Chapter 15- Loss and Gain
1051 Third Age, Minas Tirith: during the rule of King Hyarmendacil I
Decades into travelling with the strange wizard but she still did not understand everything he did. For someone who is deemed a "wizard", the grey pilgrim acted as though he were naught more than some educated entertainer.
They were visiting the kingdom of men. Her master had been invited to some sort of festivity Elysia did not bother learning of. Like always, he prepared his fireworks for the crowd. Minas Tirith was intriguing. Carved from a mountain, it was certainly impressive that the weak race of men could construct such fortress. If there was anything about men she found intriguing, it was their persistence. They were like ants.
Yet these ants towered over her, and it was infuriating. This form was so painfully small and meek. There were men that treated her as though she were some clueless, bumbling child when she had little doubt that she was older than their grandfather's sires –they were quick to shy away from her when she glared at them. The dragonspell was beginning to show its perks.
She was resigned to remain in the shadows near the wall, content to watch the crowd as they celebrated and cried in awe at the colorful sparks crackling in the sky.
Gandalf fought the urge to sigh. Dragon hatchlings were insufferably stubborn. Or perhaps it was merely this particular hatchling. He found little ire to be angry though. He could not be, when those familiar eyes still bore a haunted look. For a bratty child, she still remained silent as stone for the most part; never expressing how she felt, never voluntarily speaking her mind to him. It was not because she bore the attention span of a child. On the contrary, her eyes darted around her surroundings with a wary intelligence belying her age. They drank in every sight, cataloging the environment. Dragons were quick witted, sharp folk. He had little doubt that even their hatchlings could surpass the intelligence of the average man whilst remaining their adolescent stages.
It took him a few years to comprehend her silent language. Minute details of her body's movement told him enough of her state of mind, and from there he began forming a bond of trust. So when he searched through the festive crowd for the head of raven hair, he paused in lighting his next fiery display at what he saw.
It wasn't unusual for the small dragon to be scrutinizing everything or bearing a faraway expression, but currently she was raptly focused on something in the distance. She was staring at a family, more specifically a man, woman, and their two children; one boy and one girl. They appeared to be common folk who made humble livings. But those silver eyes blinked, and the stiff countenance eased into one of subtle envy. When the child squealed as his father raised him up and onto his shoulders, envy twisted into longing, then into mild distaste; as though she ridiculed her own sense of jealousy. She then haughtily averted her eyes from the family and did not spare them a second glance.
He would've found it amusing if it weren't heartbreaking. To lose her mother and not know her father, despite him being so near her… She carried the spirit of an orphan. It was cruel as a father to see their own child be in such way, so when the last of his recent fireworks fizzled out, the wizard quickly made up his mind.
The wizard appeared to be making some grand finale before stopping his show for the night. He was setting up and rearranging a number of rods before timing their launch with a flame to the wicks. Elysia focused on the sky, curious as to what the wizard would do this time around. Last time it was a finale with sparks shaped as a horse that galloped around the people before bursting into flames.
The crowd seemed to anticipate this as well, and to her displeasure, they began to crowd around in expectation, obscuring her view of the sky. She wanted to snarl at them to respect her space.
But before she could consider snarling or simply running away back to the inn, she was hoisted up by a pair of firm hands. Too surprised to kick and struggle out of the grip, she found herself perched upon the shoulders of a certain old man with tattered grey robes. He towered over the rest of the people, giving her a clear view of the sea of faces. Chagrinned and puzzled, the dragon opened her mouth to demand answers.
Then there was a loud crack! And the sky was lit.
Three streams of white light rose from the ground and wove against one another, forming a pillar before they began to part and spread. They formed branches, thousands of branches, creating the image of a white tree. Flowers shaded in a fiery hue of pink began to blossom on the tree of light, and as the base and branches began to dissipate, the blossoms scattered their petals, blanketing the crowd with tickling sparkles of magic fire.
People giggled, laughed, and whooped in exclamation at the wondrous end to his magical display, but his ears only heard the quiet gasp of his apprentice as she sat above his shoulders. When she let out a giggle, he smiled. The sound of her subtle, rough laughter was more beloved to him than any song sung by the Elves.
He understood then, why fathers spoiled their daughters so. At that moment, if he could fill her childhood with much needed laughter, the Istar felt more than willing to light fireworks every hour of every night for his daughter.
"My dear dragon…" Gandalf half smiled as he released a small puff of smoke. "I suppose it is time I tell you everything…" He sighed. "I shall start from the beginning…
I was known, before my time as an Istar, as Olórin. I did not look as I do now as I did then. As a Maia I went by as many forms, but it was my time as Olórin when I encountered Saphira Brightscales of the Storm… And oh, what a sight she was to behold, both as a dragon and as a woman." There was a whimsical mist in his greyed gaze. He chuckled.
"Your mother was proud, vain even for she proclaimed herself to be the fairest of her kind but with good reason…"
Elysia snorted at this. Of course she knew of her mother's spectacular vanity.
"She was fierce, answering to no one, and if her ferocity did not maim others, her sharp tongue certainly would…. When I first encountered her, I thought her to be the mightiest storm for she was something to be respected, awed, and feared…. Every scale of her body rivaled the radiance of polished sapphire jewels, those eyes were deeper and bluer than the richest of waters and sharper than the sharpest of blades, and her hair was of raven silk… Not even the darkest of clouds could ever dissuade her radiance. She made the proudest of males kneel with a single arch of her winged brow, and her smile would cow sunlight with its brilliance…. With these qualities, your mother enraptured me… and strangely, I her."
