Title: Two Candles
Email: Oceans63@swbell.net Feedback is always welcome.
Archive: No problem. Just please drop me a line first.
Summary: Time and the fate of all humans finally takes Aragorn from his closest and dearest friend. And Legolas is struggling with reconciling the loss and his desire to follow his sea-longing to the shores of Valinor. Help comes from a couple of members of the Fellowship.
Disclaimer: All things Middle-Earth belong to the professor. I just like to take the characters out for a spin every once in a while. I am no scholar of things Tolkien and apologize where I divert from canon for lack of knowledge. When I do, slap me up side the head and put me to rights. I never mind criticism that encourages me try to do better
Authors Notes: This story had its birth in a discussion on the MC message board of what awaited the elves that were slain during the siege of Helm's Deep. As I thought of the Halls of Mandos (aka Halls of Waiting) where the spirits of slain elves await their reunion with their kind at World's End, I wondered about what was in store in the afterlife or if there even was one for the other races of Middle-Earth.
And I take advantage too of a line from RoTK that always troubled me in it's finality that spoke of Arwen and Elrond.
"…and bitter was their parting that should endure beyond the ends of the world."
I pounced on Tolkien's use of "should" to imply what the elves believed might not be the whole truth and with the hope that there might be a little room for a story like this one…
Please tell me what you think. – Chianna.Two Candles
Time and sadness had crept upon him like fog in a mountain-skirted valley. Slowly, inexorably, the basin filled, until all that could be seen was the choking mist. No familiar landmark remained in view to aid a weary heart out of the despair of the present and longing for the past.
As he trod along familiar paths, the scent of a long forgotten campfire, a hobbit-like twinkle in a young ones eye, the laughter of friends sharing a jest - conjured voices of the past that would summon the fog once again.
Gimli, constant, steadfast Gimli, knew the signs all too well. At first, he would cajole, argue or drag the elf out of a funk that would set upon him from time to time. Sky-blue eyes would cloud over, seeing images that defied distance and time itself. More and more often now the elf would go off for a few days without a word, into the woods that spoke to him and gave him solace. Then he would return, without explanation, for none was needed between these two.
Gimli understood the sadness, for he felt the same yearning for long departed companions. Being so closely tied to the depths of the earth and it's cold stone caverns - as a dwarf is wont to be, perhaps, he mused, he was more willing to accept that there were mountains that could be worn away and treasures that would be found and lost by the shifting of earth that even brilliant dwarfish engineering could not always prevent. Loss for him was no less great – a constant part of his world, though railed against, could ultimately be accepted.
Though his friend was a child of light and living things, he feared the passing of the elves beyond the western seas and the loss of so many he held dear would wear down his friend's ability to get on with the living of his immortal life.
It had only been a few years since they had stopped in a that village near Rohan. A sweet, sad melody drifted toward them of a love found, sacrifices made and the heartache of inevitable loss. Gimli felt a lump in his throat as he recalled the bard's hymn of
of a mortal King's love for his immortal Queen and their happiness that burned intense and bright despite the limitations time inevitably imposed. And when a noble but human heart beat its last, an elven heart that beat in harmony, broke too, though the body that carried it still walked among men. Finally, the minstrel crooned of a wife who choose a path to her own resting place that would allow her reunite in death with he who had been her light in life.
Gimli remembered how his friend's eyes darkened as the final haunting notes passed and dissipated in the darkness like the love they once recalled. He feared that Legolas might one day follow a path from which he too would not return. Though Gimli knew that though he was held in high regard by the elven prince, there was a place in the heart of this immortal being that was held only for Aragorn.
Yet the handsome face would turn once again to the dwarf and the remoteness would disappear. He could tell that his elven friend felt a longing that could not be realized if he continued to devote himself to the elves of Ithilien and people of Gondor to whom his friend also devoted his life.
Trips home to visit dwarven kin decreased over time. Gimli made the elf his adopted kin as the elf and his kindred had received and cherished him. When Legolas felt the urge to shed some of the responsibilities of his people for a time, he would travel to remote places, with rarely more than the dwarf to accompany him. Of late their trips more and more often took them west. It was as if a siren song that only the fair elf could hear would lure him further westward each time. Yet no matter how far they wandered, their steps would ultimately turn toward the home they made near Gondor's capital city.
