Upon the finding of the original Elendilmir at Orthanc, it is speculated that at some point Saruman found Isildur's corpse and, acting as the consummate grave robber, took the jeweled circlet without giving the bones a proper burial. This was, all agree, "a shameful deed, but not his worst" ("The Disaster of the Gladden Fields," Unfinished Tales, page 277.)
What deed, then, could be worse?
* * *
March 5, T.A. 3019
The early spring sun climbed high in sky over the flooded wasteland of Isengard. Saruman had retreated into some remote chamber of Orthanc and Gríma was probably still with him, even after the wizard's shrieks of rage after Gríma threw some unknown but heavy object down at Gandalf and his party.
Two hours later, on returning from the gatehouse, Gandalf merely stepped over the pieces of Saruman's broken staff and entered the tower, Aragorn and Legolas following closely behind. Théoden looked as though he wanted to follow, but in the end his apprehension overrode his curiosity and he remained outside with Éomer and his éored.
Gimli was nowhere to be found. He was probably enjoying a pipe of Longbottom leaf with the two hobbits by the gatehouse.
The floodwaters had reached the top steps of the towers and crept under the door, smearing the once-pristine floors with mud. Gandalf lifted the hem of his white cloak until he was on drier ground, then let the folds fall again. He did not seem concerned that there might yet be dangers lurking in Orthanc, even when his companions urged him to go more carefully.
"His servants are either dead or fled," he told them. "Only Wormtongue remains, I think, and he will not venture out to face us a second time."
"Then what are we looking for?" asked Aragorn.
Gandalf paused and, leaning on his white staff, closed his eyes as if searching for something. "There are secrets here, of which, I think, we have seen very few. Saruman was ever wont to keep his counsel."
So he would not tell them outright what he was searching for. That was not unlike him, but whatever silence he kept Aragorn and Legolas reasoned it must be for some purpose and did not question.
"Many things," he continued, musing over the circular black chamber with its empty throne and pedestal. "Many things are here which we may explore when there is greater leisure, but some things there are which cannot wait."
Aragorn would have preferred to be elsewhere. Orthanc felt oppressive, the jagged obsidian surfaces of the walls like cold daggers. Restlessness tugged at him, urging him south toward Gondor, but he willed himself to be patient. Gandalf did not tarry for idle reasons. Whatever lay hidden in the tower was of great importance to him, and therefore of interest to Aragorn as well.
Whatever it was, Gandalf did not find it among the books or parchments carelessly strewn about Saruman's study, though he assured his companions there was likely much valuable lore contained therein, to which they could return later.
Beyond the study, through a corridor, a flight of shallow steps wound into the tower, ending in a stout oak door. It was locked.
"Saruman keeps the key," said Gandalf, "but it is no matter." Setting his staff on the step before him, he closed his eyes and concentrated. And then, in a deep voice he drew forth the word of Command: "Edro! Edro!"
A metallic pop sounded from within, splintering the wood around the lock, as the mechanism gave way. "You may open it now."
Drawing his sword, Aragorn put out his hand and slowly pushed back the door. Behind him, he heard the nock of an arrow being drawn back upon the bowstring. The door swung inward with an oiled creak. He tensed, adrenaline flowing through him as he waited for the Orc or other foul creature that would surely come flying out at him.
Gandalf, chuckling, lightly took the last remaining step and entered the room.
"Wait," hissed Aragorn. He was not about to relax his vigil, especially not in this place, and pushed into the room after the wizard. Legolas followed, arrow at the ready as the Man nudged draperies and tapestries with the point of his sword.
"Put your weapons down," said Gandalf. He was standing in the center of the room, facing the curtained bed that held the room's only occupant. Aragorn could not see a face, for the head was tucked protectively under a pair of thin arms, but what he saw was enough to tell him the occupant was female. And—was it some trick of the bedding, or perhaps her knees drawn up under her voluminous shift?—she was heavy with child.
"Put down your weapons," Gandalf said again, though his words were directed more at the Elf, for Aragorn had already begun to lower his sword. What is a pregnant woman doing in Orthanc? Aragorn did not know that he wanted to hear the answer. "She is no threat to you."
