Author: Mirrordance

Title: Broken Alliance

Summary: A man kills an elf and starts a chain of revenge-killings, resulting in a war between the races.  Now, Aragorn and Legolas must face the only enemy that could make them fall in battle: each other.

* * *

Part 5: Armistice

* * *




      The Prancing Pony Inn was alive with active chatter of the coming war.  It was notable that the younger men have gone, probably having joined the ranks of soldiers, and that most of the occupants were older.

      "They had it coming," one man growled, "Those crazy elves with their noses high up in the air…"

      "It must be tearing Elessar apart, going against his friends," mused another, "Well, after what those brothers had done to the elf-folk, it's long been coming."

      "Are you insinuating that this began with us?" exclaimed a drunken gentleman, "You see you do not know the whole story at all!"

      "It all began right here," said his companion, "Right here in Bree, gentlemen! An elf killed a man and escaped, getting away scot-free, the spineless prick.  Then the man's brother goes to Mirkwood and kills several elves of his own out of revenge, except the fool kills the wrong ones, then gets caught.  His other brothers kill elf soldiers and ransom the Prince of Mirkwood to get him back.  Then the King of Mirkwood kills most of them, and his soldiers raze our towns.  Then the angry townspeople set aflame their beloved forest.  It's all a game! And it began here in fair Bree, where we stand."

      "You sound almost proud," noticed one of his drinking friends.

      "You see, sir," replied the man excitedly, "It's interesting because that elf who started all of this could still be here.  Among us.  Drinking in our bars.  Selling us goods.  Hiding.  He could be here somewhere.  He could be in this very room!"

      "I think I could tell if an elf were here!" laughed his friend, "With that mass of fair hair, those pointed ears."

      "They can disguise themselves, you see," said another man, "How hard is it to hide those pointed ears? Or dirty up those scrubbed-clean faces, add soot to their golden hair? Why they would look just like you and me!"

      "Maybe not you!" one wisecracker yelled from another table, and the entire bar laughed, save maybe for one being, shrouded by a dark cloak in a corner of the room, his pint of brew barely touched, as he watched them all.

      I do not belong here, he thought bitterly, And yet I do not belong anymore from where I had come either.

      "You've not touched your drink, vagrant," a server said to him, "I could think of a more worthy gentleman to occupy our tables."

      Legolas stared up at him, letting some of the dim light touch his hidden face, and said nothing.  The server shrugged and walked away.

      He had wanted to be here, to see how a rogue elf might live out the rest of his long life, away from his people, and yet also apart from humanity.  It was solitary, in a room full of people.  It was ceaselessly silent even in the noisiest bars.  And since violence between men and elves has erupted, the rogue elves have long since left Bree, fearing for their safety.  Where they had gone from here, he did not know.  All he knew that was hidden inside this coat—it had belonged to Aragorn, and he had forgotten to return it since they had rescued him from the chilly river waters—no one saw who or what he was, and he felt reasonably safe to see whatever it is his heart had come here to see.

      "May I join you?" a man asked him, making him look up from his musings.  The man's hair was a sandy gold, darkened by filth, falling in tangled wisps about his face, his fair skin glowing beneath the streaks of grime spread liberally across his face.  He looked almost like a man, except Legolas would know his kind in the dark.

      "Do as you please," Legolas said to him, curious about this rogue who seemed to have found him, and whose eyes teased as if the two of them shared a secret.

      "What is your name?" the disguised elf asked him, sliding into a seat next to his.  He noticed Legolas hesitate for a breath, and he laughed.  "It needn't be your real one.  'Tis simply out of convenience's sake."

      "Vagrant," Legolas replied, remembering the term the server had called him, knowing it meant 'wanderer,' and that it reminded him of one of Aragorn's names, Strider.

      "Good name," teased the other elf, "You can call me Rascal."

      Legolas took a sip of his brew, "Now yours is not a good name at all."

      "It stuck," Rascal grinned, though his sharp eyes glinted, "You are new blood here.  You still smell of the forest, elf."

      "Miraculously," said Legolas wryly, not missing a beat, "So do you, underneath all of your wasteful years here."

      Rascal's eyes narrowed in irritation.  "Sharp tongue you got there.  And a tone that could only mean you have come from the finest lines.  I do not yet know who you are, but I'm sure, around here with all of its angry humans, your head can fetch more than a fair price."

