5. Slowly into the Night
Aragorn sighed softly as he woke, wincing slightly as he carefully shifted positions. If I need never sleep in another tree again, I will die happy, he thought, feeling the twinge in his lower back work its spasmodic way up his spine as he straightened. Alas, it appeared that he was doomed to another few days of sleeping amid branches, and though he decided that, in the end, other circumstances might just enable him to exit this life contentedly in spite of that dreary prospect, none of those conditions were met at the moment. Wishing that he could silence the memory of that irritating child's ditty about cradles in the tree tops, he rose to his feet and began the process of rejoining his elven companions.
Being Elves, of course, none of them seemed to suffer from a night spent in a tree's cramped and breezy quarters, and no one cared to remark upon their human comrade's somewhat stiff movements this morning. If morning it can be called! For though he knew with a Ranger's certainty that the sun climbed even now over the horizon, the shade beneath the forest eaves was such that one less discerning could easily have been fooled. Faladhros, in a display of unexpected courtesy, moved aside for him without being asked, nodding a silent good morrow that felt subtly different from yestereve's cool silence. Aragorn returned the gesture, wondering how things stood after last night and whither their course would bend now: south-west, as Aradhil suggested, or perhaps they would now go due west and hope to join with another group of foresters ere they dared approach the valley of Dol Guldur.
Higher up in the branches, there stood two forms. Or rather, there clung two forms at angles to the lighter branches, seeming to defy the natural attraction of the earth to all other bodies. Legolas and Aradhil spoke quietly together, and Aragorn was not alone in awaiting their pronouncements: the other four of the company waited tensely as well, watching the pair with singularly elvish intensity, and the Ranger took the opportunity to make a discreet surveillance of them. Faladhros watched prince and Warden attentively, ever and anon casting a mistrustful look down at the ground or the lower branches; Hithras seemed to Aragorn's eyes as moody as his name suggested this morn; Nuilandar alone waited with his head bowed, seeming lost in his own thoughts; and Dorothil…. Dorothil is upset, the Ranger realized. It was a subtle thing, but something about the way the other Elf gripped the branch nearest him, as if he feared to lose its support, woke Aragorn's suspicion. Along with Faladhros, Dorothil had overheard the conversation between himself and the warden the evening before, and that was enough to unsettle anyone. But the Elf looked now to his prince with a certain apprehension that betrayed itself in that grip, in his stillness that made of him a living statue. What else did he hear last night? Mayhap Aradhil and Legolas? Aragorn had deliberately placed himself too far to overhear that conversation, but he had marked Aradhil's sudden flight into the upper branches, and the prince's huddled posture as he sat in the crook of two branches had seemed telling to the Man. Dorothil had the next watch, the Ranger thought. He might well have heard their words.
Of course, he could also be wrong entirely. Dorothil might simply worry over the unknown menace that prowled the forest, and Aragorn examined his feelings on that subject anew. On the one hand, so powerful a threat must not be allowed to go undiscovered, and the foresters of Mirkwood were bound by their oaths of commission to seek out and destroy the fell creatures that stalked the woods. On the other hand, however, six or even twelve might not prove a match for this… whatever 'this' might be.
Aragorn had commanded armies before: by sea or by land, ahorse or afoot or some combination of the two, he had had ample opportunity to appreciate the devastating effects of a well-ordered formation. Nevertheless, with such numbers battle plans had all the elegance of sparring with battle-axes, for coordination was difficult and movement in a line ponderous, and as time wore on, formations degenerated into milling knots of warriors. One who sought elegance in armies was doomed to disappointment. But for fifty odd years, he had also gone alone or with only few others into peril and often with less shelter than a forest offered Elves. There was an essential artistry to combat in small but unequal groups, and a commander ignored the aesthetic tension of such ventures at his peril.
Yet despite their perception in other matters, Elves tended to misjudge that tension, with fatal consequences. For they have not the same respect for mortality that a Man has, and overmuch concern for perfection. Indeed, the Ranger suspected Aradhil of falling prey to precisely that mindset when yestereve's misfire had occurred. There was much to be said for a lifetime that allowed one to hone one's martial style over millennia, but Aragorn had never seen a 'perfect' order of battle, elvish or otherwise. Men did not wait for perfection and only the foolish or the braggart took chances on the order that Elves did. Granted, elvish reflexes were such as to make such chances feasible, but though not overly superstitious, Aragorn believed in the idea of accumulated luck. Some had better luck than others, but the more often one dared fortune, the more likely the next skirmish would be the last. And what does that say of my future, then? the Ranger wondered idly.
