Author’s Notes:

Welcome! This is a story long-awaited- at least by me. This is my second and, in my opinion, much-improved version of Agarwaen (Bloodstained) but I leave final judgment to you. I am several chapters ahead of myself but this is as yet a work-in-progress. Therefore I hope you will be patient with me if we meet any little bumps or snags along the way. I’m actually posting this earlier than planned so that’s a good sign so far.


All recognizable characters such as Aragorn and Haldir do not belong to me and I have no permission to use them or Middle Earth – I only get to play in Tolkien’s backyard when he’s not looking. I am not getting paid for this story; its purpose is enjoyment only. However, there is a rather large cast of original characters that do belong to me. Some of which I’d rather not claim because they’re just nasty people. Any inconsistencies, canon, spelling, grammar, date errors or creative licenses are the fault of the author.


Mystery, Suspense, Angst, Drama, Action / Adventure. Another chalk-full.


Haldir and Aragorn are drawn south on their journey home while a savage killer in Dunland takes young men one by one into the dark. But the identity of this ruthless demon is just the beginning of the nightmare for both of them…


Strong PG-13 for explicit instances of action violence, tense situations, mild-ish torture and one or two instances of gore. (If any of you have read this story before – or really any story of mine before, you shouldn’t be surprised.)

Warning: Just in case you skipped the Rating bit

I will caution you here. I did not give this story an “R” rating because I don’t quite believe it’s that bad but, of course, I may be biased. I keep the violence to an acceptable minimum (I don’t believe in Pulp Fiction style) but there are one or two explicit instances which I think require more of a warning. Just so’s you know.

Other Stories Authored by the Lady of Light:

Agar Saer (Bitter Blood)

The Cost of Blood

First Name Terms

A Warrior’s Experience


Previous stories. Maybe small ones for the Fellowship of the Ring and Morgoth’s Ring.


Later in the Third Age but Aragorn is young yet.

Additional Author’s Notes:

A lot of the plot and character notes I once had on this story have been inexplicably lost over the years – probably when I got a new laptop and had to transfer files. But I do remember that the very first chapter was two pages long. Now it’s eleven. Thirteen with all these blasted notes…

And speaking of which it’s about darn time to get on with the story! That’s what you came here for, right?

Agarwaen (Bloodstained)

By: The Lady of Light

Part One

Hints of Shadow

Aragorn was in a tight spot.

That in itself was not surprising; the young man had a certain knack for cornering himself as his father constantly reminded him. But even he knew that six to one odds were not in his favor. Still he kept a tight grip on the hilt of his sword and a tighter grip on the reins of his two mounts which were tossing their heads anxiously, their eyes rolling as they scented fresh blood.

The blood came from their master.

One of his assailants had managed to sneak up on him and clipped a glancing blow across his skull, half-stunning him. But a hard head, quick thinking and quicker reflexes snatched precious moments for Aragorn to get back on his feet and draw his sword. The raiders were thieves by desperation rather than inclination and now faced with not-quite-so-easy a mark as they’d expected, they were hesitant to attack him. However, weapons were much in evidence and Aragorn had the prickling feeling that maybe he should have waited for Haldir as the elf had told him to.

He had been thrilled when the captain of Lothlórien decided to accompany him home to Rivendell on the pretext of reestablishing ties with the elves there; and their journey had gone relatively smoothly… until now. His fellow traveler had departed camp early that morning to scout the way ahead. Their provisions were low after two weeks of hard travel and he knew of a small town where they might get supplies. But when he hadn’t returned by midmorning, the restless ranger decided to go on and see if he could catch up. He hadn’t gone three miles down the wooded path before being accosted by highwaymen.

“Hand them over now, boy, nice and easy. Then you can go on your way.” The leader’s eyes gleamed with covetous delight at the beauty of the elven steeds.

Aragorn clasped the reins still tighter and back-stepped again, his heels almost in the small stream where he had watered the horses. “No.”

“Fine. Then we’ll shoot you and take them anyway.” The leader nodded and his men pulled arrows to their bows.

A thin-armed man with a shock of sandy hair, however, shook his head, giving Aragorn an almost-frightened look. His clothes were patched and frayed but they were undeniably those of a farmer. “Caleb, I don’t want to ki-”

“Shut it, Saion. You’ll do what I tell you,” Caleb snapped, cuffing him sharply. “You want to survive out here, you follow my orders. Now stretch that string and put an arrow through him.”

