6700 words approx.
Description: Autumn is a season of beautiful tragedy. And beauty is often dangerous and deceptive.
It was as they approached the slopes of the Misty Mountains that lead up to the High Pass, that Aragorn, son of Arathorn and Legolas Thranduilion found themselves strolling through a small wood. Far too small to even be placed upon the maps of Middle Earth, it was a surprise that not many knew of it. In fact, only the rangers really knew of such a place, along with most of the elves in Rivendell.
Ah Rivendell, their destination for this particular trip. The mere thought of the rich smells of autumn leaves and evergreen trees along the sounds of crashing waterfalls brought new strength to Aragorn as he carefully traced out where to place his feet. The path through the wood, or at least this one, was fairly uneven. It wound and sloped in many places, but was also littered with small rocks that were easily unseen and even easier to trip over when they were hidden amongst fallen leaves of gold and brown.
There were actually three paths in the wood that could be used to travel to the northern boarder, just beyond which lay the path to the High Pass. Aragorn had chosen this particular one for a reason, despite how dangerous it could be sometimes.
The reason behind the decision was of course logical. For three days before the pair had reached this point in their journey, it had rained something akin to a monsoon without respite. It was a miracle that Aragorn had not caught a cold. And as the other two paths in the forest would be nothing but mud that came up to one's knees, this path was the one to take. It did not stir doubt or worry in him to tread it: he was more than confident that he, a Ranger used to the wilds of Middle Earth, and his companion the Prince of Mirkwood, whose own realm was far more treacherous than this wood, would make it to the High Pass without hindrance to their pace.
Speaking of his elven friend, it was unusual in Aragorn's mind for him to be the one tagging behind, while the Ranger lead the way. Legolas had keen eyesight, and always knew of the right paths to take after he spoke with the trees. Their song and guidance never lead them astray.
Glancing back at the Prince, Aragorn could not help but ponder what thoughts currently circled in his friend's head. Judging by the light smile upon his lips, he conversed with the trees surrounding them.
Aragorn was not wrong and simply turned his gaze back to his feet, picking his way through the path, all the while knowing that his friend was finding much wonder in his surroundings. It was after all, quite a pleasant wood. The trees here were mostly young, barely fifty years of age. But they were healthy and strong to the Ranger's eye and he no doubt thought that his friend knew the same.
Legolas inhaled the air softly and deeply once more, the unfamiliar smell exciting his nose. He had not travelled through this forest before. In fact, he barely knew of it until Aragorn had told him that they would be taking this path. The forest bore no name of men, elves or dwarves and was not present on any map.
He supposed that he did not know of it because of how little he had strayed beyond his own borders, except in the case that he wished to visit Imladris. Whenever he used the High Pass to visit his kin, he always approached from the north as it was the quickest path to take when journeying from his home. However, Aragorn had approached him a few weeks ago with a request for aid. A town that sat on the plains not too far south from Dol Guldur was having troubles with raids from a small clan of bandits. And as Elladan and Elrohir were busy with matters in their own land, Legolas had agreed to ride out with his friend and then return with him to Imladris for a winter's visit.
They had rode out with a few other Rangers a few days ago on borrowed steeds and dealt with the problem easily. The journey had been particularly interesting for Legolas, as he had never seen the plains beyond Dol Guldur, and even though they were devoid of many landmarks and trees, Legolas could not help but find some form of beauty as he gazed upon the unfamiliar sight.
He breathed the air yet again. Truly the smell was invigorating and his excitement was only increased by the trees that surrounded him. He conversed with them joyfully, his eyes scanning every inch of his surroundings as he span like a small elfling upon the rocky path. The song of this small wood was harmonious and upbeat: the trees here were welcoming of the Firstborn, as it was rare that they strayed within distance of the wood. They were also young and lively, eager to converse with any that could understand them. The elf talked and sang with them, asking the trees for their names if they had them, a light hum filling the air as such knowledge came to him.
The Prince was in utter awe at the amount of names he had learned today. He just could not get over it! This wood was just new to him; a precious section of Middle Earth that he had not ever visited. And such a kind place it was too! He would be sure to visit again.
The joy of the trees brought a certain spring to his step as he followed Aragorn, easily able to almost skip along the hazardous rocks that stained their path.
But then he stopped, as if he had hit an invisible wall.
