Q.N. This is my very first fan fic ever. Please humor me! I love to hear from fellow LOTR fans! Criticism is fine as long as it is not all full of profanity k? Good! I am a very big fan of Tolkien, have read most his books (including the Silmarillion) and try not to create a story line I think he would have considered crazy and off the wall! (Although with this one I wonder. The idea started nonlunitic-like and then my friends got a hold of me and biased it the other way. Did I mention I was actually relatively normal until they got hold of me? grins) I hope you enjoy this story as much as I did writing it. Please R&R! If I don't write anymore for a while (not likely!) it is because I have a social life and lots 'o homework! It could also be due to a slightly lower grade in math or Bio than it should be. My dad is pretty tough on me ' bout that. No joke. I also have a very bad habit of starting over a new chapter and rewriting several times before posting. Those of you who write under the saying 'the grass is always greener on the other side' you always come up with cool ideas to replace the old.

Title: The Bittersweet

Summary: When a strange toxin is discovered that can kill elves unawares Legolas and Aragorn know they must find and stop it before it's too late- but nothing comes free, so what price will they have to pay?

Warnings: rated PG-13 for character death and possibly graphic scenes

Author: Celebdil - galad (Silvertine - Light) and Tinlaure (sparkle-Gold)

Disclaimers: I do not own any of the characters or fictional settings and surroundings (other than Iaurgwath and Nimalda). I also do not own the language either. I wish I was smart enough to create something like that though. That takes skill.! a moment of self-pity Hurray for the highly honorable Tolkien! Oh yeah, I am not getting paid to write this. Man, it sure is obvious I'm new at this huh? I try to be accurate and stuff with the languages of Middle Earth. I am however not an expert so please excuse any errors you find.

Now on with our feature presentation!


Nimalad Brethil sat in a guard house on Mirkwood's borders after a long night of work chatting with his fellow woodland elves as they sipped wine from the stores sent from the palace cellars. His blond hair was damp with mist from the forest. One moment he was laughing and joking the next his face changed to a contorted look as he felt sickness for the first time in his immortal life .His head reeled and he leaned it back against the guard house wall with a moan. What was going on? He couldn't be sick. Elves never got sick. They couldn't, yet here it was, he was feeling ailed. How as this possible? It wasn't. It was all like a dream, an obscure, cold dream that was inescapable. Or was it? A mist shrouded his vision as he breathed his last and he fell prey to the affliction. He wouldn't be the last.

Chapter One

The Start Of an Adventure

"Elrohir when I catch you, you are dead! I mean it this time! " shouted Glorfindel after the dark haired twin who was running for the nearest tree. The blonde Gondolin Elf Lord's look would have killed him if it were possible to fell a being with a sinister look of rage.

Elrohir leaped lightly into the nearest tree and stood upon a higher branch looking down. He finally was forced to sit so he would fall off from his fits of laughter that doubled him over. Elladan walked under the tree with a look of mock seriousness. Looking up a t his brother he asked;

" and what did you do this time?" His tone was dripping with sarcasm. Elrohir looked down the tree stem at him and another fit of laughter shook him. Finally he managed out an answer.

" I... colored Glorfindel's horse's man and tail...green." He called out between chuckles then vaulted lightly from the tree to land at his elder twin's side. Elladan gave him a sideways look that Elrohir took as a secret approval.

" And what is so funny about that?" inquired Elladan, slyly.

" Nothing really about that . It was his reaction, " said the high elf pointing at the elf of Gondolin who was walking stiffly over to them with clenched fists at his side.

Suddenly around from the back of a large tree came Aragorn quietly sneaking up behind Elladan. Glorfindel looked over Elladan's shoulder and saw the ranger, who noticing put a finger up to his lips as a signal to stay quiet. Seeing his chance for retaliation, the Elf Lord turned a blind eye to Aragorn stalking slowly up behind the elder twin. It would totally humiliate the son of Elrond to be stalked and surprised by a human and a younger, less experienced mortal at that. Trying to ensure the ranger's concealment he began a distracting conversation.