It was on one such trip that the elf dreamed of things that would forever change the pair's destiny.
Weary after a day's travel, the pair found refuge in the Firien Wood near a stream called Mering. It had been a good day. Legolas, though never chatty, bantered back and forth with the dwarf recalling past combats and alleged discrepancies in each other's battle tallies.
"Really master elf. You expect me to believe that having lived for almost three millennia, you still have room in that dainty head (dwarf heads, for all their short stature do seem to be fairly large) to store all these facts, dates and figures – accurately?"
Legolas looked down at his friend with a guileless smile. "If that is so, than how could a head as large as yours recall so little," his eyes widened with an angel's innocence as he added, "… and so inaccurately at that?"
Gimli grumbled a dwarven curse, and theatrically fingered his axe as if to consider how well it would fit in the elf's "dainty" head. Upon seeing this, Legolas threw back his head and released a truly heart-felt laugh. Gimli tried to hide his own smile with a stern shake of his head, but the sharp-eyed elf caught the slight upturn of the dwarf's beard-camouflaged mouth. He clapped a hand on Gimli's shoulder in a friendly gesture that belied his jesting words.
The rest of the evening passed much like this – full a jests and plans for where they would travel next. As the fire died down and darkness closed in on their camp it seemed that the decreasing light allowed the memories to circle them and invade once again.
Legolas had grown quieter, chewing thoughtfully on a piece of straw. Staring into the fire, as if searching for the answer to the riddle of eternity, he said, "'Tis times like this that I miss them most." A sad smile flitted across his face, "We'd never need to cook for ourselves if the Halflings were about. Sam would just pull out his little pot and start mixing what he found about or stored in his pockets."
Gimli could not resist the picture that the elf conjured with his words. "Aye and Pip and Merry would be arguing about what they would have for their next meal before the first bite of the food passed their lips."
"And Aragorn would sit back as we would argue and the Hobbits putter about the camp, as if he could finally relax if we all felt safe enough to drop our guard and enjoy the evening."
"You could make him laugh and you shared his load. Few could ask or hope to seek for more."
Legolas relaxed back onto the ground and tucked an arm under his head, his gaze firmly fixed on the stars above them. "I would ask for him to be here beside us once again, Gimli. I would have them all here again, if but for one more night to be together about the fire."
Gimli poked at the coals that were all that was left of their cheery fire, at a loss for words to give his elven friend ease. Perhaps the elf would find the peace in sleep that more and more often eluded him during waking hours. Gruffly, Gimli could only reply, "You look to be only a step from sleep, elf. Get on with the business of it. I would not have you slow us down with your weary steps. I've heard tell of quite a dwarven beauty near the town of Edoras. Word is that her beard's as soft as a chick's down."
A soft, and less than elegant, elven snort of laughter drifted over. "If I had known your inspiration, Gimli, I would not have dragged my feet so today. Tomorrow, I will set a livelier pace. Good night, my friend."
If today was dragging his feet, Gimli wondered it he would have any chance at all of keeping up with his friend's livelier pace. "Good night, yourself. May Valar protect me from all well-meaning elves," he muttered crankily but with some relief that the elf was in good enough cheer to tease him one last time this night.
The passing of an elf from wakefulness to sleep is a subtle thing, for their open eyes change not from one state to the next. Perhaps a keen observer would note a deepening and slowing of their breathing or relaxing of what few lines would dare to mar a troubled elf's face. Not much is known about what an elf dreams, but this night, the Elven prince was visited by one whom he had not seen in quite a while.
Gandalf the White sat on a stone on the edge of a cliff that overlooked an inlet that poured out into the bay of Eldamar with a landmass in the distance that he knew at once by some unspoken communication as Erresea. Behind Gandalf rose the Pelori, a barrier of mountains created by the Valar to prevent Melkor's incursion into their lands so long ago. The light poured through the gap from the land of the Valar beyond the mountains like a golden shower. Gandalf beckoned him with a hand held out to the elf. Clothed in white robes shot through with silver thread that caught and reflected the light, a warmth and welcome surrounded Legolas as he sat near the feet of his beloved friend Mithrandir.
"Legolas, son of Thranduil, why do you summon me to you?"
"I made no such call for you Wise One." The elf looked over at the wizard a gentle smile and arched eyebrow. "It would seem to me that you have invaded my dreams." A shadow passed over the fair face. "A dream would be the only way that I could fill my eyes right now with the beauty of Valinor."
