Romancing the Elf
by Agrotora

Title: Romancing the Elf
Author: Agrotora
Email: agrotora AT bellsouth.net
Pairing: Aragorn/Legolas
Rating: NC17
Disclaimer: Not mine.
Summary: February Challenge 2005, A little AU romp courtesy of Joan Wilder (Romancing the Stone)
Warnings: As rated
Beta: Akasha, Pepe (*smooch*)
Archive: Yes, ALSlash
Feedback: Please
A/N: I think this is not so much a ‘retelling’ of the story as much as a fic inspired or ‘based’ on the movie. Hopefully that will be enough to qualify.

Romancing the Elf Chapter One

Legolas stood in attendance as his father repeated the news to his advisors. Erephin, Thranduil’s eldest son had been abducted a few days before and the entire kingdom had been in an uproar over it. Today the King had received a ransom note.

Thranduil stood at the head of the long table and threw down the scroll of parchment with disgust. “They do not reveal who they are, but the message was sent through men from Gondor. I am certain it is men who are holding my son, though it would not surprise me to learn that the Dark Lord had some hand in it. They must know of my wealth, yet ask only one thing of me, the map that came into my possession some years ago that was alleged to lead to an amulet of great power. As you know, we were never able to verify the validity of the map, and have put it aside as a false document, perhaps even the scribblings of a child. Yet it is this they will trade for and nothing else.” He sighed heavily. “I do not believe they are aware the map may be a hoax, and I would choose to keep that information within these walls. If they will bargain for something of no value all the better.”

Lindir picked up the scroll and toyed with it. “Hir Nín, it is not that that worries me. They have also requested the map be delivered only by your other son.” His eyes moved to Legolas. “If these men are bent on even more treachery, they would then have *both* of them.”

“A trap known is a trap avoided. They would not take me.” The golden-haired Prince said flatly. “Erephin may be older, but I have a greater lore of the Wood. I will not be caught unaware.” He turned to his father, speaking with a twinge of earnest now in his voice. “I can do it. I can bring him back.”

Thranduil looked doubtfully at the young Elf. Although Legolas was probably the best archer and tracker Mirkwood had ever known, he was not so adept when it came to dealing with humans. It was Thranduil’s own fault, he reflected. After all, it was he who had been so protective of the Elfling, and not allowed him to venture far from home after his mother had passed to Mandos.

Legolas held out a hand, imploring his father to relent. “Ada, let me go. Please.”

The older Elf glanced around the room then settled his eyes on what he considered to be the greatest jewel of Mirkwood. “Pen-neth, I know you are sincere in your belief of your own abilities, but it will be a most dangerous mission.” He paused noting the Prince’s eyes lower in anticipation of a refusal, and shook his head. In reality there was no decision to make at all. “Therefore, you may go, but you will take two of our finest Lasgaladhrim with you. I would send no one alone on such a mission.”

The next day, three Elves set out for the Gondorian city of Minas Tirith.

Hir Nín - My Lord
Ada - Daddy
Pen-neth – Young One

==+==

All was well until the Elves came to the southern reaches of Fangorn Forest. They were, of course, looking out for spiders and other denizens of the Wood, the same as they would be in the dangerous forests of Mirkwood, their home, but here they became unsettled. There seemed to be no wildlife whatsoever in the strange forest and the trees were completely silent, thus making the Elves as tense and uncertain as they would be in a dark cave. So distracted were they, they did not sense the goblin’s ambush until it was too late. All three were jerked to awareness by the whooshing sound of arrows in flight. Legolas spun to face the slight noise and came face to face with a dark man clad in a jet black robe. If it weren’t for his teeth and the gleam of his short blade, the being would have seemed to have no light to his form at all. The Elf was not slowed by such an apparition though; he quickly drew his knives and in a single fluid motion severed the man’s head and right arm from his body.

The Prince’s companions did not fare so well. Neldir was first to fall, when a goblin’s crossbow bolt hit him squarely in his chest and impaled his heart. The second, and eldest of Mirkwood’s Royal Guard, Fínarthor, took a blow to his flank, and would have survived had he not had the Prince to consider. Instead of making sure to cover himself, he moved into place beside his Lord. The two Elves held their ground for several minutes and soon were surrounded with a pile of bodies.

Suddenly out of somewhere unknown, arrows began to zing. Two goblins went down screeching before the remaining beasts decided they did not want to wait and see how many rescuers they would have to face. As they ran, Fínathor dropped to his knees. Legolas knelt beside him and eased him to the ground.

“Mellon! You must not!” He quickly found the injury and ripped the Elf’s blood-stained jerkin away to better see the extent of the wound.

Fínathor took hold of the younger Elf’s hand and moved it away. “It is too late, Hir Nín.” He raised the bloody hand to his face and kissed the fingertips. “It has been… my honor…”

Legolas cried out as the slain Elf’s eyes glazed over, not in reverie, but in the icy coldness of death. He clutched the warrior’s body to himself for only a few minutes before a strong hand rested on his shoulder.

“You must not stay. They have only run because they were surprised. Even now they are taunting each other to see whom will be first to return.”

The Prince looked up at his new found benefactor. “I cannot.”

“Then die with your friends.” The man was a darkly clad as the previous one but his countenance was friendly, if a bit sad. He tossed the hood back from his head and raised his face to the rain that had begun to fall.

Legolas squinted up through raindrops and tears alike. “I owe you my life, Man. Thank you.”

The human looked back at him. “You will not have it much longer if you tarry.” He extended a half-gloved hand to the Elf.

Legolas bit his lower lip and accepted the help up. He quickly wiped his knife blades on his leggings to clean them of at least some of the blood and then slid them into their scabbards. “You are a Ranger?” After stowing the knives he loosed his bow from where it was lashed to his quiver, intending to still keep a weapon at the ready.

The man nodded but before he could speak a word, an arrow flew by narrowly missing his shoulder. “Come on!” The Ranger grabbed the Elf’s jerkin and shoved him toward the trees and cover. Together they rushed through the trees with no particular goal in mind except that of escape. The rain came down ever harder and soon their progress was slowed to a walk by the force of the storm.

When they came upon a dim trail that ran parallel to the ridge line the Ranger gestured to the Elf to turn onto it. They followed the path for quite some time, despite that it was becoming very slippery by the rain washing across it. As they went there was a roar from above and with no further warning the ground gave way beneath them. Both were washed downhill in a great slide of mud and debris. They came to an ungraceful stop when both splashed into a shallow stagnant pool a hundred feet below where they’d just been.

The Ranger had landed face down and hauled himself to the surface tobreathe. He knelt and wiped the scum from his eyes with both hands. As his vision cleared he began to chuckle. Before him was without a doubt the filthiest Elf he’d ever seen. Legolas sat in the muck with his arms raised in surprise. His face was frozen in a look of utter disgust. Suddenly he took a breath then started to spit and sputter out bits of black and green slime that had somehow gotten in his mouth.

He spoke in near panic. “What *is* this?”

The Ranger smiled broadly. “If we were nearer a city I would say sewage, but here? I think stagnant water, decaying forest growth and quite possibly a dead rodent or two, not to mention various insect larvae.”

If the Elf had looked horrified before he was even more so now. “Ugh!” He was still gripping his bow in one hand, but managed to shove himself up and backwards out of the muck until his back was against a tree. Even there he found no comfort, apparently the tree was dead too. He sat there, shaking, trying to compose himself.

The man was still laughing, and half-swam, half-crawled over to the stricken Elf. Kneeling in front of him, he plucked a wad of something furry from atop the mud-caked golden head. “There. Not so bad, is it? Give the rain a few more minutes and we’ll both be well rinsed. Have not the Elves rain and mud in their realms?”

“Not like this.” Legolas spat again. “It smells worse than Ungol dung. I do not think I will ever feel clean again!”

“So, Pen-'waur, what is your name?’’

“Legolas.” The Elf scowled at the beautifully carved bow in his hand, now covered in slime. He was certain his quiver was full to the brim with the icky green stuff as well.

Before the Ranger could respond an arrow splashed into the murky water several feet from them. “What is it they want of you that they will not desist?”

Legolas only shook his head and quickly got to his feet. He barely kept his footing as he helped the Ranger get up, then both were once again in flight through the trees. They pulled up short when just a little way further on, they came upon a deep ravine. The only crossing was a dilapidated old rope bridge that looked as though it could not even bear the weight of the rain upon it.

The Ranger cursed to himself under his breath. “We cannot go further.We must make a stand here.”

The Sindar was not so willing to quit just yet. As the man readied his weapons, the Elf moved to the bridge and began to cross it. He moved his feet lightly along a side rope, trusting that as an Elf even the flimsiest of support was enough to bear his weight.

When the man realized Legolas was not beside him, he cursed again. “I told you we’d make a stand here!” Legolas only looked back and glared at him.

“Fine. Have it your way.” The Ranger quickly stashed his bow and made for the bridge. He shrugged his shoulders at the folly of it but stepped forward anyway. Amazingly, he made it halfway before a loud ripping sound was heard as the main support tore itself free of the ground.

