This story takes place sometime when Aragorn was in Gondor under the alias Thorongil. That means it is about twenty years ahead of our last fic. A big leap we know but the next story will take place directly after 'The Folly of Men'. Sorry guys.

You do not have to of read all the others in order to get what we are talking about in this one. Though there will be a few references off and on. But they will be explained for the most part. No worries!

Of course this is a non-slash and smut free piece of work. We only write about friendship, camaraderie, brotherly love and the natural love between parents and their children.

Happy reading. We look forward to hearing from you and reading your reviews...hint…hint…review please!

Title: Masquerade

Authors: Celebdil-Galad and Tinlaure

Summary:

Captured as prisoners of war by the Haradrim, Legolas and Aragorn are tortured ruthlessly at the hands of their host. If things go as planned there will be no dawn for either Elf or ranger, but first one must break.

Though more than their lives and spirits are at stake, an ancient alliance and bond could be shattered and all Middle Earth could be condemned. The fates of many, rest squarely on the shoulders of Legolas and Aragorn, will they give under the pressure?

Rated: PG-13

: DISCLAIMER :

We do not own anything of Tolkein's Lord of the Rings Trilogy or any other works by he or his family. We wish we could write like that though.

Please enjoy and review! Reviews are always good-Smiles- Thanks!

Part I

0o0: 0o0 "Masquerade" 0o0: 0o0

CHAPTER ONE

As the Seasons Change

The night was dark, very dark, not to mention bleak. The description just wouldn't be accurate without the word 'bleak'. A storm threatened to break in horrible wrath any moment and Aragorn looked grimly at his blonde companion. "So how far ahead are they my friend?" he inquired as to the position of the Haradrim enemy that all knew were lying in wait for them at some point.

Legolas Greenleaf smiled thinly and leaning close to the ranger, whose hood was drawn about his face, whispered his reply. "Well, Thorongil, they lie just over in the ledges of the dried up creek bed and deep in the foliage. They are strong, we are never going to make it past them." The Elf's voice was indisposed and he looked past the hood into his friend's eyes with a look of intense worry.

"Double-cloaked Elf," sneered a man near Aragorn's left; his second lieutenant. "With all due respect sir, how do we know we can trust him?" asked the man as he stared the scowling blonde being down.

Legolas gave the man who was questioning his honesty and honor an I-am-a-Elf-prince-and-you-doubt-my-word look. His narrow blue eyes spoke of irritation and discontent. Aragorn was not going to stand idly by and let this slur against his friend stand. "And with all due respect to you, officer, you question more than the Prince Legolas when you ask if he is trustable, you question my choice of friends and allies."

The man glared at his junior officer and the other man didn't seem to be put off. "Sir, I never meant to question your abilities, but every attack we have had ourselves in the midst of was known to him before the rest of us."

"Are you going to continue to question my sincerity, sir?" asked the disguised ranger tersely with a knitted brow and darkened gray eyes.

"I suppose I had better not, Captain," concluded the other man as he gazed into the deepening darkness, avoiding Aragorn's piercing gaze and the sharp and annoyed glare of the offended Elf.

Legolas turned his attention back to Aragorn serenely, but he kept half of his hearing turned back towards the men who he did not doubt would like nothing better than to kill him and call it an accident. He wasn't about to become some tragic victim of their fears, but he wasn't about to strive fruitlessly against them. He could never win and resistance would only make there opinion of him worse.

Aragorn knew what Legolas was thinking and he gently placed a hand on Legolas' shoulder and guided the Elf in the front, before him. Putting himself between his friend's back and the ones whom would like to stab it. He whispered dispiritedly, "Is there any alternative at all, Legolas?"

"None that would be less risky than the attack itself," came the forbidding response. As Legolas watched the trees and foliage sway in the wind of the upcoming storm he let loose a small and inaudible sigh. He felt the trees distress but he also felt their hostile nature towards him and his friends. In the distance, lightening flickered and sent tendrils of blazing volts across the darkened sky. "Remind me again why we came down South to fight Haradrim?" he said as he calculated the throbbing air and rumbling thunder with his scrupulous hearing.