At that moment, there was movement above as prince and Warden came spidering down, moving through those lighter branches with an acrobatic gait that no Man could hope to imitate. "We continue on today according to our original design," Legolas announced as he reached their level. "When the Warg packs that had haunted our realm were destroyed five days ago, we soon discerned our enemy's ill-will, and it comes, as ever, from Dol Guldur. Therefore we shall go there, as close as we dare, to see what menace has been sent against us. But we must go carefully, and I have some concern for some of our number." And though no one turned to him, it was clear that all understood Legolas to speak of Aragorn. Aradhil's eyes swept over the patrol, watching the reactions of the company, and that dark gaze paused coldly on Aragorn a moment ere the Warden looked to his prince once more. Legolas alone stared at Aragorn directly, and the Ranger sighed inwardly, though he knew very well that Legolas was right. In this environment, he was in much greater danger than an Elf. Worse, any who accompanied him on the ground would expose themselves to the same risk.
"Do you wish me to remain behind, then?" Aragorn asked, feeling that it would be best if he broached the subject rather than wait for others to do so. Aradhil shot him a suspicious look at that, and there was puzzlement in the Warden's eyes as if he could not decide whence sprang that oblique offer: cowardice or some other, more obscure motivation. That he might have made the suggestion in order to avoid being a liability seemed not to enter Aradhil's mind, and Aragorn bit down on his own aggrieved frustration. I seek no confrontation with him so long as he has a care where he places his arrows! The others stirred slightly, and the general air of discomfort… of embarrassment… waxed in the wake of his words, but the Ranger did not withdraw the query. What point would there be in such a retraction, after all, when plainly the question had been on every mind?
"And how if aught else should come this way while you were alone?" Legolas demanded at length. "Nay, my friend, we must all hold together in this, for we dare not underestimate the danger. Once again, I shall accompany you on the ground and the others shall follow Aradhil." Legolas's gaze touched on each of his foresters, ending with Aradhil, and Aragorn did not miss the brief flicker of tension that that glance engendered between the Warden and his prince. But the older Elf said naught, only bowed politely (if stiffly) and waved the rest of the company on ahead. For his part, Legolas glanced at Aragorn, and thence to the four Elves who were already disappearing into the foliage of the next tree ere he began his swift descent. The Ranger, meanwhile, had to pick his way back towards the trunk of the tree, wishing just once that he had the skill to follow the other more quickly. He had scarcely reached the trunk, however, when his progress was blocked. A fleeting warning born of too many lonely battles raised his hackles, and then Aradhil caught his shoulder in a vice-like grip. Swiftly, the Elf turned him round, half-shoving him up against the tree, and things very nearly went ill between them. For Aragorn's right hand went instantly and automatically for his dagger, and although Aradhil's left hand shot out to snag his wrist, he was not quick enough to intercept. The hilt was in the Ranger's hand, and the blade an inch exposed ere the other's iron grip prevented him from moving further, and Aradhil hissed softly, as if in displeasure.
"You have something to say, Warden?" Aragorn demanded coolly, gazing levelly at the other.
"Listen well, mortal," the Elf grated in a low voice. "You have been in this world a pitiful handful of years, and though you may have spent most of them observing Elves, there are other creatures in Arda. Whatever this is, it is older than you and I like not the feel of it. See to it that you go as carefully as you may, Ranger! For my prince walks at your side to guide you, sharing your peril by his own choice and I may not gainsay him. But let anything touch him and I shall remember it. I will not see him injured for your sake!" With that, the Warden released him and turned, dashing along the branch and making a blind leap to the next tree. As no cry came, Aragorn could only assume that the Elf had landed safely and he stared after him, waiting for his outrage to subside. 'Insulted' was too mild a word for what he felt, but after a few moments, the Ranger drew a deep breath and removed his hand from the hilt of his blade. This is not the time for such distractions! he reminded himself sternly. Whatever our differences, that I dislike him does not make him wrong. Legolas is in danger for as long as he remains at my side, and I have not felt the like of this menace before. Save only thrice, and more diffusely: once, on the confines of Mordor, deep in the south; once, in Moria; and again, in Ithilien when we camped beneath the Ephel Dúath. With that disturbing thought firmly in mind, the Ranger scrambled down as quickly as he could manage, suddenly unwilling to leave Legolas alone.
