Title:  Fireside Tales - Author:  Legorfilinde, Dark Forest Singer - Rating:  PG-13 - Summary: Legolas and Aragorn share little known tales of their lives with one another in this series of fireside tales. - Spoilers:  None that I can think of, but some references to earlier works, Bait, Death of a Brother, Dragonrider, or Hidden might pop up now and again, but can be read as a stand alone. - Disclaimer:  I do not own anything that has to do with J.R.R. Tolkien's works/characters/stories/histories/maps and am not being paid for this piece of fan fiction.

Tale One - Obsession

          "Have you ever been in love, Legolas?" asked Aragorn.

          The ranger was stretched out on the mossy ground, gazing up at the star-filled night sky, his hands nestled beneath his neck and cradling his head.  He did not dare to look at the Elf, but instead stared up at the vast firmament above.  They had finished eating their simple meal some time ago but were not yet ready for sleep, and in this quiet time in between both had come to the habit of sharing bits and pieces of their lives with one another.  It was a time that Aragorn cherished, for he actually knew so very little about the immortal Elf's past and he was always eager to learn even the most trifling snippet about the prince's years prior to their meeting.  And too, after listening to some small tale that Legolas related, he always felt humbled and awed by the Elf's vast knowledge and experience of life.

          The fire crackled and popped between the two friends and sent wavering shadows dancing across the Elf's beautiful face.  Legolas painstakingly finished tinkering about with his weaponry and finally set the quiver of arrows aside.  He looked down upon the reclining ranger and his expression was impassive, yet his blue eyes held a deep sadness within them that seemed to speak of untold pain and remembered sorrow.

          Legolas, too, gazed up at the sky, drinking in the power and the energy the starlight seemed to infuse within him with an almost avid hunger and yearning.  He slowly lowered his gaze back down to Aragorn and murmured a soft reply.

          "Yes.  Very long ago."

          Aragorn rolled over onto his side and propped his elbow up under his head, resting his chin in the cradle of his palm.  His silver eyes traveled over the Elf's pensive face, waiting, for he knew that Legolas would not be hurried in his telling of this tale and all would be spoken of in good time.

          Legolas placed his graceful hands upon his knees, his crossed legs tucked away beneath him and he drew in a deep breath, savoring the woodland scents and the crisp night air.  After what seemed to Aragorn a very long while, his head turned and he looked into the eyes of the young ranger eagerly staring back up at him.  A moment later, his golden head lowered causing his long, silken hair to fall forward and shield his face from Aragorn's view.  And when it seemed the young human would burst with curiosity, the Elf finally spoke.

          "She died."

          Not satisfied with this terse reply, Aragorn pursued the tale he knew was locked away within Legolas' heart.  A tale he very much wished to hear.

          "How?" he questioned.

          A sudden hardness came over the Elf's usually gentle bearing and his eyes filled with an intense hatred, and then just as quickly, the emotion was gone and the serene features of the Mirkwood Prince were once again visible and the calm blue eyes were quietly observing him.

          "She was killed by orcs," he simply stated.

          Vivid, horrid images of his slain father and Lord Elrond's beloved and tormented wife, Celebrian, flashed through the ranger's mind and his heart ached for the pain he knew Legolas must be feeling.   He continued to watch his friend as he softly asked.

          "What happened?"

          Legolas turned to face the human and Aragorn saw several conflicting emotions playing over the Elf's features.  He was at once fearsome to look upon and yet so terribly, terribly vulnerable and desolate.  Obviously, even after all these years, he was still hurting from this memory and suffering through the remembrance of it.

          "I was barely two hundred years old at the time; so, young, so naïve."  The Elf chuckled softly to himself, his blond head shaking from side to side.  "I thought I was invincible.

          "I had just completed my military training and had been assigned to my first border patrol.  We were serving as an escort for some of the northern Wood Elves as they made their way to Lake Town to trade.  She was traveling with her family and I happened to be riding beside her cart.  Her beauty was by far, greater than anything I had yet seen or experienced in my very limited relationships with the fairer sex.  And feeling very bold, I struck up a conversation with her, regaling her with my exploits – only one that I actually participated in, as I recall."

          He chuckled again and smiled at the ranger.  "She had such a wonderful, musical laugh.  It made me say all manner of idiotic things, just to hear her laugh again.  She was like the very air I breathe and I did not even know her name."

          He paused in his tale, reaching over to his side and taking out a small leather pouch from his inner tunic, he withdrew a small piece of wafer thin material with silvered threads woven into the fabric.  He showed it to Aragorn and then carefully tucked it back into the pouch.  "It is a piece of her veil.  It is all that I have left of her."

          He had grown somber once more and for the longest time a heavy silence hung in the air about them.  Aragorn was sure that the Elf would not continue, the heartache of recalling this tale too great, but eventually Legolas glanced back up and the barest trace of a smile flitted over his lips and he spoke again.

          "I was able to discover her name and where she lived.  One of the other warriors in our patrol had distant relatives that were related to this Elf maiden and I dogged him mercilessly for every detail he could provide me about her.  He finally told me her name was Thiniath and that she lived near the northern border of the Woodland Realm.

          "It was this very same warrior who also informed my father of my interest in this maiden and, of course, Adar was furious.  She was no royal, not even of Sindarin ancestry, and he would have no son of his becoming entangled with a common Avari Elf maiden.  But I defied him in the only way I knew how.  I volunteered for any and all patrols touring the northern reaches in the vain hope that I might again catch even a glimpse of her."

          When Legolas did not seem disposed to speak further, the ranger sat up and leaned forward, his eyes searching the Elf's face, waiting once again for the tale to unfold, but Legolas did not continue.