Aragorn turned his head to glance at his friend. Out of curiosity, he was going to ask the elf what the atmosphere in the wood was like, as he knew his friend to be enjoying their time here. His humming had a sweeter tone than usual. But as he turned to Legolas, he noticed his halted form and how he seemed to sniff the air like a bloodhound, his brow scrunched in what looked to be confusion.
"Legolas?" He asked hesitantly, glancing about for any apparent danger.
It was then without warning that the elf leapt into a nearby tree, climbing it like only a wood elf could, and then jumping to the branch of the next tree and so forth.
"Legolas!" He called, running to follow the direction that his friend had travelled in, as he knew that he could not keep pace with the elf. He was sure that there was no trouble in the wood, or his elven friend would have told him. The Ranger's only guess as to the elf's sudden exit would be the song of the trees. His friend was in awe of this place, it was plain for all to see. It was likely that he had caught heard or smelt something new, and was rushing to find it.
Crazy elf, Aragorn thought to himself with only partial exasperation.
The Prince of Mirkwood grew ever more excited at the wood. Up until a point, the air had only smelt cold and fresh, but now there was a sweeter scent on the air, one he was unfamiliar with. He knew that Aragorn could not smell it, at least not until they drew closer to the source. Yet to Legolas' keen nose, with every step he could smell the scent becoming stronger.
He skipped along the branches faster, eager to find the source of this delightful smell. So focused upon his task was he, that he could barely hear the song of the trees surrounding him. Instead he heard naught but the wind whistling in his ears. Oh how he felt so at home! It was as if he had known these trees for decades, like he knew the ones in his homeland.
The pulse of life around him was staggeringly strong: he could feel it beating like a lion heart beneath his feet. A sure sign that this wood was not going to die or corrupt anytime soon.
A sudden, sharp increase in the scent's strength practically pulled the elf from the tree he had just hopped to. He jumped down, making barely a sound or an imprint upon the ground when he landed.
His eye's widened with awe-filled joy at the sight before him.
Sitting in the clearing before him on a bed of golden autumn leaves, was a young tree, frightfully alive with the last of September's blossom. The white and pink petals of the flowers fell elegantly to the ground in the slight breeze, resting amongst their scattered kin at the base of the tree. No longer could he hear the songs of the other's that surrounded him, for the elf heard only the song of the blossom tree, which sung louder and sweeter than all. He had heard it when he had first smelled its scent, and knew he had to find its source.
He had put his trust into the tree's call and followed it diligently.
Entranced, Legolas dared himself to rise from his crouched position and approach one of the most beautiful examples of Yavanna's creations he had ever laid eyes and nose upon. With his hand held aloft and outstretched, he reached forwards to lay a hand upon the trunk, yet stopped before he did.
So in awe of the of the tree's blossom's he had been, that the elf failed to notice the red flowers that climbed around it's trunk. Twisting and turning, they were entwined with the tree deeply and had thus become a part of it's beauty. It was then that Legolas discovered that the sweet smell he had followed came of these beautiful red flowers, rather than the white blossoms.
He moved his nose closer to a small collection of these flowers, before deeply inhaling their sweet scent until he could draw no more breath. His nose tingled pleasantly.
His mind became clouded and his movements dizzy, but all that soon passed and he was quickly carried off into elven dreams of songs and celebration.
...What is that? The elf thought.
Is someone... calling for me?
The voice grows faint. I can no longer hear it...
"Legolas!" a sharp voice from just above him exclaimed.
That was not faint!
With a sharp intake of breath, the elf pulled himself out of his dreams and focused his already open eyes on the blurry figure standing over him. It took him barely a couple of seconds to realise that it was Aragorn: that panic stricken tone could only belong to him. Almost instantly, his vision sharpened and saw detail that only the Firstborn could. His other senses returned to him as well, all telling him different things. It was then that his tense of touch told him that he was lying on the leaf ridden ground of the small clearing and that Aragorn's hands where laid upon his shoulders.
His nose told him that it could no longer smell the flowers, which before it had managed to detect from a great distance. Lastly, his eyes told him the obvious: that Aragorn was indeed worried for him, though he appeared less concerned now that the elf was awake.
"Estel?" He questioned, choosing to use the other's elven name.
