Disclaimer: This story was written for enjoyment only. I do not own any of Tolkien's characters.
Author's Note: Wow! It's finally here! I'd like to thank all of you, who have taken the time to read my story and especially to those of you, who have responded back to me with your kind words. Here it is! The final chapter including a flashback (one of the author's favorite devices!) I hope you enjoy what follows!
Relesen-Chapter 20 -part two
Legolas had covered much ground this night before reaching his final destination Traversing across many pathways under the covert shadows of nighttime, he somehow strangely did not feel alone for his mind was occupied by a swirling tide of thoughts. Now coming to a final halt, his eyes looked outward, and he found himself just outside the stables at Rivendell. In the back of his mind, he had held onto the idea of asking Lord Elrond for use of one of his mounts, but he had not found the opportunity to express this request to the elf lord, who had come upon him so suddenly hours earlier while he was packing. The conversation that ensued between them following Legolas' untimely disclosure had been anything but cordial, and his petition no longer seemed pertinent in its wake. The elf conceded that the trip, he was about to embark on, would be made much easier upon horseback especially now when he traveled so lightly, but he no longer felt inclined to infringe upon his host's graciousness any further. As his gaze moved further outward to take in the expanse of Elrond's realm that laid within his periphery, he was sad to acknowledge that this in fact might mark the last time that he would do so. He was unsure if he would ever set foot upon its grounds again, and the thought only added to the growing ache that filled his soul.
Trying to push such heavy thoughts aside, he turned and moved forward toward the doorway now in front of him. Pushing it open, he entered into its darkened interior. The structure was not unfamiliar to him, having been within its walls countless times before with Elladan and Elrohir as they readied their horses for the many jaunts they had taken together out into the woodlands surrounding Imaldris, but his mind was now engaged with a time much later on in his acquaintance with the elven realm. As his gaze shifted to take in the shadowy forms of the many horses now presently at rest beside him, he suddenly started as he perceived what he believed to be the presence of another. He chided himself when he quickly realized he had given life to an inanimate stack of feed sacks along the far wall. The absurdity of this revelation was not lost upon the elf, and he wondered if perhaps Lord Elrond had been right in his earlier estimation that he was yet fit to travel. Legolas' brow furrowed further with concern as he continued to acknowledge this point, but alas he could not turn back from his decision now. He would leave from Rivendell come morning. He would not refrain from this course, and he prayed that in time with his departure, he would at last discover some much sought after peace.
'But what of Aragorn?' His troubled thoughts betrayed him.
His throat drew suddenly taut with this admission. He had fought hard against the thoughts of his friend entering upon his mind, had struggled against letting them gain access. But now with his imminent departure from Rivendell within sight, he found his defenses crumbling rapidly before him.
"No, I will not allow myself!" He muttered tightly. "I shall find peace!"
But peace was not for the asking, as Legolas' gaze strayed back again toward the free standing sacks before him. Inanimate objects no longer stood there, but seemed suddenly replaced by the vision of the one from whom he now sought to escape. For there now before him stood Aragorn, no longer injured and so close to death, but in the likeness of the youth, who had met up with him so many years prior in these very stables as the two readied to start out upon their journey into the foothills of the Misty Mountains.
"Do I go mad?" The Silvan elf uttered shakily as he drew forth his hand to rub his weary eyes and wipe away the disturbing dream. As he raised his head again, he was distressed to find his efforts to blot away the image had been useless, for there before him remained the boy, intently gazing back at him, while his initial words of greeting echoed within Legolas' head. "I'm here."
"This is not possible! I do go mad!" Legolas exclaimed as he thought back to another such vision he had experienced only days prior upon the terrace, while he hurriedly brought his other hand upward to join the first in an effort to clear away this apparition once more. He had justified the earlier account to his weakened condition and his blood loss at the time, but now he was not so sure that it should have been so readily explained away. Hazarding yet another glance, he was relieved this time to find that only sacks of grain now stood before him once again, but this consolation proved fleeting. For though the haunting vision had dissipated, the memories it served to bring about began to act upon the distraught elf.
