A/N: Thanks so much for the reviews. It's such a tteat to find them in my Inbox. Please keep them coming. I love treats. :o)
The next weeks were a whirlwind of activity. Thranduil and his other sons had been notified of Legolas's death. Aragorn was surprised and pleased that the elven king had agreed to hold the funeral in Ithilien. He was also grateful, since he knew that deep down Thranduil wanted his son returned to Eryn Lasgalen. It was an admission that Legolas had found a new home, and this was where he should stay.
A state funeral was held in Minas Tirith, attended by nearly every citizen of the White city, as well as members of most of the ruling families of Middle-earth.
After three days, it was a small procession of Legolas's family and close friends that traveled to the elven colony that he loved. It was this more intimate funeral that meant the most to those the renowned archer left behind.
Aragorn somehow found the strength to carry on with all that was expected of the King of Gondor. He didn't know how he managed it. His heart and soul were so torn he was afraid that if he stopped, he would collapse.
Arwen never left his side.
When the goodbyes to Legolas were finally finished and the farewells to each other completed, as well, the members of the House of Oropher departed for Eryn Lasgalen. Éomer left for Rohan. Elrond's twin sons, Elladan and Elrohir, Lord Celeborn, Sam, Merry and Pippin all left together. It was planned that Lord Celeborn would turn off and go directly to Imladris, while the twins escorted the hobbits the remaining miles to the Shire before retuning home themselves.
Aragorn was finally alone with his grief, his memories and his guilt. Even Arwen, who had given him enormous support despite her own grief, had joined Éowyn and Faramir in their apartment for the evening. She hadn't wanted to leave her husband alone, but he insisted he needed the time to himself, so she relented.
Aragorn took a deep breath, as he stood on the balcony outside his bedchamber and stared out into the gathering gloom of dusk. It almost matched the gloom in his heart.
There had been so many people around him for so long that he had longed to be by himself. He was so full of sorrow that he couldn't truly enjoy the company of those who had come so far to honor their fallen elven friend. Now that he was alone, however, Aragorn didn't know if he could control his pent-up emotions, because now he would have to face the truth of what had happened and his part in it. He felt like screaming.
"I failed you, Legolas. You died, because I was supposed to use the vision I was gifted with to save your life, and I let you down." He never even realized that he was speaking out loud or that tears were streaming down his face. He wouldn't have cared, even if he had. "What am I going to do without you?" Aragorn closed his eyes.
The next thing he knew, someone was shaking his shoulder rather urgently.
"Estel, what is wrong?"
The king's eyes flew open. Kneeling in front of him was Arwen, and she was obviously concerned. "Arwen? I thought you were staying with Éowyn and Faramir tonight."
The queen looked at her husband with a puzzled expression. "Have you forgotten that Éowyn and Faramir left yesterday to visit Éomer in Rohan?"
Aragorn shook his head to clear the cobwebs that seemed to be clogging up his memory. Why would they go to Rohan when Éomer was just here? He sighed. Perhaps they needed to get away from all the sorrow permeating the White City, as well as Ithilien.
It was then Aragorn noticed that he was sitting on his office floor. He looked past his wife to see Toldon hovering behind her. 'I don't remember coming in from the balcony.' He didn't see Toldon frown.
Then everything hit him at once: the vision, Legolas's death and everything that had happened afterward. Aragorn groaned in misery and renewed grief. "Legolas," he whispered softly.
"What about Legolas?" Arwen asked.
"I tried so hard to save him, but I couldn't."
"Save him from what? Estel, what are you talking about?" Now the concern on Arwen's face was in her voice.
Aragorn stared at Arwen in disbelief. "What do you think?" he replied more harshly than he intended. "Legolas died, because I was given the vision to save him, and I didn't" How many times was that thought going to assault him? 'To my own dying day,' he answered himself.
Arwen shook her head. "Why in Arda would you think Legolas is dead? And what is this about a vision?"
Aragorn looked at his wife, as if she had suddenly grown another head. "Arwen, how can you say that after what we've been through this last six weeks? I think grief has made your memory faulty."
