Author's Note: I don't claim to be an expert on Tolkien's world, though I have read the books many times. If something within this story seems not to ring true to your interpretation of Middle-earth, all I can say is please have an open mind. This is the direction I was inspired to go, and I do it from a great love of and respect for Tolkien's work.

The inspiration for this story comes directly from a passage in The Fellowship of the Ring, where Frodo asks Aragorn why he didn't come right out and say he was a friend of Gandalf's. Aragorn replied that he had to make sure of Frodo first, as though he could not simply trust the hobbit. He says, and I quote directly:

"I had to study you first and make sure of you. The Enemy has set traps for me before now." (J.R.R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring, Chapter 10, Strider.)

This just suggested all sorts of things to my feverishly obsessedI meanto my creative imagination.

Anyway, that's the impetus for this story and I hope you like it. For the purposes of this fiction, I use the same family history for Legolas as I have used in my previous fics. You don't need to have read any of those to read this.

Elvish is in italics and comes from many sources. They are The Silmarillion by J.R.R. Tolkien, the website and The Languages of Tolkien's Middle-earth by Ruth S. Noel. I've never really tried to speak elvish, so if there are any inaccuracies here, they are my own mistakes. (Feel free to correct me, but please give me sources so I can learn as much as I can about Elvish.)

The elvish names I have made up were either from the sources above or from the Elvish Name Generator.

Legolas' family history is my own invention. Forgive me if the history I invented doesn't quite match your own.

DISCLAIMER: JRR Tolkien, The Tolkien Family, New Line Cinema, Peter Jackson, Fran Walsh, and Phillipa Boyens own this stuff. I don't. I am only borrowing the universe because it's so much fun! I am making no money from this.

Please read and review. Please

Encroaching Darkness by Ecri

Part 1

The Great Eye lingered long at the doors of Imladris, but through some device of Lord Elrond, could not see inside the protected realm. In frustration, Sauron seethed. The one who could yet undo him was alive! In Imladris! When the first flames of anger had been spent, and only dark thoughts and cold intentions remained, Sauron knew he would take his revenge. The man who could be his downfall might be beyond his reach right now, but that would not always be the case.

Sauron would devise plan after plan and would cut the man down in every possible way. Sauron would use his minions to destroy this man, and if he could not reach the man immediately, he would wait. He was patient.

He had sent his soldiers, such as they were to find the man who most threatened him. Once he had taken care of him, he would be free to find the One Ring.


Aragorn rode with almost lazy disinterest in his surroundings and his speed. He would soon approach the Mountain Pass, and from there it would be a swift ride to Mirkwood. Legolas would be surprised to see him so soon, but Aragorn could not put off the visit any longer. Legolas had done a lot for him recently, and Aragorn felt the need to speak again to his staunchest friend and newest Elven brother.

As he rode, Aragorn became aware of a sound behind him. He halted his horse and listened, frowning at what he detected. Orcs. He moved quickly and quietly through the brush and concealed himself willing his horse to be quiet and still. He was not a cowardly man, but he was alone, and only a fool sought to engage a company of orcs alone.

The orcs stepped into Aragorn's line of sight. Twenty-eight in all stood there, and Aragorn wished he had stopped at nightfall. He might have avoided this, but he had been so close to the pass and so happy to be on his way to see Legolas again. Shoving such thoughts aside, he drew his sword. He would not engage them first.

His options were stolen from him when one of the orcs stopped his companions and sniffed the air. A slow, evil grin spread across his hideous face. "I smell manflesh!" It all but growled the words. The others, excited by his revelation began to sniff the air as well. Aragorn backed away, but in the end, they found him, and before engaging them, he urged his horse to take off through the trees. He would catch up with it later.

He fought, swinging his sword and killing or maiming many of them. One approached him waving his blade and growling in anger at the damage Aragorn had already done.

Aragorn faced the fell creature bringing his sword down and across the orc's body, slicing a painful gash across its belly. The orc was further enraged by the pain. Leaping forward menacingly, he thrust the blade at Aragorn, who stepped back and ducked down in an attempt to avoid the blow. His foot came down on stone made slippery by the foul black orc blood that seemed to be everywhere. Losing his balance, Aragorn fell, his head seeming to strike the stone. The orc screamed at the fallen human but Aragorn didn't move. The orcs stood in a circle chortling at their success.