" You are so lucky I don't tell your father! " he said in an angry tone.

Adding to the excitement of the moment Elrohir put his two bits in, " I thought you said you were going to kill me, " he taunted the blonde elf. Aragorn was sneaking steadily closer.

" Are you asking me to? " answered Glorfindel smoothly. His blue eyes flickered.

Elrohir leaned back against the tree and crossed his legs casually. " I don't ask people to do things they can't, " he responded just as smoothly.

Suddenly Elladan emitted a cry of surprise as the ranger slammed into him throwing him off balance. Turning to Aragorn his face was shocked. " How did you- " he began the stopped. This was very humiliating. A human of all things had caught him by surprise. Elrohir looked at Aragorn with a look of newfound respect.

Glorfindel smirked, " I guess your guard has been let down as of late." Elladan rolled his eyes.

" I was merely giving him a self-esteem boost. It was deliberate."

"Sure it was. We understand," said Aragorn cynically. " Glad you care about me so much. And that cry you gave, was that deliberate too?" Elladan rolled his eyes for the second time.

Legolas Greenleaf rode with great haste across the river Bruenin and into the outskirts of Imladris. His gray-green hood on his cap drawn tightly around his face. The hidden sentinels let him pass through seeing he was elven.

Riding through the main entrance across the bridge that crossed over the deep vault of churning river below he continued into the woods closest to The Last Homely House. This was no time for a long chi-chat with Elrond or Glorfindel. By going through to the woods he should be able to avoid any lecture and anyway he wished to arrive in a more secret way.

Keeping his horse at a canter and leaning over the animal's withers he went silently through. With his hood drawn up he hoped that anyone who saw him would see him as a 'one-of-the-crowd' and pay him no mind.

As he entered the pine forest that sang with birds he slowed the horse down. Throwing his hood back he let his blonde hair fall across his shoulders. Elladan, Elrohir and Aragorn should be here somewhere. He must find them. Dismounting he began to search the ground for signs. As he did he allowed his guard to slip.

A fair voice from behind said, " Calen Silvan Imladris? " it inquired of the prince.

Spinning around, the Woodland Elf saw a High Elf standing just behind him with a semi curious look. That soon changed to a pleasant smile and then a scowl of concern as Legolas answered in the gray tongue, " bragol gurth Silven. Mornie utu'lie."

" Tercano nuruva -qyetes Hfirimian!" the elf said warningly and with a tone of amazement of what had just been said. It is possible the elf was a little afraid. Afraid of what he could not understand or know of.

" O mor henion I dhu," answered Legolas back. The Rivendell elf nodded and vanished into the woodlands. He knew what Legolas meant. It was dated back to the history of Mirkwood and what it had become.

After about an hour of searching the fair prince found his friends. They were busy trying to knock Aragorn out of a tree branch that extended over a pond. Elrohir was cracking jokes as Elladan trying desperately to knock the ranger's feet out from under him. Things must have gotten pretty dull around here for them to be doing that, thought Legolas to himself as he sauntered to them. I take that back. Things are pretty normal.

Even as Aragorn saw Legolas he lost his footing and fell into the water with a splash. Legolas called out to Aragorn, " what did you do this time?"

" He sneaked up on Elladan and practically knocked him over," piped up Elrohir with a laugh.

Elladan glared at his brother for a moment then said, " unless you also are in the mood for a swim I suggest you shut up!" Legolas tried to stifle a laugh of his own. You never knew what to expect from these three.

Aragorn popped his head out of the water. His brown hair hung in his eyes and dripped. His clothes were drenched. Looking at Elladan he said, " was this another self - esteem boost?" His voice was teaming with sarcasm.

" No, I'm still trying to live down the last one," responded the dark haired elf less than humorously. Hard as he tried he could not keep a grin that was tugging at his lips from spreading as he looked at the dripping Aragorn. He loved this human more than anyone could guess. Reaching out he offered Aragorn a hand out of the water. The young ranger grasped it and was tugged out of the pond.