Arwen looked behind her and nodded to Toldon. "Help me get him up." She feared that perhaps Aragorn had hit his head when he fell, and it was his memory that was faulty.
With the help of his wife and Toldon, Aragorn made it to his feet, though his legs felt weak and a little wobbly. He was eased down into his desk chair. "I will be all right," he assured them.
"Toldon, what happened in here?" Arwen asked, deciding that Toldon would be able to give her a much better explanation than her obviously befuddled husband.
"I was waiting to see if King Elessar was going to see the emissary from Ithilien, when he seemed to go into a..." the man paused to search for the right word. "a trance of some sort. He fell back against the book shelves and then slid down to the floor. His face was a mask of both shock and despair." It was the only words Todlon could think of to describe what had overtaken the king.
Continuing to try and get as much information as she could, Arwen then asked, "How long did all of this last?"
"Only a matter of moments, my lady. Not really long at all."
"Thank you, Toldon."
The man looked at his queen, and when she smiled and nodded at him, he bowed and stepped back out the door. Toldon thought he should probably leave the royal apartment altogether to give the king and queen some privacy, but he wanted to stay near enough to offer more help, if it was needed. He waited just out of earshot.
After Toldon backed away, Arwen sat down facing Aragorn and said, "Please tell me about this vision you mentioned."
Aragorn began to explain what he had seen. He believed he had already done so weeks before, but he was so confused by Arwen's words that he started to explain it all over again.
When he described Legolas's death and then briefly touched on the aftermath, Arwen reached up and put her fingers over Aragorn's lips.
"I do not know what is going on, Estel, but I can tell you that Legolas is not dead. We surely would have been notified of such a thing, and there certainly has not been a funeral for him." There was obvious doubt and even more confusion in her husband's gray eyes. "When was this supposed to have happened?"
"June 14th. I can never forget that horrible day."
Arwen took a deep breath. "Estel, today is June 14th."
"It can't be. I've lived through the past month and a half from that day to this. We all did, all except..." Aragorn couldn't bring himself to finish the thought.
With her palm resting gently on Aragorn's cheek,, she said, "Estel, I assure you that today is June 14th. All that you think you went through did not happen. It was all a vision, not just the first part of it but everything after."
Aragorn was incredulous. "You are telling me that my going to Ithilien, finding Legolas dead, the two funerals were part of the vision?"
"It had to have been," the queen assured him. "I did not experience any of it."
Aragorn jumped to his feet, all signs of weakness gone. He paced to the far end of the room and then came back to stand in front of Arwen. "Do you know what this means? I've been given another chance to save him." His body began to shake. "But I cannot do it this time either. Legolas will die today, Arwen, today, but it's two days' ride from here to the colony in Ithilien. There is no time to warn him. It's about to happen all over again, only this time for real, and I will fail him again." The man was so distraught he could hardly breathe.
At the king's raised voice, Toldon moved back into the room. He had heard what Aragorn had said, so he boldly spoke up. "The hawks, my lord." When both Elessar and Arwen looked at him, he said, "Pardon, my lord, my lady. The thought just occurred to me. We can use one of the messenger hawks to send a warning to Prince Legolas."
'Yes!" the king all but shouted. In an instant, he was grabbing a pen and a piece of parchment. He didn't even bother sitting down but bent over his desk and began writing almost frantically. The note was succinct and to the point.
There was no way to tell how much time remained before Legolas's deadly encounter with the orcs, but Aragorn did not intend on delaying one extra second.
When he was finished writing, the king rolled the paper to resemble a tiny scroll. Retrieving a piece of string from one of the desk drawers, he tied it around the note.
"Shall I...?" Toldon asked but was waved off before he could say more.
Aragorn started for the door. "I will send it myself." Not wanting to sound ungrateful to the man who had suggested the very thing that could save Legolas, Aragorn slowed just long enough to put his hand on the other man's shoulder. "Thank you, Toldon." Then the king ran out the door.
