1. Falling Out of Love
"Thank you, Luingol," he said to his aide, who walked with bright zeal by his side, "I would speak to my guest alone. Please tell the envoy of Prince Faramir that I will have an answer for him by tonight."
Coming into Lordship had been both strange and familiar to him, and this hundred years had passed in a breath as he discovered what it was to be the ruler of an Elven realm. He had more sympathy for his father now that he understood the endless pressures of rule. That Thranduil had husbanded a realm in a time of war, and still found time to feast and laugh, he had once thought of as merely ordinary, but now found admirable.
His guest - Master of Imladris, Lord and King and prince of many realms that had once been full of might and splendour, but now lay ruined in the long wrack of history - was kneeling in the rough grass, looking intently at some small thing, hidden from Legolas by the sweep of silver hair. Thranduil had often said this elder-kinsman of their race was become like one of the Noldor themselves, and had forsaken his heritage when he wed his wife. So Legolas had expected Celeborn to stay within the fair walls Gimli and his folk had built. He had expected to play host to a man like Elrond - urbane and settled, only half present in this living moment, and half riding the arcane currents of his power, or the dim regrets of lore. He had thought to be on his best behaviour, alternately bored and awed.
Instead he found himself settling crosslegged in the grass with the arch of an Ithilien sunset painting the sky and the ends of his braids in deep gold. Birds sang in the twilight, and afar there ran the quiet voice of a small spring. The burnt scent had finally given way to a green smell, and it seemed to him that the land sighed in relief, like a man at last accepting there would be no more pain.
"What is it you look on?"
"It is an orchid. See?" Celeborn shifted to one side and showed the flowering spike of a plant less than a hand's breath in height. The modest leaves were a deep green, sturdy, with a tough, enduring bravery that reminded Legolas of the hobbits. And the flowers were so small they seemed at first a dust, but when he leaned to see them better they were revealed as a tower of ivory made up of many swan-white curving forms, winged as birds, but edged - with more than elven delicacy - by lines of sun-coloured saffron. Evening dew had descended on this marvel and sleeked the wondrous forms in perfect diamond. As he shifted, enthralled, his small movement stirred the air and the petals trembled, flashing with water like spilled gems.
Then Legolas breathed in, and exaltation came over him - excited as he had been by the eyes of Huorns in the moving wood. It seemed beyond praise that such a thing as this should exist. More worthy of song than any creation of elf or Man. Its mere existence made all struggles worthwhile.
He bent forward to see if it had a perfume, and at that moment discontent came tugging at his heart like an undertow, and he sighed, forgetting the plant, sitting up, looking away. The Sea lay just beyond his sight, just beyond his hearing, and ever when sheer adoration for the creatures of Middle Earth brimmed in him the wave of it was pulled back into the ocean; restless, unfulfilled.
"You saw what I saw," said Celeborn, certain, looking at him with curiosity, "You saw the beauty, the sheer perfection. You would have lived and died and counted it well done if only because once you looked on something so marvellous."
"But something happened to make you fall out of love - to make you turn away."
"What?" Celeborn's gaze was steel sharp - the look of one long used to commanding the thoughts of those he ruled, and Legolas might have bridled at it, urged his own rank, had he not seen the sorrow which lay beneath the strength.
"It is the Sea-longing."
Celeborn sighed, stood up, brushing the dew from his hands against the sides of his yew-green tunic. He looked out to the sunset and what lay beyond - to the sea, to the West. "I thought as much," he said, with an intonation of distaste. But then curiosity returned, almost unwilling, "What is it like?"
At that Legolas laughed, though his mind returned to the shore, to the seagulls and the seethe and lift of silver. "Surely you have seen the Call at work in your wife this past Age? Did you not ask her?"
"The longing in the heart of the Exiles is something different - a homesickness I can understand. And what came upon Galadriel at the last was the doing of Nenya. A fell and unnatural working of power. Also..." half turned from Legolas, the wind blew strong on Celeborn, and his hair and cloak streamed toward the East, as though the world pulled him back from a precipice, a falling away. "Also it is said to be different for the Noldor. But you are Sindar, as am I. And I would know what it was like for you."
Legolas turned his back on the smiling sun, and watched her light run before him among the trees of Ithilien. Again he saw the world as a trove of marvels - each branch the expression of a truth more profound than any poem, each fluttering leaf a note of bliss. Their voices, even now, cried out to him in welcome and love, begging him to stay, to guard and protect and teach them. Then he understood at once Celeborn's purpose in these questions, and he was full of pity.
"It came on me of a sudden," he said, "My heart ran in the woods, content. And then..." He shook his head, the slide of his hair over his collar a small comforting caress, "And then I smelled the salt, and the song faltered in me. Gulls cried, and the land was cut from beneath my feet between one breath and the next. They say I stood, stunned. I know not. Only the astonishment and desire, and the yearning I remember - the rise and shine and murmur of the Sea, and the promise of what lies beyond it."
