After Pelanor
For Teitho Contest
Teitho Topic: What if?

Summary: What if… the sea gulls had been present at Pelanor

Gandalf paced back and forth in the Hall of Kings. This restless wandering was entirely out of character for him, and a sign that decisions he had made were weighing heavily on his mind. "Frodo has passed beyond my sight. The darkness is deepening."

"If Sauron had the ring we would know it," Aragorn burst out realizing that Sauron was still cautious of his moves.

Pessimistically, Gandalf responded, "It is only a matter of time. He's suffered a defeat, yes. But behind the walls of Mordor, our enemy is regrouping."

Legolas had been unusually quiet and so with a glance of concern at the elf, Gimli shouted, "Let him stay there, let him rot, why should we care?"

"Because ten thousand orcs now stand between Frodo and Mount Doom." Gandalf looked down, shook his head then met Aragorn's eyes. "I have sent him to his death."

Aragorn turned swiftly with a glance at Legolas turned back to Gandalf. "No, there's still time for Frodo. He needs time and safe passage across the plains of Gorgoroth, we can give him that."

"How?" Gimli asked.

"Draw out Sauron's armies, empty his lands. Then we gather our full strength, and march on the Black Gate."

Aragorn's plan was so outrageous, Gimli coughed on the smoke of his pipe.

Eomer stepped forward with the obvious, "We can not achieve victory through strength of arms."

Aragorn nodded, "Not for ourselves, but we can give Frodo a chance if we keep Sauron's eye fixed upon us. Keep him blind to all else that moves."

Looking up from the floor slightly dazed, Legolas said, "A diversion."

Gimli realized Legolas didn't look well; he was standing in a stiff posture, almost favoring his side, and wanted to distract him. "Certainty of death, small chance of success, what are we waiting for!" The elf didn't take the bait. He just stood looking blankly out at the group in the room.

Gandalf walked over to Aragorn, "Sauron will suspect a trap. He will not take the bait."

With a pointed look, Aragorn said, "No, I think he will." He looked up at Legolas expecting the archer's agreement, and realized there must be something wrong with his friend, but before he could say anything, Gandalf started asking more specific questions about Aragorn's plan, and the ranger was explaining the value of a Palantir. A messenger came in with word that the healers needed assistance. Aragorn immediately left to assist them.

While everyone was distracted, Legolas slipped out of the thrown room before anyone noticed. He then spent the next two hours trying to figure out how to bandage the wound in his side. He was still amazed that he had managed to hide the wound from Aragorn as long as he had. It was only because the newly discovered King of Gondor was so busy meeting his people and planning suicide missions that he hadn't realized the archer was hurt.

He was pretty sure Gimli had noticed. There was very little coherency in Legolas's addition to Aragorn's first council among men. The ranger had seems startled when Legolas did speak in such an ungraceful way. If Aragorn had been able to follow, the elf would no doubt be out cold with some sleeping draught of the ranger's.

The elf really wasn't a great actor, and even Eomer had noticed his distraction, but it took Aragorn a while to untangle himself from hid duties to Gondor and hunt down his friend,

Aragorn had finally managed to corner the elf, and get him to admit he was in pain. What little input he had given earlier and the careful out of character way he stood, told both Gimli and Aragorn that something was wrong with Legolas. Aragorn decided to try first to find out what was wrong, and if that failed he was going to send in the dwarf.

Now, Legolas sat on the edge of the bed clenching a wash cloth between his fingers. His bracers had been removed and his sleeve pulled up to reveal a nasty saber mark from an orc blade. Fortunately, the blade wasn't poisoned. The stubborn ranger, who was bustling about the guest chamber, was mumbling under his breath again about 'prideful, stubborn elves'. With a roll of the eyes the elf mumbled something under his breath.

"What was that?" Aragorn glared at his elven friend.

"Nothing you haven't heard before. You're one to complain about unreported scratches."

"First of all, I'm smart enough to get help when I need it, not wait until days later. Second, this is not a scratch!"

"Will you keep your voice down? I don't want the dwarf in here thinking we're fighting or smothering me. And it hasn't been days, merely hours."

"You just don't want Gimli to know even you can make mistakes."

"What are you talking about?"

"Legolas, I noticed your distraction."

"What distraction?"

"For some reason you lost your concentration just long enough for that orc to get under your guard. What happened?"

