Foreshadow
Foreshadow
by Peaceangel

Email: (earthdanser AT verizon.net)
Type: FPS: Aragorn/Legolas
Rating: NC-17
Disclaimer: These characters do not belong to me and I make no profit from them.
Beta: Tularia
Warning: Angst, Mpreg, Character Death (but trust me on this)
Summary: This is a time travel story.

Chapter One
The Fellowship trudged along the path east of the Misty Mountains. Boromir followed the hobbits and Gimli, occasionally glancing back at the Elf who brought up the rear. At the front of the line walked the Wizard and along side him was the Ranger. Boromir’s eyes followed the dark form of the Dúnadan with interest. This shabby Ranger of the North was Isildur’s heir. It was still difficult to digest. When the news of the Ranger reaches Denethor, the old steward will be mad with fury.

Boromir felt the mantle of responsibility settle heavily on his shoulders as he eyed this ‘Strider’ with distaste. Denethor will expect his eldest son to “deal” with this usurper and his outrageous claims in the traditional manner. The notion of a future King for Gondor was preposterous and insulting. Even if the Man was the heir of Isildur, where had he been these long years when Boromir and his men spilled their blood to protect the White City?

A stirring of displaced air beside him suddenly disturbed his thoughts and he turned to find the Elf walking beside him. He started guiltily, hoping his thoughts were not reflected in his face. It was unnerving how the creature could be so silent. He had not seen the Archer use his bow yet, for anything beyond hunting rabbits that is, but Boromir suspected this deceptively delicate looking being could probably kill him in a heartbeat without so much as breaking into a sweat. He did not trust Elves.

“Trust may come quicker than you may think on a journey such as this,” said the Elf mysteriously, in his lyrical tones.

Boromir looked at him in shock. Had this Elf read his thoughts? Recovering himself, he looked at the fey being appraisingly, “Trust, Master Elf? When my life is in the hands of my fellows, I have no choice but to trust. Yet, cautiousness is a trait even Elves value.”

Legolas turned his azure bright eyes to the shifting gaze of the Human, “Indeed, Elves have become too cautious, perhaps, in our tendency to isolate from other races. It breeds mistrust and a tendency to consider only one’s own viewpoint.”

“Indeed, Master Elf, one’s viewpoint can become all encompassing at times,” the Gondorian said carefully, wondering where this was going.

The Elf stopped walking and Boromir stopped as well to hear what he had to say. “You and I are not so different, Man of Gondor. We both have stepped outside the prescripts that our father’s would lay down for us and, out here, we have a unique opportunity to see things from a different viewpoint.”

The Elf walked on after this statement. Boromir stared after him in varying degrees of annoyance and dismay that the Elf had intuited the direction of his thoughts. Had he perhaps spoken out loud? His eyes followed the slim form as the Elf walked past the Dwarf to fall in step with Frodo. The Halfling looked up at the Elf with wide shining eyes that were already underscored by dark circles.

Boromir had heard stories about the Elves and their strange powers of the mind. Did this one sense the tenor of the Gondorian’s mood? It appeared so. Boromir would have to watch himself and stay careful of the Elf.

“We should stop soon,” called the Wizard from some ways up ahead. He stopped and removed his hat, wiping his brow with a long draping sleeve.

Aragorn stopped as well and glanced up at the darkening sky. “It will be night soon. Let us make camp up there towards the east of those large boulders.” A natural ledge jutted out from the base of the mountain, which was protected on three sides by large rocks. It would be easy to set watch from the boulders which loomed over the flat rocky stage. He glanced back at the company. The Archer was walking among the Hobbits. The faces of the Halflings were pinched with exhaustion. They surrounded him, like moths to a flame, as if he were a magical being whose grace might sustain them. Further back trudged the burly figure of the Dwarf and at some distance the Gondorian.

Aragorn’s gaze lingered on the Son of Denethor, a frown gathering like storm clouds between his brows. The Man made him nervous. His intentions for coming on the quest where questionable. The Ranger felt annoyed that he had to contend with a potential threat from within the Fellowship when danger surrounded them on all sides from without. The annoyance he felt melted somewhat as the Archer’s lyrical voice reached his ears. The Elf was singing an uplifting Sindarin tune, which the hobbits could apparently not resist tapping their tired feet or clapping their hands to.

Frodo smiled and joined in the singing, his drawn face lightening in the mirth of the tune and in the accompaniment of stomping feet and clapping hands from Pippin and Merry. Samwise followed a bit more sedately but obviously pleased, nevertheless, to see his master cheerful again. The weight of the ring was momentarily forgotten. Aragorn laughed softly at the spectacle as the Hobbits raised their voices merrily and picked up their pace with a renewed vigor.

Mithrandir clapped his hands to the beat of the song and laughed heartily to see the Halflings cheered. He and Aragorn stood to the side as the parade of Hobbits, lead single file by the singing Elf, passed them by toward their destination for the night’s encampment. Legolas nodded his head towards them, with a small wink, as he led the merry troop over the rocks that lead to the flat ledge beneath the boulders.

Aragorn followed the shining form of the Elf appreciatively with his eyes. Sindarin Elves had a reputation for being mysteriously reclusive according to his brothers in Imladris. They were said to be sullen and even paranoid around outsiders. Few ventured into the dark forests of Mirkwood to learn if these rumors were true. This Prince was rather unlike anything that Aragorn had ever heard about Wood Elves. He was joyful, open and exceptionally lovely to look at, thought the Ranger, keenly. Of course, he had met the striking blonde Elf when he took Gollum to Thranduil for safe keeping.

After having been interviewed by Mirkwood’s intimidating Sovereign, the Prince was something of a surprise to the Ranger. Legolas had shown himself to be gracious and warmly inviting. Something about the young Elf suggested to Aragorn that the Princeling was eager for news of the outside world.

The golden Elf had pressed the Ranger for details of his travels over Middle Earth. Aragorn found the Prince’s enthusiasm to be rather enchanting and too soon the Ranger’s stay had come to an end. As much as the young Elf seemed to regret the Man’s departure, Aragorn was certain his father, the King, felt it didn’t come soon enough. It was said Thranduil was extremely protective of his youngest son.

Aragorn tore his eyes away from the lovely figure of the Prince to meet the amused glint in the gaze of the Mage. The Ranger tried to arrange his face into a look of bewildered innocence as the Istari smirked at him. “What?” asked the Ranger.

“Nothing,” said the Wizard as his own eyes traveled to the swaying hips of the Elf. The Archer was climbing the tumble of rocks and then turned to lend a hand to the Hobbits as they scampered behind him. Now it was the Ranger’s turn to smirk.

“Indeed?” said Aragorn knowingly. “I don’t think Thranduil would appreciate the way you are looking at his son, old Man,” whispered the Man teasingly.

“Hmmmph” said the Wizard who climbed laboriously over the rocks in their path. “It is no wander the poor lad has been sequestered. He is a pleasant distraction. I see that you have not failed to notice.”

Aragorn laughed. “I am betrothed…” he reminded the Istari. “But not dead,” he concluded in a low voice, eyes drifting again towards the shining form of the Elf. The Wizard laughed heartily at this.

“Well, what are you too going on about?” asked a gruff voice from behind them. They both looked down, startled, at the Dwarf.

“Nothing, Master Gimli,” said Aragorn, soberly, exchanging a look with Mithrandir. The Wizard moved on ahead to assist with the making of camp. He watched as the old Man approached the Archer and began to talk with the Elf amiably. The Hobbits unloaded their supplies while the Elf and the Wizard began to set up sleeping arrangements for the night. Gimli stood next Aragorn as the Gondorian finally caught up to them. Aragorn turned to Boromir, “You drifted behind, Boromir. Is anything amiss?”

“Nay, I merely felt a need for some solitude,” the Gondorian responded. “It grows dark fast now. I will fetch some firewood.”

Aragorn and Gimli watched him go. “The Son of Gondor appears glum,” said the Dwarf.

“Aye, Master Dwarf. He is rather quiet. Perhaps he is tired.”

“Well, I know I am,” said the Dwarf. “ I want food and sleep.” They had approached the campsite and Gandalf was sitting with the Hobbits, rubbing his feet.

“Where is Legolas?” asked the Ranger as he unloaded his own pack.

“He went to scout the perimeter,” said Gandalf.

“And I hope he brings us back something good to eat!” added Pippin.

**

Legolas scouted the area around the campsite from the treetops. He leapt easily from a tall branch to the ground 10 feet below. His Elf eyes and ears told him they were alone in these woods. It was time to find some rabbits or a deer as the Hobbits needed to keep their strength up. He was proud to be able to do his part for the Fellowship. So far they had encountered no servants of the enemy and the weather was proving to be a friend.

But the scent on the wind told a different story. Winter was approaching and with it greater hardships. The two men would have no problems but he had his doubts about the Dwarf. And the Istari was old. The Hobbits, of course, would be at the greatest disadvantage. He worried about the poor innocent Halflings. This was no place for such beings who had never before ventured out of their home. The Gondorian was also troubling. Legolas could clearly sense the Man’s confusion. The Man was unclear as to his true purpose on this quest and that posed a danger, as far as Legolas was concerned.

His thoughts drifted to the other Man on the quest. Aragorn was very different from the Gondorian. He felt single minded in his purpose to lead the Fellowship to their dreaded destination. The heir of Isildur was someone who had impressed the Prince almost immediately. Thranduil was hard on the Man when he visited Mirkwood but Legolas could see this human was exceptional. As he drifted lazily through the woods, ears tuned for the sounds of a possible meal, his thoughts stayed on the Ranger.

It was shocking when the image of the Dúnadan suddenly stood before him in the woods. Legolas halted in surprise. “Aragorn! I …I did not hear you approach.” He looked uncertainly behind him, wondering from where the Man had come and how the Elf had failed to see him. The Ranger merely stood in the shadows of the trees and looked at him with a small smile on his weathered face. He looked haggard, more so than the Elf had noticed previously.

Feeling embarrassed to have been snuck up on, and slightly concerned by the tired look on the Man’s lined face he approached the Ranger. “Are you…are you all right?” he asked, uncomfortably.

“Aye, Legolas. I am well. I needed to …to see you.” The Ranger stepped out from the shadows and the burning gaze of the steel eyes drew Legolas. They seemed to bore into him. Yet something felt wrong about the situation, out of place, somehow. He took a half step backwards as the Man walked up to him.

“Don’t be afraid of me Legolas,” said the Man in a sad voice.

“I am not afraid,” said the Elf, with a tilt of his chin, feeling increasingly embarrassed. He eyed the gray streaks in the Man’s hair. He had not noticed them before. “Aragorn, what is it? Are you unwell?”

The Man moved up to him and placed his hands on the Elf’s shoulders. He gazed deeply into the Elf’s confused eyes. Calloused hands floated up to cup the curve of the youthful cheeks. Burning fingers traced the planes of the Elf’s face with a strange reverence. Legolas caught his breath at the bold touch. His heart started to pound faster as the Man’s eyes traced the path his fingers had taken over the Elf’s high cheekbones, down the curve of the jaw, to gently hold the point of the chin. Never had anyone perused his face with such ardor. Legolas’ mind reeled at the implications.

The Ranger then leaned forward with exaggerated slowness, time seemingly slowing to a stand still. Legolas held his breath, disbelief emerging on his beautiful features, as the Man came to within an inch of his face. In growing alarm, the Elf pulled away but his back was to a tree, and he found himself pinned in the gentle trap of the Ranger’s arms. “Ranger, what are you doing?” he asked with wide eyes.

The gray eyes held his and before Legolas could move or speak again, the Man closed the distance and brushed his wind-chapped lips against the Elf’s mouth. The hands returned to his shoulders and tightened their grip. Legolas felt the rough bark of the tree against his back as he was leaned into it. The mouth of the Ranger pressed against his more insistently and a zing of desire thrummed through Legolas’s body. He moaned slightly as the Man’s body pressed against his and his own arms slowly came up around the Ranger’s back. The Man moaned against his mouth as Legolas opened his lips and allowed the seeking tongue entrance. Their groins pressed together and the Archer felt his head spin at the deluge of sensations. The Man’s erection pushed demandingly into his own.

The sound of a breaking branch some distance away startled them both. Aragorn pulled away, with an orcish oath on his lips, and abruptly released the Elf. Legolas looked over his shoulder and spied the form of Boromir. His arms loaded with firewood, the Gondorian bent over to pick up another dried branch. Boromir looked over at him and waved. “What are you doing there, Master Elf?” shouted the Gondorian.

Legolas gasped and turned to look at Aragorn. The Dúnadan was nowhere to be seen. The woods around him were empty save for himself and the Gondorian who now approached him.

“What is it?” asked Boromir, looking more concerned as he studied the flushed and confused look on the Elf’s face. “Did you see something?”

The Elf peered into the woods, perplexed.

Chapter Two

“Legolas? Are you all right?”

