Chapter 17

Let The Bond Remain Unbroken

Aragorn breathed in deeply. The smells of the cool night air wafted around him, freeing his dulled senses. The pain was all but disappeared, the memory ebbing away to a darkened corner of his mind. It was all over. He was free.

Elladan had been with him until just a short while before. Aragorn smiled slightly as he remembered the long, deep talk they had had for the past several hours, up on the roof of Rivendell. There was so much they both needed to get out, and now the human had noticed the change in Elladan's steps as the elf lightly walked away, needing to turn in for the night, physically and emotionally drained. Aragorn had only rolled his eyes as Elladan told him to come back inside before it got too cold. He had missed the older elf twin's overprotectivness. Aragorn could almost hear his laugh floating in the wind again, just like always.

It had been many days since Aragorn and Legolas had begun to really heal, and now everything was almost back to normal. Aragorn smiled slightly as he saw the sudden, overpowering change in Legolas in the days that followed after that night.

Right then he heard a low creak far off to his right and smiled again. Elrond was right he could hear normally. Not wanting to leave the sight in front of him, he ignored the barely audible sound of foot-prints behind him and enjoyed the sunset ahead of him.

The colors were mesmerizing. The deep rich scene stretched far and wide, showering the sky with purple, orange, blue and gold. They settled for only moments at a time over the mountains, across the fields, and into the trees, exploding the land with beautiful array of color before moving again. Never staying the same, changing constantly as the sky grew darker, the sun sank, and the night air slowly became colder and swifter.

Slender fingers suddenly touched his shoulder and Aragorn looked up right into the penetrating blue-grey eyes of his friend. Legolas smiled.

"Is it all right if I join you for a while?"

A gentle tug on his sleeve was his response, and the elf sat down next to the human in a comfortable silence.

For a few minutes Legolas watched the last of the sunset with Aragorn, not saying anything until stars began to appear over the horizon.

The look in Aragorn's eyes was captivating. It was as if he was seeing the stars for the first time, and in some points of view, it was very true. Relieved of his worry and pain, with the stars sparkling at him Legolas didn't think the man would break out of his trance. He began to stand up.

"I don't want to disturb you."

Aragorn glanced away from the stars and only smiled. "With you here, it is all the more soothing."

Legolas again sat, and wrapped one arm around the human's shoulders gently. "What do you see?"

Aragorn was silent for several moments, overlooking the trees, fields, mountains, and rivers, and turned to the elf at his side. Lifting one arm with no hint of pain, he too placed it around Legolas' back, smiling slightly.

"The good . . . and the bad. The world as it is, my friend."

"My friend, what are you thinking about?"

Aragorn didn't respond, and a faint look of despair entered his eyes.

Legolas understood the silence in an instant. It was not a look of pain, but a look of loss and hurt. Only one thing remained unclear. "It's the dream in the cave, isn't it?"

"Legolas, it was awful." Aragorn drew one knee up to his chest and folded his free arm over it, his face breaking slightly. "I saw them both. My father and my mother. How they laughed together. The look in my mother's eyes when my father left to fight when the orcs came. I never saw my father again, and my mother gave her life so I could survive. She . . ." Aragorn's voice broke. "She . . ."

Legolas drew Aragorn close to his chest and held him tightly. Aragorn laid his head against Legolas' shoulder, and shut his eyes, gulping softly.

"Estel," Legolas said quietly. "I know what it is like to lose a mother. All I'm going to do is ask you two questions about them both. Aragorn, what did your mother look like?"

Aragorn pulled away from Legolas a few inches and looked into the clear grey-blue eyes, smiling slightly again. "Oh Legolas, she was beautiful."

"What did your father look like?"

Aragorn smiled a bit wider. "Very much like me."

"Did they love you?"

A single tear fell unnoticed down the young man's cheek. "Yes, they did."

"Then my friend, that is all you need to remember about them." Legolas again pulled Aragorn close to him. "Just remember the way they looked, how they felt about you, and try not to dwell on the manner of their passing. Just remember why."

Aragorn nodded. "I will."

"Estel, I have wondered about something for awhile now," Legolas said after a moment, pulling a particular piece of paper from one pocket. It had not left his possession since that night he had been revived by Kathalion. He handed the parchment to Aragorn, smiling slightly. "How did you draw this picture?"

Aragorn unfolded the paper and smiled slightly as he examined his own work. "I am not sure. I was waiting for you to wake, and the image came to me. I immediately put it on paper for fear it would fade." Aragorn gave the parchment back. "Strange, is it not?"

