Apologies for how very long I've made you wait for this. Just RL.
Thanks as always to Anarithilien, whose generosity is boundless.
Legolas has returned to Imladris and made friends with the Hobbits. Elladan and Elrohir are in Lothlorien, taking messages to Galadriel. Haldir approached Elrohir only to be rebuffed. Erestor and Glorfindel are on their way to Phellanthir.
Chapter 26: The Fellowship of the Ring
A thin line of yellow cracked the night sky above the horizon. Dawn. At last, thought Elladan, for the anxiety he had felt before as they came over the Mountains had only increased since he looked into the Mirror. He would have left straight away had the horses not needed rest.
Elladan turned his head to look down at his brother. Elrohir looked so different when he slept, the creases and tension of his face eased out and he looked peaceful. Elladan had smoothed his dreams, stayed awake to watch over him and if he turned or frowned, stroked calm over his thoughts until the swirling crimson that was his brother was suffused with Elladan's own peace. His poor brother's despair and self-loathing tugged at him and he feared that it might drive him to take the Path of Men for their Choice had not yet been made. He had seen enough of Elrohir's despair to make him fear more, that he might actively seek death and the peace he thought came with the fate of Men. It was one of the reasons he went when Galadriel had sent her gentle summoning.
But he had not seen Elrohir's fate. He had seen enough to make him fear; he had seen them both before the Black Gate and knew they were doomed to take that last stand. The Nazgûl pursued them, but that was not new- ever had the Nine pursued and been pursued by the Sons of Thunder. But a confusion of images, too swift and too confused to make sense, had flipped before him. It was why he did not like to look into the Mirror; it was full of maybes and what ifs.
One image though, had been sharp in its clarity and sense of deep foreboding; he had seen a dark tower like a cracked tooth, broken apart by lightning and hiding great evil. In the Mirror he had seen two horses, white and black cantering easily towards it and he knew this was Erestor and Glorfindel though how this came to be, he did not know. When last he had seen Glorfindel, he had been returning to Imladris with Aragorn, bringing Rhawion's body home and Erestor was in the High Pass leading the attack on the mustering Orc and Goblin army.
Elladan could wait no longer. As soon as he saw the pale crack of dawn he roused Elrohir quietly. 'It is dawn, brother. Are you ready to leave?'
'Aye. Never more ready. Let us leave this stagnant place.' He looked at Elladan and held his gaze, gradually seeing the anxiety and impulse in Elladan. 'You are worried.'
'Grandmother bid me look in her Mirror,' Elladan told him.
'I should be less surprised.' Elrohir threw the blankets from him and was already on his feet. He stretched his strong body and rubbed his face. 'She will not stop until she has what she wants. And I mistrust what she wants from us. What did you see?' he asked as he stood but Elladan thought he was troubled, anxious almost.
Elladan sighed and frowned. 'You know I do not like to look into the Mirror- it is full of shadows and maybes…I saw two clear images. I saw Erestor and Glorfindel riding towards danger, and I saw us before the Black Gate.' He glanced up at Elrohir's shocked face and looked away again quickly.
'I saw that too…Did you see anything else? Did you see who else was there or was it only us you saw?' Elrohir's face was almost ashen and Elladan wondered what Elrohir had seen that bothered him so greatly that the danger to Erestor and Glorfindel seemed momentarily forgotten.
'I saw an army of Men,' Elladan said, remembering the sudden sunlight shining through the cloud of red dust, glinting on thousands of spears and swords. He did not say how few it seemed to him to be standing before the Gates of Mordor itself. And he said nothing of the confusion of images that had flipped through the Mirror and made no sense to him. 'Perhaps we will ride with Aragorn and the Ringbearer,' he said. 'How else can that come to be?' He paused and said carefully, 'Although Father has foreseen others on that quest. Not us.'
Elrohir avoided his gaze, glanced quickly at him and away. 'Perhaps Elrond does not see clearly,' he replied sharply. He walked over to the washstand where a jug and bowl had been placed. He poured water over his hands and into the bowl, cupping his hands and splashing water over his face and then his body. He blinked and shook himself. 'Perhaps he has only seen what he wishes to see. Of course we are going with Aragorn. We have always ridden with him and this is the dream we have guarded all our lives…Or do you think he wishes Aragorn to fail? So that Arwen is safe?'
'You know that is not true!' Elladan said, shocked.
Elrohir looked away contemptuously. He reached for his shirt and pulled it over his head. 'It is true. In part at least. We both know it. Elrond will keep us all safe if he can. And Arwen most of all. If Aragorn is slain, Illuvatar forbid, Elrond will grieve, of course, but it will preserve Arwen.' He spoke matter-of-factly, pulling on his long leather boots and stamping down hard to drive his feet into them. 'He will take her away to the Havens then, abandoning Middle Earth and fleeing before Sauron brings all his might down upon Imladris.'
Elladan stared at him now, shocked. He could see the truth in that; if Sauron killed Aragorn, then all the hopes of Men would be lost and the Winged Crown of Gondor be forever unclaimed. Sauron would not pause long before the Gates of Minas Tirith. Orcs would make swift work of the city and leave nothing of it; it would be razed to the ground as had been done in Ost-in-Edhel. And then his attention would turn to vengeance; Lothlorien. Imladris.
But the Sons of Thunder would not flee, he knew. They would stand with Aragorn and though all burned around them, still they would stand. Blurred images coalesced then into one; an iron ring upon his brother's hand, an iron crown upon his head and he gasped. Sauron too wanted them, for he would seek Aragorn's defeat and then to use them to force an ignominious surrender upon the Elves, upon Galadriel and Elrond – to take the Rings for he had yearned for them since he felt their existence.
'It will not come to that!' The words burst from him. His breath was fast. 'Even though we walk in peril of our souls, we will stand with Aragorn. He will not fall!' Elladan turned his shocked gaze upon his brother.
Then Elrohir reached out to him then and pressed his hand on Elladan's shoulder so that Elladan felt his brother's resolve, his certainty in the rightness of what they did. The comfort of being the other half of his soul. 'No. Aragorn will not fall. We will stand with him and we will not give in. Though we stand before the Gates of Mordor, we will not be parted from him. And we will never succumb to the Dark.' He pulled Elladan into his embrace and Elladan felt his courage rise and his fists clench; Sauron would not prevail. Aragorn would not fall because the Sons of Thunder were with him.
