Survey results & NEW RULES

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Fear

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picture challenge

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Out of Place

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No Time

Yes, I do

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Mmmmmmmm...

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In the Name of Love

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The Price of Freedom

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Crime and Punishment

"When I Was Your Age...!

Eat, Drink and Be Merry!

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Once Upon A Time

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Home is Where the Heart is

A Glimpse of the Future

That's a First

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The O. C.

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If I could turn back Time

Wanderlust

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White Lie

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Drabbles

What If ...?

One Title: Your Story

A Fairy Tale, Middle-Earth style

Games People Play

Friends in Small Places

Proof enough by Chloe


Games People Play

Rating: G

No summary given

 

 





Proof Enough
“Aragorn?”
No answer. His head hurt. Three groggy minutes later, he tried again. “Aragorn?”
Again, no reply. His head really hurt. Perhaps he muttered the name a third time - he may have even dozed off - but after what at least seemed like five minutes or so, he pushed himself onto hands and knees and started crawling.
You know, Legolas, if you opened your eyes, you’d probably be able to see better he told himself blearily, almost chuckling at the ridiculousness of it. He opened his eyes. He blinked. Hard.
No, it was really just this dark. “Aragorn!” Now his voice was rising in panic. He wasn’t even sure the human was here. “Aragorn, if you can hear me, ans-” he felt something.
Stretching blindly out in the complete darkness, he felt something - someone - just in front of him. His fingers moved methodically over what lay just at eye-level, if he could see. Two boots, pant legs shoved into the tops, a belt (leather, triangle-shaped buckle), a shirt front (seven buttons), un-tucked, the clasp to a velvet cloak (in the shape of a horse’s head),
Legolas all ready knew who it was, somehow, but when his fingers traced the clasp, a wedding gift from Èowyn, his fingers made a dash to the figure’s face. He couldn’t feel his face, because of all the long hair draped in front of it, but he didn’t need to anyway.
“Aragorn,” he whispered, standing, and trying to better understand what position the human was in.
He seemed to be suspended about four feet above the ground, lying horizontally, with his back braced against the wall behind him. But- how was that possible? His hand flew all over the human’s body, searching for ropes, cords, chains, nets,nothing.
His arms! Where are his arms? He moved up closer to the man, and reached to his shoulders. Sure enough, his arms were pulled behind him. Legolas’ hands felt down his arms, until he suddenly felt dirt. What on earth,?
Aragorn’s arms appeared to be pulled back into the dirt wall behind him. Legolas arms made a wide arc over the body, searching for clues. His wrist hit something course- a rope! There was a rope dangling from the ceiling above. Aha,progress.
He followed the rope down- it led to Aragorn’s shirt- underneath Aragorn’s shirt. He quickly unbuttoned the two middle buttons, reaching inside to hopefully unknot the rope. Sure enough, it was tied to a,bone? Legolas’ hand moved curiously around inside the shirt. His hand shot out, and he darted to feel the figure’s face, this time through the hair.
A gasp escaped his throat, and he felt himself flying back, his fingers twitching in disgust at what they felt. A skeleton! He darted forward, while the nerve was still with him, and snatched the Rohan broach. This was Aragorn’s, which meant-
“Aragorn? Where are you, mellon-nin?!” His voice rose pitch as the thought of being stuck in the complete dark with some skeleton dressed as Aragorn sunk uncomfortably deep.
“You’re going to need to find him on your own, Legolas.”
The prince froze. The voice was far off - maybe from above? - and echoed several times around him.
“Who are you?!”
“You’re going to have to find Aragorn on your own. Can you do it?”
“Where is he?”
“I think you can, Legolas.”
“Where am I?”