Aragorn decided not to waste a moment during this furious exchange and ducked behind the protective bulk of the horses’ bodies.

Caleb went furiously white and swatted Saion’s arrow out of his hands. “Don’t hurt the horses, you idiot! Do you want to be stranded in this deathhole?”

Aragorn pressed his back against his steed’s withers and cast a quick glance across the saddle.

Desperate, three of the men rushed around the horses, trying to flush him out from behind the coveted animals. But their weapons were crude and rusted with ill-care. The sword that had once belonged to Isildur snapped them as easily as dry twigs.

Standing at the edge of the chaos, Caleb suddenly screamed and fell, clutching his leg; a white arrow transfixed his calf. After dispatching one of the bandits, Aragorn’s eyes raked the treetops and though he saw nothing, new heart edged his swing as he parried another blow. His opponent suddenly threw down his blade, his eyes stretched wide and horrified as he stared at the white arrow protruding from the throat of one of his comrades.

“No… not here,” he whispered in a voice raspy with fear. Alerting his companions, he nearly tripped over his own sword backpedaling away from Aragorn and the menace in the trees. “The ghost! The ghost! Run!”

Aragorn didn’t know what provoked that bizarre reaction but continued to hold his sword at the ready.

The others had noticed the white arrows too and fled as fast as they could into the brush, shoving one another aside so as not to be the one caught at the rear. Caleb, despite the arrow in his leg, scrambled up with a short, wailing cry and staggered off after his fleeing band sent on his way by a last arrow that thumped harmlessly into the earth.

As the noise of their frantic retreat faded, Aragorn swiped sweat from his brow and laughed for sheer relief.

“And what, pray, is so funny?” an irritated yet dryly amused voice inquired. “I cannot leave you alone for an hour before some catastrophe occurs can I?”

Aragorn waited until the elf touched the ground before folding his arms in what he hoped was a stern pose. “Well, if you hadn’t been so late I wouldn’t have had to go after you in the first place.”

Haldir snorted at his display. “Why did Lord Elrond never teach you patience?”

“He tried, it didn’t take.” Aragorn grinned cheekily, earning him another supremely outraged glare.

The captain of Lothlórien snatched his reins away from the human and leapt lightly into the saddle. “You do realize had you killed my horse, I would have made you piggyback me all the way to Merdon.”

“Thank goodness it lives!” Aragorn swung himself up before the elf could lean down and smack him. “How far are we now?”

“What did I just tell you about patience? You’d think you were human how you rush through life.”

“I am human.”

As the good-natured banter faded into the leaves, the clearing grew quiet. A spider wandered off a grass stalk and onto the white-feathered arrow still embedded in one of the bandits. Suddenly the wooden shaft twitched. Dislodged by the unexpected movement, the spider scuttled off the dead man’s face and into the grass.

Long, pale fingers felt every inch of the arrow – from the trimmed swan-feather flights and cracked shaft to the mallorn-shaped tip, so sharp it drew blood with a touch. Rubbing the crimson stain between thumb and forefinger speculatively, the tall, grey-cloaked figure turned hidden eyes in the direction of the Road, the path the ranger and the elf had taken.

They were deep in Dunland territory, a wide, fertile area scattered with deeper woodlands and settled by herdsmen and farmers. An ill-timed snowstorm had blocked the shorter passage over the mountains and forced them to go roundabout through the Gap of Rohan. The hinterland was bare and grey in every direction but the trees still clung stubbornly to their leaves. As they continued north, it would get colder and likely snow. But Rivendell was still weeks away. It would take a while yet before Aragorn crossed the threshold of the Last Homely House. In the meanwhile, he tightened his belt and prayed that the miles would vanish swiftly under their horses’ hooves.

Haldir grew increasingly quieter as they drew closer to human habitation but by the time they approached the town, Aragorn wouldn’t have been able to hear him anyway. Drenched and shivering in a stiff rain that blew in with nightfall, they hunched over their saddle horns, conscious of only the wind roaring in their ears. The small, backwater town of Merdon nestled close to the mountain foothills bounded by formless pastureland on one side and thickly wooded slopes on the other, now hidden behind a dark and silver curtain.

In no better condition than their riders, the horses’ heads drooped with fatigue and their manes matted flat against their broad, wet-darkened necks. But at the sight of warm light, they twisted their ears forward and lifted their hooves higher out of the squelching mud.

