A/N: Okay, so maybe this chapter will give you a slight hint of where this story is going. It's going to be a bit dark and it will have some angst but I'm going to put a bit of comedy in it, if I can. To all of those who reviewed: thank you so much! I didn't think I'd get so much feedback after I'd abandoned this story so long ago. But apparently it's still a good plot so thus, I will keep writing!
Also, there are no pairings in this story. Not any love-relationships, anyway. But anyhow.. On with the story!
It had not been too far into the night when the ranger noticed conscious movement from where the young stranger, who went by the name of Harry, lay by the fire.
It had only been, at most, twelve or so hours since the child had collapsed. After Gandalf returned, shortly followed by Gimli who'd been out scouting, they made camp so that they could wait. There was no way they could lug the boy around through the forest. To make matters worse there was still no sign of the two hobbits and they were beginning to worry.
They could only hope that the halflings had made it safely out of the forest. Gandalf had said that they would follow their tracks as soon as the stranger woke up from unconsciousness.
Aragorn knitted his eyebrows together in thought as he watched the silhouetted form of Harry, shifting slightly to the right, his face looking pained. He heard a soft flutter and the tawny owl of the forest flew down to rest near the boy. There was something about this child that was unlike anyone he'd ever met.
His shoulder-length blonde hair looked yellow from grime, and he was definitely worse for wear. His body was malnourished by the looks of it and he was short. He looked like he couldn't be more than 16 summers old; and those eyes. The ranger couldn't get the image of the boys eyes out of his mind.
It was almost haunting - in the shadows of the forest light, he could have sworn the pupils had been dark slits. He wasn't sure if that was a hallucination or not, but he knew one thing for sure. The iris' had been fiery red, tinged with orange. They seemed to blaze in their sockets, making it hard for the ranger to look into those intense orbs.
Even Legolas wouldn't stare the young 'Istari' in the eyes. He refused, period. He never mouthed why, but Aragorn had a feeling his friend would share his thoughts with him soon.
The ranger took a long drag off of his pipe, continuing to stare at the boy while he listened to his companions as they sat about in firelight. Gimli and Legolas were bantering about the best ways to kill an orc while Gandalf sat off by himself, snoring loudly from beneath his hat. It sounded vaguely familiar to him, but he couldn't place his finger on it.
Aragorn sighed. If it wasn't one thing during this journey with the fellowship, it was another. He had a feeling that the worst was yet to come. He came to the conclusion that this young Istari would either be a blessing, or a curse. He had thought hard on the subject and decided that if there was healing magic involved then he was most likely on their side.
He only hoped this was true.
Everything was red; it was so bright.
There was heat everywhere, sweltering and consuming. Harry found himself atop the high black tower again, the howling wind whipping through his blonde hair and sending it flying in a frenzy about his face. His black cloak fluttered like dark wings around his body. He found himself perched at the ledge, staring down over the construction of mines teaming with orcs. He overlooked the disastrous pit and behind it a forest - once grand and dominant; being hacked and cut down, burnt to the ground.
It nearly made him sick. Ashtwig came to his mind for a moment but his attention was soon turned away from the image of his forest friend. He felt the hair on the back of his neck rise slowly and he sensed a familiar entity.
He closed his eyes tightly. Why was this… this thing searching? It was too horrible to face and too ghastly to stomach. He wanted to retch from the probing he felt as it looked, always seeing.
What was it looking for again?
"… the ring… bring me the ri…"
He heard the echo and clenched his eyes shut tighter. He didn't want to stare at it - he didn't want it in his mind. He remembered now that it had asked for the ring when last he saw it. Was this the same ring that Gandalf had spoken of? Was this the very same ring that the wizard Sauron wanted?
Was this some vision sent from the henchmen of Sauron himself to try and persuade him to find the ring and bring it to him?
The pit of his stomach dropped and he felt faint. Sauron was dead, but the elder wizard had said that Maia never 'truly' die. Did they linger like ghosts of the past, haunting and provoking mankind? Could this… this watchful eye have some connection with the dead Maia?