Aragorn nodded in confirmation, "What happened, mellon nin?" He asked, removing his grip on the elf now that it was apparent that he was okay.
"What?" The elf questioned.
"Why are you lying on the ground?"
Legolas sat up suddenly, glancing about with confusion, "I was dreaming pleasant dreams," his eyes settled upon the red flowers, remembering the last thing he had done was smell them, "those flowers... their scent must have overwhelmed me for a moment."
Aragorn followed his gaze, examining with his own eyes the flowers that grew below the white blossoms, "they are harmless and their smell is very sweet. Perhaps their scent gave you such wondrous dreams?"
"That is not impossible," the elf admitted.
He was helped to his feet by the Ranger and after a brief evaluation to ensure that he was okay, the pair set off once more.
As they strolled through the wood, it did not take the Prince of Mirkwood long to feel that something was amiss. The trees did not sing to him and nor did they talk to him. No matter how much he called and asked for them, they remained sentient. Glancing ahead at Aragorn, he also noticed that they no longer walked the rocky path they had before, and that they were nearing the border of the wood. Beyond that, Legolas could see grey slopes and dangerous paths leading to the Misty Mountains.
But it was strange for them to be leaving the wood so soon. The Prince had been sure that they were still a short while from the northern boarder. Was Aragorn taking them on a different path?
"Where are we going?" He asked, raising a quizzical eyebrow, "Though I have not been here before, I was certain that we still had a short travel to the northern boarder of this wood."
He heard a small chuckle from Aragorn, "Right you are, mellon nin. But I have remembered a path that will take us to Rivendell a day earlier than planned."
Legolas nodded despite the fact his friend had his back to him. He was about to question the change in course, before he once again halted in his tracks.
With widened blue eyes, he scanned the area behind him, leaving no golden leaf or damp twig uninspected. He had heard it once more: that strange voice calling to him. An odd feeling brewed in his heart and a thought of the same kind crossed his mind. He was sure he recognised that voice, however faint it may be. The Prince pondered with frustration, searching his mind for a name of the voice's owner.
"Legolas?" He heard Aragorn question for the third time in what seemed to be the last hour.
Slowly, the elf blinked and brought his thoughts to present times. Turning to his friend, he could the concern present in his expression, and also his questioning. "I heard a distant voice on the air. It called my name."
The Ranger's eyebrow's furrowed, "was it one of the trees?" The elf heard him ask as he turned around in a full circle, eyes passing critically over every tree.
Legolas shook his head, his piercing blue gaze meeting the grey one of his friend, "They are silent and do not speak to me."
"It grows dark, perhaps they are sleeping?" Aragorn offered.
With a swift glance at the sky, Legolas indeed noticed that it was growing dark, "it is still light. They should be awake. These trees are very young, Estel, they would not sleep until no flicker of light remained." He paused for a moment, and a question came to mind. Was it not light just moments ago? It was about midday the last time he checked and he guessed that it could not have been more than an hour since he last gazed upon the sky. He held doubts that his had wandered his dreams and talked with the trees so long that it appeared sundown was already almost upon them.
Thinking that the whole situation seemed strange, he allowed himself to think the most obvious of thoughts: Just what is going on?
It was Aragorn's words that snatched his focus back to reality, "we should get moving. The path I have chosen is difficult to get to in the dark. Even with eyes as keen as yours."
The pair began walking once more, climbing the grey slopes that were the feet of the Misty Mountains. They passed away from the trees, and plants, their steps now falling upon hazardous rocks that were loose in places and sharp stones that were scattered everywhere about their feet. The song of life was unheard to Legolas' ears and that done his mood no favours. He felt unnerved, but not because of the almost absence of the song. To him, the whole world seemed strange around him. The sky grew dark above him at an unnatural rate and his friend seemed to be acting a little queer too.
Aragorn would have usually fussed over him longer if he had fallen unconscious for no reason. And even if he did not this time, he was not sparing the elf any of his normal backward glances, that he done unconsciously about every five minutes or so usually. Instead he climbed further up the slopes, coming now to a mountain path, without so much as a word.
That reminded the elf of his earlier question, one which he had not been given a chance to ask, "what caused you to change our route? Was our first one not ideal enough?"
