Disclaimer: I made an attempt to claim ownership of a certain elf and a certain ranger. I was promptly kicked to the curb. No money came my way, either. :o(
Summary: Aragorn joins forces with a mysterious stranger, who is tracking a rogue elf he says is possessed by an ancient evil. The elf turns out to be Legolas. Can Aragorn destroy the evil without killing his friend? Or will Legolas kill him first?
A/N: Greetings. I'm going to get this part over with first: This story is AU and involves character death. Anyone not liking this kind of stuff, can drop off now, no hard feelings, although I would love to have all of you stay with me. I've read a number of great AU/CD stories, so I hope this one measures up.
I welcome those of you who have been with me for my other stories. I also welcome those of you who are new to my work. I should tell all of you, who know me, that my evil plot bunny is still around, and he's grinning from ear to ear and rubbing his paws together over this story. Consider yourselves warned.
This first chapter is the combination of a prologue and a short chapter. The prologue by itself would have been much too short, and those of you who know me know I like to give my readers a good dose of story each time I post.
So hang on. Here we go.
by White Wolf
The seven robed and hooded figures stood in a circle in the glow of the torchlight that surrounded them. There was no moon and no stars on this overcast night. The world, to these beings, did not exist beyond their own vision.
With arms raised toward the heavens, their chants were carried on a strong wind that lifted the corners of their hoods, teasing but failing to reveal the faces within. Anyone who might have been able to see the shadowed faces would have seen that these creatures possessed pure madness beyond understanding.
In the center of the circle stood a smooth stone alter no more than three feet high and perhaps two feet across. On it sat a black obsidian rock. It was slightly oval in shape and barely a foot in height and perhaps half that in circumference. The flat-sided crystals that encrusted it reflected the torchlight, making a thousand tiny fires dance upon its surface.
The eyes of the leader of the group burned with an inner fire that rose from a soul as black as the robe he wore. His chant, which rose above the voices of his followers, called upon an evil so ancient, no one, not even these beings, knew its age or its origin. Neither did they know how the evil had come to be imprisoned in the rock before them. All they knew was that whoever could pierce the rock would possess the power of the evil within it.
Many had greedily tried to gain that power, but all had failed. The rock could not be shattered, split or broken in any way. It had to be pierced with a sharp metal blade. That secret had been discovered and fiercely guarded by the black-robed leader. He, and he alone, would finally claim the evil's incredible power for himself, and he had chosen this dark night to perform the ritual of release and begin his life as the immortal purveyor of evil's future world order. First Melkor and then Sauron would be his spiritual children.
So complete had been his hold over his followers that none had ever dared challenge his right to claim the power. However, they would not go empty-handed, for they believed that, as his servants, they would bask in the radiance of the power, being protected by it and rejoicing in the reflection it provided.
The leader, his heart pounding at the thought that he was about to possess such incredible power, held a long slender dagger in both hands high above his head. His eyes glowed within the hood. Now was the time he had been destined for.
Just as the blade began its descent toward the black rock, a red feathered arrow pierced the leader's back. Shock momentarily replaced the fire of madness, and then the light went out of his eyes.
After a moment frozen in time, the dagger fell from the being's lifeless fingers, and his body crumpled to the ground beside the alter.
The other hooded figures began to scatter, screaming in terror. None got more than a few feet away, as each was caught by an arrow and died as their leader had.
The one, who had killed these black-robed figures, moved out of the shadows into the torchlight. He was tall, robed in midnight blue and also hooded. He stepped over the leader's body and gazed down at the black obsidian. He felt the evil inside it pulling at him. He reached for his knife, knowing that all he had to do was pierce the black core with his blade, and untold power would be his. He gripped the knife lightly and began to pull it free of its sheath but then hesitated, never completing the move.
Resisting the seductive call of the ancient evil was the hardest thing he had ever done, But he succeeded, because he knew something no one else had known: The evil would not be possessed. It would do the possessing, and he did not wish to surrender his soul to such slavery.