The Elf turned his eyes on the Man from Gondor and nodded his head mutely. “I am well, thank you. I thought…there was someone there but…I must have been mistaken.” His sapphire eyes strained into the darkening woods for some evidence of the Ranger’s passage. After all, the Man had been there only moments ago. Their encounter had been startling and Legolas wasn’t prepared for such an outstanding occurrence. He could not fathom what the Ranger’s intentions were with such an action, but the Man clearly did not wish to be seen.

Feeling consternation rise up within him, and his body still thrumming with the aborted pleasure of the Man’s embrace, he attempted to hide his confusion from the Gondorian by pulling out his bow and notching an arrow. “I can hear a small animal in that direction. The Hobbits and Master Gimli did bid me to make haste with something to eat…” thus he excused himself, leaving the Gondorian to gape after him.

Later, around the fire, Legolas eyed the Ranger through hooded lids as the Man sat smoking a pipe along side the Istari. The Ranger did not seem to give him more than a passing glance since his return to the camp. What did the Man mean by such behavior? Legolas found himself feeling angry that this Man should accost him in such a manner and then studiously ignore him for the rest of the evening. Surely there could be some opportunity for the two of them to slip away unnoticed and…well, discuss what the Man meant by his actions. Legolas stood up, abruptly, managing to startle Frodo in the process, and announced he would take the first watch.

The eyes of the Istari seemed to linger on him, reading something indefinable in the Archer’s manner. Legolas trailed his heated gaze over the Ranger briefly before turning his back to the group and walked off into the trees.

Aragorn glanced after him, and turned to the Istari with a mild question in his eyes, before continuing his conversation about the direction they should take following the passage around the mountains. The Wizard’s response grew muffled as their voices became faint behind him. Legolas walked among the trees, the moonlight illuminating the woods easily. He fumed silently. The Ranger had not seemed the type to play such games. He was attractive and Legolas would not be opposed to a relationship with the Man but the Prince did not like to be toyed with. His steps took him close to the stream. He went to the water and with a quick look around decided a bath would help to clear his mind.

He disrobed quickly and slipped into the cool water. It was invigorating and he dunked his head letting his body float lazily. His Elf senses told him the company was safe. The woods were home to only small animals and the trees spoke of little except the presence of the company itself in their midst. He nearly drowned when a pair of hands came around his naked body, causing him to go under the surface in his sudden fright.

“Shhhh..It’s me, Melethron,” said the familiar voice as he resurfaced, sputtering and gasping. He was turned in the Man’s embrace and he found himself staring into the steel eyes of the Ranger.

“Aragorn!”

“Aye, its me…I have missed you,” the Man said huskily as he captured the delicious lips in a kiss.

Legolas pried himself loose and glared at the Man. “What do you mean, Ranger, by this second affront? Why did you ignore me through out the evening then sneak off to accost me here?”

The Man smiled at the flashing indigo eyes and slid his hot hands possessively down the Archer’s sides and around to the small of his back. The Elf pushed at the Man’s naked chest in protest but did not overly exert himself, as he glared at the Human. Aragorn put a contrite look on his face and said, “I should never ignore you, my beautiful Elf. That is why I am here…” He slipped his hands down to cup the Elf’s cheeks and pulled the Archer against him, meshing their naked groins together.

Legolas gasped at the sensations and did not protest when the Man’s hungry mouth took his again in a searing kiss. The Man’s tongue invaded his mouth and Legolas moaned helplessly as the Man’s cock slipped over his own demandingly. The Man’s hands traveled over his heating flesh and the Ranger’s lips left his mouth to travel to the sensitive point of an ear. Legolas gasped at the knowing mouth that worked on him with what felt like practiced ease.

“OH...How I have missed you…” whispered the Man into his ear. The practiced hands slipped sinuously down his flanks and he was suddenly lifted into the Man’s arms. Before the Elf could question anything, he was carried to the bank of the stream and nuzzled into the Man’s lap as Aragorn sat down on a flat rock that sat in the shallow water. The Man’s mouth was on his again, tongue plunging into the warm cavern, as the hands parted his thighs and he was shifted to straddle the Man’s lap.

Legolas gasped into the hungry mouth as a digit penetrated him from the rear. He bucked against the intrusion but strong arms held him in place as the finger worked its way deeper into him. His sudden anxiety morphed into electric pleasure as the finger rubbed unerringly against the sensitive bundle of nerves. At the same time his shaft was pressed impossibly tight between their two straining bodies. He moaned loudly and the Man chuckled against his lips. “Shhh, my Love, we don’t want to be interrupted again.”

Legolas was beyond responding as the finger continued to work on him, loosening the ring of muscle to accept the entrance of a second digit. He groaned as the Man expertly worked him thus. Breathing hard, Legolas eyed the succulent flesh under the Man’s earlobe and dared to take the lobe into his mouth to suckle on it. Aragorn groaned and moved more furiously within the Elf, as the Archer’s lips suckled on the sensitive flesh under his ear. The Ranger’s mouth came down on his neck and traveled with nibbling little bites down over his collarbone to the final destination of one of the Elf’s nubs. Legolas threw his head back in abandon at the overload of sensations. When the fingers left him he could not help but groan in protest but just as quickly, strong hands on his hips lifted him and he was brought down on the stiff flesh of the Man’s weeping cock.

The Ranger groaned out loud as his long shaft entered the sweet hot channel. The Elf gasped in torment over the extremely overpowering feeling of the Man inside him. Fingers closed around his shaft as the Man’s cock pumped with hard upward thrusts into him. He clutched onto the Man’s shoulders helplessly, his feet skimming the water around them as he was lifted and then brought down again and again by the Man’s furious thrusting.

He felt his orgasm building within him and the Man’s pumping hand increased its tempo. The Man’s lips took his own again and he opened to the questing tongue as the cock filled him. He tore his lips from the Man’s mouth and screamed into the night as he came violently into the Man’s hand. Aragorn groaned and clutched the lithe body against him in a crushing grip as he shuddered his release deep inside the Elf.

Legolas collapsed in exhaustion against the Ranger and they clung to each other in the sweet afterglow. Finally the Archer pulled back and Aragorn tenderly wiped the wet golden hair off the Elf’s face. “My love,” whispered the Man. Legolas stared at him wide-eyed, unsure of where such words came from or how to respond to them. He lifted his hand to the Man’s grizzled salt and pepper beard. He looked into the Man’s face, which was softened with the expression of love written there. The Elf let his fingers wonder into the soft brown curls, and lifted a stray gray lock to twirl it curiously around his finger. Before he could ponder the puzzle further, the Man turned his head towards the woods and dislodged himself from the Elf.

“What is it?” whispered the Elf, straining to hear what could have caught the Man’s attention.

“I will come to you later, my Love,” whispered the Man, with a quick kiss on the Elf’s brow. “I want to see you again…”

The Man waded quickly out of the water and disappeared into the woods. The Elf scrambled out of the water and quickly dressed himself. All the while he strained to hear where the Man’s foot steps had taken him, as he did not seem to be heading back to the camp. Picking up his weapons, the Elf ran lightly through the woods but again the Dúnadan seemed to have disappeared without a trace. Legolas knew the Man had been raised by Elves but he could not believe how a Human could have mastered the art of soundless movement in the leaf strewn forest. The Man had escaped again, leaving Legolas to wonder if he had imagined the whole encounter.

Chagrined to have been given the slip again so expertly, he stalked back to camp. There, next to the Istari laid the Ranger, for all intents and purposes, soundly asleep. How had he done it? The Elf walked silently into camp, eyes looking back at the path he had taken, and wondering how the Human could have gotten around him. The Ranger rolled around in his sleeping gear, with a seemingly satisfied sigh. Legolas glared at him. Really, would it have been too ill thought of to walk back, at least part of the way, together? Although he could appreciate the need for discretion, these secret little encounters were not much to Legolas’s liking. Legolas sat down on a nearby rock heavily, wincing slightly as his pleasantly abused flesh protested. He glared in the direction of the Ranger. The Man was an extraordinary lover but he could use some instruction in the subtleties of romance. The Prince was no wanton but some attempt at civil courtship would not be amiss.

The Man stirred in his bedroll and opened his eyes blearily. He sat up, rubbing his eyes and looked dreamily over at the Elf. His eyes roamed over the enchanting form of the Archer and, as if realizing what he had just done, shook his head to clear the sleepy fog away. He stood up, a slight blush rising to his cheeks, and walked over to the Archer. Legolas sat up straighter feeling a blush come to his own face as his mind thought over their wild love making by the stream. The Ranger cleared his throat and stopped surprisingly at a decent distance from the Elf.

“You’ve served the Fellowship well, thus far, Prince,” he said formally. “I will take the watch, now, you must be exhausted,” the Man smiled at him, and hoped his impolite stare from a moment ago would be forgiven by the lovely Elf.

Legolas gaped at him in growing fury, “Served the Fellowship?”

“Aye, go get some sleep. I don’t want to over tax you. You’ve done enough for one night, even Elves need to rest,” the Man said again, with a friendly hand on the Elf’s stiff shoulder. “Don’t worry, tomorrow night will bring another opportunity for duty,” he said with a wink. The arrogance of the Man! Legolas had a mind to give this Human a sound Elvish thrashing when a voice roused thickly from sleep behind them.

“Is something the matter over there?” said the Istari.

Legolas stood up stiffly, turning his back to the Man before he lost control and decked him in his smug smiling face. “Nothing,” he said in a neutral tone.

He stalked off to find a comfortable tree to sleep in although he knew it was unlikely he’d be sleeping this night. That smug, arrogant, fucking bastard! Legolas flung himself into the branches of a tall leafy cypress. He climbed the intricate branches enjoying the feel of his aching muscles exerting energy he wanted to unleash in other ways. Legolas was going to have to set this Man straight. He’d wait for the Istari to fall back to sleep then go to the Ranger. “Service to the Fellowship, indeed!” he mumbled under his breath, as he climbed furiously.

When he could climb no higher he looked down from the dizzying height and sighed. He sat into the nested branches, under the starry night sky, and chewed on his full bottom lip in consternation. Fury surged within him. “Men!” he uttered in disgust. Perhaps Thranduil was right. Now he almost wished his Ada had thrown the smug Ranger into the dungeons for a day. Perhaps that would have taught the Man the wisdom to treat the Sindars with a little more respect. Well Legolas would teach him. “And soon, too,” he fumed to himself.

He started from his perch at the sound of a deep chuckling voice a few branches beneath him. “My poor Elf. You look like a little eaglet that ate a nasty worm… why don’t you come down here?”

Legolas gaped in shock at the impossible sight of the Ranger who sat straddling a wide branch several feet below him. Legolas gasped, clutching onto the leafy branches around him, lest he fall.

”How did you…” before he uttered the rest of the sentence his eyes drifted to the camp below and there on the rock sat the dark silhouette of what looked like the Ranger. Legolas blinked and peered into the darkness. His eyes quickly scanned the camp…Boromir slept in his bed roll, the dwarf next to him, there was Pippin, Merry, Frodo, Sam next to his master, as always; further off snored the Istari…and on the rock sat…

”Its impossible…” he breathed, and turned frightened eyes on the form and figure of Aragorn, who sat patiently watching the expression of alarm cross the Archer’s beautiful face.

Chapter Three

“Well, if you are not going to climb down here, I guess I’ll have to try to come up there…” Aragorn said, casting an apprehensive look down. He clutched onto the branch and heaved himself up to the next level.

Legolas clung to his perch, and looked around in growing fear. “Stay where you are! What are you, a demon?”

He looked around frantically, wondering how to get down without having to pass too close to the being that was masquerading as the Ranger. He wondered if Gandalf would hear him if he screamed. As if following his thoughts, the false figure of the Ranger raised a placating hand.

“Legolas, please don’t cry out. Let me talk to you. I promise I wont hurt you…I came back because I love you!”

The Elf looked around him frantically, wondering if he could jump across to the next tree top. Why did he have to climb up so high? He mentally prepared himself to make the leap when the Man below him raised his voice.

“Don’t you even think of it, Greenleaf!” said the Ranger in a stern commanding voice. Legolas looked at him, completely nonplussed.

“What did you call me? How do you know that is my true name…I never told you…”

“Yes, you did, Greenleaf. Or you will…” said the Man softly. “Please, don’t jump. I swear to you I will not hurt you. I …I love you. I have traveled a long way to come to talk to you…”

Legolas held onto the swaying tree limb that held him, as he watched the Man labor over the intricate branches that would lead him to the Archer. The Human paused between two distant limbs and made to jump to the one above his head. Legolas gasped as the Human missed his target and began to tumble off the tangled branches beneath his feet. The Elf made a frantic leap and clutched at the Man’s flailing hand as the Ranger’s feet slipped off the tree limb. The weight of the Ranger nearly pulled him off his own branch. He clutched onto the bough above his head and held to the Man as they both hung precariously from the swaying perch. Legolas swung his leg over and secured himself while still holding onto the Man’s hand. He held on frantically as the Man dangled in midair. Their eyes met and slowly the Elf hauled the Ranger up to his branch.