      Legolas's fists tightened, but Rascal only grinned.

      "Unfortunately," he said, "Being what I am, my head can fetch a pretty fair price as well.  Looks like we both have a knife's edge against each other's throats.  You see… I am in need of a partner who, if I could not trust him, I have a secret to control him with."

      "A partner?" asked Legolas.

      "My old one was a human," Rascal's face twisted in dismay, "Terrible race.  About time we had a war.  He met…" he smiled, "A most untimely demise."

      "I'm sure you are still recovering," Legolas told him dryly, "I am not interested.  I am just passing through."

      "Headed nowhere," Rascal drawled, "I've seen your kind… aimless, empty.  Why don't you give me a try? If things don't work out, we each keep our secrets, and you can leave with my blessings."

      "With all due respect," said Legolas, "I would not turn my back on you, even if it is to leave."

      "That would be wise," Rascal smiled, "My old partner learned that the hard way."

      "You killed him?" whispered Legolas.

      "Do not look so shocked," Rascal laughed, "It happens."

      Legolas stared at the elf before him.  Had he stumbled into the man who began this war?

      "He would not take the business to another level.  Coward wanted out, so I took him out," laughed Rascal, before frowning, "Except I didn't think the bastard had so many brothers, and started this stupid war.  It's not good for business, you see.  And now I have to go around looking like this.  I told you it is a terrible race."

      "What business is this that you speak of?" Legolas asked cautiously.

      "I am wondering what it is about what I had said that suddenly piqued your interest," Rascal said, rubbing his chin in thought.

      "As you said, I am headed nowhere," Legolas said edgily, knowing it had more than a grain of truth to it, though his mind started to turn ideas over in his head…

      Rascal's eyes narrowed in irritation; Vagrant was sharp, and even his perceptiveness was being skillfully escaped.

      "I can tell for a certainty that you are a dangerous being," Rascal commented, "But I'm telling you right now, you had better believe that so am I."

* * *

      The two new partners left the Inn, and headed towards an obscure old house at the edge of the settlement.  Rascal opened the door slowly, and a strange smell assaulted Legolas as he stepped inside.  The small house was filled with carefully-bound stacks of strange grass, of a kind that he had not smelled or sighted ever before.

      "This is the business," Rascal said proudly, breathing the nauseatingly sweet smell deeply.

      ~What is it?~ Legolas murmured, using his native tongue, as he picked up a piece from the floor and sniffed at it, the small quantities he had inhaled at close range giving him a curious rush.

      Rascal took the bit from him, and settled it back into the stacked bundle, ~None for free for you yet, my new partner, you have to prove your worth first.  Every piece of this sells very well, you see, every single precious strand of it.~

      ~A new breed of Galenas?~ Legolas asked.

      ~No, no,~ laughed Rascal, ~It's not pipe-weed.  This is more precious and rare, more expensive.  It is an opiate.  Let us say… it lulls you into the most interesting dreams, and it is highly addictive.~

      ~I've heard of this,~ Legolas frowned, ~Banned in most places.~

      ~I'm a runner,~ grinned Rascal, ~I snuck them in when I deliver my textiles, which I sell as well.  I am good at what I do, but I cannot do this alone.  And I am happy to find an elf, for I could not trust men at these times.~

      ~I do not endorse this illegality,~ said Legolas tentatively.

      ~Well you have already seen it,~ Rascal snapped, ~You join me or I kill you before you step out of that door.  I did it to the human.  I can do it to you.~

      Legolas considered his options quickly, just before turning towards Rascal and lashing out at his neck, sending the unprepared elf unconscious to the ground.

      He worked quickly, tying the man with strips of the textiles he had found also stored in the house.  Then he took off running towards the stables of the Inn where he had left his horse.

      He and his 'partner' will be headed towards Rivendell.




      Arwen sat by the window, looking over at the beauty of her old home, her eyes deep and sorrowful.

      ~I despise wars,~ she murmured quietly, feeling her father Elrond watching her from the door to the quiet room.

      ~Don't we all,~ Elrond agreed.

      ~And yet it always seems to find us,~ whispered Arwen, ~I think I may have done Aragorn a disservice by marrying him.  When this human was wronged by elves, he feared to approach his king, thinking the king's favor would always rest upon an elf, because he is married to one.~

      ~You have done no one a disservice,~ Elrond told her soothingly, ~such insinuations they have created for themselves.~

      ~Is there still any way to cease this?~ Arwen asked.

