Past The End Of Your Nose
Past The End Of Your Nose
by Soar

Date: 19 December 2004
Email: soar38 AT hotmail.com
Rating: R
Summary: As Aragorn struggles to deepen his relationship with Legolas, outside forces work to interfere. Can Legolas see what is right in front of him?
Warnings: slash (m/m), torture, first-time, drama, romance.

Part 1

It was golden day in the kingdom of Gondor. The sky was a clear blue, the sun shining down in friendly warmth upon the citizens of Minas Tirith, the nation's capital. However if this wasn't reason enough to celebrate then Gondor had another excuse. Today marked the sixteenth birthday of Gondor's crown prince, Eldarion, son of King Elessar and Queen Arwen.

For the past week the citizens of the great nation had been busy making preparations for the celebrations in honour of this joyous occasion. Yet today was doubly special, for although not old enough to be considered legally an adult, the young prince was now considered old enough to take on some of the responsibilities of his station in preparation for the day that he would be declared an adult, and eventually when he took the throne after his father.

Eldarion was sure that day would be a long time in coming. His father was of the line of Numenorian kings and had inherited much of the longevity of that race even though the blood had been thinned through many generations.

Within the capital itself more and more people were arriving to take part in the celebrations. Nobles from various regions of the nation, representatives and ambassadors from colonies and allies were also arriving to pay their respects to Gondor’s prince. This celebration would bring people together in happiness, a stark contrast to a mere twenty years previously when the people of Middle Earth had despaired for their very existence under the dark threat of Mordor.

The fact that Gondor's king had taken part in the overthrowing of the dark lord's shadow had only endeared him further to his people, who had welcomed his arrival and his leadership. What had followed could only be described as a golden time for this once desperate nation. The king had immediately set about restoring as much as he could, and satisfying the needs of his people as swiftly as was possible. He had much help from the dwarves and what little remained of the elves on these shores, who had overcome their isolationist natures to help with the renewal of Middle Earth, although still bearing much animosity for each other.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Eldarion sat dressed in his formal tunic and breeches in the main throne room of the palace, a smile playing about his mouth at the long suffering expression on his father's face.

"Where is he Aragorn? That lazy creature should have been here days ago to help with the preparations, but does he even think to send ahead a message to say he will be delayed, no. He cares not for the worries of us mere mortals," Gimli the dwarf said, continuing the complaining he had begun upon entering the throne room some twenty minutes previously.

"I am quite sure that he has a perfectly good reason for not being here yet, just as I am sure that he would not miss this celebration for any reason other than mortal peril. He will be here," the king said, his answer remaining constant in response to the gripes of the dwarf.

"Ha, he has probably stopped to have a conversation with a tree. They are probably telling each other stories about how much things have changed in the past five hundred years. Wretch, just wait till I see him. I shall give him a piece of my mind," the dwarf grumbled.

"Perhaps you might stop giving this piece to me then," Aragorn said dryly, but the comment washed over Gimli's head, and Eldarion had to suppress a snigger.

The griping continued for another thirty minutes during which Eldarion keenly noted that behind all the dwarf’s bluster and irritation there was a growing concern. It was not like his friend to be so tardy, and Aragorn's comment that only mortal peril would delay the elf took root in Gimli's mind. As the main hall doors opened Eldarion noted his father's sigh of relief at the interruption, and then the herald stepped forward to announce who had arrived.

"Your Majesty, Your Highness, Prince Legolas of Ithilien and Greenwood, and Lord Berest and family." the herald called out.

Heads turned abruptly to face the newcomers. Lord Berest and his family moved forward in order to approach the throne and present themselves. Gimli at the King’s side stood on his toes trying to see past the rotund Gondorian and his similarly hearty looking family but could catch no sight of his friend.

"Legolas where are you?" he called out, amusing both the king his son and certain members of the court whilst simultaneously scandalising others.

A musical trill of laughter echoed in the throne room, and dancing lightly around Lord Berest's family appeared a familiar face. Aragorn quickly took in the tall figure with the long golden hair streaming behind him, a few strands braided in the warrior style of the elven people.

The king was instantly reminded of the way his thoughts had been turning with more frequency to his immortal friend, this laughing fey creature, flitting through his dreams in the same way he did through life. He felt a flush of colour steal across his cheeks as he thought of the way he had awakened from those dreams, sometimes achingly hard and hot, and at others he had awoken to find his sheets already wet with his seed, feelings of guilt and betrayal towards both his departed wife and his friend wracking him. Reminded of this he had trouble meeting the elven prince’s eyes.

"Gimli my friend, it is good to see you," the lyrical voice said as the elf approached the throne. When he reached the dais he bowed deeply to both Aragorn and Eldarion. "Your Majesty, Your Highness," he acknowledged.

Eldarion laughed. "Legolas why the sudden formality, you know you are one of our dearest friends and need not be so stiff in your dealings with us," the young prince said.

Legolas the elf prince laughed. "True enough my friend, but I think that Gimli has scandalised your court enough for one day, thus making true my observations of dwarf kind. I am afraid that I shall have to uphold the honour of my own people by greeting you with all the dignity of my race."

The gathered court watched in amazement as Gimli's face slowly turned purple. Some of the closer courtiers backed away from the dais fearing the dwarf would explode with his rage. Instead most were startled when he let out a loud guffaw of laughter.

"I have missed you my friend," Gimli commented. "Now come and tell us why you were not here days ago as you promised to be."

Legolas' expression sobered. "Ah now that is a story. I was on my way here with a few of my people, having set out many days previously. I would have been here two days ago but we encountered Lord Berest and his family on the road." The elf paused and encouraged the Gondorian and his family to come closer.

"Aye Your Majesty, my family and I could never thank Prince Legolas and his people enough, without them I fear we would all have perished," Lord Berest said, bowing humbly before the elf.

Aragorn took in the frustrated look of his friend at this show of obeisance, and he thought that this was something the elf had probably being forced to endure for the past two days and almost laughed out loud, knowing well his friend's dislike for bowing and scraping.

"What happened to put you in so much fear for your life," Eldarion asked curiously.

"Orcs Your Highness. Our small party was set upon by a band of the foul creatures. Most of my men were gravely injured in the battle and we thought to give up hope of escape when suddenly Prince Legolas and his party came upon us. They immediately set upon the orcs and dispatched them with a skill and swiftness I have never encountered before. Yet none were as magnificent as the Prince himself, and when they had finished the Prince’s people helped us to set up camp and tend to our wounded."

"Indeed, upon the battle field the elves are a sight to behold, their strength, speed and grace far surpasses our own mortal limitations, but you are right Lord Berest, Prince Legolas is considered one of the best warriors, if not the best of his kind," Aragorn said, his heart warming in response to the flush of colour that stole across the elf's fine features, meeting the prince’s scowl with a raised eyebrow, his lips twitching in mirth.

"I do not doubt it Your Majesty. His people tended to our wounded and stayed with us until we were able to travel again, insisting that they remain to guard my people all the way to the city," Lord Berest continued.

"Indeed then please forgive the hospitality of my house Lord Berest." Turning Aragorn addressed his aide. "Coren, please make sure that Lord Berest and his family are escorted to their rooms and provisions made for refreshing themselves, then see that their people are housed and taken care of."

"Your Majesty!” the young man acknowledged with a bow before turning his attention to the noble man before him. “Lord Berest, if you would like to follow me I will see to it that your needs are met," Coren said moving to lead the family away.

"Prince Legolas, we will see you at the ball tonight?" Lord Berest asked anxiously.

Legolas smiled easily. "Of course Lord Berest, that is after all why we are all gathered, now please go and take some rest." Berest, his fears eased followed Coren from the throne room.

"Legolas, what about your people?" Aragorn asked.

"Do not worry my friend, I took the liberty of dispatching them to our usual rooms since I know you keep them reserved for us, they will join us tonight," Legolas explained.

Aragorn nodded in satisfaction. "That is well, however you must also be in need of refreshment. Did you sustain any injuries during your skirmish?" the King asked, his gaze carefully studying the prince for any sign of pain or discomfort.

"Nay, I am unharmed old friend worry not, but some of your Dorwinion vintage would be most appreciated," the elf grinned.

"Come then, let us retire to my private rooms where we can catch up on what you have been up to. Faramir and Eomer will likely join us when they return from their hunt." Aragorn then stood and dismissed his court, leading his son and close friends from the throne room.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Later that evening as the sun was beginning to set in the sky, the king made his way to his son’s rooms. He knocked lightly on the prince’s door before entering the chamber.

"Eldarion, are you ready?" he called out, seeing the chamber empty but the door to the dressing room open.

"Almost," a voice called back, and then a few moments later Eldarion stepped into view.

Aragorn felt his breath hitch in his throat. The young prince became concerned by the look on his father's face, and the intense stare directed at him. "Father, what's wrong?" he asked.

Aragorn shook himself from his reverie forcing a quick smile. "You look so very much like your mother," he commented quietly, and it was true.

Eldarion had inherited his mother's thick dark, soft hair and her deep blue eyes, although where elves had full pointed ears his own merely curled a little at the top, but more than the physical appearance was the essence of Arwen that lived in the young man. His kindness and wisdom almost made it appear as though Arwen were peering at him from his son's body.

"You still miss her," Eldarion said, but it was not a question. "Father I would not be offended should you choose to seek comfort in the arms of another. I do not think that she would begrudge you any happiness either."

"There has been no one since your mother. None could replace her presence in my heart," Aragorn said, guiltily thinking again of the thoughts that had plagued him recently of another elf.

"Yet many have tried, and have been unworthy, but there are others father. You have not seen them for you have not been looking. If you did find someone they would not replace my mother but surely you have room in your heart to love more than one person. I worry for you. I do not wish you to become lonely when I am married with a family of my own. You have a long life ahead of you. Perhaps you could use tonight as an opportunity to make more friends," Eldarion said grinning mischievously.

Aragorn laughed at his son's expression. "Perhaps so, but I already have very dear friends," he said.

Eldarion sighed in frustration at his father's stubbornness. "At least promise me that you will look upon the people who approach you with an open mind. I should hate to have to match my own father with a companion should you continue to be stubborn about this matter."

Chuckling Aragorn said, "Valar forbid! Very well I promise, now come let us go to your birthday ball before people begin to wonder where you are."

Throwing his arm around his son Aragorn steered them down towards the main staircase, and the grand ballroom. As the herald announced their presence the noise in the room settled to a quiet whisper, then applause broke out at the coming of the prince and king to begin this joyous celebration.

Eldarion grinned widely as he made his way with his father to the royal dais, nodding his thanks to the many murmured birthday greetings, speaking a few words to close friends. Settling himself next to his father at their table, where Eomer, Faramir and Eowyn had already been seated, he noticed two spaces at his father's left still vacant, and he took note of who was absent.

"Where are Gimli and Legolas?" he asked his father.

Aragorn frowned as he looked around the room. "I do not know, neither of their parties are present either. Perhaps they are still getting ready. Legolas did arrive quite late and Gimli will most likely wish to come down with him."

Eldarion nodded and turned his attention back to the people who were now approaching them to offer their birthday greetings and gifts. Some twenty minutes later both king and prince noticed a sudden hushed excitement by the hall's entrance, watching in curiosity they waited for the herald to make an announcement.

"Your Majesty, the dwarves of Aglarond, led by Lord Gimli, son of Gloin."

The crowd parted to allow the dwarves entry. They were magnificently dressed in glittering robes, displaying the wealth of their colony and at their head proudly strode Gimli, his face red with pleasure at the attention his people were receiving. He strode directly up to the dais before bowing to king and prince.

"Your Majesty, Your Highness. The dwarven colony of Aglarond wishes to pay their respects to Prince Eldarion upon his birthing day. Please allow us to present this small token." Gimli stopped and moved forward to pass a package to Eldarion.

Grinning widely at his father's friend, Eldarion opened the package and took out the gift within. Eldarion's was not the only gasp that escaped at the sight of the fine mithril hauberk that he held.

"Gimli, this is..." Eldarion could not find a word appropriate for how absolutely priceless this gift was. Ignoring protocol he bent and threw his arms around the dwarf in a tight hug. "Thank you," he said simply.

Gimli harrumphed, but his face was a hot red and he couldn't hold back his smile of pleasure. He gestured for his people to take their seats at the tables on the sides of the hall, before himself moving to sit at the king's side.

"Gimli, where is Legolas?" Aragorn asked.

Gimli snorted and a wicked grin crossed his features. "He was delayed by his own people. They refused to come down until he had changed into his formal attire. Apparently he had 'forgotten' to bring them and insisted that he would not look amiss in a smart tunic and breeches, but his people obviously know him better because they packed spares. I left them still arguing with him about how his appearance would reflect upon them since he is their prince. I added my own final words reminding him that this night was for Eldarion and that he should hurry up and get dressed before the party finished."

Both father and son laughed at the picture that presented. Legolas was well known for his dislike of formality, something he'd had centuries to nurture. They did not have to wait long to see if Legolas had taken heed of Gimli's words.

"Your Majesty, representatives from the elven colony of Ithilien, led by Prince Legolas Thranduilion."

All eyes turned to the entrance to watch the immortal beings enter. The elves walked slowly and gracefully into the hall, almost appearing to be gliding. Both male and female were almost unnaturally beautiful, but none more so than their prince, who walked ahead of them. His expression was serene but those who knew him well could see the tenseness of his eyes and mouth, signs of his displeasure.

Aragorn turned with everyone else to watch the elves enter but as he caught sight of Legolas he felt a sudden tightness in his chest, as though the breath had fled his body and could not find its way back in. The elven prince was luminous in silver. Soft breeches encasing his long legs, with silver buckskin boots that reached his knees. A long silver tunic that fell to mid thigh, and was open at the chest completed the outfit. Yet the outfit could not detract attention from the pale ethereal features of the prince, and his shining golden hair tied back in its usual braids, a small circlet of silver at his brow.

"By the Valar, Legolas looks amazing," Eldarion commented. "I think I forget sometimes that he is the son of a king too."

“Legolas appears somewhat uncomfortable,” Eomer commenter lightly.

“Aye, I have never seen him so formally attired and with such a serious expression,” Faramir remarked.

"He cannot take after his father then, for I have heard that Thranduil insists upon much formality in his court," Gimli commented.

Aragorn nodded absent-mindedly, unable to move his eyes from the vision of loveliness approaching the dais. "I have met Thranduil on a few occasions, and although Legolas has inherited some of his father attributes, it is said he is much more like his mother."

"What happened to his mother?" Eldarion asked curiously.

Aragorn frowned in remembrance. "Legolas told me once that she passed into Mandos' Halls when he was but an elfling."

"How sad," Eldarion said feeling understanding for the elf’s loss.

Legolas and his party finally reached the royal dais and as one the elves swept a bow to the assembled nobility.

"King Elessar, Prince Eldarion, we thank you for inviting us to your birthing day celebrations. As kin we would like to honour you with our own humble gifts."

As Legolas spoke two elves moved to either side of him holding items wrapped in cloth. Eldarion rose from his seat and approached the elves, his curiosity apparent in every eager step. Meeting the smiling eyes of his elven friend Eldarion took the first gift as the elf holding it swept away the cloth. Eldarion gasped in delight as he took the elven made bow in his hands. Delicate elvish script was written along the finely crafted wood, and he translated his own name and lineage.

"Thank you," Eldarion said humbly, unable to stop his fingers from caressing the bow.

Legolas smiled in response. "A bow alone will not defend you my Prince." He gestured for the second cloth to be pulled aside and Eldarion gasped anew as a quiver full of arrows was revealed. The quiver was made from toughened leather but was decorated with whirling elvish patterns. The arrows nestled within, each one topped with feathers in the colour of his father’s house, were inscribed with Eldarion's own name.

"Legolas I do not know how to thank you for this wondrous gift," the young prince said, shaking his head in bewilderment.

"Thank us not yet tithen caun, for we would be remiss in providing you only with a long-range weapon. Instead please accept these further gifts in keeping with elvish customs, one warrior to another." [Little prince]

Legolas stood aside, and the remaining two elves moved forward both sweeping back the cloth covering the items they were holding. It revealed a twin set of elven knives, similar to those wielded by the elvish prince himself, held by one elf, and by the other the long knife that was favoured by most of the eldar.

"Thank you all," Eldarion said, and the elves as one placed their arms across their chests before bowing. Turning back to face the gathered nobles Eldarion spoke again. "I would thank everyone who came here to help me celebrate the day of my birth. I would also say thank you again to everyone for the wondrous gifts you have presented me with today. They are greatly appreciated and will be much cherished."

There were many smiles of approval amongst the nobles for the prince's words and attitude, and Legolas turned to look at his friend Aragorn, shooting him a smile of warmth and pride. Aragorn grinned in response although he felt an excited fluttering in his stomach as the elf smiled at him.

The young prince's gifts were placed away carefully and everyone took their seats for the main banquet, with entertainment being provided by acrobats, jesters and musicians. After the food had been consumed along with many bottles of fine wine the tables were pushed to the sides and the musicians took their place in one corner before playing music that encouraged people to dance.

Aragorn stood with Legolas and Gimli watching as first Faramir swept Eowyn into his arms and Eomer approached a young maiden, and then as Eldarion swept another young maiden into a lively dance.

"You have done very well with him Aragorn, he is a credit to you," Legolas said quietly.

"Indeed, he is a fine young man," Gimli said, adding his own opinion.

"Thank you both. It means a lot that you both approve of him. It was very hard to be both father and king when he was young, and even harder after Arwen passed on," Aragorn said.

Legolas smiled warmly. "There is nothing wrong with having been bought up by only one parent Aragorn, I should know, although I think my father tended to overcompensate a little for being the only parent to raise me, he is still fiercely overprotective. In fact I am quite sure that a few of the elves who followed me from Greenwood did so on my father's order that they might report my activities and well-being back to him," the elven prince said pulling a face.

"But how old are you Legolas, surely he knows you are capable of looking after yourself? What about the quest of the fellowship?" Gimli asked in astonishment.

Legolas laughed, a musical sound that drew many eyes, and again Aragorn felt a flutter like a thousand butterflies flying around in his stomach.

"Ah Gimli, when you are as long lived as the elves things are different. I will always be an elfling to my father, he is over three thousand years my senior so my time in Middle Earth will always seem short to him. As to the fellowship, I fear my ears almost dropped off from the scolding I received upon my return to Mirkwood. He then proceeded to place me under house arrest until the arrival of the new moon, informing me that as both my son and his subject I had no right to run off on adventures like a wilful elfling." Legolas smiled gently at Gimli's outraged expression. "I was not angered Gimli, I understand my father well, and loyal members of our household informed me that he had been frantic with worry for the entire time I was away. Placing me under house arrest was just his way of making sure he could keep me under his watchful eye. It could have been far worse. Initially he threatened to keep me under house arrest for the rest of my life."

Aragorn laughed. "A long time indeed,” he said knowing that elven kind were immortal. “Tell me mellonin, what made him change his mind and release you after only a few weeks?" [My friend]

Legolas grinned mischievously. "Let me just say that after a few weeks he decided that I had remained close enough."

All three friends laughed but a firm touch on his arm pulled Legolas' attention from his friends.

"Excuse me Your Majesty, Your Highness, Lord Gimli, I wondered if I might borrow Prince Legolas for a dance." The speaker was a woman perhaps in her mid thirties, with long silken dark hair that caressed her hips. Brown eyes looked at the elf with a frank regard that caused a little colour to creep into the prince’s cheeks.

Aragorn felt a sudden annoyance with the interruption, and his gaze focused on the woman's hand, which had not moved from Legolas' arm. He felt another surge of irritation as Legolas smiled and excused himself before leading the woman onto the dance floor. He dimly registered Gimli laughing in amusement as he watched Legolas gracefully turn about with the woman held firmly in his arms. The woman, whoever she was, seemed to be enjoying herself immensely as well.

The king felt a small measure of relief when the dance ended, however that soon faded as Legolas once again took the woman in his arms and led her into another reel, all the time chatting amiably, even laughing on occasion.

Swallowing the sour feeling in his mouth he turned to his dwarven friend. "Come Gimli, I have a bottle of Dorwinion vintage that I have been saving for just such an occasion." Without looking back Aragorn led his friend off to a private room.

When they re-emerged thirty minutes later Legolas was still dancing, this time with a large, heavyset man, richly dressed.

