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One Change

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Title: One Change

Rating: PG13

Disclaimer: This was written for entertainment purposes only; no money is being made from this project.

Summary: Our lives are a series of events. What happens if the outcome one of those events is changed?

Author's note: This story was inspired by last months TEITHO theme: Turn back time. However, due to the primary characters used and my lack of time to finish it this piece never made it to the contest. You should be aware that this story is AU, and does not stick to the books. Also this story is very different from my usual fare in that it is darker and has some fighting scenes (a first for me).

Chapter 1: Changes

Elrohir was astonished, just a moment ago he had been laughing with his companions and now they were fighting for their lives. The younger twin was forced out of his thoughts by a large orc who tried to cut the elf in half. The elf spun around full speed and forcefully swung his sword removing the orc's head. Elrohir was now facing his companions and could see his brother fighting an orc while Arathorn was battling two. The younger twin paused for a moment, something just did not seem right to him. The orcs were fighting the elves, yes, but they seemed to be focusing on the human: why was that? Elrohir was just moving to help his human friend when an orc charged into the elf, knocking him to the ground. He was momentarily stunned but quickly gained his senses, jumped to his feet and threw his dagger into the creature's neck, killing it instantly. He was just pulling his dagger out of the foul creature when he saw a sudden movement on the cliff. As cautiously as he could Elrohir turned his head to see what was happening up there and spotted an archer aiming at the human. The younger twin knew he had to do something fast, so he tried to yell a warning but the human was unable to hear him above the sounds of battle. Left with no other option, Elrohir started running and was almost to his friend when he saw the arrow released. Thinking fast the elf did the only thing he could - slammed into Arathorn and knocked him off his feet. As he fell Elrohir momentarily felt the arrow enter his flesh, but quickly lost any feeling as his head connected with the ground and all went black.

The sun had set long ago and everyone in the ranger camp was fast asleep, all except for a lone figure who sat near the bed of another. The man was as still as a statue and it was only when the body under his hand moved that the man opened his eyes and smiled down at the elf in the bed. The elf tried to speak but found his throat too dry to make a sound. Seeing the elf's trouble Arathorn gently slid an arm behind him and lifted so the elf could drink the water that was being offered to him.

Elrohir took a drink then turned his head away, singling he wanted no more. "You . . . alright?" Elrohir croaked.

Arathorn smiled and sat on the edge of the bed so the younger twin could see him easier. "I am fine my friend - thanks to you. It is you who is injured and all because you wanted to save me, fool elf."

Elrohir smiled and gently shook his head, "Not a fool, I did not want Aragorn to grow up fatherless."

Arathorn smiled again and turned his head to look at the lump that was lying next to the younger twin. Elrohir narrowed his eyes and started to roll over on his side, but found that movement extremely painful and had to resort to biting his bottom lip to keep himself from crying out in pain. Arathorn quickly rolled his friend onto his back and gripped his hand until the elf could handle the pain, "Careful my friend, that wound in your shoulder is not deadly but it is painful; you should try to move as little as possible."

Elrohir did not have the strength to talk so he nodded in understanding. Just as the elf was regaining his bearings and was about to ask what his friend had been gazing at, the lump suddenly shifted and sat up revealing the aforementioned boy. The little one rubbed the sleep out of his eyes and crawled to the elf's side, "You all right now?"

Arathorn gently grabbed his son before he could start crawling on the elf, "Not all right but he is getting better." The father smiled at his child, "You must be careful little one, Elrohir is still hurt. We want him to get better do we not?"

Aragorn seriously nodded his head and struggled until his father finally released him on the bed. The boy gently moved to the elf's side and took his large hand in his small one, "Thank you for saving my daddy."

Elrohir smiled at the little one, "It was my pleasure, master human, and I will do it again if the opportunity presents itself." The little human seemed satisfied with that answer and put a wet kiss on the elf's forehead before curling up next to him and drifting off to sleep.

Elrohir smiled at the boy's father, "So much like you, only better manners of course!"

Arathorn covered his son with a blanket and glared down at the elf, "I would remember your manners, master elf, you are in my care until morning."