“No, no answers, just one hint and three clues. The hint I’ll tell you; the clues you’ll have to find.”
“What do you want of me?”
“Stop asking questions, and listen. Here is your hint: do not take for granted what is given, but give to be taken what is granted.”
Legolas’ mind was working furiously. “Do not take for granted what is given, but- what is this, a game?” he spat.
“You could say that.”
“What are you trying to prove?”
No answer.
“Answer me!”
Silence.
Fine. Legolas murmured the hint under his breath several times, and set into the dark, arms outstretched. What on earth was going on? “Aragorn?” he called every once and awhile, stumbling through the seemingly endless darkness. It seemed to be pressing on his eyes, and the silenced deafened him. His senses were screaming to be used again, but he tried his best to silence them.
At last - long last - he saw the palest glow up ahead. He ran to it. He ended up climbing an impressive pile of rocks, and what felt like a half a mile of dirt slope, but with a sigh of unexplainable relief, he finally ran into full daylight, his eyes dilating wildly to take it in.
He breathed in the smell of cold wind for a few moments, and then turned to see where it was he’d been. Turning, he found himself standing at the mouth of a cave. No wonder his senses had been so panicked.
Yikes.
“Aragorn?” His eyes searched the small clearing at the cave’s mouth. He didn’t see anything- no wait, yes he did! He ran over the rocks and young mountain grass, to where there was a small flag fluttering in the wind at the end of a knobby stick, sandwiched between two great boulders.
He tore it down, and read quickly what was written in green ink across it. Follow The Green. The first clue, he assumed, and felt his heart fall. What,?
He looked around him. Green grass? There was no way to follow the grass, it was everywhere! Think, Legolas, think! Green,green,wait.
He reached into his pocket, and retrieved the Rohan broach. The horse had green gem eyes. Clue number two. Legolas looked up at the cave mouth,oh no.
But before he could let himself get nervous, he shoved the broach back in his pocket, and called “I’m coming, Estel!” and ran back into the permanent dark.
He stumbled through the gloom, once again panicked, but twice as determined now. After what seemed like an hour (it was so hard to keep track of time in the total darkness) his fumbling hands felt a rope, and his knees knocked against the skeleton.
The rattling sound of bones echoed through the emptiness, and Legolas wondered with a shiver how he ever mistook the dead form for Aragorn. Without a second thought, he stepped onto the bony figure, and started to climb the rope.
It started out easily; one hand in front of the other, with feet holding all the weight. But after awhile, Legolas’ limbs started to shake with the effort. “Aragorn,” he kept whispering, and determinedly climbed.
And then- his head hit earth. He blinked furiously, trying to get the grit out of his eyes, and reached up to be sure that was correct. Again, his hands brushed nothing but dirt. The rope led directly into earth!
“Aragorn?” Legolas cried, feeling suddenly discouraged again. He started to swing back and forth on the rope; thinking, perhaps, that it would shake the dirt above it away, and he could climb to his destination. In the process, however, his hands slipped on the falling dirt, and he started to fall like a rock.
His feet flew to the wall for support, and, amazingly, that they found some. Both boots were resting on a ledge of some kind in the wall. Legolas let himself down slowly, sliding onto the ledge, and found that it was more of another tunnel.
Once in, his hands scrambled for any kind of guidance as to where to go next. He found some. The elf’s delicate fingers brushed the dirt off the small, metal object he’d found; Clue number three. Barahir.
“Aragorn!” Legolas called, his heart pounding with excitement, as he pocketed the ring as well. He started to crawl down the dirt tunnel, and was wondering vaguely how completely filthy he probably looked now, when he felt a cold breeze on his face.
Light! He saw light! His crawl’s pace quickened, and finally, he came tumbling out into a dry, cold, but blessedly bright room. It took him a moment to realize why it was so bright, and then he realized the ceiling of the room was, in fact, almost all ice, which was letting the pale glow of the day outside in.