Gandalf smirked to himself then gave a small lighthearted glare to Elysia who listened raptly to his every word. She could see the distance in his eyes as he dove back into his memory. There was pain there… and wonder, but was there love? Did he love her? Every word that came from him was so sincere and mystifying it made her ache, but she needed him to say he loved her mother.
"But alas," Elysia fell with disappointment. Her question was not answered. "with darkness beginning to rise, our times of peace together became limited…" Sadness swept through Gandalf, and the old wizard heaved a long smoke filled sigh.
"I knew the day would come, as a humble loyal servant of Manwe and Varda that I must leave her… She had her responsibilities with her people and urged me to tend to mine… We parted and she shed her tears for the first time… for me…"
Tears glistened in Gandalf's own eyes, and he swallowed hard.
"I must confess that I had not been aware of your conception." He was no longer smoking from his pipe, something simmered in his gaze. Was it anger? Was it confusion? "More accurately, I had never been aware of who you were conceived from… Until I found you."
Wait… This she did not know. She had never been aware of this. Her mother had said that her father had cared for them. Had Saphira lied or had her mother not known and merely believed in blind faith? It was impossible to lie in their culture, and yet… Elysia felt numb.
"The word came to me when I dwelt one day in the gardens of Irmo, of a great tragedy that struck the Eyrie of the Storms… It had been centuries since encountering Saphira. Long had I thought she moved on from me, but regardless I went with great haste, fearing the worst but hoping… hoping that somehow, perhaps if I should come to the Eyrie, I would see her smiling and welcoming me."
A tear slid from his wrinkled cheek, melding into his beard.
"I can only imagine the horrors you saw the day the Eyrie became a Place of Sorrow… When I passed the black storms, I was met with a horrid sight… My heart broke and I nearly perished then and there, crying out to all who heard my song of misery in hopes that Eru Illuvitar would have mercy on me and the plight of your clan…." He sighed wearily, closing his eyes. "But there was no hope there in the Eyrie… No, instead I felt hope in my soul…. Hope that encouraged me to search…"
Gandalf tilted his head to the sky. "But how could I search when I did not know what to seek? So I came to the Eldest to call upon his wisdom, to define this strange hope for the Valar had no answers for me. To my surprise, the Eldest enlightened me… He said
'The hope which you seek has fallen… into the deep, under the ice, and there it waits in Middle Earth'…
Then fate blessed me with fortune and honor, for when I returned, I was one of the five of the Istari to be sent to Middle Earth to counsel and assist those who are free, to combat against Sauron's rising menace.
I came to Middle Earth with this task… But in my heart, there was another purpose… The Eldest said to follow the hope in my broken heart…And so I wandered years and years amongst the people of Middle Earth, searching and hoping that perhaps not all that was once precious to me was lost."
A small whimsical smile overcame him. "It was as if she watched me in the stars… She guided me to you that day..."
Mithrandir then gazed at her. He gazed at her with such love and wonder…. Elysia remembered this… She remembered that gaze, because it had been the first thing she saw in the cave of ice.
"You look so much like your mother… You acted like her too…. Both of you curl your hair behind your ears and gazed upon dirt and grime as though they were the greatest sin."
They both chuckled this time. Gandalf wiped his eyes with a wrinkled finger and smiled wider.
"But to my greatest surprise… When I gazed upon you, I was met with eyes so very similar to my own. It was then that I knew…" His smile turned pained. "You were not the offspring of a male in your clan… You were mine…."
It was a sentiment she could only imagine. How had he felt when he realized, believing that the bond was severed clean, that the bond had never been severed in the first place? That he left something far more precious than the flames of great affection when he left Saphira?
"So astonished I was… that the bittersweet agony of my discovery was not felt until days later. But when I gazed upon you more closely, I saw more of myself in you…. You did not have your mother's eyes, which I believed was good… I always thought her form was too blue, lovely but blue… You had humility in you along with pride, which startled me so… for your mother had not a single raindrop of humility…" He snorted, shaking his head.
"A tendency to find troublesome adventures and speak in riddles… And of course, a great fondness for hobbits…"
Elysia could not stop the swell of pride in this, but in the midst of this revelation she was still unsure of how to feel.
Gandalf continued. "You knew fear… You are indeed a dragon, but unlike your kind, you admitted your fears yet persevered in courage and could not remain as indifferent to the world as they did. You are keen in your surroundings, especially in the ancient essence of magic around you for you are a child of an Istar… You are my child."
The old wizard was not smiling but nor was he crying. He stared with a grim severity.
"For a long time, I was unsure of how to feel. Was this a gift or a curse? Was I supposed to be reminded of my failure in properly siring you, in protecting your mother? Or was this a chance for me to do something I only dreamed of attempting? There was no right or wrong then… There were no answers. I could only decide what to do with the time and opportunity given to me….. And I chose to love you as my own."
"I am sorry… I am sorry for everything… Forgive me for never being there. Forgive me for leaving you to see such horrors." His voice broke, but he did not cry. He looked too pained to cry, and it hurt Elysia to see him so broken.
Regardless of how she felt of him as her mother's mate, this wizard had been her teacher for the longest of times. He had been the closest thing she had to a father. While she did not know of how deeply he loved her mother, if he ever loved her, she knew that he had cared for her greatly. All those years of time investing into an orphaned dragon, she never understood why he took her in. Had he taken pity on her and adopted her as a charity case? Or did he see potential in her as a greater hope for Middle Earth?
