Author's Notes:

Again, thanks SO MUCH for all the awesomeness coolio beanies reviews!

Bemmers: INDEED! WoT is awesome, eh'? Haha, I couldn't find any curses in LotR, so resorted to WoT curses instead. =D

Aislynn Crowdaughter: I totally agree. Unfortunately, half my story is rushed, makes no sense, or spacial and time factors don't actually work out right. LOL bear with me, I beg you!

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Chapter 6: Frail



Aragorn watched as the sun rose high in the air and beamed down brightly upon the walls of Gondor. He could see the Uruk-hai moving across the landscape, crawling steadily like an ominous shadow towards his kingdom. Within that shadow, he could make out individual faces now, so close were they - countless Uruk-hai, marching - so relentlessly marching. So ironic, that such tragedy would befall the race of men on such a beautiful morning.

The former Ranger turned his head to see all his men - all five hundred and fifty-three of them - standing at the walls, watching the approaching hordes as well. Whatever hope he still had rose in the form of pride for his warriors. He and his men had toiled for days to build up sturdy walls of wood and stone behind each door. The Uruk-hai would need a week to break down any entrances into the inner city. Aragorn knew the Uruk-hai would break those doors, but his men had put all their strength into it, and he was proud. All the same, reality was there. Five hundred and fifty- three. Aragorn had counted himself and had asked all their names. He couldn't say he remembered all of them, but this way, he had at least some knowledge of each man he was leading into death.

Aragorn had sent Arwen with the rest of his people into the tunnels built beneath the foundations of the city the night before. He knew though that if the walls were broken, they would be easily found. Though he knew "if" was really not in question. The real question was "when". His body stiffened as the truth of the matter drove into him like a nail. He was not preventing their deaths, only delaying them. Aragorn bit his lip until it hurt and he tasted the metallic bitterness of blood on his tongue. He didn't worry overmuch about it. After all, he knew he would be tasting a lot more of it that day.

If the grief of the coming of Gondor's destruction was not enough, the sorrow of a broken bond tied him down further. Aragorn cast his eyes to the ground. It had been two weeks since he had sent Legolas that letter, and no response had come. That meant one of two things: Legolas had already sailed and was gone from Middle-Earth, or the Prince was still in Mirkwood, but hated him too much to reply. Either way pained Aragorn to the core.

The King of Men leaned on the stone ramparts as a heavy sigh escaped him. The burden of this was too much - it crushed him down, buried him beneath endless miles of rubble. If only Legolas was by his side - if only his best friend was there.

~At least he is safe now. At least he will not die here~

Aragorn forced himself to stop thinking of Legolas and tuned his focus back to the army that approached. The ground shook with their footsteps as their snarls and yells of challenge grew louder. Aragorn had never known the true meaning of despair until this day, and he hated that feeling of complete and utter hopelessness. He did not expect to come out of this alive, and he didn't expect Gondor to prevail - not this time.

With a heavy heart, Aragorn fitted an arrow to his bowstring and looked straight ahead as, along all the walls, men followed his example. The clanging and hoarse yells from below were loud in his ears now. He tried his best to shout over the noise.

"First volley!'

His men aimed.

"Release!"

The front line of Uruk-hai fell to the arrows that struck them. With snarls of rage and of pleasure at knowing how easy their victory would be, the Uruk-hai raised their weapons and surged forward in a great black mass,

Aragorn notched a second arrow and fired. The battle was begun.





The trees and plains and rivers flew by in a blur as Legolas raced towards Gondor. He spurred Mantua to greater speeds. Legolas was glad for the horse from Rohan; she was faster than any horse he had ever ridden, and that speed was greatly needed. He thought back to his conference in Rohan. Theoden had been adamant at first, but Legolas was particularly persuasive, especially in times of need. His thoughts drifted also to the messengers he had dispatched to Lothlorien and the Lonely Mountain and the letters they carried.

Granted he did have to use a little crafty manipulation and some forging of signatures, but they didn't know that, and he could apologize later. The Prince of Mirkwood smiled inwardly - Gondor would not be alone in this, he had seen to that.

"Taile` kani, Manchua, naa telme' maure. Noro lim!" Legolas whispered to his chestnut-colored stead. She tossed her head in response and sped through the woodlands.

Gondor was not far, Legolas knew - his surroundings were becoming familiar. The tension was building in his stomach as he considered the peril he was racing into. The idea of turning back did not even enter his mind, though. All hesitation faded from him when only the merest vision of Aragorn flitted across his eyes. He had abandoned his brother once, he would not do it again.