"I'm here." Had been Aragorn's gruff words of greeting as he had entered into the stable that early morn to join the elf. Having now just learned the true identity of the one Elrond had chosen to accompany him on this mission, Legolas was uncertain if he possessed the mastery to sufficiently school the deep misgivings that stirred within him upon this discovery. Turning to acknowledge Lord Elrond's youngest son, the Silvan elf was caught even more off guard, for there now before him stood a lanky figure resembling an adult Man in both height and stature. Though these most obvious physical changes had initially startled the elf, what had proven even more disconcerting was the intensity within the stare of the gray eyes that looked back toward him. They no longer held the youthful exuberance he so remembered from the boy's earlier childhood, but were now imbued with an astuteness well beyond the years possible of the one who bore them. Not only that, but they were possessed by a hint of grimness as well. Legolas had been hesitant to reconfirm this latter estimation as the void of silence that now stretched between them grew ever wider. The elf felt compelled to break his gaze first from the young man's as his line of vision dropped slightly lower to come in contact now with the remnants of a thin, but well healed scar just above the Human's upper lip marring a once smooth complexion. As if noting where the direction of the elf's thoughts now traveled, Aragorn unconsciously raised his hand toward his face as if to conceal the blemish, his curved index finger brushing lightly against its length. Though Legolas blue eyes raised to meet with Aragorn's gray yet again, the Human did not feel inclined to speak either words of confirmation or explanation as to its origin. Feeling even greater unease, Legolas dropped his gaze toward the dirt floor of the stable. Though he found his traveling companion more than adequately fitting the description of adult than child, his reservations at embarking upon this journey with one, whom he deemed as inexperienced, burned fervently within his breast.
The words echoed once again within present day archer's head as he remained transfixed, staring out into the nothingness now in front of him, but the elf remained oblivious to its effects as his mind traveled onto the next time he had heard Aragorn utter this very phrase . For it had proven even more crucial to the elf days later as he and Aragorn fled from the orcs, who had captured them. Both suffered ill treatment at the merciless goblin's hands, but they had singled out Legolas especially and treated the elf reprehensibly. During the days that followed their escape, he had struggled to keep up with Aragorn's covert maneuvers throughout the surrounding hinterland, but finally the injuries he had sustained had proven too much for the elf, overpowering him until at last he could go on no further. His body had been plagued by high fever brought on by the foul poisons the orcs had coated their instruments of punishment with. As he collapsed to the hard earth beneath him, his last waking memory was of Aragorn leaning over him trying to encourage him to get back up upon his feet and move onward, but Legolas could not. His body was failing him, and the passing of the next few days were all but a blur to the elf as his lingered between life and death. He could not account for in the days following how he had clung to the world of the living especially as the troubled dreamworld he had sunk ever deeper into grew darker and darker, or why he had even striven to until a voice broke through the turbulence surrounding him and beckoned to draw him back toward it.
"I'm here!" A voice called out to him again, though he struggled against its hold adding it to the many demons that plagued both his body and spirit. The speaker, however, would not relinquish his claim upon him. "I'm here, Legolas." The voice called out to him once more, bidding to him to follow its path, though he knew his battered and weakened body could not find the strength needed to comply with such a request. For days now his body had suffered from the many ill effects of the orcs' cruel punishment upon him until he was wracked by fevered delusions.
"No!" Legolas gasped in reaction. "Iluvatar, let me find peace!" The elf bit out, praying for an end to his anguish to come soon.
"I'm here, with you, beside you, my friend." The voice repeated more fervently now as he felt the warming touch of hands upon his now chilled flesh. The timber of the voice grew only stronger as he now felt the same healing touch move forward toward his brow, smoothing back sweat dampened hair, and driving back the demons, which sought to destroy him. Legolas let out an agonizing cry in response to the pain still enveloping him, but the voice would not abate, nor abandon its claim as he heard it call his name again and again. Its force fought back the shadow that haunted him, while its persuasiveness sought to draw him back toward the light of the living until finally the despair, he had been mired down in, suddenly lifted and his dazed blue eyes were able to flutter open once more.
If he had been stronger at this time, he might have more readily recognized that it had been Aragorn kneeling above him, and that the Man's youthful face was now gray with weariness, while his eyes were clouded with both fear and uncertainty. The comfort of long sought after peace, however, suffused the elf's soul as he looked up into the Man's face blinding him to these facts, and for long moments he was unsure as to whom or what he owed this gift. As Legolas' stunned expression remained upon Aragorn, the Man felt compelled to draw away, rising as if to gather some supply.
"What has happened?" Legolas gasped only to be stunned by the weakness, which his own voice betrayed.
