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It had to be Caves

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-It had to be Caves-

By: Cassia

“It had to be caves,” a soft voice muttered quietly in the semi-dark. 

 

The tall, raven-haired man with the torch turned to look at the being behind him.  “Did you say something, Legolas?” Aragorn asked his friend. 

 

The elf prince scowled slightly and the ranger grinned.  Of course Aragorn knew *exactly* what he had said. 

 

“Hurry up you two, come look at this!” Arwen’s voice floated from farther on ahead, echoing through the damp, twisting walls of the passage. 

 

Aragorn quirked an eyebrow at Legolas, indicating his head towards his betrothed’s disembodied voice.  “Coming?  Or shall we continue to let Arwen take point?”

 

Legolas resisted the urge to smack the human and pattered lightly down the stairs behind the ranger, descending deeper into the twisting labyrinth. 

 

The stairs they were descending became gradually steeper and increasingly damp.  Water trickled unseen in the darkness and the stones underfoot were slick with wet mud and dripping mosses. 

 

“It’s getting more slippery,” Legolas called a warning ahead to his human friend. 

 

“Well don’t fall,” the ranger called back, his tone lightly taunting.  “I’m in front of you this time and that is one adventure from our youth I do not care to repeat,” he teased, recalling the time Legolas had fallen down a flight of stairs in the dark when they had been searching for a Palantir in the Lost City of Knowledge. 

 

“I was pushed, Strider!” Legolas retorted indignantly, giving the human’s back a light shove to prove his point. 

 

Aragorn kept his balance but put some more distance between himself and his friend.  “All I’m saying, is I don’t want you landing on me.  So if you fall I’m getting out of the way.  You can land on Arwen.”

 

“Oh, thank you *dearest*,” Arwen’s voice floated back to them, proving that her elven hearing was as sharp as ever.  “I’m sorry, Legolas, but I’m moving as well.”

 

“I am *not* going to fall,” Legolas shook his head, half annoyed, but mostly amused. 

 

Spelunking for fun - there was something that neither Aragorn nor Legolas would have ever thought to see the prince doing.  Yet, truth to tell, it had been at least partially his idea.  So much of the world seemed to be changing now that Aragorn was King of Gondor and Arwen was soon to become his queen.  So much change, and yet... Legolas looked at the ranger’s retreating back ahead of him and the dark stone walls around them with only a tiny shiver of true dislike.  A small smile stole over his lips.  Some things would forever remain the same. 

 

Legolas would never like caves, but he no longer hated them with a passion either.  This he blamed on Aragorn’s propensity for dragging him into every hole in Middle Earth.  It was good in a way, considering that he knew for a fact Gimli intended to do the exact same thing when they departed from Gondor.  The elf’s smile acquired a wicked gleam.  Oh, he would go, but a deal was a deal.  He would go to the GlitteringCaves with Gimli, but the dwarf was going to have to come with him to Fangorn in return, and the prince intended to climb a lot of trees.

 

The ground leveled out for a short distance and the stairs disappeared, but the cavern continued to wind.  Moist air flowed up from somewhere below.  The scent of water and the soft lapping sound of waves were becoming discernable to sharp senses. 

 

This had been a spur of the moment decision, but the prince knew Aragorn was probably still surprised that he had sided favorably with Arwen about the idea of taking a little walking tour through the La Jolla cave that was a local attraction in this part of Gondor.  The former ranger would have expected it of Gimli, but not Legolas.  Yet Aragorn had been more than happy to delay their return to the citadel a little longer in favor of the side-trip.  Anything that could be done alone without a host of guards tromping around and away from the jittery madness surrounding preparations for the upcoming wedding was a welcome thing at the moment.

 

“Legolas?” Aragorn’s head poked back around the corner, bringing the torch with it, and Legolas read concern in his friend’s eyes.  “Are you all right?”