Elrohir pulled back slightly to look at Elladan and smiled softly. 'I felt you in my dreams. Were you with me all night?'
Elladan still dazed with realization, simply said, 'Once you returned. Yes.' He did not ask where Elrohir had been.
Elrohir pulled on his black leather tunic and was cinching his wide belt tight around his lean hips. He cast a quick smile like sudden sunlight towards Elladan. 'I slept peacefully knowing you were there.' He pulled his sable cloak towards him and swirled it about his shoulders. Then he met Elladan's anxious gaze with courage, certainty, and said, 'Now. Let us ride and warn Erestor of your unease, and bid him not leave Imladris until this great danger passes.' He loosened dark Aícanaro in its sheath and as always, Elladan had the uncanny sense that the sword awoke and uncoiled.
Elladan followed his brother, now capable and strong. He stuffed the letters and messages that Celeborn had given him, into his tunic pocket. There were messages too for Gandalf from Galadriel. 'In the Mirror I saw Erestor with Glorfindel,' he told Elrohir. But now that they were moving, Elladan felt his unease shift and pull at him.
'What did you see?' asked Elrohir. He shoved his thick sable cloak to one side ready to descend the talan and shifted his sword belt. He started down the ladder of the talan with Elladan following close behind.
'They ride towards a dark tower…' Elladan said, recalling the image of the dark tower like a cracked tooth, broken apart by lightning and hiding great evil. In the Mirror he had seen two horses, white and black cantering easily towards it 'I did not know where that might be for I did not recognise it. A blasted tower as if it had been struck by lightning and a great storm has pulled it almost down. A ruin. It gave credence to my unease as we came down from the Hithaeglir.'
Elrohir stopped so suddenly that Elladan crashed into him, stared at Elrohir in alarm. 'They have gone to Phellanthir!' he said in a low, anxious voice.
'Phellanthir! Then the danger is more imminent that I thought!' cried Elladan. 'I thought they would be safe at Imladris and we could warn them of some future danger. But they could already be on their way to Phellanthir. Suppose they have taken seriously Legolas' claims that Rhawion is trapped in there? Suppose they have gone back?' Elladan cried. 'There is some great evil awaits them there, Elrohir!'
'Come then. The sooner we leave this place, the better.'
With quiet haste they led their horses out of the stables and Elladan swung astride. Baraghur was eager to be off in spite of the long journey. The rest had done him good, thought Elladan and stroked the long, glossy neck affectionately. 'Forgive me,' he said. 'You deserve a longer rest.' Barahgur shook his head as if in denial and pranced a little.
He heard voices behind him and turned his head to see that Haldir stood in front of Elrohir, not yet mounted. Their voices were too low so that he could not hear what they said, but he could see Elrohir's face, his eyes downcast and Haldir's voice, urgent, then lower. He put his hand on Elrohir's arm and though Elrohir looked at it like he would cast it off, he did not and when Haldir said something else, Elrohir suddenly looked up at the Marchwarden.
'You would not!' Elladan heard his brother say but Elladan recognized the slight edge of fear in his brother's voice.
Elladan turned Baraghur's head and quickly rode back. 'Come Elrohir! We must be gone!' he said. 'What is it, Haldir, that you delay us?'
Elrohir's face, when he turned, was distraught, thought Elladan with a start. Almost in despair.
'My lord, I speak with your brother,' Haldir said, his face in contrast was frozen into his customary haughty aloofness. He turned back to Elrohir as if dismissing Elladan and Elladan, remembering the curt dismissal Elrohir had given Haldir when they arrived, was suddenly alarmed at what might have led to this change and he wondered where Elrohir had been that night.
'But clearly he has no wish to speak with you!' he said sternly and rode Baraghur between Haldir and Elrohir.
'You know nothing of what is between he and I!' Haldir exclaimed. 'He has no wish to speak with me now but he used to do so much more with his mouth than speak.' The Marchwarden slid a sideways look at Elrohir, triumphant. Elladan was shocked beyond speech for a moment. Haldir's voice curled around him insidiously. 'On his knees before me, begging for chastisement for his sinful thoughts.'
He heard an inarticulate cry from Elrohir but ignored it, staring down at Haldir in shocked astonishment. Suddenly Elladan thought again of the deep Winter when Elrohir had returned alone and with those strange wounds that were made by no Orc, precise strokes rather than slashes. Elrohir had been almost beyond reach when he rode in that quiet, Winter night.
There was a look of triumph in Haldir's eyes that made Elladan pause, a look of desire. 'You lie!' he said vehemently. 'Have a care, Marchwarden, the Lady would take a dim view of you accusing her grandson of sharing any perversion that might be in your heart!'
Haldir's eyes were cool but his voice was hot, angry. 'You fool yourself if you think he was a victim. It is in his nature. The need for baur-ur is in his blood. Your blood.' He turned on his heel then and stalked away and into the trees, where he seemed to melt like he was never really there.
Elladan turned to Elrohir, who would not look at him. His shame was palpable, like a cloak he drew about himself and though Elrohir was never one to hang his head, he would not meet Elladan's gaze.
'I do not need to know what he has done, or what he thinks you have done, my heart. It is enough that you ride with me to Erestor's aid,' Elladan said and he tried to reach out to the crimson soul of his brother but found it dull and lusterless, faded like an old curtain. He did not ask what the baur-ur was, he did not want to know what hidden rites had existed long before Galadriel came here, and which still flourished in secret in the old Silvan realms.
Elladan urged Baraghur on, wishing suddenly to escape the cloying breathlessness of Lothlorien, to be in the Mountains where the air was pure and untainted. He wanted to be away from others and their demands, expectations. Just he and Elrohir so he could wrap his brother in gentleness and calm, pour his healing into him so he could find his own peace. The turmoil Elrohir carried with him made him too vulnerable, too easily led into violence that was already in his blood and bones. That must be at the heart of what Haldir had said. He must have tried to seduce Elrohir and having failed, was blackmailing him to succumb, Elladan told himself as they rode.
