I will not pretend to feel the pain
you’re going through,
I know I cannot comprehend the hurt
And I used to think it mattered if I
Now I just don’t know.
But if you need to cry go on and I,
I will cry along with you.
--Steven Curtis Chapman
Grabbing the elf by the shoulders Aragorn bodily forced the prince into
the mouth of the cave. Legolas gasped in pain at the rough
handling and struggled for the briefest of moments, making Aragorn’s
hammering heart clench tightly in anguish. They were out of time
and had no choice; he was simply going to hope his friend could forgive
him for this later - if they lived to see later.
Once over the threshold, Legolas did not resist him. The internal
battle he faced silenced as a state of shock, a combination of his
injuries and the ever-present evil, shut down his defense, turning him
inward. He stumbled after the human that led him, following
Aragorn down through a dizzying maze of tunnels and caverns.
After they crossed through the first offshoot in the underground
Aragorn awkwardly stuffed his hand into the knapsack slung over his
arm. Pulling out a small handful of athelas,
he spilled the dried
leaves and flowers out sparingly at every turn they made. He had
no intention of dying in this forsaken place and doubted very highly
that if they were followed any orc would ever notice the sparsely
dropped trail and, even if they did, the wholesome scent of the plant
would repulse them enough to leave it alone. He hated to waste
his small store of herbs, but it was the best thing he could think of
at the moment.
When they could no longer even hear the echo of the orcs’ voices or
footsteps anywhere in the massive underground stillness, Aragorn
allowed their frantic pace to slow. Stumbling to a stop in the
large cavern they found themselves entering, the ranger walked slowly
to the far wall and leaned against it, bracing himself with his hands,
trying to still his ragged breathing. Legolas stood numbly beside
him and waited.
When Aragorn finally glanced around them, he noted that the cavern they
stood in had been occupied before, long ago apparently. The
skeletons of two humans sat against the wall opposite them, barely
visible in the faint light that Legolas cast. A small cache of
clothing and torches lay piled near the two corpses.
Slowly Aragorn turned around, causing Legolas to have to turn with him
“That will be us,” the elf whispered quietly.
The ranger walked towards the skeletons, dragging his friend
unwillingly with him. Crouching down near the abandoned supplies,
he rummaged through them, grabbing a few pieces of cloth that weren’t
too soiled and collecting what kindling and small pieces of wood were
left, stuffing them into his sack.
Picking up a few of the discarded torches he tucked them under his
right arm. Now, this close to the skeletons, Aragorn could see
the large metal rings that sat about their necks, resting on their
breastbones – they had been slaves. In all probability
they had escaped to this very cavern and then later died here trying to
find their way out again.
“Let's go.” Aragorn stood to his feet and led Legolas back the
way they had come, resisting a shiver. “There was a good-sized
cavern a few turns back. We’ll be safe there. I can’t hear the
orcs anymore, so I think they’ve given up.”
Legolas was staring at the dead slaves as the ranger walked them back
out of the cave, his thoughts as dark as the tunnels about them.
The glow from the elf faded slightly and Aragorn stumbled, turning back
to his friend in worry.
“Legolas, what is it?” He had noticed the unusual dimness of the
elf’s natural light ever since he had found him. It had
little when they escaped, but now it was fading once more.
The prince shook his head mutely. Everything had been too much
for him lately and this, this being drug into the bowels of a cave in
Mordor had been the final straw.
“All right. It’s all right.” Aragorn noted the lost look
the elf laid on him and the ragged, shallow breathing of his
friend. They needed to get somewhere safe quickly and rest for a
bit. Removing a piece of flint from his knapsack he forcefully
struck it against the edge of his sword, moving carefully to keep from
jerking Legolas around while he lit one of the torches they had
It was hard to console his friend with his left hand chained to
Legolas’ as it was, so he very gently took the elf’s hand in his own
and slowly led them back to the large, secluded cavern. As much
as he didn’t care for the thought of keeping company with a pair of
skeletons, it was the best place to make a temporary camp.
