Author's Note: I know I promised to post a new chapter of "Dawn of Friendship" next, but due to some sudden unexpected changes in Real Life the story needs more time until it is ready for posting. So I decided to post another story, which has been finished and beta-ed for quite some time and was only waiting for the right moment. For once, Aragorn will not appear in the story, though he is very much part of it. :)
I hope you enjoy, and feedback is – as always – very welcome! ;-)
Thank you for all the wonderful reviews I got for "The Promise"! ((huggles readers)) Arodiel, I'm glad you enjoy my stories so much:)
Author: Silivren Tinu
Beta: the wonderful Imbecamiel (((hugs)))
Series: Kindred Spirits
Summary: Éowyn and Legolas go for a ride, and Éowyn learns some unexpected things about the elf and his friendship to Aragorn. No romance, just friendship. Written for Prompt #6 "Outdoors" on Aragornangst.
Disclaimer: I do not own the characters, horses, and places in this story. (sniff, sigh)
- Free -
The pristine silence of the early morning was broken by the thunder of hooves and the sound of joyful laughter. Two strong, beautiful horses galloped over the Pelennor fields in a playful race, their manes and tails flowing freely in the wind. Their riders had been engaged in a lively conversation until the wind stole their breath and their words from them, and now they allowed their horses to run freely and enjoyed the fresh wind on their faces and the feeling of powerful muscles and barely tamed energy beneath them. The noble Rohirric horses seemed to fly rather than gallop over the vast plain, and they clearly enjoyed the wild ride as much as their riders did, neither of them able to take the lead for long or leave the other behind.
Éowyn raised her hands towards the sky, as if she wanted to embrace the world, and again she laughed. Legolas watched her with a smile. He knew that the woman beside him felt as uncomfortable being trapped between walls of stone in a large city as he did, used as she was to the endless plains and gently rolling hills of Rohan, where the sky and the sea of grass seemed to touch on the horizon.
After spending the last days confined to a room in the citadel, either talking about matters of state or locked in tedious negotiations with various delegates, both of them had felt the need to escape duty, tiring conversations, and walls for a while. They had stumbled across each other in the stables by accident early in the morning, and had decided to leave together, as they obviously planned to do the same thing.
For the first time in days Legolas felt able to breathe freely. The air around him was fresh and cool and smelled of spring. Arod tossed his head and neighed, and Windfola snorted. After a while, both horses began to slow down and fell from their wild gallop into a light canter. Legolas began first to hum and then to sing, his beautiful, light voice greeting the first rays of the morning sun, which was just beginning to rise over the dark peaks of the Ephel Dúath in front of them.
Éowyn smiled and closed her eyes. She never tired of hearing the elf sing. She and Faramir had come to know Legolas quite well since he had founded an Elven colony near their own settlement in Ithilien. Éowyn had come to share her husband's fascination with elves during this time, and Legolas was a dear friend by now. She had soon noticed that he did not treat her with less respect because she was a woman, and they had discovered a common love for horses and nature.
Some time later, Legolas fell silent and both horses came to a halt as if in mutual agreement. Their riders looked out over the inviting land in front of them. Éowyn's long, loose hair was tousled and her face was flushed from the wind and the sun. Her heart sang, and for the first time in days she felt free. Windfola pulled at the reins, and she could feel that he was still as eager to run as she was.
"Let us ride to the Anduin!" she called.
Beside her, Legolas stared at the glittering water in the distance, a strange look in his eyes. Arod shifted his weight uneasily in response to his master's mood, and one of his white ears flicked back. In his mind's eye, Legolas saw a circling white gull in front of water and blue sky, and heard a wailing call. Once again, a longing and a sadness rose within him that seemed to tear his heart apart, and he shivered.
It was one of the reasons why he had decided to ride out this morning. He had felt the sea-longing close these last days, but had not wanted to burden Aragorn or Arwen with it, as they already had to deal with a group of stubborn and irate delegates and did not need a sick elf on top of it. Unable to bear the thought that he could be overwhelmed by the longing in the midst of the council chamber, Legolas had known that he had to take his mind off the pain in his heart somehow.
He had not expected that the simple sight of the Anduin would render him mute and frozen, filling his mind with a tantalizing call and his heart with a familiar, searing pain. He stared at the water, unable to look away, and its song threatened to drown out every other voice inside of him.