But seeing him now as he spoke, though in memory, Elysia knew one thing for certainty, and that was that the wizard had loved her.
"You did raise me…" Elysia's throat tightened with emotion. She knew he could not hear her, and it pained her to know. Their last conversation had been of his disappointment at the late unveiling of her darkest secret. The last she remembered was the shame she bore in harboring things from him and the sweet pride as he cast her away from the bridge, away from his battle with the Balrog.
"I believe your mother feared for your fate should it be known that you were of my blood… For your singularity would mark you as a great threat against the evil… But as time passed, and as I basked in your company… there had been many moments when I knew I should've told you, but I feared most of your resentment… I was a coward, for I loved you too dearly to bear your hatred.
But you have grown so beautifully… Fortune smiled upon me in this, for you are a magnificent being… It would be an honor if you deemed me as your sire… If you would take the title as Daughter of Olorin. May the stars always watch over you, Elysia Bjartskular…. Remember and have strength, my dear dragon, for I love you… Of all the accomplishments I have carried in my time, my greatest achievement was siring you."
The memory was ending. The spectral image of Gandalf began to fade to Elysia's growing despair.
She could not help but call out for him. "Father… But you're leaving me too… You've left me." Was fate so cruel to having her taste this joy, only to take it away from her so soon?
Elysia watched as Gandalf faded before her, his great love and smile never waning. She stood in silence. There was a paradox in her soul. She felt hollow… yet there was this completion in knowing her origins.
"…Mithrandir was right about you. He was right to hope in your future." She turned to see Galadriel waiting to the side. The Lady of Lothlórien gazed at her, and to the dragon's surprise, there were tears trailing down the lovely she-elf's face.
"We are in your mind… I shall see what you see." She answered her unspoken question.
"…. But… I have so many questions… Questions that need answering."
"In time they shall be answered, but now, they are waiting."
Elysia tilted her head, mystified. "Who is waiting?"
"… People who bear much love and loyalty to you." Galadriel smiled. "Come, Lady Elysia, Brightscales…" The lady held out her hand for the dragon to take. After some hesitation, the dragon reached out and took the soft slender hand.
"You bear great purpose, child of Olorin…." Galadriel's voice whispered in her mind as the woman was shrouded in a blinding light. Elysia could not look away as this mind's realm began to fade in her radiance.
Bright eyes snapped open. The calm water rippled as Elysia inhaled a sharp intake of breath. Feeling soft and enlightened with energy, she rose from the strange bright waters. She was in a strange room, high in the trees. Silvindr and Faersing were placed upon a pale drawer. Mallorn trees stood tall in the distance, donned with spiraling stairs and dim moonlit lights. Elvish songs filled her ears and the aroma of magic enraptured her senses.
"This quest will bring you much pain…" Elysia whipped her head around, causing a wet lock to whip her cheek as she gazed at the Lady of Light standing before her.
"Your strengths shall be tested, and you shall be pushed to the edge." On Galadriel's cheeks, there still lingered a light trail of tears.
Elysia hesitated. Uncertainty turned into peace. "I have been pushed to the edge before. The solution is to fly."
Galadriel smiled at her remark. "There is a storm brewing… Should you continue your path, you shall fly straight into it… It shall bring you much toil, but should you avoid it…" she did not finish, closing her eyes. I cannot foresee either paths, but I fear them both…"
Strain appeared on Galadriel's fair face. Feeling uneasy with the twist of her complexion, Elysia spoke.
"I am the greatest flier of my kind… Should I need to fly through the storm, I shan't fly with hesitation. The toil matters not to me, for I am a Stormdrake... And the daughter of an Istar."
The strain turned into a small smile. "So you have chosen…." She whispered.
"I am a dragon of my word." Elysia stood up and exited the pool. Water dripped from her form and began to puddle around her. "They are here, are they not?" She felt impatient. How long had she slept? How long were they waiting?
"They are waiting for you, resting and waiting… how are you fairing?" Galadriel asked, but she could see. Her body was free of bruises, and her arm held the same cream hue, unmarred by the grotesque purple and black. However, there was still a darkness lingering in her body, unseen by most.
It remained dormant, not spreading, much to Galadriel's relief, but despite her magic's prowess she could not fully expel it, nor did it seem that the dragon's spirit had enough strength to purge it.
She did not inform the dragon. Chances were that Elysia already knew. As the days grew darker, the dragon would face repercussions against the festering magic within her lest she had more strength; strength outside draconic capabilities. Dragons were known for their magic's potency, but not for their light. Purity that combatted Morgoth's black mana dwelled in the elves. Despite being a powerful elf, Galadriel could not expel it, no matter how she wished to; she had tried. But she was faced with too much resistance, recognized by Elysia's nature as a foreign invader. She would only damage the balance if she forced it. What the dragon needed was not in her place to give, but the Lady of Lothlórien sensed that there was someone else who was more suited to this task...
The lament for Gandalf echoed through Lothlórien; hauntingly alluring but the pleasing sound was all the more painful for them to hear. Legolas had not the heart to tell them of its meaning, for the sorrow was too great, and he worried for their recovering dragon. She still had not woken, and it has been several days since. Without the dragon maiden's presence, the fellowship felt too still for him, too insecure, too lifeless. She brought the fire with her fierce presence and quick wit.
The Prince walked through the great citadel, barely admiring its beauty. His heart was still too wrapped around the fate of the dragon. He stopped midstride and frowned at himself. His mind constantly lingered upon her, and his heart clung to those thoughts like a thirsty man with water. He found himself missing the smallest things of her presence- from her refreshing wit to her strange musk of sun kissed peaks. He missed the way she stood there with that unyielding stance and the alluring tenor of her low voice.