The being picked the rock up, turning his head away as he felt the power vibrating beneath his fingers. He dare not look upon it while he held it nor could he hold it for long. He could not take the chance that its power would overwhelm his resolve.
Since the rock itself could not be destroyed, it had to be sent far away from any habitation so the evil could never be released to someday seek an innocent soul to use for its own ends. So it was with a chant of his own, drowning out the evil's call, that the blue-robed being flung the rock as hard as he could into the dark night.
With a screaming hiss, the obsidian sailed high into the heavens, streaking to the far north, where hopefully it would be buried in the earth and never found.
The rock continued on its journey until it finally crashed to the ground among the saplings of a young forest in a land that would one day become a realm belonging to the first of Ilúvatar's children: The elves. A small crater was dug deep into the soft loam by the impact, and the rock rested t its bottom.
Over many millennia the forest grew, burying the black rock ever deeper, as the earth built up over it. But as time continued to turn, and the earth, eroded by weather and the twisting of tree roots, the rock began its rise toward the surface of the now ancient forest.
By the latter years of the Third Age of Arda, as time was determined in Middle-earth, the rock rested just under the surface of the forest floor at the base of a large sheltering tree. The evil within the rock sensed its time would soon come. It waited eagerly to be set free to roam the land in the heart of the one who would release it, killing or corrupting all it encountered.
Legolas and three of his elven friends, all warriors of Mirkwood, moved on foot swiftly through the forest. They had been returning to King Thranduil's mountain stronghold after scouting near the western edge of Mirkwood.
They were intending to report to the king that they had found nothing amiss, when Galáril, oldest and most experienced of the group, had come to a sudden stop and held his hand up to halt his younger companions. He dropped down to examine the ground, and Legolas crouched down beside him. The tracks they found themselves staring at were decidedly orcish in nature.
"Orcs," Galáril spat disgustedly.
Arondo and Coron, the other two elves, quickly intensified their attention. They stood on either side of Galáril and Legolas, keeping their keen senses trained on their surroundings. All four had been carrying their bows in their left hands, and now the two standing warriors put arrows onto their bowstrings, ready to draw and fire in an instant.
Legolas ran his fingers lightly over the churned up earth and frowned, angry at the damage he saw. This area had relatively soft ground, and the heavy-footed orcs had trampled the grass, tearing free large chunks of it.
Galáril, a scout with many centuries of experience, soon deciphered the tracks. "There is probably around ten of them, a dozen at the most," he remarked.
"It is most likely a scouting party," Legolas said, adding his own thoughts on what they were seeing. "That does not bode well." It meant that there was a much larger band of orcs somewhere right outside Mirkwood's western border, waiting to find out if it was prudent for them to attempt an attack against the elves inside the woodland realm.
Finding and killing a scouting party, even one that outnumbered them three to one, was no problem in the elves' minds. They had done it more times than they could count in their lives as warriors. They knew, however, that four elves, no matter how skilled or determined, could defeat a large band of orcs.
A normal patrol of the realm consisted of at least twenty warriors, but often much smaller groups, consisting of four or five warriors, were sent out on special scouting missions. It was their responsibility to cover various parts of the forest, while the regular patrols for those areas were elsewhere in their territories. These four elves were one of those special scouting parties.
The distance the orcs had traveled in Mirkwood was not really far, considering the size of the forest as a whole, but having them set foot inside the realm this far north, and this close to the palace, was unacceptable.
Coron, though older than Legolas by several years, was still far less experienced as a warrior, not having begun his training until after he came of age. The young novices he had trained with had often good naturedly teased him about it.
He was aware that the more questions he asked, the more he was likely to learn. "How did they get this far without being spotted?" His tone reflected his bewilderment.
"They must have made their way in while the western patrol was busy elsewhere," Galáril replied, knowing that there had been reports of several large colonies of spiders in the vicinity to draw the patrol's attention.
