Shadow and Light|
Summary: An unexpected but happy little meeting in the woods.
Timeline: A few years before the war of the ring.
Disclaimer: I don’t own the characters nor the world, only the idea for this story.
Note: English is not my mother tongue. Have mercy with me.
Something stirred in the trees and Aragorn hid behind the trunk of a large oak. He held his breath. Something was approaching but he couldn't make out, what it was. This close to Dol Guldur it could be anything from orcs to giant spiders. The birds hadn't stopped there singing and insects were still humming peacefully, but that wasn't always a sign. His heart beat loudly and his fist tightened around the hilt of his sword. He was ready for a fight but would avoid it if he could.
Suddenly a musical laugher floated to him. Aragorn was stunned at the familiar sound. He came forth the tree and asked: “Legolas, is this you?” Surprise and joy was audible in his voice. He had never thought of his friend this far south from his home. He heard a rustle of leave and saw the prince high in the branches of the trees. In this moment he just let go and free fall down on the ground. He landed in a crouch to absorb the impact.
Aragorn was with him in an instant and when the elf rose gracefully as always he embraced him with a crushing hug. “So glad to see you, mellon-nin!”, he said enthusiastically. Legolas gave him a brilliant smile and returned the greeting.
“What are you doing here?” the man asked when he loosened his grip. The prince shrugged. “Just roaming around, watching the trees grow and so on” Then his grin turned wry. “I sneaked past my guards.”
Aragorn laughed. “Again! You are incorrigible. Raniean will be furious.”
“He will understand. I need some free space. Besides, why are you here?”
“Some ranger’s business”, Aragorn sighed. “But it is finished. I’m on my way home now.” The prince noticed that Aragorn looked a little weary and asked, "Would you mind my company?”
“Of course not! Legolas how long haven’t we travelled together?” There was so much happiness in the man’s eyes that it touched the elf’s heart. “I would appreciate it as well.”
“Fine! Then let’s move on. My brothers will be glad to see you again. Though, my father will only be happy if we manage to walk into Imladris under our own power.” His smile was wide and warmed Legolas soul.
“It’s good to be with you again, mellon-nin. Your mirth is contagious”, the elf said when they walked side by side through the southern region of Mirkwood.
Legolas watched his friend from the side. He looked tired and burdened even though he wasn’t showing. But the elf prince know the man for so many years and was not fooled. By the time the sun sank he suggested: “We should look out for a place to rest for the night.”
“I’d rather move on for a few more miles. The earlier we’ll be home”, Aragorn stated without looking at the elf.
“But you are tired, Estel. Let’s retire for today”, the prince argued.
“I am not”, the man countered a little annoyed.
The elf’s eyebrows knotted. Something was wrong and he would not let Aragorn alone with it. He stepped in front of the ranger, blocking his path. He gripped the mans arms and forced him to look into his eyes.
“What?”, Aragorn asked irritated.
“Something troubles you, mellon-nin. I see it in your face so don’t pretend you are fine. What is it?”
The rangers shoulders slumped forward in surrender. “You know me too well”, he said with a lopsided smile. “It’s just… yes, I am tired. I’m tired of being on a venture, I’m tired of this wood, I’m tired of fighting and tired of being alone.”
“You’re not alone any more”, the elf dropped in.
“And for that I am glad. But I know these eyes and ears of yours are so much better than mine, you have this special connection to the nature around and live in this very wood for millennia and that’s making me careless. I’m depending on you, Legolas, and cause of that I’m feeling vulnerable.”
“If you need it I will gladly be your eyes and ears. I would never let anyone hurt you if I can help it, you know that.”
“Yes, I do. But sometimes my weakness makes me angry”, the man confessed sheepishly.
“Especially when you are tired and therefore grumpy”, the elf teased. He was relieved that the mans worry has nothing to do with hidden injuries or illness.
Aragorn sighed. “Alright, you won. Find us a place to camp.”
The prince grinned. “What do you think about up there in this beech?”
The ranger rolled his eyes. “I thought you wanted me to find some sleep tonight.”
“You will, don’t worry. I will build us a nice flat in a few moments.”
Legolas watched over his best friends sleep, content that the man finally found peace. Humans are not used to sleep high up in the branches of the trees but Aragorn knew that it was much saver than the ground. So he had not argued and helped with finding wood for the building. He lay near the trunk as always and the closeness of the elf calmed him. Legolas had hummed the old Haradrim lullaby to ease his companions nerves.
Some time after midnight the ranger suddenly began to shudder. Then he tossed and turned restless in his sleep. The elf watched him concerned. When Aragorn started to gasp and cry out in distress Legolas couldn’t stand it any longer. Softly he began to shake the human while speaking soothingly to him.