Legolas felt a shudder run through the twisted vines, and he crouched to grab hold of the thick rope on which he stood. A moment later the bridge fell, slamming itself, the man and Elf against the far cliff face. Stunned for a moment, both could do nothing but hang on for their lives.

“Are you all right?”

The Elf opened his eyes and glared down at the man. “That’s a stupid question! You should be asking me if I’m still here!”

“If I remember correctly it was not *I* who decided to cross!”

“Well, if you weren’t so *fat*-”

The Elf stopped his retort when he realized arrows were reaching them from the other side, some bouncing off the rocks and others sticking into earth or the rotten wood of the bridge. “Climb up! Now!” He held his hand down to the Ranger.

“Go!”

Both scampered as quickly as they could up the ropes, using tree roots and whatever else they could find to assist as they went. At the top they collapsed, exhausted. An arrow landed in the soft grass by the Elf’s foot.

Legolas grunted and turned to the Ranger. “We should leave.”

Mellon – Friend
Hir Nín – My Lord
Ungol – Spider
Pen-‘Waur – Dirty One

==+==

Moving forward was slow. As the forest undergrowth was extremely thick and full of hard-to-cut vines, they took turns hacking away at it, the ranger with his sword and the Elf with one of his knives. Even overhead the vines were too thick for an Elf to easily move through, so Legolas had to be content walking on the ground. After a few hours, the two came upon a small cave and decided to take rest there for the night. It was shallow and many tree roots poked through the walls and ceiling, but it was dry at least. After sharing a meager meal of slightly soggy Lembas bread, Legolas set to cleaning his weapons. He began by using a bit of wet moss to carefully clean every arrow in his quiver.

The Ranger picked up the still wet satchel the Elf had been carrying and dug through it without asking. “Don’t you have a dry piece of flint that we may use to light a fire?” As he looked, he spotted a rolled up piece of hide and pulled it out. “What is this?”

The Elf nearly leapt at him to get it out of his hands. “It is not your concern.”

“No? Then you would have me to risk my life, which I have already done several times today, mind you, for something to which I may not be privy?”

Legolas frowned and shook his head. “No, I would not ask that of you. Forgive me.” The Elf unrolled the piece of leather and showed it to the Ranger. He quickly explained all about his brother’s abduction and the quest he was now on to get him back.

“Unfortunately, the map is not valid. This whole mission is under the assumption my brother’s abductors are not aware of this.”

“You are certain the map is not real?”

“As certain as anyone can be. My father had several scholars look at it and whenever those of us who knew of it traveled, we looked for some of the landmarks. The problem is, we have never found the starting point. It was finally concluded the map is only a piece of poorly drawn artwork, nothing more.” He paused and sighed. “Unfortunately this ‘art’ I hold in my hand is my brother’s life.”

The Ranger shook his head. “It is not the map these men want; it is what they will find with it that is truly worth bargaining for. I will not dispute your teachers, but this does not look like mere ‘artwork’ to me. If there is something to find we should do so. Those who hold your brother would be much more willing to let you both go if what you offer is a sure thing, not just scrawled figures on a piece of leather.” As he spoke, the Ranger noted that Legolas was not looking at him, but at something over his shoulder. He huffed in irritation. “Is too much to ask of an Elf to broaden his attention span by so much as one minute? How a simple blade of grass or a single flower petal can totally captivate your kind will forever be beyond me. I can only hope it does not occur whilst we are in battle with-”

Moving so fast his hand was but a blur; Legolas drew out one of his long knives and threw it with deadly accuracy to a point behind the Rangers head, just missing his left ear by a finger’s breadth.

The man froze, his eyes so wide open the whites could be seen all around the steel blue color. He sucked in a deep breath and let it out shakily. He could feel the vibration of the blade in his hair it was so close to his head. He was even more shocked when the Elf grinned and leaned forward to retrieve the blade from a root in the wall, now with a serving platter-sized spider impaled upon it.

The Ranger rolled his eyes. “Tell me they aren’t poisonous when they are so small.”

“A hatchling? Spiders are always poisonous, but I doubt it could have killed a grown man. At this size they are something else however.”

The man grimaced as he took in the sight of the hairy beast, its many legs still twitching in death. “And what might that be?”

“Very tasty.” The Elf grinned in amusement. “You were saying something about my attention span?”

==+==

An hour later, the man patted his full stomach. Not only was the Elf able to start a fire using only some dried up old roots from with in the grotto and his hands, he showed himself to be an excellent cook as well. “It seems I will have to add spider to my list of culinary choices. That was as good as any rabbit I’ve ever eaten.”

Legolas acknowledged the Ranger’s statement with a nod, and then spoke to the man. “You never told me your name.”

“You never asked.”

The Elf put on his best diplomatic voice. “Sir, I would like to inquire. What is your name?”

The Ranger smiled, he was beginning to like this golden Elf. “I have many. In Gondor and Rohan you may hear me called Thorongil, but I think I would like you to call me Estel.”

“Hope?” The Elf translated the Sindarin word into the common tongue. “That word is on the map. Why would you choose such a name?”

The Ranger rubbed his hands over his face, wondering if he should not have given away a hint of his identity especially when he’d seen the writing on the map as well. That was what had convinced him the map was worth investigating. “It is a long story. Perhaps another time. You may call me anything you wish.”

“Then I will call you Estel.” The Elf looked into the Ranger’s eyes and smiled shyly. “Everyone needs hope.” Legolas frowned then and grew serious. “It occurs to me, Estel… I am alone on my quest now, and have never traveled these parts of Arda. If I were to hire a guide, say a Ranger…” He lowered his gaze. “My chances of success would be much greater.”

“How much would you pay?” The Man blurted out. In fact he had already determined he should join the Elf, and this provided a perfect opportunity to do so without revealing anything more about himself.

Legolas bit his lower lip. He had no idea what to offer for a tracker, as he had never needed to rely on another’s ability before. “Ten gold pieces?”

“Twenty.”

“I do not have twenty!”

Estel tried not to grin at the Elf. It was obvious he had no experience at bargaining. “How many do you have?”

“Ten.”

“You offered everything you had?”

The Elf shrugged. “It did not seem like much.”

The Ranger did laugh then. He wondered what wealth the Elf must have seen to think ten gold pieces was nothing. He clapped his hand on the slender beings shoulder. “Good enough then. Ten it is. But remind me to include in my services a lesson in bartering.”

==+==

Chapter 2

The rain had completely stopped by the next morning and with no further sightings of any goblins or black-caped men, the Ranger and Elf decided to move out of the forest and head to Minas Tirith across open land. If any danger arose, they would just have to deal with it as best they could. They first went to Edoras where Estel procured horses from a friend, then moved on; making it to the White City in just six days from the time they’d left Fangorn.

Along the way, more than once they had to either fight or elude roving parties of orcs and goblins, always with a single black-cloaked other in their company. Legolas did not know what to make of the strange foes, and if Estel did, he did not say. While they were traveling they spoke little, preferring to push themselves or the horses as hard as they dared but each evening they would share a story or two before resting for the night. Legolas’ stories were either oft-told Elven tales of old, or something personal about growing up as an Elf in the woods, although he never quite got around to revealing that he was anything more than a descendant of some of the Sindarin folk who settled in Middle Earth. Estel more rambled than told stories. He talked about the north territories and some of the more interesting things he’d seen on his many journeys.

At dawn of the last day before they entered Minas Tirith Estel took a short climb up to a ledge overlooking the Druadán Forest. Once there, he took a few minutes to bask in the early morning sun and stretch the kinks out of his limbs. As he did so, he took in the surrounding countryside and noticed something odd. On the map had been an unusual rune denoting the starting point of the trail. It was this archaic symbol, Legolas had told him, that was never found. The scholars who had studied the map believed it was most likely some kind of stone marker with ancient writings on it. Now here the same shape could be seen plainly just at the edge of the forest below, though not in the form of a marker; it was a gnarled old tree that just happened to be bent in the same tripled-forked shape of the rune. He quickly glanced at the Elf whoseemed to be paying him no attention at the time and decided to keep secret his observation. In light of what he believed the treasure to be, he needed to secure it for himself- and the people of Gondor.

==+==

Late that afternoon, Legolas brought his horse up beside Estel’s where he had stopped to look out over the vast plain of Pellenor. To the Elf, the place was as utterly beautiful as it was desolate. The White City gleamed in the late afternoon sun, a dichotomy of shadow and light where the rays of the setting sun played over the sharp architectural planes of the pale granite walls. The one thing that stood out even more than the man-made beauty was the striking absence of nature—the living part of it anyway. Not a single tree grew on the plain or the mountain into which the city was built. If not for the vast expanse of grass and the distant Ithilien forest there would be no life at all as far as he could see.

Estel instinctively knew what Legolas was thinking. “Don’t worry. Within the city walls there are many gardens, some growing fruits and vegetables and some planted for beauty alone. You will not see trees as large as you are accustomed to, but there are enough to make even an Elf comfortable.”

