Approximately one year before the Fellowship
The last rays of the setting sun cast a golden glow over the valley and turned the forest ordering the elven realm of Rivendell into a dark shadow across the clearing.
A small company of orcs milled uneasily at the trees' edge, waiting for the last of the light to disappear before moving under cover of darkness.
The lone elf hidden in the shadow of a displaced boulder had no intention of ever letting them break camp.
Even as the orcs shifted in eager anticipation of the coming night, the golden-haired elf was nocking an arrow to his bow and sighting the largest of their company; their leader.
There was no warning before the Uruk Hai once called Nguzt fell, an arrow piercing his head through his left eye. He was dead before he ever hit the ground.
An enraged roar assaulted elven ears as the archer nocked another arrow and felled another orc.
It was almost humorous to watch the lumbering beasts stumble around in confusion, not knowing where the threat came from as they dropped like flies.
In less than five minutes, the archer had reduced the small company of twenty orcs to none, without ever betraying his position.
As the last of Sauron's minions fell to the ground, Tinnûvion moved from the shadow of the boulder he'd used to cover his position and gave a grim smile as he double-checked his count of orcs.
None had escaped.
Satisfied that Rivendell would be remain unbothered this night, the golden-haired elf turned away from the elven realm, making his way back into the wilds.
The only evidence of his presence left was the arrows he'd left in the bodies of the orcs he'd killed.
"The orcs have fallen silent," a dark-haired Noldor murmured quietly.
His brother, his twin, gave a nod. He, too, had wondered at the beasts' sudden quietness.
One of the border patrol had reported the orcs' presence a few hours earlier. It seemed the beasts were merely waiting for the sun to set before moving onward, ostensibly to Imladris itself.
As they departed the forest, Elladan and Elrohir froze, staring in astonishment at the carnage laid at their feet.
Twenty orcs lay dead on the ground, in positions that suggested they had been attacked unawares and not been able to fight back.
Elrohir frowned, snapping the shaft of one of the arrows.
"This is the work of an elf," he said. "But, I do not recognize the fletching, or the markings."
Elladan took the shaft from his brother, examining the small tengwar inscription that marked the arrow's owner.
"There is no elf in Arda called Tinnû," he murmured, confused.
Elrohir gave a shrug. "Perhaps Ada will recognize it."
Elladan nodded, tucking the arrow shaft into his own quiver and starting back into the forest. "We'll have to send back a patrol to take care of the bodies. Ada will kill us if they attract scavengers."
His brother laughed. "A few wargs never hurt anyone!"
Elladan's only answer was a snort and light cuff to the back of Elrohir's head.
One year after the destruction of the Ring
Tinnûvion nearly slid from his horse's back, saved from a bad fall only by his mount's instinctive shifting of weight to account for his rider's imbalance.
The trees bordering Rivendell were within view, and Tinnûvion closed his eyes momentarily in relief that there was an end to his journey in sight. "Noro lim, Arasûl," he murmured, clinging to his horse's mane to stay astride the loyal beast.
Sensing that his master's strength was fading, Arasûl broke into a smooth gallop, moving as quickly as he was able without jolting the injured elf from his back.
Horse and rider had been through many a battle together, standing with only each other as companions against the dark hordes of orcs and wargs that plagued Arda while Sauron fought to reclaim his grasp on Middle Earth.
Even now, a year after the One Ring had been destroyed, his minions still roamed, slaughtering at will while they could, now that their Dark Lord had fallen.
It was almost worse than before Sauron's final defeat. At least with the Dark Lord stirring in the East, the orcs had some purpose, and one could anticipate where they might attack.
With no one leading them, and no cause or common goal, there was no reason or pattern to where the remainders of the dark forces would go. There was no way to prepare in advance for their appearance, and those who were charged with protecting the free peoples of Middle Earth were suffering for it.
Not so much in battle, as in arriving after the orcs and wargs had gone, leaving devastation and carnage in their wake.
Tinnûvion had chanced upon a small force of the fell beasts in the foothills of the Misty Mountains. They had simply seemed to spring from within the ground itself.
Later, he had realized that they dug furrows into the weaker rock, and were laying in wait for unfortunate travelers.
Unused to dealing with orcs that had something resembling strategy, and quite taken off guard, Tinnûvion had taken a black arrow through his right shoulder.
Fortunately, he'd been consumed by adrenaline at the time of battle, and was able to kill the orcs without much further injury, though he'd taken a nasty gash from an orc's scimitar along one calf, and Arasûl had taken a minor warg-bite on his left hind-flank.
Normally, the journey to Rivendell would've taken at most five days from the foothills of the Misty Mountains. But, Tinnûvion had lost at least one day to unconsciousness after the battle was over and his body forcibly shut down to attempt to heal.
