30. Old Friends
Disclaimer: NOt mine, just mucking about, no money etc.
Beta: The incomparable Anarithilien.
Recap: Legolas has been brought back down the mountain by Elrohir and Gandalf, Elladan and Gimli and slowly awakens. He has recognised Elrohir as Rávëyon, and the sons of Elrond prepare for war.
Chapter 30: Old friends
Legolas knew he had drifted again, hazily, only aware of the scents of the evening floated on the air and he wondered if it was a blackbird singing somewhere, outside in the twilight...He thought of the hobbit... Pippin? Yes, that was his name. Pippin. He had been listening to him tell of the Ring, how he had worked out it was the One Ring...and something had happened ...Something had plunged him once again into that place...where there was only terrible burning, and torture, and screaming. His throat hurt again.
But he was no longer there. The fiery burning that boiled his blood and melted his bones had retreated, only retreated because he felt it was still there, just beneath his skin, just beneath his consciousness, waiting for him to sleep so it could come again. He felt his eyes open and glaze in reverie, slowly awakening. But he was not asleep, not in that place...
Instead he found himself listening to the Song of the Mountain…a single deep note, like a heavy bronze bell … the stroke of a drop of water across a mirror of water, undisturbed for a thousand years like the thrum of harp strings … the creak of stone in the heart of the Mountain…
He frowned. It reminded him of something...and he thought someone had once described the mountains to him in such terms for he was sure he had not thought this on his own...Slowly, he let his eyes focus on the dwarf, with his bronze hair pulled into a thick plait and bronze beard smooth and oiled and silky, sitting carefully in the small chair drawn up next to the bed. Legolas nodded to himself; that was why he could hear the song of the mountain amplified- it was responding to the presence of the dwarf as trees responded to an elf of the woods. He thought the dwarf must be the lord of this stone fortress, for the stones sang to him and everyone bowed and did his bidding -even Rávëyon, he thought sleepily. Tension eased from his limbs and he let the breath go that he did not know he had been holding...but he could not say why. Yet he realised he knew the dwarf. He knew his Song, knew those clever square hands, had seen his ferocity in battle and rejoiced that they stood together, and that comforted him.
Am I in Erebor? he wondered briefly, for it was not Imladris, that he knew. Earth brown eyes held his and he found himself reaching out to clever square hands that he had seen smooth metal like silk. A word reached him through the silver wall, Elvellon. Elvellon. And he felt safe.
Legolas knew he should get up and bow, and though he knew he was stronger than he had been before, he still felt tired.
'My lord,' he greeted the dwarf as formally as he could from lying in bed.
The dwarf pursed his lips and gave Legolas a shrewd look. 'I see you have not lost your sense of humour.'
Legolas smiled. He did not know how he knew, but in his heart, he was certain that the dwarf had saved his life many times over, and Legolas had saved his.
The dwarf shifted and slowly took out a long thin pipe which he put between his lips and watched Legolas quizzically. Legolas did not so much as blink; he knew what was coming, he had grown used to it.
He dropped his gaze for a moment. Yes, he had grown used to it. The hobbits and men had wreathed themselves in smoke, as did the dwarf. He had a sudden flash of memory... sitting around a campfire, he standing guard and the others of the Fellowship smoking their pipes and bickering over ... over...
A long stream of grey smoke curled around him.
'Long Bottom Leaf!' he burst out. The dwarf smiled shrewdly.
'You know, Legolas, you always liked a smoke after supper,' he said, eyes gleaming.
Legolas smiled tentatively, and reached out his hand. 'Elvellon?'
Gimli smiled back, showing neat white teeth. 'Elvellon. Or Gimli son of Glóin, son of Gróin. Of Erebor. At your service.' The dwarf stood and bowed. Then sat quietly, puffing on his pipe and Legolas found it soothing and found that he did not mind the smoke that prickled his nose.
Later, Gimli helped him stand again and moved a chair to the window, positioning it carefully to face the North. But the window was closed and Legolas just did not have the energy to throw it open as he wished.
'That way is home,' Gimli told him, and helped him sink into the chair. The dwarf pulled the low chair in which he had been sitting forwards, and settled next to Legolas companionably.
Legolas stared up at the cloudy sky. 'Where are we?' He found the question he had struggled with all day.
'We are in Minas Tirith. With Aragorn,' the dwarf said patiently. 'We came on the Paths of the Dead.' He paused and glanced at Legolas. Then added with an air of helpfulness, 'You were very afraid.'
