35. But in Dreams
What an extravagant party! thought Sam. So many guests were crowded into Rivendells beautiful and spacious great hall that he felt so terribly small and lost among all the people. The hall was so bright, the gold, vaulted ceiling glowing with the sparkling light from the chandeliers and candles. It was such an amazing sight to Sam, who had never before witnessed anything with quite so much grandeur. Who would have thought that he, Samwise Gamgee, son of Hamfast and simple Hobbit of the Shire, would ever attend such a gallant occasion?
Merry and Pippin sat near the long table situated against the far wall. Placed upon the clothed surface was food of every sort and texture. There were meats cooked in delicious sauce, fruits tantalizing in both smell and taste, and cheeses and breads enough to feed an army of hungry Hobbits. A few platters of mouth-watering cakes rested at the far end of the long table. The aromas were sensational, permeating throughout the grand hall. It was quite a feast.
Presently the two cousins ate quickly, obviously as taken as Sam with the amount of food before them. The array made every celebration in the Shire seem absolutely mediocre. Merry was laughing quite boisterously at some antic of Pippin. Frodo smiled, chewing a piece of bread. Sam sipped his mead, watching those dancing about the floor. Lord Elrond had invited the best minstrels and musicians in the great Elven city to play at the gathering, and they were quite worthy of their fame. A great many Elves and few men floated across the gleaming floor.
Hey, Merry, leave some of that for me! Pippin scrambled over his cousin, reaching with outstretched and wriggling fingers for the last piece of cheese.
Frodo laughed merrily. One would think that youve never seen food before, Pippin, with the way youre acting! he declared. His blue eyes glowed in mirth. Sam regarded his dearest friend a moment. It was so relieving to his soul to see Frodo return to the light-hearted nature he had had before the quest. His greatest fear during the trek from Mount Doom to Minas Tirith had concerned Frodo, and he had doubted that his friend would ever again rise from his consuming despair. Though Sam had long forgiven Frodo his lapse atop the fiery volcano, he knew his dear brother had still held the pain tightly within him. The joy he had felt at witnessing Frodos healing had been strong indeed. How good it was to have his friend back again!
You dont get to come to one of these more than once, Pippin snapped, snatching the cube of yellow cheese from Merrys hand. His cousin scowled. I daresay this is the only time Ill get to try much of this food!
You always think with your stomach, Pip, Merry chastised, taking the cheese back and then popping it into his mouth. The Hobbit made quite a show of chewing appreciatively and swallowing. He smiled. Delicious.
They squabbled and bantered for a bit, but gradually the conversation turned to the Shire. Tomorrow they would begin their journey home. Sam was not quite sure how he felt about the fact. He was riddled with sadness at parting company with the friends he had made in the Fellowship. So tight a bond had formed between them all that he was not sure how his life might be without their presences. Yet fate directed them each along a different path, and as it had brought them together, it would pull them apart. Such was the way of things, he supposed. Time, whether it brought with it good or bad, marched inevitably onward, and all things came to an end.
It would be good to return home. He had greatly missed his house and his things. Of late he had become increasingly anxious to see his father again. Those silly fantasies about dancing with Rosie Cotton had pushed him through the darkest parts of Mordor, and now they were achingly close to turning into a reality. The simple smells and sights he missed the most, such as the aroma of his house, the feel of his bed, and the rolling, grassy hills. What pleasure would his senses deliver him upon experiencing them again!
And yet he was sorry to leave this life. Though the trials had been harsh and the quest dangerous and difficult, he had grown through it, he knew. He had done a great thing, become something bigger than Samwise Gamgee, a simple Hobbit from the Shire. He did not regret joining Frodo in this quest. He had learned much, experienced more than he thought possible, known such intense jubilation and striking sorrow. He had seen things and people that he knew he would long remember and formulate into the sorts of tales he might one day tell his grandchildren. This had all been such an amazing event that he was sorry to see its conclusion.
He really had done it! He was no weakling, no coward! Though made of simple stuff, he had accomplished extraordinary feats! Never again would he doubt himself!
Sam? He broke from his thoughts at Frodos voice. He turned to his dear friend and blushed at seeing the concern shine in the others wide eyes. You seem troubled.