For the rest of the day, Aragorn paced. He paced around his office, around his apartment and up and down the balcony, waiting for news from Ithilien. He had wanted to wait by the aviary that held the hawks used to send and receive messages from the various lands. In fact, he had been insistent but finally relented when Arwen reminded him that he was the king and should not be seen just roaming restlessly all day at the aviary. So reluctantly, he had sent Toldon to wait, giving him explicit instructions to bring back word immediately when the hawk returned.
x x x x x
A knock on the door made Aragorn jump. "He's here!"
A huge smile spread across the mans' face, as he jumped to his feet. He kissed Arwen on the mouth, and ran out of the office and down the corridor.
By the time the king reached the end of the hall, Legolas was just stepping onto the landing. The elf suddenly found himself being engulfed in a bear hug the likes of which he hadn't experienced in many a year.
Finally, Aragorn stepped back, but he kept his hands on the elf's shoulders, not willing to lose contact with him.
"You are alive," the king whispered. "You are truly alive." The words were followed by a huge smile and another brief hug.
'Of course, I am." Legolas shook his head in complete confusion. "Your note frightened me, Estel, and I came as quickly as I could. Please tell me what this is all about."
Aragorn nodded. "Yes. Yes. Come. I will tell you everything."
On the way to the king's private study, Arwen appeared in the hallway. She greeted Legolas with a hug. Noting the still confused look on the younger elf's face, she said, "I will leave you two alone while Estel explains it all to you." By contrast, there was a knowing half smile on the queen's face, as she continued down the hallway.
An hour later, Legolas sat back in one of the chairs next to the fireplace, though being summertime, there was no need for a fire.
"That is incredible, Estel," Legolas said, somewhat stunned.
"I know. I still find it hard to believe. I'm just so thankful it all worked out for the good. Tell me what happened in Ithilien."
"Arod's left foreleg was hurt when a barrel rolled off of a wagon right in front of him. I was told it would be a month before he could safely carry a rider, even an elf," Legolas grinned at the last three words.
"He does not like to be inactive, so naturally he was getting as anxious as I was. Therefore, when the month was up, I was given the go ahead to ride him.
"I had not gone more than fifty yards when Balliel came running after me, shouting that a message had come from you. I cannot tell you how stunned I was to read your note.
Do not ride Arod into the forest NO MATTER WHAT! No one is hurt, but you must come to Minas Tirith quickly.
"The note said no one was hurt, but still I thought something terrible must have happened here for you to request my presence so urgently. I changed horses, since I did not wish to test Arod's leg on so hard a journey.
"It was not until I was on my way here that the thought struck me: How could you possibly know I was going to ride Arod into the forest that day?
"I understand now - sort of." The elf still looked a bit baffled. All the pieces of the mystery were not in place and maybe never would be.
"You are precious to me, Legolas. I could not fathom, then or now, a world without you in it," Aragorn stated without any self-consciousness. He did not consider such an admission a weakness, but even if he had, this was Legolas he was confessing to. The only other person he was willing to be this open with was Arwen.
The elven prince gave his long-time friend a brilliant smile before saying, "I am sorry that you had to go through all of that, Estel. Even though it did not really happen, you felt as if it did."
"It was worth it to save you." Aragorn was studying the elf's face, as if seeing something beautiful for the first time and afraid that if he didn't memorize every inch of it, he might forget.
"I remember how much your father, and sometimes ever mine, said that our friendship would end up hurting you, because I am mortal and will one day die. I always thought the brotherly love we share was worth any pain, but I did not realize until the vision, just what you will suffer when Gimli and I leave you." The very thought of Legolas suffering, not once but twice, as he had just done, was hard to take. He lowered his head.
Legolas raised the man's head so they could look directly at each other. "Having known you and Gimli is worth far more than any hurt I could ever endure. And there will be the memories, Estel, the wonderful memories, that I will carry with me forever."
The former ranger smiled, a joy he never thought to feel again surging through him. He did not know, and probably never would know, from whence the dark vision had come, but he would be eternally grateful to whoever was responsible.
Aragorn briefly closed his eyes, took a deep breath and silently said, 'Thank you for helping me save my dearest friend."
When he opened his eyes, Legolas was smiling at him.
There you have it. The completion of another story. I hope you all liked it and will share your thoughts on it.