Title: Hunter's Moon

Author: Silivren Tinu

Rating: T

Summary: Aragorn visits Mirkwood to attend an ancient festival of the wood-elves, but the festival takes on an entirely new and dangerous meaning when he and Legolas get separated by an accident, leaving one of them trapped in the darkness with a deadly foe… Action, angst, h/c. Featuring Aragorn, Legolas and Thranduil.

Disclaimer: I am Tolkien… in my dreams. In my waking state I still don't own the characters in this story. ;-)

Author's Notes: This story belongs to my Mirkwood Tales, but can be read alone. I plan to update weekly. "Hunter's Moon" was written for the "Rituals and Festivities" Teitho Contest and won the third place. Reviews are very welcome:)

A BIG thank you to all who have reviewed my previous story, "Stronger than Darkness". You made my day! ((hugs))

I also want to thank Imbecamiel, my wonderful editor, who was willing to beta a long story in a short time with a contest-deadline looming in front of her. Thank you, mellon-nîn! ((huggles))

Some Elvish translations:
(all other needed translations will be found in the text)
mellon-nîn: my friend
ion-nîn: my son
adar: father


- Hunter's Moon -

Chapter One: Trapped


"Walking with a friend in the dark is better than walking alone in the light."
Helen Keller


"Legolas! Legolas, can you hear me? Legolas?"

Aragorn's voice was sounding more and more desperate with each frantic call. He listened closely, but the only thing he heard were the soft sounds of small pebbles hitting rock, rolling and falling to the ground deep below. He knew the elf had to be down there somewhere, but he could see only darkness and whirling dust.

Dread filled him at the mere thought that Legolas would never again be able to hear him, that the elf could be lost to him forever because of a single moment of bad luck and his instinctive decision to save the human instead of his own life. Aragorn refused to believe it. The thought did not bear contemplation. Legolas had to be alive, he must be.

The dust cloud settled much too slowly for his taste, and he was still not able to see anything. He knew he could not risk climbing down there without having at least an idea of what he was getting into. But what his mind knew and what his heart desired were two entirely different things. He pressed his lips together and stared down into the hole, willing the darkness and the dust to part and show him either his worst fear or his greatest hope.

Then he heard something. A soft sound, like a… groan. He listened intently, not even daring to breathe, but the sound did not repeat itself. There was only silence.

"Legolas?" he called again. "Do you hear me? Please, answer me, mellon-nîn!"

Seconds passed by, but to Aragorn they seemed to last a whole lifetime.

"E-Estel?" a weak voice finally answered.

The voice seemed to come from far away, and it echoed slightly, but Aragorn did not care. His heart sang with joy. Legolas was alive! The joy soon faded to deep relief and was quickly joined by concern. The elf's voice sounded weak and pained, and Aragorn became aware that he did not yet know anything of the extent of his friend's injuries. And injured he was, that much Aragorn could tell.

"Im si, Legolas," ((I am here)) he replied. "How are you? Are you hurt? Where are you?"

He did not try to hide the worry in his voice, knowing that Legolas would hear it anyway. The silence lasted so long that he began to fear that the elf had fallen unconscious. But just when he was about to call out again, Legolas spoke.

"I do not know… where I am. It is dark. Perhaps… a cave?"

His voice was a bit stronger and less confused, but Aragorn did not like the obvious effort it cost his friend to speak at all, nor that he had evaded answering the most important part of his questions.

"Legolas, are you injured?" he asked again, more insistently this time.

He heard a soft rustling below him, followed by a scraping sound and, almost immediately, a pained gasp.

"Legolas?" he called in growing concern. "Legolas, answer me!"

"Just give me… a moment," Legolas ground out, and Aragorn could tell that he spoke through clenched teeth.

Aragorn waited impatiently, listening into complete silence once more. Finally, Legolas spoke up again.

"Considering the circumstances… I am quite well," he said. "There is no need to worry about me, Aragorn."

