Eyes Never Lie
I own nothing of these characters or of Lord of the Rings; they are all creations of Tolkien.
After a disastrous summer, Aragorn and Legolas are together again. However, their friendship will once again be put to the test as events, as strange as a mist covered path, unfold that threaten to take away more than just their faith in each other.
Let me know what you think. This story will be like the next chapter of "summer of hidden fears", but you don't have to read it to understand this one!
The forest path was hidden by a thick dark shadow that even the ranger was having a hard time navigating through. Aragorn's horse walked on cautiously, the reason for it moving at all was the young man's quiet encouragement, whispered softly in an elven dialect that one would only expect to come from the most learned of the fair folk. Then again, Aragorn was not a common human; not simply for the reason that he was raised by the elf lord of Rivendell, but because he himself was Isildur's heir. He was the one chosen to lead the humans after the Eldar leave middle earth. For now, however, he was simply Estel, the human son of Lord Elrond, brother to Elrohir and Elladan and brother by heart to Legolas Thuranduilion, crowned prince of Mirkwood.
Ever since the Valar saw it fit to put the ranger and the elf prince together, they had been inseparable through good and bad times; although a few family members would most likely add insufferable and uncontrollable to that description. Their most recent adventure had landed the pair in another deadly predicament that nearly cost the young ranger his life. However, after the healing, both mental and physical, had ended, the time had come to say goodbye. Aragorn smiled, still coaxing the stallion forward, as he remembered that day that had occurred only three weeks ago. Of course before Legolas had departed he left with Aragorn an invitation to spend the winter with him in Mirkwood, and after days of badgering the ranger had succeeded in getting the reluctant permission of his ada, despite the disastrous summer that young man and the elf prince had spent together...
Much to Elrond's dismay, Aragorn, being the eager youth that he was, had decided to leave at once, and before either of them knew it was time to say their goodbyes. The twins had already said farewell the previous morning. They left the valley on a hunting trip in order to fill the stores for winter, so today it was just Elrond and the ranger.
Aragorn remembered how tightly the elf had hugged him and how reluctant the elder elf was to let him go. It was as if the ranger would disappear right before his very eyes as soon as he broke contact.
"Be safe, my Estel." He whispered softly in the man's ear.
Something told Elrond to hang on to him, to take back his permission, to force his son to stay with him where it was safe, but he feared that the man would not understand. Perhaps it was time for Elrond to be selfish... but he loved his adopted son as much as his own twins and to keep them from happiness or to break a promise was not his nature. So despite the argument that raged within his mind, he let the ranger go and smiled as Aragorn mounted his bay stallion and nudged the horse forward. Elrond, who now stood alone in the courtyard, could not help the feeling of concern that washed over him. He was sure as he watched his Estel leave, that trouble was just around the corner.
The weather had been favorable for travel. A cool breeze weaved it's way through the trees kissing the young ranger's skin and ruffling his hair. He smiled watching the leaves fall all about him as he led his horse down the well traveled and familiar path toward the mountain pass leading to Mirkwood. There was something about the fall that he loved, perhaps it had to do with the fact that he grew up in an elven haven where beauty, no matter what season, was always present. Whatever the reason he seemed to breathe deeper than he had in days. He loved his home and family, but the wild was just as much a part of him as they were.
Much to his dislike, when night had fallen upon him, he built a makeshift flet in one of the shorter trees in the vicinity and attempted to sleep. He woke before sunrise and continued south east toward the pass. Aragorn was about two days into his journey when he ran into another ranger; he appeared disheveled and upset. Aragorn looked the man over checking quickly for injuries as he dismounted, but the only signs he detected were ones of distress and exhaustion. The ranger's hair was blond and his eyes were a deep shade of green. At first glance he seemed older than Aragorn, whose Dunedain heritage caused his body to age much slower than a ordinary human's would. They were in fact more or less the same age, but this man was obviously not of his blood line. Then again there were so few left that could truly trace their origins to back to Numenor. The man smoothed out his dirty hair and wrinkled clothes in an attempt to look more presentable. His weary eyes attesting to the fact that he had not slept in days.
"My name is Dalran, and I have heard news of your travels, Strider of Rivendell, from your leader Halbarad. I am most pleased to find you here. I have urgent matters that need attending to." His voice was rough from lack of water, so Aragorn, without a second though gave him his own water skin. The man bowed his head in thanks as he drank deeply. He handed the water back to Aragorn who returned the gesture.
"Well met, Dalran. Now, how can I be of asistance?" I hope that it is beyond the pass for I am headed toward Mirkwood to spend the winter. I do not wish to be trapped here by the early snowfalls." Aragorn replied, hoping that it would not take long, for he wanted to spend as much time with Legolas as he could. He missed the elf, they were like brothers and in his opinion three weeks apart was far too long without a visit.
"I have reports of ill tidings, and they hail from just beyond the pass." Aragorn smiled at this news, but it quickly faded from his face as the Ranger continued, "A hunting party that I happened to meet traveling from Rohan has given me disturbing news of disappearing villagers, in a town two weeks travel from this pass. Unfortunately, It is to the north of Mirkwood." The stranger replied not noticing the look in Aragorn's eyes as his heart sank. He had been looking forward to seeing the prince within three days time if he traveled on horseback. Now it would take him at least two weeks if the village he was thinking of was the same one this man was speaking of, and that was not even taking into account how long it would take him to decipher the mystery. He sighed inwardly, not wanting to show disrespect and nodded to the ranger, signaling for him to continue.
"The livestock have been disappearing for some time now, usually in two or three day spans until recently. Two children were taken this past week." The ranger stated gravely.
