TRANSLATION: Fea = soul, spirit; muindor-nin = my brother (by blood)
I am TERRIBLY sorry for the delay; there's been a lot happening lately. I was horribly ill for 2-3 weeks and then had to go down to be at my Mimi's for a while with my daughter. She is dying of acute leukemia. It mostly hurts because she didn't think she'd still be here and is so very tired. The two of us being there helped I think. I'd never been there for someone at their death bed before. On top of that, a friend of mine from a Japan program five years ago killed himself the day after the Connecticut thing.
Let's say there's been a lot of soul-searching and contemplation for me this last week. For those of you who said you would pray for her and me, thank you so very much. I really appreciate it, and I think it is helping a LOT. Hannon le, thank you everyone.
For the scene where Legolas enters, more music! (and seriously, if you aren't listening to these while reading, you are totally cheating yourself of a great experience.) To listen, add this to the youtube homepage address:
And another that just seemed like a good choice for this chapter:
And another bonus! Just for epic scenes period in any LotR fic you read if you're on an epicosity binge.
As some of you may have noticed, I have been editing all past chapters a bit. I tried to keep them mostly the same and edit out mistakes, or catch strange speech patterns should they arise. I hope you enjoy the experience, as the story seems to be coming along in a different way now that I'm twenty-five and not fifteen. I hope it is for the better!
POLL RESULT: Thranduil it is... but not right now. Lune changed my mind and I actually rewrote half the chapter because it didn't fit, after she made me see the light, so to speak. But eventually... All hail the King! (Of Hotness, Frat Parties and Mirkwood alike; the memes out there are hilarious. XD) I do believe he would have a measure of foresight as well, and what Elven parent wouldn't feel their son's death? But yes, he is going to leave the field back in Mirkwood to see if his son is alive and well. Holy crud.
And if my Elvish is wrong, I apologize, but I'm taking my cues from the famous Cassia and Siobhan. (CHECK THEM OUT if you haven't already. BEST. LotR FANFICTIONS. EVER. The Mellon Chronicles. GREAT works. Message me for their site address.)
Chapter Sixteen: And Light Takes The Dark
The path to the House of Healing was blocked at every turn, but the presence of the elves parted the Men like winds through high fields. Gawkers were shoved to the wayside by the white wizard none too gently as they ascended the stairs to the infirmary, Elrond keeping his son as close possible while Gandalf carried the body of the fallen elf with both arms hooked under and around him, balancing his head against his chest with one hand spread fully over the elf's heart. There was something else at work in the Istar's touch even as they climbed, the elf lord knew.
Those who recognized the elf from his one man rampage against Saruman's army could not help but stop in a moment of reverence, a few bowed heads dotting the crowd as they passed. No one expected this man to survive, but his efforts had saved many. A few more of them held back their kinsmen in hopes of moving the six along in their swift journey to the House of Healing:
"Clear the path!"
"Give them room! Make way!"
"Come back here, Breda-"
A small blonde child dressed in rags placed a single sprig of lilac flowers over Elrohir's breast, scurrying away as quickly as she'd come. The little girl's gesture was both sweet and forebodingly funereal.
Arwen had kept Estel closely following, replacing their father beneath his arm with the ease of experience. Elrond had not spoken since their departure from Gwaihir, and it was obvious that all their combined powers would be absolutely necessary to save both twins now.
But silence did not keep hands from meeting, and the pair's fingers entwined with a mix of need and affection. Their short time together in the caves was not yet in the far memories of either, and weariness weighed on soul and body for both lovers. The twins' impending death, the suffering Legolas had freely accepted, the prince's passing in the caves, and then the chaos of the black war all through the night...
The comfort of firmly clasped hands was neither small nor unnecessary.
Elrond was oblivious to all save his son; he could feel the link between his children trying to grow as clearly as a twisting length of ensnaring vine, but he was vigilant in forbidding it to seek Elladan's soul. The fact that both of his sons might yet be saved was no less than a balm for his ailing spirit, but only just. Elrohir's curling shadow prowled their every touch like a tiger, seeking to trap as many of the Firstborn as it could in its snaring claws.
Time waned like the last sliver of light fleeing toward the new moon, and it showed in the healer's pace, practically dragging the elder twin along with him. He still held his palm fast against Elladan's sight, and it was growing unwelcome.
How long must I stay this way? Elladan wondered, sickened by desperation. I have to see him; I cannot lose him after I only just got him back!
Elladan was visibly shaking by the time Gandalf spoke again, unable to do anything without being led by the arm, hemmed about by unknown mortals, and still confoundedly blind. Elrohir's silence did nothing to console him, and he could barely put one stumbling foot in front of the other as the wizard pushed them on.
The elder twin jerked when the wizard suddenly roared in search of Rohan's king:
"Theoden! Theoden- Gamling!" he thundered as a puff of red hair neared in the sea of faces. Gandalf's flowing white cloak drove the humans before him like a flock of sparrows as he fiorded the crowd toward the guardsman. "Make way, I say!"
