At the End of All Things
To the west, gold softly touched the snow-covered tips of the mountains, the sun's fire casting their ragged silhouette against the horizon as it disappeared below the edge of Middle Earth. The last of the orange flame blazed between the peaks before it began to fade from sight. The sky shone pink and violet with streams of clouds tinted red.
But the observer only perceived this out of the corner of his eye, because his gaze faced more to the south along the line of the great river, Anduin, where no barriers blocked his view. What he wished to see was there, though not even his sharp eyesight could catch it. He strained, but only managed to glimpse the edges of the white wings of two gulls as they circled above. However, beneath the echoes of their songs, he imagined that he could hear it. The rhythmic cascade of waves reaching the sandy shore flowed through him until his each breath matched its, the sound reaching every corner of his soul.
So entranced was he that he almost didn't notice the approach of another until the faint thump of bare feet on pavement came to a halt behind him.
"It's beautiful, isn't it?"
Legolas' long tresses swung softly across his silver tunic as he glanced at Frodo. The wide blue eyes of the thin hobbit were staring towards the dimming sunset, his pale face standing out starkly beneath his dark hair. He was dressed in dark velvet, the finest suit of clothes available, hand-made for him, while his feet as all hobbits prefer were covered by nothing but their own curly down.
The prince turned back to the landscape in front of him
Frodo slowly pulled himself up so he could sit beside the elf on the stone wall, the rock rough and cold against the worn skin of his fingers. Swinging his feet over the edge, he let them dangle and looked between them at the city below. The height of the sixth level of Minas Tirith lent to a stunning view. In the streets below, people dashed about busily making repairs trying to bring back the glory that hadn't been seen since the darkness fell while others boisterously continued their victory celebrations feeling the need to drink a mug of ale for every orc and dark creature slain.
Legolas let out a quiet sigh having been drawn out of his remote state of mind. He shifted slightly where he sat cross-legged on the rampart though he continued to stare outward. "Aren't you meant to be attending a feast in your honor?"
"I was." Frodo turned his gaze to the elf. "You were meant to be in attendance too, as I recall."
A smile graced Legolas' face. "I suppose we've both become weary of such festivities." He tilted his head to meet Frodo's eyes and raised his eyebrows. "But won't the people miss their ringbearer?"
The hobbit shrugged. "They'll survive without me." He looked back towards the vanishing sun. "Besides, I was worried about you."
This made the elf pause. His brow creased as he stared at the small ringbearer. "Me?" Shaking his head, Legolas marveled at the incongruity of hobbits. He was astonished that the little one could be concerned for him when Frodo himself was busy recovering from one of the darkest journeys a mortal had ever faced. "There is no cause for such worry," Legolas assured. "I came through these battles the most unscathed of all our fellowship. Nothing but minor scratches."
"But you didn't come through unchanged." Frodo gave the fair elf a sad smile, then looked down once more. "You've been distant, more so than when the fellowship first began. You close yourself off staring into space, muttering songs under your breath." He bit his lip. "I talked to Aragorn. He tried to explain to me about the sea-longing…"
With a sigh, Legolas bowed his head closing his eyes.
"He's worried about you too, you know."
"I know," Legolas replied remembering the newly appointed king's frequent worried glances. Another person who had much more pressing matters then to be concerned over an old friend. "Estel always worries much more than is warranted."
"This time he has good reason," Frodo insisted gripping tightly onto the stone beneath him. "He hates seeing you so torn. We all do."
"I'm sorry. When the sea calls, it is hard not to answer. Now that its song has been stired in my heart, it often seems to drown everything else out." Legolas' eyes were once more lost along the length of the river hoping for a vision of the distant shore beyond.
"What is it?" Following Legolas'gaze, Frodo strained his eyes trying to catch a glimpse of what he saw. "What is there that pulls you so hard from your beloved forests?"
Legolas drew up his knees wrapping his arms around them looking almost like a child despite his ancient years. "A promise." He tilted his head to the side and his eyes became unfocused. "A promise of peace. No more pain. No more darkness." A wistful smile crossed his features. "In a land that is always green with white beaches where the waters reflect the sunlight like silver glass." Legolas' eyes regained their focus and his smile disappeared. "I have seen a lot of darkness. I've seen it slowly invaded my home and I've watched my people fade beneath it. And now the sea promises to wash it all away, heal all wounds and give back what was taken." A gentle breeve blew soft against his face bringing with the faintest trace of salt. He gripped his arms fearcely fighting against the compulsion to reach out in response to the music of the waters.
"Is the torment truly so bad? Does it pull so hard that you can no longer find any peace here?
There was a pause. Legolas cast his eyes back to the distant horizon beyond the river straining to catch another glimpse of the distant sea birds, but they were no longer visible. Now his ears reached outward once more, but all they caught was a drunken song below. Sighing, he closed his eyes. The longing in his heart continued to refuse to be sated.
But then he opened his eyes once more and took in the mountains, the plains and the forests. Their deep greens and browns darkening into the blues of night. And above the crystal stars began to once more glistened against the velvet sky. The wind had changed bringing the fresh scents of crisp evening. He turned and looked behind him to the palace where his friends remained finishing their feast. And finally, he looked to his small companion who sat beside him in the dying light of a cold evening.
"No," he replied and he truly smiled for the first time that evening. "The torment is not so great, not so great that the presence of my friends can not overcome it. And I still see beauty in this world though it may no longer rival that of the sea."
Frodo looked at silhouette of the mountains against the purple sky darkening as the last of the light disappeared. "It is beautiful, isn't it?" He gave a pleading look to his companion before looking back. "I don't think I can see it anymore." He absent mindedly rubbed his left shoulder. "Do you think…do you think…"
Legolas lay a hand upon the hobbit's back. "I am sure you would me most welcome."
Frodo gave Legolas a grateful smile. "Then I will see you there, though I'm afraid I will reach it before you. I'm not sure how much longer I can live in this shadow."
"Hold on, Frodo. Hold on at least for a little while."
"I will," Frodo nodded, "for my friends' sake if for no other reason."
Confidant that the sun would rise once more tomorrow, the people of Minas Tirith continued their celebrations and lit fires to ward against the dimming light, while two contrasting silhouettes remained silently on top the rampart shaded in darkness.