The road was rutted and gleaming. Few lanterns at all winked in the rain. The beady-eyed gatekeeper scrutinized them critically from under the shelter of his dripping hood before sliding back the bolts and letting them through the town’s only gate. A few more yards down yielded a slightly decrepit-looking inn whose faded sign The Butchered Goat flapped in the wind.

“Cheery place,” Aragorn observed wryly as he half-slid, half-fell from his mount, his legs stiff and trembling with exhaustion. His now quite-useless hood dripped into his eyes and he yanked it off as soon as they ducked into the warm odor of the stables.

It smelled of horse and moldy straw. But it was empty and dry – at that moment that was all Aragorn cared about. His body ached from long, unaccustomed hours in the saddle, fighting against the wind, and his stomach clawed at his backbone with hunger. He glanced longingly towards a locked door opposite them which led into the back of the inn. Through the frosted pane, he could see the glow of firelight. Shivering in his drenched tunic, he wrapped his arms around his chest.

Haldir guided Lintedal into an empty stall and immediately began untacking her. “The faster you work, the quicker you’ll warm,” he remarked, sliding off the saturated leather saddle.

Aragorn hastily made his horse whose name was Maethor comfortable, had him fed, watered and dried off in less time than it took Haldir to finish removing all harness. He took his own time, carefully brushing his mare’s chestnut coat until it shone. After a further quarter of an hour, Aragorn was about ready to go inside without him.

“I know elves have all the time in the world but at this rate I’m going to turn into a ranger ice statue before you’re done,” Aragorn said, trying to get the elf to make at least a little haste.

“Good. Then I won’t have to listen to you whine,” Haldir said, without altering the long, languid strokes through Lintedal’s mane.

“All right. Then I’ll help you,” Aragorn offered picking up the brush he had used on Maethor.

Haldir flashed a quick look at him over the horse’s flank but made no move to stop him.

Lintedal nearly knocked Aragorn head over heels as she half-reared onto her back legs, almost crushing the human between her bulk and the wall. Aragorn quickly ducked away and stood, bewildered and wide-eyed as the mare continued to toss her head, a whinny breaking out of her throat to rattle the rafters.

Catching hold of her, Haldir soothed her neck and whispered softly to her. When she had calmed a little, he offered the still-shaken man an apologetic smile. “She is… unaccustomed… to the touch of men, I fear.” Despite Aragorn’s Númenorean descent and the strain of elvish blood running through his veins, he was still undeniably human no matter how he would wish it otherwise.

Aragorn smiled ruefully and deposited himself on a bale of hay a comfortable distance from the agitated horse. “Like steed, like rider.” The words came out before he had really thought about them and he pressed his lips together tightly, glancing up through dark hair at his friend who remained stroking the horse’s neck with his back to him.

“Sorry that was thoughtless,” Aragorn brushed a hand over his tired eyes, unaware of the chill sucking his bones through a hot flush of embarrassment.

A soft almost breathless exhalation was the only admonishment he received.

Unable to pretend to use it anywhere else now that the horse’s coat gleamed brighter than silk, Haldir tossed Lintedal’s comb into his bag.

Aragorn winced as it clattered loudly.

The elf faced him, arms folded as he towered over the seated ranger. “In the past, yes, I have… been mistreated… at men’s hands. That doesn’t mean the merest allusion to them needs to leave your already-limited vocabulary simply to accommodate me. Agreed?”

As Aragorn nodded meekly, Haldir began to gather up his cloak. He wished he felt as sardonically amused as he wanted Aragorn to think. The ranger’s words had not shaken him… exactly… But their current situation in the middle of a remote town with nothing but humans for company already made him uneasy and tense. He didn’t need the reminder.

After a few moments of quiet, Aragorn felt the need to break the uncomfortable silence. “You know you could have warned me your horse would attack me,” he said with a hesitantly teasing grin.

“The imagined look on your face was too priceless to resist.” Haldir bent his attention on repacking his gear but one corner of his mouth twitched.

The ranger stared at his companion in astonished incomprehension, unsure whether to laugh or not. “I could have been knocked silly by your horse and you think it’s funny?”

“That will teach you to use her as a living shield.”

“I will never understand elven humor. Not ever,” Aragorn muttered to himself, secretly relieved at the lightening mood. Haldir’s soft chuckle dissipated the last vestiges of tension between them. Shivering again, the ranger heaved himself up and began pacing again. “Are you nearly ready yet?”