"I recalled earlier that there was a tunnel through the mountains that lay along this path. It will cut an entire day from our journey and land us in Rivendell earlier than expected." The Ranger explained. He paced on for a few moments before glancing upwards, his lips spreading into a wide smile, "I see it up ahead! We are not far now"
Legolas stopped dead in his tracks. The sky instantly grew dark above them, as if in correspondence to the elf's feelings. The first small signs of fear began to creep into the back of his mind. A tunnel? That would mean darkness and a world without devoid of light and song. He was already cut off from the latter, but to loose all light on a dangerous path of impenetrable black... that brought inkling's of fear into the Prince's mind.
The Ranger turned, expecting to see a smile on his friend's face after being told of a lesser journey. Instead he was met with worry, "What is wrong? I thought you would be please that we would have to travel less."
"I would be, if we were not planning to go through a tunnel," a slight quiver of fear entered his tone as he uttered the last word. Legolas honestly did not know why his fear was rising so quickly. He put it down to all of the unnatural goings on around him, including the absence of the song, which always guided him to the paths of the High Pass. Over a mountain he would go, so long as he was in open air. Clean, fresh air, where he could feel each change in the direction of the wind. In a tunnel it was not so, and the air was often spoilt and unclean. He had been in one tunnel in his life, as a small, lost elfling. This just added to his kind's natural hate for dark burrows in the earth or in stone.
He was not going into that tunnel without some serious persuading.
But Aragorn had ways of making the elf agree with him quickly. Though never before had he used it in a situation like this.
"The tunnel is safe, mellon nin," he said, "I would not ask you to go inside if I thought it not." The elf said nothing. He only looked at Aragorn fearfully, something he had never done before. "I will carry a torch with me," said the Ranger, "I will not let us go without light, mellon." There was a long pause between them, as Legolas considered the path before him. He was finally swayed by three simple words, "please, trust me."
Consenting, Legolas replied quietly, "I trust you."
They entered the gloom of the tunnel shortly after, the flickering orange flames of the torch that Aragorn held aloft guiding their way. They walked the twisting passages for what seemed like an age to Legolas, going deep into the heart of the mountain. The elf did not enjoy the experience one bit. In places it felt as if the walls where closing around him, trying to trap him in darkness and despair. Other sections of the tunnel were overwhelmingly hot, and this seemed to become more apparent the further in they went. And the smell was plainly rancid, as if Orcs came through regularly.
Oddly enough, Aragorn did not seem to be showing any of these symptoms, yet he, an elf was? Something was wrong.
The strange was just becoming stranger, and more unbearable for the elf.
It was not long before he had reason to start to be extremely concerned for his well being. Just as the elf had felt hot a few minutes ago, he now felt cold and shivered silently as he walked. Elves did not feel the cold like this, so why was he?
Soon after that, a bout of dizziness hit Legolas and he began to stumble as he walked. His insides churned and the elf felt queasy and overall, ill. His limbs ached. He did not know what had become of him, but it was certainly not normal. Whoever heard of an elf catching sickness? There must be something else at play here.
But all of that was placed to the back of the Prince's mind when the tunnel began to widen quickly and he and Aragorn entered a large cavern. It was huge! But also ancient. Markings in old languages lingered on a few sections of the wall's near where they had entered the cavern. There was more light here, as the exit of the tunnel could be seen just beyond them. Not fifty yards away.
Legolas breathed a little easier: the end of this terrible nightmare was within his sight. All would be well soon.
It was after a few paces that he wobbled and crashed into Aragorn's back. Steadying himself by placing a hand on his friend's shoulder, he now looked upon the reason that they had halted.
Below them lay an endless pit of darkness, that not even Legolas' glow could lessen. And their only path across this was a thin bridge of cracking stone, that only the light of the torch could show.
"I thought you said this path was safe."
"It was the last time I used it," Aragorn explained, "This used to be a large cavern with a stone floor that touched every wall. Something must have caused it to break."
"Who is to say the bridge will not break too?"
"It may well, Legolas, but we have come too close to the exit to turn back now," and without so much as a glance back at him, Aragorn made to press on
Reluctantly, the Prince stepped forward, his light weight not stirring the cracks beneath his feet. They managed to get to the middle of the bridge before the problems began to occur. A deep crack sounded behind them, and the part of the bridge that they had just crossed suddenly broke and fell into the dark pit below them. Legolas went with it, reaching out for the other half of the bridge as he fell.