Breathing hard, the Man glanced down at the long drop and with a shiver looked up at the gaping Elf. He smiled ruefully, “Thank you, my Love, I was beginning to think this was not such a good idea.”

Legolas stared at him, still in too much shock to speak. Slowly the Elf raised a tentative hand to the Man’s face. It felt solid and warm. He looked back over his shoulder, past the leaves of the branches around him, into the camp below. The dark figure of the Ranger could be seen distantly pacing back and forth. Smoke rose from the pipe clamped between his teeth and trailed behind him as he walked.

“Nasty habit,” said the Ranger next to him. “But I must admit I do miss it.”

Legolas gaped at him. “Who…What are you?”

“Legolas, its me. I am Aragorn.” He leaned forward as if to put a kiss on the Elf’s sweet pouting mouth but the Archer reared back in fright. “Listen to me,” said the Man, pulling back. “I am Aragorn, and…” he glanced, through the darkness at the campsite, that was illuminated by the fire, “so is that Man.”

“How can that be possible?” asked the Archer in obvious disbelief.

“You are from Mirkwood, do you not know of Magic? Are you not traveling with a Wizard?” asked the Ranger.

Legolas looked at him with piercing sapphire eyes. “Aye, but that does not prove you are Aragorn. How can there be two of you? And why?”

“I am …well, this may sound a bit hard to believe…”

“Try me,” said the Elf, “anything you have to say can’t be more astounding than the fact that you are here at all, if you are who you claim to be.”

“I am Aragorn, and I am from, what you would consider to be,… the ‘Future.’” He looked expectantly at the Elf.

Legolas stared at him. “THAT is preposterous.” The Elf began to climb down from their shared perch without looking at the Man. “I will let the Istari determine what you really are…”

“Legolas! No!” the Man grabbed his arm. “You can’t tell Gandalf. You can’t tell anyone.”

“Why?” demanded the Elf, suspiciously.

“Well, for one thing, my old friend Gandalf will be furious with himself. This was all his idea,” said the Ranger to the astounded Elf. “And he broke some kind of wizarding rule to do it…apparently it is forbidden to disturb ‘the space – time con…cont….’ I don’t know. It’s some rule. Any way, he felt it was important enough that we had to risk it. And I agreed,” the Man looked at the Elf, imploringly.

The Elf looked at him closely, evidently still trying to discern his true identity. “How do I know you are not simply an agent of the enemy seeking to thwart our mission?” he asked carefully.

“Because, Frodo will destroy the ring, and I will be King of Gondor.” The Elf gasped and glanced askance at the sleeping fellowship. “I don’t want to thwart your mission,” continued the Man. “I came back for a …more personal reason.”

“What?” asked the Archer, wearily.

“To save your life.”

The Archer stared at the Man. Aragorn, if he really was Aragorn, had tears in his eyes as he stared back at the Elf. “What do you mean by this? If my life…comes to end because of our quest, then I am prepared for that. When I agreed to be part of this fellowship, I, like yourself and the others, knew it might well mean we went to our death.” He tilted his chin proudly as he spoke these words, although a chill settled about his heart.

But Aragorn leaned forward and grasped the Elf by the shoulders. “Nay, Mellon Nin, it is not the quest that puts your life in danger…It is grief. I did it to you, my Love. This is what I came back to change. I can’t let you die because I made a horrible mistake.”

Legolas gaped at him. The Man let him go and stared down into the camp. “It’s because of HIM. That fool down there! If I could go talk some sense into him, beat some sense into him…but, the Wizard warned against this. So I came to you instead.” The Man turned to look at the Elf. “You must try to talk to him. Tell him not to marry the Evenstar.”

Legolas gasped. “The Evenstar…yes, of course…” The Elf’s brows drew together in dawning dismay. With a swallow past a sudden lump in his throat, Legolas looked up at the Man, “Are you insane? Not to marry the Evenstar? This is his, your, destiny. Your joining will be a healing for the realms of Elves and Men.” The Elf backed away from him, eyes suspiciously bright, as they flickered to the Ranger down below at the camp. “Now that I know, if all you say is true and not a trick of the enemy, I will simply avoid falling in love with him…”

“Legolas, no…” whispered the Man in a hushed tone.

The Elf glared at the stricken Ranger, anger and hurt already evident in the Elf’s flashing blue depths. “And you would have done better to have kept your distance from me as well! You have not helped your cause,” said the Elf bitterly.

“No, Greenleaf! Please, this is not what is supposed to happen!” cried the aging King. He followed the Archer who resolutely turned his back on the Man and began to climb down the tree. “Greenleaf, please…I am telling you the truth. If you don’t believe me…look on the back of the Ranger’s neck when I, I mean, he is sleeping. You will see a scar there, it looks like this…” he turned his back and the Elf paused to look. The Man lifted his brown hair, streaked with gray, to reveal a moon shaped scar.

He turned and looked at the Elf. “It happened when I was sparring with Elladen. Ask the Ranger down there. You will see he and I are the same Man. But please…Greenleaf, don’t close your heart. It is about all our futures, don’t you see that?”

The Elf merely shook his head, bewildered and hurt, although he didn’t know why he should be feeling so ..lost. He climbed down the tree mutely, unable to continue this upsetting conversation. The Man sat where he was and watched the upset Elf descend rapidly down the tree.

Legolas approached the camp wearily. He glanced back up at the tree but again, the Ranger was gone. He looked towards the camp. Boromir was standing watch some yards away, facing west, towards Gondor and Mordor. Legolas stepped silently around the sleeping fellowship. What should he do? Should he awaken the Istari and tell him everything? That would probably be the best thing…yet, Aragorn, or rather that imposter, told him not to. But was he an imposter? His eyes fell on the sleeping form of the Ranger. Aragorn was sleeping some distance away from the others, his sword laid out next to him. He approached the slumbering figure stealthily. With a furtive glance around at the others, he knelt beside the sleeping Man.

His eyes traveled over the Man’s face, so innocent and youthful in sleep. The cares he carried during the day were absent from the strong expressive features. The hair was curling softly around the Man’s face. There was no gray in it yet. The Archer couldn’t help but remember the passion of the Man, and the power with which he took the Elf by the stream. Legolas leaned over and inhaled, testing the musky smell, savoring it. It was the same as he remembered. Aragorn turned over in his sleep, putting his back to the Elf. Legolas held his breath and glanced around again, guiltily. With a tentative hand, still holding his breath, he reached out to lift the curls from the back of the Man’s neck. A moon shaped scar was clearly visible under the hair. Legolas sucked in his breath at the sight. He let the soft curls pass over his fingers as it fell back into place.

“Find something interesting?” the soft voice of the Ranger startled him but before he could pull away, he was toppled over in a lightening move and pinned securely under the warm, hard body of the Dúnadan. Legolas gasped and tried to dislodge himself, without making noise and risk waking the whole camp.

“Well?” whispered the Man, inches from his face. Aragorn’s gray eyes bore into him with the same fire he had seen in the older Aragorn. The Man continued to stare at him, but his body settled rather comfortably, it seemed to the Elf, on top of him. Legolas raised an eyebrow at the Man, “Release me!”

The Ranger smirked, and settled himself more comfortably along the length of the slim, enticing body. “You awoke me, Elf. You must have had a reason…”

Legolas’s brows drew together in indignation. This Man was insufferable, no matter which version Legolas had to contend with. “Not the reason with which you seem to flatter yourself!” retorted the agitated Elf, who struggled to push the Man off him with a blush, as the Man’s impressive erection made itself known.

“No? Then why, sweet Prince, where you touching my hair? And why have you been giving me the most enticing looks, hmmm?” The Man rubbed his body suggestively against the Elf’s. His erection pushed insistently into the Elf’s groin and Legolas moaned as his own erection pushed back against his will.

“Nay,” he whispered, “this is not a good idea…it is a mistake, Aragorn.” But the Man’s hands were already traveling under his clothing in heated strokes of desire. The Elf gasped and kissed the grizzled sides of the Man’s beard, unable to resist, and whispered again helplessly, “Really, Aragorn, this is a big mistake…” The Man’s mouth came down on his and Legolas bucked under him, seeking greater contact, as the fiery passion took them both over the edge of desire. Heat flared between them and sealed their fate as the indisputable love entwined its way into each of their hearts.

From the cover of the trees, a lyrical female voice whispered, “This is the way it began between you, is it not?”

“Yes,” came the bemused voice of the Ranger. “He came to me one night. I awoke and he was playing with my hair. I couldn’t have been more pleased, truly, and I never did get an answer from him as to what he was doing…” The aging Ranger chuckled, softly, as he looked at his Queen, “I guess now I know.”

Chapter Four

The Fellowship trudged its way through the snowy peak of Caradhras. “We can not stay here!” yelled the hardy Gondorian through chattering teeth, “This will be the death of the Hobbits!” Boromir wrapped his arms protectively around the Halflings, in an effort to shield them from the frigid air.

“Gandalf, we must turn back!” Aragorn yelled over the howling wind.

”No!” yelled the Istari, but Gandalf knew there was no use going forward. “Gandalf,” called the Dwarf, “If we can’t go over the mountain, let us go under it! Let us go through the Mines of Moria!”

The chill of the wind did not affect Legolas so much as that statement did, although he knew not why he should be so bothered. As an Elf, caves and tunnels were grim places to him, to be sure, but the shiver that passed over his soul seemed to portend something graver. The Istari obviously presaged some ill effect as well. The Wizard hesitated, offering destiny a chance to turn down a different path, “Let the Ring Bearer decide.” But fate would unwind along the currents and eddies she was most want to follow, and as before, and the company found itself standing in front of the Gates of Moria.

Legolas was unaccountably irritable. The strain of the journey itself was augmented by the mounting tensions among the members of the Fellowship. The Ring was growing stronger and nerves were becoming frayed. In addition to this, his own resolve to stay away from the Ranger had been thwarted by that ill thought of encounter a few nights back. He’d wondered if the ‘older’ Aragorn had not set him up for that midnight tryst. Since that, admittedly memorable night, ‘this’ Aragorn’s interests seemed to have been fanned from a mild ember of desire into a burning conflagration of obsession. The Ranger wasted no opportunity to touch, corner, fondle or otherwise lavish the Archer with his affections. Legolas chewed on his full lower lip in irritation as he thought on the dilemma. He had to be more diligent about discouraging the Man.

“Dwarf walls are nearly invisible when closed,” grated the thick burley voice of the Dwarf.

“Indeed, Gimli, even their own masters cannot find them when their secrets are lost,” said the Istari from up ahead.

“Why doesn’t that surprise me,” uttered Legolas irritably under his breath. The pressure seemed to be intensifying as they approached the hidden entrance to the mines and the words escaped his lips without forethought.

The Gondorian smirked, and nudged the Elf’s elbow. “I couldn’t agree more with the sentiment,” said the grumbling Man. Far from finding amusement in the camaraderie, Legolas felt embarrassed and mildly guilty. Poking fun at another member of the Fellowship was not honorable behavior for a Prince, even if the object of the insult was a Dwarf. Cruelty was unlike him and he regretted his lapse, even if the Son of Gloin was starting to seriously get on his nerves.

The Gondorian leaned in closer to the Elf, drawing Legolas out of his thoughts. “I think you agree with me, Prince, that this is a mistake. What succor can we hope to find in the Dwarf mines that would not be better met above the ground in the White City?” The Gondorian’s hand quietly slipped to rest lightly on the small of the Archer’s back as he spoke.

Surprised, Legolas looked at him intently, trying to read what lay behind the strangely gleaming eyes of the Human. There was an unspoken request in the shadowed depths of the Man’s gaze. The darkness there gave Legolas pause, part of him impulsively wanting to reach out to the Human and part of him wanting to recoil. Before Legolas could question it, a warm hand wrapped around his arm from behind, drawing him quietly away from the Gondorian’s sphere. Aragorn stood at his shoulder and leveled a steely glare upon the son of Denethor. “The Ring Bearer has chosen our course,” said the Ranger.

The startled Gondorian removed his hand from the Archer, dragging the tips of his fingers across the soft fabric of the Elf’s tunic as he did so. Boromir held his ground for a moment longer before dropping his gaze angrily and retreating to stand glumly by the wall. Legolas watched the Human go, feeling confused and concerned about the Man’s state of mind. He tried to shake the feeling that something evil had just slunk away from him.

Aragorn leaned in close to the Elf’s face, shrewd gray eyes studying him closely, “Are you alright?”

Legolas averted his gaze from the Ranger, still shaken by his contact with the Gondorian’s strange dark aura. He nodded.

“You seem distracted,” whispered the Man, lips almost brushing the point of an ear.

Legolas sucked in his breath and thought he should back away even as his body leaned into the Ranger’s hard frame next to him. “Nay,” he said dazedly. “I am worried about the mood of the Company,” he volunteered, his gaze drifting over to the Gondorian once again.

