Second Star to the Right - Chapter One: The Inn and the Ambush
A/N - This is set towards the end of the First Age, with Elros, Elrond's twin. And another piece of useless info; I'm listening to the RotK soundtrack, and Viggo's just sand his little piece... Ah, the bit where he sees Arwen! Oh i'm going to cry... :'-)
Chapter One - The Inn and the Ambush
In a dark and gloomy in, a shadowy figure sat perched upon a stool by the bar. Cloaked and hooded, its face was hidden from view, and on its hands were worn leather gloves. It fiddled somewhat nervously with its tankard of ale, set down heavily in front of it only minutes before by the beefy bar tender - though it was yet to drink any.
A little to the left of the figure, a large group of about thirty five or so grotesque and fiendish looking men chortled drunkenly and loudly with each other - all save one. A man who was taller than the rest and to the eye far fairer; his sunlit blonde hair fell in soft waves around his ruggedly handsome face, short stubble casting a slight shadow. His forest green eyes were set alight by the fire in the corner, so that they shone like glittering emeralds. Absent-mindedly, he ran a strong and skilled, yet slender finger around the rim of his tankard, also untouched.
He watched the cloaked figure unblinkingly, as if unaffected, or unable to hear the din his fellows made. Before long, the figure began to squirm uncomfortably beneath his piercing gaze. It made to turn its back on him, but he stood up and placed a firm hand on its shoulder.
"Why so tense?" he asked, supposedly concerned; but his eyes betrayed him, for they did not shine with warmth, but with a cold pale, malicious light.
Quickly, the figure pulled away from him, but still turned to face him, albeit rather grudgingly.
"Like you care." a woman's voice hissed hatefully at him.
"Now, now, my darling," he scorned, "There's no need for that I'm sure."
The woman snorted disbelievingly, and in one sharp fluid movement, the man slapped her sharply across the face. She was swung sideways from the force of the blow, but did not murmur even an utterance of pain. She refused to let him see her weak. Not him - not ever.
"Look at me." he commanded, the merest trace of decency that had been in his voice now hastily evaporated.
Stiffly, the woman shifted to sit equal to him once more. He raised his hands to her face and she flinched back. She mentally cursed herself as he chuckled and carefully, leaning over her so closely she could feel his breath on her cheek, he drew back her hood.
"Ahh," he grinned, an unreadable emotion on his features, "Now that's much better, darling."
A cascade of feminine copper-coloured curls, released from their bonds, sprung lightly down her back, almost reaching the seat of the stool she sat on. Her milky white skin was flushed slightly with the heat from the fire, and from her lips ran a small trickle of blood. Her black eyes glared at him loathsomely, searing into him, trying to cause all the damage they could.
"Don't look so happy, Carandol," he snided sarcastically, "the boys may feel they want a part of it." His eyes flashed with sick amusement as the faintest trace of fear flickered across her face.
"You're despicable." she spat.
"Keep that sharp tongue of your in you head, darling," he growled dangerously.
"Make me." she tempted him daringly.
"Don't tempt me."
"Its - beings, like you, that have made this once peaceful world the tortured and torn way it is."
"Aye?" he questioned, "Is that so? Well, if I'm here, and you're the one who got kidnapped, I'd say we must be doing something right, mustn't we, darling?" He laughed, a hollow mirthless sound.
"What do you want with me?" she demanded.
"Well," he said, now tracing a hand over up her swan-like neck and unsullied cheeks and jaw line, "Pretty little like you, darling? You'll fetch a pretty little price, see?"
She jerked her head backwards and continued to glare as him, seething hatred of this awful man coursing white hot through her veins.
"Maybe... But that's not all you have a use for. That is to say, being an out law and all... can be a very long, lonely life, in the wild... cold and loveless nights... and I was hoping you could help me there." A wide grin verging on insane spread once again across his lips as she forgot all pretence, and jumped up and backwards in horror.
"Ah, so it does have emotions!" he roared with laughter.
Her eyes continued to bear into his, but now in plain fear.
"You - you - I'll -"
"You'll what?" Don't make empty threats darling, merely a waste of breath. And unless you start being a little nicer - that breath of yours might just start running out..."
