Imladris was a fortress, well protected not only by its warriors but by the sheer mountains that guarded its north and eastern sides. It was a sprawling paradise with streams, waterfalls, fields of flowers and grass, glades of sweet green and foreboding dark areas of woodland. For the peoples of the elven lord who ruled this place it was home.
Imladris was not immune to the encroaching darkness that grew in the east. Over the centuries she had kept it at bay, for she was the guardian of the hope of all middle earth. While hope grew she kept him safe, now he, grown to manhood knew all her secrets, he strolled her pathways in confidence secure in her arms.
Yet the Dark Lord of the east did not give up easily and he sent forth many to break her. Many battles had been fought within her boundaries and beyond. Many had been hurt and killed through subtle and not so subtle means. Yet Imladris defied them all, holding true to the one light that gave breath to all things. But the dark lord did not break so easily, he sent forth again many of his creatures in secret and at last, one managed to infiltrate the fortress using the face of innocence and the mien of good.
A bird looking down upon the acres of woodland that spanned Rivendell that day, would have seen two creatures running madly towards the trees, in a futile attempt to evade the sudden spring rain that had caught them unawares in the midst of a peaceful walk. They were already soaked to the skin and carefree laughter floated free on the wind.
Aragorn plunged straight into the dense undergrowth, shaking his long brown hair free of water. The blue long sleeved shirt he wore was plastered to his skin and his dark red pants of spun cotton was soaked. His soft black shoes squelched unpleasantly as he made room for Legolas who was a hairsbreadth behind him.
Aragorn could not help but laugh at the sight his friend made. His long golden hair was plastered to his skull making his pointed elven ears stand out from his head. His white tunic was soaked as were his leggings. Aragorn looked down to see that his felt shoes fared no better.
With a grin Legolas said, "You look no better Aragorn."
"I know, but I cannot see myself."
Legolas rolled his eyes and together the two friends stood under the trees that valiantly kept the rain from soaking them further. Blue and grey green eyes turned towards the skies looking at the large rain drops that came hurtling down.
In his study Elrond turned dark grey eyes to the sky. He rose from his desk and walked to the open windows, the sky pelted down huge drops of cold, cold rain. He reached out with long fingered hands and the rain drops smacked against his skin. A light frown settled between his brows. It was not supposed to rain that day.
The creature that had come to Imladris forty years before had grown in secret, hidden among the natural undergrowth that covered the wood land. Now on the day of its fruition it bloomed, dark and beautiful and terrible. Its veined branch like arms reached out, eagerly drinking in the water that fed it. Its root like feet stirred restlessly as it spread. Its reddish gold flowers opened up and a myriad of spores filled the air.
The trees closest to it, thrilled a warning. Legolas turned, a puzzled look in his eyes for there was nothing there but grass and trees and flowers. The trees' warning was too late for even as Legolas turned the deadly spores were being drawn into his body with every breath.
Aragorn, unaware of danger turned to his friend. "What is it?"
"The trees, they speak of danger."
"Danger?" with a questioning in his eyes Aragorn turned and both friends scanned the area around them. "I see nothing Legolas."
"Nor I." admitted the elf, he did not feel the presence of another. He felt no warning in his mind.
Aragorn, with hands on hips, took a deep breath, breathing in the spores that floated around them. He looked at Legolas who shrugged, "Trees do not lie mellon nin, even now they are shouting to us to flee."
"Then mayhap we should, I grow cold in this rain fall, dry clothes would be welcome."
"And some wine as well." Legolas rejoined with a laugh.
"Drunkard." Aragorn teased and they moved out of the shelter of the trees.
But the creature had done its job well. The rain stopped as abruptly as it began.
The two friends walked for a long time, but no closer came they to the main house of Rivendell. Aragorn stopped his breath a bit short. "Is it I Legolas or does this path seem over long to you?"
Legolas did not answer right away for he was not sure what caused the disquiet that had been growing in his mind. He stopped, gathering a handful of weed and dirt in one hand. He smelt it then tossed it to one side.