The comment seemed odd to Elrohir and he suddenly noticed his twin was not in the room, a fact that caused him to try to sit up. Arathorn noticed the stricken look in his friend's eyes and gently pressed him down into the mattress, "What did I just tell you about moving? Elladan is fine; he is just resting." Elrohir looked at his human friend with mistrust in his eyes, "All right," the human conceded, "he did not rest on his own, but it has been two days, Elrohir, and he needed the rest - I had to do something!"

Elrohir smirked at him, "So you drugged him?"

Arathorn blushed, "Well not me exactly, I mean I mixed the drink but I knew he would never take it from me, so I." Here Arathorn found he could not admit his actions to the younger twin and started fiddling with the ring on his finger.

Elrohir smirked and reached out to still the human's hands, "Barahir has much prestige associated with it but it is not a magic ring and will not cause you to disappear. Just tell me who you had drug my twin."

Arathorn looked at his hands, "I had Aragorn do it."

Elrohir chuckled, "Using your child - that is low Arathorn."

Arathorn's head came up, "I knew he would not take it from me but, I also knew he could not refuse the child so I used the tools at hand. Aragorn admires you both very much; just before he crawled up here he was sleeping with Elladan. Get used to him Elrohir I have a feeling that he will always be in your life."

Elrohir gently touched the child's head, "and we in his Arathorn - you have my word that we will protect him and you as long as we live."

It was several weeks later when the twins left the ranger camp to visit their father with tidings of their travels and news from the rangers. After an unremarkable journey the twins entered the courtyard of their home to see the same sight that had always greeted them upon their return - their father at the top of the stairs. Elrohir and Elladan exchanged a knowing smile and dismounted, handing their horses off to the waiting grooms. "Ada" Elladan greeted.

Elrond smiled warmly at his offspring and after descending the stairs engulfed the two in a warm hug. After holding the two for a moment he pushed them away and looked them over with a critical eye, "The two of you are well?"

Elrohir eagerly nodded his head, "Yes, ada very well."

Elrond narrowed his eyes at the quick response of his youngest, "But it was not always that way." This was a statement not a question, Elrond knew his sons and knew when one of them was trying to hide something from their father.

Elladan smirked at his twin, "No ada, it was not. Elrohir took an arrow meant for Arathorn and it took him two days to wake up."

Elrohir shook his head at the smug look on his twin's face, "So it did, but I am well now. It was not a life-ending wound and I am glad to have taken it for it meant that Arathorn came to no harm."

Elrond nodded, pleased that his sons had told him the truth, "How are Arathorn, Gilraen, and little Aragorn? When will they be sending the little one to stay with us?"

Elladan shook his head sadly, "I am sorry adar, but Aragorn will not be fostering with us."

Elrond looked stricken, "What so you mean, my son? Do they wish to postpone the arrival year?"

Elrohir sighed; he could not believe this was happening, it just felt so wrong. The younger twin knew the elven lord cherished having the fosterlings because it allowed him to reconnect with his long dead brother's line and, Elrohir thought, made the absence of Celebrìan easier to bear. Yet, despite how unpleasant the task was Elrohir thought his father deserved the truth, "Ada, Aragorn is never going to foster here." The younger twin paused and swallowed hard, he could not believe the words that were coming out of his mouth, but yet he went on, "Gilerian does not want him to leave the settlement. She believes that he will learn more by being among his people."

Elrond stared at his son, "Does she not understand that we will teach him the ways of Middle Earth? Does she not understand the importance of him being protected? He is vulnerable there at his age."

Elladan exchanged a look with his twin then knelt in front of his father, "Nay, ada she does not. She believes the rangers will protect the chieftain's son." The elder twin took a deep breath, "That is why Elrohir and I must spend much of the next few years with the rangers - to protect Aragorn when they cannot."

The twins knew this revelation would hurt their father and they regretted it greatly. For his part, Elrond showed little emotion only bowing his head in resignation and motioning the twins into the grand house.