" Aragorn, go change your clothes before ada sees you," said Elrohir urgently. As Aragorn left Legolas's look became more serious. His blue eyes looked dull with worry and sadness. Elrohir noticed and asked him in Quenya, " what troubles you my friend?"

" I don't know for sure. It is something I have never seen before," responded the prince in the Sindarian tongue. How could he explain immortals had become mortal somehow?

' Come, tell us more," said Elladan as he began to walk towards the house of his father, Elrond.

When they had entered the house and settled comfortably in the library's large chairs where it was least likely to be disturbed Legolas began to tell them all he knew. " Two elves have died already others are just sick, very sick. They acted feverish and slipped in and out of consciousness before going limp with death."

" How does something like this happen?" The brothers asked in unison.

" That is what worries me so greatly. We have no way of destroying nor preventing because we can't understand it. I fear more may die," answered the blonde elf depravedly. "I must find a way to protect my people."

" What does your father say? Surely he has some advice or reasoning?" asked Elladan.

" You would think so but he has said nothing I know of. This is why I came to you. I thought you may know something." Legolas studied their faces as they thought and came to the conclusion they did knew nothing either.

It was confirmed when Elrohir said, " I can't recall anything like this happening before." Elladan nodded. Legolas was at a loss for words. This was truly strange.

A call for the elves echoed up and down the halls as Aragorn looked for the three. Where had they gotten off? Hearing it the twins both looked at Legolas. They were pondering rather they should tell the ranger or not. Deciding not to for fear of endangering his life with the information and fear he could endanger that of their friend more than it was already. " We shouldn't tell him. Who knows what effect it would have on us all?"

The elf ears suddenly picked up the sound of feet by the door and Estel burst in. " What shouldn't you tell me?" They all looked at each other then at the man. Sighing they responded;

" Nothing Estel."

" No really. What?"

Legolas said, " It's a problem at home, my home."

" I want to know. Maybe I can help," persisted the ranger. His eyes flashed with determination.

Legolas broke down. " A strange sickness has effected my home." If he knew this human much longer every secret he knew would be told.

" But your elves. Why would it effect you?" inquired Aragorn curiously.

" We don't know why it does but it does, two have died," responded the prince sadly.

" I think we should go and try and stop it from spreading," proposed Elrohir excitedly. Elladan nudged his brother's foot with his own as a warning to shut up. Legolas looked up hopefully.

" No," said Elladan defiantly. Legolas continued to look at him with a pleading look. Furrowing his eyebrows Elladan repeated himself, "no." Aragorn began to grin as he saw Elladan succumbing to their wishes. " When should we leave?" he asked exasperated.

Legolas, Elrohir and Aragorn looked at Elladan with a look of we knew you'd agree with us. Elladan studied their faces and said, " what? It could be an adventure." Little did he know how much of an adventure it would turn out to be.

I can't walk this road without you You cannot go it alone We were never meant to make it on our own So when the load becomes too heavy And your feet too tired to walk I will carry you and we'll be carried on
Rebbecca St. James, I'll Carry You

"But atar," pleaded the young ranger. "I want to go. I've been out in the field before I know what it's like." Elladan and Elrohir looked hopefully up at Elrond who looked gravely away out the window and to the forests beyond. "Elladan and Elrohir will be with me, along with Legolas."

Spinning around Elrond looked over at his twin sons. "But they shan't be with you. Halbarad and his company call for aid in the north most part of The Shire." Elladan and Elrohir looked at the floor that had suddenly become festinating.

"What of Legolas?" The Caliquendi Elven Lord sighed. Glorfindel suddenly strode in unconcernedly. Hearing the argument he began to slowly back out of the room. Elrohir looked up and smirked. Glorfindel stuck his tongue out at the dark haired elf as he reached the door, electing a hearty laugh from Aragorn. Elrohir raised his eyebrows in mock innocence and gave a whatever look back at the golden haired elf. Seeing his son's actions, Elrond spun around to see the Gondolin elf still blowing raspberries at Elrohir. He turned quickly around pretending not to have seen what just took place. Glorfindel hastily stuck his tongue back into his mouth. Elrohir gave an even more obvious smug look. Elladan continued to look at the floor to avoid cracking up and the ranger bit his lip, and Legolas turned a blind eye to the whole thing.

