Do You Trust Me?|
I don't own the characters or places in this tale. They were created by JRR Tolkien and this is a non-profit fanfic.
Rain had been coming down steadily for most of the day and Aragorn was soaked to his skin. He took another squelching step and hoisted the sodden pack higher on his back. Fortunately, this was a trail he knew well. There was a deep overhang just beyond the next corner that would provide some shelter and he had been pushing hard to reach it for the past hour.
Grabbing the edge of his hood to stop it blowing back as he turned a corner into the wind, he ducked his head, trying to see through the rain now relentlessly driving into his eyes. For a moment the imagined sound of singing brought him up short. Then the wind dropped and he realised that it was not imagined as the voice grew more distinct. It was a light clear elven voice singing in Sindarin, although with an accent strange to him. Surely none of Imladris' folk would be abroad in this weather, for one of the hidden entrances to the valley was only a couple of hours distant. Indeed, were he not already exhausted by pushing through this weather, Aragorn would have eschewed the nearer shelter in hopes of reaching it by nightfall.
Curious, he pressed on until the broad overhang finally came into view. Now he saw that within its shelter another traveller had fashioned a quite comfortable camp, under the circumstances. The campsite thief had his back to Aragorn and was swathed in a thick cloak of close woven and very obviously high quality fabric. He held himself with the unmistakeably straight backed poise of an elf.
Aragorn took another squelching step closer and the other's head whipped around, hands moving so quickly that the man, even used to elves as he was, did not see the arrow nocked to bow until the point was poised inches from his left eye. He stepped back, open hands raised placatingly. “Peace, friend. I only wish to share your refuge for a while.”
“What business have you on this path, mortal?” The title of, 'mortal' was spoken in a way that suggested a strong dislike and the stranger's bright blue eyes narrowed, the arrow following Aragorn's movements very precisely.
Aragorn was wet. Aragorn was exceedingly wet. Aragorn could not recall a time when he had been fully clothed and wetter. One of Aragorn's boots had a hole, letting in more water. Aragorn was tired and now a complete stranger was questioning his right to walk the path to his home of many years. His patience was running thin. “My business is my own and I may ask the same of you. Why do you walk this path? You are not one of Elrond's folk.” When the elf only frowned he let out an exasperated sigh and advanced again, until the arrow almost touched the precise point between his ribs that would have driven it into his heart. A detached part of Aragorn's mind had to give him points for his knowledge of anatomy. “Can we at least discuss this with both of us under shelter? You outmatch me, even on one of my good days, and I assure you this is not one of them. I am no threat to an elf.”
A moment longer Aragorn was held at bay then the archer slowly lowered his bow, sliding the arrow back in it's quiver at his side. The sodden ranger took that as permission and stepped closer, dropping to the ground beneath the overhang with a loud splat. Pushing back his hood he leaned against the wall and took a deep, relieved breath. “My name is Aragorn, son of Arathorn of the northern Dunedain.”
For a long moment he thought his reluctant companion was not going to speak but eventually the well modulated but heavily accented voice replied, “My name is Legolas and I hail from Thranduil's realm.”
“Ahhh. That explains your accent. I have not had occasion to meet any of your people before. It is unusual to see you so far afield. What brings you to Imladris, for I assume that is your destination?” Aragorn fished in his pack and pulled out a soggy packet of cram. When Legolas declined his invitation to share it he decided he could hardly blame him for it was swiftly turning into porridge.
“You have not yet told me your reason to be on this path, Aragorn, son of Arathorn of the northern Dunadain,” was the disdainful reply.
Aragorn hoped the rain would stop soon for this conversation was already becoming tiresome. “Aragorn will suffice. I have been travelling abroad and am returning to the place where I was raised, to take some much needed rest.”
“You were raised in Imladris? But you are a mortal.” The elf waved a hand in the general direction of Aragorn's bearded jaw.
“Yes. I am a mortal but I am also a ranger.” Here he pointed to the silver star pinned to his grey cloak. “Lord Elrond allows the rangers refuge when requested. My mother and I were brought here by Lord Elrond's sons when I was but two years old. I lived here for eighteen years as child and youth.”
The elf fished in his belt pouch and produced two small, dry pieces of lembas, one of which Aragorn accepted gratefully. “Just one bite,” Legolas warned.
“I have eaten lembas before,” Aragorn snipped, but he took the suggested bite and then tucked the rest in an inner pocket of his jerkin. He had no doubt, given the sodden state of his clothing, that it would be slop by the time he tried another bite, but it would have seemed churlish to hand it back. At least it tasted much better than the now porridged cram that he had purchased from a group of dwarves several days ago. “I have told you my business but you have still not told me what brings you so far from your home, Legolas of Thranduil's realm.”
