A/N OK here goes, my attempt at fanfic. Short summary – this takes place before Aragorn goes searching for Gollum, soon after he first meets Gandalf. Gandalf takes Aragorn to Mirkwood to see how the wood elves are faring against the growing shadow and to introduce him to elves outside of Imladris. Gandalf is also beginning to sense the inevitability of a fight for Middle Earth and those whose shoulders the fate of the world will one day rest upon. This will basically be a When Aragorn Met Legolas story, with Thranduil, Gandalf, and maybe later on Elrond & his kids (though that wouldn't be until much later). No Mary Sues, no slash, and I'll try to keep it none AU, though I can't promise anything. Reviews are welcome.
Disclaimer: Right then… I'm not Tolkien. They're not mine.
Sufficient for the Day
"Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble." *
Chapter 1 Plunk!
"Confound it! By the Valar….. never will I understand a wood elf's absurd humor…"
Aragorn glanced furtively at the irate wizard beside him, as yet another acorn miraculously landed directly on the Istari's head, as if a bull's eye had been drawn onto the unlucky man's pointed hat.
"Are you sure it is an elf? I see none, nor do I hear or by any other means sense the presence of another being near us, besides the spiders that is… Perhaps the trees have just taken offense at your earlier grumblings about misplaced roots…" Aragorn smirked as he uttered this last statement, remembering the wizard's most un-wizard-like trip.
As Gandalf continued to grumble, the ranger scanned the surrounding forest. Indeed, there was no sign – not a bent leaf, nor a cracked twig, nor the faintest rustling of branches - to indicate that a "fool of an elf" had been tracking them since their arrival in the great forest of Mirkwood, just a few short hours ago. Aragorn had never journeyed to Mirkwood since he had left Imladris and had gone out into the wild. Soon after he met Gandalf, the wizard insisted that he accompany him on a visit to the woodland King to see for himself the strengthening of the shadow and to meet the Mirkwood elves. Gandalf even suggested the ranger may befriend someone who would be a helpful companion in his travels. Aragorn quickly agreed to this, for he was curious to see Mirkwood after all the dark tales he had heard about it and the prospect of an elven companion was appealing. He had regretted Elladan and Elrohir not being able to join him on his adventures due to their responsibilities in Imladris and he much missed the keen eyes and ears, and not to mention, the lighthearted demeanor of the elves.
As he studied the gnarled trees in the outermost edges of the forest, Aragorn was surprised at how accurate the dark descriptions of the wood had been. The darkness surrounded the pair of travelers like a thick, odious veil dropped over a once green and thriving forest. Not even the sun's warm rays could break through the dense canopy of leathery leaves, though scattered pockets of dim light seemed to radiate throughout the byzantine branches. But the shadow wrapped around every trunk like a noose, suffocating whatever life might be left in it and Aragorn did not doubt he too may choke on the shadow should he depart from the elvish path he and Gandalf followed. Every now and then he glimpsed a spider skulking through the branches, or his skin would tingle indicating a far more evil presence.
Gandalf interrupted Aragorn's musings with another "hmph" as an acorn once again found its way to his head.
"You underestimate the wood elves, Estel.
If they choose not to be seen in the forest, then not even the most skilled of
rangers will be able to track them - particularly a wood elf in his own home. And I assure you, if the trees have "taken
offense at my words" as you say, then it is because of the irreverent fool of a
wood elf that is currently pestering us and manipulating every oak, birch,
beech and elm against us."
"Against you, you mean – for I have not had any acorns fall on my head," Aragorn corrected, a twinkle in his eye that further irritated the wizard.
"That's it! I have had enough of this impudent behavior!" the wizard bellowed as he stood firmly in the center of the path. He whipped around and glared up into the dark branches hanging over them. Even they seemed to shrink in the wake of the wizard's explosive temper.
This time, a cheerful giggle caught Aragorn's attention. He peered up in surprise. Truly, he did not believe any wood elf could possibly be tracking them. Despite the wizard's words, and perhaps because of his own pride and confidence in his skills, Aragorn found it incredulous that he could not sense the presence of one who had been following them for so many hours (and continuously plunking acorns on the wizard's head).