Aragorn looked at the Elf's stony face and anxious eyes. "I don't know about you, but I came down because they were a threat to Gondor and as a ranger that happens to be one of my jobs...protecting Gondor that is."

Legolas smiled dilutely and gave the ranger a somewhat dubious look. "And I vaguely recall your brothers saying that you wouldn't stay down here more than a few days before you came crawling back. Bets are dangerous things you know," he whispered in a tone that was filled with as much laughter as his fluctuating looking eyes as the friends crouched down now with the men in the brush, waiting for the Haradrim to launch their attack.

"And I remember someone else who's father told him that he needed to settle down and get married and if I recall that same someone disappeared that very night and trailed me everywhere until I consented to having him as a companion," teased the young human lightly. Making fun of his Elven companion was rejuvenating if it was nothing else and he was sure that Legolas had about the same opinion regardless of the fact that he was the center of the jests.

Legolas sniffed in mock contempt, "you exaggerate ranger. He said nothing about getting married." Aragorn just smiled in the dark.

The men laughed and snickered quietly behind the Elf and ranger. Even though they didn't trust the Elf as far as they could shoot him, they did enjoy the teasing between the two friends that brightened the darkest moments and made the prospect of dying a little easier to bear. They carefully prepared to draw their weapons and the archers readied their bows.

Lightning flashed and in the faint light that lasted only a brief moment, Legolas and Aragorn smiled at one another and the Elf grabbed his bow from its place over his shoulder and grabbed a random arrow from the quiver on his back. Aragorn gripped the hilt of his sword tightly.

The enemy was near, they could feel it in the growing tense air that seemed to throb in their ears precariously. The trap was about to spring and it was growing rigid in preparation for the pounce, like a cat playing with a mouse. The thought did nothing to help the blonde Elf's mood as he ran his hand along the feathers on his arrow shaft. He did not like getting played around with under any circumstances and the thought that a regiment of Haradrim warriors had managed thrice to catch them in a snare was disturbing.

Legolas knew that the blame for this attack had been squarely placed on his shoulders by the men and he had no doubt that if a few of them lived they would find a way to make sure he did not. But, he mused angrily, how was it his fault that he always knew the attack before them? He was a scout, what in the name of great Manwë had they expected him to do? Rolling his eyes inwardly with disgust at the men's' ungrateful attitudes, Legolas knew it was because he was an Elf. If a man had been the scout and placed himself in that kind of danger then he would have been congratulated and believed without the slightest hesitation. But because he was an Elf they didn't care what dangers he was placed in and the Elven prince knew with a stab of what could be called slight heartache, that despite all his labors for their well being they would rather that he never came back. Legolas felt a bitter anger rising as he realized what he had thought for a long time was true; they would rejoice to see an arrow embedded in his heart.

The wind blew stronger and as Legolas listened beside Aragorn he heard a series of war cries, like wolves on a hunt, arise in the air and suddenly something whistled past his ear and a javelin hit the dirt by his foot. He crouched lower in surprise and slight fear, and heard everyone else doing the same. Well at least he wasn't alone, thought the Elf candidly.

But no more shafts came and Aragorn whispered grimly, "they are taunting us. But the attack will not be put off long." A huge shadow loomed not more than a couple hundred yards off and lightening revealed it to be what Legolas already knew as an oliphaunt.

Its bulk was painted in bright paint. As the thunder rumbled Legolas looked back at Aragorn and whispered, "they are close enough to launch their attack."

The ranger murmured, "I know. Stay down, Legolas. Be careful." The last thing he wanted was one of those thick-shafted javelins in his friend's back or head. He looked back at the men he was leading and whispered, "steady. Perhaps we can surprise them if you keep calm." The proposition was more of a command than a conferral.

The men looked stony faced at one another and shifted quietly in the bracken and shrubs.

A small drop hit Legolas on the nose and he thought, wonderful, the storm is moving in. This is going to make fun combat weather. He sighed under his breath and watched as figures ahead moved soundlessly through the brush and positioned themselves all around the surrounded contingent.