He stood to his feet, searching the dirt-and-rock floor for another clue. He didn’t see a clue, but he found one better. Across the room, there was a heap of rocks, piled roughly five feet high. On the pile of rocks, was a much wider, flat rock. As Legolas stared at the rock, attempting to make out the details of it in the dim lighting, he saw was distinctly looked like the tip of a boot leaning over the edge.
“Estel!” Legolas broke into a run, leaping the jagged rocks and attempting to make the distance between the two of them quickly yet unscathed. It wasn’t easy, the rock was at the peak of a virtual mountain of smallish boulders, but Legolas was determined, and managed to balance his way up the rocky hill.
He swung the rest of his body onto the flat rock, and felt it wobble just slightly underneath him. After a pause to make sure it was stable, he crawled towards the curled up figure lying across it. It was Aragorn, all right.
His hands were bound behind him, and there was a burlap sack over his head, but Legolas knew his friend when he saw him. “Hang on, Estel,” he urged, his voice echoing loudly through the cavern as he gently pulled the hood off his head. The human’s eyes were closed, but his lips weren’t particularly dry, which in cold air like this, was a good sign. He had not been out long.
Legolas pulled a knife from over his shoulder, and neatly sliced the man’s ropes in two. Pulling the severed remains off of Aragorn’s wrists, he began to massage his hands, attempting to get the blood-flow back into them. “Come on, Aragorn, wake up.”
The man’s eyes flickered open part way, shut, then opened again, his pupils dilating slowly. “Legolas?” he murmured, rolling over.
“Easy,” Legolas said gently, “we’re rather on precarious ground, my friend.”
Aragorn sat up, looking around, bewildered. “Where are we?”
Legolas shrugged, shaking his head in wonder.
“I remember,” the human squinted. “We were traveling- we were going to see Gandalf. We camped in the woods, we heard noises,I remember someone in a royal purple cloak. No sooner had I seen him, but he pressed something over my nose and mouth - some kind of chemical that smelled of dirt - and then-” he shrugged. “Black.”
“Better than what I remember,” Legolas sighed, leaning curiously, over the edge of the rock, searching for a way back down.
“What do you remember?”
“Traveling, camping, black.”
Aragorn grinned at his friend’s self-annoyed expression, and joined him in looking down. “Let’s see about climbing that way.” He pointed. “More slope.”
Legolas nodded, and they began to climb down. “There’s someone here, Aragorn- perhaps that figure in a purple cloak you saw. He gave me a hint and told me to look for three clues as to where to find you.”
Aragorn was surprised. “Did you see him?”
Legolas explained about the total darkness, the skeleton, the conversation he’d had with the stranger, and the three clues that had led him to the human. “In all honesty, I have no idea what to make of it,” he said as they reached the ground again, and he handed Barahir and the broach back to Aragorn.
“I’m betting orcs,” Aragorn grumbled, pocketing the two items.
“Really?” Legolas answered thoughtfully. “I was thinking perhaps an evil elf.”
“Elf, huh? That could be,any relatives you haven’t met yet that could hold a grudge?”
“I doubt it.”
“Right. So my gold is still on orcs.”
Legolas laughed. “Why orcs, pray?”
“Because it’s always orcs,” Aragorn grinned, and searched the room around them with a curious eye. “So- I guess we need to find our way to that opening you found.
Legolas nodded, as they made their way back across the rocky ground. “I came in through a hole in the,wall.” Legolas came to a cold halt. They were standing in front of a solid wall of dirt.
“Maybe it was over to the left-”
“It was right here,” Legolas insisted, pressing his hands against the loose earth. “Someone came and filled it in.”
“While we were on the rock?” Aragorn asked incredulously.
Legolas shrugged in a gesture of ‘I guess so’. The room suddenly seemed a lot colder.
“Should we dig?”
Legolas sighed. “No point, really. I mean- if the hole is filled in all the way, or if we dig in the wrong place, then we could end up going straight out of a cliff. It was an awfully long climb to get up here; I’d hate to fall that distance.”
“Then what do we do?”
“You take the only other door.”
The friends whirled, Aragorn’s hand reaching for his sword in the time Legolas took to unsheathe both his knives.
“Don’t be so jumpy, I’m here to help you, remember?” The voice resonated off every rock, it seemed, making it impossible to tell from which direction it was coming.