In fact, if not for Arasûl giving a none-too-gentle bite to Tinnûvion's uninjured shoulder, the elf might not have woken up at all.
Now, Tinnûvion was certain there had been poison on either the arrow that was still embedded in his shoulder, or the scimitar that had gashed his calf.
He had been burning hot, then icy cold, off and on for the past five days, and had recently begun having trouble with his eyesight and hearing.
Not trusting his senses any longer, Tinnûvion relied solely on Arasûl's perceptions. Thus far, the horse had remained relaxed and unconcerned the many times Tinnûvion had been utterly certain he heard wargs or orc-speech. It was rather disturbing to have ones mind playing tricks on him.
At the moment, it was taking all of his failing strength to keep himself on Arasûl's back, despite the fact that he could feel the horse shifting beneath him as his balance wavered. He would have to reward his mount greatly for that. It could not be easy to run while constantly having to compensate for a wavering rider who couldn't even make up his mind which way to lean.
Legolas Thranduilion had been lazing about in the Hall of Fire with the Noldor twins of Imladris when one of the border guard interrupted them, appearing quite disturbed.
Despite attempting to calm the elf down, it became apparent that they were going to get no sense from him, and so the trio left him behind and went to see what mysterious rider had managed to make the normally unshakable guard lose his senses.
It didn't take long to draw near enough the uninvited visitor that they could hear the horse's hurried gait, and more disturbingly, the uneven breaths of its rider.
Quickly taking up positions in the trees, Elladan and Elrohir drew their bows and waited, prepared to cover Legolas' back should their visitor prove unfriendly.
As the rider came into view, however, their arms dropped to their sides in shock, and it suddenly made sense that the guard had not been able to speak coherently.
The rider's horse came to a stop in front of Legolas, and the twins frowned as the elven rider nearly fell before the stallion shifted his weight to compensate and keep the elf mounted, though he seemed unable to keep his balance.
Despite his now-visible injuries, the blonde elf still managed to draw down on Legolas, who instinctively followed suit, though the Silvan prince was every bit as shocked by their visitor as the twins were, and the guard before them.
Tinnûvion was oblivious to the confusion his appearance was stirring, as his sight was blurred to the point he could barely make out the shape of a blonde elf in front of him, and could not make his eyes focus on details enough to do more than point his bow in the other being's general direction and hope he didn't miss if it came down to it.
Arasûl was tense beneath him, muscles tightly coiled in readiness to defend his injured master, though Tinnûvion could feel a strange bit of confusion and uncertainty from his mount.
"Sîdh, Arasûl," he murmured quietly, voice faint. The horse gave a soft nicker of distress, shifting to one side as Tinnûvion's balance failed yet again. It was a miracle he'd stayed on the horse thus far, he knew.
Now that no one was speaking, or making a threatening move, Tinnûvion's shoulder was burning with agony again, making his finger's spasm uncontrollably so that he was forced to point the bow away from whoever stood in front of him on the path to Rivendell unless he wanted to release his arrow purely by accident.
Tinnûvion grimaced as he heard his arrow thump into the ground forcefully as his spasming fingers loosed it, but he was at least grateful he'd lowered the bow before it happened.
Better to shoot the ground like an untried child than shoot someone by mistake.
He tried to focus his vision on the golden blur in front of him, but could not. Worse, there were now bright and dark flashes in his eyes and he had a bad feeling he was about to pass out, if the sudden light-headedness was any indication. "Saes, sîdh," he managed, then the darkness consumed his vision, and the last he felt was a strangely disturbing sensation of falling.
Elladan and Elrohir abandoned their posts in the trees as the injured elf finally fell from his horse, Legolas barely managing to catch him before he hit the ground.
Despite the strangeness and gravity of the situation, Elladan nudged the Silvan prince and flashed a brief smirk.
"You should see the look on your face."
Legolas managed a wan smile in response to the teasing, before turning his attention back to the unexpected visitor.
Some part of him, jaded by the war, didn't want to believe what was before his eyes, and yet it couldn't quash the thin tendril of hope that had begun to bloom in his chest.
He lay a hand lightly on the injured elf's forehead, grimacing. "He is burning. The arrow must be poisoned," he said, sighing.
Legolas stood carefully and approached the strange elf's horse. "Can you bear us the rest of the way to Rivendell?" he questioned the beast, staring into large, intelligent brown eyes.
The stallion tossed his head, nickering impatiently, as if to hurry Legolas along with it.
Legolas swung onto the horse's back, Elrohir helping to lift the unconscious elf up in front of his conscious counterpart.
"Meet me at the Houses of Healing. I have a feeling he will need all of the skills your father taught you," Legolas said, nudging the horse into a fast canter.