Blood of a Brother: Hide by Firniswin|
Summary: Legolas does not realize how much a year affects a human, let alone twenty-seven. And going this long without seeing his best friend is more than he can bear. But, even when he meets Aragorn again, he hardly recognizes him and sees despair so strong upon the man that he fears that Estel has lost all hope in himself. Can Legolas help him regain that hope, or will Aragorn give up his mission to reclaim the throne and hide away from the world once more?
Disclaimer: I don’t own anything, and especially not the song. The song is by Joy Williams and is called “Hide”. Wow, shocker there! *sarcastic grin*
A/N: This story was written for the May-June 2005 TEITHO competition. Actually, it was written about six times in about five different story ideas. LOL! Took a while to actually get this one. The theme is “One Title: Your Story” and that means that everybody uses one title (“Blood of a Brother”, "When Elf Lord's Attack", ect...) and then writes there own story. Well this is mine and I hope you all like it. J
Reining his horse to the right, the elf smiled as he looked upon the small, nearly hidden pathway. Black and brown leaves coated the well-used dirt road and pine needles were scattered haphazardly amid bushes and tree trunks.
Soft sounds fluttered through the trees thick foliage and Legolas tightened his grip on his stallion’s jeweled halter. He chuckled as he remembered the days of old, when he and Aragorn would spend many hours just riding their horses through endless rows trees and shrubs.
‘Those were the days…’ he mused as he whispered quietly to his horse, Daeru. He led the beast forward with careful steps, trying also to calm the animal since he seemed quite jittery in this area.
The leaves fluttered gently on the wind and he was wary not to crush neither piece of foliage or new blade of grass. Each plant was a creation of Eru and he would never want to ruin something so precious.
The trees seemed to groan and the elven prince stopped Daeru, always careful not to startle the white horse, nor to make him bolt in his frightened state.
“Who goes there? Be ye friend or foe and whom do ye see?”
The voices were not a surprise for Legolas had heard the men rising slowly moments before when he had first pulled into the small glade. He had also known from the way the trees seemed to groan under stress that only men could be upon their branches.
Rubbing Daeru so that he would calm down, the Prince of Mirkwood smiled as he thought of his ranger friend, Aragorn; the man who he had come to visit after so many long years apart.
“ An elf of Mirkwood, I am.” He laughed inwardly as he wondered if this man had actually ever seen an elf. Some who had never seen the fair folk often gawked or nearly fell from trees; and though most rangers had seen elves before, many still had yet to see a Sindar elf among them.
“Hold fire.” The voice seemed a bit more familiar now, and the prince stepped back to watch as an older man scaled skillfully from the tree, his strong arm grabbing for hefty branches to sustain him. “This elf is a friend, go about your business lads.”
Many leaves rustled as rangers turned from the merry meeting and continued to stand guard. The elf prince was amazed at the security in this area; it was almost like a fortress. He almost wondered how Estel’s parents could have died all those long years ago.
Legolas felt a gasp travel up his throat as he recognized the well-aged man that began to walk towards him, bow tight in right hand while his left was ready to clasp the elf on the shoulder in a greeting.
“Ai, Legolas,” the man’s face wrinkled in a smile and the prince returned the grin as he nodded his own greeting and bowed his head in respect of the aged man. “Mae govannen, mellon!”
Legolas tried to hide the surprise from his face as he greeted the man before him. Worry began to take hold and he felt his heart began to race in his chest. “Suilad, Halbarad.” He clasped the ranger’s shoulder gently. “How do you fare?”
Laughing, Halbarad brought his hand to his chin and scratched it wearily, nodding in thought. “I have been better,” he said with a slow smile as he sighed and rubbed a hand through his graying hair. The elven prince noticed that though Halbarad’s hair was gray in areas, there was still more raven and he was thankful for that.
He pondered on what Aragorn might look like. Legolas had not really thought that his friend would look any different, to Legolas, Estel would always be Estel and it was harder for him, at times, to remember that human’s did age, while his kind did not.
“So, what brings you here, Legolas?” the ranger’s deep voice brought him out of his reverie and the prince breathed out slowly as he looked over his shoulder to check on Daeru.
The stallion had calmed considerably and was now grazing among the oaks and birches, his tall slender form a silhouette against the bright sunlight that surrounded him. He looked magnificent- in splendor and majesty, at his prime. Young and energetic, yet strong and full of wisdom… Just as Estel had been all those years ago when they had first met.