* * *
The first thing Aragorn noticed about the woman was the way she flinched when Gandalf tried to approach her. She clearly thought he was Saruman. To a hasty observer, they did look somewhat alike. Even Aragorn had been fooled those first few moments in Fangorn, and he had been on his guard, studying the white wizard. This woman's eyes were glazed, almost lifeless. Had she not moved, twitching and trembling slightly, Aragorn would have wondered if she was not a corpse.
The second thing he noticed was she was not human.
He knew Saruman had been crossing Orcs with Men, and knew what this meant, an evil of which no one spoke. Orcs bred in the manner of the Children of Ilúvatar; even if the Uruk-Hai were hybrids, they must have mothers. There was no saying how many women of Dunland or the Rohirrim might have been seized and carried off to vile servitude in the caverns of Isengard.
But not this--no, not this.
He saw Gandalf, murmuring soothing words, slowly reach over and pull a tangle of dark hair away from the woman's face. Aragorn saw Legolas tense at the sound of Sindarin being spoken, heard a strangled gasp as the tip of an ear was revealed.
"Gandalf, are there--?" he began.
"There are no others, Aragorn, not now," he said, still intent on the woman. He spoke too softly to be heard, save for the name Mithrandir, which he patiently repeated over and again.
"Not…now?" hissed Legolas.
Aragorn silently willed him to be still. He had not known the Elf to be so agitated, this cross with anyone since Gimli refused the blindfold in Lothlórien. "How did you know she was here?"
Gandalf paused in his ministrations and looked up. "When Saruman seized me and set me upon the pinnacle of Orthanc, I sensed some other presence held captive here. More than one, I think, though now I do not sense those others."
From the corner of his eye, Aragorn saw Legolas coil into himself, his hands tight upon the bow. Elves were normally unreadable, even to one who had been raised among them, but sometimes, in joy or anger or sorrow, in some extreme their emotions could be read. His mind is telling him what has happened, yet he does not understand the why of the act. It is too great a trauma to be borne, even indirectly. "Do you wish to go outside, friend?" he murmured.
His jaw clenched, the Elf shook his head. Elladan and Elrohir once told Aragorn how their father looked when he saw the wounds the Orcs inflicted on their mother; he now thought Elrond must have looked very much like this: outraged and confused. "I had sensed a shadow in this place," Legolas said tightly. "I did not—I—" In that moment, words failed him and he was silent.
Aragorn had seen mortal women violated, had seen them ruined and weeping afterwards, dazed and bruised, but one of the Eldar would not have survived that long. A wisewoman in Dale told him once that the pain and humiliation often drove the mind from the body, that some women never remembered the rape in full, and that this was a small mercy. A mortal woman could forget; her mind could twist itself or even flee to protect her. An Elven woman had not even that much, for the memories of the Eldar did not diminish with trauma or time.
The horror alone should have driven her spirit from her body. She should long ago have given herself to Mandos.
And how far gone with child was she? Nine months, perhaps ten? Could she possibly have been here the full year of Elven gestation? Gandalf could get nothing from her, and she was too closely huddled around her own body for Aragorn to tell.
"She should be dead," hissed Legolas. "Her fëa—she should be—"
Gandalf, his hand absently stroking the woman's hair, looked at them both. "Lower your voice, for I believe she is yet capable of hearing you. Much of her fëa is already fled, but Saruman has chained enough of it to her body to keep her alive. That is all he cares about, that her body lives long enough to give birth. Once her child is born, I do not doubt she will die."
For the first time, the Elf seemed to notice the woman was pregnant. "What child?"
"Some foul creation of Saruman's, I deem."
"Foul creation, some--?" His lips moved, but no sound escaped them. Aragorn knew he understood the words, but the very thought of using an Elf in this way was an evil beyond his ability to contemplate. Only a mortal, in whom lust and anger burned in tandem, or one who had fallen under the Shadow, could ever conceive such an evil, or act upon it.