“Come on, Legolas, we’ll be fine. We just need to rest.” Aragorn moved
to the back of the cave, placing them at the farthest
point from the two tunnels that led away to whatever unknown darkness
“I do not need to rest.” Legolas was glancing around them warily,
considering his options. If he were not bound to the human as he
was, the ranger would have had a very hard time getting the stubborn
elf to remain here like this. The elf couldn’t imagine staying in
the cave, not here, not like this, not when even above ground he felt
the suffocating presence of evil everywhere. It was like being
“Yes you do.” Aragorn crossed his legs and sat down on the rocky
ground, pulling the elf down with him. “And so do I.”
Legolas glared hard at the ranger, but the anger wasn’t directed at the
human. It was frustration over the situation.
Aragorn smiled softly at the elf.
Legolas watched as the human set aside their weapons and allowed the
ranger to take his quiver from him, gently pulling it over the elf’s
head, careful of his bruised shoulders and laying it beside the elven
“I’m going to make a fire, so bear with me. I’ll need to move
around you a bit.” The human stared into the large, blue eyes
watched him carefully as he moved into a crouched position and twisted
on his boot heels until he faced Legolas.
He was very grateful that the length of chain that connected them was
at least a foot in length, as it allowed him room to maneuver while
Legolas rested. Aragorn smiled slightly to himself as he piled
the sticks and kindling he had collected and once more removed his
flint, striking it and setting the tinder on fire. His companion
was doing anything but resting. The elf was tense as a bowstring
and hadn’t spoken since Aragorn told him to rest. The ranger was
going to need to do something if he expected either one of them to get
any sleep that night.
With the tiny fire sparking merrily, bathing the cavern in a warm,
golden glow, Aragorn sat down cross-legged, still facing his friend,
emptied the contents of his knapsack. The small metal pot he
carried with him fell out, ringing loudly in the cramped
confines. Legolas jumped, refocusing his attention on what the
ranger was doing.
Aragorn pulled out the small sack of athelas
he had brought with him
from Gondor and set it aside before unstopping the flask of water that
they carried and pouring a small amount of it in the pot.
“We cannot waste the water. It is all we have.” Legolas' voice
a mere whisper.
“I am not wasting it,” Aragorn replied softly, preoccupied with
what he was doing.
The region of Mordor lay in a valley about fifty feet below sea level
and so the water in the pot boiled a lot faster and a lot hotter than
it normally would have. Aragorn, aware of this, carefully watched
the water level as it quickly warmed. Legolas was right about one
thing: this was their only flask of water and they would need every
drop of it if they could not find more.
When the water had reached its boiling point, Aragorn removed it from
the fire. Wrapping one of the old shirts he had taken from the
previous cavern around his hand to keep from burning himself, he set
pot down next to him and sprinkled a large handful of athelas into the
Legolas glanced slowly up to meet his gaze when the ranger turned back
to the elf.
“We need to stay here tonight and perhaps tomorrow night as well.
Until the orcs have moved well on. This will help make the air a
bit more breathable.”
The elf did not respond and Aragorn’s heart went out to his
friend. The bruises on the prince’s cheeks were turning a deep
purple and blood had caked in the corner of his mouth where his lip had
split. Dirty, blonde hair spilled over the elf’s shoulders and
fell in tangles about his face. The slump of the proud shoulders
belied more than Legolas was willing to say.
“You need to rest,” Aragorn said softly. His statement
provoked no response. With a sigh the ranger glanced to the rocky
floor; he ached more than he was willing to admit himself. The
beating they had taken had left him more wrung out than he had realized
and his body was beginning to stiffen up painfully. He
pushed the thoughts brusquely aside; it was Legolas’ loss of spirit
that frightened him.
“Here.” He spoke the word gently as he moved behind Legolas,
causing the elf to have to cross his right arm across his chest to
accommodate the ranger as Aragorn seated himself behind the
Knowing his words weren’t reaching the elf any longer, Aragorn gently
took hold of Legolas’ shoulders and drew the prince back, carefully
forcing him to lie against the ranger’s chest.
Legolas shook his head a little but did not resist.