Chapter Two: The Tracker

Years had passed since the twins told their father Aragorn would not live in Imladris, yet Elrohir could still see the haunted look in the elder elf's eyes each time he and his brother left the valley. Elrohir felt the hole in his own heart grow each time he saw his father's sorrowed eyes, yet he continued joining the rangers because Aragorn needed him. Elrohir smiled at the thought of the young one, all of eight years old now and practically inseparable from he and his brother.

As if his thoughts had somehow summoned the child, Aragorn appeared by the younger twin's side. "Elrohir, will you teach me tracking like you promised?"

The twin smiled, the young one was so eager to learn the ways of the Dúnedain, "Of course little one, your ada and Elladan left to check the perimeter a few hours ago: why do we not try to find them?"

The little boy practically jumped up and down at the prospect of catching his father and Elladan unaware, "Yea, hurry Elrohir we must be quick if we want to find them!"

Elrohir smiled at the child's enthusiasm, "Then go get your cloak and tell your mamma where we are going." The boy opened his mouth to complain but the elf cut him off, "No, all good rangers tell their superior where they are going to be, right now your mother is your superior. Now off with you young one before I change my mind."

A moment later the boy ran back to the elf's side, "Mamma said it was okay as long as I stayed with you. Now come on Elrohir, papa and Elladan are getting further and further away!"

Elrohir smiled and ruffled the boy's hair as he stood, "All right, lets go." That simple statement was enough to get Aragorn running down the path with Elrohir having to run to catch up with the zealous child. Two hours had passed since the elf and boy left the ranger camp and yet, Elrohir noticed, the boy had yet to become edgy. He was staying on task with the focus of a first borne, which made the elf smile. The boy's mother did not want him to interact with elves for fear he would forget his people but yet, here was the boy's elven heritage showing up despite the lack of nurturing. A sudden sound brought the twin from his thoughts and Elrohir hurried to catch up with his young protégé. Reaching the boy, the elf bent down and whispered in his ear, "Well mighty hunter, what do you see?"

Aragorn looked up, "Someone approaches."

Elrohir smiled at the perceptiveness, "You are correct and I do believe it is one of our prey: can you tell me which one?"

Young Aragorn closed his eyes and concentrated on the woods just as Elrohir had taught him, finally the boy opened his eyes and quietly suggested, "father?"

Elrohir did not confirm or deny his answer but instead asked another question, "Why do you think so?"

The boy looked up and smiled, "Because he sounds like an oliphaunt heading for the water hole while you and Elladan do not make any sound."

Elrohir smirked, "Unless Elladan has had too much wine, then he stumbles and stomps as much as a dwarf!"

Suddenly Elrohir's head snapped backwards and a sharp blade appeared at his throat, "I heard that!"

The younger twin carefully put one of his hands on top of the one holding the knife and commented, "Elladan - I did not know you were there." This comment got no response from the elder twin so Elrohir tried again, "Come on Elladan - what kind of example are you setting for Aragorn?"

The elder twin removed his blade and pushed Elrohir to the ground, "and what kind of example are you setting for him? You can not even hear your own brother coming."

Elrohir sat up and smiled at his twin, "I think, my dear brother, that has more to do with your improved skills at being stealthy and less with my skills at tracking."

The elder twin glared at his younger sibling and was about to retort when he was cut off by the boy who whispered, "Come on you two, I just saw my father and I want to catch him."

The two elves exchanged an amused glance before following their small charge. The twins allowed the boy to lead them through the forest but stopped when they reached the edge of the glade Arathorn was resting in, signaling the boy to continue without them. Coming up behind the Dúnedain chieftain the small boy crouched and pounced - knocking his father off his feet.

Arathorn blinked a few times then gently sat up and brought his son into his lap. "So you are the one who managed to catch me off guard, I thought it had to be an elf - you were so quiet."

Aragorn smiled at his father then turned and looked at the opening in the forest through which, the twins were emerging, "They helped - they have taught me everything I know. Their real smart."

Arathorn smiled, "Yes they are, more than you can realize. Be sure to remember that and trust them always."

The little boy looked between adults and smiled, "I will father, I promise."