He did not escape those thoughts all the ride from Lothlorien across the plains, into the foothills of the Hithaeglir. They spoke little for Elrohir could not meet his gaze and shut him out.
'Forgive me,' was all Elrohir would say and he was so miserable that Elladan could only reach and clasp his hand.
'I wish I could take away all your unhappiness,' he said. 'Our mother's torment devours you.' He did not say there was no more that either of them could have done because he did not believe that himself either; he shared his brother's belief that Galadriel should have foreseen it, that Haldir should have led warriors to her relief, that Elrond should have been able to heal her, that he himself should have found her sooner…all the guilt and blame was his as much as Elrohir's. But Elrohir had been the beloved son. And he felt it so much more.
'No matter,' Elrohir said roughly and he turned his face away in shame. 'It is the least I deserve.'
Elladan sighed and felt Elrohir hardening and shutting him out once more. As if Elladan had seen too much and in truth, he had.
The Wild seemed clear and peaceful after the turmoil of Lothlorien. Above them, the mountains were gleaming with snow in the cold winter sun, pristine, pure. An eagle circled above them and Elrohir rode in morose silence, knowing he was distressing his brother, wanting to tell him all but his tongue was thick in his mouth and dry as ash. How could he tell Elladan of the depravity, the depths to which he had sunk?
He saw Elladan lost and gazing ahead, westwards. 'What is it?' he asked, recognising that his brother was lost in foresight.
'Erestor. He is in great danger.'
Elrohir turned to his brother, lips parted and eyes wide with concern, all thought for himself gone. 'Then let us ride hard.'
They left the Redhorn Gate swiftly as they dared and Eregion spread before them.
Legolas had moved back into the room he had left when he had accompanied Glorfindel in his hunt for the Nazgûl. Immediately he had thrown the windows wide open so the breeze came in and cool air from the Mountains filled the room, floating the gauzy veils that hung from the windows. It had begun to feel too close in the Healing rooms and he had grown tired of being watched, even if it were only Pippin or Gimli who kept him company but watched him closely nonetheless.
He cast his gaze about the elegant room, feeling as dissatisfied as he had within the Healing rooms and he wondered why. That tinny ringing was back in his ears again and he wondered if he had been struck so hard in the head by one of the Orcs that it had affected him. Although it was just as likely to be the after-effect of the crystôl, he thought, for his limbs still did not quite feel they were his own and he knew he was still weak from the poison. And the cure too for that matter.
He pulled out the one drawer where all his belongings were kept -- so meagre were they -- and fished out his spare clean linen shirt. He had mended the tear in it with tiny, neat stitches for this was the shirt he had worn in the wilds, and now it had been carefully cleaned and laundered. He was half glad the house staff had not simply replaced it and half embarrassed that he would attend Gandalf's table in a mended shirt, for the Wizard had asked him to join him that evening for supper with the Hobbits. 'And a few others,' the Wizard had added cryptically.
He struggled into the clean linen shirt, pleased to be spending time with Pippin and his friends but his stomach clenched that he might be scrutinised further over Sméagol's escape. Aragorn's words still rankled and prickled more now that he was back here in Imladris; he had been happy out in the Wild, even though there were Orcs and goblins and Nazgûl, for he knew what he was about and that was where his skill was. But here, in the rarified and elegant atmosphere of Imladris, where Elves glided it seemed rather than walked, and their long gowns and robes floated, he felt too solid, too practical, a little grubby and less well dressed. Less polished. He never felt that in the Wood where he felt it didn't matter much what you wore because everyone had the same simple homespun linen or tough village-cured leather. Even the King dressed thus on normal days when he was not receiving visitors to the Realm or had need to impress upon them the strength of the realm. Here the leather was butter soft and the engravings and etchings as elegant as anything he had ever seen; it was silk not homespun, and even the stables were elegant and luxurious.
The tinny ringing in his ears seemed to grown stronger. It depressed him; he realised, and resolved to mention it to the Healers when he saw them the next day.
He sighed and looked down at his hands. His nails were very short, practical, but there were callouses on his hands and fingers from the bow, and his boots were more than a little worn, collapsed in folds of brown leather where he had thrown them, like they were exhausted. But they had been polished to within an inch of their life, he thought, you could see your face reflected in them so shiny were they.
Well, he thought, dragging a wooden comb through his hair and smoothing it, his boots were polished but he was not… Not as good. More dangerous. Less wise. If he was a little less polished and a little more worn, it was not because he was any less than they, he tried to tell himself, but that tinny ringing had become a thin whine that strung his nerves on edge and dampened his confidence still more.
He smoothed a hand anxiously over his belt, and slid the roulette that Gimli had given him into the secret pocket of the belt alongside the thin white knife and checked the other knife in his boot. He looked at himself in the polished glass mirror and thought that he did not look grand enough for Imladris, or anything like their view of what the son of a king should look like. On the walls behind him were long tapestries of Gil-Galad and the Last Alliance, with its princes and lords. Neither Oropher nor his father were anywhere in the tapestry, he noted, though many Men and elven lords were clearly depicted, some faces he recognised from just walking around Imladris. He glanced at himself again and squared his shoulders; he did look like a Woodelf and he told himself that was good enough.He tried to shove away the nagging doubts and criticism.
The thin whine pitched even higher and he winced. And then abruptly, it stopped.
Slowly, his felt his shoulders drop and realised only then how he had been hunched against the whine. His face smoothed and he breathed...
They do not care for the sacrifice of the Wood…
No. That was clear in everything that had been said, in every reference to battle or the Shadow. It was all about the Last Alliance and Gil-Galad's death, about the fall of Isildur, about Gondor's kings…
The Wood is on its own in its fight against Shadow…there is no aid here.
He paused a moment and frowned at himself in the mirror. That was not why he came; he came to tell Gandalf that Smeagol had escaped.
And they care nothing for that sacrifice.
That is true, he thought. The upset and concern had all been for Smeagol's escape and not one word had been spent on the sacrifice of his friends.
