Author's Notes: Here is my promised new story for you. :) I have to say I really miss it by now when I'm not able to post weekly. I love staying in contact with all of you out there, and both you and your comments have made posting a pleasure. I enjoy writing, but I do not think I would write as often or as constantly without the wonderful feedback you have given me and continue to give me. Thank you for that! ((big hug))
Well, back to the story. ;-) My characters will not have a good time, but I hope you will. (g) Enjoy, and tell me what you think about it:)
Title: The Arrow
Author: Silivren Tinu
Beta: the wonderful Imbecamiel ((hugs))
Summary: A terrible incident during an attack threatens to change Legolas and Aragorn's lives forever and to destroy more than Legolas is able to bear. Will Aragorn be able to help his friend in a situation that seems to be hopeless? Drama, action, angst. Nominated for the 2006 Middle-earth Fanfiction Awards.
Disclaimer: I do not own the recognizable characters and places in this story or anything that has to do with Lord of the Rings. They are only borrowed and will be returned (more or less) unscathed. ;-)
- The Arrow -
Chapter One: Deadly Encounter
"When it hurts to look back, and you're scared to look ahead,
you can look beside you and your best friend will be there."
Aragorn thrust his sword right through the heart of the last of his attackers, killing the creature immediately. He held the orc down with one foot and pulled his sword free. The blade was dripping with black blood by now. For the moment in no immediate danger, the ranger looked around and saw with relief that the battle was going well. They really had a chance now to survive and live another day, though it had not looked like it at first. He and his companions were still greatly outnumbered by their attackers, but the orcs lacked both their fighting skills and cooperation.
He did not need to look for Legolas to know that his friend was still safe. The elf was in the tree right next to him and his longbow sang again and again, sending arrows with deadly precision against their foes. Whenever one of the green-fletched arrows whistled through the air, one orc would fall and never rise again.
Niras and Gûrel, the two elves who had been their companions for a while now, fought with fierce determination side by side. It was obvious that they were seasoned warriors and used to fighting together. The elves were surrounded by nearly all the remaining orcs and a considerable number of orc corpses. Though they seemed to be holding their ground, Aragorn decided that they would probably not mind some assistance.
With a loud battle-cry Aragorn joined the fray again, trying to draw the attention of at least some of the orcs from the beleaguered elves to himself. It worked almost too well, and soon Aragorn found himself fighting for his life again. More than once the only thing that stood between him and a violent death was an arrow that appeared suddenly in the throat or head of an attacking foe.
Finally the ranger had fought his way through the orcs that separated him from his companions and reached Niras' side. The elf paused for a split second and nodded at him, acknowledging his presence, before he brought his knives up again to block the next blow. Using one of his long knives to divert the orc's scimitar, Niras quickly slit the creature's throat with the other one. Beside him, Gûrel wielded his slightly-curved sword with as much skill and accuracy. The faces of both elves were grim, and their eyes dark with loathing and rage.
Content that none of the elves was in immediate danger, Aragorn concentrated on further decimating the number of the orcs around them. Thanks to his long friendship with Legolas, Niras' fighting style was quite familiar to him, and Niras was obviously used to fighting alongside swordsmen. They soon fought together instead of only side by side and tried to guard each other's backs as well as possible. As Niras fought in the middle, Aragorn and Gûrel flanked and guarded him on both sides, and he divided his attention between them, turning where he was needed most.
Trying to keep count of their enemies as best he could, Aragorn soon realized that the tide had finally turned in their favour. They were winning. With fresh vigour he attacked a bulky orc in front of him, first cutting through the wooden handle of the raised axe and then beheading the creature with one move. At the same moment when he opened his mouth to call words of encouragement to his companions, a stifled cry of pain sounded behind him and caused the words to die in his throat.
Driving the orcs back momentarily with a vicious attack, he turned slightly and risked a glance to the side. He was just in time to see Gûrel fall to his knees, and then to the ground, his face a mask of pain. Even while Gûrel still fell, Aragorn saw the light die in his eyes and he knew that the elf was already on his way to the Halls of Mandos, dying before he hit the ground. No! everything inside of him screamed. Why now? Now that victory was so close?