      ~Troops from Mirkwood and Gondor are already converging to meet at Dagorlad,~ Elrond told her, ~Such an ironic place to confront each other.  Along those battle plains, elves and men once stood together against the evils of Mordor.  And now they defile it.  They break the alliance on the very soil upon which it was most manifested.~

      ~Someone comes,~ Arwen said suddenly, noticing a lone rider arrive from the near distance, ~Legolas.~

* * *

      Legolas handed the unconscious Rascal over to one of the soldiers who had met him upon his arrival, and he hurriedly dismounted his horse, as Arwen and Elrond rushed toward him.

      ~What brings you here, Prince?~ Elrond asked, glancing at the unconscious elf that Legolas had brought along curiously.

      ~I hit him,~ said Legolas, ~And gave him opiates to keep him unconscious further.  Is he in any medical danger?~

      Elrond examined the elf quickly.  ~Not at all.~

      ~Good,~ breathed Legolas, ~I need you to keep him alive, and well-guarded.  You musn't let him escape.~

      ~Who may I ask is this?~ asked Elrond, ~Certainly not a friend of yours?~

      ~This is the elf who began the war,~ said Legolas breathlessly, ~I think it can still be stopped.  We hold a public trial, with a council made up of both men and elves.  They jointly decide his fate.  He began the war, his execution can end it.  I realized all we needed is a scapegoat.  No one wants this war, Lord Elrond.  If they ever did, surely they have changed their minds as the possibility of death and destruction draws near.  He can satisfy the bloodlust and quell the fears.  A scapegoat, to blame for it all.  And he is certainly the right one.  He murdered that first human who died in the chain of violence that resulted in this war.  They were angered because he was not brought to justice.  Now he can be.  What I need from your wise counsel, is not merely to guard him, but to ask if this can be done.  Is it sensible?~

      Elrond considered this for a moment.

      ~I can be done, Prince of Mirkwood,~ Elrond said approvingly, ~But you must inform Thranduil and Elessar quickly.  The troops have already gathered at Dagorlad.~

      Legolas's breath caught.  ~I need a fresh horse.~

      ~I ride quickly as well,~ Arwen said, ~I will join you.~

      Legolas looked at her miserably, knowing that there was no way he could dissuade her, ~Aragorn will kill me.~

* * *

      Ceaselessly, the incredibly swift riders stormed all across Rivendell, through the bounds of Mirkwood, headed south towards Dagorlad.  The road was long, but their strength held, as time urged them to press forward.




      The troops from Gondor made camp, and looked cautiously across the wide plains, where the elves from Mirkwood had also settled for the night.  The battle would begin at first light.

      Inside his tent, Aragorn was preparing his armor when a pair of his aides entered, bearing Tristan and his only other surviving brother Mikal.  Aragorn looked over at the two young men with stony eyes.

      "You must be wondering what you are doing here," Aragorn told them flatly, and they nodded meekly.

      "You began this war," said Aragorn coldly, "And so I firmly believe that you should not miss it.  No one should fight it for you, if you are not here yourselves," he turned to his aides, "Ensure that they are at the frontlines tomorrow.  Let them see what great evil it is that their vengeance has created."

      The aides nodded and left, dragging the two young men out with them.  For a moment, Aragorn stared at his armor, wishing that his heart was as strong as these.  His frustrations were mounting, his anger escalating as the dawn drew near. 

* * *

      ~Cease!~ a small band of elf soldiers commanded Legolas and Arwen, just as the skies lightened to precede the rise of the sun.  The air was thick with the morning fog, as the soldiers surrounded them.

      ~You have no business here,~ said one of the soldiers, ~Turn back now, and return to your homes.  There is danger afoot, have you not heard?~

      Legolas hastily pulled back his cloak, showing the guards his face.  ~Let me through.~

      ~S-sire!~ exclaimed the commander, scrambling for words, his eyes looking upon his Prince in surprise and pleasure, ~We thought… we thought you had abandoned us.~

      Legolas almost winced; he very nearly had.  But his fate would not allow it of him, and once he had been given the chance to aid his people, he would not allow it of himself.  Throughout his journey toward Dagorlad, his resolve strengthened, and he found his heart becoming stouter.  He finally felt as if he was doing what he ought yo have been doing.  Vagrant no more, he had a home, he had friends, he had a part to play.  King Thranduil had asked him who he was.  He now knew; he was the Prince of Mirkwood, child of the king, servant of their lands and people, but also his own person, with his own passions and desires.  He was all these, all at once.

