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Roots: 4. Divided We Stand
The moment midnight arrived, Legolas blinked and sat up, alerted by the changing of his dreams in correlation with the changing of the night sky. Or at least, with as much of the sky as was visible through the veil of leaves and twisted branches, which was very little. But quite enough for an Elf, Legolas thought as he smoothly rose to his feet, automatically glancing about for danger. But whereas Elves, even in sleep, knew always where and when they stood, Men might not notice the passage of time, being at the mercy of their own dreaming minds. Legolas gazed down at Aragorn, who seemed quite soundly asleep, and considered how best to rouse him. But just as the prince stooped and stretched out a hand to touch the other’s shoulder, the Ranger stirred. Grey eyes opened quite suddenly, and the Dúnadan quickly pushed himself to a sitting position, reaching out swiftly to grasp the scabbard at his side. Glancing up unerringly at Legolas, he nodded a silent good evening as he rose quickly to his feet, slipping the baldric on again as he did so. Elf and Man then picked their way through sleeping forms to where Faladhros stood watch.
The sentry cast a glance back over his shoulder as they approached, and Legolas laid a hand on the other’s back, indicating with that gesture that Faladhros should go and rest, that the watch was now well in hand. The other Elf bowed to his prince, and then turned to Aragorn. Without fuss or expression, he nodded politely and then went off to bed, leaving the two to their duty. Aragorn’s brows shot up skeptically, recognizing the other’s perfect neutrality for what it was: an attempt to use that legendary elvish disinterest as a shield to hide his unwilling acceptance of the Ranger’s presence. For his part, Legolas felt frustration threaten to boil over as he watched the other retreat. Frustration! Five hundred and seventeen years have I lived, and it takes now but a day to frustrate me? The prince shook his head, scarcely able to fathom the notion yet unable to deny it. At his side, the Dúnadan gave a soft snort that testified to his own annoyance while suggesting a certain wry, sharp-edged amusement, and he gripped Legolas’s shoulder firmly. Remember your promise! That touch warned, and the elven prince sighed as he glanced sideways at the Man. But it would do no good to brood overmuch, or to give Aragorn cause to worry, and so, with a slight smile, Legolas turned his full attention to the surrounding forest. Apparently satisfied, the Ranger released him and followed suit.
Trees sighed in the light wind, and the chitters and rustling of those creatures that roamed Mirkwood by night sounded all around them. Yet if there were a somewhat threatening, dark cast to those otherwise common noises, Legolas felt nothing that directly threatened the patrol. Yet! But the air seems to throb with ill-feeling, and I doubt not that once we are discovered, we shall find ourselves the focus of it all. The Elf frowned thoughtfully, fingering the smooth wood of his bow. Something draws nigh, of that I am certain, and yet…. Legolas narrowed his eyes, trying to put his finger on what he felt and uncharacteristically stumbling in the attempt. After several minutes’ protracted silence, the Elf shot a look in Aragorn’s direction. The Ranger had not remained still, preferring to prowl along the perimeter of their campsite as he watched, but he, too, seemed troubled… restless… on edge. What waits in the darkness? Surely not Wargs, I know their ways too well. Orcs perhaps… but there is something more to this… something unusually more… ‘mixed,’ I should say. Even in his own mind, such a judgment did little to clarify anything, and Legolas’s eyes narrowed further as he, too, began pacing the edges of the camp as his thoughts took a darker turn. How much do the denizens of Dol Guldur know? Legolas wondered grimly, wishing that he had a better notion of what precisely he ought to fear. What is this Gollum that Mithrandir and Isildur’s Heir should seek him and bring him here?
But short of asking Aragorn again, he had no means of answering his own question, and this was certainly not the place to make such inquiries. Indeed, this was not the time or place to speak at all, and there was not a one of the scouting party that had not felt the compulsion to remain silent that evening. The forest has ears as well as eyes, but whereas we cannot disappear, we may at least deny eavesdroppers insight into our thoughts. Assuming our enemies cannot discern them already! Once more, Legolas’s mind fastened on the Ranger’s isolation in the elvish company, and he hoped that whatever watched them had not so discerning an eye as Aragorn, to notice how very isolated he was. If we show weakness now, it may prove our undoing. Perhaps seven is an unbalanced number. At the least, the balance in this company is upset, Legolas thought. But after a moment, he grimaced slightly and shook his head for his own unwillingness to put a name to the root of the trouble. ‘Tis not the number that marks us ill, ‘tis our composition… and our arrogance. I trust, though, that when confronted, arrogance shall not interfere with business.