"It seems that the elf is attracting a lot of attention tonight," Gimli commented blissfully unaware of Aragorn's churning emotions.

Deciding to ignore Legolas, Aragorn looked around instead for his son. Eldarion was standing with some of his age mates, talking and laughing. The young Prince caught sight of his father and excused himself before making his way through the crowd. Many people attempted to draw his attention but the young prince patiently dealt with them, not altering his course.

The music ended as Eldarion reached the kings side. "Father," he acknowledged. "Master Gimli, are you enjoying yourself?" he asked.

"A better question would be are you enjoying yourself tithen caun," Legolas voice said, startling them, for they had not heard his approach. [Little prince]

Eldarion grinned. "I am enjoying myself greatly as are you I notice. You have not lacked for partners since you took to the floor. You are much loved here in Gondor." Eldarion noticed a sudden tightness in his father's features but could think of no reason for it. He was distracted from his musings as another person approached their party. Eldarion noticed with a frown that it was Lord Cadofel. The young prince had no liking for this older man who seemed to ooze false sincerity.

"Your Majesty, Your Highnesses, Lord Gimli, I was hoping that I could perhaps beg Prince Legolas to take a turn with me in the next dance," he said. His eyes seemed to travel the length of the prince's body at a leisurely pace.

Everyone stiffened at this blatant overture, and Gimli stepped forward to confront the man. Legolas gently placed his hand upon his friend, his touch restraining the dwarf.

"I thank you sir, but I'm afraid that I am unavailable for this dance," Legolas said, his posture one of polite distance.

Lord Cadofel frowned. "Strange Your Highness, the music is about to begin yet your partner is not here. I cannot believe that they would abandon a prize such as yourself."

Legolas' eyes narrowed in impending fury and he opened his mouth to speak more plainly to this interloper when Eldarion beat him to it.

"Of course his partner is here Lord Cadofel, for Prince Legolas is to dance with my father. Is that not so father?" Eldarion said nudging the king.

Aragorn was startled at the mention of his name but quickly gathered his senses. "Of course. We agreed some time ago I believe, but I have had to wait my turn like everyone else." He forced a smile for the man before him.

"I see. Well I certainly could not hope to compete with my liege, perhaps afterwards..." Cadofel said trying again.

"I fear not sir, this will be my last dance of the evening," Legolas said with a look of regret.

"Surely not, I have heard tell that the elves have stamina far surpassing that of us mere mortals. I am sure you could dance all night Your Highness," Cadofel said, not seeming to recognise the animosity that was fast growing towards him.

"Ah, but Legolas arrived quite late and we have not seen each other in some time. I believe we will retire shortly to talk about old times, you understand I'm sure," Gimli said with a smile that looked in no way sincere.

"And now since the music is beginning perhaps you will excuse Prince Legolas and I as we take our places," the king said not waiting for the man's response before taking the elf's arm and leading him out into the centre of the room.

Legolas allowed Aragorn to lead him, bemused at the suddenly aggressive king. "Aragorn are you well?" he asked softly.

Aragorn did not look at him. "I am fine," he said.

Legolas frowned but did not question him, instead allowing his body to move from one step to another in time with the music.

"You look stunning tonight Legolas. That outfit suits you well," Aragorn said abruptly, trying to ignore the tingling sensation in his hands every time he touched the elf.

Legolas frowned and looked down at his clothes. "I am afraid that I cannot take credit for picking them. I was not aware that I even owned garments such as these. I fear that someone from Ithilien is in collusion with my father and that these clothes were sent by him."

Aragorn let out a genuine laugh. "You are becoming paranoid my friend, why would your father do such a thing?" "Oh I do not doubt that it is for a number of reasons, firstly of course that my appearance reflects upon him both as a king and as a father. Then there is the fact that he has been talking constantly these past moons of my finding a mate and settling down."

Aragorn looked up startled, a sudden anxiety making itself known to him. "You mean he wants you to marry and produce an heir?" he asked.

Legolas laughed, a musical sound that drew smiles from those within hearing range. "Nay, and for that I am much relieved. I think my father has resigned himself to the fact that one day I will sail to Valinor and on that day he will sail with me, bringing with him the majority of Greenwood’s inhabitants. Once we reach the west there will be no need to secure the throne, there we will face none of the problems of Middle Earth. Nay Aragorn, what he means is for me to find someone who will tame me, perhaps someone who will stop my 'foolhardy adventures' and encourage me to stay at home. But above all that is a father's wish to see me happy."

"Indeed, it would be a sorry man who denied you happiness my friend. So tell me, have you found this mate your father speaks of?" Aragorn asked, denying the part of himself that seemed to be interested for reasons other than the well-being of a friend.

"No, although I have met some people tonight that have the potential to become more than acquaintances," the prince said thoughtfully.

Aragorn suddenly felt a moment of vulnerability. "I should hope that in this quest to meet new people you do not forget your old friends," he said in a voice struggling to sound casual.

That made Legolas pause and turn to face the king in surprise. He surprised them both when he suddenly embraced the man, hugging him close. "I could never forget my true friends Aragorn, you mean far too much to me."

Aragorn grinned, and noticing that they were drawing more than a few stares he took Legolas' hand and led him back to where his son and Gimli stood talking.

"Eldarion, if you do not mind, I would steal Legolas and Gimli from your ball so that we may catch up on the time we have spent apart."

Eldarion grinned. "Of course not father. I shall see you all in the morning."

Aragorn smiled and led his friends from the room, not noticing that Legolas' hand was still clasped within his own.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Aragorn led his friends to his study ushering them in before him. He felt a flash of disappointment as Legolas tugged his hand free and moved over to the balcony, throwing open the doors.

“Ah mellonin, I do not understand how you can stand to be so enclosed. Were I to live in a place such as this I would wish to be outside all the time. You have a magnificent garden but it has been much neglected. The plants here scream for the touch of an elf,” Legolas said watching a small bird perch upon the balcony wall. [My friend]

“For a time it did have such a touch,” Aragorn said softly.

Legolas realised his mistake and quickly made his way to Aragorn’s side, placing a sympathetic hand upon the man’s shoulder.

“Ai, forgive me Aragorn, I did not wish to cause you hurt with my careless words,” the elf said, sadness at causing his friend pain evident in his bright eyes.

Aragorn smiled. “It is well my friend. Arwen has been gone for some years, and as with all things, time brings a measure of relief. I no longer feel as though my heart were being torn from my chest when we speak of her. Instead I am reminded of the good times we had, Eldarion being evidence of the greatest of our joint achievements.”

“I am glad of it Aragorn, we have long watched you isolate yourself from friends and family alike in your grief. We hope you can find a way to let happiness into your life again. Perhaps even find someone for companionship,” Gimli said, his brusque voice offering its own comfort.

Aragorn laughed in genuine humour, the lingering sadness leaving his features. “Indeed Gimli, Eldarion has already spoken with me today about finding myself a new mate. He even advised me to look amongst the guests gathered for his birthday celebrations”

“And was there someone that caught your eye?” Legolas enquired wearing a mischievous grin.

A speculative look crossed Aragorn’s features. “I am not sure mellonin, perhaps, but only time will tell.” [My friend]

“Well if you have need of any assistance, you have but to ask,” Gimli said slapping the man’s back, Legolas nodding in agreement. The unlikely friends shared a look, missing the wince on the king’s face that was quickly covered with a forced smile.

“My friends,” Aragorn said. “I would be less than half the man that I am without your presence in my life.”

Gimli laughed. “Enough of the womanly talk now Aragorn, I believe you invited us in here for more wine tasting.”

“Indeed, then I must swiftly attend my duties as host and satisfy your every whim friend Gimli, I have something here you might enjoy a sample of a wine that my people in the south have been producing,” the king said, his smile more genuine this time, opening a bottle of wine and pouring a generous amount into the dwarf’s waiting goblet.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Part 2

As was his usual custom when in Minas Tirith, Legolas rose with the dawn. He left his room and made his way down to the gardens to greet the rising of the sun surrounded by trees, flowers and grass. As he emerged outside he felt a song trying to free itself from his chest, and without thought he opened his mouth to give it voice.

His clear, strong voice echoed throughout the quiet gardens greeting the sun as it slowly rose above the tree line to caress his face with its warmth. Like the flowers surrounding him, Legolas felt drawn to the rays of the sun, feeling himself open to it even as the flowers unfurled reaching towards the light of the new day.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Aragorn had discovered Legolas’ early morning sorties quite by accident. One morning, unable to sleep, he had wandered outside to the gardens to refresh himself. What he had discovered had startled him. Coming into the centre of the gardens he had discovered a body lying spread out on the grass. He had hurried forward, panic clutching at his heart as he recognised his elven friend.

“Legolas,” he had called, and he still wondered from time to time who had been more astonished when the elven prince sat abruptly looking around for the source of the interruption.

Not feeling the panic release him until he had joined his friend and satisfied himself of the elf’s well being, his curiosity was then piqued. He’d questioned Legolas as to his actions outside so early in the day, and had been fascinated by the new facet to his friend’s character that had been revealed. The yearning to be as one with nature, to embrace the warming skies and raise his voice in a joyous song that recognised Illuvatar’s creation for the magnificence it was. From that point onwards, whenever Legolas was visiting Gondor’s capital Aragorn made it his business to join his friend at least for the first morning of his stay in Minas Tirith.

On this early morning Aragorn wasted no time in rising from his bed and hurrying out to the gardens. On the open lawn of the gardens stood his friend, arms reaching towards the sky, sweet music falling from his lips. Quietly Aragorn approached until he stood in front of the elven prince who remained unaware of his presence with his eyes closed and head thrown back.

Gondor’s King could only stare as he became aware of a need to move closer and place his lips against the pale throat that was vulnerably displayed to him. He had to stop his hand from reaching out to touch the soft skin. Pushing these unbidden thoughts and urges to the back of his mind he smiled and opened his mouth to add his own strong vocals to the clear lyrical notes of his companion.

Legolas’ song did not halt but the elf opened his eyes and lowered his head to gaze in affection at his friend, dropping his arms bringing them forward, holding his hands out in invitation. Aragorn did not hesitate, taking the prince’s slender digits into his own larger grasp. Legolas took a step closer and Aragorn could feel the warmth of his body through their clothes. He sucked in a breath and stumbled over the lyrics a little but Legolas simply smiled.

As the sun rose fully over the trees their song came to an end. Legolas looked at his friend and squeezed Aragorn’s fingers gently. “I thank you my friend. I am pleased that you are able to join me to greet the new day,” he said still smiling.

“I would not miss it for anything Legolas,” Aragorn replied sincerely.

Legolas laughed lightly and pulled Aragorn closer so that he could embrace him in a long hug. Aragorn found his nose filled with the scent of Legolas’ hair, a smell that evoked images of the forest. He inhaled deeply trying to fill his very essence with that scent, and when Legolas moved back slightly to look at him quizzically Aragorn could not help but to lean in and capture his friend’s lips with his own.

Legolas was startled into stillness as one of his closest friends suddenly began kissing him. He could not prevent his gasp from escaping, and felt the odd sensation of Aragorn’s tongue entering his mouth. His head spun from the strange feelings that the embrace awoke in him and his hands instinctively grasped at the closest thing to help him remain upright. His fingers curled into the soft velvet of Aragorn’s tunic, and he felt the man pull him closer in order to deepen the embrace further.

Panicked thoughts began to spiral through the elf’s mind. This was not right, Aragorn was his close friend and there had never been anything other than camaraderie and close brotherhood in their relationship before this. Gathering his strength he released his hold on Aragorn’s tunic instead pushing at the man.

Once Aragorn’s lips had touched the elf’s he had found that for all his mind’s urgings he simply couldn’t release his friend. Taking advantage of a gasp he plunged his tongue into the open orifice delving into the hidden depths of the elf. He felt Legolas’ hands close about his tunic and his body took that as a sign of encouragement pulling the prince closer. He was therefore surprised when the elf’s grasp changed and instead he found himself being forcibly propelled several feet away from the prince.

He took several deep breaths trying to clear the haze from his mind, and as he focused on Legolas once more he took note of the confused and shocked appearance of his friend. Remorse flooded him and raising one hand in appeal he took a step forward. “Legolas…” he said pleadingly.

Legolas immediately took a step back, raising his hand as if to ward off the king. “I... I must go. I promised Gimli that I would break my fast with him.” Without saying another word the elf spun and fled swiftly back to the palace.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Eldarion entered the private dining room he and his father used, smiling as he saw the older man already seated. His smile faded as he took in the glum expression on the king’s face.

“Father, what is wrong?” the young prince asked.

Aragorn looked up with dull eyes at his son. “I have ruined everything,” he said faintly and returned his gaze to the tabletop.

Beginning to feel alarmed Eldarion made his way to his father’s side, sitting beside the king and taking the older man’s hand into his own. “What has been ruined?” he asked gently.

Aragorn gave a humourless laugh. “I fear I have followed your urgings all too well my son, and it has led to disaster.”

“Father, speak plainly. Tell me what you mean,” Eldarion pleaded.

Aragorn looked up finally, meeting his son’s gaze. “I think I have lost my heart to another,” he said.

“But that is good news surely. Unless… Is she already married?” the young prince broached cautiously.

“Nay, he is not married,” Aragorn said sadly. “Would that it were so simple.”

Eldarion’s brow furrowed in growing confusion. He? He could not recall his father spending any significant amount of time outside of his friends and his son. The young prince was jolted from his thoughts by his father’s next words.

“I kissed him. I kissed him and he pushed me away and now everything is ruined. He ran from me, ran to Gimli.”

“Legolas!?!” Eldarion squeaked. “You have fallen for Legolas?” he asked in disbelief.

“Is that so wrong?” his father asked defensively.

The young Prince sighed. “Nay father it is not wrong at all. I was just surprised. You have never shown any signs of feeling more than a brotherly affection towards Legolas.”

“I know it.” Aragorn said smiling sadly. “I was not even aware of my growing affection for him, so long has it been in the back of mind, slowly take hold in my heart. In fact it was not really until last night that I became aware of these feelings, and this morning as we greeted the dawn together I could not restrain myself. Now he is gone, run away. He will probably leave the city today with his people and I will never see him again,” the king said morosely, his shoulders slumping and his mouth forming a pout.

Eldarion smiled a little at his father’s childlike pose. “Never fear father, for I am ever your ally. I will ensure that Legolas remains within the city and assist your cause where I may, however it will be up to you to woo him.”

Aragorn laughed, this time in genuine amusement, and Eldarion saw a spark of hope light in his father’s eyes as the older man pulled his son close for an embrace.

“I love you my mischievous son,” he said ruffling the prince’s hair.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Eldarion walked casually towards the rooms that were permanently set aside for Legolas and Gimli, and as he approached he heard Gimli’s voice raised in irritation.

“Crazy Elf! Will you not give me the real reason you are departing so suddenly?” he heard Gimli say. “Because I know you well enough Master Elf and I have never seen you so agitated, even as we faced the hordes of Mordor,” the dwarf continued in response to Legolas’ unheard response. “Nonsense, I am quite sure that if elves are as intelligent as you say they are they can manage without you for a few weeks yet. It has been some time since we have all been together.”

Keeping his steps casual so as not to arouse the suspicions of the sharp-eared elf he entered through the open door of Legolas’ room. He was careful to affect a look of disappointment.

“You are leaving?” he asked the elf, all wounded blue eyes.

Legolas bit his lip as he looked at the obviously upset youth. “I... I had thought...there are some things...” his voice trailed off and he could not finish in the face of such disappointment.

“I had hoped you would remain here for a few weeks at least. It must have been nearly a year since we saw you last. I wanted to take the opportunity to beg you to tutor me with my new weapons. Father rarely has the time, and less familiarity with anything other than Anduril, although his skills with a bow are adequate. Surely you would not gift me with these new weapons and leave me untrained. There are no other elves in Minas Tirith who could tutor me,” the young prince said, noting the wince as he mentioned Aragorn, but he also noted the look of defeat that the Elven prince wore and suppressed his triumphant smile.

Legolas forced a smile to his lips. “Very well. I shall remain and spend some time teaching you to handle your new weapons. But I do not think I can remain for more than a fortnight, there are things I must see to,” he added almost defiantly.

Eldarion graciously bowed his head in acknowledgment before throwing his arms around the elf. “Thank you Legolas, you do not know how much this means to me. I barely remember my mother, but to have another elf around brings me comfort.” Eldarion was surprised at how true these words were as he spoke them, and instinctively tightened his hold on the elven prince.

Legolas swallowed hard past the lump in his throat, blinking back the tears, and he allowed his own arms to enfold the boy. Gimli brusquely cleared his throat and Legolas knew the dwarf was fighting back his own emotions. Finally Eldarion moved away looking up expectantly at the elven prince.

“Then all is well. I must go to my lessons now,” the young prince said, pulling a face. “Will you and Gimli join my father and I for lunch?”

“Of course we will lad, no need to ask,” Gimli said smiling, and patting the boy on the back. “Now come Legolas let us go out and enjoy the morning in the city.”

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

After their morning explorations a frustrated Gimli dragged a reluctant Legolas back to the palace for lunch.

“What ails you now Master Elf?” he growled finally.

“Nothing ails me Gimli, I am simply not very hungry,” Legolas said with a frosty expression.

“Well I am, and you promised the wee lad that you’d join Aragorn and he for lunch now come along or we shall be late,” the dwarf said tugging on his best friend’s arm in an effort to encourage more speed.

They finally entered the king’s private dining room to be greeted by the sight of the king and his son already seated. Aragorn looked up and fixed his eyes upon the elf as the duo entered but Legolas avoided his gaze, taking a seat opposite Eldarion, and the king sighed in disappointment. Eldarion, ever observant, sympathetically squeezed his father’s leg.

“So tell me friends, what did you do to entertain yourselves this morning?” Eldarion asked as if not noticing the tension between the elf and the king.

“Ah lad, I decided to take Legolas on an educational tour showing him the parts of the city where dwarven craftwork has been incorporated,” Gimli responded, blithely unaware of the atmosphere in the room.

Eldarion laughed. “I am sure that Legolas was a very appreciative audience,” he said, wringing a wry grin from the elven prince. “In that case, what plans have you for this afternoon? Will Legolas take you on a tour to show you where his own people have been at work?”

Legolas smiled. “Unfortunately for Gimli not this afternoon, although I am sure he is anxious to see evidence of my people’s artistry.” The dwarf in question snorted in disbelief. “I am afraid that I will have to leave Gimli to the tender mercies of his own imagination this afternoon. Lord Harodel has asked for my assistance.”

Eldarion frowned for a moment sorting through his memories of Gondor’s nobility. “Was he not the man that engaged you for several dances last night?” he asked. He was aware of his father suddenly sitting up straighter in his chair, casting him a sharp glance.

Legolas smiled. “Indeed. He was a most entertaining partner, very knowledgeable on many subjects.”

Eldarion allowed his mouth to form a small moue of disappointment. “I had hoped that we could begin our lessons this afternoon. Father had already agreed to join us to assist in any way possible.”

Now it was Legolas’ turn to tense, and Eldarion watched with interest as the elf threw a quick glance at the king before turning his attention back to the young prince. He noticeably squared his shoulders before responding. “I am sorry to disappoint you Eldarion but I have made this engagement with Lord Harodel and it would be unfair of me to break it. We can begin our lessons tomorrow afternoon shortly after lunch. I will understand completely if your father is unable to get away from his responsibilities to join us,” the elf said throwing a challenging glare at the human king.

Aragorn met the challenge, boldly meeting the elf’s glare with one of his own. “Fear not, I will ensure that I set some time aside to join you. My son’s education is very important to me and I would like to be a part of it, but if you feel that you would be distracted with my presence…”

Legolas frowned, a hint of angry pride tightening his features. “Of course not. I shall not even notice you are there once we begin our lessons,” he said. Aragorn smiled tightly in response.

“Excellent,” Gimli added. “In fact I think I will join you all just to ensure the elf leaves no part of your education lacking,” the dwarf said with a grin.

Eldarion smiled at the gathered adults. “I am so glad, I cannot wait for my lessons to begin.” He only just held back his laughter at the thought of the forthcoming entertainment. He loved his father dearly and was eager to help him attain his heart’s desire, but the opportunity to gain as much fun out of the situation for himself as possible was one he was unwilling to pass by.