Haldir hesitated, glancing around at the two quite comfortable horses, their repacked and organized saddlebags, the cleaned gear, anywhere but at Aragorn’s face. “I may stay out here with Lintedal tonight. She’s still a little unsettled…”

Aragorn looked at the horse who was happily munching away at her late meal. “She looks fine to me. Come on, the inn’s warmer and drier than this drafty place.” Had he been a little less focused on the cold and his own weariness, he might have noticed the look of discomfort that crept across the elf captain’s face. “And I’d rather not sleep in a mucky horse stall if there’s a bedroom ten yards away. Come on. I’ll treat you to a cider.”

“You don’t have any money,” the elf reminded him, leaning against Lintedal’s flank.

Aragorn’s eyes danced as he reached into his overcoat pocket and jingled a small drawstring bag. “Not entirely – I got a little before we left.”

“From who?” Haldir gave the man an incredulous look, wondering which of his idiot command would have voluntarily lent the man coin.

“Rameil. He said treating you to a drink would be a good way to mellow you.” The ranger held up his hands defensively when the elf shot him a quelling glare. “His words, not mine! Come on. What could happen?”

A thrill of premonition ran through the elf at those words and he shook his head as he reluctantly followed the ranger. “Knowing you? Something always happens.”

A gust of warm air wafted the mingled stench of tobacco juice, pipe smoke and roasted meat to their nostrils. But it was old and stale. The low-ceilinged common room despite a permanent haze of smoke was remarkably uncluttered with husbandmen. Glimpsing it through a partially open set of doors, Aragorn could count on his hands the number of people gathered round the fire and bar.

Haldir seemed relieved as he followed his line of sight. “I may have a taste for ale tonight after all.” The elf had pulled his hood up over his face again; an Elf in a small, suspicious town like this would likely cause an uproar which they needed to avoid at all costs.

A few yards down from the common room’s doors stood a smaller one leading into the basement kitchens. Above that arched a ratty-carpeted staircase worn by hundreds of pairs of tired, drunken feet. The only ornament in the otherwise bare entrance hall was a low counter on the right side where a man sat in work-strained trousers and shirtsleeves, his cracked shoes propped up on the scuffed wooden surface.

He stood at their approach, a look of surprise and instant suspicion coloring his craggy features. He was a grim man with a short scraggy beard and a morose face. His eyes shone like gimlets as he appraised the two travelers through a thick haze of smoke. A pipe dangled forgotten from his mouth. “What do you want?”

“Two rooms and dinner in the common room,” Aragorn replied promptly, sliding over a small fistful of coins.

The man’s face brightened when the ranger presented coin and counted the money quickly into his open palm. With his free one, he indicated the double doors, a slightly disgruntled air twisting his thin face. “Most coin I’ve seen all night – you won’t be hard-pressed tonight, lads. Place is nearly empty. No decent folk want to walk even as far as here in this weather. Good thing you stopped when you did; storm’s looking worse.” As though to prove his point, a rumble of thunder shuddered the rafters.

“Hard spring?” Aragorn offered, figuring he might as well make small talk while the man rummaged around, shoving the coins into his back pocket.

“Hard spring. Hard year,” the man grunted, writing their orders down and picking up a thin sheet of paper with a few names scrawled on it. “We don’t have locks for the bedroom doors, you understand and I’ve only got the upstairs ones free, rented the downstairs to a group of hunters come in from the Ridge this afternoon. Your names – for the record books?” His gaze coasted over Aragorn’s harmless-looking, still boyish face and his equally harmless if strange answer of ‘Strider.’ Instead, his rheumy eyes rested on the dark-cowled figure at his side.

“Halbarad,” Aragorn answered before Haldir could speak. The man’s eyes flickered to him. “His name is Halbarad.”

Though his gaze still strayed frowningly to Haldir’s cloaked form the innkeeper nodded. “Halbarad. Right. I’m Fabor – if you need anything.” He looked as though he wished they wouldn’t. “You know, it’s not often we get new faces out here,” he said, hinting for news.

Aragorn smiled, easygoing and friendly to put the man’s suspicions at rest. “Just passing through. On our way north to visit kin. We have two horses in your stalls…” While the young human filled the ostler in on news north and negotiated for the price to board their steeds, Haldir wandered towards the stairs. No lamps had been lit yet and the only light came from the intermittent flickers of purple-tinted lightning spearing the round windows at the top of the stairs.

A door creaked. Rounding the balustrade, Haldir glimpsed a thin sliver of face peeking out at him through the partition between door and wall. A mousy-haired girl with a narrow face stared at him with wide, expressive eyes. She started to pull the door shut when she caught him watching her but she paused just long enough to whisper,

“The ghost is coming.”

