Death or Despair
Two of the 'Write' Sisters:
Sarah (the bookish, plausibility-mad realist)
and Hannah (the crazy, starry-eyed visionary)
Rating:PG-13 for some character-torture, 'epic battle scenes' (har har), tense situations, and angst
Spoilers:Mild one for Jedi Quest, book 2 (see if you can spot it!), and bitty ones for Cassia and Siobhan's Mellon Chronicles, but otherwise, none.
Background:Much of our background for this story is based on Cassia and Siobhan's Mellon Chronicles (particularly Captive of Darkness). You can read their stories under Cassia's name here on ff.net, or else on their site: www.aragorn-legolas.5u.com The complication is that we were not through writing this when they posted 'Mistaken Identity' and finally got Legolas' 'human problems' resolved, so it's already a little outdated. Still, I hope you will be able to suspend your disbelief for us, since rewriting the whole fic would take too long. : )
Background (Tolkien):Two of the premises in our story are 1. That Aragorn was the adopted son of Elrond, and therefore brother to Elrond's sons, Elladan and Elrohir, and 2. That Aragorn and Legolas were good friends prior to the Fellowship of the Ring. The first of these is true, according to Tolkien. Aragorn *was* taken to Elrond's house after the death of his father and raised there, as the elven lord's foster son, under the name of Estel, and the idea that he, Elladan, and Elrohir were close is implied by that arrangement. The second of these is conjecture, based mostly upon parts of the movie (particularly Legolas' defense of Aragorn during the Council of Elrond), but almost not at all on anything in the books. However, it is not denied either, so I hope you will enjoy the possibility, even if it cannot be considered fact! : )
Disclaimer:All recognizable characters, and places in this fic do not belong to us, but are rather the creation of one of the most incredible authors of all time: J.R.R. Tolkien. All other characters and places are ours. We have no permission to use these characters and places, but are not being paid for our work either. : )
Feedback:We welcome your opinions, one and all, and the more the better! A couple of notes though: please no swearing, and no flaming if our interpretation of Tolkien's world is different than yours, or anything like that. Also, literary critiquing is welcome (grammar, etc.) and we will be sure to take note of it, but just so you know: it is unlikely we will be re-editing this story as we post. Thanks! : )
Summary:A day that begins well gradually turns into a nightmare with no seeming end. Now Legolas and Aragorn must remember that, no matter how dark the passage may become, there is always light at the end. So long as they can walk long enough to reach it.
In Honor Of:Chloe (the elvish, angst-loving enthusiast), our little sister, for putting up with us when we drifted off into our own little world, and for poking fun at us when we began to take ourselves too seriously. Not to mention supplying those handy bits of elvish… May your aggravation with us forever remain on a safe level! : )
Cassia (the anonymous torture fic writer) and Siobhan (the mute mush shadow), for entertaining us with numerous stories, planting the Aragorn/Legolas fic-writing bug in our brains, and convincing us that joint authoring really *isn't* an impossibility. May your pencils forever scribble! : )
And now, with no further rambling (we see you all gasping in relief, so don't bother trying to hide), let the story begin…
Of Tracking Off Course
The rush of the breeze gently buffeted across the plains, shifting through the foliage and combing through the grasses: causing a rough scratching noise to rise into the air. The wind whistled as it passed through the formations of rock close by, echoing on into the vastness of the wide, flat lands.
Legolas Greenleaf carefully bent down to inspect yet a further clue of another's presence.
Not often before had he had a need to track prey through the plains and indeed he was not accustomed to the differences in technique. He had a vague idea that he was making progress, but he could hardly know. He studied the clue and decided he had not been wrong.
The dark earth was crusted over with lighter dirt that had been baked by the rays of the sun. In this earth he could see the darker tones from below seeping towards the surface in the perfect outline of a footprint. Legolas smiled slightly: his prey would not escape him now.
Atop a great formation of rock the man crouched, staring out at the wide grasses as the wind picked up gradually, buffeting him lightly. Dark hair flew in his face and curled around his chin, but he brushed it idly aside and continued to watch for the being who should have been close behind him.
The sky had begun to transform from the pale blue of day to the stained crimson of sunset, sapphire melding with red and streaking the horizon a vibrant amethyst.
Aragorn looked up; he could not hide his worry as the colors of the sinking sun deepened to night, announcing the coming of the moon. //Where is Legolas?//
The ranger had been preparing to return to Rivendell from a visit in Mirkwood when the argument had begun. Legolas had offered to come with him as far as the High Pass, Aragorn had agreed and the two had set out a few days before, but on the way there Aragorn had, quite casually, asked his friend how well he could track through plains. Legolas had then said that he did not have need to track through the plains often — that he usually needed to track through the trees.
"The trees offer more signs of passage than do the plains," Aragorn had argued. "You can not depend on your tracking abilities until you are certain you can track in any environment."
"I could track *you* in the plains if I had need to, my friend," Legolas had shot back.
It was then that Aragorn had decided a test of his friend's boast. Having gotten a head start, he had run into the midst of the lowlands, disappearing from even his friend's line of sight. Legolas was to follow the clues and find the ranger.
