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While the Ring Went South...: 10. January 5, 3019 (Day)
To say that Legolas was upset would be to severely understate the case. The elf was far more than upset. He was raging. He was fuming. He was quickly approaching a level of anger reserved almost exclusively for Orcs. His bright gray eyes had darkened to the color of ominous storm clouds. His searing glance was capable of tearing the hide from an oliphaunt. His light feet stomped through the forest as might a troop of careless dwarves. And his very presence hummed with a fury that sent all good-natured things scurrying for safety.
Of all the members of the Fellowship to find me in the rain, why did it have to be the dwarf?! By nature, Legolas was a rather quiet elf, speaking only when it seemed his input was needed, but he now felt like screaming his rage and his frustration to the mountains. Let the spies and servants of the Enemy flock to him. He would gladly fight them all if only to assuage his anger.
"By the Valar, a plague upon the dwarves," he hissed aloud, wishing that he had paid better attention to his older brothers when they’d attempted to teach him the fine art of swearing in Quenya. He’d exhausted all the known curses in both Sindarin and Silvan, and he now wondered if a good oath or two in the most elegant elvish tongue might be able to relieve him of some of his tension.
Choking back a roar of frustration and almost overwhelming anger, Legolas balled up his fists and slammed himself bodily into a nearby tree, pressing his forehead against its smooth trunk and praying for some semblance of sanity to return to his mind. He longed to lock his nimble fingers around Gimli’s throat and squeeze until the dwarf could no longer clamor for air. He envisioned Gimli’s dark eyes pleading for an act of mercy that only the elf could deliver, and he saw himself smile serenely in response and then tighten his grip.
"Ah Elbereth," Legolas murmured, still leaning against the tree. Aragorn was right. I am beginning to lose control. I play games with life, and it is I who owe the life debt.
But the dwarf was coming dangerously close to crossing the fine line that defined the boundaries and requirements of a life debt! The gift of life was treated with great respect and honor among the elves because of the simple fact that they were immortal. They lived forever unless another killed them or unless they chose to die by grief. Thus, one who saved an elven life gifted that elf with possibly thousands upon thousands of years in which to continue to live and roam Middle Earth. Such a profound gift demanded some form of grand reward, but a life debt to a dwarf…it was unthinkable! What significance did life have to a dwarf? They were concerned with nothing but their search for gems and minerals. How could they possibly understand the exquisite nature of an elven life and how could an elf be bound to one of those shrunken creatures?
Firewood, Legolas told himself firmly, pushing away from the tree and trying to push his thoughts away, as well. I am here to gather firewood. We will need it for Samwise.
Yet who had tasked him with gathering firewood in the first place? That dwarf was treading upon thin ground. Legolas was a reasonably even-tempered elf with a fair amount of patience as was customary among the Eldar, but he did not think he could endure one more provocation. He knew his limits, and it would not be long before the dwarf pushed him too far. And when the sparks began to fly, it was anyone’s guess as to what the outcome would be, for Legolas did not think he should be held accountable for any actions he might take against the bearded creature.
But perhaps today would be better. After all, the last few days had been difficult for all of them and the dwarf’s obstinate behavior might very well be caused by weariness. Perhaps today would witness a change in that behavior. Perhaps Gimli would mellow, realizing just how far he was testing the limits of Legolas’s patience. Perhaps some agreement might be reached as to how to conduct and resolve the issue of the life debt. Perhaps the dwarf would simply back off.
"And perhaps he will also learn to fly," Legolas spat caustically, shoving his more optimistic side to the back of his mind. He started to kneel with the intention of gathering sticks for the fire, but his left thigh protested violently and he ended up using a rather awkward lunge instead. Another black mark was added behind Gimli’s name on Legolas’s mental tally sheet, and the elf gritted his teeth against a new wave of righteous indignation. That dwarf was going to pay. Legolas didn’t know how and he didn’t know when, but Gimli was going to regret ever crossing the youngest prince of Mirkwood.
* * * *
"No, no, no, and no."