'I was?' Legolas frowned, thinking that sounded very unlikely, but Gimli merely regarded him thoughtfully.
'But you fought well in spite of it,' Gimli took the pipe from between his teeth and looked at it before putting it back in and fixing Legolas with his bright eyes. 'You killed forty-one orcs,' he said calmly.
Legolas narrowed his eyes; that certainly did not sound right. 'And how many did you kill?' he asked with suspicion.
'Fifty-five.' Gimli said, looking modest. 'But since you cannot remember anything, I will tell you what happened.' He settled back in his chair and linked his fingers over his flat stomach. 'Now...it started with the Council of Elrond...' And then, like Pippin, Gimli told Legolas of his great deeds, his single-handedly rescuing of the Fellowship from wargs, his great determination on Caradhras while Legolas, it seemed, merely played in the snow with the hobbits. Gimli spoke endlessly about Lothlorien until even Legolas was bored and he watched the dwarf stroke his hand over something he had tucked away in his tunic. When Gimli told him of Galadriel's gift, he smiled.
And then at Meduseld*, it seemed Gimli had single-handedly defeated Grima Wormtongue and his henchmen. Although, as Gimli conceded generously, it was Legolas who had actually killed him. And it was Gimli, it seemed, who had played the biggest part in Saruman's defeat. It seemed too, that Legolas owed him a huge debt for helping him through the Paths of the Dead, for the elf had been terrified, Gimli repeated, and it was only Gimli's steady presence and sense of direction that got him through. The dwarf finished by describing how he, Gimli, had faced and defeated an enraged Oliphant single-handedly.
Legolas tilted his head and regarded Gimli quizzically. 'You are a very great hero indeed,' he said drily. 'I wonder that Sauron has not fled, knowing you AND Pippin are here so close to his borders.'
'Yes. Did Pippin not solve the riddle of Aragorn's heritage, and identify the One Ring in the first place? Truly I am blessed to be in such elevated company, me a mere Woodelf who, it seems, jumps at his own shadow!'
Gimli regarded him carefully, and then suddenly he threw his head back and laughed loudly. 'Ah! I told them I would get your memory back! Maybe it is not quite complete, my friend, but it is good to have you back. I have missed you!' he said and his eyes twitched a little. He rubbed them self-consciously. 'Thought we'd lost you for a minute and I have a bone to pick with you about you going off without me...but not now. No,' he said more softly. 'Not right now.'
Legolas regarded him with a mixture of bewilderment and skepticism and then the dwarf glanced down and rummaged at the neck of his tunic, drawing forth something on a chain. He lifted it and held it for a moment in the palm of his square hands, gently as if it were something immeasurably precious. 'Here. I have kept this for you, as you had asked. And now I return it.' He sat for a moment looking at Legolas as if he wanted to remember him. 'But you now must return the favour and when all is over, find my axe and return it home.'
Legolas stared, feeling the moment was huge and immense but he struggled still for memory, for understanding, to piece together the bits he knew and the snatches of the past. Earth-brown eyes met his in sorrow and Legolas felt a sudden sharpening in his own awareness.
'When it is all over?' he repeated, narrowing his eyes.
Gimli looked horrified for a moment and Legolas reached out and clasped his shoulder firmly. 'Where are you going?'
'I simply remind you of a promise made to the other should he fall.' Gimli looked away guiltily and Legolas pulled him round to face him.
Gimli would not meet his gaze, saying, 'We promised each other that should one of us fall, the other would return to the folk of the Wood or the Mountain and tell them. If I fall, you have to return my axe; it will be buried deep in the skull of an orc! I promised you I would return this and I simply remind you of your promise to me.'
In his hand a fine silver chain was looped and something glittered, a delicately wrought leaf. Legolas leaned forwards, fixed on the leaf. It was his, he knew this. He had carried it into every battle, every journey, since his childhood. It was his and he had been given it by his father. His head shot up to stare at Gimli. How did Gimli come to have it? There was only one way he could have it...and that was if Legolas had given it to him for safekeeping... if he thought he would fall.
The silver-blue wall slammed down again and he shook his head.
'It is yours,' Gimli said gently. 'You left without me but I forgive you your stupidity. You are an elf after all. But I remind you of your promise.' He took a breath and clasped Legolas' hand. 'If I fall,' Gimli said earnestly, 'Go to my father...if he yet lives. Make him understand that we are friends. Promise me.'