The Wood's sacrifice again, overlooked….
He felt an unaccustomed resentment building up in his chest. Yes. The Wood was yet again overlooked. Amongst all those faces that looked out from those many tapestries, there was not one Elf of the Wood in spite of the huge numbers killed…He chewed his lip and found his fingers worrying at the cuff of his tunic. His face looked back at him from the mirror, he looked so pale and anxious, he thought. Like he should still be in the Healing ward…
I am not going back there, he resolved. Perhaps not fully recovered, but he had spent time turned inwards to heal himself, ran his awareness along the nerves and sinews of his body, knitting them back, listening to his own Song and healing the discord. And these unkind thoughts are merely discord, he told himself. The residue of poison unbalancing him slightly and after all, he decided, in all fairness, Gil-Galad hardly featured in the Wood's tale of Dagorlad. He shook himself and met his own gaze firmly in the mirror and squared his shoulders. He was Legolas Thranduillion, an archer of the Wood and Danwedh-amlung to boot. Dragon-ransom. He shook himself free of the spiteful thoughts that were not worthy of him opened the door.
Almost immediately two Hobbits fell in.
"We were just coming to fetch you,' Pippin rubbed his arm where he had fallen against a chair and glared at Merry.
'Don't look at me Pip. It was you had your nose pressed against the door when Legolas opened it. No wonder you fell in.
'I was not! I was checking he was in here.'
Legolas looked from one to the other. 'Well I am here,' he said a little bemused.
'We've come to get you, bring you to Gandalf's supper,' Pippin said brightly. 'Gimli wanted to come but Gandalf said we should.'
'What he said was that YOU should, Pip, because it will keep you out of mischief.'
'Yes, I didn't know what he meant by that.' Pippin appealed to Legolas, who also wondered why Gandalf should have felt he had to keep Pippin out of mischief. 'I haven't done anything!' Pippin added in a hurt voice.
Merry gave a loud snort then and Pippin turned to him in wide-eyed innocence. 'What? What am I being blamed for now?'
'Nothing Pip…Just you probably should not go into the kitchens for a little while.'
Pippin blushed then. 'Ah. Yes. Good point…But you were with me, Merry. Why don't you get blamed?'
Merry stood looking round Legolas' rather sparse room with interest. He turned to face them, hands stuck in his pockets.'Well now, Pip. Let me think. Perhaps I am not being blamed because it was not I who stacked one chair on top of another to reach a plate of pastries that had been made especially for the Lady Arwen? Or it even maybe the fact that you fell off the chairs and into the cake mixture for Bilbo's tea party.
Legolas looked at Pippin with awe. 'Did you?'
Pippin casually picked out some pink icing from his hair. He shrugged. 'Well I think it sounds a lot worse than it was.'
Merry laughed again. 'Come on you two. We will be late and Sam will have eaten all the cakes.' He led them out of Legolas' room and into the corridor beyond, shutting the door behind them.
Pippin trotted alongside Legolas and cast the Elf a long look that would have been calculating on anyone else but Pippin. 'It is very hard to be in a house where everyone else is so very tall.' His look turned speculative. 'But if I had someone with me who was tall, they could reach the nice little snacks and things I can't reach.' His tone turned plaintive. 'It is very hard to be hungry all the time and I don't like to keep bothering people. You know what I mean, Legolas?'
Legolas found himself nodding in agreement. 'Perhaps I can help, Pippin.' He fell in step beside him and so missed Merry's grin, or Pippin's answering wink.
'Well, that is good. Bilbo's tea party is not until tomorrow and that cake mixture was really very nice. '
'And I think he would want us to try the cakes and just make sure they are what he wants.'
'We wouldn't want the old Hobbit to be embarrassed, would we?'
Legolas found he had a Hobbit on each side of him now and had to look from one to the other for they spoke rapidly, as if finishing each other's thoughts. He had a fleeting thought of Anglach, for he and Anglach had been as good friends as Merry and Pippin.
'And Legolas, I think he intends to invite you.' Merry was looking up at him and trotting at Legolas' side. He realised he had been walking a little fast and slowed his steps.
'Oh yes. He is very fond of your father you know,' Pippin panted a little and Legolas slowed still more.
'Yes. He talks about his friend, the Elvenking quite a lot!' Merry was walking now at a comfortable pace and Legolas noted that this very slow pace was a good pace for Hobbits. But he wondered if they would ever get to their destination it was so slow, for the Hobbits seemed quite content to amble.
'My father speaks of Bilbo Baggins a great deal too,' replied Legolas, looking down at first Merry and then Pippin. 'I know he would wish for me to pass on his very warmest wishes.'
Pippin looked impressed and said, 'Well we will collect you for Bilbo's tea party then! And perhaps we can spend the afternoon together.'
Slowly Legolas followed them down the sweep of elegant stone steps and out into the garden. And though he nodded and walked with them, he leaned in and stilled himself within, listened to the sounds that were deep below the surface of the world, deeper than their voices, let the words flow over and around him like bubbles in a stream; that was Pippin he realised and smiled. Yes. The stream gurgled and bubbled and laughed as it poured obliviously on over the smooth stones and babbled along deep lanes and roads, through fields and valleys.
He smiled and looked down at Pippin who had stopped quite suddenly and was looking up at Legolas with eyes wide and his mouth a round O.
'What's the matter, Pip?' Merry asked concerned. But Pippin just gaped and did not speak until Legolas tilted his head slightly to regard the Hobbit more closely. For a moment Pippin stared into Legolas' green eyes, and Legolas saw his pupils widen further and he caught an edge of the Song soaring upwards - this was right. Whatever his doubts, he was supposed to be here, right here, right now, with Pippin. And Pippin knew it too.
'Ooh,' the Hobbit said breathlessly. 'I've just realised, Legolas! We are going to be such good friends.'
Legolas felt a bubble of laughter force its way out of his chest and it felt so good, he let it go. 'We most certainly are!' he exclaimed with merriment and a sudden urge for mischief.
Merry watched them astonished and delighted, as Legolas and Pippin almost danced across the frost- dusted lawns and between the fading roses. Then he grinned widely and gleefully, shook his head and dashed after them.