Grief and disgust warred on Legolas' face. "I do not—"
No, you do not understand. "Go outside," said Aragorn. "Go, I will join you in a moment."
He watched Legolas stumble toward the door; it was the first time he had ever seen the Elf so graceless. A mortal man so outraged would have been halfway up the stairs of Orthanc by now, to tear Saruman to pieces, but Aragorn had never seen an Elf taken by such fury. He knew they were capable of rage, had seen the vengeance with which Elladan and Elrohir hunted Orcs even after five hundred years, but always it was cold and calculating.
What would the sons of Elrond say, were they here now? he wondered.
Aragorn waited until Legolas was safely out of earshot before speaking. "Why has she not already faded? I saw you take his power."
"His staff is broken, yes," admitted Gandalf, "but he has some power yet, and evil works may linger on long after the author of those deeds is made impotent."
"Is there nothing you can do?"
Gandalf's brow furrowed, and his face grew long and thoughtful. "I do not know," he murmured.
* * *
"To imprison an Elf's very fëa," murmured Legolas, "that is beyond cruelty. It is beyond—I do not know."
He felt Aragorn lay a hand on his shoulder. "I do not think Saruman cares."
"No, indeed he does not." Gandalf's warm voice came to him from the landing, where he softly closed the door and joined them on the stairs. "And I cannot give you an answer where you seek one."
"You left her alone?" asked Aragorn.
"I have placed words of Warding upon the chamber; she is safe enough," the wizard replied. "But there is another matter that requires my attention before I return."
Always coming and going on some clandestine errand, Mithrandir would appear in the halls of Mirkwood bearing stories and his trademark fireworks, which delighted the old as much as the young, mortal and immortal alike, but it was not in his nature to tarry for long periods or say more than was needful. Thranduil was understandably frustrated, for even without a great Ring he sensed the Shadow had returned to Dol Guldur, yet he did not question Mithrandir's wisdom.
"Tell us what you may when you may," he said, "but do not leave us grasping in the darkness. Too many of my people already have I lost to the Shadow."
Do not leave us grasping in the darkness, Legolas silently repeated to himself. Could you not at least once tell us what you intend? But no longer was Gandalf the Grey Pilgrim, and in his rebirth he was fey and as impenetrable as ever. For a moment, Legolas wanted to be a child again, and Gandalf the shabby wanderer he had been, so he would have some excuse to lay his head upon the wizard's knee and seek his comfort.
"Can you—can you not open the door?" he finally asked.
Aragorn looked askance at him. "You would go back in there, friend?"
"A fading Elf should not be left alone, even—even if she does not know someone is with her." Why can I not keep my voice steady in this? "I have seen others fade, from spider-poison or the grief of separation. I do not know if they hear us when Mandos calls, but it is not meet to leave the dying."
"She is not yet dead," Gandalf said kindly. "It may be many weeks or even months ere the bonds that hold her fëa to her body are severed, and we cannot tarry."
"Is there not a quicker way?" asked Aragorn.
Gandalf lifted an eyebrow. "Would you take such a deed upon yourself?"
"I would not do it joyously, Gandalf." Aragorn's voice was as tight as the heartbeat in Legolas' breast. "But I would do it, if only to bring release—"
"Is there nothing else to be done?" Legolas turned desperate eyes to Gandalf. Did you bring us here to take the life of an innocent? "Surely there is some healing, perhaps in the house of Elrond--?"
Again he felt Aragorn's hand on his arm, steadying him. "I do not know that even his power could undo this." And, looking into the Dúnadan's eyes, Legolas saw that which the other man could not say: Elrond could not save even his own wife from such wounds. And he knew, too, what it was to give mercy. But it was on the battlefield, to warriors wounded to the death by poison or shaft, not to an innocent, not to a mother with child, though…. He squeezed his eyes shut for a moment. The child is an abomination.
"He deserves death for this."
"Does he?" Gandalf asked softly. "And would you give it to him? I recall telling the Ringbearer once that many who live deserve to die, and some who die deserve life. Can you distinguish between them? Can you truly give them what they deserve? Then, as I told Frodo, do not be so eager to deal out death and judgment."
