DISCLAIMER ~ I own none of the characters that J. R. R. Tolkein invented, only the ones that *I* invented. The ideas are solely mine so PLEASE ASK PERMISSION if you ever decide that you want to use this general plot. I don't know if anyone else has ever done this idea, so if you have then I apologise.

NOTE ~ This is a Legolas/Aragorn fic, but it IS NOT SLASH, so if you don't like that kinda thing then you're okay. Also, the story is set in Rohan after the Great Drought and Fire (which is my invention), the whole One Ring business and the Fellowship and all that has not happened yet (and will not in this fic) but orcs etc. are still playing up and causing havoc. Aragorn and Legolas are best friends (IN A NON-SLASHY KINDA WAY). Elvish translations re at the end of the chapter.

Right, on with the show. . .


Chapter One ~ The Bridle

The sun sat low in the sky, like a great fat egg yolk in a pool of bloody water. Vast downy clouds crowned the light source, their bellies glowing orange and their tops remaining grey. Legolas sat quietly upon Brïona, a mighty palomino mare. Both stared down at the land below in silence. Neither seemed to notice the gentle thud of hooves as Aragorn pulled Brego to a halt beside them.

Rohan had become a dismal place. Not a drab kind of dismal, but a parched and dead kind of dismal. The visage of the country was yellow and dry, there was little grass left in the ground, and where there was not grass enormous cracks cleaved the dusty floor. The Great Drought and Fire had been the doom of Rohan, the sharp downfall. Their horses, which brought the king and his people so much pride, had all but dropped dead like flies from some unidentified disease, most likely to have been brought by the orcs. Now there less than ten left in the whole country.

From the east came a murmur that Sauron was rising, and the orcs of Middle Earth were spurred to needs of greater malicious acts, and rampaged across the lands, burning and slaughtering all the way. Rohan, for some reason or the other, seemed to attract the attention of the beasts, probably because it's king was so unsuspecting. At this time a terrible drought was sent by the evil powers of Sauron, and upon arrival the orcs set the entire country ablaze. Now Rohan was nought but a wretched desert.

Legolas turned his eyes away from the landscape and stared at Brïona's pale golden ears, an immense sense of guilt swallowing him up. The elves of Mirkwood and Lórien had turned a blind eye to the situation. Why should we help them? They are strong enough to fend for themselves. Though the elves knew not of the drought. This ignorance had cost them the old allegiance and many innocent lives, and had earned the passionate hate of Rohan.

Since then elves had been disappearing all over the place. No one knew why or where they went. Neither knowledge nor body was ever found of the vanished ones. It was only the other week that Haldir, the dear friend of Aragorn and Legolas, had become one of these unfortunate elves. Legolas was beginning to wonder why he had agreed to accompany Aragorn through Rohan and on to Edoras, sent by Mithrandir and Lord Elrond to pose questions to Théoden King about the disappearances. Any other elf may think that Legolas had a death wish.

'Aragorn,' said Legolas, 'The sun will set soon, we must find some shelter.'

The rugged and unshaven man nodded, the grimness set like granite upon his handsome and weathered face. Without any sort of confirmation the elf and man pulled their steeds about before galloping away. Across the orangey yellow terrain they flew like hawks upon the wing. Legolas' silken hair swept out behind him, Aragorn's dirty locks fluttered madly. Over the dead hills and through the dusty dells chased the man and elf. A while later they came to a deep gorge, and raced along the lip, many large boulders and ledges provided a challenging way down. Caves and so on would offer excellent refuge, but in these days who knows what could be hiding down there.

A sound reached the pointed ears of Legolas. The sound of another horse's hooves. It mingled with the steady beat of Brego's and Brïona's to such an extent that even Aragorn had not heard it. Legolas chanced and glance over his shoulder and saw not one horse and rider, but three, and several others far behind. The riders were obviously men of Rohan; their shining helmets were engraved with swift horses and the nosepieces looked akin to the head of a horse. The black stallion of the leading rider let out a harrowing bray.