“Who are you?” Aragorn demanded loudly.
“I thought Legolas had all ready told you, Aragorn, I have no intention of revealing that.”
“What do you want?”
“Again, a useless question. Now stop wasting our time, and listen. This time you have just a hint.”
“No clues?” Leoglas asked.
“No. Here is your hint, and listen close, I won’t repeat it: united you stand, divided you fall.”
“We can’t even get out of this room stranger.”
“Prove it.”
“What?”
No answer.
“I think he’s gone again,” Legolas muttered, and Aragorn nodded. “Well, where would there be a door in-”
“You mean that door?” Aragorn pointed across the room, to where, just above the flat rock on which he’d been lying, was doorway in the rock-face.
“That wasn’t there before,” Legolas said definitely.
Aragorn shook his head. “Let’s go.”
They climbed the rock again, and entered through the doorway with almost no conversation. The door took them down a high-roofed tunnel, dimly lit by torches along the way. It was unnerving how set-up everything looked.
At last, they reached a fork in the tunnel. To their right, a tunnel similar to the one they were standing in stretched; glowing orange with torches along the wall. The second way, however, was completely dark- no torches that way.
“Well, obviously we ought to take the lighted tunnel-”
“But that’s probably what they had in mind,” Legolas finished, and Aragorn nodded.
“Grab a torch and take the dark one?” He offered, and this time Legolas nodded, and grabbed on off the wall.
Aragorn did the same, and they continued their journey in silence. The tunnel led on for quite awhile, causing Aragorn to ask eventually, “I wonder if they were anticipating us coming this way after all. Figured the lighted tunnel was too obvious for us to want it.”
Legolas considered that. “Maybe- or maybe they figured we’d think that’s what they’d think, and take the lighted tunnel.”
“But maybe they thought we’d think of that, and take the way we’re taking right now.”
“That’s ridiculous.”
Aragorn laughed lightly. “You’re right.”
They walked in silence awhile longer, when they reached a second split in the tunnel. Again, they were faced with another dark one, and the lighted one. This time, however, the lighted tunnel’s ground tilted downwards; deeper into the ground. It was an easy decision to keep going with the dark tunnel.
After a long while, they reached another split in the tunnel, but this time was very different. One direction, there was a faint greenish light spilling towards the entrance. The other, there was the faintest gray of daylight, but the opening was caving in.
“What do you think?” Aragorn asked.
Legolas thought a moment. “The way to the right looks like it leads to daylight- but it’s also fixing to fall down. We could get a cave-in on our heads. We could,be trapped underground.” He shivered, looking at Aragorn. “What do you think?”
Aragorn’s eyes bounced between them. “I think you’re right; we should check the left way first at least.”
The elf nodded, and they both set the torches down, and approached the misty-green light. At first, it was hard to say from where the light was coming, but then it became pretty clear it was from up ahead, somewhere.
Legolas was sure that they had mad the right choice, when Aragorn stopped in his tracks, grabbing his friend by the arm. “Sickness,can you sense it, Legolas?”
Legolas’ eyes trailed slowly away from the human, sifting through the air in front of him. “Yes,” he said at last.
“Some- disease lingers. I think maybe something died in here, Legolas.”
Legolas studied him gently, and then said, “Do you not wish to continue?”
Aragorn seemed to shake himself of the feeling, or at least found a way to make it look like he did. “No, no it’s all right.”
As they walked further, the sickening smell became stronger, and Aragorn felt his head beginning to swim. He was about to mention it to Legolas, when they came to a turn in the tunnel, and saw what had been causing the smell.
Aragorn’s head spun crazily, and he found himself gripping at the tunnel wall, gasping. “Legolas- Le- get out of here.”
He could feel the elf’s arms wrapping around him, and tried to rise to his feet, but they wouldn’t hold him. He couldn’t see straight. All he could tell was that Legolas was panting in his ear, and the sight and smell of they’d found was fading.
When his head cleared, he was lying on the ground before the two openings again, looking into the torch-lit face of Legolas. The elf’s eyes were concerned, and he ran a hand down the human’s face, checking for a fever.
