Author's Note: This is a one-shot vignette inspired by the passing of other great heroes. I hold no claims of originality over it, except for perhaps filling in a small spot the appendixes of LOTR never mention. All characters and places are Tolkien's.
The Passing of a Legend
Legolas stood by quietly and watched as his old friend came forth from his chambers and walked out into the hallway to greet him. A smile lit the elf's face as soon as he saw his friend, but though his façade and manner seemed easy on the outside, he could not keep his eyes from lingering over the weathered face and mentally going over every change that had overcome his friend.
For Aragorn, son of Arathorn and the high king of Gondor, had grown old.
Aragorn reached where Legolas was standing, his gait slower than what Legolas remembered to be normal. "Good morning, friend," Aragorn said when he stopped before Legolas.
"Good morning and well met," Legolas answered, turning aside and offering his arm. It had become a habit of his to meet Aragorn in the mornings and escort him to the great hall of the house to conduct his kingly duties. At first Aragorn had rebuffed Legolas' efforts, partly joking that an old man could still walk on his own, but Legolas continued to come every day and Aragorn had not the strength nor the heart to refuse him any longer.
As the pair turned to walk down the long hallway of the house, Legolas' eye caught the figure that stood at the door where Aragorn had just exited. The lady Arwen stood there, her figure frail and slim and her face also smiling, but Legolas could catch the sorrow deep within her eyes as well. For she too was not immune to the aging of her husband, and it was a bitterness that she had known was coming but was still not yet ready to accept.
Arwen glanced up at Legolas' face just as his eyes slid over her, and he gave her a small nod of acknowledgment and also one of encouragement. Arwen turned her smile towards him and closed her eyes briefly, she understood.
As usual, Gimli was waiting by the time the pair reached the great hall. He always insisted on being present for any official matters and he had long since been accepted as one of the king's top advisors and confidantes. His boisterous welcoming of the pair caused all else who were present to turn and rise when they saw Aragorn enter and everybody stood patiently and respectfully as Legolas led Aragorn to his chair at the head of a long table. It was not until Aragorn was seated that everybody else retook their own seats.
Legolas stepped back and stood off to the side. Where Gimli was more content to be involved in the happenings and eager to aid, sometimes even start, any arguments, Legolas was more suited for standing quietly by, always near his friend should he need anything. Legolas was not sure why, but he was becoming increasingly worried over the state of Aragorn, so much so that he forsook what little sleep he needed to prowl about the city of Gondor at night, looking for dangers that he could not find to protect Aragorn from. And though deep down he knew that it was no outside danger threatening the king, his uneasiness grew and he could not quite understand how it could be something inside of the mortal man that was causing such distress.
For perhaps the millionth time, Legolas went through and noted every change that had taken place in the mortal king. His face was lined and creased, his posture stooped though still more than proud enough to show off his inner vitality. His hair had grown gray and thinner and his figure more gaunt, the bones starting to show through muscles that had long since forgotten their use.
Legolas was not even paying attention to all that was going on in the meeting, only focused on every breath that Aragorn took. Still for reasons unknown to him, Legolas' anxiety concerning his friend had increased tenfold and he did not want to leave Aragorn's side for any reason.
The meeting was over quickly enough, or so it seemed to Legolas, and Aragorn stood up slowly, much more slowly than he ever used to. He looked over to the side and caught Legolas' eye. He smiled faintly, perhaps being able to read the concern within the elf easily and thinking it all to be useless but touching at the same time.
Legolas moved forward so that he might be able to escort him back or see to anything that Aragorn might need, but Eldarion was at Aragorn's side before Legolas had a chance to reach it, so he backed off. He watched carefully as Aragorn and his son exited the large room and turned away only when no signs of Aragorn could no longer be seen.
"And what are on today's events?" Gimli questioned. He had come to Legolas' side but the elf started at the sound of his voice, as if he had not even noticed Gimli was there.
Gimli cocked an eyebrow. "Skittish?"
Legolas scoffed and quickly regained his composure. "Over your threatening and powerful presence? Never."
Gimli grinned. "Let us go find something to eat then."
Legolas complied but sobered as soon as they began to walk to the dining hall. He ate little when they finally got there and nothing Gimli said could raise his spirits. Legolas did not know why, but he felt a great sense of doom hanging over his head, as if some great battle were about to break out. He tried to shake the feeling away, but it was to no use.
Gimli became frustrated at the elf's lack of response to what was going on around him. "What is going on in that head of yours?" he finally asked.