Tearing her eyes away from his passionately glowing emerald orbs, she noticed him fingering a blood-stained keen edged dagger at his side eagerly.
"Get some sleep, darling," he jeered, "You're going to need it."
Horrified with how she'd let him get to her, and how his face with etched with pure savageness, she fled the common room of the inn and flew up the stairs to the cupboard sized room she was to sleep in, followed all the way by the hauntingly tyrannical cackling from all the men.
The new day dawned bright and fresh over the damp marshes around the mouth of the river Sirion, and a low pale mist hovered dreamily over the reeds. Wader birds paddled noisily throughout the shallow waters, hidden from view in the long grasses that rustled in the gentle autumn breeze, and the sea shimmered like a thousand uncovered diamonds, with littered rubies hinting a red sunrise. Over head, snowy white and silver grey guys called a morning chorus to those who still lay in slumber in the peaceful and quiet dwellings of Eärendil and Elwing.
Yet this morning, as like to many other, half of Elwing's bed lay cold and empty, her husband once more sailing afar, daring to cross all boundaries laid upon his kind, and to trace beyond hope the path to a place of dreams. And another, perhaps more joyous familiarity of this day break was that once again, Eärendil's twin sons, Elros and Elrond, were yet again out on the flat, drier grounds a little way from the elven homes.
Elros let out a long low whistle as a golden shafted arrow went whizzing past his sea-grey eyes, slicing cleanly through the air, to land dead in the centre of the makeshift target board.
"Not bad, brother." shrugged Elros. Elrond merely raised his eyebrow as he reached for another arrow.
"Not bad? Elros, last time you missed the board." he reminded his twin in an offhanded manner. Elros blushed a little.
"You heard Talan, he'll fix his arm up in no time," he scowled, "But at least I can hold a sword!"
"Sure you can." muttered Elrond, fitting another slender arrow to his bow, brushing his rich autumn brown hair out of the way.
So it was every morning, and so it had been for the best part of fifteen years, ever since the twins had been able to wield their own weapons sufficiently. Granted, at first they had both been nothing short of terrible, though now they were both almost expertly skilled, and it was something of a common knowledge to the villagers that their techniques bore striking resemblances to their father. They were practically the same as the mariner in stature; taller and lean, the elven keenness in their eyes constantly alight, the sharpness of their elven features hinted determinedly with the sturdy bloodline of man.
In mind however, both were two contrasting characters; Elros, the slightly elder, was plainly the most forward and quick-minded of the two. Both clever and somewhat of a trouble maker, Elros had caused many a chaotic uproar in their home. Elrond on the other hand, tended to be more refined, and as a result he often bore the brunt of his brother's jokes and tricks. Elrond also seemed to possess a kind of rich wisdom, even from a young age, that was not apparent in Elros, an implied deeper knowledge, inherited no doubt from his elven kin.
Elrond released his second arrow, watching as it soared gracefully towards the target, and grinned proudly as it cut straight through his previous try in one deadly swipe, so that golden feathers fluttered softly to the ground, and wooden splinters dangled uselessly from the board.
"Alright, you show off," laughed Elros, rolling his eyes to the azure domed skies, "You know what you're doing, I'll give you that. But how's your sword play?" he frowned mockingly, and in a flash of steel whipped out his newly forged weapon.
Elrond lowered his bow, his eyebrow once again raised.
"One of these days, you're going to challenge the wrong person." he told his chuckling brother.
"Well, we all know that wrong person isn't you, so I'd say were ok, wouldn't you?" he replied quickly, eyes sparkling.
"Elros, I really need to practice -"
"Ah, don't be so stupid, we both know you're the best archer around for miles. And besides, if we practice combat now before its hot, then you can keep cool by doing your archery later!" he suggested reasonably.
Grudgingly realising his twin did actually make a very valid point, Elrond laid his bow aside, and drew his sword from its sheath. Both his and his brothers had been gifts from their father when he had returned from a voyage last week, though he had since returned to sea. The hilt was laced with mithril patternings and protective inscriptions were inlaid and woven in pure silver up the cold bright blade. Each bore the same elvish spell, which when translated read: `May I defend thee from those of the dark, and lead thee ever triumphant to the light.'
