Title: To save a friend
Warning: Well, no real violence. Only very much emotional stuff to deal with. Many thoughts and feelings.
Feedback: Yes, please. I live for feedback.
Disclaimer: As all the other fanfiction authors, I do not own any of the places, characters, movie based things from the Tolkien universe. I own nothing. It all belongs to the rightful right holders. I am making no money with this story. It was written for enjoyment only. If this story appears somewhere else and money is made from it, it was without my permission and I do not benefit from it.
Summary: Have you ever imagined why Pippin was so affected by the palantir? No? Well, we all know about the power of Sauron. But why was our beloved ranger not affected in the same way? He touched the seeing stone. He was unprepared, eager to save a friend. Was is Gandalf who helped him? Or maybe our elf friend? Or was there something else that happened to the future king? Was he saved at all? We all know how well the stubborn human can hide injuries. Read this story and find out.
Author's note: This story was written for the Teitho contest „What if" and was my first fanfiction ever. It is written mostly from Legolas point of view. Any similarity with other stories are only coincidental and not on purpose (hey, there is so much fanfiction out there, you cannot know all of them). No slash.
//thoughts// are thoughts
The wind blew his hood softly around his stony face; cold in this starless night. Legolas's sea-blue eyes were shining bright in dark night, reflecting the silver stars that twinkled in the sky. But they were unseeing for the scenery, unseeing for the black land that lay spread beneath him. He did not see the wooden houses or abandoned fields.
His view was directed eastwards. Towards the distant horizon and the evil that lurked there in the shadows, waiting and planning. Calculating and ever growing. He could almost feel the hatred against all that was good emanating from it, touching his very being, sneaking its way into his head and poisoning his soul.
That was one of the reasons why he had come out here. To seen for himself that he was mistaken. That Sauron was not here. That he was still far away behind the mountains, where darkness reigned and death was its servant. For how long, no one knew, but the elf hoped long enough to build up some defense. Something that would save them. Something that would save Middle-earth, something….. anything. Legolas sighed deeply and shifted his stance.
He had come out here in the middle of the night to find some solace, to ease his heart and refresh his tired mind. It had been hard days and a long night; he still couldn't believe he had drunken with Gimli only some hours ago. He had felt good then, and now…. He sighed again, more heartfelt this time.
//Only I can feel like that after a night like this. No one else's mind would be troubled by such dark thoughts today. We have celebrated only hours ago. Enjoying that we are still alive and honoring our comrades by not falling into the shadow and grieving. But why can't I…, why can't I, hmmm, why can't I be like Gimli, enjoying life at any moment?//
Legolas raised an elegant eyebrow, tilted his head, and after a moment of absolute stillness, shook his head. //Had he really thought that? Wishing to be like a dwarf.// Humph, Legolas snorted softly. //I need sleep. Definitely.// The elf drew his cloak tighter around his shoulders, looking to the east again. There it was again. The uneasiness. The feeling that something wasn't as it should be.
Legolas felt suddenly as if he had missed something. Something he should knew but could not remember. Like reading a book he had read several times, but could not understand now, although he knew the language and content. Closing his eyes and trying to listen to what nature was telling him, Legolas concentrated on his surroundings. He felt the wind, touching his hair, face and eyes, like a soothing hand caressing his very being. It calmed him, as he was close to nature, as every Woodland elf, but he could feel a change in the wind.
It whispered to him. From dark things, treacherous beings and from evil tidings. As the elf opened his eyes again he could feel the change. Distant and small still, but unmistakably there. //If Aragorn feels this too?// he thought. Legolas had been surprised when he had 'ended' his game with the dwarf and had found his human friend not celebrating, but in deep conversation with Gandalf.
Legolas had not expected to see Aragorn laughing or dancing. No, not in this unsafe times after a battle and during a war, but he had hoped his friend would at least have one day without all the responsibility burdening his shoulders. The elf had not heard what the two had talked about, but from what he had read from just watching their faces, it wasn't something pleasant. //Besides me, only Aragorn would be up tonight.//
And sure enough, Legolas could hear soft footsteps on the stones behind him. //I should have known.// he thought, a slightly worried frown marring his face. //He feels it too. The evil that comes.// Only a moment later, Legolas felt his friend reach his side, also starring in the night's darkness.
The elf more sensed than heard Aragorn take a deep breath and release it slowly. For the elf a sure sign that his friend's mind was troubled. Aragorn lifted his head, scanning the inky black sky; looking, but not finding the star that he was looking for. Eärendil was not shining upon them tonight.
"The stars are veiled. Something stirs in the east. A sleepless malice. The eye of the enemy is moving." Legolas told Aragorn. Nodding, Aragorn redirected his gaze towards the East. He felt it, too. A coldness sweeping from the east, touching his soul and eating at his heart. They did not know it, but both friends felt the same at that very moment. That something was to come that could change everything. That could destroy them. Or one of them. Forever.