"Nay, Legolas, you may not have called with your voice or your mind, but your heart sings with desire to follow the setting sun."
Legolas's eyes dropped to the ground as if to inspect each granule of dirt at his feet. His elbows rested on his knees and his hands dangled aimlessly. For a time, he did not respond to Mithrandir. The wizard demonstrated his ageless wisdom in that he bided his time to wait for the elf to answer his gentle challenge. His eyes never left the top of the golden head as his friend wrestled with the reality of one of his greatest desires at war with his sense of duty.
With a speed that would have been startling but for its grace, the elf's head turned and blue eyes, deep and fathomless as a storm-sieged sea, met with those most wise and patient and gray.
"I know what and who awaits me here. I would be a lying fool to say that the call has not touched me. But, there are responsibilities, my friend, and I am needed elsewhere."
"Legolas, you still strive to guard the back of a comrade that has already fallen." The words were harsh, but it was belied by the gentle murmuring tone of the wizard. "You have dedicated yourself to the elves of Ithilien and kept a watchful eye on Aragorn's kin.
In your heart, you believe that you continue to fulfill an unspoken promise to keep safe what Aragorn dedicated his life to - but they are not children. These people have had great and lesser leaders rise and pass. They will endure."
Legolas was not blind to this argument, for he had contemplated it a time or two himself. Wryly, he added, "So you are saying that I am no longer needed?"
Sitting a little straighter, his voice firming into a tone that the elf knew brooked no argument, Gandalf rumbled, "Legolas Greenleaf, do you mock me?" The effect would have been more imposing it the wizard's face had not collapsed into a smile once again.
The elf truly laughed that time. "And I see you miss being our stern guardian, too. No one in Valinor to set on a proper course as you needed to with us a time or two?" In much more serious tone, he concluded, "Aragorn was my brother at arms and became the brother of my heart. At least in his homeland I feel closer to him. If I leave there, I must admit that I will never see him again and carry only memories. There, I can be amongst all the tangible reminders that he once walked that land with me. And I see him in his children's eyes. That is almost enough."
"What you grasp for, elf, is little more than memories. What you see in the eyes of his children is little more than a shadow of Aragorn, for they are the people that they will become given the times and challenges which they will endure. They cannot be for you what already has been. Be true to yourself and true to me. Tell me what really holds you back from returning to the place that is your birthright."
Finally, facing the truth, tears of anger welled up in the eyes of the noble prince and he stood. His frustration evident in every taught step he took as he paced in front of the wizard.
"Then here is the truth for you, Mithrandir. I would have naught of a place that is denied to those who I hold dear. I can think of few hearts more noble and deserving. It would be a torment to me to be there and forever know that the peace of Valinor was forever denied to my brother only because of a trick of birth." As the words were said, they seemed to exit with all the fight and anger that he had suppressed. Gandalf patted a place on the stone next to him and Legolas sat down wearily.
Gandalf sighed gently. "Have I ever told you the story of the two candles?"
Shakily, the elf smiled. "Some things never change. You could never travel in a straight line if a round-about way was available."
"Impertinent elf. Would you listen to an old friend and reserve your amusing comments until I have finished?"
"I am your devoted audience for however long this dream may last."
Gandalf nodded and without further comment began his tale.
A candle maker passed through a small village hawking his wears. On the outskirts of town, he spotted the small house of a young couple. Two young boys played in the yard as their mother drew water from a nearby well. He cleared his throat so as to not startle her.
"Greetings. I am a candle maker of not small renown and I have fine candles to show you this day."
Smiling, the young woman replied. "I do have need, but not too much coin. Do not bring out any of your fancy candles - our needs are simple here. Show me what you have for practical use and perhaps we can make a deal."
The candle maker smiled. "I have two fine candles here. Though similar in both size and appearance, they have different uses that your family might value." Holding the slightly paler of the two he handed it to the woman.
"This candle is made in such a way that it burns with steady flame and incredibly slowly. It is the first candle that you will light at dusk and the last that you will blow out at night. It provides a gentle golden light to eat an evening meal or sing a child to sleep. When other candles have dimmed and faded, this candle will endure."
The woman held the candle in her hand, turning it this way and that. It was simple yet pleasing to the eye. Even unlit, the wax was warm and its light, gleaming, creamy color seemed to glow with an internal light of its own.