Legolas nodded. He was definitely beginning to wonder about this man named ‘Hope’ and just how he seemed to know much more of Elves than he would say.

Once inside the city, Estel stopped at a small square surrounded by various shops, an inn and a stable yard. The two dismounted and tied up their horses to a stile. “Well, Master Legolas, here you are, as promised, in the great city of Minas Tirith.” Estel gestured with a hand to the high walls. “What do you think?”

“It is… overwhelming.” Legolas cowered a bit, feeling closed in. He could not fathom why anyone would choose to live in a place such as this. He understood the safety such walls could afford, but couldn’t help but compare it to the beloved Elven city of Gondolin. It had been a walled city as well, but not the walls or the high mountains surrounding it were protection enough once the Dark Lord Morgoth learned of its location. The city fell and now, thousands of years later, it was still nothing more than a great tomb. Legolas shook his head, wondering what this City of Men would look like a thousand years hence.

A light touch on Legolas’ shoulder pulled him away from his musings. When he looked at Estel, he flushed slightly at being caught with his mind elsewhere and suddenly remembered his bargain with the Ranger. Heproduced a small purse from his belt and held it out to the Man. “And as I promised ten gold pieces, and my thanks.”

The Ranger accepted his payment and took the horses to the stable while the Elf procured a messenger to contact his brother’s abductors. They met a short while later in front of the tavern.

As Estel walked up he noticed Legolas was counting a few small coins in his hand and frowning. As soon as the Elf noticed his friend approach he quickly stashed the coins in his pocket. Legolas hadn’t realized that *everything* would cost money here, and be so expensive. After paying Estel and the messenger, he had barely enough left to purchase a few provisions for the road ahead. He would just have to make do. He put on a positive face as he spoke to the Ranger. “I expect no response until midday tomorrow. Until then all I can do is wait.”

“Hmm.” Estel glanced around the square. Unknown to the Elf, he’d already deduced that money was going to be somewhat of a problem while here. He had every intention of putting his earnings to use right away. “It seems these fine folk are planning some kind of celebration this eve. Perhaps before we part ways you would join me for a decent meal and a glass of wine.” He held up the purse. “I’m buying.”

“I’d like that.” Legolas smiled hesitantly.

“But first…” The Ranger tossed something small and metallic at the Elf. He caught it easily.

“A key?”

“I know how prissy, er, particular Elves can be about cleanliness. I leased a room—with a bath. I thought you might like to indulge yourself.” At the mixed expression on the Elf’s face, Estel held up a hand. “Alone of course. Perhaps we could meet at the square in say, two hours?”

Legolas’ face lit up then at Estel’s generous offer. To finally have a bit of a respite from the cares of the past few weeks—and to be able to immerse himself in water was too good a treat to pass up, even if he had no clean clothes. If nothing else, he’d wash them, too. “Thank you, Estel.” He bowed his head. “Two hours then.”

==+==

Emerging from the bath, Legolas briskly rubbed himself with a towel and entered the bedchamber. At once, he noticed someone had laid outclothing on the bed. He thought at first it may have been the Ranger, setting out clothing for himself to wear, but on closer inspection saw that the soft gray leggings and silver tunic were not nearly large enough to be worn by the man. They were, in fact, more Elf-sized. He smiled seeing an embroidered green jacket draped over the back of a chair, very similar to the filthy brown one now lying in a heap on the floor.

Legolas quickly dressed and braided his hair. For some reason he felt it was important to look his best although it was only his traveling companion he would be meeting. At the square, he stopped at the top of a short staircase and surveyed the crowd. There were so many people he wondered how he would ever find the Ranger.

As if drawn by an irresistible force, Legolas turned and found himself looking at a familiar face.

Estel smiled from across the tiled portico and walked toward the Elf. If he had thought Legolas to be comely before, now the creature was absolutely stunning. His pale skin literally glowed in the torchlight that lit the square, and it seemed every strand of his golden hair refracted its own piece of a star from above. Estel was pleased too, at his choice of garments for the Elf. They were form-fitting enough to show off Legolas’ lithe body yet allow for comfortable movement. As he stared at the Elf he realized the cerulean blue eyes were staring back at him.

Legolas took in a small gasp of air upon seeing the Ranger. While he expected Estel to have cleaned himself up, he had no idea how handsome the man really was. He wore all black clothing; leather leggings and a soft gauzy tunic tied about the waist with a silver chain. The hair that had for days been oily and unkempt was still unruly, but instead of hiding the man’s features, it framed his face, sparkling here and there where the lamplight reflected off the dark locks. The scruffy beard was still there, but trimmed back a bit. Legolas grinned; the scruff suited the man, even if he were some high king or nobleman, it would not have been out of place.

As he approached, Estel gestured to a group of tables where several people were eating; indicating Legolas should join him there. The two shared a meal of a hearty stew, fresh baked bread and a light fruity wine, then relaxed and just enjoyed the merriment going on all around them.

Without warning, Estel suddenly got to his feet and extended a hand to the Elf. “Dance with me.”

Legolas frowned and looked away.

The Ranger quickly apologized. “Forgive me, Mellon Nín. I meant no insult by asking you to consort with another male.”

“It is not that.” Legolas was certain Estel would know Elves did not concern themselves so much with differences in gender; attraction and love were all that really mattered. “I… did not think *here* it would be appropriate.”

“True, in the world of Men, some would say even a very close friendship between two males is not convenient, but come- there are no unattached maids about and I have seen the looks you have drawn this evening. You have even the most handsome woman green with envy. Let us just say there should be an exception made for tonight. It would be a shame for the fairest one here this night to not have at least one dance. Please.”

Legolas blushed, but when the Ranger extended his hand again time the Elf took it and allowed Estel to lead him toward the music. At first their contact was no more than the formality required to move together without being awkward, but as the music slowed and the mood of the gathering became more subdued, they were inclined to touch each other in a less restrained way. Believing it to be merely the effect of the wine, Legolas allowed himself to enjoy the closeness of another, at one point even dropping his head to rest on the man’s solid shoulder. Estel pressed his cheek into the golden hair for a moment then in a graceful move, turned Legolas and let their bodies move apart until only their fingertips still touched. With a slight tug, he brought the Elf spinning back toward him.

Suddenly Legolas found himself chest to chest with the Ranger, looking into his eyes. The steel gray orbs held an almost feral light, mixed with something else. Surprise. The corners of the Elf’s mouth drew up in a smile; he felt it too. Since he first met the Ranger there was an attraction there, just under the surface, and it seemed both of them had struggled at times to keep it submerged. Now it had broken through to both of them. Legolas inched forward and inclined his head to one side as Estel did the same, inclining his head in the opposite direction. Eyes open in boldness, their lips met.

It was as if the Shards of Narsil itself had been reforged so perfectly were they matched. Different as dark is from light, yet fitting together as if there was no boundary between them at all. Lips parted and tongues met, the taste of wine still lingering on both.

Estel pulled himself free of the Elf’s supple mouth, panting and flushed. He swayed on unsteady feet a moment as his brain tried to register what it was he was feeling, though if his arousal were any indication, his body already knew. He glanced at his companion and saw in him a mirror of his own state; Legolas was slightly disheveled looking- especially for an Elf, his cheeks and ear tips had a rosy blush to them and his full mouth was slightly open, panting. When Estel looked into the sapphire orbs now lit with passion, it took him only a split second to come to a decision. He grabbed the Elf by the wrist and dragged him into the street.

Mellon Nín – My Friend

==+==

“Where are we going?”

“Back to our room—unless you desire to be taken in public.”

Legolas grinned and moved his feet more quickly to keep up with the Ranger’s long strides. “You could make another exception.”

The man stopped dead in his tracks and made the Elf bump into him. He turned and stared into the bright blue eyes. It took a moment for him to recognize the mirth there.

“You would tease me? Now?” He huffed and grabbed Legolas’ upper arm, resuming their brisk walk. “I will make you pay dearly for that later.”

The musical sound of Elven laughter filled the night air. “You already have all my money. I suppose though, I could come up with something else.”

The Ranger just growled and kept walking.

Once they were inside with the door shut Estel wasted no time. He merely turned where he was, only two steps into the room, and grabbed the Elf by the shoulders and pressed him hard up against the heavy wooden door. With his next breath he descended upon the fey creature before him, assaulting first the soft pouting lips. Legolas immediately responded and opened his mouth allowing the man entrance. Both groaned as their tongues met and began a fervent duel. Estel somehow managed to remove the Elf’s jerkin, but when he tried to take off the tunic as well, he became frustrated and instead of removing it, grabbed the garment at the neckline and ripped it out of his way.

Legolas jerked his mouth free from the kiss. “You only just purchased this! You would ruin it already?”