Astonished, Aragorn turned back toward him, his previously pale complexion now sufficiently more recovered. "Have you no memory?" He asked warily.
"No, only that there was a struggle, but with whom and when . . . that is all still a blur to me . . . "
"It has been many days now since we escaped from the orc encampment, Legolas. You were grievously injured by their foul treatment. For a time I feared . . . " Aragorn broke off, not allowing himself to continue any further.
"But I am recovered . . . " The elf began more heartily as he drew himself upward upon his elbows, though his returning strength failed him, and he almost pitched sideways.
Aragorn was immediately beside him again to stop his fall as he eased Legolas back toward the ground before he commented. "You have just begun to recover, Legolas, and the remainder of this journey might prove to be a lengthy one for you."
"Perhaps," The elf acknowledged before he continued on. "It is strange. I remember being in great pain and then I heard a voice. It called out to me. It would not let go, but summoned me toward it, compelled me to follow its lead, and by doing so, I left the pain behind, until it was no more . . . well most of it." The elf conceded toward his still weakened flesh. Raising questioning blue eyes toward the Man beside him, Legolas was about to ask Aragorn if there had been another with them, perhaps a healer had been found, whose efforts had exacted this result, but as his gaze took in the depths of Aragorn's hesitant own, he knew his answer before ever posing the question. All that had come to pass immediately came rushing back to him now, and the elf suddenly felt the necessity to look away. He had come to admire the Human's courage, strength, and adeptness in the weeks preceding, but suddenly he felt shame in the knowledge that Aragorn had been so acutely aware of the very depths of anguish that had plagued his soul, anguish that had proven so heavy to Legolas that he had almost given himself up to it. As if sensing his unease, the Man backed away once more to give the elf distance and busied himself with other matters.
It had taken weeks, not until his recovery at Rivendell, before Legolas was able to come to terms with all that Aragorn had done for him out in the wild following their flight from the orcs. Still when he had, he did not feel the ease to approach the Man with this knowledge, instead drawing further into himself, until their eventual meeting upon the terrace.
"I am here!" Aragorn's voice rang out once again within Legolas' head as this remembrance drew to a close as well. "I am here!"
Shaken beyond relief, Legolas drew flattened hands toward the sides of his head, but the voice would not abate. "I am here, Legolas!"
A sob tore from Legolas' throat as he collapsed against the wall beside him moving his trembling hands to cover his tearing eyes. "Do you think that I do not know this, Estel? Each path that I've walked this night, it was as if you were there beside me . . . Each corner I turned, my heart held out hope that somehow you'd be there to greet me . . . You returned my hope to me all those years before . . . drove back the demons that haunted my soul . . . if only you could do the same for me now. But it is by my own hand this time that the shadows now consume me. The fault is mine alone. You do not know how many times this night I've had to check my footsteps from drawing me toward your chamber. All I want is peace! Freedom from the nightmares that torment me, but alas my friend, this time such a gift is not yours to give! How could it be? After what my actions have caused you? A darkness has settled once again over my soul . . . one I fear, which will be too exacting to find relief from! But forgive me, Estel! Forgive me for the pain that I've caused to you! It was never my intent! I pray that you will once again find wholeness! Do not think harshly of me, my friend, but find it within your heart to forgive. You cannot know how my heart despairs for what I must do!"
With this final plea, Legolas pushed himself forward. Tears now rolled unheeded down his face and the elf made no attempt to halt them, as he turned to move back through the door he had entered earlier. He had not noted the hint of light that now shined through gaps within the timbers of the out building, but as he turned toward the doorway, he discovered that it now lay bare, and the rising sun's rays spilled suddenly inward to momentarily blind him. Raising his hands to shield his eyes from its waking brilliance, his heart caught in his throat as his vision finally cleared and a figure broke through the glowing resplendence to move toward him.
Aragorn had almost given up hope. For nearly an hour now he had been in search of Legolas, pushing back both his doubt and despair that the elf had already left his father's realm. With his strength dangerously ebbing, he made one final attempt as he moved to out of doors hoping to find his friend still upon the grounds of Rivendell. He knew not what had driven him toward checking the stables first, but he was thankful that he did, for there before him now stood the elf. He had reached up to him only seconds prior, but the time had been sufficient enough for Aragorn to hear his friend's heart felt pleas. His father had been right. Legolas indeed suffered from a deep restlessness of spirit. It had frightened the Man as the sun's light moved in to illuminate the elf's stark features, the nakedness of grief that seemed to suffuse the elf's soul. Aragorn felt the necessity to check himself from rushing forward to reclaim his friend, for he was uncertain as to how the elf would react. He could not cause his friend any further pain, but he could also not leave his presence now without making statement.