The orcs pulled roughly on the man's arms, already arguing over whether they could take a taste of the flesh and still deliver the man, alive, to their master, when with no warning the limp figure stiffened and lashed out with his legs catching one and then the other unaware. Fighting orcs with no weapon was not a common thing, but this human seemed not common.

The band of orcs scattered, turning to surround him. Aragorn judged their distance and knew he had to find another way out of this predicament. With his sword lying out of reach, he knew he had few options. He glanced down at his feet, and, seeing a large stone, picked it up and threw it at the nearest orc. It struck the vile creature on the head, and he went down to lie unmoving on the ground.

The others moved closer, angered by the human's brief victory. Screaming at him, they lashed out at him with their swords. He moved, trying to keep his distance, and dancing about the clearing. One arrow struck him in the shoulder, the force of it at so close a range spinning him around. Disoriented, he fell to the ground as one of them tackled him from behind. He struck his head hard against the same rock he'd used to fell one beast, and lost consciousness.


The Gate granting entrance to the Palace grounds of Mirkwood was in sight as Legolas rode swiftly home. Mirkwood's youngest prince had been pleased to have such an uneventful patrol. The uncommon stillness of the forest was a welcome relief after the worries and concerns he'd recently endured over Estel's well being. Legolas shuddered at the thought. Losing Aragorn, Son of Arathorn would have doomed Middle-earth to darkness, but losing Estel would have robbed Legolas himself of hope, and perhaps, if the grief were strong enough, of life itself.

Legolas glanced then to the other rider to his left. His brother Tarmathlion had insisted on coming on the patrol with him, and Legolas could not help but wonder why. Tarmathlion, though closer in age to Legolas, was least like his younger brother. They loved each other fiercely, but they rarely saw eye to eye on matters of importance. Tarmathlion, though holding no ill will against Aragorn, had never been comfortable with the friendship that blossomed between the two.

Legolas held back a sigh as he considered that. That two whom he loved as he loved Tarmathalion and Estel did not love each other hurt him deeply. Truly, of all his family, only Aglarelen, his oldest brother, seemed to understand Legolas' friendship with the human, and only Aglarelen also counted Elrond's youngest son as a friend himself.

Tarmathalion, as though hearing his brother's thoughts, smiled though he did not turn his head to face his young sibling. "Legolas, you ride with a head full of other things. Did you not learn of the need for focus while riding through Mirkwood?"

Legolas laughed at his brother's teasing tone. "Nay, my brother. I had never thought to be diligent or cautious while on patrol in the darkest of elven realms! Truly you have opened my eyes!"

Tarmathlion seemed to consider his brother's words as though they were the weightiest he'd ever heard. "Then perhaps you have also not learned not to give an opponent a lead!" With that, he urged his horse forward into a gallop, leaving Legolas staring after him for a moment, before he, too, joined in the race.

Several minutes later, the two sped through the now-open gates of Mirkwood's courtyard. Legolas was breathless with laughter and exhaustion, and his face was flushed. "I won that race, though you took unfair advantage! Admit it, Tarm!"

Tarmathlion laughed. "Indeed, I must admit it! You and that horse move as one, Legolas!"

Happily, the brother's tended their horses, slipping easily into the banter of long association. When they'd finished, and the horses were clean, cool, fed, and watered, the brothers headed toward their father's court to offer their official report to their King.

When they entered the room, and Legolas saw who stood speaking to Thranduil, his eyes widened in disbelief and joy. "Elladan! Elohir!" Legolas moved quickly to his friends' sides. His father did not begrudge his son's forgoing the formalities of court, since Legolas so rarely saw his friends.

"Legolas!" The brothers greeted Mirkwood's prince, then turned to greet his older brother as well.

Thranduil cleared his throat. "My sons, if you have no dire news to report from your patrol, we will wave that for the moment. Elrond's sons have come with disquieting news.

Legolas was immediately serious. "What is it? What has happened?"