"I think one should call it more than strange, my friend." Legolas put the paper away, shaking his head. "You seem to possess a gift of foresight. And when considering your bloodline, I don't think I'm wrong."

Aragorn shifted his gaze to the mountains for a brief moment before responding. "You are probably right."

Reaching up around his friend's head Aragorn pulled a long white knife out of it's sheath, the satisfying sound of sliding metal. For several moments he could only stare at the blade. It was the one Legolas had used to mortally wound the demon. When Legolas had given no thought but avenging the pain the demon had finally inflicted. The edge of the blade was so sharp it seemed to radiate heat and power, glittering in the light of the coming moon. Right at the tip there was a faint streak of dark red.

"I could never get it off all the way." Legolas whispered as Aragorn lifted it closer. "That knife will never lose that scar."

"Someone once told me you helped make these twin knives," Aragorn said, again reaching around his friend's head and taking the other. "They are beautiful." He gave Legolas the unmarked one and smiled in wonder.

"Yes, I did." Legolas smiled at the memory. "They were a gift from my father, but he allowed me to help the smiths finish them." He fingered the faint silver lines on the hilt and the blade with pride. "They have served me well, far more than any other weapon I have ever owned."

"They are a priceless gift, and I owe my life to them and their master." Aragorn shifted his position until he was facing the prince. "I will never abandon you." He repeated the promise he had made.

"You have no need to make a vow to me, Estel," Legolas placed either hand on both the man's shoulders. "You are my brother, and I will ask for nothing more."

"Uuvarn kena kalad morth, ir lir amen, gwaidor nin. Hannon le." Aragorn said quietly, speaking almost without thought in elvish. "Your songs have brought me back from the edge." Legolas was confused, and responded easily in the same language. I would see the light in darkness, when you sing for me, my brother. Thank you.

"Aragorn, I did not sing for you this time."

Aragorn only smiled, and stood, pulling the prince up to his feet with him. "Oh, Legolas! Yes, you did sing for me."

Legolas only shook his head. Resheathing his knife he could only grin. But suddenly Aragorn got a dangerous look in his eyes, fingering the blade he held happily.

"Aragorn," Legolas stepped closer, cautiously extending his hand for the knife. "Aragorn, can I have my knife back?"

The dangerous glint didn't leave the man's eyes, and Legolas knew Aragorn was up to his old tricks again. "Aww, Legolas, I don't know. I'm rather fond of it. I think I'll just keep it for a while." He started backing away, a laughing grin playing over his features.

"Aragorn, give me back my knife!" the prince's response was a loud laugh and running feet down the side of the roof Aragorn ran as fast as he could on the slanted wood, calling after him, "If you want it you're going to have to catch me!" Another joyous laugh followed the statement, and Aragorn disappeared around a corner.

Legolas rolled his eyes heavenward and gave chase, following the fading footfalls. "Aragorn, you'd better give me back my knife!"

A far away voice answered. "We'll see about that! Come on Legolas, come and get it!"

"You're asking for it, Estel!"

"And I relish in the thought!"

Inside, Elrond was walking quietly down the hall, lost in his own thoughts. It had been a while since the events in the woods, and Aragorn, Legolas, Elladan, and Elrohir had all slowly come back to the way they were. But he still worried would everything ever be the same?

He jerked out of his daze when the ceiling began dancing under loud footfalls. He hurried outside.

Legolas was gaining on Aragorn, but couldn't seem to overcome the man. Racing over the rooftops of Rivendell they were both laughing and yelling at each other at the same time. Finally Legolas caught up to the man and grabbed a fistful of his cloak. Suddenly caught of balance, Aragorn teetered dangerously on the edge of the roof, lost his balance, and fell over the edge. Frantically alarmed, Legolas followed and wrapped his arms around the man, putting himself between Aragorn and the ground. He braced himself for the impact.

Elrond ran through the trees, following the running feet on the roof. Then all at once there was a muttered cry of victory, the distinct sounds of someone losing their balance, and in the distance Elrond saw two figures plummet for the forest floor.

SPLASH

Elrond ran up just in time to see two beings burst out of a large water trough, gasping for air. Fear gripped him for a moment until he heard what the muffled gasps really were.

"Legolas! You dumped us in a water trough!"

"Hey! That's unfair. Who was the one running with a knife? Didn't your father ever tell you not to run with sharp objects!"