Gandalf too heard the laugh and his eyes darted from tree to tree searching for its source. Aragorn noted the twitching in the wizard's lips. Was that a smile or a muscle spasm resulting from frustration that Gandalf was fighting to control?
"So the almighty wood elf has decided to make his formidable presence known to the humble intruders to his forest, with a most threatening, and yet most noble giggle," the wizard prompted, ducking away from another acorn.
The ranger and wizard stood silently for several minutes, waiting for a response from their pursuer. A light breeze tickled their skin and caused a few leaves to shake. Here and there a shadow crawled by, but its owner was always only a small spider or squirrel, not an elf. Gandalf sighed – time meant nothing to an immortal elf and he knew they could very well be standing there for many hours, if for no other reason, to amuse the elf's bizarre sense of humor. "Cursed are those who are at the receiving end of an elvish
prank," the wizard muttered.
"Perhaps he left?" Aragorn suggested, though he barely believed that himself.
"No, no… he's here…" Gandalf responded, more to himself than to Aragorn, as he once again suspiciously skimmed the great oaks and beeches around them.
"Ah well, no point in just lingering here. We might as well move on. He'll introduce himself when he chooses," the wizard sighed when his search proved fruitless. The two then reluctantly moved on, knowing all too well they were not alone.
After several leagues of acorn free hiking Gandalf stopped again and huffed. Aragorn cocked an eyebrow and was about to ask what was plaguing the wizard this time when suddenly the Istari noisily cleared his throat. Again the branches seemed to tremble and draw back in response to the clearly agitated wizard.
"All right Legolas Greenleaf, you have proven yourself as a wood elf, both in your disturbing sense of humor as well as your tracking abilities. Now perhaps you will honor us with a formal greeting," he announced.
Aragorn spun around to try to locate the subject of Gandalf's scolding, but again, his search was futile. He had never met Legolas though he knew he was the woodland King's son. Elladan and Elrohir spoke of him as well, often bringing up fond memories of their adventures, which usually did not seem so fond to Lord Elrond. It surprised the ranger that it was the prince that had been Gandalf's mysterious attacker and he wondered how the wizard knew it was him – and for how long did he know? The sudden appearance of an elf directly in front of him interrupted Aragorn's thoughts. Though the ranger was startled, he hid it well, and stared curiously at the fair elf ahead of him, who returned his stare with equal intensity, not blinking once, as only an elf could do.
"Well, well, well, my prince, so you finally decided to show some respect to an old man," the wizard scoffed though he now smiled warmly.
The elf instantly snapped his head towards Gandalf and feigned a hurt expression.
"Ai, Mithrandir! Too long has it been since you have graced us
with a visit! I do believe the trees were punishing you for not coming sooner!
Indeed they grieve your absence as a daffodil mourns the sun on too many cloudy
days! I tried to tell them acorns were no way to greet an old man, even if he
has neglected them for so long, but alas, the great trees, older than the
oldest elf, chose not to listen to me, since I am but a fledgling in their
Now Gandalf took no pain to hide his amusement and laughed merrily.
"Ah Legolas, do not accuse me of neglect! I regret, too many winters have passed since I have last journeyed to Mirkwood, but never would I neglect the realm of the wood elves."
"Well, it is good indeed you are here Mithrandir, for always do I enjoy your company. Forgive me for not making my presence known sooner, but I thought you deserved some retribution for your prolonged absence," Legolas grinned as he bowed respectfully.
Gandalf once again laughed at the elf as he lifted him from his bow and into an embrace.
"You are forgiven Thranduillion, though do not think I won't have my revenge."
"Then I have much to fear, for a wizard's revenge must be dreadful indeed!" Legolas replied as he returned the wizard's embrace.
Gandalf pulled away, and his amusement faded as he remembered the purpose of his journey. "Indeed. Come now though, I would like to reach your father before sunset."
"I will lead you there then and perhaps you will forget about your revenge."
Legolas's bright eyes shifted to the ranger. "First though, I believe you have forgotten your manners, Master Wizard. Or perhaps this is just one very lost human…"
Aragorn smirked at this, and raised his eyebrows expectantly at Gandalf.
