Here's a gap-filler that I decided to write – as in ten minutes ago. So here it is. I don't know what it's going to be like yet, for the simple reason of I haven't written it yet . So here we go…
The Ebb of the Tide
The prow sliced through the water, keen as the sharpest knife, sending salty spray into the air, a curtain of haze that parted for the bulk of the vessel to pass through.
Aragorn sat with his back to the mast, taking his time over cleaning Andúril with the doe-skin cloth, running it down the blade lovingly. He did not know where Gimli was – apparently he preferred horse riding to this, much to their amusement. He would be tucked away somewhere, he guessed, giving the sea contemptuous glares.
But Gimli was not the one that preyed on Aragorn's mind…
Legolas was standing right on the prow over the water – something that had nearly given Gimli a heart attack when he had seen it. But, as he observed his tall companion, he began to accept that he was, after all, an Elf, with a sense of balance far superior to that of any other being, and standing on that narrow piece of wood - to him - was like standing on a wide, level road.
Legolas was happy – Aragorn had seen the way his eyes had alighted when they had set sail after throwing off the bodies of the pirates. A smile so rich with joy had touched his lips and stayed there, firmly fixed by the sheer thrill of parting the sea on a ship so fast. True, these pirate boats were far from pleasing to the eye and nose alike, but that, apparently, did not hinder Legolas' mood in the slightest. Aragorn failed to remember seeing him so happy from the time they had set out from Imladris right to this point.
He was far from happy to have Legolas here with them.
It had been a debate that he had had with himself more or less as soon as they had left the Paths of the Dead, allowing Legolas to come with them. It had seriously been taken into consideration that he should leave the Elf behind, bidding him to go back through the mountain to ride with the Rohirrim. Legolas would not have understood that order, and whether or not he would actually obey it was a different matter entirely. But sending him back would have meant sending him to war without himself and Gimli, and if something had happened to him and Aragorn not been there for his best friend, he would never be able to forgive himself...
But can I forgive myself for what I am about to do to him now? Some time soon, he will hear it, and that will be the end of his happiness on this Middle-earth.
He heard the Elf laugh and whoop with glee at something, and so, in order to slake his inquisitiveness, Aragorn rose to see what it was, sheathing Andúril and pocketing his cloth. Having reached the bow, he looked to Legolas, and followed his gaze into the water…
They were what something in his memory called dolphins, leaping in the churning white water, grey skins shimmering in the sun, sleek, long bodies treating the waves that any other creature would have considered dangerous like a play ground.
What do they call it? Bow-riding, I think…
'Aren't they beautiful?'
'What? Oh – yes, fascinating creatures…'
Legolas came down from his position, not loosing his footing once on the spray-slick wood, landing lightly next to his friend, his head cocked slightly to the side, surveying Aragorn with his penetrating cerulean eyes, which reflected the sun with unblinking brilliance, the smile visible in them almost as though his eyes had been swapped with his mouth.
'Your mood is black, mellon nin; what troubles you?'
Aragorn offered a sad, apologetic smile to his friend as he looked him back in the eye.
I owe him the truth.
'Legolas,' Aragorn began, taking his eyes away from those of the other and passing to lean over the railing with folded arms, searching the expanse of water for nothing in particular. 'Have you thought about where you are?'
Legolas frowned in confusion.
'Aragorn, have you accepted a drink from Gimli of late?'
The Ranger gave a snort of amusement at that comment.
'Seriously, mellon nin – you know about this journey that I have brought you on?'
Legolas did not understand this mood that Aragorn was in – it was as though a black cloud hovered above him while the rest of the world was in sunlight.
'Yes, Aragorn, I know perfectly well wha-'
Aragorn turned when Legolas failed to deliver the rest of his sentence, and saw that he was fixedly gazing at something high above them. Following the Elf's line of vision, he saw it, the one thing that he had dreaded for this entire trip.
It sawed above their heads, neat, pointed wings motionless as it glided effortlessly through the air, its white body framed against the blue of the sky, yellow bill pointing straight ahead of it. The bill opened, an almost laughing call escaping from it…
Aragorn had heard the sharp intake of breath beside him, and he bowed his head, feeling his heart grow heavy. He was responsible. Turning to his friend, he bore witness to the change in Legolas. The joy was gone from his eyes, now taken over by what could be called a confused expression, his mouth making small soundless movements as he still watched the gull as it swooped through the air to snatch at something just beneath the surface.
Legolas jumped at the sound of his own name, blinking at Aragorn in a lost manner.
'They are calling me back,' the Elf said in a detached voice. And then he began to recite…
'"Legolas Greenleaf, long under tree,
in joy thou hast lived
but beware of the sea!
If you hear the cry of the gull on the shore,
Thy heart will lie in the forest no more."
'I never thought it would happen, Aragorn. Never. I did not even give it a thought when we boarded – but now…'
'I am sorry, Legolas: it was unavoidable that I should come this way; I wanted to send you back through the mountain, but-'
'-You knew that I would never leave you.'
There was a brief pause before: 'Yes.'
'It was not your fault, Aragorn,' Legolas told his friend in a firm, strict voice. 'It was destined to happen at some stage in my life; that it occurred now really makes no difference – I will stand by you through this, no matter what.'
I will stand by you 'til the very end.
Aragorn smiled, placing a hand on the shoulder of his companion. They had been through so much – such hurt and strain that surely would have sent them down the road to insanity … if they had not had each other. Indeed, Aragorn knew for a fact that he would have failed if it were not for Legolas being there for him to act as an emotional rock – someone that he could rely upon to be there and offer him strength when he felt he had none.
Legolas turned his blond head back out to the stretch of water, on whose horizon even he could see nothing. That was his destination. As to when, he did not know, but he was already feeling the urge to leave getting stronger in his heart. There would be no contentment for him anymore on this land… Yet he was unable to leave Aragorn behind. Aragorn needed him yet, he knew he did, and as long as that requirement was there, Legolas Thranduilion would be going nowhere. He would not abandon his brother, but eventually he would be pulled away, like a grain of powerless sand under the ebb of the tide.
Mellon nin - My friend
Well, I said it was going to be short – I've never actually done one as short as this before, so it's been an experience, nor have I ever written one in just a couple of hours. Odd…
Hope you enjoyed it – no physical pain, no tests of spirit; not even a drop of blood!