Through the Istar's insistent shepherding the party was soon at hand, and the King's right-hand man found himself beset by an odd sight: an incensed white wizard holding the limp, blood-drenched elf from the field, two haggard yet regal elves: one covering the other's eyes and leading him by an elbow in a strangely shielded posture, Lord Aragorn limping along behind and the beautiful she-elf from earlier supporting the man's weight.
His eyes widened as he slowly recognized the warrior his men had been holding in check.
Gandalf was barking orders before they'd even reached him:
"We have need of an undisturbed area for these Eldar; they are the last surviving that we have found and they may stay that way if you make haste and find me what I ask!"
Gamling looked harrowed but immediately complied, surveying the dying elf with soft eyes. "There is a space at the back wall," he offered quickly, gesturing and falling into swift step. "Let me secure some bedding; we can have the fire built up shortly."
"Tell your men to go into the mountains and find some Kingsfoil if they can reach it. We will need every aid possible to keep them..." The Istar's mordant tone said that his thoughts were travelling far from where his body now walked. "There will be little we can do without the aid of all at our disposal."
Aragorn took in Gandalf's words with sudden interest and a shred of dismay. They would need his help to draw them back from the brink it seemed, but he was not certain how much help he would be if consciousness fled him as it now threatened.
When he almost fell to the ground beside her tripping over a strange man in the corridor, Undomiel could hold her peace no longer.
"My lords," Arwen interjected, "might I tend Estel while you prepare them? The herb will take a while to gather, and these wounds need dressing."
Elrond seemed to return to them for a moment, a modicum of guilt colouring his gaze as he observed his youngest son's stiff gait. "Do as he requires," he assented. He addressed the ranger with acute remorse. "Forgive me, Estel; this will be difficult for me to maintain if I cannot lay hands on them. Can you-?"
"I am well, Ada," he nodded. "Go and save them. Please."
Elrond returned his nod without stopping and glided alongside the wizard to where Gamling was unrolling furs and soft leathers.
No longer under his scrutiny, the Dunadan fell against Arwen and she lowered him to a nearby cot, the patch of blood at his shoulder turning his face pale, his breathing ragged. He winced as she turned his arm loose at a slightly over-extended angle, cradling that arm into his chest.
I am drained of more than blood, he admitted with disdain. But it matters not. I pray they return with the athelas soon. Elrohir aside, more than one of these men have need of it, if only I can...
Aragorn sighed. He was tired, so very tired that his entire body rang with exhaustion. He had not expected this burden to extend past the dawn thinking that perhaps he would able to rest once the battle had been won. The battle- Valar, he had not even known if they would last the night, and now that dawn had broken it seemed a new struggle had begun, one just as daunting and far more complex.
The quiet of the tower and the drowsy scent of herbs lulled his troubled mind toward sleep. His eyes wanted to close, his head wanted to lay on the sleep furs and never rise. But there was need of his aid if his brothers were to come back to them, and his eyes cleared a little.
For them, he could find strength.
The couple did not speak as Arwen opened his tunic and began to clean the bloody shaft of the arrow where it lay embedded in his flesh. Estel knew she had been taught the healing arts as was befitting their father's daughter, but he had never witnessed her practise of them, and it pleased him now to do so.
He watched contentedly as she worked, and the details of her frame gave him solace: floating stray hairs about her face that had not been caught when she'd tied it back, the reflection of dawn and torchlight on her pale skin, the glint of deep blue eyes like gems as she studied the wound, the cross set of her mouth when she drew too close to the torn skin.
Arwen was everything. He did not know how he had done without her all this time. Sudden need cut his breath short, and he thought he might swoon from her presence.
She was truly here with him, and now she would stay.
The silence ran long, and she noticed his gaze with a small smile, raising an eyebrow. "Has it been so long since we have seen one other that you know not my face?"
"Never," he replied honestly. "I just... I feared I would never see you again."
The admission laid him bare before her. It seemed to strike something in maiden that she had put to the past for the span of the evening's trials. Her eyes glistened as she spoke.
"And I, you."
Realizing what she must have felt, Aragorn reached for her with open, blood-smudged hands. She paid the filth no heed and leaned down to press her upper body against him, arms around his neck on the hammocking fabric below them. He breathed in the scent of her, running his hand through the length of her dark silken hair, eyes closing in a relief he'd thought never to feel again after their departure as the Nine Walkers.
It was indescribable.
"I have missed you, melethril," he murmured. "My love..."
"We will have our life together, once we have vanquished the dark. I will hold to my pledge, if you will only do the same," she whispered, her breath caressing his ear as she spoke.
"I can do no less for you."
"Good." The word rang with a relief long wanted.
Arwen's eyes then narrowed in unseen apology, and she shifted her position above Aragorn's prone body. He didn't react.
Good, because this will hurt.
The ranger did not notice when her long fingers swiftly took hold of the arrow, her arms acting as both trap and release and, without warning, ripped it clean from his shoulder with a strength he'd thought impossible.
Necessary though it may have been, it didn't stop his jaw from snapping shut in a spasm of reaction and he nearly bucked up off of the cot. The suddenness of it stole the breath from his lungs, so at least his screams could not cause her guilt, he thought. But rather than look chagrined, the bewildered look of pain in his eyes seemed to sate her, and she snorted, soft and ladylike.
