Hello everybody!

This is my first fanfic - I hope you enjoy. Please let me know what you think!

Rating: PG 13 (for some angst and violence - just to be on the safe side...)

Disclaimer: Sorry, don´t own them, wish I did...

Hidden Truths

Chapter 1

The horse´s hooves dug into the wet earth, throwing chunks of dirt and grass into the air. The animal´s heavy panting was all that could be heard under the white fog´s blanket. Aragorn frowned, hoping that the friend he held against his chest was still breathing. He strained his eyes, trying to make out shapes of obstacles in front of him while keeping all other senses alert to the pursuers behind him. They were still there, he knew it. He could feel their evil like a hot breath against his neck, and the total lack of sight and sound from them unnerved him more than he could say.

The world seemed to have come to a standstill around him. Nothing save the fog itself, which lazily swirled around him as if reaching out gentle hands, showed any sign of change. He couldn´t shake the feeling that his sweating mount plowed through the endless grey veil without ever covering so much as a foot of ground, held by invisible ropes, while their enemies watched and silently laughed at the pathetic try of an escape.

Angrily, Aragorn shook his head in an attempt to clear his thoughts. His very mind felt as if it had been invaded by the fog, slowed and clouded by its gentle yet deadly grip. He could not allow himself to give in to the pull of despair and hopelessness he felt. He WAS hope, he reminded himself, named by a creature so much older and wiser than himself. He found some solace in the thought of his Elven foster father. His trust in Elrond was stronger than the strange emptiness he currently felt. He had been named for a reason, and he could not let any human weakness interfere with the path that had been laid before him.

Suddenly, the horse severed to the right, narrowly avoiding a large boulder of rock that its rider had failed to notice. The tired animal´s movement was non too gentle, and it took all of Aragorn´s considerable agility to keep himself and his burden from crashing to the shrouded ground below. Involuntarily, he tightened his grip around the wounded elf´s waist, causing him to gasp and turn in an effort to escape the pressure on his body. Aragorn felt a surge of relief at his friend´s sign of life, even though it signalled his pain and brought them both dangerously close to yet another fall.

Trying to ease his grip a bit without letting the elf slip, Aragorn whispered urgently: "Sidh, Legolas. Dinen, im nev."//Peace, Legolas. Be still, I´m here.//

Thankfully, the elf´s movements stilled at the sound of his friend´s voice. The horse had slowed its pace when it had sensed its riders predicament and now sped up again, as driven by the nameless horror behind them as the human. Although at the end of its own endurance, sweating and panting, it refused to give in. Aragorn used his free hand to swiftly pat the animal´s neck. "Mae, mae roch..." //Good, good horse...// he began, then realized with a start that he did not know the animal´s name. Irritated, he searched his memory, coming up with nothing - nothing beyond the ride through the white mist, nothing beyond the fear of what was behind him, nothing of what had brought him onto the back of this nameless steed with his wounded friend in his arms.

A wave of panic hit him, but he quickly suppressed it with all his inner strength. Strangely, his senses felt less muddled now than before, and he used them to peer ahead, willing his sight the penetrate the vast greyness in front of him.

Alert as he was, he made out the dark shadow to his right barely a breath before it struck the horse full force. In the flash of a second he had before the impact, Aragorn wondered at the position of his attacker who was clearly not coming from behind them. Had they been overtaken without him noticing even that ...

The force that hit them felt strong enough to bring an mumak down. The horse whinnied in distress, struggling briefly to keep its footing before it crashed sideways, hooves slipping on the mud. Aragorn desperately tried to roll away from the animal and hold on to the elf, but he failed in both.

The horse´s weight caught his left leg, pinning him to the wet ground while the elf slipped from his grasp. All the air was knocked from his lungs by the impact, and for a moment bright lights danced through the endless grey that otherwise dominated his vision. Suddenly, the horse jerked and screamed before going silent, and Aragorn felt its body being dragged off him. A dark growl drifted to his ears and he thought that he could smell something mouldy and wet.

With no time to pity the brave animal´s fate, he dragged himself away. His mind raced as he tried to figure out where the elf could have fallen. His groping hands travelled through the wet grass, the mud, the water puddles that seemed to indicate that they were in some sort of swamp. "Wonderful, if we get away from whatever monster this is, we´ll drown in some murky hole." Aragorn shook his head, mimicking the gesture from only a few minutes ago when he had still been on top of the horse with at least a chance to make it out of this alive. The despair was back with a vengeance. Sounds of breaking bones and teeth ripping flesh reached his ears. His stomach flipped. He did not think that one creature alone could make these sounds. What if the horse was not the only one who had fallen prey to them...