It was cold and they could see a light dusting of snow over the grass and silvering the twigs and branches of trees, the leaves. In the fading light, it glittered.
Merry and Pippin led Legolas to a part of the House he had not been before. It was as elegant as the rest but faced West so the setting sun streamed in through the long windows. It reminded him for a moment of the first time he had seen Elrohir Elrondion… but he firmly put that thought out of his mind. He would never see that Elf again he was sure, and the slight ache in his chest he put down to disappointment that one of the legends of his youth was so ignoble and unworthy of his regard. But perhaps too, Legolas thought, he had not impressed Elrohir either; he remembered how Elrohir had discovered he and Berensul in the garden outside the Hall of Fire, pressed close together in a flagrant disregard for the customs of Elrond's House, and too careless perhaps, of Legolas' own honour. A flood of shame heated Legolas' cheeks and he felt hot between his shoulder blades and neck. But the Hobbits seemed not to notice, nudging and shoving each other playfully as they made their way up a smooth spiral of wide stone steps
They climbed a smooth spiral of wide stone steps beside a waterfall and that led to a wide terrace. Roses climbed over a balcony, unbelievably one or two still bloomed and the scent lingered on the air. An elegant arched door of slivery wood stood half open and from within came the sound of voices and a lute played. A waft of pipeweed drifted from the door and merry laughter.
Merry stood aside and bowed. 'After you, Pip.'
'Oh no, after you, Merry,' Pippin bowed even lower.
"No. After you I insist.' Merry bowed again, sweeping his arm out to one side this time.
'Very well.' They both chose to acquiesce at the same moment and squeezed through the door together and jammed.
'Ooch. Merry get off!' said Pippin.
'It's you Pip, you're getting too fat!'
'Back to that! May I remind you that it was you who suggested we have the extra cake.' Pippin wriggled and suddenly unstuck. Legolas reached out his hand and caught the Hobbit just as he shot forwards. Pippin shook himself much as a dog that had been in the river and smiling brightly, he bowed to Legolas. 'Much obliged, Legolas.'
'An extra cake I said, not three.' Merry grumbled but there was no heat in it. They stepped within and a cry of welcome greeted them.
'Well you had four!' Pippin's voice drifted back and Legolas hesitated briefly.
Legolas blinked. Again for a moment he was back in the Wood with Anglach and Ceredir. Bickering merrily, stealing cakes, and if they unknowingly stole Galion's handiwork, throwing them to break upon the cobblestones like chalk.
Suddenly a memory cracked open and he remembered a time when he and Anglach had returned from hunting spiders in the Wood to find Laersul returned unexpectedly…
He and Anglach found Galion pressed against the door of Thranduil's study. Not unusually and certainly. without any sense of embarrassment. He looked up when they approached without a trace of guilt and frowned at them, shushing them. 'Laersul is in there and …'
'Laersul!' shouted Legolas in delight for he loved his big brother. Anglach whooped wildly too for he was as much part of Legolas' family as he was his own. Anglach shoved past Galion as both he and Legolas barged into the study with Galion almost falling in after them. Legolas threw himself at his oldest brother, deliberately ruffling his braids so Laersul's always immaculate appearance was as dishevelled as his, for he and Anglach, Legolas explained, had returned from their sortie empty-handed and empty hearted, in Anglach's case at least.
'She would not even look at me,' Anglach whined, his brown eyes mournful. Legolas laughed unsympathetically. 'Silarôs was already there.'
'Silarôs has been courting her for months now,' Laersul said sympathetically. He looked tired, tense but his eyes were bright with something and Legolas, who knew his brother well, cocked his head to see him better. Something was happening. And his father had a look of studied calm that meant they had been discussing something exciting and secret. Laersul was still speaking he realised and tuned back into the conversation… Laersul was saying, 'Your intelligence is very poor indeed if I knew that in the South and you did not know that in the North.'
Anglach threw a look at Legolas that was accusing for Legolas had been assuring him that the maid, whose name he could not remember now, was more than a little interested in Anglach. Legolas did not take his friend's disappointment seriously- he was always falling in love. 'I thought she was unspoken for' Legolas said carelessly. 'She was very flirtatious with me,' he added a little smugly. 'But you are an ugly son of an Orc, Anglach, and so why should she look at you?'
Anglach turned his handsome face away and appealed to Thranduil, unafraid for he had been the closest friend of Legolas since they could walk. 'Do you not think you should send Legolas on some very dangerous mission, a long way from here until I can get myself wed! With him around, no maiden wishes to walk with me.' He cast a look then at Legolas. 'And it is NOT because you are better looking. Indeed your father has cast a spell on your looking glass to fool you into thinking rather better of yourself than you should. It is because you crunch in on your Goblin feet and make them feel awkward by telling them I am hoping to wed them, that I am desperate and love-sick! And if you have not frightened them off already with your goblin-face, saying all that will!'
'Never mind,' Laersul said to them both. 'Galion has saved his rabbit pie for you both. I know you kindly left it for us,' he said quickly before Legolas could get anything else in first, 'but neither father nor I can eat anymore and we know it is indeed your favourite too.' Legolas and Anglach exchanged a dismayed look for they thought they had been clever to extract themselves from Galion's cooking and leave it for his father.
Thranduil lifted his glass in triumphant salute to Laersul and dismay fled for Legolas' heart bounded with love to see them both excited and happy. He hoped, really hoped, it was something good. Too often he saw his brother and father poring over the maps of encroachments of spiders and orcs.
'There is plenty for all!' Galion declared happily and brandished a serving spoon at them. 'Now, who's first. Anglach? Hardly a guest but you are the closest we've got. How much do you want?'
'Anglach loves your pie,' Laersul said serenely. And then before anyone else could interrupt, he added, 'Almost as much as Legolas and I.'*
He felt choked and suddenly his eyes filled with tears and he saw Anglach's fair face pale and bloodless, throat cot, slowly, his merry brown eyes gouged from their sockets and his ears cut. For the Orcs had had time to mutilate and torture them first. He could not bear it. He had not been there and if he had been, Anglach would still be alive. He put out a hand to steady himself, but found the wall sliding away. The Hobbits had disappeared inside oblivious and he stumbled.