Estel cupped his large hands over Legolas’ chest and squeezed the nipples to hardness, marveling in the feel of the solid pectoral muscles covered with the softest of skin- so different than the breasts of a maid, yet in some ways even more inviting to touch. In between the kisses and nibbles he was lavishing over the smooth expanse, he managed to answer the Elf. “If you but ask, I will fill this room with the finest silks in Gondor, yet none of them would compare with that which they would conceal. If I were to choose I would never have this body hidden from my eyes again.” Legolas tried to say something more but his words turned into a gasping cry as Estel captured a hardened nipple and bit down.

Too impatient to bother with clothing anymore, Estel merely shoved down the Elf’s leggings and then his own releasing both of their straining erections. He gently caressed Legolas’ sacs and kissed the tip of the glistening pearl shaft, the color darkening to pink as it was filled and hardened by the rush of the Elf’s hot blood. “Ah, Elf, you truly are perfection.” He rose and tongued both of Legolas’ nipples again before returning to the supple mouth. As he took it deeply he pressed his hips to the Elf’s, forcing their exposed and hard members against each other. He groaned then and began to rotate his hips in a slow rhythm while keeping their cocks trapped between them. Legolas clutched at the man with his hands and turned his head to catch his breath, exposing a long supple neck. Estel quickly latched on just above the collarbone and sucked hard; ignoring the fact he was bruising the pale flesh.

Legolas cried out as the stimulation became too much for him. “Oh, oh! Estel… I cannot!” As the man moved against him, rubbing him with both his solid rod and the coarse hair of his groin and belly, the Elf was aroused as never before. His member responded to the provocation and began to weep fluid from the throbbing tip. “Estel!”

Estel understood the urgency in Legolas’ voice and quickly dropped to his knees. Taking the Elf in his mouth, he sucked hard, drawing the hot pillar in, and began to stroke the underside with his tongue. Legolas let go with another shout, filling the Ranger’s mouth with his sweet nectar. Estel gladly continued to suck, gently now. He swallowed the Elven seed and kissed Legolas’ softening shaft as he let the shuddering Elf lean on him and recover. When Legolas was able to stand on his own again, Estel quickly divested the Elf of his boots and remaining clothing and stood up. As he did, he slid his hands up under the slender thighs and parted them, easing his hands in position to bear the Elf’s weight. He lifted Legolas up off the floor and pinned him against the door.

Holding Legolas above himself with one hand and leaning with his shoulder for additional support, he lifted his right hand to his mouth and spat on the fingers. He sought out the Elf’s puckered entrance and applied the spittle, inserting two fingers and quickly massaging the muscle to loosen it. It was barely suitable preparation and Estel knew it but he was aflame—he *had* to take the Elf. *Now.* He positioned himself at the opening. “I am sorry, Meleth,” He kissed Legolas’ neck again. “I cannot wait.”

In one movement, he allowed Legolas to slide down and thrust himself upward at the same time, impaling his shaft fully within the hot cleft of the Elf. Legolas yelped but then quickly grabbed Estel’s face in his hands and took him in a bruising kiss, releasing both his pain and pleasure into the Rangers eager mouth. Estel grunted and accepted it as encouragement to continue. He lifted the Elf slightly and then lowered him again allowing Legolas’ weight to dictate the depth he achieved.

Legolas clenched his fingers in the tangles of brown hair and threw his head back to thud against the solid door. “Harder! Please!” He begged Estel. “Deeper! Yes, right—oh! There!” He squirmed as the Ranger’s hard protuberance connected with the small gland within him. He raised his knees higher to get the best angle, and Estel moved his arms to better lend support to the Elf’s legs. Estel then settled Legolas against the door level with his hips and began to pound into the creature, forcing the slender shoulders and back to chafe against the rough wood as he made Legolas to ride him. Legolas cried out as his pleasure center was stroked over and over bringing him to full hardness once again. Estel’s thrusts became frantic and uneven but he did not stop until he was certain Legolas was nearing his release as well. Estel thrust then mightily and shot his seed in to the Elf’s channel bringing Legolas with him over the brink.

They both collapsed to sit on the floor and Estel was so exhausted, he would have laid down right there and passed out, had not the Elf been in his lap with his legs and arms still wrapped around him, clinging to him. Legolas snuggled into Estel’s neck. He had been completely undone and swept away by the man, and had no desire to let the feeling end just yet.

After a few minutes of sitting and holding the Elf, Estel had to move to stretch a kink out of his back. “You *do* know this room has a bed. Perhaps we would be more comfortable there.”

Legolas only snuggled in closer. “It was not I who ignored that fact a short time ago.”

Estel grunted. His butt was getting sore too. “Granted. But have mercy on an old man.”

Legolas giggled and leaned back out of the embrace to look into Estel’s face. “Old? Do you have any idea how old I am?”

Estel raised his eyebrows. Of course the young-looking Sindar could easily be several thousand years old. “I *did* say ‘Man’.” He loosed himself from the elegant being and got to his feet, then had to lean on Legolas to make it to the bed on his now numb and wobbly legs—much to the amusement of the Elf. Legolas turned down the bed linen quickly while Estel managed to get out of the rest of his clothing. He climbed in bed with the Elf who immediately curled up against him, throwing one long sinuous leg across the Ranger’s thigh. In response, Estel slid an arm under Legolas’ shoulders and pulled him close.

They slept then, intertwined and utterly spent from their lovemaking.

Meleth - Lover

==+==

Chapter 3

Legolas woke slowly from his reverie, noting it was still dark outside. No birdsong yet broke the still of the night. He turned into the warm body beside him and found Estel was watching him. The man smiled, seeing Legolas was awake, and ran a finger down the Elf’s hairless cheek and long neck, stopping at a prominent bruise just above the collarbone.

Estel recalled his lack of patience when taking the Elf and a look of concern crossed his eyes. “Did I hurt you?”

“Yes.” Legolas admitted softly. “But if that is the cost of the pleasure you give me, I would have you take me again, as oft and whenever you will.”

Tears suddenly pricked behind Estel’s eyes. Never did he expect to see such adoration in the eyes of one of the Firstborn—and directed at him! It made him feel very small and unworthy. This was far beyond what he’d ever felt from any lover before, even Elrond’s daughter, and he was*betrothed* to her. He heard Legolas speak as if from a great distance.

“Have I said something to make you sad?”

“No! No, never.” Estel warred with himself as to what he might say, still not prepared to tell Legolas more truthfully who he was and why he’d accompanied the Elf in the first place. “I was only thinking of some things that must be and others that cannot.”

Legolas nodded, vaguely aware that he was a part of those thoughts and hoping he was counted among the things that would be included in this unusual man’s life. He snaked a hand behind Estel’s neck and pulled him close for a kiss. “Perhaps it would be better to dwell on the things that *are* and let the future see to itself.”

“Perhaps.” Estel pulled Legolas to himself and held him tightly. There was no way he could deny the love in his heart that had blossomed this day. If he could choose but one thing for his future to hold, it would be the Golden Elf—yet inside he feared his destiny was already sealed. Even if the amulet was not what he feared it to be, Galadriel had not minced words when she spoke of the coming darkness and how his fate was wrapped up in it. He turned his face into the pillow to hide the tears he knew would come if he continued to think such dark thoughts.

Legolas was acutely aware of Estel’s distress, but did not want to press his reluctance to speak more directly of it. Instead, he did what he could to ease the Ranger’s pain.

The Elf pushed on Estel’s shoulder until he lay flat on the bed then moved to straddle him. He stretched out over the larger body knowing that his weight would be no burden, and began to kiss the salt from Estel’s face.

“You don’t have to-”

“Hush.” Legolas silenced Estel by pressing two fingers to his lips. “Take comfort where you can. I do not know what pains you so, but I would take at least a small portion of it away.” He kissed Estel soundly then, humming in relief when the man responded to his overtures. As one the lover’s bodies began to move against each other, skin caressing skin. Estel slowly ran his hands down the sleek body above him, appreciating every curve and muscle until he reached the firm buttocks. These he held onto and pressed the Elf to himself.

Legolas continued to writhe sensuously and rotate his hips. He moved his upper body as well delighting in the feel of his nipples rubbing acrossthe smattering of coarse hair on the man’s chest. His member grew hard and so did Estel’s. Legolas reached down between them and grasped Estel firmly. He stroked the hard length from the base to tip and toyed with the weeping slit.

Estel gasped and rocked his hips forward. In another moment he was aware Legolas had positioned himself to be entered. “Daro!” He unconsciously slipped into the Sindarin tongue he’d grown up speaking. His hands gripped the Elf’s hips tightly to keep him from completing the act. “You must still be sore. Please, you do not have to do this for me. I cannot bear to hurt you again.”

“You would injure me more by refusing, but I will ease the way—for both of us.” Legolas quickly moved off the bed and retrieved something from his satchel. He opened the flask and poured a small amount of oil into his cupped palm then moved to the bedside where he liberally coated Estel’s engorged member with it. He then placed one foot up on the bed and reached for the opening between his own legs. The sight of the Elf preparing himself was almost too much for Estel to bear. He licked suddenly dry lips as he watched Legolas insert one, then two fingers into himself and move them in and out, slowly stretching and loosening the orifice of the man’s desire.

