Title: Iston (I know)

By: Chloe (the elvish, angst-loving, enthusiast.)

Feedback: evenstar47@hotmail.com

Rated: PG-13 (for *major* angst, and violence)

Summery: Aragorn and Legolas take a hunting trip through Mirkwood, when they stumble across an ancient grudge that causes deep pain to Legolas. Why can he not hear Aragorn? Why does he not look him in the eye? And can Elrond heal *this* kind of illness? If they ever get to Rivendell…

Spoilers: Nope! Don't think so…

Disclaimers: Aragorn, Legolas, Mirkwood, and any other recognizable characters or places (and the songs "A Elbereth Githoniel" and "The old walking song") are J.R.R. Tolkien's *only*! I don't have permission to use them, but no one is paying me for this, so that's okay.

The language of Elvish, Sinderen, is Tokien's too. Also, you might want to note, that I am not super at translating it, and apologize for any mistranslations. I don't suppose it matters *that* much, but if you are looking for a Learning Elvish course, this isn't the place to start. ;)

Disclaimer Notes: All of the events in this story are completely made-up. I couldn't find a way to incorporate them into Tolkien's world, so I did my best to write them as if they *could* have occurred, but no one would necessarily make note of them. I'm sorry if they don't line up well with the events of The Lord of the Rings, but I mostly wrote this for enjoyment, and never planned on making it *entirely* realistic.

Dedication: To Sarah (the bookish, plausibility-mad, realist) for saying my writing was wonderful, and my plot was *not* completely and totally ridiculous…before you had even read it! You always make me feel good! : )

To Hannah-Shmallow-Siri-Elrohir etc. (the crazy, starry-eyed, visionary) for being a goof-ball for me when I got writers block. You always make me laugh! :D

And to Cassia (the anonymous, torture-fic writer) and Siobhan (the mute, mush shadow) For coming up with the Mellon Chronicles, and making something great out of over-looked friendship. Thank you for inspiring me! :)

Note: This story includes MAJOR angst. If you *really* don't like that, I suggest you not read this. If you like angst, like I do *evil grin* then you should enjoy this…at least, I hope you do! ;)

// marks are elvish translation

Example:

Iston

//I know//

* marks are italics.

Istó n

(I know)

Chapter 1

Something Amiss

The trees moaned softly in protest to the light wind. The young grass ruffled with every breeze, and the air was cool and clear. All was peaceful. Quiet. Perfect. A clear stream curled around small hills of fresh flowers, grass and a generous amount of various other wild vegetation.

The leaves of every tree had an orange tinge, due to the Mirkwood sun-set. It was a lovely one, dominated by red, but also tinted with a suggestion of orange. It was also tangled with wisps of yellow left over from the sunrise, and, as if on an after-thought, the tiniest idea of pink.

The peace was broken only by a light foot that hit the new grass wrong. The small rustle that escaped the spot seemed to almost split the total silence. The figure looked up, wondering if anyone had heard it's misstep. No one. No one heard, for no one was there. He was completely alone.

Ever so cautiously, and quietly, he leaned down to the quiet water. It looked so clear and inviting. He had been walking all day, and there wasn't a soul for miles around. Touching the water slightly, he felt the cool, pure liquid, and it seemed to almost flow through him.

SHWOONT!

An arrow hit the ground not two meters away from his head. The creature's head shot up, and he whirled around. With expert light-footedness, he gracefully fled the stream, disappearing into the forest's secure depths. Silence again.

It was not silent long, for there was soon a very strange sound on the wind. A soft snort. Almost a chuckle.

"Don't say anything." Came a grouchy voice from among the trees surrounding the stream.

There was nothing for awhile, and then a voice heavy with controlled laughter murmured "You...missed."

A man stepped out from the trees, brushing his cloak of all the torn grass and leaves. "I said don't say anything! You never listen to me."

Another figure stepped from the other side of the clearing, also brushing some brambles and leaves from his long, golden hair. His face looked barley controlled, as he tried valiantly to avoid laughing.

The man crossed his arms over his chest, and glared at his companion. "I know it's just killing you, keeping that in, so go ahead."

The other merely laughed lightly and shook his head, almost satisfying the mirth inside. "Oh Strider. What in the world am I going to do with you?"

"Now then," Aragorn pointed a finger at his friend, "I *did* sneak up on him, did I not? Admit it, he didn't know I was there."

"It is true." Legolas nodded, smiling fondly at his momentarily cantankerous friend. "But you still need target practice."