Startled, he turned quickly, his blue-silver eyes finding Halbarad’s and his face a mirror of the distance he felt. He began to blush with embarrassment as he noticed that he had drifted off. He quickly stammered for words- ‘Most unlike an elf,’ he chided himself as he spoke.
“Forgive me, Halbarad. I was thinking…’
“That much is certain,” the silver eyes twinkled with mirth and the elven prince smiled, though it was not a genuine grin, not the kind that the older ranger had often seen when he was around Strider. “What troubles you, mellon?” Halbarad looked worried and kept his sights on the prince’s face. “Are you well? Do you have need of medical assistance?”
The elf’s blonde hair fluttered as he quickly shook his head and looked up, his face seemed pained but he quickly hid the expression and smiled, trying to comfort the ranger so he would not fear. “No,” he whispered, almost laughing. “I am not hurt. I did not come to be healed.” Steadying himself, the prince raised his head high and cleared his throat quietly. "I-" he stopped and licked his lips nervously, as if afraid of what the words might bring if he spoke them. "I wish to see Strider, Halbarad."
If Legolas had ever seen a ranger taken aback, this would be the time. Halbarad seemed uncertain and when he took a step back, stumbling. "Legolas," he stammered on his words, licking his lips with fear just as the elven prince had done a few moments before.
Halbarad could hardly bring himself to speak, he felt terror and his heart was speeding so fast that he was sure he would fall over and die any moment. The ranger knew how close that Legolas and Aragorn had been; nearly inseparable, if that was possible for and elf and man to be so. Their brotherly love bound them tight, and though they were not related in blood, sometimes, Halbarad could hardly tell the differences between them.
It was as if the two had broken the binds of race and kind and had molded it into something that could be accepted by all, if, of course, they would allow it.
Halbarad had no desire to tell Legolas what Aragorn had become. It was, maybe, not as horrible as something he could be, but for Estel it was a far cry for help. For the Hope of Men, it was something far more than just one simple wound. It seemed a deep gash through his heart that was slowly eating away all he was and had ever been, and it frightened all the rangers, especially Halbarad.
Startled, the prince stepped forward and bent so he could look into Halbarad's lowered eyes. "Hal?"
The ranger smiled fondly at the old nickname and looked up to meet the eyes of blonde elf. He nodded sadly and breathed deeply. "Aragorn has not been himself, Legolas." he stopped and beckoned the elf to follow him. They walked slowly and the ranger seemed hesitant to speak, he was quaking a little and though Halbarad was usually a strong individual, Legolas could tell that whatever was wrong with Estel hurt the older ranger deeply.
"What do you mean?" the Prince of Mirkwood balked and grabbed the ranger's arm when he would not speak. "Halbarad?!" he shouted, worry adding a bite to his words. "What is wrong with Strider?!"
The pull was hard and the man had to stop, he turned on Legolas and yanked his arm away. "I don't know." he answered as calmly as was possible. He sighed and as the elf prince pressed him further, Halbarad felt his body and mind wear down. He was tired of fighting this and weary of trying to help Aragorn. 'Maybe,' he reasoned with himself and looked at Legolas in hope. "I don't know, Legolas." he whispered, this time the prince could see the glitter of long held tears in his old silver gaze. "Something has been eating away at him ever since his return from Minas Tirith." Looking Legolas straight in the eyes this time, the ranger lowered his voice even more and stepped closer to the elf. "He has changed, Legolas. It is as though a part of him has died; yet, he tries to hide it from us. He does not go home, to Imladris as we advise him and he hardly listens to us anymore. He does his best to help, but he helps others so much that has no time for himself and his own needs."
Feeling a bitter pang in his heart, Legolas shook his head. "If only I had come earlier, Hal."
Quickly, the ranger put a hand on the elf's shoulder and tightly clasped it. He shook the blonde prince and frowned. "No, don't say that. It was not you- I could have stopped this had I seen the signs sooner. But, I can not deny he needs someone who knows and loves him more than I do." he smiled at the elf and Legolas breathed wearily and nodded. "Show me to him, Halbarad."
