NECKLACE

Okay, I admit it…I love Tolkein's books, but here I drift from my reading and take a hint from Mr Peter Jackson and his movie. This is just a short interlude that never took place. It can't really be called a story, because it does not have a beginning, middle or end. It's just something I wrote when tired one night! ^_^ Hope you like it.

JRR Tolkein wrote the books: New Line Cinema made the movie. None of the battle events or characters detailed in this piece are in any way my property.

Aragorn looked across sternly into Legolas's eyes. You're late, the elf had said, with a slight cock of his head and a hint of devilment.

Was that a joke? he felt like saying, but was too weary to consider it. He shifted his weight onto the other foot, discovered that neither leg could be considered the better, and shifted back with a grunt.

Legolas frowned a little, regarding his companion. "You look terrible," he added, slipping back into the common speech.

Aragorn was tempted to say the same to the elf, but in conscience could not. Obviously the fear that Aragorn had been lost forever had hit the immortal harder than he himself would have suspected.

The Ranger shrugged, wincing at the slash across his shoulder. "Thank you," he said, wryly. "I feel as if the weight of all your long years had been placed on my body, my friend."

Again that hint of amusement in the elf's eyes, then Legolas dug into a pocket and held out his hand. Aragorn saw the glint of silver and felt that very same weight lift a little as the pale light filtering in past the Deeping Wall caught the necklace and made it shine.

Arwen…

He had not even been fully aware that he had lost the pendant. The memory of Elrond's daughter had saved him, while his mind had been wandering in pain and shadow. Wondering, he reached out and took the jewel from Legolas's hand. The light of the Evenstar…given freely…

Legolas watched him with quiet patience (something elves had plenty of time to develop) until Aragorn reached back to fasten the necklace back at his throat and tuck it safely inside his tunic. Perhaps it was Aragorn's imagination, but he could have sworn that the elf's hand was at his own slim neck, grasping for - what? Another necklace, lost decades ago?

"You are a fortunate man, son of Arathorn," Legolas said, eventually, breaking Aragorn out of his reverie. "I imagine you have spoken with Lord Elrond regarding the consequences of a union between yourself and his daughter?"

Aragorn considered the possible reaction of Elrond. The lord of Rivendell was a fair and reasonably avuncular fellow, but there had been something of the protective father about the set of his face when he saw Aragorn and Arwen together. Aragorn doubted that Elrond had many favourable thoughts towards a mortal-immortal match.

He answered evasively.

"There may yet be no union," he said. "Saruman's army comes to Helm's Deep, and they come in force. I am barely hours ahead of them."

"Yrch," said Legolas, bitterly, the light of anger glittering in his eyes. Aragorn frowned.

"You harbour a real hatred," he said. It was obvious in every movement the elf made when he fought orc-kind. Elvish fighting style is graceful, fluid, almost like dance. Legolas fighting orcs had the awful, jagged feel of a grudge match long awaited. It takes a special kind of strength and fury to use a flighted Galadrrhim arrow as a hand-weapon. Legolas glanced at him, expression carefully absent from his porcelain face - and made no comment: merely asking, "How many?"

"More than there are maggots in a warg's carcass," Aragorn replied. "We have to prepare. Theoden must know what evil advances upon Rohan this night."

"Aragorn."

Legolas was already looking around the keep, gaze flicking over possible weak points.

"Too many riders were lost on the way here," he said. He did not have to say anything further.

"I was not disputing the use of these good archers, master Elf," said the dwarf's voice, deep over the plinking of the rain on the armoured shoulders that towered above him. "I was merely saying that myself, with a few properly-wielded strokes of my axe, could fell just as many of Sauron's fell beasts as you and your bow…"

Legolas, seeming quite heedless of the foul weather, laughed.

"Then we shall see," he said. "Suppose you and I play a little game with them? There look to be plenty for all…"

Gimli snorted. "Games? You elven folk choose the oddest moments to jest. A dwarf-game, now, that's a real sight to see…"

The sight of the advancing army halted his recollection. Aragorn was standing high on the Deeping Wall, the keep behind him. The Ranger held Arwen's necklace tightly in one hand - his expression was as grim as one who already surveys a pile of his comrade's corpses.

He looked at Legolas, standing immobile, obviously already practising his draw in his mind. There is nothing worse, he thought, than seeing the death of elves. They are not meant to die…

He thought of Arwen, giving him a simple gift, just a necklace, nothing more. There is nothing worse, he imagined Elrond saying, than the death of a mortal whom you love. Arwen. Reconsider.

"Aragorn," Legolas was saying, an odd look of battle-joy on his fair face. "You are making a target of yourself. Come back behind the parapet."

"Am I?" Aragorn laughed, feeling a peculiar mix of fear and exultation setting in. I am setting myself - and her- up for a fall…

"Then I shall join you."

"Mind my axe," came the voice of the dwarf as the Ranger stepped down. "Damn these Elves and Men….never looking where they are going…"

The step of the advancing army rang loud in the stones of the Hornberg. Gritting his teeth, Aragorn, last king of Numeanor, awaited what might be his last night on earth.