Disclaimer– I own non of the characters in this fanfiction, as much as I wish I did – still wishing that is pointless… Any original characters that arise in here – Wild Men, for instance, do belong to me, though Celdan was certainly better than they are…
Hi everyone! Firstly, most gracious thanks to all of the reviewers of Here We Are – without your calls for this sequel, there – well – wouldn't be a sequel ^^. Which brings me to my second point: this is longer, darker, and less restricted than Here We Are was in Helm's Deep, as we follow the characters through several different locations, spanning from the Plains of Rohan to the depths of Mirkwood. The character range is greater also, introducing a few faces that all of you will know and not necessarily like, as well as a lot more of one in particular who we saw in Equilibrium's predecessor for a brief time … though that is all I shall say concerning them ^^
Profuse apologies to all Fanfiction.net readers for the solid block of writing that occurred with Here We Are – it was split in chapters, but I kind of rushed through the post…
Anyway, that's plenty enough rambling for now – there are Sindarin translations at the end of each chapter where they occur, and I have taken the liberty of giving Aragorn Andúril earlier than in the films – I don't know why, I just did ^^. So! Let us commence with the tale – please read it, enjoy is, and review it!
Friendship is the builder of bridges, bridges which span over mountain range and sea, and as long as that bridge still stands between us, I will cross it and find you, be you in the darkest pit or the highest tower.
Chapter One - Swords and Swallows
The sun beat down upon their backs with all of its intensity, just as it should do during the summer. A tranquil, cloudless day, perfect in almost every way. Swallows chirruped out their hunting cries as they reeled over-head after the midges, their tails dipping into the myriad of deep blue, then diving past the horizon to skim the grass. Perfect little lives, in their own perfect little worlds, with their own perfect little importance's - catch flies, feed young, fledge young, fly south, start again next year. That was it. That was all that they were required to do, in that perfect little world of the swallow.
Legolas watched them intently as they performed their dance on the blue stage. Why was he not a swallow? Life would have been so much simpler if he had been a swallow - all he would need bother about were sparrow hawks and getting south before the c2hill of winter. He would not have to be bothered about that dark Shadow that loomed over in the east where he knew no birds dwelt. What was that Shadow to a swallow save a darker patch of sky?
'Legolas!' hissed Gimli from behind his back. 'Concentrate on controlling the horse, will you?'
Legolas cast the Dwarf an amused glance. He knew full well that he hated riding: that was quite plain from his intense grip on the Elf's sides when they quickened pace, or if Arod dropped slightly as he negotiated a dip in the earth.
'Whatever for? All Arod has to do is follow the other horses: he only starts if you pass wind or something of the sort.'
Gimli scowled at the rather crude mockery - something that he had never expected an Elf to say, especially a prince - and was just about to make a retorting comment when Arod dropped leisurely down a bank. The Dwarf clasped Legolas' sides again, hard, to which Legolas gave a brief cry of pain. Gimli took his hands away as though Legolas was a venomous snake in his surprise.
'Legolas, I'm sorry, I-'
'-Forget it, Gimli my friend,' replied the Elf in a pain-restrained voice. 'Just please don't forget to place your clumsy Dwarvish hand on my hip rather than - there. Again.'
'You have no need to be. I am not angry with you, so stop apologising!'
He could not find it in his heart to be angry with the Dwarf for misplacing his hand - he was always sorry, and Legolas could see the distress in his eyes whenever Gimli caused him pain by grasping his wound, which was still not fully healed. The poison had made it mend much slower than an injury to an Elven body should.
'And when I said: "pass wind", I meant when you spoke.'
'I bet you did,' grumbled Gimli in return, to which Legolas chuckled mischievously.
'Take it as you will, my friend,' Legolas continued with a raised brow. 'Take it as you will.'
They rode in silence for a time, part of the lengthy procession that headed for Edoras from Isengard. All that had arisen from their audience with the traitor Saruman had been a Palantír - which Gandalf now kept charge of at the front of the line, joined by Aragorn and Théoden King -and Merry and Pippin. As far as Legolas and Gimli were concerned, this was all that they could have hoped for: it was not long since passed that they had believed the pair to be dead. The fact that they had not in fact seen Saruman mattered not to them, and now Pippin sat in front of Aragorn, and Merry before Gandalf, both sound asleep… Clearly "guarding" the broken gateway while basking in the sun and smoking pipe weed was an arduous task.
Legolas had selected to ride a little way back from his friends - Aragorn and the King, he had heard, were talking of matters that he did not think he ought to hear, and nor did he want to. Yes, space was the best thing that he could offer his friend at the moment. And so they rode along at the back of those of the Third Marshal's men.
Gimli heaved a heavy sigh into the air. It was such a depressed sound that Legolas said: 'What grieves you, my friend?'
'I just want a few puffs on my pipe, that's all.'
'Sorry, Gimli, but you cannot smoke while we ride: I would be most upset if your pipe were to be rammed down your throat should you bump into my back - and it stinks, which, in my opinion, is an even more important reason for you not to do it.'
'You know not what you are missing, Legolas Greenleaf.'
'And I have no desire to find out, you may be averred of that! It is not something that I favour, or indeed look upon without a frown. It catches in my throat and you cannot see for the smoke.
