Disclaimer: Once again I say that they are not mine and, alas, never will be.

Summary: Legolas and Aragorn share a strong friendship. They often demonstrate the depth of it by making sacrifices for each other. However, not all sacrifices are tragic ones.

A/N: This story was written for the Teitho Contest theme: Friendship. It won third place. :o)


MAKING A SACRIFICE

by White Wolf

Legolas and Aragorn moved through the forest easily. It was rare when a wood-elf or an experienced ranger had trouble negotiating the thick trees, exposed roots and occasional underbrush. Today was no different.

The two friends had just finished investigating rumors of bandits farther south, and they were now on their way to leave a report with the leader of a village called Ashdale. The elder was then supposed to give the report to a ranger due to arrive in a couple of days. The rangers in the region would take care of the bandits.

The sun was almost straight up in the sky, when Legolas slowed his steps.

"What is it?" Aragorn asked, fully expecting the elf to tell him that orcs or some other foul creatures were nearby. There had been a total lack of them during this mission, and that was very unusual for these two. Their misadventures were legendary, at least among their family and friends.

"The river is swollen," the archer replied, clearly hearing the roaring of the water not far off.

"Not surprising, considering there's been a lot of rain in the hills the past few days."

Even knowing the reason for the increase in the river's volume didn't make the halt in their progress any less frustrating.

It didn't take long before the ranger was able to hear the river for himself. "It sounds like it's running pretty swiftly." That wasn't surprising, either.

When they broke through the trees and beheld the rushing water, their conclusions proved correct.

Legolas looked up and down the river, but there was no bridge in sight. "It is good we came now, before it becomes impossible to get across," the elf stated, as he stared at the fast-moving water. "It is not too deep yet, so we can cross here, if we are careful."

"I agree that this looks to be as good a place as any," commented Aragorn, after making his own quick inspection.

The two waded into the river and began picking their cautious way across. The water was not only moving rapidly but was also murky due to the silt and bits of debris being carried down from upriver, so being able to see any objects along the bottom was all put impossible.

As Aragorn was making his way across, he slipped on a slimy rock. His foot went to the side, and the rest of him fell face first into the cold water.

Legolas, aided by his quick elven reflexes, grabbed Aragorn's arm and kept him from being swept away.

While still gripping his friend, who was struggling to stand upright, Legolas was knocked off of his own feet, and the two were pulled downstream by the swift current.

Even with the extra volume of water, the elven warrior and the human ranger were easily able to touch bottom, so drowning was not an imminent danger, however,

they were being scraped and bruised, as they were dragged and bounced along the rock-strewn riverbed.

After several minutes of further struggles, the two friends were finally able to help each other regain their footing and make it to the opposite shore, feet squelching as they slogged in their water-filled boots.

Immediately feeling something different on his left side, Aragorn's hand moved down and found his sword, scabbard and all, missing. "My sword is gone!" There was a note of near panic in the man's voice.

The scabbard had been snagged by a passing tree branch, which had narrowly missed hitting Aragorn in the back, and pulled the scabbard loose from the ranger's belt.

The elf's keen sight soon spotted the quickly disappearing sword. "There it is!"

As Legolas and Aragorn watched, the sword was getting farther and farther away. They both knew that a little farther down, the river deepened and large rocks created violent, white-water rapids. If the sword got that far, it would be lost.

Legolas didn't hesitate. He ran along the bank and then worked his way out into the current a little ahead of the branch. A swirling eddy grabbed the branch, flinging it farther out into the middle of the river. Legolas had to lunge for it, just barely managing to latch onto the sword's hilt.

Legolas raised his hand and waved the sword over his head to show Aragorn that he had rescued the ranger's cherished blade.

It wasn't until he handed the sword back to Aragorn with a smile of triumph that the wood-elf noticed it was a naked blade he held, glinting in the sunshine.

Both Legolas and Aragorn looked downriver and saw the branch tilt downward, flipping the scabbard once in the air before being lost to sight in the rapids.