The ranger closed his eyes and suppressed the urge to grab a stone, or anything nearby, and throw it down there. The elf kept his voice clear from pain now, and he sounded better than before, but it was obvious that he was not well.

"Legolas!" he said, a quiet warning in his voice. "Tell me the truth! I need to know how severe your injuries are when I want to get you out of there!"

"It is nothing serious, Estel…" Legolas began hesitantly.

"Legolas!" Aragorn growled.

He heard something from below him that could have been a sigh, but he was not sure.

"My leg is broken," Legolas confessed grudgingly. "One or two of my ribs may be bruised and I have a bump on my head. Apart from that, I have only some scratches."

Aragorn felt a sudden need to massage his temples and groaned inwardly. No serious injuries, of course. A broken leg was one of the worst things that could have happened to them – it meant that Legolas would not be able to move, much less climb on his own. The ranger shook his head and decided to be happy that the elf had at least not broken his neck instead. He thought about the elf's words for a moment and felt a new suspicion rise within him.

"Are you sure that your definition of "scratches" and mine would be the same?" he asked pointedly. This time the sigh was not part of his imagination.

"I am not bleeding to death, Aragorn," Legolas replied indignantly. "I just bumped against some rocks on the way down and took some scratches."

Aragorn raised an eyebrow at that, a completely useless gesture since Legolas could not see him. He decided to let it go for the moment. He was still much too relieved to hear Legolas' voice at all to get worked up about the elf's stubbornness.

"How do you feel?" he asked instead, taking his friend by surprise.

"It hurts," Legolas conceded after a moment, and the ranger could hear the weariness in his friend's voice.

It was the first of Legolas' statements he could believe without any problems. He remembered the pain in the elf's voice before and guessed that Legolas had already tried to move his leg, either intentionally or by accident. It made him angry to be this helpless to do anything against his friend's pain. He did not even know how far down Legolas was, and they didn't have any rope with them.

He still could not believe how quickly a pleasant day had changed into a nightmare. Legolas had invited him to a special festival the wood elves celebrated at this time of the year, and Aragorn had been only too happy to accept the invitation. Legolas and he had not seen each other in much too long a time.

He had arrived late yesterday night, and this morning the two friends had been walking around aimlessly in the safe part of the woods, both to escape the hectic activities around them due to the festival this evening, and to catch up on each other's lives. In one moment they had been in a beautiful clearing, laughing and bantering and enjoying the autumn sun, when suddenly the ground had given way under his feet. Then, everything seemed to happen all at once. He could still feel Legolas' hands on him, dragging him back and pushing him away.

Unable to keep his balance, he had fallen to the ground with so much force that the breath was knocked out of his lungs. Looking back, the last thing he had seen of his friend were his widened eyes, then the elf had vanished in a dust cloud, both their voices drowned out by a loud rumbling of rocks. The only thing that remained behind was a yawning black hole in the ground and a dazed ranger.

Aragorn did not really want to remember the fear of those first dark moments, when he had called his friend's name and the answer was only silence... He suppressed the memories forcefully and tried to think about his next steps. He was kneeling at the edge of the gaping hole, squinting into the darkness.

He needed to find a way down there, an easy way that would enable him to climb while carrying, or at least supporting, the injured elf. If only he were able to see more. He could only imagine how Legolas must be feeling, sitting with a broken leg in the darkness of an underground cave, alone and unable to move. He did not want to leave him there a moment longer than necessary. Especially since Legolas was only in this situation because he had protected him.

"I will get you out of there as soon as possible," he promised Legolas gently. "Can you see anything of your surroundings? I still do not know where you are or how to get down there."

"I cannot see much," the elf answered, and again Aragorn noticed the slight echoes his friend's voice caused. "There is a steep rock wall behind me, and I think I can see a part of the sky directly above. There is still too much dust in the air to see clearly."

The elf shifted slightly, trying to escape the sharp edge of a rock that pressed into his back. The small movement sent a bolt of pain through his leg, and he had to catch his breath. After a moment the pain subsided, and he took a deep breath. He slumped a bit against the wall, ignoring the sharp edge behind him.