Legolas stared. Fumbling in his memories as if for a key to unlock this dreadful confusion. He was almost there, almost understood. Not remembered, but almost understood. Why he was here? Why Gimli was saying this?
'Why am I in this room, on the North side?' he asked suddenly. 'There are other rooms I could have that open onto the garden? Why are you keeping me in this quiet place, away from the sights and sounds of the city, of the... the river...?' he asked with sudden recollection- yes! The sunlight turning the river a wide, wide expanse of silver and... and...birds flying...He rose and took a step toward the window, throwing it open. He leaned out as far as he could. 'What do you seek to hide from me?'
'No! Legolas! Come back here!' Gimli pulled at his sleeve but he was healing and felt strong! He wrenched his arm from the dwarf's grasp and leaned out as far as he could and breath. Spring was in the air... but that was not it. He knew Gimli loved him and there was something from which he wished to protect him. Legolas leaned out precariously and then suddenly impulsive, he swung his legs over the windowsill and was about to drop into the garden when he realised something.
The city was astir.
He caught the edges of an immense wave of sound, horses, men, wagons creaking on wooden wheels, the sough of canvas of a thousand tents spread on the fields below, the clang of steel forged and hiss of hot metal in water...and the murmur of excited dread of an army waiting to march.
He froze. War? Yes…War...The smell of burning still lingered on the edges, of course, but he had not recognised it.
And then he realised where Gandalf was, and Rávëyon. Pippin had been sent to keep him company, and Gimli...he turned back into the room to find the dwarf looking at him with immense sorrow and loss, as if he had already gone.
Gimli had been trying to say goodbye.
He stared at the dwarf accusingly. 'And you think you can do this without me?' he demanded.
Gimli rolled his eyes and plopped himself down in the chair again. 'I knew it was a mistake to come back here. Aragorn told me not to. But oh no, I can't just go off without saying goodbye to my friend, even though he did that to me!'
'When did I do that to you?' Legolas demanded indignantly.
'Oh, let me see?' Gimli pretended to consider in an exaggerated and irritated way. 'Oh!' He nodded to himself sarcastically. 'Perhaps when you went off into the Mountains, with Elrohir...' he stopped abruptly and rubbed his hands over his eyes.
'When? When did I do that?' Legolas was still furious. Gimli and Aragorn were going to leave him here and ride into battle without him! He had come all this way with them, fought by their side, saved their lives and been saved by them more times than he could possibly count, and now... 'You think that because I have been injured I am a danger to you and to myself,' he said with realisation. And in his heart he knew they were right — he would never allow one of his own Elves to remain on duty if injured... but at Helm's Deep everyone had to fight, and how was this any different?
He stopped. Helm's Deep? This was not just what Gimli had told him; there was a memory of a moving, restless sea of orcs, horror overwhelming him and they had thought then, to despair. But they had changed that, he remembered. They had not been defeated, but victorious. Together, as a Fellowship. 'I will not let you go alone!' he declared.
Gimli laughed cynically. 'Oh, I won't be alone. There's a couple of thousand going with me. What's one more elf?' But then he softened and laid his strong clever hand on Legolas' arm. 'What's one more elf, Legolas? Please! You are not yourself. You have this lapse in your memory and who knows if you can use a sword or if you have forgotten. And you cannot draw a bow with that!' He pointed at the wound in Legolas' chest.
Legolas bristled with fury, for he knew the truth and he clenched his fists and cried out in frustration. 'Then let us try it,' he challenged, 'Gimli! I know I have only part memories but that does not stop me from fighting! Do not leave me behind!' And the words sounded familiar and he saw in his memory a woman with long spun-gold hair. Standing on the steps of a golden-roofed hall, white dress flattened by the wind over her breasts, belly, thighs. He puzzled at the pain and elation of the memory and could not remember who she was.
Gimli breathed a heavy sigh. 'Legolas...you have done enough. You can go home. Indeed, I wish you would, for if we fall then war will come here again soon enough.'
'And it does not visit our own lands?' He gasped then for a memory surfaced; of yellow smoke coiling around burning trees and a trophy hoisted high above the caterwauling orcs... a bright gold pennant, a heavy weight that slid a little down the huge iron spear, and moaned. 'Adar...' He turned to Gimli in disbelief and pinned the dwarf with his ice-green eyes. 'Is it true? Gimli? My father?'