'The drinking of wine, on the other hand, is something that I would join you in without a moments' delay.'
'Wine? Pah!' came Gimli's response. 'Wine is for the women. Give me some quality malt beer and I shall be content as an Elf in a cherry grove during the spring.'
Legolas' eyes unfocused briefly as he thought of the cherry groves at home. Rows of beautiful slender trees, spectacular when in bloom. How wonderful it had been to sit under their beautiful boughs and read or doze in the gentle sun, to wake up and find oneself littered with pale petals. It was his turn to emit a small sigh of sadness.
'Now why are you sighing?'
'I was just wondering whether I shall ever see my father's cherry groves again.'
'Of course you will, lad. We shall all go home, come the end of this war - and I promise you this: when we return to our homelands you can be assured that my tally shall be the greater of the two.'
The Elf openly laughed out at this. 'Oh yes? We shall see, Gimli my Dwarvish friend, exactly who is the victor out of this. Arrows against axes. An interesting result shall arise from this.'
'Seeing as axes won last time, I doubt that the outcome shall be any different.'
'Do not be so confidant.'
Arod halted suddenly at a slight tug on the reigns from his master. Legolas sat still, his face turned down to Arod's mane. Then his head snapped to the side to look into the depths of Fangorn forest, which lay to their right.
Gimli watched his friends' face worriedly. He had felt Legolas tense just then - when Legolas did this, it was frequently something to pay attention to.
'What is it?' he hissed. 'What is it you see?'
'Hold on.' That was the only response that the Dwarf got before Arod launched forward, Gimli giving a short cry of surprise, his grip intensifying on the Elf's hip as though he felt that if he let go he would die.
They streaked past the other riders, receiving questioning glances as they did so - mind you, this was not an infrequent occurrence: none of them had ever seen either an Elf or Dwarf before the Three Hunters had entered Rohan, and it was with wonder that they watched the odd pair. One as old as the Age and looking not a day over twenty, and the other appearing as though he had just emerged from the earth.
Arod came to a steady trot besides Brego, the mount of the latter beast turning to his friend with a confused frown upon his brow.
'What is wrong, mellon nin?'
'I felt something,' the Elf answered in a lowered, hurried voice. 'There is something in the trees, though I cannot say what, exactly.'
Aragorn locked eyes with Legolas', searching them. There was something definitely wrong, and Aragorn remembered the conversation they had had while at Helm's Deep.
'If you do not know what it is, then surely there is no huge threat?' Éomer interjected. He had ridden up in between Aragorn and his King to join in with this conversation.
Legolas fixed his blue eyes with the green ones of the Third Marshal, stormy sky meeting flaming grass. He had heard that undertone in the Man's voice, and he liked it not. They had never got on since that first meeting on the plains.
'Are you questioning my judgement, Lord Éomer?' That was quietly said, but it did not prevent the other from straightening his back, jaw set.
'I am merely saying that if you have not seen anything then why should there be a cause for concern?'
'You need to see a little further than just past your nose, Lord Éomer.'
Éomer's face became rapt with anger, and he would have struck out if Aragorn had not urged Brego further forward to drive them apart, giving Legolas a warning glance.
'I apologise for my nephew's behaviour towards the delegate of the Elves,' said Théoden.
'And I apologise for the behaviour of the delegate of the Elves towards your nephew,' replied Aragorn, which he received a glare from Legolas for, though he ignored it.
'Where did you first feel it, Legolas?' Gandalf had joined them, feeling that it would be wise to draw the attention of both Elf and Man away from each other before all turned ill.
'Back there,' came the reply, accompanied by a flick of the Elf's head as an indication.
Legolas shook his head at this. 'No. I would know if it was Orcs-'
'-And how is that?' Éomer cut in.
'-Because Orcs are my brethren, no matter how much I despise the fact, and all Elves can sense the presence of them.'
This took Éomer back. He knew what Orcs looked like: vile, deformed beasts - how could it be that they were akin to the fair creature that sat before him? He could even feel sympathy welling inside him. At that point he resolved that he would no longer pass any disagreeable comments at the Elf, no matter how great the temptation - but that did not mean that he liked him, far from it; he resented anyone threatening to shoot him between the eyes with an arrow, whether they were a prince or no.
'What do you propose, Lord Aragorn?' Théoden did not know whether to take such things from the Elf seriously or not. He had no experience of them at all, though he had heard of Elves having the preternatural ability to predict happenings and to delve into the future, which made them - in his eyes - dangerous … though he could not see any visible danger in this one. So he deemed it best to ask someone who had a sound knowledge of them.
Aragorn still looked at Legolas, and all he could think of were his words during the Elf's near-fatal fever… "You never listen to me."
'I think that a scouting party is required - just to make sure that there is nothing.'
Legolas gave Aragorn a slight, brief smile, a tiny, barely visible dip of his head in thanks, which Aragorn returned.
'Very well,' was Théoden's response. ' Éomer, select some of your men for a scouting party. We shall head back to Edoras when you have made camp tonight.'
'If I may, my king Théoden, I should like to accompany the party, with Legolas and Gimli also.'
'If that is your wish then you have my consent - you may lead the men, rather than Éomer … I have some issues at Edoras that I require him to accompany me in the dealing of.'