Chapter One: The Common Room
"Aragorn, wait!" Legolas said as he caught up to his companion. The two were traveling through the area by Bree hunting orcs that had not perished when the War of the Ring had been won. The orcs posed no major threat to them, but needed to be hunted down before they did anymore deal of damage. There had been reports that small bands of orcs had been seen near the area lately causing mischief.
"I thought I heard something," Aragorn said.
They both halted and listened intently. There was a small snort about ten meters away, and then they could see an orc resting on a log by the creek.
Aragorn reached for his sword, but Legolas put his hand on his shoulder.
"I have this one," he said with a grin.
Legolas reached back for an arrow from his quiver, and strung it to his bow. Bending down on his knees, he aimed slowly and carefully. He raised his chin to measure the distance, and let it go. His arrow soared toward the orc, and penetrated it's foul skin. Black orc blood trailed down his shirt before he fell to the ground dead.
"You won't beat you and Gimli's record at Helm's Deep, but I'd say that was a good shot," Aragorn said.
"No applause, please," he replied sarcastically. Turning around to face Aragorn, he saw two orcs creeping up behind his companion, holding their orc blades high, ready to strike him.
"Aragorn!" Legolas shouted, and reached for another arrow. He strung it, and shot the one orc. Aragorn unsheathed Anduril, and turned swiftly. He thrust it into the orc's chest, and then removed it only to sever it's head with another strike of Anduril.
Legolas let out a sigh of relief. "What would you do without your sword..."
"I like my sword," Aragorn replied with a smile, watching the sun reflect off the thick silver of Anduril.
There were some voices coming from further in the town. They both turned to see who it was. Three middle-aged halflings were stumbling out of The Prancing Pony, bottle in hand.
"I have an idea so grand it could choke a troll," Aragorn said.
"You don't love Anduril that much, do you?" Legolas said, grinning
"No," he replied with a chuckle. "How about our orc-hunting hibernates for a bit, and we head to the Prancing Pony. I'm sure you haven't eaten since yesterday, and neither have I."
"Now THAT is a grand idea," Legolas replied with a laugh.
They both headed off toward the inn, and Aragorn put his arm around Legolas' shoulder.
'Legolas is such a good friend. He's helped me so much dealing with the death of Halbarad. I miss Halbarad more than anything. We had spent so much of our lives together. He was the first person I met when I became a Ranger. Now that he's gone, I realize how good of a person he really was. Legolas has been my closest friend since Halbarad's death, and without Legolas, I am not sure how I would have been,' Aragorn thought.
They walked past the first orc Legolas had slain, and he intentionally stepped on him.
"Oh, did I step on your head?" Legolas said, acting surprised. "I'm terribly sorry. You're just so ugly, I thought you were only my imagination."
The two couldn't help but break out in laughter, and continued on to Barliman's.
Entering the Prancing Pony, Barliman Butterbur immediately saw them, and cleared his throat.
"All hail your King, Strider...er...I mean...what's your name again?" He said. After the hobbits had told him on their way back to the shire that this Strider fellow was indeed the King, Barliman wished to make up for his mistake.
"Aragorn," Aragorn said.
"Son of...?" Barliman questioned again.
"Thank you," he whispered, then continued with what he had tried to say before in a louder voice. "your King: Aragorn, son of Arathorn." After saying it, Barliman giggled slightly to himself. "That's very funny."
"What is funny?" Aragorn asked with a fake serious look he had put on to make Barliman nervous.
"Well, that was not meant to offend. But, Aragorn...Arathorn; they rhyme. That's very funny."
"I am his son. They're supposed to rhyme." Aragorn answered, raising an eyebrow.
"Well, not necessarily. My name doesn't rhyme with that of my father's," Legolas interrupted.
"Yes they do,' Aragorn replied.
"How does Legolas sound like Thranduil, I might ask?" Legolas said.
"All right, they don't rhyme, but my Father is entitled to name his child what he wishes. In his case he liked his name, but also liked the letter g," Aragorn answered with a grin.
"What will it be this fine evening, my liege?" Barliman asked.
"Barliman, I don't hold a grudge. Just call me Aragorn," he replied.
"I do not wish it," Butterbur stated.
"Because if I call you by your name, I will think of how much it rhymes with Arathorn, and then I will start laughing, and I would not want to do that."
"In Valor's name," Aragorn muttered under his breath, and rolled his eyes. "Well...then just call me what you always call me."
"Anything you say, Strider. So, what will it be?"