His eyes snapped open with the intense realization but that was short lived once he found himself face to face with the intense gaze of the Eye. He felt mesmerized, unable to blink or look away. He felt a raw power emanating from the frightening specter and it made his skin prickle.
He wanted to scream like before; banishing the nightmare but he found he could not open his mouth. No sound would make it's way from this throat. There was a loud rumbling and the wind howled louder.
"… come… bring me… the ring.."
"I can't," Harry thought desperately.
"… find me the… ring.."
"I wont! I don't know where it's even at!" his mind shouted.
"You… will… find it.."
"NO!" he screamed, his mind breaking free from its trance.
He found himself sitting upright and he jumped back in fright as he felt the heat of flames against his skin. Glancing around quickly he realized it was only a campfire and that the Eye was nowhere to be seen.
He breathed out a ragged breath that he hadn't realized he'd been holding, which sent him into a frenzy of dry coughs. He was parched and his throat hurt horribly. He felt sticky with sweat and grime and his body ached.
He found himself quickly glancing around and realization dawned on him about what happened. His right hand lifted up to his chest where the arrow had been embedded and he sighed with relief when he felt only the slight bump of the scar. His magic had worked but the weak feeling in his limbs was still present.
"Ai, here is some drink," he heard someone say next to him. His head snapped to the side so fast he heard it pop loudly. He winced. The aura surrounding this person was nearly blinding.
"What is it?" he demanded with a slight grimace.
"Water," the airy voice responded, calm.
Harry reached out reluctantly and took it. He vaguely remembered seeing this aura before - this must have been one of the two people who had been with him when he woke up the first time.
"Who are you?" he asked cautiously while taking a gulp of water.
There was a sigh and a movement but no noise was made as the stranger shuffled his feet on the ground. "I am Legolas Greenleaf."
The boy promptly spit out the water he was about the swallow and gagged, coughing violently.
There was a movement and some more shuffling and he heard the voice of the familiar 'stranger' he'd first spoken to. "Do not drink too fast, melon-nin. It would not do if you were to choke to death on mere water."
Harry felt heat rise in his face but he sputtered, "Legless who?"
There was a snort from a distance away and a guffaw of laughter. His head snapped to the side and he saw a squat figure sitting by a tree, looking as if it were doubled over with laughter. Which, probably was the case.
"A legless elf!" came a gruff, hearty voice. There was a definite hint of joking in his voice. "A fitting name once you face the fiery of our axes!"
Harry turned to look at the ones near him and the 'airy' one seemed as if he were offended. He heard the other - Strider as he recalled - talk to the tall one in a very soft, melodious language. There was a sharp retort followed by a soft laugh.
Harry felt a hand on his shoulder. "His name is Legolas. I am Strider, and that there," he pointed towards the squat guffawing man, "that is Gimli. You know Gandalf, I presume…"
Harry nodded at this and searched the surroundings for the familiar life aura of the elder wizard. He felt ease settle over him - he trusted the wizard so far and these were his friends. He assumed they were trustworthy.
"Where… am I?" he questioned, taking another smaller drink from the flask that had been given to him.
"We are still in Fangorn Forest," said Strider.
Harry nodded, figuring as much. He could still sense the essence of the forest around him. It had a certain atmosphere to it that he felt as ease with. "Where are Merry and Pippin?"
There was a long pause and he assumed that the two were exchanging looks.
"Gandalf said that when the uruk-hai attacked, they ran. We have yet to find them," Strider informed him gravely. "Let us hope that they found no other dangers in this dark place."
Harry shuddered, thinking of the uruk-hai. Those nasty, void-like beings that reek of death. Leering with their jagged weapons raised. It was enough to make Harry draw his cloak closer around him.
"I hope they're okay," he said oddly, having only known them a few days. They seemed likable.
"Ai, as do we," Legolas murmured before walking away from them and standing closer towards the one known as Gimli.
"So… where did you guys come from?" Harry asked unsurely.
Harry inwardly groaned. He'd have to get used to the fact that people from this world didn't know half of his dialogue. "All of you?"
"We were tracking Merry and Pippin, as it were," Strider provided, irony in his voice. "We had thought them possibly dead, as with Gandalf. Last we saw, he was being dragged into the fiery depths of hell by a Balroc. We thought there would be no escape."