None too soon Legolas climbed atop Estel and positioned himself at the apex of the man’s shaft. He took the Ranger’s chin tightly in his hand and forced the steel gray eyes to meet his cobalt blue ones in parlay.

“It is not only your comfort I seek. Know this, I want you Man. I want to feel the throbbing of your mortal heart within me and the heat of your seed wash over me. I would take you in and hold you there until your head is reeling and your eyes see nothing but the stars of the Valar.” With that the Elf grasped Estel’s oiled cock in his hand to guide it. He lowered his mouth and his hips at the same time, taking Estel in a searing kiss full of need as the man’s shaft was sunk to the hilt in his wanting passage.

Estel bucked upward and Legolas removed his hand, allowing for the maximum penetration. If possible their lovemaking was even more fervent as they no longer had to worry about keeping themselves upright and balanced. Flesh slapped hard against flesh. Teeth nipped at tongue and lip until the coppery tang of fresh blood was tasted. The smell and taste of the life-giving fluid only spurred Legolas on to ride harder. He broke off the kiss and threw his shoulders back in a graceful arch where he continued to pound from the new angle. His hair flew about his shoulders as he moved, liquid gold sparkling in the candlelight. With their bodies thus separated, Estel was free to put his hands to good use. He clutched a slender hip in one hand and with the other gripped Legolas’ straining Elfhood. He did not need to pump, so furious were the Elf’s movements, but only held him and provided a measure of friction.

Legolas began to gasp and cry out as his control slipped away. Estel too was almost ready to come but wanted them to be in unison. He circled his fingers tightly around the very base of the Elven rod, giving Legolas the strength to go on for a few more strokes. As he felt his own orgasm claim him, Estel released the Elf. A silver-white plume erupted immediately and shot across the bed as Estel’s own milk and honey filled Legolas’ chamber.

Legolas collapsed forward onto Estel’s chest and into his waiting arms, the golden hair tumbling like a waterfall across his shoulders. Estel brushed a stray lock out of the way and chastely kissed the Elf. Breathing in harmony with him, he watched as Legolas’ sapphire eyes misted over and knew the Elf had fallen asleep.

Daro - Stop

==+==

It wasn’t birdsong that woke them, at least not a pleasant birdsong—some wretched squawking thing made itself known right outside the window at the break of dawn.

The man and Elf roused together but neither rushed to face what the day would bring. Legolas was lying on his side drawing a lazy figure eight on Estel’s chest with his fingertip.

“Why haven’t you taken the map?”

“What?”

“I’ve seen how you look at it. You seek the amulet as much as those who attacked me and killed my companions.”

When Estel did not answer, Legolas leaned forward and pressed his lips to those of the man. “It’s all right. I saw it, too. The tree shaped like the rune on the map. I have been thinking about what you said; that the true worth of the map is the amulet. It is such a small thing. The map describes it only as a scarlet colored gemstone. If we could find it…”

“But your brother—”

“I know.” Legolas nodded. “But if I only give up the map, who is to say they will not keep him until they are assured of the treasure. No. You were correct. We should find it for the bargaining power it would wield.” He lowered his head and rested it on Estel’s chest, just then realizing he’d been speaking as if the Ranger would continue on with him, when in reality their meeting the night before was to have been a farewell. Though he’d now experienced something extraordinary at the hands of the man, he was yet unsure it was anything but a passing tryst. He’d heard many a tale of the fickleness of men’s hearts.

His thoughts were interrupted by a knock on the door and a paper slid under it. The Elf rose quickly and tossed back the covers much to the Estel’s dismay as the chilly morning air hit his body.

Legolas’ shoulders slumped as he read the note. “They are not here. I am to meet them at a tavern called ‘The Lazy Dog’.” He inclined his head as he read the scribbled note. “It is in—Pelargir?”

“That is south some 50 leagues.”

Legolas moved to the bed and perched on the edge of it. He spoke in earnest. “Come with me. We will find the treasure first then go to this city and free my brother. I know you desire the amulet, and I have nothing to offer in place of it now, but I swear you will be rewarded handsomely by my father when this is all over and done. Please. Help me.”

Estel smiled up at the forlorn looking Elf. He’d already decided he would see this quest to the end, even if it meant losing the amulet. “So,” he inquired jokingly, “just how much does your father have?”

“Enough.” Legolas spoke with a tone both playful and oddly serious. “Have you not heard of the Elven King Thranduil?”

If Estel had had anything in his mouth he would have spewed it out. “You are Thranduil’s son?” He was horrified that he’d just spent hours in the intimate company of the Golden Prince of Mirkwood. He suddenly recalled a fleeting glimpse he’d had of the deadly warrior who slew hundreds at the Battle of the Last Alliance and ruled the Great Wood with a will of iron ever since. He groaned at his own stupidity. There was a definite resemblance. Besides, who *else* could this beautiful Elf have been but the one he’d heard called the ‘Light of the Dark Wood’. He’d only assumed all this time Legolas was out of Lórien. “I don’t suppose any of the tales I’ve heard are untrue?”

Legolas smirked. “Oh, if they are any of the tales I know, they are *all* true.”

==+==

It was late afternoon by the time they’d procured the horses and supplies for the journey, but before nightfall they were standing in front of the odd twisted tree. Legolas held up the map and scrutinized it. He moved slowly around the tree to the other side and held his hand up, aligning his sight with the branches as depicted on the map. “There!” He pointed to something southeast of their position.

“What is it?” Estel came to stand by the Elf but could not see anything that stood out in the dim landscape.

“There.” Legolas spoke impatiently, forgetting how much better his vision was than that of men. “Those low peaks beyond the White City.”

Estel looked around and got his bearings. “You can see Emyn Arnen from here?”

Legolas frowned. “I see peaks. I do not know what you call them, but they are where the map is pointing. Specifically the third one from the left.”

The Ranger’s mouth gaped open. He knew all Elves could see far but had never seen the ability demonstrated to such an extent. In the back of his mind he recalled a dozen times he could have used such an Elf. “Then to the ’peaks’ we go.” As it was already too dark for the horses to manage their footing easily, the pair decided to wait until morning and then were off with the first rays of Anor.

They crossed the distance in one day easily on the horses and by the next nightfall were camped part way up the slope of the third weathered mountaintop. Legolas had been perusing the map as he ate and now rolled it up. “We should make for the summit and be there before dawn. I do not know if it matters, but there is a depiction of a rising sun. Perhaps it is important.”

Estel groaned, it was too dark and steep to go by horse from here and he did not relish the idea of climbing the shale in the dark on his hands and knees. “Perhaps it means to not attempt to go until daylight.”

The Elf chuckled. “If you want you can wait here, but I intend to be there early.” He cocked his head and smiled. “You take first watch.”

Estel watched through the firelight as the Elf settled himself down to sleep. Uncertain of their safety, Legolas did not even remove his wrist braces, his only concession to being fully battle-ready was to have his weapons lying on the ground beside him instead of strapped to his back. In a few minutes he was stretched out prone and breathing slowly in apparent reverie.

==+==

Legolas slowed and evened out his breathing but was unable to sleep. Inside his emotions were in conflict; he did not trust the decisions he was making of late. First, he had decided to go after the amulet, which was delaying his brother’s freedom. While that was still the goal, Legolas worried that the elder Prince wasn’t just being held captive, he might be mistreated as well—such was not unknown where Men and Elves were at odds.

And then there was the Ranger. Estel was an enigma, noble and good hearted as any man Legolas had ever even heard stories of yet something dark warred within him. It was obvious he wanted the amulet but seemed to deny it in an odd way, as if it were something that could do both evil and good, and the man was not certain he really wanted it at all, or for anyone else to have control of it. Legolas wondered what the amulet actually was and what it meant to those who sought it.

Lastly, but undeniably demanding most of the Elf’s attention, were the events of the previous night. He could not deny his attraction to the man but feared to call it love, yet he had never felt as he did for this Mortal. He’d tried hard to brush the feelings away and see if they could be dispelled but it was not so easy to get the Ranger out of his mind. He even reminded himself how dangerous it was to become involved with a Mortal, no matter how deep the love was- it was a doomed love.

All day he’d felt heat coming off the man, despite they were on separate horses. And now that they were camped and all was quiet, the feeling was that much more intense. He suddenly came back to full awareness when a breathy noise came from Estel’s direction.

==+==

The Ranger sighed. He couldn’t stop thinking about the fey creature he’d bedded two nights before. There was nothing he wanted more than to take Legolas again, but was loath to even consider it after learning of the Prince’s heritage. Prince! Yes, he reminded himself, he had managed to seduce not just any Elf, but Thranduil’s son. The Elf King wouldpositively kill him if he found out.

Still, seeing the lithe body, even clothed as it was, did not stop his thoughts. The firelight was not helping either, the flames made Legolas’ hair sparkle and shimmer even though the Elf was perfectly still.

