I Will Not Let You Fall
The cave roared around them, threatening to crumble. The fellowship ran desperately, the hobbits shrieking in fear, the two men with grim determination, the dwarf cursing under his breath.
It was the elf who jumped first. Light and nimble, he landed on the cleft with ease. He looked back at the rest of the fellowship. He urged them on. There was no time for fear.
Aragorn bit back a groan as he stumbled. He had been injured during the fight with the orcs, and the swollen ankle was now throbbing painfully every time he hit the ground. But now was not the time to tend to wounds.
The clear voice came from the front, quick and urgent. Fragments of rocks and dust came tumbling from the ceiling and the walls surrounding them. Aragorn felt a tumult beneath his feet.
He looked up to see that the rest of them were safely standing on the other side. The elf was standing closest to him, positioned precariously close to the edge. He was extending his arm, calling his name. Aragorn moved forward, but started when the ground beneath his feet began to lurch forward.
The black arrows whizzed past his ears, humming a deadly tune of death as they embedded themselves in trees surrounding him. Aragorn gritted his teeth as he clung tighter to the dangerously thin tree he was standing on. He wished he was as light as his companion.
"We will be safe once we cross the river," called out the elf, who was perched on a higher branch with ease, squinting at the opposite side of the river.
Aragon sighed. He then jumped as another arrow made its mark right next to his hand. He growled, and turned to face his calm companion.
"Yes, but how will we do that?"
The current was much too fast to cross on foot. Aragorn glowered as he looked around. Perhaps they could continue the tree-to-tree method they had been using ever since being ambushed, and go further downstream – but he was much too tired for that. And even then, they would have to get onto the forest floor and fight the orcs anyway. Outrunning them was impossible at this rate. He was no elf. Aragorn sighed.
He looked up again when he felt intense blue eyes looking down at him. Legolas was watching him with an unreadable expression.
"We cross by tree," said the elf, nonchalantly. Then he quickly made his way to another tree, and then to another.
Aragorn groaned. Playing elf was not what he had in mind when he had set out in search of his elven friend.
"Come, Aragorn. We must not linger."
The arrows were coming with more accuracy now. Aragorn bit his lip determinedly, and hurried after his friend. He only hoped the trees would have mercy on the human friend of the beloved elf of the woodland realm.
He read the message in the intense blue eyes as he stumbled again on his bad ankle. The ground was moving – literally – as he struggled to maintain his balance. Frodo was frightened. He could feel the young hobbit's fear as he clutched onto him desperately.
"Get ready," he whispered to the panic-stricken young hobbit in his arms. Then he threw him unto the outstretched arms of the elf.
Frodo clung wide-eyed onto Legolas, his body seeking to register comfort and safety. Legolas held him tightly, whispered something in his ears – Elvish words of reassurances, Aragorn was sure – and released the somewhat less frightened hobbit. Then he turned to face Aragorn.
The cave roared as the outcropping underneath Aragorn's feet jerked violently. The ranger held his breath. The dwarf was clearly agitated, and the panicked hobbits were crying out his name as Boromir struggled to hold them back. And in front of them all, standing before him, one slender elf held down the world.
"Jump after me."
"What? Are you serious?"
The elf did not respond to the human's incredulous tone of panic as he picked up pace, moving higher and higher as he jumped from tree to tree. Aragorn followed, sparing a brief glance down to find venomous eyes searching amid the branches. The violent torrent of the river roared before his eyes. What will it be, Aragorn? He bit his lip in silent desperation. Orc arrows, or a fall into an angry river? Valar, he hated being afraid.
He started. The voice hit his ear from surprisingly close, flowing smoothly above the violent crash of water. Turning his head, Aragorn felt a soft brush of gold hair before it swung away from him and flew farther and farther up the branch that stretched far unto the other side of the river. Yet the swift, determined words remained by his ear.
"I will not let you fall."
Voices screamed, piercing into his reverie. Then the present reality came back to him, as his body swung violently with the outcropping. The elf stood there yet, determined and erect, eyes steadily blazing into him.
The outcropping crashed onto the cleft. It was at that moment that Aragorn jumped. He was no longer afraid.
Strong arms encircled him, catching him steadily as they had when his younger self had jumped wildly and gracelessly over a river in fear during an encounter with Mirkwood orcs.
That had been some sixty years ago. Many things have changed since then. Aragorn had become more sullen, withdrawn and secretive to the world. Elrond held a bitter sorrow in his kind eyes, and Arwen shone all the brighter with painful love.
The fellowship was on the move again, running desperately for life. Aragorn heard rhythmic beatings of nimble feet behind him.
Sixty years, and yet his friend had not changed. He did not let him fall.