He should indeed miss her, for all the males of their fellowship did, but to think of her with such intimacy and so suddenly?... He found himself comparing the beauty of this place and its people with her beauty. Lothlórien was enchanting and peaceful. But Legolas found his mind preferring the fierce radiance of Elysia.
The Prince of Mirkwood almost sighed. He was supposed to be admiring Lothlórien, not comparing it to the dragon. Did he not miss the trees during his time in the mines? Seeing the magnificence of this woodland realm should give him relief, not stir his impatience.
Legolas suddenly began to recall the day when they first met. The first encounter with Elysia certainly left his world a little shaken. She made him want to leave his father's kingdom, to yearn for adventure and see the world she saw that made her the way she was. He had always longed for something beyond the inheritance given to him by his father, not once desiring to walk in Thranduil's footsteps and seal himself into isolation behind Mirkwood's gates. He coveted that longing in secret, ridiculing it as a child's desire. But Elysia's presence had changed him. Ever since their first meeting, she made him think of other things than admiring Tauriel, patrolling his father's woods, and simply existing as an immortal with a sense of duty. She dared him to think more, to think past his doubts and fears, and go beyond the comforts of his home to seek the world. She inspired him to do something great, and when he came to Rivendell and when the Halfling took the burden, it was his chance to be a part of something far bigger than his woodland kingdom.
It was both selfish and selfless of him. Selfless because he was doing it for the good of his realm, to return Mirkwood back into the Greenwood it was once fabled to be. Selfish because he wished to satiate his own desire and walk his own path, separate from that of his Woodland realm, to journey with the dragon that bewitched his eyes and starved his mind.
When they traveled together, his thoughts of her began to grow. It began to morph from curiosity, envy, then to mild admiration. She was captivating as she was infuriating, always leaving him with a sense of dissatisfaction. It almost seemed cruel of her to be capable of such, but she did not intend for it to be that way; that's what made it all the more irksome. When she pulled away, he followed with a tight string, and when she placed herself so closely to his person, he found himself feeling lively. She made him feel many things against his mild and cheerful disposition. She made him feel so many emotions beyond the firm, tranquil composure he had been so accustomed to carrying for centuries.
Perhaps it was because she was unique, and elves had a penchant to seek things that were unlike anything they saw in their long years of living. Perhaps that was all it was, and thus when time passes and their friendship grows accommodating to their characters, his curiosity would fade into content.
His mind snapped out of reverie at a sudden wind caressing his face. Legolas immediately looked up, for he knew the caress of her sudden gales. A blur of blue streaked through the trees, and for a moment he thought his elf eyes tricked him… But then she curved with a great tilt of her wings and descended meters in front of him. Scales began to disperse into a storm of blue light. Before the drake's claws could touch the ground, she landed on a pair of pale dainty feet. Her garments of silver and white rippled in her landing, and as she straightened herself, those pale eyes pierced into him.
And another puzzle piece answered his ever growing questions.
Legolas had seen many fair maidens both elf and human in his time, so beauty in appearance was nothing new. He admired and was admired in return, and the only time he deemed to show greater interest in the opposite gender was with Tauriel… But when he saw Elysia standing under the pale light of Lothlórien, it was as if he had never seen such truer beauty.
Perhaps the magic of this realm tampered with his mind.
The dress was soft and simple. Silver rimmed the sleeves and the modest edge of the collar. The sleeves weren't winged like the dresses of the noble elves, but practical in their loose fit. The dress did not hug her figure, and it was cut at her ankles, allowing her feet to walk without the impediment of the skirt. It was not an extravagant dress; it was subtle in its style and its simplicity. Yet, it brought out a bright gleam in feline eyes, and those raven curls, falling in lustrously thick waves, begot a wild elegance.
Elysia held herself with straight-mannered dignity. It was not gentle, it was not demure, and to many it may not have seemed feminine, but that did not devalue its beauty. A flower could not be compared to a flame, but both were beautiful.
Legolas was surprised at himself. Why did her beauty surprise him now? He had always found her comely, and he was sure many who encountered her thought in his likeness; there were others that were far fairer than Elysia.
No… A part of him violently rectified the thought. While there were others that seemed far fairer than her, there was no one quite as enthralling as Elysia and her liberating spirit.
When Elysia raised a brow at his stupor, (or as close as someone as cheerfully unreadable as himself could be in looking dazed) Legolas shoved his inspections aside. Instead, he strode forth, embracing the happiness of her return… by embracing her physically.
It was sudden. He found himself as surprised of his forwardness as she was. He felt her stiffen in his arms as he wrapped one around her waist and the other around her arm, pressing her against his towering form and inhaling the scent of her hair as he buried his nose into the soft curls. She still remained rigid for a few heartbeats, but then her tension eased, allowing her body to mold to his. Hesitant hands slowly reached up and gently pressed against his back, returning his embrace. When her hand shifted against his back, Legolas fought the urge to shiver at the ghostly thrill racing through his body.
He came to his senses then, realizing how unexpected and intimate it was. Quickly as he embraced her, he withdrew, and they both recoiled; unaware the flustered feeling was a mutual one.
There was a lapse of silence. Elysia then spoke, just as Legolas did.
"I see that you are well."
They stopped again at the rapid words. Elysia then felt her ears turn red when hearing him chuckle.
"Should it not be I asking you of your condition? I was not the one who launched myself at a demon of fire."