But he was too slow, his movements dulled by fever and his hands missed by an inch.
That is until his right arm was grasped by a strong hand. Aragorn had saved him!
Grunting, the Ranger tried to pull the Elf to safety, but seemed to lack the strength to do so. The Prince grew worried: he knew that his weight was not much and that usually his friend had no issue with lifting or admittedly, carrying him anywhere while at full strength. Was something hindering his friend?
"Legolas," he said after a few seconds, "I cannot pull you up," his words were delivered without an ounce of emotion.
The Prince shook his head disbelievingly, "You have not tried! Not like I know you can!" His heart began to race in his chest as a thought dawned in the back of his mind. A thought he dared not focus on in this moment. "Perhaps if you used both hands you could pull me up?"
There is no where to place the torch without risk of it going out," said the Ranger in that monotonous tone once more. "I am sorry my friend." He let go of his grip on the other's forearm, leaving the elf to only cling to his arm for dear life."
Panic struck the elf like lightning, and the true nature of the situation now completely dawned upon him: Aragorn was betraying him to the endless void below. "No!" The elf cried, "What ill has befallen you, Aragorn!? Clearly I am not the only one suffering illness here. In your right mind, I know you would never commit such an act!" The elf's hand slipped down the sleeve of Aragorn's tunic, and he now gripped a hand that did not grip his back. "Why have you betrayed my trust in you? My friendship? What have I done to deserve this? Tell me! If you are going to let me fall then at least tell me, Aragorn!" He pleaded, his voice beginning to crack.
His hand slipped, and he could feel himself falling into the abyss below.
...No... surely...surely death... does not hurt... like this.
...But...I fell... how can... I live?
I know that voice... It is faint...and I have forgotten the owner's name... but I know it...I am sure.
...Please, mellon... you must wake.
Why can I not remember the name? This begins to become frustrating.
Do not forsake me now!
It grows louder and clearer!
"You stubborn elf! Wake up!" A panicked voice commanded.
With a start Legolas jostled awake, sharply taking in a breath of oddly, clear air. Opening his eyes, he was met with the sight of an endless black gloom. He could only barely see his own glowing form in the darkness, but most of his natural glow had faded with his declining health. Yet from what little he could make out in the black void, he was able to tell that he was hanging in mid-air, as if suspended from something.
"Legolas!" A voice called from above.
Raising his head and looking up feverishly, the elf first saw a flickering orange glow, which he then realised to be a torch. It illuminated a familiar face; a haggard face stained with worry. "Estel?" The Prince asked, unsure whether or not what he was seeing was true. He saw the Ranger breathe a little easier, but his concerned expression did not drop. It was then that his sense of touch began to come back to him and he both felt and saw the hand gripping his forearm tightly, keeping him from falling into the abyss below.
Wait... Aragorn had just let him fall to his death had he not!? He had betrayed him and had chosen to escape with his own life, and the torch to guide his way, rather than with his friend.
So why was he still dangling over the edge of doom?
"Estel," Legolas started, finding it easier to utter the man's elven name, "What... what is going on?" He asked confusedly. "Why-"
"Legolas, listen to me," Aragorn said sharply, "I know you are confused, but right now we are both in danger. You more than I, and for more than one reason. I need you to grip my arm," the elf did as the Ranger asked without hesitation. "Good. I am going to try and pull you up, but I need you to grip the edge of the bridge once you can reach it."
The elf felt his friend begin to pull on his light weight, trying to lift him with but one hand. Yet even in his feverish mind, Legolas knew that the man could not accomplish what he wished. He still did not understand the situation, but he did know one thing: too long had the Ranger been gripping him, stopping his fall in the darkness below. His arm must be screaming with pain, and at the limit of its strength. And the bridge creaked with their weight: it could break at any time, sending them both into darkness.
It was hopeless. Once again they could not survive. Not both of them anyway. Was this some form of loop that the elf was caught in? A loop in which he was forced to die over and over again for all eternity?
He did not know. But this time around, there was something different and that was Aragorn. He was more driven. More determined to save his friend, despite how hopeless it was.
There was no inkling of betrayal now. Only desperation.
Smiling sorrowfully, Legolas spoke as the man struggled to pull him to safety, "You cannot save me, Estel. Just let go."