Sam sighed gently and smiled reassuringly. Nay, Mister Frodo. His eyes grew distant as he gazed around the room, watching as though the entire journey replayed before him. Im a might sorry to leave this behind is all.
Frodo grasped his shoulder, his small hand firm in its grip. It was a bit more than I expected it would be, he admitted, smiling now.
Merry set down his fork upon his plate. I dont suppose you want to stay, do you, Sam?
The question surprised him, and he turned to face his friend. Stay? he echoed, pondering matter. Then he shook his head. No, I think not. Ive missed home. Ill be happy to go back.
Imagine the surprise on all their faces! Well be all the envy, with our tales of Elves and Dwarves and Balrogs! Wait till they hear about all the good we did at Lórien, Merry! Pippin rambled.
Though they laughed now, each knew that they would bear the smiles as well as the scars forever. Merry and Pippin began to bicker again, about Bagginses and Proudfoots and Brandybucks and Tooks, and Frodo and Sam laughed. Arguing the merits of Hobbit lineages to other Hobbits was such foolery; somehow or other, they were all related to one another, anyway.
When the gaiety died, Merry grinned still. His eyes held a bit of seriousness, though. Well, that being that, we should just enjoy this last night here. Its too nice a night not to, right?
Aye, said Pippin, raising his mug. A toast! To our friendship. It carried us through the best and worst of times. Let it never falter!
And to our comrades, our fellow Walkers. To each let us wish them luck and happiness, Frodo added, lifting his own drink.
To the Fellowship of the Ring!
Four mugs clanked against each other, frothy mead splashing over the sides. Each Hobbit drank then and grew silent as he did, thinking on private matters. The emptiness became quite unusual for them, and thus inexplicably difficult to break.
Through the crowd of people emerged Gandalf. He spotted his Hobbit friends and smiled, breaking free from whatever business to which he had been attending. His long stride quickly carried him to the four. Gandalf! cried Frodo, and he stood to greet the ancient wizard.
Sam rose as well, albeit a bit slowly due to his still sore leg. The Istar grinned at them widely, laying a giant hand on Frodos shoulder. Trust the Hobbits to take root near the food table, rumbled the wizard warmly. He laughed deeply. I might have known.
We were afraid we wouldnt see you this night, Gandalf, sir, admitted Sam. It was true enough. For the past few hours, the wizard had been all but invisible, constantly speaking with Elves and men about undoubtedly important matters. They had hardly seen him at all for more than a second as a flash of white moving through the gathering.
Gandalf patted Sams head affectionately. Do not be silly, Samwise! I would not miss this opportunity! The wizard smiled again, and the group watched him with great interest. Lord Elrond has informed me that the evening is crystal clear. Perhaps some entertainment is in order. These Elvish parties can be quite boring, if you follow. I believe I might be able to scrounge up a firework or two
Merry and Pippin broke into wildly foolish and mischievous grins. Gandalf teased as he continued, And if you two prove to be well enough behaved, I may allow you to choose which we will launch. I have not forgotten the debacle you made of Bilbos 111th birthday party.
We would never, Gandalf-
Sam smiled, feeling whatever remained of his doubt and dismay fade in the warmth of camaraderie. He intended to enjoy this evening in the company of his closest friends. He had certainly earned it. They all had.
The wizard laughed. Come
along, then. I will teach you how to properly make shape from light and thunder
from silence! Oh, to dazzle the senses! This is our last night here in this
beautiful city. Let us inform the stars of it!
There was a quiet spot in the forests beyond Rivendell. It was a small clearing surrounded by tall, ancient trees that not often parted their full and concealing canopies to allow for the prying eyes of visitors. Aragorn had long ago found this spot. During his youth, he had often wandered in the woods surrounding his home in search of the ideal nook for thinking and lazing. So often had he come here to be alone, for it was quiet enough that others rarely ventured upon it but no so far as to ever be utterly separated from the Elven city. When he had learned to trust Legolas, he had brought his friend to this little alcove. Together they had often rested here after hunt or game, content to relax and sleep in the sun without pressing care or responsibility.