Before he had even time to fully register the shock, the ranger's eyes fixed on something else, and he froze. A green-fletched arrow jutted out of Gûrel's chest, an arrow that must have pierced the elf's heart, or at least brushed it. Aragorn blinked, but the arrow was still there. It was impossible. The orcs had had no archers with them, and no orc could have driven the arrow into Gûrel's chest at such an angle and so deeply merely with its hands.
The entire world around him seemed to vanish, until there was nothing but Gûrel and the arrow and a truth that could not be true. As if from a distance he heard Niras call Gûrel's name, his voice choked with pain. Niras sank to his knees beside Gûrel, dropping his knives and cradling the fallen elf in his arms, heedless of any danger. Aragorn knew them to be brothers, and he had long since guessed that Gûrel was the younger one. He saw Niras' gaze fall on the arrow and his face pale, one trembling hand coming to rest near the shaft.
Suddenly Niras threw his head back, giving vent to his pain and fury and grief. A moment later he collapsed over the body of his brother, his shoulders shaking with silent sobs. Forcing himself with sheer willpower to finally tear his gaze away, Aragorn's eyes searched for a familiar figure. He saw that Legolas had climbed down the tree and was running towards them. The worried expression on his friend's face showed clearly that he was not aware of what had happened to Gûrel.
Aragorn stared at Legolas, trying to understand what was going on. What had happened? Had he really seen that arrow in Gûrel's chest? It could not be true. It could not. An arrow whistled through the air right in front of him, hitting something with a thud. Aragorn started and saw an orc fall to the ground, dead. It brought him back to his senses. Angry at his own carelessness, he quickly raised his sword and changed position, so that he came to stand between the advancing orcs and the elves behind him.
The ranger realized that it was a miracle that they were still alive in spite of his inattentiveness. No. No miracle. Legolas. The wood-elf had guarded them while Aragorn stood frozen in shock and Niras had collapsed under the weight of his grief. Automatically, Aragorn started fighting again. Now that Niras and Gûrel were down, he found himself greatly outnumbered once more, but he knew that he could handle numbers like these. He had done so before, and Legolas would soon be at his side.
Another arrow cut through the air right next to him and he flinched involuntarily, chiding himself immediately. There was no time for doubts or explanations or even thoughts now. Now was the time for survival. With grim determination he went through the familiar movements of hacking, slicing, ducking, and parrying, but he was not able to drive away the image that had burned itself into his mind: Gûrel pierced by one of the green-fletched arrows from Legolas' quiver.
Aragorn smashed the knob of his sword into the face of one orc, winning just enough time to draw his hunting knife and throw it at another attacker, piercing its throat. He stood alone against twelve orcs now, and while he was quite capable of defending himself he knew he could not keep them from reaching Niras much longer. He looked in the direction where he had seen Legolas last, planning to draw his attention and call for help and wondering at the same time why Legolas was not here already.
To his dismay he saw that Legolas had covered almost no ground in the meantime and had instead come to a dead stop. Looking closer, Aragorn recognized an expression of shock on the elf's face, quickly followed by disbelief and then horror while he was still watching. The ranger knew immediately what Legolas must have seen to shake him so much. It was obvious that the elf had not known at all what had happened to Gûrel. Aragorn wished his friend could have remained ignorant a while longer.
Looking around, the ranger noticed that he was not the only one who had become aware of the elf's distraction. Some of the orcs, who had previously tried to keep as far away as possible from the deadly arrows, were advancing on Legolas now, and one of them was almost near enough to run his scimitar through the back of the lithe figure in front of him. Aragorn's fingers moved instinctively to the hilt of his hunting knife… and found only empty air. He suppressed a curse.
"Legolas!" he called as loudly and urgently as he could.
Legolas started and began to turn. Their eyes met. Aragorn saw that the elf was still too shocked and confused to really register what was happening around him, and at the same time he noticed that the orc was raising its scimitar to thrust it into Legolas' back. Even if he got through to the elf, his friend would never be able to react in time. Aragorn did the one thing he could do. He let go of the only weapon he still had and threw his sword at the orc.
The long weapon tumbled awkwardly through the air, turning slowly, but its aim was true and it hit the orc in the chest with full force. The creature gave a screech of pain that ended abruptly and fell backwards, hitting the ground and being pinned to it by the sword. Legolas spun around as he heard the scream, his eyes widening as he became aware of what had just happened. Aragorn breathed a sigh of relief.