“Yes, my friend. Relax.” Aragorn whispered into the elf’s
ear as he stirred the athelas
with his free right hand, releasing more
of the sweet scent into the air. He threw another stick on the
fire before turning his attention to Legolas once more. He knew
the prince had wounds that needed tending, but it was too difficult
right now, chained as he was, and his own body was begging for
rest. It was hard to move with their wrists manacled together, so
he simply let his left hand rest on the elf’s left shoulder, gently
moving his fingers in soothing patterns.
Legolas’ right hand caught Aragorn’s fingers, stilling the ranger’s
movements as he tightened his hold on the human with the feel of
someone who was looking for a lifeline to keep from floundering.
“I’m right here. We are safe. They’ll never find us down
here,” Aragorn assured softly.
“We’ll never find our way out,” Legolas' voice was a mere whisper.
“Yes we will; I made sure of it.” Aragorn gently placed his right
hand over Legolas’ forehead, his fingers brushing the elf’s face and
causing the prince to close his eyes as he slowly drew Legolas’ head
back to rest in the hollow of his shoulder. “Now just close your
eyes and relax.”
The elf was too tense under his touch, so the ranger continued to speak
quietly, slipping without thought into elvish. “Keep your eyes
closed, you can't see the cave ceiling then,” he explained himself.
“Now breathe in deeply.”
Doing as he was told, Legolas’ overwrought senses were assaulted by the
sweet clean smell of athelas
and he relaxed unconsciously, shakily
releasing his breath before taking another deep draught of the clean
air into his lungs.
Aragorn smiled softly as he felt the tension slowly leave his
friend. “Imagine we are in that meadow, the one just to the north
“The one we had to spend the night in because you wouldn’t pay
attention to me?” Legolas questioned. His silent laughter could
be felt against Aragorn’s chest.
The ranger rolled his eyes as he tossed another small twig on the fire.
“Yes, that one. You will never let me live that down, will
you?” He didn’t mind the teasing barb; he was simply glad the elf
was speaking and beginning to calm down.
Legolas, his eyes still closed, smiled slightly as he shook his head,
“Well it wasn’t my fault there was a hole there. You could not
see it from the trail,” Aragorn tried to defend himself. They had
been over this before.
“I saw it and I warned you.” Legolas’ smile widened. “You were being
arrogant and you thought you were the better tracker.”
“I am the better tracker.”
“You weren’t then.”
Aragorn gave the elf a small shove, eliciting a quiet laugh from the
fair being. “Well you could have gotten me out instead of laughing at
me and then I wouldn’t have been in quite such bad shape. That
was how I twisted my ankle!”
“Oh no. You didn’t fall in a hole. There was no hole there,
remember? You’re the better tracker and you insisted there was no
hole.” Legolas snickered at their gentle teasing.
“You go ahead and laugh, but the look on your face when Elladan blew
your cover and told us that they had found you stuck in that same hole
earlier that week was priceless.”
“I couldn’t believe he told.” Legolas opened his eyes and tried
to glance over his shoulder. He tensed slightly when the walls of
the cavern crushed back down on him. Instantly Aragorn’s hand was
covering his face once more.
“Close your eyes,” he whispered in the elf’s ear, moving his face
around the tangled blonde hair and laying his head against Legolas’.
“Just remember the meadow.”
After a few moments of silence he spoke again. “Can you see it?”
“Yes.” Legolas relaxed again, although his grip on the ranger’s
hand had not lessened.
“Do you remember how the stars looked? It was close to mid-summer
and they were bright and huge and the night was lit by their
presence.” He stirred the athelas
again, pushing the small pot
back near the fire to keep it warm and throwing more of the dried weed
into the water.
“Yes. I remember Eärendil being especially bright that
evening.” Legolas pressed against the ranger and stiffly
stretched out on the rocky floor, his mind far away and his thoughts
freed from the confines of their rocky prison as he crossed his ankles
“I remember the bugs.” Aragorn spoke quietly, causing Legolas to
“You would remember something like that.”
“Well I thought there were only bugs that big in Mirkwood!”
