Title: The Road Goes On and On
Rating: PG (just to be cautious)
Summary: Complete. Aragorn and Legolas in a small and dark place. A combination of characters and events which is sure to lead to an adventure or two. This is a non-slash tale of friendship.
Disclaimer: I do not own Lord of the Rings nor am I making any profit from this story. Any similarities to other fan fiction are purely coincidental.
A/N: This was originally written for the January TEITHO challenge, that's right January. What can I say, I've been busy. Anyway the theme was Friends in Small Places and this was one of my ideas. This story may be considered slightly AU to some as I have joined the ranks of writers who hold to a belief that Aragorn and Legolas were friends before the Fellowship and had many adventures together. In addition I do allude to a love between to the elf and ranger but this is a non-slash work of fiction so the love is nothing more than brotherly love. Thank you for your time and I look forward to reading your reviews.
The words marked with an have a translation or explanation following the story.
The Road Goes On and On
In the deepest darkest recesses of the Minas Tirith citadel two figures were going from room to room following the light of a single small torch. "Tell me again mellon nín, why are we down here?" The price of Mirkwood asked as he brushed a cobweb out of his face.
"We are investigating the hidden dangers of my new home." The newly crowned king calmly replied while ducking beneath a low beam.
Legolas looked at his friend as if he had just lost his mind, "Hidden dangers? Estel what are you talking about?"
Aragorn put his shoulder to a door that would not open and gave it a shove as he grunted, "You should know it was your father who told me to be aware of ways that enemies could attack you from below".
Legolas chuckled as he followed his friend into the dusty room, "He always has been a little bitter since those dwarves escaped, but Estel there is not a river running beneath your palace nor did Ada have six circles of defense below his storerooms. What are you worried about?"
Aragorn was attempting to move some empty packing crates, "Oh one can never be too careful mellon nín." The former ranger gave one last push on the crates and they suddenly gave way, revealing a large hole in the wall, "Like this for example, why would there be a hole in the wall?"
"Ventilation shaft, they probably stored fruit down here at one time." The Mirkwood elf suddenly tilted his head to one side, "Did you hear something?"
Aragorn quickly shook his head, "No, but you know me, human hearing and all."
The prince narrowed his eyes at his friend, "Estel what have you gotten yourself into this time?"
The king nervously cleared his throat, "Nothing mellon nín, why would you think that? Now tell me more about this ventilation shaft, are there more of them?"
Legolas looked at his friend in disbelief, "Yes - there has been one in several of the rooms on this level they have just been smaller." The prince pointed to an ornate piece of metal, "This one used to have a grating over it but it has fallen off at some point in time."
There was a sudden noise at the end of the corridor and Aragorn looked at his friend with barely hidden panic in his eyes, "Would the opening on the outside also be covered with a grate?"
Legolas narrowed his eyes, "Yes, if it was not damaged as well, what are you getting at Estel?"
The noise in the corridor got steadily louder as did Aragorn's wide panicky eyes, "There is a chance it could be damaged? Then we should go investigate, what kind of king would I be if I left it unchecked?"
Suddenly there was a voice heard in the corridor, "Estel, we need to talk where are you?" lady Undómiel called.
The prince's eyes grew wide and he prepared to make a comment on the situation when he suddenly found a hand clamped over his mouth. When the party was heard moving away Aragorn relaxed slightly, "Now - I think we should go now." He extinguished the torch and turned to his friend.
"But those tunnels are dark Estel how will we see where we are going?"
"For years you have flaunted your elven eyesight, you can see in the dark so get in there and start seeing elf boy" The frustrated king growled as he guided the elf to the hole and shoved him inside before Arwen could come back.
Legolas and Aragorn had made it a short distance down the shaft when there were loud noises in the room they just left. Aragorn quickly reached in front of him and gently grabbed his friend's ankle, successfully stilling his movement and quieting him at the same time.
"My lady this room seems as empty as the others we have searched. I'm afraid his highness isn't on this level."
There was such a long silence following that statement that Aragorn was about to encourage his elven friend to lead on when a soft elven voice reached his ears, "No, my good sir they have been here and recently. You see? This torch is still smoldering so someone had to be here and very recently."