"Technically, I did not." She countered. "I spat at it." She frowned at the oddness of her words, but the Prince of Mirkwood began to laugh in that melodious way of his.
"Yes… You did spit at a servant of Morgoth…" His smile then faltered. "Forgive me… For speaking of such dark things… How fairs your body, Elysia?"
"It hasn't completely healed, but a good few days of rest and food should return it to its usual resilience." She smirked a little tiredly. "Are the others well?"
"Yes. They will find joy in seeing you. Tis not the same without you with us." After brief thought, Legolas lifted his hand towards her, his heart hoping and waiting for her to accept his assistance.
If she was surprised, she did not show it. Elysia simply blinked before she placed her hand in his. It was warm-almost unnaturally so, and despite it being slender, it was rough on certain edges from long hours of holding her blades. He maneuvered her hand to rest in the crook of his elbow, and guided her in a quiet pace to their camp.
"It won't be the same regardless."
His heart sank, not needing to think upon her words to understand. Indeed, without their grey wizard, they would not be the same, especially her. Elysia had been in Gandalf's company the longest, knew him the best.
Legolas could offer no words of comfort. He doubted she wanted any. There was no denying that things were changing from here on out. Gandalf had been an anchor for many of them, and without his presence, they were at risk of going astray from the proper course. Aragorn had become their unannounced leader, and Legolas did not mind. He always knew Estel was born to lead. Leaders carried hope wherever they went, and Estel was hope. But it was a heavy burden he did not think the man was entirely ready for.
"It is up to both of you." Aragorn needed Elysia by his side. Legolas was not blind to how much Aragorn relied on the dragon to keep himself grounded. She understood parts of them that others did not understand. None could fully comprehend Gimli's pain as she did in those mines. Nor could they keep the troublesomely curious hobbits out of trouble as well as Elysia did. What she couldn't do was bring them all together as a united company, and that was something only Aragorn accomplished with his character.
"Pardon?" For once Elysia was the one who could not fully follow his train of thought.
Legolas cast a side glance at her, sky colored eyes pensive. "Gandalf has served as both a guide and a common foundation upon which we all connected. Without him, we must each take parts of his place in order to keep this fellowship afloat." His smile was sad. "I'm afraid that burden has fallen to you and Aragorn."
When she gave him an inquisitive look, Legolas continued. "There is only so much I can do and understand in regards to our group, Elysia. We are quite diverse." He gave a soft snort. "Something out of a children's tale, we are… and I may be older than most, but I was raised by my people, taught by them, and I've mostly fought with them. I may be educated in foreign ways, but I have not experienced it as you have. Not even as Aragorn has… To know is one thing but-"
"To understand is another…" She finished, comprehending his words. It was humbling of him to admit it so openly and without remorse. Prouder men would proclaim it as an inadequacy; a weakness, but Legolas stated it as a sober fact. He spoke with wisdom that surpassed hers in that moment, to come to the conclusion so quickly.
"Aragorn is strong both in mind and soul," Legolas sighed. "but he is not invulnerable to his doubts and insecurities. He will need your presence to do things right, without clouded judgement."
"He will need all of us." Elysia stated, frowning.
"But you are essential."
"As are you." Elysia forced them to a stop. She was scowling now, much to his surprise.
"Forgive me if I offended you."
"Nay, you are not offending me, you are offending yourself." She huffed with impatience. "And by transition, it irks me."
He was unsure of how to feel at this-perhaps both pleased and amused. "Alas, I always seem to irk you."
She gave him a dry face, not blind to the mirth in his tone.
"Indeed you do… But I do not jest, Legolas. Without you, Aragorn, and I daresay Gimli would be lost… As would I."
Abruptly, Elysia turned away from him, and their positions were reversed. Now she was guiding him while he followed. In her stride, she did not see the flush of pink that stained the prince's cheeks.
She smelled the familiar scent of the fellowship before her eyes fell upon the sight. To her surprise, it was Peregrin Took who first sighted her and immediately sprung up and ran to her. Elysia separated her hand from Legolas and stood firm as Pippin leapt up and promptly tackled her. As usual, his force did nothing to move her, not even a step back or sway. Elysia released a throaty chuckle as she held Pippin.
"I have missed you as well, fool of a Took." She remarked fondly. "You are crushing me, little bird."
The Took released her, but he still smiled as he hugged her legs. Merry ran to them and hugged her as well.
"Crush a dragon? Pippin?" He laughed as he looked up at her.
"Perhaps not." Elysia admitted. They finally released her and allowed the others to greet her as she neared the encampment. To her surprise, Aragorn and Boromir greeted her with an embrace. Boromir even lifted her and twirled the dragon. When he set her stiff form down, he chuckled.
"Now I can firmly say I lifted a dragon to Faramir!"
Elysia could only snort at that. She muttered something about men and their odd ways while Aragorn looked her over.
"You appear fine, but… how fairs…" He hesitated.
"Do not concern yourself, raggedy ranger." She responded curtly, finding herself worn at answering that question constantly. Aragorn was unoffended… until she leaned forward and sniffed
"Thank the storms, you had a bath."
The raggedy ranger only shook his head. Gimli simply patted her arm and nodded.
"My father was not jesting when he said ye were stubborn and sturdy like a mountain. Of course ye would survive after facing a demon, lass."
Sam greeted her next, but with more apprehension. His respect for Miss Elly deterred him from greeting her so wildly as Pippin had.
"I looked after your swords as you told me, Miss Elly."