Legolas suddenly shouted, "look out! "As he heard the bows of the enemy drawn back and then released. Bolts thudded against trees, stone, dirt and bodies. A few cries came from those wounded, those dead had been slain silently.

Then the battle began.

Legolas and Aragorn fought side by side as best they could, watching one another's back.

Everything was chaos, between claps of thunder, the cries of men dying and bleeding, oliphaunts crying in agony as arrows found their marks in the large creatures' hides.

In the lightning Legolas saw a man aiming his spear for Aragorn, who was preoccupied with another in intense combat. Drawing the bolt of his bow back so the feathers were along his cheek, Legolas shot the enemy's man dead quicker than sight.

He had hardly time to notch another arrow before he found himself assailed by a number of foes that came out of nowhere. As he looked around he found himself lost in a sea of enemy faces and immediately back stepping in pure instinct, he suddenly felt his boot go against nothing. Air. He was trapped on the edge of the cliff that overlooked the dried up creek bed.

Aragorn spun around as he struck out with his long sword and seeing his friend assailed by foes on all sides, the man gave a cry of trepidation and dismay. Taking his attention away from his own enemies trying to kill him, he ran towards Legolas, who was firing off arrows as quickly as possible, but his quiver was running out and his enemies were pressing in closer. Legolas realized with alarm that they were not trying to kill him, they were trying to capture him.

The ranger stumbled in weariness and abruptly felt a sting as something bit into his shoulder, no, his collarbone. He felt it rip through the muscle of his chest and crack through the bone in a violent assail on a path to his heart. He then hearing a strangled cry he had hardly realized he had given, the young ranger looked up to see Legolas staring straight at him with a contorted face of horror and rage even as the Elf ducked a blow intended to render him unconscious.

He must be hurt badly, or else Legolas would never look at him thus. Aragorn knew it and he looked to see thick-shafted javelin in his chest, just beneath the collarbone, dangerously close to his heart.

Aragorn felt hot blood run over his tunic and he gasped in horrible pain. It was shockingly hard to breathe. He felt as though he had a weight upon his chest, pressing down relentlessly and biting him fiercely.

He saw Legolas struggle to get to him and he saw the Elf notch his last arrow and looking where the fair being was aiming, he saw a Haradrim warrior just above him, ready to drive a scimitar into his skull.

But dazed, Aragorn told his muscles to move and they didn't respond.

Looking up he saw a green and white-feathered shaft sing through the air just as a blinding streak of lightning lit up the sky about them.

But Aragorn could feel the heat of the lightening, blinding, searing, and sending tendrils of volts of current through his body. But when he looked up all he saw was a bunch of dead Haradrim and Legolas, being hurled backwards and over the brink of the ledge and into the dried up creek bed below.

Aragorn felt huge ran drops begin to splash all around him and finding his legs, he ran stumbling to the edge of the cliff and fell to his knees as he looked over the edge and saw a pale and forlorn Legolas lying below.

The Elf's body was at a strange and twisted angle on the rocks beneath, so it made Aragorn think that his friend had broken his back. He felt a pang run through is heart and he could not tell if it was because of the javelin in his breast or because his heart had just shattered at the sight of his mutilated friend. He saw the Elf's lips moving faintly and then his chest rise and fall, and then after a violent shiver, the convulsing form of the blonde Elf lay completely still.

If Aragorn had had a difficult time breathing before, he found it impossible now. As hard as it was for him believe it, Legolas had been thrown by the lightning into the gaping pit below, his body smashing against the rocks. His mind was going through enough torture seeing his contingent annihilated but now that he saw his dearest friend lying mangled below he felt like his chest had been ripped into shreds and he knew it came from more than the wound be bore. As Aragorn gazed groggily down into the pit his mind reeled, taking in all the gore and bodies that were beginning to float in the rising water. The creek bed had become a mass grave.