Suddenly a steady, warm hand caught his arm and he heard the sound of deep voices chanting, the ring of hammer and the breath of the Mountain like a bellows… 'Steady on there, Legolas. Maybe you should not yet be out of bed.'
He looked down, blinking hard and saw the bright earth-brown eyes of the Dwarf looking kindly up at him. 'Gimli,' he murmured. 'I …I was overcome with memory.'
Gimli nodded kindly. 'Yes. Of course. They have not yet returned of course but I am quite sure Glorfindel will find the truth and lay your mind at rest.'
For a moment he was confused and then he remembered; Erestor and Glorfindel had ridden on to Phellanthir, to discover if there were any truth about Legolas' fevered belief that Rhawion's fëa was somehow still trapped in that blasted Tower. He shuddered, remembering the foul dreams that had struck him, dragged him into the dreadful nightmares where the Nazgûl fed upon his own fëa sucked the light from him…A wave of guilt swept over him. Although he had not forgotten, it had faded from his mind as the poison and crystôl faded from his blood. He stopped and looked blankly at the floor. He had not even enquired after Glorfindel and Erestor
Just then Pippin's voice came from within. 'Are you two going to stay there letting all the cold air in or are you joining us?'
'Just a moment, Pippin,' Gimli called, his bright eyes watching Legolas carefully. Then in a quieter voice he said, 'Come Legolas. Let us join the Hobbits. It will cheer them up to sit with you. Pippin is very fond of you. And you have some small talent,' he said smiling.
Quite suddenly, Legolas felt overwhelmed by a tide of emotion, something deep. Like love. He clasped his hand over Gimli's shoulder and though his eyes closed with the tumult of pain for Rhawion and Anglach, he felt he had found a jewel of great worth.
'There will be a time when you are Elvellon.' He spoke words that seemed to come from somewhere else, some other time and place. Gimli was staring at him with a strange expression on his face.
Then Legolas blinked; it was as if a moment had been cut from time and now they were returned. Almost shyly, Gimli reached out and patted Legolas on the arm. 'Shall we join the others now, my friend?' he said but at that moment another figure appeared in the doorway.
'Are you two playing nicely?' Aragorn folded his arms and lounged against the doorframe, watching them with amusement. 'If you have been making bets, then I do not want to be the subject of any of them,' he added.
'There would be little point,' Gimli threw back quickly and Aragorn grinned and disappeared back into the room. 'Are you ready?' Gimli asked Legolas and he nodded. 'Come on then, I am starving. I hope Gandalf has more than fancy cakes and strawberry tarts that you can just fit into your hand and you need twenty to notice.'
'You sound like Pippin,' Legolas said, putting the memory of Anglach carefully away like a treasure, and followed Gimli into a cheerful, homely room with a merry fire burning in the grate where Boromir knelt over it, precisely placing small logs to keep it burning. Frodo was sitting in a chair near the fire and Sam bustled about behind him.
On the chair opposite was Gandalf and when Legolas and Gimli entered, he took his pipe from his mouth and pointed it at Aragorn. 'I told you,' he said knowingly and perhaps a little smugly, although Legolas did not know what it was that Gandalf had told Aragorn. 'Come in, Gimli, my dear Dwarf, and Legolas. Now you are looking a lot better than when you arrived back here. What on earth were you thinking, tackling the Nazgûl in their lair and then letting Aragorn dose you up with that terrible stuff, crystôl. I am surprised to see you up and about so quickly.'
Aragorn started to protest but at the same time, Sam appeared before Legolas, his eyes round and serious. 'Do have some toast or scones, Legolas. I think you need to eat something before you fall over. Mr Frodo might have some more if you do as well.'
Legolas glanced over to where Frodo sat with Pippin, who had cast himself onto the rug in front of the fire and was advising Boromir on a variety of concerns he thought the Man might have, mostly to do with travelling or food.
'Of course. Thank you, Sam. Shall I hand those around?' Legolas asked gently for he always tried to be gentle around Sam. 'It will give me something to do,' he added in a whisper for Sam's ears only.
The reward was Sam's smile.
Legolas thought it was the sweetest smile, full of naive delight, unquestioning, trusting, guileless. Sam's song was instantly recognisable, not simple, but like Sam himself. Full of delight at growing things, the soft loam turned, roots digging deep, leaves unfurling and spreading under the sunshine, meadows, laughter and the sound of children playing….Legolas smiled in return and took the plate from Sam, piled another and another and another along his arm and then another, balanced a pot of jam and a dish of butter and a basket of scones on top and set off amongst the gathered Hobbits, the two Men and one Dwarf and Wizard. Bilbo was amongst them and chatting happily to Aragorn.
Legolas realised he was the only Elf present and wondered briefly why. But surely, he thought as he held out scones and butter and jam to Pippin for his third scone, no, fourth, not that Legolas was counting, there were lots of Elves with whom Gandalf was friendly. Lindir the minstrel, for example, was clearly a visitor for his lute leant against the wall in a corner and a fiddle was carefully placed upon a carved chest nearby. Legolas wondered briefly who the fiddler could be.
He turned to Boromir and proffered a plate, who glanced up from his discussion with Pippin about how best to ford a river without losing your horse, a topic upon which clearly Pippin was an expert. Boromir was feigning studied interest. Legolas turned to Gandalf who looked up with his piercing blue eyes and caught Legolas' gaze for a moment. He gave him a long look and for a moment, Legolas heard the rushing sound of the wind, or perhaps it was the Sea for he had never heard the Sea. A sigh, long and then quiet, like a breath.
Gandalf had been watching his little gathering with interest. Merry and Pippin were the glue that brought this strange little band together, their merriment was infectious and drew even Boromir into the throng. Aragorn was standing with his elbow on the mantle and leaning against it, long pipe between his teeth and smiling. He looked younger when he smiled, thought Gandalf a little sadly, for he knew what the coming days would mean to the Heir of Isildur. All or nothing. Glory or misery. The winged crown or… Gandalf did not want to think on that for even Olórin did not know where the souls of Men went when they left the Circles of the World.