To anyone who hides behind a smile,
To anyone who holds their pain inside,
To anyone who thinks they’re not good enough,
To anyone who they’re unworthy of love,
The morning chill was not something he could easily deny, for his skin felt cold and it was as if ice was slipping through the warmth of his blanket. But why? To torment him; yes, possibly.
Life hardly had purpose for Aragorn anymore; in truth he often wondered why Eru had spared him all those times on the fields of Minas Tirith or the distant lands of Rohan. Estel was accustomed to feeling weak, it was a part of him. No matter what he did or how well he did it, he was weak and hopeless. Just as so many of the elves he had once lived among made him feel. Human. That's what he was; a worthless, hopeless, useless human who was nothing more than a fly in everyone's hair.
Even among the rangers he could not forget the feeling of utter hatred he felt towards himself. The feeling of anger and world-weariness. If it was possible, being around them only made it worse, for each time he saw the men of the camp, he often saw the face of a young soldier in war, one that he had failed to help or protect. Many times at night he would hear their anguished cries and their agonizing pleas and they would torment him until he could not longer breathe, until he was suffocated by anxiety and anger.
Opening his eyes he was met with a placid layer of light that had sifted through the worn holes that had been ripped in the canvas of his tent. Many shifted as the leaves wavered before the sun outside, but some continued on, enduring the cold darkness that was constant inside the buckskin tent.
Sitting up slowly, Aragorn winced and felt his side carefully. Warm liquid coated his fingers and he felt pain flare as he touched the rigid gash.
As he gazed upon the blood, he was reminded once more of the young innocent lives that he had failed to save. The young men, barely adults, that had trusted him with their lives and he, a famed captain had let them die. Not all of them, but more than he cared to count.
'I deserve this,' he mused as he lowered his head and wiped the crimson substance onto the quilts that covered his cot.
Hesitantly, he rose and reached for some white cloths. Hurriedly, he began to wrap them around the wound and draw them tight to himself. He had hidden injuries before, and lately he had done it more and more. It showed strength and it helped Halbarad not to worry for him. That was something he hated was when the older ranger worried about him.
Slipping his tunic and over coat upon his body he winced, but quickly wiped it from his face with shaking hand. He tried to stop the shivering, but he could not. For a moment he did not understand why he was shaking so, why he couldn't contain it. Why was he quaking when he wasn't even cold?
But his slowed brain finally caught up with him and he sighed wearily, willing his entire body to be still. "It must be blood loss..." he whispered to himself as his body began to finally obey his commands. He smiled as he gained control and felt the momentary weakness roll away.
He slipped his hand through his hair so that it would become a little less tangled and gulped as he felt thirst dry his throat.
To anyone who ever closed the door,
Closed their eyes and locked themselves away...
With a confidence he did not feel, Strider walked to the flap of his tent, his gloved, right hand tightening on the hard buckskin. As he had for many years now, Estel shook the pain from himself and let the defeat slip from his features. It seemed to slide down his neck and chest and straight into his heart where he had kept it for so long, hidden away from the world.
At first Legolas hadn't thought anything of what Halbarad had said.
Aragorn had been hopeless before, but he had never cared so little about himself- not until now.
The elven prince could hardly hold back the gasp as he watched the ranger emerge from his tent. He seemed to be less than half the man that Legolas once knew. He was thin, almost emaciated, and under his eyes there were dark circles. They seemed to be nearly imprinted in his weatherworn skin. Dark bristles covered his jaw and a little of his neck, and his hair was far more unkempt than usual.
Legolas wondered as he watched the man how many scars hid beneath his tunic and breeches. The limp in his gait did not get past the prince either and though it was a small sort of hobble, the elf could easily detect it.
Without thinking, he began to start towards the man, his eyes searching for the silver gaze that he had once known; but when he saw it, he felt his blood run cold. So dark and emotionless were the eyes of his friend, that he looked almost the part of a zombie. He walked so listlessly that Legolas could hardly say he knew the man- no longer had he a confident stride, and though he seemed to try, the elven prince could tell that he was trying his hardest to look strong.
"Strider?" he began to call his friend's name, and though his voice was quiet, he felt as if all eyes were on him.
You don't have to hide,
You don't have to hide anymore,
His steps were quick and he was nearly racing for Aragorn when his silver-blue gaze caught one of pure, dark silver and he slowed to a stop, looking into the eyes that were filled to the brim with unimaginable pain and terror. His throat constricted and he wanted to call out his friend's name again, to let him know, but as Estel stared at him, something seemed to flutter away.