"We rode here expecting to find Estel. We had planned to meet him here, but your father says he has not come." Elrohir tried to hide his anxiety. He knew Estel was a capable young man, but he was also dependable. If he said he would be in Mirkwood, he should be there.

Legolas frowned. "When did he leave Imladris?"

"A month ago." Elladan admitted.

"And he came straight here?"

"That was his plan."

Legolas turned to his father. "Adar, we must search for him. He should have been here nearly two weeks ago. I must ride out myself!"

Thranduil had known when Elladan and Elrohir had told him their tale that his son would be among the first to volunteer to begin the search. His heart worried for his youngest son, since he had known so few mortals in his long life. The idea that Estel would depart this world before him already haunted Legolas. If the man were to meet his end sooner than expectation decreed, Thranduil knew Legolas would grieve.

He kept this to himself, however, and nodded at his son's suggestion. "I will call forth our patrols and begin to search Mirkwood. If he is here, we will find him."

Elladan stepped forward, formally addressing the King. "I thank you, Your Majesty, and I am sure my father thanks you, too."

Thranduil nodded.

Elladan turned to his brother and Legolas. "I believe we should make a search of the mountain pass. That is the most likely spot for him to have found trouble."

Legolas agreed, and turned to his father again. "Adar, I must request to be relieved of my patrol duties to join the search."

Thranduil smiled. No matter how his heart urged him to run to his friend, Legolas' sense of duty would see all responsibilities dispatched before he could leave. "It is well, my son. Go and find your friend."

Legolas departed to make preparations for their trip, while Elladan and Elrohir were offered food and drink and any supplies they cared to take with them.

Legolas packed lightly, taking mostly extra arrows and bowstrings as well as his whetstone and knives. As he packed he became aware of someone staring at him. He looked up to find the source and saw Aglarelen standing in the doorway to his room.

"Aglarelen! I"

"I know, brother. Tarmathlion came running to find me with the news. He expects me to stop you."

Legolas nodded. He had expected that. "But you will not."

Aglarelen laughed. "Me? Stop you? I would go with you, but father has forbidden it. He has need of my negotiation skills when next we meet with the men of Laketown." Aglarelen looked as though he would like nothing better than to disregard his father's wishes.

Legolas stopped packing and moved to stand before his dearest of brothers. "It is well, Aglarelen. I will travel with Elladan and Elrohir at least part of the way." He paused and poured all the urgency he could muster into his next words. "I must find him."

Aglarelen smiled sadly. "You will. Just do not take great risks with your life while you are about it, for yours is the only life in Middle-earth of any importance to me."

Legolas nodded and embraced his brother. Then, packing his last few belongings, he slipped out of the door.

Aglarelen watched him go with a sense of foreboding unsettling his spirit.


Elladan, Elrohir, and Legolas searched Mirkwood as they headed in the direction of the Mountain Pass Estel must surely have taken to reach his friend's home. Their worry and anxiety for their missing friend and brother mounted with the passing of each minute.

Drawing their horses to a halt, the trio regarded each other. Elrohir spoke first. "We have seen no sign of him. He probably did not make it as far as Mirkwood. He is either lost in the Pass or somewhere before it."

Legolas nodded. "We should split up. We will cover more ground and stand a better chance of finding him."

The twins looked at each other in silent communication. Their concern for their brother overriding all others, they agreed. Choosing directions and a place and time to meet later, the three elves parted company.


Legolas had traced all of his friend's likeliest routes to the edge of Mirkwood, but had not seen a single sign that he had been there. He had left Elladan and Elrohir behind a week ago and had ridden far from the Mountain Pass hoping to find some sign of his friend.

The Ranger had a knack for finding trouble in the most untroublesome regions on Middle-earth. Somehow, Legolas had to find him soon. If he had injured himself beyond his own capabilities to heal, he could be near death. The thought struck fear in his heart for a moment, but he realized he didn't believe Estel had died. He was sure, Iluvatar would have told him of it. He had vowed to follow the man through any trial to see him on his throne. His song and Aragorn's were likely close harmonies. Legolas had no doubt he would have known if that harmony had ceased.

The sound of orcs met his ears, and he dismounted rapidly, leading his horse away from the path the creatures had chosen.

