Title: Shadows of Gold

Authoress: Ladya C. Maxine

Rating: Pg-13

Summary: see chapter one

Warning(s): see chapter one

Disclaimer: I do not own LOTR or any of its characters. Any and 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: Holy crap! An update!!

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"Captain, we have surrounded the perimeters. Shall I issue the men to move in?"

Aragorn simply nodded, eyes trained on the darkness that seemed to wrap itself around the gangly tree trunks. To his left he noticed Faramir shifting from one leg to the next, the excitement obvious in the young man's eyes. His older brother was far more at ease yet he observed the forest before them with immense concentration and determination. Something in the icy green orbs was unnerving but he ignored it.

"Station yourself within sight of the camp."

Watching them slowly disappear into the shadow, he felt a slight sense of dread slowly trickle down his spine.

"Take Brego," he said, handing the reins to the soldier next too him who accepted it albeit with some confusing.

"Sir?"

"I will scout deeper. Should anything occur you will all withdraw immediately and return to the camp grounds."

"Yes, sir."

"You would abandon your post?" Boromir asked with disdain.

"I would join my men in their search rather than sit back and wait, your Highness," Aragorn replied with practised calm. Not giving the royal chance to retort, he nodded to his second-in-command and to Faramir before turning and striding off into the tree line.

"You need not question his motives, brother. He has experience and knows--" Faramir tried to reason but the heir of Gondor would have none of it.

"He is but an orphan peasant," Boromir snapped heatedly, "I have all rights to question his absurd rulings. Should I leave him to his biddings our troops will fall to ruins."

Faramir knew it folly to try to make his brother see differently. Sighing is resignation he turned, watching the captain's back as it melted into the darkness out of view.

"Are we not going to wait for the love of your life, Legolas?"

The blond prince glared at the snickering twins where they sat on their mounts, waiting for him.

"Haldir is currently attending a meeting."

"So what else is new?" Elladan rolled his eyes. "Perhaps you will have to move your wedding bed into the main council chamber. Just remember to draw the canopy drapes; you know, for the decency of the other members."

Elrohir, the youngest and more sympathetic of the two, sometimes, pretended to comb an invisible knot out of his horse's mane with his fingers, bowing his head to hide his amusement while his brother openly grinned at the smaller blond elf.

Glowering at his two best friends, Legolas swung up onto his steed and steered it past the two peredhils, leaving the twins to curb their laugher and prod their mounts into an easy trot to catch up before coming on either side.

"Forgive us, Legolas," Elrohir apologised first, reaching out to tuck a golden strand behind the pointed ear. "We mean not to make you upset."

"Don't we?"

Elrohir shot a warning look at his brother who sighed, finally turning somewhat more serious.

"Aye, Greenleaf, we know this is hard for you." The tone indicated that he had wanted to add something else, no doubt another jest along that line, but Elrohir was still frowning at him so he bit his tongue and remained silent.

The tree cantered through the palace gates and down the winding path that lead into the forests. Their horses knew this route by heart and needed not to be steered, which gave the trio more time to themselves.

"I should be used to your sense of humour by now," Legolas said after a while of silence. "I believe that I have but…I find myself growing more and more tense with every day. Time should have no meaning for our kind but my days of freedom seem so short yet I fear once I wed each day will pass with the length of a year. Ai Elbereth, why am I bound to such a fate?"

"It is for your people's sake, Greenleaf. Greenwood is the last of the elven sanctuaries in Middle-Earth and until the last elves have sailed the waters they will need someone to lead them. And look of this way; if uncle Haldir becomes too intolerable you can always come to us."

Legolas smiled faintly at that.

"You'd speak of a family member in such a tone, Elladan Peredhil?"

The eldest of the three snorted in a un-elf-like way.

"He may have been our mother's brother but that doesn't make him my favourite person in the world either."

"No, you prefer grandfather because he used to let you eat sweets when we'd go visit them in the Golden Woods when we were elflings," Elrohir quipped, earning himself a playful shove that almost dismounted him.

Watching as the two brothers laughingly attempted to knock the other off their horses, Legolas allowed himself a respite from his worries to laugh along with them while keeping a safe distance; neither twins had any quells against dragging innocent bystanders into their fray when said bystander was within arm's reach.

Legolas had never met Lady Celebrian, wife of Elrond who had passed away many centuries before the Rivendell elves sought refuge in Greenwood. Her family remembered her as a free-spirited and pleasant lady who had loved her husband and children dearly. Which meant that Celebrian must have been the black sheep in her Lothlorien family for the royals of the Golden Woods were not at all as outgoing.