Arathorn asked no more of his young son and instead brought him in close for a hug. As he was clutching the child he looked at the twins and mouthed, "thank you."

Chapter Three: Growing Up

Elrohir smiled as he watched the young human jump back from a blow, spin to his left and come in on his opponent's unprotected flank and strike a light blow. Yes, the boy was getting better every day; the elf smirked, due in no small part to the training the twins had been giving him. Just as that thought was crossing the elf's mind, the boy was slammed up against a tree and a sword was at his throat, "Do you yield, young one?"

The teenager stared up hard into Elladan's eyes, "I really do not have much of a choice do I?" That said the human shoved the elf away from him and angrily strode from the meadow.

Elrohir pushed himself off the fence he was leaning against and approached his twin, "What happened?"

Elladan pulled his eyes away from the section of the woods the boy just disappeared into, "I don't know, one minute we were happily sparing and the next he was stomping off."

"Sixteen year olds will be sixteen year olds."

Both twins turned and smiled at their long time friend. Elladan shook his head, "I do not remember you ever acting like that Arathorn."

The man shook his head, "No, but that was because I fostered under your roof and had Elrond to teach me humility and patience." The man sighed deeply, "I wish Gilraen would change her mind but since she is not likely to I guess I will have to try my hand at it." Giving a nod to the twins the chieftain too disappeared into the woods.

Arathorn smiled as he struggled to find his son's trail, the boy was becoming more and more of a ranger everyday. Finally having found his son's tracks, the man followed them to the shores of a small pond where his only child was angrily throwing stones into the water. Arathorn sighed as he watched his son, how he wished Elrond was here, the ancient being always knew the right thing to say. Arathorn shook his head, the elf was not going to pop out of the woods, so it was up to him. Throwing his shoulders back, Arathorn determinedly walked across the glade and sat next to his son. The elder human waited several minutes for his offspring to acknowledge him, but when it appeared that would never happen Arathorn took the initiative, "I saw you sparing with Elladan earlier, care to tell me what happened at the end?"

Aragorn stopped throwing rocks and clinched his jaw, "He cheated," the boy stated angrily.

Arathorn gently dropped his arm around his son's shoulders, "He did not and well you know it."

The boy remained silent a moment than conceded his defeat, "All right he was not, but its not fair - I can never beat them! They know something they are not sharing."

Arathorn laughed aloud, "Aragorn, is that what you really think?" The boy shrugged so Arathorn turned the boy's head until their eyes met, "That is ridiculous my son - the twins have given up much to train you, they hide nothing. I know you know little of elves but believe me Elladan and Elrohir are two of the best. They are wise and you should always trust them and listen to their council."

The boy twisted his head out of his father's hand, "Wiser than us, never! They can never understand us - they are elves, father. We must rely on our own kind."

Arathorn sadly shook his head, "That is your mother talking. If only you had gone to Imladris you would understand the wisdom of the elves." Seeing the hard glint in his son's eyes the man sighed, "Just promise me you will try to appreciate them my son."

Aragorn reluctantly agreed, "I will try father, for your sake."

Arathorn released his grip on his child and sighed, "That is all I can ask."

Chapter Four: Challenges

A few years had passed and Aragorn had grown into a strong young man who governed the people wisely whenever his father was away. Such was the case now, so the man was making his way through the village, checking on various people and settling small squabbles. Suddenly, the call went up that the patrol was returning and Aragorn hastily made his way to the west gate where he expected to meet his father. However, the young man found things differently than he had expected because instead of seeing his father sitting on his horse he saw him draped over his horse. "Father!"

Despite Aragorn's intention to reach his father's side he was waylaid by Keldil, Arathorn's second. "He is not dead but he is severely wounded, slashed across the belly by an orc semitar. Where are the sons of Elrond?"

Aragorn shook his head to clear his thoughts, "They are not here, they left a few days ago saying something about having to get home to their father - something about their mother."

Keldil nodded quickly, "Yes, that time is fast approaching." He looked over at another ranger, "Lead Arathorn's horse to the healing house and send a messenger to Rivendell asking for aid as soon as may be." He then turned to Aragorn, "Come we will do what we can and pray the elves arrive in time to save your father's life."