While the human and elf were searching the misty lands for any sign of peace bringing relief, each lost in his own musings, a small Hobbit wriggled his way through his sleeping companions, not knowing that he could bring the doom to all of Middle-earth and all good people.
Outside of the building, Legolas shivered suddenly, but not from the night's cold. He felt as if his innermost was freezing to ice, a chilling cold like icy fingers crawling down his back. If his hair could have stood on end, it would have.
Suddenly, he knew. With a clarity he had not had in a long time; a surety born out of the deepest fear possible.
"He is here", he whispered, almost inaudible, but loud enough for Aragorn to hear. It send chills down the human's spine.
Aragorn was a second quicker than the elf. He turned on the spot and raced back to the room he had just left, Legolas on his heels. The elf wondered how the Evil One could be here, in Edoras. //How was that possible? Had someone summoned him somehow?// Legolas could only hope that they were not already too late.
As they had reached the sleeping chamber, where their friends rested, Aragorn burst through the door, unheeding of any possible danger. The sight that met Legolas's eyes when he followed him a moment later was frightening. The small Hobbit was writhing on the floor, clutching the Palantir to his chest. His face was one of anguish and pain. Merry was on his side, trying to help, but unable to do anything. The small Hobbit was yelling frantically for help.
Legolas took a deep breath, ready to run forwards, to help the suffering Halfling, but again Aragorn was faster. He lunged forward and to the elf's horror, he grabbed the evil stone without any hesitation and yanked it out of the Hobbit's hands.
Almost instantly the ranger fell to his knees, breathing hard, undoubtedly in pain. Legolas could see how his friend's hands clutched the palantir in the same way Pippin had done only moments prior. It seemed as if the man was unable to release his hold on it.
Without thinking, Legolas threw himself forward and grabbed Aragorn's shoulders, trying to support him. Not a moment too late, as the human collapsed onto the stone floor, breathing hard, eyes starring at the palantir in his hands. The moment the elf wound his strong arms around his friend's shivering body, an evil spread through his spirit, burning and hurting. Legolas shut his eyes, trying desperately to block out the pain running through his body.
If he had had the breath to do so, he would have screamed out loud. Although Legolas was in pain, a small part of him told him that he felt only a fragment of the pain Aragorn felt and the elf wasn't even connected with HIM. If Aragorn had to endure that much pain, it must kill him.
//No. Not him. Not now/., Legolas grabbed his friend harder and concentrated on the pain, willing it to subside. After what seemed like an eternity to the elf, the pain subsided to a bearable level. Legolas opened his eyes and looked around.
Gandalf was bent over a seemingly lifeless Pippin, while the others had awakened and stared at them. Legolas took a deep breath and looked at his friend in his arms. Aragorn still clutched the palantir in his hands, his eyes looking directly into the swirling abyss of red and gold. Sweat was on his brow and Legolas could feel the man's tense muscles.
But to Legolas's surprise he saw no pain on the ranger's features. It seemed rather that the man was listening intently, his brow frowned slightly, his head tilted to one side. //As if mind and body are separated.//
No reply. Not even a single muscle twitching. "Aragorn, listen to me." Legolas begged of his friend. He could feel how the strength left the human's body. Aragorn became paler by the moment.
The elf's words had reached Gandalf and the old wizard turned and stiffened at what he saw. Taking one faltering step towards the duo, he stopped again. He turned and grabbed a piece of cloth before turning in the direction of the two friends again. Bending down, Gandalf held out his hand towards the palantir as if he wanted to grab it, only stopping at the last possible moment, inches above the stone.
The prince saw how the old wizard took a deep breath, closed his eyes and, to the elf's terror, removed his hand again. Aragorn shuddered violently and Legolas strengthened his hold on his friend.
"Gandalf! What are you doing? Help him."
Old eyes met even older ones and the wizard looked sadly at the elf. "He is beyond my help."
"No." Clutching Aragorn even more fiercely, Legolas shook his head in bewilderment. //How could Gandalf say such a thing?// Not accepting the wise Istar's words, Legolas burst out, "What you say is not rue. Remove the stone. Take it away. Gandalf, help him. Help him, Please!"
Every minute they spent talking cost his friend more strength. Soon, there would not be enough left to keep Aragorn alive, Legolas knew. They had to do something. //Why did no one do anything? Was he the only one who saw that Aragorn was dying? Right there and then?//
Gandalf had started speaking again, but Legolas was only listening half ways, as Aragorn had begun to shudder uncontrollably now, his muscles flexing and sending him from one spasm to the next. But never did he release his hold on the palantir.
"…his fate." Gandalf told the elf. "He is connected with Sauron. An unprepared connection. Sauron holds his spirit, and he will not release him. We can do naught. We cannot save him. I cannot save him." The wizard closed his eyes and looked away, emotional pain clearly visible on his face.
Legolas mind reeled. That couldn't be true. Gandalf must be lying.
