Authors Note: Thanks to Nimruzir and Myselfonly for their help in beta-ing this.
Credit goes to Myselfonly for the image of Legolas and the dead bird which has merged from something in two of her stories, Thranduil and a bird in "Silence in the Song" and Legolas with a dead squirrel in "Of Healing"
If you want to read a beautiful, wild, silvan Legolas read her stories. I strongly recommend them! You won't be disappointed.
I am watching Legolas. He is at his most perplexing today, wild and untamed as a woodelf always should be. No matter how many years I have known him I think a part of him will always remain a mystery to me.
We are hunting, riding in the wood, a brief moment of time together snatched from the obligations that are now my life. It is good to be alone, the two of us. It reminds me of days past, days long gone and lost to us now. Once we ran through woods such as these with the enemy on our heels, the fate of the world upon our shoulders. Today we wander as we wish, no pressures, no burdens, the dappled sunlight warms our backs. It could not be more different and yet it is the same, just he and I amongst the trees, together.
But Legolas has found something to distract him, as often happens, and he is crouched upon the ground, staring intently at it in his hands.
"What do you have there?" I ask, for it has taken all his focus and attention, and I am curious.
"A bird," he uncurls his hands for me to see and says no more, he does not lift his eyes, he does not turn to acknowledge me, I cannot see his face, but his soft voice is laden with sadness. He is sorrowful, my elven friend.
There, in the gentle cradle of his fingers, lies a wren, tiny and completely still.
"Legolas, it is dead," I say and wonder as I so often do about the workings of his mind. What has made him pay attention to this one dead bird today?
"I know." Still he does not let it go.
"Why does it interest you so?" He is not going to tell me of his own accord obviously, instead he will make me pry the information from him. I would say I know Legolas well, better than any outside his wood, but he keeps many secrets and there is much of him that remains hidden from me. He lets me see it only when he wishes and normally I will let him hide it. Today something tells me I should not. This is not as simple as it seems. I will dig deeper, peel away one of his layers, I will not just close my eyes and put this down to his elven strangeness.
He looks up at me with wide, serious eyes, and at that moment he reminds me of a child. Legolas, who has lived so many more years than I, can have a naivety about him when the world of mortals confuses him, as it so often does.
"It is so still," He holds it out for me to touch. "Feel it Aragorn...and cold, so strange to think a short while ago it was living, breathing, flying."
I frown at him, for he wanders now into a topic he usually avoids and it concerns me, the meandering of his mind.
"You have seen dead animals aplenty Legolas, why does this one fascinate you?"
"I wondered what it was like," he says and I raise my eyebrows. What does he mean?
"To die..." he elaborates when he sees my lack of understanding. "Do you not wonder? Does it frighten you, going from being alive...to this?"
What I wonder is what has turned his thoughts to such a morbid subject.
"I do not think on it Legolas," I say gently, "but it does not frighten me."
"It would frighten me I think," he says, holding the tiny creature softly up against his chest.
"To die in battle is one thing...but just...not to be, while you were sleeping...I do not understand it. This bird has no injury."
So that is what this is about.
Death by force he understands, and he has lived with it all his life. Death because it is your time? It is a strange and alien concept for him. Why would something simply cease to be? His Elven mind cannot fathom it.
"You are not meant to understand it," I say, "do not let it frighten you. In truth, the thought of the long years ahead of you disturb me in a way death never will. I would feel crushed by the weight of them I think... if I were you."
This is the most we have ever said on this subject, and I am mystified as to why we are speaking of it now, but I will take the opportunity he has given me to say things I otherwise keep to myself.
"Your life stretches so far ahead of you, with no end. How do you manage that Legolas?"
He looks up at me with a smile, "Oh I will fill it all up I am sure. I will stroll the wilds of Aman, I will spend my time telling my children of the great King of Men I once knew, and our adventures."
As he thinks on this his face lights up. I had no idea he has dreams such as these.
I am filled with a rush of grief. I will never see his children, will never see him as a father; I am but a moment in his long life. There is so much of him I will never know and it is a pain I carry with me always. Rapidly I turn from him so my face will not give me away.
I am not fast enough.
"Have I said something wrong?" He is on his feet, a hand on my shoulder.
"No," I reply. I am determined he will not see me grieve for him; it is he who will carry the weight of grief in the end, when we leave him.
"I was trying to imagine you with children, and it is a very strange idea indeed!" I force out a smile to convince him all is well, but it does not work and he gazes at me, a question in his eyes such that I admit defeat. He will not let this go now.
"I will never know your children." I say softly.
"Ah." He sits on the ground and motions for me to join him. It is a long way down for my mortal bones, for I am not as agile as he and never have been. He glides to the ground like a swallow alighting weightlessly from its flight. I sink clumsily like a stone in comparison.