Aragorn sighed and rubbed his still-aching head. The current argument seemed to have gone on forever, and neither participant was any more willing to bend now than he had been when the argument first began. Aragorn had to admit, though, that it did make for an interesting picture. Gandalf the Gray, tall and bristling with hidden power, faced off against one small hobbit gardener, still shivering fiercely with cold but refusing to back down.
The Ranger wondered if they should have avoided this conversation entirely by simply not telling Sam about the Warg trap. They could have waited until the hobbit fell asleep and then quietly taken Bill away from the camp. But such a decision might have led to several complications, especially if their plan failed and the pony met with an untimely death. No, it was probably best that they had told Sam. The trick now was to get his consent.
"Sam, I assure you that Bill will be under surveillance at all times," Gandalf said, his voice patient and soothing, but it seemed the hobbit was no longer truly listening.
"You tell us there’s a wolf out there, and that’s upsetting to be sure, but now you tell us that you’ve known about this wolf for days and haven’t bothered to let us in on the secret," Sam exclaimed, pacing back and forth while waving his arms about in the air. "And here I’ve been letting Bill wander for grass with his hobbles on and all when there’s something about as might eat him! And what’s worse, now you want me to let him wander even further away! Well, I won’t have it, Mr. Gandalf. You can say all you like, but you’re not sending my pony out into this forest to be eaten by who knows what! I’ll not stand for it!"
Aragorn sighed and stretched, wincing at the resulting inevitable pop in his back. Sam was certainly justified in his anger. There were actually several secrets that some members of the Fellowship had kept—and were still keeping—from other members, but in matters requiring as much delicacy as the Ring required, sometimes even secrecy within the group was necessary. And there had been little reason to alarm the hobbits earlier when the Warg proved to be no immediate threat. Aragorn shook his head. In any case, none of this mattered anymore. The rest of the Fellowship now knew of the Warg and also of the plan to lure it into the open using the pony as bait.
"Is there a way we might construct this trap without using Bill?" Legolas asked, his voice quiet and thoughtful.
Aragorn noted that this was a marked improvement over the elf’s earlier mood when he had returned from gathering firewood. He had practically dumped the bundle of sticks on top of Gimli and then stormed to the other side of camp, seething with a rage so palpable that none had dared approach him for quite some time. After a while, Legolas’s anger had cooled to the point that walking near the elf did not feel like walking next to Orodruin, but even the innocent hobbits could sense that the elf was still very upset. Aragorn was waiting for an explosion of some kind, but for now at least, the Legolas had a civil tongue in his head and appeared to be somewhat concerned with their current situation. He wondered how long that would last.
"And how would we do that?" Gandalf asked the prince. "Are you willing to serve as bait?"
"If need be, yes," the elf said easily. "But I do not think he would seek to attack me when there is weaker prey about." Legolas threw a quick but rather obvious look at Gimli when he said this, but he turned away and continued before anyone could say aught. "Rather, I wonder about the possibility of using dried meat or something similar."
"Remember that this is a Warg, Legolas," Aragorn spoke up, deciding he should say something to remind Legolas that he was still here and still keeping an eye on him. "He was raised upon the flesh of men and elves. He will not settle for old meat, and were it not for the fact that this Warg is probably starving, even Bill would be beneath his notice."
"Then let’s keep Bill beneath his notice!" Sam exclaimed.
"Would you explain again exactly how you were planning to protect Bill?" Frodo suddenly asked. He’d been unusually quiet since the announcement that the pony was to be used as bait, and Aragorn wondered what thoughts the Ring-bearer had pondered.
"It would involve splitting the Fellowship again, but as there is no river nearby, we hope it will not prove as disastrous," the Ranger answered with a grim smile. "Legolas will be closest to Bill—probably above him, in fact—and will guard him with the bow. For the first hour, Gimli and I will be on either side of the pony and hidden in the brush, ready to attack should the Warg make an appearance. At the end of that hour, Boromir will relieve Gimli and we will watch for two hours before Gimli relieves me. After another two hours, I will relieve Legolas and borrow his bow and quiver. Two hours after that, if the Warg has still not attacked, we will return to camp and resume watches as usual for what little remains of the day. In the meanwhile, those of you here will have to care for your own safety as the rest of us will either be resting or elsewhere."
