A Beautiful Friendship
By Gwenneth

Rating: PG

Disclaimers: They are not mine I make no money from this.

Summary: One of my many takes on how Legolas and Aragorn could meet.
An odd hunting trap, spiders and wounds are an odd way of beginning
a friendship...But considering the circumstances, this was fated to
be an odd friendship anyway...

Aragorn had been traveling the southern borders of Mirkwood for a fair few weeks now and he was beginning to feel the burden of loneliness one felt when traveling alone. Try as he might, he could not shake the desire of companionship and he wished he had agreed to his brothers' offers to accompany him on this wandering.

"But no…I have to be manly and strike out on my own…" the man murmured to himself. Frankly, he could barely be considered a man. In his mid-twenties, Aragorn was young. He had never traveled this far from Imladris, nor had he ever traveled in such a dangerous land alone or with company.

Lord Elrond has warned him of the dangers of Mirkwood forest, but ever since the blonde-haired messenger from Mirkwood Palace had delivered a message to Rivendell, Aragorn had felt an itching desire to meet the elusive Wood-Elves that inhabited these fair woods.

The young man knew there were spiders, orcs and the likes traveling the far south regions of Mirkwood, where he was now, but he also knew that as he drew nearer to the area the Wood-Elves called home would be safer.

Unfortunately, he was not the best with directions yet, though he was an excellent tracker. Aragorn had somehow erred in his travels and ended up in the southern regions of Mirkwood, where Elrond had told him not to go.

He sighed.

Darkness was approaching and Aragorn had not yet found a suitable place to rest. He was weary from his travels, but would not settle for any old place. He dared not sleep on the ground, but he feared the spiders of the trees and was uncertain if he should sleep in the branches or take his chances on the ground.

His hand rested lightly on his sword and he glanced around. Something wasn't quite right here. Something was odd about the forest floor.

Then it hit him. Literally. A black, hairy being launched itself from the nearest tree, knocking Aragorn to the ground. He knew what it was, there was little doubt there. But he wasn't sure how to get it off himself.

He didn't have to think long. The spider shrieked in pain, shuddered and slumped bodily on him, crushing him beneath it's now-dead weight.

Aragorn realized he had not had time to draw a weapon, so he had not slain the spider. His heart quickened in his chest and he wondered if the being that had killed the spider would now end his own life.

The weight of the spider was soon gone. Someone had dragged it off the man and now Aragorn saw himself staring at the gleaming tip of a barbed arrow. His eyes cast upward toward the being holding the arrow notched to the bowstring.

Blonde hair cascaded over the shoulders of a green tunic. The sides were swept back in delicate braids and the pointed tips of the beings ears were completely visible.

His savior was an Elf.

"Thank you!" He breathed in relief. The Elf did not reply, nor did he lower the arrow. Aragorn frowned at that. Elrond had also warned him many Wood-Elves harbored ill will toward Men.

He tried a different tactic. "Hannon le, mellon."

This time, the Elf's eyes widened and his arrow wavered. "Man pennich?" he continued rapidly. "Pedich i lam edhellen?" (What did you say? Do you speak Elvish?)

Aragorn nodded. "Yes, do you speak Common?"

The Elf frowned. "Yes, but not often."

The Man nodded, eying the arrow. "Will you lower that? I mean you no harm."

Slowly, the Elf lowered the weapon. "Why are you here? From whence did you come?"

Aragorn sat up, wincing. The spider had hit him hard in the chest and the man knew he would have an almighty bruise in the morning.

"Perhaps introductions are in order?" Standing slowly, he bowed lightly to the Elf and said, "Estel i eneth nin." (My name is Estel.)

The blonde archer nodded and returned the bow. "Legolas, Thranduilion. Hope is your name?"

Aragorn faltered upon hearing his savior's name. He was speaking to the Prince of Mirkwood! "Uhm. Yes, one of my names, I go by many, depending on the day. Estel is the name I was given by my foster father."

Legolas shrugged. "If it is one of many, do you only choose to divulge it to me to gain my trust for it is an Elvish name and I am an Elf."

Aragorn frowned again. He hadn't meant it that way, he figured given Legolas his Elvish name would be proper. "I meant it in no such way. It is the name I go by more oft than not. I simply refrain from it in the company of uncouth men."

"So you keep the company of uncouth men?" The Elf countered, backing away from Aragorn, his arrow slowly returning to his bowstring.

The man shook his head. "You misconstrue my words, Legolas, Thranduilion. Often times I have not the pleasure of choosing my companions and it is those times I go by other names."

Still, his words did not appease the Elf. "These are the lands of the Wood-Elves. Leave them if you do not wish to die a most painful death. You are ill-equipped to fight spiders and I shall not be around to protect you the next time you fall prey to them."

He turned and in an instant, took to the trees and was gone from sight. Aragorn stamped his foot. "I finally meet a Wood-Elf and look what I do! Drive him off by telling him my name. I sure wish El and El had warned me just how touchy they were!"

Aragorn turned to survey his surroundings when he heard a loud zing and a pained cry; from the direction the Elf had taken!