"You cannot defend Saruman," said Aragorn, "not after what he has done."
"Perhaps, but it is not for you to deal with him now." Gandalf turned, laid his hand gently upon the door and it creaked ajar. "Go and wait within, Greenleaf. And you, Aragorn. Go and wait upon my return."
* * *
The uppermost chambers of Orthanc, situated far above the ruin and noise of the ring of Isengard, were dim and silent. His rage spent for the time being, Saruman brooded in a chair by the fire, while in some corner a bruised Gríma cowered.
"So," drawled Saruman, without taking his eyes from the flames, "it is not enough that you have taken what does not belong to you, that you have humiliated us before lesser creatures. Ever you must drive us before you and give us no peace."
Gandalf, stern and terrible in his anger, filled the doorway. "I recall your words to me, claiming to deplore what evils you might do yet approving the high and ultimate purpose. Yes, that is what you said. Ere Gwaihir bore me from this place I knew your mind had turned to the breeding of new Orcs, yet even then I did not think your will could be bent toward such evil against the Firstborn."
Saruman lifted an eyebrow, more amused than threatened. "It would seem you have been quite busy this day."
"How many Elves did you waylay upon the road to the Grey Havens, knowing they would not be missed?" Gandalf's voice rose until it filled the small chamber, and in his corner Wormtongue cowered and trembled ever more violently. "How many Eldar did you give to your Uruk-Hai before you learned to bind their fëar?"
While Gríma quailed, Saruman only laughed. "Such things you lay at my feet. Ever are you seeing shadows."
"And you have been too long beguiled by them. Release the woman, Saruman. To hold her spirit captive thus will no longer avail you."
"Have you forgotten so soon that which you have taken?" Saruman's dark eyes glittered with malice. "Ah, but who is to say I would do this even were it restored?"
"Do you so enjoy the torment of the Firstborn then, that you would use them thus?"
Saruman's reply was, as always, indirect. "The time of the Firstborn in Middle Earth is ending. Let us make what use of them and their gifts that we can, ere they fade." His voice rose and fell in the hypnotic cadence that so beguiled others, yet Gandalf stood firm and unmoved.
"That argument is as old and weary as the mountains," he said, "and it compels me no more than it did before. My heart warned me it was folly to seek you out, yet to no man may you say you were not given a chance to make amends."
"Amends?" Saruman laughed, and his laughter was cruel. "Go then, and do what you may, if indeed it is in you."
* * *
He sat on the bed beside her because there was no chair, and her hand lay limply in his. Her eyes were open, yet they saw him not, and her flesh was cool. Only the faintest pulse fluttered in her wrist, only the faintest indication she yet lived.
Once, when he and his brother Legandir were small, they had asked why they had only one set of grandparents when all their friends had two. Their mother made no answer, but that evening Thranduil gathered his sons to him with both arms and sorrow was etched upon his face. He told them their grandfather Oropher had died long ago, slain in battle against the Shadow; their grandmother, upon hearing of his death, followed him to Mandos rather than spend eternity without him. Sadness tinged Thranduil's voice, for the death of an Elf was as sorrowful a thing as the birth of one was an occasion for joy.
His grandmother died swiftly, his father said, laying herself down with the words that would summon Mandos, severing with her own grief the invisible cord that bound fëa and hróa. There was no pain, save among those who could not persuade her to stay.
This one has called out, thought Legolas, peering into the woman's face. How could she not? It is in her eyes. She called to him. Námo, awartha cuil! But he did not hear her.
Aragorn stood by the window, smoking his pipe. "Gandalf should return soon."
"He did not answer her."
"I cannot answer that one, friend."
Footsteps, soft and heavy, scraped against the landing. Aragorn turned, clenching his pipe between his teeth as his hand crept toward the hilt of Andúril. Legolas also tensed, trailing his hand toward the hilt of one of his long knives; his bow lay at the foot of the bed.
But it was only Gandalf. Both men relaxed their stance as the wizard entered the room and softly closed the door behind him. Weariness was graven upon his face. He sank down at the edge of the bed, next to Legolas' bow, and leaned his brow against his staff.