“You are supposed to be watching the forest.”

Estel jumped at the sound of Legolas’ voice. “I, er, I was just…” Caught, he began to mumble an answer then stopped himself. This simply would not do. He got to his feet and moved around the campfire to where the Elf lay and sat down beside him.

Instinctively Legolas moved to increase the distance between them but was stopped by a firm hand on his arm. Estel held up a placating hand. “Wait. I only…” He grunted in frustration. “I have burned for you all day, Elf, but I am no fool. I know this is not an opportune time or place. I only desire a short respite from my affliction.”

“What would you have?” Legolas was almost afraid to ask.

Estel released his grip on Legolas and moved his hand to caress the full bottom lip with the pad of his thumb. “A kiss, and to touch your hair.”

Legolas pulled back from the Ranger’s touch and sat up warily, biting his lip where the salty taste of the man still lingered. He nodded once, lowering his eyes.

Estel scooted closer and took Legolas’ chin in his hand, raising it to better see the lovely face. He could sense the increased breathing and pulse of the Elf and found himself utterly pleased to have such an effect on him. He closed the distance slowly intent on making this a slow, chaste kiss, enough to ward off his passion for a while yet not frighten Legolas off. When their lips met he found he did not want to stop.

He pressed his lips firmly to the Sindar’s and opened his mouth so he could nibble on the soft pillows of flesh. At first Legolas tried to pull back, but Estel had snaked a hand behind his neck and held him in an iron grip. Legolas’ desire to escape was only half-hearted anyway and thus held he quickly opened his mouth to the man’s questing tongue.

Legolas groaned as Estel thrust his solid muscle into his mouth and sought its counterpart. He thrust back and when the man retreated the Elf followed. He licked and nipped at the man’s lips still bruised fromthe previous night and delighted in the feel of the fur surrounding Estel’s full lips. Legolas’ response only served to incite Estel to even more passion. He turned the Elf and laid him on the ground without breaking the kiss.

As soon as Legolas was down he realized the man was moving to straddle him and panicked. Suddenly Estel had his hands full of mad thrashing Elf instead of willing partner and let the being go. Legolas scooted across the ground to quickly put some distance between them and came to rest against a tree, flushed and panting, staring at Estel. He wiped the corner of his mouth with the back of his hand.

“Forgive me.” Estel spoke hoarsely. “It seems where you are concerned I have no restraint at all.”

Legolas nodded and glanced up at the starlit sky. “I should go.”

Before Estel could complain that they had several hours yet before the sky even began to lighten Legolas was gone. He berated himself for his lack of patience and settled down in front of the fire to spend the long night alone.

==+==

Estel woke easily well before dawn, having trained himself to sleep in short naps for safety’s sake. When he noticed the Prince was still nowhere near he moved away from the camp to a point where the summit was visible. In the gray light of early morn he could just make out the long slender form of the Elf standing on the very apex of the peak, awaiting dawn. The sky grew in lightness then and suddenly great shafts of sunlight shot through the craggy peaks of the much higher mountains that lay further east and surrounded Mordor.

Legolas was lit from behind as one of the shafts fell directly upon him, making him to glow brightly. Estel smiled at the sight, it was so appropriate that even Anor would recognize the Golden Elf and bestow her affections on him. Legolas held the map in his hand and unrolled it. He looked away to the south and back to the map several times as if verifying what he was seeing.

Suddenly Legolas was moving, running in great leaps down the slick shale, barely disturbing the loose rock at all. Estel had to hurry to get back to the campsite to meet him.

“We head due south to a river. Do you know of it?”

”Aye.” Estel answered, glad that Legolas seemed to have put the previous night’s folly behind them. “The River Poros. It flows out of the Ephel Dúas to the Andúin.”

By mutual agreement they set off again immediately. It took a little more than half a day on horseback as they were able to ride along the outskirts of the Ithilien forest rather than through it. When they arrived they took a short rest at the base of a beautiful waterfall.

Anor – The sun
Ephel Dúas – The Mountains of Shadow

==+==

“So where do we go from here?”

“I do not know.” Legolas answered in frustration.

“You have the map; what does it say?”

“It does not make sense!” The Elf got to his feet and tossed the map at the Ranger.

Estel picked it up and inspected the drawing. The only clue left was the words ‘C’uron Gloss’. “The moon?” He wondered aloud. He turned to Legolas. “Could it be something we can only see by moonlight?”

Legolas wearily came to sit beside the Ranger. “I do not think so. Here.” He pointed to a drawing on the map. “This is Anor, high in the sky. One would not see a crescent moon at midday.”

“All right then, not the moon. Why would these words be written here?”

“I do not know.” Legolas repeated with growing irritation. “I am no scholar, if there is some hidden meaning I am not aware of it.”

Estel continued to fuss over the ragged hide, turning it this way and that. On a whim he folded it along a crease. Suddenly he stopped and stared at it. Were those more letters or just bits of the drawings? He turned the map around and smiled in recognition. “Legolas?” He held the map so the Elf could see it plainly. “What is the Sindarin word for waterfall?”

The Prince stared dumbfounded at the obvious writing on the map. “Lanthir.”

Together their heads both turned to the rumbling waterfall behind them. They turned back to each other, grinning like fools. Legolas rolled up the map and tucked it in his Jerkin. “Let’s go.”

==+==

As expected behind the waterfall was a grotto, but once inside they were again at an impasse. Legolas stood against a craggy wall with his arms folded across his chest. “But that is what it says!”

Estel argued back. “It must have to do with these crevices where the sunlight comes in. We must be able to see the moon through one of them.”

“Looking at the sky through the openings will not help. You can still not see the moon at midday. Besides, one would have to look through the crevice at an exact time of a certain day of the year, and there is no date reference on the map.”

“Argh!” The Ranger kicked a stone and sent it flying against the wall where it bounced into a pool of cave water. “Where would one find a moon inside a cave?”

“Not any moon.” Legolas corrected him. “A bright white crescent. If such a thing is here we should have seen it easily.”

Estel leaned against the opposite wall and folded his arms, mirroring the posture of the Elf. “Then it is over. It is not here.”

Legolas wasn’t yet ready to concede defeat. He glared around the cave, defying it to give up its secret. Here and there shafts of sunlight illuminated the darkness and sparkled off the wet stone walls of the cave. Legolas knit his brow as he looked at the myriad of shapes created by the roughness of the stone. Bright. Sparkling. White.

He suddenly jumped away from the wall. “It is here! Bright white! The sunlight! Look for a crescent shape, something only to be seen when the sunlight falls upon it! It is well past midday but we may still be able to find it! Hurry!”

They searched quickly, running their hands over the walls and everywhere even a small patch of sunlight hit. Suddenly both saw it. There in the center of the cave floor was a small crescent shaped pool of water colored milky white from the minerals in the cave. Only a small corner of it was still bathed in the sunlight that made it shimmer brightly.

Together Man and Elf fell to their knees at the pool and began to feel through the opaque water for anything that might not be rock. “Remember, it is not a large thing.” Legolas warned as he lifted a handful of gravel out of the water and sorted through it. “Do not overlook anything.”

“Agreed.” Estel began to do the same, scooping up whatever stones were in the pool and bringing them up into the light to be seen. After several handfuls the Ranger stopped, staring at his palm. He held his hand out into the last ray of sunlight for Legolas to see. There in his hand, amid the rocks, was a faceted ruby colored stone, large enough to make a very hefty ring.

“That’s it!” The Elf reverently picked up the stone and held it up in the light. “It is difficult to believe something so small is said to be so powerful.”

Estel rinsed the dirt and muck off his hands. “There are many kinds of power Mellon Nín. Even a small dart may kill a man if its poison is strong enough.”

Legolas nodded. “We will see. The only power I care about it that which will free my brother.”

Upon returning to camp, Legolas wrapped the precious jewel up in a cloth and tucked it in a hidden compartment in his satchel. He did not fear it but still thought of it as something magical that might be best not carried too closely.

Just as they were calling for their horses the first arrow struck.

C’uron Gloss – Bright shining moon
Lanthir - Waterfall
Mellon - Friend
Mellon Nín – My Friend

==+==

Chapter 4

Legolas shot his arrows quickly into the woods knocking one Goblin after another out of the trees, but they were many in number and obviously well prepared for the assault. They were hiding in the trees all along the edge of the forest on both sides of the waterfall and the upper part ofthe river. The horses were nowhere to be seen, most likely already felled by crossbow bolts. Escape upriver was impossible due to the falls, and downriver just beyond the pool where they camped was another, smaller waterfall and a succession of rapids.

As more arrows flew dangerously close to where they stood, Estel grabbed Legolas by the collar and threw him into the swirling water. “What are you doing?!” The Elf sputtered.

“Keeping us alive!” Estel shouted instructions to Legolas. “Keep your feet up out of the rocks! When you emerge from the waterfall swim for shore quickly. The rapids are too dangerous!”

