A/N: This is a translation of my first German LotR-Fic. It is the first of a series, and I will translate the stories as soon as I've written them. ;-) There are some references to Legolas' and Aragorn's past in this story that will be explained in a prequel some time in the future. All of you who were in tears after Gandalf's "death" in Moria should probably go and fetch some tissues now… :-) I hope you enjoy, and I'd love to get feedback! I will answer to all reviewers who leave me an e-mail-address.
A special thank you goes to Alinah, whose help made the translation of this story possible, and to Imbecamiel, who hunted down the last mistakes in the English version! (huggles both)
I also want to thank all of you who reviewed the last chapter of my previous story, "Call of the Heart"! (hugs) Your reviews made my day, and I will try and write a sequel to that story.
Title: A Night in Lothlórien (1/2)
Summary: Aragorn and Legolas share their grief over Gandalf's death in Lothlórien. Lots of friendship, a bit angst and bitter-sweet mourning...
Disclaimer: All characters and places in this story belong to Tolkien, Peter Jackson or New Line Cinema and not to me. (sigh)
additional A/N: I assume in my stories that Aragorn and Legolas already knew each other before the events in the books/movies and were friends. My stories contain both elements of books and movies. The relationship between Aragorn and Gandalf is bookverse.
A Night in Lothlórien
"A friend is someone who knows the song in your heart
and can sing it back to you when you have forgotten the words."
Legolas had departed quietly and inconspicuously from his companions and moved alone and apparently aimlessly through the forest. He had taken off his boots and felt the soft, cool grass beneath his bare feet. Star-shaped flowers gleamed between the green stems, and around him the powerful silver trunks of the Mallorn trees rose up like the columns of a temple. High over him gentle lights gleamed through the foliage and the branches of the trees, and from time to time a far lament reached his ears. The elves mourned for Mithrandir, the Istar, with the death of whom a part of the light and the wisdom of Middle-earth was irreparably lost. Legolas listened to the songs, but he did not sing himself.
He heard the voices of the trees like a quiet, consoling whisper in his mind. The forest was light and alive, and filled with bright elven-magic. The voices of the trees were clear and friendly, completely different than in his homeland, Mirkwood, over which Sauron had thrown Dol Guldur´s dark shade. Many of the trees there had fallen silent or were poisoned by the increasing darkness, and to move as carelessly there as he did here would have meant provoking certain death.
Under other circumstances, on another day, he would have taken in this place with astonished joy and with all his senses; he would have drunk of the beauty of this sight. He would have spoken with the trees and would have sung for them and climbed into their crowns to see how close he could be to the stars.
But today he was hardly aware of his surroundings. A shade of mourning and worry lay heavily over his heart, and his senses were turned inward, toward what had been, and that which might come to be. He was searching for a friend whose grief and self-reproach would weigh even heavier than his own, and he knew that he would only be able to face his own grief when this worry had been taken from him.
His pain over the fate of Gandalf, Mithrandir, was fresh and overwhelming. The darkness and the flames of Moria had left scars in his soul which even the gentle charm of this place could only slowly heal. Immersed in dark thoughts, he paid no attention to where he was going, and only a vague feeling in his heart showed him the way. The lights in the trees became less and fell behind, and only the silver light of the moon and the stars accompanied him.
He was not surprised when he suddenly saw a lonely, dark figure before him, standing perfectly motionless in a clearing. Without hesitating he went towards the man, and as he did he took in the lowered head, the slumped shoulders and the hands, which were clenched to fists. He came up to his friend silently and put a hand on his shoulder.
"Aragorn?" he addressed him gently.
The ranger did not start or move. He had already felt the presence of the elf before a warm hand touched his shoulder comfortingly and a familiar voice spoke his name. Legolas' grip on his shoulder became firmer, and the elf turned the man around with gentle pressure. Aragorn allowed it to happen.
He had not really expected Legolas, but neither did his coming surprise him. He had known that Legolas would notice his absence sooner or later and that the elf would be able to find him easily. He had only believed that Legolas, like all the others, would be preoccupied with his own pain. He should have known better. He raised his head and looked his friend in the eyes.
The face of the wood elf was expressionless, but Aragorn knew elves in general, and this one in particular too well to be deceived by it. To him, Legolas' feelings could clearly be read in the elf's expressive eyes. He found concern, sympathy, and hidden behind it the deep, dark shadow of undelivered grief and anguish. Elves did not express their feelings like humans did. They did not need to. Their feelings were so strong that they were clearly to be felt by everyone who paid attention to them, and radiated off them like an aura. Legolas was wrapped in grief as in a dark cloak. Aragorn heard the quiet, reassuring whispering of the trees, as if they tried to give comfort to the elf. Aragorn assumed that that was exactly what they did. He looked Legolas in the eyes and held his gaze.
"Legolas…" he began gently. "You should worry about your own pain, mellon nîn ((my friend))."
The elf did not evade his gaze. "I feel grief," he answered quietly, "however, contrary to you I do not suffer from the sting of guilt."
Aragorn's eyes darkened, and after a moment he turned his head away. In this moment he wished that Legolas would not be so good at reading his heart.
Legolas came up closer to his friend. "Mithrandir's death is not your fault, Aragorn," he said with serious emphasis, and without taking his eyes off the man for one instant. "Gandalf knew what he did. It was his decision to make, not ours and not yours."
Aragorn closed his eyes. He remembered those last, terrible moments in the darkness of Khazad-dûm only too well, they had been burned indelibly into his memory.