"Ah! Forgive me! I'm afraid my memory grows weak with my old age. Aragorn, this is Legolas Greenleaf, son of Thranduil and Legolas, this here is Aragorn son of Arathorn," Gandalf hastily gestured to each of them. Aragorn gave a brief nod and bowed slightly to the elf.
"Well met Master Elf."
Legolas's eyes widened at the mention of Aragorn's name. "Ah! I know that name, you are Lord Elrond's boy, son of Gilraen, and lord of the Dunadain! Well met indeed! It is an honor, Heir of Isildur," and Legolas gave a deep sincere bow, not noticing Aragorn's cringe at the mention of his title.
"Yes yes, we are all heirs of something here, but now that we know who we all are, perhaps we can get on our way for I much desire to meet with the King," Gandalf impatiently began to march ahead of the elf and ranger.
The elf's face changed from one of merriment to worry at this.
"You bring ill tidings then?"
The wizard sighed. "I'm afraid these days all tidings I bring are ill young prince." Legolas's frown deepened and the wizard quickly felt the need to reassure the elf. "Do not worry Legolas, these tidings are not so dire and urgent as you may now believe. Truly it is more that I wish to hear what news your father may have for me of the growing threat around us."
"Ah well that I could give you Mithrandir," Legolas began softly.
Aragorn watched the elf closely as his mood suddenly became solemn. Growing up with elves, he had become accustomed to such sudden changes in mood. One minute an elf could be merry and mischievous, even rather annoying, as Gandalf just experienced, and in a flash, they could become rather pensive as they traveled through their own saddened thoughts and dreams. Their songs reflected this as well, as they switched from the nonsensical to the bittersweet and sorrowful in a blink of an eye.
The elf continued, "The darkness grows upon us like a tide, ready
to engulf whatever green is left in Mirkwood into its
shadow. Alas… I have killed more spiders
in the past month than I have in all the centuries preceding. Yet I fear that
for all my efforts… for all our
efforts… it only continues to push us back further into a corner. And each day
more of my kin sail West." Legolas
gripped his bow and eyed the path ahead and beside them as he spoke.
Gandalf listened closely to the elf's sober words and nodded slowly when he was done. The three continued to trudge silently along the shadowy path. Aragorn shuddered as another shiver went down his spine. It seemed the trees themselves – or perhaps creatures within the trees- were watching him with hungry eyes. As he fingered his sword he glanced at the elf walking tensely ahead of them, bow and quiver in hand. Gandalf appeared to be deep in thought, every now and then glancing too at the elf with a look of what Aragorn perceived to be sorrow.
Soon Gandalf dropped behind allowing Legolas to get far ahead of him and Aragorn. Aragorn eyed him questioningly and the wizard sighed.
"He should be hosting merry feasts and midsummer festivals, not hunting spiders." Gandalf whispered so low it was doubtful even Legolas's keen ears could hear.
Aragorn made no response to this and the wizard continued to stare ahead pensively. It seemed Gandalf was remembering a time long ago, when Mirkwood was Greenwood and the threat of darkness was still aloof, even if it was growing. He could not relate to the nostalgia the wizard felt, for he was born into the dark times they currently dwelled in. He wondered if even the elf could relate to such nostalgia. It was difficult to know an elf's age, but he guessed that this was a younger one and thus also did not know of the happier days Gandalf seemed to remember.
As if reading his mind, Gandalf continued, "He was very young when
Greenwood became Mirkwood." This time Aragorn turned to Gandalf, as the
wizard went on, more loudly this time, "A great forest this was indeed, and
great it will be again."
Now Legolas turned to Gandalf with a melancholy smile. "She still is a great wood Gandalf, for beneath this shadow lies many millennia of memories. I can feel them even now when the shadow is darkest. Sauron himself could not wipe out such memories."
"You can sense the memories in these trees then?" Aragorn asked, his voice tinged with wonder.
Legolas merely nodded. He then turned and grinned at the ranger.
"Yes. I could even feel their most recent memories of strange
beings walking through their paths so that I myself could follow them without
Gandalf snorted. "Well unluckily for you mellonin, wizards too have memories and I have not yet forgotten my own vow for revenge."