Now they both lay in the grass, the soft blades cool and clean against them. Overhead was a beautiful sea of shining stars. They were a million specks of twinkling white in a dark blanket of midnight, winking and watching the world as eternal and tireless sentinels. Aragorn spent a futile moment trying to count the tiny dots, but he quickly lost interest and the task was truly impossible. He wondered at all they had seen and all they would see. The life of a mortal or even immortal was but the blink of an eye to them. Sometimes he envied them this knowledge. The toils of time never touched them. Was such a gift a great freedom or a terrible curse?
Eärendil is quite beautiful tonight, Legolas commented quietly. Aragorn turned his head to gaze upon his friend. The archer rested beside him, his long body flat along the ground and thin enough that the long green blades of the grass poked up around him. He was bracing the back of his head on his hands. His eyes were glazed, distant.
Aragorn smiled and looked upward once more. Yes, it is.
They lapsed into a companionable silence. Music and muffled conversation was just barely audible, as they were not quite far enough away from the palace as to not hear the grand celebration within. Aragorn thought of the last few hours. He had remained at the gathering for quite a bit, conversing with Elves and men, sharing experiences and accepting congratulations. He had never been comfortable in stuffy events such as that. Still, he had managed to steal a few dances with Lady Arwen, blissful to simply be in her arms. In the quiet moments, she had assured him that her father had finally given them his blessing. The news had sent Aragorn into an excited dizzy spell, and the room seemed to spin as they whirled around the dance floor. She had also told him she would return with him to Gondor, just as he had fervently wished she would.
It had been a grand night indeed!
So full of pride and joy, he spoke, feeling that if he did not, he might simply burst. It is so amazing, my dear friend, he said breathlessly, smiling broadly. We have done a remarkable thing! And now all is well in the world. I had my doubts, but I was foolish to even consider them. Look and see what we have ensured!
Legolas grunted. You act as thought it was you who tossed the Ring into the fiery chasm, Aragorn, he jested lightly. Still, there was something in his voice that Aragorn did not miss. A note of pain. A bit of sadness. Regret.
The ranger wanted to hit himself for his stupidity. How terribly thoughtless of him to congratulate himself on a job well done when Legolas had lost so much in doing it! Legolas, I am so sorry. I did not think.
The archer did not turn to look at him. They were silent then, and time passed slowly. Legolas breathing had become quite even and deep, and Aragorn wondered if his friend had drifted off into slumber. It had been a busy day, and even he was tired, filled with good food, wine, and spirit. He did not have the courage to confirm his suspicions, feeling wretched for his damned inconsiderate words.
The forest and music spoke in their stead for quite some time. Then the emptiness grew too unbearable for Aragorn, and he said softly, It would have been worth nothing had you not survived.
Do not say such a thing. The ranger leaned up on his elbows and looked over at Legolas. The archer seemed so calm, his eyes closed but obviously very much alert. My life was insignificant. We both knew this. Hence I knew you should not come for me, and you knew you could not. He released a slow breath, and his bright blue eyes cracked open. I am sorry, Aragorn, for the way I acted the day you returned. It was truly disgraceful of me to blame you for what happened. You did not lay this curse upon me. In fact, I should thank you, for you saved my life, even when I would not.
I did nothing of the sort, dear friend.
Nay, Legolas continued, his voice firm and leaving no room for question, you dragged me back into the light and forced me to look upon myself without disgust. You bade me to have hope. And in doing so, you gave me light. Aragorn felt relieved at the words. He watched as Legolas lips turned up in a small smile. My brother Vardaithil said the strangest thing to me ere I left Mirkwood. He told me that the things we have done and the people we love are at times more important that who we are. He shook his head. I never thought I would hear him say such a thing.
The Lord is wise indeed.
Yes, but I think in his own way, he was trying to understand how I had come to grips with what happened. For my family, being an Elf is the greatest asset one can have. It defines your existence and promises you pride and power. And yet my mortal friends are my greatest asset. You always have been. You have given so much strength and love. Were it not for you, I would have died. I know it. Perhaps that is why I am able to accept this fate. Legolas met Aragorns gaze. His deep blue eyes held such brotherly affection that Aragorn felt his heart tighten with emotion. This curse has bound me more tightly to you.
The words struck Aragorns ears and filled his mind with a sense of completion. Legolas smiled. I am glad I call you brother, Aragorn, son of Arathorn.
I am glad I call you the same, Legolas, son of Thranduil.