"It had to be removed," Arwen said simply. She raised one slim eyebrow. "And I wanted to make certain you learn from your mistake. If we are to part again, it shall be of both our wills."
Aragorn stared at her, trying to regain his lost equilibrium at the uncanny breadth and intensity of the fire rolling up and down his arm, breathing heavily through his nose.
"Remind me never to anger you again, my lady," he managed through his teeth.
One hand pressed down into the wound to cut off the bleeding, and the other cupped his cheek in reassurance, continuing to tend him as she spoke. "I just did. And you would do well to remember such a thing," she replied primly, not meeting his eyes for fear of losing her deadpan expression to a smile. "I would hate to have to tear arrows from you every time you presume to part us, my foolish ranger. Moreso, if I must put them there myself."
Aragorn stared. Her gibe had been soft, but he wasn't entirely certain that she was joking.
Arwen's mouth broadened into mirth at the look on his face, and she found herself suddenly, truly saddened at their playfulness, thinking of how Estel and Legolas had often exchanged such banter between them. As she swiped a clean, wet cloth across the wound on his leg, he glimpsed a sparkle falling from her chin even as the smile stayed in place, somewhat forced now that she fell silent.
"I did not wish you away, Arwen," he entreated her hoarsely, distressed at the idea that perhaps she felt unwanted. "I only wished you a long and happy life, as you were meant for."
She looked up at him and the grin faltered.
"And as he will never have," the Evenstar mourned, a quiver taking her chin, and Aragorn felt a lump rise in his throat as well. She tried to articulate: "I wish we could have..."
I wish we could have saved him.
A sob stopped her from continuing, and this time she hugged him in earnest, her shoulders shaking from her tears. The worries of the day overwhelmed her at last, her brothers on the border of life and death a few steps away and their dear friend lying in state somewhere within the darkened castle walls, hidden from the sun, the stars, and the trees.
Aragorn gingerly pulled himself into a sitting position and took her in his arms, finally allowing himself to remember his friend's pale, blood-spattered face as it had appeared only hours ago, and she shared her tears between them, his own spent so long ago that he could no longer weep.
We took the day, mellon-nin, but... what now, without you at our side?
Legolas mind drifted as it once had in death, only this time his pleas for some kind of relief from the blackness were answered with a deep and sudden knowledge:
They have sent the Light back with me, but it was not meant for me.
As he lay along the paths of sleep, the Sight took him to the top corner of the tower, where the greying light of Mithrandir, Elrond Peredhil and his sons glowed as beacons in the dark, surrounded in company by the shadows that feasted on the younger twin's soul like wolves at the kill. It hurt; it still hurt terribly to see such darkness, and the sparks held fast in the fading mortal bodies around them made his heart ache as they dimmed. One such glow stood out brighter among them, and he saw a brighter white flame and the clear blue light of a star not far away, drawing his 'gaze'.
He could hear his kinsmen speaking in hushed, frantic tones around him, mostly about whether a healer would be able to help him, if Mithrandir was nearby and if they should try to wake him again. His spirit flamed against the bonds of his flesh, and though he wished to release it, he could not come to consciousness, not yet. The Darkness still paced the boundaries of his mind, waiting for an opening to strike, and he chose to bide his time until the hour came to release the Rays in all their brilliance.
Blackness wrapped him again, and he promised into the silence.
I am coming, Elrohir...
To all appearances, the bundle held in the arms of the Lorien elf was nothing more than a dead body- until the golden light shone forth in snatches from beneath the heavy blanket.
"Move! All of you, make way!"
The armoured elf in front of him shoved a particularly ragged human out of their path and almost under a horse as they fled. His captain had been clearing the path for them with militaristic efficiency, not allowing anyone to pause them in their rush to the western tower, but a particularly thick congregation of Rohirrim barred their way now, and Haldir's checks for any sign of consciousness beneath the blanket were steadily growing into possible psychosis.
Eowyn's face cleared the throng for only a moment on her way to the healers, and she glimpsed a flash of light followed by the imprint of a face she had once seen from a much closer view.
"Legolas?" she murmured, pushed back in her stupor to hit the barricade of bodies at her back.
It can't be... Why do they-?
"Get out of our way!" The Lorien captain had lost his patience at last and wore an expression akin to that of a rabid dog. Haldir wrestled his way through the people pressed in around them, and angered voices were beginning to rise.
"What is the meaning of this, master elf?"
"Your kin may have come to us in aid, but that doesn't mean you can-"
"Let us pass, I say!" Haldir too was nearing panic: Legolas eyes were slitting open, bright light spilling from their lids as he did. "You must bring Gandalf- you don't understand!"
"No, I don't! You think you can start giving orders to men of Rohan?"
"You want us to hold 'em for you?"
"You fools!" the captain shouted, seething at their ignorance. This was quickly growing out of hand.
"Your kin weren't the only ones to die today!" someone else shouted.
Haldir's hands began to tense in want of a weapon. If they were rushed, they'd stand no chance against the entire keep full of humans.