Gimli spread his capable hands wide over his knees and Legolas realised Gimli knew what he himself had remembered.
'Durin's beard, Legolas! I want to spare you but...' he sighed and gave up. 'That was Saruman. We threw him down in Orthanc and he sent you a vision of your woods in flames and your father slain...We have had no news. Neither you nor I nor Gandalf ...any of us … know if it is true. I hope it is not.'
All the fire went out of Legolas and he sat heavily on the bed and looked down. Their shadows on the cool stone wall seemed to lean against each other and Legolas turned to Gimli.
'I am going with you. If I cannot draw a bow, I can still guard your back. I would not stay here to see the slaughter should we fall, and I would not make it back home now with war tearing at the lands between. If we both fall, then we have given everything we can, and though we part until the Ending of the World, Gimli Elvellon, I will not let you go ahead while I stay behind to mourn you.'
He reached out and again, clasped the dwarf's shoulder, but this time, it was a plea. Gimli closed his eyes and sighed.
'Aragorn's going to be really, really cross,' he said finally.
Legolas gave a radiant smile and clasped his hand. In the morning, he would ride with Gimli to war. He would not be left behind and somehow that would have been a horror to him and he knew he was supposed to be there, in that last battle. But first, there was something he should have done, a moment missed and he could not ride out to war, perhaps to his death, without putting this right.
"We need to find this Elessar and tell him what we intend,' Legolas said with determination and when Gimli raised his eyebrow and slowly shook his head, Legolas simply smiled even more widely.
Gimli looked up at the elf and said patiently, 'Legolas, Elessar is Aragorn.'
Legolas moved towards the door. 'I knew that,' he said irritably.
'And do you know who Aragorn is now?' Gimli asked equally irritating.
Legolas threw him a sharp look. 'Of course I do,' he retorted. 'I have simply mislaid that information for the moment. If you and Pippin keep treating me like an invalid though, I shall never leave this room. Come then.' He stepped lightly out of the room and into the wide pale stone corridor. 'Let us find him. You can tell him what we intend.'
'What YOU intend,' grumbled the dwarf following.
'You agreed with me.' Legolas walked towards the wide stone stairs and he held out his hand uncertainly to lightly graze the wall with his fingers.
Gimli did not pause but he trotted along to catch up and took Legolas' arm. Legolas did not demur but let the dwarf steady him as his head swam a little and he felt nauseous. But he would not give up now that he was out of that room with its blank white walls and its featureless floor. There was something he wanted, but he couldn't remember now what it was...a scent, a lingering scent of...He shook his head slightly. Gone. It left a fading yearning in his heart.
'No, I did not agree. I was bludgeoned into it,' a voice said at his elbow and a warmth on his arm reassured him, brought him back. He smiled.
'That is because the song binds us, Gimli. You feel the threads that wind between us, bind us together in one ribbon...' He paused a moment for something tugged gently on his mind. He placed his hand on the strong, muscular shoulder of the dwarf and leaned on him for his strength and warmth. 'You came for me and I stayed with you,' he murmured and even though he did not quite understand his own words, he felt comforted.
Then he grinned wickedly. 'Groin?'
Gimli gave him a sharp look. 'Gro-ín,' he corrected acidly.
Legolas grinned, even more widely, showed his white teeth and looked absurdly pleased. 'Come then, son of the son of Groin,' he said and Gimli gritted his teeth and tried to decide if he was really happy the elf was back
Aragorn spread his hands over the map of Ithilien and Gondor. His eyes drew quickly down the red line that was the road to Osgiliath and then darted along the same line towards the image that was the ruined city to Minas Morgul. He placed his finger carefully back at Osgiliath and traced a second red line off towards the Black Gate.
He squinted slightly for there were scribblings on the edges of the map, thin spidery letters in tengwar. Nazgul guard the way here...and elsewhere a scribbled note... Crossing lost...J20 3018 Osgiliath lost. Aragorn wondered briefly, sadly, if these were Denethor's writings. Some were older. So long had Minas Tirith been besieged for here were markings with dates on them. Then one or two in a different hand with recent dates. He wondered if those were Boromir's.
Thorongil's guard ... F20 2978. The rest of the tiny script was smudged and Aragorn's breath caught. He did not know that this record existed. Absently, he dug a thumbnail into the soft wax and watched it seep from the cut, beading fatly as it cooled.
