Summary: Estel is lost during a tour with the Rangers, and Legolas later finds him in Bree, without his memories & happily relieved of all his noble burdens, making the elf hesitate to bring him back to who he truly was.
* * *
* * *
Road to Rivendell
* * *
The years went by strangely quickly now, as if they moved too fast and away from his control, like water slipping from the gaps between his fingers, rejoining the stirring shallows below. He noticed this along a road heading towards Rivendell, watching a waterfall he passed. It was a strange feeling to think that time was no longer enough… It's been awhile since he felt this way.
When he was younger, he used to think he always had time to spare. Ada had said he lived as if he had tens of lifetimes, bold and occasionally reckless. The future would come and he would inevitably get there no matter the stupidity he did now, he reasoned.
And then he lived a few more years and knew more of life and therefore knew more and more to dislike of it. Ada still says what he always used to say, though Legolas has changed his reasoning somewhat; if he got killed along the way, then possibly all the better, possibly worse. Either way, the only future he could foresee was one wherein he would grow to be thousands of years old, probably alone, maybe not, probably miserable, likely bored, or maybe and finally just dulled and quieted because he had long since exhausted his passions from this infinity of an existence…
"You are so deep in thought."
Legolas smiled, looking sidelong at his riding companion, the dark-featured human who had these eyes, the kind that bore through you, these cursed, manipulative, penetrating eyes.
Legolas shook his head. He was being silly, in this contemplative mood that jumped from one melancholy thought to another. Though he himself was more than willing to let the thoughts go for now, Estel has already seen something that he found the need to address, and he would not be waylaid. And one did not lie to Estel and say It is nothing or some such thing because one simply could not, so Legolas therefore settled with the simple truths, as he often did with the perceptive human.
"I wish you're an elf, that you may understand me."
The man looked amused, rather than offended. He had long been comfortable with who and what he was, and detected more to the elf's thoughts than the ideas his occasionally thrifty words represented.
~The days used to go by slowly,~ Legolas clarified, shifting languages to his native Elvish, ~And the years were nameless. I've not counted them in so long. It hardly matters to us, who have them as much as the richest trees have leaves. I've begun counting again, because the days rush past me, as if they weren't mine to live.~
~It's because in a way,~ said Estel wistfully, ~they aren't. I think you are counting my years, mellon, and not yours.~
~Don't flatter yourself,~ teased Legolas, though Estel easily recognized the particular dimming in his eyes, the quiet sadness that found expression every now and again, expertly concealed shortly thereafter to the unknowing eye. But his eyes always knew Legolas--for one reason or another—and always understood him. And as much as he understood the elf's sadness, he understood also that it had to be set aside, at least for now.
"I'll race you to the gate," Estel said in a breath, just as he tugged at the reins of his horse and ushered him forward.
"I'll beat you even if you cheated!" laughed Legolas, rising to the challenge as he always did with the perpetually clever and distracting human.
"I didn't cheat," Estel yelled over the pounding of horse hooves at his friend, who was riding a hair behind him, "I'm not an elf, remember? It's called evening out the field."
"You're as good as we and you know it!" Legolas retorted.
"Ah, I got you to say it!" cried Estel triumphantly, laughing as he pushed his horse harder. From behind him, the elf shook his head in amusement, and urged his own steed to go faster.
They stormed into the gates of Rivendell just as Lord Elrond, trailed by his twin sons Elrohir and Elladan, soared down the small flight of steps from the main hall to meet them, their robes rustling behind them in graceful waves that defied their seeming urgency.
~What happened?~ Lord Elrond demanded at once, his healer's eyes raking over the two arrivals, searching for the injuries that often brought them with such a hurry as this to his door.
Legolas and Estel knew precisely what the reaction of the Lord of Imladris meant. Over the course of the few years they have known each other, the pair of warriors has entered the confines of Rivendell on more than a few occasions bearing daunting 'souvenirs' of their adventures and misadventures. But each looked at the other and blinked innocently.
~Why nothing, Lord Elrond,~ Legolas replied, turning his 'unknowing' glance the older elf's way. Lord Elrond raised an elaborately expressive eyebrow at him and smiled wryly.
Estel, with his laughter whole and jovial, hopped from his horse and embraced his adoptive father tightly. "Really, ada, don't we ever just visit?"
