A/N: Snow day today. You don't know how strange it is for an Aussie girl to be getting a snow day.
Again, thanks so much for everyone who reviewed!
And finally, this chapter is unbetaed, as my beta is out of the country.
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Aragorn watched Legolas carefully as he lay on his side on the rough forest floor. Three of the men from the group who had accompanied Legolas stood around them, watching them suspiciously. Both man and elf ignored them. Aragorn's attention was focused solely on the figure in front of him.
Legolas' eyes were opened unseeingly as he stared upwards into the canopy of the trees, hands folded peacefully upon his breast, but Aragorn could tell he wasn't sleeping. He hadn't slept for two days, since the Entwife had told him he was going to die.
Aragorn pushed the thought out of his head as soon as it entered. He couldn't think like that, he wouldn't. Legolas wasn't going to die; Aragorn would make sure of that. The only thing that worried Aragorn was the fact that Legolas did seem like he was grieving. Growing up in Rivendell, he had known an elf who had lost his wife to a tragic landslide on the side of the mountain. The poor elf had lasted two weeks before fading to grief, and he had acted very much like Legolas was acting now.
There was also the issue of not knowing just how powerful an Entwife was. Did she know the future? Could she look into someone's soul and tell what they were feeling? These questions weighed heavily on his mind, and he did not want to risk Legolas' life. He would take him to Rivendell and get his father to look at him.
He rolled onto his back, realizing there was no point to staring at his unresponsive friend. On top of not sleeping, Legolas had not uttered a word since the Entwife had said he would die. Aragorn could not think of why; normally, Legolas would simply have laughed off a declaration of his impending death, everyone from orcs to Lord Elrond had told him he would die at one time or another. Maybe it was because of his undying loyalty to the trees…
Aragorn stopped thinking as soon as he heard one of the three watching men move toward another. He had always had uncommonly good hearing for a man, it came with being a ranger, and he put it to good use now. The two men were standing off towards his right, whispering as though frightened someone would overhear. They were right to fear, and wrong to believe whispering would help.
"I'm sick of Costo," muttered one man, the one who had left his post for this chat. "We should do something about him."
"Those are dangerous words," said the other back. "But he is far away… and I happen to agree."
"Were you listening to Ferian? He wants the elf, and now he knows about him, I assume he wants that man too."
There was a slight pause in the conversation, and Aragorn held his breath, trying to hear better. "I say," continued the first man, "that we take matters into our own hands, if you understand what I am saying…"
"When? There is never an opportune moment for things like this."
"Sh. Not here. I'll be in contact…" The man finished on an oddly suggestive note and moved off.
Aragorn lay awake for a long time after that, heart beating wildly.
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As soon as it was light enough to warrant waking up, Aragorn stood and grabbed Legolas, dragging him none too gently towards a fairly sheltered copse of trees. "It ends here, Legolas."
Legolas said nothing, but fixed him with a questioning glance. "Don't pretend," growled Aragorn. "You know what I'm talking about. You and I are going to have to work together pretty hard to get to Rivendell without the guard dogs." He was exaggerating slightly the difficulty of getting away from those men; if they actually put their minds to it, getting away should be ridiculously simple, but he wanted Legolas' effort.
"Rivendell?" muttered the elf. It was the first thing he had said since the declaration of his doom by the Entwife.
"Yes, Rivendell. I'm worried about you." He couldn't quite keep all of his emotions from his voice.
"Why?" questioned the elf emotionlessly.
Aragorn blinked. "You haven't been yourself," he said eventually. "You've been… well, mean. You're more aggressive, less friendly… and it's not just for now, it's been ages, what is wrong with you?" Aragorn was shouting now at the overly passive elf and he didn't know why. The emotions of the last few weeks were finally catching up with him and he was taking it out on his best friend.
Legolas blinked, and in that one moment his eyes changed from utterly emotionless to furious. "What is wrong with me?" he said. He did not raise his voice, but the coldness was tangible. "What is wrong with me? I'll tell you what is wrong with me. I go to a Valar forsaken forest with my best friend to try and find out what has been happening to elves that have been going missing – my friends that have been going missing. When I get there I find they have been betrayed by the one thing we elves nurture beyond all else – nature. Do you know how disconcerting that is? I am nearly three thousand years old. Imagine if you were that old, and you discovered that everything you have ever lived for is out to get you. How would you feel?"
Aragorn glared at the elf. "I, unlike you, wouldn't have so much trouble accepting a fact and moving on, instead of pouting over it like some tweenager!"
Legolas visibly winced, and it suddenly occurred to Aragorn that he might have actually hurt his feelings. "Legolas, I –" But Legolas simply brushed past him and walked back towards the men in the clearing.
Aragorn stood there for a few seconds, breathing deeply. When his temper became too much he let out a dwarven curse and kicked the nearest tree. Unsurprisingly, it didn't help.
What had he done? Legolas would never come with him now, he probably hated him. And that would only add to the elf's grief. In trying to get the elf to seek help, Aragorn had inadvertently cursed him to death.
He made his decision. He had been here a reasonable amount of time, long enough for Legolas' freshest anger to leave him. He would go back there, and no matter what, he would get that elf to Rivendell. Nothing else mattered.
The actual doing was harder. As brave as he tried to be, Aragorn could not help but think of what would happen should Legolas reject him. He knew what he planned on doing: grabbing Legolas by the hair and dragging him all the way, but the actual doing was so much harder. After a couple more minutes brooding, he took a deep breath and stood up, ready to confront the elf.
He walked the short distance back to camp, but what he saw was enough to make him want to run back and forget what he saw on the ground.
For what he saw on the ground was nothing. No men sleeping in, no bedrolls, no packs. Nobody stood around, lazily chatting. The only things left from their stay was the old wood from the fire that had been there last night and – oh Valar no – a bit of dirt that looked as though it had been kicked up viciously. Strewn around the camp, looking as though they had been thrown in various directions without much thought of the consequences, were two elven knives, a quiver of arrows, and a long elven bow.
Legolas was gone.
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A/N: Hm. What happened there? Review to find out!
Random bragfest: I am in a school where I do not speak the language, and yet I did manage to get an A on my history exam, when I have no prior knowledge of the country's history either. I just memorized my answers, lol!