Eowyn weaved through pockets in the visibly tensing crowd to Haldir's side, hoping to calm her people before the conflict could escalate any further. In a flourish of sweeping golden curls, the woman placed herself firmly between the bristling men and the armoured elven captains. Her presence quieted most of them into tight-lipped ranks; one did not defy a shield-maiden, especially the niece of the King himself.
"Haman, shouldn't you be with your son?" she asked curtly, cloud-light eyes resting on the man until he could no longer hold her gaze. Haman ducked his head in deference and opened his mouth to defend himself...
There was a great echo, forming itself into a single word.
The soft yet staggering utterance silenced the entire gathering as efficiently as a well-placed arrow.
It was accompanied by a shaft of golden light that rippled from the openings in the cloth Haldir bore in his arms. As if they were made of pure glowing sun, two graceful, shining hands removed the coating of fabric shielding it from prying eyes, and placed perfectly balanced feet onto the cool stone, shedding shimmering waves of reflected light scattering across his path.
Eowyn's breath strangled in her throat. It was undeniably Legolas' face that emerged, but the creature that stood before them was not of their world, nor of his presence.
With the contact of his skin to tangible ground, a twisted flow of encompassing golden mist flared out of him in a wide halo, causing those nearest him to gasp and pull away in fright, some scrambling away across the floor where they had fallen. If a statue of the great Manwe or Illuvatar himself had come off of its pedestal and come to walk among them, it could not have been more exquisite nor more terrifying than the figure they now beheld.
A pulsing hand swept in a drifting, wide arc, indicating serenely that they should clear the path. The echo came again.
Compliance was instant.
The figure of pure light lifted its head to the stairwell, flaming eyes locked on the tower of the Healing House, and in a lithe movement that seemed to move his entire body as one without pause, the archer placed one foot on the stair, then another, slowly and deliberately keeping his body as still as possible.
Every member of the Rohirrim clan stood stock still below as they beheld him, every face watching in stunned disbelief as the angelic being climbed the length of the staircase, the only sound against granite walls being the tap of bare feet on each stone step, paced and methodic. More gathered to watch the ascent as the glowing creature neared the doors to the Healing House, a beacon that drew the eyes of all, including Theoden himself as he entered the open floor, his jaw dropping in recognition.
It was a sight, to be sure.
It took every ounce of countrol Haldir possessed not to follow and grab his lord by both arms. Their last experience with a tower had nearly taken the rest of his immortality in his fright, but there was definite purpose to his lord's stride this time. He could hear soft whispers from the crowd about him, but behind the wash of gossip, Legolas muttered to himself as he moved. The power behind each syllable was such that they were audible even from so great a distance. It was disturbing to hear: somewhere between unstable discourse with himself and a possessed, spirit-drawn chant:
"It is he who hath need of it now..."
When he finally reached the tower, no one had the courage to follow him, and there was not a breath to be heard.
Eowyn found her eyes swimming from more than just the blinding assault upon them, and a sigh of profound gladness escaped her.
He had returned.
"It left the world and took its flight
Over the wide seas of the night.
The moon set sail upon the gale,
And stars were fanned to leaping light."
Over the Misty Mountains Cold – excerpt, J.R.R Tolkien
In the back corner of the infirmary, the ruling house of Rivendell was fading like a sandbar beneath a swift current.
The Healing House had grown colder and darker as the day wore on, the fire gradually dying as freely the wounded, and the warm glint of sunshine turned to a cold, silvery white as noon approached.
It had been a grueling course of hours, and Elrond was losing the spiritual grip on his son; the power he had been pouring into the barrier between his twin sons was becoming too much to lose quietly. Both hands lay over Elladan's eyes on the pallet below him, and every shudder that rocked his eldest son tugged at the elf lord's heart.
Sweat ran down his face, and he snarled as the bond once again attempted to reassert itself over Elladan's body. Elrond bit back an undignified growl of sheer frustration as Elladan's shoulder again darkened with stripes of blood that faded in and out like flitting shadows beneath the surface of a wave.
I cannot keep it from touching him much longer... This bond was not meant to be parted in such a way.
Elrohir's slack, marble-white features attested to his musings. Having cleaned some of the gore covering the twin's stark visage, his face alone shone like a death mask in a body of carved obsidian. Elrond did not want to think about how much killing his gentler, more carefree child had accomplished in the absence of the half of his heart that Elladan had always possessed.
The twins were indeed matched in every physical way, but Elladan had always been the stronger of the two, caring for his brother in a role that befit a missing parent more than a sibling. While he had been worried about Elladan since the plains, this was a new ache entirely:
It hurt to contemplate what sort of hell the younger twin had been through that night, alone.
Meanwhile, Elladan was doing his best to stay strong in the face of uncertain fate where he lay, but the passage of time played with his thoughts like ocean waves with a boat of driftwood. His throat worked.
"Ada, may I not at least hold his hand?" he murmured in a surge of torment, as if unable to stop the words from leaving him.
"Stay as you are, Elladan," his father warned him, tightening his grip just a little to drive his point. "If you touch him now it will only hinder him."
A pause. "Yes, Ada," came the obedient reply.
His heart was visibly breaking.