Pausing, Aragorn looked down at his friend in horror, "You are sick, Legolas. And delirious. Do you honestly think I would just let you fall?" His tone went to that of anguish, "That I would let you die? I would never let you fall, not without going with you!"
A sudden loud crack echoed about the cavern, startling the pair of them. Aragorn decided that the rest of his reassuring speech would have to wait until they were safe, and his friend was treated. The Ranger knew of what plagued him, but had no time to inform the elf now.
Instead he acted quickly, calling down to the elf, "Reach with your left hand. I will need both arms to pull you up."
"But the torch-"
"DAMN THE TORCH!" Aragorn bellowed, "YOUR LIFE IS MORE IMPORTANT!" He cast the flame aside, letting it fall into the endless black. He lent forward with his other arm now, determination burning in his grey eyes, "grab hold of me and do not let go."
Legolas obliged him, gripping Aragorn's other forearm. Slowly, he felt himself being pulled to safety. But another crack from the bridge only made the Ranger pull him faster. It was not long before they both safely knelt on the stone, panting from the effort that it had taken to climb and in Legolas' case, from fever.
But they could not rest long. The bridge had decided that now was the time to fully crumble and it began to creak and separate. The elven Prince had barely enough time to glance at Aragorn, before he was somehow shoved in front of the man. With a rush of adrenaline, the elf's fatigue was forgotten, and he sprinted for the exit, closely followed by Aragorn, the light at the end of the tunnel now the only thing to guide their way.
The bridge suddenly bent beneath them, and sections of it began to fall, yet they pressed on. Legolas could see the light of the exit through blurred vison. They were going to make it! With a few steps, they made it to the exit, the last remainders of their thin path disappearing into the darkness behind them.
As the effects of his rush wore off, Legolas could feel his feet becoming heavy and his movements sluggish. Against the blinding light of the outside and his own darkening vision, he was only just able to make out the features of trees and leaves.. The song echoed calmly in the back of his mind and he was at ease. He allowed the beckoning of darkness, one that did not frighten him, to take him into a warm embrace and fell forwards from exhaustion.
Just before he hit the floor he felt strong arms around him, stopping his decent. After that he was carried off into elvish dreams.
It was to the feeling of travel that he woke briefly too. He could feel his body being jostled as presumably, Aragorn carried him at a hurried pace. The Prince was only awake long enough to discover that he was leaning into the Ranger's back, his blond head resting on a coated shoulder. For a brief moment, the elf could not help but think he had been carried this way at some point in the day...
He soon drifted back into dreams.
When he woke again, he first felt warmth and comfort and the soft touch of gentle winds. Soon after, he also felt the absence of fever. There was also an odd taste in his mouth... some sort of wild berry taste. How did that get there? The elf opened his eyes, allowing that piercing blue gaze to look up at the darkening sky. Sunset approached. The stars would soon be out for him to fall asleep under. But such things were not at the front of his train of thoughts at the moment. He wished to know what had happened to him. As his fever had now gone, he looked about him, spying a fire about three feet away. And upon a fallen log near himself, sat Aragorn.
The Ranger stared distantly into the fire: he had not noticed the elf wake. Legolas caught his attention by trying to sit up, only realising now that his entire body ached. He groaned a little and before he knew it, Aragorn was upon him, gently pushing him back down.
"Don't get up," he said, "Your body is still too weak to move." He sat back down, now using the log as a back rest.
Begrudgingly, Legolas laid down once more, though he did not go quietly, "What happened? I confused about the events that transpired today. Did we really go through a tunnel?"
"What do you remember?"
Pausing, the elf thought for a moment, before giving his answer, "I remember the blossom tree coated in red flowers... their scent was sweet and it overwhelmed me for a second. I fell into dreams..."
"It poisoned you, Legolas." Aragorn stated.
"Continue. What else can you recall?" He pressed, cutting off any questions the elf might have, "I will explain everything."
Sighing, the elf continued with his side of the events, "I remember waking up to you shaking me. Shortly after we started walking again and you said you were going to change our path, because you had remembered a quicker way to Rivendell. And then we arrived at a tunnel. The rest is probably clear to you."
"Interesting..." the Ranger pondered, staring into the fire.
Aragorn fixed his gaze back on the elf, seeing his confused state. He sighed, before beginning his explanation of what had happened, "As I said, the flowers poisoned you."