"Gandalf." Legolas chocked, turning pleading eyes on the wizard. What he saw in Gandalf's face made Legolas's eyes water. The wizard opened his eyes and the elf began to shake his head slowly from side to side, silver tears running down his handsome face and wettening his cheeks.
There was no lie in Gandalf's eyes.
Legolas looked down at his best friend, tears obscuring his vision. He felt the coldness of Aragorn's skin, the dampness of his sweat soaked hair and the spasms raking his strong body. //When even Gandalf has no way to help him, then how can I?// The elf sensed the man's strength waning, growing less with every waking minute.
//He must feel so much pain. So much suffering to help us. To save a friend. I will not abandon him. I'll walk with him till the end.// Wiping away the tears with a free hand, Legolas looked up into Gandalfs worried face, new resolve shining in his eyes.
"How can I help him? How can I ease his….." Legolas chocked, not able to say the words. But Gandalf understood nonetheless. Sighing, he answered silently, but the room was so deadly quiet that everybody heard.
"If we break the connection it will kill him instantly. No body can live without spirit. That he still lives is a sign that HE does not yet know what he wants to know. Pippin has told him nothing, but Aragorn knows of our plans and even more. We have to make sure Aragorn does not tell. We have to do it. To break the connection."
Legolas looked at the wizard, trying to keep his tears at bay. He knew Gandalf was right. If Sauron got the information he wanted, the war would be over before it had really begun. But although he knew it was the only way, it felt so wrong. "Aragorn would have wanted it that way. Being no burden. Least of all bringing the downfall of men."
Legolas leaned forward, closed his eyes and hugged his human friend fiercely, ignoring his own pain and Aragorn's shivering, tears streaming down his cheeks despite his efforts to hold them back. Gently, the elf placed a soft kiss on Aragorn's brow and silently whispered, "Namarie, mellon nin. May the Valar watch over your path. Forgive me."
He drew back and opened his eyes again, feeling as if he had betrayed his best friend, which he in someway had. Detachedly he recognized how Gandalf took the piece of cloth and readied himself to take the palantir out of Aragorn's fingers. The wizard's eyes clouded with emotional pain and sorrow.
//This is not happening. It is just a dream. A dream. I will awake soon and Aragorn will laugh at me, telling me I am too pessimistic. But no. Not this time. Not anymore. Not ever again. I have failed. I failed to protect him.//
Willing himself to stay strong, Legolas watched how Gandalf drew nearer and nearer, cautiously and slowly. The elf looked at the human's blank face. //He looks as if he has a simple argument with me about something unimportant, but he is fighting for his life."//
Gandalf shifted his stance, now only inches away from the palantir. He lifted his arms, the cloth ready, bent forward, readying himself to put it on the stone. Legolas hugged Aragorn tighter, not able to breathe. //Please, forgive me, my friend.// The wizard took a steadying breath, spread out his arms, the cloth trembling slightly in his grip. Gandalf moved even closer, ready to end it, to release the cloth….
"No", Legolas whispered. And then again, with a new found strength and almost shouting, "No!"
Taken aback, Gandalf snatched the cloth away from the palantir. The wizard turned questioning eyes onto the elf and saw how Legolas bent over his friend again. This time not to say farewell; Legolas was not even looking at Aragorns face.
What had caught the elf's attention was not Aragorn's face, but his chest. Or rather, something buried under the man's tunic. Something silver and shining. Legolas traced the way of the necklace with his fingertips, oblivious to his surroundings.
//The Evenstar, Arwens present. How could I do what I nearly did? He is my best friend. My brother. He is Arwen's soul mate. He is Arwens hope. Estel.//
New hope returned to Legolas's eyes and a wave of adrenaline surged through his body. If one was able to pull through this, than Aragorn.
"Gandalf. We cannot do that. I cannot do that. I swore to Arwen to protect him. I will not break my vow."
"Legolas. He is lost. We cannot rescue him. We can only save that what he fought for."
"I do not accept that." Legolas turned wide eyes at the wizard, burning with determination.
"My friend, Aragorn would want that we…", Gandalf began to reason with Legolas, but was cut short by the agitated elf.
"You do not know what he wants or not. Not many people really know what he wants. But I know that Arwen wouldnt want this. And I do not want this. Gandalf, think what we do. He is not just someone. Not only another human. Another mortal. He is Aragorn, son of Arathorn, chieftain of the Dunedain, heir of Isildur, future king of Gondor and Arnor. He is Estel, hope of men, the last hope of Middle-earth and the beacon of light in the darkness.
"He is the man that had lead us after your fall in Moria, who nearly gave his life to save Merry and Pippin, who raced with us through the lands of Rohan to warn the people, the one who we thought lost to the world when the wargs attacked, the one who returned to us when we thought all hope was lost, the one who never gave up his own hope, even when I myself despaired.
"The one who fought for all that is good with us against all odds, even when the ones he fought for had abandoned his own people. He is the shining star in a starless night. He is the one who will save Middle-earth, who will wield the sword that was broken and who will unite the people of this Middle-earth under one banner and lead them to victory. The man that will bring an end to darkness and despair. But most of all, he is my friend, my brother and always will be." The last was said in a tearful whisper.
