Chapter 20

A fallen leaf like a memory fades
Upon the frozen earth
A forgotten love on a breath, it waits
To sense a battle's worth

You watched with eyes as blue as the twilight in a midsummer's reverie, as blue as the heart of the oceans, through tears that glistened as though with starlight. Your fair face shone radiantly with the light of the moon as your golden locks retained the light of the sun. I remember the song that flowed from and around you, the soft, ever changing golden melody of life which you claimed and held fast to. I can still recall the love that seemed to radiate from you, fairly exuding the bright, floating notes of music that adorned you as the stars worshipped you. How is it that such beauty came to fade, my elven prince? How came it to be that your light disappeared amidst the shadows the darkened your bright eyes and quenched the fire that danced within you?

The world has changed forever, and millennia passed you by as you stood in silence, watching it pass before your ageless eyes yet never noticing. Now as you bring your gaze back from the past, you see the change... And any aid you might have shown the world fades into the autumn twilight of your eyes, as you fall through the water to face the abyss... as the starlight that shone from your moonlit face and glimmering eyes is swallowed into the void of the night that passes in the reign of the waning moon.

They say yours is a fading kind, equitable with the ever-fluctuating colour of the leaves from spring to autumn, with the ever-changing tide of the sea. Oh, but my fair prince, you would not know of sea, would you? Always so obstinate in your ties to the earth with the noble Silvan blood flowing through your veins, enough to keep your heart in the lands of Man, never once thinking of the undying fields beyond the lapping waves of the sea. Now, even now, you face this world with undeniable nobility and strength... even as I am forced to watch the unraveling of my greatest friend... my brother...

The pale, golden haze of the sun chased away the last shadows of the night as dawn lethargically found its way into the world. The dew clung to the trees, glimmering like stars amidst the vivid emerald leaves in the early streams of sunlight. In the early, waking light, the song of the wood began: the subtle, yet clear and musical sound of flowing water, the light chirping of the birds, the song of the trees that filled the morning air. And as the forest awoke slowly, it found four travelers following the long, tortuous path through the heart of the wood. As the Wizard passed, the forbiddance the forest had at first presented grew absent, and as the young wood-elf made his way through, the trees almost seemed to quiver with happiness; it had been long since an Elf of the wood had come through these trees... long since any Elf had.

As the small group tenaciously clung to their fast pace, neither wizard nor dwarf seemed to take notice of the weariness that lanced through the Elf's legs, nor the dark shadows that hovered near his eyes. Aragorn stared directly ahead, not once taking care to look from side to side, to see the curious life that existed in this ancient forest; not inquisitive in the least. The anger that seemed to have flowed through his veins like blood was now completely absent, replaced by a great emptiness. Where the ranger had been impetuous and brash just the day before, he was now quiescent and unmoved. He moved forward with an unyielding pace; yet not a pace of passion, as their hunt had been the days before, but rather with a mindset of time, and how little of it was allotted to them at that present moment.

The Elven prince followed the pace in a similar fashion, not out of any loyalty to his leader, nor to justice which would not wait for the Company to arrive, but rather out a need to... do something with himself. His love for life seemed to have slipped from him like water from his hands and he now walked forward blindly, seeking out his path in the dark.

At last, they stepped out into the sunrise and never-ending plains of Rohan. Legolas caressed a last tree before he stepped from the woods, inexplicably feeling grief crush the edges of his mind. He leaned over slightly, allowing his long hair to cover his face as he regained his composure. Aragorn walked past him briskly, his face as mask, as stoic and unmoved as though carven in marble.

Now, you will bleed.

Legolas fell to his knees, stifling a cry as he felt the pain of a whip caress his back. He quickly stood and leaned against a tree, lest the others see his weakened state. He breathed in deeply for a moment, as Gandalf whistled loudly somewhere ahead of him. Gimli stood behind him, leaning on his axe and Aragorn watched disinterestedly as a beautiful white horse galloped towards them, followed shortly by Arod and Hasufel. Legolas swallowed the bile that had risen with the words of Saruman, with the pain. He nearly choked as he walked forward, suppressing memories and pain, both of the heart and of the body.


"Now you will bleed..."

The wind shrieked across the windows of the room, barely drowning out the sound of the pounding rain and defeated in power only by the sound of the thunder as it slammed into the land. The healing elf choked on vomit as he woke up sobbing, shuddering with disgust and pain.

"Saes, saes..."

The elf held his arms around himself as he slowly regained his place in the living world, and detached himself from the nightmares that robbed him of his sleep every night. The door flew open to the side, almost lost in the sound of the rain and the thunder. However, the lightening struck the room into high relief for a brief moment as a silhouette made his way into the room, closing the door slightly behind him. He quickly made his way to the bed, where the elf sat up, silent tears flowing down his face as swift as the rain fell across the windowpane.

The beginnings of dawn cast their cold, pale light across the edges of the horizon, blotted out everywhere else by the darkness of the clouds.

"Legolas! Shh... shh... It is well, avo iosto... I'm here..."