Time passed, and Legolas wondered whether the hours seemed long or swift to Aragorn. Given the evil that seemed to haunt the woods, the Elf certainly felt each moment, investigating every fleeting instant with razor-sharp attentiveness, aware of the particularity of each heartbeat. Every tree, every bush, every member of the patrol fixed themselves in the prince’s mind, a pattern of emptiness and solidity that held itself mostly constant in the ceaselessly reiterated now of an Elf’s time sense. All was in readiness, all was still, awaiting the catalyst of crisis—it needed but that one particular and as yet unknown event that would break the pattern and precipitate them into conflict. And although Legolas felt an implicit trust of Aragorn, he could not quite suppress a twinge of anxiety for the uncertainty that he represented. Although they had already fought one battle together, the prince worried about the way that the Ranger’s presence would affect the patrol. Would Aradhil and the others compromise their own well-established patterns of attack and defense in an effort to look after the ‘hapless’ mortal? And if they did, how would Aragorn react to that? When the Wargs had attacked, neither Legolas nor Aragorn had had the luxury of worrying about each other overly much: each had had to trust the other to guard his back and concern himself only with defending his half of the circle. This would be different, and Legolas could not decide whether his people would err on the side of caution with respect to Aragorn or neglect. That uncertainty irritated him, grated on his nerves in a way that even orcs did not, and the prince had to suppress the urge to let that irritation attach to the Man whose presence unintentionally inspired it. It is not his fault, after all!
A soft noise drifted to the Elf’s sharp ears, and Legolas whirled, bow pressed in an instant as he sought its source. An owl hooted, drawing his attention upward, and then another rustling sounded as some creature—a squirrel? A mouse?—darted along an overhanging branch and thence down a tree’s trunk. Movement behind him made him look sharply over his shoulder, but even as he turned, he placed the pattern of the sound and breathed easier as Aragorn moved a few steps closer, hand on the hilt of his sword. Still, nothing happened, and after another few moments, the Elf relaxed. Do I jump now at shadows? he wondered. Perhaps he did, and he wondered now whether Aragorn were watching him too carefully that he should move when Legolas did. And why should I think that? He is capable enough of forming his own opinion, surely! I ought not to—
Which was when the Ranger turned suddenly and a blade whistled through the air, catching an orc in the face. The harsh scream roused the camp instantly, and Legolas’s first two arrows were scarcely away when they were joined by a half-dozen others as the Elves spread out and, in two cases, up, climbing swiftly into the trees. The prince managed to put a total of six shafts in the air before he slung the bow over his shoulder and drew his long knife in a slicing motion that ripped an orc open from hip to shoulder. He had to dance aside to avoid the reflexive down-stroke as the orc curled about the injury, unintentionally bringing its blade back down in a cut that would have dealt a serious wound to any standing in its path. Aradhil appeared just then at his side, expression fierce, and the Warden had his bow in one hand and his knife in the other. Both bow and knife were bloodied, and there was some blood on the other’s left hand that was too red to be orcish. Aradhil, though, seemed untroubled by it as he moved left to take on another assailant that threatened his prince. Legolas took in all such details in a heart beat ere he ducked under a mid-level thrust and came up to put his shoulder into an orc’s belly. There came a rush of foul air as the other exhaled sharply, and Legolas darted forward, throwing the orc over his shoulder. He did not stop to look back, knowing that Aradhil would kill it ere it could rise, concentrating instead on the next orc. He brought his blade up to block another slash, then spun like a spider in its web to ram the dagger into his enemy’s side with a back-handed thrust. The blade went in up to the hilt, and the Elf snarled as he had to kick backward to push the body off his dagger ere he could turn to face the next foe. An arrow from on high skewered it before he could take even a step towards it, and the prince took advantage of the reprieve to see how the battle went.
Bodies lay strewn all about—none of them elvish thankfully!—and a goodly number had fallen to arrows. How many more? Legolas wondered, amazed that they had come so close before being spotted. Perhaps even more surprisingly, it had been Aragorn who had reacted first, which gave the prince cause to wonder—briefly, given the circumstances— about his own faculties. And where is he now? Legolas’ eyes darted about the clearing and quickly fastened upon the Ranger: hard by Faladhros, Arathorn’s son caught a blade on his sword, then ducked to impale another orc with his second dagger. Slapping aside the first orc’s blade with a flick of his wrist, he pushed upward and stepped into his enemy with the knife blade. The orc collapsed, but three more came rushing towards him, and Legolas smiled grimly as he bent his bow once more, aiming carefully….
