Title: Shadows of Gold

Authoress: Ladya C. Maxine

Rating: PG-13

Summary: The greatest treasure in Middle Earth is said to lay in the depths of the infamous Mirkwood. Aragorn, Chief Captain of Gondor, sets out, by order of the king, to claim the treasure as Gondor's. A task made difficult as it is said that the hoard is guarded by vicious Wood-elves.... Aragorn/Legolas AU slash fic.

Disclaimer: I do not own LotR or any of its characters. All unrecognizable characters belong solely to me and are not to be touched. I am not making any money off of this and I write with the sole intention to entertain.

A/N: Many of you who will read this story will surely pick up that its plotline follows that of Disney's 'Pocahontas'. I was watching that movie one day while babysitting and it sparked this idea in my head. Don't worry, there won't be any singing of lame songs or a raccoon following Legolas everywhere. ^_^

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"A treasure, my liege?" Aragorn, Captain of the Guard of Gondor, asked with a slightly raised brow.

"The finest in all Middle Earth. Even the Dwarves, masters of all that hails from rock and earth, have long longed for it. It is legendary."

"That may be so, but what has it done to garner your attention, my king?"

"Such riches are never enough. No man can ever have too much wealth. To have such a hoard in these halls would establish Gondor as Middle Earth's grandest realm." Denethor grinned at the thought. It would go without saying that, of course, it would make him the grandest leader as well, something that was much craved in the world of Men.

Not so easily convinced as his king, Aragorn said, "Forgive my questions, my lord, but where did you hear this tale?"

"It is no mere tale!" he snapped at the younger man. "And a wizard's word is one to be trusted."

"Saruman the White then?" This piques his interest. Wizards, indeed, never lied. But then again, some, like the Head of the Wizard's Order, never gave such information merely for a good cause. "And has the white wizard asked for something in return for his knowledge?"

"That is none of your concern. I chose you because you are my most dependable soldier, but if this task is too much of a myth for you I can just as easily find another to lead the men."

"My apologies, my lord," Aragorn bowed his head. "I live to serve you and the city of Gondor."

"Hn," Denethor harumphed, walking back over to the desk which was covered with scrolls and volumes. "And I assume you know not where this hoard is."

"Tales have spun wildly over the time, my lord. Some have gone into the depths of the Misty Mountains while others have foolishly risked the darkness of Mordor in their search. It seems that this treasure is as elusive as it is wonderuous. Had the White One not disclosed as to where it is?"

Denethor unfurled a map, weighing down its edges with some of the many books that laid on his large desk, alongside scrolls and other maps.

"Perhaps not so much elusive as feared." He pointed to its location on the map.

Aragorn blinked as he read the elegantly scrawled name.

"Mirkwood? Middle Earth's greatest treasure is hidden in its foulest forest?"

"And guarded by its foulest creatures," Denethor sneered. "Wood-elves are said to have the treasure tightly in their filthy grasp."

Aragorn held back a sigh. The legendary tales of the Wood-elves were things that parents used to discipline unruly children. Did the king truly believe in such fables?

"Elves left Middle Earth millenia ago, my lord. The last time anyone ever saw an Elf was at the end of the Third Age. They have all sailed to the West."

"Not these. Wood-elves are extremely primitive and viscious. They guard the treasure with the fierceness of ten dragons. None who entered beneath the shadowed canopies of Mirkwood have ever been seen again. Those savages take them as prisoners and leave them to rot in their dungeons."

Not at all convinced but knowing it was pointless to continue his doubt, Aragorn decided to simply accept the task and retrieve this so-called treasure. In his mind he felt that neither treasure nor Wood-elves existed but once they returned empty handed Denethor was sure to see his folly and would return to ruling Gondor instead of listening to a wizard's wild tales.

"Who are to accompany me on this journey, my lord?"

"Your own choice of men. Bring those with bravery and skill. No less than five dozen soldiers and one dozen officers of higher ranks. Despite their fierceness the Wood-elves are said to be small in numbers and their feebled bows are no match for the swords of Gondor."

"Date of departure?" Aragorn asked, already having thought up two dozen possible candidates for the quest. He would have to send a notice to Rohan...

"You must have crossed the borders of the Dark Forest within five weeks, no later than September 26th. I leave the rest of the preparations over to you."

"I will not fail you, Denethor King."

"You have better not."

He dismissed the captain with a flick of his wrist.

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"Captain, look."