The chamber that had been Denethor's still showed his recent occupancy. A red robe was cast over a dark wood chair as if its owner had simply stepped out for a moment. Books, charts, maps, quills and a compass were strewn over the large table. It was late and the setting sun lit the room with red-gold light. Aragorn paused and thought it a good place for a study with its views across the gleaming rooftops of the white city and beyond to the broad river, winding over the land. He felt a sudden surge in his chest - this was HIS city, his people. He moved the heavy pewter candlestick closer so the light glowed golden over the parchment and the thin black line of the roads showed up starkly.
There was a murmur of voices in the corridors beyond the chamber and Aragorn shook himself slightly. The heavy oak doors opened silently and there was Legolas. He strode into the room but Aragorn saw the slight hesitation, the almost imperceptible straightening of his shoulders. The candlelight burnished his hair and caught the high flush on his cheeks, but they were a little hollow and there were slight shadows under his eyes. Aragorn thinned his lips and glared at Gimli as the dwarf entered. Gimli would not meet his furious gaze and seemed to be hiding behind Legolas.
'Legolas. Gimli.' He pinned them with a fierce look and Gimli wandered over to the window and looked out, feigning nonchalance.
'My lord...?' Legolas looked inquiringly at him, and Aragorn sighed. He realised the elf didn't even know who he was yet.
'I am Aragorn.' He sat heavily in a chair and gestured for Legolas to take a seat opposite himself. The elf sat down, looking as if he would fall if he did not. 'Gimli,' he called sternly. 'You will join us.' He hoped it sounded sufficiently commanding, but Gimli just glanced over his shoulder and cupped his ear.
'Eh? Can't hear.' He tapped his ear and shook his head. 'Temporary loss. After the battle you know. Orthanc fire or oliphants trumpeting.' He turned back to the window.
'It will be that oliphant you killed,' Legolas said, with more than a trace of skepticism. 'That one you killed single-handedly.
'Ah.' Aragorn allowed himself a quick, knowing look, and Gimli at least had the grace to look a little abashed. 'That will have taken your total up to several hundred I would think.' Gimli folded his arms and glared at them both.
'Ara-gorn,' Legolas said as if savouring the name on his tongue. 'Aragorn.' He leaned forwards and rested his elbows on the table, on the worn map, carelessly tipping over a wine glass that had a dribble of red wine left in it. The wine trickled out onto the map. Legolas wiped it carelessly with his sleeve. 'Aragorn. Ah. You are also Elessar,' he said brightly.
'And Strider,' Gimli said helpfully.
'I thought you couldn't hear,' Aragorn said with quiet acidity.
'He's called other things too. But not as pleasant,' Gimli shot back nastily.
Legolas laughed and suddenly pointed at the map. 'So this is where we are going?'
Aragorn looked down at the mark on the map that showed the Black gate, the Morannon. He felt a sudden quail in his heart and breathed in slowly. 'The Black Gate. Yes, we ride tomorrow and strike at the heart of the enemy on his own doorstep.'
Legolas nodded and touched his hand to his forehead gingerly. 'Doorstep... someone else sat on the doorstep… I remember hearing...Oh.' His face cleared and he opened his eyes wide with relief. 'It was Bilbo. He said he sat on the dragon's doorstep...' He dropped his gaze to the map without really seeing it. 'Smaug. Smaug really was magnificent you know. Evil, but utterly magnificent. We will never see another dragon. I was terrified.' He laughed softly, unexpectedly and Aragorn caught Gimli's suddenly concerned look.
'Legolas? Look at me,' Aragorn reached over to catch Legolas' chin, to look into his eyes, wanting to check he was not concussed.
But Legolas drew away alarmed. 'What are you doing?' he demanded, his hand leapt to the haft of the knife he had shoved into his belt.
'Legolas, it is only Aragorn,' Gimli was there suddenly, calming and reaching out to rest lightly on Legolas' arm. 'He is your friend, and a healer. He healed you many, many times. You can trust him,'
'What is he trying to do then, grabbing me like that!' Legolas had pushed his chair back. His eyes flashed dangerously.
Aragorn had backed off instantly and sat back his chair, calming his own alarm and slowing his breathing. He knew from experience that Legolas could be uncertain and quick, mercurial. He spread his hands, appeasing. 'Forgive me Legolas. We have known each other so well. I forgot you no longer knew me.'