The wind was beginning to drop and Legolas pushed back his hood to reveal a head of bright golden hair, drawn back into a tight plait at his crown. Aragorn's brows rose for most of Thranduil's folk were brown of hair. Only those of the ruling house had pale hair, like the King of the Woodland Realm. That was when rumour and forgotten fact suddenly drew together. “You are son and heir to the king,” he announced in mild surprise.
Legolas' blue gaze dropped to where he was plaiting some leather strips. “That is irrelevant. I am simply a protector of our lands, a warrior if you will. Unlike mortals, among elven-kind birth does not necessarily result in the assumption of leadership.”
Aragorn considered this statement for a moment. His own birthright had fallen to him because his father was dead. When one's father was an immortal, the likelihood of taking up his mantle would be rare. Aragorn knew that this was precisely how Thranduil had acquired his throne, however, when his father, Oropher had been killed before the Black Gates, and he felt some sorrow that they should live in such times.
Legolas continued to plait and Aragorn found his smile returning for Legolas Thranduillion had still managed to ignore his question. He tried again. “Do you travel for pleasure or on your sire's business?” he asked whilst bending to tug off his boot. Upon it's removal Legolas reared back in alarm and even Aragorn grimaced when he inhaled. “My spare socks have too many holes so I have been wearing these for several days,” he offered in apology.
Legolas shifted a little upwind. “In the dark I could have mistaken you for an orc with that odour.” He tilted his head and his words were softened by a twinkle in his bright blue eyes. “But I do not suppose I smell of roses either. I have been on the road for some days, with letters from my father to Lord Elrond.”
Aragorn fished among the sodden contents of his pack. He was not about to tell the elf that he smelled of clean rain and newly unfurled leaves. He finally produced a small piece of leather, which he offered up to the hole in his boot sole. Finding it a close enough fit he began to push it down inside. “I hope all is well in Mirkw . . . in your father's kingdom.”
Using a fine white handled dagger, Legolas pierced a hole on either side of the neck of his cloak and began to thread the new plaited cord through, drawing the two edges closed. That was when Aragorn noticed, on the ground by Legolas' knee, a fine golden brooch in the shape of a cluster of oak leaves, its clasp snapped. It seemed that both had suffered their share of wardrobe malfunctions.
“Even some of my own people have taken to calling it Mirkwood of late. Although should you ever have occasion to visit the Woodland Realm I do not recommend doing so within the king's presence. We had hoped that the downfall of Dol Guldur would help but matters are improving only slowly, if at all. It is the opinion of many that Mirkwood will become Greenwood again only with the utter destruction of the Dark Lord.”
Having got the leather patch situated over the hole Aragorn began to tug his boot on. “I hope we shall both live to see that day,” he offered earnestly.
Legolas leaned out to look at the sky. “The rain has stopped and Arnor chases away the clouds at last. If we hurry we may reach Imladris before nightfall. I, for one, look forward to a hot bath and a soft bed. I understand that Lord Elrond is most hospitable.”
Aragorn levered himself upward, grimacing as the dying wind tugged his wet cloak, to flap it against his equally wet trousers. “You will get no argument from me. Unlike my foster brothers, I have no inclination to spend the night fighting off orcs if it may be avoided. These mountains are riddled with their noisome dens and they come out to play once the sun goes down.”
Legolas unfolded his long, lean length with ease, pausing to settle his quiver and bending to collect his beautiful recurved bow before leading the way from their shelter.
“Have a care just up ahead. The path runs along the edge of a deep gorge so keep to the grassed area close in to the cliff wall where you can. All that rain may have weakened the edge and there was a rock slide near here only last month,” Aragorn called.
“You travel this path often?” Legolas asked, waiting for Aragorn to catch up.
“As I said, I was raised in Imladris but spent many years in the south. I have only recently returned to these lands but I have been travelling this path more frequently of late.”
The two set off in single file. Around the corner the path appeared to widen, even providing space for the rooting of a small, weather blasted tree. Unfortunately, the tree and its roots necessitated that they step closer to the edge of the drop to their left. Legolas exhibited no fear, leaning far forward to examine the view below, where the river Bruinnen rushed and tumbled through her narrow gorge.
Aragorn was more tentative in his attitude, preferring to remain close to the tree. Unfortunately, he did not take into account that he was heavier than an elf. A crack in the soil beneath his left foot suddenly lengthened and before he had time to make a grab for the bole of the tree, Aragorn found himself sliding down, down, down, in a shower of mud and rock.