"No one is going to be elsewhere," Sam said heatedly, his facing taking on an expression of extreme stubbornness. It was a rather unlikely look for this particular hobbit and had the situation not been so dire, it might have been vastly amusing. "Three of you were almost drowned in a river only two nights ago," Sam continued, his eyes flashing with an inner fire that was so comical it nearly cost Aragorn his composure. "I’ll not be trusting Bill’s safety to guards who are still recovering!"
"Well, one of them wasn’t swept down a river," Frodo pointed out. "You’re fine, aren’t you, Gimli?"
Gimli snorted indignantly. "A dwarf is always fine, Master Hobbit. If need be, I could guard this pony on my own."
Aragorn’s sharp ears heard Legolas mutter something highly offensive beneath his breath. The Ranger cast a stern glare in his direction, but the elf was deliberately not looking at Aragorn.
"Good. And everyone else seems to be recovering quickly. Boromir, you’re feeling much better, aren’t you?" Frodo continued.
Boromir raised his brow at the question. "Remember, Frodo, that I have served Gondor for many years and have faced hardships much worse than what happened two days ago. I swam Anduin with my brother during the raid on Osgiliath, and in that adventure, I faced the arrows of Orcs as well as the pervasive darkness of the Nameless One and his hooded Riders, neither of which were present for my latest river encounter."
"In other words, you’re fine," Pippin summarized. Boromir threw him a dirty look.
"And what about you, Strider?" Frodo continued, turning to the Ranger.
Aragorn nodded slowly, hoping that whatever Frodo was doing would convince Sam to allow their plan. "I feel much better this morning than I did yesterday morning, and I will be able to hold my own in the event of an attack. Like Boromir, my experience has included trials far more trying than a soaking in a cold river."
"You see, Sam?" Frodo said before turning to the last member of the somewhat impromptu trap team. "And Legolas? How are you doing?"
Legolas smiled slightly, pushed himself off the log he’d been using for a seat, and stretched. "Elves are quick to heal, Master Frodo. My own misfortunes will give me no more trouble. Behold!" And with movements faster than mortal eyes could track, the elf had strung an arrow to his bow, pulled it back, and sent his bolt hurtling through the air. A yelp of surprise and alarm escaped Gimli’s lips and all turned to see where the elf’s arrow had flown. Still quivering slightly, the arrow had lodged between Gimli’s legs in a tree against which the dwarf was been leaning.
For one eternal moment, no one dared move. And then it seemed that all the demons of Melkor’s reign were set loose. Gimli’s roar of rage could be likened to a wrathful Smaug, and Aragorn immediately threw himself at the understandably irascible dwarf to prevent a physical confrontation. Boromir joined him in restraining Gimli and between the two of them, they managed to keep the dwarf away from the elf. For his part, when Gimli lunged, Legolas had remained absolutely still, as though awaiting the attack, and had seemed even eager to test his recovering strength against the dwarf. He was not taking the offensive in turn, but he was most definitely not trying to placate his opponent.
Aragorn sighed even as he tightened his hold on Gimli. They did not need this. Perhaps Gimli was abusing the life debt, and perhaps Legolas was justified in his anger, but needless threats and unnecessary risks were foolish, childish, and dangerous. Elven skill or no, Legolas’s wrist was sprained and had his grip on the bow slipped just a little… Aragorn stopped that train of thought well before it arrived at its inevitable station. At least one thing was now abundantly clear. They needed to use the pony as bait if only as an excuse to keep the elf and dwarf apart and silent.
"Gimli!" Gandalf said sharply, raising threatening eyebrows. "Calm yourself, Master Dwarf. And Legolas, that was among your more foolish actions."
"But it did demonstrate that I am on the mend, did it not?" Legolas said easily, not the least bit inclined to be apologetic. "The arrow sailed true, the distance was judged correctly, and no harm came of it. We may all rest assured that I am in good health."