Haldir cocked his head. She couldn’t have been more than eleven or twelve, thin and gangly still with youth, her eyes enormous in a white face. He beckoned her to step out. “It’s all right. I won’t harm you. What did you say about a ‘ghost?'”

She didn’t move any further than the doorway but impulsively her hand shot out and grasped his arm. He didn’t pull away, not wanting to frighten her as she squeezed his forearm, her sticklike fingers feeling down his wrist to his hand. “Feels warm. You sure you’re not a ghost?”

“Quite sure,” Haldir smiled as she withdrew her hand, suddenly shy.

“I saw him. Right in there,” she pointed across the hall towards the common room. “He was all cowled up like you – in a big, long cloak. He looked right at me once when I brought his drink,” her large eyes took on a faraway hint and an invisible shudder passed through her wispy body as though wracked by a sudden chill. “Like looking into a deep well, with no water or nothing at the bottom. Nothing but darkness and dirt. Cold though. Well-cold. Ghost-eyes. Gave me the shivers. I didn’t go near him after that.”

Haldir, slightly bewildered, wondered who this odd patron was who had so clearly frightened the daylights out of this child. But he nodded comfortingly. “Don’t worry. He is gone now.”

The girl shook her head even more furiously. Her hand bravely reached out and clasped his even tighter. “No! That’s why I said… I saw him again… tonight! Don’t go out until morning, please. I don’t want him to kill you too.”

Haldir stared at her. It took him a full minute to realize Aragorn was calling him.

“Uh – Halbarad?”

“Faline!” the innkeeper barked and the girl jumped, blushing furiously.

“I was warning him ’bout the ghost, sir!”

“What have I told you? Don’t go talking about that trash! Bad for business.” Fabor crossed the room in six strides, gave her a smart tap across the face and slammed the door after her. Turning to his guests, he smiled sheepishly. “Hope she didn’t trouble you, sir. Touched in the head. Always has been. Having funny turns – don’t know what I’ll do with her. Come on, I’ll show you to your rooms.”

The shared room was sparsely furnished but clean. A well-stocked fire leant a bit of cheer to the drab whitewashed walls.

Fabor’s voice intruded on their examination as he fumbled with his pipe in the doorway. “If the accommodations are to your liking and once you get settled in, the crowd’s not big but they’d be obliged for your company downstairs. Been a long while since any of us have heard a good tale or any real news.” Still peeping curiously at the friendly ranger’s tall companion, he withdrew with a slight bow.

It took some convincing but Aragorn managed to persuade Haldir to join him downstairs at least for a little while. It was too early to go to bed yet. Though rain lashed the windows with all the fury of an angry troll, the common room was smoky and warm with Fabor steadily banking the fire with pine logs and the five or six remaining patrons comfortably settled on their stools.

Haldir toyed with the handle of the promised cider without tasting it as Aragorn stared at him incredulously.

“So, she told you a ghost haunted the inn?” The word touched a memory in Aragorn and he frowned trying to retrieve it as he questioned his friend.

Haldir sighed. This was the third time he had had to explain what the young lady had told him. Aragorn didn’t seem to believe it. “No. She said she saw him. Once. His eyes frightened her.”

“Do you believe in ghosts?” he pursued with a slightly twisted smile, leaning his elbows on the table.

Haldir met his gaze gravely. “There are things in this world – good and evil – that no one, no matter the length of their lives, can fully understand.”

“That’s a yes then?”

“Not entirely.” At the human’s exasperated frown, Haldir pushed his mug aside, careful to keep his voice lower than the usual chatter. “Ghosts as men believe them are but stories to scare small children into going to sleep early.”

“Elves don’t believe in ghosts?”

“I said not so,” Haldir corrected. “But there are not elven ghosts – at least not as men define them. Elves may die either in battle or by will and while most choose the haven of Valinor as the place for their spirit to reside, a very few do not. The Houseless are at once both more dangerous and more harmless than any ‘ghost’ Men can contrive. They wander the earth of their home and their birth, trying to recapture their lost lives. Men cannot see them though they can feel their presence. To try to commune with them or use them for your own purposes is both dangerous and wicked.” He flashed a glance over Aragorn’s shoulder. “Of course there are those who would say that even communing with living Elves is much the same.”

