-Shadows on the Snow-

By: Bill the Pony

Rating: PG-13 (future planned violence…maybe)

Spoilers: Rising Storm (my own fic), perhaps the trilogy.

Disclaimer: All recognizable characters do not belong to me, but to Tolkien or whoever owns them at the moment. I only have my muses and Fasse, Gorban, Ralamir, Falmarin and all other obscure characters.

Summary: Two months after the event in Dunland (told in Rising Storm) Aragorn and Legolas set out to escort Fasse to Rohan. Unfortunately, an early winter is not foreseen until it hits the three full force, bringing with it the danger of the wild.

Note: I have gone through much toil trying to bring up excuses this story might fit in with the event of the books. I can only guess that this comes a good two years to two and a half before the start of the Fellowship of the Ring and the War of the Ring. I had to figure a way to get Legolas back in Mirkwood before the Council scene so Gollum can do his thing, and Aragorn on the prowl with the hobbits. I think this slides in okay. With the help of Tehalanae (and some other wonderful people) on the Mellon Chronicles group (shameless plug for Cassia and Sio) I took her estimates and plugged them in with some average traveling time to get my overall time this story takes up, and I think it works! One more thing. I'm relying on the observation from both book and movie that as in the last one, Imladris is almost held in an eternal autumn. That is why it is only just now fading, and for one it started so early as seen in Rising Storm. I actually made this observation before PJ or whoever said it in the Extended Edition DVD. I'm so pleased with myself. 'Nuff babbling.

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Shadows on the Snow

Part 1

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Imladris was a bustle of activity. With the coming of the last vestiges of fall, came both hunting and the preparation for cold nights and roaring fires. This year the gathering began early as it was foreseen that this winter would be one of special weight and length. It was also a regular habit that those living around the borders of the elven refuge often found shelter in the strength and security of Rivendell.

Two months time had passed since the return of Legolas and Aragorn, and with them the little known wizard Fasse, from Dunland. Their return brought long days of laughter and singing. Four days had passed before Gandalf had called Fasse away with him to attend the conjuring of the White Council. For a short time, Elrond was also called away as his presence had been requested in this meeting, leaving his second most steward in his place. With them had also gone, Legolas, whom had most regretfully been called back to Mirkwood for official matters.

This left the twins, Elladan and Elrohir, along with Aragorn. The house had remained quiet even after Elrond had returned a few days later. "You do not seem to function when one of you is missing," the elven lord and observed. "Without an even number, you limp together as a dog with only three legs."

The weeks had passed in mal-mood. Then there had come tidings from Legolas that he had escorted Fasse back to Mirkwood for a short while until he himself could accompany the wizard back to Imladris. This had heightened the mood considerably in the household, much to Elrond's relief. Within ten days time, Legolas and Fasse were once again entering the doors of Rivendell.

"I don't know why we still give you the guest room when really it is rightly yours," mused Aragorn as he accompanied Legolas to his regular quarters.

Legolas sighed happily as he breathed the fresh air of Imladris. "For the few weeks I was in Mirkwood I felt as if the life was being drawn from me." He placed his hands on the serpentine carved railing. "The forest has changed so much, as if a great haze of smoke has settled among the boughs."

Aragorn could see plainly the grief that the slow death of Legolas's home was causing on his friend. Legolas had confessed as much of the pain. Unfortunately he had been at a loss of words for comfort. Instead he had stood with the elf for a good while until the sun had dipped behind the trees, talking of their adventure in Dunland as well as the goings on of both of their homes. It had seemed to help lighten the prince's mood. By the coming of the call to the evening meal, the lame dog was whole again.

The meal had been interrupted by a loud bray. Oddly enough the elves seemed to look resigned and accustomed to this loud interruption. Gorban, the donkey of Dunland, had sauntered in glaring and snorting impatiently at Elrohir until the elf had scooted over to allow the creature room enough to eat from his stationed bowl of assorted fruits and greenery. Early on, Gorban had assumed his position at the right of the younger twin whether it be in hunting or simply about the lands. So in his stubborn donkey mind, Gorban had seen no reason why he should not be allowed at the dining table as well. Elrond himself had found out the strength of the will of the donkey when they had tried to remove Gorban from the room. And so it was that Gorban was now a regular at the meals.

