Chapter 5

A/N: Oh goodness, I apologize for having left you all at a standstill for so long! I'm sure you are all dying to know what happens next, right? *G* Well, here is the next chapter, at last! Enjoy!

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At dawn, the company made to continue on their journey to Isengard. After Legolas awoke, he walked over to Aragorn, who was busy packing up his sleeping roll and his other supplies into his pack. "Aragorn." He spoke quietly, causing the ranger to jump and nearly drop a container of herbs he had been replenishing. Aragorn stood up and faced the Elf, his eyes narrowed slightly.

"Yes Legolas?"

"I am sorry for how poorly I behaved towards you last night. I have not been feeling well and the pain has made me rather cranky. Forgive me." He smiled softly. Aragorn patted his friend's shoulder and smiled back.

"Of course I forgive you, Legolas. Are you warm enough?"

"I am all right for now, thank you, though I am afraid I will need a bit of help getting onto the horse. My legs feel like jelly."

Aragorn allowed the prince to lean on his arm and brought him to his white stallion, where Gimli stood waiting, grinning through his beard. "I get to ride with you again, Legolas."

Legolas laughed. "Very good."

"I think you are well enough at this point," Gandalf explained, watching as Aragorn gave Legolas a leg up. Once everyone was settled, Gandalf gave the word and the company started to move. They went slowly, riding now upon the highway. It was broad and hard , and well-tended. Dimly through the mists they could descry the long arm of the mountains rising on their left. They had passed into Nan Curunir, the Wizard's Vale. That was a sheltered valley open only to the South.

Legolas gazed around him, feeling the cool breeze against his face as the company continued to move forward. He was feeling a bit dizzy and lightheaded for a moment, and he had to close his eyes and take deep, cleansing breaths, remembering pleasant times at home back in Mirkwood with his family. He suddenly let out a small gasp and squeezed his eyes shut, clutching the leather reins until his knuckles turned paler than they already were.

"Are you all right, laddie?"

"Aragorn!" Legolas gulped, clutching at his throbbing shoulder, and the ranger pulled his horse to a stop immediately.

"Legolas, what is it?" He asked, looking over his shoulder, and his eyes widened at his companion's face, which was twisted with pain. At this point, the rest of the company had halted and were waiting patiently for Aragorn to dismount and to go over to the Elf, who was gritting his teeth.

"It hurts, Aragorn," he whispered.

"What kind of hurt? Does it ache or sting?" Aragorn wanted to know, wondering if he should apply ointment to the wound before they continued onward again. Legolas managed a deep breath and his crystal blue eyes opened again.

"Both." Legolas choked.

"Legolas, I am going to need you to climb down from the horse so I can examine your arm a bit more closely."

"Aragorn, I-I can't." Legolas hissed. "I can't move my arm."

Gandalf turned his horse in the direction of the two and raised his eyes. "But your legs are working fine, Master Elf, so I insist you follow Aragorn's direction before your arm grows worse," the white wizard ordered, much to the young prince's surprise. Gimli released his grip around the Elf's waist and watched as Legolas slid off of the steed and to the ground, and finally stood weakly facing Aragorn.

The ranger set his pack on the ground and asked that Legolas remove his tunic and shirt so he could see whether in deed the ointment needed to be put on. Legolas was horrified at the idea of having to undress in front of the large group of men, many of whom he hardly had the pleasure of getting aquainted with. "I most certainly will not," Legolas snapped.

"Would you rather I chop it off then, to spare you the embarrassment?" Aragorn snarled, unsheathing his sword and holding the gleaming piece of metal before him. Legolas's mouth fell open and his eyes bulged.

"There now, that is enough," Gandalf ordered, "We'll have no bloodshed here, not between two companions especially."

Aragorn glanced at the wizard with a look that said 'I was only trying to get him to cooperate', and the wizard continued to stare sternly at him. Aragorn sighed, and put the sword back into its sheath. "I will tell you what. We will go behind some trees, so the only person who could see you is me. Is that fair enough?"