Aragorn could feel the elf slowly giving into his body’s desire for
Taking a deep breath, Legolas sighed and began to softly hum a tune
Aragorn hadn’t heard in years: it was the slave’s lullaby that Cabed’s
family had sung themselves to sleep with.
Memory surfaced and the ranger spoke quietly. “I saw Kidrin in
Gondor, below Lithiant. He was with the slaves we freed
there. He says the Simbani are well and they send their
Legolas stopped humming and listened to the sound of the ranger’s voice
as it thrummed against his back.
“I meant to ask you how it went for the Gondorian army after I was
taken, but it slipped my mind,” the elf quietly answered.
With a small snort of amusement Aragorn nodded. “Wonder why.”
When the prince laughed lightly he continued. “It went
well. We found the traitor.”
Legolas grew very still and quiet as he thought back on the past half a
year he had been away from home.
“It wasn’t you who killed those two young soldiers, Legolas.
Denethor, Castamir and all the others know it now. It may not be
much of a comfort, but at least they know the truth. They know
that you were set up. You have been cleared of all the charges
the Gondorian army levied against you.” Aragorn tried to see the
elf’s face but was unable to; the silence that stretched between them
was difficult to wait out.
“They should have not have died as they did.” Legolas’ voice
was very quiet when he spoke. “Alcarin was kind to me. His
betrayal was painful. I still don’t understand it.”
“He used you to throw suspicion off of himself. I’m sorry my
friend. You met them on the road to visit me at just the wrong
time and he used it to his advantage. Stealing those weapons and
killing those boys had always been part of his plan. His father
was Corsair, his mother Gondorian, but she died when he was young and
the bigotry between the two races killed whatever conscience he had
when his father died fighting for Gondor and yet was branded a traitor
by the very people he died defending.”
Legolas nodded slightly but did not reply so Aragorn continued
speaking, “When I could not find you, I feared the worst but hoped you
had merely escaped. I left Tarcil to hunt for any traces of you
while I convinced Lord Ecthelion to let me take a contingent down
against the Corsairs. I am so sorry I could not come
sooner. Ecthelion conceded, sending me back with more than enough
troops and we destroyed their shipyard and all their soldiers and took
their supplies. I found the second slaver’s vessel among the
warships and we freed the slaves. It was there that I met up with
Kidrin; the slavers had taken him a few weeks earlier. He was the
one that told me he had seen the slavers take you aboard the first ship
and pointed me in the right direction. I never would have known
if it weren’t for him.” Aragorn tightened his hold on the elf in
his arms. “I was just glad to see him and hear of you.”
“It is good that it went well for Gondor.” Legolas sighed deeply
letting the past and its pain slip from his thoughts. He hadn’t
realized that he had nearly been lost for good and quickly changed the
subject. “I am glad you found Kidrin. How is he?”
Aragorn smiled to himself. “Tall! You would not believe how he has
“Humans do that.”
“Do what?” the human questioned softly.
“Grow up.” Legolas smiled sadly, an expression his friend could
not see. As Aragorn thought on what he had said, the elf began to
quietly hum once more, the familiar soothing song filling the
The ranger smiled softly, feeling his own aching body begging for rest.
Yes, humans do grow up, he thought, thinking back on the life he had
lived with men for the past fifteen years and all he had learned.
He was simply content that he was now in the company of an elf once
more, even if their circumstances were not what he would have
Shifting slowly, Aragorn repositioned himself behind the prince and
rested back against the rocky wall behind him. Throwing a few
more scraps of wood on the fire and mounting the small flames higher,
relaxed, content it would last for a few hours of sleep.
Gently brushing Legolas’ hair out of his face, Aragorn rested his head
back against the elf’s. He could still feel the prince humming
softly, but the tune was becoming more faint as Legolas fell
asleep. “It will work out all right, Legolas. You’ll see,
really will see those stars again. I promise you.”
The soft humming ceased as the human and the elf fell asleep, exhausted
from the abuse and the stress of the previous day. Next to them,
the athelas boiled merrily
away, filling the cavern with the sweet
smell of a land far away to the north that haunted their dreams.