Legolas threw himself upon the remaining grass at the edge of the cliff. “Give my your hand,” he called, stretching out his own.
In his wild flailing Aragorn had managed to grab the slender trunk of a sapling that grew out almost horizontally from the rock face a few feet below, but his weight had been so sharply arrested by one arm that he had screamed as he felt ligaments tear in his shoulder. It was sheer desperation that allowed him to hold on for the precious seconds required to throw his other hand about the sapling before the first gave way. Now he grimaced, dangling from his one good hand. “I cannot.”
“Reach,” the elf demanded more insistently this time.
“I cannot.” Aragorn repeated angrily. “I have injured my shoulder.”
Legolas took a deep breath as he apparently considered the problem. Aragorn's fingers were beginning to turn white, where they gripped the slender trunk of the sapling. It was clear that he would not be able to hold on for much longer. It was equally clear that if he let go he would fall to certain death in the chasm below.
Hooking both feet behind an obliging root from the tree which still clung tenaciously to the remnants of the grassy ledge, Legolas leaned out even further. To Aragorn's surprise he managed to grab the ranger's wrist but from that angle Aragorn knew it would be impossible to hoist him all the way up to the path. Now his violet gaze caught Aragorn's. “Do you trust me?”
There was a question. They had known each other for less than an hour and their meeting had not exactly been auspicious. But now, as Aragorn looked deep into the violet eyes of his would-be rescuer, he saw only strength and honesty. He swallowed in a dry throat before confessing, “Yes. I think I do.”
Legolas suddenly grinned and dimples flashed. It echoed the world around them, where the sun had broken out after the storm. “Good. Then let go.” Aragorn was suddenly reminded that Wood Elves were more impulsive than the Noldor who had raised him.
“First tell me what you intend to do. I have no wish to be the one advising King Thranduil that I am responsible for the death of his only son.”
Legolas tilted his head, a strange action when seen upside down. “If I die, it is likely you will too. So that is not really a problem, is it?” His dimples deepened and his eyes sparkled with what Aragorn could only assume was amusement. “Let go.” He actually seemed to be enjoying the situation.
Going against the advice of every brain cell in his head, Aragorn closed his eyes, held his breath and let go. Several astonished seconds later he let out his breath and opened his eyes. Legolas was still grinning, although Aragorn noted that his breathing had deepened. He looked down at the misty canyon floor below and then swiftly up again as the world began to spin dizzyingly.
“Do not look down,” Legolas instructed unnecessarily. “I understand that it can induce dizziness in some mortals.”
“I had noticed,” Aragorn replied with all the sarcasm he could muster whilst hanging by one hand over a long drop.
“Then you had better look up instead, as that is where we are heading.”
“And how are We going to do that?” Aragorn asked. To his amazement he suddenly found himself moving upward, until he was high enough for Legolas to place his other hand around Aragorn's forearm.
Legolas's words were now muffled but clear enough. “Grab hold of my quiver harness. Then you should be able to get some purchase on the rock face with your feet. Use my body to pull yourself up with your good arm.”
“This is madness,” Aragorn hissed through teeth clenched with effort and pain. Nonetheless, he grabbed the strong leather of Legolas' quiver harness and then searched around for footholds. As the young elf had promised there were plenty and, leaning in closely to Legolas' strong body, he risked letting go with his one good hand for long enough to make a grab for Legolas' belt and then a handhold in the rock. All of his foster brother's instructions, about keeping three points of contact with the surface you were climbing, floated into his mind, and were quickly discarded in the need to reach safety by whatever means possible.
Several minutes later he threw himself, gasping, upon the thin grass of the now much reduced meadow and was so relieved to be there that he forgot all about Legolas until he heard his name being called.
“Aragorn? Are you safe?”
He rolled onto his back to reply and that was when he realised that Legolas was still dangling by his feet, over the edge. He scrambled on hand and knees, as close as he dared, to look down. “I am well, Legolas. But how will you get up?”
Even as he asked Legolas plummeted past him.
“Noooo!!!!!” Aragorn grabbed at empty air.
But he had forgotten that Legolas was an elf. More than that, Legolas was a Wood Elf, quite used to performing aerial acrobatics. One moment he was hanging from the same sapling that had been Aragorn's saviour and then Legolas was clambering nimbly up the cliff face like some fly on a wall. When he reached the top he stood, straightening his clothing as he tilted his head to grin down at his companion. “That was fun.”
Now that the initial shock was fading all Aragorn's injuries began to scream for attention and all he had strength to do was slam his fist upon Legolas' foot. Legolas did not even flinch, instead kneeling at Aragorn's side to ask, “Where are you hurt?”