“As am I,” whispered the Ranger, but his eyes were only for the Elf. Legolas found himself staring back into the burning steel gaze. Aragorn’s body pressed closer against him and he found himself unwilling to pull away. The Man’s breath was soft on his face and the gray eyes traveled lightly over his features in the manner of the ‘older’ Aragorn when the Elf had first encountered him in the woods. Legolas tried to breathe and to summon some strength to push the Dúnadan away. He had rebuffed others, and often; why then should this be so difficult?

In the shadow of the looming wall, the Man brought his arms around the confused Elf. His hand tangled gently in the Archer’s hair and Legolas fidgeted in his growing desire to bring his arms up around the Man’s body. He managed to only bring his hands up to rest on the Aragorn’s muscled chest in token resistance. Aragorn moved even closer, his nose nuzzled into the Elf’s hair, loving the sweet clean scent. “Why do you resist what we both obviously want?” whispered Aragorn.

“Because…because…” the Elf stammered, eyes glittering, he mutely raised a finger to trace the Evenstar that peaked at the opening of the Man’s tunic.

The Ranger caught his breath as if burned by the touch and pulled away with a slight jerk. Legolas raised hurt eyes to the Man. Aragorn averted his gaze from the striking blue orbs, clearly caught in the confusion of two fundamentally opposing forces. Gandalf’s sudden yell roused the Company and released the Man and Elf from their silent impasse.

The doors were opening. Aragorn spared a quick look at the Elf, and with a tug on the Archer’s arm, the Ranger moved to take the lead as they entered the entrance. Legolas followed hastily at the Man’s heels. Silently the Archer reeled with the surprising lurch of pain the Man’s minute withdrawal had caused him. Blast it, he had to take hold of himself. There had been no further appearances from the ‘future’ Aragorn and the Elf had been starting to doubt his own mind about the whole event. Yet the issue of the Evenstar was undeniable. The Man’s reaction was proof enough that it was no mere trinket that hung from his neck. Legolas resolved to distance himself, as he swallowed past the bitter tears that burned in the back of his throat. This could only bring heartache…perhaps worse.

They were greeted by darkness as the doors opened wide to admit the Company into the Dwarf realm. Only Gimli seemed happy to enter the obscure cavern beyond the threshold. The Dwarf’s babblings about ‘malt beer’ and ‘red meat off the bone’ turned to cries of distress when the hideous sight of the decaying bodies was revealed in the light of the Wizard’s staff.

“Get out! Get out of here!” yelled the Gondorian as Legolas inspected the arrow he’d pulled free from a corpse.

“Goblins!” dropping the black arrow with a clanking sound of metal against stone, Legolas drew his bow.

The screams that came from behind them disoriented him for a moment. The events that followed were as a blur. He let his arrows fly unerringly into the monstrous creature that had snatched up the Ring Bearer and was slowly bringing the screaming Hobbit to it’s gaping wide mouth. The two men hacked frantically at the giant tentacles and Legolas hit the thing in the eye with a golden shaft as the creature lumbered menacingly after them. The Gondorian cried out to the Archer, as he clutched Frodo in his arms. Time marched on its well worn path and each of Legolas’s arrows hit their predestined mark. The Company scrambled into the relative protection of the mines.

The screaming sound of the walls coming down around them plunged Legolas into a momentary panic. Strong arms grabbed him and pulled him further into the darkness of the mine as dust and stones rained down on them. Their harsh breathing was all that could be heard as the rumbling of the cavern ceased abruptly, leaving a thick cloud of dust hanging in the air. Legolas tried to calm his frantically beating heart. How he hated caves! But this was far worse for they were now sealed inside the vast labyrinth of Moria.

The Ranger’s arms wrapped tightly around him and the steady beat of the Man’s heart traveled through him in familiar waves of comfort. Legolas did not try to pull out of the Ranger’s warm embrace until the Istari’s staff came back to life and their little chamber was illuminated by a pale glow. Legolas breathed deeply and tried not to look as disturbed as he felt. The loss of the Man’s arms redoubled his anxiety.

“Now we have but one choice…” said the solemn voice of the Wizard.

They followed single file through the darkness. Never had his eyes beheld a more desolate and forlorn sight. Legolas actually felt sorry for the Dwarf then. He walked close to Gimli, trying by his proximity to convey his sympathy. The Dwarf seemed to understand the Elf’s quiet offering of comfort and looked up at him with a glimmer of gratitude.

Behind them stretching into the darkness some quiet scrapings against rock suggested they were not alone. It was a three days journey to the other side, the Wizard had said but time became meaningless in the dark. Legolas might have found it difficult to maintain hope that they would survive this part of their mission had it not been for the remembered visitations by the ‘future’ Aragorn.

As if the thought had summoned him, the aging King stood before him, in the shadows of a hidden alcove. The Elf nearly gasped in shock by the Man’s sudden appearance. Legolas quickly glanced behind him at the reclining figures of the Company. The Elf was standing guard while the rest of the Fellowship slept in a secluded room. The Man motioned quietly to him. Casting another nervous eye back at the huddled bodies, barely illuminated by the Wizard’s light, he reluctantly moved to the darkened alcove, which hid the Man.

“What are you doing here?” he whispered nervously.

“You have not succeeded in what I asked you to do. You have not spoken with your Ranger.” said the older Aragorn. The Man’s hands had come up to cup the Elf’s face as he spoke, as if needing to see and feel the living being before him.

“Nay, I told you before, there is no need. I see no point in you visiting me again.” The Elf began to turn away from this troublesome apparition of the future King, but the hands that held him were solid and their grip was strong.

“There is need, Legolas. Nothing has changed. My reality continues as it did before I first appeared to you. You must do something!” The hands now clutched at him painfully and the steel of the gray eyes glittered with tears.

A sound of boots scraping behind them made Legolas jump, and the Man pulled back into the shadows. Legolas turned and peered into the darkness. The Gondorian stood quietly a few feet away. “I thought I heard voices but …” he glanced back the way he had come, “the Ranger is in conversation with the Wizard. Who were you talking to?”

“Nay, Man of Gondor, there was no one here. Perhaps you heard me singing softy to myself,” said the Elf who was unused to prevarication.

Boromir hesitated then stepped closer to the Archer. “I wish to speak with you, Prince Legolas,” the Gondorian seemed to fidget on his feet for a few moments. At last he looked up at the waiting Elf and Legolas could detect a mistiness in the Man’s eyes.

“What can I do for you, Boromir?” said the Elf, in a softly compassionate voice. The distress of the Man troubled him. Boromir moved closer.

“You spoke to me once of view points. Would it surprise you to know I have been giving your words some consideration. I find myself torn, Master Elf. I find that it is not so clear any longer what is right and what is wrong.” The Man paused and Legolas looked at him expectantly, feeling that the Man’s struggle was a real one.

To his surprise the Gondorian raised a rough hand and placed it gently on the Archer’s cheek. The hand trembled against his skin and the Man’s heart rate and breathing were becoming faster. Legolas stared in shock as the Man smiled shakily. “I feel alone in my thoughts, Prince, and my heart is troubled…” The Elf took a step back toward the shadowed alcove, as the Gondorian closed the distance between them. “You are the only one who seems to understand,” said the Man in a strange voice.

Legolas glanced over the Gondorian’s shoulder at the sleeping Company. He tried to fend off the advancing Man with his hands as he whispered reasonably, “I will listen to your plight and offer what I can, but I have no interest in these advances, Man of Gondor.”

The Man heedlessly pressed forward, clutching onto the Elf who tried to walk around him. “You are very beautiful, Elf,” breathed the Gondorian against his skin as Boromir swung him around and pulled him into a rough embrace. Legolas’s back was to the Fellowship and Aragorn’s voice could be heard distantly in conversation with the Istari. The Gondorian had a strange gleam in his eyes and Legolas knew the Man was not himself. “Boromir, it is the Ring that affects you so…unhand me,” Legolas grunted as he tried to forcefully push the Man from him. The Man’s hands were on his shoulders and the Gondorian leaned forward intent on pressing his lips to the Elf’s silky mouth.

He never got the chance. A pair of strong hands grabbed the Gondorian from behind and pulled him roughly off the Archer. Boromir swung around and gaped in shock at the figure of the Ranger, “Where did you come from?”

“Don’t ask,” the aging Aragorn said hotly, “Now, listen to me carefully, Boromir. You are dreaming. Go back and lay down and do not touch the Elf again.” He released the Gondorian roughly and pulled Legolas over to him. The Gondorian gaped madly at them as he drifted back towards the Company. Half way there he turned and walked into Aragorn.

“What seems to be the matter, Son of Denethor,” said the Ranger, keen eyes taking in the frightened and bewildered look of the Man. Boromir gaped at him and stumbled past him back to their sheltered room.

Aragorn watched him go in growing anxiety and turned to look for the Archer. Legolas seemed to pop out of the shadows and stared at the Man with a similar look of bewilderment. Aragorn looked around him, peering suspiciously into the darkness, as he approached the nervous looking Elf.

“What just happened here?” he asked, looking around them once again, as he laid a possessive hand on the Elf’s arm.

“Noth…Nothing,” said the Archer, not quite glancing behind him.

“Are you all right?” asked the Ranger again, suspiciously.

Legolas nodded mutely, and tried to move away from the Man. “Legolas, wait,…I need to talk with you.”

“Yes… I need to..to talk to you, as well,” stammered the Elf, eyes shifting behind him again. Aragorn looked past his shoulder wondering at the Elf’s nervous behavior. The alcove behind them was empty.

Aragorn looked compassionately at the Elf, surmising how troubling this cold, dark place must be for one of Elfkind. “It’s alright,” he said quietly, laying a warm hand on the being’s shoulder, “we will be out of this terrible place soon. Come, let me take your mind off things.”

He dragged the protesting Elf into the now vacant alcove and wrapped the Archer into his arms. “Legolas,” the Man breathed, he bent his head and kissed the sweet Elf passionately. Legolas tried to resist but found himself opening to the questing tongue. He moaned softly as the Man’s mouth traveled to the point of a sensitive ear. Aragorn’s fingers burrowed into his tunic and grazed hotly against his skin. “Ah…Legolas,” sighed the Man as he pushed his hand into the Elf’s leggings and freed the slender shaft from its confines.

The Elf groaned softly, “Nay…we shouldn’t…it is ill fated…”

But further protests were cut off as the Man lowered him to the ground and consumed his mouth in a hungry kiss. The Man’s tongue plundered the sweet warm depths while his hands expertly pulled the Elf’s leggings down around his knees. Before Legolas could get his bearings, the Ranger’s talented mouth was on him. Aragorn swallowed him whole and clutched onto the slim hips to control the torturously slow stimulation.

”Oh…oh, Aragorn, …” the Elf brought his knuckle to his mouth to keep from crying out as the Man grazed his tongue along the underside of his sensitive shaft.

“Mmmm…” the Man moaned appreciatively as he swallowed the Elf. The vibration pushed the Elf over the edge and he came convulsively into the Man’s mouth. Aragorn sucked on him until he was limp and sated. Exhausted the Elf laid on the hard ground, eyes tightly shut, until he felt the Man’s shaft press against his nether port.

“I want you so much, my gentle Elf,” whispered the Man huskily as he pushed into the tight space. Legolas moaned, feeling his own shaft quiver slightly, as the Ranger pushed deeper, grazing against the bundle of sensitive nerves within the narrow channel. He lifted his hips, giving the Man greater access, and soon they were rocking in the ancient rhythm. Legolas bit his lip as the Man filled him, rocking into him, until they both came helplessly on the tide of unbridled passion. They lay tangled together until distant voices told them the Company was awakening.

Aragorn kissed him gently on the mouth. Then again on the nose. “I find myself unable to resist you…I came here to talk about my position, my promise to the Evenstar…but, now with you in my arms, I realize how much I belong with you. What can I do, my Elf?” He asked, miserably.

Legolas pulled away from the Man, the mention of the Evenstar like a dash of cold water on his heated face. He stood and dressed hastily. When he spoke again his voice was thick with bitterness. “You have a responsibility, Aragorn. I…I desire you as well, very much so…But this is folly. Do not pursue me again, Ranger,…I fear my heart won’t withstand it when we eventually must part.”

Aragorn let him go, feeling the burn of frustrated tears on his cheeks. He cursed his fate. He never dreamed he’d feel such desire for someone other than the Maiden of Imladris. In truth, his youthful infatuation for Arwen had cooled long ago. But responsibility…it dogged him and there was no turning away from his destiny. It pursued him like a vicious hell hound. In the end, Aragorn presaged, he’d save Middle Earth and die a bitter, unhappy old Man.

The Ranger moved forlornly back to the Company, resolving to do as the beautiful Elf requested. In the shadows two beings emerged quietly, one distressed, the other quietly stoic… “You see, foolish Man, I told you fate cannot be altered. Let me go…death is no great trial. My heart has known worse. And for those few moments of bliss…I go willingly.” The dulcet tones melodiously weaved a sad song within the darkness.

“NO. Never, my Heart, never will I give up,” responded the King resolutely, into the silken hair of the head that rested tiredly against his shoulder. He knew time was running short. Something drastic had to be done. Cold steel eyes bore like burning coals into the back of the Ranger who bent to minister to the Hobbits.