Another arrow hurtled forward, past Legolas’s face, and the prince blinked in surprise. The missile was aimed for one of the three orcs—the one closest to Aragorn—but the angle was tight, and Legolas’ eyes widened as the Ranger jerked aside, giving a sharp, short curse as he swung at the next foe. Legolas quickly shifted his aim and shot the third orc before it could reach the human, and then he darted forward to help as the last of their enemies made a final, desperate push forward. Faladhros howled as he brought his daggers down in a slicing arc that found a jugular, resulting in an impressive spray of dark blood; Aragorn and Legolas were quick to fell two more as the archers in the trees slew another three. Aradhil’s final shot whistled between prince and Ranger, so close to Aragorn’s face that he felt the wind of its passage. But the arrow struck true, between the eyes of the last attacker, and the Ranger watched with almost elvish dispassion as the orc fell dead literally at his feet. There was a long silence as the defenders waited tensely, unwilling to let fall their guard quite yet lest they be unpleasantly surprised. But when it became clear to all that they had won the day—or rather, the night—a collective sense of grimly satisfied relief pervaded the company. Legolas kicked the orc that had fallen last, turning it onto its back, and he stared at the broken shaft that protruded grotesquely from its forehead. Aragorn, meanwhile, stalked forward to retrieve his dagger from the first orc felled, wiping all three blades clean ere he sheathed them.
"Eighteen," said Aradhil, and Legolas rose, turning to the warden who stood now at his shoulder.
"Eighteen and scarcely a mark on any of us," Aragorn said, joining them, and this time it was he who glanced pointedly at Aradhil’s hand. "This was too easy." Aradhil’s eyes flickered: clearly the allusion was not lost on him, and he resented the Man’s intrusion. But he said naught, only stared a moment ere he returned his attention to Legolas, ignoring the other so completely that it was as if the Ranger had suddenly ceased to exist for him.
"Agreed, but we ought not to let that dictate our movements overmuch. We came to investigate the cause of this malice which flows so thick and free in our land," the Warden replied, and Legolas heard the emphasis on ‘our.’ "We should press on in the morning and continue upon our planned path: we sweep south-west and cut across the edge of the basin where lies Dol Guldur. If there is aught to be seen, we shall surely learn of it. At the least, proximity may teach us more of the nature of the watcher."
"What think you, Aragorn?" Legolas asked, deliberately including the Man in their discussion and Aradhil’s mouth tightened in displeasure.
"I say only that we should go more carefully than we have, if that is possible. These orcs were as naught in comparison with what I expected. Something hunts us still, and I should not wish to walk into it too lightly," the Ranger replied, glancing from Legolas to Aradhil, and the prince felt the clash of wills as their gazes met.
"Then we continue on at first light," Legolas said in a bid to recapture their attention ere the sparring match could get out of hand. "But for the moment, I think our campsite leaves much to be desired in terms of… scenery, shall we say?" He indicated the corpses littering the ground, but neither Ranger nor Warden followed his gesture, still staring each other down. "Can you sleep in a tree, Aragorn?"
"If I must," the other replied with a slight smile, as if daring the Warden to comment on that. Aradhil did not dignify the statement with a response, only waited expectantly for Legolas’ decision.
"See to it, then, Warden," Legolas said, and since he had so far failed to break the line of tension between the two, he reached out to touch the Warden’s sleeve, physically commanding the other's attention. Still, Aradhil fairly dragged his eyes to Legolas's face, manifestly reluctant to surrender the match to a mere mortal, no matter what the circumstances. Legolas felt his expression harden as the Warden stared at him now, and after a moment's silence added, "Yes, see to it. And when we are all removed to the heights, I would stand the watch with you, for I have much need of thought." Aradhil heard the edge to Legolas's voice, and so he gave a minute nod, acknowledging his prince’s orders, spoken and unspoken. "Good." Satisfied that things would hold for the nonce, Legolas turned and strode away to see how the others had fared.