“I’m all right,” the man muttered, feeling suddenly ridiculous.
Legolas could see the irritation building, and hastened to staunch it. “That animal died of a disease, Estel. I am not susceptible, so I can’t say for sure what it was, but I can tell you it’s deadly. Do not shame yourself.”
Aragorn nodded in agreement, and rolled onto his hands and knees. “What was it?”
“A horse, I think. By the looks of it.”
“I was huge,” the human agreed, allowing Legolas to pull him to his feet. “So what do we do?”
Legolas gazed at their two options again. “I guess we go right.” His body tensed with the words. The idea of walking into a caving-in tunnel was not very pleasant.
“Legolas,” Aragorn said slowly, looking at him. “I think this was purposeful. Disease one direction, a cave-in the other? And what was our clue-”
“United you stand, divided you fall.”
“So we can’t go two separate ways. One of us has to face our fears.”
“Then it will be me,” Legolas said automatically. “If we take the left, you’re going to be who knows how sick by the time we reach the end. I just need to swallow it, and face my fears. It’s not dangerous, it’s just fear.”
“No, it could fall in on our heads,” Aragorn pointed out. “I’ll be fine. You can pull me through, you always do.”
Legolas shook his head. “I’m not going to risk you, Estel.”
“I’m not going to risk you, Legolas. You hate the underground. And that’s exactly what lies to the right. I can’t pull you along like you can me.”
Legolas was still shaking his head. “I’ll make it.”
“No you won’t.”
“Well, when we were in the left tunnel, I don’t think I saw any daylight really, so we’re probably more likely to find the surface to the right.”
“You,don’t think you saw any daylight really?” Legolas shrugged, and Aragorn rolled his eyes in exasperation. “Legolas!”
Legolas couldn’t help laughing. “All right, but I will have my way, Estel. I won’t let you get sick.”
The human sighed, glancing at the two options. “I know. I’ll take the right tunnel a ways, for your sake, and see if it opens out at all in the middle. If it’s safe, we’ll take that way.”
His friend thought it over a moment, then nodded, and handed him the torch. “Be careful, mellon-nin,” he said, and let go.
Aragorn walked through the crumbling opening, the words united you stand, divided you fall haunting his thoughts as he did. “I won’t let Legolas risk everything ,” he said aloud to the silence, and continued the trek. For the longest time, the ceiling was low, and dirt fell onto his head at a worrying rate, but at last, he reached a space where it opened out into a normal tunnel. Up ahead, he could see gray daylight pouring in.
His whole body relaxed in relief, and he turned, and started back down the tunnel, calling “Legolas, it’s all right! There’s a way out!”
The ground began to rumble, the walls and ceiling were shifting dirt onto his head, eyes and mouth. He coughed hard, and felt the torch go out, as stumbled forward. “Legolas!” he cried, trying to push the waves of dirt away.
When he fell to his knees, he knew he wouldn’t make it out of here. The air had turned to dirt, and he had to breathe, so it was all going into his lungs. Well, he thought, before blacking out, at least I died doing something for Legolas. That’s the way I wanted it anyway.
*****
When Aragorn opened his eyes, the first thing he thought was, what’s that thumping sound?
Why am I still alive? was the second thing he thought.
He opened his eyes when he thought he heard someone call his name, but he found himself lying on the ground alone, in the dark. He couldn’t make out a single shape, but was so groggy, he could have been looking at his own brother in the face, and he may not have recognized him.
There was somebody standing over him. He couldn’t see a face, but he could sense the prescience. “Who’s there?”
“Shh, no talking.”
It was the voice. “What do you want- where’s Legolas?” Aragorn tried to sit up, and found that he couldn’t.
“Listen closely, you’re going to hear this once. Here is the hint: In learning you will teach, and in teaching you will learn.”
“In learning-”
“You’ll need to find the three clues alone. Here,” Aragorn felt something cold and glass being pressed into his numb hand. “You’ll need that.”
“What am I supposed to do?”
No answer.
“Come now, I can’t even move!” He tried against to sit up- and did. “Well, I couldn’t move a minute ago,” he said incredulously, being careful not to drop the glass in his hand. He stumbled to his feet, his empty hand outstretched.