"Then allow me to show you that I am also in good health," Gimli spat, no longer struggling against Aragorn and Boromir but still tense with only partially controlled anger. "If you will stand still, I shall lob my axe in your direction and we shall see how our skills compare."
"Silence, both of you!" Aragorn ordered with a dark glare at Legolas and a hard shake of the dwarf’s arm before releasing Gimli. "The morning wanes and we have still not come to a decision as to our activities this day." And we must also make time for another talk, the Ranger added mentally, vowing to speak to with both Legolas and Gimli individually later in the day. This pointless feud was getting out of hand.
On the other side of the camp, while Merry and Pippin had watched the proceedings with wide eyes, Frodo had taken Sam aside and was now whispering urgently. The other hobbit eventually nodded at whatever was being said, though it appeared that he did so with great reluctance. "Alright," Sam grumbled as he turned away from Frodo, his tone bitter and angry. "Alright, you can use Bill, but if anything should happen to him…"
"Nothing will happen to him," Gandalf assured the worried hobbit. "Bill will be as safe as you are, perhaps even safer. You have no cause to fear for him."
For some reason, the phrase famous last words came to Aragorn’s mind. He wondered what that might portend, but he did not voice his thoughts aloud. Sam’s consent had been won at great cost, and he did not want the hobbit to reconsider. "Thank you, Samwise," the Ranger said, moving to Bill’s halter and giving the somewhat nervous pony a reassuring pat. "We shall be certain to take care of him. Legolas? Gimli?"
Elf and dwarf glanced warily at one another, and then Gimli summoned a very friendly and very contrived smile. "Master Elf, I believe that my pack is…" Gimli trailed off with a blink and a snort. Rather than allowing the dwarf to finish the sentence, Legolas had finally hearkened to the old Numenorean saying that discretion was sometimes the better part of valor. The elf was now no longer anywhere near the camp.
"I will see you in an hour, Boromir," Aragorn sighed, shaking his head at the elf’s sudden and rapid departure. "Come, Gimli. Let us establish our positions and the finer points of our routine. We have a trap to set."
* * * *
Concealed by a wall of leaves, Boromir decided that he’d been in council sessions with more action than this Warg trap. At least in Minas Tirith, he’d been able to entertain himself by making bets with Faramir over which councilor would become hoarse first. Such an activity was certainly not smiled upon by Denethor, but it did provide Boromir with a motive for paying attention during the meetings. Otherwise, he might allow his mind to wander and rely on Faramir to summarize the important bits later, for Denethor’s eldest son had no patience for petty disputes and political maneuvering, being a man of action rather than a man of words. This is not to say that Boromir had no interest in council proceedings or was ignorant of what went on. There were certain debates in which he was quite active, and his quick mind and sharp wit had won him respect from many of the elders in Minas Tirith. But as a general rule, Boromir preferred to let Faramir sort through the details of whatever domestic dispute or city ordinance they were debating while he went back to planning the next offensive to launch from Ithilien or Pelargir.
Boromir glanced at the sun and estimated how much time was left to this trap. He’d relieved Gimli almost two hours ago, and the dwarf was due to return any time now and spell Aragorn for a bit. Then Aragorn would relieve Legolas and after that, they only had to wait another two hours. If the Warg decided not to accommodate them, they would return to the main camp. Secretly, Boromir was of a mind that they should return now. He had felt no hint of the Warg and had heard nothing other than the occasional slight movement from Aragorn, who stood guard on the other side of the clearing. Boromir wasn’t exactly certain of Legolas’s location, but he guessed the elf was to his right perched high in a large pine. He thought he’d seen movement up there earlier, though it was difficult to be certain. And as for the bait of this little trap, Bill was peacefully munching on the tender grass that had sprouted up in the wake of the rainstorms. He showed no sign of fear and gave no indication to suggest that there was a wolf nearby.
Perhaps this creature is less a wolf and more a fox, Boromir sighed, wondering if they would be forced to do this tomorrow in the event that they did not catch their quarry today. This endless waiting was certainly not the most tedious task he’d ever undertaken, but it did rank near the top. He wondered how Aragorn and Legolas were managing to keep so silent, for they’d been here an hour longer than he had. Shifting slightly and easing pressure off his still-aching knee, Boromir sighed and rubbed his neck. This would probably be easier if I hadn’t nearly drowned two days ago. He was on the verge of standing up and attempting to talk Legolas and Aragorn out of continuing this since it was obviously doing no good when something…changed.