Aragorn pulled away from Keldil, "Why should we depend on the elves? They are never around when we need them! I will take care of father, the rangers are more useful guarding our home than running messages." The young man did not spare his father's second another look but instead took off at a run for the healing house. Aragorn watched as the village healer stripped his father of his shirt revealing a deep ugly gash across his stomach. The man was contrasted between wanting to help and wanting to throw up his breakfast; he had never seen so much blood, especially not coming from his own father! The young man shut his eyes for a moment to gain control of his emotions before going in and taking the cloth from the healer to clean the wound.

When the last knot was tied the healer looked up, "Well that is all we can do for him young sir, now we wait. Why do you not get some sleep?"

Aragorn stubbornly moved a chair close to the bed, "No, I will stay with him." At a look from the healer he added, "No matter how long it takes, I will be the first one he sees when he wakes up."

Aragorn's wherewithal was challenged, however, as it was nearly a day and a half later when the chieftain began to regain consciousness. The younger man was just adding a log to the fire when he heard a moan and quickly moved toward the bed, "Easy, father - wake up slowly." The young man gripped his father's hand tightly as he watched him slowly return to consciousness.

Finally Arathorn broke through the barrier and opened his eyes, "Aragorn?"

The young man rushed to get a cup of water and returned, "Yes father, it is I but you must not talk." The young man put the cup to his father's lips, "Drink father and then rest for your wound is deep and will take much recovery."

Arathorn gratefully accepted the drink then searched the room with his eyes, "Elladan, Elrohir?"

Aragorn's mouth hardened, "They are not here. Dolach and I treated you."

Arathorn looked up at his son and found the young man gazing at the wall with an angry expression. The chieftain reached up and gently stroked his son's cheek with his hand, "Thank you my child, I am proud of the healer and warrior you have become but please do not think badly of the twins. They have their own home to deal with and a father who is still grieving the loss of their mother."

Aragorn put his fingers over his father's lips, "Sh, father. I know you think well of the elves you have often said so, but right now I am more interested in you and your health. Sleep father and get better."

The younger man smiled as his father fell into a healing sleep. It felt good to see the man aware although Aragorn was slightly irritated that his father wanted to know where the twins were - as if they were the only ones who could heal. The man narrowed his eyes, he would just have to prove how valuable he was to his father, much more valuable than any elf could ever be. The man found that despite his promises he just could not understand what his father saw in the elves, to him they were outsiders who appeared occasionally to take the credit for some noble deed. He took another look at his sleeping father and vowed to himself that he would never seek the aid of an elf as long as he lived.

Chapter five: Unfortunate Events

The battle had gone badly, the orcs were too numerous for the small band of rangers but the men had no choice but to fight for they were surrounded. Aragorn knelt next to his father so he could look into the dimming eyes of the man who raised him, "You cannot die" the younger man sobbed.

Arathorn was fading fast but to comfort his only child he would fight off any foe - even death. "I must go my son - my time is over, you are now chieftain of the rangers."

Aragorn quickly shook his head, "No, I do not know how."

Arathorn mustered all his strength and gently reached up to touch his child's face one last time, "You must - he whispered, "for I can no longer stay here. Take care of our people, take care of your mother and take care of yourself." The man paused, "Tell your mother I love her. Know that I love you and believe in you." The man tried to smile but could not summon the energy. "Seek out the sons of Elrond," the man gasped and then breathed his last.

"Father? Father!?" Aragorn yelled and when he saw no movement from the older man he fell forward and sobbed for his loss.

The other rangers heard the young man's calls and knew that Arathorn son of Arador was no more. After several minutes had past Keldil turned and knelt next to the new chieftain, "Come Aragorn, we must leave this place. The orcs from this band are all either dead or run off but there are many others near, we must go." The man stopped and swallowed hard in order to maintain his composure, "We must take him home."

Aragorn did not say a word but slowly stood to his feet, bent, and picked up his father's lifeless body. Normally the other ranger would be too heavy for him to lift but Aragorn was determined none would take this duty from him. Slowly he carried his father's body to his horse and gently laid him across the saddle. The young man did not look up at his fellow rangers but instead picked up the reins and began the long journey home.