Legolas sighed and nodded. "Very well. I suppose I will do anything to stop this blasted arm from hurting so." He looked at Eomer who was watching the situation before him seriously and then glared at Gimli who was grinning with amusement through his thick beard.

"Don't say a word, dwarf," Legolas snarled, following Aragorn behind a tree. Gandalf sat upon his horse sighing and shaking his head, muttering something inaudible under his breath, though in a rather impatient tone.

Behind the tree Legolas took off his tunic and shirt, revealing the swollen arm, and Aragorn shook his head sadly. It must have been the up and down movement of the horse that caused the swelling to rise again in this manner. "All red and I can see a tint of blue again," Aragorn told Legolas.

"Then I was not ready to leave as yet when you took me away from the house," Legolas growled.

"You were clearly getting well, Legolas, and at this point, we cannot afford to loose time. Now what I can do for you is wrap some damp gauze around it to try and bring that down, after I put some of this on-" he held up the familiar white cream Legolas remembered Eowyn putting on him while he was still staying in Theoden's house. It smelled strongly of eucalyptus, and it was rather soothing once you breathed it in.

"Very well then. Do what you must," Legolas held out his bare arm for the ranger to care for, and Aragorn blinked in surprise.

"All right, thank you." He opened the sack and pulled out a long strip of gauze and his fresh canteen of water, and first, put some of the cream onto the Elf's shoulder, his eyes crossing at the strong scent. Legolas stood rigid as his friend smoothed on the cream so it was only a light shade of white. After that, Aragorn dampened the gauze with the cool water and wrapped it firmly around the Elf's arm, covering the wound completely. When he finished, he returned the Elf's clothing and the two of them, once Legolas had redressed, went back to join the company.

"Did that help you a might?" Gandalf asked, as Aragorn helped Legolas back up onto the horse, and Gimli got into position again, prepared to hold on for when the ride began again.

"A might," Legolas grunted, relieved that his wound felt a bit cooler and hurt a bit less now with the ointment on it.

"Good. Let us away then, we have not much time." He let out a cry and the group began to move forward, continuing down the path through the city of Isengard. There were many houses and great pieces of metal machinery, that took the place of the once lush green that used to occupy the area. A thick, grey mist hung over the company, sinking deep into their bones.

"Dreary," Eomer muttered, as he rode up between Gandalf and Aragorn.

"Yes." Gandalf shook his head sadly.

The plain, too, was bored and delved. Shafts were driven deep into the ground; their upper ends were covered by low mounds and domes of stone, so that in the moonlight the Ring of Isengard looked like a graveyard of unquiet dead. For the ground trembled. The shafts ran down by many slopes and spiral stairs to caverns far under; there Saruman had treasuries, stores-houses, armouries, smithies, and great furnaces. Iron wheels revolved there endlessly, and hammers were thudded. At night plumes of vapour steamed from the vents, lit from beneath with red light, or blue, or venomous green. (1)

A strong place and wonderful was Isengard, and long it had been beautiful; and there great lords had dwelt, the wardens of Gondor upon the West, and the wise men that watched the stars. But Saruman had slowly shaped it to his shifting purposes, and made it better, as he thought, being deceived---for all those arts and s ubtle devices, for which he forsook his former wisdom, and which fondly he imagined were his own, came but from Mordor; so that he was naught, only a little copy, a child's model or a slaves flattery, of that vast fortress, armoury, prison, furnace of great power, Barad-dur, the Dark Tower, which suffered no rival, and laughed at flattery, biding its time, secure in its pride and its immeasurable strength. (2)

Legolas nearly fell off of his horse twice after the fumes of Isengard started to go to his head. If Gimli hadn't had his arms clasped tightly around his waist, he would have certainly done so. His arm was not hurting nearly as much since Aragorn put on the salve, and the eucalyptus scent had pretty much disappeared, which was a shame, as it was very calming.