Celeborn smiled at him, almost reluctantly, "Your face shines as you speak of it," he said, "It brings you joy?"
"It does." Legolas looked at his realm and knew he did not feel for it what Thranduil felt for the Wood of Green Leaves. It was not his soul, it was but a toy he had built himself to occupy his hands while he waited for the right time to sail. "But for my father, and for Elessar, I would be already gone. I want to go."
The sun fell, and shade deepened beneath the trees, but on the Mountains of Shadow there lingered a pale yellow light. The streams ran clear there for the first time, flashing in the dusk, and from their gullies there swept shyly a greenery of small mosses. At the sight of it Celeborn's smile became genuine. "Yet there is still so much to be done here. So much to heal, and mend, and tend. So much to explore now we are not constrained to fight for our mere existence. So much to see and wonder at... I confess I know no more than I did when I first urged you to speak. I do not understand."
"No more do I," said Legolas, "It is something no mere words can express. If you do not hear the Call, you will never understand it. If you do hear it, you will be altogether changed."
Aware that time passed, and there were at his citadel a myriad of parchments to read and sign, Legolas turned back and began to walk along the faint path Luingol had trodden, so he was not looking when Celeborn said - his voice uncharacteristically uncertain - "Is there no way I can bring myself to hear it? I would not force, but perhaps it could be encouraged?"
Legolas stopped. In the past the concerns of Lorien had not troubled him, and more recently he had known Thranduil to declare happily that, at last, the Noldor were gone, and Middle earth once again belonged to the elves who most loved her. He had, he supposed, breathed in his father's attitude that the whole business of the Exiles was a small aberration in the history of the Sindar, now put right. But Thranduil too had lost a wife, and was now losing a child, to the Sea-longing. Celeborn's question made him wonder what his father also suffered, in staying.
"It came on me the moment I saw the Sea," he said, "Perhaps if you did not live so far inland?"
The leaves rustled overhead, as Celeborn laughed quietly, "The year after they sailed," he said, "I visited Cirdan for a time. I drifted about the shores. I walked into the waves and stood knee high in water with the spray on my face. And a great yearning did come over me then. But only to be somewhere more dry."
Surprised, Legolas snorted with mirth. "How amused the Valar must be at our expense," he said, looking up at early stars that did indeed twinkle roguishly, "I would stay, but for the Call. I have my father here, and my family and my friends. And you would go, but that the land will not release you. If we could but exchange places!"
He wondered what his life would be like without the longing - simpler, surely. And surely he would have been happy in this world free of war, ruled by hope. But if he was honest he could not now wish it had not happened. "No... No. This feels right. I must go. Only..." He brushed a hand against treebark, then paused, leaning on it, his view curtained by a fall of hair as golden as Henneth Annun in the noon time. Faintly, like a nuzzling animal, the tree tried to comfort him. "Only I grieve to cause my father pain."
"We each make the only decisions we can," said Celeborn with a great, hard won calmness. "I will look after him for you."
Legolas braced himself, straightened, patting the tree, thanking it for its concern. His mind ran on into a Sindar future for the elves of Middle earth. He wondered how under the sun Celeborn meant to 'look after' the independent, self willed King of Eryn Lasgalen, and what Thranduil would make of it. The arguments alone should keep his father occupied for another Age. "He will be so furious if you attempt it he will not notice I've gone for a thousand years."
"Then I will be diligent," said Celeborn, and grinned wickedly. "It is time my younger kinsman was reined in."
"Do not say that in his hearing!" Legolas laughed aloud, "Unless you wish to be sent West through Mandos."
"Child, as if he could!" said Celeborn, and then sobered, "In truth that is a route I have considered. But, if it came to it, I had rather travel by boat."
He looked over Legolas' shoulder to where Luingol stood, politely, nervously waiting for the Lords to have done so that some business could finally be achieved, and nodded with an air of finality. "Bear in mind, when the time comes, that - though Cirdan is gone - still there are shipwrights from Edhellond in my following who can aid you. You have but to say the word and they will begin."
Thranduil had wept, but at last gave Legolas his blessing in grim acceptance, refusing to talk further. Elessar... To Elessar Legolas did not speak of leaving, though surely he knew. He had not thought to find practical help from anyone but Gimli - and what did the Dwarves know of ocean-going ships? "My thanks," he said, surprised again. "I little expected such a gift from you, who has no cause to love the lure of Aman."
"Yet there is nothing sadder in this world than watching the Sea-longing thwarted, passing from joy into despair," said Celeborn. He turned away, fading into the twilight. "Do not subject your father to that. Go, while it still brings you happiness. Do not wait."
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.