Aragorn rolled his eyes. "Do not remind me of my *lack* of talent." He sighed, shrugging off some of the embarrassment of missing such an easy target. It would have been nice to have shot the stag, seeing it was his first try since they'd left Thranduil's halls to take this hunting exercise. He looked around at the towering Mirkwood trees, and in an obvious change of subject, murmured, "So, where are we off to now?"

"The camp." Legolas nodded, easily excepting the change.

"I should like to find something to eat before it gets dark though." Aragorn pointed out. "I would rather not starve as a result of this exercise."

"It's all right. My father equipped me with some extra food, just in case."

Aragorn's eyes snapped to Legolas'. They had journeyed a the entire day into the woods, carrying a few rations for the trip, but they had finished that before they started the hunt.

"Why would he do that?" he asked incredulously.

Legolas shrugged, trying to look indifferent. "Just in case." He repeated.

The ranger groaned. "Great. It is as if he does not trust me to shoot a simple meal." He looked at Legolas again, and seeing the mirthful glint in the elf's eyes, hastily raised a finger. "Don't you say a word, Legolas Greenleaf."

The elf prince bit his lip to keep the smile on his face from getting any bigger, and simply nodded. He didn't trust himself to say anything anyway.

And with that, they trudged off into the undergrowth of Mirkwood again.

**********

Legolas put the last of the fruit and meat into his horse's saddle-bag. He looked up at his friend across the fire.

"If I had not missed, we'd be eating fresh venison tonight."

Legolas sighed. Aragorn had not gotten over his miss. "Oh lie down, and go to sleep, Strider." He smiled at the half-serious glare the ranger threw him as he curled up under his cape, and lay down.

"Silvan elf." Aragorn muttered.

"Stubborn Dùnadan." Legolas retorted. Aragorn couldn't help but smile as he closed his eyes, and let the fire light fade from his vision. "It's good to be together in solitude." He sighed groggily.

Legolas lay down under his cloak as well, and nodded towards his companion. "It is indeed, Aragorn. It is indeed."

**********

Legolas ran, but his feet weren't under him. He shoved branches out of his way, but they weren't there. He leapt over rocks, but he never left the ground. Hard as he tried, he couldn't run. Couldn't get away from the feeling. Something ice-cold ran down the back of his neck. His head was pounding, and a terrible mist filled his mind. He couldn't think. He couldn't see. He stumbled blindly through the forest that wasn't there, trying desperately to hide from the unseen cold.

"Us nin er!" he shouted to the dark shadows that were cast by nothing. "Us nin! Us nin!"

//leave me alone// //leave me! leave me!//

"Gwiil, Legolas! Ea na gwiil!"

//peace, legolas! be at peace!//

Legolas sat up suddenly, and Aragorn had to jerk back to avoid getting the elf's head in his face. The elf looked around like a frightened child.

"Aragorn?"

"I am here Legolas." Aragorn whispered, moving over the elf again.

"Aragorn." Legolas sighed, and looked up at Aragorn. He stumbled back, eyes wide with terror as he stared at the human. "Aragorn. No! Please!"

"Legolas." Aragorn's face was creased with worry. "What is it?"

Legolas sat panting, eyes closed as he tried to slow his labored breathing. As he did, he inhaled the Mirkwood air, and his mind seemed to clear some. The world around him still seemed foggy, but he continued to gulp in the fragrant air. He *could* breath.

The elf looked up at Aragorn again, and closed his eyes abruptly. "Strider," he whispered the personal nickname, trying to hold onto it. "please- please tell me that I am your friend."

Aragorn's face changed from worry to confusion. Something was very wrong with his friend. Legolas never asked for such a thing. He was not a proud elf, at least for a wood elf, but not a childish one either, and had not asked much of Aragorn before. But still, for whatever reason, Aragorn felt that Legolas really did need to hear it. He sighed. "I am your friend, Legolas."

"Please Strider."

Aragorn inched forward, and put a hand on Legolas' shoulder. "I am your friend Legolas."

"Strider, I know this sounds silly. I do not wish to worry you, but please. I *need* to hear it."

Aragorn looked intently down at the elf. What was wrong with him? He had said it twice now. Had Legolas gone deaf?

Perhaps he needed some true comfort. Aragorn didn't understand, but maybe…maybe he just didn't need to.

He wrapped his arms tightly around his friend's shoulders, and whispering softly, he spoke the words in the grey tongue.

