Disclaimer: This story was written for enjoyment only. I do not own any of Tolkien's characters.
Author's notes: This story takes place during the War of the Ring and tends to lean more towards movie verse than book verse. I hope you enjoy what follows.
The Silvan Elf's brow creased with worry as he watched the agitated slumber of his close companion. Hours earlier, Aragorn had wrested the luminous palantir from Pippin's paralyzed grasp. The Halfling had suffered grievously from the glowing orb's malicious intent. His body ceased to draw the necessity of breath until Gandalf stepped forward to expel the lingering effects of the doom-ridden sphere from his stricken form. Fortunately, Aragorn had not been in possession of the glowing presence for as long as the still suffering Hobbit, but the brief period of time, he had held it within his clutches, had proven ill enough to the Man's current state. As the White Wizard continued to administer to the afflicted Halfling with Merry's alarmed presence hovering just above his now stooped shoulders, Legolas rushed forward to provide equal comfort to his now recovering friend. Gimli had hurried to his fallen comrade's side also and reached forth in aid to lend a hand to the unsteady Human as he attempted to gain his feet once more.
The palantir's potency had proven inauspicious as Aragorn's legs buckled beneath him and he stumbled forward. But Legolas had been there beside him to offer his immediate assistance, stopping his friend from falling while he looped his arm about his still shaken frame and guided him toward the nearby wall. Against Aragorn's feeble protests, he lowered the Man's weight carefully down upon Merry's now empty cot. Moving searching hands toward his friend's ashen countenance, Legolas was alarmed to feel the chill that had taken hold of the Ranger's pale flesh as his dazed eyes continued their efforts to refocus.
"Aragorn, are you all right?" The woodland Elf questioned with increasing concern.
The Man before him held out a hand in protest to stave off any further attempts at ministration from his anxious friend while taking a long staggering breath and answering shakily. "Be at peace, Legolas. I will be fine. I only need a moment to reclaim my senses."
"That glimmering globe of Saruman's, though pleasing to the eye, is the essence of evil!" Huffed Gimli as he cut into the conversation taking place. "We should have left it behind. No good will come of it!" He concluded hastily before casting a wary eye in the direction of the still recovering Pippin.
"Nay, Gimli," Aragorn contested weakly. "Left among the ruins of Isengard, it could have fallen easy prey into the hands of those, who might use it to their advantage. Do not worry, my friend. Its strength is usually not so foreboding to the one, who lays claim to it at the outset. Pippin must have had it within his possession for some time before we came upon him. He was lucky he fared so well, especially since he has not been trained in the arts of its use."
"Surely you are not suggesting, laddy, that one of us should attempt once again to employ the sorcery of that confounded sphere?" Scoffed the now irritated Dwarf.
"No, my friend." Aragorn answered with more strength to appease the befuddled Dwarf before muttering more quietly to himself. "At least not at present."
The Human's final words were lost to the worried Dwarf, whose immediate attentions were now drawn toward his little friend, who still lay shaken upon the floor beneath Gandalf's healing hands. They had not, however, eluded the keen hearing of the Elf beside him, and Legolas raised alarmed eyes toward those of his friend's.
Noting Gimli's distracted attentions, Aragorn tried to rise off of the cot in an effort to lend his aid to the Wizard at work, but his Silvan companion had other ideas as he restrained the Man from making any further movement forward as he offered up words of protest. "You must rest, Aragorn!"
"But Pippin...is still in need of succor . . . " The Human stammered as Legolas cut in.
"Which Mithrandir is adequately supplying to him! You will be of no help to young Pippin, Aragorn, if you were to collapse upon the floor beside him. Your encounter with the palantir has weakened you considerably, mellon-nin. More so than you care to admit. Your body still trembles from your ill-fated contact. You must allow yourself rest!"
Protesting grey eyes met with adamant blue, and Aragorn knew there would be no sense in brooking a confrontation with the stubborn Elf beside him. Though his blood now quickened in its pace through his veins in contention, he admitted to himself that his friend was only looking out for his best interests and he conceded the point.
"I will rest, Legolas . . . but only for a short while as my body recovers from the shock it sustained."
"I am glad to hear that, Aragorn," Gandalf called out from the distance, "for I am in no mood to deal with another imprudent member of our party this day. One foolish interloper is enough to add to my already full plate. Do as Legolas says and rest well, my friend. For you have been through much these last few days, more than any mortal Man should have to contend with."
Only giving a wry grin in acceptance, Aragorn finally acquiesced to the determination of the now mollified Elf beside him and began to submit, albeit ungraciously, to his increasingly flourishing ministrations as he lay back upon the soft tick beneath him. As if adding further insult to injury, the Elf made him wait a moment further in remonstration, while he used this chance to fluff the down cushion that was to lay beneath his head. Weary, grey eyes stared back in opposition at the fair-haired being, whose presence loomed above him, but any further protest, he may have voiced, was lost to the alarming fatigue that was quickly spreading throughout his presently succumbing flesh.