"My usual," he replied.
"So you came here often?" Legolas asked.
"This is where I used to meet all my contacts," Aragorn said.
"And for the man with you? What will it be?" Butterbur asked.
"I'm not a man," Legolas retorted.
Barliman squinted for a moment, and then turned to Aragorn.
"You date the strangest looking women, Strider."
Aragorn couldn't help but break out in laughter. Legolas was covering his face with his hand in sheer embarrassment of being called a woman.
"This is an Elf, mind you, and you should pay him the same respect you pay me," Aragorn managed through the chuckles.
"My name is Legolas, son of Degolas," he said, and he and Aragorn both were laughing so hard their sides hurt.
Butterbur brought each of them his best ale, and they sat down at a small table near the wall.
"To friendship," Aragorn said, holding up his glass.
"To friendship," Legolas replied, doing the same.
Chapter Two: The Unexpected
Barliman led Legolas and Aragorn to their room which was on the second floor above the common-room. Walking down the hall, they passed three doors, and came to theirs. It was at the end of the hall, and the door was taller than the rest on the floor.
"This is a much larger room than the rest, speaking in height, of course. Since Strider here is extremely tall to my reckoning, and the Elf isn't far behind, I figured I'd give you two the tall room. Call if you need anything, and hopefully Nob will scurry in as he usually does. Now I must be off. As you saw earlier, I have quite a crowd tonight."
"Thank you Butterbur," Legolas said.
"It will do just fine," Aragorn added.
Barliman scuttled back down the hall, and down to the bar. Aragorn turned the knob, and opened the door. There were two beds and by the fireplace there was a small table with three chairs around it. There was a fire burning brightly, and the room was well lit by the flame. Legolas sat on the bed with his back to the wall, and Aragorn took a seat in one the chairs by the table.
"How many more orcs do you think are still in Bree?" Legolas asked.
"I am not sure at this point. The question is: Why Bree? There's nothing here of half-descent value except Barliman's ale," Aragorn said with a laugh.
"That is what puzzles me as well. Bree is small and irrelevant town. I see not a value in attacking it," Legolas said.
"Unless they wanted to draw attention away from some other place they have in mind," Aragorn stated in deep thought.
"Possibly," Legolas said, nodding. "But for now, all we can do is slay as many as we can find."
Aragorn nodded, still in deep thought. He stared into the fire and spoke again. "I just wish I knew what their objectives were. These attacks are perplexing; and I despise riddles." Aragorn sighed, and didn't notice that Legolas had moved behind him until he felt arms encircle his waist. A pair of warm lips caressed his ear, and Aragorn let his head fall back. Taking the hint, Legolas brushed his lips along the expanse of Aragorn's neck.
Suddenly, Legolas stopped and stepped back. Confused, Aragorn looked back at him.
"I'm sorry. Things have been quite tense lately. I don't know what came over me," Legolas said, and turned away from him, looking out the window.
Aragorn stood and walked toward him, putting his hand on Legolas' shoulder. "No, it's understandable. We both have been under a lot of stress lately." He paused for a moment, and then continued. "You could help me relieve the stress, Legolas."
Legolas looked away from the window to face him, and saw he had a devilish look in his eyes. Grinning, he accepted the invite, pouncing on the taller man with a strength his slender body concealed. Together they fell back to the floor, Legolas' grinning face framed by his long blond hair as he stared down in triumph. "As you wish, my lord."
But instead of kissing him as Aragorn expected, he found that his elf friend knew exactly where he was ticklish. Within moments he was writhing beneath him with laughter, trying to escape the nimble fingers torturing him. Legolas continued for another minute before being satisfied that Aragorn was properly 'relieved' of stress. He listened as the man under him panted for breath, his lean face flushed slightly. His gaze rested on his friend's parted lips.
Aragorn fought for breath after Legolas' unexpected attack. He hadn't been tickled since he was little, and less mature, but found he did not mind--as long as he could repay in full. Preparing to spring his own attack on the elf, he noticed a strange gleam in his light-colored eyes. Before he could ask what was wrong, firm lips had captured his in a kiss that left him mindless of anything else but the other's presence.
He hadn't paid much attention to their position before, but suddenly he was acutely aware of Legolas straddling his hips, of their hearts beating against the other's chest, of the hands that rested gently on his own chest. Now it all came to him in a rush of powerful feelings that left him robbed of breath, as Legolas continued to caress his lips with his own.