"You heard the song of the blossom tree and then smelt a scent sweeter than any other. Am I mistaken?" The elf shook his head, "Lord Elrond once told me of a flower that once existed in Middle Earth. To all others it appears black and riddled with decay. It's scent is putrid and something akin to Orc flesh. But to elves, it appears as one of Yavanna's most beautiful creations."
The Prince's eyebrows furrowed, "Then how does it disguise itself? And how is it's song so loud?"
"It takes host of a tree, usually one of great beauty like the blossom, and bend's the tree's will to its own. Attracting whatever it can using its song, it compels one to smell its flowers, which is how you became poisoned." Aragorn paused for a while before continuing, "By the time I found you in the clearing, its poison had already taken a hold of you. Even to elves, the poison is deadly and I knew of only one place nearby where I could find a rare herb with which to cure you."
"And that grows in this forest," Legolas said, beginning to understand now. Most of what he thought had happened was all just part of a feverish dream... or so it seemed.
The Ranger nodded, "I had to carry you, as we have no horses. I knew that the quickest way here was through that tunnel. But while I made my way there, you being the stubborn elf that you are, kept waking up, sometimes for minutes. You were dreaming the route that we took, because you could already see it with your eyes, even if you did not know it."
"That explains why all that was happening was strange. The sky kept darkening in my dreams. I must have been closing my eyes," Legolas said, letting his gaze turn briefly towards the orange sky, before coming back to Aragorn. It was an odd sensation to him, so sleep with his eyes closed. Yet elves only done such a thing when they were either suffering from fever or exhaustion. "What happened after you entered the tunnel?"
"Not much, until I came across the bridge. It cracked in the middle and in a moment of lost balance, I dropped you. The rest, I am sure you know." There was a silence. Legolas refused to meet Aragorn's eyes, instead he stared upwards and pondered his thoughts. "Legolas," The Ranger said, snapping him from his thoughts, "Is there something you are not telling me?"
Another pause. The Prince reluctantly turned his head back to the Ranger, and with a brief sigh, he began to speak, "That moment you described on the bridge... I saw it. In my feverish dreams, I feel because I was too slow to leap to safety. You caught my hand before I fell... yet for a while, since before we had entered the tunnel in fact, you acted strangely."
Aragorn's brows furrowed, "Strangely?"
"Cold was your tone, yet it also carried some clever manipulation. Enough that you persuaded me to enter that tunnel." Said Legolas.
"What happened after I caught your hand?" The Ranger pressed, sensing more behind his friend's dream.
"You could not pull me up using one arm. I asked you to place the torch down, but you said there was no place to do so, or it would extinguish... so you let me fall."
Shocked, Aragorn made to speak, "Legolas-"
A hand was raised in the air ever so slightly. This silenced him and allowed the elf to continue, "It was a dream, Aragorn. A feverish dream. At the time, I thought it was real, yet in my heart I knew something was wrong." He looked back at the sky, "I could hear you calling me."
"I was trying to keep you awake."
Minutes passed. They did not speak, nor look upon each other, not until Aragorn grew weary of the silence, and spoke what needed to be spoken, "Mellon nin, you know that I would never ask you to go into a tunnel, but even so, I must apologise for what I have done. Both in and out of your dreams... truly, I have much regret for what has happened. I do not ask your forgiveness for bringing you through that tunnel." Laughter sounded from beside him. A cheery sound that was so rare for most men to hear of elves, yet so harmonious, "What?" Aragorn asked, raising an eyebrow towards his friend.
"I find this situation amusing. You are apologising for both actions that were not of your own and those that were necessary," the elf said, his laughter dying down, "though I have been betrayed twice today: once by a tree and once by a dream, there has been no harm done. I do not forgive you for leading me into that tunnel, because it was the right thing to do if you wanted me to live. Mellon nin, I do not hate you for taking me there. Nothing needs forgiveness. Only my thanks, which I give to you for saving my life."
They spent the rest of their time gazing at the sky, talking of other, merrier things. As darkness grew, Legolas listened to the trees around him, hearing their tired song, before setting down late into the night, to sleep under the stars. Aragorn kept watch over his recovering friend for sometime, before passing into slumber himself.
The next day, they continued for Rivendell, their hearts and heads lighter as the worst of their journey had passed.