"Very well my son," Elrond's voice was serene. He started to leave but as an after thought he called, "Elladan! Elrohir! May I see you and Glorfindel for a moment?" His voice was serious but a smile played on his lips. Now it was Legolas's turn to smirk and Aragorn grinned. The twins exchanged glances then followed.

The two companions were entering the borders of The Mirkwood realm when Legolas suddenly shot his eyes vast and looked anxiously at the ranger. "I have forgotten some thing very important in my haste to save my people." The blond elf shook his head regretfully.

Aragorn looked at him curiously. "What?" Suddenly he noticed a smile dancing on the prince's lips. "What!"

"The Fall feast is coming soon...tonight as a matter of fact." The elf was almost laughing now. "I missed it last year and was complained to by father for three months after." Aragorn looked at his friend and smiled in return. He well remembered the elf's constant remonstrating in the autumn months. Suddenly the ranger saw Legolas's face change to an extremely sober and grave expression. He knew what weighed on his friend's mind. Legolas had filled him in on everything that he had told in the library of The Last Homely House. Perhaps he had told more. For Legolas had told him of a suspicion that had been growing in his mind. The prince suspected that it was the wine. He suspected the wine was tainted but with what he could not nor did dare to guess. If this was true the feast could turn into a wholesale killing. At the annual Autumn Feast the elves drank, merely drowned themselves in wine. If such atrocity were committed it would most likely clam the life of the prince as well, along with the prince's father and many other fair beings. Frowning in thought Aragorn looked away from his friend to the dark forest that lay ominously ahead. Legolas stole a sidelong look at his friend and then looked ahead himself. Shifting on his horse's back uncomfortably he scanned the trees. How many more mortality's had his home come to bear since his absence. Whose lights had dimmed the world as they were snuffed out like candles in the breeze? He heard Aragorn shift and his saddle creak below him.

The friends had gone quite far into the forest when Legolas stopped and went taut with anxious listening. Had he heard a voice singing softly in the treetops above? It came again low and sad. Yes he had heard it. Aragorn could not hear it. Only the unique keen hearing of elves could pick up the mournful tune. The ranger was accustomed to his friend's reaction when he heard something that disturbed him. "What do your elf ears hark mellon nin?" required the mortal. The firstborn looked at his friend and answered in the gray tongue;

"I hear a voice singing sadly in the trees," responded the elf with a touch of melancholy edging his voice. This was better than what the ranger had hoped to hear but you had to wonder who sang the sad melody. The question that hovered in their minds was soon answered as a tall, slender elf emerged from the tree above and dropped lightly to the ground. This elf's hair was raven colored and he was in likeness to the brethren, Elladan and Elrohir but less fair. Legolas smiled as he recognized Rothinzil, 'Foam Flower', one of Legolas's early childhood friends. Rothinzil's name was an odd story, for it was in the Numorean tongue rather than the gray tongue of Legolas's people, (but that does not come into this tale). The dark haired elf returned the smile but it did not ring true somehow. "Roth!" called out Legolas happily. Aragorn relaxed. A friend of Legolas's was a friend of his.

"Legolas! We were worried that you may not make it in time for tonight." He looked the prince over. Legolas still looked in the bloom of health. The prince noticed the other elf's eyes were dark with worry or concealed pain.

Legolas looked in his friends eyes and locked them with his own. "What has happened?" He already had guessed but he hoped against hope he was wrong. His suspicion was confirmed. "Who fell Rothinzil? Who!" Rothinzil looked away and then locked his gaze with Legolas's again. The large, fair blue eyes of the prince cried out for an answer.