A slender hand closed around his arm, and at the same time there was a jerking motion beneath him. He blinked, for a moment not sure where he was or how he had come to be here. Then he saw Éowyn's concerned face beside him and felt Arod move restlessly and stamp beneath him. Legolas took a deep, shuddering breath and averted his gaze from the glittering water in front of them. It would be perilous to go even near the river today.
"I am sorry," he said softly. "I cannot ride to the river today."
Éowyn's worry did not abate with these words, though she was relieved that her companion had spoken at all. For some moments, the elf had seemed to be far away, as if caught in some unpleasant memories, or suffering from some sudden pain.
"Does something ail you, Legolas?" she asked. Her voice was hesitant, telling him that she did not desire to intrude, but also did not want to disregard a friend's need.
Now it was his turn to be hesitant. "It is just… an old malady," he answered finally.
It was the way of the Rohirrim to hide weakness and hurts, and Éowyn was well-versed in it. Looking at her friend she saw the shadow which had fallen over his face, and the pain he was trying to hide. She had seen a similar sadness in Legolas' eyes more than once, but she had never asked, respecting his silence. Looking at the river once more, she wondered if something had happened there during the battle of the Pelennor that had caused a grief that she knew nothing about.
Her mood sobered, she looked around, remembering the bloody battle that had taken place here not too long ago. She only knew her own nightmares, her own pain and grief, but she did not know what had happened to Legolas during the fight, or the battles before. Perhaps one day he would tell her what haunted him. Éowyn had not been here for a long time, as her new home in Ithilien was taking up most of her time and strength. Suddenly she knew that there was something else she wanted to do today.
"There is a place I would like to visit," she said softly, "if you would accompany me."
Legolas looked at her searchingly for a moment, then he nodded his agreement. Éowyn turned Windfola around, and heard Arod follow behind. They had not far to go, and Éowyn wondered how she could have ridden by so close to this place without noticing it. It told her how much she had changed after the war, and how much joy her new life and the love in it had brought her. She was finally able to leave the past behind, though she would never forget.
Windfola slowed down of his own account, seemingly recognizing this place, too. He snorted nervously and began prancing, and she reined him in. Arod came to a stop beside them, and Éowyn felt Legolas' eyes on her. They both knew what had happened here not so long ago. Before them lay a large grave overgrown with grass, and beside it there was a patch of barren ground. Nothing grew there, and it looked black and burnt. Éowyn did not look at it, but kept her eyes on the grave.
"It is strange," she said quietly, wonderingly. "I thought I would never be able to feel joy or laugh again."
Legolas hesitated for a moment. Then he said: "There were times in my life when I have felt the same."
For the second time this day, he saw surprise in her eyes.
"I believe we have been called back to life by the same voice and the same hands," he added softly.
She looked at him for a long moment, both grateful for his trust and wondering how much there was that she did not yet know about him. Éowyn found herself wishing to learn more about his past, his friendship with Aragorn and the pain he kept hidden deep inside. Not for the first time she wondered what it meant to be an elf. His words reminded her of something else she had been wondering about.
"There is one thing I always wanted to ask you," she said, watching him closely to make sure her inquiry was welcome.
"Then ask," he answered, meeting her gaze.
"Why do you call him Estel?"
The elf blinked, obviously surprised by her question. "It is the name that was given to him by his elven foster father," he replied. "His family calls him thus. It means "hope"."
Éowyn was silent for a long moment. "Then it is his truest name," she said finally and so softly, as if speaking to herself rather than him. She felt Legolas' gaze on her and saw quiet understanding and approval in his eyes.
Then suddenly the elf straightened and turned his head to look back over his shoulder. "It seems we are going to have company," he remarked.
Éowyn turned in the saddle and looked back towards the White City. A lone rider had passed the great gates and was coming towards them. She had no idea how Legolas had been able to know that the rider was there, but she had come to trust his sharp elven senses by now. "Can you say who it is?"
"A member of the King's Guard."
"Probably a messenger to tell us that the negotiations have been resumed," Éowyn sighed. Then a sly smile appeared on her face.
"Do you think we should wait for him?"
- The End -
Ephel Dúath: The Mountains of Shadow, the western border of Mordor
Note: The place Éowyn wanted to visit was Snowmane's grave, where King Théoden died and the Witchking of Angmar was killed by her hand. In "The Return of the King" it says: "Green and long grew the grass on Snowmane's Howe, but ever black and bare was the ground where the beast (i.e. the mount of the Nazgûl) was burned." (J.R.R.Tolkien, "The Return of the King")