Chapter Five

“Fly you fools!”

And then he was gone…Legolas stood on the stairs, in stunned disbelief. The Istari was gone. What would become of them now? Had not the Ranger of the future said Gandalf sent him back? Was that a lie? Legolas burned with rage and with grief. He ran mindlessly, mechanically, over the rocks and through the pools of shallow water that took them into the mysterious Golden Woods of Lothlórien.

They were all in shock. Fatigue, despair, grief…it all hung on them like a dark cloud. And now they were being denied entrance to the only source of respite and solace. Haldir stood before the Ranger like an ancient sentinel whose task it was to bar them from relief. Legolas wanted to scream, but he was a proud Elf and a Prince.

{Do not despair, young one. Your kin will not turn you away. Long has it been since you have rested or known peace of mind…}

Legolas started at the sound of the gentle voice within his mind. He looked up to see Haldir finally acquiesce. They followed the Lórien elves to Caras Galadon, home of the Lord and Lady of the Wood.

Legolas stood before her. His eyes took in the beauty of the Lórien elves and of the glorious ancient Woods around them. But his heart was shuttered and heavy. Even as the others spoke, and some silently communed, the Lady’s powerful mind saw into his thoughts and all that weighed him down. She turned to look at him with amazement in her ancient eyes. Legolas waited for her to reveal his secret…or rather secrets, to the company. But that did not occur.

{Legolas, fairest of the Sindar, I bid you welcome…You have become pivotal in the unwinding affairs of Middle Earth, for you have stolen the heart of Isildur’s heir. Your amazing visitor tells you to not turn away from the bond that grows between you and Aragorn.

But I must warn you, Son of Thranduil… the future he would tamper with has been written in the stars. Force the river to turn away from its predestined path and all that would have been nourished by its passage could wither and die….Unless its new course finds favor in the eyes of the Valar. Elessar would be wise to abandon this experiment…}

Legolas gaped at her. So it was true then. The ‘older’ Aragorn was from the future. But he would be wise to abandon ‘this experiment?’ Her words of caution burrowed into his heart for they were the words that spelled his doom.

It was past midnight and the sad lament of the Elves floated upon the gentle night air. A hand came down to rest lightly on his shoulder. He looked up into the eyes of the Lady. Without a word, she beckoned him to follow her. “Will you look into the mirror?” she asked.

Legolas held her gaze for a long moment. He feared it, he realized with a start. He feared what he would see. When the Elf did not move, she set down the carafe of water and regarded him sadly. “You have made your choice then, dear Prince,” she said piteously. “You already know the outcome of your love affair with the Man who would be King.”

Her voice was somber, like the tolling of a bell that rang mournfully into the night, disturbing peaceful slumbers with its fell news. Legolas dropped his head to his breast and tears gently slid down his face. He would not look into the mirror for he knew what he would see. It was already beginning. A tingling at his finger tips…a numbness that would come and go…

The white hand came to rest on his cheek. He looked up at her kind face, now creased into lines of worry. “You must tell him. If fate can be altered, Dear One, …it must begin with a decision to do so.”

But Legolas drew back from her hand, shaking his head minutely. “Nay…risk changing all the good that is to come…simply to try to save one life? Nay, Lady. I will not. I cannot help but love him. And so I shall…all the days of my life. If those days are to be numbered as Men do, then so be it…I will do all that is in my power to lighten his load.”

She watched him go, a heaviness settling about her own heart. Doubt touched her mind. This Prince was worthy. Galadriel turned to her mirror and poured the water into its still surface.

A vision swam up from the blurry depths: The newly crowned King of Gondor bent to kiss his beautiful Consort. The image shimmered and as the ripples passed a different face bore the delicate crown, when Elessar pulled back … but ripples fanned by some invisible tempest marred the still surface, for the future was now as a turbulent storm;

She dipped her finger into the disturbed liquid, willing it to show her something. The surface quieted and a new image surfaced…Mourners. Their soft cries floated through the White City as they bore their beloved Monarch to lay in the ornate golden sepulcher…his final resting place, eternally beside his true love… Arwen Undómiel followed the casket, swathed in solemn black, her face a hallow empty shade of it’s former loveliness.

Galadriel gasped in horror. She touched the surface and watched the discordant images all fade to black. She gazed at the mirror’s blank screen, a hand clasped to her chest. Not one life, but three, hung in the balance. She closed her eyes and touching the Mirror again she gathered herself to bend a new intention to the flow of that colorful thread that bound their fates together…

The tattered Fellowship gathered their supplies into the swan boats as they prepared to depart the Golden Wood. Aragorn bid farewell to the Lady, but his heart was troubled. Galadriel was mysteriously quiet. He thought back to the moment when she touched the Evenstar and her look foretold some ill. Aragorn searched her face for some clue as to her dismissive tone when she spoke of Arwen. Perhaps the Lady of the Wood did not foresee their success and Middle Earth was indeed doomed. Perhaps she felt he was unworthy. Why else try to discourage him from the course he had been groomed for most of his life?

Aragorn fingered the ornament around his neck. It meant more to him than a betrothal to the Maid of Imladris…What it symbolized was his final triumph over the weakness of his line. If he succeeded in his mission, he would redeem himself and all that came before him. As his self-doubts plagued him, he drew closer to the comforting presence of his Elf Prince.

Legolas glanced up as the Man’s warm hand grazed his arm. “Are you well?” asked the Elf in his soft voice, looking around to make certain they were unobserved.

The Man did not answer but took the fey being into his arms and buried his face into the Elf’s silken hair. He sighed deeply. When he pulled back he smiled at the confused look on the fair face, “I am better now, my Sweet Elf.”

The concerned look in the blue sapphires melted into one of peacefulness and Aragorn bent his head, impulsively, to taste of the sweet lips. He would not allow himself to become discouraged, the Ranger decided, as he enveloped the slim warm body into his arms. Legolas held him close and the Man breathed another long sigh. Legolas believed in him.

By the banks of the Anduin, they camped for the night. Boromir’s angry words had been disquieting for them all. Gondor was close now and the pressure from within the Fellowship seemed to be building yet again, and with it the darkness that surrounded them grew stronger. But hidden from the minds of Men a change…a ripple in time…a new pathway carved its way forth…

Frodo, fearing the pull of the Ring on Boromir thought better of his urge to stray into the solitude of the woods, and chose to cling to his Sam. They unpacked as the Dwarf huffed, “Regain my ..regain my strength! Don’t listen to that, young hobbits!”

Then someone asked, “Where is Legolas?”

Aragorn stepped away from the dark woods he was gazing into and started as he realized the Elf was missing. Had not the Elf just been by his side? His eyes alighted on the Shield of Gondor as some unnamed fear began to build within him. “Stay here!” he told the others as he plunged into the woods.

To have certain foreknowledge of one’s death was a profound experience, even for an Elf. In all his hundreds of years, Legolas had only known of a handful of Elves who had actually died. True, many now left these shores for the Gray Havens. He had assumed it would be his path as well, one day. But now he knew it was not to be. The thought saddened him. He tried to be philosophical about it, and when they were active on their journey, his commitment to duty overrode any selfish thoughts. But there were times, like now, when the realization would come upon him and he needed to be alone to contemplate his fate.

He would not turn away from the Man that had claimed his heart. Nay, indeed, he could not. He knew it was too late for that. He was inextricably bound. Thoughts of the Ranger brought a swell of tears to his eyes, unexpectedly, and a sudden sharp crack in the center of his chest startled him. His hand flew to his breast, eyes wide, as he tried to breathe through the tightness.

“Are you alright?” came a startling voice from behind him.

Legolas whirled around, still heaving as the tightness clung to him, and tried to focus his eyes on the Man before him. Boromir dropped the pile of wood and approached the pale, shaking Elf. “You are shivering. What is the matter?”

He wrapped his arms around the slender being, as the Elf’s breathing became calmer. The swoon began to pass and the Elf lifted his head from the Man’s shoulder. His skin was clammy and beads of sweat glistened on his pale brow. “I …I am alright now. Thank you, Boromir.”

“Why do you push me away, fair Prince?” said the Gondorian huskily, leaning close to the Elf’s face.

Legolas tried to extricate himself from the heavy Man’s embrace but found the arms around him would not budge. “What is it?” asked the Gondorian, angrily, his hand clamping on the Elf’s throat. “Do I not satisfy you as the Ranger does?”

{Behind a silvery portal, a Man moved agitatedly closer to the golden being next to him… “What’s this? You never told me of this…”

“Nay…” gasped a weak voice, barely audible now as it floated past thin lips, “it never happened that way…” a thin hand came up to clasp at the white column of a bared throat in sudden distress… }

Legolas gaped at the Son of Denethor in disbelief and growing anger. “Unhand me at once!” he cried, trying to pry the fingers from his throat.

Boromir snarled and pulled the Elf roughly against him. Legolas cried out and struggled, managing to knee the Man in the groin and pull out of his arms as Boromir doubled over. He bolted through the trees but the hurling body of the Gondorian came down on top of him. Rough hands clutched at him, pulling at his clothing, and a hard mouth fell on his in lustful anger. The tongue ravished his mouth as the Gondorian’s hands roughly grabbed at his exposed flesh.

“Nay!” cried the outraged Elf as the Man’s mouth came off him, to pull at his tunic.

Boromir’s eyes were glinting in wild madness. “I will have you Elf. I will take the Ring and become Sovereign of Gondor…and you will be mine, not his!”

“Boromir! This is madness! Stop at once…you are not a dishonorable Man!”

But the Gondorian was lost in the darkness of the Ring and nothing of the Man could be seen in the blue eyes that narrowed in lust. Legolas struggled wildly against the insolent caresses as his clothes were ripped from him. He yelped in anger and growing fear as he was flipped onto his stomach and his leggings were ripped off him. He clawed into the ground, trying desperately to find a handhold to pull himself free of the brute that now straddled him.

His mind froze as the Man’s erect shaft was pressed between his cheeks. Then galvanized into terrified action, he started to scream and buck in an effort to throw the Human off him. Rough fingers pulled at the smooth mounds of flesh, exposing his hole to a probing finger. “NO!” he screamed in horror.

Suddenly the brute was off him. A dark body hurled through the air and plowed into the Gondorian, knocking him off the Elf. They grappled furiously in the dirt. Legolas panted and pulled at his clothing to cover himself as his eyes followed the struggling figures of Aragorn and the Gondorian. It was not until he heard his name some distance away that he began to realize that the person struggling with Boromir was not his Aragorn.

Legolas sat up and peered through the trees behind him. He sucked in his breath as he spied the figure of the Ranger dropping to his knees next to a prone body lying on the ground. The Elf froze, some dread instinct telling him not to approach the two figures. He nearly jumped when a hand came carefully to rest on his shoulder. He looked up at the worried countenance of the King of Gondor. Silently the Man lifted him to his feet and with a warm embrace pulled back, his gray eyes traveling over the Elf’s shoulder at the remarkable sight of himself bending over the fading figure of the Elf Prince.

“Something is happening, …time is changing…but I don’t know,” his voice faded and anguish glistened in his moist gray eyes as he searched out the pale figure on the ground, lying at the younger Aragorn’s feet.

When Legolas looked again, the future Aragorn was gone. He looked over at the Ranger who was now kneeling on the ground by himself. Slowly the Elf walked over to the silent Man, mind still reeling to take in all that had just occurred. He collapsed to his knees in front of the Ranger.

Aragorn looked up at him, face ashen and eyes moist. “Legolas?” the Man said brokenly. “What witchcraft is this?”

Before either of them could utter another word a war cry made them both jump to their feet. Within moments the woods were swarming with Uruk- hai. Aragorn pulled the Elf over to him and drew his sword. He cut down several orcs as the Elf scrambled for his discarded weapons.

The battle erupted around them, as hordes of orcs came plummeting through the trees. Frodo separated from the company, after having encountered a wild Boromir in the trees. The courageous Halflings distracted the forces of the enemy and the Son of Denethor was himself again. The Horn of Gondor summoned the orcs away from the fleeing Ring bearer. Time looped in on itself and swerved foreword on a familiar bend.

Boromir’s death was a terrible blow, and the Halflings were taken. Events marched foreword at a fast pace, leaving little opportunity for contemplation. Aragorn clamped his hand to the shoulder of the Elf and to the Dwarf, bonding them in a tight ring of Fellowship. “…As long as we stay true to each other.”

He clung to those words, just as he clung to his two companions over the many cold days and nights that followed. He often thought he might have gone mad on that burning, endless run over rocks and desert had it not been for the two warriors by his side. They were like brothers to him now. Well, indeed, the Elf was more than a brother…more, even, than a lover. He tried not to think on the horrifying vision he had encountered in the woods. But it swam up in his mind’s eye as the endless panorama of desert stretched before them. Witchcraft. It was the only explanation. Some trick of the enemy who had looked into his tired mind and found out his worst fear. He’d never let that happen…never.