With strength renewed by panic, he dragged himself on. He hands gripped chunks of earth, sharp rocks, anything as he moved through the still wetness, away from the horrifying sounds behind him. He had his head turned, suddenly afraid that one of the dark shapes would come up behind him, when his hands finally came upon a cold hand, an arm.

"Legolas!" Aaragorn breathed, relief and new fear building inside of him as he reached for his friend. When his trembling fingers found a pulse, his hand registered a slight rise and fall of the chest, he fell down beside the elf with a sigh. For what seemed like an eternity he just lay there. A tiny voice inside of his mind urged him to come to his senses, to get moving, to at least draw a weapon in case the dark creatures turned away from their gruesome meal and searched for a new one, but he paid it no heed. He could not. His energy was spent. He felt himself drift and forced himself to open his eyes. He could not let himself fall asleep. Not here, not now.

Shelter. It almost seemed as if the fog around him whispered the word. Shelter, yes. They needed shelter. Warmth. Aragorn felt himself drawn the very idea. Safety. Yes, all of that. And he had to provide it to both of them, just as Legolas would if their roles were reversed. Just as Legolas would have done already, the little voice in his mind reminded him scornfully.

Aragorn pushed himself up with an effort. His head swam and his left leg throbbed, although he could not clearly remember the reason. He looked at Legolas´ still form, barely visible in the fog although he was right beside him. His healer´s senses, although as shrouded as the rest, urged him to examine his friend, find out the extend of his injuries and relief as many of his hurts as he could, but he came to realize that this was impossible now. Shelter.

Yes. First he had to find shelter. Aragorn had to force his body to move, but his resolve was finally set. He knelt beside the elf, gently putting one arm behind his shoulders and the other beneath his knees before he carefully stood. His left leg almost gave way then, making him stumble. A soft groan, barely audible, reminded Aragorn of the pain he had to be causing. "Sorry, mellon-nin" //my friend// he whispered. Lifting his head to face the mockingly swirling fog in front of him, he moved.

One foot in front of the other, he carried his friend through the endless void, only the increasing pain in his leg signalling that he was doing anything put standing still. His vision began to blur from exhaustion and pain, but he felt that it didn´t matter anyway. There was nothing to be seen. After a while he simply closed his eyes, letting his feet feel their way. His back began to burn but he loathed the idea of jostling Legolas around to put him over his shoulders to carry, so he trudged on, biting his lip. What was one more source of pain? At least it served to keep him awake. Part of his tired mind was amazed that he had not run into anything so far, or ended up in a swamp hole that would swallow them both. He almost felt led. The soft cool mist caressed his skin as he walked. Shelter. Yes, please, he thought in answer, let me find shelter...

Suddenly, Aragorn became aware of the fact that he had stopped moving. He was swaying slightly as his injured leg refused to take much of the weight. Curious of what he might find, but strangely sure that he would find something, he opened his eyes.

At first he thought that the color of the fog had changed to a much darker shade of grey. Then he realized that something huge loomed over him. From what he could make out, it was an enormous wall of solid rock. He limped closer. The wall rose almost vertically, a strange sight to the ranger. He stepped even closer yet to inspect the surface and was surprised to find himself at the mouth of a cave or tunnel. Shelter.

Aragorn was not so sure. Uncertainly he glanced at the unconscious elf in his arms. Something told him, albeit vaguely, that his friend would not be pleased to find himself inside of rock walls, but then again, he saw no other way. With a mental shrug, the man moved on - only to find himself, quite suddenly, in absolute darkness. The somewhat diffuse light of the mist was gone, although he could still feel its wetness clinging to his skin. His heart began to race, his breath catching. At the same moment, Legolas began to stir. He moaned and moved in his friend´s arms. The movements quickly turned into thrashing, and Aragorn almost dropped him. He held on with all his might in an effort not to lose his balance and fall over.

Shelter. Warmth. Safety.

With the distinct feeling that there was no turning back, the ranger gripped his fighting friend tightly, closed his eyes again and stumbled forward in the desperate hope to finally find a path that would lead them both out of this nightmare.