Legolas took his time in answering. Finally he shook his head. "I know not, I am simply worried. I sense some sort of evil."
Gimli frowned. "We have not seen an orc or any sign of evil in years."
Legolas swallowed. "I know, yet there is something else. It will not leave me in peace."
Gimli knew the elf well enough by now to know that he was not one to merely make things up. His instincts were often accurate. "Should we tell Aragorn to alert the guards?"
Legolas sat back and passed a long hand over his face. "No, I do not wish to bother Aragorn over this and cause him anymore worry."
The dwarf nodded. "Fair enough, we can alert the guards on our own. They know to listen to us."
Before Legolas could voice any objections, the dwarf was up and walking out of the dining hall. Legolas had no choice but to follow.
"There is no need to alert the guards," Legolas said as the walked. "It is not a threat from outside that weighs heavily on my mind."
Gimli stopped as an idea overtook him. His face looked panicked for a moment. "It is not an attempt at assasination, is it?"
"No, no," Legolas shook his head. "It is nothing like that. Nothing that can physically harm Aragorn, it is just," Legolas faltered.
"Just what?" Gimli said.
Legolas sighed. "Have you noticed Aragorn growing older?"
Gimli seemed confused by the question. "Of course, it is what we all do. Well, except for you of course. You may see a few gray hairs in my beard even."
"I know, and I know it is what happens to all mortals. But does it not seem that Aragorn is growing, dangerously old?" Legolas did not know a better way to explain what he was feeling.
Gimli was staring at the elf thoughtfully. "Is there a sickness that will soon be upon him?"
"Perhaps, I do not really know. I am restless is all, I suppose it could be nothing."
"And I hope it is nothing," Gimli said. "We finally have this city running as smoothly as it can with all of our combined influences. It'd be a shame to wreck it all now."
Legolas smiled at Gimli's words. Trust the dwarf to try to make light of the situation. "Yes, I am sure it is nothing then," Legolas said.
"Right, then let us be off then. You said you will come with me today to survey some stone work down on the third level. There might need to be repairs."
"I said that and I will come," Legolas said. The two walked off then, the dwarf eager to see what was to be done about the stone work, and the elf less than thrilled to be staring at stones all day. The conversation with Gimli had made Legolas feel better, but he still could not shake a feeling that was akin to a pit in his stomach, dread.
As the day dragged along, slower than Legolas could ever remember time moving, Legolas' anxiety reached a fever pitch. It came to a point where he could not stand still for even a small moment's time and his constant pacing and searching for something he could not find began to irritate Gimli.
Finally, a few hours before the sunset, Gimli could not stand it any longer.
"If you will not still yourself I will be forced to pound you into the ground like the stonework!"
The elf's response was not exactly what Gimli had anticipated. Legolas stopped and whirled around, but away from Gimli. For a moment he seemed like an animal sniffing something out, and then he began to walk away.
Gimli stared for a moment. Had he really offended his friend that much? No, Legolas would at least have said something, a scathing insult perhaps, but he would not just walk away. Gimli hurried after his friend.
Legolas barely noticed the dwarf coming up to his side and demanding explanations as to where he was going. Legolas had felt it, a definite change in the air, in the atmosphere around him, and he knew something had drastically changed. Something that could never be reclaimed.
He was walking unflinchingly up to the top tiers of Gondor, towards the king's chambers. Gimli knew where they were going and remembered the agitated state Legolas had been in all day and his previous concerns over some sort of danger towards Aragorn.
Unknowingly, Gimli had his axe out and readied. "What is it?" he whispered to Legolas. "Is Aragorn in trouble?"
The elf finally acknowledged Gimli at his side with a glance towards him. "I know not," he said, his voice heavy. "Something has changed."
They had made it to the top. The air was strangely quiet, and Gimli found himself searching about uneasily. It felt as it did right before a large storm blew through, that the quiet stillness was a façade underlying a great torrent.
Legolas was making his way to the House of Kings, and then he stopped. Gimli stopped too, and looked around for why. Then he saw a lone figure seated at the steps before the House of Kings. It was Eldarion, and he was sitting still, staring at a winged crown in his hands. Discarded beside him lay the sceptre of Arnor.
The elf took a few steps towards Aragorn's son, his gait no longer determined but now uncertain. Gimli followed slowly behind.
It was not until they were within a few feet's distance from Eldarion that he finally looked up. He looked up as if in wonder at the pair before him. Then he showed them the crown in his hands.