"Eam layaa mellon, Legolas."

//I am your friend, legolas.//

Legolas sighed and relaxed in the man's embrace. "Thank you." He whispered in the same tongue. "Hantach."

Aragorn sat for a long ten minutes, with the elf still lying in his arms. "Legolas, you should get some rest." He murmured at length.

Legolas' eyes were still closed, and Aragorn hoped he was not sleeping. Not because he didn't wish to awake him as much as the fact that elves slept with their eyes closed only in deep pain or eternal sleep.

He soon realized that he wasn't sleeping, but Aragorn could feel his friend shaking slightly, a sure sign that his body was tired. This too worried the ranger. Elves were almost never tired, and when they were, it was only from a serious lack of sleep. Legolas had been well-rested when they'd left Thranduil's halls just a day before. There was something wrong with the elf prince. Very wrong.

Legolas slowly looked up at Aragorn, but his eyes immediately snapped shut again. "You are right, my *friend*" Legolas emphasized the word, as if he didn't really believe it.

Aragorn shook his head in total confusion. "Legolas. Please, what is wrong?"

"I cannot know."

"What do you mean?"

"I just *cannot* know." Legolas repeated almost frustrated. Was Aragorn supposed to know what he was talking about?

"You mean you do not know what is wrong?"

"Yes. I know what is wrong." Legolas sighed. "I am so sorry Aragorn. I wish I could tell you."

"You can confide in me, Legolas. You always have."

"That is not what I mean." Legolas pulled an arm out from under Aragorn's grasp and put the hand softly on his shoulder. Aragorn noticed that the elf still didn't look him in the eye. "I do not-no - I *cannot* know what is wrong." He shook his head in frustration. "I have no understanding of what is wrong, but I know that it's not real."

"What?"

"You. What my eyes see in you."

Aragorn shook Legolas slightly. It seemed as if the elf gone insane. He was making absolutely no sense! "Legolas, I don't understand. What do you see in me?"

Again, Legolas shook his head. "A great many things, Strider. I do not wish to tell you. I- cannot know what I would tell you. I don't think I can explain."

"Try." Aragorn begged. He longed to know what was wrong with the prince, and was fully aware that he could not help him until he knew.

"I am sorry, Strider. I cannot."

Aragorn shook his head and sighed. "It's all right. Perhaps you will feel differently tomorrow. Perhaps you are only tired." It wasn't all right, and he doubted very much that it was only a lack of sleep that caused the normally sound elf to go uncharacteristically mad. But it made Aragorn feel better saying the insincere words, as if everything would be that easy.

"Really, Strider. I *am* sorry. I wish I could tell you, but-" Legolas shook his head in frustration.

"But I do not know myself. At least, not really."

"It is alright, my friend. You just need-"

"What else can I say? Shadows cloud my mind, and I cannot seem to explain what I know myself. Or what I might know."

It took most of Aragorn's self-control not to shake Legolas again. He was completely ignoring the ranger's words, like he had a few minutes ago. The elf was sick. Very sick. What could he do? Even his many years as a, itinerant ranger had not prepared him for this - whatever this was.

He looked around at the dark, forbidding forest. It was too dangerous to try and take his confused friend anywhere very far. He realized with mounting frustration that he'd have to wait till morning.

"Baurach seere."

//you need rest.//

Legolas nodded, and tried to rise, but his knees suddenly buckled, and with a groan, he sank to the ground again.

Aragorn put his arms around the elf's waist, and tenderly hoisted him to his feet. Walking ever so slowly, he supported the elf back to the fire-side. He gently laid him onto the ground, and covered him with his forest green cloak. "Rest, Legolas."

Legolas sighed, and rolled over under the cloak. Slowly, his eyes became unfocused, and Aragorn knew he was asleep. He was watching the elf closely, when suddenly, his friend stirred, jerking violently in his sleep, and his eyes snapped closed.

Aragorn tried to shove away the discouragement of seeing his friend sleeping in pain, and returned to his cloak as well, lying down underneath it. But unlike his friend, sleep did not come to him.

The pale eyes snapping shut at the sight of the ranger, the frightened look on his face when he awoke, the gasps of pain that escaped his perfectly healthy body... The memory of all of Legolas' strange behavior haunted Aragorn. Legolas wasn't sick: his body heat was normal, and his heart had beat at a steady rhythm as Aragorn held him. No, he was not bodily sick in the least. There was something else wrong. Something he couldn't discover. Something beyond the normal realm of possibilities…