Aragorn woke with a start. He gripped Legolas arm and looked at him wide-eyed. The elf was shimmering in his own faint light. “It was just a dream, Estel. It’s alright. Just a dream.”
“No”, the man breathed, “this was the worst nightmare I have ever had.”
“What did you see?”, the elf wanted to know.
“I saw the ring.”
“A ring?”, Legolas did not understand.
“Yes, it was the one ring. The one that everyone thought was lost. But Gandalf thinks otherwise. So he studied much and sent me to search for a creature named Gollum who should have had him last. But a large troop of Mordor orcs found him before I could catch him. I didn’t want to risk my life for him so I had to give up. Now I have to report my failure to Gandalf and that’s nothing I look forward to do.”
“That’s not your failure, Estel. You said it was quite a bunch of orcs and you were alone. It was impossible to fight them all”, Legolas pointed out.
“Thanks, my friend, but nevertheless Gollum is lost to the foe and that is ill news. But that wasn’t all. In my dream I saw a great eye. It was just a lidless eye without a body and there was fire round this eye. It sent waves of absolute dread and one could not withstand it. I could not turn away, my gaze was locked on this very eye. It was horrible.” A shiver ran up his spine and he tensed involuntarily.
Legolas put a hand on his friends shoulder an squeezed it firmly. “It was just another nightmare. Don’t mind it.”
“I am not so certain. It was so intense. But I cannot guess what it was”, Aragorn frowned.
The next morning the ranger felt awful. He hadn’t slept well after his disturbing dreams. Legolas was as cheerful as always but sobered when he sensed Aragorns bad mood. So they wandered quietly the most of the time.
In the evening the man was ready to drop. He nearly couldn’t held his eyes open and stumbled a few times before the elf prince decided to make camp. The night was peacefully and Aragorn slept soundly without dreaming.
The following day he was much more energetic and chatted nearly all day long. He talked about the last years and his adventures during that time without Legolas. “But it was much more fun with you than alone”, he declared.
The wood-elf had to agree and told everything about Mirkwood and the elven kingdom in the time since there last parting. “The shadow that lies over the wood is increasing”, Legolas said concerned. “sometimes I just think I can’t stand it any longer. That was also a reason why I left.”
“But of course without telling your father of your plans”, the ranger chided teasingly.
“You know him. He wouldn’t let me go. And, to be honest, I felt a little homesick for Imladris.”
Aragorn was speechless. Legolas grinned sheepishly, “Your home have a way of lifting someone’s shadows.”
Now the man nodded. That was true and he too longed to be home again. But before he could think of a response, Legolas suddenly tensed. He ducked behind a bush dragging Aragorn along with him. The man was very still and let the elf listen to the sound that had alerted him. After a few seconds he whispered one single word: “Orcs”
“Where? And how many?”, Aragorn asked quietly.
Legolas listened again and paled. “They are fighting my people.” Without further explanations he sprinted into the wood in the directions of the fight. The man ran behind him with drawn sword, determined to help.
When the elven prince arrived the battle scene he saw that the black creatures were more than thrice the number of the elven warriors. He let go a volley of arrows. Aragorn held his sword high and with a war cry he attacked the orcs.
It was a short fight. The elven contingent had been caught unaware by the foul beasts but the warriors quickly fought back. With the help of their prince and his human friend they were able to eliminate all their foes in not more than half an hour.
After they had checked the immediate area to be save, the commander of the warriors approached Legolas and bowed low. “My lord, I thank you for your help and I do apologize for my failure. I underestimated the danger in this part of the wood. I take full responsibility for my actions.” The younger elf was obviously very troubled. His eyes were downcast and his voice was trembling slightly.
Legolas smiled and squeezed the elf’s shoulder reassuringly. “It’s alright, Thalorn*. I was not your fault. The beasts become bolder every single day. Be on your guard.” (*Thalorn = Sindarin for: Steadfast Tree)
But the commander looked not convinced. “I should have…”
“What if’s do no good”, the prince interrupted the soldier. “What happened had happened. Let’s be glad that no one is wounded. Now drop that matter, I will not report to my father.”
Thalorn sighed in relief. “Thank you, my lord. We are on our way home, are you coming with us?”
Legolas denied. “Tell the king I was invited to stay with Lord Elrond and his sons in Imladris for some time.”
The young elf grew nervous. “Do I have to? He will have my head.”
Legolas laughed. “He will not.”
Finally Thalorn nodded his obedience and said his goodbyes. “Then I wish you well, my lord. May the stars shine on your path until you come back to us.” All the elves had followed the conversation silently and now bowed before their prince.