Without hesitation, he plunged toward the sound, pushing his way through the bushes and brambles. The zing had sounded like an arrow and since the cry he had heard no other sound. It was odd to say the least.

He emerged through a particularly stubborn bush and the sight that met his eyes was something he never thought he would see. Five men were gathered around something lying on the ground.

A thick chain, attached to an odd-looking device that vaguely resembled a crossbow, was snaking across the ground into the midst of the men.

One took notice of Aragorn and turned to him. "Hey, you, get away from here. This is our catch, you've no claim to it."

"What does one hunt with such means?" Aragorn asked before he realized what he was doing.

The men, all now aware of the newcomer, turned away from their prize and in doing so revealed their prey.

Aragorn's heart leapt into his throught.

Legolas. It looked like he had been dragged from the tree by the chained device, which must have fired an arrow because there was an arrow, attached to the chain, protruding from the Elf's bloody midsection. The blonde's eyes were tightly clamped shut in pain, one man's hands were on the arrow, prepared to pull it out.

"Nice prize, huh?" The man with his hand on the Elf's wound said with a laugh. "We don't usually catch blonde ones. This one should fetch a high price."

Aragorn's blood boiled, but he had to handle this situation carefully. "How does this contraption work?" He asked, gesturing to the machine that had felled the Elf Prince.

The man stood up now and the five approached, happy to brag of their invention. "Well, we designed it especially for Elves, the blighters like to take to the trees and even if you shoot them, it's hard to get them down," the man said.

Another piped up. "So we decided to attach this chain to an arrow and use it to pull them down once they're hit."

The first smacked him. "I'm telling a story!" Turning to Aragorn the man continued. "A normal bow couldn't shoot the arrow, it was weighted down by the chain. So we put a metal wire in here, coiled real tight together, that if we compress it like this…" he demonstrated… "you get it to shoot real fast. Fast than an Elf can elude. It's worked like a charm really."

Aragorn's voice was low. "And what do you do with the Elves you catch?"

"Well," the man answered, shrugging. "Providing they live after the arrow is removed, we sell them to the highest bidder. Don't really care who, so long as we get paid."

Aragorn heard Legolas whimper in pain and shift on the ground. The movement drew the attention of the men and Aragorn took this opportunity to meter out his punishment.

Dragging his sword upward, he sliced into the spokesman first, killing him in one quick blow. Then, with lightning fast moves born of anger he mowed down the remaining four before they really knew what hit them.

Hurrying forward, he dropped to the ground beside the Elf, who had dragged himself backwards to lean against a tree, clutching his bloody abdomen and eying Aragorn with trepidation.

"Easy now," the man said, reaching forward. He stopped when the Elf shied away. "What…"

"You…I…don't like edans…" the Elf choked, a small trickle of blood escaping his lips as he spoke. His eyes betrayed the fear he was trying to hide.

"I do not know why you don't like humans, Legolas, but I am a healer, trained by my foster father and you need help," Aragorn said, reaching forward again.

Legolas, to his surprise, released his grip on the arrow and snatched hold of Aragorn's hand, holding it in a surprisingly strong grip. "How…can…trust you?"

The man smiled lightly. "You never asked who my foster father was."

Legolas didn't answer, simply stared at Aragorn in confusion. "I am Estel, as I said. Estel of Imladris, foster son of Lord Elrond."

For a moment, he thought the Elf had stopped breathing. "Elrond?" he whispered, and his body immediately began to relax. He released hold of Aragorn's hand and swallowed. "Promise?"

Nodding, Estel placed his hands on the Elf's leg and answered, "I promise, I am not lying. Let me help you."

Legolas nodded finally, shifting in pain against the tree. He glanced down at the arrow in his stomach and pressed his eyes shut. Then, he looked up at Aragorn.

But the man was not looking at him, he was focused solely on the wound in the Elf's midsection, berating himself for not having anything to knock the Elf out with before removing the weapon.

"Legolas?" he waited for the Elf to look up. "This is going to hurt, but I have to get this out of you to treat the wound."

The Elf didn't object, merely watched the man wearily. So, with a deep breath, Aragorn took hold of the arrow while kneeling on the Elf's legs to hold them down, and pulled.

The sharp cry and jerk were all that escaped the Elf as the arrow was wrested from his body. He slumped backward and tried to calm his shaky breathing.

Estel watched him closely as he pressed a folded edge of his cloak against the wound, applying a good amount of pressure despite the moan of pain it caused.

Legolas looked upward, peering into Estel's face. "Hannon le, Estel."

"Consider us even, Prince Legolas. You save my life, I save yours."

The Elf nodded wearily. Then, his head lolled to the side and he passed out. Estel cursed, most of his words coming out in dwarvish, and he glanced around.

He had no idea where he was, or even how close he was to the Wood-Elves. He had thought he was on the southern borders of Mirkwood and really hadn't expected to see any Elves out here. That was partly why meeting Legolas had been such a surprise. If he was on the outskirts, he wondered one, why Legolas was there, and two, how long it would take to get to the Mirkwood Palace to get Legolas proper treatment. Estel was a healer, but by no means was he accomplished enough to take care of this with no supplies, out in the wilderness.