"Should I bring you a chair?" asked Aragorn.
"No, I will need but a moment. Dealing with Saruman is not a restful thing, and twice this day I have dealt with him."
"What did you do to him?" asked Legolas.
"Do to him? I did nothing to him, for all that is in my power to do I have already done."
"Nothing, you did…nothing?"
"Are you so eager to deal out death then? It is not my place to pass judgment, even on Saruman, nor is it my place to punish him. In breaking his staff I fulfilled the charge laid upon me by those who sent me back; I can do no more against him."
Legolas realized he was all but crushing the woman's hand in his. He softened his hold and carefully laid her hand upon her breast before getting up. "Then what can you do?"
Gandalf took a moment, then straightened and twisted around to look at the woman. She lay prone under the covers, no longer huddled around herself, and it was possible to see the swelling mound of her belly. A gentle hand pulled back the coverlet and placed itself over her womb. "More fortunate than I thought," he murmured.
"How can any of this be fortunate?"
"Even in the shadows some good may lurk." Gandalf replaced the coverlet before explaining, "I had feared this might be some unnatural pregnancy in that she would conceive and bear long before the normal time; Saruman was ever impatient to see his works come to fruition. But no, he has taken care not to hasten the natural course of things."
"She is not going to deliver?" Finished with his pipe, Aragorn had come over to the bed.
"Not for some months yet, no. It has quickened, but were it born now it would not survive." Gandalf, still leaning on his staff, stood up. "Against the child we will do nothing. In this matter it is innocent, there is no need to do it harm."
Legolas' lip curled. He felt the anger and disgust flooding back into him, felt himself tremble with it. "Then you will let it be born?"
"That is the natural course of things, yes."
"Has she not suffered enough?"
"Legolas, I have not the power to undo the hurt done by Saruman; not even the Valar can undo such wounds. Nor can they or I reverse the order of things. Yes, eventually this child will leave its mother's womb. It will be born. There is no power that can change that."
"Then what can you do?"
Gandalf nodded. "There is one thing. It is not in my power to heal her, but there is one thing. And in this I may ask your help, if you will give it."
Legolas saw Aragorn catch his eye; the Dúnadan's face was somber even as he nodded. He understood, for he had known it from the beginning, yet even so his heart quailed. "I could not. If that is what you ask, I could not. If she asked for such mercy, I would do it. My heart would ache, as it aches now, but I would honor my word. But she cannot ask, and there is no creature more accursed than the kinslayer."
"Then I will do it," said Aragorn, "if you ask."
"I would not lay that burden upon you either." Legolas looked from him to Gandalf. "Why does Mandos not take her? I know she has called to him—she must have. Look, her lips move, even now." Earlier, when he and Aragorn came and laid gentle hands upon her, laying her out so they could wrap her in the warm covers, he had seen the parched lips move. She would not take water from cup or canteen, for she did not seem to understand anything had been raised to her lips, but Aragorn soaked a clean cloth and used it to moisten her lips. She made no sound for them, and no word could be gleaned from the slight, almost imperceptible way her lips moved, but Legolas knew. He knew, for he had heard it before on the lips of the mortally wounded and bereaved, and it was the only thing he would say were he so stricken. Námo, togo-nin bar! Námo, awartha cuil!
"Why did he not take her?" Gandalf pondered. "Yes, I had also wondered that, but then the answer came to me. Saruman's one great power is his voice. Even now his voice overpowers hers." His eyes narrowed and became hard, and his hand tightened upon his staff. "It is an easy thing to overpower the weak, but he will not find my voice so easy to silence."
His body straightened then, a fey gleam in his eyes, and in a commanding voice he spoke, "Námo, hîr en gwann, lasto beth lammen!"
Legolas felt the words reverberate through his body, and to his eyes it seemed Gandalf grew in stature, towering over him, terrible and wondrous.