Aragorn had been oblivious to everything on this journey; the birds, his men, the changes in the day but when the party crested the hill which stood to the north of the village he immediately came to a stop. Keldil had been closely following father and son and now the ranger approached the lost looking chieftain, "We should go in." He pointed to a group gathered near the gate, "The people are waiting."

Aragorn finally looked up into Keldil's eyes, "How can I take him home like this? How can I tell my mother he is dead?"

Keldil was taken back, the grief in the man's eyes was so deep he could almost feel it pouring out of the younger man. Taking a deep breath he tried to reach the new chieftain, "You do it because you must. Trust me it is better for you to bring him to her than for her to hear the news from the village gossips. Please, my lord, lets take your father home."

The younger man nodded and began the long walk to his home, as he passed the crowd he could hear gasps and exclamations and yet the man kept going. The trip through the village had been agony but now that he had reached his home he wanted nothing more than to turn back and do it again. Better face the whisperings of the people than raise his head to meet his mother's eyes. Finally Aragorn swallowed thickly and spoke softly, "I am sorry mother." The man did not get another word out as Gilerian surrounded him in her arms and held him tight.

Finally the woman released her only child and moved to where her husband's body was lying. She gently lifted the dead man's head and kissed him on the lips, "You left. You always said you would not leave me but you left." As the distraught woman talked to her dead husband she got louder and louder until she was yelling. "You left me here!" She wailed and laid her head on the horse as she sobbed.

Aragorn just stood there watching her cry until Keldil nudged him, "You get her inside I will get a healer to give her something to calm her down." The new chieftain nodded dumbly and led his still wailing mother inside.

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Just after burying his father and being sworn in as chieftain Aragorn snuck out of his house and made his way to the stables. He was just about to ride out when a figure appeared in the doorway. At first Aragorn could not discover who it was, but slowly the figure moved forward and the new Chieftain was able to make out the features of his cousin. "Cousin, what are you doing here?"

Halbarad tilted his head, "Funny, I was just about to ask you the same thing." The man paused a moment and looked Aragorn up and down, "Or rather where you are going."

Aragorn's face hardened and he replied through clinched teeth, "I am going to find the rest of the band of orcs that killed my father."

Halbarad's eyes widened in surprise, "Surely you do not mean to go alone." When the chieftain did not reply the man continued hastily, "You can not Aragorn! You are our leader now - the only one we have. You must stay here and govern the rangers. Do as your father asked and summon the sons of Elrond. They will help you through this challenge."

Aragorn's eyes fairly glowed with anger, "The sons of Elrond! What help have they been to me? They were not here when father was severely wounded a few years ago and they were not here to keep him from being killed! When I was a child they promised to always be there for me; they have broken that promise twice and I will not give them a third opportunity."

Halbarad walked up so that he was looking directly into the face of his cousin, "They cannot always be here, cousin, they have concerns of their own. I have heard that their father is fading from grief; surely you can not condemn them for wanting to be with their father?"

Aragorn narrowed his eyes, "I can and I do.” The ranger then quickly threw a punch at Halbarad, catching him on the jaw and knocking the man out cold. Seeing his kinsman lying motionless on the ground Aragorn's eyes softened, "I have to do this alone; please do not think badly of me."

Chapter 6: Final Journey

While Aragorn was heading east to the Misty Mountains on the main road the twins were traveling west through the wilds. They were anxious to reach the ranger village after hearing of the death of Arathorn and were glad of the full moon which allowed them to travel at a gallop. They reached the village at the midnight hour and headed straight for the stables before seeking out the new chieftain. As they approached the large structure both were surprised to see light coming from its depths, arching an eyebrow the eldest twin dismounted and led his horse into the building. As soon as his eyes adjusted to the light Elladan cried out and ran toward a lump lying on the ground. His cry caused Elrohir to leap from his steed and run into the stable where he saw his twin cradling the head of a young Dúnedain. Elladan was gently inspecting the wound to the young one's head when his twin knelt next to him. "He has been struck hard on the head."

