3. First Meeting
Aragorn’s thoughts were in turmoil. He constantly replayed the events of that evening, events so sudden and shocking – so senseless – they still seemed unreal. His mind ranged over major happenings in his life, his coronation, his marriage to Arwen, the birth of his children. All were events the Elf had delighted in. He had been especially pleased when their only daughter had been named for his realm.
He went further back – the war, the chase across half of Rohan in pursuit of the orcs, the long dark of Moria. He knew Legolas hated such places, but had never been able to find out why. It was something the Elf simply would not talk about, and it had been unfair of Gimli to torment him with this fear.
He felt again the vivid flash, his fear that he had been struck blind, his terror for Eldarion, and the dreadful realisation that his friend was dead. Forcing himself away from this final image, though it was seared into his mind indelibly, he tried to recall happier times and found himself remembering the first time he had met Legolas, at Lasgalen, the Court in Mirkwood.
Aragorn had travelled there bearing messages from Elrond. The formal business dealt with, he had gone to the kitchens in search of a late meal. There he encountered another traveller, one of the elves of Mirkwood. The stranger was weary and hungry, and he explained he had just returned from a patrol around the borders of the forest.
“I went down to the south – perhaps further than was wise, as I was alone, but I had received reports that a new evil had come to Dol Guldur, and needed to see how real the rumours were. I had stopped briefly for the night when something spooked my horse, a lone wolf hunting down a deer. The wretched creature disappeared, so I had to return on foot.” He paused for a drink of the clear spring water, and Aragorn looked at him thoughtfully. Although the Elf made light of it, it would not have been an easy journey. Alone, on foot, through the darkest regions of Mirkwood from Dol Guldur.
“I thought Elves were supposed to have a way with animals?”
“Not this one! My own horse was lame, so I’d taken one from the stables. It was only after an hour or two I realised why it was still in the stables. It tried twice to throw me, and left at the first opportunity. It wouldn’t come back, even for me.” He sighed. “It deserved better than to fall victim to spiders or wargs, though.”
As Aragorn studied his companion more carefully, he could see the tell-tale signs of a warrior. Even now, obviously tired, he had a grace and fluidity of movement that spoke of long years of weapons training. There was a constant alertness, and even here in the palace a long knife hung from his belt.
He suddenly became aware that the Elf was regarding him just as quizzically. “It has been a long time since I saw a man in the halls of Lasgalen. What brings you here?”
Aragorn explained his errand, but did not go into details of his message to the stranger.
“Elrond? So why are you his messenger?” Still not wanting to go into too much detail, Aragorn merely said that he had been raised in Rivendell, and had only recently started journeying alone. As he described the journey he had had, including an encounter with a band of goblins, the Elf laughed. “You are like me, my friend! We are both wanderers. There are few who do so now, the land is perilous. When your business here is finished, will you journey with me through Lasgalen? There is much I could show you.”
Aragorn had learned to make swift judgements. He instinctively felt that the two were indeed alike, and he welcomed the opportunity to get to know the Elf better.
His meal finished, his companion rose and stretched. “Forgive me. I have been travelling for many days. I will see you tomorrow.” As the Elf left, Aragorn realised that they had not exchanged names. He assumed the other was one of Thranduil’s captains, but rose and went over to the cook. “Who was that, who just left?”
The cook looked at him in some surprise. “That was Legolas.” At Aragorn’s look of incomprehension, he added “Prince Legolas. King Thranduil’s heir.”
The next morning Aragorn was up early and walked through the palace grounds. As he moved further into the forest he became aware of a rhythmic thud. Rounding a corner, he came across Legolas shooting arrows into a series of targets. As he watched, the style of practice changed. Another Elf threw thin discs of wood high into the air, one after the other, often two or three at once, in a never ending stream. By the time each hit the ground it had an arrow straight throughout the centre. It was an impressive display of skill, and Aragorn applauded. He had some skill with a bow himself, having been taught by Elladan and Elrohir, but both he and they preferred the sword.
Legolas turned swiftly, raising a hand in greeting. “Good morning! Will you be ready to leave today to travel Lasgalen with me? You will find it very different to Imladris.”
They made their way back to the halls of Lasgalen, where Aragorn had already packed. He preferred to travel light, and had only a little food, a blanket and a warm cloak. He also took his short bow, a quiver of arrows, and his sword. As they left the Court, they skirted the grounds, heading west along the Forest River. As they travelled upstream the trees changed, fading from beeches to chestnuts, and then to oak. Birdsong rang in the air about them, and Aragorn saw butterflies with wingspans the size of his hand. Squirrels raced among the trees, not the sinister black squirrels he had seen further south, but a russet red, with tufted ears. A pair sat scolding them as they approached, from the safety of a high branch. Aragorn laughed. “Mirkwood is a lovely realm. I had thought it a dark and shadowed place, but this is very different.”