"But where could they have gone my lady? We always had a sentry in the hall and yet he saw nothing."
There was another long silence, which was again followed by the sound of a soft elven voice, but, Aragorn noted, it seemed closer this time, "Tell me captain, what is this opening for?"
"That is a ventilation shaft my lady, they are usually covered with a grate but it must have been damaged." There was another silence followed by an astonished exclamation, "You don't believe they went in there my lady? Only a fool would attempt such a thing."
"Than I am sure that is where they went captain." Arwen replied, "Come let us leave them to their game."
Aragorn stayed as still as stone as he listened to the small party leave and was just about to nudge Legolas into moving forward when a whisper on the wind reached his ears, "You may run ranger but you will never hide from me, I will find you and get what I seek before this day is through."
Although it was impossible for him to see Legolas was certain the man behind him had a look of fear and trepidation on his face. The prince held in his laughter until he heard the door close. "What have you done mellon nín that you must encounter the wrath of the fair Undómiel?"
The man sighed, "It is rather what I have not done. Arwen heard that it is a custom of men to exchange words about their relationship at weddings. She thought that since I am a king of men it would be a good tradition to uphold at our wedding. We were supposed to be working on our statements for the past few days. Arwen is afraid I am going to say something embarrassing so we were to practice today, but well I just have not gotten around to it and now Arwen is going to kill me!" The former ranger all but wailed. The man sighed deeply, "Well they seem to be gone now so I guess we should just turn back."
"Wait" the elf managed to get out around his laughter, "Wait my friend I would postpone your execution as long as possible. She has left a guard by the door so let us leave through the outer shaft and avoid capture."
The elf could hear an unmistakable smile in his friend's voice when the king responded, "Are you sure Legolas? It is a small dark place: are you sure you do not want to turn back?"
"Do not patronize me human or I will carve you up with my knives, besides after all the time I have spent with you I have gotten used to dark and smelly places or wait that's dark and small places and smelly rangers." The elf yipped as the human's hand came down on his ankle, a kick to the ranger's head and the elf was once again free and crawling down the passage, "Besides I am leading the way which means there is no chance of us getting lost unlike certain rangers who can get themselves lost in their own realm."
"In my defense I had never been in those caves before and had no idea they could be so confusing."
By this time Legolas had come to a crossroads and he paused as he smelled the air trying to determine which way would lead them to the outside wall of the palace. Finally finding a path that seemed suitable the elf called over his shoulder, "Estel your own clothing sometimes confuses you!"
The ranger looked up and glared at the back of the elf, "It could happen to anyone, it is hard to figure out where your head and arms go when it is the middle of the night and you have just been woken by an irate elf shouting about an invasion of spiders. Really mellon nín one would think you would be used to spiders after all those years you spent destroying Ungaliant's brood."
The elf shot one foot in his friend's direction trying to cuff him on the shoulder, "Those were big spiders Estel these were tiny and there were thousands of them. But at least I did not get you lost in my own realm."
The man smiled at the elf, "Trying to change the subject are we? Fine then I did get us lost but at least there were not orcs."
The elf stopped mid-crawl, "I can not believe you are bringing that up again: what has it been forty years?"
"You brought up the other incident and it has been at least fifty years since that occurred." The ranger responded as he crawled along the dark passageway, "Besides who ever heard of an elf who could not detect the presence of orcs before they were five feet away?"
The elf paused for a moment once again stopping to chose the direction that would lead them to the outside. After having chosen a new direction the elf snorted, "I have told you a million times I was distracted – you were dying – and there was no where else for us to seek shelter." The elf continued to crawl along in his chosen direction but his mind began to wonder back to that day in the cave with his wounded friend, "You were so pale and I could not stop the blood – no matter what I tried it kept flowing and you got paler and paler"
"Legolas?" the ranger asked in concern but he got no response from the elf who was now fully entrenched in his memories of the past.