"But Maia never really die," Harry repeated unsurely, not really confident that that had been what Gandalf said.
The man seemed to raise his eyebrows and he said with amusement, "Ai, you are truthful in your words. Of course you would know that, young Istari."
Harry groaned inwardly again. "I am not an Istari or a Maia. I'm just… a wizard."
There was a moments pause. "Those are the same, ai?"
"Not where I'm from."
Strider settled down on the ground getting comfortable, Harry presumed. He picked up the water flask and drank from it again, knowing what the next question was.
"Where is it that you hail from?"
Harry shrugged. "Across… seas and more." It wasn't exactly a lie.
"Fair enough. So you are a traveler." It wasn't a question.
He nodded, feeling for the first time how grimy his hair felt against his skin. He twitched slightly and fumbled around for his wand. He knew that the stranger was watching him intently and he noticed a stiffening in his posture. He figured he was cautious but interested at the same time.
He found the holly wand and pointed it to his head and said, "Scrougify!"
He instantly felt the grime disappear and his blonde locks fell cleanly around his face. His face didn't feel oily and sweaty. It was nice to feel cleaner.
"I would not believe it possible had I not seen it myself," Strider began. "That healing of yours is a mighty defense against the enemy."
Harry shrugged. "It's just a mandatory spell."
"You have earned my respect, young Istari. Very few besides the elves know much about healing."
"Elves?" Harry questioned. He pictured Dobby in Middle Earth. He shuddered again.
Strider seemed to realize something because he let out a small throaty noise then motioned to where the bright aura was. "Legolas is an elf."
He was an elf? Could that be why his aura was so bright?
"I nearly thought you to be of the elvin kin," Strider continued. "With your hair and features, I would have assumed."
Harry nearly gagged. "Gandalf said that too!"
"You do appear like one," he offered. "The hair - but yours eyes…"
Harry noticed his hesitance. "What about them?"
"They are of the curious color," he said hesitantly.
Harry vaguely remembered that Ashtwig said they had been red. '"I doubt you could get far because I can tell by your eyes that you are newly blind.. Although there is something else there… the red in them shows something else."'
Harry felt his blood run cold. In his mind he could see the looming eye searching. Waiting. The hair on the back of his neck stood on end.
"I've never seen such a color in all my travels."
"I'm blind," Harry stated bluntly. "I cannot see the way you do."
He noticed a shift in the elf's aura and he knew he was listening.
"I do not quite understand…" Strider began.
"I am blind, but I have a second sight," Harry informed him, slightly annoyed. He didn't know why. "I see aura's - I see life. I do not see you, only your spirit. I see the life in the trees, in the plants and flora. I can sense the essence of purity in all earthy things. I just don't see those damn Uruk-hai! They're ghastly, nasty things that just suck the life out of the earth. All they do is leave destruction in their path!"
Silence met his statement.
After a moment Legolas, whom Harry hadn't noticed moved closer, said, "That is remarkable in many ways, melon-nin. It is nice to see someone who shares compassion to the plants and life around us. Are you sure you are not kin to the elves?"
Harry let the last bit slide, since he could hear a hint of teasing in his airy voice. Harry settled for a slight smirk, "Let me put on a doily and I'll let you know."
He knew this confused him but he found it amusing. They would never know what he meant. He snorted slightly but was interrupted by a yawn.
"We must get some rest," Strider decided and stood up. "We will take leave first thing at dawn break in the 'morn. We have hobbits to track. I will take first watch, this night."
No one argued and for the next ten minutes the camp settled down. Harry lay back down, slightly uncomfortable. He picked up his wand, muttered a cushioning charm on his cloak, then tucked the holly weapon back into its holster. He wrapped his cloak tightly around him and turned his head to stare into the fire.
He slowly felt himself falling into unconsciousness, the last thing he saw being the dark, raw consumption of air and life as the fire created a vast, dark void everywhere around it. He vaguely thought he heard an echo, whispering out to him, but he found himself falling into blackness before he could comprehend what the voice was saying.
"… bring me… the ring…"