Title: An End to an Era

Author: XsilicaX

Feedback: xsilicax@yahoo.co.uk

Disclaimer: Not mine, never mine, will never be mine!

Rating: PG (mild violence, and depressing scenes)

Summary: On their final adventure together, Legolas reflects on the passing of ages, and the end of the time of elves. Aragorn tries to comfort him.

A/N: This was written for Halo's fic competition which revolved around a picture of Aragorn and Legolas, and had to include the line 'Something haunts you Legolas Greenleaf'

As always enjoy (and review)

Cathy.

XXX

Passing of the Ages

Aragorn lowered himself onto his haunches by the fire, stoking it idly with a long stick. Throwing it on the fire, which had built up well, he stared surreptitiously at the elf standing on the other side of the clearing currently communing with a tree. Legolas had been standing there for several minutes now, unmoving, his whole body emitting a sorrowful aura. The elf had been exhibiting tension ever since the two had crossed into this part of Mirkwood, and Aragorn could neither find the cause of the elf's distress, nor relieve him of it. Legolas had been called back to Mirkwood after his father's departure, to make arrangements for what few elves remained within the realm; Aragorn had chosen to accompany his friend, relegating his responsibilities temporarily to Faramir. The two had been reliving their old adventures, and joking about beginning new ones, until they had entered under the eaves of this wood. Legolas had shivered almost the instant that he had stepped under the shade of these trees, something about the place had him on edge, and Aragorn determined that he would discover it. After laying out his bedroll, he had stooped over the fire, preparing the evening meal, in the hopes that the smell of the food would entice the elf away from the tree. Aragorn sighed, this had not worked. Removing the pan from the fire, he placed it on a heated rock, so that it would not get too cool, and inched his way silently over to stand behind Legolas.

As he approached, Legolas shivered involuntarily, seemingly unaware that Aragorn was near. He had his ear pressed to the wizened bark of what had to be the largest tree Aragorn had ever seen. Eyes widening as he peered into the growing dark, Aragorn looked up and up and up, unable to spot the tip of the tree from where he stood, so near to the trunk. He stared in amazement, awed by the generations that must have passed since this tree was a very small shoot, struggling valiantly against the roots of the surrounding plants, striving to make a place for itself. He stepped closer, reaching up to touch the roughened wood, running his hand along it, feeling the wisdom with every knot and whorl he caressed. A great smile lit upon his face in the presence of such beauty, and he turned to clap Legolas heartily on the back. Legolas shot up with a muttered oath, startled out of his solitary reverie by a blow, which almost knocked him to his knees. Whirling on his attacker, he drew his knife, holding the blade tightly against his foe's neck, pressing down.

"Legolas! It is I, Aragorn!" Came the slightly muffled voice from behind the hand that covered his mouth. "Legolas?" He asked again, perceiving the lost look in his friend's eyes. "Put the knife down, you need not fear me."

 Legolas blinked, his eyes swiftly refocusing on the human before him. Stepping back, he released Aragorn and turned away. Aragorn stood there breathing heavily, one hand massaging his throat as he stared first at the gleaming knife, half hidden in the undergrowth where it had fallen limply from Legolas' shocked hands, and then at the retreating figure. He stepped forward after his friend, knowing that Legolas would berate himself needlessly over this, unless he ended that here.

"Legolas." He called after the prince, "Legolas, stop!" Legolas came to a pause a few feet away, but remained gazing out into the dark; shunning the firelight, and his friend's company. Aragorn came to a slightly breathless halt behind him, and made his way slowly around the elf, staring concernedly at the side of his friend, which was all he could see. That small glimpse was enough to see a pained, almost distant look on the elf's face, which worried the human. Creeping still further forward, he placed a hand on the elf's upper arm' squeezing gently as the muscle beneath his hand rippled and tensed. Pulling lightly on the arm, he swung the elf to face him, growing concerned, as the vacant expression did not evaporate. Sighing, he hoped that words would draw this secreted pain out of him. "Something haunts you Legolas Greenleaf," he said, staring intently into the other's face. "And I mean to discover what it is." As if drawn to the unwavering gaze, Legolas' eyes wandered down to meet the human's, and he blinked. Aragorn shook Legolas' arm slightly, having finally gained his attention, spoke again. "What ails you mellon nin?"

Legolas gazed around the clearing, a look of unutterable sadness in his eyes, at the sight around him; Aragorn swiftly glanced around, but was unable to perceive anything that could cause danger or grief. "Legolas!" he hissed, growing impatient with the elf's distraction.

"I am sorry, Aragorn, I should not have bared blade against you." Legolas lowered his head, shamed. "I am distracted, and you would be safer if you left me well alone."

"Do you see me injured?" Aragorn asked, stepping closer. "Do I look afraid of you?"

Legolas raised his head, and was gratified to see that the human did not blame him. "I wish only to know what it is that drags you this low. It is not healthy for either you or me!" Aragorn joked subtly to his friend.