Boromir never would be able to identify exactly what changed. It was as though darkness fell over the sun, but there were no clouds in the sky. The air seemed to chill, but the temperature had not altered. It was like the shadow of the Black Riders who had risen from Minas Morgul and driven the forces of Gondor back across Anduin, except that this shadow was different. It was not nearly as strong, but it was subtle. This was a darkness that would wait until one’s guard went down, and then it would advance. Boromir shivered, realizing that this was the feeling of an approaching Warg. This was what Gandalf, Aragorn, and Legolas had felt earlier. And he now understood a little better why both Aragorn and Legolas were willing to devote seven hours to the purpose of trapping this creature.
Boromir also noted that he was the not the only one who felt a change in the environment. Bill’s head had jerked up, and the pony was now watching the surrounding forest nervously. He jerked one forefoot against his hobbles as though testing their strength, and then he froze, watching and waiting. His nostrils flared wide, and his ears flipped about, attempting to track elusive sounds in the underbrush. Dark, expressive eyes turned this way and that, searching the shadows beyond the clearing but finding nothing.
With silent, slow movements, Boromir loosened his sword in its scabbard. He passed a hand over his boot knife, reassuring himself of its presence, and then rested his forearm on his sword hilt. The tedious game had now changed to a waiting game that Boromir had played frequently with the hosts of Mordor. The enemy was close and a confrontation was not far away. This was more to Boromir’s liking, and despite the circumstances, a smile of anticipation found its way onto his haggard face.
Out in the small clearing, Bill snorted once and stomped, clearly nervous but uncertain as to what threatened him. Boromir caught a hint of subtle movement on the other side, and he tightened his hand on his hilt before realizing that the movement was Aragorn. Yet the Ranger’s restlessness was warning enough, for the heir of Denethor had come to trust the other man, at least as far as senses were concerned. Aragorn could see and feel a great deal more than most, and in matters of woodcraft, it seemed he rivaled even the elves.
But as alert as Boromir was, nothing prepared him for what happened next. Like an evil shadow barely skimming the earth, a bolt of dark gray shot from the underbrush only two meters from his position. He barely had time to lay his hand to his sword before the Warg was flying toward Bill. The pony screamed and reared, but he stood no chance against the fury of one of Sauron’s most powerful servants. Teeth bared and muscles primed, the bolt of fur and fury raced toward the defenseless horse and—
The high-pitched whistle of an arrow filled the air and seemingly in mid-spring the Warg jerked to the right with a howl of pain. An elven arrow shuddered in its shoulder and the creature turned aside, screaming its rage. Another arrow whistled in, but the Warg sprang away and leaped from the clearing. The arrow struck the earth next to Bill where the wolf had been only moments ago, and for his part, the pony reared again in fright and confusion. His hobbles broke asunder and he fled, disappearing into the underbrush.
"Valar!" Aragorn swore, emerging from his side of the clearing.
"He is faster than any Warg I have ever hunted!" Legolas exclaimed, dropping from his tree and landing in a low crouch.
"Then I thank Eru for the swift reflexes of elves," Aragorn said, bending to the ground as Boromir joined them. "You have at least wounded him and he leaves a trail of blood. Come! I will follow while you race ahead. Listen for the whistles and I will direct you."
Legolas nodded, shouldered his bow, and leaped into the trees, vanishing as quickly as the wolf had. Boromir blinked, wondering what had just happened and what they were doing now. And what of Bill? Surely someone had to go after the pony.
"Boromir, come!" Aragorn’s command shook Boromir from his thoughts and he looked at the Ranger with an air of confusion. "Come!" Aragorn said again. "Legolas draws ahead and will need to know the direction of the Warg. We must keep this enemy from doubling back."