Still oblivious to the emotional undercurrents Gimli looked around before reaching for a bread roll. “Are Eomer, Faramir and Eowyn not joining us?” he asked.

Eldarion shook his head. “Nay, Faramir said that he and Eowyn had some things to discuss with her brother and she felt it would be comfortable for them to eat alone this afternoon. We shall no doubt see them later before Eomer leaves to return to Rohan.”

Satisfied with this answer Gimli continued to pile food onto his charger.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

The remainder of lunch had passed far too slowly for Legolas’ liking. He was uncomfortably aware of the looks that Aragorn kept throwing his way and stubbornly kept his gaze focused on his plate adding little to the conversation. He was relieved when the meal finally ended and he could make his excuses and leave. Now as he made his way to Lord Harodel’s rooms he wondered how he would endure the next two weeks.

His mind was in turmoil, confusion breaking his usual focus. If only Aragorn had not kissed him. Now the elf could not stop his mind from replaying that event over and over, the sharpness of elven memory allowing him to recall all of the sensations evoked by the man’s lips against his own. His body flushed as it recalled the curl of excitement that had awoken in the pit of his stomach, and his lips tingled in memory of the firm pressure of Aragorn’s mouth, and the strange tickling sensation caused by the man’s facial hair. He could still feel the pressure of strong muscled arms embracing him and pulling him closer.

He growled in frustration, shaking his head to clear these traitorous thoughts from his mind, and realised he had arrived at Lord Harodel’s rooms. Taking a deep cleansing breath he knocked on the human lord’s door. It was opened swiftly, and Legolas was greeted with the sight of the amiable lord in his casual robes.

“Prince Legolas,” Harodel said beaming. “I am so pleased you could join me. Please do enter,” he said standing aside and gesturing for the prince to come in.

Forcing a smile the elf prince strode into the room. He absently took note of the neat appearance of the lord’s chambers.

“Your Highness, please be seated,” Harodel said gesturing towards one of the chairs by the fireplace. Legolas allowed himself to be led to the chair and seated, Harodel waiting until the Prince was comfortable until seating himself. “You must be wondering why I asked you to come here?” the human lord said smiling.

One of Legolas’ eyebrows rose in combined acknowledgment and query. “I must admit to some curiosity. Most of your fellow countrymen are somewhat wary in the presence of my kind. They tend to watch us from afar, speaking to us only when necessary.”

Harodel laughed. “Indeed, a fair assessment of my people I think. However there are some few of us who are able to overcome our awe of your kin enough for us to directly approach you. I admit I have long held a fascination for your people and to finally have the chance to talk with you at Prince Eldarion’s birthday gathering was something I felt I had to take advantage of.”

Legolas laughed at the boldness of the human lord. “Indeed, then if I can satisfy your curiosity I will help, please feel free to ask any questions you like. I cannot guarantee being able to answer all of them for although I am considerably older than you are, I am among the youngest of my kin and probably do not have the answers to all of your queries. I would suggest that you ask some of my comrades who arrived with me, although as humans are wary of the firstborn, most of my people are wary of humans.”

Harodel nodded sagely. “I understand. I think the attitude and acts of my people will not always have engendered friendly relations between our peoples.”

“The fault probably lies on both sides. I should not be so quick to say but many of the firstborn consider humankind to be beneath them. It is sad that for all our wondrous joint achievements we have not been able to be closer than we are. My father in particular is not overly pleased with mankind, our house suffered many losses during the first war against the dark lord.” Legolas sighed in sorrow.

“But you and the king are an obvious testament to the possibilities of friendship between our people surely?” the human asked.

Legolas grimaced at the thought of Aragorn, but answered Harodel’s query. “In some ways yes that may be so, but you forget that Elessar was raised by the elves and was married to one. My people feel far more at ease in his presence. I think a far greater achievement is the friendship that Master Gimli and I have forged, overcoming millennia of hatred and distrust between our races.” Legolas smiled at the thought of his short friend.

Harodel laughed. “Indeed. Although one might think you the worst of enemies still when they see you’re bickering.”

“Aye, but ‘tis all harmless. Gimli and I understand each other well enough not to take insult at the other’s words. He even managed to convince me to tour a cave with him which was an achievement in itself for I am a wood elf and far more at home in the forests of Arda,” the prince explained.

“Which brings me to why I asked for your presence My Lord.” Legolas sat back intrigued. “I have two sons, both of whom are a little younger than Prince Eldarion, however I am afraid that they are not quite as well brought up. I fear that it is for the most part a situation of my own making. Their mother and I were united for political alliances and there has never been any affection between us,” Harodel grimaced as he thought of his sharp-tongued, cold hearted wife. “Much of their raising I left to her as I concentrated on the running of our lands, spending much time here in the capital in trade negotiations. I fear that whether out of spite for me or simply because she is that way, she has imbued my sons with much of her viciousness.”

Legolas could not help feeling surprise at both the candour with which Lord Harodel exposed his family problems, and the contempt he so openly held for his wife. Elves being immortal very rarely married for anything other than love and affection, although it was true that for some few in high positions it became expedient to make alliances through marriage with another powerful family, but even so it could not be done if the elves in question could not stand each other. He could not help feeling some confusion, wondering what the mental state of the human’s family had to do with him.

Harodel smiled wryly when he noticed the prince’s confusion. “Forgive me, I am not explaining very well. My lands are very close to your own forests in Ithilien. What I ask is that your colony fosters my sons for a short time.”

Legolas could not hide his shock. “Lord Harodel I do not understand. Why would you wish your sons to be parted from you, and what do you think that my people could possibly offer them?”

“I am hoping that your people can teach something which my sons currently do not possess. Respect for others and for the world around them. At present they are destructive creatures, fed hatred and spite at their mother’s knees, which they then go out and foster by treating our household staff and the people we are pledged to protect with nothing but disrespect. If that were not enough, they spend their time amusing themselves by destroying everything around them. They cut down trees for amusement. They hunt for sport leaving their kills desecrated so that the corpses cannot even be eaten by scavengers.”

Legolas felt horror and disgust rising within him for the beings that Harodel was describing, and could not equate that this man, who seemed filled with respect and kindness, could have had some part in creating these monsters.

“I will beg if I must Your Highness for my sincerest hope is that time spent amongst the elves, and away from the poisonous tongue of their mother will help. They are young yet and still capable of learning and growing. I would of course entrust them fully to you, for both protection and punishment as you saw fit. I wish only to salvage something from my children, before I grow old and pass on, leaving my lands to creatures that would seek only to hurt and destroy in place of nurturing.”

The elf prince said nothing at first, his mind racing as he thought of what Harodel was asking and the possible implications. Harodel could only watch in silence as, with steepled hands, the prince of Ithilien considered his request. Finally Legolas looked up from his contemplation and Harodel watched him with bated breath.

“I must speak with my comrades first. Our colony shares its workload and it would not be fair to take on your sons without first ensuring that my people are not averse to the idea. My people have for a long time dwelt apart from men, although my personal opinion is that this will be a good exercise for them. I will let you know as soon as my answer is final,” the prince said, rising gracefully to his feet.

Harodel released his breath in an audible sigh of relief. “Thank you Prince Legolas, that is far more than I could have hoped for. In the mean time I sincerely hope that if I requested a chance to spend more time your company you would not see it as my trying to influence your decision or place undue pressure on you,” Harodel said with a grin.

Legolas laughed. “Indeed not. I would be pleased to spend more time with you Lord Harodel. Your outlook on life is refreshing to one who has spent much time with men whose nature seems very different from your own.”

Harodel smiled in gratitude as he escorted the elf prince to the door.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Part 3

Legolas immediately went to join his people upon leaving Lord Harodel’s chambers, and was glad for the distraction this provided, otherwise he knew his thoughts would have gone back to Aragorn and the kiss.

The elves that he had brought with him to the capital did not seem averse to the idea of looking after two human boys for a short time as long as they withheld the right to dispatch the boys back to their parents should they become too much of a handful. Legolas had teased them then, asking what would become of elven pride should they allow two human youths to get the better of them. Messenger birds were dispatched to the colony to send word of this request and to gain an idea of how the elves there would receive the idea. Knowing there was no more he could do at present he decided to find Gimli to see what the dwarf had done to occupy himself.

Gimli was not in his room, and acting on instinct Legolas garbed himself in a long cloak to disguise his features before he ventured out beyond the main walls of the palace into the capital.

He found the dwarf in the fifth bar that he visited. Gimli was seated in the centre of the room surrounded by men as they all listened avidly to the dwarfs telling of the quest.

“...as soon as they beheld the full battle rage of a dwarf they ran fleeing back to Isengard seeking the protection of the foul wizard Saruman.” Gimli finished and drained his tankard of beer. Before he had even placed it down on the table a replacement had been offered.

“Truly dwarven rage must be a terrible thing to see. Gandalf, and King Theoden must have been most grateful for your assistance that night,” a new voice rang out.

Instantly the crowd turned to see the owner of that voice, standing in the shadowy corner of the inn, hood pulled low over his face.

“Ha, they were indeed extremely appreciative of my efforts, as was the elf who fought with me, for many was the time I saved him with my quick reflexes and sharp axe,” Gimli said facing the shadowy figure, a sly grin on his face.

“I am sure the elf is very grateful for his continued existence then Master Dwarf,” the stranger said wryly, then threw back his hood revealing his long golden hair and his pointed ears.

A few shocked gasps escaped the silent crowd and Gimli laughed as the crowd parted warily as the elf walked up to the dwarf.

“Well met friend Gimli,” Legolas said as he sat on a now empty stool next to the dwarf. “Well met indeed Prince Legolas,” Gimli replied, a mischievous smile visible through the thick thatch of his facial hair.

Legolas glared at the dwarf in response as the silence suddenly turned into awed and excited whispers with every gaze now focused on the two friends. “One morning my friend, you are going to wake up to feel that your head is much lighter, for I will have tested the sharpness of my blades by removing all of the hair on your head,” the elf hissed.

“If you did, you may come back one morning to find that my axe has buried itself in your bow,” Gimli retorted.

“That would be a grievous insult indeed. My bow was a gift from the Lady Galadriel. I would have no choice but to end your life, as pitiful as it is in retribution.” Legolas said, standing suddenly, looking down in the dwarf. The room around them suddenly seemed to hold its collective breath awaiting the dwarf’s response.

Gimli jumped from his stool and moved forward until he was standing toe to toe with the elf. The difference in height, which should have served to heighten the ridiculous situation, instead seemed to emphasise the vast difference between the two races.

“But then master elf, who would remain to keep you on your toes, and to help you sharpen your tongue?” Gimli said finally, his stubby finger poking at the elf’s belly.

More than a few people jumped as suddenly both elf and dwarf began laughing.

“So is this where you have been all afternoon?” Legolas asked taking his seat once more.

“Yes, this is by far the best inn in Gondor, I make sure that I come here every time I visit just to ensure that they are maintaining their excellent service. Speaking of which, Haris, an ale for my friend if you please,” Gimli shouted out suddenly.

As the elf and dwarf settled down chatting amiably and ignoring the watchful crowd around them people began to settle gradually retaking their seats, some striking up their own conversations, others watching the unusual duo.

Gimli watched as Legolas lifted the tankard of ale to his lips with an expression of distaste. He took a cautious sip, and Gimli laughed in delight as the elf spit out the ale, coughing and curling his mouth up in disgust.

“Fah! Are you trying to poison me with this foul brew?” Legolas asked his friend.

Gimli held on to his aching stomach as he continued to laugh at the elf’s ever increasing expression of irritation. Finally once he had himself under control once more he called the barman over again this time placing an order for a sweet wine he knew his friend would enjoy.

“So, how was your afternoon with Lord Harodel?” Gimli asked when Legolas had settled more comfortably with his wine.

“Fine,” Legolas said, offering nothing more, much to Gimli’s frustration.

“Did you go somewhere pleasant?” the dwarf continued, fishing for information.

“Nay,” Legolas said, hiding his smile behind his goblet as he took another sip of wine. “We remained in his chambers. In fact Lord Harodel entrusted me with some very... intimate... matters.” The elf prince had to fight hard to contain his laughter as Gimli’s eyes nearly left their sockets in his astonishment. The dwarf though, recovered quickly and noticed the hint of mischief the elf wore.

“Hmm, very funny master elf,” he snorted dryly.

Legolas felt no reason to restrain his mirth now and allowed his peals of laughter to echo throughout the room. “Come now Gimli, it was a jest but it was only fair since you gained much amusement from my near poisoning earlier.” Gimli nodded in acquiescence and both friends settled down once again to enjoy the remainder of their afternoon.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

As evening approached quickly, Legolas felt his thoughts turning more and more to the palace and Aragorn. He was grateful that evening meals were usually a larger affair with the King eating in the large dining hall with the gathered guests. He should be able to make a swift escape once the meal had finished with no one being any the wiser.

His alarm increased when he and Gimli entered the dining hall. Eldarion requested that Gimli sit beside him for he had a few questions for the dwarf, which left the elf prince to sit at Aragorn’s other side. He noticed that Aragorn had not yet taken his seat and was instead holding Legolas’ chair for the elf to gain easy access to the table.

Legolas warily glanced at the king whose face remained impassive. Knowing that to make objections to the seating arrangement now would call attention upon himself, the elf sighed in defeat moving forward to allow Aragorn to seat him. He held himself tense but the king made no further gestures towards him as he took his own seat, and Legolas’ confusion increased. He had expected further pleas to talk about the situation, the man’s natural assertiveness forcing him to push the issue, but Aragorn continued to say nothing, merely beginning his meal in silence as a sign for the gathered company to begin their own meals.

Aragorn saw the wary glances that Legolas kept throwing his way, sensing the confusion that plagued the elf. He recalled previous women he had courted, including Arwen. His experience had taught him that if he maintained his distance, teasing subtly, his prey would come to him, so he remained distant, speaking to Legolas only when he wanted the elf to pass something along the table, but when the prince passed him an object the king made sure his fingers made contact with the elf.

The meal for Legolas was torture, but not in a way that he had envisaged. Sitting so close to the king he felt the warmth of the man’s body, to Legolas it felt almost too hot and he felt a light sheen of sweat form across his brow. When the man turned and asked him to pass the flagon of wine across he had done so automatically, however he had nearly dropped the flagon in surprise as he felt Aragorn’s hand brush against his own. A sharp jolt of something that left his hand tingling made him look quickly at Aragorn to see if the man was aware, but the king was not even looking at him now. Legolas felt a strange stab of disappointment, which he ruthlessly quashed. He had wanted Aragorn to ignore him had he not? His own plans had been to get through dinner as quickly as possible then make his escape. Time had never seemed to pass so slowly for Legolas.

Finally the meal was finished and everything cleared away. People began to move off in small groups, some carrying on to their own rooms to spend the rest of the evening peacefully. Others ventured out into gardens in search of seclusion. The majority of the court however followed the king to his throne room. On most nights when many people were gathered within the palace, entertainment was provided at the king’s behest. Gimli and Legolas, ushered on by Eldarion followed Aragorn to the throne room to pass away the rest of the evening.

Legolas was grateful when, shortly after settling themselves, Lord Harodel came over to beg a moment of his time. Apologising to his friends he got up and strode off with the human lord.

Aragorn watched Legolas’ retreating form closely, but a snort of humour from the dwarf dragged his attention away. “What amuses you so Gimli?” he asked.

“I was just thinking of our elven friend and his ability to make new friends. The elf found me quite late in one of the inns, he had spent a good deal of time with Lord Harodel where he says that discussed ‘intimate’ matters.” Gimli snorted again.

Aragorn felt as though a giant hand had taken hold of his heart and squeezed tightly, and for a moment he could not breathe through the pain cause by the thought of Legolas becoming intimate with anyone else.

Eldarion frowned. “Do you mean to say that Legolas has taken Lord Harodel to his bed?”

Gimli laughed again, but his gaze softened as he took in the genuine confusion of the young prince. “Legolas is no casual bed jumper whatever some might say of his kind, although it is possible. But I was merely jesting. The elf did indeed spend a good deal of time with Lord Harodel but he refused to tell me what they spoke of. It’s all very secretive if you ask me.”

Aragorn felt the pressure in his chest subside slightly at Gimli’s explanation but that did not stop his growing concern that Legolas might form a romantic attachment with someone else under his very nose.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Legolas allowed Harodel to lead him out into the gardens where, with the more open space, there could be some semblance of privacy. Finding a relatively secluded spot Harodel lightly touched the prince’s arm before turning to face the elf.

“Thank you Prince Legolas, I do not mean to crowd you but do you have any indication of how it will go with your people?” the human lord asked.

Legolas smiled gently. “I have spoken with my comrades here and thus far there are no objections, however I am awaiting word from my people in our colony. I do not foresee any problems though Lord Harodel and it is likely that your request will be granted.”

Harodel’s face flushed with pleasure. “That is very good news Your Highness, I am much pleased and perhaps, call it a father’s hope, but I see much coming out of this.”

Legolas laughed. “Indeed, I am very keen to see many of my people’s faces as they deal with two human children, they have not been in the presence of young ones for centuries.”

Harodel laughed but his curious eyes regarded the elf in a new light, really noticing for the first time how wise those eyes seemed in the eternally youthful face. “Perhaps, if you do not mind, once your stay in Minas Tirith is over you accompany me to my home, that way the boys may travel back to Ithilien with you. I hope this does not seem too forward of me...” Harodel trailed off, for a moment uncertain.

The elf prince smiled reassuringly. “That sounds like a good plan Lord Harodel, I shall be in the capital for just two weeks only, although my comrades leave tomorrow and will travel most of the way with Prince Faramir and his party. I have promised to spend some time tutoring Prince Eldarion in the handling of his new gifts.”

“Most admirable of you Prince Legolas,” a voice said from behind, and Legolas stiffened in recognition.

“Lord Cadofel,” Harodel said bowing respectfully to the higher-ranking nobleman.

“Harodel,” Cadofel said, barely acknowledging the other man his eyes fixed instead on the elven prince. “Prince Legolas, it seems almost impossible to catch you alone,” the man commented pointedly looking at Harodel.

“Ah... yes... Prince Legolas, Lord Cadofel, if you would excuse me, there are a few things that I really must attend to,” Harodel said, stumbling over his words slightly in his nervousness. He bowed jerkily and hurriedly left them, glancing over his shoulder at them before disappearing from view around a corner.

Legolas suddenly found himself regretting speaking with Harodel in this secluded spot, he did not feel comfortable in the older Gondorian’s presence, although he had no fear that he could not defend himself should it prove necessary, but surely even a man as bold and vile as Cadofel would think twice before doing anything untoward to an elf, especially one who was noted as a close companion of the king.

“Prince Legolas, you should visit Minas Tirith more often, your beauty enhances our city’s greatness,” the human said allowing his gaze to travel along the elf’s body.

Legolas narrowed his eyes, disliking the man’s audacity. “Surely your city is beautiful enough without the aid of an elf, certainly you could do far better than I when it comes to examples of elven fairness, there are many fairer than I,” the elf said, speaking plainly.

A small smile hovered at Cadofel’s lips. “I think you do not value your own worth correctly Your Highness, it has been noted that aside from our dear departed Queen there is none so fair ever to have graced our walls. You are a prize that many men and women covet, you would certainly enrich the standing of anyone who held you.” The nobleman reached forward, his hand boldly stroking the elf’s face.

Legolas could not believe the barefaced cheek of the man, to lay hands upon him whilst speaking of him as an inanimate object for people to fawn over and look pretty. Bile rose in his throat at the sweaty imprint the man’s hand left on his skin and he wanted nothing more than to scrub the evidence of the man’s unwanted caress off his body.

The elven prince felt anger uncurling within him, tensing his body and narrowing his bright eyes with the force of his growing fury. “I think Lord Cadofel that you have strange notions about my people. We are not objects for men to use as the jewel in their crowns, we are the firstborn, placed here in this world long before the conception of mortal man was even an idea. We are free spirits who cannot be tamed and held in thrall like your pets. With such views Lord Cadofel I would suggest that you do not approach my people whilst we are guests within this palace, many of my kin would not show the same restraint as I. Now if you will excuse me...” Not waiting for a response Legolas swept past the stunned Gondorian.

The elven prince swept into the palace, his forceful strides deterring any who might approach him. His fingers were itching to grasp the knives he had left in his room and slash something. He was pulled up short as his name was called. Taking a deep breath and trying to calm himself Legolas turned around.