Suddenly, Legolas reigned in Manchua and listened closely. The ground was vibrating every so slightly and the sound of chaos was close. With heightened anxiety, Legolas booted his horse forward. An uphill climb stood before him and Mantua sped up it with all speed. When he topped the grassy knoll, his breath was taken from him at the sight that awaited him. Hordes upon hordes were upon Gondor's city walls. He could make out armored men on the stone ramparts; some were shooting arrows, others were pushing down piles and piles of stone upon the forces below, and still others tended gigantic cauldrons of boiling water on the wall edges, then tilted them to pour it on whatever unfortunate Uruk-hai were standing down there. Growling under his breath, Legolas used his elevation while he could and searched the faces of the men for Aragorn.

A relieved, yet deeply concerned sigh escaped him when he found Aragorn shooting arrow after arrow into the masses. Luckily, the Uruk-hai had not yet completely surrounded the city, so the back was still somewhat open. With his keen eyesight, Legolas could make out the small side doors hidden behind mound of ivy and green undergrowth. Aragorn had always said it was hard for foes to notice them.

~I come, Estel~

With all haste, Legolas, dismounted Manchua and raced down the hill, not too concerned about being noticed by the Uruk-hai. A figure in greens and browns against a green and brown landscape was not too noticeable anyway.

~Then again, these are altered Uruk-hai. I really ought to have warned Aragorn sooner~

Legolas knelt by one small side door and inspected the lock. He smiled to himself - good thing Aragorn taught him how to open them. Legolas searched along the bottom of the wall until he found a tiny metal object, about half the size of his pinkie finger. His tongue stuck out the side of his mouth as he stuffed the small key into the lock and jiggled it around. After a full minute, he heard a satisfying click and grinned. Legolas pushed the door open and paused to look at the door he had opened. It was a full two feet thicker than usual.

~Well - at least he's protecting the inner city~

Forcing the door closed again and locking it, he tossed the small key to the side and bolted up the steps before him.

~Just one minute, Estel - just one minute, and I'll be there~





Aragorn growled angrily as anchors were thrown over the walls. Wonderful. The ropes were thick and any man that climbed to try and cut them were shot down by watchers from below. He turned his head when a desperate shout sounded from further down the wall. The first few Uruk-hai had scaled the walls and broken through. His lips set in a thin line, Aragorn threw his bow aside and drew the ancient sword Anduril. The blade whisked from its sheath, thirsting for blood.

He quickly dispatched the first Uruk-hai that appeared over the wall near him and the second as well. Though when they started coming in twos and threes, Aragorn had to try much harder to keep himself from getting sliced in half. He whirled his blade in an arc and descended it upon one Uruk-hai's skull, splitting it open. No more here. Aragorn prepared to turn to another small group of Uruk-hai nearby when something made him stop pin his tracks. Three Uruk-hai he thought had killed were rising.

~What the bloody hell?~

Growling in frustration and confusion, Aragorn prepared himself again. ~Since when did Uruk-hai have two lives? What trickery is this?~ From the exclamations of surprise and anger sounding around him, he knew his mean were having the same trouble. As the minutes drew on, he noticed that his men's shouts of rage and battle cries were steadily becoming cries of help and despair. His fighters were being cut down around him, and he could not stop it. It took all his strength to fight three Uruk-hai who, despite all the times he slashed them, simply refused to die.

A bold Uruk-hai charged Aragorn directly with a fierce snarl. It was beheaded by Anduril, though not before it sliced Aragorn's arm. The human gasped with pain and automatically stepped back. His mistake was not looking where he was stepping, because he stumbled on a pile of shields and crashed to the ground as Anduril spun from his hands. His chest heaving, Aragorn shook the sweat from his eyes and looked up to see a Uruk-hai standing above him. In his eyes, everything was in slow motion as the creature raised its cutlass for a final fatal blow to Aragorn's body. Time was lapsed as a million thoughts raced through his head. He waited for that strike -

Suddenly, an arrow embedded flew from nowhere and embedded itself in the creature's head. Without a sound, the Uruk-hai's weapon fell from its suddenly loose hands and it fell forward. His brain suddenly spurred into action again, Aragorn immediately rolled out of the way and the heavy body smashed into the rubble where he had just lain. Still not completely focused again, Aragorn lay there for a second staring at that arrow. An elven arrow. Before comprehension dawned on him, steady hands hauled him to his feet.