The chamber appeared to darken, as if twilight were suddenly fallen or a shadow had passed over the sun, and a chill crept into the air, a vague presence that filled the room and bore down upon Legolas' spirit like a weight that might suffocate him. Trembling, he looked toward Gandalf, who stood bowed, his left hand laid over his breast in reverence, and swiftly, anxiously did the same. He did not see what Aragorn did, but thought the Dúnadan did likewise.
A chill passed before him, brushing against him, and it was all he could do not to move or cry out. He knew from countless tales how stern and forbidding was the Doomsman of the Valar, unmoved by pity or passion, but never thought he might feel the chill of Mandos' touch unless he should die. Is this what it is like in the Halls of Waiting? So cold, so dark and joyless?
There were no words, yet he knew Gandalf was somehow speaking to the Vala, and that Mandos was answering; Legolas felt the Vala's chill breath above and behind him, though no air stirred within the chamber, and felt the cold pulsate within him. Why do you not take her and make an end of it?
"Legolas," he heard a voice say, and it took him a moment to realize Gandalf was speaking. "Mandos does not have the power to sever the bond between fëa and hróa; the woman must release herself to him, or it must be done for her."
"Do you know what you ask?" The question was as much for the Vala as for the wizard. "I could not live with the shame and burden of a kinslaying. I cannot take a life in this way."
"You are given leave to do this, if you will." Gandalf's voice was gentle. He paused, then added, "Nienna already weeps for your grief. Her tears already wash the stain clean from you."
The next voice he heard was Aragorn's. "I will do it, friend."
Yes, his heart cried, but it also cried no! "I cannot let you do such a thing." He lifted his eyes. Mandos would see his tears, though neither tears nor words might move him. "A tiro nin, Gilthoniel! I will do this thing, I will do it though it grieves me."
From its sheath he drew one of his long knives. Its handle was smooth ivory, rich with age and molded by time and use to his hands. The blade's edge was sharp; wielded by a steady hand, it would give no pain.
But his hands were not steady. As he cut the laces of her shift to bare her skin, the knife slipped once and nicked her. She neither flinched nor cried out. She is beyond pain, she will feel nothing. He found the point over her breast where the blade would most quickly pierce her heart. The gleaming knife pressed against the soft flesh and trembled there for a moment.
And then, he felt a hand close around his, steadying him. "You will not do this alone, gwador," Aragorn said into his ear.
No! his heart cried, but he nodded. He had not the strength to push the other man away.
"Together then," said Aragorn.
And, with the Dúnadan's hand covering the Elf's, they struck home.
* * *
"You do not look well," observed Gimli. The Dwarf pushed a plate across the board. "Here, eat something."
Legolas stared at the bread, cheese and fruit without seeing it. After a moment, he heard the Dwarf snort, "It is no wonder you Elves are so thin and pale when you starve yourselves so."
"When is Gandalf coming back?" inquired Pippin. Neither hobbit seemed to notice anything was amiss, an omission that did not bother Legolas in the least.
As they left Orthanc, Gandalf had stopped both men on the stairs and drew them aside. "Do not speak of this openly, especially to the hobbits," he said.
"You have our word," replied Aragorn.
Gandalf turned then and climbed back to the chamber, saying he would rejoin them in the gatehouse ere sunset. Aragorn and Legolas left the tower for the warm light and sunshine of the ring of Isengard. Éomer marked their going, but, seeing they wished to rest, did not detain them.
"Do not grieve too much, gwador," said Aragorn.
The Dúnadan had taken to using the Sindarin form of friend since the incident. Incident, Legolas called it, for he had no softer word. "The chill of Mandos is slow to leave my heart."
"There truly was no other way, and…and she will be purged of her griefs in Mandos and reborn." Aragorn spoke haltingly at the last, as one who had no cause to personally know this aspect of Elven existence. "That is not cause for mourning."
Legolas stopped mid-stride and looked at him. "Some are never healed, even in the Halls of Waiting. Nay, it is better for such souls to be mortal, to pass beyond the circles of Arda and find release than be haunted by the memory of such torment. There is no warmth or pity in Mandos. I do not know what healing can come of that."