He didn’t feel anything in front of him, so kept walking, waiting for his hand to feel something. At last, he felt dirt, but no sooner had he touched it, then the whole wall fell away, blinding Aragorn temporarily with the uncovered light.
He blinked hard, and walked through the new opening. Once his eyes had adjusted, he found himself in yet another cavernous room, not unlike the one he’d awoken in when Legolas found him. The ceiling was mostly ice, but it appeared to be much higher than the first, and floor under his feet was leveled rock; no jacked boulders or dead plants.
It was then that he remember the glass in his hand. He looked down, and sure enough, found a cup full of water. He was sorely tempted to take a drink, but he also knew that Legolas, wherever he was, was likely as dog-tired and dehydrated as he. He’d save it. Anyway, it may be the first clue.
“Aragorn, is that you?”
Aragorn froze a second, then broke into a run, careful not to spill the water. “Legolas?” He reached the other end of the dim cavernous room, but found no one. He paused. “Legolas?” He looked around wildly, knowing he’d heard his friend. His eyes searched the ground, and found only loose rock, and across the room, a pile of wood. No Legolas.
“Up, Aragorn.”
Aragorn looked up. “Legolas!” he cried, backing up a step, so he could see better. But the light was so dim at the high-vaulted roof, he could not see his friend. “Are you all right?”
“I don’t have much time, Aragorn, listen closely.” Legolas’ voice reverberated strangely around the room as he spoke.
“Okay,” Aragorn answered, and listened.
“There is a rope tide around my waist that appears to be rooted in the ice above me. There is another rope looped around my neck. The one around my waist is partially severed, and I don’t know how my longer it will hold.”
Aragorn tried to take it all in. “So the rope around your waist is about to break, and if it does-”
“If it does, I’ll hang, and you’re going to have to find a way out of here alone, Aragorn.”
“I see,” the human’s heart raced, but he chose to ignore it. “The Voice said there were three clues for this- and he gave me a hint as well.”
“He said the first clue was right under your nose.”
Aragorn looked down at his hands. “I think this glass of water might be the second clue, too. Right under my nose?”
“It’s what he said.”
The man nodded, and started to pace the cave floor, looking for flaws in the surface; somewhere where a hidden compartment could have been placed. Nothing. “Under my nose, under- wait, Legolas, he said ‘the first clue is under your nose’? That’s what he said?”
“Word for word.”
“Under your nose, not mine.” Aragorn rushed towards where the sound of Legolas’ voice was coming, and sure enough, the pile of wood was directly underneath. He instantly began to rummage through the pile of lumber, and finally found a rolled up piece of paper. He opened it. “It’s a piece of paper!”
“What does it say?”
Aragorn read aloud, “O! Sweet is the sound of falling rain, and the brook that leaps from hill to plain; but better than rain or rippling streams, is.”
“Is?”
Aragorn shrugged. “It ends there.”
“Sounds like a song or poem.”
“It is,” the human nodded. “It’s a Hobbit song.”
“What?”
“Yes, it’s called ‘The Bath Song’, I’ve heard Bilbo sing it on occasion- oh blast it!”
“What is it?”
“Well, I can’t be sure, but I’m guessing the clue is the rest of the lyrics, but I cannot remember them.”
“I will be no use, then. I do not know the songs of the Halflings.”
Aragorn smirked slightly. “Legolas, you know they hate being called that, don’t you?”
There was a quiet laugh in response, that cut off in a gasp.
“What is it?”
“The rope- just gave way a notch.” The response was somewhat chocked.
“Can you breathe?”
“Some. Please start thinking.”
Aragorn nodded and began to pace. “,but better than rain or rippling streams, is- Legolas, what rhymes with ‘streams’?”
“Dreams?”
“Dreams,no, out of place in a Hobbit bath song. Teams,no. Rain, rippling strings. Water. Hot water- but,better than rain or rippling streams, is- is Water Hot that smokes and steams!”
“What?”
“Legolas, I’ve figured it out!” Aragorn ran to the cave wall, knelt down, choosing a reasonably flat rock, and struck it against the wall several times, until it sparked. Then, he held the paper with “The Bath Song” on it, and set it on fire.
He moved quickly to the pile of wood, dropping it in, and began to blow, setting the wood on fire.
