AN: There is a nod here to a story I am currently working on, called Darkness Falling. It's okay to leave with questions, they will all be answered in due time. evil smirk

This story is written purely for entertainment purposes- no money is being made, no copyright infringement is intended.

The Darkness of Moria

Legolas Thranduilion could not sleep. It had been hours since the Fellowship had stopped to rest; Boromir had already taken his watch, and soon Aragorn would relieve Gimli. Legolas lay completely still, resisting the urge to fidget and thus betray his wakeful state to the dwarf on watch. The smooth rock beneath him was hard and as cold as ice, but his strong elven body was troubled less by the physical discomfort than his mind was by the darkness that encroached upon his vision. Without the light from Gandalf's staff, the Fellowship would have been blind in the inky darkness of Moria. As it was, the power of the wizard created a protective bubble of white light around the companions, beyond which little could be seen.

Legolas closed his eyes, as if to pretend the loss of vision was of his own creation. To his left he heard Gimli mutter to himself in his own tongue. A moment later, the heavy tread of dwarven feet moved past him to where Aragorn lay asleep. The corners of Legolas's mouth turned up in the ghost of a smile as it always did at the thought that the future king of men snored.

Legolas heard Aragorn stir and murmur to Gimli, and the dwarf's rough voice reply that all was still. His delicate ears caught the sounds of Aragorn's boots brushing against the stone as he pulled them on and stood, the rustle of fabric and click of metal as the ranger placed his cloak around his shoulders and fastened the clasp, the steady sounds of his footfalls as he made his way over to the rock upon which Gimli had been sitting. Sounds of heavy armor clanking and scraping as the dwarf prepared for sleep seemed to echo throughout the cavern, and Legolas winced inwardly as Gimli groaned and grumbled and finally lay down.

He waited until the sounds of the dwarf's heavy snores permeated the room in which they lay, and then rose silently to his feet. Aragorn was by the doorway, sitting with his back to the others and gazing out into the sable darkness beyond. Legolas shuddered slightly and went to stand behind him.

Aragorn did not hear the silent elf's approach, but he was not surprised to feel a long-fingered hand upon his shoulder. He had noticed the elf's closed eyes, and knew something was amiss with his friend.

"You should sleep, Legolas," he said, speaking softly in the elf's own tongue. "We will need your strength before all this is over."

"Do not fear for me," Legolas said stiffly, "I shall not hinder you."

Aragorn twisted so he could look up into Legolas's face.

"That is not what I meant," he chided gently. "And you know it. What troubles you, my friend?"

Legolas flopped inelegantly down beside the ranger and rested his chin in his hands.

"I despise this cave." His voice sounded petulant even to his own ears.

Aragorn snorted. "As do we all," he replied. "I think that even Gimli will be glad to leave it behind."

"Perhaps," Legolas murmured, sounding unconvinced. "I rather believe he should like to lead an army of his kinsfolk here in the hope of liberating Moria."

Aragorn frowned. "It would take a great number indeed,"

"That it would. But who am I to know the minds and hearts of dwarves?"

"Who indeed?" Aragorn murmured, glancing sideways at the elf. Legolas paid him no heed, drawing one knee up to his chest and wrapping his arms about it, his gaze never leaving the darkness before them. They sat in silence for several long moments, and the silvan elf found his eyes straining to pierce the dark curtain that hung around the Fellowship on all sides, just beyond the circle of light. Realizing what he was doing, he chided himself and felt the fool.

"We are making good time," he observed at last. "The resilience of the halflings surprises me. Gandalf was right about their strength."

Aragorn murmured an agreement. "We have also been fortunate to go unnoticed. If not for the bodies of the dwarves as evidence, I would say we were alone here."

Legolas shook his head. "Nay. Sometimes, when we are all quiet, I hear footsteps. And voices."

Aragorn looked alarmed. "Why did you not speak of this?"

"They are very far away," the elf murmured, listening even then to sounds that could not be detected by the ears of the man beside him. "I cannot tell from which direction they come, nor their number, for the echoes are confused and muddled." He was silent for a moment, then added. "But I would guess a great many, and the voices are angry."

"Is this what disturbs your rest?" Aragorn asked.

Legolas shook his head. "I do not fear them," he said. "Nor am I troubled by what I hear or see in Moria."

"What, then?"

Legolas hesitated. He was old and wise enough to know that bravery was not the absence of fear, yet young and proud enough to despise his weakness. Had it been anyone else beside him, Legolas would have brushed the question off, but he and Aragorn had been friends for many years, and he greatly trusted and respected the man. At last he spoke.

"If Mithrandir were to quench his light, I would not be able to see."

"Nor would the rest of us,' Aragorn replied, his voice puzzled.