"Legolas?" the prince could more see the word formed on Aragorn's lips than actually hear it- but it seemed that all time stood still and only the human's deep breathing and his own fearful gasps could be heard among the busy rangers.
"Estel," he sighed and began to walk forward once more, his eyes never leaving the wavering form of his friend. But it seemed that as Legolas reached Estel's side, the ranger lost all he had been holding onto and he staggered a bit before sucking in a rasping breath.
The silver eyes rolled back and Strider was falling forward; Legolas caught him with incredible ease and felt all the breath leave his lungs as he clung tightly to Estel's limp, and seemingly weightless form. "Strider!"
'Strange,' he mused as he silently walked among the rangers. His steps seemed uneven and he felt a little dizzy- or maybe a little was an understatement. The world had begun to spin slowly around him and he could hardly conceive which was top and which was the bottom.
Suddenly, he was regretting his decision to come outside. 'Maybe I should go back and sleep...' he thought as he stopped and touched his head with the tips of his fingers.
Fiery pain ran up the side of his body and he gasped as his legs began to betray him.
He shuddered as his eyes turned to look for the familiar voice that had called his name, he felt almost afraid that it might be another of the young Gondorian soldier's that had taunted him all these years, and whether it was actually ghosts or just his own mind making up strange and horrible nightmares, he could not tell- but all he knew was that he suddenly felt as if his entire life had been revealed to the world.
You don't have to face this on your own,
You don't have to hide anymore,
He was startle when his own silver gaze clasped onto one of pure compassion and love. He did not notice the rest of the person because his eyes were riveted on those eyes that held so much love for him- for him! He, a stupid, foolish, weak man! And yet, someone was racing towards him right now, but not in anger, and not in horror, but in love and worry.
"Legolas?" He breathed the name, hardly able to speak it for the agony that was quickly ripping his nerves to shreds.
And though he felt shame and guilt, anger towards himself for what he had not done for all those young and helpless men that had died so many years ago, he saw none of that in Legolas. All he could see was that the elven prince was running for him, arms open and ready to grab the man in a hug and reunite.
"Estel," the elven prince had stopped to gaze, but now he was running forward again. Aragorn wanted so desperately to run to him and embrace him, to feel important again as he once had in the house of Elrond so many years ago.
Strider attempted to take a step, towards Legolas, but as he moved his leg he saw a bright, blinding flash of incredible light; as if he had been caught in a bolt of pure lightening. Dark circles began to appear and flutter around him and he nearly saw stars dance about his staggering form. "Leg-lass..."
Strong arms wrapped around him, but he could not see anything or anyone. His hearing was quickly failing and the last thing he heard was the anguished cry of a familiar voice that he well knew, but he could not reply and all he could do was collapse into the waiting arms of the Prince of Mirkwood.
Come out and join the rest of us,
You've been alone for way too long,
Warmth spread throughout the ranger's senses and a pleasant smell assaulted his nose. He felt himself shifting towards consciousness and he tried his hardest to aid it, but each time he did, it brought him pain and he was nearly sent back into the suffocating darkness.
And he might have obeyed the push if not for a soft voice that seemed to whisper throughout his mind, sending a refreshing cool to his thoughts as he was reminded of home and of his family.
"We caught it just in time, thank Eru! I dare say, more than anything, he will need food and water. Valar, he's so thin he could easily hide behind a birch tree." he recognized the worried voice as one of the many healers in the ranger camp. "I expect you, master elf, to make sure he eats!"
"Yes, milord." the voice, though worried, had a smile to it. "It will be done, if I have to stuff it down the back of his throat!"
"Patience, Legolas." Another familiar voice chuckled as someone began to prop a quilt beneath his head.
"Foolish man! What was he thinking, Hal?" the normally musical voice was full of anger, but more than that Aragorn could hear fear in it, sharp as a dagger that seemed to pierce the very depths of his soul.
:"He was being Aragorn, Legolas. You know that..."
"Well, I wish he would be someone else for a day- Sauron would be a nice change,"
A gentle laugh came from the side and Aragorn smiled inwardly as the musical sound of his friend's voice seemed to bring color back into his life; it even drove some of the agonizing pain out.
