline. This hatred extends millennia before you were even born."
Are you Elessar Telcontar's heir? The words came back to Allen. "Who is Elessar Telcontar?" Allen demanded.
The man raised his eyebrows delicately before shaking his head. "I will explain later. For now, we must get you out of your home. More of these men will come."
This was all happening too fast. "Wait. Why should I trust you?"
"Because I saved your life, and I could have put a bullet in your head five minutes ago but have not," the man's mouth quirked in a slight smile. "There are many explanations due you, but I would rather wait until you are out of danger." He offered his hand. Allen hesitated just a moment before taking it; the man helped him to his feet. "For now, please call me Lawrence. My real name will only cause you to have more questions, and we don't have time for that." Another half-smile. "I would like to take you to New York City, to a safehouse. Is that all right with you?"
"I … sure," Allen shook his head slightly and put his hand to temple. Too fast … "I need time to process this. What should I pack? How long will I be gone?"
"There is no need and no time for packing. I can and will buy anything you need."
He's that rich? Allen's mind seemed to whirl faster. "Er … can Huan come?"
"Huan?" Lawrence's gaze sharpened. "Your dog?" He scratched the dog's ears again, and Huan licked his other hand obligingly. "That is an … unusual name."
"Yeah, I suppose. He got the name from the family that owned his mother. I bought him as a puppy," Allen heard himself explain. "Why are we even talking about this? Can he come? Shouldn't I call the university?"
"You can call them later. Yes, Huan can and should come along." Lawrence was already walking out of the kitchen. "Come. Quickly."
Allen was beginning to feel Lawrence's urgency; he followed his rescuer without question. Huan faithfully followed them both, but as they approached the turn into the foyer, Huan suddenly barked fiercely again.
Lawrence seemed to sense the danger at the same time as the dog. "Get down!" he hissed, lifting the Browning again, just as three more men alarmingly identical to the first rounded the corner.
Allen didn't even have time to properly react. Three bullets later, all three men had their heads spattered across the wall and floor before they and their remains faded into slips of paper, just as the first man had.
"You see?" Lawrence asked sharply.
Allen nodded. "Oh, I see. I really am in the Twilight Zone."
Lawrence actually laughed. "I suppose it must seem so!" he exclaimed. "Now, come with me! I will take you someplace safe, and then I will explain, and you will think you truly have entered an entirely new world!"
* * *
Elladan and Elrohir were loitering in an alleyway about a block from Allen's apartment when Elrohir's cell phone rang. "Hello? Ah, Legolas." Elrohir beckoned his brother over to listen. "Already? Oh. Oh … No, we're coming. We will meet you in front of the apartment complex. Goodbye."
"I think that the Dark Lord may have inadvertently helped our cause," Elladan said as Elrohir hung up the phone.
"Thank Ilúvatar," Elrohir sighed, heading for the apartment building at a brisk walk. "If Allen is anything like his ancestor, he would have been stubborn to the end without an outside force to aid us."
"Indeed," Elladan agreed with less humor than usual, following his brother. "Yes … we are very blessed. Now, let us take advantage of that blessing before it turns on us!"
But even as he spoke, five men jumped at them at once.
That quickly, the brothers moved as one, twisting so they were back to back; their hands came up in defensive postures. The first one to come within attacking range was kicked in the face by Elladan; Elrohir took the next one down with a mean left hook that caused the attacker to stumble into the man next to him. A knife flashed in the hand of a fourth man, but Elladan was too quick for him; he grasped the man by the wrist and twisted his arm, slamming his leg into the back of the man's knees so the buckled, sending him crashing to the ground with a cry of pain, his grip on the knife lost. Elrohir swept the weapon up from the ground and spun to meet the knife of the fifth attacker; they grappled for a moment while Elladan took one long stride past Elrohir to take on the two whom Elrohir had knocked to the ground earlier.