Gimli had watched in astonishment as Legolas had appeared in the main room yet the Prince did not appear to be heading in their direction instead moving towards the great hall where he could get to his room, but it was the obvious rage that possessed the usually unflappable elf that stunned the dwarf. “Legolas!” he called out hoping to get his friend’s attention.

He watched as Legolas stopped abruptly, and his shoulders visibly tensed before the elf spun around to face him. Gimli looked at the blank face and he felt glad as he noticed the approach of both Aragorn and Eldarion.

“What ails you my friend?” the dwarf asked in concern.

The light veneer of calm surrounding the elf broke away and he felt his growing rage consume him. Gimli was startled into taking a step back at the suddenly fierce and malevolent look in the elf’s eyes, but the prince did not appear to see him, instead from his mouth came a sudden outpouring of words that were laced with venomous poison. Gimli was glad suddenly that the elf was speaking in his own tongue for he suddenly did not want to know what the prince was saying.

Aragorn halted in shock as the flood of words escaped from the elven prince. He was one of the few people here that could understand the prince’s words, and his own shock was replaced with a growing anger at the thought of someone upsetting the ordinarily calm elf to this degree. He saw Faramir move to approach them, with Eowyn and Eomer watching in wide eyed astonishment, but with a gesture told the steward to stay back. He also noted that the elves that had come to Minas Tirith with Legolas were now approaching.

“Who said such things to you?” he asked quickly, easily slipping into the elf’s native tongue.

Legolas turned to him then and the full force of those furious eyes burned brightly upon the King. Aragorn heard his son gasp but forced himself to hold the elf’s gaze. He thought he saw a slight dimming in the madness possessing the elf but Legolas’ next words had him doubting that.

“One of your foul, Mordor loving, son of an yrch, ‘noble’ men, mighty king,” the elf said, his tone scathing.

“Tell me who it was Legolas?” Aragorn said, ignoring the attack on himself and instead focussing on who had caused this elven rage to come about.

Legolas snarled wordlessly, and his elven companions took the opportunity to approach him, quickly taking hold of their prince and escorting him from the room. Gimli moved forward as if to follow them but Aragorn intercepted him.

“Hold Gimli, leave him to his people, we cannot help,” Aragorn said regretfully.

“But why, what was wrong with him father?” Eldarion asked.

“It is the downside to being a creature whose emotions are strong. You know well that elves can mourn the loss of a loved one until they themselves fade. You know that elves bond for eternity, loving only one partner with all of their being. These are examples of the depths of elven emotion, but none is more frightening than an elven rage. Something that can anger an elf to such extents is grievous indeed, and to think that it was one of our people...” the king trailed off. “I think that perhaps has Legolas has more in common with his father than we ever thought possible.”

“I say we should find Lord Harodel, we know that Legolas went off with him, perhaps he was the cause of this rage, or he may know who was?” Gimli suggested.

Aragorn nodded in agreement and bade one of his guards to find the Gondorian lord. They arrived back a short time later with Harodel in tow, his gaze anxious as he saw who was waiting for him.

“Lord Harodel,” Aragorn acknowledged.

“Your Majesty, Your Highness, Lord Gimli,” the man replied, his gaze flickering nervously between the three.

“You were last seen with Prince Legolas, what did you say to bring about his wrath?” Gimli asked suddenly, his chest jutting forward aggressively.

Lord Harodel was visibly startled. “Sire? I do not know what you are referring to. Prince Legolas was well when I left him a short while ago. What has befallen him?”

“What did you discuss,” Aragorn asked, part of him wishing to ensure that the other man was no threat to his courtship of Legolas.

Harodel stiffened in anger. “I do not think that what Prince Legolas and I spoke of is a matter for public consumption, but upon my honour he was not upset when I left him. Tell me what has happened?”

Aragorn ignored the other man’s query. “Was Legolas alone when you left him?” he asked.

Harodel frowned. “Lord Cadofel joined us, he obviously wanted to talk to the Prince alone so I departed. Please tell me, is Prince Legolas well?” the younger lord was growing increasingly frustrated.

“He is with his people Lord Harodel, thank you for your help.” Aragorn said, and his body language dismissed the minor lord, who frowned in annoyance but had no choice but to obey.

“Cadofel! I can easily imagine him invoking a deep anger from Legolas,” Eldarion said.

“You understood what the elf was saying Aragorn? Tell us,” Gimli demanded.

Aragorn sighed. “He spoke of as being treated like a jewel, coveted by many for their beauty but useful only for decoration. He also made reference to someone wishing to tame him and being something to be petted like a caged animal. It is a grave insult to the elves for a human to treat them so lowly. They have long been disgusted by the race of men and its need to subjugate and control anything it considers to be of value.”

“Lord Cadofel is lucky that Legolas was unarmed,” Eldarion remarked suddenly.

Aragorn smiled wryly. “Lord Cadofel is lucky that Legolas is very controlled, for he is quite capable of killing a man with just his bare hands. Guard,” the king said, gesturing for a nearby guardsman to approach. “Please find Lord Cadofel and have him brought to me.” The guardsman nodded and swiftly departed.

It was not long before Lord Cadofel arrived escorted by two of the Royal Guard, his face a picture of affront. “Your Majesty, might I ask what was so urgent, I was on my way to my rooms to retire for the evening.”

“Lord Cadofel, can you explain to me why you upset one of my guests, one who is both a prince from another kingdom and friend to the people of Gondor?” Aragorn asked, his steely eyes fixing the Gondorian lord with a piercing glare.

“Majesty, I do not know what you are referring to,” Cadofel stated calmly, his voice projecting a hint of boredom.

“I am referring to Prince Legolas, and the comments you made to him,” Aragorn stated, drawing himself up to his full height, every inch the king.

“I must still beg confusion Your Majesty. I paid Prince Legolas a few compliments, he did not seem to appreciate them, perhaps they were not enough to pander to his ego for he left shortly after.”

Silence greeted his words. The nearby nobles sensing a confrontation had gathered to witness it, that they might later pass along the news to their friends and family. Cadofel did not appreciate the position he had been placed in, openly accused of insulting a favoured guest before the nobility of Gondor.

Aragorn’s gaze narrowed as he took in the new insults levelled against the elven prince. “Lord Cadofel, I would advise you to think more wisely before speaking next time. In fact I would advise you not to approach any of the visiting elves whilst they are guests in my palace. They have shown much loyalty and friendship to Gondor both now and in the past and your misguided views are not appreciated.” Aragorn turned effectively dismissing the Gondorian whose eyes narrowed in rage at the insult to his character. Gathering his robes about him and ignoring the inquisitive looks and whispers around him he swept from the room.

Once Cadofel departed Aragorn let out a sigh. Looking around at the members of his court, seeing the way their eyes were bright with the news they could not wait to spread, he turned to his son and his friend. “I have had enough of this for one evening. Let us see how our friend fares.” Without a word he left the room with son and dwarf following behind.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Legolas had felt his rage reach an almost explosive point and was grateful when his people moved forward and ushered him from the room. They took him swiftly back to his own chambers, their soft voices taking up a song that was meant to soothe his troubled spirit. Gentle hands stripped the clothes from his body and laid him flat on the bed. The hands moved then, gently kneading and working at the muscles as the soft song continued and Legolas felt much of the tension swiftly leave his body.

His companions worked for some time until every knot has been loosened and the prince lay bonelessly upon the bed, his temper soothed back into quiescence. Sighing in gratitude Legolas forced himself into a sitting position legs crossed as he regarded the elves around him.

“Thank you my friends,” he said quietly. He knew they would not ask him about the cause of the rage, waiting patiently for him to speak of it. He closed his eyes and pushed away the thought of the human lord and his foul touch lest his anger be roused again.

A soft chuckle made him open his eyes and turn to the elf seated beside him. He raised his eyebrow in query. “Never have I seen you look so much like your father tithen caun,” the ancient elf before him said. [Little prince]

“Ah Melnuin, you should be grateful that the tithen caun inherited more of his mother’s temperament. Can you imagine trying to calm both of them after one of their infamous arguments?” another elf added.

Legolas felt his features flush slightly as his companions laughed lightly at the picture painted for them. “It is not often that I have inspired my father to a full blown rage, or he I,” Legolas pointed out a touch defensively.

A hand immediately found its way into his hair, brushing back the strands soothingly. Legolas was quite sure that Melnuin at least had followed him to Ithilien at his father’s bequest.

“Now all we need to do is find you a mate capable of calming your temper alone,” Melnuin said, the other elves making sounds of agreement.

Legolas groaned. “Now I know you are all spies sent by my father,” he said teasingly, but he noticed a few shared glances.

“Will you be well enough now, or would you prefer us to delay our departure tomorrow?” Tiloniel, a fierce warrior she-elf, with a heart as soft as melted butter asked as she stroked his arm lightly.

Legolas smiled in gratitude. “I am well enough now thanks to you all. It makes no sense for you to remain. Travel back to Ithilien as planned with Prince Faramir. I have promised Eldarion that I will remain another two weeks to help him learn to use his new gifts. After that, if news from the colony is good I will most likely be travelling to Lord Harodel’s estate to collect his children.” Legolas smiled sheepishly as a yawn caught him unawares. “I believe I would benefit from retiring early this evening,” he said.

Further comment was halted as loud footsteps approached and Legolas’ door was suddenly thrown open. “Legolas my friend are you well...” Gimli’s words were cut off as he took in the sight before him. Four elves sat around the nude figure of the elven prince.

Legolas ignored the glares his companions were directing at his friend for his interruption, he was instead wondering as to the cause of the dwarfs suddenly red face with eyes directed anywhere but at the elf. He was reminded then of his nudity as Aragorn and Eldarion came rushing after the dwarf.

“Gimli I told you...” Aragorn could not remember the rest of his sentence as he walked into the room behind Gimli and saw Legolas sat upon the bed in all of his natural glory.

His eyes could not help but roam across the broad shoulders, down the flat plane of the elf’s muscled abdomen, down to his... A throat being cleared brought his eyes quickly back up to meet the elven prince’s gaze. There was a flush of colour on Legolas’ cheeks, but his eyes flashed a warning to the king. Without a word, the elves around him rose to their feet surrounding him, and affording him some modesty until one handed the prince a robe and he covered himself.

Legolas could not help but notice the way Aragorn’s eyes had immediately been drawn to him as he entered the room, his words to Gimli forgotten. The elven prince felt his mind go back to the sensations of being held in the man’s strong arms, and his skin flushed to try and expel some of the sudden heat within the prince. His companions noticing his embarrassment surrounded him like a shield, whilst Melnuin passed him a robe. He quickly wrapped the garment around him before standing and approaching his unexpected guests.

“Gimli, what ails you?” he asked, remembering the rush in which the dwarf had stormed his room.

“What ails me? Crazy elf, I had come to ask you the same thing,” Gimli said snorting in his annoyance.

“I am well Gimli. I was perhaps a little distressed earlier but I am recovered now,” the elven prince stated firmly.

“A little distressed he says. Legolas I have never seen you so infuriated, Lord Cadofel must have...”

”Gimli please!” Legolas’ sudden, sharp plea cut through the dwarf’s diatribe. “I do not wish to speak of this. I would like to retire now and gain some rest,” he stated quietly.

“Will you join us to break fast?” Eldarion asked anxiously.

Legolas smiled. “I will. Now please if you all do not mind...” Legolas watched with some measure of relief as his companions left, until only Aragorn stood in the doorway.

Looking at the man Legolas said nothing, he had not yet determined how things now stood between them after this morning, and he was reluctant to make himself think about it. Unconsciously looking at the man in mute appeal Legolas sighed. Aragorn took in the weary appearance of his friend and simply nodded before taking his leave.

Legolas lay down upon his bed facing the open balcony of his room. He curled himself up a little more and with another soft sigh allowed his mind to slip into Elven dreams.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

The following morning found Aragorn absent from the breakfast table. Eldarion explained that the king had been called upon to attend to an urgent matter and would most likely be busy for the rest of the day. Legolas experienced a twinge of guilt when he felt only relief at Eldarion’s word, noticing the disappointment on the youth’s face.

“I am sure he will get away as soon as he can,” the elven prince offered. “And remember we begin your lessons this afternoon. As the bells chime the 14th hour I will meet you in the training room. Be ready to work hard tithen caun,” Legolas said smiling wickedly.

“Ha, do not forget me master elf, I too shall take part in this training,” Gimli said eyeing the elf with a fixed gaze.

Legolas laughed. “How could I possibly forget Gimli, you are certain to remind me frequently.”

Eldarion and Legolas both laughed at the dwarf’s irritation, but they agreed to meet back here for lunch. So it was with a lighter heart that Legolas made his way to his companions’ rooms.

“Prince Legolas, we have a message for you from the colony,” Tiloniel stated handing a small piece of parchment as he entered their joint drawing room.

Legolas quickly read the missive and smiled. “Well my friends, it looks like we are to become guardians and teachers to two wayward human children,” he said finally, laughing at the theatrical groans of dismay. “Never fear for we shall prevail, or forever hear it spoken of by dwarves as the time the indomitable will of the firstborn was defeated by children.” He was met all around by scowls and laughing to himself he left them in peace to find Lord Harodel and convey his good news.

He went immediately to Harodel’s rooms hoping the lord would be within, but there was no answer to his knock. Shrugging he decided he would try again later and made his way back out to find some occupation for the morning.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

At the 14th hour Legolas arrived promptly at the training room to find both Eldarion and Gimli waiting for him. He felt guilty relief once more by Aragorn’s continued absence.

Eldarion sat watching in anticipation as Legolas laid down his weapons on the side before approaching them. The elven prince gestured for Eldarion to join him in the centre of the room for some basic warm up exercises. Gimli watched from the side after claiming that dwarves were born ready and needed no warming up in order to fight. Finally when Legolas felt Eldarion was ready he bade him to face him.

“I wish first to get a feel for your fighting style, the way you hold yourself, and to see how far your training has progressed,” the elf explained, and dutifully Eldarion faced off against the elder prince.

It quickly became clear to the young prince that Legolas was going very easy on him, quickly assessing his current level of skills. After one particularly clever move Eldarion ignored his injured pride and climbed back to his feet.

“Will you show me how you did that?” he asked the elf.

Legolas nodded and opened his mouth to speak when a voice interrupted. “That move would be better demonstrated if Legolas had someone to assist him,” Aragorn said as he entered the room, smiling at his son’s obvious pleasure at his being able to join them.

“Then you and Legolas will demonstrate the move to me?” Eldarion asked, innocent face looking at both his father and the elf.

Legolas had no choice but to agree, and he stood waiting as Aragorn shrugged off his formal tunic leaving his chest bare. The elf’s eyes were drawn to the lean muscular chest and the hair that grew across it. He caught himself wondering what it would be like to feel that hair against his own smooth body, and shaking his head he realised Aragorn was standing before him, and his own gaze was still fixed on the man’s semi naked body.

“Are you ready Legolas,” Aragorn said, and the elf looked up startled, catching the amused smile lurking around the man’s lips.

His face tightened in embarrassment and he nodded. His embarrassment increased as Aragorn quickly stepped behind him assuming the position of aggressor. This move pulled the elf sharply back against the man’s chest and Legolas felt his breath catch in his throat. He could not concentrate on Aragorn’s words as the man explained the movement to his son, but before Legolas could gather his scattered thoughts he found himself on the floor with the man sat above him, straddling his thighs.

Instinctively Legolas’ hands came up to push the man off but Aragorn was quicker this time, capturing the elf’s hands and pulling them back over his head. This movement caused Aragorn to stretch out further along the elven prince’s body, and Legolas found his face and Aragorn’s only a few inches apart. He dragged in a ragged breath of air, and his lashes fluttered softly as his gaze was drawn to the man’s full and sensuous lips so close to his own. Aragorn watched the elf’s deep blue eyes widen and his focus upon the man’s lips and he was lost. With a low moan he lowered his head taking the elf’s lips gently with his own.

Legolas felt lost as the king’s lips touched his own. He felt adrift in a huge ocean of darkness, with the warm feelings evoked by the feel of the man’s lips on his own the only thing anchoring him to sanity. He moaned deep in his throat pushing his lips more closely against the man and Aragorn took advantage, his tongue creeping out first to tease the elf by licking the immortal’s lips and then allowing his limber muscle to slip into the hot, sweet interior of the elf’s mouth.

“Aragorn, Legolas, what are you doing?” Gimli’s voice rang out, his astonishment obvious.

Startled Legolas pulled his lips away from Aragorn’s.

“I should have thought that was quite obvious Gimli,” the king said and releasing Legolas’ hand he raised his own to caress the immortal’s cheek, sliding one hand up to run his fingers through the golden hair. He smiled lazily down at Legolas as he said, “I’m claiming my elf.”

Legolas froze at those words, so close to the ones spoken last night by another man. Was this then the reality of all men, that they wanted nothing more than to claim and enslave anything they desired, even Aragorn who had been raised by the elves? With a soft cry of distress Legolas squirmed beneath the man. He froze again as Aragorn groaned and he felt a hardness pressing against his groin. Panic beginning to take over and Legolas bucked furiously. Knocking Aragorn off him, he got to his feet and without a word ran from the room. Aragorn groaned, placing his head in his hands, and Eldarion walked over to place his hands sympathetically on the king’s shoulders.

“Would somebody please tell me what is going on?” Gimli shouted finally.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Legolas had no notion of where his feet took him, his mind too busy reliving the feeling of both the evidence of Aragorn’s desire pressing against him and the man’s words.

Aragorn wanted to claim him, possess him, and what frightened Legolas the most was that some part of him wanted that too. He is a man, one voice inside him said loudly, he will take you and keep you as a bauble to put on display for his kingdom. But Aragorn had been raised by the elves, and he had not treated Arwen in the same way, another voice refuted. But he loved Arwen the first voice whispered and Legolas wondered why that thought caused him pain. Because you love him the voice whispered again.

Legolas halted blindly in his tracks. No, such a thing was not possible. Aragorn and he had been good friends, as close as blood brothers but never had they treated each other as anything other than the friends they were. He started off again, this time at a slower pace heading for the main palace buildings, but once more his mind retreated back to the memory of Aragorn’s kiss, this one seeming to wield so much more power over him than the first.

He shook his head angrily, he needed a distraction. Searching his mind he remembered that he had not passed on his good news to Lord Harodel, so upon entering the palace he headed towards the guest chambers for lesser members of Gondor’s nobility. He knocked quickly upon the door. There were a few moments of silence and Legolas prepared to knock again when Harodel’s voice called out for him to enter.

The elf walked quickly into the man’s chambers only to be met with a sight that stopped him in his tracks. Harodel sat in a chair facing the door, but he was bound to the chair with torn pieces of the bed covers. Harodel was not a small man but on either side of him stood two burly men that made the nobleman look small, one with a dagger at the man’s throat. Seated on the bed, looking casual was Lord Cadofel.

“What is going on here?” Legolas demanded his brows furrowed.

“I should have thought that was obvious, I am holding your lover hostage,” Cadofel said calmly rising to his feet.

Legolas was confused by Cadofel’s words but ignored them in favour of concentrating on the immediate threat. “Hostage against what?” he asked, his hands going to where his knives would have hung had he remembered to gather them after leaving the training room.

“Against your good behaviour,” the elder lord said.

Legolas tensed as one of the men left Harodel’s side and approached the elf. “Bind him,” Cadofel called out, and the approaching man pulled a coarse piece of robe from a deep pocket in his long tunic. Legolas took a wary step back that was halted by a gasp and whimper of pain from Harodel. Legolas took in the small trail of blood that snaked down the captive man’s neck where the knife at his throat had broken the skin.

The elven prince weighed his options. He could take on Cadofel and his two men and defeat them all, but he could not do so without forfeiting the life of the captive Lord Harodel. Knowing that he could not be responsible for the death of an innocent man he held his wrists out before him. He would simply have to bide his time and make an escape later. The rope was swiftly and tightly wrapped around one wrist before his arms were pulled behind him and his wrists bound together. Legolas did not allow any of his discomfort to be revealed to his captors, standing straight and still. After a few final tugs to check that the Prince could not easily free himself the man behind Legolas stood back. The elf looked over at Cadofel who smiled and inclined his head towards the man behind the prince. Too late Legolas realised the danger before the hilt of a dagger met the back of his skull and the world went dark.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Part 4

Gimli sat with unusual patience as Aragorn explained to him what had occurred between himself and Legolas.