Chapter Three: Slay and Burn
But in a moment, there was a piercing scream right outside. Single, red droplets of blood splattered against their window. Legolas scrambled to his feet, and Aragorn did the same. For a moment, they just stared at the dark red liquid speckling the window. Snapping back to reality, they wasted no time. Dashing toward the door, Aragorn opened it and they both ran down the hall, their capes sailing behind them. Ramming his hand into the wall so he could turn, Aragorn flew down the spiral stair with Legolas close behind. Reaching the Common Room, they saw Barliman and other hobbits were frightened and looking around terrified, but the two hunters paid no heed to them. Aragorn dashed around the tables, racing for the door, and Legolas jumped over the bar and onto a large, round table. Leaping off, he reached the door.
Reaching the outdoors, they raced toward where their window was and stopped about a meter away from the person who had screamed. Instead of finding a slightly injured and frightened being, they found the maimed body of a dead Bree citizen. Slowly, Aragorn moved to the hobbit's side and knelt down beside him. His body was gashed and mutilated, and his blood covered the grass beside him, turning the ground a dark red. Aragorn turned the hobbit's head with his gentle hand. The hobbit's right cheek had the letters "UH" carved into the skin by a harsh blade. Fresh blood still trickled from the gash.
Legolas stepped closer, and knelt down on the other side of the corpse. There was a long, piercing silence; neither dared to speak.
"What do you believe it stands for?" Aragorn whispered solemnly, not having the will to speak any louder.
"Who ever did this, most likely. But the only beings I can manage to think of that are this cruel and brutal would be orcs," Legolas said in a low tone.
"So, the question is: was this the work of orcs, or someone else..." Aragorn trailed off and became quiet.
"Who else could there be?" Legolas said, and dread was in his voice.
"That is yet another question which I have no answer for as of yet; nor do you, I presume," he said, still with sorrow in his voice that he could not save the person from this undeserving fate.
There was a snap of a twig, and Legolas took his dagger in hand. Aragorn quickly removed Anduril from his belt. Barliman appeared from behind the corner of the Prancing Pony, holding a large club.
"It's just you," Legolas said, relieved, and they both sheathed their weapons. Barliman came toward them quickly, happy that the danger had passed. As he neared the two by the corpse, Barliman dropped the club in horror.
"Nob!" Barliman cried. He came over to them quickly and kneeled beside the dead hobbit. He began to weep softly. After a few moments, he spoke to them.
"I treated him so poorly. But deep inside, I loved him as my own son," he managed through his anguish.
Legolas and Aragorn bowed their heads, and felt pity for Butterbur who mourned for his lost friend.
"Find who did this, Strider," Butterbur said in a low tone, not shifting his glance from the corpse lying in front of him. "Find who is responsible."
Legolas put a hand on Barliman's shoulder in comfort. "We will..." he whispered.
Aragorn looked near Nob's body, and there were footprints leading away toward the wood. They were that of about three or four large, heavy creatures. They wore no shoes or boots, and had several claws on each foot. Legolas saw it as well, and was relieved that no Elf, Man, Dwarf, or Hobbit was responsible.
Another hobbit that worked at the Prancing Pony, Verence, had come with a pitchfork, and was astonished when he saw Nob's mutilated form by them. Barliman had heard him walk up behind him, and spoke.
"Verence, get these two people provisions."
Verence nodded, and hurried back inside. He did not wish to cause Butterbur any more pain, and chose to keep silent when he was by him. Instead, Verence wept inside the inn while getting their provisions. When his eyes had dried, and he had gathered what he figured they would need, he came back outside to see Legolas and Aragorn by Barliman, comforting him as best they could. Verence came to the Elf.
"A full water canteen and three days worth of nourishment for each of you," he said kindly, handing Legolas what he had gathered.
Taking them, Legolas smiled at him gratefully. But his smile disappeared as soon as it had formed. It took too much effort to smile now.
Seeing this, Aragorn turned to Butterbur once more. "Barliman, we must go. If they tread too far to quickly-"
"I know...I understand," Barliman said, in almost a whisper. "Go swiftly."
Legolas lowered his head, and he and Aragorn followed the tracks away from the Prancing Pony. They led East of the inn, toward the wooded area of Bree.
After a while, dark clouds became visible in from the distance. A shadow was closing in over the land. But for the moment, the light of the full moon was enough to track the enemy at present. However, that's all they were following: tracks. Aragorn and Legolas had heard or seen no sign of the enemy at all, which means whoever was behind the slaughter of the hobbit was very swift, as well as large and strong. The two were becoming worried that if they were not fast enough to catch those responsible, what other harm could they do to the small, innocent town of Bree?