When at length he joined the Elf upon the ground, the prince gave him an odd look, as if wondering what had kept him, but Aragorn simply gestured to the trees that lay before them. With a nod, Legolas led the way forward and their hunt resumed. Southern Mirkwood's gloom lay thick about them, and the trees grew ever darker, ever more twisted, knotted, seeming as living statues trapped in tortured repose, forever caught in the midst of a silent and unending scream. Cobwebs hung in long strands between many of the trees, and Elf and Ranger spent much time slithering between the sticky filaments or else sweeping them aside with sword or bow. Still, the spider silk clung to their clothes and got into their hair 'til Aragorn fancied they must seem as ragged ghosts to any unwitting observer.
As the hours wore on with the miles, Legolas grew ever grimmer beside him and Aragorn did not ask why: if he could feel the forest's torment, then an Elf certainly could. Ever and anon, some bird would give a screech or a caw, and then the beat of wings would send ripples through the stillness. But though the Ranger marked in his mind the points of origin and destination, Legolas never once took aim. What point in wasting arrows on spies when those shafts would be needed later? The enemy was aware of them, after all, for nothing moved through southern Mirkwood without the knowledge of the Watcher in the Tower. And though the Elves might be at a loss to explain the Watcher's present wrath, Aragorn had too many unpleasant suspicions that he could not share with anyone. For Gollum had been shaped by something evil, and though Gandalf had repeatedly insisted that they sought Sméagol to learn the truth, Aragorn did not doubt that the wizard's guesses were on the mark. And even were Gandalf to be wrong in this singular instance, there was a certain familiar feel to Gollum. I recognize Sauron's 'style' in this, his 'stamp,' his… 'artistry!' the Ranger thought darkly. And if he could, then it was certain that the servants of Sauron recognized the mark of their master's malice when they felt it, even if they knew not what drew them.
But the enemy that waits for us knows what calls to him. Of that, the Ranger was certain. For when first the wizard had broached the idea of leading Gollum to Mirkwood—Assuming either of us ever caught the wretch!—Gandalf had warned him to make the journey to the Thranduil's halls as swift as he could manage it. But long before, when our hunt was first begun, Gandalf swore me to silence on all such matters. And even though it cost us all our lives, I may not break that oath. Not when so much rides on secrecy! he thought grimly. Should misfortune befall any in this party or in any hunting group—even should aught happen to Aradhil—Aragorn would feel terribly guilty for his complicity in the matter. But I have kept secrets before. I kept them ere ever I knew I had any! Still, it was wearying to withhold such information, particularly given the dread that beat against them all.
Ahead of him, Legolas paused suddenly, glancing up and to his right, and the Ranger had to step quickly to the left to avoid a collision. The Elf shot him a somewhat surprised glance, and Aragorn berated himself for his distraction of the moment. I cannot afford it! None of us can, and however petty the sentiment, I refuse to justify Aradhil's bigotry with a careless mistake!
"Aradhil believes there may be something ahead," the prince whispered, setting an arrow loosely to string. "Faladhros and Hithras go to investigate." Aragorn only nodded, seeing no point in a verbal response. He had, after all, nothing to add by way of insight and there was no reason to risk attracting attention with unnecessary noise. So the pair waited, crouched in silence behind the cover of dark-leafed bushes and the Ranger laid a hand upon the trunk of a tree. Almost instantly, though, he snatched it back, grimacing. The bark was moist… oily… an odd mixture of soft and hard, as if the outer layers were but a carapace containing some springy substance within. Or as if the interior of the tree were as melted wax! What sort of tree is this? Aragorn wondered. Legolas saw his reaction and gave a slight smile, then mouthed nargaladh. Frowning slightly, the Ranger wiped his fingers on a tussock of moss as he turned that answer over in his mind. Fire-tree? Uncertain what to make of this tidbit of information, he let it drop, unwilling to let trivia preoccupy him.
For some time, elven prince and Ranger crouched in silence, and Aragorn was very much aware of the muted, fearful sounds of the forest: a bird twittered in a subdued manner, letting out a rather piteous chirp when no mate answered; a squirrel nosed its way down a nearby tree, pausing apprehensively to sniff the air. Its face atwitch with distrust, the creature gave an awkward hop, then turned and dashed back into the branches for safety. And of a sudden, a flurry of harsh caws and flapping told of a startled murder of crows taking to wing. A murder…! Aragorn bit his tongue for the apt description as Legolas's green stare grew dark with foreboding. Overhead there streaked several dark-winged shapes as the crows fled, and the Elf very slowly raised his bow, though he did not come to a full draw. For his part, Aragorn gripped the hilt of Tharinsal's sword and shifted ever so slightly, habitually reassuring himself that his blades were safely within reach in their respective sheaths. And though it was a futile task to try to guess at the location of the Elves above, the Ranger made a brief survey of the treetops, attempting to place the most likely vantage points firmly in his mind. Unfortunately, the leaves grew so thick and the branches intertwined in such a maze-like manner that it was impossible to say how well or poorly an archer might be able to see the ground from any given position.