"Did you receive any details on how they were taken?" Aragorn questioned; this would take a few more men than just two.
"Yes, they stated that it had all started when a strange mist descended upon the town several weeks ago, the few flock animals that had been killed were blamed on wolves until the two little girls went missing in the fog. One of their dolls had been found two days later, deep in the woods and splattered with blood. Naturally, the village had been thrown into a state of panic. A hunting party was sent out to kill any near by predators, but, much to the dismay of the village, they too, never returned. After the party went missing, the people more or less have been living in fear. No one enters or leaves the village gates and if they choose to do so they are never seen again." The Delran waited for a reply.
"I see." Aragorn thought carefully and despite what his heart was saying he continued. "Return to your own leader and send several rangers back to assist me. I will head there immediately." Aragorn said, the regret well hidden in his voice. Legolas would have to wait, this was more important.
"Very well, good luck Strider. I will go with all the speed that I can muster; I shall return with help as quickly as I can." Dalran replied. They said their farewells and Aragorn, leading his horse, turned and faced the entrance to the mountain pass.
After two days of traveling, Aragorn reached the edge of the forest of Mirkwood. He longed to turn south, but he knew that duty came before self want, so he located a path in the wood and headed North toward the village. For three seemingly endless days, Aragorn hugged the edge of the forest. The spiders rarely came north, but something about the trees gave the man an uneasy feeling, one that Aragorn had attempted to explain to Legolas several times. The open landscape however made him an easy target for orcs, so he decided that creepy was better than capture.
Today, Aragorn especially longed for the bright openness to the east of him. He shook his head in order to clear his mind. The memories of his ada, as well as the ranger, had distracted him from where he was going, and now he seemed to be going in circles. The darkness was quickly taking a turn for the worst, and the grim news that he had been given several days ago was quickly becoming all too real as thin wisps of swirling mist began twisting wickedly around him. The sun, now high above the trees, brought no relief to the fog that consumed Aragorn and his mount, in fact, with every passing second it appeared to grow worse until finally all visibility was lost. Aragorn, carefully dismounted his horse and took the reins tightly in his hand. If he lost his horse, he lost his supplies.
The bay stallion pranced and pawed at the ground nervously and the snap of a twig caused Aragorn to jump to attention, straining his eyes in the direction that he thought the sound had come from. His heart pounded in his chest as he drew his dagger, ready to strike at what ever it was that threatened him. Suddenly, something gripped his shoulder. Aragorn, adrenaline flowing through his veins, spun around on his heels and pressed his weapon to his attackers throat, his other hand, releasing his horses reigns, gripped the strangers hair exposing his neck.
"ARAGORN, it's me!" Legolas cried, as he wrapped his hands tightly around Aragorn's wrist in an attempt to gain his own freedom. At once the young ranger released his friend and sheathed his knife.
"Legolas, I am so sorry, I had no idea it was you..." Aragorn never finished, Legolas' soft snickers interrupted him.
"You know, that really wasn't funny at all, I could have killed you." The ranger scolded seriously as he punched the elf in the arm, finally causing Legolas to double over with laughter. The amusement that the elf found in the situation was lost on the man.
"Elves! They never take anything seriously!" Aragorn cried in disgust, throwing his arms up in the air.
"I'm sorry my friend, your right it wasn't that funny." He said still smirking, "but what may I ask had you so nervous?" He said, sobering up, an under-laying tone of worry was now detectable in his voice.
Aragorn explained to his best friend what the ranger he met days earlier had described to him. Worry creased the elf's face; this was disturbing news. The village was located on a trade route for his people. If the road was dangerous, then his people were in danger as well, and as prince of Mirkwood, it was his duty to protect them.
"Well, what say you to another adventure?" Legolas asked his friend who stared back at him and shook his head.
"Legolas, I will do this myself. Remember the last hunting trip we went on? Do you even remember how we ended up captured and almost sacrificed to a heathen god!" Aragorn stated flatly, but Legolas just grinned.
"All the more reason for me to come. You need someone to save you." Legolas held in his laughter as he finished.
"Oh, since when did getting captured become the same as rescuing? And if I recall correctly, you made my capture ten times worse," Aragorn retorted with a snort. Legolas just grinned.
"It is in the past my friend." Legolas stated trying to ignore the fact that Aragorn was right. Now it was the ranger's turn to snicker. Aragorn ducked as Legolas attemped to smack the ranger upside the head.
"Then I guess you can do it yourself, I'll meet you back at the palace," he said as he turned to walk away still smiling.
"Fine you can come, I hate these woods anyway," Aragorn said with a shudder, "They give me..."
"The creeps!" Legolas laughed as Aragorn glared back at him.
"Yes, they do!" He retorted giving the elf a playful shove. "Lets just get going. This fog... never mind!" the ranger growled as Legolas attempted to suppressed a smile, but failed miserably.
"What were you doing so far north anyway?" Aragorn asked the fair being, trying to change the subject.
"If you must know, I was looking for you. You were late. Remember the time you got lost and I found you a week later still wandering around the woods." Legolas said, the smile never leaving his lips.
"Lost! You left me there! And besides I have been here so many times before I could find the palace blindfolded." He retorted with an accusing look. The elf replaced the grin with a mock offended look. The pair staired at each other for a second more and both burst out laughing.
"I am glad you are here, my prissy elf." Aragorn said sobering up.
"And I am glad to be here, you stubborn ranger." Legolas said ruffling Aragorn's hair as the ranger tried unsuccessfully to duck out of the way. With that the two set off together, both content for the moment to be in each others company again.
And we have not even gotten to the good part yet...Let me know what you think! Reviews are most welcome, but please be kind!