“On yours as well. Namarie.” Legolas replied. He grabbed Aragorn on his sleeve and they retreated into the woods before someone could hold them back.
The princes steps were light and joyful. He was glad that his father would get word of his whereabouts without having the option to forbid him this holidays. He loved Rivendell, he loved the peace and silence as well as the nice company and the stories told in the Hall of Fire. He loved the light-filled rooms of Elrond’s house and the sight of the falls in the moonlight. Aragorn’s twin brothers were always humorous and together they would easily be able find trouble somewhere. He chuckled when he remembered Lord Elrond’s frown about his sons’ escapades.
He was so lost in his thoughts that he hardly forgot about his human friend a few paces behind him. When Aragorn stumbled over a huge root and nearly fell Legolas spun around. He was stunned by how pale his friend was.
“What’s wrong?”, he asked his brow furrowing. He could have slapped himself for not paying attention to the man. He had been glad that all the elves were unscarred but had not checked on Aragorn. And of course the ranger had been too proud to tell him.
Legolas was next to the man in an instant and scanned him up and down for injuries. He took his friend by his shoulders and looked worried into his eyes. They where full of well hidden pain.
At first Aragorn wanted to shook off the prince and he avoided the searching gaze. But then he thought better of it. He know he was not well and even though the wound on his arm was not more than a scratch it was obviously infected. He know this symptoms: his vision was blurred, he was hot but shivering the same time, his legs were failing him more and more.
“I fear it is morgul poison”, he stated softly.
Legolas had found the wound on the man’s upper arm and inspected it gently. “Why haven’t you said anything before?”
“It wasn’t that bad before.” Aragorn closed his eyes when the world began to spin around him. He lightly leaned into Legolas’ touch for support.
“I have to tend to your injury, my friend”, the elf said concerned. He could read the humans symptoms as well.
“It’s not save here”, by now Aragorn voice was slightly slurred.
“Down here, yes. But we will be up in the trees.”
The ranger didn’t even complain and Legolas fears mounted. He pressed Aragorn down and leaned him against the trunk of a tree. Then he quickly build a flat in the next beech. After finishing that he more dragged than helped the man up the tall tree.
Aragorn lay there and watched his friend through the haze that clouded his vision. He felt very ill and waves of pain rushed over him leaving him trembling and his heart racing. But nevertheless he smiled, in a strange way he was content, nearly glad for this. Cause today he was not alone. So long time he had travelled alone, had done dangerous and secret business for the rangers and for Gandalf. He had to do everything on his own and alone. When he got injured, he had to tend himself and fast before he lost the strength to do so. One time he nearly died from fever had not a kind farmer found him and taken him in.
When the elf leaned over him and he saw the worried eyes, he was full of gratefulness. He could relax because he know his friend would fight for his live. “Thank you, mellon-nin…”
Legolas interrupted him. “Hush, save your strength. You will be well, don’t worry.” He tried to smile but it didn’t reach his eyes. He cleaned the small cut on Aragorn’s right arm but the poison was already in his blood. He was really concerned. The toxin was weakening the man too fast too strong. There were different morgul poisons and the two friends had experienced several of them during their adventures but the elf prince had no way of knowing what kind of poison was working in Aragorn now. He wished the roles were reversed, the human was the healer not he.
When the ranger lost his consciousness the elf near panicked. Alarmed he sought out the heartbeat and found it feebly and unsteady but definitely there. He draw near Aragorn’s pack and searched through the different pouches of healing herbs, salves and tinctures. The man had always a good stock of medicine with him. Meanwhile Legolas could tell them all apart and know their purpose. However now he could only hope that he would take the right herbs.
When Aragorn awoke he felt incredible weak but somehow he was alright. He noticed that he had no fierce pain any more, it was just a dull ache all over him. He wanted to open his eyes but found that he could not.
“Estel”, a gentle voice spoke through the fog in his consciousness.
“Legolas?”, he asked, still a little confused.
A slender hand cupped his face. “I am here, mellon-nin. Do not move, you were very ill. Wake slowly.”
The man breathed in deeply and smiled. “So good to have you here. You always lift the shadows.”
The elf frowned, he was not sure if Aragorn was fully conscious. “How do you feel?”
The man blinked and finally opened his eyes. They were twinkling. “I am well, as you promised.”
Legolas sighed relieved. “You had me greatly worried. I was not sure about the poison and how to neutralize it. I thought I was going to lose you.” His sad and weary eyes spoke of it.
With some effort Aragorn stretched out his hand and took the elves’ into his own. “I trusted you, mellon-nin. You are a good healer, a better one than you think. I am glad to be with you.”