      ~Do not tarry,~ Legolas told him, ~I must see the King.~

      ~Of course, sire,~ said the soldier, ~I shall lead you myself.~

      Legolas, Arwen and the commander moved deeper toward an emptying camp, for the troops were already assembling at the frontlines.  From the near distance, Legolas could see that Gondor was doing the same.

      Aragorn, he thought desperately, please, please wait.

      ~Ada!~ Legolas exclaimed, stopping his horse alongside his father, who was aloft upon his own steed.  Thranduil's eyes set upon him with the same measure of surprise and delight as the soldier from earlier, and of the soldiers that surrounded them.

      ~Legolas…~ Thranduil whispered reverently.

      ~Pull back,~ Legolas said quickly, ~I have found a way to end the war.  I found us a scapegoat.  I found the elf who murdered that very first human.  We can have a joint council made up of both races.  A public trial! That will quench all of our thirst for justice, surely!~

      ~It's too late,~ argued Thranduil, ~We are moments from the first strike…~

      ~It's never too late,~ pleaded Legolas, ~We do not have to strike at anyone.  No one wants this war!~

      ~I must inform Aragorn,~ Arwen said, jumpstarting her horse just as Legolas grabbed her reins.

      ~You are not going across that field,~ Legolas told her forcefully, ~You want your husband to slay me and start this war all over again?~

      ~Your humor is misplaced,~ Thranduil told him inanely.

      ~Ada, pull back,~ Legolas said insistently.

      ~They will not listen to us!~ Thranduil exclaimed, ~We turn our backs on them and we will be attacked.  They will not listen to us!~

      ~How can they listen to us if you do not even listen to me?~ retorted Legolas, ~Please.  If you do not want to pull back then do not.  But the first strike does not come from us.  Promise me this much.  I can convince Aragorn, I swear to you I can.~

      ~Let go my reins,~ Arwen said, her horse becoming just as restless as she, ~If we do not inform him soon, this will begin and we can no longer stop it.~

      Staring at his father for a moment, Legolas released Arwen's reins and pulled on his own, riding furiously across the field towards Aragorn's camp.  This way, it was a certainty that the first strike would not come from Thranduil.

* * *

      "A rider comes!" exclaimed one of Aragorn's watchers.  The archers at the frontlines readied their aim, as the sounds grew louder and the figure—only a shadow because of the heavy morning mist—came closer.

      "It is not even dawn!" muttered one of Aragorn's aides, "deceptive elves."

      "Hold your fire," Aragorn ordered, readying his sword.

      "Hold your fire!" his commanders repeated.

      Aragorn stiffened as he watched the rider move closer towards them.  "Cease or you will be fired upon!" Aragorn yelled at the intruder.


      Two arrows were released from somewhere along the ranks of Aragorn's soldiers and met their mark,  the rider jerking backward with the impact, just as the sun rose over their heads in a blinding yellow, and pierced through the grayness of the mist.

      "I said hold your fire!" Aragorn yelled at his soldiers, everyone tensing to follow instinctively, when the first arrows were released.  The yellow light of the morning sun was cast upon them, and Aragorn looked to the approaching rider just as he slid from his horse and fell to the ground.

      "Legolas!" he exclaimed, urging his horse forward towards his fallen friend, his commanders desperately yelling to their troops that they had better hold their fire, the King was in direct line of it.

* * *

      ~No!~ Thranduil whispered, eyes widening in shock as the sun rose overhead and he found his son lying on the ground, cradled by Elessar.

      ~Sire--~ one of his commanders said tentatively, before the King of Mirkwood pulled on his horse's reins and raced forward.

      "Legolas!" he screamed, "Legolas!"

      ~Hold your fire!~ his commanders yelled upon his troops, ~Hold your fire! Stay in position! HOLD YOUR FIRE!~

      Troops on both sides tensed; the first strike was launched, but now both Kings were in the line of fire, and the troops did not know what to do.  Commanders from both sides were yelling desperately for the soldiers to stay where they are and not to attack.