"Well," he says very seriously, "I could start now if you like."
"What?" I turn my head to him in alarm, surely he is joking. "With whom, exactly?"
As much as he has no shortage of admirers, Legolas -as far as I am aware -has not allowed his heart to be captured. Is there something he has not told me, and if so, where are they hiding?
"Yes, that is a problem."
He ducks his head and I see it then, the glimpse of a smile.
"A small problem I could easily overcome for you of course, Aragorn."
I hit his shoulder in mock anger. "Do not do that! I almost believed you!"
His laughter fills the air, a bright and happy sound, simply hearing it lifts my spirits. It is a gift Legolas has, and such a gift.
"My father would have a fit." He smiles, "He always says I will make a complete mess of any children I may stumble across."
"I do not often question the Elvenking," I reply, "but I think he is wrong in this. You will make a fine father. I have seen you with Eldarion." And I mean it; for all his flighty ways he is patience beyond belief with my little son.
"That is because I am taking notes." He is completely straight faced, and I do not think he is joking this time.
"You are what?"
"I watch you, I am learning how you do it."
"Do not use me as an example of fatherhood!" I am horrified, "Besides, your children will be elven, it is completely different Legolas. You should look to your father, not me!"
"My father will be there to dispense his wisdom himself," he says; all of a sudden he is somber and grave.
"Eldarion never met your father, yet you are the window through which he can see him. You pass him on -what little you remember of him- how he cared for you, how he loved you. Is that not how it works?" His brows meet in a frown. Once again he is struggling to understand us. Mortals, with generations who disappear, who are not there always and forever. It is as if we are a puzzle he must solve.
"Yes, that is how it works."
"And so I watch you, and I will pass you on. My children will know you because I will show you to them. They will see you through my window. It will be as if you are there teaching them what they must know…just as I am for Eldarion."
I feel tears prick at the back of my eyes. That he has thought this through, taken the time to watch, that he wants this, it overwhelms me.
"My children will know you Aragorn. They will see you, even if you do not see them."
His mind flits away then, back to his bird. He picks it up gently and turns to me.
"I should bury her, do you agree?"
How he knows it is a she I cannot guess, but I do not doubt him.
"If you want to, Legolas."
And so he busies himself and I watch him. I cannot help but smile at the sight of an Elven warrior carefully taking the time to bury such a tiny, insignificant bird. But if Legolas has got it into his head to do this, there is no point trying to change his mind.
I try not to think of the loss that lies ahead of him, the loss that I will cause, piled on top of the sea longing I also brought upon him. The guilt is immense. It crushes my heart like a vice, it is a heavy weight upon my shoulders. A weight always waiting to surface when I allow my thoughts to drift towards it. I have entered his immortal life and I have harmed him.
Startled he looks up from his work.
"Promise me you will be happy. I am but a moment, an insignificance in your life, do not let me ruin it."
He stands then, wipes his hands on his trousers and says nothing for what seems like an age, but at last he speaks.
"I cannot promise that Aragorn, and I do not wish to make promises to you I cannot keep, but I will say this...for you, I will try to be happy with all my heart."
It will have to be enough.
He gathers his weapons and turns to go. Time marches on and as much as we want it to it will not wait for us. It will not slow to a snail's pace or let us have longer together than we have already been allotted. Our parting is inevitable, but if I know he will eventually be happy once more, I can bear it.
"As for an insignificance, I would not say that. Never that." He calls to me over his shoulder.
"A headache perhaps...the bane of my life..."
And I know he has had enough, he has reached his limit speaking of this subject that we so rarely venture into. He retreats now into humour and teasing, for the weight of it has become too much for him. I do not mind, I am simply grateful he has given me as much as he has today.
But he has one more surprise in store for me as he swings around to look at me.
"I want you to know, Aragorn," his face is all seriousness, he is determined. "I regret none of my choices, or my friends. I would choose the same again if I had my time over. Do not feel guilt on my behalf."
He always swears to me that he does not have the gift to see into other's minds. He is no Galadriel, but at times like this I wonder.
And as I stand there, musing on how he could possibly know what lay at the heart of me, he calls out for he has almost disappeared from view.
"Come on Aragorn, I do not want to lose you. Arwen would not be happy with me! What are you thinking on now?" he grins over his shoulder.
"That I am lucky to know you," I say and the smile that lights up his face in surprise is one of his brightest. How did he not know that already?
And so he goes, and I follow, and the air is filled with the happiness on his voice as he sings to rival the birds. I imagine him as he is now, striding through the forests of Aman, his children by his side listening eagerly as he spins them tall tales of Men and dwarves in a far away land. For once I feel no grief at the loss of him, nor guilt at the burdens I have laid upon him.
Instead I smile.