Aragorn's entire body froze as he saw who stood before him. The elf's blonde hair was tossed lightly in the breeze and his face was streaked lightly with dirt and blood. He wore a soft smile as he thrust his bow back into its place on his back. Aragorn gaped, speechless.

Legolas.

As soon as coherent thought was able to enter Aragorn's head again, he spoke like he was detached from his voice.

"Legolas! How in the name of the high Valar - You aren't - I mean I thought that - we're not -" senseless words poured from his mouth.

Legolas shook his head and handed the former Ranger his sword. "Not now, Estel - I do believe there are some individuals here who don't like to see us alive. I suggest we get them before they get us."

Deciding to save all questions for later, Aragorn nodded and spun Anduril in a figure-eight as Uruk-hai ran towards them. Aragorn parried sword thrusts and countered, spinning this way and that to avoid any foe's searching blades. Sweat dripped into his eyes as he fought, though he wasn't really thinking of the battle. Legolas' presence filled his mind. The elf had offered no explanation as to why he had returned, though Aragorn did not it to feel hope rise in him again. With renewed spirit, he fought with all the skill Iluvitar had granted him.

Back to back, the King of Gondor and the Prince of Mirkwood fought. Aragorn still didn't quite understand why the Uruk-hai were being so annoyingly strong.

"Legolas!" he shouted. "Be careful! I don't know why or how, but these Uruk-hai are different than what we are used to fighting. They are stronger, faster, and they just won't die like they used to!"

Legolas' voice was grim. "I know. I encountered two on my way back to Mirkwood after leaving Gondor last time. It almost cost me my life to kill two of them." His voice turned apologetic. "I was going to come back and warn you, but I - eh - changed my mind."

"What!?!?"

"Ah - sorry?"

Aragorn sighed. "None needed, Legolas, I understand."

Legolas sighed gratefully. ~I really should have warned him~

As Aragorn fought, he noticed that his arm that had been inured earlier was seriously affecting him. The wound was bleeding profusely and it did not help that it was his sword arm. It needed to be properly cared for or else his fighting would only be hindered further. Aragorn wasn't the only one to notice.

"Aragorn, you're injured. You need to get that fixed up." Shouted Legolas above the noise.

"In the middle of a battle!?" Aragorn shouted back incredulously.

"Well, you aren't fighting right! You'll get killed like that!"

"Thanks for your concern, Legolas, but somehow, I don't think the Uruk-hai will agree on giving me a five-minute time out!"

Legolas rolled his eyes. He quickly beheaded two Uruk-hai with a double cross maneuver. Taking advantage of the lull in the battle, he grabbed Aragorn's forearm and hauled him up the first flight of stairs they came across. Aragorn resisted strongly, and Legolas had to use all of his strength to keep his friend in his grasp. Within a few minutes, Legolas spotted a dark, roomy storage space built into the side of the wall. None of the Uruk-hai had bothered coming up these stairs yet, so they still had some time.

"Oh, do sit down and stop complaining," said Legolas calmly. "The more you cooperate, the less time this will take. Then, we can get back fighting and you'll be able to defend yourself better."

Aragorn sighed, but sat down and leaned his back against the stone wall. He saw Legolas' reasoning, and besides, he was grateful for the medical attention he was getting. Legolas pulled a small vial from his pocket and popped off the cork. He tore a corner from Aragorn's cloak and poured a small amount of the dark liquid onto the rough cloth. He then went about cleaning the wound. Aragorn's body stiffened at the pain each time Legolas touched the wound, but he made no sound. Finally, after he had gotten used to the dull throbbing, he spoke.

"I sent you a letter, Legolas."

The Prince of Mirkwood didn't look up from Aragorn's injury. "Oh, did you?" -so came his absentminded reply.

Aragorn nodded slowly. "Yes, though I didn't get a response. I-" he sighed.

Legolas looked up. "You what?"

"When I got no response, I figured you hated me too much too reply."

Legolas frowned. "Come now, Aragorn, you knew I was preparing to sail to the Havens. -And you know I could never ha-"

"LEGOLAS WATCH OUT!"

Instinctively, Legolas threw himself to the side. A scimitar slammed into the stone where his head had been a split second before. He executed a smooth roll and was back on his feet, twin blades in his hand. Aragorn too was on his feet now, his injury forgotten and Anduril raised.

