"I said no shooting!" Aragorn bellowed over the noise of snarling Wargs and the roar of the fire at our backs.
The Elf grinned at him as he neatly side-stepped a Warg corpse that crashed before him with an arrow in its throat. "I am using my other arm, mostly. I switched!" he called back. He had, indeed. He was using his injured arm to hold the bow, instead of for drawing back the string, which would have put too much strain on his healing shoulder.
Aragorn gave a frustrated growl in response, launching another attack on a Warg.
I watched them fight, Aragorn and Legolas, Boromir and Gimli, dancing madly among the ferocious Wargs and marvelled at them. I and my fellow Hobbits were clustered behind them, mostly out of the way, with our swords drawn. I may have killed one Warg, but I was by no means a warrior, nor were the other Hobbits. Gandalf was our main line of defence from any Wargs that slipped past our warrior foursome, but it was looking increasingly unlikely to be necessary.
Although Aragorn had all but forbidden Legolas to join the fight, the Elf had stubbornly refused to remain at the back, or to refrain from using his bow. It meant Aragorn was likely going to verbally tear him apart later, but I did not think Legolas was going to care all that much.
From what Bilbo had told me of Legolas' father, I did not think any such yelling by Aragorn could really compare to Thranduil's temper.
In any case, Legolas was obeying Aragorn, from a certain point of view. He was not actively seeking out Wargs, as Aragorn, Boromir and Gimli were doing; he was mostly on the defensive. I had counted only four arrows that had flown unerringly from his bow in the whole fight - which in truth meant exactly four dead Wargs.
Suddenly, the roar of the fire behind me became very loud and I shut my eyes instinctively against the abrupt blinding flash of light. Gandalf's voice thundered all around us, a magical incantation that set all the trees about us in a blaze. The Wargs howled and fled, or died where they stood, struck down by Wizardly fire.
Legolas grinned, and laughed as he inspected the corpse of one such Warg. He was, I felt, likely pointedly ignoring the burning trees; he would no doubt find a moment in which to harass Gandalf about the necessity of setting whole trees on fire later.
I understood him better now, in a way that I had not when we had first been separated from the Fellowship. It was the little things that mattered with Legolas, that marked his mercurial moods and bizarre humour and still strange Elvish ways. But little by little, I was gaining an understanding of him, and he of me, and through that understanding we were becoming friends.
I looked at him curiously, and met those intense blue eyes again as I picked my way over to him. It was unlikely we'd get a quiet moment again, just the two of us, for a while yet and there was still one issue I wished to resolve with him. One that I did not particularly want the rest of the Fellowship listening in on.
"Legolas," I said, a little cautiously. "I am...sorry, for what I said to you, on the mountain.'
Legolas smiled gently. "It was already forgiven, Frodo. I regret how I reacted however. Your words...reminded me sharply of my father, of things he used to say. But I have thought long on what you said, and I will attempt to take them on board. Though, with the Dwarf, it may be easier to say than do." A brief look of exasperation crossed his features before being replaced by a tentative smile. "Forgive me, for reacting poorly?"
I could have wept with relief. "Already forgiven, Legolas." I looked down at the dead Warg he had been inspecting. "May I ask...what was it you found amusing about this - this thing?" I wrinkled my nose; the smell of burning fur was horrendous.
"That was real magic, Frodo," he declared. "Elves could not do this thing. And that is why he is a Wizard and we are not."
I still did not get the joke.
"Come now, you two," Gandalf called. I looked up to see him waiting impatiently with the rest of the Fellowship. A smile crept onto my face to see them all standing there, safe and unharmed. Legolas smiled down at me and clapped my shoulder fondly before striding away to join the others.
I waited for a moment, watching as Aragorn began to berate him soundly for fighting, Legolas looking as unfazed as I'd predicted. Merry and Pippin were standing with Boromir, listening with rapt expressions as he told them a story, full of grand gestures and fond smiles. Gimli stood a little apart from the others, eyes burning with his eagerness to be away, to reach Moria.
Sam and Gandalf were watching me in return, equally concerned looks on their faces. I hurried towards them, apologising for keeping everyone waiting.
Our quest was not yet over, not by a long shot. There would be darkness and danger aplenty on the road ahead, but I could surely trust in my companions to help me along the way, to keep me going when all hope seemed lost.
Our first trial was over.
And that's the end! Kudos to all of you who made it here; each and every one of you are lovely people! A thousand thanks to you all for reading, for reviewing, for following and favouriting; I've said all this before, but I mean it every time. You are the best.
Special shoutouts have to go to my beta-readers, all of whom can be found here on ffn: Morbubble; love-yoshness; Tobi is a good boy. Without them, this story would never have been finished, and would be gathering dust in my harddrive, a shadow of what it became.
Yes, I am working on the next story, but I'm one of those authors who likes to have everything read and beta'd before posting, so keep an eye out in the coming weeks. I'm hoping to get this new one finished a lot quicker than Trial By Separation - which took over a year to get fully written and edited - but this new one won't take nearly as long, I've got a plan this time.
Also, other stories to write too - a big long one about Legolas' childhood in Mirkwood, and maybe a couple of other one/two-shots, we'll see.