Suddenly as if remembering what he held within his hand, Aragorn's eyes drew toward the weighted object recollecting its significance during an earlier time. He had not realized its importance when he had claimed it earlier within the elf's chamber, but had only seen it as a means with which to spur on his own resolve toward finding some completion. Now as his shaking hand gripped its base more tightly, he saw within it a means perhaps toward attaining some resolution for them both. Moving forward toward the still startled elf, Aragorn drew forth what he now held within his grasp and quietly transferred it into the awaiting hands of his friend. Legolas stood silent in shocked disbelief as his eyes widened with emotion to take in what it was that the Man now handed to him. For not until he felt its weight transferred did he believe that the one, who now stood before him, was anything more than another dreamt up illusion. "Estel?" He gasped aloud before incredulously staring down once more at the bow he had left behind in his room. As his grief-stricken eyes raised to meet with his friend's again, he was at last granted the peace of hearing his voice.
"Legolas." Aragorn greeted in heart felt acknowledgment. " I did not realize the torment that plagued you. I hold no claim upon you. Do what you must, my friend, but know this," The man continued in choked response. "I will hold you in my heart until time seems fit to reunite us again. Go in peace, mellon-nin! May the Valar watch over and protect you on your journeys!" As Aragorn finished, his hand came to rest over Legolas' own upon the bow. Aragorn allowed it to linger there only momentarily before he turned to go. He could not force his presence upon his friend, not now while the elf was still so vulnerable, but he could at least let the elf know before he left him that he held no blame toward him.
This, he hoped accomplished, and Aragorn turned to leave. Taking but a few steps, he was alarmed to note once again his faltering gait. He had pushed his still recovering strength beyond its endurance this day, and he was about to pay the price for it. While he was in search of Legolas and in possession of the bow, he had drawn some unseen resilience from its presence that had spurred him onward, long past his body's ability to do so, but now he was suffering the ill effects of his actions in its wake as he felt his unsteady legs begin to stumble beneath him. Drawing upon what little fortitude he had left in his possession, Aragorn fought hard to continue walking onward without failing. He could not allow Legolas to bear witness to any continued weakness on his part, not after he had given the elf his support and blessing toward moving on and finding the peace he now sought. To collapse now while still within the elf's line of vision, would only erase all that his words and actions had sought to infuse within the elf. 'No!' He would not allow any weakness on his part to negate the good he felt he might have done this day, and so Aragorn struggled forward even as the buzzing within his head grew louder, and an all consuming weariness took hold of his limbs.
"Just a few more steps!" Aragorn bit out quietly to encourage himself onward. "Just a few more steps, and I shall round the corner and be able to seek out the purchase of a stone ledge to keep myself afoot!" But as the Man turned the corner, he knew that the stability of the foundation he sought was outside of his reach as he felt his trembling limbs finally give way beneath him. His final thought was one of satisfaction that before consciousness left him, he had managed to remove himself from Legolas' line of vision. His one last hope before he collapsed toward the ground beneath him was that its contact would prove forgiving to his already injured torso. But its proximity was not to be realized as an arm drew suddenly around him to save him from his fall. He had not the strength to lift his head, nor the presence of mind to identify his rescuer as he felt the assuredness of their claim draw more firmly about him. His mind was now a whirl while his heart beat too rapidly within his breast, and his lungs reacted in kind as they gasped to take in more breath. His body shuddered with its betrayal, but the trembling subsided as a voice sounded within his ear.
"I am here, Estel, with you, beside you. You can let go now, my friend, for I will not let you fall . . . Breathe easy, Estel, relax . . . " Legolas continued to encourage until the shivering that had plagued the Human began to give way. The elf was alarmed to note that his friend's coloring was still quite pale, and that the heart that beat beneath his hand coursed much too rapidly spurring the elf to draw the Human even closer toward him as he brought him to rest within his arms upon the ground beneath them. With worried eyes, he watched as his friend attempted to recover. "Relax against me, Estel. Do not fight me . . . " Legolas whispered reassuringly. "For I have no plans to leave you . . . " He soothed as his friend began to quiet beneath his touch, and his own thoughts were able to return once again to what he had been struggling with only moments prior as he set off after Aragorn.