"I really cannot intrude on your routine any longer," Fasse said as he leaned back in his high-backed chair.

"Non-sense, you do not intrude on us, friend." Elrond assured.

Fasse shook his head. "No, really. I think it is time I move on." The wizard fiddled with his bushy beard, nodding slowly. "Yes, yes, I need to find some place to settle down. One so hoary and brittle as myself can't go unsettled for long."

"You would be welcomed to call this your home. But I understand your desire. Tell us though where you would go?"

Fasse thought for a moment, ignoring the eyes upon him. He seemed to be calculating something from the slow movement of his lips. "Perhaps Rohan as you so mentioned before. Maybe Gondor." He pursed his lips and paused. "What say you? Would Gondor look kindly on my presence in their lands?"

Elrond smiled fondly at the diminutive Istar. "I am sure they would welcome you. But if you truly wish to leave, then you must start out promptly. Winter will show her garb all too soon," he warned. Seeing that all had had their fill, including Gorban, Elrond pushed his intricately carved chair back from the table and stood. "But if you must go then I insist that someone of this house escort you to your destination, wherever it may be."

Looking to Legolas first, Aragorn rose. "I would go with you, friend. I think it is time I stretch my legs again." He nodded to the wizard with respect.

"And I as well. I would hate to think of you suffering alone with the dull company of this human." Legolas prodded with a straight face.

Elrond cast upon the elf a doubtful look. "You have not consulted with your father about this. Do you not have duties of your own in Mirkwood?" Relations were yet strained between the realm of Thranduil and the house of Elrond. Unfortunately Legolas and Aragorn's friendship could only tear that gap further to strife if he was not careful.

"Nay, I have seen to those duties and I would breathe the air of Middle-earth while it is still fresh." The elven prince met eyes with Elrond then as they both knew of the ever-darkening presence that was continuing to spread over the lands.

Elladan looked ready to stand at Aragorn's side before Elrond turned his attention to him. "You however, my son, still have duties to attend to I cannot send a passel of princes and elvish nobles out into the wild at once." Elladan pressed his lips together in a thin line but nodded resignedly, submitting to his father's wishes. "Very well then, as much as I hate to see you three leave again, I must advise that you leave with all haste before the winter comes."

Fasse moaned then, rolling his eyes pitifully. "Oh deary, deary, does this mean I will suffer the agony of riding upon the back of that wild beast again?" Aragorn nodded and laughed. "Oh, perhaps I should not have even said anything," the wizard sighed.

The twins put aside their disappointment and Fasse his dread of riding upon a horse. For one more night, the halls were filled with merry singing and the telling of lore and tales. It was Legolas who excused himself first, followed shortly by Aragorn, then Elladan and Elrohir. It was Fasse and Elrond who remained awake into the early hours of the morning, speaking of the past, the present and the future as old friends on a winter's night.

---

If there was such a thing as déjà vu then Elladan and Elrohir were experiencing it. It had seemed that only yesterday they were bidding farewell to both Legolas and Aragorn who were, as this time, off on what the twins saw to be just another adventure in which they were not included. The mature elven side of them though saw it for what it was as a potentially dangerous and tiring journey with rationed food and hard roots to sleep on. But the rational side was always so hard to agree with.

Ralamir stood beside his grey companion Falmarin while, with the two elvish horses grazed Gorban. It had been a struggle for the donkey to decide with whom to go, if donkey's held any allegiances (as Gorban had quite strongly shown). It was a tug of grass bale between staying in Rivendell with Elrohir or going with Fasse to…wherever the wizard was going. Fasse had tried to talk the donkey into staying in Imladris, but this had only had the opposite effect. In Gorban's mind this caused him to reason that the wizard would probably need his brains more than the elf did, though at times, he had decided, the elf did as well need his far superior intelligence. But as much as a donkey could reason, he had been assured by the yellow haired elf that he needn't make any decisions yet and could simply come along as the pack-donkey again.