It was more than the ranger could bear. The men he had been entrusted with and who had trusted him back were dead or captured. It was a heart-wrenching failure, one he wasn't sure he could endure. He knew now how Gil-Galad and other wise beings, like his foster father, must have felt after seeing their troops slain in battle and mercilessly tramped upon by the cruel feet of the enemy as though they were being ground into useless and unrespectable dust.

The rain became heavier, as if all heaven cried for his lost friend. Thunder rumbled loudly and lightening strapped across the sky in bright purple and white flares casting light on all the pale faces coated in blood.

Aragorn didn't even bother to remove the barbed spear from his chest and he just leaned forward, not caring if it was pressed deeper into his flesh. His wavy dark hair hung limply with perspiration and rainwater as he hung his head in despair and horrible, twisted agony. His eyes were fixed unmovable on Legolas' helpless and wrecked form, the Elf's hair thrown over one side of his face and plastered to it by the rain.

Legolas blinked in numb awe as he gazed up at the sky and watched the rainfall upon his pale face as he began to come free of his shock that still held a slight grip over his boggled mind. It felt good just to lay still and breathe again. He watched the sky intently, with all its strange and wondrous tendrils of purple and white and the darkness of the blackened world beyond while crystal rain beat upon him.

It was cold enough in the desert at night. The temperature often dropped to single digit number or below. He shivered as he felt his clothes getting soaked to the bone and the bone seemed to be pierced to the marrow. The rocks of the sandy and hard bottom bit into his cold skin like jagged knives and he tried to move, but he found that it was impossible. That alone was enough to send new stab of fear throughout his awareness.

Looking inquisitively up at the edge of the cliff where he guessed he had fallen from, he saw Aragorn hanging over the brim of the precipice, bent over in agony or grief, Legolas could not tell and he closed his eyes in passionate and physical pain. He wondered if he had broken something and thought it would be a miracle if he hadn't.

He shuddered and then looked up again and as if Aragorn had known Legolas had opened his eyes, the man lifted his head and saw the wide blue orbs staring up into his own gray ones, wondering if he were alright. Legolas' face was still pale and he lay in a contorted form nevertheless, unmoving but his eyes spoke volumes about his thoughts.

After the ordeal Legolas had just gone through, Aragorn was touched to know his best friend was seeing if he was well first. When the Elf's sharp eyes caught the scarlet water running from the man's tunic he knew Aragorn was wounded and he cried up towards the ranger in a horror filled cry, "Thorongil!"

But it was then Legolas realized he could not hear, or at least, not like he used to. Everything was muffled and sounded so far away, even his own voice. He felt cold fear clutch at his stomach in a tight and frigid knot that threatened to grow and break through.

Everything had seemed unreal to begin with, now it was totally surreal and Legolas found himself floating in the juxtaposition of two worlds; fantasy and reality. He felt like he was dying and yet he felt nothing at all and seemed to be watching time drag by in slow motion. Why was it the painful moments seemed to last forever and the joyous faded so fast?

Legolas did not know and he determined rather quickly now was not the time to wonder.

He swallowed hard and saw Aragorn looking at him with dropped jaw and saying something, but he could not hear it. He was going deaf or slowly dying, he couldn't differentiate. The Elf did not even remember what had happened exactly, but he knew he had fallen and he knew he had felt a terrific jolt go through him, running around in his insides and feeling like it as unwinding him through and through.

"Thorongil!" he cried up to Aragorn as the man suddenly found himself surrounded by the enemy. The Elf's cry was desperate and overwhelmed and it delved into the ranger's heart as he realized his friend needed him and he couldn't be there. But he had no time for further thought about Legolas, his men or the rising rain water…anything. All his thought now went to the enemy that surrounded him in a tight, merciless mass.

The precipitation was coming in buckets and Legolas felt the flowing water rising about him, cold and tickling. The ground had been so hard form lack of rain that in this rainy season flash floods were not uncommon.