At last Gandalf halted them and beckoned to them, and they came, and they saw that beyond him the mists had cleared, and a pale sunlight shone. The hour of noon had passed. They were come to the doors of Isengard. The king and all his company sat silent on their horses, marveling, perceiving that the power of Saruman was overthrown; but how they could not guess. And now they turned their eyes towards a great archway, and the ruined gates. There they saw close behind them a great rubble heap; and suddenly they were aware of two small figures lying on it at their ease, grey-clad, hardly to be seen among the stones. There were bottles and bowls and platters laid beside them, as if they had just eaten well, and now rested from their labour. One seemed asleep; the other, with crossed legs and arms behind his head, leaned back against a broken rock and sent from his mouth long wisps and little rings of thin blue smoke. (3)

Everyone slowly peered down at the creatures lying there, trying to get a better look. At last, one sprang to his feet.

"YOU!" Aragorn shouted, pointing at him, mixed expressions of anger and amusement on his face as he recognized the stranger. The King and his men were startled. The creature looked like a tiny man almost, with a head of thick curly wheat-colored hair and rosy cheeks. He had big hands and overly large feet covered in almost fur. He wore a travel-stained cloak of the same hue and shape as Legolas, Aragorn and Gimli had worn when they rode to Edoras. He bowed very low, putting his hand upon his breast. Then, seeming not to observe the wizard and his friends, he turned to Eomer and the king.

"Welcome, my lords, to Isengard!" he said. "We are the door-wardens. Meriadoc, son of Saradoc is my name; and my companion, who alas! Is over come with weariness-" he gave the other a dig with his foot---"Is Peregrin, son of Paladin, of the house of Took. Far in the North is our home. The Lord Saruman is within; but at the moment he is closeted with one Wormtongue, or, doubtless he would be here to welcome such honourable guests."

"Doubtless he would!" laughed Gandalf. "And was it Saruman that ordered you to guard his damaged doors, and watch for the arrival of guests, when your attention could be spared from plate and bottle?"

By this point, Legolas, Gimli and Aragorn had dismounted from their horses and were standing in a row in front of the hobbits with raised eyebrows. Legolas reached up and grasped his injured shoulder, grimacing as another shot of pain went through it.

Merry frowned, noticing this, and he gave Legolas a puzzled look. "What's wrong with your arm?" He asked.

'Of course he would have no idea,' Legolas thought miserably as Aragorn and Gimli helped the Elf sit down on a boulder. "Nothing," He grunted. "Nothing, I'm fine."

Aragorn snorted. "Oh stop being such a baby, and tell them what happened. They're friends, and they're concerned, and they have a right to be."

Legolas gave Aragorn a look that could kill. "You tell them, why don't you?" He released his grip on his shoulder.

"If that's how you want it," Aragorn grumbled. He was getting a bit frustrated with the Elf.

"Was he wounded?" Pippin wanted to know.

"I guess you could say he was," Aragorn told him. "He had an arrow tip in his right shoulder that he got I think when you two were first kidnapped, but we were so busy killing the orcs that he didn't think it was necessary to let us know about it." Aragorn gave Legolas a look, and the Elf turned away. "The arrow tip turned out to be poisonous, and it took a while for it to go into effect..."

The hobbits gasped. "He was POISONED?" Merry cried in disbelief. "Master Elf, that was very very foolish not to tell Aragorn you were hurt," He scolded.

"Do not tell me what I already know," Legolas snarled.

"He nearly died from it too," Aragorn sighed.

"He's a great hero then," Pippin complimented, beaming at the Elf proudly.

Legolas stared at him. "I am a hero?"

"Not many people survive serious poison, and you did. You must have been very brave then."

Gimli grinned through his beard. "I do believe you're blushin, Master Legolas."

"Not a word out of you, dwarf," Legolas snarled. "Well, I am quite flattered you two feel that way, though I am afraid I can not feel the same." He walked a few feet away and just stood by himself.

"Let him be," Gandalf told Aragorn who went to comfort his companion, and the ranger stepped back, nodding. "He will be all right."

"He does not wish to be coddled, does he?" Pippin sniggered.