Still not entirely understanding their strategy, Boromir hurried after the departing Ranger who was already on the trail of the wolf. His mind turned rapidly, but he had not been taught to hunt with elves and could not fathom what Aragorn and Legolas now did. Yet he could not ask outright, for such a weakness in Gondor’s first captain was unthinkable. He would have to gain a knowledge of their plans through observation. Pushing the pain from his wrenched knee and cracked ribs to the back of his mind, Boromir hastened to catch up.
Aragorn raced before him, hunched over as he followed an intermittent trail of blood. A whistle suddenly sounded from ahead, and had Boromir not known better, he would not have ascribed it to a man or an elf as it sounded too natural. But he suspected it was Legolas and his suspicions were confirmed when Aragorn straightened and whistled back. The Ranger’s own call was almost perfect in its mimicry of a songbird and Boromir felt yet another surge of respect for the man who bore Narsil reforged.
"What did you say?" he hissed. This was an acceptable question to ask as the whistles were more or less a foreign language to Boromir. It showed not weakness on his part but understandable and excusable ignorance.
"Legolas related his position and asked for a bearing on the Warg," Aragorn answered. "I told him the wolf was moving southwest so far as I can read the trail."
"Can he get ahead of this creature? You saw how quickly it moved!"
"He can take a more direct route than the Warg will take, and even if he cannot head it in its flight, he can draw close enough to shoot. If we are lucky, his pursuit will cause the Warg to circle. Legolas will signal us if he feels the Warg is turning and we will break away from the trail so that the elf might drive him toward us."
Boromir gave Aragorn a rather skeptical look, trying to imagine exactly what his father would say if either he or Faramir presented a plan in which one of them would trail a band of Orcs while the other tried to outrun them and eventually signal the trailing partner if it seemed that the Orcs turned to the right or the left. Glancing back, Aragorn saw the look and laughed.
"We have done this several times in Mirkwood. It works consistently so long as at least one member of the hunting party is an elf. Do not try this with only men for company."
Boromir nodded, filing this new information away as one of the many obscure facts he’d learned since traveling with the Fellowship, and then jerked his head up. Another whistle was drifting out of the trees, and Aragorn acted immediately. Veering left, he took off at a sudden run that left Boromir straining to catch up.
"Drift to my right!" Aragorn shouted, looking back over his shoulder. "Legolas has managed to turn him and we must cover more ground. We cannot let him slip by us."
Slightly irked by the Ranger’s authoritative tone, Boromir nevertheless moved forward and began running abreast on the right side of the other man, keeping a sharp watch ahead of him. The feeling of a slinking menace was now so intense that it seemed as though night had come prematurely. He heard Aragorn draw Anduril from its scabbard and he pulled his own blade in response. A sudden, sharp whistle not more than fifty feet away froze both men and they skidded to a halt, senses primed.
Perhaps one second later, the brush parted and a panting, bleeding wolf stumbled into view, intent on escaping the archer that stalked its back. Together, Aragorn and Boromir surged forward. Sensing the attack, the Warg jumped back, narrowly missing Boromir’s thrust and ducking beneath Aragorn’s swing. Teeth bared, the Warg lunged with a roar and Boromir threw himself to the side. The wolf flew by him, his teeth catching part of a sleeve, and then something hissed past the man’s ear with a high-pitched whine. The Warg let out a sharp howl as an arrow lodged securely in his upper back, Aragorn rushed forward with Boromir right behind him, and two swords quickly imbedded themselves in the wolf’s sides. With one last roar and a defiant snarl, the Warg sagged to the ground and shuddered, eventually lying still.
For a moment, nothing happened. It was as though the whole of Arda held its breath. Boromir felt rooted in place, and judging from Aragorn’s lack of motion, he felt likewise. Together they stared at the creature that had haunted the trail of their Fellowship.
The spell was broken when Legolas dropped out of a tree nearly on top of them. Glancing curiously at the two men as though puzzled by their inaction, he bent over the wolf and retrieved his arrows. "It would seem your trap was successful," the elf observed, turning to Aragorn.