“You and the elf are amongst those I count as kin. I wish you nothing but happiness my friend,” the dwarf said finally.

Aragorn looked up disbelievingly. “Gimli, have you heard nothing I’ve said. Legolas wants nothing to do with me, is in fact violently repulsed by my advances.”

Gimli laughed. “I think he is anything but repulsed by your attentions Aragorn.”

Aragorn shook his head sadly. “If he were at all receptive he would not have reacted so violently and run from me.”

The dwarf sighed, rising from his seat at the side of the room and approaching the king still seated on the floor. He patted the man’s arm sharing a sympathetic look over the king’s head with Eldarion. “Lad the only reason he ran off is because he is not unaffected by you. He runs because he fears his response to you, not because he is repulsed. You must give him time and he will realise it, although perhaps not too much time, those elves spend far too much time thinking about things that they forget the rest of us don’t have the same years available to us.”

“Do you really believe so Gimli?” Aragorn asked, his expression wary, not willing to give in to hope just yet.

“I’d stake my axe on it,” Gimli stated smiling. “Now, let’s get you and the young lad here cleaned up. I shall go and see how the elf fares.”

Aragorn nodded and rose from the floor before allowing his son to guide him from the training room.

Gimli walked slowly back towards his room, thinking about the sudden change in his friends’ relationship. He was not concerned about the fact that both were male, love was a rare enough thing that you did not turn it away upon discovering it, and he was quite sure that this was not what concerned Legolas either. Perhaps the elf was simply confused, certainly he himself had never noticed any change in Aragorn’s feelings towards the elf, and to be confronted so suddenly, which seemed to have awoken feelings that the elven prince had either been unaware of or had buried so deeply he seemed to have been unmoved by them, well it would certainly explain the elf’s panic at the situation he found himself in.

Gimli arrived at the door to his own room but walked past, heading instead to his friend’s room. He knocked gently on the door, knowing that with his superior hearing the elf would hear, yet there was no response. Gimli softly opened the door before peering inside. The room looked undisturbed, and although he knew that elves in general left little sign of their passing, the room also felt empty as though it had not held any occupants recently. Frowning Gimli left quietly and walked back down, deciding to try the gardens next, a well-known refuge for the elf.

He spent the next hour wandering the palace gardens calling out his friend’s name and peering up through foliage into the dense branches of trees. He finally admitted defeat acknowledging that either Legolas had found somewhere new to hide or he simply did not wish to be found in his wooded refuge. Sighing he decided to return to the palace to see if Legolas had shown up there. If not he would leave the elf until he was ready for company, there was little else he could do.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Gimli’s concern mounted as evening meal approached and there was still no sign of his friend. He made his way to the dining hall and seeing Aragorn’s questioning glance shook his head. The king’s shoulders dropped slightly, Eldarion sitting beside him put his hand on his father’s arm as a gesture of support.

“I am sorry Aragorn,” Gimli said as he sat beside the king. “I looked everywhere I could think of but could not find him. Perhaps he simply needs time to cool down.”

Aragorn nodded slightly and then with a lack of enthusiasm gestured for the evening meal to begin.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Legolas returned to wakefulness with a start. With it came flooding the memories that lead to his unconsciousness. He gasped, immediately pulling himself up to a sitting position. He was forcibly halted and pulled back by his own momentum by chains that were secured to the wall and from there to his wrists. The prince manipulated his wrists as best he could, trying to work out how the manacles around him were locked and whether he could do anything about that. Finding himself helpless in that regard he turned to assessing his current predicament.

Wherever he had been contained was dark, so dark that the keen sighted elf could detect no light at all. The air around him felt cold and damp and it smelt badly of decay. His clothes had remained untouched but he felt manacles similar to those around his wrist, firmly attached to his ankles. He lifted his legs to test the range of the chains that held him down, and found he could not lift them more than a foot from the floor where he lay. He shivered slightly as he extended his senses, trying to determine his location. He felt an edge of panic when the only thing that greeted him was cold stone and Legolas had to force himself not to call out. He could not be sure that his captors would not hear him and he had no wish at present to attract their attention.

He thought back to his capture and the strange ideas Lord Cadofel seemed to be harbouring, and that brought his thoughts to Lord Harodel. He wondered whether the man had been left alone after his own capture. Realistically he knew it was unlikely that the other man was even still alive unless Cadofel had some plans for him. The older man would not want his actions to be announced so that he could be hunted.

The elven prince considered then exactly where he could be. He could not tell how long he had been unconscious therefore he could be anywhere. Most likely he had been removed from Gondor to some secret place that only his captors knew of. He slid his hands up and around his head to delicately probe at the wound he had received and hissed in pain as his fingers encountered a large lump that was crusted with dried blood, matting his hair against the wound. He thought then that he could not have been unconscious for too long since his healing abilities had yet to make any significant impact upon this injury.

He felt a small measure of comfort from this fact. The closer it was to the city the easier it would be for his friends to rescue him. Aragorn! Legolas felt a moment of regret that the king would think his absence was due to the events in the training room, and Gimli would soon be beside himself with worry. The dwarf was not a patient creature and after his search for his friend yielded only failure he would begin to imagine what fate could have befallen the elf.

A distant sound interrupted his musings. His keen hearing caught the sound of approaching footsteps. He knew he would be better off if he continued to feign unconsciousness before his captors, perhaps learning something as they spoke unguardedly. He quickly settled himself back into a lying position, relaxing his body in seeming repose. The footsteps grew louder, and the elven prince could discern several different treads approaching. The footsteps stopped and a new sound could be heard, that of a key turning in a lock. Keeping his breathing even he waited to see what would happen next.

“Quickly blindfold and bind him and then bring him to me,” an authoritative voice said.

Legolas had to restrain himself from jerking in reaction to Cadofel’s voice. Instead he continued to lie loose limbed as several men approached him, one immediately placing a rough cloth around his eyes and two others removing his chains from where they were attached to ceiling and floor. One large pair of hands then grasped him, before heaving him up to land hard across a broad shoulder, before he was carried from the room.

The group travelled in silence for a short while with enough twists that Legolas realised it was futile to attempt to map the area in his mind. His only warning that they had arrived was when he was tossed down hard onto a raised stone surface. The air rushed from his lungs in an audible oof, alerting his captors that his unconsciousness had been a ruse.

“Quickly get the chains in place,” Cadofel called out.

The prince felt his arms and legs being stretched out a little, but was unable to react quickly enough to stop the chains attached to his manacles from being affixed to points above and below him.

“It seems that deceitfulness is in your very nature my prince,” Cadofel said suddenly, his voice very close to the elf’s ear.

Legolas frowned at the hypocrisy of that statement but said nothing.

“Enjoy your silence for it will not last long and soon you will be begging for release from this life,” the older Gondorian snarled. There was a flurry of motion near the prince’s head and Legolas felt the man move away from him before his voice rang out again. “Begin!”

Legolas was left with little time to brace himself as hands suddenly found his body and began tearing at his clothing until he was left in little but the rags of his breeches, enough only to cover his modesty. The chains securing him were pulled taut and the prince felt his unprepared muscles protest slightly at the mistreatment. A movement sensed at his side and suddenly fire spread across his chest as something tore through his skin like a hot knife through butter. The pain gradually began to fade into a dull burn but the prince’s body remained tense feeling small ribbons of blood trail down his side. He assessed the wound through his restricted senses and decided that this had just been a shallow cut.

He had to bite back a sudden yell when again his chest was sliced, this time more deeply. Perspiration formed on the prince’s body and he tried to brace himself against the sudden attacks. He locked his jaw in determination though, refusing to give voice to his pain and bring satisfaction to the sadistic men who carried out these acts upon him.

The attacks on his chest seemed to last for hours but in truth last only a short time. When the men appeared to have ceased for a time Legolas allowed a shaky breath to escape him. His chest burned fiercely and he felt his blood flowing in small rivulets from the gashes on his body, down his sides, to pool beneath him.

A hand caressing his head startled him and he jerked in reaction, he had been so caught up in managing the pain that he had not taken notice of what was going on around him.

“Having fun yet my prince?” Cadofel asked, and again Legolas refused to answer, stubbornly turning his head away from that voice. “Turn him over, start on his back,” the Gondorian said finally, and Legolas braced himself once more.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

The evening meal seemed to last an abnormally long time to the Royal family and their friend Gimli. Finally it had ended still without an appearance from Legolas and Aragorn, no longer wanting to remain in attendance with his people gestured towards his son and Gimli that they depart for his own study which would be considerably more peaceful.

As they moved to leave the room a hesitant looking servant halted them. Aragorn glanced quizzically at the nervous man blocking his way. The servant was young in appearance and seemed to have problems in finding his voice.

His patience reaching its limits the king of Gondor snapped out his question. “Yes, what is it?”

The servant appeared to visibly quail before his liege. Eldarion fearing they would never get a response from the man, stepped forward raising his hands in a placatory manner. “Who is your Lord?” he asked softly.

“L... Lord Harodel, Highness,” the man responded, his gaze darting nervously between King and Prince. “I see, and has your lord sent you here with a specific purpose?” Eldarion asked.

The servant shook his head, his expression becoming more frantic. He turned back to address the King. “Sire that is why I have come to you. My Lord Harodel has disappeared.”

Aragorn’s gaze sharpened and he focussed on the man before him, his ears taking in the shocked gasps of his son and Gimli. “Follow me, you will tell us what you know,” the king said, already walking towards the exit. With a subtle gesture he beckoned his head guardsman to follow as well.

Aragorn took the group to a small meeting room set aside for more private sessions with his councillors or visiting dignitaries. He forced himself to take a seat and project a more calm veneer. Waiting until Corlis, head of his private guard, had joined them, Aragorn then gestured for Harodel’s serving man to continue.

“Sire, this afternoon Lord Harodel dismissed us from his rooms, saying that he wanted a little privacy. This is not so unusual, he does so quite frequently when he wishes to think without anything to disturb him, or to entertain certain… visitors.” Aragorn’s face darkened at the servant’s words, but he motioned for the young man to continue. “We did as we were told, continuing with our other duties, but later one of my colleagues spotted Prince Legolas entering Lord Harodel’s chambers. We thought nothing of that either, for Prince Legolas had visited with our Lord before and Lord Harodel had informed us to make the prince welcome. However later, I made my way back to my lord’s chambers to help him prepare for the evening meal but when I entered his rooms both he and the prince were missing,” the young man stated.

Aragorn frowned. “What makes you think that your Lord and Legolas did not just venture out for a stroll?” he asked.

The servant again looked nervous. He reached carefully into his pocket before pulling out something wrapped in cloth. He unwrapped the item to reveal a dagger whose hilt was stained with dried blood.

Corlis moved forward then snatching the dagger from the servant and examining it more closely. “Why did you not bring this to the attention of one of the king’s guards?” he asked, looking suspiciously at the man.

“I...I do not know...I...” the young man trailed off looking miserably at his feet.

“What is your name lad?” Eldarion asked gently.

“Froyen, your highness,” the young man responded quietly.

“Well Froyen, it matters not who you reported it to, the important thing is that you did report it. I would advise you to go now to your lord’s rooms and await news. It may be that this all has a simple explanation and if so it is better that you wait to see if your lord returns and then inform us,” Eldarion stated and watched as bowing in acknowledgement of the dismissal the young man left the room.

“I knew it,” Aragorn exploded as soon as the servant had left the room. He took the dagger from Corlis quickly examining the blood on the hilt. “Elvish blood! I knew he could not be trusted. He has taken Legolas,” the king declared.

“My lord?” Corlis queried in confusion.

“Harodel. He covets Legolas and has taken him to carry out his nefarious schemes. We must mount a search quickly. They cannot have gotten too far from the city yet. Corlis, get your best men out, I want him found and dragged back to the city.” The fury on the king’s face ensured that Corlis was swift in leaving to carry out his liege’s orders.

“Father, what makes you so sure that Lord Harodel is responsible for Legolas’ disappearance?” Eldarion asked once Corlis had departed.

“You have seen how his follows Legolas around, always trying to lead him away, and Legolas is too caring to really know the black heart of men,” the king spat out venomously.

“That is just your jealousy speaking lad,” Gimli interrupted brusquely.

Aragorn turned astonished eyes upon the dwarf whose gaze did not falter under the stormy grey glare of the king. Finally Aragorn’s gaze lowered, his shoulder dropping with defeat and the air leaving his body in a long sigh.

“You are very wise friend Gimli,” the king said finally. “What, then, are we to do? I am sure somewhere there is foul play afoot.”

“Indeed, for I know Legolas well and he would not have disappeared for this length of time without letting one of us know his intentions,” the dwarf stated with certainty.

“There may be little we can do until Corlis reports his findings,” Eldarion stated softly, not wanting to dampen the hopes of his father and friend. Silence greeted him.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Legolas lay still, forcing himself to take deep steady breaths instead of panting wildly as his body insisted it should be. The slashes across his chest and back had been bad enough, the knife seemingly laced with something that caused more pain, but that had been nothing compared to what came after. He had thought Cadofel had conceded defeat for the time being once his men had completed their work with the blades, and the prince had still refused to make a sound.

The Gondorian had then ordered for water and his men had poured the cooling substance over the bleeding Prince. Legolas had first thought that Cadofel felt some squeamish desire to wash away the sight and smell of the blood that had been spilt and the water had been refreshing at first. Then a searing agony tore through his body where the water had met the knife wounds. He could not withhold a whimper, his back arched painfully and his mouth open in a soundless scream of agony.

“It is surprising what life-giving water can do to a body when it comes into contact with a simple mineral,” Cadofel said, his gloating voice floating near the Prince’s head.

Legolas ignored the man in an effort to save his concentration and to work on pushing away the pain. However nothing seemed to work and as the intensity of the searing pain increased Legolas felt the edges of his consciousness dull, and with a small gasp he gave into the warm embrace of the darkness that beckoned.

Cadofel smiled as he watched the elf succumb to unconsciousness. He was pleased that the creature was not proving easy to break, it meant that the satisfaction he got out of this would be increased. He turned to one of his men. “Bring me the other one as well. Blindfold and gag him and then secure him to that wall over there,” the Gondorian ordered. Movement at the doorway caught his attention. “Well?”

The man who entered smiled maliciously. “It went as you expected my lord,” he stated simply.

Cadofel laughed in delight. “Excellent. Things go well indeed. Return to the palace and watch,” he said turning back to the bound form in the centre of the room and effectively dismissing the man behind him.

A short time later his men returned dragging a bound Lord Harodel into the room. He was out cold from a blow to the head but that did not bother the older man, he was content to wait for both his captives to awaken before beginning again.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

This time Legolas’ return to consciousness was slower, leaving the elf feeling groggy and confused. He almost panicked when he realised he could not see, but then as he other senses came alive once more he understood that he was still blindfolded. He pulled weakly against the restraints but choked back a pained cry instead as the movement caused the pain from his wounds to flare in response.

“Will you not give in to your pain,” a voice whispered from his left. “Scream just once and you’ll feel so much better,” Cadofel continued, his fingers idly tracing patterns upon the prince’s wounded body.

“Nay, I will not,” Legolas forced out through gritted teeth. His breath hitched as a sharp fingernail probed one of the gashes. “Why are you doing this? What do you want from me?” he asked finally, needing to understand the reason behind his abduction and torture.

The hand withdrew from his body. “Why am I doing this? There are many reasons actually but all of them are for my satisfaction. What I want from you, that is something different. At first I sought to woo you. I would have given you anything you desired, your only reason to exist would have been to pleasure me, but you show yourself as the whore you are, throwing yourself at lesser men. Now I would not taint myself by sinking into your used flesh, instead you will give me satisfaction with your death, however I have not decided yet when I will grant you that boon.”

He heard Cadofel move further away from him, his senses focussed on tracking the man. He was unprepared for the sudden pain of a sharp dagger being embedded in his right thigh. A moan broke free of his lips, a wretched sound that should have invoked pity for the poor creature that had created it. Instead it was an encouragement to those that heard it and circling the elven prince, Cadofel’s henchman waited until the Prince had recovered a little before driving a narrow spike into the prince’s side.

Over the next few hours Legolas spent his time between fighting back the urge to give voice to his agony in defiance of Cadofel’s twisted pleasure, and trying to fight back the pain whilst wondering when the next blow would fall. Jarik was not a foolish man, he had long since honed his skills in the service of Lord Cadofel and he used that to his advantage now as he teased the wounded elf, sometimes allowing minutes to pass between blows, at others striking one part of the body immediately after another. He could see the elf fighting the need to scream, and he renewed his efforts to force a cry of pain from the prince.

When he had finished his work the broken form of the elf lay still. Lungs labouring to draw breath into lungs supported by broken ribs, each breath sharply pulling along the sharp edges of bone that threatened to tear the thin lining of the prince’s lungs. He looked over at his lord who sat with the now conscious Harodel. The younger man’s blindfold had been removed for him to witness the prince’s pain, and tears slowly tracked their way down his face. Cadofel smiled in satisfaction as he watched the apparent distress on the other noble’s face. His satisfaction increased as he looked upon the semi conscious elf prince.

Jarik looked questioningly at his lord who nodded in response and the henchman released the prince from the chains that were no longer needed to restrain him. Muffled whimpers of pain escaped the prince as his arms were returned to his sides, broken bones and bleeding wounds announcing their displeasure at the movement with searing pain. The blindfold was then removed. Legolas winced as even the dim light of this torture chamber assaulted his sensitive eyes.

“You see how beautiful he is in his pain?” Cadofel remarked lightly to Harodel.

The younger lord made an angry sound through his gag, his eyes shooting daggers at his captor. Cadofel laughed, patting Harodel’s head in a patronising manner before rising to his feet and walking over to his other captive. He looked down at the elf, the fair face untouched by any mark, the eyes glazed with pain and he felt his body stir in response.

Legolas was aware of very little beyond his own pain, but the feeling of fingers lightly stroking his face brought him out of his daze. He jerked weakly away but received only more agony for his actions, as his body protested the movement.

“So beautiful in your distress,” Cadofel said in an almost wondering tone, his hand moving to stroke the golden hair, now damp with the prince’s sweat and blood. “Things could have been so much easier for you had you not just given into me that first time. One dance and things would have been so different. You would have been cherished and protected instead of lying here in pain.” Cadofel removed his hand from Legolas’ hair instead taking one of the elf’s hands into his own, turning it over and lightly stroking along the palm and slender fingers. “You have beautiful hands my prince, which is why I ordered them to remain untouched.”

Legolas watched helplessly as his hand was taken into the grasp of his captor, Cadofel’s words fading into background noise. He closed his eyes in despair. He could not hold back a muffled whimper as his hand was pulled along with his arm away from his body. He turned his head with effort to see what Cadofel was doing and was alarmed to see the tented breeches of the Gondorian. Cadofel pulled the elf’s hand towards his clothed flesh and Legolas felt his gorge rise as his hand was forced into contact with the hard length of the man’s desire. His fingers were forced into a parody of a caress that stroked along the flesh, which was hot even through the man’s garments and regardless of the pain he knew it would cause, he struggled anew, his panic increasing as the strong grip of his captor refused to release him.

The Gondorian lord had been unable to resist as he took the elf’s hand. He stroked his hand across flesh calloused from a lifetime of weapons training yet still remarkably soft and fair. He brought the hand lower to his cloth covered straining flesh, moving the fingers in a semblance of a stroke. He sighed in pleasure as the friction heightened his arousal. Then the elf began to struggle. He growled in frustration as the elf attempted to pull away from him. His ire growing, he released the prince before calling Jarik to him.

He cast another baleful glare at the elf before issuing his order. “Bury him,” he bit out.

Jarik nodded, knowing what his lord had planned and he called for two of his men to come and assist him in transporting the prince. Between them they lifted the struggling form of the immortal uncaring of his injuries and took him from the room.

When he had heard and understood Cadofel’s orders Legolas felt his heart clench tightly in terror, they were going to bury him, alive? He struggled violently against the hands that grasped him, but his own injuries served to defeat him, and it was not long before he lost the strength to fight further and the men were able to carry him unhindered from the room. They did not travel far and Legolas was unable to do anything as his body was tossed roughly into a small cell. The door was slammed shut and he was thrust into darkness once more as all light disappeared. He heard the sounds of a key in a rusty lock and then the footsteps moved away.