A wave of relief washed over the Istari's
face at the elf's carefree laugh, glad to have brought him out of his
melancholy mood. Legolas then responded in a blithe,
musical voice in elvish,
"Up from the earth swordsmen, elves as old as the earth, from wells, swordsmen, from rivers, crossbowmen! Rise up, forest, with your elves, the whole backwoods with your people, old dwarf of the Mountain with your forces, water demon with your terrors, mistress of the water with your spirits, oldest woman of the water with your powers, maidens from every swale, fine ladies from quagmires, to aid a solitary elf, as comrades for a famous elf prince, so that a wizard's arrows will not cut, neither a seer's weapons nor an ill-disposed sorcerer's staff!"**
Aragorn and Gandalf both chuckled at the elf's song, but stopped abruptly when Legolas halted, his hands tensing around his elvish bow.
"What is it Legolas?" Gandalf queried, straining to see whatever it was that disturbed the elf.
"There are orcs here," Legolas flatly replied, to which Aragorn immediately unsheathed his sword and Gandalf lifted his staff protectively, but Legolas only shook his head and continued.
"They are not near… or not near enough to yet be a threat to us.
We should be safe especially as we get closer to my father's realm. But
nevertheless, we must be wary."
The other two nodded and they continued on, their mood returning to a silent melancholy. As they neared the elvish realm of Mirkwood, the weakening of the shadow was almost palpable. The tingles down his spine stopped and Aragorn marveled at the increasing color and light shining through the tall trees. It was as if the elves were fighting back the shadow with their own ethereal glow. Gandalf and Legolas visibly began to relax, much to Aragorn's relief, though he once again felt eyes on him.
"Does anyone else feel as if they are being watched?" he asked, suspiciously scanning their surroundings.
"Aye, it is similar to the feeling I had when we first entered Mirkwood," the wizard grumbled, shooting a sharp glance at the elf.
"It is my father's guards," Legolas stated simply. "They have been watching us for some time now, but do not let them bother you. They know it is me and they will not disturb us."
Aragorn nodded and smiled slightly as he looked up into the tall trees around him. Though he could feel them, he could not for his life see or hear any indication that elves were watching them. Though this changed suddenly as a familiar noise recurred causing the ranger's reserved smile to grow into a wide grin.
"Ai, for the love of Elbereth!" came a strained groan from the unlucky target of the renegade acorn.
Legolas turned around and laughed at the disgruntled wizard, a bright gleam in his eyes. "You see it is not me but the trees that are creating mischief today!"
Aragorn snickered and shook his head. Wood elves certainly were fascinating beings. Just when he thought Gandalf might actually whack the elf with his staff, they came to an intricately carved wooden bridge, leading over a small, but rapid river. Across the bridge was a great slope covered with beeches, creating a hodgepodge of dancing shadows and light. These shadows however were unlike the dark, fell shadows of the outskirts of Mirkwood. Instead of spiders, Aragorn sensed birds in the trees and he even spotted some flowers growing haphazardly. But unlike Rivendell which bloomed with an optimistic, magical glow, the land here was full of sorrow. This was the corner Legolas spoke of that the shadow continued to push the elves into. It was the last of the green left in Mirkwood and it was fading, as were its inhabitants.
In the slope was a great wooden gate, carved with elvish symbols, leading into what Aragorn assumed to be a great cavern.
"And so we arrive at the home of the Woodland King," Gandalf smiled at his two companions.
"Aye, indeed we have. Welcome Master Wizard and Master Dunadan to the house of Thranduil," Legolas beamed as he opened the great gate and led them into a labyrinth of passages, glowing with the torches of elf guards, whose songs echoed against the walls of the cavern.
* Matthew 6:34…I hope quoting this isn't too pretentious. I just wanted to clarify the title….
** Not mine… This is from the Kalevala. If you don't know what this is (and I wouldn't expect anyone to), it's a collection of poems from the Kaleva district of northern Finland – sort of a folk epic. Tolkien, who taught himself Finnish in order to read the Kalevala, was actually partially influenced by it when he wrote the Lord of the Rings. So anyway, I thought then it would be appropriate for me to quote parts of it, and I may do this more throughout the story when I need an elvish song since I'm too uncreative to make my own. Oh, and I do highly recommend the Kalevala to anyone who likes traditional folklore ….