Aragorn looked over at the Archer who followed stealthily behind him into Fangorn forest. If this being could exist by his side, this magical and divine being, then surely anything was possible…even the defeat of Sauron and the liberation of Middle Earth might be possible. If Legolas could exist and love him, a Man, with such purity and shining devotion, then wasn’t anything in this universe possible? He was startled from his thoughts by a familiar voice in his mind.

{Aye, Man of the North, all things are possible, but some things only fools would tamper with…}

Aragorn started even as the Elf whispered, with preternaturally bright eyes, “The White Wizard approaches.”

Aragorn could hardly tear his eyes off the old Man who strode by his side. Gandalf was rapidly becoming himself again. As they walked swiftly through the forest, he explained many things and declared they had come to a turning in the tide of the affairs of Middle Earth. But whatever he had meant by the obscure thought sent into Aragorn’s mind, the Wizard would not divulge. It was a mystery and for some unfathomable reason, Aragorn felt as though he had just been scolded by the old Mage.

The Battle of Helms Deep was vicious and more glorious than anything that could be captured in song or told in story. Aragorn dragged himself through the ruins and the rubble after the battle ended in search of only one thing…one person that could give him solace. Legolas. The Elf stood on the ramparts of the keep. Aragorn approached the still, silent figure. The dreadful carnage that covered the battlefield below them was grim evidence of their toil.

The Elf did not turn around as the Man wrapped his arms about the slim frame. How innocent his Elf had seemed when this journey first began, contemplated the Man. Now there was a quiet brooding, a stoic contemplation, which the Elf was want to fall into. When Aragorn questioned it, he was always told the same thing, ‘I love you, and I always will.’

Aragorn nuzzled into the warmth of the fragrant neck from behind the silent being and moaned as the Elf leaned back into him. The golden head fell onto the Man’s shoulder as Aragorn’s mouth now trailed hot kisses along the jaw and up to the swirl of the ear. He nipped at the sensitive tip, causing the Elf to moan aloud. Aragorn smiled.

The Man worked his fingers expertly into the Elf’s tunic, armor having been discarded long ago, and sighed as his hands clutched feverishly onto Elven flesh. Like a fury, fueled perhaps from the battle lust that still simmered in his blood, Aragorn tugged at their annoying clothing and bent the Elf over the railing as his weeping manhood sought entrance into the snug warm channel. His hands closed over the Elf’s stiffening flesh, as the sweet gentle being writhed in his arms.

“Ah!” he sighed into the Elf’s silken hair, as he entered his lover. “My Legolas,” he whispered, “how I love you…”

The Elf pushed back against him, eager to take in all the Man had to offer. “And I love you, my Ranger,…” breathed the Elf. Legolas bit his lower lip as the Man pulled out, dragging his stiff cock over the sensitive prostate, until only the tip of the wide head remained embedded; Then, slowly, very slowly he pushed back in. Legolas groaned loudly, as he braced his legs and pushed up for more. “Faster, Aragorn!” he panted in agony for release. He turned to look at the Man in amazement at the Ranger’s control.

The Man’s mouth was on his ear, lapping and whispering, “Do you want me, my sweet Elf?”

“Aye! Why do you torment me?! Is it not obvious that I am mad for you?” cried the Archer, in frustration.

“Then you do want me, as much as I want you…” whispered the Man, who thrust deeply, then withdrew again. “Will you come with me to Gondor?”

The Elf froze, caught on the painful edge of desire and fumbling in his mind over what the Man was asking. They had carefully stayed away from all topics related to his obligation to enter Gondor as her King. The issue of the Evenstar was clearly linked to Aragorn’s fate to become Monarch of the White City.

“Well?” said the Man, His voice shook and his shaft quivered at the Elf’s entrance. He could feel the Elf tremble in his arms, and Legolas’s voice was thick when he spoke.

“I will follow you, my Liege, anywhere …and stay with you for as long as …as the Valar may will it…” but the voice was soft and sad.

Aragorn buried his tear stained face in the crook of the Elf’s neck as he sunk his shaft into the trembling body. “I do not wish to be parted from you,” he whispered urgently into the shell shaped ear and clutched onto the taut body with a bruising grip, as though the Elf would turn to dust and disappear before his very eyes.

With a renewed ferocity born of both urgent need, and some desperate unnamed fear, Aragorn pumped possessively into the slender body. Rapid, furious thrusts pushed him over the edge, as his fingers clamped onto the slender hips. The spasming channel squeezed the last of his seed into his lover as the Elf climaxed immediately after him. Aragorn almost collapsed but held himself up right and pulled the Elf’s exhausted form off the railing, spinning him around and drawing him into a tight embrace. Legolas’s head fell on his shoulder and the Elf panted against him.

Aragorn tangled his fingers into the silken strands and pulled the Elf’s face up to kiss the fair lips. “How can I tell you what you mean to me?” he said softly, looking into the indigo orbs. “I feel complete when you are by my side.”

The Elf smiled sweetly but there was a shadow in the blue eyes. “Legolas?” asked the Man. But when the Elf shook his head mutely, the Ranger did not pursue it. He hugged the Elf to him tightly, instead, unwilling to summon the unspoken fear that seemed to hang over them both. Aragorn could feel his destiny catching up to him, a destiny that touched him now with the icy fingers of approaching death. He shivered and hugged the Elf tighter.

Chapter Six

The Ranger entered King Theodin’s tent to behold a dark cloaked figure waiting for him. Elrond lowered his hood and raised burning eyes to meet Aragorn.

“Arwen is dying,” he said. Why did it sound like an accusation? The Man gaped at him, and finally averted his eyes from Elrond’s scrutiny.

“Her fate is now linked to the outcome of this war,” Elrond approached him, unveiling the sword of Isildur with a flourish. “Anduril, Flame of the West, forged from the shards of Narsil.”

He placed it into Aragorn’s hands as the Man looked into his foster father’s eyes. It was finally happening. Fate was catching up to him. A fate he had come to accept and even to anticipate after long years of contemplation. A fate he now had come to silently dread for the road it would put him on. Aragorn hefted the sword of his ancestor in his hand, testing its weight. It fit perfectly in his grip. Isildur had betrayed his people and all of Middle Earth because of his weakness, because of his obsession for the Ring. Now it was Aragorn’s turn to make things right. Candlelight glistened off the shining metal sheath and turned into the glowing spheres of two brilliant sapphire orbs. Aragorn blinked the moisture from his eyes, dispelling the heart aching vision.

Elrond stepped closer to him, his discerning gaze fixed sternly upon the Man. “Only you can do this, Aragorn. Only you can save Middle Earth and the Evenstar.” The old Elf placed a hand on Aragorn’s shoulder and his gaze softened. “Put aside the Ranger, become the Man you were born to be. You will be the hope of men everywhere.”

Aragorn blanched, but nodded slowly. “And keep none for myself,” he whispered. Never had a statement proven more true. He could not cheat fate and time was finally running out for him and his sweet Princeling. From here on in, he resolved, he would do as the Prince had asked and stay away. The thought brought a sharp pain to his heart but the weight of the sword in his hand steadied his nerve. He had to do it. For everything and everyone that depended on him. He could not go backwards and repeat Isildur’s mistakes.

He would take the Dunharrow road and ride forth as Gondor’s new King.

Legolas had sensed Elrond’s presence long before actually seeing him. When the Elder Elf exited the tent Elrond paused and silently exchanged glances with the young Sindar. As a father, he knew the pain of fearing the loss of one’s child. Elrond took a deep breath and approached the Elf who was even younger than his own daughter. The unmasked innocence of the young Elf’s face could not hide the depth of suffering the Prince was already experiencing. Elrond swallowed, silently cursing the cold hand of fate that bound them all so unfeelingly to an unwanted destiny. Aragorn could not be faulted for loving this one, but that love also meant Arwen would never truly know happiness. In the end, they would all lose. Elrond sighed and placed a supporting hand on the Elf’s shoulder.

“Young One. I am honored that you have accompanied my foster son on this journey.”

Legolas shifted uncomfortably, feelings of guilt playing clearly across his azure eyes and the gentle downward pout of his full lips. “Lord Elrond…”

He was cut off from further speech however, when Elrond stepped closer and pulled him into a surprising embrace. “I have spoken with Galadriel, Legolas. I know what has been occurring and I know your plans.” Elrond pulled back only slightly to look the Sindar in the eyes. “I can tell Aragorn does not realize what is happening,” he said in a low voice. The fathomless blue eyes swam with pain as they looked up at him. Elrond suddenly seized the young Prince by the arms, “Come with me, Legolas! Come away from here and join me on the ship for Valinor before it is too late for you!”

Legolas gaped at him, stunned by this unexpected statement. Elrond held his gaze and the young Elf could see the earnest desire in the Elder’s face; the desire to save him from the inevitable end brought by grief. He felt his eyes mist in tears of gratitude.

“Nay, Lord Elrond. I cannot leave Aragorn now when we have not yet fulfilled our quest.” Legolas shook his head, the silken curtain of gold hair falling forward as he bent his head in sadness. “I will step aside for Aragorn to fulfill his destiny with the Evenstar, but I cannot abandon him now when he still needs me.”

Elrond gazed at the determined young Elf and shuddered with the painful thought of losing this bright star of Elfkind. He laid a quiet hand on the Sindar’s shoulder. At that moment, Aragorn appeared out of the darkness. The Man glanced at the two Elves in confusion. The wheel of destiny was turning and there was nothing he could do to stop it. Irrational anger flared within him at the two beings closest to him: at the Prince for stealing into his heart, thus barring it forever from loving another, and at Elrond for being the voice of conscience. He turned without a word and headed out of camp with Brego.

Legolas placed a hand on Elrond’s shoulder in the manner of a warrior’s departure and turned to follow the Man.

Aragorn had not really expected to pass out of the camp toward the mountain corridor without his two stalwart companions. He tried not to stare at the quiet Elf, who sat astride his horse, beside him. He thought upon the incongruous sight of the Prince with Lord Elrond. What had Elrond said to the Elf? Aragorn tore his worried gaze away from the Sindar as they approached the mountain pass.

The three warriors resolutely entered the passage single file, as mists of luminous sentience followed their progress wearily. Time marched on its familiar path but the sentient lights winked in agitation around the three travelers. A burgeoning anger boiled within the ancient mist. Awareness emerged upon the sea of floating consciousness. The winds shifted their course with a groan at the new perception and moved with sudden determination down obscure pathways. Time slipped free of its harness and wildly flew after the wayward winds.

The city of the dead manifested within the large chamber before the awestruck eyes of the three warriors. “The way is shut,” said the apparition that now stood before the Future King and his two companions. “It was made by those who are dead and the dead keep it.”

Legolas gasped at the prickling sensation that suddenly traveled down his spine. His hair flew about his face as a cold chill filled the chamber. The Dwarf stirred in agitation, next to him. Something was out of place.

Aragorn faced the shade of the ancient warrior who challenged him in the cavern of the ghosts. “The way is shut!” intoned the dead man again.

Aragorn raised Anduril as the ghost confidently charged at him. He grunted to feel the solidness of the thing press against his chest. The sword of Isildur threatened to cut into the throat of the shade as Aragorn met its challenging stare. He pushed the dead betrayer off him and pointed the tip of Anduril at the army of ghosts. “Fight for me and regain your honor!” he challenged them. “What say you?”

The host of cursed soldiers stared back at him. The chamber was still except for the sudden howl of the wind. Legolas shifted unconsciously closer to the Man. Aragorn turned back to their leader. The shade approached him. “So you would ask us again to follow you. But why should we help you when we always return to this same moment? You have left your promise unfulfilled, King.”

Aragorn gaped at the ghost, unable to decipher its meaning. “Ask you again? I have never before asked you for anything. I am Isildur’s heir and until now the sword that was broken had lain in pieces in the Elven realm of Imladris.” What game where these shades playing at, he wondered.

“Aragorn, son of Arathorn, search your soul. Our consciousness spans time and space, so I ask you again, why should we help you when you have bound yourself in the net of your own making and none can escape?”

“They are mad!” cried the Dwarf above the wind. He hefted his axe cautiously, as though it could serve him against this incorporeal enemy.

Legolas shifted uncomfortably again. Something here bode far more ill than what even the Dwarf could conceive. The shade glanced at him knowingly. “The Elf knows,” it said, drifting slightly in Legolas’s direction. “But it is you, heir of Isildur, who holds the key to our release and to your own. You are as much a prisoner of time as we are…” The thing smiled through its transparent teeth and vanished.

Aragorn gaped at the now vacant space. He turned, bewildered, and looked around the empty cavern. As if coming out of a daze he brought questioning eyes to rest upon the Archer. “What did it mean, Legolas?” he asked in growing frustration.

Legolas looked around avoiding the Man’s penetrating stare, and shrugged his shoulders. “Nay, Aragorn, I know not…”

In a flare of uncharacteristic anger, Aragorn strode to the Archer and grabbed the beautiful Elf by the arms roughly. “He says you know what he is talking about…and he won’t help us until I solve this riddle. Now tell me Legolas! What am I supposed to do?”

