CB: Just a quickie whilst I work on the next chapter of 'Slow Seduction'. This pretty much came as a flash of inspiration as I was sitting in the cinema watching ROTK and as I spotted all those 'L/A moments – brought to you by the overactive imagination!'
Warnings: Angst, slight SLASH.
Disclaimer: Hmm, do I look like the kind of person inventive enough to make up LOTR? No? Well, there's your answer…
Notes: This is neither movie based, nor book based, so I suppose it could be argued it's a semi AU. Again, however, this ficlet involves MALE/MALE things, don't like it? I have warned you, so you are now responsible.
The thunderous knocking on the door of your bedchamber rouses you; the pounding echoing in your head, sounding strangely like a death toll as it reverberates around your still sleep-ridden mind. From the other side of the door comes a muffled shout that you recognise as one of your guards, and Arwen, still deeply dreaming, stirs in your arms – a small frown marring her otherwise perfect forehead.
"My lord! My lord! Please wake! There is news!" The guard's voice sounds urgent and you, still wrapped in the lingering remains of slumbers sweet embrace do not really heed his words, nor the emotion in his voice. Rolling over, you force yourself to leave the soft cocoon of warmth and pad across the chill flagstones to the door, the guard's cry still ringing in your ears.
"Yes? What is it?" You haul open the door and look down at his round, honest face, lit up with anxiety.
"I was ordered to give you this, my lord." The guard shifts uncomfortably from foot to foot as you stare at him. "A cloaked stranger rode out of the west gate early this morning, stopping only to give us this and command we take it to you, my lord." The man looks worriedly at you, unsure as to whether he has done the right thing, or whether he should have left it until later.
"What is it?" You command slightly wearily as you hold out your hand for the mysterious item.
The man hesitates for a moment, then holds out a small, cloth wrapped bundle. "There was only this, my lord." He says, depositing it in your hand.
Carefully, you accept the item, and begin to remove the folds of cloth until, finally, there in the morning light there glints a small, dark brooch. It is shaped like a leaf with gold around its forest green edges and its surface seems to reflect the morning sunlight, throwing a slight illumination onto your face as you stare at it. The brooch nestles in your palm, seeming suddenly of much greater importance than it had not two minutes ago as you stare at it, and you are gripped with a sudden, deep fear.
'When will you leave me?'
An amused look.
'Not until the leaves have fallen, and even then, I may yet linger for a while.'
'Stubborn elf, you have not answered my question properly.'
'Great human, when the call becomes too great for me to bear. Then will I travel to join my kin. Not before.'
A soft sigh as a callused hand caressed a smooth cheek and wheat gold hair. "You will tell me before…before you leave.'
'I will.' A small glimmer in the elf's eye. Too small to be called a tear, too large to be called a trick of the light. 'And when that time comes, despite the bitter sorrow, you must rejoice, for both you and I will be whole once more.'
'I will never be whole without you.' A fervent whisper, words raw with emotion and voice on the brink of despair.
'But you will.' And this time, it was his hand that caressed the other's stubble-roughened cheek. 'You will no longer be divided between myself and the Evenstar, and you will be free to live your life in harmony. And I…I will have gone to a place where there is no more sorrow.' A small, bittersweet smile. 'And, indeed, one day you may well see me again, despite all odds.'
'How can you know that? How can you be sure?'
'Because even leaves such as myself need the might and comfort of the great tree to survive.' Foreheads pressed together, a tender, intimate moment that no one could intrude on, as fingers twined softly. 'And so I thank you, my tree, for giving me life when I had none.'
'And I in turn, green leaf, thank you for capturing the sunlight in your hair, and bringing me warmth and nourishment, when I had none before.'
A quiet laugh. 'And so it is then. The tree cannot live without the leaf, and the leaf cannot live without the tree. But in time, even the green leaves wither and die, and they part from the tree to be tumbled on the wind. And so, as the leaves, I must one day go, Aragorn.'
'No, stay, I beg of you.'
A slender finger, placed against imperfect, human lips. "No, I cannot. So let us enjoy the time we have.'
'Until the leaves fall.'
'Yes, until they fall.'
You start, and to your surprise, find tears wet upon your face as you grip the small brooch tightly. It is the one that was given to Him by the lady of the wood, and in your mind, its message is as clear as it can be.
The leaf has fallen, and it has been taken by the wind to the land of its kin.
Unwillingly, you tear your eyes away from it as the guard gives a polite, slightly embarrassed cough. "Are you well, my lord."
"I…yes…yes, I'm fine." Your fingers trace the delicate piece of jewellery and suddenly your head snaps up, a look of authority gracing your features. "Ready my horse. I wish to leave immediately." You order, and hurry back into the room, not bothering to check if the guard is obeying or to shut the door behind you.
Inside, Arwen has woken, and she looks at you, her expression sad, but filled with the grace and wisdom of one who knows that however she may try, your heart will not ever fully belong to her.
"You intend to go after him." She says without preamble. "And you intend to stop him, despite his wishes."
You spare her a hurried nod and a swift kiss as you grab a tunic and pull it over your head. "It is something I must do." You say, and you know this is enough of an explanation for her because she understands, and her understanding is perhaps the greatest gift she has ever given you.