      Arwen pushed her own horse forward, her horrified eyes never leaving the three figures that were on the battleground.

* * *

      "Legolas…" Aragorn called upon his unconscious friend, shaking him gently and urging him to respond as he held him, ~Please…~

      The arrow had pierced his body exactly where it ought to have; its end stuck out from his chest and throbbed, as if it was beating with his heart.  The other arrow was on the ground with a blood-tipped end, having just glanced his arm.  But the one that had met its mark was enough to seal his fate.

      The elf's sunken eyes fluttered open, ~Arwen went,~ he said, his voice like a sigh, ~You know her.  It's not my fault…~

      ~Shh,~ Aragorn told him soothingly, not knowing what he meant until he glanced up to see his wife riding across the fields towards him, right behind the King of Mirkwood.  He looked in panic at his soldiers, fearing they would send a volley of arrows that would take everyone whom he cared for.  But though they seemed shaken and unsure, his commanders were making all the right orders, and they all held their ground.

      Thranduil jumped from his horse before it completely stopped, and landed on the ground, crumbling to his knees beside his son.  His voice caught in his throat at the horrid sight, his eyes arrested by the arrow on his son's chest.

      ~Aragorn,~ Legolas said insistently, trying to sit up, ~I found the elf.  Trial.  Ada…~ he said, catching his breath at the pain of his movement, looking at his father desperately, ~You…,~ he gasped, ~You tell him…~

      ~I will, I will,~ Thranduil assured him quickly, glancing at Aragorn searchingly.  Elessar was most learned of healing between the two of them, and he gauged his son's condition by the look on Aragorn's face.

      ~It lies deep,~ Aragorn told him quietly, ~And near his heart,~ he called to his soldiers behind him, "Stand down! Sergio! My pack!"

      The sound of swords being holstered, and arrows and quivers being drawn away was reassuring.  Aragorn's commander pushed forward and handed his King what he had asked for.

      Aragorn laid Legolas flat upon his back, but the elf would not calm down.

      ~I found the elf,~ he said breathlessly, "Aragorn you're not listening…" he said disapprovingly, his eyes beginning to wander.

      ~I told you I would tell him,~ Tthranduil told his son impatiently, afraid and displeased that Legolas would not cooperate, ~Pipe down and allow him to treat you!~

      Legolas was drifting quickly, his mind beginning to wander, his eyes losing their focus.

      "We have to remove the arrow," Aragorn said, "Yet I fear that he might bleed to death."

      "There is no other choice," Arwen told him, "You know you cannot leave it there."

      Around them as they worked, they felt soldiers from both sides converge, eager to see what fate had befallen the much-adored prince.

      ~His best chance lies in Rivendell,~ Arwen said softly, watching the blood pool around them, seeping from the wound, from the corners of Legolas's mouth.

      ~I just came from there,~ Legolas murmured.

      Aragorn was looking at him with a mixture of alarm and amusement. 

      "I'm the fastest rider," Arwen said, "I will take him.  But I'm going to need a fresh horse, your strongest."

      "Mine," Aragorn insisted, nodding towards Sergio to make arrangements.  The loyal soldier bustled quickly to do as he was ordered to, trailed by his queen.  As Aragorn applied athelas and bound the wound, Thranduil ordered for an escort to accompany Arwen; she may ride as fast as her horse would take her, but at least troops trailed them and she and Legolas would not be completely alone along the journey.

      "We…" Legolas struggled to say, when he found himself alone with Aragorn, "We have all been fools…"

      "I know," Aragorn said quietly, tying the bandages securely, as Legolas winced and sucked in a desperate breath. 

      "I am usually…" he sighed, "better at dodging."

      Aragorn chuckled, though his eyes watered, feeling his friend beginning to ebb, right before his very eyes.

      "Fight it," Aragorn told him quietly.

      "I promise," Legolas whispered, his eyes drifting close.  Aragorn blinked at his tears, his hands shakily seeking the pulse at his friend's neck; he sighed in relief. 

      Hurriedly but carefully, they helped Arwen and Legolas upon a horse, where her sure, strong arms secured him, and she gave her husband a determined nod, just before she shot away, trailed by Thranduil's riders.

      Aragorn watched them leave for a moment, before he turned towards Sergio, his anger renewed by the glaring possibility that his friend could still die, and he could do nothing to stop it; he had already done all that he could.