He lay where he had been thrown, unable to command his body to move. Of their own volition his senses stretched out but all he could feel was stone, all around him. Thick metres of stone that would trap any screams within. Legolas felt the weight of the stone crushing him and for the first time in his immortal life he wished death would come swiftly. He let out a scream of anguish, calling for his love and with tears streaming down his face he gave in to the dark embrace that called out to him.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Aragorn woke from his troubled sleep with one name on his lips. “Legolas!”

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Part 5

After witnessing the elf being locked into the small cell that would serve as his tomb Cadofel walked awkwardly back to the main chamber. His body was still achingly hard but he ignored it. It was time to finish this and return to his estates. Harodel rested where he had been left, the one man set to watch over him sufficient to guard against the non existent threat he posed.

“Lord Harodel, you should never have set your sights so high,” he said cruelly. He turned to Jarik. “See to it that he gets outside the city but make sure he does not live to tell anyone the truth.” Cadofel turned away from the bound man and left the room signalling his dismissal of the whole company.

Harodel could only look on with wide, frightened eyes as the large man Cadofel had appointed as his executioner moved closer.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Aragorn had been unable to go back to sleep, his thoughts unsettled by the feeling that he was missing something and that combined with the feeling that Legolas was calling to him kept his brain far too active to allow for relaxation. He had no destination in mind yet he found that his feet had drawn him to the guest wings. He was about to turn around and head back to his own suite when he heard voices. He thought it strange that any of Gondor’s nobles would be awake at this time of night and not wishing to alert them to his presence he eased forward until he could just see around the bend in the corridor.

When he saw Froyen standing before Lord Cadofel he was surprised. Froyen was supposed to be Harodel’s servant, why then would he be calling upon the other noble at this hour. His confusion deepened as he watched Cadofel idly stroke the young man’s cheek, the younger man seeming to lean into the touch, trying to deepen it. Cadofel chuckled and pressed his lips against the younger man’s forehead before stepping back into his room. With a small smile of satisfaction Froyen turned away and made his way down the corridor towards Lord Harodel’s rooms.

Aragorn called upon long unused skills to slip quietly away and back to his own chambers. The king spent the remainder of the night preparing a plan of action in order to prove his new suspicions. When the sun rose above the tree line he sent our messengers to summon both his son and Gimli to him along with Corlis.

When they had all assembled before him he told them what he had seen last night. Eldarion reacted with wide eyed disbelief, whilst Corlis retained his impassive expression, Gimli however was not one to retain his emotion and it took them all a fair amount of time to calm him down, and then only successfully after Aragorn had explained his plans for that morning. Corlis nodded swiftly and left to obey his king’s instructions.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Froyen tried to hide his unease as he was summoned before the king. He thought quickly to remind himself of what he had previously told his monarch, satisfied that he wouldn’t trip himself up he entered the king’s study, his disquiet grew at the impassive expression on Aragorn’s face and the sight of the prince, the Lord Gimli and the king’s chief bodyguard Corlis all standing at the king’s side.

“Froyen, thank you for coming, I was hoping that you could assist us further with our enquiries,” the king said.

Froyen nodded, his tongue darting out to wet suddenly dry lips. “Of course Your Majesty, anything I can do to be of service,” he quickly sketched a respectful bow.

Aragorn smiled, however the young servant was anything but reassured. “Good, perhaps you can tell me then why you were seen leaving Lord Cadofel’s chambers last night when I ordered you to remain in your own lord’s rooms,” Aragorn said, his tone light as though asking the time of the day.

Froyen froze, his panicked gaze flew around the room as if seeking an escape before reluctantly moving back to the king who still stared at him with that bland regard. “Your Majesty?” he asked seeking to add confusion to his tone and buy himself some more time.

“Where is your lord?” the king asked suddenly, all warmth leaching from his gaze as his icy regard impaled the younger man.

“I...I do not know Sire, I have not seen my lord since before his disappearance,” Froyen stuttered.

“So you refuse to admit you and your lord are in collusion with Lord Cadofel and between you have kidnapped Legolas?” Gimli growled out.

“Gimli,” Aragorn said sharply but his gaze remained fixed on the younger man.

Feeling a little more certain Froyen answered the dwarf. “Indeed I do deny it Lord Gimli, Lord Cadofel has long been a benefactor of my family, when he heard of Lord Harodel’s disappearance and his possible involvement in the kidnapping of Prince Legolas he sought only to comfort me and bid me come to his rooms. Forgive me Your Majesty I know that you ordered me to remain in Lord Harodel’s room but I thought it would be unforgivably rude of me to ignore Lord Cadofel.”

Aragorn frowned before nodding. “Very well Froyen thank you. You may leave now.”

Froyen smiled and bowed to the king and prince before turning and departing. The king shared a look amongst the people who remained in the room. He was disrupted from commenting by a knock at the door. Frowning he gestured for Corlis to answer it. There were a few hushed words spoken before the door opened and the bodyguard allowed a younger man from his command to enter. Sharing a swift look the older man nodded for the young guardsman to continue.

“Your Majesty, Your Highness, Lord Gimli. We have found Lord Harodel,” he announced.

Aragorn pushed back his surprise. “Where was he?” he asked sharply.

“We found him outside the city, not too far into the forest. One of the returning search party’s came across him, but Sire he was not alone. We attempted to take the other man into custody, unfortunately though, he was killed.” The young guardsman paused. “Sire, Prince Legolas was not with them, but Lord Harodel has been grievously wounded. We did our best to aid him but I fear he may not last very long,” the guard said apologetically.

The king frowned. “Is he conscious at all?” He was given a negative answer. “Very well, bring him to a private healing room and have that room guarded at all times, I will see to him myself. We can but hope that he will regain consciousness long enough to tell us what has happened to Legolas.”

The young guard nodded and left swiftly.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Aragorn tried not to let his shock show when he entered the healing rooms. Lord Harodel lay on one of the healing beds, however his head had been so badly distorted by bruising and swelling that it was hard to see how the search party had identified him beyond recognising his clothing and the signet ring he still wore. He moved over to the bed to do a more detailed examination and immediately noted swelling around both eyes and bruising underneath which seemed to indicate a fracture of the man’s skull. He also noted with dismay the traces of blood at the ears, which was a sign of internal pressure and bleeding. He quickly made a check of the rest of Harodel’s body which seemed miraculously untouched aside from a bruise or two on his torso and marks on the man’s wrists which looked suspiciously like rope burns.

Putting aside that discovery for later the king began to work towards saving the man’s life, if only for him to regain consciousness long enough to tell them of Legolas.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

“How is he?” Gimli asked as soon as Aragorn entered the room.

Aragorn sighed wearily taking a seat before responding to the dwarf. “I have done all I can but even I cannot be certain he will live to see the dawn.”

“How then are we to discover what happened to Legolas, father?” Eldarion asked.

Aragorn looked up at his son and friend. “I have been thinking about that and I think it would only be right for Froyen to attend his lord during this difficult time,” he said with a glint in his eyes.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Froyen was escorted to the private healing room of Lord Harodel with the king’s sincerest hope that having so caring and loyal a manservant as Froyen, the Gondorian noble would perhaps stand more of a chance of recovery. As he was left alone with his noble lord Froyen assessed the wounded man. The king seemed to think that Lord Harodel stood a good chance of recovering swiftly, that they had been lucky to find him as they had. Froyen knew though, that Harodel must never see the light of day again, he knew what he had to do.

He waited a few hours to be sure he would be left alone and then he carefully approached the bed. He looked down upon the man for whom he had spent his entire life in service to and sneered. This man was weak and foolish and Gondor would not miss him. Reaching out he placed both hands around the man’s neck his thumbs meeting over the windpipe and gently began to exert pressure.

Harodel did not react immediately but after a short time his body began to protest at the lack of air, gasping and straining beneath Froyen’s hands.

“Goodbye my lord,” the servant said gleefully as he watched the life begin to drain from the older man.

He froze as he felt a sharp point at his neck. “I would release him if you wish to remain attached to your head,” a voice said quietly in his ear, and in reaction to both the command and his own surprise, Froyen did as he had been bid. “Good, now move over to the wall,” the voice said again and with a heart clenching terror Froyen recognised the harsh tone of the king’s voice. He had no choice but to obey and moved quietly to stand by the wall.

“Gimli watch him,” the king ordered as he quickly checked on the status of the injured lord.

Finding Harodel’s health had not been adversely affected he moved to the door to allow his guards to enter. He ordered them to bind the younger man and have him escorted to a cell where he would join them shortly. Gimli left with the guards and Aragorn quickly called for a healer to sit with Harodel, to ensure that there were no repercussions from Froyen’s attack.

He quickly made his way down to the palace cells in order to interrogate his prisoner but upon stepping down into the lower levels of the palace he felt a strange sense of urgency. He was unable to determine what was making him feel this way and so shrugged away the feeling, before continuing on to the cell where Froyen was being detained.

When he arrived the young man had already been secured in chains and attached to the wall of his cell. His face held a hint of defiance and bravado but Aragorn did not wish to waste any time playing with the lad.

“You speak of Lord Cadofel as a benefactor,” he began. “Know this, I can be both benefactor and executioner, defy me and not only will you pay the price, but you will first be made to watch as your family suffers,” the king said, his eyes reflecting only menace.

Froyen felt all defiance melt away from him at the look in the king’s eyes and understood finally that he was standing before the man who had roused the armies of Gondor and Rohan and marched up to the black gates of Mordor. He felt shame as he lost control of his bladder and a warm gush of his own urine trickled down his legs.

“Forgive me my lord, I had no choice. He would have taken my life had I not,” he wailed piteously.

“Who?” Aragorn demanded.

Hanging his head in defeat one word escaped the desperate young man. “Cadofel.”

“Explain to me why.” Aragorn ordered.

“Sire, I know not the reasons, only that he was to take Lord Harodel and the elf and then make you believe that Lord Harodel had stolen the elf in order to deflect your attentions away from himself,” Froyen got out, eager now to assist.

“And did you see where he was holding them?” Gimli demanded moving forward to look up at the captive man.

Froyen shook his head. “I swear my lords I did not. I know nothing other than what Lord Cadofel has spoken in my presence.”

Aragorn did not respond any further, instead he spun and left the cell with Gimli at his heels. He made his way back up to the palace summoning Corlis to escort Lord Cadofel to him.

Corlis wasted little time and shortly after Aragorn had settled himself in his private audience room with Eldarion at his right and Gimli at his left Corlis arrived with a loudly protesting Lord Cadofel.

“What is the meaning of this? Within a matter of days I have been summoned in this rude and offensive manner before the king and I demand an apology, I have done nothing wrong,” the older Gondorian said volubly.

“Bring him before me,” King Elessar in all his majesty sat straight in his chair, his bleak regard fixed on the man being summoned into his presence.

Cadofel was ushered forward and as he met the wintry gaze of the king he felt the first stirrings of fear touch his heart.

“Where is he?” the king bit out menacingly.

Cadofel did not respond immediately, his gaze flicking around the room to assess those within. “I do not know to whom Your Majesty refers,” he said finally in a disinterested tone, his body carefully assuming a nonchalant pose.

Aragorn stood so quickly that it startled Cadofel into taking a step back, which brought him into contact with the steady hand of Corlis who pushed him forward once more.

“Do not lie to me,” Aragorn said, his voice cracking with the intensity of a whip.

Cadofel saw defeat staring him in the face and he rallied, attempting to salvage something. “I want safe passage from Gondor with a promise that you will not place a bounty on my head and allow me to keep my amassed wealth,” the Gondorian Lord said quickly.

Aragorn stared hard at the Gondorian. His nostrils flaring as he attempted to control his rage enough not to smite the sorry excuse for a man before he got what he wanted. “Denied! You will never again leave this city. Now tell me where he is before I have you dragged down to the dungeons and forcibly beat it out of you myself.”

Cadofel laughed which caused Aragorn to pause for a moment. “I am afraid that Prince Legolas cannot afford to wait for you to break me,” he said in a sneering voice.

“Why?” A soft voice asked and Cadofel turned to look at Prince Eldarion.

“Why? I shall tell you Your Highness. It is because Prince Legolas snubbed my attentions, because he sullied himself by taking that pathetic Harodel to his bed. Because your father humiliated me in front of the entire court of Gondor. Because I could. Because I wanted to.” Cadofel said, and turned back to face the king. “You see the part you yourself have played in the destruction of your friend. This was the perfect revenge, to punish the elf, his lover, and his friend. I am very satisfied with the way things have turned out. No matter what you do to me now, I shall know I have defeated the mighty King of Gondor.”

Aragorn snarled, his rage a barely controlled force of nature. “Take him to the dungeons. I will deal with him myself.”

Corlis nodded and escorted the now compliant Gondorian lord from the room. As soon as Cadofel had left the room Aragorn sank back down to his chair, his face seeming to age with the crushing weight of despair.

“It is my fault,” he stated bleakly. “Legolas is lost to us and it is because of me.” The king felt the guilt washing through him, to know that his actions had played an important part in the loss of his love. Worse still was the jealousy that cut him like a knife at the memory of Cadofel’s words, that Legolas had taken Harodel to his bed whilst denying Aragorn’s own love for the prince.

“Legolas is not lost yet,” he heard Gimli say but he could not summon the energy to lift his head and look at his friend.

“Gimli is right father. We must continue the search. We can now call the search parties back into the city for we can assume now that Cadofel never removed Lord Harodel or Legolas from within the city walls, to do so and still remain within the public eye of the palace would have been impossible,” Eldarion said.

“Perhaps we should look within the palace itself since Cadofel never appeared to leave,” Gimli suggested. “Aragorn you have made it your business to know this palace intimately. Is there anywhere that Cadofel could have hidden Legolas once he took him?”

Aragorn looked up finally. “Hide? I do not know Gimli,” he said distractedly. “I cannot think, there is a crushing presence around me it feels like the walls are closing in upon me like...” he broke off suddenly, sitting straight in his chair. “The dungeons,” he announced suddenly, rising quickly and moving towards the door.

“Aragorn wait, what are you talking about?” Gimli shouted as he and Eldarion took off after the now running king. “Aragorn! You block headed human.”

They finally caught up with him when they reached the palace dungeons. Aragorn stood in one of the central corridors with his eyes closed and his head tilted to one side.

“I can feel him,” the king said as Gimli and Eldarion moved to his side. He tilted his head again before taking off at a brisk walk. The dwarf and prince shared a look before shrugging and following after the man.

Aragorn made his way through the dungeons, stopping at every junction to confirm in which direction the feelings of crushing weight felt strongest. He abstractedly noticed that they were heading deeper under the palace, the corridors becoming dustier and empty and he realised with a sick thought that it was entirely possible for someone to be locked away down here and never been seen again, so long had this part of the dungeons been unused. He had taken a torch from one of the still functioning parts of the prison and he used this now to light his way through the dark, dank stone that surrounded him.

He felt the sense of urgency goading him on increase and he realised he was getting close to the source of the feelings of despair he had tapped into. He started calling out Legolas’ name as he made his way further and deeper.

Eldarion and Gimli each with a torch of their own, followed the king into the darkness. One shared look revealed that both realised the king was unaware of their presence, his whole being bent on discovering where Legolas lay hidden and so they remained close by, knowing that the king would require assistance once the elf was discovered. In a stroke of genius Eldarion had picked up some stone and had been marking their passage through the corridors in order to ensure they could find their way back out.

Aragorn halted as he stepped into a new corridor, the weight of the despair almost bringing him to his knees. He forced himself to move onwards knowing that he was so close, and soon found himself standing before a door, rusty with age but still obviously solid. He almost wailed as he realised that he had no key for the door. His fist hit the metal and he winced in response as he felt pain burst along his nerve endings.

“Move aside lad,” a gentle voice said and he realised with a start that Eldarion and Gimli had followed him. Eldarion took his arm and the king allowed himself reluctantly to be moved aside so Gimli could assess the door.

“Can you open it?” he asked his friend quietly.

Gimli took in the solid weight of the door and knew he’d need his tools to break in, but dwarves were smart and if there was anything a dwarf could do best it was working with stone and metals. His eyes alighted on the door’s hinges and he smiled in triumph. Simple!

He took a small hatchet from his belt before moving towards the bottom hinge. Turning the hatchet over he used the blunt end to begin tapping the bottom of the peg that secured the door’s hinge to the frame.

Aragorn and Eldarion looked on in astonishment and growing hope as Gimli carefully eased the peg from the door. Once the dwarf had finished he gestured for Aragorn to approach.

“I need your help laddie, I cannot reach the top hinge,” the dwarf explained and handed his hatchet over to the man.

Following Gimli’s example Aragorn made short work on the remaining hinge. He then used the blade of the hatchet to ease the door away from the frame, allowing space for his fingers to grip. He passed the tool back to the dwarf and with a deep breath he pulled. His arm muscles bunched tightly as he exerted all his strength in pulling back the metal, but he encountered resistance from where the tumblers in the lock secured the door to the other part of the frame. Then two more pairs of hands were helping him and together they pulled until with a final groan the door moved back far enough for them to gain access to the room.

The room within was black and Aragorn looked around for his torch. He saw the extinguished item lying on the floor near the cell and realised he must have thrown it down upon his arrival here, then Eldarion was there passing him his own torch. Aragorn took it gratefully and almost fearfully he allowed it to cast a light upon the contents of the room.

“No!” he exclaimed, almost dropping the torch in response to what he saw. Common sense halted him at the last moment and turning he thrust the item back into the hands of his son before quickly moving forward.

Lying still, in a pool of his own blood was the elf, his features slack and his eyes glazed. He was so pale that Aragorn feared they had arrived too late, and then uttered a swift prayer to the Valar as he found a weak pulse under his questing fingertips.

“He is alive,” he announced and was met with relieved gasps. “We must get him out of here and quickly,” Aragorn said and his searching hands and eyes began to take in the grievous wounds inflicted upon the elf.

Moving forward the king gently scooped the injured elf into his arms, knowing that he could cause further harm by moving the prince but knowing also that he did not have time to waste.

Using Eldarion’s clever guides they made their way swiftly through the dungeons back to the upper levels. They began to pass guards startled by the appearance of their royal family and honoured guests, one of whom was lying insensate in the king’s arms. Aragorn ignored them all his focus intent on reaching his goal, the Halls of Healing.

Once they arrived Legolas was placed into a secure private room and with guards maintaining a presence outside Aragorn set to work on the elf’s injuries. He quickly ran his hands over the prince’s body trying to determine where the injuries were located. He then thoroughly cleaned the stabs and gashes before carefully bandaging them. He set the broken bones, splinting them to keep them immobile whilst they healed. Aragorn also found signs of a head injury, which looked to be days old, that had begun healing and as he went about this Eldarion and Gimli watched quietly from the side of the room.

“How is he?” Gimli asked hesitantly.

“Will he recover?” Eldarion asked.

The king frowned. “It is not good. He has been hurt badly but I fear that is not the worst of it. I have set the bones that were broken and treated the other wounds but his soul has retreated and I do not know if we can call it back to his body.”

Nothing could be said to such heartbreaking news and so both friends sat in silence as they awaited assistance.

“He will come back to us,” Gimli said with confidence. “He has no other choice.”

Aragorn smiled half-heartedly. “I pray you are right Master dwarf, now please Eldarion come here and lift his upper body a little. We must begin giving him fluids to help replace those he has lost.”

Eldarion moved forward sitting at the head of the bed and helping to lift Legolas into a half sitting position mindful always of the elf’s injuries, but he was disturbed by the blank eyes of the elf. Aragorn approached with a tumbler of water and herbs and placed it against Legolas’ lips. He tipped a little of the water into the prince’s mouth but this evoked no reaction. Sighing Aragorn used one hand to massage the prince’s throat, assisting him in swallowing. He continued until he had forced Legolas to swallow the contents of the tumbler, indicating then that Eldarion could place him back down.

“Now we must wait,” Aragorn said.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Days passed swiftly without any change in the elven prince’s status. Aragorn was forced to leave Legolas’ side more often than he wanted in order to see to things that his ministers could not handle alone. Gimli remained a constant presence at the elf’s side, with Eldarion joining him as often as possible, yet Legolas remained oblivious. Aragorn grew more concerned as he noted that the elven ability to heal swiftly did not seem to be aiding the prince. He was beginning to lose hope that they would have the elf returned to them whole and hale.