Legolas, hugging his dying friend to his chest, stared at the wizard. And Gandalf knew he wouldn't be able to do this. Either because the elf would not let him, or he really believed in the elf's words, he wasn't sure. Slowly he turned his old eyes at Aragorn's ashen face and realized that maybe, just maybe, there was still hope left. In all meanings possible. That Aragorn wasn't dead already, after such a long time in connection with the Dark Lord had to mean something.
The Istar took a deep breath, closing his eyes.
Legolas, not realizing that Gandalf had regained new hope, said in an icy tone, his words cold and sharp as glass, „If you try, you first have to come past me and my knives." Gandalf eyes opened, looking very tired, and, to Legolas's surprise, soft.
"My dear Legolas. I know your skill with your blades, I will not try. I will do what lies in my power to save him."
Seeing the elf's relieved expression, Gandalf held out his forefinger and pointed it at the palantir in Aragorn's hands.
"I will do what I might, but realize this, it might not be enough. And when Sauron has too much power over him already, we will have no other choice than to and it. Here and now. Despite what it may cost.".
"There is still hope Gandalf. As long as he breathes and lives, there is still hope."
Taking the cloth again, the old wizard began to explain the new plan. Legolas listened intently. Basically, it was simply. They had to reach Aragorn's mind and make him terminate the connection. Then Gandalf would use the cloth to cover the stone and all would be over.
The hardest part was to get through to their friend. Legolas knew he was the only one there who would be able to do that. Gandalf was strong and a good friend and mentor, but Legolas and Aragorn shared a bond stronger than just friendship.
"Be swift to call him back. But be careful. HE is strong. HE can feel your presence as soon as you reach Aragorn. Do not listen to HIM. And please, my friend, be careful." Gandalf told the prince.
Nodding, the elf sat back in a more comfortable position on the cold stone floor. One hand clutching the human to his chest, feeling Aragorn's unsteady breathing and the tense muscles, Legolas used his other hand to brush a few strands of sweat soaked hair out of the ranger's eyes.
//Aye, there is still hope. There must be. I will call you and you must listen. We will both see the dawn come and the awakening of the sun, my friend. I will find you and not let you go. Come what may.//
And with that thought Legolas closed his eyes and bent forwards until his forehead touched the human's brow. Softly and almost inaudible, like a leaf sailing on the wind, the elf began to whisper to his friend in the gray tongue, blocking out everything else and concentrating with all his might to save his human brother.
Gandalf watched the elf lean forward and heard the elf whisper in the elvish language. Taking a deep breath, the wizard sat back, as still as a stature, and waited. Because waiting was everything that he could do now.
Minutes went by, or perhaps hours, Legolas couldn't tell. Relentlessly he talked to his friend, trying to reach him. Of what he really talked about the prince did not mind, speaking of Imladris, Mirkwood, common friends, shared adventures and joys, of handsome memories and other things that came to his mind, all the time incessantly trying to rouse his friend and to break trough to him.
But while he spoke of adventures long past, he could feel Aragorn's strength waning. The human's breathing was labored and became more and more unsteady. The heartbeat had begun to become irregular and the elf felt how cold Aragorn had become. But what scared Legolas most, was not the breathing or the heartbeat, but Aragorn's eyes. As the elf had opened his own to see if there was any change, he had looked into Aragorn's eyes and had felt his heart sinking.
Not silver anymore with sparkles of green and sometimes blue, but dull and lifeless were the human's eyes now, lacking the power and strength they usually bore. No trace of the fire and the mischievous glimmer was to be seen.
All Legolas saw was a colorless gray and a shadow covering his best friend's eyes. Screwing his eyes shut the Mirkwood prince bent down again, a heartfelt sound like a choked scream escaping his parched throat. Feeling the ranger tremble again, Legolas felt his own resolve and hope falter.
He had tried, but no response had come, no change occurred. If this was the end, then Aragorn would not be the only one who left this Middle-earth. He could not live without him, Legolas knew.
Tears escaping his closed eyes, the elf kissed Aragorn's forehead gently and whispered only for his friend to hear, "I would have gone with you until the end. But now it is you alone who will walk the path of our forefathers first. I will follow soon, but we shall not meet again. Only with the grace of the Valar shall our paths cross in the future. Forgive me, mellon nin, for not being faster. For not being there for you and for that I left your side when you needed me most. That I abandoned you in your darkest hour and let you suffer alone. Please, forgive me, my friend, forgive me, as long as my soul remains in Middle-earth I will not forget you, ever, brother of my heart, because you complete me."
And with that Legolas opened his eyes again, fresh tears glistening on his cheeks, and nodded almost imperceptible to Gandalf. Had Legolas paid more attention he would have recognized the still wet streaks on the white wizards face, indicating tears had found their way down Gandalf's face. Gandalf was old, but his ears were as good as when he was younger and so he had understood every single word spoken.