Aradhil, in the mean time, watched his prince go with a frown, staring for a long moment ere he made as if to go about his business. But a hand on his shoulder and the feel of another’s body blocking his path stopped him, and the Warden glared at Aragorn, feeling his wrath rise at the other’s audacity. The Ranger stood with his back to the others, so that he and Aradhil faced opposite directions, and his hand on the Elf’s shoulder tightened in warning when Aradhil tensed. The Dúnadan did not look directly at him, seeming instead to stare at some point just short of the forest eaves, and his voice was pitched quite low. Nevertheless, Aradhil gritted his teeth, for he doubted not that some of the others heard his words, elvish ears being sharp indeed. "You must think me blind, or else stupid, Aradhil, to be so brash!"
"And you must be foolish indeed if you think to call me out over naught, mortal!" Aradhil replied, eyes narrowing.
"Naught, is it?" Aragorn now turned a piercing gaze on the Elf, and he reached across his own body to tug at the tear in the shoulder of his shirt. Blood stained the edges of the torn cloth, and Aradhil could see the shallow graze that showed dark on pale skin. The Elf lifted his gaze from the cut to stare into the other’s hard grey eyes, and Aragorn’s tone was scathing as he continued. "Naught indeed, and it troubles me not, but I have known Elves for as long as I have lived, save only for two years. For all your long life, I doubt that you can say the same of your experience with Men. That shot was deliberate, Aradhil. Either that, or your reputation in Mirkwood is unearned!" The Warden sucked in a breath, but he was given no chance to reply. "I shall not mention this incident, for in truth I have cut myself worse before. But such antics are not worthy of you: in the future, pay more heed to our enemies than to your allies!" With that, Aragorn stepped away, raking him over with his eyes ere he gave a brief nod, as of farewell for the evening, and then he turned and walked away. Faladhros and Dorothil stepped aside as the Ranger passed, returning his polite acknowledgment—"Gentlemen!"—in kind ere they dragged reluctant eyes to Aradhil. Furious and embarrassed, the Warden glared back at them, and the two guards quickly looked away, becoming suddenly absorbed with retrieving the arrows they had used and gathering up their now blood-soaked blankets to haul up to the tree tops. And still, the humiliation did not end, for Aradhil was conscious of another’s watching eyes.
Across the clearing, Legolas stood gazing at him, and Aradhil had no doubt that he had heard or guessed all that Aragorn had said. Mirkwood’s youngest prince raised his chin slightly, as if to urge him about his duties, and the Warden managed to nod in response. Returning to the group, he hurried the others along, helping to move their gear up into the branches above, and all the while he took care not to look at the Ranger. Even when Aragorn handed his pack up along the elven chain and then hoisted himself up into the tree, Aradhil ignored him. After but a little while, only he and Legolas remained upon the ground, and as ever, the Warden gestured for his prince to precede him. Legolas did, though not without casting a significant look at his protector and counselor of many years. With a soft sigh, the Warden followed him up into the branches, picking his agile way past the others to find a place suitably isolated. Not only had he no mind for company at the moment, but it would be easier to avoid disturbing anyone when he took his watch. For the moment, Legolas and Aragorn held it still, and he glared balefully at the mortal’s back as he stood grasping a branch for balance. With a final, disgusted shake of his head, the Warden settled into the cradle of branches he had chosen and quietly withdrew into sleep. But his dreams were populated by orcs and Men, all of them screaming death upon the plains of Eregion, and in his mind he sighed. Whatever else happened tonight, it would be a very unpleasant conversation that he and Legolas would have under the thin disguise of guard duty, that was certain.
"Are you well?" Legolas asked, drawing near to Aragorn so that their whispers would disturb no one.
"I am," the Ranger replied laconically, gazing down through the leaves, keeping careful watch on the land.
"Are you certain?" The prince reached out and caught his biceps close to the joint of his shoulder, and Aragorn felt a slight sting as the pressure reopened the cut. Legolas drew a hand over the injury and his fingers came away bloody. The Elf cast a skeptical look at the Man and raised a brow, waiting expectantly for a response.
Isildur’s Heir turned a searching gaze on the prince, and after a moment’s consideration said mildly, "Do not make more of it than it deserves, Legolas!"
"I would make nothing of it, but that I know well whose arrow made the mark, and from your faces, I gather your speech with Aradhil went ill indeed. If you would have me make naught of it, then why did you confront him?"
"Because I am not an archery post, my prince, and for all that this is but a scratch, I will not tamely let him play with me. That is serious enough when the danger is immediate, but not so grave that I would put it to you, who are a prince of the realm, without attempting to deal with him myself. For he is an Elf, and I do not doubt that he intended no more than this, or I would know it!" He shrugged.