"Mothloth as he sat in the guard house closest to the trail to Lake Town. From what I saw he never had a chance...he just fell and never got up." Legolas continued to gaze at his friend's eyes and the other elf flinched than said, "I was there. I saw it. I too was on guard duty that night." Legolas was bruised in his heart. Mothloth had been another friend of his. This could not continue. How was it Rothinzil had escaped the ill fortune of Mothloth and Nimalda if he too had been in the guardhouse that fateful night? This question was driven from his mind as Rothinzil said at length, "we had better get you and Aragorn to the palace as fast as possible so you can freshen up a bit for tonight." Legolas nodded slowly and looked at Aragorn, signaling the ranger to follow. Rothinzil led the way as they all traveled quickly towards the palace home.

Once in the place Rothinzil bade farewell to the friends. "I must go and resume my guard duties. Namarie Mellon nins." Legolas watched his friend leave and then looked at Aragorn with large blue eyes that were filled with hurt. Suddenly a loud, deep voice ran through the halls.

It sounded on the edge of anger. "Legolas!" Thranduil came aroound the corner fixing an accusing glare on to his son. Legolas smiled wryly. "You ran away!" At least the prince knew he had been missed. The king was not finished with him. "Legolas why did you leave like that! I was worried you had fallen as well." He walked up to his son and put his hands on Legolas's shoulders, forcing the prince to meet his gaze. Worry and fear still lingered in the elder elf's eyes. Legolas felt as though he might cry. He had not meant to put his father through this pain. Thranduil released his grip. Turning he noticed Aragorn had accompanied his son. "You had both best get cleaned up. Tonight we celebrate."

Going down the hall Aragorn looked at his friend and laughed softly. "You ran away?" Legolas could not help but laugh at this well earned tease from the ranger.

"As if you never did it yourself." The elf's voice was filled with a mirth he had not heard for a long time. It was a deep and cheerful sound to hear that came from the prince's heart. Aragorn smiled. Then he remembered the golden crown of twisted leaves the prince so despised but was forced to wear at the Autumn Feast. Unable to help himself he pointed out sarcastically;

"you look good in leaves." Legolas glared at his friend. "Especially when they are twisted into a crown and set upon your head." The mortal's voice was filled with satire although Legolas found nothing funny in what he said at all.

"Unless you feel like wearing them after the celebration tonight I suggest strongly that you shut up while you're ahead." Aragorn laughed all the more at this. Legolas hated that crown of leaves. They got caught in his hair and snagged it as he took it out at night. He liked the flowers for the summer celebration even less. Contrary to what everyone else said they attracted more bees than butterflies, which were annoying anyway all to themselves. Legolas frowned so hard at his friend that Aragorn shut his mouth but could not stop a grin from melting across his face. The ranger had a feeling that tonight would not be as happy as they could wish. "Strider," said Legolas in a oddly unfamiliar tone, "I fear tonight."

"Well if I had to wear a crown of leaves I would too." Legolas sighed. Aragorn looked at his friend and saw the elf really was scared. "I'm sorry Legolas. I should not have jested so."

Legolas smiled twistedly. "You're right. You shouldn't have." The prince's tone was half filled with ironic mirth. Aragorn still felt slightly ashamed. His friend had reached out to him and he had put up a barrier.

"What do you fear?" asked Aragorn slowly and soberly.

"I fear that more death may come." This had been weighing on the ranger's mind as well. He knew what the prince thought. Legolas perceived Aragorn's thoughts and knew what his friend was feeling. Shame. "It's okay mellon nin. I am not angry with you and never was to begin with." The human smiled wryly.

That night after dark the celebration began. Legolas sat upon his father's right. His blonde hair fell upon his shoulders , sleek and shining golden in the torch light. His fair, blue eyes glittered with what could have been thought by many as happiness but it was really annoyance. The crown of golden leaves was upon his head and already one could tell it had snarled a piece of his hair because every time the prince turned his head he winced slightly. His attire consisted of a dark green suede tunic covered partially by a long olive green valor cloak with a silvery leaf brooch wrought of mithril and a pair of brownish colored leggings with green suede boots to match his tunic.

Aragorn sat on the left side of Thranduil as the honored guest. His wavy, dark hair was brushed and cleansed. The ranger had actually shaved. His face no longer seemed older and as careworn. He finally looked the part of his youth. If his brothers saw him they would feel very old indeed. The ranger wore clothing very similar to Legolas's except with a lavender theme. They all sat at a long table. Some of the elves at the table were chief advisers and head warriors.