Still, Galáril was none too happy about these orcs entering Mirkwood unnoticed. He wondered if perhaps there were several bands of orcs running around to deliberately cause the warriors to miss some of them, knowing the elves couldn't find them all.
"That is why we are here," Legolas remarked, interrupting Galáril's thought. "We take up the slack, when our regular patrols have their hands full." The prince did not want to admit out loud that the warriors of Mirkwood were spread much too thin, though that was a consensus opinion and hardly a secret to anyone.
Legolas, like Galáril, was not happy. His father would not take this news well. The Shadow and its minions were increasing. Unfortunately, they seemed to be growing faster than Mirkwood could turn out warriors to combat them.
The little group was determined to stop these orcs before they could gather any important information and escape back to tell the main body of orcs what they had learned. Finding out that the scouts had penetrated the forest without being discovered would only encourage them to attack.
It didn't take long for Galáril to rise to his feet, his lips in a straight line of grim determination.
Legolas, who had risen when Galáril did, thought of his older brother, who was the captain of the warriors patrolling the most dangerous southern reaches of the realm. That patrol was battling one enemy or another almost daily. He hoped Quenon was well. "Let us put an end to the threat these foul creatures pose to our home."
Galáril nodded in total agreement. "Good. My thought exactly." He was old enough and had been a warrior long enough not to become overly excited even at the thought of killing a hated enemy, but he could not deny that his heart still pounded a little faster at the prospect.
With no more time wasted in talking, the four wood-elves began moving at a steady jog in the direction of the palace, knowing full well they would find and engage the enemy long before they reached it.
It took less than half an hour for the four warriors to locate the orc scouting party.
Crossing a small rise, the elves first heard and then saw the orcs jogging along in a line three abreast. At first glance, they looked like they were just out for a nice, casual run in the forest. A closer look revealed they were constantly scrutinizing their surroundings, clearly on the lookout for something, in this case one of the elven patrols that dotted Mirkwood's territory.
Seeing these hideous spawns of evil always turned Legolas's stomach. Seeing them moving through his home like they owned it made him furious. But as usual, he quickly put that emotion aside, training all of his senses and his thoughts on the enemy and the task that lay ahead.
In a flash, all four warriors were in the trees, so they could sneak up on the creatures without the risk of being spotted by chance.
When it became apparent that the orcs were not going to veer away from their chosen path, the elves ran ahead of them and arranged themselves so that the orcs would run under and between the four of them.
In mere moments, four of the scouting party lay dead with elven arrows embedded in their throats or chests. The remaining orcs began yelling and scrambling around in disarray. It was this chaos that saved them, for the moment at least, because even the swift-firing elves could not keep their targets in their sights through the thick branches long enough to loose accurate arrows. And since they were not willing to just fire blindly, hoping to hit one of the creatures, they soon had no choice but to drop to the ground and continue fighting there.
By the time the elves landed on the soft earth, their bows had been returned to their backs. Galáril, Arondo and Coron had their swords held out in front of them, ready to face the enemy.
Legolas, though good with a sword, preferred to fight hand to hand with his twin long knives. They were an extension of his hands so completely that whatever thought he had in mind to do, they carried out flawlessly. His moves were so fluid, it was as if he was performing a graceful dance-a very deadly one.
The four elven warriors had quickly broken into two pairs. The older Galáril and the relatively inexperienced Coron stood back to back, while Legolas and Arondo did the same.
The orc leader had finally taken control, and the remaining orcs were now organized and eager to kill these disgustingly fair creatures, who had already killed several of their number. They yelled and charged in from all directions, aiming to decapitate these silvan enemies.
The elves waited for contact.
There you have the beginning. I hope all of you reading this are interested enough to stick around and read more. Let me know what you think. Opinions are always appreciated. And for new readers, I welcome constructive criticism.
There is no beta, so let me know if I have made any glaring mistakes. Just remember that this is AU.