"All right, maybe someone more like-" silence ensued as the prince thought quietly to himself. "Gandalf." movement beside him sent pain shooting up his side and Estel could not escape it.
You don't have to hide,
You don't have to hide anymore,
You don't have to face this on your own,
You don't have to hide anymore,
Legolas moved his body away quickly as he felt the shudder of pain and heard the gasp from his friend.
Watching the ranger's chest and ribs contract so deeply frightened the elf and his eyes went wide as he jumped from the cot and knelt on the floor, taking up Aragorn's hand in his own and rubbing it soothingly he spoke. "Estel?"
Halbarad watched with fascination as Strider tried to turn away from the elf, but was stopped when pain overwhelmed him. "Please," the word was barely a whisper and the elven prince straightened his back, edging closer to his friend.
"What? Please what, Estel?"
Opening his silver eyes that man gulped and stared at his friend. "Please, Legolas..." he rasped. "Leave me!"
"Leave you?" the elf stammered and laughed softly. "What on Arda are you talking about, Strider? You are safe-"
"No one can help me, Legolas!" he cried out wearily and tried his hardest to pull away, but Legolas kept his hand tight and wasn't quick to let go. "They taunt me, in all my waking hours."
Breathing quickly he tried to answer, but his throat was so dry and he felt so lifeless that he could hardly move let alone speak.
Seeing his friend's difficulty, the elven prince smiled sadly. "You are my friend, Estel." he began. "And no matter what you do or how you feel about yourself, I will always love you. It's unconditional love and it is the love that helps friends continue on." He smoothed back the man's raven hair and pulled the quilts up to Aragorn's chin. "And when you stumble, Estel. I am here to help you through, even if you no longer desire life, I am here to help you find what has been hidden from you, my brother."
Finding his voice, Strider sucked in a weary breath. "But I am so tired, Legolas." he shuddered and Halbarad moved to stoke the fire that sat in the middle of the tent. "I am weary of this path I have chosen- I can't see anything beyond the darkness..."
Sympathetically, the prince sat upon the edge of the cot once more and looked into the exhausted pair of silver eyes. He brushed the hair from his friend's face and shook his head. "Oh, Strider." he laughed dryly. "You don't need to hide your fears from me. That is why I am hear- to help you conquer those fears, just as you have conquered mine."
Oh, you don't have to hide,
You don't have to hide anymore,
You don't have to face this on your own,
"But I couldn't help them, they died because I failed them, Legolas!"
Sighing, the elf frowned and shook his head, then with a careful hand, he pulled away the covers of the thick quilts and animal skins and touched his friend's cold skin, near his heart. "You tried your hardest," the prince smiled sadly and swallowed as his own memories of distant wars came close and he was reminded of the young, promising elves that had died. "And sometimes, Estel, that's all you can do." he patted the human's chest lightly and continued. "But, you can always remember them, and what they died for, and that is a much greater memory than how they died.
"You can't always help everyone, Aragorn. And sometimes- all you can do is protect and take care of yourself." he looked sternly at the ranger. "But, you never have to hide anything from me. I am your brother and your friend- and if you feel the world come crashing down, just find me and I'll help you."
Sluggishly, the man nodded and he felt his mind become free of the guilt. Slowly, he closed his eyes in a peaceful slumber and Legolas smiled wearily and tucked the blankets tightly around his friend.
When finished, he sat silently beside the cot and watched the ranger sleep, he was startled when Halbarad rose to leave.
The smile on his face was enough and Legolas smiled back as he nodded gently.
Then with a peaceful sigh and a comfortable fire, the Prince of Mirkwood settled back against the caught and grasped the human's hand tightly in his own, so that should he be bombarded by despair again, he would know that Legolas was right their to help him.
The first of the stars began to light up the sapphire sky and the brightest of them all that night was Gil-Estel; the star of hope.
You don't have to hide,
No, you don't have to hide,
So, there was my attempt. Hope you all liked it! :) And I dearly hope it was not too cliche or common. It's hard sometimes to write original Legolas-Aragorn friendship stories when there are already so many. Anyway- I hope you all have a blessed day and thanks again for taking the time to read my story.
Again, the song "Hide" is by Joy Williams, and yes, a few lines of the song were cut out, but if you would like to view the story with the lines in- maybe I can add them later after the Tietho competition is over.