"Just when I had gotten the blood flow to slow down and was about to start a fire to get you warm those vile creatures showed up. Why did I not hear them before they came in? Why was I not able to protect you? They were overjoyed to find an elf in the cave and attacked fiercely, I had to use all of my skill to keep them from getting to you. I could not let them get to you, could not let you die because of my mistake."
"Legolas!" The king shouted as loud as he could while grabbing a hold of the elf's foot. When the elf stopped moving forward and ceased speaking the man was confident he had gotten through to his friend. "Legolas, I am safe mellon nín, that was a long time ago - come forth from your memories."
"Estel?" the elf asked in confusion: had the ranger not just been near death?
The ranger sighed, "Yes, it is I. Forgive me Legolas I had forgotten how vivid a elf's memory is, I did not intend to make you relive that incident. Me and my stupid ideas first I drag us into this tunnel then I make you relive one of the worse memories of your life. Forgive me for my thoughtlessness."
The elf shook his head but then realized the man could not see him, "No, it was not your fault Estel."
The man sighed, "I am weary, let us find a place to rest a moment mellon nín."
The elf chuckled, "Tired already Estel, you used to be able to go on for days without rest do not tell me a few weeks as king has made you soft." However, despite his chiding the elf found a wide spot in the tunnel and stopped so his human companion could rest for a moment.
The man settled himself across from the elf and sighed contentedly, "It is all that rich food I have been having at the endless series of banquets and no time to go out side and work it off." The close proximately allowed the man to see his friend's face and he could see the elf looked drawn, "I am sorry my friend, I did not mean to make you relive that moment."
The elf smiled gently, "As I said before Estel it is not your fault, an elf's memory is both a gift and a curse and something I have learned to live with long ago. Besides you grew up with the twins as role models and therefore get your love for dark spaces naturally - who could blame you for choosing to come in here."
The man cocked his head to the side, "Do I sense a story, mellon nín?"
The elf smiled, "Indeed you do and a good one but let us continue while I tell it for we are not far from the exit and while I do not mind being in here I would rather be gazing at the sky and breathing fresh air." So while the two continued to crawl Legolas once again returned to the past but this time to a happier memory, "As you know I am a few years younger than the twins and elves, like humans, can be annoying at a certain age. It was at that exact time in my development that my father brought me to Imladris for my first visit. My father and lord Elrond had important things to discuss so they sent the twins and I off to entertain ourselves. I was in awe of the twins - they were allowed to use weapons and knew all about the different plants, which grew around their home. I so wanted to be like them that I followed them everywhere. It did not take long until they grew tired of their new shadow and decided it was time to get rid of me. They suggested a walk behind the waterfall, I was young and so eager to be like them that I agreed although I was not sure what they meant by 'behind the water fall'."
The man started to laugh, "They did not, tell me they did not 'take you for a little hike'?"
The elf laughed in his turn, "They did and I can tell by your laughter they have done the same to you."
"Yes, like you said humans can be obnoxious at a certain age and I was about ten when I went for my adventure, but they did not take me behind the waterfall so continue your story." The man added.
"Well when we reached the falls I finally learned what they meant by behind the falls because we entered the caverns by walking behind an upper fall. I was so in awe of my surroundings that I would stop from time to time to look at some strange plant or a glistening rock and the twins took advantage of my inattention getting further and further away until I looked up once and they were gone. No trace of them whatsoever. I took off at a run down the tunnel but instead of finding the twins I was met with a choice of two directions, I took the one I thought was most likely to lead to my guides but never found them. I wondered around in those caves for hours getting more and more frightened as time went by, meanwhile the twins had returned to Imladris and were lounging in their rooms. It was not until I failed to show up for the evening meal that my father realized something was wrong and Elrond forced the twins to lead a search party for me. I was later told that he refused to allow them back in their home unless they returned in my company. It was very late when they found me but I think they were more scared than I was and very repentant - vowing never to do that again." The elf paused, "Interesting enough I believe it is from that episode that our friendship blossomed. Of course, it was many years later before we were able to travel together and really bond but I believe it was that night we built the foundation for our friendship."
The man scoffed, "And I thought I was going to get a good story to hold over their heads instead you give me a sentimental tale which makes them seem like repentant angels."