The bond was reformed, stronger than ever before. Aragorn felt it as though it were a real, tangible bridge between their hearts. Numbed by joy, he sank back down into the grass and returned his gaze to the stars. They were quiet again for a bit, content in the silence to simply feel and know the peace of the evening. The stars smiled upon them, bright and illustrious.
I slipped some mud into Elladans boots before he dressed this evening.
Surprise rattled through the ranger. You did what?!
Legolas grinned impishly. I thought I would repay him his haughty comments, he declared most matter-of-factly.
Emptiness. A rather hilarious picture of the Elf princes stoic face burning bright red in embarrassment as the slimy mud squished uncomfortably into his stockings found its way into Aragorns mind, and he burst out laughing. Legolas managed to maintain a serious expression a moment longer before he too succumbed.
Great, loud laughing filled the quiet clearing. It was a joyous sound, spreading through the night and telling any who might hear of the release the two friends found. There was no curse, no painful memory, no fear. There was just this silly moment of frivolity.
Legolas laughs gradually died away. Finally Aragorn calmed enough to speak. The man wiped the tears from his eyes. He will repay you ten-fold for that, Legolas, and you know it well! he declared, watching the stars twinkle at their display. He swallowed a giggle. Ai, what a sight! I think we ought to return to that party just to gloat!
There came a monstrous bang overhead, and suddenly the sky was filled with magnificent sparkles of all colors. Aragorns eyes widened at the display, watching intensely as the tiny red and pink flames fell from the sky like shooting stars. Then there was another boom and a blinding flash. It exploded outward into a sphere of dangling green lights. Aragorns heart sped with excitement and awe. It seems the little ones convinced Gandalf to light the sky this evening for us! he declared.
After another thud and bang, a beautiful picture of a green tree spread through the black sky. Aragorn marveled at its intricate splendor. Did you see that one, Legolas? There was no response from the still form beside him. Somewhat concerned, Aragorn leaned up and glanced over. Legolas?
But his dear friend had fallen asleep.
Legolas was dreaming of Mirkwood. He was dreaming of great glorious woods, of places beautiful and verdant, of ancient trees with full canopies of bright green leaves. He was running in the dark forest, running so very fast. He did not know towards what he was sprinting. And though he was moving terribly quickly, he was not winded nor tired. He flew through the forest, searching for an answer, for a truth to unlock the substance of the darkness he still held within. For a long time he ran, his eyes scanning all places in this black maze of trunk and leaf, endlessly looking. Love directed his feet. Hope showed him the way.
And finally he found it.
In this dream he approached the great, old tree in the forest. It was so very dark in this place, the shadow covering everyting. Only the tree meagerly glowed, but its light seemed to be weak and waning. It stood before him in such majesty, rising from the ground to tower over him with limbs wide and thick and leaves great and smooth. He stood still a moment, watching, wondering. It was the same tree with which he had so often in the past shared his most intimate joys and pains. It was the companion to his soul and its song had always so vividly and powerfully filled his mind, bringing to him a sense of ageless serenity.
Now it was silent.
Tentatively he stepped closer. He shook, though not from the exertion from the run, but of fear and apprehension. At any moment this tree might reject him, after all. He was stained by shadow, ruined and unworthy. Though he knew this, he could not stop his steps, and he moved closer and closer. The tree breathed, its massive trunk pulsing powerfully with the force of all life. How he longed to touch the bark, to feel its spirit caress his fingers, to know its timeless strength! Perhaps it might allow him this one last luxury He was so frightened, so desperate to hear again its song! Would it now shun him? Would it turn its back upon its loving child, disgusted by the aura of the darkness all around him? He reached forth this hand, moving closer and closer to the trunk.
From the trunk burst forth a tiny light. It floated before him, dangling before his eyes. Curious, he reached out to touch it, but it was far too quick to catch and darted away. For a moment it lingered at the trunk, floating against the rough, brown bark. Then, with a flash, it raced up the trees length and disappeared into the foliage.
It made so little sense, but in the dream world, he did not think to understand. Instead, he grabbed a low branch of the tree and pulled himself up. His body abruptly felt weak and heavy, and he nearly fell, but he would not be dissuaded. He struggled to right himself and eventually planted his feet upon the sturdy limb. Looking up, he could just barely see the spot of light, tantalizing him as it floated in and out of the trees leaves. Vehemence glinted in his eyes, and he began to climb.