"I'm perfectly capable of holding a knife and not hurting myself, you prissy elf! Who was chasing who!"

"Who started it by trying to take my knife, you scummy human?"

"You!"

"Me!"

"You have your knife right there! See . . . right here."

"No, Estel, the other knife!"

"What knife?"

"ESTEL!"

Both figures disappeared beneath the water for a moment, as Elrond watched Legolas push the man's head underwater, only to be pulled down seconds later himself. For the next several moments Elrond watched water splash everywhere as both figures fought for the upper hand, and later just to breathe. Elrond's smile of relief was warped into full-fledged laughing by the time Legolas and Aragorn resurfaced and stumbled out of the horse trough.

"Ada?" One dripping wet young man with a slight limp stepped toward the giggling elf-lord, who was now leaning against a tree for support. Elrond wiped the tears from his eyes and looked at his youngest son and his friend, reunited and now back to normal. His laughter momentarily stopped as he burned the image before him into memory. He started to walk away, but didn't make it two steps before beginning to laugh again. Legolas and Aragorn just stared after the Elrond's retreating back until he had disappeared around a corner and all sounds of laughter had faded.

Yup, everything was back to normal all right.

Legolas walked up behind Aragorn and smoothly snatched his missing knife from the human's grip. Aragorn turned around swiftly, and couldn't help but smile widely to the point of laughing at his friend's soaked appearance. Both of them looked like drowned fish.

Legolas glared. "That knife." Legolas resheathed his knife and shook his finger at the man. "Estel, so help me if you laugh . . ."

That was all it took. Aragorn snorted and began his own uncontrolled laughter. "You-You're all w-wet!" he gasped out.

"Estel!" Aragorn didn't respond, but began running again after his father. Legolas followed.

"Estel, you just wait until I get my hands on you-" Legolas ran around a corner and slammed right into the arms of an unknown assailant. Who was getting ready to fall over from laugh-pained sides.

"Estel!" Aragorn only hugged the prince tightly and chuckled loudly into the prince's soaked cloak. Legolas gave up, and hugged the man back, beginning his own round of heart-felt joy bubble up until he had to press his water-soaked face into Aragorn's shoulder, laughing like there was no end.

"You're all wet too my friend!" Legolas finally pulled back and cupped the chuckling face of his friend in his hands. Aragorn was grinning widely, and when he had regained his breath he spoke again.

"There, Legolas, you sang again! In your laughter I can hear only song."

Legolas laughed again. "Oh, Estel!"

"My brother, I hear your song, even in your laugh. Don't let it stop! I would hear nothing else." Aragorn embraced him again, giggling slightly.

"Only you, Estel." The prince held the laughing man tightly. "My brother, only you could hear that song! It is yours to cherish."

A soft rustle a distance away made the two friends break apart quickly and scan the darkened forest. A huge dark figure immerged. Aragorn advanced a step.

"Valkenor." The name slipped from Aragorn's lips as a dark black wolf walked toward them, stopping a short distance away. A white form flew out of the trees after him and landed on the wolf's back. Once again, bright amber eyes eyed him carefully. "Moran."

Legolas walked up next to the man, looked him in the eyes, and then over at the wolf and the owl. Clasping the man tightly on his arm, Legolas nodded briefly at the two figures in thanks, smiling as Aragorn did the same.

There was no words spoken from either of the animals, and with Moran on his back, Valkenor silently turned away. Soundless footprints carried the two back into the trees and they disappeared.

Silence filled the air as not a thing stirred, and both the elf and the man stood motionless, looking after the retreating forms. A very short while later, deep in the forest, they both heard a long, mournful howl.

"Farewell." Aragorn said quietly, lifting one hand up in a sign of parting. In a moment his hand was grasped comfortingly by a another hand; Legolas looked briefly into the man's eyes, quiet understanding in his gaze.

Aragorn nodded. Following the silent elf back to the comforting sight of Rivendell's walls, Aragorn only looked back once, then turned away. It was finally over. Within that howl, the two friends could almost hear an unspoken plea . . .

Let the bond remain unbroken . . .

The End

Many thanks my friends, for reading all the way and humoring me through the worst. I commend you for making it through, and this being my first long story I praise you greatly. Thanks so much again!

Aa menle mauve calen arta hwesta ealequenle,

Merenwen Aldalas Silverleaf

/May thy paths be green and a breeze on thy back/