He could not willingly part from his friend, no matter what path the Dunadan's life was destined to take. Though he might always lie in wait of what the future might possibly hold in store for them, he could not cut himself off from the one, who had restored hope to him once again. This time, Aragorn had achieved this gift not only through the strength of his words and actions, but imperceptibly and indelibly throughout the past few weeks through the comfort of memories that had returned to Legolas to remind him of the unbreakable bond that lay between them.
As he stroked his friend's back, thankful at last that Aragorn's breathing seemed to be returning to normal, he acknowledged with deep regret that one day his friend would indeed be lost to him, but only physically. For no power, no matter however evil or dark it might prove to be, could ever destroy what the two shared. He was humbled now as he thought back to Elrond's earlier words. At the time when the elf lord had issued them, he had dismissed their importance, but now as his friend lay resting within his arms, he acknowledged their truths. His love for Aragorn would live on long past the grave. He would carry it with him always. Tears brightened his deep blue eyes at this acceptance.
As he continued to hold Aragorn to him, he felt the Human relax even further. Legolas acknowledged that he would not leave Rivendell this day, for he knew in his heart that he was destined to travel alongside Aragorn during his lifetime on Middle Earth. Undoubtedly at times the two would be parted from each other's company as separate paths called out to them, but Legolas was reassured now that nothing could ever really come between the friends. With this admission a weight had been lifted from his soul. Looking back toward Aragorn, he was relieved to find the Man's strength was once again returning to him.
"Legolas?" Aragorn beckoned to him through his confusion.
"We must get you inside . . . " Legolas returned in explanation.
"I can manage myself . . . " Aragorn began to respond argumentatively until his eyes refocused and he noted the drastic change that had taken place upon his friend's familiar features. No longer did the elf beside him appear lost, but that the peace he had striven long
toward attaining had finally come to him at last.
"The path before you is a little rocky, my friend." The elf reasoned.
Drawing his hand forth, to clasp one of Legolas' own, Aragorn retorted in both contentment and relief. "But it will prove to be nothing for the two of us, my friend, if we put our minds to it!"
"Let us go then." Legolas affirmed finally, while smiling hesitantly back toward the Human beside him before replying further. "For I am sure your father and your brothers will be out of their minds with worry if they were to discover you gone from your room."
"They need never to be made aware of such knowledge . . . " Aragorn began sheepishly, hoping for Legolas' agreed cooperation in the matter.
"No," The elf acknowledged lightly, while helping Aragorn back up onto his feet, though he continued to keep his arm drawn about his waist for support as the two headed off. "Not unless you've caused additional harm to yourself through your foolish actions." The elf retorted in mock sternness.
"Must you always find fault in me?" The Man countered in jest, but as the elf turned now serious blue eyes upon him once again, Aragorn knew this had never been the case as a smile drew upon his face.
As the two walked onward toward the Man's home, they were unaware that another set of eyes was upon them staring down into the courtyard. With unspeakable satisfaction the insightful gray eyes drew away from the scene now unfolding in front of him. The two had finally come together, he acknowledged. Release had at long last come to the fair-haired archer and with it the promise of peace for all involved. A smile brightened Elrond's poised features as he headed out of his study to prepare for his son's and Legolas' return, for indeed this new day now dawning before them offered the promise of renewed hope.
Just a few other notes:
I envisioned Aragorn's attempt to heal Legolas in the flashback as his first attempt at healing, hence the fear and uncertainty that marked his eyes as he drew the elf back toward the living.
The issue I had the most trouble with, when writing this chapter was Legolas' final acceptance of Aragorn's eventual death. I did not know how I could explain the sudden change in the elf's fears and then eventually decided that I need not try. That even though the elf might still be bothered by the idea of Aragorn's mortality, his need to be with the Human would overrule this fear within him.
Finally, I included a brief mention during the first part of my flashback that may have something to do with a future story I might someday write. I hope my use of it in this story did not prove too confusing.
Once again, thank you! You have made this story so enjoyable to write with your continued kind words! They have been greatly appreciated:) Sue a.k.a. Quickbeam