Just as Elrohir was checking for other injuries the man started to stir, "Halbarad?" Elrohir asked. The younger twin gently slapped the man's cheek, "Please wake - we must know what has befallen you."

The man shifted in his sleep for a few minutes then finally pulled his eyes open, "Aragorn?"

Elrohir smiled down at the man, "No, it is Elladan and Elrohir. Where is Aragorn? Who did this to you?"

Suddenly Halbarad struggled to get to his feet but was held fast by the Elder twin, "Easy, what is it?"

The young man settled and looked up at the elves, "It is Aragorn, he did this to me right before he rode out to kill the remainder of the band of orcs that killed Arathorn."

The twins exchanged a concerned look before Elladan returned to the young human he was holding, "Do you know where these orcs are?"

Halbarad nodded, "At least we are fairly sure, about a day's ride to our northeast there is a box cannon with dense overhand, we believe that is where they are holed up."

Another glance was exchanged between the twins before Elrohir addressed the man, "Aragorn has this knowledge?" The man just nodded so the elf continued, "We will need fresh horses."

Halbarad shook his head, "You cannot go alone. We must muster the rangers."

Elladan shook his head, "There is not time. Elrohir and I will go ahead while you stay here and muster the rangers to follow us." The man started to interject but was stopped by the elder twin, "It is the only way, if we wait Aragorn will die."

Halbarad nodded in resignation, "Take the first two horses on the left." The twins moved like lightening, removing needed supplies from their horses and preparing the new mounts. It was only a few moments later that they tore out of the stables leaving a very concerned Halbarad behind.

Elladan swore, the sun had been up for hours and still they had yet to catch the man. They thought he would have to sleep but now it had become apparent that he was only stopping to rest his horse, just as they were doing. At dusk Elrohir put his hand out and caused his brother to stop. Pointing at a location on the horizon the younger twin commented, "I believe that is what Halbarad was talking about."

Elladan nodded, "Do you see Aragorn?" When his brother shook his head to the negative the elder twin kicked his horse hard, desperate to reach the canyon soon.

The two were fast approaching the canyon when they heard screams coming from within. The two exchanged a quick glance and traveled on; they knew what that sound was - Aragorn had been discovered. The twins rode by the cave and jumped from their horses landing in a crouch at either side of the entrance. For a moment the two wondered why they were not being attacked but one glance into the canyon answered that question, as there was Aragorn being attacked by several of the gruesome creatures. Just as the twins were about to jump into the fray, the largest orc embedded his semitar into the man's chest. Elladan and Elrohir froze as they watched the young one fall to the ground then rolled to face them. Elrohir was shocked by the accusing look the man gave them as he mouthed, "Always too late". The man then breathed his last breath leaving the twins dumbstruck for a moment.

It was the orcs squeal of success that caused the twins to act - jumping right into the middle of the horde with their swords drawn. Neither twin expected to survive this fight but at least they would take some of the orcs with them. The twins saluted each other and stood back to back as the orcs started charging these new opponents. At first the twins were easily able to take out the orcs but as the fight continued the twins were separated, exposing their backs to all comers. Elrohir was twisting and turning with lightening sped, a thrust here and a parry there. However, just as he was thinking there was a chance they could survive this fight, he heard a howl of pain and turned just in time to see his twin fall on the ground - a bloody slash across his chest. As if sensing his twins eyes on him Elladan looked up and smiled at his brother for a moment before the orc to his left swung his semitar and removed the elf's head from his shoulders. Elrohir stared at his brother's body in shock; this could not be happening - they were not supposed to die this way! The moment of distraction proved to be fatal for the younger twin as an orc behind him copied the move just used, removing the younger twin's head from his shoulders - the elf's body landing just feet from its mirror image.

Hundreds of miles away in Imladris the lord of the valley released a loud anguished cry as he felt his sons' souls flee Middle Earth. In just hours the residents of Imladris were mourning not only their two princes but their lord as well because Elrond could not withstand this loss and quickly succumbed to his grief, joining his sons in Mandos' halls.