Aragorn watched the orc patrol march out of sight from his hiding
place behind the large boulder he and Legolas were crouching next
to. He slid as far around the rock as he could, his back pressed
against the warm black chunk of stone.
They had passed into the barren lands of Gorgoroth a few days ago,
nearing the northwestern edge of Mordor. The black walls of the
Ephel Dùath, the mountain-fence that surrounded the dark lands,
rose steadily into the sooty sky on their left. The landscape was
dreary and desolate and places to hide from the increasing numbers of
orc parties that moved through dry hills and shale valleys were
becoming scarce. Stretching his neck, the ranger peered in the
direction of the sound of the fading orcs' voices, content they had not
been spotted. The ranger’s arm was jerked slightly as Legolas
flopped back against the rock with a sigh.
“What’s wrong?” Aragorn immediately redirected his
attention. Legolas’ flagging spirit still bothered the
“What’s wrong?!” the elf repeated what the man had said while holding
up the chain that linked them together. “This is what’s wrong
and...and this!” Legolas swept his free hand about them. “Hiding
behind rocks in Mordor from orc patrols. If I had free use of my
hands I would have slain them all. I am tired of this hiding and
sneaking about, tired of Mordor and tired of being your shadow.” He
gave the chain a good yank, his frustration getting the best of
him. He wasn’t mad at the human, he was mad at their
circumstances, but his friend was getting the brunt of it.
Aragorn shifted, crossing his legs under him and seating himself so he
faced the elf, his left hand rested lightly on his knee near the
prince’s thigh. Legolas wouldn’t even meet his gaze.
“I’m sorry...” the elf muttered after a few moments but was silenced as
his right hand was gently covered by the ranger’s.
“Don’t be.” Aragorn glanced around them. “You’re right.
This is wrong and we are going to get out of here, soon.”
“You have been saying that for a week or more. Your definition of
‘soon’ is questionable, Aragorn, unless you have started keeping
elf-time.” Some of the real irritation had bled out of the elf’s
voice, leaving only the dry humor behind.
When the elf rolled his eyes and glanced at the man out of the corner
of them the ranger couldn’t help laughing before quickly continuing,
“Look we can't be far from the gates...”
“And you expect to walk right through them. Or better yet ask
nicely to be let out?”
“You’re annoying when you’re sarcastic, has anyone ever told you
that?” Aragorn couldn’t stifle the smile that threatened to
spread across his face as his friend lay a dark, mirthless gaze on the
human. Holding up his right hand in a gesture of peace he
continued, “No I do not suggest we ask to be let out, but they must
open those gates eventually. Dagorlad lies just beyond them, the
orcs never pass through there I have been told. We can easily
lose them in the wastelands. It's nearly all swamp now anyway and the
woods are not far beyond that. They will not follow us.”
Legolas nodded in agreement. He was not sure he was up to the
challenge, but neither did he want to die in the evil land they were
crossing. His eyes drifted to the smoky canopy that sealed them
in the rocky valley. He realized Aragorn was still talking and
glanced back at the ranger who was now holding the elf’s bow in his
“So? Do you want to me show you?” Aragorn smiled impishly.
“I’m sorry. I didn’t hear what you said.” Legolas frowned
slightly, asking the man to repeat himself, which Aragorn did with easy
patience, his eagerness shining through the silver eyes that watched
the prince closely.
“I know how you can shoot your bow even though we are chained together,
I’ve been thinking about it. Do you want me to show you?” Aragorn
was watching his friend carefully. He passed the elven
weapon off to Legolas and raised his eyebrow in question; he really
hoped this worked. He had tried everything he could to raise the
elf’s spirits; this was his last idea, but it was also his best.
He held his breath hoping the prince wouldn’t say no.
With a small nod the elf slowly began to mirror the smile the human
favored him with. He pushed the sweaty, blonde locks that fell
into his eyes away from his face. Normally unaware of the
temperatures around him, the elf was more susceptible to the heat here
in Mordor because of the evil that clung to him like the sulfur clouds
that hugged the edges of the valley cliffs.
The promise of being able to use his weapons once more had brought back
a spark to his eyes and it pleased Aragorn’s heart, but the elf’s
susceptibility to their surroundings was not lost on the ranger and he
tugged the prince back into a seated position, passing the flask of
water to the fair being.