Just as Aragorn began to wonder whether something had happened to the scouts, a low whistle sounded and both Legolas and the Ranger turned towards it. After a moment, and to Aragorn's surprise, Aradhil dropped down from the heights to join them, his face unusually grave. "The ravens feast well today," he said in a low tone and without preamble. "Come and see!" Prince and Ranger followed the Warden forward, drawn by the grim urgency in the other's voice but also by what promised to be their first glimpse at the work of their enemy, whoever and whatever he might be. Through the brush and the clinging, elongated fingers of fine spider-silk strands they went, and ere long, they came to a low rise. The roots of an ancient tree had dug into the earth, but after years of growing crooked and leaning ever to one side, those roots had raised the ground on the westward side in their attempt to anchor the tree against a fall.
Faladhros stood atop that rise, bow to hand with a nocked arrow, while beside him, Hithras stood staring darkly down at something hidden behind the entanglement of roots and stubborn soil. Blood-scent wafted on the air, and both Elves turned to look at Legolas as the prince arrived, as if awaiting instructions or some pronouncement. Thranduil's youngest son glanced at each, and then leapt lightly up to see what merited such concern. The prince's face seemed to harden but not before Aragorn caught the spasm of disgusted horror that flitted over it. A glance at Aradhil revealed nothing further, for the Warden had eyes only for Legolas and so, with an inward sigh, the Ranger moved around the mound.
It had been a very long time since Aragorn had been physically sickened by anything, and despite the horror that lay before him, his stomach gave him no complaints. But he almost wished it would just so that he could turn away with cause. It was not, however, his lot in life to be spared the fouler things of Middle-earth, and Isildur's Heir was bound by his heritage and his oath to look upon such monstrosities, the better to learn how to rid Arda of them. Nevertheless, he held his breath as he moved closer and had to will himself not to wrinkle his nose at the stench. Spread upon the ground were the remains of a great wolf, and 'spread' was quite accurate. Despite the disturbance caused by the hungry crows, it seemed clear that most of the organs and entrails had been left thus along with the bones, and the Ranger walked round to where the skull lay and squatted down, unwilling to kneel in the blood-soaked soil. Heart… liver… lungs… stomach… muscle, even, Aragorn catalogued the gory spectacle. No kidneys, but that could be a part of one. And all the bones are here, as far as I can see without making a closer examination. But no fur. No hide… Valar help us all! "This was arranged." The weight of concerted elvish stares pressed upon him, and Aragorn glanced up, looking from face to face, wondering who among the four of them recognized the pattern. Hithras nodded slowly, sinking slowly to his haunches beside the Ranger. The Elf gingerly reached out with a gauntleted left hand and touched a rib that lay nearly flat upon the ground, still anchored somewhat by muscle.
"It broke the sternum and peeled the ribs back to reach the organs," he said in a taut voice.
"Not 'it'," Aragorn corrected grimly. "Say rather 'they!' See how the soil is disturbed? The wolf thrashed about for some time until death or unconsciousness took it. Others must have held it down."
"But surely it would be simpler to kill the creature first?" Faladhros asked.
"Nay, he is correct." All eyes went instantly to Aradhil, for of all those to come to Aragorn's support, he seemed the least likely. "I have seen this before, in Eregion, ere Celebrimbor fell. Our enemies used to make a sport of it, and though a wolf was always preferable, some took to hunting the tame dogs that were left behind as Celebrimbor's people retreated. It was another way of sapping our strength, to force us all to listen to the suffering of creatures we had once loved." Aradhil's voice hardened as he stepped down from the rise and gazed across the mutilated carcass at Man and Elf. "What we have here, gentlemen, is the making of a werewolf. If we searched further, I doubt not that we would find the rest of the pack strewn out for all to see who dare these eaves, though who knows how fresh the bodies would be." Hithras hissed softly and rubbed the fingers of the hand that had touched the bone against each other in a fastidious manner.