A third horse was also being led to join the three. She was an older, but strongly built mare of a pale grey as her growing number of years had faded her lustrous black coat. Fasse had eyed her warily while the mare had fixed him with an unenthusiastic frown. "Fasse, this is Nienna. She has seen many years, but is strong of heart and body." Elrond smiled at a memory. He decided to leave the temper character out. Fasse failed to notice that even Ralamir and Falmarin, two full-blooded stallions, gave the mare more than enough birth in passing.

"Do not dally or wait for anything. You are cutting it shorter than I would like. Stay in the lands of Rohan no longer than you must," Elrond warned. He watched Aragorn closely. Unknown to anyone else, Aragorn had confessed his trepidation at venturing into the lands of his heritage. "There has been both dark and light in your past, Estel," Elrond had said. "I understand your reluctance." Aragorn had bowed his head then, his hair hiding any expression that might have warred on his face. "Perhaps you will be spared." Aragorn had not known what his father had meant when he had said the latter, almost as an after thought. Many times, Elrond said things that he had yet to understand and had grown used to it.

Aragorn swung up on Ralamir, nodding his understanding. "We'll return as soon as possible. I promise." With an impish grin to his twin brothers he spoke a word to Ralamir. Fasse wobbled, gripping the horn tightly as Legolas taking the mare's lead led the unseated wizard from the courtyard. Turning in his bareback seat upon Falmarin, Legolas waved farewell then disappeared around the archway.

Elrond stood for a while after Glorfindel and the other elves of Rivendell had departed. Elrohir stood beside him, unsure of what to say or do. His father heaved a breath. "I do hope I have not made a mistake in letting them go. It all happened so abruptly."

Elrohir looked to his father questioningly. "What could go wrong? Well," he caught himself, tilting his head to the side, "beside the usual unorthodox disasters which usually follow Estel around." This elicited, much to the younger elf's relief, a smile from the elven lord. "They'll come back, just like they always have in the past."

Elrond turned slowly, "I hope you are right. I must not let myself worry so." He smiled wider then at his youngest blood son. He draped an arm around Elrohir's shoulder, squeezing his shoulder. "But I have you to worry about now, with my undivided and unadulterated attention."

---

"So Fasse," Legolas called back to the lagging wizard upon Nienna. "Where exactly are we going?"

Fasse hands were gripped knuckle white around the shallow cantle of the saddle he wavered in. In all truth, Nienna was an elvish horse, born to be ridden without fastenings or restraints. But also in all truth, Fasse was not a horseman and need every fastening and restraint the elves of Imladris could dig up. So Nienna bore it with much pinning of ears and gnashing of teeth. "Perhaps we should not go so far as Gondor. Somewhere, anywhere closer that I may walk on my own two feet!" lamented Fasse.

"Would you rather walk in drifts of snow then?" Aragorn called from the head of the single file line they led down the path cutting along the side of a slopping meadow dotted with aspens. His answer was another agonized moan. Legolas edged Falmarin into a gentle trot, pulling Nienna's lead. Fasse howled as he flopped helplessly about in the saddle. Gorban followed behind the wizard braying hitchingly. Aragorn passed his elven companion a sidelong glance. "That really was not a kind thing to do, Legolas."

Laughing lightly, Legolas looked over his shoulder at the wizard. "We'll make a rider out of him yet."

"Hopefully before you kill him." Aragorn shook his head in disapproval. Legolas only smiled.

Like an arrow from his bow, Legolas spoke a word and Falmarin in a grey streak leapt forward into a strong lope, bringing Nienna behind them. "I will meet you in Gondor, ranger! Enjoy the winter that will be visiting your dragging feet!"

"Crazy elf!" Cried Aragorn as he watched Fasse bounce wildly in his unbalanced seat. The wizard's shaggy beard blew up over his eyes, muffling his desperate howls and muting Legolas's tinkling laughter. Shaking his head again he prodded Ralamir into a fast canter. This was indeed going to be a long, and testing journey.

TBC…