Legolas's hands tightened on the cloth. "I heard the call of the gulls."

"What?"

"Mithrandir warned me. I should have heeded his warning."

"What warning?

"Do you remember the night on the edge of Fangorn, after Mithrandir returned to us? He was talking to you about Sauron and how he now knew men had hope, because the heir of Elendiel had come forward."

"Yes I remember. We thought you were asleep."

Legolas laughed, "You of all people should know better than to trust that an elf is asleep."

With a gentle tap to the back of the elf's head Aragorn said, "You're avoiding the topic. What was Gandalf's warning?"

"Lady Galadriel gave him a message to give to me. She saw something distressing in her mirror. For you it was that Sauron was now aware of your existence." Still clutching the washcloth, Legolas stared off into the distance. As if he had said the words over and over again he repeated them now: "To me she said,

'Legolas Greenleaf, long under tree,
In joy thou hast lived. Beware of the sea!
If thou hearest the cry of the gull on the shore
Thy heart shall then rest in the forest no more.'"
"So when the gull cried…"

"It triggered the sea-longing. I lost my concentration, long enough to cause my death, had Gimli not been there. Even now he hovers over me afraid I might make such a mistake again."

"You should have told me."

"Why? What would it have changed?"

"I would not have allowed you to come to Pelenor."

"That was not your choice to make. It was mine, and one I would do again. We've all made sacrifices to this quest, to the freedom to once again walk within my own wood, unchallenged by the evil forces. Mirkwood has carried her burden long enough. I would see her regain the name Greenwood, and once again see a place of beauty. My family and my people have long fought these forces."

"Well, it matters not now, the damage is done, your wound great. You have heard the cry of the gull, we cannot turn the tide back, but when our forces march, you will stay here within the city. Faramir will be looking after Minas Tirith in my absence, since his wounds prevent him from fighting. I'm sure he will accept your council."

Legolas felt like he had been slapped in the face. "Aragorn, we are finally so close to the end, I cannot turn away now. I will not stay within these city walls while my friends go into battle. That will not happen."

"You are wounded, you cannot go."

"I do not need the King of Gondor's permission, nor do I ask it. I have fought with worse wounds than these. Tomorrow, as we go into battle, I will be at the front of the line. I owe it to my people and my friends." He looked down, then straight into Aragorn's eyes. "I owe it to my best friend."

"As do I," a little voice from the door piped in. The elf and human turned as one to see who had so quietly entered the room and was surprised to see both Merry and Pippin standing there. It was Merry who spoke.

"My Lord, Aragorn, forgive me, I didn't mean to interrupt, but I've just had this same argument with Eomer who tells me I will not be allowed to join the fight tomorrow."

"That is correct. You were wounded badly. We do not send our wounded into battle."

"But this is not your choice to make. It is ours and we choose to go," Merry said.
"I cannot look after you, Merry. My attention must focus on our forces. When we march I cannot protect you."

"I will look after him, Aragorn," Pippin said, "It's my turn now. You must understand we have to do this for Frodo and Sam. We promised them we would help them. This is the only way we can."

Aragorn looked helplessly at the two hobbits, and then glanced at Legolas who had a bemused smile on his face. The human knew he was going to loose this fight, and he wasn't happy about it.

Legolas leaned forward and put his hand on the ranger's shoulder. "Aragorn, whether you have been crowned or not, you are now the King of Gondor. As such you can command your people, but not your friends. We will go where we choose to, take the fights of our choosing. You cannot make those choices for us."

"And who will look after you, elf?"

A gruff voice from the door called out, "I believe that is my duty, Laddie." Gimli came strutting into the room. Legolas rolled his eyes at this declaration, but quickly turned his face away, before anyone saw his true feelings reflected so briefly in his eyes. "And you should know by now the stubbornness of Elves."

That final comment was just right to break up the tension in the room. Somehow the dwarf always knew just the right thing to say to build or drop the tension in any situation.

"Now, Elf, let me look at what you've done to yourself. That looked like a nasty blow you took. I have to say, I was actually impressed that you managed to take down that Oliphaunt after taking such a blow. You almost beat my count."
The archer blinked rapidly, an affronted look on his face, as the ranger merely lifted his brow at the statement.

The decision was made, the last of the nine would march to the end, in the hopes of giving Frodo and Sam one last chance…