Both boys carefully began circling one another, their eyes narrowed as they concentrated entirely on the slightest movements of their twin. The sun flashed scarlet and gold on the brilliantly bright uncovered swords as they moved flawlessly in fluid motions around.
Suddenly, Elros lunged forward so that Elrond forced to step back and defend himself. Swordsmanship never had been his strongest point, preferring the light bow; that said, he was still more skilled than many.
In a daring move, Elrond pushed back hard with a defending stroke and sent his brother stumbling backwards, this time he himself lunging. Elros skilfully dodged the well-aimed blade, and used his own to send Elrond back to his original spot.
"That made for a change, brother." grinned Elros, the light of mischief rife in his eyes.
Elrond rolled his own, and couldn't help but to dread slightly what he had planned next, when a large band of riders came thundering out of a nearby wood. Startled, Elrond lowered his sword so that Elros swiftly took the opportunity to knock it clean out of his hands and pressed his blade against Elrond throat. Elrond frowned at the look of glee on his brother's face, and with his index finger carefully pushed the point away.
"Elros, you cheated," he said somewhat distractedly, still staring a little confused at the galloping group of horses, heading straight for them.
"No I didn't!" exclaimed Elros, feigning a look of deep hurt, "How could you even think such a thing!"
"Mmn..." said Elrond, raising his eyebrow yet again, "Elros, who are those riders? You're eyes are better than mine."
Elros span around sharply and peered at them, the ground between the boys and the horses rapidly loosing distance.
"I don't -" he began, but was cut off by a black shafted arrow sailing so close over his head that it ruffled his hair.
The twins took one look at each other...
"RUN!" they yelled simultaneously, and as Elrond grabbed his sword from the floor, the pair sprinted at full pelt down the hill towards the village.
By now, the horses were so close they could hear their heavy breathing filling the air, the ground itself vibrating with their wildly driven pounding hoof beats. The harsh cries of fey men rang out gratingly across the sloping hilltop as they waved crude wooden clubs and many rustic swords. Elrond glanced fearfully over his shoulder; their blackened and rotten teeth, at least those that were left jutted out at odd angles, a revolting stench radiating from them. Shaggy mud coloured hair was wind swept out of their weathered faces, each with wide, almost frog-like eyes, all full of cruel malice.
Elrond gasped in a mixture of fear and repulsion, and as he did so he missed the large tuft of grass at his feet, and before he knew it he had tripped and been sent flying head first through the air, to land with a heavy bump and a sickening crunch on the ground meters away.
Behind, the riders roared and cackled with insane laughter, and each yanked hard on the mouths of their horses to pull to an abrupt stop, encircling the young man who lay in a crumpled heap in front of them.
"Stupid blighter!" grunted one, so that the rest threw back their unkempt heads and howled as a wolf to the full moon. One in particular, who did not look so ruficious, indeed in a way noble, stepped forward, reining in his dusty dun coloured stallion. With a deadly look at his men silence fell immediately, and he smirked down at Elrond, who was fighting to remain conscious, having suffered a heavy blow to his head when he fell.
"Strange," sneered the man in an oily voice, "And here we were thinking elves were agile. Then again, you're only part elf, aren't you?" His white blonde hair glinted in the still early sun as he jeered at his captive.
"Tie him up and get him on a horse." he ordered suddenly, so that two swarthy men jumped to the ground, "You shall tend to him later when we rest." he commanded pointedly to a smaller cloaked and hooded figure, which nodded rather jerkily.
The man snorted. "Hurry up!" he snarled as the two men hauled Elrond's body up onto a black, mud-stained horse. With his last few seconds of consciousness, he felt them roughly tying his hands tightly to the pommel, and heard a voice whisper venomously in his ear, so that a shiver was sent down his spine, "Only half elf - but a pretty little price."
After that, his vision slipped out of focus and he slumped sideways lifelessly in the saddle.
From the bottom of the hill, Elros watched helplessly was the host about turned and quick a lightening disappeared over the brow in a swirl of horse's tails, and hoof flung morning dew.