Within moments you are out of the room again and hurtling towards the stables, your footsteps sounding so much like your pounding heart that for a moment they are one and the same, lifting you up and carrying you on a roaring river of blood that sweeps you at almost preternatural speed down the stone corridor. And all the time in your mind, the same thought is pounding through. 'I must stop him, I must stop him…'
Within minutes you are clattering out of the West gate, the ground flying away beneath you as your horse pounds down the worn road and then out, out onto the plain, the wind whipping through its mane and your hair. You almost feel as though you are flying, but the gravity of the situation and the feel of the reins in your hands keep you in check. There is no time to revel in the sheer physical joy of riding, when he may well be out of your reach already.
At last, there, far in the distance, you see the faint glimmer of the sea. Even to you, it appears to be beckoning, calling. Its enchantment weaving around you as you move closer with every pace of your horse. Soon, the crashing of the waves can be heard, and they, like a soothing sigh, are whispering to you that you, too, could go, could remain with Him forever and never have to face the harsh realities of this world again. It is like a siren's song, drawing you ever closer until there, there you see a small, graceful ship, just within the sight of your poor, limited human vision.
You spur your horse on, asking of it greater speed, even though the poor creature is near exhaustion. And it, eager to please, extends its stride in a last attempt to reach the small jetty that has been so recently built along the deserted piece of coastline.
"Wait! Please wait!" Even as you cry out, you know it is hopeless. Your words are being whipped away by the stinging, salted wind that is rushing across the plain to meet you, its cruel fingers seeking out every piece of warmth from your body. And in your state of mind, you almost feel that this fading warmth is not because of the wind, but because he is slipping further and further from your grasp and as his light and presence dwindle, so too does your comfort and appreciation for the beauty of all things.
And you've reached they jetty within the space of a few heartbeats, and already, you can see it is too late. The ship has begun to move, and is too far out for you to consider swimming to it, despite the fact you would risk life itself to hold him once more. And he, as beautiful and immovable as a statue, is standing on the deck, and as your breath rasps in your ears, you see him turn, suddenly, and look back across the water.
In one, shining instant, he sees you, and you, human as your eyesight may be, see him. And you see written across his face the intense pain and longing, and you know, in a flash of sudden clarity, that it is not the desire to reach the West. It is the desire to return home, and you also know with a heavy heart, that his home is back here, on land, with you. But understanding passes between you like a bolt of lightning, and you see that however much he longs to return, he will not, because he believes that despite the pain, he is making the right choice.
"Eleo no da, Legolas!' You cry, your voice carried across the winds to where he stands, proud and straight on the ship's deck, now eternally out of reach. 'Ilith galdh néhad!'
And he smiles, sending such sweet pain shooting straight to your heart as he reaches out one hand, long fingers stretching, almost as though he is trying to reach back for you. His blond hair is blown every which way by the wind, and his garments are moving too, but his eyes hold an eternal stillness. As you watch, one lone, silver tear slips down his cheek and falls into the ocean. Another salty droplet, lost in a myriad of thousands. "Ilin han noad, Aragorn." He returns, and despite the ever-increasing distance, you hear him, "Ilin han noad…"
And you let out a soft cry, your pain echoing around you as for the first time you begin to comprehend that he truly is utterly lost to you.
He sees your pain, and he knows he can do nothing now, not even send back words of comfort, for there are none and even if he did try, he is now nearly out of hearing range as well as sight. And you know, he is feeling the pain, just as you are, but it is no comfort. The leaf cannot live without the tree, you realise, but neither can the tree live without the leaf. This metaphor is of no comfort now, and both you and he know it.
And as you stand there, tears threatening to fall from your eyes, there is a faint whisper of sound that is caught on the wind and carried back to you.
"Man prestant i ardhon? Cerithar aen illaíd dim uthenin?"(1) He is singing, softly it seems, and almost to himself, yet you know it to be a lament, an almost silent outpouring of pain and the sorrow that, despite the fact that there was so much wrong in the world, he is leaving behind so much good as well.
And just as both he, and the ship vanish into the timeless mist of memory and lost hope, your eyes meet one final time, and he sings out one final stanza, an expression of almost painful longing, bereavement and strangely, fiercely burning hope, painted on his features. "Inmith hai, no cilith folou ithcant, limid jía nothan á gerou…"
Silently, you stare after him, for what seems almost a lifetime. Your eyes straining, desperately searching for any sign of him amongst the mists that wreath the coastline, but he is gone, and only his final words ring in your ears. 'White shores are calling, but you and I will meet again, and you'll be here in my arms…'
Slowly, you take out the brooch from the inside of your shirt, and look at it. A leaf. Fitting, you suppose. Greanleaf. An expression of his true self, and now a symbol of all that you held dear and have lost.
But all that may be found eventually once more.
And despite the complete absence of any real hope, you feel a small spark nonetheless.
A leaf tossed in the wind, and one which may eventually be blown home once more.
(1) From the ROTK soundtrack. 'What's happening to the world? Is everything sad going to come untrue?'
CB: Apologies, turned into a little more of an angst fest than I had originally intended. Still, I hope everyone enjoyed, and I didn't depress you too much!