          "Well, did you ever see her?" Aragorn finally asked, unable to contain his inquisitiveness any longer.

          Legolas smiled faintly and nodded his blond head.  "Yes, once.  We had stopped to water our horses and she stepped out of the woods as if out of a dream.  She had come to fill several water skins.  At the sight of her, my heart stopped and I could not breathe.  It was as if the entire world had frozen and in that one moment only she and I existed.  Of course, the others of my patrol were near, and knowing that my father would surely hear of this chance encounter, I dared not even speak to her.

          "But as luck would have it, the captain of our guard ordered me to escort her back through the forests to her home.  He had received reports of increased orc activity along the Ered Mithrin and did not think it safe for her to wander about alone.  The patrol would meet up with me on their return sweep of the woodlands.  As you can imagine, I was more than happy to comply with this command."

          Legolas paused and his smile widened.  His eyes brightened and a laughing, carefree note came into his voice as he continued.  "When she kissed me, I thought I had left this realm and reached the Undying Lands."

          Aragorn's thoughts turned to his own, unrequited love for Arwen and the stolen kisses he had shared with her on those very few and precious instances when they found a moment to be alone with no one the wiser.  He recognized the same exuberant feeling reflected within the Elf's eyes as Legolas thought back on that moment in his past, forever captured within his mind and heart.  And then the Elf's face darkened and the smile was gone, replaced by a deeper, darker emotion.

          "Naturally, my father was informed of this tryst and from that time forward, I was no longer assigned to any border patrols or hunting parties if they were headed north of my father's halls."

          He stopped in his narrative and a choking hesitancy came into his lilting voice.  "A month later she was dead.  An orc raiding party overran her home and slaughtered all the Elves they could find.  The news reached me while I was on the practice fields.  A soldier of my former patrol gave me that slip of veil and told me of her death.  He could have stabbed my heart and I would have felt no worse than I did at that moment."

          Legolas' expression turned cold and hard and he seemed to be staring at some distant point among the trees.  Aragorn sat silently before the fire, unsure what, if anything, he should say to the Elf.  At last, Legolas spoke again.

          "From that moment on, I swore I would kill every orc I could find.  When I was not on duty or likewise engaged with the army, I spent my days on the archery field, endlessly shooting arrow after arrow until I could split a shaft in two with a second arrow in less than three seconds.  My nights were spent in my father's Great Hall, practicing with my long knife and when I had learned all that I could with my right hand, I brought a second knife with me to the Hall.   My nightly ritual extended to working on becoming as equally proficient with my left hand as my right, and then with both together until I was a ruthless and lethal killer.

          "I managed to work my way up through the ranks, my proficiency and deadly accuracy with a bow, and the number of orcs I slaughtered with my knives, earning me a patrol of my own.  I drove them mercilessly and volunteered them for any and all manner of killing sorties imaginable.  I became obsessed with the killing of orcs and I had no other thought save that.  I became reckless and began to take greater and greater risks and dangers, leading my warriors against heavier odds and certain death.  My father tried to counsel me, but I refused to listen, for I very much wanted to die."

          Legolas broke off his tale and his head lowered.  His breathing was fast and rapid and there was a slight tremor within his hands.  Aragorn watched him with a mixture of awe and sadness, agonizing with him as he relived this terrible tale of obsession, hatred and death.  He had always wondered how Legolas had acquired his extraordinary weapons skills and he had never known him to miss a shot with a bow and arrow, but at what cost had this proficiency come?

          The Elf's head came up slowly and Aragorn could see tears glistening within the corners of his blue eyes; tears of pain and anguish.  Legolas inhaled deeply and after a few calming breaths, he continued.

          "In my blind fury and madness I took insane chances with my warriors' lives.  They loyally and unquestioningly followed me and I used their devotion to my own ends, letting it feed upon my mania.  I grew to think I was insuperable and I finally lead my patrol into a battle with an orc army ten times our number.   And in my stupidity, pride, and arrogance I lead them all to their deaths; brutally butchered by the hordes of orc and goblin legions.  I, too, was grievously wounded and left for dead….or so I believed, but I did not die."

          He choked on a ragged breath and Aragorn suddenly realized that he had been holding his own breath, so intently had he been listening.  He gulped in a great lungful of air and swallowed hard, finding that his throat had somehow gone dry.

          "For two days I lived, lying upon my back, unable to move, staring up at the sky and begging Mandos to take my life, but he would not.  He wanted me to live with what I had done.  To know that I had caused the senseless deaths of those immortals who trusted me with their lives.  He wanted me to remember."

          Legolas glanced over at the ranger and a rueful smile came to his lips.  He wiped his sweaty palms upon the knees of his leggings and took another deep breath before continuing.

          "Another scouting patrol found me and brought me back to Lasgalen.  I was incapacitated for months, and during my convalescence I had plenty of time to think upon what I had done.  I still hold a deep-seeded hatred and obsession for the killing of orcs, but never again will I allow that to endanger the lives of those who place their trust in me."

          He stared into the silver eyes of the young ranger and slowly extended his forearm to the human.  Aragorn silently reached over and clasped the Elf's arm in return.  As their eyes met and locked, the Elf spoke.  "It is why I follow you, Aragorn.  You have given back to me the compassion for others that I lost so long ago."

          Aragorn stared at the immortal being before him and felt his chest tighten with powerful emotions of his own that were barely being kept in check. He squeezed the Elf's forearm and then let his hand slide down to his side.  "You do me such great honor, Legolas.  I only hope that I can live up to your judgment of me."

          "You already have," Legolas smiled.  "For I would not be here otherwise."

And that's the end of this tale….