Standard note that Tolkien created the characters, I'm just playing with them. This is not for profit
and intends no infringement upon anyone's copyright.
Characters: Aragorn - young Ranger
Elladan - son of Elrond, twin of Elrohir
Elrohir - son of Elrond, twin of Elladan
Vanasulë - Cousin to Legolas and the Twins, royal messenger,healer
Legolas - hope you know who this is by now!
This is my first story here, though long ago I actually wrote for a living. Reviews please. This chapter is mean to introduce the characters. It happens roughly 60 years before the War of the Ring
Rating: PG-13 - will get violent



---- Chapter One ---

Crouching, the reins of his horse in one hand, Aragorn examined the
base of the huge oak carefully. Elves often left one another hidden messages
of their passing; they called them Elven Trails. Aragorn, Elladan and Elrohir
had been following a chain of them for the past hour. Their search was
somewhat impaired by the heavy drizzle and low hanging clouds that
blanketed Mirkwood like a shroud cutting off whatever daylight was left.
Tendrils of mist rose up from the river off to their right, clinging to the ground as they made their way up the slope.

"It's difficult to make out in this light," Aragorn said, as Elladan put a
hand on his shoulder and leaned over to look at the Ranger's find. "I think
it's saying one-hundred paces straight north." Puffs of white mist came from
his mouth with each word.

At twenty-one, Aragorn was considered an adult, yet Elladan still
thought of him as his Little Brother.

The Man had become the foster brother of Elladan and Elrohir when
his mother brought him to Imladris for refuge about eighteen years ago. The
Elven twins had taken him under their wings as he grew, teaching him the
ways of the forest, mountain, and plains and exploring with him his limits and
strengths. With the twins, Aragorn had ridden and trekked far, sometimes in
the company of Elves or Rangers, learning the skills he needed to be a Ranger
himself. The Dúnedain were his people, yet he still felt more at home in the
company of the Elves he grew up with. He had told Elladan that he thought
in Elven and dreamed in Elven, yet he knew common well enough. Neither
Elf had been so close to a Man before, yet they loved Aragorn as if he were
their brother in truth.

While other Men considered Aragorn tall, he was a full handspand
shorter than the twins, yet they had similar coloring and the same intense blue
eyes graced all three faces. Elladan and Elrohir preferred to wear the clothes
of the Dúnedain combined with the cloaks of Lorien and Aragorn had taken
up their habit, yet he preferred black and brown to shades of gray.

"That's what I see," Elladan confirmed. He gave Aragorn's shoulder a
gentle squeeze and stepped back. He could smell the distant hint of
something burning. Deep blue eyes scanned the trees for his brother. "Do
you hear, Elrohir?"

"Yes," came a distant reply only Elven ears could hear.

Elladan watched Aragorn stand. Young, handsome, his hair worn long
like his foster-brothers', Aragorn might be mistaken for one of them. His
movements were definitely Manish, yet his speech was fair and his eyes told of
ancient ties to the Firstborn. In truth, they were distantly related, since
Elladan's uncle, Elros, founded the line of kings and Aragorn was the last
descendant of that line.

Since this was Aragorn's first time as their leader, Elladan held back
and allowed him to find their path.

Vanasulë, one of the Elves' Lothlorien cousins, had brought tidings
from Celeborn and Galadriel to the twin's father in Imladris several weeks
ago. His next stop was to be the Halls of King Thranduil, at the northeastern
most part of Mirkwood. It was Elrohir's idea that Vanasulë make an Elven
Trail for them to follow, once his errand was completed. The royal
messenger had agreed, saying he thought he could get a friend or two to help
out.

Now they followed the Elven Trail Vanasulë had set for them. A
simple test of Aragorn's skill and a good excuse to visit their kin in Mirkwood,
thought Elladan. He walked his horse beside Aragorn's.

"This mist is a bother," Elrohir said softly as he joined them. "Goes
right through my cloak. Winter comes early to Mirkwood." He shook his
hood to emphasize his statement.

Elladan saw Aragorn looked back at them. With his hood up, all that
was visible of Aragorn's face in the growing darkness was the silvery glint of his eyes. "I thought the cold didn't bother you," Aragorn softly asked Elrohir.