"We are no longer in Rivendell mellon nin." He said.
Aragorn gave him a piercing stare a frown upon his handsome brow.
"The earth has no smell; I hear not the birds that usually sing at this time of day. My feet have trod upon this spot many times as have yours yet we leave no sign."
Aragorn looked down at their feet. It was true. As a man his feet would have scuffed the dirt path but there was no trace of their passing either beyond or behind.
"Then where are we?"
"I know not."
They stood looking at their surroundings for what seemed an eternity.
"This makes no sense." Aragorn said, "This path leads to the house and nowhere else. We have been walking true, not straying left or right. The stables should be around that corner to the left."
Without another word he began to walk again, many minutes passed before he stopped. He turned around. Legolas was sitting on the path not too far behind him, his head resting on his knees.
"I have not moved, have I?"
"No mellon nin."
Aragorn took five steps back to Legolas' side.
"What did you see?"
"You took a few steps then you seemed to stop, the next time you moved was when you turned around."
Aragorn was shaken. He slipped to the ground beside his elven friend. "What is this?"
Legolas stared straight ahead. "Someone has cast a spell upon us my friend."
The sky had gone from hazy pink to dusky red to moonlit darkness. The lights of many lanterns bobbed here and there as the elves searched the grounds for the two who had set out since early morn and had as yet not returned.
Elrohir walked, bent almost double as he tracked his little brother's footsteps over the short green grass. Elladan did the same as he walked along the periphery of the wooded area that bordered the northern mountains. Their father's voice floated out to them from the night. "Do you see any tracks Elrohir?"
"Yes father, but it is many hours old."
"Same here ada, they were here and they seemed to have gone into the woodland." Elladan called. He stopped, dropping to his knees in the slight mud. The tracks led into the trees but did not come out again.
"Estel, Legolas?" he called.
He was not overly worried, but his father was. He had to agree it was unlike Estel to stay out this late without some word. Whenever Legolas was around the two would disappear for many hours, but Estel never missed the noon time meal. For that matter Legolas was quite partial to his father's wine which would grace the table at supper. It was unlikely they would have stayed away from both meals voluntarily. Mayhap they had gone upriver and had fallen asleep… unlikely.
He rose and walked along, holding the lantern high up to shed more light ahead of him. Even so he stumbled over something and fell into an awkward heap on the ground. The lantern rolled away. With a smothered sound he reached out for it and held the light low to the ground. His face paled and he let out a startled cry.
Elrond was running even before Elladan's voice had stilled. Elrohir got there first.
"Ai Estel." He cried.
Elrond pushed them none to gently out of the way. Estel was lying curled up on his side, face pale, barely breathing. Elrond's hands flew over his body searching for wounds as more lanterns shed light upon his face as the other elves gathered at the scene.
Elrond glanced up to see that Legolas had also been found. He was lying on his back mouth slightly open. His breath rattled in and out of his body.
Finding no wound on Estel, Elrond quickly checked inside his mouth and ears. Glorfindel had examined Legolas, "He is not wounded Elrond."
"Let us carry them back to the house, only then can I see to them properly."
The procession wound its way back to the main house, everyone was worried.
It became quite clear to the elf lord that Aragorn and Legolas did not suffer any grievous injury or from any discernible ailment. Yet they did not awaken. He had made them as comfortable as possible and their breathing had improved. They were now both propped on large pillows. Elladan hovered at Estel's side speaking words of encouragement to him.
At Legolas' side Elrond prepared a hollow wooden needle. He wanted a small amount of their blood to study.
"What do you think it is adar?" Elrohir asked, as his father deftly slid the needle into a vein in Legolas' arm. Blood flowed freely into a small vial Elrond held.
"I do not know, but I intend to find out." Elrond's dark grey eyes looked into his son's troubled ones. "Do not give up hope just yet Elrohir, I have not yet begun to fight."