Elysia smiled at this and bent down to kiss the hobbit's forehead. Sam flushed red while she whispered into his curly hair.
"I always know I can count on you, Samwise Gamgee."
While the fellowship rejoiced in being whole, there was one last person who had yet to greet her.
He only stared at her, standing a few paces, staring at her with such somberness ill suited to those great blue of his eyes. Elysia stared back, unsmiling but with the gentle gaze Frodo had seen since he was a child.
There was still great doubt within him; he still felt guilty. It was his fault she was like this; his fault that the madness had nearly taken her, his fault that Gandalf was lost to them. He was breaking his Elly, and he could see it. He did not deserve to be in her presence again. He did not deserve to be called her little one.
But then Elysia spoke.
"Little one… Can you forgive me for such actions?"She whispered in her ancient tongue.
The hobbit's bottom lip trembled and all resolution to distance himself failed. He ran to her and buried his face into her stomach.
"Can you ever forgive me?" He muffled in her skirt.
"There is nothing to forgive." She then forced him to gaze up at her. "Do not blame yourself for Mithrandir's fall… You should treat his sacrifice with honor, Frodo. To wallow in such guilt and shame is to treat his sacrifice with bane. Am I clear?"
Her voice was fierce. Frodo could only nod.
"Do not lose hope for the wizard, Frodo… He has never lost hope in you… Nor should you ever doubt my vow." She sensed the doubt in his heart. She knew him long enough to read Frodo like a book. So she smiled wide and patted his head.
"My sire did not die in vain."
There was a pause. Silence struck them as lightning would strike a tree. Elysia almost laughed at Frodo's eyes bulging large and his mouth parting in his flabbergasted state, all sorrow nearly forgotten at the abrupt revelation.
It took many heartbeats for the information to fully sink in.
Then Aragorn finally sighed.
"Of course… It's no wonder at times you speak in infuriating riddles."
Elysia sat with the great roots of a Mallorn tree as her bench. The fellowship had gathered around her as she explained her full history, and Gandalf's involvement. They themselves began making the connections, seeing the resemblance of her nature with the old wizard's. When Elysia finished her tale, she wore a small smile and excused herself after retrieving her swords and placing them within the encampment. They mourned for her. They saw the pain she tried her best to conceal behind the smile. The revelation was bittersweet, if not cruel. To realize such things, only to have Gandalf fall; the unfairness of it quieted them.
Despite the calm she showed, they saw her heart's ire. They were gladdened by her strength, but none found the courage to near her as she sat near the edge and stared at the enchanting citadel of the Lothlórien elves. What can one say? Elysia did not wish to hear a sorry, nor did she wish for them to tend to her as though she were made of glass fragments. Her mind was still troubled, they sensed it, but they did not know what to do with it. Perhaps it was best to let the dragon mull over her thoughts.
Only one did not think so...
Elysia stared at the nightly beauty of the strange city. It was as though they captured moonlight in their Mallorn kingdom. The very air, every step of the spiraling stairs, and the light was filled with a strange magic. It made her scales tingle.
There was a song in the air- a lamentation for her lost sire. It was beautiful as it was heartbreaking, but for once the dragon did not care for its musical allure. It was chiseling away at the numbness in her chest, knocking at a forbidden door. The song spoke of his untimely passing, and it frustrated her. It fabricated a picture of him made only by his origins and his ends. Beginning and conclusions were not the only things that made a person. Their history, their journey, and their choices did. They should sing tales of his travels, his crotchety tendencies, his fireworks…
Of course he would find her in the midst of her dilemma…. Even when she did not want him to. The wizard had the keenness of a dragon.
"Elysia get down from there this instant!" Gandalf wore a glare of impatience.
She should not admit it to him. Oh the shame. So she pouted and clung to the tree branch. "No!"
She thought he would threaten to burn the entire tree down, but to her dreadful surprise, he merely placed a hand on his hip and cocked a bushy grey brow.
She bit her lip before responding. "B-because I do not want to!"
Gandalf hardly looked amused or convinced. He regarded her for a moment.
"…. You are stuck." He deduced with a straight face.
"I am not!" She cried out indignantly.
"You are not a very good liar…"
Her face twisted sourly. "So what if I am?" She snapped.
"Do not get cross with me, little dragon. Your situation is no fault of mine." She hissed at the smug little smirk decorating his wrinkled face.
Gandalf ignored the dragon's seething glare and merely tapped the tree with the tip of his staff. She felt the ripple of magic pulse through the tree, but before she could prepare, there was a sudden crack.
There was little time to yelp as her branch snapped. She squeezed her eyes shut and waited for the inevitable pain of landing on hard earth.
But she landed in a pair of surprisingly strong arms. She heard a grunt and opened her eyes. They widened at the sight of a wrinkled face kindly smiling at her.
"I wasn't going to abandon you to your plight, no matter how deserved it was." He set her down-but not without a little groan as he patted his lower back. "Save my aging bones some discomfort and try to keep away from places you can't get down from little apprentice."
The memory changed as the lamentations began to shift to the next stanza of his misfortune. She didn't want to recollect such bittersweet things, but her heart did not seem to hear her.
Sickness had taken her. It was so sudden, so unexpected. Dragons were hardy beings. Seldom did they get fevers, if they did at all. But with the trauma of her loss still haunting her, it began bleeding into her physical wellbeing.
Unfortunately, it appeared that when a dragon fell ill, they fell seriously ill.
She could eat nothing. Her body would not let her. Thrice she tried, but every time it was retched. Even a simple loaf of bread did not agree with her.