With Anduril in hand and Legolas' bow strung, they continued on into the waning night. They lost track of time, and knew not how long they had been pursuing. The moonlight was now blocked by a thick, dark cloud that hovered over the land. It was becoming more and more difficult to see the tracks, and if one of them trailed off to the side, Aragorn would not be able to notice it.
"I can not see the enemy's trail in this darkness. Can the eyes of an Elf do so?"
"Nay, this shadow is not normal. It seems unnatural, like there is some evil afoot," Legolas replied.
"Well that much is clear, taking in the murder of Nob."
"No; something more than a single hobbit's death. Something imminent and nearing, but not quite clear as of yet."
Aragorn looked at him curiously. "You believe in this foreboding?"
"I trust my senses, and in this I have not been wrong before," Legolas said, staring off through the trees.
"In that you have not," Aragorn replied, pondering deeply on his words about pending evil. "If there is some kind of approaching danger, we must make haste." He sighed. "The problem is that haste is not possible with the lack of light. We can not pursue the enemy in this pitch black. We are vulnerable."
"Yes, but if they were to kill us and be rid of their threat, they would have done so already. They would have done so as soon as the moonlight was vanquished, which means they know not of our presence yet," Legolas said. "That at least can be reassuring."
The two came behind a group of tall, thick trees and sat with their backs to them.
"These seem thick enough to hide us for now, until the Sun shows herself at dawn," Aragorn said, placing his hand on the bark. Legolas looked at him, concerned.
"Until dawn, you may want to get some rest, Aragorn. You are weary," Legolas insisted.
"Do not worry about me. I am fine," he said, and reached for his water canteen. He took a small drink, and then set it by his side. Leaning back against the tree, he stared up at the branches, sorting through the day's events in his mind. Warm skin brushed against the back of his hand as Legolas leaned over and grasped it in one of his own.
"You don't have to pretend around me, Aragorn," Legolas said softly as he brought the hand in his up to his cheek. He met the elf's green eyes, and something passed between them.
"I know," he said just as softly, and leaning over, he took his friend's mouth with his own. It was a kiss born of the need for companionship as it was of desire, a means of forgetting the horrors of the day, an attempt of proving they were alive after seeing death. For a moment they were content as they were, lips pressed together.
Legolas was the first to break the contact. Drawing back a few inches so their breaths mingled, he whispered, "Do you believe we'll be interrupted out here?"
Aragorn grinned, "We are out hunting; wouldn't it be a good thing if they obliged us by appearing?"
"Aragorn," Legolas started to say, but the hand he still held to his cheek slid back to tangle in the golden strands.
"Enough talking, my friend." With that, Aragorn tugged gently to bring his face close to his and once again captured Legolas' mouth.
It was filled with a fire that seared them both with its flame. Aragorn felt the elf's mouth open under his, and he slipped his tongue in to taste the sweet mouth. Opening his mouth further, Legolas made a low sound in the back of his throat.
Rising slightly to a kneeling position, the Ranger slid his arm around the lithe body to draw him closer. The evidence of the other's desire pressed against his own, invoking a small groan from the taller man. With their lips still held in a kiss, Legolas reached between their bodies to unbuckle the
leather belt around Aragorn's narrow waist. He managed to pull away long enough to tug the green tunic off, before he was again pulled back into another searing kiss.
Tanned muscles rippled as Legolas ran his own pale hands over the smooth chest and arms, learning his lover's body. Aragorn groaned deeply this time, voicing his appreciation to the light caresses.
A hand came around to begin tugging at his own belt, a muttered curse breathed into his open mouth as the catch caught. Legolas could only grin at the Ranger's unusual behavior.
Aragorn, feeling the elf's smile against his lips, pulled back a few inches to study his face, "You find this amusing, my lord elf?"
Legolas shook his head, wincing slightly when the hair still tangled around the hand was pulled by the movement. "Nay, my lord Dunadan. Merely I have never seen you so uncomposed before."
"And I do not have the same affect on you, then?"
"I never said that." He pushed on Aragorn's bare chest, grinning when he sprawled out on the grass. Repeating the move from earlier that day, Legolas straddled him. He saw Aragorn's eyes widen at the contact, but that was the only sign he made. Leaning down to brace himself on his forearms, Legolas stared into the grey eyes darkened with fires of desire. And together, they burned.