Legolas turned back to him, his eyes alert now. There was a short flicker of gratitude in them before he scanned the battlefield around them. One moment later he nocked an arrow to his bow and fired it so quickly that Aragorn was nearly unable to follow his movements. An orc right next to the human fell without even a sound. Looking at the creature in surprise, Aragorn realized that it had been ready to throw a dagger at him.
He nodded at Legolas with the hint of a smile and then bent down to pick up a scimitar that lay next to one of the corpses, right in time to parry the blow of another orc that had tried to sneak up on him. Legolas fired two more arrows, then he abandoned his bow for his twin knives. He fought his way quickly to Aragorn's side, and they began to move together in a deadly, graceful dance that had been honed and practised through years upon years of joint fights and dangers. None of the orcs had even a chance to flee.
A short time later the two friends stood side by side between the corpses of their enemies. Aragorn turned slowly in a circle, wanting to make sure that the danger was truly over. None of the orcs was left standing, and none of the fallen ones moved anymore. He relaxed slowly. Legolas sheathed his knives, and Aragorn threw the scimitar between the corpses. Their eyes met.
Aragorn smiled, but the elf's face was expressionless and he looked away almost instantly, as if he feared what he would see in the man's gaze, or did not want the ranger to read in his own. For a moment Aragorn was confused by his friend's strange reaction, but then he remembered suddenly what he had seen before and what had nearly cost all of their lives: the arrow.
For a short time, while fighting alongside his friend, he had forgotten all about it, and he nearly wished it could have stayed that way. Seeing Legolas' arrow sticking out of the dead elf's chest had been like a strange, terrible nightmare and suddenly the ranger dreaded the moment when he would have to face it again. He could only guess what that sight must have done to Legolas, and how the elf must feel now. Legolas' head was bowed and his muscles tensed. He seemed weighed down by dark thoughts.
Aragorn made one step towards his friend, intending to lay a comforting hand on his arm, but right in that moment Legolas turned away from him, facing the two elves behind them instead. Bracing himself, Aragorn followed his example. Niras had not moved much. He was still kneeling on the ground, holding his dead brother, rocking back and forth slowly while his eyes stared blankly ahead, as if looking at something only he could see. The grief that emanated from him was nearly palpable, like a cloud that threatened to darken the hearts of all who were touched by it.
Aragorn had seen that before, and he had hoped to never see it again. Elves could die from grief, and Aragorn knew that Niras had reached the breaking point. The elf would either fade from a broken heart or sail to the Undying Lands. There was no other way left for him. It reminded Aragorn of something Legolas had said shortly after they had first encountered the two brothers.
The friends had met Niras and Gûrel while they were traversing the Misty Mountains on their way from Mirkwood to Rivendell. As the two elves had the same way, they had decided to travel together. Shortly after meeting them, Aragorn had begun to wonder where their new companions were headed and why, and he had shared his thoughts with Legolas.
It was a rare thing these days to meet other travellers in the Misty Mountains, and what made it even more unusual was that these elves seemed to be from Lothlórien and not from Rivendell or the Woodland Realm. Legolas had not taken more than one look at their companions. "They are going to the Grey Havens," he had said, compassion in his gaze. "Do you not see how tired their eyes are?"
Aragorn had watched Niras and Gûrel for the rest of the day, and finally he had been able to see it, too. The light in their eyes was subdued and their exhaustion seemed to stem from more than simply the hardships of their journey. Aragorn had been quiet and thoughtful for the entire evening. To see elves leave these shores always filled him with sadness, and he hoped with all his heart that he would never see such an expression in Legolas' eyes. He had asked himself then what might have caused these elves to tire of this world so much that there was no other choice left for them than to leave it forever.
The ranger suppressed a sigh. He would probably never learn about the reasons for Niras' and Gûrel's journey now, and at least for one of them the journey had reached its end. Suddenly unable to bear the heartbreaking grief in Niras' eyes any longer, he looked away and found his gaze drawn to Legolas instead.
His friend stood completely frozen, his gaze alternating between the green-fletched arrow in Gûrel's chest and the grief-stricken face of Niras. There was horror in the archer's eyes, horror and despair. He looked like someone who was trying with all his might to understand something that made no sense at all.
Alarmed by the despair on Legolas' face, Aragorn put a hand on his friend's shoulder. "Legolas, do you know what happened?" he asked the elf quietly.