Taking the cloth inot gnarled hands once more, Gandalf leant forward as he had done before. Hands shaking slightly, he readied himself to complete the hardest task of his life. Having agreed to lead the fellowship and to try and free Middle-earth, Gandalf had never thought that this would include taking the life of the future King of Gondor, one of the persons closest to him since Gandalf had met him. And so he sent a prayer to all the Valar to protect his friend and fellow and to forgive him for ending a mortal life.
As the cloth drew nearer, Legolas cried silently, not minding the salty tears anymore that graced his cheeks and fell unhindered onto his hands and Aragorn's brow. During all the hardship and pain, the ranger had never halted in his steps, always caring for those in need and the ones unable to help themselves and although unsure of what future would bring him and if he was ready when the moment came that he had to ultimately decide his fate, Legolas knew in his heart that Aragorn had already decided. Decided to take his place in his lineage and to fulfill his destiny, and to unite all mankind and lead them into a freed Middle-earth.
Caressing the human's cheek gently with his fingers, the elf awaited the inevitable. Just as Gandalf wanted to put the cloth in place, Legolas felt something strange. As if something had changed. Aragorn had stopped trembling. No spasms raked through his body anymore, but whether that was a good sign or not, the elf wasn't able to tell.
Legolas's breathing increased as he saw how Aragorn seemed to struggle, but not with death anymore, but with obvious pain. The human's hands clutched the palantir even harder, so hard that all color had drained from them, and sweat stood on his brow. Legolas could feel how the breathing that only a short time before had been slow and raspy, became faster and deeper. //"Oh, please. Please, come back. It's not too late yet, my friend"//, Legolas plead silently.
And then, just as Gandalf reached the palantir for the second time that night, Legolas saw the most beautiful thing he had seen in a long time and his heart lifted and sang in joy and relief.
A simple gesture. Done a few thousand times a day, but for Legolas it was as if he had never before in his long life seen such a fantastic thing.
Because blinking could only mean one thing. Aragorn had heard him. He had listened and now tried to find his way back, to break the connection.
It seemed that Gandalf had also seen it, for he stopped midways, leaned closer to the ranger's face and said, "Aragorn? Can you hear me?" Legolas held his breath as he waited anxiously for an answer, a reaction. And then, there it was.
Unmistakably. Aragorn blinked, closing his eyes for a second or two and opening them again. Slowly, but visible, the human's eyes brightened, losing the dull gray and showing the silver sparkle that lived inside them.
"Aye, Aragorn. That's it. Come back to us. You are stronger than HE is. You must fight. Fight for your life. For us, for Arwen. Come on, Aragorn, I know you can do it. You must!" Legolas told the human urgently, never leaving his side.
Aragorn's struggle to end the connection with the palantir was clearly visible, as his face lost what little color it still had and the breathing increased even more. Still, Legolas could feel Aragorn's strength falter and he knew that the human had only a few moments left before he wouldn't be able any longer to terminate the connection.
Speaking in Sindarin, the prince urged his friend forward, "Have strength, mellon nin. Seek the power within Aragorn and use it. Do not go deeper into the dark, but return to the light. Please come back to us, my friend. Middle-earth depends on you, it needs you. I need you, Estel."
As nothing happened and Aragorn remained unresponding, Legolas began to hold him more fiercely, not wanting to release him even a little bit. Slowly, painfully slowly, Aragorn blinked one more time, and then again and again, starting to shake his head slowly from one side to the other, as if he had just awoken from a bad dream.
As Aragorn shifted his gaze from the palantir towards Gandalf, who still kneeled in front of him, Legolas released the breath he hadn't recognized he had been holding and sent a thanks to all the Valar who listened, and even to those who did not. Without making any sound, Aragorn stretched out a trembling arm, took the cloth Gandalf held and, with a shaking hand, covered the palantir, after giving it a last painful, but nevertheless strong look.
Looking up at the old wizard, the human placed the palantir in Gandalf's outstretched arms, the ghost of a smile flittering over his face.
As soon as the Istar had taken the small but heavy bundle, Aragorn went limp and sagged soundlessly to the ground, protected and secure in Legolas's strong grip, loosing the battle against consciousness in the end.
And as the elf bent over his friend to make sure that he was really there and alive, Gandalf looked at the palantir in his hands and then to the human. A little smile played across his mouth as he silently said, "Well done, Estel, well done." And then, kneeling over the now still ranger, "Welcome back, my young friend. I should have known the shadow would not summon you yet. We can expect great things from you still."
The sun was nearing the horizon to welcome the new day when Gandalf left the small and quiet room where they had brought Aragorn, to find King Theoden and his closest men. They would have to make up a plan to help Gondor and to fight Sauron, as Pippin had seen Sauron's attack on Minas Tirith.
Now the sun was nearing the horizon once more, indicating that night would fall soon. As he looked outside the small window, Legolas could see the darkening landscape, and redirecting his gaze heavenwards, he let a little smile play across his face. The first stars had already appeared in the sky. Eärendil one of the brightest.