"You do just visit," Elrohir chuckled, "incidentally with a few cuts and bruises. If we're all lucky that is."
Legolas dismounted from his horse, and was welcomed by Elladan who gripped his arm and smiled at him.
"You ran your horses to the ground," Elladan commented, glancing at the mares, with their beady eyes curiously burning.
they enjoy the competition as much as we," Legolas smiled, patting his horse's
flank comfortingly, ~We won, didn't we?~
"You know you did not!" laughed Estel.
Elrond raised a hand up to referee. "If I did not stop you this would go on 'til tomorrow. And as the Lord of Imladris it is my duty to entertain you and usher you into my house, not to mention keep you from killing each other."
They laughed heartily, though Estel stopped sooner than the others, his gaze arrested by the achingly familiar sight—nay, vision—of Arwen Undomiel. He knew the very breath she arrived, from the very first rustle of the hem of her skirt as she stepped from the shadows of the inner hall and out into the sun. She stood right atop the steps, glorious as she always was, her eyes proud. She smiled at him warmly, and it lent a glow to her face, not to mention to his heart.
And to the day, he added, and to the night. And to my life…
~Estel wears his heart on his sleeve,~ grinned Elrohir, knowing the very breath she arrived, from looking at his adopted brother's ridiculously lightning-stricken face.
Lord Elrond, who knew the heartache that would eventually accompany the match no matter how strong the love or rich the passions, disapproved of it but could not find it in himself to part them, whom he both loved and wished to be happy. He smiled politely, though it was obvious the human and the elven beauty could not have noticed anything else other than each other.
~Welcome back,~ she said, taking the steps slowly. Legolas watched, amused. What was it about women? She knew she had him wrapped around her fingers, twined like the tightest of vines. And she knew precisely how to make him wait. She stepped at the landing, and offered him her hands, which he took as if she was offering him the world; gratefully and reverently.
This has been the way of things since they met some years ago, and she had sworn to be his, forsaking her multitude of years to share his mortal fate. And then they parted, for Estel's road was long still, and could not end simply with her love yet, much as he may have desired it to be so.
~Don't I get a welcome?~ Legolas teased, and she smiled at him graciously, releasing Estel's hands—I'm going to have to pay for that later, Legolas thought—and embraced him.
~Are you still the white hairs of your father?~ she asked.
He laughed, ~It's not my fault he is getting old, Arwen.~
~She meant if you are still the bane of his existence, Legolas,~ said Elladan, chuckling as he looked at his younger sister dubiously, ~I suppose his answer says it all!~
* * *
* * *
He had no such welcome, this time.
Legolas looked upon Imladris, and for the first time in years, he looked at its beauty with a marked distaste.
The first time he came to Imladris was centuries ago, a messenger for his father the King of Mirkwood. A few centuries after that, unfortunate events have led to him entering it as a prisoner (1). After he met Estel, the tornado-of-a-human turned his life upside down, and he grew to look upon Imladris as a safe haven. Now…
Now that Estel is gone…
He wondered what Imladris would be to him, this time. Or what he was to its gracious people. Once a stranger, once an enemy, once a friend. Now…
Now that Estel is gone…
Strange, how suddenly who he was, and the places he went to, were perennially marked by the infernal man's presence in some way. How Estel's potent absence changed everything that there was, everything that he himself was.
Mellon, he thought sadly, I miss you so. Will you ever come back to us?
He stilled his aching thoughts at the sound of barely perceptible horse hooves riding not far behind him. He sensed it was an elf riding the quiet mare, although not one that he recognized. It seemed that this elf and himself were headed the same way, towards Rivendell. Curious, he slowed his own horse and true enough, an almost-gloriously-pompous-looking elf (even for an elf!) soon emerged from the wood, clad in his warrior's best.
His was a stance that was familiar but cold, movements perfectly controlled and modulated. Even his eyes, deep and perceptive, were still as his face was carefully expressionless. Legolas had never seen such magnificent restraint on anyone else, though he had a good guess from where this elf could have come.
~Headed towards Imladris, stranger from Lothlorien?~ he asked.