The Elf nodded and prepared to be swept over the edge by the fast moving current. They went over and plummeted to the second pool below. Emerging from the froth, Estel shouted to Legolas amid a hail of arrows. “here! This way!” Neither could move quickly enough yet avoid being shot, so they both ended up swept into the upper rapids.

The quickly moving water slammed them into rock after rock for several hundred feet. Finally Legolas was able to grab hold of a fallen tree and pull himself to shore. A little way further down Estel did the same, using a series of partially submerged rocks as hand holds. However, they ended up on opposite sides of the raging torrent.

Estel shouted to the Elf over the roar of the water. “It’s too dangerous. We cannot cross over!”

Legolas yelled in fury when he saw Estel had his satchel. “But you have the stone!”

“I will keep it safe for you!”

“I don’t believe you!” The Elf screamed out his frustration. “You planned this didn’t you? To get the stone! Now all I have is a useless map.” His voice became too quiet for Estel to hear.

The Ranger was exasperated. How could he convince Legolas he would not betray him? Suddenly arrows began to rain down on them again. “Go! Just go!” Estel shouted. “The city you seek is due west from here. Follow the setting sun. I will try to be there but if I fail, use the map to free your brother. They may not be the same as these who are attacking us and may not know we have the stone.”

The Elf glared back at him, turning only when forced to escape or die. He disappeared into the dense forest.

Estel waited another moment to make sure Legolas was gone then made good his own escape.

==+==

Pelargir was exactly what Legolas expected it to be as a Port-of-Call of men. It was filthy, it stank, and everywhere he went someone was staring at him. To be less obvious, he’d taken his quiver off his back and held his weapons close to his body under his tightly wrapped cloak. It took well over an hour to finally find it, but before dark he was standing in the foyer of the Lazy Dog.

Inside the place was dark and heavy with smoke. There were several patrons in the place, each with at least one tankard in front of them and none with food. He approached the Barkeep. “Excuse me, I am looking for someone.”

The portly man cleared his throat and not so subtly eyed the stranger before replying. “Aren’t we all lad?”

“No. What I mean is someone may be looking for me. We were to meet here.” The Elf tightened his cloak about him as someone bumped him from behind. “He is a man, a little taller than me, with dark unkempt hair and dark clothing.”

The man chuckled. “You’ve just described everyone in this room. Perhaps a name?”

Legolas thought a minute. “Thorongil.” He was sure that was the name Estel said he used in Gondor.

“Never heard of him.”

“Estel?”

“Never heard of him either.” The Barkeep shuffled some bottles and mugs. “Look, you seem like a fine boy. Perhaps that sort of thing isn’t for you anyway. Why don’t you go on home?”

The Elf kit his brow, he wasn’t sure what the man was referring to. He decided to move on. “May I send a message then?”

“To Thorongil or Estel?”

“Neither.” Legolas pulled out the note he’d received and pointed to a scrawled name. “I need to let this person know I am here.”

The man frowned. “You keep poor company to be someone so fair. There will be a price.”

Legolas huffed. He’d hoped he would have no need for money. Estel had all of that, too. “I have no money.” He thought for a moment then drew out of his hidden quiver a single arrow. “Will this do?”

The Barkeep picked it up and marveled at the craftsmanship. He eyed the cloaked stranger much more closely than before. “It is Elven, is it not?”

The Sindar nodded.

“It will do. What is your message?”

“Only that I am here.” He paused. “Give my name as Greenleaf.”

The man nodded and waited until the stranger was gone. He then turned and spoke to a figure in the shadows. “Well, he’s here- finally. Do you want the arrow?”

The man shook his head. “Keep it for your trouble. Give it an hour, and then tell him to come by the pier after dark, slip nine.” With that, the man quickly exited through a side doorway.

Legolas found a quiet spot on the deck behind the tavern to wait for a return message. He fingered the map in his breast pocket as he watched the boats and people go by. It was nothing but a worthless scrap of leather, yet was all he had to trade for his brother. He could only hope Estel was right and the men he was to meet were not the same ones who’d ambushed them and knew they’d found the amulet.

As his thoughts turned to the Ranger, Legolas found himself mulling over the events of the past several days. He’d been completely enamored of the man and now was alone and in a worse situation than before. Apparently his father had been right; he did not have enough experience with the deviousness of men to have taken on this quest. He only hoped his brother would not die due to his naïveté.

Yet, in his dismal state he realized his feelings for Estel were not gone- if anything, he missed the man more. He sighed heavily. “Well, Man that is named ‘Hope’, we shall see if you live up to it.”

==+==

As soon as Legolas saw the dock workers going around lighting torches he headed for the pier. Once there he slowly made his way through the stone archways, moving silently, his Elven senses on high alert. Though he hadn’t drawn from his quiver yet he held his bow at the ready confident in his ability to notch an arrow and let it fly in under second should the need arise. His woodland-honed skills served him well, even in an environment such as this, made mostly of stone.

Legolas had been aware of the two men who were behind him since he first entered the docks. He decided to allow them to follow him, knowing that if they thought they remained concealed they would be more apt to let down their guard, and thus be an easier target if the time came. Another man was a few arches ahead of him hiding behind a pillar. There was a familiar presence with the third man that Legolas had already identified as his brother, Erephin. He sensed no fear coming off the Elf, which encouraged him greatly, but there was some measure of discomfort. Either the Prince had been injured in some way or was tightly bound.

As he approached the archway, a voice rang out from the darkness. “That’s far enough Elf!”

Legolas stopped and quickly reassessed his surroundings. There were three more men on a high walkway with bows, and both of the men behind him had moved closer, flanking him. By the sounds of their movements he perceived the ones on the ground had only swords; thus, his greatest threat would be from above. He took a breath and prepared to stand his ground. “I have the map!”

There was a slight scuffling, but then the man spoke again. “Show me!”

“Show me my brother!”

The man uttered a curse, but a few seconds later Erephin was shoved out from behind the pillar. Legolas could see that his hands were tied behind his back but he was otherwise unbound and seemed well enough. The older Elf glared menacingly at something to his right then turned his head forward, letting out an obvious breath of relief at the sight of his brother.

“Legolas!”

“Erephin!”

As Legolas stepped forward the man made his presence known. He stood beside the firstborn Prince with a cocked crossbow pointed at him. “Far enough, Greenleaf.” He moved closer and held the bow to Erephin’s side. The Elf winced as the sharp tip of the bolt was pressed into his skin.

“Show me the map. Now.”

Legolas quickly withdrew the map from his jerkin and unrolled it. He held it up for the man’s inspection.

“Drop it and move away.”

Legolas did as he was told, dropping the map and stepping back several paces. “Release my brother!”

The man gave Erephin a shove and then moved forward to pick up the map. He motioned to one of the other men to come out of hiding and handed off the crossbow to him. Erephin ran quickly into Legolas’ arms and let the younger Elf hug him and kiss him on the cheek. “Legolas.” Erephin sighed into his brother’s shoulder. “I knew you would come, but I feared something had happened. They said you should have been here two days ago.”

Legolas spoke quietly as he untied the ropes securing Erephins hands. “There is much to discuss, but not here. I fear these are not the only ones who are involved. We must leave this place quickly.”

As he released the last knot, Erephin swung his hands forward and rubbed at his sore wrists. “Sons of Orcs. They have not even given me water for more than a day.” He lowered his voice to a whisper. His blue eyes darted about the vicinity. “I hear them as well. Many are coming.”

Legolas nodded then scanned the surrounding area quickly, willing his senses to reach out and see what was there—and the best avenue of escape.

The man stood near one of the torches and perused the map. “Um, hmm. Yes, this is it. You have done well Master Elf.” He glanced up as he spoke. “You may go.”

Legolas turned to escort his brother to safety but before they could take two steps there was noise from several places at once around the berth. Within seconds a squad of armed men came into sight. Some quickly disarmed the man who had taken the map and his companions while others turned their bows on the Elves. The archers above had gone unnoticed, and now hid themselves. There was a scuffling sound from behind one ofthe pillars and then to Legolas’ surprise, Estel emerged into the light as if pushed from behind.

He smiled sheepishly at Legolas. “I missed you at the tavern. Actually-” He paused a moment as the men holding him shoved him forward. “Several of us missed you.”

A black cloaked figure followed behind the Ranger and stepped to the forefront. Even in the light his face was clouded in darkness so that only the glint of his eyes could be seen. He strode over to the man holding the map and tore it out of his grasp. “This map is worthless.” He held it up to one of the torches and set it on fire then tossed it to the floor. “They already have the amulet.”

The first man spat out a curse. “Deceitful Elves!” He struggled to get free, but was held fast by his captors.

The hooded figure turned then to the Elves. “Where is the stone?”

Legolas glanced quickly at the Ranger. “I don’t know.” He answered carefully, unsure as to what the Ranger may have done with it.

The Dark One took another step forward. “Where is it?” Legolas stared him down this time. He answered without a waver to his voice. “I do not have it. We dug. We did not find anything.”