Legolas sighed, and took Aragorn's hand, placing it on the bark of the nearest tree. "Do you feel that?" He asked, his voice weary. Tired and old, Aragorn thought. Striving hard to feel anything abnormal that could warrant Legolas' behaviour, Aragorn could not detect anything other than the dry, coarse wood scratching at his fingertips. Shaking his head, he silently inquired of Legolas just what he was supposed to be feeling. "You cannot feel it?" Legolas asked, bewildered by the human's lack of perceptions. "The tree, it cries."

Aragorn stepped back, gazing along the height of the tree, but saw no indication that it was sick. "I cannot see anything amiss with it mellon nin, are you sure this is not a product of your imagination?" Legolas sighed, and leaned his head against the trunk, staring sorrowfully at the human. "It laments. It laments for its brethren killed by Saruman; for those slain mercilessly. It fears that human settlements will encroach ever further onto lands where once stood trees. It fears that its time is over. It fears you."

Aragorn knelt by the tree, as Legolas sank down along the trunk, resting himself lightly on a rock. "It fears me?" Aragorn asked, having never engendered fear in nature before. "I will not harm it, surely it can sense that?"

Legolas smiled sadly at the human. "It's senses are dulled by the wails of it's kindred; it fears the race of man, and cares only that you are human. You did not feel that when you entered these woods?"

"No," Aragorn responded, shaking his head, "I have always been able to sense the atmosphere of the woods, why is this failing now?"

"It is the passing of the elves," Legolas looked to his hands, as he fought against the painful sight of his father taking ship from the Havens. "As our presence is waning, the trees speak less often for there is no-one to hear their cries, their joys."

Legolas gazed out at the bunched trees, standing close together, branches entangled, and brimming with life. He sighed. "I remember when this forest was teeming with life, when the light penetrated the dark curtain above, and these woods were filled with the merry chirping of birds, the mewing of the young. It is abandoned now; there are none left here who will heed these calls, who will smile at the tale of a wandering bird, bringing news of afar. None who will recognise in a creature's voice whether it has mated, of still seeks. No Aragorn, that time is long passed."

Legolas patted the tree beside him,  "This old gentle one here mourns the passing of the ages, the waning of the elves. It fears that without an elvish presence, the very face of Arda will become changed."

"I fear that all beauty will leave this land when the last elf leaves." Aragorn murmured to himself. "There shall be no light left on Arda."

"Do not say that! There shall always be light as long as you and your heirs continue to rule." Legolas scolded. "There is elvish blood in you, and it will be stronger still in your sons. The world will never forget the presence of the elves, it will not die."

Aragorn winced; his faith in the memories of humankind was not as strong as his friend's. "You have my solemn vow that neither I, nor my heirs, will wantonly destroy the forests of this earth." Aragorn said, rising to his feet, every inch a king of men. "While it is within my power, I shall do all I can to preserve this land, and I will not allow the elves to be forgotten."

Legolas smiled, a small, weak movement, his eyes full of sadness. "Even now it is happening Aragorn. The rings have left this world, along with their bearers, and decay has crept in to both Imladris and Lothlórien. You cannot stop this world from turning, the Age of Elves has truly reached an end, and the very land is feeling it. Why do you not?"

Aragorn reached out and gently touched his friend's cheek, before lowering his hand. "You are here my friend, while you walk these lands no darkness shall ever gain hold of my heart."

Legolas' face lit up then at his friend's characteristic obstinacy, but it was tempered with sadness as he gazed back out to the distance. "My time to leave draws near Aragorn, it grows nearer everyday. As I see what we have lost over time I desire to know what lies beyond the Havens, what beauties and lights remain to me there."

Aragorn sat motionless, his face still as he perceived the truth behind his friend's words; that the end to their friendship was near. "I have one favour to ask of you then, before you go."

"Name it!" Legolas answered, his eyes agreeing to any demand that the human could place upon him.

"I ask only that you shall stay your departure until I am no longer on this earth to witness it. For I would part with this world only remembering how strong and vibrant it is, not how much it seems to have lessened without your presence." There was a tremor in Aragorn's voice, indicating how close the human was to tears.

"That is an easy wish to grant mellon nin, I had always intended that it be so." He paused and the two sat in silence for a time before he continued. "Truly, I do not think you would make it to your death bed alive, were I not around to assist you with that."

Aragorn looked confused for a second, and then nudged his friend good-humouredly, "If I did not share that thought also, then I would be very tempted to beat the truth into you." He replied with a grin, "however, since you have been a part of my life, through the best times, then it is only fair that I allow you to tend me in my old age and infirmity."

Legolas laughed, "Well, if you are so capable, then let us see just what you have prepared for us to eat."

The two walked back through the trees, framed by the glowing red of the fire, an arm wrapped around each other's shoulders.

The End.