Aragorn allowed his rescuer to help him sit. Where was he not hurt? Most of his clothing was torn and bloodied from several long scratches and he knew that his body would be black and blue on the morrow. These were minor inconveniences however. “My left shoulder. I think my arm was torn from it's socket when I grabbed the tree,” he wheezed, cradling it close to his chest.
Legolas probed at the injury and Aragorn concentrated upon not yelping. This Mirkwood warrior certainly had not the healers hands of Elrond so it was some relief when Legolas sat back on his heels. “You are correct. The arm has been pulled from the socket. If it were just that I would attempt to put it back.” When Aragorn drew away in alarm the grin returned. “I have done so before. But I think some of the ligaments holding it have been torn. This will need a healer's skill.”
Aragorn made to rise. “We had best move on quickly, then. My foster father is skilled in these matters.”
Legolas stayed him with a firm hand upon his good shoulder. “I cannot repair it but I can make it more comfortable and provide some relief from the pain.” He removed his cloak and methodically began ripping the beautiful fabric into broad strips. These he wrapped about Aragorn's torso and shoulder, binding the useless arm close across the man's chest.
Aragorn wondered at his companion's promise to relieve his pain for he found the whole process quite excruciating. Elves were more impervious to pain so Legolas no doubt did not realise just how much discomfort he was causing. Aragorn recognised the wisdom of the actions however and gritted his teeth to fight a rising nausea. So hard was he concentrating upon fighting the pain that he was aware of little else until gentle but determined fingers prized open his jaw and deposited some leaves upon his tongue. Legolas' voice seemed to come from a great distance as he ordered, “Chew and swallow.”
Aragorn complied, closing his eyes once he had done so, in order to bring his breathing under control . For some time he was aware of little else and then the pain began to recede. When he opened his eyes it was to find that Legolas was sitting, cross-legged, at his side, supporting him with an arm about his back. When he noted Aragorn's eyes opening he smiled brightly. “Good. Now that you are feeling better we can go on.” He arose in one enviably fluid movement and leaned down to offer his companion a hand up.
Deciding this was no time for pride, Aragorn accepted, staggering as he was drawn up so quickly that his shoulder protested again and he had to pause to take a few deep breaths. Painful as it was, he decided it would be churlish to question Legolas' assertion that he was feeling better. 'Better' was, after all, a relative term. He certainly felt better than he had done, hanging by one hand over a mile long drop.
Legolas collected his gear again, moving ahead, and Aragorn sighed as he realised that his own pack was probably tumbling down the river a mile below them. That more or less ensured that resting here for the night was out of the question. He would freeze before morning, if the orcs did not get to him first. Drawing a careful breath he turned to follow his rescuer.
At the end of two hours Aragorn came up short, nearly bumping into his companion's back. For the past hour his pain had been building again and the world had narrowed to the bobbing sight of Legolas' quiver before him. Now he blinked, looking up in time to see the sun sinking in a fiery orange glow behind the mountain peaks. Legolas turned, reaching out to swiftly, as the injured man swayed alarmingly.
Aragorn finally noted that he was frowning. “What is it?”
Legolas indicated the rock face close at their side. “I could find the entrance on my own but it would be quicker if you pointed it out.”
Bringing his sluggish mind under control, Aragorn nodded. “Yes. Give me a moment.”
Legolas waited patiently while the mortal looked about them, obviously attempting to get his bearings. Finally Aragorn waved ahead with his good hand. “A few yards further along. There is a long narrow cleft in the rock. From this direction you won't see it until you have passed it. If you reach the gorse bush you have gone too far.”
“Stay close behind me,” Legolas instructed as he started forward again. Several steps further, however, he turned. “Are you certain that you remember this correctly? I see no cleft or gorse bush.”
Aragorn sighed. “Just a little further. Trust me.”
Legolas' eyes narrowed but after a moment's consideration he continued. Sure enough, just as they rounded another outcropping, the gorse bush came into view and when they turned to look back the narrow darkness of the cleft was visible.
“Thank the Valar,” Aragorn breathed as he swayed again and Legolas had to catch him.
“Let us hope that Elrond has set a guard for I do not relish having to carry you alone for the length of a potentially very long valley.” Legolas led his companion through the opening and into a dim passage that swept away to their right, the warrior in him noting the clever strategy of it. Most folk were right handed so the curve gave an advantage to any defender wielding a sword.
Two of those defenders now stepped into view, one with bow drawn and the other holding a long, elegantly curved sword. Legolas did not let go of his companion but remained perfectly still, knowing well enough that the precious seconds needed to push Aragorn aside, so that he could draw his own weapons, would be all the time these warriors needed to gut him.