It was painful to watch the gashes on Legolas’ body heal with the same speed as that of a mortal, which now appeared to be at a snail’s pace for the elf’s waiting friends. After five days of waiting, having forced liquids down Legolas’ throat, changing bandages and otherwise praying to their respective gods Aragorn felt he could wait no more.

He moved to sit on the bed beside the elven prince. “Legolas,” he called in a demanding tone, but there was no change in the vacant eyes. “Legolas, hear me. I will not allow you to fade away in this manner. You are stronger than this. You are the son of a king and your duty is to your people and to your friends. Now I demand that you cease this nonsense and arise.”

There was a hopeful silence in which the three mortals awaited the reaction to these words. The hope faded though as no response was forthcoming.

“I do not know what else to do,” Aragorn cried despairingly. “Still I feel the crushing weight of his despair, the feeling that every wall is getting closer, and will box me in until I’m buried alive. Curse this stone I...” A look of revelation crossed the king’s features.

“Aragorn what is it?” Gimli asked in growing concern as the king began to hit his own head.

“Stupid, I am so foolish, I should have realised. We need to take Legolas outside now. He needs to feel fresh air on his body, he needs to reaffirm his bond with Arda. All this stone surrounding him it is killing him slowly. Come help me with him,” Aragorn ordered and using blankets he made a sling in which he could safely carry Legolas outside to the gardens.

Many of the palace’s occupants stopped to watch in amazement as their king came out of the Halls of Healing carrying the still body of the elven prince, their own crown prince and the dwarf lord trailing behind him.

Aragorn knew exactly where to go and he swiftly allowed his feet to carry him to the spot where Legolas would commune with nature every morning. He gently placed the prince down onto the grass, carefully moving the Prince’s hands until the long pale fingers rested upon the green shoots.

He sat back with Gimli and Eldarion on the other side of the elf, to wait and to watch. They sat for half an hour in silence, each of them silently hoping to see movement or a flicker of awareness from their friend.

Aragorn found that he could not look at Legolas’ face without seeing the vacant eyes staring up at him and he instead focused on his friend’s long graceful hand. A finger appeared to twitch and Aragorn blinked to make sure his vision had not betrayed him. He held his breath to see if it would happen again, and was rewarded a moment later when the fingers twitched again. Then slowly the fingers curled slightly feeling the grass beneath them.

Hoping against all hope Aragorn lifted his gaze back up to the elf’s face. The features remained slack but under the king’s watchful gaze the elf prince blinked.

“Legolas!” he exclaimed, surprised, joyful, and amazed all at once. He gently took the prince’s hand into his own, squeezing slightly to offer reassurance. “Legolas awake,” he called again softly. Then the head turned slightly towards him.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

From the moment his spirit had retreated from the darkness and stone Legolas had been aware of nothing. His mind drifted in a sea of emptiness in which nothing could touch him, but it was not like elven reverie where his mind could wander freely, resting his body at the same time.

Awareness has returned slowly. At first just a feeling of warmth upon his skin, then gradually he was aware of something under his fingertips. Something that felt soft and full of life. Smells began to filter through his nose, smells he was familiar with, tree blossom, grass, flowers, animal musk, sweat.

He became aware of his hand being taken by a larger one, the skin dry and calloused against his own. The hand squeezed and Legolas drew a strange sense of comfort from the touch. He blinked. A voice called his name, a voice he knew and he turned his head slowly towards the voice, his eyes slowly focussing.

“’gorn,” the harsh rasp escaped from his lips surprising him

“Legolas, thank the Valar,” Aragorn said his free hand moving to stroke the elf’s cheek.

“You’ve had us mighty worried Master Elf,” Gimli said brusquely. “I’ll thank you not to do so again.”

“Gi’li,” Legolas rasped, his throat dry and rough from disuse.

“Rest Legolas, all is well now,” Aragorn said softly, his hand gently brushing aside the golden locks of hair. His hand paused in its ministrations at the prince’s next words.

“Hurts,” Legolas managed to get out. “Bright.” He closed his eyes to block out the now painful light that overloaded his senses. The pain that had began to slowly encroach upon his new awareness hit now with full force and Legolas moaned softly as his body made him aware of its injuries.

“Legolas, perhaps we should get you back inside, you are still very ill,” Aragorn said. He was answered with another moan as Legolas shook his head in disagreement. Aragorn sighed. “Very well, we shall stay out here for a short time, but I want you to take some more water and some herbs that will help with the pain. Keep your eyes closed for a while, I shall get you some shade so you can adjust slowly.”

Legolas did not argue, only whimpering a little as his body was lifted enough for the water to be tipped into his mouth. He swallowed the liquid as it trickled into his mouth and it helped to ease his sore throat. Aragorn’s herbs worked quickly and Legolas felt the pain subside to a dull ache.

As the sunlight warmed his body he felt awareness flow back more fully and he felt his body rejoice in it’s reunion with the natural life of his surroundings. A tingling began to spread through his body and the prince realised that until now his body had not begun healing. The tingling, which was indicative of his healing powers beginning their regenerating, increased until Legolas was aware of his whole body.

He sighed and for the first time since his capture he felt himself pulled into the elven dream world where his mind and body could rest and recover, his eyes remaining closed.

Aragorn watched carefully as Legolas seemed to relax into the grass beneath him. He saw the prince’s breathing even out and smiled as he realised that the elf had simply fallen asleep. He decided that Legolas would suffer no harm if he remained outside for another hour or two and then he would return him to his room, not in the Halls of Healing but in his own brighter airier room with the large balcony that looked out over the gardens.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

When Legolas woke again he was at first confused. His breath hitched in his throat when he sensed the presence of stone around him but as awareness reached him and his senses sharpened he realised this place felt different from the cell he had been left in. There was an openness to this place that was friendlier and more familiar and opening his eyes with a start, Legolas realised he was in his own chambers. Someone had thoughtfully left the balcony doors wide open to allow the sounds of the garden below to reach him.

A gentle knock at the door startled the elven prince, but whoever was at the door waited a few moments before opening the door.

“Legolas?” Aragorn’s softly spoken voice penetrated the room. When Legolas did not protest his presence he stepped further into the room. “I have come to check on you,” he said. “Are you still in pain? Do not try to be brave my friend. I will give you some herbs to reduce the pain, but I promise they will not make you sleep. How would you like to go outside again later?” the king asked, and was rewarded with a lightening in the prince’s features, as the elf nodded in response.

Legolas paused for a moment as his still dry throat tried to form a word and Aragorn leaned closer to hear. “Did you find Lord Harodel?” The question had been bothering him since his return to consciousness.

Jealousy pierced Aragorn as Legolas tried to form the name of the man Cadofel has called the elf’s lover. He swallowed it down not wanting to distress his friend.

“We found him, still alive. He was beaten badly but is recovering in the Halls of Healing,” he said and saw the relief that was evident on the elf’s face. “I should leave you to your rest, I will send in a healer with the herbs to dull the pain and arrange for Gimli to sit with you outside later on,” he said standing, suddenly eager to leave the room.

Legolas frowned in confusion and had no time to protest as Aragorn quickly departed. He did not know what might have caused this sudden change in behaviour when only days ago he had been eager to claim the prince’s body for his own. Perhaps I am no longer attractive to him, Legolas thought with a pained sigh and wished that his epiphany with regards to his feelings for Aragorn had not come to him at all. He regretted his decision to send his comrades back to Ithilien, wishing strongly for the company of an elf, to hear a light ballad or two to soothe his troubled spirit.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Part 6

As the days past Aragorn noted a remarkable speed in Legolas’ healing. His broken bones began to set and fuse together once more. The gashes on the elf Prince’s body had closed leaving only red strips, which would eventually fade away to leave no trace of the wounds.

Legolas had been allowed to spend his afternoons in the gardens resting in the sunlight provided someone sat with him, usually Gimli or Eldarion. After a few days Legolas felt well enough to ask Aragorn’s permission to visit Lord Harodel and Aragorn reluctantly agreed, in his heart not wishing to have Legolas see Harodel again, however the elven prince was unaware of the king’s dark thoughts.

When he was carried into Harodel’s room Legolas was pleased to see the nobleman sitting up in his bed, a sling holding one arm and the remains of bruises on his face the only evidence of his ordeal. The nobleman was equally pleased to see Legolas looking much better than the last time he had laid eyes upon the prince.

“Prince Legolas, I am so very pleased to see you,” he said enthusiastically as soon as the elf appeared in his room. “And I you Lord Harodel, I feared that you did not survive our... adventure,” Legolas said, looking for a word that in no way described what they had endured.

Harodel grimaced. “Indeed. Had it not been for patrols that the king sent out to search for us I may not have been so lucky. They found me before Cadofel’s henchman could finish the job he had been assigned.” The nobleman paused for a moment before looking at Legolas with a direct gaze. “I do not know how much you remember but for a time Lord Cadofel kept me in the same room whilst he… whilst his man… hurt you.”

Legolas flinched at the sound of the other man’s name, but forced a smile anyway. “I see. I am afraid that I was unaware, but I am grateful that we are both free now, however it seems you will be much in need of convalescence. Perhaps you would like to accompany your sons to Ithilien and remain with our colony for a short time?” he asked finally.

Lord Harodel in genuine pleasure. “That is a very kind offer Prince Legolas, I would be most honoured to do so, we can still collect my boys on the way to your home then?” he asked.

“Yes of course. I sent my people home to make arrangements for their stay but it will take no time at all to make somewhere available for you as well. I understand that humans are not comfortable with sleeping so high off the ground,” Legolas said smiling this time in amusement.

“I am afraid that not all races have the ability to land so easily on our feet were we to actually fall from so high a perch my lord,” the younger man said.

Legolas laughed. “Then it is agreed.”

“What is agreed?” Gimli asked as he walked into the room followed by Aragorn and Eldarion.

“When Aragorn sees fit to release us from our beds we will be leaving, I am returning with Lord Harodel to his estate,” Legolas explained.

“For how long?” Eldarion asked frowning.

“I am uncertain at present, it should not take long, and then we will journey on to Ithilien,” the elf said.

“Both of you?” Aragorn asked sharply.

“Yes of course,” Legolas said, his brow furrowed in confusion.

“Very well, then I shall do my best to make sure you are both ready to travel as soon as possible,” the king said before turning and departing, leaving a room full of stunned faces.

“Does something ail him?” Legolas asked the king’s son and his friend.

Gimli and Eldarion shared a look before Eldarion shrugged uncomfortably, yet they said nothing. Sighing in frustration Legolas turned back to Lord Harodel.

“If you will excuse me, I will venture out into the gardens to partake of some fresh air, perhaps later if you are given permission to move from your bed you would like to join me,” the elven prince asked.

Harodel nodded, smiling and Legolas allowed his friends to see him back to his room.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Aragorn had no destination in mind when he left Lord Harodel’s sick room, only wishing to be as far away from the sight of his beloved elf sat next to the other man as possible. Yet he could not wipe the image from his mind and anger began to cloud his thoughts.

Why should Legolas give his affections to this stranger. I have known him for many years, long has he been my friend. My love for him was strong in my breast before this man had even ventured into the elf’s line of sight. It should be me he wishes to be with, the king thought to himself.

A frustrated sob left his throat, surprising him. He looked around and seeing he was alone in a quiet part of the palace he allowed himself to sink to the floor, his head held in his hands. His heart ached, a constant thrum of despair. He had loved truly only once before. With Arwen though, he had never felt this uncertainty, this pain. Theirs had been a quiet love that was always present. Their passion for each other had been great but it was a devoted passion that allowed them to be together and simply bask in the other’s presence, without feeling the need to possess.

With Legolas it was different. Perhaps something to do with their homelands Aragorn thought idly. Where Arwen had been brought up in the serenity of both Rivendell with her scholarly father, and in Lothlorien with the wise presence of her grandparents, Galadriel and Celeborn, Legolas on the other hand was a woodland elf, and never had Aragorn known a spirit so wild and free. His whole life had been spent in the defence and exploration of his father’s woodland kingdom.

Although now centuries old Legolas was still young to his people and as much experience as he had garnered from defending his homeland, the elven prince had not often been allowed to venture beyond it’s borders. The quest of the fellowship had been the first real opportunity for the elf to see more of the world and with awed eyes he had taken in everything around him, often times reacting with a wonder that was childlike. Aragorn had always found his friend to be fascinating, at first finding himself in the position of an older, more experienced brother, Arwen easily filling the place in his heart for a lover. But even then, the king now realised that he had felt some attraction towards his fair companion, always finding some reason to spend time with the elf.

Arwen’s death had left him naturally devastated but it had only been in the company of Legolas that Aragorn had felt able to dim the pain in order to begin healing. With a guilty start he wondered if Arwen had realised that her husband had romantic feelings towards one of their best friends. He hoped she had not. During her lifetime she had been his world and he would not have caused her pain for anything.

Sighing at the mess his life had become Aragorn rose once more to his feet. His anger spent he instead decided to help Legolas find happiness wherever his heart led him. He would ensure that both his patients healed swiftly and if his own heart broke in the process, well that was something he would have to deal with.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Legolas lowered his still sore and weary body into the comfortable chair that had been provided for him. Next to him Lord Harodel had already been seated, his face still bearing the evidence of his ordeal. Their seats were held to the side of both the council and the king, due to their being the primary witnesses in this trial. A small group of people sat at the rear of the room, which included Gimli, they were the few that had been allowed entry to witness the proceedings. Once everyone had taken their places, the king called for Lord Cadofel to be brought before them.

Everyone watched with bated breath as the nobleman was escorted into the room. He had been given a basic set of tunic and breeches to wear yet his stance remained proud, his eyes boldly meeting the gaze of anyone who looked upon him. He was marched to the centre of the court to a lone chair where he was forced to sit.

“Lord Cadofel you stand on trial before this court to answer the following charges, that you did wilfully abduct both Prince Legolas Thranduilion of Ithilien and Greenwood and Lord Harodel of Gondor. That you did arrange and oversee the torture of Prince Legolas and order the deaths of both Prince Legolas and Lord Harodel. How do you plead to these charges?” the king’s scribe asked.

Lord Cadofel said nothing, but he turned his head to glare at both of his victims. Beside him, Legolas felt Harodel tense in response, but the elven prince felt only anger at the audacity of this mortal.

“Lord Cadofel if you do not answer in your defence then we shall let the records show that you allowed a verdict of guilty to be placed upon you,” Aragorn said finally, frowning at the Gondorian’s distinct lack of interest in the proceedings.

Cadofel finally turned back to face Aragorn, his gaze frank and assessing as he held the king’s eyes. “It matters not,” he said finally, shrugging. “I failed in what I set out to do, there is nothing more to be said.”

Legolas felt only disbelief at Cadofel’s words. The man was making no attempt to alter his fate and in that moment the prince understood that whatever sanity the man had once possessed was now gone. Perhaps lost the moment he took his prisoners, or perhaps later when he was confronted with his crimes.

“Very well, then I have no choice but to pass sentence on you. Lord Cadofel you are stripped of your land and title. You will spend the rest of your days in a cell beneath the palace where you will one day die in a prison of your own making,” Aragorn said, his voice firm and betraying no emotion.

The elven prince could not help feeling satisfaction at this fate. He would feel no sorrow for the lifetime imprisonment of the former nobleman, especially not after the man’s attempts to entomb him. The young elf waited only until the formalities had been settled before he left the courtroom.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Legolas travelled quickly back to his own chambers, Aragorn having released him in good health only that morning. His thoughts became sorrowful as he thought of his friend. Aragorn had constantly avoided him since his rescue and the elven prince could not help but wonder why the change in the man. It confused and hurt him, more so since he had come to the realisation that he had unwittingly given his heart to the king.

Sighing deeply with regret the elven prince decided to pack his things instead. He wanted to leave the city with Lord Harodel as swiftly as possible. They sooner they departed the sooner his charges would be under the boughs of Ithilien. Then once the humans were settled in his colony he had plans to travel to Greenwood. He longed to visit with his father, to feel the unquestioned love the older elf had always bestowed upon him. Perhaps that would help begin to heal the hurt that Aragorn had caused him.

He usually travelled light, and many of his formal clothes had already travelled back to the colony with his comrades, so it did not take long for Legolas to complete his task. The elven prince then decided to break the news of his swift departure to Gimli and Eldarion, and perhaps give Aragorn one last chance to say something.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Legolas looked around the courtyard one last time. Gimli and Eldarion stood nearby, both wearing sorrowful expressions. The elf prince forced a small smile of reassurance for them, he had promised both that he would see them again soon. Aragorn stood behind them, but the man’s expression was closed and Legolas could not tell whether the man was even affected by his leaving. The king had said little after Legolas’ announcement, simply wishing the prince a safe journey before leaving the room.

Hardening his heart against further hurt the elf jumped nimbly up onto his horse’s back and without a word rode out of the palace, Lord Harodel and his company following closely behind.

As soon as Legolas had disappeared from view Aragorn quickly left, leaving his stunned son and friend to watch his departure. The king spent the better part of the following week losing himself in his work as much as possible and avoiding the knowing gazes of his son and Gimli. At the week’s end Eldarion could stand it no longer.

He walked with a purposeful stride to his father’s personal chambers knowing the man would have nowhere else to retreat. He knocked briefly before entering, deciding not to allow his father a chance to send him away.

“This has to stop,” he said without preamble.

Aragorn looked up from his glass of wine to gaze with a bleary red eyed gaze at his son. “What are you talking about?” he said wearily.

“I am speaking of this impossible moping of yours. You said that you loved him yet you allowed him to ride off with another man,” the young prince said, still trying to understand his father’s actions.

“Legolas wanted to be with Harodel,” Aragorn said softly. “I would not stand in the way of his happiness.”

“Father that is nonsense. Legolas loves you. Gimli and I both can see it, why can’t you?” Aragorn said nothing so the young prince stepped closer to his father, kneeling at his feet. “When he left the city he looked as if his heart were broken.”

Aragorn looked up sharply at that, and then shook his head in disbelief. “Nay, you must have been deceived.”

“Was I? Was Gimli? Cadofel took Legolas because he thought that he’d taken up with Lord Harodel, but it was not true, they were not lovers. You never asked Legolas why he spoke so often with Harodel did you?” he asked.

Aragon shook his head. “It is obvious. Legolas is beautiful, both within and without. I am not the only person to see that, but if Legolas has chosen Harodel then I must honour his choice.”

Eldarion sighed. “What if he thought that he did not have a choice?” the young prince asked suddenly.

The king frowned in confusion. “What do you mean?”

“I mean that perhaps he thought that you were not interested in him. If you were to go after him now you could tell him how you feel. Allow him to choose when he is full possession of the facts. You may never have another chance.” Eldarion said.

Aragorn said nothing for a moment, then he put aside his glass before sitting up straight in his chair. “If the king were to disappear for a short time, do you think you could handle the council?” he asked.

Eldarion laughed. “Of course, but you should take an escort with you,” he pointed out.

The king shook his head firmly. “Nay they would only slow me down. Come Eldarion help me I must pack swiftly. There is no time to be wasted.”

Grinning, together both father and son quickly put together a pack with provisions enough to last for several days carefully swiped from the kitchens. It was with a lighter heart that Gondor’s prince watched a dark figure slip through the gates and away through the city.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Aragorn rode into the courtyard of Lord Harodel’s manor, not slowing until he reached the steps leading up to the main house. He vaulted from his horse landing easily and ran up to the main hall. A manservant moved forward, his face one of polite disdain.

“What is your business here?” he asked looking down his nose at the dishevelled king.

“I am here to see Legolas, where is he?” Aragorn asked scarcely sparing a look at the butler as his eyes scanned the hall.

“Prince Legolas is with Lord Harodel, if you would like to wait here I will send someone to see if he is available.” The servant motioned one of the waiting boys to attend him.

“That will not be necessary,” Aragorn said dismissively. “Simply tell me where he is and I shall go to him myself.”

The manservant and boy both looked scandalised, but before the man could reply a piercing voice rang out from the stairs.

“Goter, what is going on?”

The manservant turned quickly, glaring at Aragorn before bowing low to his mistress. “Forgive me madam. This... man has come requesting to speak with Prince Legolas.”