Legolas was confused and shook his head. “I am not thirsty.”
“Your body is.” Aragorn pushed the gourd towards the elf again,
overriding his companion’s denials. “Yes, Legolas, you need to
drink. You have barely eaten or taken any sustenance. I know you
think you can push yourself as you have many times in past but, trust
me on this, your body cannot handle it now. Drink or we’ll not
move an inch from this place.”
The elf glared at the human, finally accepting the flask and muttering
himself, “That’s probably how those two slaves in the cave died. One of
them was a stubborn ranger.”
“Yes, well the other would have been a bullheaded elf then.” Aragorn
returned the glare the blue eyes held as Legolas tipped the flask to
his lips, inadvertently causing the ranger to have to move closer to
him as he drank deeply.
The tepid water seemed cool to Legolas’ parched throat and he felt the
liquid all the way down to his stomach, sighing slightly as the
coolness refreshed him.
“Told you,” Aragorn leaned nearer and whispered playfully.
Responding with lightning speed to the gibe, the elf pushed the ranger
back, forgetting momentarily that they were attached by the chain.
Aragorn rocked backwards, pulling Legolas into himself and bursting out
laughing. “You forgot!” he taunted, holding up the links.
“I did no such thing.” Legolas tried to stifle his own smile and stand
awkwardly to his feet, attempting to maintain his dignity while pulling
the laughing ranger up with him. “Quiet your voice or the orcs will
hear you!” he cautioned, dramatically glancing off to their right where
the patrol had passed.
His warning only caused the ranger to laugh harder as he was halfway
pulled to his feet by the elf. “If that were the case, they would
have heard you whining about Mordor long before they ever heard
me. Admit it; you forgot we are chained together.”
“I will not.” Legolas bent down to retrieve his bow.
Straightening up, he couldn’t help smiling at the ranger who was
watching him. “Are you going to show me your brilliant idea about how
to fire this thing while hampered by you or not?”
Trying to unsuccessfully catch his breath and stop laughing, Aragorn
glanced around them before pointing to a small, dead scrub brush that
was growing from a crack in a large boulder about a hundred yards to
their left. “There. That’s a good place.” He led them towards the
makeshift practice range.
As Aragorn stepped past him, Legolas shoved his bow between the man’s
feet, tangling them up and tripping him hard. Aragorn gasped in
surprise but did not hit the ground as strong hands gripped his elbow
and quickly righted him, holding him in place until he got his feet
He turned a surprised glance at Legolas who was trying hard to conceal
a smile. “Oh I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to trip you,” the elf lied.
Giving his friend a playful shove the human laughed, simply glad that
the elf’s spirits were rising. “I’ll get you for that,” he
threatened as they stopped fifty yards from the intended target.
Suddenly turning serious, Legolas handed his bow to Aragorn. “How do
suggest that I shoot with my hand tied so to yours? You have seen
me shoot, Estel. I can't defend us restrained like this.” He
rattled the offensive chain, earnestly holding his friend’s gaze.
“That’s what I’ve been thinking about.” Aragorn handed the bow
back to the elf, pressing the smooth wood into the prince’s left
hand. “Shoot the bow; take the far left branch off that dead
bush, the one that sticks out at an odd angle.” When the elf
continued to look at him questioningly, he continued, “Pretend I’m not
here. Do everything like you normally would.” He nodded in
encouragement when Legolas raised the weapon and concentrated on the
small, stunted tree.
Blocking out all else, the elf narrowed his vision, breathing in rhythm
to his heartbeat. Reaching swiftly over his shoulder, the
clinking of chain startled him and he flinched slightly before grabbing
an arrow from his quiver and stringing it on the bow. The notch
fit smoothly against the string and in moments he let the projectile
fly, momentarily forgetting he was impaired by his human companion when
the arrow nicked the branch, clipping it from the dry scrub brush.
Legolas turned towards the ranger in surprise as Aragorn let out a
quiet sound of victory.