"And if we are not careful, we may become a part of that display," Legolas said softly. There was a brief pause as all present absorbed that comment and the Aragorn rose slowly and looked about. Werewolves… I have not seen such for many a year! He would have been happy never to see them again, for his first encounter with them had very nearly been the end of both himself and Elladan. To make a werewolf; to make one rather than to give oneself the appearance of one…. Aragorn's mind assessed the situation even as he searched in vain for other tracks or signs that might give some hint as to their enemies' movements. In the First and Second Ages such crude rituals were not practiced much, for Maiar, good or evil, had no need of them, and the Elves had never sought to become their own disguises for it was not given to the Children of Ilúvatar to change their essential nature. But even in the beginning, the Enemy's craft had found ways to shape other beings and transform them. Thus had orcs been spawned of Elves, trolls of Ents, and vampire-shape and wolf-form could be imposed upon any that went upon two legs. Even in this forgetful Age, such vile practices were remembered in certain quarters. Such as Dol Guldur! I wonder, are the wolves the only victims? Or are there other unwilling captives who have been tortured into submission?
"Have there been any losses among the foresters of late?" Aragorn asked, steeling himself inwardly for the response.
"None unaccounted for," Legolas replied. "And no others of our people have gone missing."
"Then what of the Bardings or the Beornings? What of traffic between Erebor and the Blue Mountains?" the Ranger demanded.
"Or perhaps the enemy seeks skins for his own," Aradhil suggested in a somewhat clipped tone, and Aragorn suppressed his irritation.
"That is another possibility," he admitted, and then shook his head, pinning the warden with his stare. "In truth, I know not which repulses me more!" And for just one moment as the Warden stared back unintimidated, the Ranger sensed that the other was in wholehearted concurrence with him.
"Faladhros," Legolas's voice shattered the moment, and the other Elf glanced left at his prince. "Go and bring Dorothil and Nuilandar hither. Let us all be certain of what we hunt, and in the mean time let us see if there is aught here to guide us." Faladhros nodded and sprang swiftly up into the branches of the precariously balanced tree, disappearing within a few heartbeats. Hithras rose and he and Aradhil began to survey the area, while Legolas drifted forward to stand at the Ranger's shoulder.
"They shall find nothing, you know," Aragorn said softly, without taking his eyes from the forest. "Our enemies did their work too well and covered their tracks."
"Well, we shall make certain of it then."
"Aye. I wonder, though, whether we have not been watched more closely than we guessed. That butchery is not more than a fourteen hours old, yet we heard naught. Could the attack of the orcs have been a screen for other activities last night?"
Legolas frowned at that, but after a long moment he nodded reluctantly. "That would make sense. And if so, then our enemies are more brazen than I thought. This was left for us to find, I doubt it not, though how they discerned our path I cannot hazard a guess."
"It may be as mundane as choosing the path that the orcs took, knowing that orcs will take the easiest and most likely course whenever possible," Aragorn replied. "It would be a risk, but it is the simplest explanation. Or this could have been one of several bodies left along different routes."
"And if neither guess is correct? We deal here with makers of werewolves, after all!"
"Then we may deal with something whose perception spans distances that ours does not. At least not consciously or with any great clarity," he amended. "But that does not preclude my own hypothesis, and until we know more of our foes I would rather hold to an explanation requiring no further supernatural intervention."
"But if you are wrong…." Legolas trailed off as Aragorn smiled slightly.
"I said I would rather hold to that, but that does not mean I do not expect the worst at the same time, my friend," the Ranger said with a sidelong glance, and the Elf gave a slight snort of laughter.
"Fair enough. But I see that Aradhil and Hithras have arrived at your conclusion and come now with the ill news," Legolas said. "There is naught to see, is there?"
"Nothing, my prince," Aradhil replied.
"Then once Faladhros and the others rejoin us, we shall continue on. For though a werewolf be deadly, its maker is more so!"
Faladhros returned after only a few minutes with Dorothil and Nuilandar in tow, and the other five left the two to their horrified observation, spreading out automatically into a loose circle to watch the shadows. Aradhil brooded silently, pondering the unpleasant notion that there might now be a pack of werewolves on the prowl. For who can say with certainty that this was not simply the latest shaping? Dol Guldur could have taken a wolf every night of last week, or one a month for the past several months—who can tell? Few knew that the Wargs that haunted Eriador and the Hithaeglir were often the natural descendents of werewolves, made or otherwise. They were bad enough, and the warden hated them with a passion, but having faced both Warg and werewolf, he knew well their feel.