Legolas would normally have moved on, giving the orcs a wide berth and going on about his own business. Now, he felt compelled to watch them, though he knew not why.

As he pondered his strong compunction to watch from concealment, he saw a sight that stopped his heart. Aragorn walked behind one of the orcs, bound with rope and bleeding from both head and shoulder.

Anger and fear for his friend warred in Legolas' heart, and he took a moment to control his emotions. Pushing them aside, he considered his options. He was alone, and was not a match for the more than 20 orcs who held his friend. He could not attack without help. He could ride to find Elladan and Elrohir, but even three elves might be hard pressed to defeat so many orcs. Aside from that, the minions of Mordor could turn from this path at any time, and Legolas knew not their destination.

Grim determination to see his friend free settled over the elf. With little time to devise a plan, Legolas followed his well-honed instincts and prayed Iluvatar deliver them. When the orcs had moved out of earshot, he took swiftly to the trees to follow, trusting his horse, Fëagaladhad, to follow at a distance.


Elladan and Elrohir had scoured the mountains and had rejoined each other at the prearranged time and place. They waited impatiently for Legolas. When he didn't arrive after a day and a half, Elladan vented his not inconsiderable frustration. "We lose one, and in looking for him, lose the other! Elbereth! They should have been twins, they are so alike!"

Elrohir smiled. "Truly no two people of different races could be so alike in their affinity for trouble!" He sobered then and looked at his brother. "You do not think something has happened to Legolas?"

Elladan shrugged. "I know not, but I do know I am not riding back to Mirkwood to explain to the King and his other sons that we have misplaced Legolas! Come. We will go where he did and see if we can find him."

Elrohir agreed and they began to cover the ground Legolas had covered. Elrohir glanced over his shoulder then, a shiver chasing itself down his spine. He shrugged off the foreboding and followed Elladan.


Legolas watched the orcs wondering why they kept Aragorn alive. They would usually have quickly dispatched a lone traveler. He was grateful, to be sure, but wondered if they might not have other orders, and if so, who had issued those orders.

He dared not waste much effort on such conundrums, for his attention was needed here. His concentration was shattered then, when he heard a sound he knew boded ill for his friend. A pack of wolves surrounded the company or orcs and snarled at them.

Legolas watched the animals carefully, especially the one that approached Aragorn. His friend was vulnerable bound as he was and weaponless. Legolas had taken advantage of his vantage point, however, and had determined which orc carried Aragorn's sword.

Waiting for the wolves or orcs to make the first move, he readied his bow, nocking an arrow and aiming at the orc who carried Aragorn's weapon. When chaos took over, he would kill the orc and relieve him of his burden.

A wolf stepped closer to the lead orc, and, growling launched himself at it. In that instant, Legolas' arrow sped through the air and found its target. In one fluid motion, he leaped to the ground close to the orc he'd felled and liberated Aragorn's sword.

Moving with elven speed, he raced to Aragorn's side, unsheathed his knife and used it to slit through the ropes at Aragorn's hand. At the same time, he used Aragorn's recently liberated sword to sever the rope that the orc leading him had used as a leash, twisting then to land at Aragorn's feet on his knees, the sword in his hands and offered up to the man.

Aragorn smiled, not wondering that his friend had both found him and made a spectacular entrance. Once Aragorn took the sword, Legolas leaped to his feet, his bow appearing in his hands as if by magic, arrow nocked and ready. Aragorn felt the sword in his hands, hefting it slightly, and facing the wolves and orcs by his friend's side as seemed so often to be the case.

He struck out then at one wolf that snarled at him. He injured it, and turned towards the sounds of battle behind him. The wolves were also not quite desperate enough to linger in the face of resistance. The orcs dispatched the last of the wolves, leaving Legolas and Aragorn to handle those orcs the wolves had not killed.

Aragorn killed the last orc still standing and turned, scanning the area for his elven friend.

He saw Legolas then struggling with an orc who cared less for elves than for wolves. He pulled the orc from atop Legolas running it through and tossing it aside as though it was nothing more than a doll.

Aragorn reached a hand to the Elf. "Are you all right?"