The Elf’s head shot up at the unexpected manhandling. Aragorn’s fingers tightened bruisingly on his arms in desperation, but the double meaning of the Man’s words did not escape him. Gimli’s shocked exclamation seemed to bring the Man to his senses. He looked over at the Dwarf and said in a brisk tone, “You must excuse us Master Gimli. I need to speak with Legolas alone.”

With that, the Man gripped the Elf by an arm and steered the Archer out of the cavern, into another private alcove. Once there he released the Elf and leveled an expectant look upon him. “Well?”

Legolas raised hurt eyes to the Man and gazed back at him mutely. Exasperated and feeling guilty, the Ranger took him by the shoulders more gently, matters of peace and warfare suddenly far from his mind. “Elrond spoke to you,” he said in a pained voice, not quite meeting the familiar blue gaze. His fingers drew small circles around the green clad shoulders. He tried not to become too distracted by the familiar scent of forests and morning dew. “What did Elrond say to you? Did he mention Arwen?”

Perplexed, Legolas merely shook his head. The motion sent a ripple of flame through the silken strands of gold. “He asked me to go with him… to Valinor.”

Aragorn gaped at him in shock. “Valinor?” The world shrunk even further away from thoughts of good and evil, victory and defeat. It contained only the two of them now. None other mattered. Aragorn tried to breathe past the heaviness in his chest, “Do you…? Do you want to go?”

The beautiful Elf did not answer right away and Aragorn felt his heart skip a beat. Of course, he had to end this relationship but the Man was not prepared for such a permanent separation. Why would Elrond suggest such a thing? Anger welled up within him for his foster father. Was this Elrond’s idea of a solution? Aragorn raised a hand to gently brush at the smooth cheek.

“You don’t want to go, do you, Legolas?” He asked, blanching slightly, at the pathetic plea he could hear in his own voice. When the Elf finally shook his head no, Aragorn released the breath he did not realize he had been holding. He clasped the silent Elf to him in relief, drawing the golden head to his shoulder.

They both started when the ghost beside them smirked. “Like Isildur, you are unable to part with the treasure coveted so strongly in your heart.”

Aragorn scowled, and released the Elf. “Why do you not speak plainly? You wish to be released from Isildur’s curse and I have the power to do it.”

The ghost beckoned to him. “I will do better. I will show you the folly of your misdeeds and what is to come.”

“Nay!” said the Elf, suddenly.

Before the Man could question the Archer, the ghost raised a hand and a fine curtain of mist separated Aragorn from his companion. “Legolas!” Aragorn ran into the mist but the curtain vanished and the Man was alone in the cavern.

Panicked, he turned to the ghost, raising Anduril threateningly. “What have you done? Where is he?”

“If you would see him again, you will put aside the sword and attend to what I will show you,” said the shade. Aragorn slowly lowered Anduril.

His eyes glistened in rage, “You will bring back the Elf after you show me whatever this is that you deem of importance, or I will curse you a thousand fold beyond any curse you have yet known.”

The ghost held out its hand and a fine mist covered the ground. It grew as if alive and gathered into the air like a billowing sail blown full of turbulent ocean winds. The smoky curls of mist swirled and tricked the eyes into seeing shapes that held for a few seconds then faded. But as Aragorn watched, an image did indeed seem to coalesce before his eyes, like a painting brought magically to life.

Aragorn gaped at the unmistakable image of his own face, and then those of his companions. They stood in the forefront of a battle force made up of Men who flew the colors of Rohan and Gondor. Some smaller tribes of the south stood with them. Men united under one banner and the Dúnedain as their chief. Aragorn stepped forward unconsciously as he studied his image, attired in the raiment of a King, the crest of the White Tree emblazoned on his breastplate. But what he saw next made him gasp in defeat. The Black Gates loomed before them and like a giant black claw, Sauron’s forces curled around the group of Men as though they were but a speck to be brushed aside with a flick of one great finger.

“So,” he whispered, “this is how it all will end…” Miraculously, it was not the end the Ranger might have anticipated. Aragorn watched in amazement as the great eye splintered and fractured into oblivion and the fires of Mordor consumed the great tower.

Realization of their victory spread slowly among the Men of the West and the new King turned in shock to clutch his Elf companion in a victorious embrace. The scene faded on the image of a stolen kiss between them.

Aragorn turned to the ghost in confusion. “I don’t understand. You said what I see in the Mist is the future. If we will be victorious then how can my seeking you out lead to failure?”

“Foolish Man. It is not Mordor that proves your downfall but your own pride to dare think you may cheat fate. Like Isildur, you believe you can hold sway over forces greater than yourself.”

Aragorn bristled at the comparison with his ancestor. His whole life had been devoted to correcting his ancestor’s mistake not repeating it. “I don’t understand. I released you from the curse that imprisoned you here. How can it be that you say you return here after our victory over the enemy?”

“Behold,” said the ghost.

Aragorn watched as the Mist swirled to life again. The Evenstar, graying and aged appeared before him. She looked as if she’d spent too much time in the solitude of her own thoughts for her face held a perpetual frown Aragorn had never seen there before. She was standing over a bed and veiled behind the gossamer curtains laid a still figure. The atmosphere in the room was one of doom.

At first, Aragorn wondered if he was seeing his own impending death but then his own image appeared next to the Queen of Gondor. A hunched and forlorn figure, the King did not look at his Queen as he approached the figure behind the curtain. After a shuttering breath, the King slowly parted the gossamer and knelt beside the reclining figure. The aging Man bent over the still form and placed a tender kiss upon a face enshrouded in mist.

In growing anxiety, the Ranger stepped closer to the shimmering and shifting image, “What is this? Who is it that lies so still upon the bed?”

The ghost regarded him silently. “Even I cannot make you look upon what you so adamantly refuse to see.”

The Ranger’s brows drew together in a question but he turned silently to the shimmering screen as another figure approached the King and place a weathered old hand upon his shoulder. Although Aragorn could not hear what was said, the mixed expression of despair and defiance was evident upon the King’s features. The King grabbed at Gandalf’s robes in supplication. The Mage pulled back only slightly as the Man fell before the feet of the Istari. The Wizard hesitated as he studied the sobbing form of the King. His blue eyes traveled to the golden form upon the bed and, with a sigh, arrived at a dire decision. Gandalf withdrew an ancient globe from the folds of his robe, and held the magical device before the stricken eyes of the King of Gondor. The picture froze on the image of the Royal Couple placing their hands on the sorcerer’s sphere, looks of grim hope upon their devastated faces.

“Do you begin to comprehend, Man?” said the ghost. “You will not be able to accept the inevitable outcome of your folly. You will dare to tempt destiny down a different path, without forethought to the consequences on all beings everywhere. Thus we are all doomed,” said the shade as it turned away in resignation. “Like players on a stage who rehearse lines for a play that will never have its day; …the curtain call will never come, …and the drama will never unfold to its desired end.”

The ghost smiled sadly at the future King. “Thus have you already cursed us, heir of Isildur, one thousand fold beyond that of your forebear. Thus have you cursed yourself and all those you love and hold dear. Especially one, who will suffer not one death but countless deaths… all for the love of a mortal…” v The shade drifted further away from the Ranger as the curtain of Mists faded. “By your estimation of time, Dúnedain, one thousand mortal years have already passed, trapped in a circle which has no beginning and no end. But if you heed not my words, then perhaps you may be swayed by those of another, closer to your heart….”

The shade vanished and Aragorn stood rooted to the ground. His mind reeled at the words spoken to him, and at the images shown. He would be victorious over the forces of Sauron and become King of Gondor…but to what end? All he’d ever wanted and dreamed of was about to come true. Yet in the midst of this achievement he will condemn (had condemned) everyone he knows to live out the same moments of history? The incredible scenario was staggering, almost beyond comprehension. The images he had just seen replayed themselves in his mind. The question of ‘ how’ was made evident by the presence of the Istari. The question of ‘why’ still remained to be answered. An icy sensation of fear began to prickle at his insides as he thought on the mysterious figure in the bed. He suddenly longed for the Archer to return and began to circle the lonely chamber in agitation. A strange chill filled the air.

A noise behind him signaled someone’s approach and he turned in anxiety, expecting to see the Elf. Aragorn gasped in amazement at the visitor who stood unexpectedly before him.

“Hello Estel,” said the King of Gondor.

Chapter Seven

Aragorn gasped, but his hand on the hilt of Anduril remained limp. The aged King studied him silently. The expression in the familiar steel gaze was one Aragorn knew, not from seeing it but from feeling it behind his own face. It was a peculiar expression of mild curiosity and barely restrained rage borne of impatience.

“How many men, Estel, have this opportunity that we have now been given. To go back in time and tell oneself the secrets which hold the key to success or failure. To look through a window into the future and learn how things will turn out if you turn left or right…”

Aragorn gaped at the older Man who walked towards him. The steel gaze did not falter and the stride was direct. It could all be some elaborate trick, Aragorn’s logical mind told him, but the expression in the steel gaze said otherwise. He was staring at himself, at an older version of himself!

“Are you saying you are from the future, then?” he ventured when he finally found his voice.

The older Aragorn nodded, circling around him like a bird of prey, studying him. The Ranger walked around the older Man in the opposite direction, keen eyes no less observant. They were the same Man, yet in this arena, they felt like opponents. Each with his hand loosely around the hilt of Anduril.

“It must be important indeed, this thing that brought you here. You have risked much to make this journey,” said the Ranger quietly, feeling a growing unease at this unfamiliar version of himself. He did not like the look in the gray eyes of the King. The grim expression in the face spoke of miseries yet to come. He did not like the feeling of hostility emanating from this being. How can a Man be such a stranger to himself? The Stranger finally spoke.

“You have been ignoring your heart. I must convince you to forget all you have learned about ‘duty’ and ‘self sacrifice,’ for that road will lead only to misery. I must convince you to follow your heart,” the King paused at the expression of incredulity on the Ranger’s face.

“Do not marry the Evenstar,” he stated flatly. “Abandon your destiny…even if it means another will be crowned King of Gondor,” he paused, seeing the look of disbelief in the younger Man’s eyes. “Nay, Aragorn, listen to me. I know what you think is expected of you…what you have been building towards your whole life. But if you follow the script as it was written for you, you will pay a heavy price. I beg you to stop and listen to me…to yourself. Fate can be changed! Bind yourself to the one you truly love! Take the chance for happiness…”

The King’s voice faded as the Ranger stared at him, still unmoving. They looked at each other with growing mistrust.

Aragorn gaped at the stranger. He had been at war with himself before, and often. But not like this. To gaze upon one's own self...from some so called future time, and to learn one very crucial thing...to find self discovery in it’s most dismal countenance…

"Madness...you have gone mad," the Ranger whispered in a tone of defeat.

The King of Gondor balled his fists in silent rage as he watched the Ranger mumble nonsense to himself and aimlessly turn away from the aging Monarch.

"That explains everything...” Aragorn went on, turning accusing eyes onto his older mirror image, “you have gone mad and somehow convinced the Wizard into performing this insane spell....to the ruin of all!”

"You Fool!" cried the King, his rage now peaked beyond endurance. Anduril flared with its own light as the King brought down the sword to clash loudly against its virgin counterpart. The two stared at each other, inches apart over crossed blades.

“You fool!” cried the King again. He pushed the Ranger off and the swords clashed again, sparks flying as metal scraped against metal. In a fit of fury, the King of the West disarmed the Ranger in one easy twirl of the sword. He grabbed the Man by the collar and dropping his own weapon, raised his fist to strike.

A soft melodious voice stopped the motion in mid air.

“My King,” she said, “you grieve those who love you by this act.”

He turned guilty eyes on her, knowing full well whom she spoke of and lowered his fist. The younger Man crumpled to the ground and stared in speechless wonder upon the Evenstar. She looked on him sadly and approached the two Mortals. Slowly the King backed away, head hanging in defeat. His years were suddenly reflected in the hunched stoop of his gait.

Arwen approached the fallen Ranger, recalling for a moment his youthful optimism and passion. She sighed wistfully and bent down next to him. “My Aragorn,” she said softly, raising a hand as she did so to caress his unlined face.

“Arwen? Is it really you?” he asked as he felt her chapped fingers on his skin.

“Aye, it is. But I am that person who has come into being from the events that unfolded after you become King of Gondor and we marry.” She turned her face away as she spoke these words and Aragorn could see the tears that flowed down her pallid cheeks. He also knew the bitterness in the tone of her voice was only the very edge of a pain too profound for words. He furrowed his brows and sat up straighter.

“Arwen?” He raised a hand to her black clad shoulder but she stiffened under his touch so he withdrew it. He looked from her down cast face to the King who regarded him sternly from above.

“What has happened?” Aragorn asked the King of Gondor. “Why are you both here? What is the cause of this dire gloom which hangs about you both?”

Arwen rose and stood next to the King. She looked at her spouse and placed a bracing hand on his shoulder as he glared down at the prone Man. “Go!” he said in sudden bitterness, through angry tears that now slid down his gristle face.