Elladan had been awake all the while and was utterly beside himself. There was nothing, not a sound nor a touch from the spirit of his twin, even though he had heard him placed on the pallet adjacent him a lifetime ago. Being neither allowed to see nor move a muscle while the Maiar worked was enough to drive him distracted, and every so often a pinching pain would form in his side when his brother's presence grew too near for Gandalf or Elrond to catch.
Throughout his body, eerily familiar scratches formed and disappeared at random. Each laceration caught him in the midst of comfort at the knowledge that his brother still lived- and horror that he might join him in an agonizing end. The hurts came and went, and there was no answer from his brother's mind nor his heart save for occasional snatches of pitch black and bitter cold.
He was going stark mad in the blackness, and even his father's touch did not help.
"Ai," Elladan wailed softly, feeling the overwhelming void in Elrohir's direction creeping into him at last. His hands fisted in the thick fur pillowing him, and the shadow steadily gained more ground. His voice broke.
"Ada, I beg of you, please-"
"Mithrandir, the line is not receding," Elrond gritted, his heart contracting at his son's plea, his voice turning sharp. "Have you sealed him?!"
"These things take time young one, and time we have not had," Gandalf replied beside him, as equally drained as the Noldor and trying sucessfully to mask it. "Keep on him, and I will release the boy once he is whole. This darkness has ravaged him, but t'will not take him yet."
The elf lord wanted to believe him, but for all his power and abilities he could not seem to stop the connection from claiming them entirely. Elladan was fully open to receiving his brother's fea from centuries of synergy, and that was something the boy could not help. He truly did not want to separate his sons this way, not when Elrohir lay so close to death and needed their support so very badly.
But he had learned long ago that one did not disobey the commands of Gandalf the White and not regret it. The wizard saw even more than he; that was something he freely admitted.
Illuvatar, give them your strength. I do not believe that you have meant for them to come this far and not remain.
Despite his efforts, with every passing second Elrond's own spirit grew darker, and heaviness weighed on his heart in ways he had not experienced in an age.
It was all too familiar: the state of Elrohir's body and the palpable evil rooting in him like a massive, towering nest of thorns, sucking the life from every part of him it touched. Celebrian had sailed the last time such a struggle had taken place, and that knowledge was dragging the Lord of Imladris downward into chaos as surely as the shadow that now took his son.
Elrond gritted his teeth, and readied his near-emptied reserves to draw forth another plentiful surge of healing energy, one that would undoubtedly pull him to the edge of life if he gave of himself further... but he would not allow this to pass.
The grieving father was stopped short as Gandalf's eyes suddenly raised to the outer doors, standing straight up with his staff in both hands.
As if on cue, the doors opened with a startling squeal of working hinges and creaking wood.
Every head turned.
Each person in the Healing House looked up in concert, and all were thunderstruck by an engulfing wave of thick gold that flooded the room in a hurricane of illumination. Sparks like that of a disturbed hearth fire swirled around the body that stood in the entrance, and his countenance brimmed with light that hurt Aragorn to look at closely. Gasps echoed from every corner of the room, and the ranger stood, ready to defend his family.
Aragorn's heart fell at the possibility of another hurdle to be crossed, and he strove in vain to glimpse the new creature through the heavenly veil concealing this new force. What kind of magic could possibly approach them now?!
Elladan had been about to snap, save for the soothing warmth that had gusted around him at the stranger's entry. He did not see the light, but the titanic winds that tugged at his skin and fanned his hair up over his head spent the last of his composure, and he struggled to rise. "Ada, what is it?! What is happening?!" Elladan screamed for answers, but none came.
Both Elrond and Gandalf were completely frozen, with expressions almost identically sculpted into patterns of uncomprehending disbelief. This kind of unspeakable power was not given lightly, and Gandalf knew firsthand what it meant to emerge in such a form. Elrond only knew of the phenomenon from many long hours with Lord Glorfindel, but even that famed event had been nothing like this.
The two were utterly dumbstruck, and it was not a common display for either.
This merely served to fuel Aragorn's rising alarm. "Gandalf?!" he cried, unable to tear his eyes from the light as it entered, drawing closer. The ground was vibrating beneath them from each energy-filled step the being took, far too much of an impact for something the size of what now came for them.
Arwen blanched and caught Aragorn's shoulder, swaying on her feet as the being's face was revealed in a patch of lesser glow- along with his identity. Her eyes went round, and her mouth fell open.
"Eru above..." she breathed inaudibly. She had not dared hope...
Slowly, the ranger's eyes adjusted to the glare radiating from the newcome brilliance, leaking tears, both hands lifted against the searing beams.
When he finally saw his face through the white, Estel's breath froze in his lungs.
There was no way that this could be, but there was no mistaking the fair archer for anything other than himself.
Aragorn choked, unwilling to speak for risking the loss of this moment, were it merely the work of some illusory spell. His eyes welled for a different reason than the brightness, and he took an involuntary, shuddering step forward as his legs drained of their strength.
"L...Le..." His lips formed the word, but he failed to utter it.
It was he. It was Legolas.