“Ah, has he come to take the vile creature away?” the piercing voice asked and as the lady descended the stairs Aragorn saw that she was a middle aged woman, slim with long golden hair that betrayed no sign of her age. Her face had been carefully painted to disguise the effects of time upon her body but Aragorn saw that she was still a beautiful woman. Her eyes however were cold and malicious.

“I have indeed come to take the prince with me my lady,” Aragorn said speaking to her directly.

The lady of the manor reached the bottom of the stairs and she approached the men, slowly taking in Aragorn as he stood straight and tall, even in his rough leather riding clothes.

“Who is your master?” she demanded. “He has obviously not taught you the correct etiquette when speaking to one of the nobility.”

Aragorn smiled but it was not friendly and the lady shivered in response. “I have no master,” Aragorn said bluntly. “Now kindly direct me to the location of Legolas so that we might be on our way.”

“Goter, what’s going on? One of the serving lads came to tell me that there was a man here to see the prince,” Lord Harodel said as he came slowly down the stairs, still mindful of his recent injuries. He stopped abruptly as he saw who awaited him.

“Harodel, will you please deal with this ruffian who refuses to show the slightest bit of manners,” Lady Harodel said in a shrill tone.

Lord Harodel came forward and surprised both his wife and servants when he bowed low to the man before him. “Your Majesty, what an unexpected honour. May I enquire as to why you are visiting my estate?”

“Harodel what are you doing? Who is this man?” the lady demanded.

Lord Harodel turned to his wife. “How dare you dishonour us in front of the king,” he said coldly to the woman.

Lady Harodel’s face paled dramatically as she looked with new eyes upon the man standing before her. She suddenly swept into a low curtsey. “Forgive me Your Majesty, we… did not recognise you. How may we make amends for our ungracious behaviour?” she asked tremulously, her eyes lowered to the floor.

Aragorn sighed in frustration. “I want to see Legolas. Is that really so much to ask?” he said in an impatient tone.

“Aragorn!” exclaimed a surprised voice and as one the small group turned to face the ethereal beauty slowly descending the staircase. The prince’s eyes though, remained locked upon the king.

“Legolas,” Aragorn breathed, his eyes wandering the length of the elf’s body, taking in the fragile way the prince still held himself, the tired looking eyes with deep shadows underneath and he frowned.

The elven prince reached the small group and they parted without a word to allow him to stand directly in front of the king. Aragorn felt hope stir in his heart at the way the elf’s eyes seemed to devour him.

“Aragorn, what are you doing here? Where is your entourage?” Legolas asked. His confusion was evident in his voice.

The king smiled. “I ran away,” he said and Legolas’ answering smile warmed his heart. “I had to see you.”

Legolas frowned. “But why? I only left the city a week ago, surely whatever you needed to say could have been said then.”

Aragorn shook his head. “I was a fool then, I...” he paused and was aware of the eyes that were fixed on them. Frowning he turned to the lord of the manor. “Lord Harodel, is there some where that Legolas and I could speak privately?” he asked.

Harodel nodded and led them to his private study. Once Aragorn was sure that they had been left in peace he approached Legolas, taking the elf’s hands into his own, his thumbs unconsciously stroking the warm skin.

“Aragorn what is it?” Legolas asked.

“Come back with me Legolas, come back to Minas Tirith,” Aragorn pleaded, his grip on the prince’s hands tightening.

“But why?” the elf prince asked again, his confusion growing. During the last few days of his stay in the city Aragorn had avoided him completely, excusing himself whenever the prince sought him out. Now he was here begging him to return to the city and Legolas felt lost. His heart yearned to say yes to the man, but his head spoke to him of rejection and pain.

“Because I love you,” Aragorn said.

Legolas felt the voice of his reason suddenly fall silent. “You love me? But I thought... you avoided me, you did not wish to see me,” he said, his voice betraying his hurt.

“Aye, and I am more sorry than you could know. My foolishness hurt us both. But I love you Legolas, I want to be with you. Please, come back with me now,” the king said, his heart in his eyes as he gazed at the elven prince.

Legolas shook his head in regret. “I cannot,” he said.

Aragorn felt as though an arrow had suddenly pierced his heart, so great was the pain caused by the elf’s words. “Then it is true. You do not care for me in the same way that I care for you. I am sorry my friend, I should not have forced my attentions on you.” The king stepped away, his head bowed in defeat and he moved to the door, ready to depart.

“Aragorn wait!” Legolas said in sudden panic. This was not working out correctly. “I do care for you,” he said. Aragorn paused and slowly turned back to face the prince, his expression still wary. Legolas took a hesitant step towards the man. “I was shocked at first when you kissed me in the gardens and scared, even more so at your words in the training room.”

Aragorn frowned. He could not recollect exactly what had been said, just the feeling of Legolas’ body beneath his own.

Legolas noticed the confusion on the man’s face. “You said that you wanted to claim me,” he said softly.

Aragorn was still confused, he still did not see how that could have caused such panic in the elf. “I meant only to claim your heart and body in the same way that I would wish you to claim mine. You could never be anything less than my equal,” he said.

Legolas smiled warmly, and for the first time since Legolas’ refusal to return with him Aragorn felt hope lighten his heart once more.

“I feared at first from your words that I had been mistaken in my trust of you. That you were like the other men who wanted to take me and place me at their side as a bauble to show off, as Cadofel wanted to do.” Legolas said bitterly. “Forgive me Aragorn, I should not have counted you amongst such men.”

“There is nothing to forgive my love, I should have spoken plainer when first I truly realised the depth of my feelings for you. Now will you return with me back to the city?” Aragorn asked, more hopeful this time.

“Aragorn I cannot!...”

Aragorn quickly interrupted the prince before he could continue. “Forgive me, I mistook your words when you said that you cared for me, I thought that you perhaps returned my feelings fully. I shall not ask you again,” he said.

“Aragorn, will you allow me to finish?” Legolas cried with exasperation. Aragorn nodded cautiously. “I meant to say only that I cannot return with you right now. I have made a promise to Lord Harodel.”

“Then I am too late,” Aragorn said sorrowfully. “For all our final understanding you have promised yourself to him.”

Legolas frowned. “Aragorn, I do not understand anything that you say. Yes I have made a promise to Lord Harodel, in fact we were to leave later today. Once he is settled in Ithilien I will be free to return with you to the city.”

Now it was Aragorn’s turn to frown. “Perhaps we are yet again misunderstanding one another,” he said. “I was under the impression that you and Lord Harodel had formed a romantic attachment, yet you speak of taking him to Ithilien whilst joining me in the city. I know you are not the kind of person who would play two suitors against each other so please Legolas speak plainly, what did you promise to Lord Harodel?”

“He requested that our colony take in his sons to be fostered with us for a short time. I spoke with my people and we agreed that it would be acceptable, but after his injuries at the hands of Lord Cadofel I asked him if he would also like to spend time at the colony convalescing. We are to journey there today,” Legolas explained.

Aragorn let out a sudden whoop of laughter. He strode forward and pulled Legolas into his arms, embracing the elf, whilst keeping in mind the still sore body of his beloved. He pulled back slightly to look at the prince’s face, the bright blue eyes shining as they had not for some time. His eyes wandered down to the soft lips that were slightly parted. A pink tongue crept out to moisten them, and Aragorn gave in to instinct as he leant forward to gently kiss his heart’s keeper.

Legolas released a soft sigh as Aragorn’s lips met his own. His hands wound up around the man’s shoulders, before finding their way into his hair as the kiss deepened. One of Aragorn’s hands found its way to the base of the prince’s neck, the other snaking down over the slim form of the elf before resting on one of the prince’s wonderfully formed buttocks, squeezing gently.

When the need for air became too great they reluctantly broke apart, their panting breaths audible in the otherwise silent room. Aragorn’s hand traced a slow path along the edge of Legolas’ cheek before sweeping back to caress the pointed tip of his ear. The elf moaned in response, his body arching helplessly forward as he pressed his ear into the caress.

“Just why are you agreeing to foster Harodel’s children anyway?” Aragorn asked idly.

Legolas smiled. “Let us just say that it is in an exercise in cultural awareness.”

“For who?” Aragorn queried laughing softly.

“That will be the surprise I think,” the prince said thoughtfully.

“Do you really have to be the one to escort them to Ithilien?” the king asked, his hands taking Legolas’ into his own.

“Yes, I did promise, but I shall come back to you as swiftly as I can,” he added.

“That cannot be swiftly enough,” Aragorn said groaning.

“Come,” Legolas said, drawing the king towards the door. “The sooner I depart for Ithilien and settle Lord Harodel and his sons, the sooner I can return to the city.”

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Aragorn stood by and watched later that afternoon as Harodel, his sons and Legolas rode off towards to elven colony in Ithilien. A small number of guards had been sent as an escort to ensure their safety. Once they had gone beyond his sight Aragorn moved to mount his own horse and swiftly rode out of the courtyard onto the road that would lead him back to his city.

He had ventured no more than a few metres when his senses suddenly prickled with warning. Halting his horse he cast his head about trying to see or hear what was making him so nervous. Movement from the bushes to his side had him drawing an arrow to the bow he carried.

“Peace my lord, you would not wish to shoot your loyal servant,” a wry voice came from beyond and Aragorn nearly dropped his bow in surprise.

“Corlis?” he asked in astonishment.

“Aye my lord. You did not think you could escape my watchful eye did you?” the bodyguard asked and though the face was impassive as the man stepped into view, the tone was wry.

Aragorn snorted. “I should have known that Halbarad would not leave me with someone from whom I could flee whenever I wished. Remind me to thank him next time he visits,” the king commented, his own tone equally dry.

Corlis smiled but said nothing. “Perhaps we should return to the city my lord, your son has been doing an admirable job in your stead but I fear many of your people are worried as to your safety... and sanity.”

Aragorn laughed but nodded his agreement. A small whistle from Corlis signalled his men that they were ready to move out and Aragorn, for all his skills learnt as a ranger could not detect how many of his men surrounded him. He reminded himself that it was time his royal guard were rewarded, besides which, once they learnt of their new task in guarding his new consort they would be using their skills a lot more frequently. That thought made him smile.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Epilogue

As two weeks passed and then three Aragorn grew more despondent. Gimli had decided to remain in the city to spend more time with both the king and his son, waiting for the return of the elf, but the dwarf could do little to battle the growing depression and restlessness in the king.

Eldarion likewise could do little to hold back his father’s increasing irritation with all things connected to his duty. He had been pleased beyond measure when the king had returned and told him of his conversation with Legolas, but as the weeks flew by he could not help but wonder how long it would be before his father snapped completely and either allowed himself to drown in his depression or to tried to leave the city to retrieve the elf himself.

Midway through the fourth week found the king dismissing his council in a fit of temper that was becoming more frequent and disturbing for its intensity, but once his councillors had departed and the king was left alone with his son and friend Gimli, Eldarion saw how much Legolas’ absence was hurting his father.

“What if he has changed his mind?” Aragorn asked quietly.

“He has not,” Eldarion stated firmly, trying to place as much conviction in his voice as possible. “He promised you so he will return. Perhaps he is just delayed.”

A new thought occurred to the king. “What if he tried to return but was attacked upon the way? What if he lies somewhere on the roadside fading? Perhaps I should mobilise search parties to look for him. We should...” The king was interrupted by a knock at the door. “Yes?” he called out distractedly.

The door opened and a guard stood to attention before him. “Your Majesty, you have a visitor who insists on meeting with you.”

Aragorn frowned. “Tell whoever it is to go away. I am too busy to meet with anyone at the moment and send for Corlis, I must mobilise search parties immediately.”

“Is someone missing?” a melodious voice said from behind the guard.

The king froze, his gaze shifting to see who was standing behind his guardsman and caught a flash of golden hair.

Eldarion smiled, and with a subtle gesture dismissed the guard. That left the golden elf prince standing in the doorway.

“Was I missed?” he asked, his voice laced with amusement.

Aragorn felt something snap inside of him and stepping towards the elf he growled before hoisting the startled prince over his shoulder.

“Aragorn, what are you doing?” came an alarmed voice from behind him.

His hand met the prince’s backside in an audible thwack eliciting a yelp from the elf, but he ignored the protestations and demands to be let down as he carried Legolas back to his bedchamber.

“I think my father may be otherwise engaged for a while Gimli, how would you like to teach me more of dwarven fighting styles?” Eldarion asked as both he and the dwarf watched the elf being abducted with amusement.

“Hehe, indeed, it would be my pleasure young prince,” the dwarf replied.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Aragorn ignored the curious and shocked stareds sent their way. He ignored the prince’s growing humiliation at the laughter and growing whispers. He pushed aside the pain he felt as Legolas used his fists to try and gain his release. He did not stop until he had reached the foot of his bed, pausing only then to toss the elf onto the soft mattress before throwing himself on top of his friend. He grasped the flailing arms of the prince, restraining them even as he used the larger bulk of his body to pin the prince beneath him.

Legolas paused in his struggles as he took in the wild light in his friend’s eyes, and found himself shivering at the hot gaze.

“You will never keep me waiting in this manner again,” Aragorn growled out, and the husky possessiveness in the man’s voice sent shivers dancing through Legolas’ body.

“Aragorn, you know why I was absent. I had to ensure that Lord Harodel and his sons settled smooth...oomph.” Legolas’ words were cut off by the sudden assault on his lips.

Aragorn allowed the more primal side of him to take control and he silenced the prince by placing his own mouth over the elf’s. He moaned as his tongue slipped out to run along the prince’s soft full lower lip and easily slipped between as Legolas’ mouth opened in a moan. He felt his body quickly hardening and tried to increase the pressure against him by grinding his hips down.

Legolas groaned low in his throat as Aragorn’s hips pushed against his own, inflaming the fire that was spreading through his own body and culminating in his own hardening member and he unconsciously bucked upwards. He fought to free his hands, wanting to run his fingers along Aragorn’s body, through his hair, but the man refused to release him. Instead Aragorn seemed insistent upon driving him slowly insane as his mouth was released and the man’s wandering lips trailed slowly along his jaw nipping gently before reaching his ear. A warm wet tongue traced the soft skin inside his ear, but the prince nearly screamed as the pointed tip of his sensitive ear was taken into the man’s mouth, who alternated between sucking and caressing with his tongue, and nipping gently at the delicate tip.

“Aragorn!” he moaned, his mind incapable of further speech.

The king stopped his ministrations causing a whimper of distress to be issued from the elf’s mouth. Aragorn looked down at the bounty spread beneath him but he was still not satisfied.

“Too many clothes,” he stated, and set to work instead on stripping the elf of his garments. Once the elf lay naked he quickly stripped himself of his own vestments, standing proudly at the foot of the bed in all his glory.

Legolas could not stop himself from looking at the firm body of the man, his face flushing with colour as he saw the evidence of the man’s desire jutting proudly from a nest of dark curls at the juncture of strong thighs.

Aragorn thought that he had never seen a sight more wondrous. “Beautiful,” he murmured, his gaze devouring the pale, elegant and deceptively slight body of his elf.

Legolas felt his blush increase at Aragorn’s soft murmur but had no time to shy away as Aragorn once again came down to rest atop him. The first feel of the man’s naked flesh against his own caused Legolas to hiss in response. His body felt like it might burst aflame wherever it met the king’s, his skin tingling at the sensation. His hard length jerked in response as Aragorn ground against him and Legolas tipped his head back, arching his body up against the man’s. Aragorn quickly took advantage, his head dipping down to nuzzle at the pale expanse of the prince’s throat, biting softly and then allowing his tongue to stroke the soft skin.

With each nip Legolas felt his nerves flaring with incredible sensations and he writhed beneath Aragorn. Almost without thought his hands snaked down between them to take the king’s length into his grasp. He stroked it almost shyly at first, his fingers ghosting over the soft skin that encased the solid muscle, then more firmly as his confidence grew, his hands mapping every little ridge and vein. Aragorn bucked forward trying to push himself further into the prince’s hands, groaning at the delicious friction created from their sweat and the beads of fluid that began to leak from his shaft.

The king rolled onto his side taking Legolas with him until they lay facing one another, Legolas’ hand still stroking his length. He forced his eyes open to face the prince who gazed at him with flushed features. The bright blue eyes of the elf were almost black now with desire but there remained a twinkle in his eyes as he enjoyed the power he held over the man at present.

Legolas was almost heady with the sensation of power he felt. That he could bring this strong fiercesome king to heel by simply petting his manhood was an amazing thing. He watched with a small smile as Aragorn’s features twisted slightly as he neared the apex of his passion. The elf’s strokes became a little stronger, his wrist twisting a little at the end and with a hoarse shout the king climaxed. Warm fluid spurted onto Legolas’ fingers and over his belly, but he continued to milk Aragorn until the last of his pearly fluid had been released and then gently let go of the softening member.

Aragorn slumped back against the bolster panting heavily. He opened his eyes when he heard a low chuckle. Legolas lay on his side still, his body glistening slightly from their combined exertions, a smug look of satisfaction on his face. The elf’s member was still hard, pointing accusingly at Aragorn and with a mischievous grin the king decided to erase the smirk from his lover’s features.

He pounced suddenly, pushing Legolas back into the mattress and moving down, he placed his hands on the prince’s hips to restrain him before taking the elf’s straining flesh into his mouth. Legolas almost screamed at the sudden wet warmth, sucking determinedly on his excited flesh, but managed to restrain himself to a moan. His hips jerked upwards trying to bury his elfhood further into that hot cavern, but he was frustrated by the hold Aragorn had on his hips keeping him still. Instead he threaded his hands through the man’s hair, trying to hold him in place.

Aragorn practised every trick he knew in order to drive Legolas slowly out of his mind, yet not letting him fall over the edge into his climax and was rewarded by the continuous writhing and the delicious moans of helplessness, frustration and desire coming from his lover’s throat.

“Aragorn, please for pity’s sake...” Legolas begged, the effort it took to form a coherent sentence immense in the face of the sensational onslaught he was enduring at this man’s mouth.

Aragorn took pity on his lover and sucking hard, his tongue traced the large vein on the underside of the elf’s member as he encouraged Legolas to climax. He swallowed the prince’s seed eagerly as it spilled into his mouth, sucking until every last drop was gone. He rose to his knees and felt his own flesh harden anew at the look of wanton dishevellement that was a post coital elf. His hand snaked down to his manhood and he lazily stroked himself, watching the renewed interest sparkle in the prince’s eyes.

“The king’s bed is the perfect place for you my prince,” Aragorn said grinning.

Legolas cocked his head to one side before responding. “And would you rule me my king?” he asked.

Aragorn’s expression sobered at once. “Outside I am king, in here we are equals,” he stated softly.

Legolas felt the last vestige of fear leave him at these words and he smiled brightly. “That is a good thing, although I am not sure what my father will think when he hears that you believe yourself capable of ruling over one of the firstborn,” he said, his eyebrows arching elegantly.

Aragorn growled. “You are a wicked creature Legolas, I fear that you need a strong hand to rule you. Did you not say that your father has been trying to a find you a mate capable of taming you. I shall show him that there is no one in Arda who can tame you save for myself.”

Legolas laughed. “Indeed? What makes you think that such a thing is even possible?” he queried in amusement.

“Speak not in haste my love, for you will surely repent when I have you feeding out of my hands,” the king said with an expression of mock severity on his face.

“And how, might I ask, do you hope to achieve this?” the elf asked mischievously, his muscles tensing in preparation for flight.

Aragorn noticed the prince’s reactions and dove forward just before Legolas could spring free from the bed. “By starting as I mean to go on. I shall stamp my very essence into every part of you, beginning right now. I am going to dive so deeply into your body that you will wonder where it is I end and you begin,” he stated, his eyes darkening with desire and promise.

Legolas’ breath caught in his throat. “Then prove your rule over me my king,” he said, voice suddenly husky.

Aragorn bent and placed a gentle kiss on the lips of his beloved. “I fear my words are bravado my love, I bow to you for you already rule my heart,” he said.

“Then we are equal,” Legolas stated gently. “For you hold that which no other ever will. I am yours as you are mine.” The prince’s eyes brightened for a moment. “But still I would like to see you make good on your promise,” he said and threw himself back onto the bed. “Ravish me my king.” The prince threw his legs open in invitation and Aragorn was not slow to accept.

“I promise,” the king said. “We will join so deeply that the Valar themselves will have to admit we are one being and keep us this way forever,” he said solemnly and Legolas laughed before pulling the man down onto him.

The End

 

 

Main Page || Story Index || Links || E-mail