"Not the cold, the wet," Elrohir explained. "Don't tell me you're
comfortable."

"Have hope. There is a light ahead," Aragorn whispered.

"Lead on, Estel," Elrohir urged. "It would seem you have won the challenge. We'll have to think of something more worthy of your talents next time, Little Brother."

A smile tugged the lips of the Man into a half-smile. "We're not there
yet. It could be orcs."

"Only orcs would have left a stink, don't you think?" Elrohir countered.

They walked the rest of the distance to the light and found only a small
half-smothered fire smoldering in the now light rain and surrounded by a
circle of large stones. Aragorn paused, his eyes searching for the next clue.
He found it in the lay of smaller just to the right of the abandoned fire.

"Come on," he called over his shoulder, as he moved purposefully forward.

"You would think Vanasulë could be a little more considerate, with the
rain and all," Elrohir lamented. "Can't he just call out to us?"

Elladan laughed softly. His brother was constantly making jests,
keeping them merry during the darkest of times.

A small deer trail lead upwards onto a ledge and they followed.

"Do you see it in this dim light?" Elladan called ahead to Aragorn. "I
never know what you can and cannot see."

"Even after all these years?" Aragorn's brow rose. He turned forward
and stared into the darkness. What did the Elf see that he could not see?
Then he did see it. The slightest hint of light came from the rock face of the
ledge below them.

"Why do I think they have hidden their horses?" Aragorn asked,
looking down over the lip of the ledge. He couldn't see any way down, except
by climbing.

"Maybe they didn't come by horse," a clear Elven voice called up from
below.

"Or maybe they flew," a second chimed in. "Who goes there?"

Aragorn looked at Elrohir. "What do we do with the horses?"

"We ask them to wait," the Elf replied with a charming smile. "You
know they'll do just about anything I ask." He gathered the reins from
Aragorn. The Elves used neither saddle nor rein.

"You would pick a place where we'll get all muddy," Elladan chided the
Elves below. He lowered himself down, face against the soggy wall of stone.

"We've been here for more than a day, you slow-slugs," Vanasulë told
him. Elladan dropped the last two feet onto a flat stone floor. Now he could
see the light coming from within clearly. He stepped in and around the
curving entrance of stone. "Oh, it's you," he said, recognizing the Elf with
Vanasulë. "Greetings."

Aragorn dropped down behind Elladan. The cave opening beyond was
narrow and curved, and with the tall Elf standing in front of him, Aragorn
could see nothing. It was only when Elladan stepped deeper into the cave that
Aragorn could see the Elves waiting within. Vanasulë was there, but also
Prince Legolas, whom Aragorn had only met once or twice. The Elven
Prince was usually out on his own errands when Aragorn visited the kingdom
of Thranduil.

The aroma of something delicious made Aragorn conscious of his
hunger. The warmth drew him further inside.

"Greetings, young Ranger," Vanasulë greeted Aragorn, a wide smile on
his fair face. "You have done an excellent job. I hope Elladan and Elrohir
didn't hinder you too much."

"I heard that," Elrohir called from behind Aragorn as he dropped to
the floor of the cave.

"You know my cousin, Legolas?" Vanasulë asked Aragorn.

Aragorn bowed slightly, "May the stars shine upon the hour of our
meeting," he said formerly.

"You have certainly grown since I last saw you," Legolas smiled at him.
"But we are informal here, are we not, cousin?"

"Certainly," Vanasulë agreed. "We are all relatives, in one way or
another. Family. And this side of the family has brought lots of provisions."
Aragorn laughed. Being very distantly related was something the twins
and he had joked about many a time.

Legolas stood beside Vanasulë. They did not look very much like
cousins, Aragorn thought. Vanasulë was a full handspand above six feet and
Legolas seemed exactly Aragorn's height. Legolas' hair was a true blond and
Vanasulë's had the hint of red to it. They differed also in their choice of
clothes, for Legolas wore the browns and green of his people of Mirkwood
and Vanasulë wore the grays of the Elves of Lothlorien.

"We have food and more importantly, drink," Vanasulë announced. "Sit down, dry off, and enjoy."