Aragorn tried not to fall to his knees with the shock. Never had he thought for one moment that their triumph would be so complete, not after the tragedies of that night, not after Legolas had gone so petrifyingly still in his arms. Deep down, Aragorn had known in his heart that whether they lived or died, whether his brothers be saved, whether Saruman's army be defeated or the whole of Middle Earth go dark before them, that never again would he see his dear friend this side of the shimmering sea.
A gaping hole within him was filled for the first time since that horrifying night in the caves.
Legolas was alive.
The risen prince stood in a rictus of knife-edged concentration, his now flame-coloured eyes focused on Aragorn's brothers as the glow erupted from them anew. There he stood motionless, struggling to keep his legs straight and steadied, eyes riveted on Elrohir alone.
Aragorn started, staring as empty cots and the less weighty of the supplies were suddenly thrown asunder about them. With the once-dead archer's last step into the tower, heated, savage winds buffeted the room like an entrapped hurricane: not from outside the doors, but from inside the archer himself.
The ranger remembered vaguely the golden streak of light that had strung the field shortly before he'd been shot, not knowing whence it had come, and a kind of nameless terror swept Aragorn as he looked upon the transfigured form of his best friend. He took a step toward him, hands outstretched as if to take Legolas into his arms, but could not bring himself to do it. Bewilderment held him fast, chilling him and arresting his brain's insistent orders to his limbs.
What power had taken the elf after he had gone to bring him forth in such a state?
The questions terrified him as much as the answers- until suddenly, he was at the ranger's side, inches away. Without thinking Aragorn closed the small space between them and cupped the elf's cheek in his shaking hand.
It was solid and held the consistency of any flesh and blood being, but his skin vibrated with the same frequency as the stones of the floor. Ripples of light were bathing his hand where he touched him.
"Legolas...?" the ragged ranger whispered, barely breathing as he watched the elf respond.
For a moment his heart fell; there was no recognition in the glowing eyes. He thought perhaps to retreat for fear of having been remiss in his brashness, but a steel-strong hand on his elbow stopped him, drawing a gasp from his throat.
In a slight, agonizingly gradual swivel of Legolas' head, their eyes met... and the elf was looking at him, into him with an alien presence in his questioning gaze. It was like being naked beneath the sun itself, all his soul laid bare before the towering, churning presence that presided over both earth and sky, and he was a mere wisp of cloud beneath it. He felt heat spreading into his fingertips where they touched skin.
At long last, fire-filled eyes were touched with more than just pain and spirited determination: there was recognition, and a relief there that ran deeper than Estel could have hoped to fathom. Aragorn searched his face with rising hope.
The prince's mouth stretched in a gentle, pleased smile, oblivious of the tears that stained the man's stubbled face.
Aragorn shuddered despite the warm tone, trying to return the gesture and failing, eyes flickering.
Even his voice was not of Arda now.
The words rang with an intensity and a mountainous timbre that should not have been possible from any single Elven throat. There were thousands upon thousands of voices, whispers, shrieks, and murmurs in a tumult of tones: loving, commanding, warning, consoling, sighing, and screaming. They spoke of forces unknowable and unstoppable that seemed to have found their rest inside the Mirkwood elf, and Aragorn found himself deeply and truly afraid.
The elf's joy was cut short when Legolas' eyes focused just over his shoulder on a cot that held a bloodied mortal.
As if against his will, his attention was caught entirely by the dying man, as if he could sense something too great to be ignored. His distraction was paid for in suffering; Legolas flinched, jerking his face away from Aragorn's hand as if it were the mortal's figure that shone too bright to witness. The light gathered around the injured human, then flared and dissipated, having found no purchase in his already cold body.
This man of Rohan had already made his choice.
It soon became plain why the prince was so deathly focused on his aim upon entering the Healing House, and why he had only spared a moment to look upon on his dearest friend.
"No!" Legolas cried. The instant the light vanished back into his body, his features twisted in a spasm, and he sobbed only once, rocking back as if he had felt the death himself, as if he had plunged into the dark. It was as if the old Legolas had fought his way to the forefront again, his voice merely physical for one pleading instant. But the words were both of Man and Elf, two voices speaking as one.
The second voice Aragorn realized belonged to the man on the cot:
"Let me go- I cannot stay, let me- Let me go- the Halls! The Halls..."
Then Legolas straightened, and his face snapped back into a kind of schooled determination with frightening speed, as if the attack had never come, all familiarity gone along with it. The glowing archer turned his gaze back to Gandalf, resuming his slow pace to the end of the room, albeit with far longer pauses between his steps.
Clinging to Arwen's side, the ranger watched torn and transfixed as the swirling cloud of flameless embers took his friend's body once again. He noticed that it was not that Legolas' body walked so much as the light itself drove him onward, and the destination became obvious.
It appeared that help for his brothers had been sent from above. And it had chosen Legolas as its vessel to deliver it.
Even Mithrandir was still gaping as the prince strode with impossible deliberation to the bedside of Elrond's sons. This was a playing piece that he had not foreseen.
Legolas' feet lit the stones where he stood, and he reached down to wrap strong fingers around Elrond's right shoulder. As soon as he touched him, the healer was hit with a rush of vision that told him exactly what he needed to do, and how to do it. He had long been the giver of such knowledge and power himself, but being the recipient of that force sent him reeling.