The Uruk-hai rushed towards Legolas with a harsh yell, brandishing its bloodied weapon. Legolas blocked the first strike, and the second, and the third, before he could get an attack in himself. He managed to nick the creature's wrist and draw a few drops of blood, but that only served the anger it. By now, Aragorn too was upon the Uruk-hai, his sword descending on the foe in a graceful arc. The beast deflected Aragorn's attacks and spun around to kick an unprepared Legolas in his midsection. He flew across the floor, the breath knocked out of him with colors exploding in his head.

Aragorn spared his friend a glance and winced when he saw that Legolas was not moving. He snapped back to attention when the Uruk-hai swung its scimitar at the human's legs. He jumped the blade before clutching the hilt of his sword hard and slamming the knife-point into his foe's chest. The Uruk-hai dropped its scimitar and clutched at the blade protruding from its body. He made a deep gurgling sound and fell to the ground, his eyes unfocused.

Breathing a tired sigh, Aragorn hurried towards his fallen friend. Suddenly, something yanked him back. On his stomach and caught completely by surprise, Aragorn turned his head to see the Uruk-hai he had "killed" alive. The creature had its fingers wrapped around Aragorn's ankles. It let go and reached for the scimitar it had dropped only a minute ago. Thinking quickly, Aragorn rolled to the side and, with a strong kick, sent the weapon skimming across the floor and away from the Uruk-hai's immediate grasp. Growling in anger and frustration, it resorted to "natural means of combat". With one punch, Aragorn crashed into the wall and slid down it, his ears ringing.

The Uruk-hai snickered cruely, "I don't need my weapon, human - my hands will do just fine."

Aragorn gritted his teeth as the beast's fingers tightened on his throat. His vision beginning to blur, he reached into his boot for the hidden blade there. He slammed the dagger into the Uruk-hai's side. It did not kill it, but it certainly deterred it enough for Aragorn to pry the invading fingers from his throat. Still catching his breath, Aragorn searched the floor for Anduril. He cursed under his breath; the blade was in a far corner, out of his reach.

By now, the Uruk-hai had retrieved its scimitar and stood in the doorway, a look of rage etched on its face. It watched as Aragorn lay on the stone ground, chest heaving, the oxygen he needed to focus evading him.

The Uruk-hai chuckled. "Game over, human."





Legolas opened his eyes groggily, his head still swimming. He blinked several times to clear his eyes. Suddenly, reality crashed into him like a hammer on an anvil. ~Aragorn!~ Resisting his body's protest, he pushed himself up. The sight that greeted him was not so welcoming. Aragorn lay wheezing on the floor across the room. The Uruk-hai stood shadowed in the doorway, his arm poised to throw a deadly blade. Legolas saw the Uruk- hai's mouth move, though he didn't hear what it said - his focus was elsewhere.

Without even thinking, Legolas spurred himself into action. He was not even aware he was moving until suddenly, he was not in the same place he was before with his bow in hand. He had not the slightest understanding of what he was doing or why. He only felt a drive - a need - to do it. Suddenly, Legolas was in front of Aragorn, shielding him from the Uruk-hai that so harshly wanted them dead. With hands that moved quicker than sight, the elven prince notched at arrow and aimed for the creature's head. Only when the arrow was loosed did Legolas notice the blade that flew towards him. Too late did he notice. When he finally understood what he was doing, the scimitar sliced through the air.. With deadly accuracy and a fatal intention, the wicked blade struck Legolas in the chest. -But he did not feel it, and he did not care. Aragorn was safe. The world spun in dizzying circles as he felt himself fall and hit the cold floor.

Aragorn couldn't truly comprehend what he saw. It took more than a few moments for reality to process into his overworked brain. When it finally did, a wrenching cry tore from his throat as he threw himself across the short distance that separated him from his best friend. The wheels in his head turning crazily out of his control, Aragorn stared in disbelief and shock at the blade in Legolas' body.

"By the Valar -"

Almost afraid to touch him for fear of hurting him, Aragorn gently placed two fingers near the wound. Bending closely, Aragorn inspected the blade. The truth hit him harder and brought more pain than he ever thought he could possibly feel.

~No - no - no~

The weapon was ridged. Pulling it out would kill him and leaving it in would kill him. Either way, the prince's life was forfeit. If Aragorn had felt helplessness at the beginning of the battle before Legolas' arrival, it was nothing compared to the twisting feeling that consumed him now. He saw the light sheen of sweat on Legolas' skin and the way the elf's jaw clenched tightly. Aragorn's best friend was dying in front of him, and he could do nothing. Despair invaded his senses as he closed his eyes in a futile attempt to close out the pain. Nothing but pain.

"A - Aragorn?"

Aragorn's eyes snapped open. He looked into Legolas' agonized eyes.