"If only such simple measures could always ensure success," Aragorn sighed, shaking his head. "Come, let us return. We are all in need of sleep and…" He suddenly trailed off and groaned, bringing his hands up to rub his temples. "Bill," he whispered. "Bill is still out there. He broke his hobbles."
"Sam will have our heads if aught should happen to him," Legolas murmured.
"And we cannot carry the bulk of our baggage without him," Boromir added, wondering if his headache could possibly become any more painful. "Shall we look for him now or alert the others?"
"He may return on his own," Aragorn said, sounding rather skeptical of that possibility.
"Or he may not," Boromir said, sounding far more certain than the Ranger.
The three stared at one another over the body of the Warg, plagued by indecision and doubt, until Aragorn sighed and bent down to wipe his sword on the wolf’s pelt. "We must return and tell the others," he said quietly. "Gimli is due to relieve my watch soon and he will wonder what has become of us if we abandon the clearing to search for Bill. Besides, the rest of the company should learn that the Warg is dead. It may help their spirits."
"Not Sam’s," Legolas warned. "His first concern will be Bill, and we have no way to assure him that all is well with the pony. We have no way of knowing that ourselves."
"We have no other choice," Aragorn answered. "I agree that this will affect Sam more than any other member of the Fellowship, but I feel he has a right to know."
"I do not disagree with you," Legolas said quietly. "I was simply reminding you that Bill is more than a mere pack animal. To Sam, he has become a friend."
"I know," Aragorn murmured, standing and sliding Anduril back into its scabbard. "And not just to Sam." He paused for a moment and then shook his head. "Come. Let us return to camp."
Falling into step beside Legolas as they followed the weary Ranger, Boromir sighed and took a deep breath, feeling the pull of healing ribs. The chase had left him more or less intact, which was something of a marvel since he’d been running across unfamiliar ground. His knee, also, felt as though it had held up, though a dull throbbing pain indicated that he should probably rest it.
Glancing at the elf walking beside him, Boromir wondered if he felt any ill effects from the flood. His complexion was paler than usual and the man thought he caught a discreet yawn, but other than those small signs, Legolas seemed to have completely recovered. If he watched closely, there was almost a slight limp in the Legolas’s stride whenever his left leg touched the ground, but it was so miniscule that it might have been mistaken for the unevenness of the terrain. And there was the fact that his left wrist was still tightly wrapped, but it did not seem to hinder the elf for he had handled his bow without so much as a flinch in camp that morning. Which is more than can be said for Gimli, Boromir though to himself with a hidden smile.
So intent was he on examining his companion that Boromir abruptly stumbled into Aragorn, who had stopped cold in front of the two. Legolas blinked and shook his head slightly, as though bringing himself out of a trance, and arched a slender eyebrow at them.
Looking over his shoulder at Boromir with a hint of irritation, the tired Ranger sighed and then bent down to the ground, sweeping aside some of the foliage as he did so. "What do you make of this, Legolas?"
He yawned. I’m certain of it, Boromir thought, watching the elf closely as he knelt rather awkwardly next to Aragorn. And aside from being tired, the elf’s leg also seemed to be giving him some trouble, for he winced when he bent it beneath him. Perhaps Legolas was not as infallible as he seemed.
"Boromir?" Aragorn questioned, inviting the man to join them.
Boromir was not certain his knee was quite up to kneeling, but he walked to the side of Legolas and bent down as far as he was able. Unfortunately, it was enough to see what Aragorn had found, and a hiss escaped him at what his eyes beheld. "It can’t be," he whispered, glancing around the forest with deep suspicion. "Shouldn’t we have sensed this or seen signs of it earlier?"
"The rain probably washed away many of the tracks, and as for our senses, we can only feel their presence, not their numbers," Aragorn sighed, running his fingers over the imprint in the soft mud. "It’s too large to belong to the wolf we just killed."
"And the ill feel of a Warg has not diminished," Legolas added, running a hand over his face in a rather unelven gesture of frustration. "It remains as strong as ever with no sign of fading."
"And now we have given it prey to stalk," Aragorn sighed, standing and loosening Anduril within his scabbard. "Come. The Fellowship must be told that there is a second Warg. And we have a pony to find."
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