Lord Elrond barely recognized the barrage on his senses as a command before the golden elf opened his mouth and spoke into the silence:
The echoing order hurt Aragorn's ears even with his dull mortal hearing from all the way across the room.
So it was no great surprise when Elrohir's eyes shot open and he screamed with inhuman volume in response.
All hell broke loose.
The ranger was running toward them before he'd even realized what was happening. Gandalf tried to take hold of the bucking elf, but he was not faster than Legolas. The prince held him down by his forehead and wrist, bracing the arm against the twin's stomach to force him down. He fought them in whipping, unnatural movement that spoke of a deep and terrible possession beneath twisting flesh and bone, screaming without ceasing.
As he had been instructed moments before, Elrond removed his hand from Elladan's eyes and shoved him forward toward his twin, bidding him go as Aragorn threw his entire weight over Elrohir's lashing legs:
"Take his hands, my son! You have moments only!"
Elladan could not have complied any quicker. He grabbed for his brother's hands as they sought to inflict blows upon the ethereal archer, the angered evil rebuking them violently for wounding it with such blazing light, but they did not let go. Still he bucked and writhed and carried on, the black speech pouring out of him like a fountain.
The Shadow had taken full control of his body, and it was not going without a fight.
Screaming that made Aragorn want to retch continued as Legolas spoke over his elder brother in a rising tone. He had only heard such a tongue from one other creature in Arda, and he could not bear to hear such bellowing come from Elrohir's mouth.
His eyes clenched shut and he kept pressing down with every ounce of strength he had left.
The twin's upper body was freed, however; Elrohir threw his head forward, his hair strapping them across their faces with streaks of vile blood, cracking into Elladan's nose and mouth with such force that he was knocked all the way across the pallets and into his father, his hands leaving Elrohir's for a few seconds before scrambling to him again, his nostrils streaming blood.
Elrond's stomach curdled and his spine chilled as the form of a gnarled, skeletal orc took his beloved child's place for only an instant under Legolas' touch.
It was the longest moment of the elf lord's considerable life.
A blaze of light shone anew and Elrohir's face returned, gasping, and his movements lessened into agonized flailing, like a fish drowning on dry land. Much as he had before at their bond's acceptance, the sheer strength of the archer's arms held the struggling twin's head at each temple like a pair of fiery shackles, and smoke rose from where his hands touched the pitch-coloured skin.
Legolas' temples were throbbing, and veins showed through the skin. The shadow was attacking him with reckless throes of agony wherever it could break through, but he held fast against it; the prince had not come this far to fail them both now. It would be close, however; his teeth ground aloud.
Elladan crushed his sibling's hands together against his chest, focusing the grace he possessed to steady them in their spiritual warring. "Come away, gwanur!" he cried. "Do not leave us here to endure without you! Do not forsake the light! Fight!"
Legolas' mighty voices rang out against the dark, and the final blow was struck:
"LEAVE HIM BE, THOU SHADOW OF MORGOTH! ELROHIR ELRONDION- COME FORTH!"
Elrohir gave a shriek as if his limbs were slowly being torn from him by force, and just when Elladan thought he could take no more, a mighty roar of wind burst through every window in the tower, ripping away blankets and dousing torches with its passing. Aragorn cried out, and the clutch of elves and men threw up hands and arms to avoid flying objects that pelted them from the gales. Gandalf's shining staff formed a glowing ball of shielding around him, and the storm ceased with a few firm words from the Istar's mouth.
The first thought Aragorn had was that he could see at last; the light had receded into a bearable haze for the first time since the ordeal had begun.
Elrond feared what he would see as he picked himself up from the floor, finding Estel pooled in his lap, still reeling from the battering gusts. His senses were scattered, his mind undone. Where were his sons? How had they fared in their final moments of the battle? He extended his mind to meet them...
A cry broke forth from the centre of the space the three elves now occupied, and Elladan's voice called out, his tone stilted as blinded sight returned.
Elrond's throat closed on him as he felt his son's presence and saw his features healthily blushed. Elrohir's eyes were filled with awareness, and his father sobbed.
The Song flowed through his child still.
Legolas had not moved an inch from the gripping stance of his patient, holding himself stock-still in his gleaming gaze until he could be sure the work was done.
He was not disappointed. After a handful of shaking breaths, Elrohir locked his hands about Legolas' head. Slowly, without breaking their contact, the dark-haired elf sat up, lifting them both into a kneeling embrace, his eyes streaming.
At that, the archer's eyes finally closed. It was done.
This what what they had fought for. How had the two become such violent forces of nature's bosom from such simple bonds: the ties of friendship and self-sacrifice? They held each other's faces close with strained difficulty, as if forcing themselves to look upon each other would break any lingering grip of light and darkness on their overwrought spirits.
With a sigh, Legolas' warm illumination dimmed to a comforting candle's glow, and the fog that hindered Elrohir's light was excluded from their embrace, the twin's natural soft illumination breaking to the surface once more, and they wept with the sheer joy of it.