Boromir had been persuaded to sit between Merry and Pippin with Gimli and Legolas on the other side and there was some sort of game going on which Frodo watched with amusement and Sam watched Frodo anxiously, when he wans't filling up cups and passing around plates.
But what interested Gandalf now was that every now and again, Legolas would rise to his feet and gently take the plate or jug from Sam and press him to sit, to join the group and quietly take over Sam's role. And then Gimli would take over from Legolas as if the Elf and Dwarf had almost conspired to make Sam sit. It seemed that this moment it was Gimli's turn to pass food and drink around. Gandalf glanced across to Frodo and saw that a smile just touched his lips as he watched Sam. The little gardener was sitting next to Legolas and laughing as the Elf performed some sleight of hand that had Pippin grabbing at his sleeve and turning his hand over to see how it was performed. Sam had none of his usual shyness or awkward curiosity with Legolas that he had around other Elves.
There was a lute leaning against the wall and a fiddle, left there by Lindir as Gandalf remembered fondly. After some hours, when the little gathering drew into a comfortable silence, Merry picked up the lute and strummed it speculatively. He played a little ditty that brought a wide smile to the faces of the Hobbits and Frodo shot Pippin a mischievous look that Gandalf had not seen on his face since he had been brought to Imladris.
Pippin scrambled to his feet and bowed to the company. 'If you would like I can sing you a song,' he invited and Sam shook his head and mouthed No but was ignored by the other Hobbits.
'You need the fiddle really Pip,' said Merry a little disappointed,' but Fatty Bolger is not here and it was he used to play it for us.'
'I wonder how Fatty is,' Frodo said softly. 'I hope he is all right. We left him in Crickhollow when…' He shuddered and the other Hobbits immediately all started talking at once.
Legolas reached out and picked up the fiddle. He looked at it speculatively, then tucked it under his chin and lifted the bow. 'I can try to play it if you wish,' he said, 'but I am no minstrel.'
Gandalf leaned back and folded his hands. He tried not to glance triumphantly at Aragorn as he did but he knew the Man was as pleased as he.
And then to everyone's astonishment, Gimli leaned over and pushed Legolas' hands and elbows into a different position and pull and pushed the fiddle up under the Elf's chin. 'Stroke the bow over the strings lightly,' said the Dwarf. 'Stroke it like you would a cat.'
'More likely to sound like a cat!' Boromir said cheerily and Legolas grinned at him.
'Here, Gimli. You take it. You can obviously play and your tunes will sound better than my awful attempt.' He thrust the fiddle towards Gimli who paused for only a moment before taking it from him and tucked the fiddle under his chin. He worked his jaw for a moment and then quite suddenly zipped the bow over the strings. A light, bouncy jig broke over them and Pippin clapped and jumped up and down in glee.
Gandalf felt impossibly smug, he admitted to himself. He moved Narya slightly so the red jewel caught in the firelight and subtly brightened, flared. He let his awareness spread and sought the temperate air for Vilya. Not far away, Vilya was at peace. For a moment at least. The deep Power lambent, silver and blue. Sharpening his focus, he sought Vilya's keeper and found him sleeping. Almost he turned away, and did not disturb him but Olórin was relentless; he knew what was at stake and stirred the sleeper gently, brushed Narya lightly across Vilya's light, so the Power thrummed like a hand over a harp string and Elrond turned and threw his arm over his eyes but brought his awareness to Olórin.
See. Olórin showed him the green-gold light that was Legolas, how it lit the shadows that clung to Boromir and how the earth-song of Gimli chimed with the lightness of the Woodelf. He felt Vilya pulse and turn to Narya, to him and respond.
Very well, let it be. Nine have been chosen. Aragorn and Boromir for their way lies South. Frodo and Samwise for I see their road a long and hard one but in the end, friendship will prevail. Gimli for the Dwarves and Legolas will be for the Elves…And you, old friend. Your final task.
Touched with sadness was Elrond's voice, and Vilya's light dimmed slightly, stroked Narya like a farewell.
Olórin sank back into the comfortable old clothes of this physical flesh, looked down at the gnarled veins in his hands that were like tree roots and skin that became more and more like paper. For a moment, Olórin regretted the physical constraint of flesh and longed for his own lightness …but then, a drift of pipeweed touched these mortal senses and he smiled, feeling the skin stretch and then, he was Gandalf once more. He opened his eyes and colours and shapes coalesced, and there were the remaining two Hobbits sprawled before the fire and Aragorn standing nearby. The Man's eyes were upon him knowingly, he watched as Olórin gathered himself back into Gandalf. But Aragorn said nothing
Music that was not the Great Song lifted his spirits and he tapped his foot along to the songs Pippin sang. The words at first, did not seemed right but as he became Gandalf once more and adjusted, he realised that these were not necessarily the right words of course, but some cheekier version of old traditional songs of the Shire.
All the Hobbits had danced a jig or two, even Sam. Gimli was an excellent musician and Legolas had taken over the lute from Merry and was far more skilled than he had said. Both Men and the Dwarf sung songs too from their native lands, and Legolas had told the Hobbits in particular many stories of Spiders and Dragons.
Gandalf listened with wry amusement at a story Legolas was telling about Thranduil's favourite dish and how the filling was procured. He had a feeling that Legolas might have mentioned this before for the Hobbits were excited but not surprised. It was detailed enough to be true, he thought and he would put nothing past Thranduil in his ferocious defence of his folk. He sucked on his pipe and realised the pipe weed was gone so he took out the worn leather pouch from somewhere inside his robes and took his time filling the bowl of his pipe and then waving a hand over his staff so it glowed as he leaned forward and lit his pipe from it.
He caught a scandalised look from Gimli and raised a beetling eyebrow at the Dwarf as if daring him to speak of the sacrilege of using the Secret Fire to light a pipe.
'…how do you eat all the legs?' Pippin was asking Legolas, wide-eyed.
'You have a special implement,' Legolas looked down at Pippin seriously. 'It has a small hammer to crack the carapace and you flip it so it is a spoon on the other, which you scoop out the meat.'