“Go in there and find out for yourself!” spat the King in a whisper laced with agony.

Aragorn glanced into the darkened alcove beyond and rose slowly to his feet. Without a backward glance at the Royal Couple he stepped quietly through the doorway.

The small chamber was illuminated dimly by phosphorescent rocks that lined the wall. A dark shape lay unmoving on the ground. For some reason, Aragorn felt a sudden wave of fear more intense than anything he had yet to experience. He did not wish to go in there. He did not wish to face this new mystery. A soft sigh from within the darkness drew him forward. Taking a deep steadying breath, he stepped over the threshold into the little room, trying to calm the rising panic.

Aragorn approached the being on the ground. And he clutched at his own chest to behold the saddest sight of all. This was the face of death. It lingered like a predator in the very air, stalking its helpless prey; toying without reverence that which was most pure, celestial and innocent. The Prince lay gasping, his hour come round at last. The eyes were wide in the harrowing frankness of death, sunken now in to the sallow face that once radiated a joy and a light to rival the very stars themselves for its beauty and magnificence.

His graying skin and dull lackluster eyes…the pale lips, and limp hair…it could not be! The sweetest light of the Eldar was fading! Aragorn’s heart thudded loudly in his chest and the air thickened around him as he slowly circled the creature. “This cannot be real,” he whispered past frozen lips.

Fearful at first to approach too closely, Aragorn wavered. The rattling breath rasped between thin bloodless lips…then the cerulean eyes focused on him. Their piercing light shot like a laser into the Man’s soul.

Aragorn sank to his knees. His insides turned to liquid. The eyes of his beloved looked at him not in accusation, or anger, nor even in fear, but in …joy. Joy to behold him. Love, bright as any star, flickered in the fading orbs for him and him alone.

Eyes, hollow now of almost all light…sparkled softly, an echo of their former beauty. A cold, thin hand floated blindly up into the air towards him. Aragorn grasped it. It was thin and frail like a dove, but it was solid. This was real. Sores scabbed over the once pearly skin. The slender bones almost cracked under the Ranger’s desperate grip.

Tears spilled down the Man’s face. Slow heaves worked through the Ranger’s frame in silent waves that turned to wracking sobs. Aragorn clutched at the frail hand, crushing it to his lips, and then to his own frantically beating heart.

“Legolas? No… How…how can this be? Why?”

The sapphires struggled to focus on him in uncharacteristic muteness. Attempts at speech ended in soft gasping. But the hand drifted up to cup his face and a single tear swelled in one dry eye to roll down the side of the drawn face.

Behind the Man there was movement…a soft rustling, and he turned as if in a dream to behold the Evenstar kneeling beside him. Tears flowed down her aged face. Her once raven hair was streaked with white. The black midnight gown, clasped up to her throat, made her skin look tired and wan. Here too, the specter of death taunted and fluttered around her aging mortal form. Lines of weariness and heartache marched across the ever-changing expressions on her face. She reached out and took the dying Elf’s other hand.

The Prince who once could charm hobbits and birds with the beauty of his songs could no longer speak. But in the twilight of the sapphire eyes gratitude shone bright with the gentle spill of new tears. The blue pools now rimmed in black circles turned to Aragorn one last time. A ghost of a smile lingered on the once fair lips. Then the light turned in on itself and the blue pools dimmed under the cold hand of death.

Aragorn’s heart thudded loudly in his ears and he shivered in the sudden blast of cold that chilled his bones. He looked numbly into the vacant face of death. From far away he heard the Queen speak.

“Good bye, my brother. It should not have come to this…Elessar always loved you best. But this tragedy was written in the stars and all has come to ruin.” The Evenstar’s voice broke in soft sobs.

Aragorn gazed at the two beings he loved most in the world…one dead and the other dying…And he knew, with a cold certainty that he was the cause of so much suffering and loss. He shivered. He suddenly knew the abyss that threatened to consume them in timeless misery was his to command. Fate. The old King had said it. Fate could be changed. Aragorn looked down at the tableau of tragedy. He would not allow this to occur. There had to be a way out of the puzzle.

As if sensing his sudden determination, she turned to him with shadowed eyes. “There is only one way, Aragorn. One way to save your Legolas from this fate, one way to save us all from the eternal torment that has befallen us like a curse. You must spurn me. Spurn the young, once-immortal flower you know as the Evenstar. It will not be easy but if you wish to save us, then spurn her and set her free to carve her own destiny.” She rose then, and with one last piteous look at the dead Prince, turned to leave.

Behind the curtain of magical mist, the King of Gondor collapsed at the ruin before his eyes. He groaned in agony and clutched onto the slim form of the young Prince of Mirkwood. Tears rained down his stubbled cheeks and his gray eyes remained riveted to the dead Elf beyond the curtain. His hands gripped Legolas in desperation, defeat written in the lines of his taught form, as his head fell to the Archer’s chest.

Legolas watched in stunned horror at the image of his own demise through the shimmering veil. He saw the younger Aragorn collapse on the fallen being much as the King of Gondor now fell on him, chest heaving in inconsolable grief.

As if in a trance, Legolas patted the sobbing Mortal on the back, his eyes riveted onto the stage beyond the curtain. The Man clutched at him as his sobs swelled into wails and echoed off the rock walls of the chamber. “I am sorry, Legolas…” the Man moaned, “I failed you, my Love! I failed you again!”

He sank to his knees, gasping for breath. Alarmed, the Elf sank to the ground with him, cradling the collapsing King.

“Aragorn! Aragorn what is it?” Legolas grasped the Man who clutched at the sharp pain in his chest.

Aragorn’s eyes rolled into the back of his head, face going pale with the sudden effort to breathe. The King of Men slowly began to go limp in the Elf’s arms.

“Aragorn!” screamed the Archer in fear.

Roused slowly by the soft touch on his face, the King looked up at the Elf and his eyes played over the heart aching expression of sadness on the fair face. A frail smile touched his lips.

“Death comes for me, my Sweet. Wait for me…for I am not long behind thee…” His hand drifted up to trace the Elf’s delicate features.

“I am here, Aragorn,” whispered the Prince, brokenly, as tears clouded his vision of the dying King. “I am here, no need to despair…”

“Legolas,” The King’s eyes focused on the Elf, fingers caressing the sweet face, “always remember: I loved you.”

Legolas nodded, mutely, as he embraced the fading Monarch. A shadow fell over them both and Arwen knelt by her King. Legolas looked at her through his tears. Her face was closed in grief and tears dropped like a river from her eyes. Yet strength was her legacy and she leaned in to take the body of the King into her arms as another pair of hands lifted Legolas up off the ground.

He turned into the waiting arms of the Ranger. Aragorn drew him away into the folds of his embrace as he looked down into the face of the dying King. The steel gaze that looked up at him from graying brows held a silent message and a plea. Aragorn looked into the all too familiar eyes and nodded once as he tightened his embrace on the golden Elf. He watched, fascinated, as death clouded the steel gaze.

Legolas gasped and sagged into the Ranger’s arms as his mind recoiled from the sight of the dead King. Aragorn looked down at the silently crying Queen and with a quiet look of understanding that passed between them, he pulled the Prince away.

They turned then, and walked back through the Mirror of liquid silver as the Queen of Gondor bent over the dead body of her friend and King. Her song of lamentation followed them as they transported through the Mists of Time.

“Weeeee” squealed the little Prince of Gondor. He sailed through the room and ran under the wooden table headlong into the folds of Mithrandir’s robes as the Istari bent over his crystal. Gandalf started and quickly covered the glass ball with a dark cloth, while wiping at the tears on his face with his sleeve. He was mentally and physically exhausted. He had been crying for hours, perhaps days. In fact he had not a clue what day it was, or for that matter, what year.

“Eldarion! What did I tell you about running so recklessly through the Wizard’s chambers like that?” chimed an exasperated voice from the doorway. “You almost knocked over Mithrandir’s globe, you naughty child. I told you the Istari is busy at work on some new mystery…” the lyrical voice floated teasingly to the Wizard’s ears.

Gandalf laughed suddenly, as the child, heedless of the gentle scolding, launched at him in joyful peels of laughter. The Mage tried to shake the fog from his mind, as his eyes took in his familiar yet strange surroundings. “Now, now it is a welcomed interruption and besides…I am finished, I believe, with this experiment.” His eyes misted uncontrollably as he looked up at the fecund form, that stood in the doorway. A slim white hand rested on the heavy pregnant belly. A delicate mithril band circled the slender ring finger and glistened in the sunlight that poured from the window, illuminating the being that wondered into the room.

The sadness in the Istari’s voice betrayed his words and sharp eyes studied his features carefully.

“You have been crying.”

“Aye, …I have been crying. But I promise…I shan’t cry again,” he consoled with a shaky smile, as he averted his gaze from the beguiling form and picked up the child. Time. Time, he mused, was the true enchantress. He now knew the answer to the question all beings wondered at: Could the steel bands of fate be bent to the will of man? He dared to glance up at the blissfully radiant form that stepped into the room as the Wizard hoisted the chattering child onto his lap.

“Won’t you tell me what the matter is?” asked the enchanting being of light who drifted closer, concern evident on the beautiful features.

“Nothing, now,” he reassured, trying to act normal but daring to risk another look at the soft porcelain skin, the sparkling eyes, and that round belly. Gandalf sucked in his breath. Here was something he had never foreseen! Fortunately the bouncing child was a distraction from more probing questions.

“Eldarion! Just like your father, I’d wager…” chided the resplendent being again, eyes drawn to the laughing babe.

“Don’t blame me,” came the deep voice from the door. Mithrandir almost gasped at the robust Man who watched his family from the archway with a smile on his lips. Gandalf gaped at the imposing figure. The King of Gondor swept into the room with the crackling energy a of summer storm over brilliant ocean waves. His vibrant aura filled the room. And his joy was infectious. The child squealed in delight.

The King laughed and wrapped his arms around his Consort from behind, startling the being with his ardor. He buried his face into the fragrant neck under the soft spill of sunshine hair as his hands reverently settled on the pregnant belly.

“How do we feel today, my Love?” he whispered amorously into a pointed ear.

“*We* feel tired. Your son is too energetic and is bothering the Istari from his labors.”

The King’s laugh was a bubbling eruption of mirth as he planted a kiss on the sweet neck. “Don’t blame his energy on me! Your father told me several stories about his exasperating little Princeling…hopping between the tree tops like a flying squirrel and picking fights with spiders four times his size!”

“Nay,” laughed the Elf, “He exaggerates!”

“I don’t think so,” said the Man, jokingly as he lowered his head to nibble at the sweet skin under the ear. “He finally told me how you got that scar…you know, the one on your lovely Princely ass…” The King’s hand patted the area of interest suggestively.

A playful slap and a squeal cut the King’s words short, as the Prince Consort rapidly covered the Sovereign’s mouth with a white hand, blue eyes shifting in embarrassment towards the Istari. Gandalf laughed uproariously at the antics of the Royal Couple as their first-born, crawled off his lap to prance around their feet.

Aragorn laughed at the rosy blush to hue his Consort’s face. He bent to pick up the laughing child, then swooped in to kiss the golden Elf on the lips, despite Legolas’s attempts at modest reproach.

“Come, Gandalf. Join us for dinner. King Éomer of Rohan and his Queen will be joining us this evening,” said the happy King as he slid a possessive arm around his lover’s waist. “It has been weeks since Arwen has visited us. I think Éomer keeps her too busy at home.”

Gandalf blinked. What? Arwen and Éomer? Something else Gandalf had not foreseen. His continued silence drew the happy couple’s attention.

“I think there is something the matter,” whispered the golden haired beauty to his King, in a low voice of concern.

No one else seemed surprised by these events. He was the only one, then, who had any recollection of the thwarted past/future. Gandalf tried to recover his surprise as two pairs of discerning eyes watched him with growing concern.

He smiled magnanimously, suddenly feeling reenergized and buoyant all at the same time. He rose from the table with a jubilant hoot. The Royal Couple gaped at him as he began to laugh, tears of joy now running down his cheeks, as the old Wizard gathered the little family into his wide arms. He planted a kiss on the cheek of the bewildered Prince and then on Aragorn. The little blue-eyed Princeling squealed in joy and pulled at the Istari’s long beard.

“Gandalf? Is there something you wish to tell us?” asked Aragorn with some trepidation, as the Wizard took his son out of the King’s arms and walked gleefully out of the room.

“Yes!” he called back to them from the hall, as he bounced the laughing little Prince into the air. “I have been working too hard and I am starving!”

The Royal Couple turned weary eyes to each other. Aragorn shrugged and pulled his golden beauty into a tight embrace, being careful of the round pregnant belly.

He kissed the Prince tenderly on the lips, and smiled at the question in the brilliant sapphire eyes. “Wizards,” he said, wisely, “who knows what they are up to? Sometimes its best not to ask. Come, my Love. I am rather hungry myself.”

The End of The Beginning…

 

 

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