It had been a long day and Aragorn had not awakened yet. Some color had returned to his cheeks and he slept a deep, exhausted sleep. Although Gandalf had tried to reassure the elf that Aragorn would be fine, now that the bond between him and Sauron was broken, Legolas still had a slightly worried feeling.
//How can he be alright after such an ordeal? Facing your worst enemy, alone and unprepared. I do not believe anybody can escape the clutches of Mordor unchanged. Or uninjured, may it be in body or in soul, or both.//
During the long hours that the elf had sat beside his friend, many thoughts had crossed the prince's mind. Pictures from adventures long over had visited him, but even more the elf had found his thoughts wander of to the future.
Minas Tirith would be attacked. Undoubtedly Aragorn would join the troops to defend the city; that was what they had come for. Fight for Middle-earth. But this night had shown to Legolas the weakness and frailty of mortals again. Aragorn had shown strength, yes, and had won the battle.
But would he be strong enough to survive the war? A stray arrow, a thrown knife, a sharp blade, a wicked turn, being a second too late was all it needed to cut a mortal life short and end it before time. Sighing for the hundredths time already, Legolas shook his head. Such thoughts would help nobody. Turning in his seat, helooked at the human on the bed and nearly jumped as he saw Aragorn's opened eyes watching him.
Now really jumping from his chair by the window in his eagerness to reach his friend's side, Legolas sprinted forwards and bent over the ranger.
"Aragorn, you are awake," was all Legolas could manage, as he bent down and laid a smooth hand on the human's brow to check for a fever.
"It seems so," Aragorn said, smiling weakly up at his friend.
Removing his hand, Legolas took a seat on the side of the bed and watched his friend over once again, as if he could not believe that Aragorn was among the living. And truth to be told, it still was a miracle for everybody who had witnessed the struggle with the palantir.
"Never scare me like that again, human. Or I will save you first and then kill you for your stupidity." As soon as the words were spoken, a shadow flickered across Aragorn's features and his eyes showed a shadow that the prince had nor recognized before, relieved as he was to see his friend awake and lucid.
"Oh, I'm sorry, mellon nin. I spoke out of relief, not seriousness. I did not mean to hurt you, Estel," Legolas apologized, taking one of the ranger's hands in his own, feeling how cold it still was.
Aragorn turned his head away from Legolas and closed his eyes, not wanting to face his friend, it seemed. It nearly broke Legolas's heart as his human friend not only turned his head away from him, but also withdrew his hand from the prince's fingers.
Not able to take anymore, Legolas let the tears flow from his eyes and sobbed silently, releasing all that he had bottled up during the night and the following day. //He blames me. For not being there for him when he needed me most. I failed him, and he knows.//
Balling his hands to fists on his legs, Legolas swallowed hard and moved to stand up to relieve his friend of his presence, as he felt the ranger's hand on his own again. Thinking that Aragorn wanted him to leave, Legolas stood up. "Legolas", Aragorn more breathed than said.
Opening his eyes slowly, the elf looked at his friend and saw Aragorn look back at him. Failure and betrayal were clearly showing in the silver orbs. But these feelings were not directed at the elf. They were directed towards Aragorn himself, Legolas recognized. And these were only the emotions Aragorn was not able to suppress. Lingering under the surface the prince could make out even more emotions, although he was unable to tell which ones at the moment.
"I'm sorry. I'm so sorry, Legolas," Aragorn whispered, averting his eyes again, unable to look Legolas in the eyes, it seemed.
Perplexed, the elf took his friend's cold hand in his own and squeezed it lightly. //What's that's now supposed to mean? For what should he feel sorry? He saved Pippin, he probably saved us all by stopping Sauron from talking to the Hobbit.//
"Mellon. Look at me." Legolas said softly. Aragorn did not even move. "Estel, please, look at me." Aragorn flinched slightly, but made no move to comply.
"Legolas, please, just leave me be. Let me alone." Aragorn said, his voice lacking all its usual power and sounding defeated. Sighing inaudible this time, the elf stretched out his hand, took the human's chin in it, and tilted Aragorn's head so that he could look in his eyes.
Still, the ranger did not hold eye contact but looked to the side, emotions showing on his face too fast for the elf to determine. Not quite sure why his friend reacted this way, Legolas tried a more straight forward strategy. "Oh hush, my friend. I will not leave. Estel, I don not know what ails you so, but I am sorry I could not help you. I am sorry I let you alone in that darkness."
That garnered a reaction. Closing his eyes, the human let out a deep breath, then turned his face towards Legolas and looked at him. "It was you who saved me, Legolas. Your voice that drowned HIM. Without you, I would be one of HIS servants right now, or dead. I…" His voice broke and he swallowed hard.
Aragorn looked to the side again, but Legolas would have none of it. He had his friend back again and he was not willing to lose him one more time. Not like this. Squeezing the human's hand harder, Legolas reached out one more time, but this time not to take Aragorn's chin, but to lay his hand on the human's cheek.