After a moment or two of straining with the man in a battle of pure strength, Elrohir finally twisted his knife so as to catch his attacker's blade on the hilt; at the same time he twisted around, coming within the man's defenses and driving the heel of his hand up into the man's jaw. The man grunted, thrown off-balance, and Elrohir pressed his advantage, taking the man's wrist while shoving him backwards bodily until both Elrohir and the man crashed to the ground, Elrohir laying upon the man's chest. The man's head cracked against the pavement, hard, and his entire body relaxed as he fell unconscious. Elrohir snatched the knife from the man's hand.
Meanwhile Elladan eyed the two that Elrohir had temporarily taken out at the beginning of the fight. They charged as one; Elladan sidestepped and stuck out his arm, slamming the crook of his elbow into the throat of one of the men. He collapsed, gasping for air, his throat sorely abused. The other turned on a dime and kicked fiercely, and Elladan took a step back, hopping and bending to avoid the foot coming towards his chest, then leaning back to stay clear of swinging fists. Finally he ducked his head, coming in below one wild punch, and slammed his own fist into the man's gut. Winded, the man bent over Elladan's shoulder, and Elladan flipped him onto his back as he straightened.
He turned to face Elrohir, who was holding two knives, one in each hand, and looking confused. "What was that?"
"A poorly executed attack?" Elladan cocked his head. "But this is strange. Do they not feel like … Orcs?"
Elrohir looked down at one of the unconscious, black-suited men, and nodded slowly. "These are not Men," he said flatly. "They are evil."
"They are!" cried a new voice.
Elladan and Elrohir looked up as one to see Legolas approaching; beside him a large brown-black dog loped, and a dark-haired Man with square features and dark, intelligent eyes and a sturdy build followed. "Orcs of a new sort," Legolas said simply as he came to a halt before the twins. "Allen Evanston, these are my friends; they will help us keep you safe."
There was a moment of awkward silence while the bewildered-looking Allen blinked at the twins and the twins gazed back at him. "Estel's heir," Elrohir finally breathed.
"What is this about my being an heir?" Allen's voice was filled with tired exasperation. "I don't understand anything …"
"We don't have time," Legolas said with an air of repetition. "I will explain later." He looked at Elladan and Elrohir. "We must get him on a plane back to New York as quickly as possible."
Elladan was the first of the twins to shake off his moment of awe at seeing his great-great-great-etcetera grand-nephew. "Yes, quickly," he nodded, before smiling at Allen. "Do not worry. We want only the best for you."
Allen nodded warily. "If not, I suppose I'm already screwed."
Elladan snickered at that, but before he could retort, one of the Orc-men groaned and began to roll over. "Ah, our time is up. Let us go!" And with that, the foursome and the dog hastened out of the alleyway, Allen's safety foremost on their minds.
* * *
Author's Notes: I'm really short on time, so this will have to be quick.
Well, meet Allen Evanston. I've never written from inside Aragorn's head, and since Allen is largely an AU take on Allen, that's basically what I'm trying to do. It's gonna be wild. Help me out if you can.
Explanations for the Orc-men that evaporate into nothing are waiting in future chapters. There really is a bit of sense to be made! Really!
Legolas is caught off-guard by the name 'Huan' because Huan was the great hound of the Valar in the First Age. He died defending Allen's great-great-great …. great-great grandfather, Beren. Yes, I love irony. How the dog ended up with such a name may or may not be seen.
 "It is the feel of Orcs. I know not how this can be." Legolas hasn't quite shaken off his Silvan Elvish, though; yrch is the plural form of 'orc' in Silvan, not Sindarin.
This is a work of fan fiction, written because the author has an abiding love for the works of J R R Tolkien. The characters, settings, places, and languages used in this work are the property of the Tolkien Estate, Tolkien Enterprises, and possibly New Line Cinema, except for certain original characters who belong to the author of the said work. The author will not receive any money or other remuneration for presenting the work on this archive site. The work is the intellectual property of the author, is available solely for the enjoyment of Henneth Annûn Story Archive readers, and may not be copied or redistributed by any means without the explicit written consent of the author.