~Yes,~ replied the other elf, ~You are known to me also, Prince Legolas. I was one of the envoys of the Lady Galadriel on your late brother's funeral. Last I've heard, you yourself were dead.~
~It seems the more ill tidings travel quicker than the glad,~ Legolas said coolly, not wanting to think of those dark days, ~Apparently, your news is outdated. Though this gives you the advantage of me.~
~I am Haldir,~ he replied, ~I've come to speak with Lord Elrond.~
~I see,~ said Legolas thoughtfully, ~So have I.~
The Mirkwood elf wondered what, if at all, this Haldir of Lothlorien had to do with his own cause here. Naturally, Legolas considered that as the Lord of Imladris, Elrond of Rivendell must be tending to a lot of other businesses than the misadventures of Estel and the twins (occupying as they were), and that which has brought Haldir here was just one among a bevy of such duties. Perhaps it was only a coincidence that they happened to arrive at the same time. But then again… fate was never really so kind, or so random.
They traveled towards the gates in silence, and as he neared the House, Legolas thought back to the carefully worded letter that had sent him flying from Mirkwood and traveling here without delay, or rest, or possibly even without much thought.
Dearest Legolas, it began, and as early as then, his heart jumped for there seemed a pained gentleness about the pair of words, about the strangely, compulsively careful hand, as if its writer considered every curve of his letters, taking his time, searching his mind for just the right things to say.
These past few years that you have occasionally graced my halls with your jeweled eyes and musical laughter, I have begun to look upon you as a friend. Not merely for the strength and kindness I have found in your heart, but by the joy you found in my sons did I know for a certainty that we must be of kindred spirits, in some way.
But as surely as we have an otherworldly bond borne of this, our loves and happiness, such too is the strength of the intrinsic connection you and I have in sharing its loss…
Estel is fallen. I know not if he lives, for information from his Rangers has been much delayed and sparse. My other sons have left in pursuit of them to discover more of the truth after hearing he was lost during one of their tours, leaving my house glaringly empty. Yet my heart remains resolute. Estel's is a name that begs us to see beyond the dark of our days. And I will not fail him. He will come back to us.
For your part, all that I request is the same belief and trust, and prayer. Perhaps the Valar will listen to you, their beautiful child who has seen more than his share of the dark than many beings that even I know, for all of your far-shorter years.
Either way, I thought it prudent to let you know of what has happened. Estel is the other half of your turbulent heart, I have seen it said in your eyes. He sent you a shaft of light from his burning spirit, as he has done with me, with Elrohir, with Elladan, with Imladris, with Arwen. May this light shine persistently (as stubborn perhaps as he), even in his absence, at least until he returns to brighten our days once more.
Things were just beginning to settle down for him in Mirkwood after centuries of exile and periodic absences on tours with Estel when the letter came.
He had just dismounted from his horse, coming from a border patrol that had lasted an entire night. The sun was rising, and he was given the message.
He barely made time to breathe. He ran to his father's hall and breezily made his goodbye's, packed light for his journey, and took to the road once more, towards Rivendell.
He was by now admittedly weary, but the direness of the situation pressed him forward, almost as much as the iron of his will did.
He and Haldir were recognized and allowed into the gates, and they dismounted in a disconcertingly similar, graceful way. The soldiers took care of their steeds, as a major domo ushered them towards the main hall of the House of Elrond.
TO BE CONTINUED…
(1) This is the sequel to "Exile" though can be read without having read that :) For those who are curious though, or need some reminding, "Exile" tells the tale of how Legolas and Aragorn met. The Mirkwood prince was suspected of murder and fled his kingdom, running into Aragorn who helped clear his name. Naturally it's more complicated than that, but that is the story in a nutshell :)
Reviews are of course, always welcome. I wanted to say a big thanks to those who reviewed "Exile" and I hope this follow up will not be a disappointment. A warning though: please do not count on incredibly quick posts as I had done with "Exile." While I've finished about five or so chapters of "Escape" already by now, I'll be more careful with my pacing to ensure more or less regular posts.
On the characters… naturally I couldn't resist sending Haldir into the fray! And one more warning: I began "Exile" with a quirky circumstance (Legolas stealing Estel's horse) and I have an even more playful one in store. A lot of aspects about this fic will be covering new ground for me (as you will see in the coming chapters and of which I will also note later), so I hope it won't be too terrible! :) Anyway, thanks for your time and have fun :)