"Estel. Please. Talk to me. I can only help you when I know what ails your soul. When it is not me that angered you and who you think has failed, who then? Surely not you. You saved us all tonight, my friend."
Aragorn flinched hard at Legolas's words, but then his face went blank. The little color that had returned seemed to vanish into thin air as the ranger whispered brokenly, "I have failed, Legolas. I wasnt strong enough to resist. He was inside me. Finding me. Knowing everything. I was so weak. I have betrayed us all."
"No, Aragorn, no. That cannot be true. You are strong. Surely you haven't told him about our plans. That, I cannot believe." The prince moved closer to his friend and saw that Aragorn had his eyes still closed.
Aragorn started to tremble slightly, despite the warmth in the chamber. The pale skin contrasted starkly against his dark hair. Swallowing again, Aragorn replied, his voice devote of all emotions, "You better should. I failed. I am not strong. I did not pass the test put before me. All in vain. You put your trust into the wrong person."
//No. Surely not. He never would. Why should Sauron let him live when Aragorn had told him of our plans?// "Mellon, look at me."
"Don't call me that."
"I shall not call you what you are to me?"
"How can you call me your friend, when you do not know me at all?"
"Oh, Estel. But I do know you. You are Estel, and Strider. And Aragorn. And you are my friend. My mellon. And you will ever be." Legolas said tenderly, stroking the human's cheek with his slender fingers.
Taking a deep breath, the ranger replied, "Legolas, would you call me weak?"
Knitting his brow in confusion the elf replied without thinking, "No." //Where is this leading to?//
"Would you call me a coward?"
"A greedy man?"
"Estel, of course not."
"Perhaps you should. Cause that's what I am. All that, and more."
//How can he think that? He is the most trustworthy person I have ever met in my life. I would follow him to death. He is the most fearless person I know. Some would even call it recklessness.//
Deciding that it was time to know the whole tale, Legolas approached the man directly, "Estel, what have you seen? What did HE do to you to make you say such things?" Legolas knew it was risky. He had experienced that the ranger was not his usually self at the moment. And the elf had no idea what had happened while Aragorn had been connected with Sauron. All Legolas knew was that he could not stand his friend this way.
Legolas felt Aragorn shudder under the blanket and the elf squeezed his hand again. "I am there for you, Estel. I will not leave, no matter what you tell me. No matter what HE did to you. I will not think less of you, mellon nin. Tell me. Just tell me."
Aragorn took a shuddering breath and swallowed hard. It seemed to Legolas that he was contemplating, battling with himself whether to tell or not. Trembling more violently, Aragorn sank even deeper into the pillows. Feeling that he were loosing his friend, the prince squeezed the cold hand of the human even harder in a desperate attempt to hold onto that thin and fragile connection he had.
//He has come back to me. And still, he seems lost to us. Was all in vain? No victory for us at all? He seems lost to the world. I am loosing my best friend. My brother. But he was saved. He came back to us, to me. How can he linger in the shadows now that the light is so near//?
Not even finishing that thought, another one struck the elf. //The light. The stars. Undomiel!// "No matter what HE did to you, SHE will always love you." And with that said he put the ranger's hand over the necklace around his neck.
Aragorn's hand caressed a moment over the shining silver before he clasped his hand around it, almost as hard as he had done before with the palantir. "Estel, she is waiting for you. She always will. You have to return to the fair Undomiel. Listen, mellon. HE might have hurt you, and beaten you. And yes, maybe has nearly broken you. HE might even have attempted to steal your soul. To claim it as his. But HE can't claim what is not even yours, Estel. Because your soul belongs to Arwen. She is the owner of your soul. And only she would be able to give it away. And we both know she never would."
Bending down, Legolas whispered softly into his friend's ear, "You see, my friend, nothing to fear." The human's face was not blank anymore, but Legolas saw tears escaping the closed eyes and running down the cheeks, falling onto the ranger's hand which still held the Evenstar tightly.
Rubbing his hand in soothing circles over the ranger's back, Legolas watched his friend…and waited. //When he is ready. A start is made. I can wait. I will wait. As long as he needs. I will be there for him.//
Aragorn wept silently for a while, and when the tears subsided, he began to tell. Brokenly at first, then faster. And although Aragorn spoke very softly, Legolas had no problems to understand the words and the meaning of what he was being told. And he understood one more thing.
That it was an honor to call this man his friend. That he had not judged wrong at all in calling him so. And it was an honor that his friend told him of what had transpired during the connection with Sauron, because Legolas was not sure if he could have told Aragorn about these things, if it had been him who had endured all this.
While the prince listened to his friend's words, he began to realize why it had been so hard for the human to tell him, why he felt the way he did. It was a painful story, gruesome and full of malice. A story that would haunt Legolas forever.
A story he wanted to forget, but never would be able to. It burned into his mind and held a place there, in the shadows of his memories, from where it would step out from time to time to scare him and to remind him of what had nearly happened. And what had nearly happened became even clearer to Legolas the longer Aragorn spoke.