“Aragorn, I don’t think the heat’s fire is going to reach up here, and melt the ice-”
“No, it won’t, but this,” he held up the glass of water, “will! ‘Water Hot that smokes and steams’! All I need to do is pour it on the wood in small amounts, and the steam will melt the ice from around the ropes.”
“But- Aragorn, I’ll fall.”
“Better to fall than be hanged.”
“Aragorn, I could break my leg falling from this height!”
“You are an elf, Legolas, you’ll be all right. This is the only way- just bend your knees when you land.”
“How is that going to help at this height?”
“Legolas, listen to me. It is the only way. The only way, do you understand?”
“There must be something else- maybe the clues led to this conclusion so you could accidentally kill me.”
“Legolas, trust me!”
“But Aragorn-”
“Trust me, please!”
“Aragorn, I can’t!”
The man paused, his eyes fixed on the ceiling, and for the longest moment, the crackling flames were the only ones who spoke.
Then, Aragorn sighed a heavy sigh, and threw the glass down, where it shattered into a thousand dripping pieces.
“What are you doing?!”
“I learned how to free you, I tried to teach you to trust me. In learning you will teach, and in teaching- you will learn. You know what I learned?”
No response.
“You can’t trust me. You’re not Legolas.”
Silence.
“Agh!”
Aragorn chocked for breath- someone had wrapped their arm around his neck! He struggled to breathe, as a hand clamped a rag that smelt of earth over his nose and mouth. His hand flew to the one over his mouth, and tried to wrench it away, but the sudden feeling of someone jabbing a needle into his shoulder surprised him so much, that he let go.
And the world turned dark.
*****
“Aragorn, answer me!” Legolas felt like he’d been pounding on the cave wall for hours. After the cave-in, he’s followed the ‘dead-horse’ path, slamming his hands on its side, hoping that Aragorn would hear him through the wall. It wasn’t working.
He’d made it past the dead horse, through a swamp-like area that, when walked through, felt as though there were bones at the bottom, and past veritable nest of decrepit-looking spiders. He wasn’t in the mood to be deterred, however, and continued his journey down the ugly tunnel, calling his friend’s name.
At long, long last, he found his way to the other end of the tunnel. It seemed as though one second, he was in total darkness, and the next, he was in the daylight, breathing free air. His heart leapt with joy, and then sank into his chest, as he searched the landscape in front of him.
“Aragorn?” he called, his voice running through the air, jumping off the mountain peaks, and landing to silence in the valley mile below.
And it was then that he saw the form of a human lying in the green grass just a few feet away.
Legolas ran, his breath heaving in his ears, and his heart pounding with dread. “Aragorn- oh no, no, no Estel?!”
He knelt beside his friend, checking his throat for a pulse. There was one- but it was faint, and ebbing slowly away. “Say something,” he urged, shaking the man.
Aragorn’s eyes opened halfway, and he reached for his shoulder. “Stabbed,” he whispered hoarsely, and Legolas hastily pulled the sleeve back, to reveal an ugly black dot that was spreading dark liquid through the human’s veins.
“They poisoned you,” Legolas whispered, brushing the spot with his fingers.
Aragorn cringed at the touch and pushed the hand away, half-heartedly. “No,no, leave it.”
“Aragorn we must-”
“Legolas-”
“We need to get you to Riven-”
“Legolas, please, I want to say a lot, but I think I’ve only got time for goodbye.” The words came spilling all at once, like a very poor run-non sentence.
“Stop it.” Legolas shook his head, attempting to hoist the man’s body off the ground. Aragorn cried out- more of a gasp than a cry -and Legolas quickly put him down again.
“Listen, it- okay. It’ll be fine I’ll,oh Valar.” His eyes glazed with fear, as he realized his senses were failing. And it was that rush of adrenaline that finished off his consciousness.
“Aragorn, don’t do this to me!” Legolas pleaded, his eyes searching the bare surroundings for inspiration. They found none. “Where are the clues? Where is the hint? Is this all some game to you?!” he cried to the empty air.
“What was the point of all this! Did you bring us here, through these trials for your own twisted enjoyment? Did you force us this far, only to kill him now, with no chance of saving his life? I have given you no cause to take this revenge on me!”
His voice echoed sullenly; take this revenge on me! revenge on me! me! me!