      "Who fired the shots?" he demanded darkly.

      "I did," Tristan said, overhearing.  His voice shook in fear of the King's wrath, but he admitted to his mistake, "I thought the deceptive elves have broken their word to us."

      Looking at the shattered eyes of the young, youth, Aragorn felt his anger dim, and slowly fade.  "One day," he told Tristan softly, "Your anger would claim you completely, if you do not hold yourself together."

      Aragorn looked towards Thranduil, who was glaring at the man who had shot at his son.

      "That goes for all of us," he said pointedly.

      Thranduil met his eyes, and Aragorn noticed the tears that also welled in them.  The two mighty rulers looked at each other, and their troops looked at them.  The two races found each other in such close proximity by now, suddenly at a loss as to what to do.  They glanced at each other, seeing faces, instead of just enemies categorically falling under a name; human, elf… in that moment, it ceased to matter.

      "Legolas found the elf responsible for the murder of your first human," said Thranduil, "We propose a joint council, composed of human and elf representatives to decide his fate, given his initial crime, and the grave consequences that followed his careless actions.  A public trial, that both humans and elves can watch.  We also propose an armistice, and a succeeding treaty of peace, also to be composed by our representatives.  We are willing to turn our backs on this war and leave this field, where the grass has been graced by nothing less than my son's own blood.  It is precious to me, as priceless as the peace that he has desired.  Let it be that one purchases the other."

      Aragorn took a deep breath, and extended his hand to the other ruler.  Thranduil shook it surely, and tightly.




      Legolas' eyes opened to a darkened room, graced by nothing but the light of the moon.  The cushions beneath his body were soft and warm, and though he felt sore and sluggish, he did not feel the burning of the wound that he knew had ultimately brought him to where he was.

      Evenstar shone like her name in the night, watching him with a smile on her lovely face, standing next to his window.

      ~You have come a long way,~ she told him softly.

      He opened his mouth to speak, found himself voiceless.  He cleared his throat and licked his lips, ~News of the war,~ he insisted stubbornly.

      She smiled at him, indulgent, and he felt like a child.  ~Aragorn said it would be the first thing you would say.  So did your father.  They each sent us an emissary to give you news.  There was no war.~

      He licked his lips again, his mind starting to drift, ~Good…~

      ~You have done well,~ Arwen said, stepping forward and brushing her cool fingers against his brow, ~Now you must rest.  Aragorn and your father would be by, after they have settled their business.  I know you would hate for them to find you still on your back.~

      ~That won't happen,~ he smiled, safe and satisfied, letting himself drown in the sensation, sleeping peacefully.




      The execution was held when the sun was high up, and in the plains where from as far back as before the War of the Ring, men and elves have always held an alliance.

      The dull drums followed in the steps of the elf who had only ever been known as the Rascal, as the silent crowd of humans and elves converged to watch his demise in a mixture of satisfaction and dull bitterness.

      The council that had been formed, spearheaded by Aragorn and Thranduil, stood near the front, their eyes following the figure of the lone elf who had started the war, and whose death will surely end it.

      Close behind them, two women with curiously stern faces watched the events unfold, shrouded in their mourning black.  Lady Amalia unknowingly stood beside the widow from Arnor, the two never knowing the strange connection they had with each other, even as the shared grief and closure from the execution surrounded them and enggulfed their seasoned, mother's hearts.

      The drums rolled, as the Rascal kneeled on the ground, and leaned his head against the executioner's block.

      The axe raised and glinted in the sun.  The clean sound of his death echoed across the plains, carried by the wind.

      The people dispersed silently, finding no cheer or anger, only the resounding finality of a justice that they had long sought.

      Lady Amalia nodded at the widow beside her, when their eyes met.  They did not know each other, they most likely never would.  But they felt each other hold their breaths with the raising of that axe, and exhaled as it descended.  It was over.




      Aragorn found Legolas upon one of Rivendell's terraces, overlooking the majestic kingdom. A blanket hung carelessly about his shoulders, one that he knew the elf would not have bothered with if not for the insistence of Elrond, possibly even Arwen.  He had just arrived from Dagorlad, to be met at the door with complaints.

      ~His father arrives tomorrow!~ Lord Elrond had said exasperatedly, ~Does he not know that we are trying to keep him alive at least until then?~

      ~You can't sneak up on me,~ Legolas told him wryly, and Aragorn could hear the smile on his voice, even if the elf did not turn to face him.  Legolas's stance was more relaxed now, his voice lighter.  It's as if he has been relieved of a great burden, since the last time they had seen each other.