As the torrential rains spilled around him, Legolas watched in a haze as his best friend was set in bonds and lead away to only the Valar knew where. This didn't make Legolas despair, at least, not in the initial thoughts and reactions. His initial thoughts were intense wrath and a longing to deliver death to every last one of those cursed Haradrim men and personally scalp their leader. But seeing as how that was not possible, he began to retreat into an abyss of guilt and mourning that he felt was well earned on his part.

If only he had been quick enough, if only he had been there when Aragorn needed him most. Cursing himself inwardly in every tongue he knew and even considering for a brief moment making up a few of his own, the Elf-prince felt hot tears burn his eyes despite the cold rain and biting winds. He wanted to scream, but that would do no good.

Aragorn struggled as many warriors of the Haradrim pressed him down and made him completely immobile; he was all but suffocating. But his wound did not allow him to grapple much anyway. He kicked with his feet as the faint and fleeting opportunity arouse but as he did, the javelin was yanked out with a distinguished twist followed by a sickening popping sound and the ranger lurched forward accompanied by a cry before he was slammed into the ground harshly by his subjugators.

His face was smeared into the mud and grime and when that didn't put an end to his fighting a hand came and tangled itself in his dark and wet hair before using it as a painful handle to slam his skull into the ground. Stars danced before Aragorn's eyes and he struggled very little now as he was pulled up to his knees and his arms yanked behind him, and then twisted brutally for good measure before being tightly bound and rebound with thick hemp. A man, with dark eyes and a muscular build stood before him, spear in hand.

He was tall too, as far as Haradrim went and the way he carried himself lead the captive to believe that he was one of distinguished rank among the Southron Men. War paint of a bright red color was about his face and drawn in extravagant designs. He had earrings of gold and a nose ring with a red stone set in it.

His right hand tightly clenched a sword and Aragorn noticed absentmindedly that he had many rings upon it, including a seal of the Haradrim. He was a prince among them then or someone close to the King in one way or another.

"Greetings, Ranger," he said haltingly, Westron spoken by the rangers was not his first language and he wanted Aragorn to hear every word he said. This was not exactly a comforting thought, but Aragorn was too groggy at the moment to really try and discern the man's dark purpose. All he knew was that he was wet, miserable, weary, and first and foremost, utterly furious.

"For so I hold you," the Harad man went on slowly. "None would fight half so well and," he sneered suddenly, "and my intelligence reports you are close to the Elf-spy." He tapped his fingers on his sword hilt rhythmically as though he was calculating what to say next. The annoying sound got on Aragorn's nerves and made him feel even more uncomfortable than he was.

Aragorn twisted in his bonds and strong hands gripping his bound arms so tightly bruises were left, held him firmly in place. He glared up at the man with degenerate and uncaring eyes that still sparked a fierce defiance in their own way.

"Where is the Elf? He wouldn't die so easily." said the man as he watched the mute ranger with amused eyes that glittered in a flash of lightning. The Haradrim man then drove his boot into Aragorn's stomach, causing more hot blood to suddenly burst out of his collarbone wound. "Where is the Elf?"

The captor's attention was momentarily distracted as he watched other prisoners get rounded up at spear point. It was enough time for the hostage ranger to grit his teeth in agony and he doubled into himself against the hands holding him.

The Haradrim mortal narrowed his eyes and said in a commanding voice, "have you nothing to say?"

"Not for your ears, Slave of Sauron," spat the ranger back with difficulty. He was certain that the words 'Slave of Sauron' were not necessary to answer to stupid question (in his opinion), but in his usual manner, he had to infuriate his captors to madness. Of course he didn't do that on purpose, but he never could really stop himself either. Elrond was convinced that this was something the twins had taught him, the young Dúnadan recalled gloomily.

The rain, tumbling down still in buckets, provided little help for the interrogation of the prisoner. And when the Haradrim warrior thought about it more, it provided no help. He glanced at the captain to his left and nodded, "We are moving out. I can't imagine even an Elf surviving out in this."

TBC…well now, that is sort of a cliffie. -Contented sigh- they already found trouble. Well too bad for them. However, our darker sides are satisfied. Please review. We love to hear from you and as this is the first chapter they are especially important.