The flaming fall of the Balrog into the bottomless blackness. Gandalf, who stood abandoned and victorious on the half-destroyed bridge for one moment... until the fiery whip of the Balrog coiled around his feet and tore him along into the depth. Gandalf, who held onto the bridge for a fleeting, passing moment.
Aragorn had been on the way back towards the wizard. He had been about to forget all caution in order to come to the aid of his friend. "Fly, you fools!" But he had obeyed... and Gandalf had fallen into the abyss. Perhaps if he had taken the decision out of Gandalf's hands... everything would have turned out differently. Perhaps his friend would still be alive. He still heard Boromir's voice calling his name and felt how his body seemed to move of its own accord and carry him up the stairs after the others, towards daylight and safety...
"It should not have been his decision," he heard himself say and his voice suddenly sounded very rough. He opened his eyes and looked at Legolas.
It scared the elf when he became more aware of the intensity of the pain and the despair in Aragorn's suddenly dark eyes.
"If I had made my own decision... if I had not obeyed... he could still be alive."
"Or not," Legolas contradicted immediately. "Aragorn, he knew what he was doing. I believe he knew it already before he entered the mines of Moria. My friend, it is a miracle that you escaped from the arrows of the orcs despite your hesitation. If you had turned back - or remained longer - we could have lost both of you. I believe that it was a comfort to him to know that you were there. That you would lead the fellowship on when he could not. It was the best help you could have given to him."
Sudden bitterness rose in Aragorn. "A great leader I am!" he snarled furiously, and did not even notice that he was shouting at Legolas.
The eyes of the elf widened, but he remained where he was without taking his gaze from Aragorn's face.
"He is dead! He was my friend! I have known him for so long a time... " For one moment the pain let his voice fail. "If I cannot even save a wizard, how am I to protect a hobbit?"
For one moment Legolas simply stood there and looked at his friend. He had known that Aragorn had buried his pain and his self-doubts deep in himself, and that these feelings had to come out if he wanted to help him. But even he had not realized how hurt and filled with despair Aragorn was. He knew that such pain could not be mollified by a simple answer. It could be solved by no answer that the intellect could provide. It was finally his heart which inspired the answer and let him find the words.
"I do not know how hard or easy it will be to protect a hobbit who carries such a burden. But I know that you are able to protect an elf. You have already done so." He looked at Aragorn and tried to make him understand his words by the strength of his will alone. "You saved my life, Aragorn. When my pain was too great and I was ready to give up you brought me back. You healed my soul and my body and remained at my side until I could bear life again."
He fell silent for a moment and closed his eyes. Even now, after all this time, it was not easy for him to talk about this. A part of the memory still hurt. He felt Aragorn's gaze rest on him and knew that he had drawn the attention of his friend away from his dark self-accusation and on himself. This small success gave him the strength to speak on.
"No one can save a wizard, my friend, because what is strong enough to endanger a wizard is as powerful as an Istar, and none of us possesses that strength. It was Mithrandir's fight. You did what he wanted, and it was right." He opened his eyes, but did not look at Aragorn, focusing on the pendant at his neck instead. He did not want to become diverted by what might wait for him in Aragorn's eyes.
"I know without a doubt that I would put my life in your hands each day anew," he ended quietly. "I know that I would readily entrust the life of another to you at any time. I know you, Aragorn. I trust you, and nothing you do could disappoint me. That is all I can say to you - whatever it may be worth."
Legolas felt a hand on his arm that still grasped the shoulder of the man. The fingers closed around his lower arm and squeezed briefly and firmly. He looked up and discovered that tears stood in Aragorn's eyes. The despair and the guilt had disappeared from his face. Now only deep grief and tiredness showed there. And regret.
"Mellon-nîn," the man whispered, "forgive me. I should never have shouted at you."
In Legolas' eyes stood warmth. "There is nothing to forgive, Aragorn," he answered gently.
Aragorn lowered his gaze to the ground for a moment and then looked into the eyes of his friend again. "Your life and your trust are infinitely valuable to me, Legolas. It is only... I miss him."
"I know," answered Legolas. "I know."
He also missed Gandalf, missed him so much that it hurt. He had known Mithrandir his entire life and had never really doubted that he would always be there. He had lost too many who had been close to his heart. He wished to be able to hold onto each life that was valuable to him and never let go again. And yet such a life had been destroyed in front of his eyes once more and he had been helpless to prevent it.
When he had seen Aragorn make a step towards the bridge his heart had been close to stopping. He knew he would have rather run into the orcs' hail of arrows at his friend's side than lose him as well. And he almost feared that the rest of the fellowship would have followed him. If he and Aragorn had run off blindly, even Boromir's laboriously maintained reason would probably have been lost. He sighed quietly and asked himself whether all these feelings and this pride were an indication of strength or of weakness. How easily they all could have failed on this day.
And in one thing Aragorn was right: they had lost the strongest member of their party on this day. That Gandalf of them all would fall first... and so far from Mordor... It was bitter. They lamented not only the death of a friend, but also the loss of a leader - a hope. They all had relied endless times on the light and the wisdom of the wizard. He had never let them down. Not even when a cruel fate forced him to face a Balrog of Morgoth. Legolas realized that he could hardly bear to think of his old friend. Whenever he tried to recall a memory, an image of flames and darkness pushed itself into his awareness, followed by the moment when Gandalf's fingers lost their hold... and he fell... and fell... and fell...
He shivered, and this time it was he who turned away. He felt the grief rise in him like a large, dark wave. He freed his arm gently from Aragorn's grasp, went a few steps out into the clearing and sunk to his knees.
To be continued...