      ~You look well,~ Aragorn said, walking over and standing beside him, ~I sneaked up on you before.  In Mirkwood.  The stables.  Remember?~

      How could I forget, Legolas thought.

      "I was distracted," said Legolas lightly, "My mind is now settled."

      "I noticed," said Aragorn.

      They fell to a companionable silence, the first comfort in wordlessness that they have found between them in a long time.

      "I couldn't have ever raised a weapon against you," Legolas told him quietly, "or those that you so valiantly protect, unless there was any other way."

      "I know," said Aragorn, "And I, you."

      Legolas smiled, turning to face him.  "I guess some lessons can be unlearned, if they are not the right ones."

      "Hm?" Aragorn inquired, unsure as to what he was referring to.

      "In life, you have to be one among your own kind and content with it, or face the grief of constant loss and wandering," Legolas reminded him of their past conversation, "I think it requires a revision.  Unless you wish us both to be called rogues."

      "Our fathers have called us that," Aragorn grinned.

      "It doesn't matter who or what you are with," Legolas mused, "As long as they make you feel complete, even for just a little while.  Even just for the moment."

      Aragorn clasped his shoulder.  "I feel complete too."

      Legolas' lips curved to a mischievous smile, looking away from Aragorn and trying to keep from laughing.  "I wasn't talking about you," he dared to lie bold-facedly, "I was talking about my horse.  Oh.  And Gimli.  At least, most of the time."

      "Good lie," laughed Aragorn, "But I can feel your shoulders shaking."


OCTOBER 4, 2003


On my reviewers.  A major thanks for your helpful words and the great encouragement, especially from Platy.  You guys make me want to just get better and work harder and faster.  Thank you so very, very, very, VERY much :) I hope you do not find my piece disappointing!

On Dagorlad.  Another of my efforts and understanding Middle-Earth geography.  This lies somewhere between Mirkwood and Gondor, right? And it means 'battle plains,' and was the site where men and elves fought against Sauron thousands of years before the War of the Ring? If not, I'm really so sorry, I try to be as accurate as I could but I always fear to stray from facts like these.

On the ending.  This story has long been near conclusion, but I could not decide on the most appropriate ending.  If you've not yet guessed, I was playing with the idea of a sacrificed hero.  The shot in the battle plains was originally meant to kill our favorite elf, but I decided against it.

On the characters.  I wanted to depict the relationship between Legolas and Aragorn, their love and trust for each other so much akin to that of brothers.  I wanted them to be strong-willed, and I also wanted to see how far I can stretch a rift between them, and how I could possibly bring them back together, while remaining in character.  I used their fierce allegiance to their respective races, and gave them the conflict of loyalties between what they were—King of humans, Prince to elves, to who they were and who they wanted to be with.  I gave them the external pressure, and hoped that I was able to convey their frustration and helplessness.  I also wanted to show their growth into the respective roles that they have to play in the rest of their lives after the War of the Ring.  This included other responsibilities, diplomacy, even politics.  On Thranduil.  I wanted him to have the strength and ferocity that he is often associated with, but I wanted this to be driven by his love and compassion.  What Legolas had said I think in Part 3 is supposed to mirror this; like a paradox.  Brutality and love, all in one complex package of a powerful character.  Arwen.  I'm not quite sure what to do with her yet, so if you have read my other works, she is barely there in my earlier pieces, and slowly starting to gain greater parts.  I think she is strong, and I wanted to convey that.  Aragorn is a great man, and he would not be with anyone who could not match him in every way, and who does not have strength on her own.  Maybe in my future stories, she will play an even greater role.

On the plot.  I hope the flow was sensible.  I truly feared that people may find it inconsistent; that one revenge would not follow the other, that such individual acts shouldn't really result in a war, that the war could not really be ended by Legolas's sacrifice or his solution.  But I hoped that if ever some people may find it unlikely, I had made the flow of events intelligible.  I thought the 'scapegoat' concept is a pretty common political strategy.  I hope I did not leave any holes! I'm always afraid of that.  Either way, I'm always willing to work it over, I guess :)

Anyway, c&c's forever welcome.  Thank you for taking the time to read my story :)