Legolas looked up, grateful. He had been unable to dislodge the creature though it had not done him any great injury. "I am well." He climbed to his feet. "I thank you."

Legolas offered an arm to Aragorn, who, though he had picked up many other scratches, bruises, and gashes in addition to his head and shoulder injuries, refused it.

He smiled at the human's stubbornness, and then he whistled once, long and loud. In moments, his horse appeared. Legolas helped Aragorn mount, then leaped up behind him. Fëagaladhad needed no urging to take them far away.


The Eye watched through his spies and other means. He would destroy that human and then he would be free to find the Ring.

Calling upon his minions, he set other plans in motion. The arrival of the elf and subsequent escape of the human angered him, but he was not without options. No one would get in his way. Certainly not the Firstborn!

He sent his will through The Seeing Stones, passing his plan to the one who could do it. He would make the elves tremble in fear to aid this man if his current plan failed. He would make them cast out the human as one too troublesome with which to bother.

His servants did his bidding and began to work.


Legolas held tightly to his friend overjoyed to have found the Ranger. He knew the man had been hurt, and his wounds needed tending, but he had no thought to stop until he was well away from the clearing in case more orcs or wolves roamed.

Aragorn shifted slightly. "Legolas?"

"Yes, mellonin? Are you well?"

"I am well enough. Hannonle, gwadornin" (Thank you my brother.)

Legolas smiled. "You are most welcome."


"Yes, my friend?"

"How did you find me?"

"We were searching. Your brothers and I decided to split up at the Mountain Pass. I was lucky enough to choose the right direction."

They had ridden all day when Legolas eyed the position of the sun and decided that they should stop for the evening. He brought Fëagaladhad to a stop and eased his semi-conscious friend to the ground. Aragorn snapped awake then. "What is it?"

"We stop for rest here."

Aragorn nodded and roused himself to help make camp.

"Mellonin, you must rest!" Legolas insisted. "We will meet soon with your brothers, for surely they will be coming to find us. I want you at least on your way to being well when they arrive!" Legolas forced his friend to sit. Then he handed him water and lembas. "I am afraid that is all I have."

Aragorn nodded, eating what was offered. "I have not had the waybread in sometime."

Legolas stared at his friend long after Aragorn had stopped eating and drifted off to sleep. Reveling in his presence, the elf tended his friend's wounds. Most were not serious, but they were many, and had greatly reduced his friend's stamina. The shoulder wound had not been poisoned, and the head wound, though worrisome, seemed to be closing. Legolas wrapped the worst injuries, and applied what little athelas he carried. Then, having done all he could, he took up watch. It would be likely that he'd have to stay awake the entire night, but it would not be a problem.

As Legolas sat in watch over his still recovering friend, he felt something familiar yet unwelcome. He nocked his bow and scanned the trees for some sign of danger

As he watched the camp perimeter, an old man appeared. When he took in the form of the elf warrior, bow at the ready, he put up his hands in shocked surprise. "Do not shoot master elf! I mean no harm! I will go on my way!"

"Wait!" Legolas lowered the bow. He felt no threat from this man, and the evil shadow had not appeared. "I mean no harm myself. I only watch for threat. Why are you traveling alone at night?"

The man shuffled unsteadily forward. "I am trying to reach my son who lived in the next settlement. He was injured in an accident and I must go to him."

Legolas indicated his fire. "You may rest here for a moment before pressing on, if you like."

The man smiled happily, but to Legolas, it seemed unnatural somehow. Making room for the man by the fire, Legolas remained standing, his hands still holding to arrow and bow.

The man settled down slowly as though old age and pain kept him from moving. Legolas spared a glance then to be sure Aragorn was well. It was in that moment that the old man stood shaking off both the cloak and the guise of old age.

Legolas turned towards him, but saw only a burning white light. Shielding his eyes, he took a step backwards before finding he could not move at all. The voice came next assaulting the elf with words of the Black Speech, and Legolas felt himself shiver at the sound.

A cold gripped him then, and he felt it take hold of his heart. The Black Speech gave way to evil laughter as he passed out, hitting the ground, his last conscious thoughts that he had left his friend vulnerable and alone. He had failed.

To Be Continued