“Elves, ghosts – it’s all fairy talk for the bitty babies.” One of the few patrons behind Aragorn had overheard their conversation and put the question to his companions. His own half-empty mug had been often refilled that night. “No sense in listenin’ to those.”

“What about the men who’ve gone missing? You don’t think that’s ghost work?” one of his gang voiced doubtfully with a sideways glance at the two strangers’ table. “What about Taren then – if the ghost didn’t get him? Or Chaven? Or Pegix! What happened to them, eh?”

“Idiots got on the wrong side of bad folk,” the drunkard dismissed, sloshing ale over himself with more than unsteadiness could explain. He set his mug down. “Bad folk. That’s all. Bandits and sich. Can’t mess with those folk…”

“Bandits rob or kill you fast, dump your carcass in a ditch. Not cut you up like a pig and leave you bleeding to death in the middle of the woods.”

“Those woods is a bad place.” The drunkard still shook his head, rotating his ale between his hands.

“There have been a lot of these disappearances then?” Aragorn couldn’t help asking, remembering their own vivid encounter with bandits just that morning.

The man who had first refuted the drunk’s argument looked over at him and gnawed his lower lip before replying, “Often enough. Young men mostly. They leave town for a day or two – go up to the woods to cut firewood or hunt. They don’t come back. We’ve stopped sending out parties to find ’em – ended up losing more men than we found.” He shook his head and rubbed his neck thoughtfully. A razor-thin scar stood out starkly against his tanned skin, curving under one ear and just missing the life-giving artery pulsing in his throat. He waved away their interested looks and took a swig from his tankard.

“If you’re really curious, ask Dark Car. She knows more about it than anyone I’ve ever met. Some say probably too much.”

“Dark Car?”

He pointed.

Beside the fire in an ashen corner sat a swarthy woman, her tunic showing signs of wear but still functional, her permanently mud-colored boots resting on the chair opposite her as she tilted her own back on two legs. As though hearing her name, she turned her head. Her sharp, slanted eyes gleamed like a wolf’s. Tangled black hair down to her shoulders showed premature grey at the temples.

The scarred man continued, ignoring her stare. “Right she-devil she is. She’s wasted her life actually looking for the thing. Death wish out in these parts. Dangerous enough as it is without courting trouble…” He hastily let his chair legs come down with a clatter and focused on his abandoned meal.

Aragorn suddenly felt eyes burning the back of his neck and twisted in his seat. The swarthy woman had approached their table and she was staring at his hooded companion with hostile curiosity in her coal-colored eyes.

“I heard you talking to Zaren,” she said in greeting. Her voice was oddly raspy as though ill-used or not at all.

“He told us you were something of an expert on ghosts,” Aragorn said, trying to direct her attention away from his companion. He failed.

But she did snort at his words with a sideways glance at Zaren who cowered in his seat. “Called me a she-devil more likely. They say the ghost drifts from town to town, leaving the dried husks of young men in his wake. Any who live to see him – and there aren’t many – say he has demon-eyes, hidden by a long cloak.” Her persistent stare swept over Haldir.

Aragorn laughed but his eyes were wary, his face tense. “If we suspected everyone who wears a cloak we’d never trust anyone when it rained.”

“I don’t think it’s a ghost,” she continued as though she hadn’t heard him. She never took her gleaming eyes from Haldir who remained perfectly still, seeming untroubled by her close scrutiny. “But ghost or not, I’ll find him, I promise you that.”

The drunkard who hadn’t been listening to a word save the last laughed heartily. “You’re full of dung, Dark Car! No sense at all in hunting ghosts!”

Fabor, scenting imminent broken furniture, hastily intervened. “Now that’s enough, Carlóme. Leave them alone. They’ve paid and they’re staying as long as they want. Go back to your drink, on the house.”

The dark woman surveyed the bony ostler through narrowed eyes. Whirling about swiftly, she stalked back to her corner, downed her glass in one, long swallow and quit the room.

Fabor shook his head after her. “Willful creature. She’ll come to a bad end if she keeps going like she is.”

Haldir stood up, hurriedly followed by Aragorn. “I think it best if we retired for the night as well.”

A short time later, the elf captain slid his saber under the bed and lay down still fully clothed on the lumpy mattress. For a while he simply stared at the darkbeam ceiling, his mind churning with troubling thoughts and all he had heard. He was still awake when Aragorn’s long, even breaths filled the room and the fire died low.

Author’s Notes: Reviews make me smile. Even more if they’re helpful criticism.

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