As the sun began to drop toward the horizon of Nan Curunír, Gandalf returned. He wrapped the hobbits in a warm embrace, laughing at their joy at seeing him alive. He took the food Gimli gave him, admonishing Legolas to eat when he saw the Elf's full plate.
"Gimli is right," he commented, "you are far too pale. There is a hard road ahead of you yet and you will need strength in what is to come. You also, Aragorn."
"I have already eaten," answered the Dúnadan.
Once he had eaten and drunk his fill, Gandalf rose and drew Legolas aside. "We cannot tarry here but must make haste. Aragorn has already gone to ready the horses." Then, frowning slightly, he dropped into Sindarin, that the others might not hear what he said. "It will be well, Greenleaf. I have given her body to Fangorn and asked him to make a grave for her in his forest. She was a wood Elf, I think, though not of your father's realm; I think she would wish to be buried among the trees."
"Fangorn is a dark and lonely place," murmured Legolas.
Gandalf nodded. "Did you not vow to return there someday with Gimli, once you had done your part in going with him to the caves of Aglarond?"
"Yes, I said that." In fact, he looked forward to the day when he might return, letting his mind slip to the green and gnarled trees and their hanging mosses when his mind grew troubled. Of course, he would have to endure the sunless passages of the Glittering Caves, but he had given his word and once he honored it, oh, then he would show Gimli the wonders of so green and ancient a forest. "I-I would bring other Elves there, and if Fangorn would show me where…. I would not show the grave to any other, for I would not have them know of this evil, but I…I would know where it is."
The wizard laid a warm hand on his shoulder. "That is a good and wise thing, son of Thranduil. But I see you are still troubled."
"Saruman…he did not tell you what her name was, did he?"
"I do not think Saruman himself knew. No, he did not know her name, nor the names of the others he took. Yes, he took other Elves, waylaid them on the road to the Grey Havens. Círdan mentioned to me that fewer Elves were coming to him, and Gildor Inglorion spoke of a shadow on the road to the White Towers, but neither they nor I knew what ill that boded. It was only when Saruman's staff was broken and the veil of enchantment with which he concealed this place was torn asunder did I see his part in this evil."
"What became of them, those others?"
"The men he would have killed outright, for it was only the women he wanted. He gave them to his Uruk-Hai, to conceive. They are all gone to unknown graves, and I know not how many. I could not tell you their names."
That saddened him, for an Elf should neither die nameless nor alone, without a song to mark their passing.
"But Mandos knows the names of all who are born and all who will be," Gandalf added softly, "and Vairë at her loom and Estë who heals the hurts and weariness of the world. And Nienna, too, knows the names of all for whom she weeps. And they know, too, your grief."
Neither Elf nor Vala might call you a kinslayer. At that moment, Legolas wanted nothing more than to have his family near, to hear his grief, and his mother's soft words and father's strong embrace. "Gandalf," he said, "what of…the child?"
"It is dead, born too soon. Let us not speak of it further."
Outside, Aragorn stood with the horses. Legolas saw Arod gleaming white in the rapidly falling twilight, and the horse whinnied in recognition as he drew near. Aragorn turned and came over to him.
"Is it well?" he asked.
"Gandalf spoke to me."
The Dúnadan nodded. "I overheard what you said to him, about returning to Fangorn. When this is ended, perhaps you would not mind another companion?"
"It is not necessary, Aragorn. You will have many other cares then, and much else on your mind."
"Ah," chuckled Aragorn, "so you would take the Dwarf and leave the Ranger behind?"
Legolas could not help but smile a little at that. "He will do much complaining. You may soon regret your decision to accompany us."
"I should never regret that," said Aragorn. "Nevertheless, I would go with you, when Fangorn takes you to the green grave. Would that be well with you, friend?"
"Yes, gwador, that would be well."
* * *
1. Námo, togo-nin bar! Námo, awartha cuil!: Námo, bring me home! Námo, I give up this life!
2. Námo, hîr en gwann, lasto beth lammen!: Námo, Lord of the Dead, listen to my words!
3. Námo, tolo!: Námo, come!
4. A tiro nin, Gilthoniel: Watch over me, Gilthoniel