He shook the Elf, hoping to rouse him, but to no avail. Sighing, he looked around him again, hoping for something, anything that would help them.

His eyes fell on a large sack that the hunters had been carrying with them. Leaving the Elf's side for a moment, he dragged the bag over. Placing his left hand on the wound and keeping pressure on it, he used his freed right hand to dig through the bag.

Food, water, blankets…the usual camping provisions. This was a goldmine for their current situation. He didn't see anything that the Elf was carrying, and he didn't have many supplies left himself. He had thought to have been in the Wood-Elves territory by now, not still out in the wilds.

Gently, Estel moved the cloak from the Elf's wound, frowning at the saturated liquid. A quick examination of the arrow found it to be barbed. "Damn!" Estel cursed. "And I caused more damage by pulling it out, I'll bet."

"You had to."

Estel jumped nearly a foot at that, bringing a wry grin from Legolas, who had regained consciousness just in time to hear Estel berate himself for the barbed arrow.

"Don't scare me like that!" Estel laughed. He gently extricated the surrounding Elvish tunic from the wound, fully revealing it to his healer's eye. "It could be worse." He muttered.

Legolas sucked in a breath when Estel prodded the wound. "Saes, avo!" (Please don't)

Estel frowned. "Sorry."

He carefully pulled Legolas away from the tree and went about removing the Elf's tunic. He could feel Legolas tensing up as he touched him and made a mental note to ask him just why he didn't like men. But right now, he had to bandage this wound or the Elf could bleed to death.

"I know you are not comfortable with me, Legolas. But if there was any other way I would gladly not do this to you."

Legolas nodded. "Iston." (I know.)

Estel quickly bandaged the wound and replaced Legolas' tunic, tearing away the bloody portion. He handed the Elf a blanket and smiled at the questioning look.

"I know you don't feel cold, but it is for your body's sake. It needs the warmth."

Legolas nodded and settled the blanket over himself, nestling into the comforting embrace of the warm fabric. It did feel rather good.

"You need not remain. I shall be fine to travel tomorrow, you may go if you must," the Elf finally said.

Estel quirked his head. The Prince had said go if you must. But he had not ordered him, nor asked him to leave. Perhaps he didn't hate men as much as Estel thought at first.

"Actually," he began, settling beside the small fire he had built, across from the wrapped up Elf. "I had come to Mirkwood to meet the Wood-Elves."

Legolas' head went up at that. "Why?"

"Well," Estel explained. "Even since I saw a messenger in Imladris, I had wanted to meet your people. The Noldor are noble, scholars…the wood-elves are an enigma. I've always held interest in them."

The Prince frowned. "I do not know that you would find welcome in my home, Estel. Even though you saved my life."

Estel nodded. "My father had told me as much, but I'm stubborn. I didn't listen. I told him I would wend my way into your hearts as I did his and the twins'."

Legolas' eyes clouded. "That will be harder than you fathom, Estel of Imladris." He would venture no more, not even an explanation as to why he was so suddenly cold to his savior.

"What did men do to your people that causes you to hate us so?" Estel whispered to the wind, not expecting an answer from the Elf.

"They killed my mother."

Estel looked up and saw the raw hatred in the Elf's eyes. Legolas looked at Estel. His eyes softened slightly. "It was long ago, but Elves have long memories. I do not forgive men lightly, nor do my people. They took her and they killed her and they had no reason. Do not think you have wended your way into my heart yet, Estel."

The man was still taken aback. He had not expected this. Why hadn't his father and brothers told him. "I did not know. I am sorry for your loss, Legolas. I shall leave at first light."

The Elf nodded, then looked away. But he didn't look finished. Something was bothering him. Something had been bothering him for many long years. He had hated men. He still hated men. Didn't he? So why did he feel drawn to Estel? Whom he had only known a few short hours?

Something was telling him to give this man a chance. To give the race of men a chance to redeem itself. But even though he might be feeling this, something warned him his father and many of the others were not.

"No. You needn't leave at first light. But I do not think you wish to travel all the way to my home."

Estel was silent. Legolas had just told him he hated men, maybe not in so many words, but it was obvious. So, why was he not trying to rid himself of Estel's presence immediately.

A small voice in his head chimed in. He does not wish to hate men forever. He wishes to put this behind him and learn to forgive. Never to forget, but at least to forgive.

"Then I shall stay with you as far as I am able, Legolas of Mirkwood. I harbor no ill will to the Elves of Mirkwood and hope that they will not harm me for bringing you home."

Legolas nodded, his mind worried at the thought of explaining to his father why he had allowed an edan within the borders of the palace.

Sighing, he tried to sleep. He was weary and in pain and it took surprisingly less time and effort than he thought to fall into the world of Elvish dreams.

PLEASE read and review! I tried to catch grammar mistakes but i miss some from time to time. I wrote this whole story already so if I forget to post feel free to yell at me! I have no excuse this time! There will be about 5 chapters.