The figure turned. “I do not believe you.” He made a gesture with his hand and his forces sprang into action. All of the captives were dragged out to the dock where a huge crate had been unloaded to a lower section of the mooring. Two men ran forward and reached down to remove the lid.

Estel and the men Legolas had met first were dragged to one side but the Elves were brought forward. The Dark One reached a craggy hand out of his cloak and grasped Legolas’ wrist in a grip cold as steel. He dragged the stumbling Elf forward to the edge of the dock where he could look down into the crate.

Legolas gasped at the sight of several dozen writhing snakes in the pit before him. “Lhimlug!” He redoubled his efforts to pull away but the being held him fast. “You will tell me! Where is the amulet?”

Estel struggled where he was held. “He doesn’t know!”

The hood turned in his direction. “Then he will die.” He tugged again on the slender arm and made Legolas to fall to his knees at the very edge of the platform. It would only take a small shove to land him in thepit.

Estel growled furiously. “Let him go! I am the one you want! I have it!”

The Dark One swung around so that his cape unfurled with his movement. “Where is it?”

Estel quickly snatched the gem out of a concealed place in his belt and held it aloft. “You want it? Take it!” He threw the prized object at the dark figure but aimed so that it would fly over is shoulder. With an inhuman quickness the being snatched the gem out of the air easily. He held it out in his palm and bellowed in victory. The battle cry was cut short and turned into a shout of rage and anguish as the largest of the snakes lifted its broad head above the level of the deck and latched onto the dark hand. With a quick twist of its muscular body it ripped flesh and cracked bone, tearing the hand off its limb and taking with it the amulet.

The Dark One screeched a cry so loud the timbers of the pier shook. He shouted to his troops. “Get the Elves! Kill the men!” As he spoke, the archers on the catwalk decided it was time to act, felling three of the soldiers at once. Suddenly all was in chaos. The two factions of men engaged in battle with Estel and the Elves caught in the middle. Legolas drew out his white knives and tossed one to his brother. The Elves stood back to back protecting each other from any who drew near. Slowly they were forced into a corner.

Estel felt as though he was fighting everyone. He’d managed to take a long sword off one of the guards first thing and wielded it with deadly force. As he fought he saw movement out of the corner of his eye sand realized the snake had found its way out of the pit and now headed for the open water and freedom. All it had to do was cross a narrow section of the walkway and over a low stone wall. He knew what he had to do and with renewed strength fought free of the melee. He ran for the snake and just in time caught it by the tail as it dragged its heavy body over the wall.

Legolas and Erephin fought well but were sorely outnumbered and with only one short blade each, were just staving off the attack. Estel chanced a look back and saw the predicament the Elves were in and then saw the dark hooded figure rise and approach them. The soldiers backed off, allowing their master access to the Elves. The vile thing reached beneath its cloak and produced a long leather thronged whip. With the first crack of it he snatched the knife out of Erephin’s hand and with the second knocked the Elf to the ground.

When Erephin fell Estel knew he could not abandon them. He cursed the snake and released it. Quickly he climbed up a ladder to the next level and grabbed a mooring line. He watched as Legolas stood facing the Dark One alone, his brother lying at his feet either unconscious or dead.

The Ranger held onto the line and with a single sweep of his blade cut it loose. He swung downward ever faster and just as the Dark One lifted his whip to attack the Elf, Estel came between the two. He needed both hands to hold onto the rope and so for a weapon he used his outstretched feet. He plowed into the being and forced him back to the pit, tumbling with him to the edge of the platform. The Dark One struggled to his feet but Estel was quicker. He still had the blade and whilst yet on his knees shoved it upward into his foe with all his strength. The Dark One faltered and teetered on the edge for a moment before falling headlong into the pit of writhing sea snakes.

Estel quickly rose to his feet and ran back to the Elves. At the sight of their master’s demise the soldiers had scattered leaving the two Elves alone on the dock. Estel dropped beside Legolas where he knelt beside his brother’s prone form.

“Is he all right?”

Legolas nodded. “He was knocked unconscious but he breathes steadily. I am sure he will wake in a moment.”

The Ranger smiled at the Elf and reached for him, pulling him into his arms. He nuzzled the soft neck and sweet smelling hair. “I’m sorry I wasn’t there.”

“I know.” Legolas squeezed Estel then pulled back and turned his face to meet him. Their mouths crashed together then in burning need, lips parting as they wantonly sought to engulf each other. Estel’s hands wound their way inside the Elf’s jerkin and under his tunic, finally contacting bare skin. He groaned at the silken feel of the fey being in his arms. Legolas, too, was busy with his hands, one sliding behind Estel’s’ neck and the other slipping down the front of his leggings. The Ranger moaned loudly and thrust his hips forward into the Elf’s hand.

Suddenly Estel pulled back breaking off contact. Seeing the confused look on the Elf’s face he cupped Legolas’ cheeks in his palms and took him again in a searing kiss. He ended it and rested his forehead against that of the Elf. His Elf.

“I must go.”

“What! Estel, you can’t-“ His words were cut off by another hard kiss. The Ranger held his face still and gazed into the troubled blue orbs.

“It is—complicated. Trust me, Meleth Nín.” He kissed Legolas again, this time with a feather-light touch. “You have not seen the last of me.” With that the Ranger released his hold and ran to the edge of the dock where the snake had gone into the water. He took one final look back at the two Princes of Mirkwood then turned and leapt into the dark water below.

Lhimlug – Sea Serpents
Meleth Nín – My Love

==+==

Mirkwood had never seemed so gloomy to Legolas at it had been since his return. He’d of course been welcomed home as a hero, with Erephin being rescued, but it felt hollow. He couldn’t stop thinking about the brash Ranger with an Elven name.

Suddenly there was an uproar in the courtyard. The Prince sighed and moved to the balcony to see what it was that had upset the quiet of the Elven palace. His heart clenched in his chest as he took in the sight below. There on a magnificent ebony stallion was the Ranger with something that looked suspiciously like a royal entourage following behind him.

The Prince ran as a hind in flight down the staircase and out to the portico. He met the Man just as he dismounted.

“Estel?” Legolas held himself in check at the appearance of the man. Gone were the ragged traveling clothes of a field Ranger; instead he wore the finer things of men. His silken shirt of burgundy peeked out from under an embroidered black velvet jerkin, topped off with a matching cape, fringed and detailed all around the edge with silver threading. He wore riding leggings and high shiny black boots of fine tooled leather with not a smudge of dirt on them.

The Elf did not understand what could have made such a change in the man. Suddenly it dawned on him. “The amulet. You found it?”

“I did.” With a laugh, Estel held up his hand, revealing the restored signet ring of the King of Gondor. “The power of this stone is notmagical; it is in what it symbolizes. I am Aragorn, son of Arathorn and rightful wearer of this symbol of the Royal House of Gondor. For many generations it was lost to Isildur’s line, but now it has found its way home. In time the throne itself will be reclaimed.”

“By you?” Legolas’ voice grew soft, fearing the answer would reveal a gulf so wide that his hopes of being with Estel would forever be destroyed.

“That is yet to be seen. I do not crave such, and will not avidly seek it as other’s might, but it is my heritage to bear if I must.” Estel stepped forward and touched the Elf’s face. “As someone very old and wise once told me, perhaps it is better to dwell on those things that are, and let the future see to itself.”

Legolas smiled hopefully. “Not so old, but then I speak as an Elf.” He paused. “So if you are not going to be King yet, what is all of this?” Legolas waved his arm to the fine horses and regally dressed men still on their mounts. His eyes moved down and back up the Rangers body, taking in once again, the fine silks that had replaced the worn leather and wool.

Estel took the Elf’s hand and raised it to his mouth, bestowing a kiss on the white knuckles. “Pen-vuil Nín. Though I am in no hurry to rule, there is one right I would claim now, that of taking a consort.” He leaned forward and whispered conspiratorially into the pointed ear. “And one does not beseech the mighty Elven King Thranduil for the hand of his son whilst dressed as a beggar.”

Legolas’ face broke into a full grin and he flung himself at the Ranger. He covered every inch of the man’s face with kisses then captured his mouth and did not let go.

Pen-vúil Nín – My Dear One

==+==

Erephin stood on the balcony and grinned as he surveyed the scene below. When he sensed another’s presence he spoke. “It seems my brother did not tell us *all* of what happened when he came after me.”

“Apparently not.” Thranduil, King of Mirkwood frowned. “King of Gondor, hmm? And Elven blood in his veins as well?”

The younger Elf nodded. “Aye. When we stopped in Caras Galadan for the night, the Lady Galadriel told us herself. He is of Elendil’s line andrightful heir of Isildur. She said he has a rather great destiny to fulfill but would tell us nothing else, though I am certain she knew much more.”

Thranduil raised an eyebrow. “I see.” He nodded his head thoughtfully, “Still, I think I could live with that.” As he turned to move back into the palace he raised a finger of warning to his son. “But do not tell them I said so.”

~fin

 

 

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