Chapter Seven: The End

Elrohir shot up in his bed and took several deep breaths to calm his heart. Shakily he reached out a hand and lit the candle that rested on his bedside table. He ran his hands through his hair and tried to shake the feelings that had surfaced after the dream. He knew it was just a dream and he should go back to sleep but the feeling of dread would not leave him so he went to check on his family. Picking up his candle he pushed open the door to the adjacent room and silently padded inside. Elladan was lying on his side, facing Elrohir, his eyes open but glazed in sleep. Very gently Elrohir traced the line where the slash was made across his brother's throat and found only healthy solid flesh.

Satisfied that his twin was indeed alive and well Elrohir picked up his candle and went out into the hall. The young elf stopped a moment as he decided which way to turn - his younger brother's room was just across the hall but he was so shaken from his dream that he could not go there just yet, so instead he traveled down the corridor to his father's room. Elrohir paused, it had been ages since he had come to his father's room in the middle of the night. Suddenly the adult elf felt like a silly elfling and nearly turned away but the last image from his dream - the one of his father dying of grief - caused him to push forward. Slowly Elrohir made his way across the room until he could make out the shape of his father on the bed. Unlike Elladan, Elrond was sleeping on his back but he too was calmly walking in elven dreams. Elrohir smiled at the peaceful look on his father's face and leaned over to give him a gentle kiss on the forehead.

Satisfied that his father was well Elrohir returned to the hall and made the short walk to his foster brother's room. Once there Elrohir's heart was gripped with an irrational fear and he found that he could not open the door. He had already found the other events from his dream to be false and yet some part of him feared he would open the door and find only an empty room. The young one breathed deeply and finally pushed the door open revealing not the empty room as Elrohir had feared but rather two beings where he had expected to find just one.

Glorfindel looked at the younger twin questioningly, "Elrohir? What are you doing up? I am supposed to watch him until morning".

The younger twin shook his head and leaned against the door jam as his mind raced, what had happened? Why was someone watching Aragorn through the night? Suddenly his memory returned - Estel had been injured by orcs on their last hunting trip and had nearly died from a stab wound. A wound, the elf thought, which was frighteningly similar to the one which had killed his brother in the dream.

As Elrohir was recalling recent events Glorfindel approached and gently touched the young one's shoulder, "Elrohir, what is wrong?"

The younger elf looked up at his mentor and smiled, "I forgot that he was injured."

Glorfindel narrowed his eyes at the young one then shot a quick glance at his charge on the bed, "Come, he is sleeping well. Lets go out onto the balcony and you can tell me what has brought you here tonight." After kissing his little brother on the forehead Elrohir let himself be led outside. The young elf was not going to burden anyone with his dream but when the golden haired warrior looked at him with those wise eyes his resolve melted and he told the elder elf everything. Glorfindel remained quiet for a few minutes after the tale was told - contemplating what he should tell the young one. Finally he sat on the balcony railing facing the younger elf, "Aragorn was hurt when the three of you split up to find game. In your mind you feel like you let him down so you started wondering what it would have been like had he never come here. What if games are dangerous Elrohir – believe me I know. We can never turn back time we can only go forward and make the best of what we are given. Although it is easy to think that if we would have turned left instead of right things would have turned out so much better but that is not always the case, they could have turned out much worse." The golden elf stopped a moment and smiled at the youngster, "Know this, he was meant to live here and the things which have happened were meant to happen. The challenges we face and the way we face them make us the people we are and you and he should never regret who you are."

Elrohir nodded, "You truly are wise ancient one".

Glorfindel smirked at the openly yawning elf, "Cheeky upstart - off to bed with you."

Elrohir was suddenly too tired to argue and obediently climbed to his feet and walked into Aragorn's room where he chose to join his younger brother in the bed rather than return to his own. The elf draped an arm across the man and smiled, all was well - his brother was right where he should be and life was good.

Glorfindel looked at the two and smiled - his and every elf's life in Imladris was blessed by the existence of these young ones. Slowly Glorfindel turned back to the balcony to leave the young ones to their sleep while he waited for dawn.