In all fairness, Legolas attributed age and hardship as the main causes for the somewhat distant behaviour of Lord Celeborn and the Lady Galadriel. The ancient rulers were by no means unpleasant and have lead many an interesting conversation at his father's dinner table. And, as Elrohir had mentioned earlier, Celeborn loved his grandsons dearly. Galadriel too, of course, but she chose for a more reserved way of expressing her affections.

Still, it was no secret that the Lord and Lady of the Golden Woods were more open to their grandchildren than their own offspring. Elrohir had confided in Legolas that when Elrond had first met Celebrian she had been unused to being touched or shown much affection as she had received neither from her own parents. Haldir, as Celebrian's older brother, had been of little aid to his sister for her himself had been raised by the same treatment. Not that their parents hated or ignored them, but rather because they wanted to ensure that their children would recognize their roles of leaders as soon as possible. After Celebrian's passing Haldir had been pushed harder and harder to fulfil his duties and, admittedly, he was living up to the expectations, though at the price of his adolescent years and all the joy those years offered.

An irritated neigh brought Legolas out of his musings as Elladan's horse, Dagorlith, came up alongside his in spite of Elladan's insistence for the beast to go back. The horse had grown tired of the brothers' banter and had decided to take it upon itself to separate the two for a while. Elven horses were quite unique in this sense as they were highly intellectual and understood when they were spoken to; whether they'd always obey was another matter. Each had its own distinctive nature.

"Hm," Elladan grumbled at the steed's stubbornness. "I'm sure Asfaloth would have been more agreeable to our little discussion."

Considering how well Elladan knew horses and how long he'd had this one, that had been an extremely foolish thing to say, jest or not. The mere hint of his rider preferring Glorfindel's pure white steed to him clearly did not appeal to Dagorlith whose ears flattened into its ebony mane. Before Elladan could even make peace with his steed the creature gave a bellowing neigh and suddenly took off, charging the down the path despite Elladan's pleas.

Legolas chuckled though sharing a look with Elrohir both spurred their horses to follow. Sooner or later Dagorlith would decide that its owner had been punished enough; this hadn't been the first time the horse had pulled off such a stunt. And Dagorlith had never failed to end his little antics with a strong buck which resulted in Elladan either landing in a pile of leaves or a convenient stream. In the end, it was great amusement for everyone but Elladan.

'I will no longer be able to do any of this once I am married off to Haldir…' Legolas thought glumly as he rode alongside Elrohir. 'Father…do you truly believe this to be the best for me?'

"Come, Legolas! I want to be there to witness my brother's fall from grace first hand!!" Elrohir laughed, having galloped ahead.

"Aye!" he responded, his smile returning as he pushed his steed faster, trailing the youngest peredhil as they followed Elladan's frantic cries further and further into the forest, away from the palace and any worries.

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Aragorn effortlessly navigated through the knots of trees and brambles, keen eyes spotting any fallen branches that could give away his position. Falling into a smooth crouch, he studied the dirt path and its many tracks. Tracking was one of his specialities, which was rather peculiar since he had never been taught such skills in Gondor. Still, where others would have simply seen ground and debris, he was able to make out dozens of different tracks. Most belonged to small animals and occasionally birds though a set of larger, deep paw prints indicated that a lone Warg had been by but four days ago.

"Unbelievable…" he muttered, rising to stand straight.

In a way Mirkwood lived up to as well as disregarded the myths and tales. Dark it was indeed, but not dead. The trees were gnarled and their branches were entwined to block out most sunlight but rays still shown through the canopy, reflecting off the bright green leaves to cast the entire area beneath them in an emerald glow that was both haunting yet mesmerizing. Tiny white gnats floated in the light like small diamonds, contrasting starkly with the black butterflies that fluttered about it large groups. Squirrels, some red, some black, watched him from the branches, hopping over thick webs, mindful of their makers who slept during the day in hollowed logs.

This forest was alive and so different from Gondor. Apart from the natural wildlife though he had seen no signs of the elves, which he hadn't expected to find but couldn't help feeling slightly disappointed as well. It would have been rather interesting to meet one of those folk. Walking on, he kept to the trees. He knew he was a long way away from the rest of the troops but his hearing was sharp as was his sword and aim.

While the air was clear it was rather dense and his clothes had begun to cling to his body not too long after entering the woods. His dark hair was plastered to his skull and sweat dripping from his chin onto his armour. Concentrating, he was able to pick up the sound of a stream of sorts not too far off. A drink would do him good as he needed to refill his water skin anyways. Mind made up, he started towards his intended destination before a sudden sound made him drop down, eyes wide in anticipation as he scanned about the trees.

Hoof beats were thundering closer, along with shouts. At first he thought them to be his own men but the voices didn't sound like the soldiers. Instead of low and deep these were clear and musical, though at the moment they seemed rather upset about something. Words he didn't understand were yelled above the constant neighing. And, unless he was mistaken, there was laughter as well.