The feast consisted of everything you could think of. Wine was splashing everywhere. Legolas still had yet to finish his first goblet of the fiery liquid. He could not bring himself to drink it for fear of poison. The ranger had yet to take the first sip.

The night became late and the halls were fairly teaming with drunken elves. Still nobody had died or even fallen ill. Legolas feared that the butler was catching on, taking his goblet, he emptied it underneath the table. Aragorn looked side long at Legolas , who put a finger to his lips to quiet the ranger's questioning looks. The prince suddenly winced as the crown tugged on a strand of hair. Rolling his eyes upward, he sighed. Only a few more hours. Aragorn smiled. Legolas's attention was diverted as he watched to elves go down the steps on their way to the wine cellars to put the empty barrels into the river and send them on their way to Lake Town. They were a bit unsteady and the prince guessed they had had a bit too much to drink.

The feast ended towards dawn. Legolas, Thranduil and Aragorn said farewell to all the guests. Then Legolas and Aragorn stumbled wearily down the hall to their quarters. Even though they could each have separate rooms they preferred to leave the dividing door that stood between them open so they could talk as they lay in their beds. Aragorn came into Legolas's section for a time. The prince needed help to get the crown out of his blonde hair. Because it was so humiliating he never asked the serving staff to assist him lest they should open their mouths and the whole kingdom should know. Gently the ranger tried to unwind the blonde locks from the leaves. The prince hissed and winced between attempts. He wondered if his father had this same problem. If he did, why in Middle-Earth did they continue to wear them? Between clenched teeth, Legolas whispered hoarsely, "could you be more gentle?" He clenched his jaw as some more hair snagged.

"I'm sorry Legolas but you really got it tangled badly this time. I would cut your hair but-"

"I would kill you."

"And I prefer to stay alive." Finally the ranger lifted the cursed crown from his friend's head. Legolas's hair was a disheveled mess. Handing the crown to the prince Aragorn sighed, "well that's over."

Legolas rolled his eyes. "For you, but I have yet to comb out this cursed mess." Unbraiding his hair he glared at the floor. Then grabbing a brush, the prince started ruefully to comb out his golden locks. Cringing as his brush came sharply in contact with a knot, he stared morosely into the mirror. This was going to take a while. Aragorn went to his side of the quarters and shut the door to change into some sleeping clothes. When he came back to check on the prince's hair crisis Legolas too had changed and his hair was sleek and hung about his shoulders. Elves. They were so quick about everything. Bidding each other good night they each went to their own beds. Aragorn stifled a laugh as he heard the prince sigh heavily and collapse stoutly onto the mattress. The elf would soon be fast asleep. Sliding into his own blankets, Aragorn drifted slowly into silent slumber.

The next morning Aragorn was surprisingly the first to wake. Legolas's heavy, slow breathing could still be heard and every now and then a soft snort. Aragorn grinned. 'Oh yes, you never snore mellon nin,' he thought silently to himself about the elf. Sliding carefully out from under the blankets he climbed cautiously out of the bed. Moving slowly, he began to tiptoe into the prince's room. The elf was sprawled on the bed with a pillow over his head. Tufts of unruly blonde hair stuck out at odd angles from underneath. A snort came from under the pillow and the ranger choked back a laugh. Wait until his brothers heard about this! Pain stakingly, Aragorn lifted up a corner of the pillow and revealed Legolas's face pressed down against the mattress. Replacing the pillow corner he waited for another snort to emit from beneath it. His patience was soon rewarded and a snort louder than all the others made him grin. Taking his hands, he pressed down onto the pillow, burying the prince's face into the mattress, temporarily cutting off his air. Aragorn quickly removed his hands to allow the squirming figure to breathe again. Legolas bolted upright and glared at the human, who was beside himself with laughter. Taking the pillow, Legolas smacked the ranger across the face with it, knocking him off the corner off the bed and onto the floor. Aragorn stared in shock then went into a new round of laughter as Legolas's face peered over the corner of the bed and looked down on him. Legolas's hair was all frizzy and hung in his face, covering the prince's glare. Shrinking away out of striking range, the human stood up. Legolas rubbed the sleep out of his left eye and glowered up at his friend. "Did you find that funny eh?" The tone of his voice was dangerous.