"Father says I am ready." He then lowered his head again and the crown fell to his lap. "I told him I do not wish for it yet."
Terror suddenly seized Legolas. Unbridled and powerful, it swept through his body, rocking him on his feet. Legolas took a step forward, and actually stumbled in his haste.
Gimli looked on amazed. He still was not entirely sure what was going on, but he had never seen the elf stumble in his life. He would have jumped on the opportunity and teased the elf mercilessly for it at any other time, but now it did not seem quite appropriate.
Legolas was moving forward however, and he had just made it past a listless Eldarion when the door to the Houses of Kings swung open. Arwen Undomiel came forth, and Legolas stopped as if something had hit him. The uncertainty and terror that had been flowing through him halted as grim assurance settled in.
For Lady Arwen, the fair Evenstar that was said to hold Luthien's beauty, was a mess. Her fair face streamed with tears and her posture seemed broken, as if she could not be trusted to hold herself up. It was only a slim waver of will that was keeping her composed and preventing her from throwing herself on the stone steps screaming.
And then her dark eyes met Legolas', and he knew. He knew without a shadow of a doubt. He had failed to protect Aragorn after all. The high kind of Gondor was dead.
"My lady," Gimli came clambering up the steps to Arwen's side, not yet understanding. "What is wrong, what has happened?"
"Gimli," Legolas' low voice came to him. The dwarf turned to him, his eyes wide. He had an idea that something horrible had happened, but he was not yet ready to believe anything.
Legolas himself looked as taut as a bowstring, as if he was about to shatter or lash out violently.
"Aragorn is gone Gimli," he finished in the same flat voice.
Gimli's mouth fell open. He looked quickly at Arwen beside him, then at the still unmoving Eldarion on the lower steps. He refused to believe it. "Gone where?"
"To be with his fathers," Arwen said in a surprisingly calm voice. "To take his place with the other great kings."
Gimli looked back towards the door Arwen had come through. It was opened slightly, but he suddenly did not want to go through them. He did not want to believe them, but neither did he want to see for himself. For deep within himself he knew they were right, and his going to see would only break his illusions. And he had a feeling that he would not be as composed as Arwen.
Legolas though, was moving forward. He was going towards the door, and after a small hesitation, he pushed through it.
The inside was dark and slightly cool. The great hall was lined with stone boxes and inscriptions. A crypt.
And in the center of the room lay a long stone table adorned with rich blankets and pillows. Many white candles formed a ring around it, the small flames combining their light to plainly show what was centered in them.
Legolas walked slowly to the bed, his heartbeat strangely loud in his ears. He reached the side, and gently rested his hands against it. And then he merely looked. He was unable to come up with any last words, any last desperate attempts to revive his old friend. He just looked.
And as he looked the sorrow that was building within him subsided. For the man laying before him was not the one he had helped to walk earlier in the morning. This was not the old man he had watched labor against his own failing body. This was the Aragorn he remembered more fondly, the friend he had battled alongside with. For the last years had seemed to fade in Aragorn, and it almost looked like he had regained his youth and was only sleeping. He had not given into death after all, but had defeated it at the last moment.
But of course Legolas did not try to wake him. Instead he gently picked up one of the hands that lay folded upon the king's breast. And then he raised it to his lips and kissed it before putting it back in the exact spot he had taken it from. Then he memorized the picture before him, a younger Aragorn finally at peace.
There was a sound and Legolas was aware of Gimli entering the House of Kings. The dwarf came slowly to the table and stood beside Legolas, staring at Aragorn as Legolas had.
"He looks to be naught but asleep," he finally said.
Then Gimli was silent a few moments more and Legolas knew he was having his own last moments with Aragorn. Then he did a short bow and turned to Legolas. "Come, let us go back out. Aragorn would want us to help keep order as we always did."
Legolas silently followed Gimli out of the stone building. They would help their old friend's city, as they had for many years now. And help Arwen and Eldarion as well. Aragorn would want them to look after them.
And then, something else would happen.
"What are we going to do?" Gimli quietly voiced Legolas' own question when they were back outside.
Legolas looked down at his friend, the last pair that remained of the Fellowship of the Ring. He remembered what Gimli had said earlier when he had spoken of Aragorn's aging, and he did indeed see gray in Gimli's beard.
"We will decide when the time comes," Legolas said. Though in his heart he knew he would finally be answering the call of the sea. His last duty to Middle-earth was over.
And he would take Gimli with him, of course.