Legolas’ tears stuck in his throat. A hint,he’d been given a hint he had not used. He hadn’t needed it at the time. It was this hint. The one to save Aragorn’s life.
Do not take for granted what is given.
Aragorn’s life.
But give to be taken what is granted.
“My life,” Legolas said aloud, and his eyes raised to the sky. “My life!” he shouted. “I give my life for his, if that is something I can do! Please, please take it!”
And the air became suddenly heavy, weighed by an invisible force, pulling to the earth’s center like an excess of gravity. And when Legolas’ lungs tired of attempting to breathe it in, he collapsed, his head on Aragorn’s chest, and his hand closed around the human’s hand, as though he would never let go.
*****
Aragorn’s eyes slid open slowly, and his gaze swept tall grass towering over his vision. His head thumped slightly, but other than that, he felt fine. He sat up suddenly.
“Ow!” His head whipped around, and he found that Leoglas had been lying on his chest, and was flung off when the human sat up.
“Sorry,” he apologized, and Legolas shrugged groggily.
“It’s all right, Aragorn- Aragorn!”
“Y-yes?” Aragorn said slowly, his eyebrows knit in concern at the odd reaction.
“You were- I mean, you- weren’t you?”
Aragorn shrugged. “Maybe, it’s hard to say.”
Legolas turned around, and saw,horses, camping equipment, the dying embers of a fire,”We were,on our way to see Mithrandir?”
The human nodded slowly, rubbing the back of his head. “Yes, I do believe.”
“I- had the strangest nightmare about you, Estel.”
“Funny, me too.” Aragorn cocked his head to the side with a comical smile. “I was in a cave, with a roof made out of-”
“Ice?”
Aragorn stopped, and looked at his friend’s serious face. “Ice.”
Legolas rolled his eyes. “Oh great. We’re going crazy simultaneously now.”
The human laughed, shaking his head. “No, it was something other than a dream,more of a vision, perhaps.”
“To what purpose?”
Aragorn thought a moment. “Proof?”
“Proof of what, Estel?”
He shrugged. “I don’t know.”
The two packed up their things, whilst discussing the lovely day, travel plans, and just when exactly they were meeting with Gandalf, wondering if there would be time for a hunt before then. And by day’s end, both of them had forgotten their vision, for the most part.
By a year’s passage, it was one of those dreams where- when recalled -you wonder if it was a dream, a memory, or déjà vu.
*****
The room was dim and dusty; unkempt and gloomy-looking. An ancient man sat barely erect in an old chair, eyes glazed with age, and face worn with showing emotion for countless years.
Before him stood a younger man, dressed in a purple cloak, and fidgeting with its hem as he waited for a response.
“What do you mean, I was right?” The old man demanded, his voice surprisingly harsh for one so ancient.
“I performed all the tests on them about which you specified, My Lord. They conquered every trial, just as they have been reported doing in the past.”
“That is impossible! My father was tricked by those two- tricked! How could an elf and a human, so young, defeat him with such ease?!”
“I know not,but they are strong, My Lord.”
“As was my father. Perhaps they are so very well that they have even forgotten his death, hm? Have they grown in such pride that they cannot recall their slaughter of my only family?!”
“He was a tyrant, Lord-”
“He was a great man!” The old man screamed, and looked as though he would forget his age and rise from his chair just to vent. But he could not rise.
“You have obsessed over this matter for years, My Lord, surely you can give it up now that you know these two are just that strong. I cannot understand it myself-”
“You expect surprise from me? You understand nothing, fool.”
He stiffened. “You would have me play your games for proof. And now it has been proven!”
“Curse them for their strength! They are wicked and wielders of black magic, I know it. No other way could they be strong as they are. Curse them eternally!”
“Father-”
“GO!”
The young man flinched away, and turned to leave. But before he walked through the great door, he turned over his shoulder and said, “I have seen an elf cry to the skies he would sacrifice his immortal life for a human. If this is black magic, I wish to be sorcerer, Father.”
“The success of four trials is not proof of greatness, you foolish, foolish boy!” his father spat.
The young man stood for a moment, then murmured, “It’s proof enough.”
And he left the room in silence.
 
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