The elf laughed, "Sorry, mellon nín I had forgotten that part."
"Ah hah!" The man shouted, "So elves do not have such a perfect memory after all."
"More perfect than yours will ever be Estel" the elf responded vaguely as he stopped in the middle of the tunnel."
"Why are we stopping?" the man inquired, "I thought you said we were near the exit and that you wanted to be out in the open air."
"So I did and we have found it but . . ." the elf replied.
"But what, mellon nín? What is the problem?" The man asked. The elf managed to move himself to the side of the tunnel giving the man an unobstructed view of what was before them, "Wow, that is some sky but one thing you forgot in your wish Legolas, ground. We are not birds, we can not fly down from here."
The elf snorted and pushed the human out of the way so he could get a better look, they were about three hundred feet above the plain with no way down other than climbing the almost vertical cliff. "No, but we are kin to goats, you and I, and we can climb down." With that the elf disappeared from view causing the ranger to crawl to the end of the tunnel and look down only to see his Silvan friend some ten feet below him. "Legolas you are crazy, I can not climb down that – I will fall."
"That is the pastries talking Estel, you used to be able to do this and I do not believe a few weeks of the easy life will keep you from making this climb. Trust me, like you once did, I will tell you where to put your hands and feet." The elf pleaded. "We have gotten through tougher scrapes then this." The man shut his eyes and turned around so he could back down the cliff. Legolas continued to climb down to the plain while keeping his eyes on the movement of his friend, "That is right Estel now bring your right foot straight down." The king moved his left foot and moments later was dangling two hundred feet from the plain, "Your other right foot Estel, your other right. Pull yourself up and try again." The elf encouraged while trying to keep the panic out of his voice, he had not helped the man get to this point in his life only to lose him now.
"I was just testing you," the man grunted out as he pulled his large frame back up the rock face.
"This time move your real right foot and leave the testing for the school children." The elf replied tersely.
The man easily complied and elf and man continued to move down the cliff face. It was not until the pair were a mere twenty feet from the bottom that the king once again spoke, "See told you, no real problems here. You were right this is so much better than the other times we have escaped a cave; no wargs or orcs or mad men trying to kill us." The ranger hit the ground and smiled then continued as he turned to face his unresponsive friend, "Just - Arwen!" He shouted as he saw his soon to be wife standing next to the woodland prince.
"Estel" she returned coolly, "How did you manage to get out here?"
The man panicked, he could see the anger flashing in her eyes and there seemed to be no means of escape save one and despite the love between elf and ranger the man sacrificed his friend to gain his freedom. "Why do you not ask Legolas, he knows."
The elf woman turned to face the woodland prince and the man was off at a run, "Guards" he called, "I need a horse, now!" Although the man had been their king for only a short time all knew and loved him and the guards moved swiftly to carry out their lieges command supplying a horse just moments later. The king leapt upon the animal, waved to his friend and future wife and tore across the open plain.
Arwen and Legolas stood watching the retreating figure a moment before the maiden looked at the Silvan elf, "Thank you for helping me carry out my plan mellon nín. He needed to get out of the palace for awhile but he kept insisting he did not have the time because there were too many things which needed to be done."
The blond offered the lady his arm, "Anytime my lady, but will he be safe out there?"
Arwen gazed over her shoulder at the retreating form of her love, "Yes, Elladan and Elrohir are waiting for him in that first grove of trees. They will tell him they are also hiding from me and take him on a ride for the rest of the afternoon. All will be well my friend and he will be back just in time for the first of many rehearsal dinners. At which time he can practice the words I wrote for him to say about me."
Legolas smiled at the lady, "Remind me never to get on your bad side." In response Arwen just laughed, a lovely twinkling sound, and let the prince guide her inside. True to Aragorn's word there was much to be done but Arwen and Legolas set themselves to it with lightened hearts knowing that the man they both cared about was finally taking a much needed break.
Mellon nín – my friend
Ada – dad
Undómiel - another name for Arwen
Ungaliant - a spider of the first age who is thought to be the founder of the population in Mirkwood
The matter of the dwarves escaping the Mirkwood palace refers to events in the Hobbit