Legolas had a sheepish look on his face, when he reached the ranger's side. "I am sorry about the scabbard, Estel. I guess the branch did not want to give it up."

"You did your best to retrieve it, Legolas, Don't feel guilty." He looked at his friend and grinned. "I'm just happy to have my sword back."

"But Elladan and Elrohir gave you that scabbard."

"Yes. It was on my eighteenth birthday. However, I'm even happier that it wasn't you the branch snagged." The man emphasized his words with a squeeze of the elf's shoulder.

"As am I," Legolas replied, trying not to think of being tossed like a child's rag doll in the churning water. It wouldn't have been the first time, but he wasn't anxious to repeat the experience.

Aragorn stared for a moment at Legolas.

The elf frowned. "What is wrong?"

"This." The ranger reached up and pulled off something that was stuck on the side of the elf's right cheek. "I thought at first it was just hair, but it's a piece of string."

Legolas reached up and took the string from Aragorn's hand. He knew immediately what it was. "Oh no." He quickly pulled his bow from his back and groaned, when he saw that the bowstring hung in two pieces.

"I know you carry extra strings with you, so it shouldn't be a problem replacing it."

"Yes, I do carry extras, but this is the last one I had. All the others have broken for one reason or another." Legolas sighed. "I guess the branch got its revenge for me taking the sword from it."

Aragorn started to laugh, not at the loss of the string but at the way Legolas often gave sentient characteristics to inanimate objects. Trees were alive, of course, but broken branches were not. He successfully stifled the urge to laugh out loud and merely nodded in agreement.

"Well, aren't we a pair?" the ranger asked after a moment, a light tone to his voice.

"At least you still have your weapon. Mine is useless," the elf grumbled.

"We can only hope we don't meet up with any orcs or other horrors until we can get home again."

"That will not be for a couple of weeks yet," Legolas pointed out. "I hope you do not cut yourself drawing that sword from your belt or lose your pants if you cut your belt in half."

Aragorn grimaced at the prospect of either of those things happening.

"It will also take extra time to get it free from your blet. But do not worry, mellon nin. I will ask any orcs we encounter, if they will wait while you get your sword loose."

That flippant comment didn't deserve a reply, in Aragorn's opinion, and he made none. The man just turned and walked away from the river, grinning broadly once his back was turned.

Behind him, the elf did the same.

x x x x x

Several hours later, Legolas and Aragorn cautiously approached a thicket at the edge of a small clearing. "There's the village," the man said, moving aside some of the foliage. He nodded toward the collection of humble dwellings and small shops. "It's hardly a bustling place, but this is where the rangers wanted me to leave my report."

Aragorn pulled a piece of folded paper from his pocket and held it out in front of him. It contained all the information he and Legolas had gathered.

"I think it best that you stay here while I'm gone." Aragorn almost flinched at his own words. He continued quickly. "You know that the people in some of these remote places don't trust elves. I hate to say that of my own race, but it's a fact."

That kind of prejudice angered the man to no end, but things were what they were, and he couldn't do anything about them.

He used to argue with thickheaded people, who believed all sorts of false tales about the Firstborn. Now, however, unless Legolas was with him and insulted face to face, Aragorn learned to keep his silence, since he was never able to convince anyone of the truth. He always did his best to protect Legolas from exposure to such feelings of mistrust and sometimes outright hatred.

"I am used to it, Estel. Do not worry." Legolas kept all emotion out of his voice. At least, he hoped he did. He was well aware of how upset his friend became on his behalf.

"You should not have to," Aragorn remarked grimly. Changing the subject, he said, "I'll be as quick as I can." The ranger then left the security of the thicket and headed straight for the center of the village.

The leader he was to meet was not in the village at the moment, so Aragorn was asked to wait while the older man was fetched.

During his wait, the ranger's eyes roamed over the medium-sized village. Then he spotted something that made him smile, and he headed for it.

After concluding his impromptu business, Aragorn returned to the center of the village just in time to be met by the same man who had told him to wait.