Laughing still, Aragorn answered back, "Yes, actually I did. You should have seen the look on your face. It was absolutely without price!"

Vaulting out of bed, Legolas growled, "but it's not priceless mellon nin. Now you will have to pay the price."

"I think not."

They were still were continuing this argument when Thranduil appeared in the doorway, quietly observing the fray. Legolas had Aragorn pinned onto his back over the bed's edge and was pouring feathers from a broken pillow into the ranger's face. A puff from the ranger sent the feathers back up into Legolas's face. Reeling away from the explosion of feathers, the prince slammed into his father who caught him as he began to fall. The ranger saw Thranduil and blushed, for he was still in his night attire along with Legolas. Legolas looked sheepishly up at his father. All he could say was, "Morning."

Thranduil chuckled, "good morning my son. A little late to be in your night clothes, wouldn't you agree Aragorn?"

"Yes, indefinitely."

Legolas glared at his friend and was plainly saying, Thank you sooo much for your support. Thranduil looked at them both then said, "well get dressed and we'll see about breakfast." Legolas moved away from his father. Noticing the prince's hair, the king said, "and pray do something with your hair Legolas." Blushing slightly, the blonde elf said;

"Yes father."

Chapter Two, Riddles

The prince and ranger jested and taunted one another as they roamed the palace halls. Legolas, still trying to get revenge from the pillow incident, stuck out a booted foot to trip Aragorn. The man noticed in the nick of time and stepped awkwardly over it. Legolas frowned. "Your brothers taught you too well." Smiling, the ranger could not resist a snappy comeback.

"I know. It's a shame I'm better than you isn't it?" Legolas glared and punched the human good naturedly in the shoulder. Snickering, the ranger punched him gently back. Suddenly they heard raised voices. One was certainly the king's the other was lower and more melodious. It sounded sinister and yet not so. Tensing, Legolas looked at Aragorn and the two exchanged glances. Cautiously, they crept on tiptoe around the corner and into the thrown room. What they saw surprised them.

Thranduil was leaning back in his chair rubbing his temples. Another elf in robes almost as elegant as the king's stood by him arguing. Legolas still did not reveal his presence and motioned for Aragorn to do the same. The other elf had blondish brown hair in which the bangs were skillfully put up in a long, silky braid. He looked older and more careworn than Thranduil.

"The men of Lake Town are infuriated and demand retribution for their losses," said the odd elf. Legolas focused in on the being and recognized him to be his father's chief adviser, Iaurgwath.

Looking up at the adviser, Thranduil said in a voice thick with wrath, "I know Iaurgwath, I know. What would you have me do?" He didn't know why he asked this question, for he would not likely heed the answer. Legolas perked his hearing up. This was intriguingly odd. He wanted to hear more.

Suddenly Iaurgwath gave a surprising answer. "I would say give them their reimbursement."

Thranduil glared. "That's fool hardy. I am not the one who caused their deaths. I will not reimburse these people."

"If they carry out their threat-"

"I will engage in a war." Iaurgwath's eyes shifted. Thranduil was too deep in thought to notice or care.

"What of the orcs threatening your borders along Dol Guldur? How do plan to take care of them?"

Thranduil looked away and mumbled to himself, "my kingdom is falling. Sauron's wraiths control Dol Guldur and attack from that direction, Lake Town threatens from the other. What am I to do?"

"I would advise you to meet the orcs and drive them back. Let the Witch King know who reigns in Greenwood The Great." Legolas's eyes involuntarily went wide. This could be dangerously close to war. If it came to all out war many elves would die. His father would never agree to this. The adviser muttered some inaudible words and Thranduil nodded saying, "yes, perhaps you are right." Iaurgwath nodded as the king dismissed him and started down the hall. Some inner gut feeling warned the prince he was not meant to hear the conversation. Turning to Aragorn, Legolas motioned silently for him to follow. A nearby room offered hope. Going into it, Legolas dragged the man behind him and shut and bolted the door.