Legolas grunted at that, admitting the logic of that response. Alas, I fear that even being made a fool of by a ‘mere’ human shall not break Aradhil of this habitual disdain. We shall see, I suppose, but if he will play such games in the heat of battle, then I cannot let it lie only with Aragorn. "I understand, and I doubt not that you have the right of it, but I also saw what he did, and so it falls to me to speak to him anyway. You need have nothing further to do with him, Aragorn."
"I wish you were right, Legolas, but for so long as we travel together, we cannot afford to avoid or ignore each other." A pause, then, "Know you why he hates Men so?"
"He has lived long, and seen many things," Legolas replied vaguely, unwilling to disclose what was not his to tell. "Much evil has befallen the Elves of this region, and as you know, our memories are long." The Ranger gave a soft sigh at that, and the prince said quickly, but with a slight edge to his voice, "Understand, Aragorn, I do not excuse him his foolishness, nor his treatment of you, but there are things that I may not say."
"Fair enough, for there are things I may not speak of to you, either," the other allowed. "I ask only because his dislike seems to me personal, as if he bore still some outstanding grievance."
"Aradhil is a man of strong passions, and usually one quick-witted. I shall speak to him later, but unless some other matter arises between you, say nothing to him!"
"As you wish," Aragorn replied, and smiled inwardly for the artful evasion. I doubt not that it is something personal, for only orcs and their like hate so indiscriminately. Ah well! Aradhil knows that I watch him, and that I judge him. That may be enough for the time, especially since Legolas will have words with him ere dawn. We shall see! In the mean time, that feeling of ill-will has not abated appreciably, yet I think we are safe enough until morning. Which judgment might be why the last hour of their watch wore away with glacial slowness, at least to Aragorn’s mind. Legolas perched above and beyond him, still as a statue, and if he suffered a sense of time dragging by, he gave no sign of it. The Dúnadan cast a surreptitious glance at the other form curled up in the far branches and grimaced slightly, wondering if Aradhil slept or if he had overheard all their words. Whether or not he has, best that I follow his example, he thought, for I have no desire to hear what those two say to each other. And in this case, it may be an advantage that I have not an Elf’s ears!
When Aragorn at last retired, he and Aradhil passed each other in the darkness without a word, but the Ranger shivered, feeling the other’s resentment, and could not quite forbear to glance with pity over his shoulder at Legolas’s silhouette. I do not envy you, my prince!
"Those were your arrows, Aradhil," Legolas murmured. He and the Warden had perched one behind the other for almost an hour without exchanging a word, seemingly awaiting the proper moment, though neither could have predicted when it would come. But now that it had, the prince spoke quietly and directly, with no preamble, and the weight of his disappointment was apparent. "You always fletch them with hawk feathers."
"I would not have hit him but that he moved," Aradhil replied tautly.
"You expect me to believe that you could not have compensated for a human’s movements?" Legolas demanded archly, trying to turn the other’s prejudices against him. "You could have shot any of three orcs, and yet you chose the one that least needed your attention. Aragorn would have killed it in any case without your help. If he is so inconveniently unpredictable as you seem to believe, my friend, then you ought never to have left so narrow a margin for error! Have you not said as much to me before?"
"Then next time I shall widen it! I know not why you care for him so, for I thought you clearer-sighted than that, my prince. Clearly I was wrong!"
"And now you insult my judgment," Legolas replied, voice hardening.
"My prince, I have doubted your judgment for days now! He is a Man—a mortal creature, a lesser child who shall yet usurp your place in Arda. He is not worthy of you," Aradhil retorted, and but that he knew that the other was sincere in his complaint, the prince would have been disgusted. As it was, he was appalled and gazed at the other for a long moment, at a loss for words for perhaps the first time in his life.
"You know who and what he is, Aradhil," Legolas finally said. "He took care to guard my back once already, and glad was I for his help. He has taught me much in a short time, and made no complaints for the treatment he has received at your hands and at the hands of the others. Can you stand before me and tell me that you do not see his worth?"
"What worth is Isildur’s line to me?" Aradhil demanded in a low voice, ignoring all caution to say those words, here, beneath the shadows where too many ears might hear. Ignoring the hiss of Legolas’s in-drawn breath, he continued with quiet intensity, "What worth, all of Númenor, my prince? As many of them serve the enemy as oppose him, and their high lords grow powerful in the South, steeped in evil from birth! And those who turn from that path are weak, pathetic creatures who cannot preserve their own majesty. What blood they once shared with us is long since spent, leaving naught but the memory behind. And even memory fades among them!"