"Even on the darkest night in Mirkwood, there is some light," Legolas continued, ignoring him, "be it the light of the palace torches, that of the stars on a moonless night, or a bit of silver moonlight sliding through the trees. Only once before, when I was very young, have I had to face darkness such as this."

Despite his concern, Aragorn felt himself smiling slightly. His friend was younger than any other elf Aragorn knew, yet he was many times the man's own age. Was Legolas Thranduilion, the great warrior of Mirkwood who daily fought the power of Sauron in his own home, afraid of the dark?

"When I was very little I used to be afraid there were monsters under my bed," Aragorn said, striving and failing to keep the amusement out of his voice. "But I outgrew that by the time I was six."

Legolas's furious glare told Aragorn that the elf did not appreciate the teasing. "I am not afraid of monsters, Estel," he retorted hotly, using Aragorn's elvish name. "I was raised fighting the evil of Dol Guldur."

"Then what are you afraid of?" Aragorn asked, still not understanding.

"I am not afraid!" Legolas snapped, then, seeing the genuine concern in his friend's eyes, he softened. "Yet the thought of being blind makes me… uncomfortable." He sighed. "It is difficult to explain to one who is not an elf."

"Try," Aragorn urged. "I am not an elf, but I have known them long. Perhaps I can understand."

Legolas was silent for a while, then at last he spoke.

"Long ago, when I was only a child of thirty, the Dark Lord, then in his guise as the Necromancer, tried to destroy my people by use of a flower which released a dark shadow into its victims' lungs. Those who came in contact with it suffered from blindness and a feeling of intense cold. You know we are not a weak race, but many could not face the darkness and faded before Lord Elrond could come to us with a cure."

"I was also afflicted by the plant," Legolas continued softly. "I was fortunate enough to be near Lord Elrond at the time, otherwise I believe I, too, would have succumbed to the dark."

Aragorn considered this. He had grown up the only man in a city of elves, and had often grown frustrated with injuries and sickness, acutely aware of his own weaknesses compared to the elves who were his family and closest friends. Over time, he had learned to accept these weaknesses and to compensate for them, something that all men must do at some time in their lives. Elves, however, had fewer weaknesses than men, and for the first time he thought that they might be less adept at accepting their failings.

It went a long way in explaining some elven attitudes that Aragorn had long had difficulty understanding, such as Elrond's bitternes of late, and his seeming loss of hope. Aragorn knew that his adopted father was angry at the fate facing his people, and wondered if perhaps it was also shame or guilt that troubled the elven lord's mind.

It also helped Aragorn to understand Legolas's father, a noble and proud king, but one who would have little to do with the world outside his kingdom. Aragorn knew King Thranduil did not like him, and the relations between Mirkwood and Imladris were often strained. Aragorn thought of the stories he had heard of the Battle of the Last Alliance, and of the great losses of Thranduil's people, and wondered.

Returning his mind back to the immediate problem, Aragorn turned back to Legolas and laid a hand on the elf's shoulder.

"Spare me elves and their foolish dignities," he quipped lightly. "Not being able to see when there is no light to see by is hardly a failing on your part, Legolas. Besides, what would you see? You have never shown much interest in dwarven stonework."

"Indeed," Legolas agreed. "I shall never understand why men and dwarves choose to shut themselves up in walls of rock."

Aragorn smirked. "Legolas, I've been to visit your home upon more than one occasion. You live in a cave."

"But it is not the same!" Legolas protested. "Our halls are open to the air and light, and living things are not shut out by heavy gates and barred windows, or no windows at all." He noticed the smile on Aragorn's lips and realized he was being teased. "Which you know full well," he added, an answering smile gracing his own features, "since you have been there 'upon more than one occasion.'"

Aragorn chuckled and squeezed the slender shoulder under his hand.

"Get some rest, my friend," he said. "Your watch is next, and we don't want you falling asleep on your feet tomorrow."

Legolas swatted his hand away. "I will still outmarch you, son of Arathorn, regardless of how much I sleep this night."

Aragorn scowled as Legolas rose and moved back toward the others.

"Do not fear, Legolas," the ranger murmured at the retreating back. "Your keen ears will tell us of danger long before it arrives. It is no weakness on your part if your eyes cannot pierce the darkness."

"Thank you, my friend," Legolas replied, the tone of his voice telling the ranger he was smiling. "You are very wise."

"Perhaps in a few things," the ranger replied, glad that he could comfort his friend. "But I am only a man, not elven wise."

Legolas shrugged, still with his back to Aragorn. "Much wisdom can be found in the minds of the elves," he agreed. "But when one has forever to live and to learn, one may well take forever. Perhaps the wisdom of men is gleaned more quickly."

With those words he returned to his spot on the floor and lay down, folded his hands over his breast and turned his head slightly so that his eyes could find the other sleeping members of the company, watching over them even as he dreamed.

Aragorn was left smiling into the darkness.

i methen