Almost. Almost. HE had almost succeeded. When Aragorn had stopped speaking, the elf asked tentatively, " Estel, please, I do not mean to hurt you. But how did you come back? Why? What stopped HIM and gave you new resolve?"
"Do you not know?"
Turning his head for the first time in Legolas's direction, Aragorn opened his eyes and made eye contact with the elf. "Do you not know?" Not really understanding what his friend meant, Legolas shook his head.
Grasping Legolas's hand in his own, the ranger drew it nearer and placed it over his own heart. "You.", Aragorn whispered. "It was you and only you who saved me. I heard your voice. It called me. It told me of my home. Of our adventures. Of hope and joy. But I could not answer. HE was too strong." Aragorn swallowed and licked his lips.
He seemed to falter but his eyes remained focused on Legolas's ones and he continued. "Then I heard you again. Speaking of a broken heart. Speaking of my death. And I welcomed it, for it meant that I could rest in peace."
"But Estel, I wanted to…"
"No, let me finish. I welcomed it, for I was so tired. HE was so strong and I felt my strength fleeing me. I wanted nothing more than to just lie down and sleep. HE promised me I could. No more fighting. No more hiding. Just being me and being at peace. And I started to listen to HIM.
"And he showed me. There was no pain. No fear no doubt. I wanted to be there. I forgot everything. Just everything, I gave in to HIS voice. But then", he grasped Legolas's hand more fiercely, "then I heard your voice again. And you told me that we would not meet again. Only by the grace of the Valar. My heart hurt as I heard that, but I thought I could live with that, as my death will sooner or later pull us apart.
"But you told me that you would follow me. Into death. And I knew I could never live with that. Never. I know you pledged to follow me. Wherever my path would lead me. But I do not wish you to follow me into death, Legolas. You are immortal. And a firstborn should not die of a broken heart because of a mere mortal."
"And what if a firstborn dies of a broken heart because of a friend?"
Turning even more serious, Aragorn answered, "Legolas, I beg of you, I know you would follow my lead everywhere, but please do not follow my lead into death, my friend."
"That decision lies with my heart, and that runs its own course sometimes."
"Oh, don't you think I do not know that? You told me that all was your fault. That you had abandoned me in my darkest hour. Maybe it was my darkest hour. But I was not alone. You were there for me. You are always there for me when I need you. Even when I do not wish you to be there. Legolas, can you forgive me?"
Stroking the human's cheek Legolas answered fondly, "Oh, Estel, there is nothing to forgive."
Turning his head away from the elf's fingers and looking at the prince, the ranger replied with a stern voice, "No, Legolas. Will you forgive me?"
"Forgive you what?"
"Forgive me that I almost killed you."
Not really satisfied with the answer, Aragorn opened his mouth to say more, but Legolas laid his hand onto the man's mouth so silence him. "Estel, I forgive you. But more importantly, you have to forgive yourself." Taking his hand away the elf looked at his friend and saw him nod once. The elf smiled at his friend. No more words were needed.
//It will be a long journey indeed. He will have to take one step at a time. But he has taken the first steps already and every road to recovery starts with the first step.//
"Yes?" Closing his tired eyes and lying back into the pillows, the ranger more stated than asked, "HE will come back, wont he? HE will try to call me again. To bring me to his side or kill me."
Not able to lie, Legolas answered, "Yes. HE will. But do not trouble yourself with that."
Looking down at the exhausted human, the elf smiled reassuringly and said in a tone full of hope and faith, "What can't we face if we get in it? There is nothing we cannot fight when we are together, my friend. May it be there come hard times, then we shall share our burdens and make them light. May it be there come dark times, then we shall light each others path. May it be our way is long and we got lost, then we shall lead each other and find the right path again. May it be there comes a time when all hope seems lost, then I shall make your hope to mine, and you shall make mine to yours. You see, Estel, there is nothing to fear."
"Aye. You are right. As always. Perhaps I should listen to you more often, oh wise and ancient one."
Taking Aragorn's attempt of bickering as a gift of the Valar, Legolas chimed in and tried to lighten the mood by saying, "Of course you should, young one. And now, as a carrier of eternal wisdom and foresight, I advise you to go to sleep, human. If I know Mithrandir at all, he is already forming a resistance. You will need your strength for the time to come, my friend."
Smiling at his friend's words, Aragorn opened his eyes once more and said tiredly, "Ah well, we both know Mithrandir well enough. So I will not say you are mistaken," and after a short pause in which he closed his eyes, "Legolas?"
"Yes, my friend?"
And with that Aragorn sighed deeply and his mind wandered off into the realm of sleep, reassured that no bad dreams would disturb his dreams as long as his brother of heart sat by his side and watched over him. And Legolas turned his gaze towards the night sky and smiled at the stars glimmering there, seeking out the one that shone the brightest in the sky. Eärendil had truly shone for them.