Legolas peered at him suspiciously but there was too a bright curiosity in his keen eyes. And then just as suddenly, he leant back his chair and all the stiffness and alarm had gone, and it was like old friends once more.
He waved his hand dismissively. 'Very well. If Gimli says I can trust you, I will not kill you. But I do not know why I cannot remember. There is no wound on my head. I can see perfectly well.' He lifted his long, elegant fingers to his head. 'And my head does not hurt. It is only this.' He rubbed the bandaged wound in his chest. 'This hurts... it feels cold, frozen somehow. But when I try to think of it, something...stops me, like a wall comes down...a silver-blue wall and I cannot think...' he trailed off, his eyes becoming unfocused. Gimli hurried towards him and peered anxiously at Legolas. Aragorn did not move for fear of alarming the elf further, but both stared at him intently. 'I don't like the way it feels... it reminds me of...of Dol Guldur.' He shuddered and shook his head.
Aragorn noted with a sinking heart the pallor of the elf's face, the shake in his hand. Gimli glanced at him helplessly. Thinking quickly, Aragorn pulled the map towards himself. 'This is the road we will take,' he said, anything to distract Legolas from the memories, the thoughts that might plunge him again into that dreadful place where the Eye tore into him. 'We will ride along the old road to Osgiliath and then to the crossroads. We ride in the shadow of the Ephel Dúath, and so to the Black Gate.'
Gimli rolled his eyes at Aragorn and he had to agree it was hardly the best distraction. But it was all he could think of right now.
'Why don't you tell him how many men we have,' Gimli said sarcastically. 'That will really help.'
Aragorn threw a look at the dwarf and then realised Legolas was looking at him with renewed interest. 'Well?' he asked. 'It must be worthy of note for Gimli would not have said it otherwise.'
Aragorn looked down at the map. It was ridiculous, he knew. A fool's hope. Legolas would scorn the idea. He would himself if he were not the doomed leader of these men. 'Seven thousand men,' he said and knew it sounded even worse than he thought, for Legolas gaped at him in blank astonishment. In any other circumstances, Aragorn would have found it comical.
'Ah, now I know why the Last Alliance took so long to win. They had too many men surely!' Legolas shook his head at them, eyes wide. 'Look!' he said, pulling the map toward himself once more. He dragged his finger along the mountain ridge. 'You will be picked off too easily here. The Enemy will put archers and small bands of orcs up here to harass and harry you. Here,' he stabbed his finger at different points of the map, 'and here the Nazgul will attack and pull back as quickly as you turn, and here.' He pointed at another point on the map. 'Here is Durthang. Do you know what that is? Of course you do. Seven thousand? By the time you reach the Gate you will be fewer than five hundred, and even I do not fancy those odds!' He shook his head again in wonder at them both.
'Gimli,' he said, rising unsteadily to his feet and clutched the edge of the table for support. 'I have changed my mind. You are quite mad, all of you. I will follow your train like carrion and pick up your dead bones when they have finished with you. It is foolhardy and more dangerous than anything even I could imagine. I can only suppose that Gandalf has something to do with this.'
The insult to Gandalf passed Aragorn by as he stared at Gimli accusingly. 'What do you mean, you have changed your mind and will not come?'
'I had decided I would not be left behind,' Legolas declared. He leaned forwards slightly, resting his weight on the table. It was quite clear to Aragorn that he should not even be on his feet, much less considering riding to battle. 'But I am no fool to ride into certain death. This is fewer men even than we took to assault Dol Guldur! It is ridiculous!' He shoved his hair back over his shoulder impatiently for a moment and stared at them both 'You will die,' he cried and Aragorn recognised the same anguish in Legolas' voice that was in his. 'You will both die.'
'What do you mean - you decided you would not be left behind?' Aragorn demanded, ignoring the last comment, throwing an accusing look at the Dwarf and then turned back to Legolas. 'You are in no fit state to be doing anything but staying in bed and getting well.'
'Aragorn- ' Gimli shook his head vigorously and reached out to Legolas, resting his hand on the Elf's arm.
Legolas shook Gimli's hand off his arm. 'Are you suggesting I am not capable...?' he demanded, glaring at Aragorn.