'Hm,' Gimli grunted amicably. 'I believe they are made in Erebor. I think I have made some myself.'
Gandalf watched then amused and thought how the threads of this were brought together; the son of Glóin, the nephew of Bilbo, the Heir of Isildur and his steward. How fitting that it should also bring the son of Thranduil to the House at this moment. They were all meant to be here. And as he had watched Legolas with the Hobbits and his gentleness with Sam, Olórin knew that there should be no great elven lord accompanying them, but this Elf from the Woods in simple green and brown. The Song was light in his heart and they did not need Power from the First Age or vengeful hearts. They needed a warrior true, but they needed one over whom the Ring had no Power, it could not give him what he wanted and his heart was light and he would keep the Hobbits merry and bright in times of the coming darkness. Legolas too, was strong against the Nazgûl for he had battled long in the South of Mirkwood.
At last Frodo's eyes began to close and his chin dropped to his chest. Sam immediately hushed the company and gently patted Frodo's arm. 'Mr Frodo? Shall I take you back to your room now? It's very late and Pippin should have been in bed hours ago.'
Frodo lifted his heavy eyelids and smiled placatingly at Pippin and slowly Frodo and Sam took their leave.
Legolas looked up at the stars through the open window. He resembled Thranduil, thought Gandalf, in the strong profile and masculine beauty. But where Thranduil was ever determined and resolute, the moment had come when Legolas wavered. The Wizard saw it in his hesitation and abruptness in the way he stood for a moment looking down at the remaining Company. It was time, thought the Wizard, to make his point.
Legolas of course was unaware of the moment and simply said, 'I will leave you now to wreathe yourselves in smoke and to drink ale. I am going to look at the stars.'
'Aye and sing to them no doubt,' Gimli showed his hard white teeth and Legolas gave him an amused look.
He was a little lonely, Gandalf realised and though in his heart he cringed at the advantage he was to take of this, he had done worse and took it nonetheless.
'I am glad to see you so much recovered,' he said, delaying Legolas a moment longer. He saw Aragorn cast him a sideways glance that meant he knew what the Wizard was about.
Legolas nodded and glanced down at his shoulder. 'It was nothing as a wound, but I have paid for my carelessness,' he said with more than a little disgust at himself.
'It was easy to miss, Legolas,' Aragorn interjected. 'And I am glad on my part at least, that I had time to get to know you better.'
Gandalf noticed the look of warm pleasure that stole over Legolas' face and he looked almost shy for a moment. 'It was not only on your part,' said Legolas. He glanced over at Gimli and Boromir who were both listening. 'For I am glad to have been delayed long enough to know you all better.' He blushed a little in spite of the years he had over any of the mortals in the room and Gandalf puffed on his pipe and watched Legolas shrewdly. He said nothing though, letting the Elf lead himself to the obvious conclusion.
'Well it has led you to stay longer than you might have otherwise,' Aragorn said nonchalantly and did not flick his gaze up.
'Indeed,' Legolas tilted his head to look at Aragorn, a little regretfully. 'But I will leave as soon as Elrond says I may and that will be soon now I think…' He paused and frowned slightly. 'When I crossed the Mountains to get here, it was not a pleasant journey and I confess I do not look forward to it. In the Winter the High Pass will be blocked I am told, so if I leave before the Winter clears it will be by the Redhorn Gate I think.'
'Ah,' said Gimli wisely. 'Of course.' He glanced at Aragorn and then back at Legolas. 'Is that not the route we will take ourselves?' he asked and Gandalf smiled inwardly at the obvious invitation in the Dwarf's voice.
'It is indeed,' Aragorn inclined his head, his gaze going from Gimli and back to Legolas expectantly.
But in spite of the clear intention of their remarks, Legolas seemed blithely oblivious, Gandalf thought a little irritably. And then the Elf said, 'Of course I will stay at least until Glorfindel returns…I feel I need to know if Rhawion….' Words failed him then and he looked down at his hands and picked a loose thread on his tunic.
Ah, Gandalf realised, that was distracting Legolas so he did not see clearly the road that lay before him. The Wizard reached out, let a warm compassion flood through this body he had grown so used to, and seep into Legolas' own heart. Hope, he breathed. Hope. It was always his gift, Olórin. 'Do you wish to go home so soon when the adventure has only just begun?' he asked Legolas softly.
That brought the Elf to a stuttering halt. He stared at Gandalf with wide eyes, green as the Sea. For a moment a pang struck Gandalf, the Sea… there was danger in that…
'You do not have to come with us to the end,' he said slowly, thinking that Minas Tirith was too close to the Sea and there was danger there for Legolas' heart. But he tasted the Song for the rightness of what he was doing, feeling the sway and swirl of notes come together… yes. Whatever the flicker of concern this was right. 'We are travelling over the Mountains as you. Why don't you come with us?' he repeated.
'It would make sense, Legolas,' Boromir added. 'We could do with your sharp eyes and your bow. At least over the Mountains…Then, if you wish to return home, you will and we shall thank you.'
'But surely a great Elf-lord will go with you? Someone like Glorfindel or Erestor? Or any other of the great Elf lords who dwell here?' Legolas said, still wide-eyed, but the glimmer of excitement was clear. 'I thought my Lord Elrond said he would send but nine companions. I had thought Glorfindel …or one of his sons.' He said this last with a disappointment. 'Surely you need someone who will bring a great Power?'
'We have great Powers and warriors with us already,' said Gimli with a gleam of white teeth. 'You will suffice as a look out perhaps.' He waved his pipe in Legolas' direction. 'As long as we only have one hanger-on, Aragorn, we will cope. You can carry my bag, Legolas, and leave the warriors free to defend the Hobbits,' he added, drawing on his beautifully carved pipe.
Gandalf shot a look at Gimli but there was a peal of laughter from Legolas and Gandalf turned and stared. "If you are going, Gimli, the Company will definitely need me. You need someone to polish your boots.'
Danwedh-amlung to boot. Dragon-ransom
Reference to 'The Black Arrow'. Thranduil and Smaug strike a bargain of sorts and tells how Legolas got his tattoos.
Next chapter almost ready. Hope to not keep you waiting quite so long for it.
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.