A soldier ligthly touched Aragorn's arm, making him look up from where he had been adjusting Hasufel's saddle. His clear grey eyes widened but then narrowed suspiciously at the two figures who made their way through the throng of soldiers.

"Prince Boromir. Prince Faramir," he nodded in respect and greeting as the king's sons came to stand before him, garbed in travel gear.

Both stood tall and proud though Boromir, the eldest and heir to Denethor, was sturdier built and had a much more dominant air about him than his younger brother, whose body held slender, yet developed muscles. Unlike his father and brother, Faramir was soft spoken and not at all as conceited as the older royals. It was he that the soldiers, and Aragorn, served with the most honor.

"It is not often that the Sons of Denethor make a suprised appearance. To what do we owe your presenses, my princes?"

"We will accompany you," Boromir answered flatly, as stone-faced as ever. "The king has placed us in command of overseeing certain matters on your mission."

Aragorn frowned at the new developement.

"I was given complete command of this quest--"

"And you still have it," Boromir cut in briskly, "You are to claim the treasure and return to Gondor. Our task is of a different nature and highly confidential."

Something did not bode well with this but Boromir kept to his word and said no more.With an arrogant nod, the eldest prince walked off, Faramir close in tow though not before giving the older and more experienced soldier a respected nod and an almost apologetic look.

"Don't trust it?"

"Don't trust *him*," Aragorn defined as Eomer came to stand beside him, watching the brothers from a distance.

"Just keep your mind on the task at hand. There is nothing in Mirkwood that is worth our fears, even though we have none. It is a dead place inhabited by a handful of fell beasts and loathsome scavengers. I am looking forward to taking on those Wood-elves with my sword."

Though he still didn't believe in what many others, including his friend, did, Aragorn smiled at the blond's enthusiasme.

The Rohirim had traveled hard with his group for more than a week to join them on their quest. Denethor had stressed that *all* of the treasure would be going to Gondor; no share was to be given out despite Rohan's unwanted aid.

Nontheless, Eomer had volunteered his assistance. Not so much for the wealth as for the adventure. The soldier of the Riddermark was born to ride but his duties at Lord Theoden's side bound him to endless meetings in the Golden Halls of Meduseld. Any quest, regardless of its intentions, was a good enough excuse for him to leave the confiment of Edoras.

"Had I not known you any better I would think you thirsty for blood," Aragorn accused with an amused smile, strapping his travel pack onto his steed's saddle.

"Elven blood," Eomer specified, mimicking his friend as he himself loaded his rations onto his full bred steed's strong back. "I am most curious of these creatures. I've heard the legendary wisdom and fairness of the Elven kind."

"Those are the Noldors who used to dwell in Middle Earth. Wood-elves are of the Silvan race."

"You know quite enough for someone who doesn't believe in their existence."

"I do believe in their existence, during the first three ages of our world. There are none left. Whatever lurks in Mirkwood are just wild animals who prey upon unfortunate travelers. Those foolish tales about them being taken prisoners by the Elves are children stories."

Eomer stopped packing and leaned with one arm against his horse's side as he watched the captain of Gondor with a raised brow.

"So you are about to embark upon a quest to find a treasure that you think fabled and to fight a race you think extinct?" He laughed, causing some of the other men to turn in curiosity. Boromir, already seated on his steed, simply sneered and turned his attention back to his second- in-command.

"Did you not say that you would do *anything* to escape your uncles halls?" Aragorn pointed out. "A long journey out of Gondor is something I too need. Things are much more different being captain as they were when I was a ranger."

"True are your words, Captain of Gondor. Then we best make haste in our departure." He mounted his steed swiftly and awaited as Aragorn did the same, which signaled the men to prepare to ride.

They steered their steeds to the front of the group. Both princes were already there, Boromir on his mightily muscled horse, Grey Thunder. Faramir preferred to be as less noticable as possible, wearing none of the royal emblems or armor. His horse was a slender mare named Silver Wind and happened to be one of the fastest in Gondor. Still, her hidden power was overshadowed by Grey Thunder.

Aragorn took his place at the head of the riders. Eomer, being the appointed second-in-command, stood beside his friend. Boromir, not so much due to his royalty as to dare the captain to say anything, moved to Aragorn's other side. His brother again next to him though he kept a few respectful steps back.

Ignoring the eldest prince, Aragorn called outto the others.

"In the name of the King of Gondor, we ride north!"

With thundering hooves they departed, swiftly passing though the seven gates and steadily disappearing towards the horizon to face their quest, and whatever opponents that got in their way, with honor and drawn swords.

tbc.................

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