“I knew it would work.” He smiled into the fair being’s face as
the elf wordlessly asked for an explanation.
“Do it again in slow motion and I’ll show what I did.” Aragorn stepped
slightly back behind the elf standing just adjacent to the elf’s right
As Legolas reached back to the quiver Aragorn’s hand brushed the
fletchings before the elf’s and quickly slipped one of the tips higher,
making the wood shaft easy for the prince to grasp. As Legolas
gripped the arrow and slipped it onto the string, the ranger moved
forward with the elf’s motions, keeping the tension on the chain at a
minimum. He had seen the prince in action so many times that the
elf’s movements were like dance steps to him and the ranger marked them
out in his mind. He watched Legolas intently once the arrow had
been strung and noticed the way the elf’s right eye squeezed slightly
shut just before he loosed the projectile. True to form the elf
concentrated, narrowed his right eye and released the arrow. It
was an almost imperceptible, nearly unconscious reaction that Aragorn
was sure Legolas didn’t even realize he was doing. But it was enough to
tip off the ranger on when to move and how as the elf fired the
“How did you know?” Legolas turned incredulously towards the
ranger. “How did you know when I’d release the arrow? When to
Aragorn pointed at the prince’s right eye. “You narrow your right eye
just before you fire.” He smiled softly. “I’ve been going over
the way you shoot in my mind and I thought I remembered that.”
Nodding slowly Legolas smiled. “It worked.”
“Let's try it again,” the elf asked excitedly. It felt so
good to go through the familiar motions again, like reclaiming a part
of himself from the shadows. He was not helpless.
Affecting an air of indifference and mocked agedness the ranger glanced
at the prince. “Just like teaching the young ones.” He spoke
patiently, raising his eyebrows in a condescending manner.
Legolas stared at the human for a few seconds, knowing it was a joke
but not quite remembering why. Then his memories swung suddenly
back to a time far in the past when he had said those exact words to a
much younger ranger than the one that now stood next to him.
Bursting out laughing, the elf clapped Aragorn on the back.
“Yes! Just like teaching the young ones.” He smiled into the
bright, silver eyes that echoed his laughter. “So can we try it
With a light laugh the ranger stepped behind the elf. “By all means,
let’s try again.” He moved in rhythm with the elf, shifting
faster and faster as Legolas slowly gained his speed and confidence.
I may never know what it is about you
and your bow, my friend, but it
worked then and it works now and seeing you smile again is all that
matters to me, Aragorn thought with a small smile.
The elf’s hand reached back to grasp another arrow, only to be caught
the ranger’s fingers. Legolas turned slightly, startled by the
contact, having forgotten for a few moments that the ranger stood so
closely to him.
“You’ve run out of arrows, my friend.” Aragorn smiled softly and
walking towards the scrub brush the elf had been practicing on.
The dead bush had been reduced to merely a twig as the two collected
the spent arrows.
Legolas accepted the last of the retrieved weapons, staring wordlessly
at his friend. The ranger couldn’t quite read the elf’s
expression and he was caught off guard by the openness of the
“What is it?” Aragorn tipped his head slightly, trying to gauge
the prince’s mood.
“I was wrong.”
Raising his eyebrows in question, Aragorn shook his head slightly,
confused by the elf’s admission.
“Not only was I wrong, I acted like a prig. I am sorry I
complained about being chained to you.” Legolas smiled slightly
and looked to the walls of Mordor that were even closer than they had
been days before. “You are not hampering me and I am not unhappy
to shadow or be shadowed by you, human.”
Aragorn laughed softly at the friendly taunt. “Legolas, I never
took what you said to heart. It is this land.” He motioned around
them. “It is foul and it covers the heart with heaviness.” The
ranger’s smile turned impish and he moved back a pace before
continuing, “Besides, once we get back to the forests I am sure that
that prissy haughtiness will return to you.” He ducked the smack
the elf aimed at him but couldn’t escape the playful hit.
Wrapping his fist in the chain that held them together, he pulled the
elf towards him, snatching the arrows from Legolas’ hand and stuffing
them into his quiver. “Now what say you we head northwest and
find a way out of this accursed place?”