It was enough to finally make Legolas tear his gaze away from the sight in front of them and look at Aragorn instead. His eyes were dark and empty, and he seemed to be strangely lost. It hurt the ranger to see his friend like that.
"No," Legolas answered, and his voice sounded hollow. "I never follow the flight of an arrow once it is shot… I never need to."
As if against his will, his head started to turn in the direction of Gûrel again, but Aragorn squeezed his friend's shoulder slightly and drew the elf's attention back to himself. Legolas' gaze fixed on the ranger as if he was an anchor to hold on to.
"Gûrel was moving away from the flight path of the arrow and the orc was moving right into it," the elf said softly. "That is all I saw before I turned away to fire the next arrow. I do not know-" He broke off, a helpless look in his eyes.
Aragorn put his other hand on Legolas' free shoulder and turned his friend around so that he was facing him. The elf did not resist.
"Listen to me," the man said intently, his eyes boring into those of his friend. "I do not know what happened here, or how it did happen, but I know it was not your fault. Your arrows do not go astray, or I would be dead a hundred times over. I know you, my friend. Do not lose faith in yourself. It was not your fault. It could never be."
Legolas looked back at him, and the sudden deep pain in the elf's eyes cut right into Aragorn's heart. "I thank you for your trust in me, Aragorn," the archer answered softly. "But whatever you say, it is my arrow in Gûrel's chest. It is my arrow that… killed him. You cannot change that."
Aragorn felt Legolas' shoulders slump slightly in sudden defeat. Then the elf took one step back, and reluctantly Aragorn released his hold on him. Legolas turned around and slowly began to walk away. As much as Aragorn did not want to let him go, he knew that his friend needed to be alone now. He was only too aware how terrible the situation must be for Legolas.
The wood-elf was a fierce and merciless fighter against any creature of darkness, but apart from that he avoided killing wherever he could. Whenever they had had to fight and kill men instead of orcs or other creatures of the Dark Lord, it had taken its toll on Legolas' soul. As all elves, he honoured life, and he would not raise a hand against a child of Ilúvatar if he was given any choice. But now an elf had been killed, and seemingly by one of Legolas' arrows.
Aragorn closed his eyes. He was not sure whether Legolas would be able to cope with Gûrel's death at all. He opened his eyes again, turned, and looked down at Niras. His heart wanted to follow his friend, but he knew there was something he had to do, if he wanted to have a chance to really help Legolas. He had told his friend the truth. Aragorn found himself unable to believe that one of Legolas' arrows could hit the wrong target, even in the heat of battle. Legolas was much too experienced an archer to allow that to happen.
As every archer, Legolas was aware of the dangers and would go to any lengths to avoid them. In all the years Aragorn had known the elf, none of his arrows had ever gone astray. To Legolas, archery was not simply a way to defend himself or his favourite way of fighting. It was a part of him, something that was almost as natural to him as breathing. That his arrow would not only miss the intended target, but also kill a friend on top of it was as likely as that the elf would accidentally stop breathing.
Aragorn knew he had to get to the bottom of this if he wanted to keep Legolas from destroying himself with his guilt and self-doubt. Niras was his only hope and he had been nearest to Gûrel when he fell. Right now, Niras was too far gone to reach, but Aragorn hoped that he would come to his senses again some time during the night, if he was not already fading. The orcs had attacked them at dusk, when they had already made camp at the western foot of the Misty Mountains and had believed the worst danger to be over.
The ranger rekindled the campfire and dragged the nearest orc corpses away, so that the sight of them and their stench would not be the first thing that would greet Niras if he ever woke up again from his trance-like state. Aragorn settled down a small distance away from the elf, hoping that his presence would provide at least some kind of comfort to the grieving Elda. He only wished that he could have done the same for Legolas.
As much as he understood the wood-elf's reasons for leaving the camp, he still did not like the thought of his friend being out there alone with only his pain and agonizing thoughts for company. But the only way to truly help Legolas now was to stay and try to talk to Niras. If Niras had not seen anything… Aragorn did not know whether he would be able to help Legolas live with what had happened here today if he could not at least find a reason for it. At the moment, he could only try to hold on to hope for both of them.
To be continued…
I do not think this qualifies as a cliffie... (smiles sweetly) The second and last chapter should follow next week.