His left elbow throbbed mercilessly, and he could only guess that he had hit it on a jutting rock on his way down. He cradled the arm against his chest, ignoring the sticky warm substance he could feel under his fingertips. It was only a lacerated wound and he knew it would stop bleeding soon. It was one of the little details he had not mentioned to Aragorn and did not plan to. He did not feel the pain in his ribs when he did not move much, and his head only hurt a little bit. He knew he had been more than lucky.

Knowing the ranger, Aragorn was already worrying far too much - and undoubtedly believing that all of this had been his fault. Legolas still did not know why he had not managed to jump back as he had planned to do. Instead he had found himself falling through pitch-black darkness, hitting obstacles he could not see and finally meeting the ground with crushing force without being able to prepare for it. It was not an experience the elf ever wished to repeat.

He had been knocked out for a while, and the first thing he had heard when he came around again was Aragorn's anxious voice calling his name. The voice had been his only anchor in the pain and the darkness he had awoken to, telling him that he was not alone and that his friend was safe.

Legolas drew his cloak tighter around him. It was cold down here, and the looming rock and the darkness seemed to press in on him, threatening to choke him. He felt trapped. He did not like caves, but in the situation he was currently in he liked them even less.

"Do you see me?" Aragorn asked, distracting the elf both from his hurting body and his dreary surroundings.

Legolas blinked and searched the grey opening above him for any sign of his friend. Most of the swirled-up dust had settled down by now and he thought he could see a dark shape at the edge of the hole.

"I am not sure," he answered hesitantly.

Understanding the problem, Aragorn raised one arm and waved. "And now?"

Legolas smiled in the darkness and felt new hope rise within him. "If you are just waving your arm I can see you," he said. "If it is a branch I'm looking at, there must be a lot of wind up there."

Aragorn grinned, though he knew Legolas would not be able to see it. It was shortly after noon, and the sun was still high up in the sky. With the dust settling, he should soon be able to see his friend and find a way down there. He felt his spirits rise. "Where would I have to climb to reach you?" he asked.

"Just down. You are directly above me," Legolas answered.

"Can you see more of your surroundings now? Perhaps a good way for me to climb down?"

Legolas moved as far as he could without jostling his leg again and looked up the rock wall behind him. He did not like what he saw.

"This does not look good," he told Aragorn reluctantly. "As far as I can see, the wall is steep and very smooth."

There was a short silence. "We will find a way," the ranger replied finally, stubborn determination in his voice.

It made the elf smile once more.

"What else do you see?" Aragorn wanted to know.

"A cave," Legolas answered slowly. "I can only see a part of it, but it seems to be very large." Even his elven eyes could barely penetrate the darkness in front of him. He became aware of moisture seeping through his cloak and leggings, and a slight dripping sound somewhere in the distance.

"It is damp down here, Aragorn," he said, "and there is moisture on the walls and the ground. I think the heavy rainfalls of the last years have found a way into this cave. That would explain why the ground gave in and why the rocks are so smooth. There could even be a lake or pond down here." Legolas felt suddenly very grateful that he had not fallen into an icy cold, bottomless lake instead of on hard, solid ground. He shuddered. If he had to stay here much longer his imagination would run wild.

Sitting high above him in bright sunshine, Aragorn frowned. He did not like the new information he had been given any more than Legolas did. It would be even more difficult to climb down a wet, steep wall than a steep wall. And how would they get up again? A subtle change in his surroundings tore him out of his dark musings.

At first he did not know what had startled him, but then he saw it. A single ray of sunlight fell into the darkness beneath him, piercing the shadows and illuminating a part of the rock wall. While they were talking, the sun had slowly changed its position and soon it would shine directly down into the cave. The ranger's worried features lit up in a bright smile. Now they had a chance.

To be continued…

Wasn't that a nice ending? Not even a cliffie… yet. (eg) Does anyone want to see Legolas out of that hole? LOL!