And so I know that more creeps in the darkness than they. Dorothil knows it as well, and may even guess its nature, for he too fought before Orodruin. Legolas suspects, but he does not truly know, and as for that Ranger…! Aradhil was hard-pressed to determine what Aragorn's thoughts on the matter were, but it seemed to him that the Man knew more than he told. Certainly he was suspicious of the shadow that loomed over the forest, but Aradhil doubted that any Man could truly understand the enormity of the threat. For even I am not truly certain of my guess, and I shall not say a word until I have some clearer sign. I hope only that it shall not come too late, and in the mean time, I must find some better way to protect Legolas!
For it galled him to leave his prince in the hands of a human, but Thranduil's stubborn son had insisted on keeping the other's company for days now. And as he had refused to leave the arrogant mortal behind this morning, someone must continue to guide Aragorn, and Aradhil gritted his teeth. Most of the time, he was indifferent to Men; they were beneath his tasteful notice and he was content to keep it that way. But this was different somehow, and he wished Legolas would wake to the danger of holding with a mortal. Were he eighty years younger, I might have dared to overrule him in this matter, rather than bid him simply think on it! But one must let go at some point, after all. So spoke reason, and Aradhil was not an unreasonable Elf in his own opinion. Yet he had been the prince's keeper since Legolas had begun to learn the ways of the royal foresters, and he could not bear the thought of surrendering that protectorship entirely.
Not yet, and especially not to a mortal! He shot a covert glare at the Ranger who stood some ten feet away, watching the surrounding trees attentively. Perhaps Aragorn felt his stare, for the human glanced back at him, though only for a moment ere he turned away, ignoring the Warden. For some reason, that very calm dismissal roused indignation in Aradhil. On the other hand, everything about Aragorn irritated him; indeed, Aradhil could not remember a single instance when someone not of the Enemy's persuasion had so quickly inspired his dislike. So perhaps I ought not to pay much attention to the minor nuances of our hostility. And yet, the Warden was acutely aware of the fact that the Ranger commanded his attention more and more often as time wore on, though for the immortal life of him, he could not say why that should be. In a few fleeting years, he will die, and that will be the end of this, after all. And long before then, he shall leave this realm….
Just then, Legolas left his place in the circle to come and lay a hand upon the Warden's shoulder as he said, "Let us go now. I think we have all seen enough." Then, in a low undertone, "Go carefully above, Aradhil!"
"I shall, my prince," Aradhil replied, but though the hand on his shoulder tightened at his words in a gesture of fond farewell, the prince looked away already to Aragorn. The Ranger acknowledged the order with a brief nod and took one last look at the carcass ere he and Legolas broke into an easy trot and disappeared into the forest once more. Not a backward glance from either of them! Duty called, and yet Aradhil stood very still for a long moment as he stared after them and tried to fathom his own feelings. Dread predominated, and his loathing of Aragorn blossomed quite suddenly into full-blown hatred of him for Legolas's inexplicable infatuation with the Man. Never mind whether or not the Ranger had intended to steal the prince's heart, it was simply a fact that he had. Somehow, the Dúnadan had bewitched the other, and Aradhil could feel his hold over Thranduil's youngest son slipping with each painful mortal minute.
Damn you! he thought with no small touch of despair. Damn you, you will take him from us! And who knows to what end? A whistle attracted his attention upward to where Dorothil clung halfway up a tree. The other Elf gave him a rather worried, puzzled stare, and the Warden shook himself. He had no time nor any right to remain here, and so he quickly followed Dorothil up into the branches above.
The rest of the company waited for him, and he felt their stares as he took the lead once more. Aradhil said nothing, however; what, after all could he say? They were his men, not his equals, and a Warden had to be discreet. Therefore, he beckoned them after him and settled once more into the hunt with single-minded intensity. But though he went now with senses alert for werewolves or worse, in his mind's eye, he followed along in the wake of two figures—one golden and aglow with an Elf's inner fire, and the other a dark-haired shadow that walked ever between him and Legolas. And yet even so, a pale light seemed to shine through him, and Aradhil cursed silently as jealousy and tormented fear for Legolas suffused him. A plague on you and all your house indeed, son of Isildur!
Regarding the werewolves, the theory of how they are made is my own invention. I have since been informed by knowledgeable parties that Wargs and werewolves are most likely the physical manifestation of beings like Maiar. I don't think this precludes the theory I've imagined, which I think the text explains. I also would imagine that one could still get a Warg out of a werewolf pairing, since creation dynamics seems to dictate that the next generation is (on the whole) lesser than the previous one. I am therefore leaving the werewolf/Warg theories as originally conceived, as 'in addition to' the canonical explanation.
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.