She eyed the darker candle still in the peddler's hand. "This candle you've given me seems quite adequate to our needs, candle maker. I do not think that I would need another."
He held the darker candle up for the young mother to see. "Ah, you may be fooled by the more humble look of this candle I hold here, but it has its uses too."
He now handed her the other candle that looked the color of dark honey and she held each one in her hand. The lighter candle was indeed fair yet the other had a weight and sturdiness that she thought she could appreciate.
"This candle has a remarkable bright light. Take it in a young one's room and it will chase away all the shadows that bring on nightmares. If someone is injured, it is provides a brightness that aids the healer and healing. It is the candle that you will place in a window to beckon a loved one home and a light that will celebrate a joyful reunion after a too long parting."
"But it has but one drawback - its brightness has a cost. It burns down much faster. When the flame finally extinguishes for the last time, the room may seem darker for a time. But slowly your eyes will adjust and this one," he gestured to the ivory candle, "it will burn long after and remind you from time to time of the good times illuminated by the flame that passed."
"I would take both if the price of one is not to much more dear than the other."
At this point, Legolas interrupted the story. "Your allegory is not lost on me, Mithrandir. But I fail to see your point."
Shaking his head, Gandalf said with only slight frustration. "If you would just wait for the end…" He looked at the elf. "What price do you think the candle maker gave for each of the candles? Which one would he value more?"
The elf shook his head and turned both his palms up in a gesture of surrender. The Wizard continued.
The candle maker did not hesitate in his reply as to what each candle would cost. "Why good lady, though each has its different uses, all of my skill and attention was given in the making of both. I value them equally. But for their minor differences - they both give off a light that holds back the darkness." Gesturing to the two children that played on the ground nearby. "Do you prize one over the other? Even if one followed in your husband's footsteps and the other left to find his own place in the world, could you love one or the other any less?" With that the peddler gave her the same price of both candles. The woman gladly parted with her coins, because she saw the pride he had in his handiwork matched that for those she called her own.
Gandalf finally paused and asked. "See you now the point that I make?"
Legolas looked perplexed. "I would never argue that Aragorn and I each have value, for I always knew that we each had skills, though not the same, that worked in tandem to help us meet each challenge."
"Legolas, you miss the point. It is the candle maker that holds both his creations in equal esteem. Could Elrond love Elladan more than Elrohir simply because he came first? Do you truly believe that Iluvatar, who created all things, does not cherish all those who strive to keep sacred his gift to us all."
"But the Valar keep safe Valinor for themselves and elven-kind. Even our honored dead await us in Halls of Mandos."
"Legolas, the Valar are as gods to you and your people, but they themselves were made by the creator. You're people were their gift to this world and primary in their regard. Iluvatar has the care of all that has come and all that will. Think you that there is no reward but death for the secondborn that keep faith with the creator? When the end of days comes, all beings that shared their light in this world will be brought together by the creator. And you will see your fallen brethren from the Halls of Waiting and you will see Aragorn, for he is waiting too. Not waiting for his reward - for he has already earned it. He is waiting for us to join him, when the creator finally calls us all home."
Despite believing that this was all a dream, something in Gandalf's words rang so true that Legolas could feel his heart swell with hope. It lit his face and Gandalf knew at once that his friend would finally go in search of his peace in Valinor with no regrets.
Gandalf took a deep breath, "Yes, Legolas, tell Gimli that there is room enough in Valinor for a Master Dwarf. Galadriel looks forward to setting eyes on him once again."
"When I tell him that, he will be ready to leave for Gray Havens the moment we break camp."
They both stood and Gandalf placed his hands on both the elf's shoulders. "I look forward to the arrival of another two members of the Fellowship. It will be enough until we are all reunited once again."
Legolas woke up just as the dawn was breaking through the trees with more hope and determination than he had felt in such a long time. He looked over to the dwarf who seemed to be stirring as well.
"Wake up, Gimli! Our best adventures are not all behind us. We need to return home at once to prepare for a long trip and say our farewells."
Gimli grumbled a bit about insane elves, presumptuous princes and travel in general. Right up until he was greeted with the smiling face of an elf thrusting a steaming cup of morning tea into his hand.
"Oh and did I mention that Galadriel sends her regards and looks forward to seeing you once again?"