Now night had nearly covered the sky and there was no sign of the elf prince. Aragorn shifted his weight, staring down the inclining slope: from his vantage point he could see a great distance across the plains, but he did not have the keen eyes of the elves and could not find his friend that way. As the first stars began to peer through the thickening blanket of night, Aragorn decided it was time to track down the elf.
He moved down the rock side to the ground and landed easily by the formation. He himself was an excellent tracker and even with night closing in he could retrace his steps all the way back to where the two had begun.
He found Legolas' tracks with only some difficulty. Though his friend was light of foot and didn't leave much of a mark on the ground, he had not often been in these lands and the imprints in the grasses were clear enough to easily make out. Aragorn could see that Legolas had followed him up to the patch of scrub brush near one of the few trees in sight. Here the ranger had left a clue of disturbed brush to lead the elf to the right, but he could see immediately that Legolas had misread the signs — his trail clearly indicated that he'd gone to the left.
Aragorn had to hide a smile. It was surprising to find something he could do far better than the elf and he couldn't help being amused. Even so, he knew he had to find his friend before the elf got into trouble. There were creatures that hunted and roamed the grassy plains at night searching for lost and wandering prey, and Legolas was most definitely lost.
Aragorn picked up his friend's direction instantly and began to follow it.
Legolas was beginning to feel a very vivid frustration. Aragorn had left next to impossible clues in his wake and following him was proving to be harder than the prince had originally thought. The human's tracks were quickly getting confused with the simple impressions of other creatures or disturbances of the wind.
His golden hair whipped around in his face and he had to push it away to study the ground. The breeze was gradually dying down now, but still it was making his task much harder.
He could not decide if the clue he'd found was a footprint, or simply a collapse in the earth. He stood up straight and scanned his eyes across the plains, knowing all the while that trying to find Aragorn this way was futile: his friend would be well hidden, and even keen elvish eyes could not see that far. So instead he stooped once more to follow the trail in the ground.
Before long the prints seemingly led him to a large knotted tree, standing like a gnarled sentinel in the failing light. It was dipping low towards the waving grass and Legolas instantly began to search it for some manner of evidence that Aragorn had been there. He could see clearly that someone had disrupted the few twigs near the ground; they had been trampled by some creature and he took it as the next clue.
Looking again at it to be sure of his direction he began to walk again, heading roughly west, and concentrated hard on the ground, searching for another disturbance or another print.
"Legolas, what are you doing?" The voice startled the elf and he jumped slightly, whirling to face his attacker...and found Aragorn. The young man was standing with his arms folded, his weight slightly shifted to his left leg, and a smile playing about his face.
"Strider!" Legolas exclaimed in barely veiled annoyance. "I was tracking you."
Aragorn's smile gave up all pretences of being hidden. "You were?" He questioned mildly. "I'm not sure what you were tracking, good elf, but you most certainly were not tracking me."
Legolas glared at him, but the glare was short lived. He let out a sigh. "I suppose you've found something you can best me at then, human."
Aragorn knelt down in the ground to grab up a fistful of earth, letting the wind carry it across the lowlands. "Maybe," he conceded. "And maybe you only need more practice."
"I don't see when I'll ever need to track anything across plains," Legolas pointed out. "I am always among trees."
"That doesn't mean that the thing you are tracking always will be," Aragorn countered with a smile. The ranger looked around the plains and let out breath, "You are determined to make me late, and you know my father will not appreciate that. He expected me back within the month."
"Your father *still* expects you to return at certain times?" Legolas asked in astonishment.
"He sometimes has the urge to worry about me," Aragorn granted. "And, in no way helping my situation, Elladan and Elrohir worry even more. It will not always be so — as it is, my arriving a week or so later than planned no longer bothers them — but until the adjustment is finally completed, I do not wish to give them cause for concern. Besides which, there are the other Dúnedain to consider." Aragorn paused and looked up at the sky, the stars were glittering far above in the dark blanket of night, and a chill was starting to set in. "It's far too late to continue our journey now, so I suppose we should set up camp here."
"I agree," Legolas nodded.
"Good," Aragorn slid his travel pack from his shoulder. "Then you can retrieve wood for a fire." Legolas' annoyed look was not lost on the human. "Well," Aragorn said reasonably, "it *is* your fault that the hour has grown so late."
Legolas shook his head and turned towards a patch of scrub brush a good distance away.
"Please don't get lost Legolas," Aragorn added, causing the elf to look over his shoulder, "I don't want to have to track you again, especially not in this light."
Legolas smiled lightly, "Do not worry about that, Strider," he started to walk away again, "I would not give you another thing to lord over me."
Aragorn laughed and shook his head as he started a fire with what wood he already had nearby.
The inky darkness had deepened even further and it was becoming much more difficult to see far, even with the faint glow of the waning moon — still Legolas was confident that he would find his way back. He began to pick up pieces of wood as he walked, singing a song in his own tongue as he did so.
Having collected a great amount of wood by the time he reached the scrub brush, he wasn't sure he would need any more after all. He reached down to lift an especially good sized branch that must have been blown down from a tree, and that's when he saw it. Even in the failing light he could make it out: the clear paw print of a wolf.
Legolas studied it a moment longer, noticing that it was fresh. There were more tracks like it farther on, and they were all heading in the direction of — Suddenly a cry of alarm rang out, slicing the night between Aragorn and Legolas and leaving it in fluttering shreds.