While he could hear this all, nothing stirred in the woods, the sounds echoing around trunks and bouncing off branches and leaves but their source didn't materialize. He was able to separate three different hoof beats by now and they seemed to be passing right alongside him but there was nothing there but a few butterflies.

As quickly as it had started, it ended as well, rapidly fading as it moved on, away from him. He waited several more minutes before rising to his feet, confused at the whole event.

"These woods are enchanted."

Unable to shake off his experience but in need of that drink, he continues on towards the river though with more caution now, ears and eyes on full alert with each step he took though he encountered nothing larger than a hare whose large eyes were as black as its fur.

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Legolas opened his eyes, frowning softly as he sat up from where he had been laying on the flat rock near the stream. Pointed ears peaked, he clucked softly, calling Windarin from where she had been contently quenching her thirst with the cold water from the bubbling stream. With a soft neigh, she trotted over, curios at her master's serious expression.

He scanned the surroundings and was soon able to pinpoint the source of the footsteps as they approached his location. The fact that they were so loud indicated that it wasn't an elf. While the twins, being half-elven, walked louder than full elves, their training had reduced that effect drastically. Besides, he wasn't expecting them back so soon. After the anticipated dismounting of Elladan Elrohir had commented towards his sore brother, which made Elladan jump right back on Dagorlith, who was now content, and give chase to his younger brother. Legolas had decided not to pursue and had instead lead Windarin to the stream where he'd wait for them once they return, having ruffled the other sufficiently enough.

From Elladan's threats Legolas had concluded that he'd have to wait for some time, so that meant that this was a stranger. No orc, the footsteps weren't shuffled or awkward. Instead they were steady yet cautious. In fact, they actually did remind him of the twins. This was a heavier footed being that was walking quieter.

"Windarin, to the trees," he whispered, petting her ear. "Into the trees, on the other side of the river, and stay there until I call you. And keep silent."

She murmured a soft neigh and trotted away, crossing the shallow stream and soon vanishing amongst the trunks. He knew she wasn't far but the near magical sphere of the forest had an infamous trick that could obscure things beneath its branches. Only the eagle-sharp eyes of the elves could see through this deception.

Assured that she was safe, Legolas grabbed his bow and arrows and quickly made his way towards the trees on his side of the stream, leaping in a single bound high into the branches where he settled, fully at home in this high perch. Moving with snapping a single twig, he found a suitable spot that overlooked both the path as well as stream and waited, arrow fitted on the bow string and ready to fly. He didn't have to wait long.

While not a common sight, especially this deep in the forest, Legolas was able to recognize the creature as that belonging to the race of man. Lowering his bow slightly, he watched the stranger slowly step out of the denser tree line, approaching the stream with wary caution. This was something new. While he recognized the man, mainly through his studies and tales from older elves, he had never seen one in person.

He was still young, despite his passing into maturity, and finally curiosity outweighed suspicion. Replacing the arrow, he trailed the dark person until he was almost right above him. Being this close gave him a clearer view of the man. He was so…different.

His hair was dark, like the twins', but far shorter, the tips just reaching his shoulders, which were much wider than an elf's. His body, clad in dark leathers and armour, was tall and powerful, not at all like the slender built of the immortals. Experience was evident on his sun tanned face but it was his eyes that reflected intellect.

A man. A member of a race which was responsible for the destruction of the Golden Woods and the Last Homely House. One of the many who had driven Legolas' kin to near extinction in Middle Earth. Mankind was almost a taboo amongst the remaining elves. All Legolas could recall hearing from seasoned warriors was the insatiable greed for riches and power that was manifested deep within the mortal's hearts which were as stony and cold as their cities. Mankind destroyed to get what they want and they made sure they got it, even if it was of no great interest in them.

'He is a threat to my people; I cannot allow him to go any further…' Legolas confirmed, pushing any other thought on the stranger away. Greenwood was the only sanctuary the Elves had left and he was going to defend it at all costs.

'Forgive me, Edain. Whatever your intentions are, the safety of my people cannot be endangered.'

Drawing the arrow once more, he took aim, determined to at least finish the man off instantly without making him suffer. Aligning the sharp point with the dark head, he pulled back on the string for a moment before, with a soft exhale, he released. The arrow flew true, cutting through the air as it sped to its target.

Legolas' blue eyes widened in stunned shock, though, when, without indication, the man drew his sword and turned with enough reflexes to strike the deadly projectile out of the air, slicing the shaft in half. The two pieces fell to the ground with muted clatter but neither paid attention to that.

Silvery grey eyes locked with his blue pair as the man spotted him, strong hands still holding the gleaming sword in strike position.

Tbc…………..

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Edain: human, man.

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