Legolas adopted his calmest mien. “I am Legolas of the Woodland Realm and this is Aragorn, son of Arathorn. I am sent on a mission to bring word to Lord Elrond and found this ranger upon the path.”
Aragorn had not the strength nor the inclination to point out that it had been the other way around.
The sword was lowered and its wielder stepped forward to slip a hand beneath Aragorn's chin and look into his battered face. “Estel? Is it you! What has happened?”
The archer did not slacken his bow, instead moving to the side to ensure that he had a shot around his companion if necessary. Legolas' attention was drawn back to Aragorn, who at present seemed incapable of answering. Indeed, he was leaning ever more heavily into Legolas' support. “He fell and wrenched his shoulder. It should be tended swiftly if he is to regain full use of the arm.”
The swordsman made to relieve him of his burden but Legolas drew Aragorn closer. “I would see him to Lord Elrond's care myself.”
When the other made to ignore him Aragorn managed to raise his head again, his voice thin but sure. “I trust him. He has seen me safe thus far, Erestor. Without his aid I would be dead.” With those words Aragorn's eyes rolled up and he sank bonelessly into Legolas' supporting arms.
Legolas hoisted him up against his chest, muttering, “It seems I shall have to carry you the length of the valley after all.” And thus it was Legolas who handed over an insensible Aragorn into Elrond's caring hands a short time later.
Aragorn followed the sound of singing. There were many singers in the valley of Imladris but only one with that accent.
The leaves were long, the grass was green,
The hemlock-umbels tall and fair,
And in the glade a light was seen
Of stars in shadow shimmering,
Tinuviel was dancing there
To music of a pipe unseen,
And light of stars was in her hair,
And in her raiment glimmering. *
It took some minutes for Aragorn to actually find the singer but he eventually spied him sitting high in a venerable oak. “Good day, Legolas Thranduillion,” he called.
Legolas paused, then grinned when he saw Aragorn below him. The ranger's heart stopped as the young elf leapt from his perch, landing on another branch far below only long enough to gather himself to leap again. When he arrived nimbly, inches from Aragorn, he was not even breathing deeply. “It is good to see you up and about, mortal.”
Aragorn found that he was smiling in response to Legolas' vibrant grin. “Adar is one of the best healers in Middle earth.” He nodded toward a stone bench and they sat together. “What made you sing that particular song?”
Legolas tilted his head in a way Aragorn was beginning to recognise as totally his. “I suppose I was considering Lord Elrond's heritage. Why do you ask? And why do you call him Father?”
“My father was slain by orcs when I was only two years old. Elrond is the only true father I have ever known.” Aragorn's eyes darkened. “Although we are perhaps not now as close as once we were.”
They sat in companionable silence for several moments, enjoying the sunshine, before Aragorn took a deep breath and fixed on a smile. “Adar tells me you intend to depart soon.”
Legolas looked about them, drinking in the tall clean trees, the verdant smell of greenery, the distant rumble of the falls and soft, liquid birdsong. “I would love to stay longer for there is a great peace here. But I must return to my own people. My bow is needed there and I must carry Lord Elrond's reply to my father.”
Aragorn noticed for the first time that Legolas did not carry bow or quiver and wondered if walking out of doors without fear of attack would seem a paradise to him. “You know that you are welcome to return, do you not? I believe Adar actually likes you,” he added with a twinkle.
Legolas threw back his head and laughed softly. “For a Noldo, I find him good company too. And, yes, he has invited me to return whenever I wish.” His bright blue gaze took in the scenery again. “I may take him up on his offer but for now my king expects me.”
When he would have stood Aragorn touched his sleeve. “If you can wait for just a couple more days we could travel together. I have never seen the Woodland Realm.”
Legolas looked him up and down, no doubt noting that, although his companion no longer carried his arm in a sling, he still favour it slightly. “Will you be fit enough to travel so soon? It was my understanding that men do not heal as swiftly as elves.”
Now it was Aragorn who laughed. “I am not made of porcelain. We heal swiftly enough and the Dunadain more swiftly than others. I will keep up with you. Have no fear.”
“I look forward to seeing you make good on that statement.”
Aragorn's brows rose. “Is that a 'yes'?”
Legolas chuckled, slapping him playfully on the back, his voice full of mischief as her replied, “It is. I think I would enjoy your company and I shall be interested to see my Adar's face when I drag home a stray mortal.”
Upon his balcony, far above them, Elrond smiled. It seemed a new trust was forging between man and elf.
*The Lay of Beren and Luthien – JRR Tolkien