Dimly aware of Gimli's repeated attempts to interrupt, Aragorn answered Legolas' question instead. 'Yes. I am suggesting just that.' Aragorn was on his feet now, mirroring Legolas, hands gripped on the edge of the table and leaning forwards, bristling. 'You have a serious injury. You have only just recovered from one wound and off you go and get another. You can barely stand and you cannot possibly draw a bow!'
'You cannot command me! You have no power over me.'
'Yes I do. You swore to follow me. And now I am commanding you to stay behind!' They were both leaning forwards, closer now, each with fists clenched.
'Follow you!' Legolas cried triumphantly. 'Exactly. I swore to follow you! And follow you I will.'
Gimli sighed and sat heavily on one of the chairs. He thumped his elbows on the table and his chin in his hands. 'Well done, both of you. I should just get you two into Mordor and you can argue with the Nargûn-Uzbad* himself. He'll probably give up and go quietly.'
,'This is your fault anyway, Gimli,' Aragorn could not help muttering. 'I knew you wouldn't be able to keep quiet.'
'Me? Outrageous!' Gimli spluttered. 'He heard the army moving, Aragorn. How would you think he would not guess with all that noise? I knew it was doomed from the start, and then he goes and says he won't be coming and you talk him into it again!'
'All you had to do as to keep him quiet and still, just keep him in his room until we had gone, pass over to Ioreth or someone and slip out yourself. But you had to go and tell him.
Legolas coughed quietly and stood, leaning against the wall. Aragorn saw the tightness around his mouth and began moving towards him.
Instead Legolas held up one hand to stop them both. 'I remind you,' he said quietly, 'neither of you will stop me. I have sworn to follow Aragorn, as you reminded me.' He looked at Aragorn and there was no mistaking the determination in Legolas' eyes, tired as he was, injured as he was. 'Gimli, I have sworn I will not let you fall. And you will if you ride on your own. So it is settled. I will go with you.' He pushed himself to his feet again and held up a hand to forestall their protests. 'Now, I have unfinished business.'
Aragorn held up his hands in resignation and shook his head at Gimli. 'You said we were fools to march up to the Black Gate and if you are fool enough, then you do what you will. But if you think we are going to let you wander about on your own now, you are wrong. Look at you. You can barely stand.'
'Legolas, listen to him,' Gimli appealed to him. 'You cannot think you will be able to ride tomorrow. At least say you will be carried in a wagon. And stay here now, rest.'
'Do not make me use the window,' he said firmly but at Gimli's look of mute horror he conceded. 'Very well, you may come with me, but you will leave me when I get there.'
'The only place you should be going now is back to the Houses of Healing. I don't know why I agreed to bring you here in the first place...' Gimli grumbled and pushed himself to his feet.
Aragorn realised suddenly that Gimli too was weary and had been injured, knocked unconscious by a fall from Arod as they galloped down the Mountain with the Nazgul in pursuit. He felt the hairs on his neck and back rise slowly at the thought of those he loved in such danger. And they had so nearly lost Legolas. Indeed, he had never thought to speak to the elf again after that last meal together only two nights ago. He found himself smoothing the edges of the map that had been crumpled by Legolas pulling the map towards himself earlier. Red wine stained the parchment and he tried not to think it was like blood, for that was melodramatic. But the old, dried ink was smudged now and he could no longer read it, and when he glanced up, Legolas' long green eyes were fixed on him and he had a strange smile on his lips.
'Do not seek to confront the past now with your future so brightly laid out before you,' he said cryptically, and he sketched a careless bow and grinned widely. Gimli seized the elf's arm then and he looked down at Gimli with such affection, Aragorn felt suddenly moved. He felt a strange lightening then of his sombre mood and realised he had been dreading the last journey without his friends and without their cheerful banter. He was glad to have their steadfast hearts at his side.
* This reference is to the prequel of this story, Deeper than Breathing. In it, Legolas kills Grima Wormtongue in Meduseld.
*Nargûn-Uzbad: Khuzdul name for Sauron. Literally - Mordor's Lord (Ardalambion)
Next chapter: Elrohir confronts his own demons.
And sorry about the long wait...just work so busy and I just have struggled with this- written about five chapters and discarded all before I think this is right. Also, I think I gave readers the wrong impression last chapter- those kind people who reviewed said they would not beg for more urgent updates but I don't mind that at all. Just work IS incredibly pressured right now and I have just not had time -and I lost it a bit after the last chapter- lost my way. But as usual, lovely Anarithilien set me back on track.
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.