They held each other deathly close, as if neither could afford to break apart from the other, and Legolas tired yet pinpointed gaze told them that he was still working the last drop of the Light deep into the Noldor elf's soul, engulfing every piece of the dark that sought survival.
Gandalf's eyes glistened as he saw the last of the shadow disappear into the eaves of the world, and he laid a hand on Elladan's shoulder, nodding that he could go to his brother.
"L-Legolas..." Elrohir stammered, staring into the Silvan prince's eyes with shell-shocked terror, trying to comprehend how this miracle had occurred.
The younger of the twins was still reeling as he realized with certainty from the forehead pressed against his own that this was not the spirit world, his blue-green eyes welded into the archer's now crystal blue gaze. Elladan was taking his brother's hands gently from Legolas' hair, gathering him into his arms and wrapping him in a brown fur-lined skin from the floor.
Elladan's eyes struck Legolas with such gratitude that the prince was rendered speechless, but it did not matter to either. There was nothing they could say.
The depth of their love had been shown at its greatest in the actions of this day.
Elrohir's eyes were drifting shut with exhaustion, despite his efforts to remain staring into the risen archer's eyes. It was as if he feared he would vanish if he looked in the other direction for too long.
"L-L'golas...Legolas... you... It is really y-you...?"
The golden-haired archer merely smiled, looking tired and contented as he stroked the twin's locks with a now freed hand. Legolas' purpose had been fulfilled, and he had never been happier to have succeeded. His relief at seeing the twins restored was only as great as his relief when the Light had finally left him, receding into the depths of Elrohir's fraying spirit and releasing its roiling pressure from his newly awakened body. The voices had left, and now the Song returned to its usual comforting lilt, no longer a battering ram of power attempting to escape his frail form in mind-shattering flight.
Elrond held his son's hand in his own, feeling the returning warmth there with breath of steadying knowledge: Elrohir was whole again. It appeared the elf lord still had a part to play, for he had been saved as surely as his sons.
"Eru Illuvatar, you watch over us still," he murmured.
Aragorn stared in wonder and silent prayers of thankfulness at the two figures that held his heart, kneeling together on the floor of the tower, moving, breathing, feeling naught of the darkness' cruel touch. He sobbed softly in Arwen's hair where she had fixed herself against him, his body draining of the adrenaline that had kept him going all this time.
Valar, I beg your forgiveness... With such a gift as this, how can I ever doubt your grace again? the man wondered.
His hope in their victory was bolstered anew, and he did not know now how he had lost it on the battlefield that now lay at their backs. There was no brotherhood among the Dark, but their own would stand firm to the end, even beyond. If any doubt had remained, it was blown away with the storm of Legolas' coming. They were all brothers, as clearly as if Legolas had shared the bloodline of Earendil himself. None could ever take that from them.
Gandalf said not a word as he lifted Legolas into his arms and onto the now smoothed pallets, covering him with another heavy fur as Elladan laid his brother to rest beside him.
"Let us leave them be. Rest is the best medicine for them now."
Arwen released him with a gentle shove, indicating that he stay by Legolas' side. He followed her nudge with no resistance, watching Legolas' familiar eyes glaze into the first stages of Elven sleep and placing a hand on his chest as he maneuvered to lay beside him on the pallet. Estel was not certain how long it would be before he felt safe enough to leave the returned prince to rest on his own without the ranger's personal vigil nearby.
The elf seemed to sense this, and before long a slender hand wound its way outside of the cover to take the ranger's own in a gentle grip. Mortal eyes closed, and the ranger's body gave at long last, his head tucked into the space beneath Legolas' arm as easily as it had when he was a boy. The archer's head leaned toward him, and he sighed in contentment.
Elladan joined his twin on the adjoining pallet, keeping watch for the slightest sign of discomfort. He would not dare sleep for fear of awaking to the reality that their family was not truly whole. It was all like a dream long past come to placate them in their need of respite, and Elladan felt shaken still. He ran his fingers through his brother's dried hair, attempting to rid him of the tangling clots of dirt that still clung there. He set about cleaning his skin with a warm, soaked cloth and stroked his forehead in fond contemplation. His heart swore his oath anew even as he watched Elrohir recede from consciousness:
I will never leave you again, El. Never again.
Gandalf leaned his head toward the doors, pulling Elrond away to seek his own rest and leave the young ones in peace. He would not have followed, but Elladan nodded him into acceptance, vowing silently to alert him to the slightest change. The wearied elf-lord spared one last smile for his eldest, and for the young-looking ranger curled on the bedding, and then conceded to Arwen's beckoning toward a bed of his own.
"Sleep well, my children."
Unseen in the dim firelight, moments after they fell into sleep, fingers reached and Silvan and Noldor hands clasped in solidarity, in comfort that they were together, and in thankfulness that both lived to dwell in Arda once again.
I may edit this some more, as it was a sporadic process, God help me... but thank you thank you THANK you all for getting me this far! I thought a New Year's post was appropriate, but I am sure it will be rewritten a bit once I get a chance to step away from it. I will also continue with a few more chapters to wrap things up, get final fears laid to rest and to ready the scene for the next impending war... which I may or may not write. :D
Happy New Year, everyone! Blessings to you and your house!