17. Chapter Seventeen
It is better to live,
even to live miserably;
The living can always something accomplish
Legolas took in the fair trees, his heart singing as he ran swiftly over the grass. The grass was soft under his feet, and hardly any mark told of his presence. It was almost as if he had not been there at all.
A strange desire to leave a mark here, in fair Ithilien, came over him. Mirkwood was his father's mark. What would be Legolas's, now that the world would fade?
Unwillingly, he looked to the West. A wind was sweeping that way, gently lifting the leaves and caressing the trees. Westwards, where the stars would shine over the sea, reflected in the still water, twice as beautiful. He could almost see it, almost smell the salt, almost hear the seagulls.
He halted, resting a hand on a tree trunk. The sea and the forest both filled his heart; both called to him with strong voices. Could he learn to love the dark caves of the dwarves as he had learned to love a dwarf?
Or could Gimli grow to love the forest and sleep happily under the trees? If the elves would even welcome a dwarf into their midst.
A cold grip settled on his heart. Could he forsake his own kindred for Gimli? The dwarf would probably not allow him. And what would the dwarves say of an Elven lover? He had not considered their kindred's reaction, nor what he and Gimli would do after the war.
It had seemed too futile to think ahead when death had so surely awaited. And yet here life was, glorious and dark and with unclear paths.
Soft footsteps told him someone approached, and he turned to see Aragorn, looking young and vibrant, the fate of Isildur at last lifted from his shoulders.
"Expecting death and getting life is a strange gift, Legolas," the Man said gently, eyes shining.
"It is indeed, King Elessar," Legolas replied and for a moment the two friends merely looked at each other, the quiet joy of life filling them both.
"I did not think this would come to pass," Aragorn said after a moment, glancing eastwards. "Tomorrow awaits duties. Tonight I wish to merely breathe in the air without the foulness of Sauron there."
"We owe much to the hobbits. They did what no elves or men could. Mortal beings causing the downfall of an immortal evil." Legolas paused. "They saved a world they will not see blossom."
"We do it for those who will come after us, Legolas. Mortality puzzles you, I see it in your eyes. You wonder how deeply we feel," Aragorn replied, putting a hand on the elf's shoulder."And mortals wonder what forever changes. There is an abyss between our kindred. Yet we strive to cross it."
"As Arwen will for you," Legolas said quietly, surprised at how keenly the Man saw and felt. There was an echo of shared sorrow in them both. A flicker of sadness crossed Aragorn's face, gone as fast as it had come.
"Aye, my friend. Her choice. I did not wish it upon her, yet she made it. A part of me wishes it was not so, a part of me loves her too deeply to wish it otherwise."
"I know," Legolas whispered, and closed his eyes. Images of the sea and Gimli assaulted him, and for a moment he wondered if Arwen too felt the call of the sea.
When he opened his eyes again, Aragorn had slipped away, walking among the trees like a swift shadow.
'May you live long, for all of us,' Legolas thought sadly. Aragorn would die, and the greatness of Men would diminish. All would change. But would he linger to see it happen, see Gimli grow old and die?
The hobbits were sleeping as he walked out of the woods, but Gimli sat by a dying fire, rings of smoke coming from his pipe. But the smoke was soon caught by the wind and gone, leaving no trace.
"Are the trees that wonderful?" Gimli remarked as he looked up, a smile touching his lips. "I nearly feared a tree had stolen your heart and I would have to get my axe."
"Nay," Legolas replied, sitting down next to the dwarf, smiling softly at the humour in his friend's voice. "None can take that which is already claimed."
Gimli sent him a look warmer than any campfire. Legolas felt his skin tickle, and he reached out to stroke the dwarf's cheek. Warm, soft yet weathered. Gimli had seen many years come and go. Who knew how many more there would be?
"There is sadness in your eyes," Gimli suddenly said, catching Legolas's hand in his own. "I have begun to understand the elves, Legolas. You never feel truly happy, for you know always what has been lost. Nor are you ever truly lost in sadness either, for you know that too will pass. We mortals live in the moment because we have nothing else. Even know I see your heart is troubled. And because your heart is trouble, mine is too."
"I fear what is to come."
"Do not fear tonight," Gimli whispered fiercely. "Sauron fell. Do not fill the void with a new fear so quickly. I feel the pull of tomorrow in my heart, the fear and uncertainty. I wish to live now."
"Teach me," Legolas replied softly, lifting Gimli's hand to kiss it.
"It would be a long lesson," Gimli said and edged closer, looking up at the elf with an unreadable expression.
"I have forever," Legolas muttered, pushing away fear, worry and longing. Forever was now. That was what mortals embraced. That was life. Forever was *now*.
And he desperately wished it was true.
This is a work of fan fiction, written because the author has an abiding love for the works of J R R Tolkien. The characters, settings, places, and languages used in this work are the property of the Tolkien Estate, Tolkien Enterprises, and possibly New Line Cinema, except for certain original characters who belong to the author of the said work. The author will not receive any money or other remuneration for presenting the work on this archive site. The work is the intellectual property of the author, is available solely for the enjoyment of Henneth Annûn Story Archive readers, and may not be copied or redistributed by any means without the explicit written consent of the author.