"No, he doesn't," Aragorn sighed. "So tell me, Master Meriadoc," He began, "Just what were the two of you doing here? I cannot belive you were here the entire time, and perfectly intact!"

"That's right, you rascals, you woolly-footed and wool-pated truants! A find hunt you have led us! Two hundred leagues, through fen and forest, battle and death, to rescue you! And here we find you feasting and idling- and smoking! Smoking! Where did you come by the weed, you villains? Hammer and tongs! I am so torn between rage and joy, that if I do not burst, it will be a marvel!" Gimli cried, pointing a finger at them accusingly.

"Well!" Merry huffed.

"One thing you have not found in your hunting, and that's brighter wits," said Pippin. "Here you find us sitting on a field of victory, amid the plunder of armies, and you wonder how we came by a few well-earned comforts?"

"Well-earned?" Gimli scoffed. "I cannot believe that!"

"Legolas, get back here, will you? Stop moping and act your own age!" Aragorn spat. He'd had it. Legolas turned around and blinked, startled at Aragorn's burst of outrage at him. The hobbits had shut up and were watching as Legolas stood his ground and refused to move from his spot. No human would talk to him in that tone and expect to get what he wanted. "Legolas, come here!" Aragorn ordered, pointing to the spot in front of him.

Gandalf raised an eyebrow at the Elf who turned his head away again. "Aragorn, relax, lad. He is old enough to fend for himself if he needs. I understand you are becoming frustrated with his behavior, but we all know why he has been acting in such a manner."

Aragorn sighed and rubbed his hands over his face, collapsing onto the boulder.

"He's better, isn't he?" asked Merry hopefully, feeling suddenly very worried about Legolas.

"Mostly."

Theoden, who had been quiet for a time, stepped up at last. "It cannot be doubted that we witness the meeting of dear friends," the king spoke. "So days are fated to be filled with marvels. Already I have seen many since I left my house; and now here before my eyes stand yet another of the folk of legend. Are not these the Halflings, that some among us call the Holbytlan?"

"Hobbits, if you please, lord," said Pippin.

"Hobbits?" said Theoden. "Your tongue is strangely changed; but the name sounds not unfitting so. Hobbits! No report that I have heard does justice to the truth."

Merry and Pippin each bowed low. "You are gracious, lord; or I hope that I may so take your words," Pippin said. "And here is another marvel! I have wandered in many lands, since I left my home, and never till now have I found people that I knew any story concerning hobbits."

While the hobbits stood talking with the King, Aragorn broke away to walk over to Legolas, who was sitting and facing away from them. His normally bright blue eyes were dull and sad, and his face was white as marble. At this point, it was hard to tell if he would ever be the same again. Before Aragorn could start a conversation, Gandalf ordered the two of them over to stand with the rest of the group so he could discuss with them the next plan of action that would take place.

"I must go and meet with this Treebeard, who directed Merry and Pippin to guard the gates," Gandalf explained. "He left a message that he wished to speak with me."

"Treebeard?" Legolas was confused.

"He's an Ent." Pippin explained.

"Ah yes, I have heard great tales of those creatures," Legolas replied thoughtfully.

Gandalf raised his eyes before turning to Theoden. "Well, will you ride with me to find Treebeard? We must go round about, but it is not far. When you see Treedbeard, you will learn much. For Treebeard is Fangorn, and the eldest and chief of the Ents, and when you speak with hin you will hear the speech of the oldest of all living things."

"I will come with you," said Theoden. "Farewell, my hobbits! May we meet again in my house! There you shall sit beside me and tell me all that your hearts desire: the deeds of your grandsires, as far as you can reckon them; and we will speak also of Tobold the Old and his herb-lore. Farewell!" The king remounted his horse and gave a final wave, before he followed Gandalf away.

Merry and Pippin bowed low. "So that is the King of Rohan!" said Pippin in an undertone. "A fine old fellow. Very polite."

A/N: Many of the descriptions in this chapter were actually taken from The Two Towers, in case any of it looks familiar. I am sorry I took so long with this chapter---I just haven't been motivated to write this story for some reason. But here it is! Please read and review!