 

Legolas did not realize that his thoughts had led him to dallying and he quickened his steps to rejoin his friends.  He smiled quickly at the ranger.  “Fine,” he assured.   “I was simply thinking.”

 

Aragorn gave his friend a skeptical, searching look for a moment, but presently satisfied himself that Legolas was telling the truth.  He nodded.  “All right, then we’d better hurry up or we’ll never live this down...”

 

It was too late.  There were no footsteps to herald her arrival, but neither friend was entirely surprised when Arwen appeared around the bend, over Aragorn’s shoulder. 

 

Her laugh was musical.  Like Legolas, she glowed faintly blue-white in the murky gloom, although while Legolas’ hair looked like a river of spun gold, glinting in the rays of nearly remembered sunlight, Arwen’s dark tresses carried their radiance like a mist of shimmering stars amid the descending vale of twilight. 

 

“All right my two brave defenders, I begin to believe that you intentionally leave me dangling out front so that any evil things down here will get me first.”  Arwen smiled with playful annoyance at the elf prince and her husband-to-be. 

 

Aragorn gave her a blank stare for a moment.  “Of course, it will give us time to run,” he responded, completely dead-pan for a few moments until he broke into a wide grin. 

 

Legolas could not help laughing, and presently they all were. 

 

Aragorn had to duck a swat from both elves on either side of him.  “All right, all right, I was joking!”

 

Once she regained her composure, Arwen sniffed in mock indignation.  “Then I shall go by myself, and you will have to try to catch up.”  With a flashing smile she was off down the passage again at a swift pace.  Frankly, Aragorn was surprised she could move like that in the dress she was wearing. 

 

Not about to be outdone, Aragorn and Legolas hurried after and the trip became a slightly mad-cap rush through twisting tunnels and down slippery, slanted flights of stairs that seemed to be wearing away into the cave floor.  It spoke well of all of them that no one fell and they all arrived at the end laughing and unharmed, if a trifle winded. 

 

The cavern opened out suddenly around them and the trio spilled out into the dazzling light of the sun glistening in upon the emerald waters of the lake they had been hearing ahead of them for some time now.  It was as beautiful as everyone claimed and the three friends paused to marvel at the natural beauty of the scene. 

 

The cave had been carved by the water of the lake and hung in cascades of pillared rock around them.  The cavern floor dropped sharply away at their feet, disappearing into the water, but the ceiling and walls continued on, finally opening to the outside in an irregular gap that seemed to frame the sinking sun against the azure sky.  Sea-green water filled with gently waving plant-life rippled and danced, highlighted with diamonds where the sunlight streamed in through the riven rock to dance upon the ripples and fading away to an inky indigo in the corners untouched by the light. 

 

Beyond the shoals, they could see small boats dotting the waters of the lake and the cool breeze brought to them the smell of water and cooking fires from the farther banks. 

 

“Lovely,” Arwen murmured.  Aragorn and Legolas nodded.  Together they dallied for some time, watching the sun sink slowly towards the horizon, yellow fading to red-orange as the sky darkened to purple around the glowing orb. 

 

Even though it was not the sea, part of Legolas’ heart that had been awakened not long before reacted to the sight of water and the ships sailing across its rippling surface.  It was more of a moving sight to him than it would have been in past and for a time he stood transfixed. 

 

As shadows lengthened and the light began to creep out of the cavern, they knew it was time to leave. 

 

“Worth coming through a cave to see?” Aragorn could not help asking Legolas as they turned back towards the surface once more. 

 

Legolas smiled.  “Mellon-nín, it will be worth it watching *you* try to get back up all these stairs,” the elf said with an overly large smile as he glanced at the dark stairs seeming to wind steeply away into an inky infinity before them. 

 

Aragorn rolled his eyes and laughed ruefully as he considered the long, steep climb ahead of them.  Going down was always easier than going up, especially when traveling with elves.  He glanced at the water lapping blow them.  “Maybe I’ll just swim!”

 

 

THE END