At this Aragorn looked over his shoulder, and saw the men too. He saw the savage snarls and the wide mad eyes and he knew.

'Legolas!' he cried. 'They come for you my friend!'

Legolas gave absolutely no indication that he had heard Aragorn, but kept his hard, pale eyes ahead, spurring Brïona on with his heels and words. Even so, Aragorn knew the elf had heard him. Suddenly the man of Rohan on his dark steed came galloping up between Brego and Brïona, separating them. His silver helmet flashed orange in the rays of the setting sun. Aragorn gave vent to a mighty roar, drawing his sword. The other merely sneered and veered his horse into Legolas. Brïona squealed as she slipped over the edge, struggling to find her balance on the rocks. Being an elvish horse she quickly steady herself. Above came the sound of the pursuing men, their horses gracefully leaping down from ledge to ledge, the thuds of hooves and the clashing of swords echoed around the deep ravine. Briona and Legolas had no choice but to make their way down, and to escape along the bottom of the canyon, hoping to find a way up and out again.

They reached the dusty floor, closely followed by four men and their horses. The chase was long and tiring for the golden mare, she had been riding with her master and friends for five days now, and she missed her young foal at home. Nonetheless she threw herself into her swiftest gait and left the evil ones far behind. At last the bright red blades of sun cut through the semi-darkness from the right of the deep chasm, and tumbled down rocks and boulders made a perfect way up again.

Legolas did not need to steer his horse, she saw the exit as well as he did. She reached the bottom of the way out and leapt up on the first rock as elegantly as a spirit. From there on the going was easy, but the men's horses were powerful and fleet of foot too, and they could be heard close behind. All of a sudden the crimson rays were broken and Legolas looked up. It was Aragorn. He was but a silhouette against the scarlet sky, his sword was drawn and his cloak was visibly ripped as it fluttered. Legolas managed a small smile. Aragorn certainly had the noble stance that was worthy of a king.

The elf and his horse were almost at the top, as were the men. Just a couple more leaps and then they would be away like Shadowfax with wings on his hooves. The cleared one of the last boulders, Legolas could see Aragorn's regal face and the blood on his knitted brow, Brïona prepared for her final jump. Then the face of the man fell and something entered Legolas' vision. It was a lasso, the woven fibres gleaming orange, and it pulled back around the elf's neck. Aragorn cried out in dismay as the rope was pulled tight and suddenly, causing Legolas choke in a dreadful manner. His head whipped back and he was pulled right out of the saddle, and sent falling into the shadowy abyss. Aragon flinched as he heard his friend hit the floor. The frosty hand of shock had grasped his heart and sent icy water through his every vein.

Far below he heard Legolas struggling and choking, and could just make out his body in the dimness, fighting with several others. Snarling he brandished his sword and prepared to rescue his friend, but a shout from Legolas stopped him.

'Rima mellonamin! Rima ten'ta!'

Aragorn ignored the cries and carried on.

'Rima!' Legolas called. 'Kela! Nurta! Ta naa neuma!'

Still the cries went unheeded.

'Lle rangwa amin? KELA!'

At last Aragorn had to listen. The commands and pleads were swimming in desperation, but the pain was so evident.

Legolas saw Aragorn halt halfway down the rubble and reluctantly turn back, returning to the summit. Sometimes that man could be so stubborn. A painful blow was unexpectedly delivered to his back, and Legolas crumpled over. More lassos were thrown over him in his moment of weakness; his fair and pale hands were bound behind him. The prince of Mirkwood did not know if these were Riders of Rohan, but he guessed it so, for horses in these lands were rare, and there were several present.

Then much to the elf's offence one of his antagonists reached out and grasped his arm and prodded it's whole length, feeling his muscles.

'This one is strong, ' he said matter-of-factly. 'He will fetch us several weeks of rations and new shoes for the horses.'