He did not know how long he fought to pull himself up the great, old tree. Time did not exist in this plane. Vaguely, he knew this strange place to be surreal, to be only a figment of his sleeping mind. But he could not concentrate enough on this train of conscious thought to break free from his task. There was no sweat. His heart did not beat. He did not grow light-headed or short of breath. He just hauled his heavy body up onto each wide, thick limb, struggling with every ounce of his being. This was his existence. This was what he must do.
Finally he reached the top.
With a soundless cry, he broke through the very pinnacle of the green canopy. Quickly he looked around. Where had the flash gone? Where?
He felt heat, a blinding, powerful light. And he looked up.
The sun! At long last, he had found it!
It was above him, great and beautiful, and its powerful rays enveloped him. He closed his eyes and stood then, still and calm, as the light washed over him. So strong was its force, it penetrated his flesh and bone as though none existed at all, and reached his heart. There it began to work. I renounce what I was to accept what I am. I do not despair. I love and am loved. I am alive!
I am alive!
The light sundered the holds of the black prison. The arms of curse withered and wilted under the blasting beams of illumination, the weak and cowardly shadow unable to withstand the light of truth. Wave after wave filled him, pushing away the black magic and revealing what had been hidden. What had not been destroyed.
Forever he stood there, knowing, breathing, healing. Finally, its deep, black roots had been obliterated, and he was free. He was free!
Silence. Then a song. The wind rustling through the leaves. One, then many, many more. A chorus of nature, of light and life. A joyous melody of good and peace. It reached out to him, seeking his deprived spirit, slipping into his brutalized heart. Deep within it caressed to life his blood once more. The melody filled him, and his soul sang in overwhelming joy. The deafening quiet was no longer tormenting him, and his heart began to beat!
The Elf opened his eyes. A vast and endless sky surrounded him. It was breathtaking, beautiful and blue, deep and soothing. He tasted tears, smelled the fresh wind, felt weightless. All of Middle Earth called to him and he answered, crying out his gratitude, singing his renewal. He was whole again.
He dreamt of things lost, of things gained. In this blue void he saw Boromir and Astaldogald. He saw Aragorn, Gimli, and Gandalf, Merry, Pippin, Sam and Frodo, Arwen and her family Aratadarion and Vardaithil. His father. His mother. Their love had given him such strength. Their sacrifice had taught him the value of life, immortal or not. If not for them, would he have escaped? Would he have found his path through those endless dark woods?
He smiled and took a step. The wind swept him skyward, and he was flying, soaring, higher and higher, up into the deep and dreamless blue.
Into the waiting arms of the sun.
Authors Notes and Acknowledgments:
First, I would like to express the joy I have had in writing this story. Exploring Tolkiens world was fascinating and exciting, and I cannot express gratitude enough to Peter Jackson for bringing that world to such vivid life!
That being said, this tale will have no sequel. One of its principle themes is that fate finds a way to restore what should be. I feel that continuing on would betray that. I believe Gandalf expressed it most beautifully in the movie. There are other forces at work in this world besides the will of evil. I tried to be true to such an idea and hopefully I succeeded in restoring most of what my twist of fate created.
I hope you have enjoyed reading this as much as I have writing it. If you have any questions or comments, do not hesitate to e-mail me! I will be more than happy to respond. And now for my list of thanks... Please bear with me!
First, I extend the deepest of gratitude to all who have taken the time to read my work. I know it has been quite a long haul, and I am so happy you have stuck with me! I must extend special thanks to a few faithful reviewers, especially Ithilien, Gabrielle, Littlefish, and JastaElf. Your words and works have inspired me. I cannot thank you enough for your unending support!
Thanks go to my brother, Dave, for, well, being himself. He always has a way of putting things into perspective.
Much love and gratitude to my sister, best friend, and beta-reader, Erin. Without her, none of this story would have been possible.
Finally, a thanks to my loving boyfriend, Josh, who always gave me the all encouragement and support I needed to finish this work.
All good things must come to an end, they say. I wish the best of luck to you all. Thank you!
Veiling of the Sun
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.