It was as such that Legolas now viewed the still slumbering Man. His peaceful sleep interrupted only minutes prior by increasingly darkened dreams that had taken a fast hold upon him. The fitful gestures of his body upon the cot along with the restless motion of his head atop the pillow beneath it and the increased rapidity of movement beneath his still closed eyelids spoke passionately of the disquiet that both his body and mind currently wrestled with. But it was the sharp, pain-ridden intake of breath that startled the Elf beyond any continued attempt at complacency. This was no peace restoring sleep that Aragorn now contended with, and the Elf feared its repercussions might be doing him more harm than good as he sprang forth to awaken the disturbed slumberer from his now costly rest.
The stunned Elf was not prepared for the violent fit of reaction that would accompany his awakening as Aragorn's hands jerked forward to seize the vulnerable flesh that encircled Legolas' slender neck. The growing pressure that the Man applied as he grappled between the worlds that separated nightmares from renewed cognizance spoke volumes of the hellish dreams that tormented his sleep. With invigorated strength, his fingers worked against the exposed flesh beneath them to obliterate the evil he believed present before him effectively cutting off any attempt at breath Legolas may have sought. As the Elf's hapless hands attempted to pry loose those of Aragorn's, the Man's stunned grey eyes suddenly shot open to finally witness the true reality before him. As if the fires of Mount Doom themselves reached forth to scorch the hands he still held about the struggling Elf's throat, the Man recoiled them instantly, while the sheer horror of his actions reflected upon his now revived countenance.
"Legolas!" He clamored, while reaching fervently forward to grasp the shoulders of his still troubled companion. A quick stab of regret cut deeply into his heart as he felt his friend involuntarily stiffen then flinch in reaction to their renewed contact. Dread filled Aragorn's soul, while he anxiously watched as his friend strived to compensate toward the brutality enacted against him. "Elbereth, help him!" He pleaded as his hands moved from the shivering Elf's shoulders to cup his disbelieving face within his own trembling fingers. Aragorn desperately tried to account for his prior actions, while the heavy emotion of the moment cut into his now shaken voice.
"Forgive me, Legolas! Forgive me please! I meant you no harm. I did not know it was you . . . did not realize . . . " Aragorn choked out until he could go on no further in explanation as he dropped his still quaking hands down to his sides as if in sudden need of the support lent by the mattress beneath him.
Now more sufficiently recovered, Legolas whispered harshly. "There is no need to apologize, mellon-nin. I startled you from some haunting ordeal. You reacted in kind. Thankfully you came to your senses before you wrung the life from me," He ended with a failed attempt at humor.
Miserably Aragorn raised his cheerless countenance and his grief-stricken grey eyes met with those of now swimming blue once again. "I could have killed you," The Man uttered in muffled disbelief. "I almost strangled the life out of my dearest friend. How can you seek to jest at a time such as this, Legolas?" Aragorn appealed.
Legolas reached forward in comfort and allowed his seeking hand to briefly cup the stricken face of his now distraught friend. "I remember a time, my friend, when it was I, who was anxious, and your words sought to comfort me. It was many years ago within your father's home. You had said to me then that you'd never make light about the death and destruction that the forces of evil were wreaking upon our lands, but that you could not allow their heaviness to weigh upon you during your every waking moment for to do so would be ruinous. And that we must seek out the pleasure and the laughter in this life, even from the smallest of things whenever and wherever we could possibly find them. I have not forgotten those words, my friend, but have kept them close to heart. It was not your intent this night to do me any harm. You were lost in an illusion, Aragorn, and I happened to have the misfortune of being the one to rouse you from it. As I said earlier, fortunately for me, you reclaimed your senses in time," Legolas finished as a more earnest smile spread across his now recovered features though he could not help but swallow instinctively against the pain still afforded his throat as he surmised that the effects of Aragorn's punishing grip would have far longer consequence upon his aching flesh than it did upon his psyche.
"You are too forgiving, my friend..." Aragorn began unable to quell the self-recrimination he still felt against himself toward his prior treacherous actions.
"Hush, mellon-nin! Do not allow the turbulent reaction that your dreams aroused forth to fester within you, for I know that you are not capable of such vicious conduct toward me. Pray, tell me Aragorn, what dreadful apparitions plagued your rest this night? What frightening specters precipitated such unaccustomed behavior from you?"
The calm that had begun to reclaim Aragorn's previously torn features was immediately superseded once again by the consternation that seized upon him only moments before.
Noting the apprehensive eyes that now returned his steady gaze, Legolas reached forth a reassuring hand to clasp the shoulder of the one now facing him in an effort to encourage his friend toward unburdening his deep-seated misgivings. Wary, grey eyes met with expectant and accepting blue finally urging Aragorn toward speech.