“I remember it was once all like this. It was called the Greenwood then. There were many birds and animals, and the glades were bright with sunlight. In the summer we lived among the trees, and seldom used the halls and caves. There were always a few of the great spiders, but they lived near the mountains, and rarely troubled us. But when the Necromancer came to Dol Guldur, the shadow came, and darkness spread like a cloud over the land. We fought it for many centuries, but many were lost to his evil. Outsiders call it Mirkwood now, but I cannot - it is still my home. The White Council finally drove Sauron out only ten years ago, but I fear - something - has returned.” The Elf’s face was sad, distant, as he recalled the evil which had slowly poisoned the once beautiful forest that was his home.
As they moved deeper into the forest they left the river, travelling north towards the Grey Mountains. The first night they camped they did not light a fire as the night was mild. Even here, only a day’s journey from Lasgalen, they set a watch. The next day it rained, a thin drizzle that penetrated even the elven cloaks both wore, soaking their clothes and gear. They saw no animals, everything with sense being safely sheltered from the weather. By evening the rain had stopped, but the ground was soaked, and drips fell incessantly from the trees. That night they lit a small fire, enough to heat their rations and ensure at least dry bedding. They sat by the fire long into the night, talking.
“I told you I was raised in Rivendell. Lord Elrond is my foster-father.”
Legolas nodded slowly in understanding. “I see. That explains much. So you know Elladan and Elrohir? And Arwen?”
“Yes. I only met Arwen recently. She had been away in Lothlorien for a long time. She’s – very beautiful.”
Legolas gave him a strange look and hid a smile. “She is. My father and Elrond hope we will become betrothed. It will strengthen the ties between our lands, and also make an alliance with Lasgalen and Lorien.”
Aragorn stared at him in shock. “You - and Arwen? But - I thought – she didn’t say anything – oh, I knew I was foolish to hope.” His voice stumbled to a halt as the Elf’s laughter rang through the trees.
“Fear not. Arwen is a dear friend, I love her like a sister – but not, I think, the way you love her?”
“But – your betrothal?”
“Is wishful thinking by my father and Elrond. We are not lovers – and never have been” he added to reassure Aragorn, who still looked stunned. “It’s late. Let’s get some rest.” Once again Legolas took the longest watch, sitting silently next to the fire for most of the night while Aragorn slept.
It was on the third day of their journey that Aragorn became uneasy. They had turned west, planning to re-cross the Forest River, loop south, then travel east back to Lasgalen. At times the land rose, or the trees thinned, and ahead they could see the peaks of the Misty Mountains. The forest was silent. No bird sang. No fox barked. The trees grew thickly here and little light reached the forest floor. At his side, Aragorn became aware that Legolas grew more and more tense with each step. They halted in a small clearing. The silence was overwhelming. When the Elf spoke his voice seemed loud in the oppressive stillness. “Something is wrong, but I don’t know what it is. I have felt evil in Lasgalen before, but not here – and never anything like this. Stay close. Be careful.”
Aragorn nodded, surreptitiously checking his bow, and placing one hand on his sword. Gradually they became aware of a soft sound heading towards them. It was a rustling, padding sound, and now came from all sides.
Legolas took a step away from Aragorn, giving them both room to move, and instantly had an arrow ready to fire. He gave a cry of warning. “Wargs!” It was a pack of wolves, the biggest and fiercest Aragorn had ever seen. As the first ones came through the trees, Legolas loosed his bow. One, two, three of the creatures fell dead, each with an arrow buried deep in its chest or eye. Aragorn’s own bow sang in unison, but he did not have quite the Elf’s speed. Switching to his sword he hacked and stabbed at the crowding wolves, their growls and howling cries chilling his blood. Hearing a snarl behind him he whirled, sword raised, to see two wolves springing on him together. Desperately he swung at them, beheading one – as the other fell dead with an arrow through its throat. With barely time to react, he gave a nod of gratitude to Legolas, then returned to the desperate fight.
The attack lulled then, and they both repositioned, checking weapons. Legolas’ knife was stained with blood to the hilt – and he had only a few arrows left. Snatching what he could from the bodies around him he thrust them back into the quiver. The wolves had only paused to summon re-inforcements. Howls from the surrounding trees were answered by many others nearby, and a cacophony of growls and snarling broke out. The howling of the wolves was now all around them, sometimes nearer and sometimes further off. Several wolves at once burst through the trees, and Legolas reverted to his bow, trying to drop the wolves before the creatures reached them. Even he couldn’t keep them all at bay, and more and more were now surrounding them. A wolf larger than any they had yet seen launched itself straight at Legolas. As he moved his stance he stepped back onto the body of a wolf – and fell. Even before he hit the ground his long knife was in his hand, thrust before him to impale the wolf as it jumped. It never reached him. It fell at his feet, Aragorn’s last arrow in its side. As the Elf scrambled to his feet he called desperately to Aragorn. “We cannot fight them! We have not enough arrows, and there are still more coming!”