It was cold. More accurately her body felt cold. It was perplexing. She was sweating as though she was in sweltering heat, but she could not stop her body's shiver as gooseflesh rose on her skin. And her bones hurt all over. They hurt so greatly, she was afraid they were being grounded into dust in her body.
Her fever made her senses muffled. But she felt someone hold her. They swaddled her in something warm and held her tenderly close like a babe. It was comforting, lulling her to sleep despite her discomfort.
But then something was pressed against her lips- the lip of some wooden bowl or goblet. She tried to turn her head away; the thought of putting something in her stomach seemed deplorable at this point. However, it persisted. Someone was determined to force her to drink. Did they not know she would throw it all up again?
She wanted to push whoever it was away, but she had no strength.
Soothing, incoherent words reached her ear. A gentle hand stroked the back of her head, coaxing her.
So she began to drink, hoping that the persistence would fade if she finished the draught. It tasted of herbs, coated in honey to alleviate the bitterness. When she finished the draught, drowsiness began to lull her into sleeping once more just as she heard the soothing voice again, this time audible.
"Please…. By the Valar… please let this heal her."
She had woken up to a grumbling stomach-her grumbling stomach. Her appetite had returned, and although she still felt light headed and rather feeble, there was no great pain in her body. She was tucked in a small cot, draped with a blanket and a familiar tattered grey cloak.
And the wizard was by her bed with a bowl of steaming porridge, patiently waiting. Was it her imagination, or did the wrinkles on his face become more prominent? His eyes were bloodshot, and he wore a rather haggard smile. But before she could inquire him on his state, he lifted a spoonful of porridge to her.
"Answer your stomach before you ask anything else, Elysia. While it's hot."
The dragon was confused, but the wizard's gaze was stern, leaving no room for refute. Besides, she would never refute food.
She opened her mouth and accepted the spoonful of hot, mildly seasoned porridge. Elysia did not know whether the wizard knew the significance of his gesture. Feeding was something sires mainly did, but Gandalf would not relinquish the bowl and spoon. He stated he did not trust her to wolf it down like a starved pup. She would have retorted if he had not shoved another spoonful into her mouth.
Her nails dug into her palms. Elysia closed her eyes, throat feeling tight.
It was then he made his presence known. With a small rustle, he sat beside her after a short glance her way. Elysia did not greet or flicker her eyes to him, but she never needed to. They sat together in silence for a while.
Legolas was content to merely sit near her presence, but Elysia spoke. Her voice was devoid of feeling.
"Deep in my heart, I always wondered who the being that was never worth mentioning was…." She plucked a blade of grass and began to twist it between her fingers. "I deemed the wizard as the closest thing to a father I would ever have, only to discover… after he is gone… after all the centuries of being by his side and accompanying him on many great adventures…. That I was with my sire all along…"
Legolas stared at a particular leaf falling slowly towards the floor of Lothlórien bellow.
"… Do you bear resentment?" He inquired softly.
Elysia's eyes narrowed and she bit her lip before responding. "… I… I am not sure. To say I do not is ideal, but it would be a lie."
"Yes… Despite your many strengths, lying has never been one of them." Legolas mused softly.
She said nothing to retort him, and he did not know whether to be unsettled or discouraged, but still he remained near her.
"… One answer is a door to another question, and I still have so many…" She sighed. "But he cannot answer any of them now."
"What other questions?"
"Perhaps not questions… merely one question…" her jaw tightened. "I just… I wished to know if he loved her as she loved him… He said he was enraptured by her, but did he ever think of her as more than some lost love?" Elysia turned to the sky, her glassy eyes mirrored the light of the lanterns. "Did he look to the stars and wonder about her in longing? If he had never discovered me, would he have returned for her?... I used to harbor so much anger…"
The cloth of her dress was squeezed in white knuckled fists. "Seeing my beloved, proud mother gaze at the distant horizon, seeing her gaze upon me, seeing nostalgia flicker in her eyes when she met mine…. I couldn't help but wonder… Did he ever love her?"
"Does it matter?" He asked.
Elysia snapped her head to him, too startled to retort. Those blue eyes were gentle in the way they searched her.
"What defines someone to you? Is it their mistakes?.. Their history?... Or is it the choices they make? Or all of those things?" He inquired thoughtfully, never tearing his gaze away from her. "Alas that differs for each of us, but Elysia…" His voice softened, and he tilted his head. "When you recall all that has happened, all that he has done…" Those eyes drank in every part of her face, as though Legolas were etching her into his mind.
"If he had no love for your mother, and saw you… you who bear every trait of your mother aside from your eyes… Do you not think he would have loved you differently?"
Fingers, rough and calloused at the tip from years of nocking arrows to warbows, drew close and touched Elysia's cheek with a faint caress. The dragon did not shy away from his subtle touch. She did shift at all or speak against the elf and his words and touch.
His voice became hushed. "My adar loved my naneth dearly. And when she passed… He saw her in me… At first he could not bear my presence because of it, but eventually I was all that he ever tended to. So fiercely protective… Constantly shadowing me whenever he could, in every waking moment of my youth…" Legolas smiled halfheartedly at the recollections. Then there was a wave of melancholy sweeping over his countenance. He recounted the days when he left his youth, when his father began distancing himself away from him once more to obsess over his lost treasure.
It was an alien thing to see such old sorrow on one who was commonly so peaceful and cheery.