"What was that?" asked the ranger with a touch of awe. Legolas's eyes flickered angrily.

"I do not know. What worries me further is I was not summoned to attend." The elf leaned heavily against the wall and sighed. This did not seem to bode well.

"Unless it was new news and they had no time to summon you. You may be summoned ere the day is long."

Legolas fixed a glare upon his friend. "If it wasn't new and I am not summoned we have been set a pretty riddle." He furrowed his brow and then asked out loud, "what in Middle Earth is wrong with the Lake men? We have done nothing that I know of."

"Or that your father knows of, " said Aragorn pointedly. Legolas nodded. He had not realized he had talked out loud earlier and the thought broke on him. Dropping his jaw, he shut it again with a snap. Closing his eyes, he thought of anything that could have gone wrong. Nothing pulled up in his long memories. Aragorn suddenly spoke up. "I had no idea orcs were attacking again on the Dol Guldur border."

Legolas spat the words out, "nor did I." This too worried him. He was not being told everything. Abruptly a thought to go and visit Rothinzil in the guardhouse popped into his mind. The elf would surely know if anything was wrong with the Lake Men and would likely know why. Grabbing Aragorn's shoulder, he opened the door and proceeded to drag him behind again.

"Where are we going now?" inquired the ranger with a roll of his eyes as he was led down the corridor. They had to communicate more. This was getting exasperating.

Legolas only tugged harder and uttered, "come on. Keep up." The man had to practically run to keep up with the swift walk of the elven prince. Dragging the ranger through the hall, he stopped before entering the throne room.

"Now can you tell me where we are going?" asked Aragorn, exasperated. He was getting tired of being dragged around.

Turning his piercing blue gaze upon the human, Legolas responded urgently, "we are going to go pay a visit to Rothinzil." His voice was almost a hiss.

"Why? What good would that do?" questioned Aragorn irritably. If this kept up he would have to drag the information from the elf. Knowing how stubborn his friend could be that could take hours.

"His guard is in the flet closest to Lake Town. If there was trouble, his platoon would have known first and most likely have reported it." Legolas was getting frustrated with the ranger's slow perception of thing s today. He knew this was not the mortal's normal state. .It had to have been the recent celebration that had clouded his friend's wits. Maybe even others wits as well.

As the two entered the room Thranduil called out to the prince, "Legolas! Be back shortly. We've much to talk about at the council this afternoon." Legolas looked at his father and nodded reluctantly in agreement. He despised council meetings. They were dull and dreary, continuing what seemed like forever. This one however, could prove different. A sudden thought to argue on his attendance popped up in his mind anyway. It vanished as he felt Aragorn step onto his toe, reminding him of their mission. Suppressing a wince, Legolas followed the ranger out of the large doors and outside.

The friends walked through the woods quietly. It was still morning and some patches still had dew. It mad their boots damp and Aragorn rolled his eyes. The dew went through his boots and dampened his stockings. By nightfall he wood have blisters. Legolas thought the morning was good. His elven boots shielded his feet.

When they reached the guard house/flet Legolas called out to the sentinels in the gray tongue. A whistle like a birds went up and Roth appeared. Dried blood shown heavily on his cloak and tunic and his face was pale. Looking closer, the prince and ranger saw it was not his blood but another's. Legolas's blue eyes begged for an answer before he even opened his mouth. In response to the look Rothinzil said between tremor like sobs, "They attacked us," was all he could say.

"Who?" persisted Aragorn.

"You don't know then?" said the elf in the Gray Tongue. The two stared at him and waited for him to continue. "It was two men...They claimed we had poisoned them. Whatever that means. They asked for access to the king or you Legolas...We did not like the look of them and refused to admit them." He paused to gather hurtful thoughts. "That was when it happened."