“What do we do?”
“Run!” They turned and raced through the trees, dodging roots and branches as they went. Gradually the sounds of pursuit faded. Suddenly they came out of the trees and found themselves at the top of a steep bank that dropped down into a stream – a tributary of the Forest River. Sliding down the bank they splashed into the water and paused, breathless. There was silence apart from the water. There were no sounds of the wolves following them, and the forest’s natural sounds had returned.
Bloody, muddy, and soaked, they stared at each other. Both Legolas’ Elven dignity and Aragorn’s pride were severely dented. Aragorn waded to the opposite bank, then turned and looked back at Legolas. “I thought Elves were supposed to have a way with animals?”
Even now, Aragorn felt a reluctant smile growing. His friendship with Legolas had survived that inauspicious start. On their return to Lasgalen he had gone back to Rivendell, but during his wanderings in the wild in subsequent years their paths had crossed several times, in Rivendell, Lorien, Lasgalen, and once on a rainy night on the banks of the Entwash on the borders of Rohan and Gondor. He had eventually revealed to Legolas his true ancestry, and they had sworn allegiance. His journeys then had taken him away on dark roads and he had not seen Legolas for many years. After his meeting with Gandalf, and the capture of Gollum, his first thought had been the Elves of Mirkwood – or Lasgalen, as he had learnt to call it. They were after all the only Elves he knew of who had anything resembling dungeons. He had travelled secretly to Lasgalen – and had there met with Legolas again for the first time in far too long.
Although Thranduil had not been keen on involving himself in the affairs of men, Legolas had seen the threat and sworn to guard the creature. He eyed him with distaste. “Do not fear, Aragorn, he will be safe here.” Gollum hissed and spat at the Elves. As Legolas reached to him to remove the rope bound around his ankle, he sank long sharp fangs, none too clean, into Legolas’ hand. He swore sharply, snatching his hand away. Blood dripped from the bite, but again Legolas gently took the pitifully thin leg and removed the rope. Gollum snapped again, but this time the Elf was forewarned. He seemed to sense what Gandalf had not said in so many words, and despite the menace of the creature pitied him.
“Legolas, are you sure your people can guard him?”
“Yes. I will watch him myself. Tirnan and Alfiel will help me when I cannot avoid my duties at Court.” Aragorn relaxed slightly. With Legolas himself guarding Gollum, he would not escape. And Tirnan and Alfiel were Legolas’ seconds in Mirkwood’s army. There were none better than those three in the realm.
Therefore, when Gandalf’s message reached him that Gollum had fled and his guards were slain – or worse, taken – he was filled with a deep dread and feared the worst. It was not until he saw the party from Mirkwood arriving at Rivendell for the Council of Elrond, and with relief recognised Legolas at their head, that he realised just how worried he had been. With a brief word to Arwen they went straight to greet the travellers. “Legolas, my friend, when I heard from Gandalf about Gollum I thought you were lost. What happened?”
The Elf’s face was weary and strained. “They attacked by night. A large raiding party of orcs. Gollum had evaded us in a tree so I left Tirnan and Alfiel to guard him while I led the attack on the orcs. It was a mistake. They were merely a ruse to divert our attention. Another group went straight to Gollum’s tree, slaughtered the remaining guards and went south. They knew exactly where he was.”
Aragorn already knew the likely answer to this question, but asked it anyway. “What of Alfiel and Tirnan?”
“Tirnan was killed outright. Alfiel – Alfiel was taken captive.”
Aragorn paled. He knew what orcs did to Elves unlucky enough to become prisoners. And Alfiel was a friend of Legolas’. “I’m sorry. He did not deserve that. He should have died cleanly, in battle.”
“I pursued the orcs south with one of the patrols. We caught up with some of them after two days, but Gollum was long gone. I found Alfiel. He died hard.” His gaze became distant, unable to escape from the image burned in his memory of his friend’s mutilated body. He repeated softly, “He died hard.”
With a start Aragorn realised that it was only the day after this reunion that Legolas and Gimli had encountered each other for the first time. There were no instant likings then. With a sense of guilt he realised that he had barely given a thought to Gimli, standing motionless behind him. Although Elf and Dwarf had not known one another long – only about twenty years - there was a true, deep friendship. He wondered what Gimli was feeling now.
This is a work of fan fiction, written because the author has an abiding love for the works of J R R Tolkien. The characters, settings, places, and languages used in this work are the property of the Tolkien Estate, Tolkien Enterprises, and possibly New Line Cinema, except for certain original characters who belong to the author of the said work. The author will not receive any money or other remuneration for presenting the work on this archive site. The work is the intellectual property of the author, is available solely for the enjoyment of Henneth Annûn Story Archive readers, and may not be copied or redistributed by any means without the explicit written consent of the author.