"Never have I felt such terror or hopelessness before, Legolas," The Man recounted, while shaking his head against the dubious memories he forced himself to recollect. "Its darkness reached forth as it attempted to lay claim to the very life within me, seeking out the depths of my heart and soul hoping to command them and fill them with utter despair. It asserted that victory was outside of my reach and that the quest we've set out upon would only come to ruination and defeat. That I was only prolonging the inevitable. I could feel the tightening bonds of its constraint upon my flesh encircling my wrists and ankles and shackling me to its darkness. It sought to wring the life from me . . . to tear out my still beating heart . . . to extinguish my very attempts at breath much as it tried to do to Pippin earlier. I felt helpless and alone. Abject bleakness filled my soul."
"But you are not alone, Aragorn. You know that we will follow you until the very ends whether death or victory awaits us," Legolas reassured.
"What right have I to ask this of any of you?" The Man countered in utter frustration.
"It is my observation that you will receive it whether you ask for it or not." The Silvan Elf reasoned. "Do not allow Sauron's brief touch to discourage you, my friend, for through His foul trickery, He seeks to snuff out any determination you may still claim. I do not believe He is as self-assured as He'd like you to believe."
"But what have I accomplished to even remotely thwart the flames of His rage that He is now setting forth into motion against our forces? For in that brief moment that I held the palantir within my hands after I had wrested it away from Pippin, I had not readied my mind to wage competently against His own. What if He exposed me in that moment of weakness? And what may He have learned from Pippin?"
"Mithrandir assured us that even though Pippin was in His grasp, he does not believe the Hobbit revealed anything crucial to the mission we carry out," Legolas asserted.
"But can we be sure?" Aragorn argued. "Even now, my mind acknowledges the restlessness that consumes Gandalf. He worries so! And what of Frodo and Sam? How will they fare? Can we not offer them any further protection?"
Legolas shook his head in heightened confusion to the rambling thoughts Aragorn now espoused. His still tender neck offered up lingering protest to his heedless reaction, and with growing apprehension, he listened as the would be heir to the throne of Gondor revealed his further intentions.
"I cannot leave it as it is, Legolas. I must go back again."
"Again?" His friend queried with a wary heart, hesitant to inquire as to where it was Aragorn indeed intended to go back to, though with the deepest regret this unhappy truth had already been made known to him.
"I must look upon it this time with a steadfast heart, allowing no room for Sauron to perceive any doubt within me. I must reveal to Him my true identity as the heir of Isildur , for by doing so, I will place Him on His guard. He is not yet so supremely assured of His strength here, and in His uncertainty, He might falter and act with haste which could prove fatal."
"Fatal to whom?" Legolas began to argue in protest. "For if He were to become aware of your existence, Aragorn, He would hunt you until no end. Until He was assured of your very doom!"
"And by doing thus, it might turn the tide and buy us some much needed time . . . time to build our defenses . . . time for Frodo and Sam to complete their mission."
"But at what cost?" Legolas asserted. "Do you mean to pay with your very life?" Legolas eyes sparkled dangerously in their disputation of Aragorn's now conceived plan while he grievously listened to his friend's rebuttal.
"My life would be a small price to pay for the good of all . . . " The Man stated humbly.
Legolas countered, "But you've already witnessed the ill effects that viewing the palantir can cause! How can you hope to communicate all you say? What you propose to do is reckless! Do you seek to harm yourself further? I will not allow it!" The Elf could argue his point no further as his already distraught voice broke with emotion.
A sudden calmness seemed to take hold of the Human as he turned his complete attention to the Elf beside him. "Do no worry so, Legolas. This time I will approach the orb with a strong will. I will ready my defenses against the harm He seeks to accomplish. Do not fret, mellon-nin," He smiled gravely. "You will be able to count me among your numbers for some time yet to come."
Legolas tried to smile back with reassurance, but his effort was lacking as an uneasiness settled upon his soul.
"I must go now," Aragorn answered in return, "For there are necessary preparations to make ready."
With a heavy heart, Legolas watched as his friend rose upward from the cot they sat upon and moved forward. He watched his departing back as he crossed the room before them then exit through the open doorway. Rising himself, the Elf could not contain the deep frustration rising within him and he slammed his fist against the wall beside him, while bitter desperation ate at his heart. He could not believe this was happening. He could not believe his friend was taking the fall for them like this . . . for all of Middle Earth . . . not when they all knew what it might cost him.
But then again he reasoned as the Human's fading image vanished from his sight, Aragorn had been aware of his destiny from a very early age. He had come to accept the sacrifice he might need to make for the good of all, and though its possible consequence continued to disturb him, the Elf bided his time no further in the now quiet interior, but hastened his steps as he set out after the Man. For he would not leave his side . . . not until the very end. He had made that vow to himself a long time ago, and he intended to remain faithful to it until he drew his own last breath.
Concluding notes: Thank you all for reading my story. I hope you enjoyed it. :) I am hoping to enter this story in a story contest at another site. It is a one shot deal. Presently, I am struggling with another story currently entitled, "Scars", which will try to go about explaining the origin of the scar Legolas noted upon Aragorn's face in the final chapter of Relesen. Sue- aka Quickbeam