"You speak of events long past–"
"‘Long past’ is it?" Aradhil asked softly, and though his tone was clipped and angry, there was a real fear in it that surprised Legolas. "Is that an Elf speaking, or a Man?" The other shook his head distressedly. "He taints you, Legolas, do you not realize that? Already you begin to see things through dimmed eyes! ‘Long past’ was Eregion, and yet not so long ago as the breaking of Beleriand. A younger son am I, and yet not so young that I do not recall watching as Men flocked to Sauron’s banner when it became clear that he would win Eregion and leave naught but corpses in his wake. The high kings of Gondor and Arnor were slain in a single war, and even Elendil’s teachings could not save Isildur from corruption! In the mean time, the Nine were chosen and transformed, and they were the best of their kindred. If that is all that Men can offer at the height of their power in Arda, of what worth are they now, as they enter their decline?"
"You do not know that this is their end! And we who are so mighty, Aradhil, what has become of us that we care no longer for the suffering of these pathetic and helpless creatures, so frail and in need of guidance, if that is how you see them? Or would you see them all to an early grave and so end their misery? We cannot hold back the darkness alone, and indeed, we flee like cowards into the twilight, seeking refuge, leaving Men to a fate we would not endure ourselves. Leaving Arda herself to destruction if you speak the truth! Open your eyes, Aradhil and look at this Man who has come among us. Mithrandir trusts him, and my father sent him with us; does that mean nothing to you?"
"The will of my sovereign and an Ithron mean much, as does the well-being of my prince," the warden replied softly. "It is he who means nothing to me. Think on it, Legolas! Think well upon all of it, and return to us when you have realized your error." And with that, the other sprang lightly away into the higher branches, leaving Legolas to stare after him, incredulous, feeling as though he had just had a fight with a stranger.
I knew of Eregion, and I knew of Dagorlad and Gladden Fields… I knew he disliked Men, and yet! And yet, he had never thought about it, he realized. Perhaps because he had so rarely seen Aradhil interact with Men before, and then only in matters of business, which could be conducted formally and at a distance. And all this time, he has borne this grievance within him, and I never truly saw it until now! Legolas bit his lip, automatically running his hands over the bark of the tree for comfort, feeling rather dirty himself. For though I can scarcely fathom it, it seems clear to me that Aradhil fears I may be corrupted by mortal influences, and so I am in some sense at the root of this hostility of his. I should have seen that earlier, yet I did not. What is wrong with me of late that I cannot see these things? Even Aragorn was swifter than I this evening to spot the orcs! Which thought only angered him in light of what he had just said to Aradhil. For why should I worry over that? Is that not my own prejudice speaking now, that a mortal must ever be lesser than an Elf in all areas?
After another hour, Aradhil retired and Dorothil took his place. "My prince?" Dorothil asked, with an edge of concern in his voice. "Is there aught I should know of?" To help you, the unspoken words hung clearly in the air between them. But Legolas was a prince, and the commander of this patrol, while Aradhil had long been a Warden, and a wise Elf would take care not to embroil himself in any argument between two such august personages. And a wise prince will not embroil his own in his private troubles, either.
"The night is full of perils, Dorothil, and I have need of thought. Pay me no mind," Legolas replied after a moment. There was a pregnant silence as the other Elf stared worriedly at him, and the prince heaved an inward sigh. Glancing down at Dorothil, he offered a slight smile and forced levity unfelt into his voice. "Fear not, I shall take good care tomorrow. But this shadow concerns me, for I have not felt its like before. Not as the Dark Lord is it, and yet…."
"And yet too like to discount," the other replied softly, then hesitated. "I would not speak out of turn, my prince, but when last I felt aught similar to this, ‘twas about the slopes of Orodruin."
"Indeed? Well then, we must all be cautious tomorrow," Legolas replied, considering this new bit of information. Dorothil nodded, seeming to want to say more, but after another moment he sighed softly and took himself off to find a comfortable post. And while the night lasted, Legolas sat silently, but he no longer looked to the forest to find darkness. His back to the trees, he stared at the sleeping forms of his own company and saw naught but sunderings. Beneath the slopes of Orodruin… where the Last Alliance was broken even in victory. Alas for Arda! And alas for us all!
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