"If my father had not loved my mother the way he did, the way all elves do, he would not have treated me as he did. Even when it angered me… Sires do things that displease their children because they love them… Have you ever truly doubted your adar's love for you? I'm certain he has displeased you on many occasions, but think for a moment, Elysia…"
And Elysia did think. More specifically, she recollected once more, thinking back to both the first and last day she saw him. Such different events, yet in both, Gandalf had gazed at her with great emotion. She remembered other things: the time he hoisted her onto his shoulders as a father would do to a daughter, the time he stubbornly insisted she sing some old duet with him as they traveled down the road, the insurmountable times when he thwacked her with his staff out of discipline, only to look mildly remorseful when she glared balefully at him, clutching her head.
With these things in mind, she knew her answer.
"From the beginning, he has always been there… Always able to find me… Always guiding me despite all the trouble I put him through… But…" Her last words were broken.
His gaze softened when he saw the tears that began to brim her eyes. The crystalline drops threatened to spill from those silvered orbs. But, like her resilient heart, it resisted to escape those stern eyes. She turned away from him, hoping to hide her moment of weakness.
"… Tis alright to grieve Elysia… You need not hold back your tears." His voice was so gentle, Elysia found it hard to believe this was the same elf that shot her and fought with such ferocity when defending his father's kingdom once upon a time.
The dragon turned to him, frowning almost stubbornly.
"Dragons do not cry… It is not in our nature to weep so easily." She responded tonelessly, throat tight as she mustered her will to keep it from trembling.
Legolas merely lifted a graceful hand and gently, once more, with a single, long finger, he caressed her cheek with its calloused tip, catching a tear just as it spilled. The droplet sparkled on his finger like a starlit jewel. He presented it to her with a tender gaze.
He said nothing. There was nothing that needed saying.
Elysia stared at the tear as though she could not fathom why it betrayed her eyes so quickly. Then she felt another spill from her other side, tracing a shining line across her cheek.
Then another… and another….
Her lips parted as she captured the next tear with less grace than the elf. Staring at her moist fingers, she frowned.
"I…." she was crying… She could not remember the last time she had shed tears. It had become so foreign to her to grieve this way. When sorrow covered her, she flew. Flying always became a perfect substitute for her emotions.
Yet, she had the feeling it would not work as it once did. Not for this…
Most importantly, she was shedding tears in front of someone; in front of Legolas of all people.
The dragon appeared almost frustrated. She hastily wiped away her tears with the silken sleeve of her dress.
"They are not stopping." She almost growled as she sniffed, feeling all the more infuriated by her sniffling nose.
"Perhaps they are meant not to…" Legolas stated as he held the tear still upon his finger.
It was futile. Even if she rubbed her eyes raw and red, the tears would not seem to stop. Her will was peeling away. This would not do. In one last act of defiance against her own sorrow's expression, she leapt to her feet.
She needed to fly, and if flying did not alleviate the twisting grief, then at least her dignity could be spared. Legolas should not need to see her like this. No one should see her. She turned away from the elf-who also began to rise to his own feet.
"I… I…" She bit her lip, stifling the tremble in her voice before continuing. "Forgive me, Prince Legolas… I… I require a moment to myself."
"Elysia…" She hated the disapproval under the sorrow of his tone. She hated how her resolve seemed to break under his presence, under his mere voice.
But before she could take a step forward- a step away, an arm wrapped itself around her shoulders and pulled her back against a firm chest. A hand then came, and shielded her eyes.
Elysia moved to break away from his hold, but she felt the soft touch of his lips against the tip of her ear. His whisper made her freeze.
"Should you wander away, it is likely you will cross paths with another… So do not escape me and fall into the comfort of a stranger." He pressed his lips against her temple.
"Please do not show another soul your tears."
She should have denied his wish. Her rational mind told her to. She should, at least, have retorted with some acerbic wit, belittle the situation with her shrewd tongue… But she didn't; she couldn't. Whatever resolution she had made in her mind to push him away from her was abolished under her grief.
Elysia's face crumbled. She began to weep. Her shoulders wracked with stifled sobs as she did her best to make her hiccups quiet.
He loosened his arms. She felt them turn her. A hand pressed her head to his shoulder as he leaned forward. His arms snaked around her waist and her back, emboldened to hold her tightly against him.
This time the embrace was not fleeting. As she muffled her sobs into the embroidered garment of his tunic, Legolas only held her closer. He closed his eyes, and against his chivalrous nature, he pressed his cheek against her head. Her hair ticked him, and with every sob he felt his own heart chisel away.
He wanted to hold her closer; so close, her feet would depart the ground, keeping her solely in his arms. He wanted to press his lips against her temple, to murmur soothe nothings to ease her sorrow. But he resisted. Already, he was walking a line that endangered their friendship, something he hadn't thought to even consider risking. He only hoped the hard, quick rhythm of his heart comforted her while it raced at the sensation of her body molding to his own.
He had been honest with his words. The thought of her falling into the comfort of some other person made his blood boil. The thought of one of the fellowship being in his place hardly mollified him either. There was something about her grief that made him possessive. Those tears were as beautiful as they were heartbreaking. Though she and others may believe otherwise' she would only see herself as a haphazard mess of puffy eyes, a red nose, and a scrunched up face. However, to him there was great beauty in her sadness.
Grief should not be pretty. It should be raw. In that rawness, it is made beautiful. Elysia was beautiful, in her joy, in her anger, and in her sorrow… And like his father, Legolas secretly coveted beautiful things.
Perhaps that was why he held her so close; why he felt such subtle sense of content despite their shared sorrow; why-although they felt a crippling loss, he felt whole.