"Shh, Legolas, stop," he scooted closer and, as gently as he possibly could, pulled the elf into his lap. "Don't exert yourself."

This was not happening - it could not be happening.

No, this could be fixed. Of course it could be fixed. Aragorn was in denial and he knew it.

"You'll be fine, Legolas, You'll be -" Aragorn stopped, forcing himself from showing tears. He had to be strong, for himself, and for Legolas. He took a deep breath to steady his racing pulse. "You'll be alright." It came out a whisper, and sounded just as unconfident.

Legolas' smile was weak. "Don't trouble yourself with lies, Estel. I- " his voice broke and he closed his eyes tightly, pain striking against him. His fingers dug into the stone in an unconscious effort to forget. He summoned all of his strength. He would not die before -

"Estel.. I -I'm sorry about the fight. I should have tried harder to -" blazing needles of hot fire pierced his skin, burned through flesh and bone. "-to understand why you -" Fire. "-needed us so. I'm s-sorry."

Aragorn shook his head and brushed stray strands of gold hair from the elf's face. "No, Legolas. I should not have said such harsh words to you in my ignorance of your ways. To have your forgiveness would let me fly."

Legolas made no reply, though his glazed eyes shone with understanding. He closed his eyes and rested his head against Aragorn's chest.

By now, Aragorn could not stop the tears that spilled from his eyes and streamed down his face. His tears fell on Legolas' pale skin. The King of Gondor brushed the sorrowful droplets from Legolas's face.

"Gondor is lost. I cannot lose you, too."

The elf's eyes remained close, but he replied, his voice barely audible, "No.. I don't think Gondor is lost." A confident tone was in his voice. "I think Gondor will live to see many generations."

What was he saying? Aragorn didn't even care about Gondor right now. Legolas was all he saw. All he could possible see. Sorrow was like a dead weight that hung suspended in his chest, weighing him down.

His voice was begging -pleading with all his soul, willing Legolas' to remain. Distantly, Aragorn could make out a new sound in the battle below. Horns. Mirkwood horns. So help had come - Aragorn didn't care anymore.

He brushed his thumb repeatedly against Legolas' skin. More horns. So Rohan had come, as well. In the coarse of the next minute, three other horns blared, each one distinct. Lothlorien. Rivendell. The Lonely Mountain. So that's what Legolas had meant by Gondor being saved. Aragorn's thoughts were muddled. The happiness that he should have felt at the idea of Gondor victorious was nothing but a mere speck in the dust to him. Honestly, he could not make himself care.

"Legolas.. don't leave me." Hopeless. "Please don't leave me."

Blue eyes opened. Legolas tamped down the agony that arose in him and lifted one hand slowly to touch the man's weathered face.

Aragorn could do nothing. All he could do was grasp Legolas' hand and hold him. The Prince of Mirkwood offered his best friend - his brother - one final reassuring smile.

"Veru earda nandin ii oron atal`ta, lle anwo ematte` nin."

Before Aragorn could find words to say, Legolas' eyes closed and his body grew limp is Aragorn's arms. The King of Gondor stared in disbelief and grief as his best friend died in his arms.

Dimply, Aragorn was aware of a heart-wrenching cry that was resounding through the walls of Gondor. A cry that defied all mortal definition of true pain, that pulled every emotion from the soul and hurled into oblivion. A cry so agonized, it was barely human. He was not even aware it was his own voice.

Down below, the Uruk-hai were being overtaken and Gondor's victory was assured. But there was no victory that night - not for Gondor's King and Mirkwood's Prince - not for a bond so tightly melded that it was so cutting when broken. It seemed to Aragorn that the Valar had a twist planned in their lives, a friendship that called for sacrifice.

And Legolas Thranduillion of Mirkwood had paid it.

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Translations:



Taile` kani, Manchua, naa telme' maure. Noro lim -

Run hard, Mantua, we are needed. Hurry!

Veru earda nandin ii oron atal`ta, lle anwo ematte` nin -

The seas will run dry and the mountains will fall, but I will never leave you.

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OKKKKK I am finally DONE! Thank goodness, this story was giving be a headache. Anyways, I'm glad some of you thought Aragorn was going to die ~ surprise is always nice =D hehehe, well tell me what you think!

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COMING SOON.

Predator

. In response to a friendly request, Aragorn and Legolas travel to distant Carnuin. Unknown to them, they were invited for a reason - to be players in a madman's twisted "game". Now they must rely on their wits - and each other - to survive.