Slowly the elf began to calm, at last in reality once again.

"Estel... I..." The elf broke off, another tear slipping from his weary, delirious eyes.

"Avo iosto, mellon-nín. You are not weak because of this. The one responsible for this is weak," said the young ranger coldly. His eyes flashed with anger before he gazed down upon his trembling friend once again. "I came to sit with you, gwador. I know the nights try you and I know the darkness is oft inclined to put out the lights. Come, I have brought you some athelas and white sage to calm you. I have also brought you some tea." Aragorn paused. "It is intended for dreamless sleep, but I understand if you do not wish to sleep just yet," he continued as he cleaned Legolas' feverish face with a cool, damp cloth. He continued this for a long time, allowing the elf to calm now and allowing himself to get lost in the task of healing his friend.

The elf moaned softly, still in slight delirium and the grip of a terrible fever. He cast his face to the side, to gaze out the window where the wind had finally slowed and the rain had ceased its pounding against. The storm that had held so tightly to the land had at last seemed to have quelled its fury and started to move on. The clouds seem to change to a lighter colour as Legolas watched, allowing the pale light of dawn to touch its shadows and fill them with light. The sun had not yet made its appearance, though its light had already begun its task.

"Do you wish to sleep?" inquired Aragorn after he had finished cleansing the archer's face and had placed the steam of the athelas and white sage before him on the bed. He absently remade the bed, where the white sheets had been thrown off the bed as Legolas had thrashed in fever-induced nightmares.

"Avan. Am olthon ad." I will not. I would not dream again.

"Garech am an. Teli, avan garath olthyn. Im tirath le." You would not have to. Come, you will not have dreams. I will watch over you.

"Saes... Nin vanwa. I'm baur an ne e gwatch, e chaust." Please... I have been so lost. I need to be out of shadow, out of a bed.

"Ilya tír, uvathon rada. Teli as nin, gwador-nín." All right, I will find a way. Come with me, my brother.

"Hannon le."

"Anírach i dulu nín?" Do you want my help?

"Saes," said Legolas, an embarrassed flush coloring his pallid face as Aragorn gently lifted the elf out of his bed. "Goheno nin." Please. Forgive me.

"Nad dithen carnen an gwend. Avo iosto." A little thing done for friendship. Worry not.

"Mas thelich baded?" asked Legolas, after he had resigned himself to being carried in his brother's gentle arms. (Where do you intend to go?)

Aragorn smiled slightly. "Estelio nin." Trust me.

Legolas closed his eyes slightly, allowing himself to feel comforted in the arms of Aragorn. The ranger was very careful, and very gentle with him. With his eyes closed wearily, the only thing the fatigued archer could deduce was that they were going uphill. He could feel as dew-lined leaves brushed past his arm, leaving their cool drops of water along his sleeve. Suddenly, light shone through his eyelids as Aragorn suddenly slowed as he exclaimed, "Na vedui!" underneath his breath.

The prince felt himself being lowered to the ground and found he was leaning against Aragorn's arm as the ranger, too, sat down. Legolas opened his eyes and looked back; they had just left the small forest and he saw that he was at the top of a ridge, overlooking all of Imladris and the lands around it. Suddenly, the sun rose over the mountain to the east, casting its bright rays over everything in its grasp. Legolas breathed in deeply, inhaling the fresh air, the warm, comforting scents and the soft sounds of the waterfalls around him. The water, left from the rainy night before, clung to everything, causing all of Imladris to glisten like jewels, or little stars that had fallen to the earth.

Aragorn turned to him, smiling gently and Legolas gratefully returned the smile.

end flashback

Legolas pulled himself off the tree, lowering his gaze to the ground as he walked forward. He straightened his shoulders as he forced himself back to the present. He closed his eyes briefly before stepping forward into the light, toward the endless dying plains.

The sun shimmered faintly on the horizon, tinting the sky a light pink and the clouds before it were pure. Over the mountains in the distance, the rays of the sun peeked out from behind the peaks. The soft golden light began to at last touch the plains. Legolas took in a deep, silent, shuddering breath. I love you.

Aragorn seemed to falter in his steps before stopping. He turned slightly, just the profile of his face silhouetted against the sky. Their gazes met. Legolas knew in his mind that he was going to break the gaze, that he would turn, but their stares remained locked. And for a moment, a tiny, infinitesimal moment, they were one, brothers beneath the endless sky, their paths interwoven across the endless plains… with endless memories behind them and infinite moments before them. The world belonged to them; eternity seemed to encompass them within the soft golden halo of light, the radiance of the sun.

Someday, he thought... Someday you will understand. Na vedui... we shall walk together once again, my brother, though perhaps not in this world as you suspect. You must do your duty, and I must do mine, but we will walk amid the undying flowers of the western shore... together.

Their gaze broke and the human turned away.

Like a winter's day that aches and burns
Of a summer's glaring sun
Like an autumn's dream of eternal leaves
That with a slight wind is undone

Never to be and never to have been
This love, this autumn's dream,
Would take its leave as leaves often do
To fall in perpetual sleep