The others murmured approvingly, most coming forward and inspecting Legolas' muscles for themselves. Another spoke up.

'It's a pity we didn't get his horse. She was an elvish one, we could have got *gold* for her.'

'Gold is useless now!' the first man growled. 'And who needs horses these days with the new trade. . . We're killing three birds with one stone. The army gets their beasts of burden, we get our food and supplies, and the elves get what they bloody well deserve!'

Legolas listened to all of this with mounting dread. What on middle-earth was the new trade? What beasts of burden? What did the elves get that they deserved? Perhaps this was the answer to his earlier question, to the national question. Where have all the elves gone? Then it was as though a mighty boulder had thudded to the pits of his stomach. He was one of the unfortunate ones. He was now one of the many elves that went disappearing.

The leader rounded on Legolas, bearing down on him like a famished warg.

'Fetch The Bridle,' he commanded.

One of the others hurried to fetch The Bridle and handed it over. Legolas was dragged to his feet roughly, his throat throbbing from rope burn. He stared with wide eyes at The Bridle. It was like a normal bridle, but made to fit a human or elf. There was metal collar, which was fastened around hi neck, which the men found difficult because Legolas struggled so much. At last an almighty smack around the face stilled him, and he let the men bridle him without further trouble. The leather straps were buckled up around his striking face, and the rein was given to the hand of the leader. A tall and burly member of the band, Banes was his name, buckled one of the straps so tightly around the back of Legolas' head that he cried out in pain.

'Banes, you fool!' cried the leader. 'He is expensive! We need to ensure that he reaches the camp in top condition!'

He stomped over and undid the strap, pulled the soft hair from the metal fastener, and did it up again carefully. Banes scowled at his hypercritical master. When done the boss of the group stood before Legolas. His hair was dark compared to the others', and he wore the stubble and dirt of many days travel. His clothes that must have been fine in the better days were muddy and ripped. He stared stonily into the eyes of the elf.

'Come!' he called to his men. 'We make for the camp!' With the rein of The Bridle still in his hand he leapt into the saddle of his horse. He glared at Legolas again. 'You will walk.' He said, low and threateningly. 'You will not talk. You will not eat. Will provide you with water but that is it. Until we reach the camp *I* am your master. You will do as *I* say and you *will not* complain.' He pulled his cape aside to reveal a bullwhip coiled at his belt. 'Need I say more, elf?' He spat the last word out like badly brewed ale.

The others mounted and they all set of at a brisk walk, climbing up the way that Legolas had tried to escape. The Bridle was uncomfortable, and it chafed the elf's smooth face. Ignoring the orders of the man, Legolas spoke up.

'What is your name?'

'I TOLD YOU NOT TO SPEAK!' he roared. 'But it is a fair question. I am Rularian.'

Legolas scowled. I hate you, Rularian, he said inside his mind.

'I will not ask of *your* name, elf. You no longer have a name. You are an elf. You are the dregs of the dirtiest things in this world. You will come to understand this in time, my profitable companion, and you will spent the rest of your infinite life paying for your coldness during The Great Drought and Fire.'

Legolas bowed his head in thought and shock. How many other elves had to go through this before him? He feared the camp with an unwanted passion, not even knowing why, for whatever the camp may be was out of his vast knowledge. He looked up to the fading sky, the stars beginning to wink in the dark folds, and he wondered how many other elves were staring at these same stars.


AN: Well that's the beginning of my first LOTR fic. I hope you like it. Review and tell me what you think. If you're thinking what a dick-end Aragorn is for leaving Legolas then don't think that. . . I'm saying nothing else. Chapter 2 up ASAP, but I am also working on my Harry Potter fic, so updates for both fics may be quite far apart.

Elvish translations:

Rima mellonamin! Rima ten'ta! = Run my friend! Run for it!

Kela! Nurta! Ta naa neuma! = Go away! Hide! It is a trap!

Lle rangwa amin? KELA! = Do you understand me? GO AWAY!