The other man led him past the center green and down the row of modest cottages. The two entered a small dwelling at the end of the lane.

Meanwhile, Legolas was waiting patiently behind the screen of foliage and using his keen sight to look around the village. It was part curiosity and part vigilance that prompted his visual surveillance.

It didn't take long for his eyes to land on something that put a smile on his face.

Now, he thought, to get into the village and out again without any of the villagers spotting him and raising an alarm. He also didn't want Aragorn to see him.

x x x x x

Half an hour later, Aragorn left the village and walked back through the thicket and into the clearing on the other side. He smiled when he saw Legolas sitting on a tree root, casually waiting for him.

"Did you get your report into the right hands?" the elf asked.

"Yes I did. I had to wait on the elder, which is what took me longer than I expected, but he said he'd deliver my report to the rangers.

"Did you entertain yourself while I was away? Discuss things with the trees perhaps?" Aragorn never got tired of teasing the elf for his love of talking to trees.

Legolas grinned at the old jest, though in fact, it was quite true. "Yes, thank you."

"So our work here is done." The statement was made with a note of relief, which was also reflected in the ranger's eyes. He couldn't wait to once again enjoy a home-cooked meal and a soft, warm bed in a room with a roof over it. The prospect was delightful to the road-weary ranger.

"Another successful journey." The wood-elf smiled at his friend. "We may be a bit scraped and bruised, but at least, we have no holes in us we did not start out with."

Aragorn laughed heartily. "Miracles do exist. But then, we haven't made it home quite yet."

"You just had to spoil the happy mood, true though your words may be," the elf sighed. "Still you did not have to bring up that particular point."

Aragorn laughed again. "Oh, before we leave, I have a gift for you." He handed the elf a small package that he pulled from a pocket inside his tunic.

Legolas quirked an eyebrow. "How odd."

A puzzled frown crossed Aragorn's face. "Odd? What's odd about me giving my dearest friend a gift?"

"Nothing," Legolas reassured, as he shook his head. "I just meant it is odd, because I have a gift for you, as well."

The two friends didn't often exchange gifts between them, so it was very unusual for them both to have surprise gifts for the other at the same time.

Legolas walked over and leaned down behind a tree. When he straightened up, he brought out a somewhat larger cloth-wrapped object and handed it to Aragorn.

They each began to open the packages they had just received.

Aragorn balanced the elf's gift in his left hand while he pulled the last piece of cloth aside with his right hand. He stared down at his gift, completely blown away by what he saw. Aragorn beheld a beautifully tooled leather sword scabbard. "How? Where?" the man stammered. As far as he knew, Legolas had been sitting in this clearing, talking to the trees, the whole time he had been gone.

Legolas just smiled innocently. Lifting the last of the small package's covering, he stared down at his own gift. It was a handful of finely made bowstrings. He immediately saw the quality of them and care with which they had been made. Also evident was the strength these strings would provide for any arrows he fired from them.

It was then that Aragorn noticed Legolas's beloved bow was no longer secured to the elf's back. He checked the ground around the clearing and then looked to see if it was perhaps leaning against a nearby tree. Not seeing it anywhere, the ranger asked, "Where's your bow?"

"I traded it for the sword scabbard you now hold."

While the ranger pondered that, Legolas saw the empty belt where Aragorn's blade was supposed to be hanging. "Where is your sword?"

"I traded it for those bowstrings in your hand."

"Why did you give your sword away? It meant so much to you?"

"Why did you give your bow away? It meant just as much to you."

"I did it for you," they both declared at the same time.

There was a big smile on their faces at the improbable twist in what each of them had done for the other.

The two friends looked intently at each other, clasping the other's shoulder, a heart full of friendship and brotherly love passing between them.

"Thank you, Estel," the elf said with genuine warmth and gratitude for what the ranger had sacrificed for him.

There was equal warmth and gratitude in the ranger's tone for the elf's willing sacrifice, as he said, "Thank you, Legolas."

Their gifts firmly in hand, the two friends headed for home.

The End