by Aranel Laerien

They had asked me to go along but it was a trip I was most reluctant to take. There seemed no need to revisit Mordor; the knowledge that the Dark Lord had been destroyed, that the slaves had been freed, that Middle-earth was growing green and lush again – this all should have been enough.

Then, that day, I was showing Gimli how the gardens of Ithilien now bloomed with so much more life and vibrancy, and he had agreed and fell silent.

"What troubles you, Gimli?" I had asked.

The Dwarf sighed. "Legolas, it will take much more than all we've done to rebuild this world."

I had raised an eyebrow. Gimli was not one known for philosophical thinking. "Ennor will heal," I had said, "Give it time, care and nourish it, and all shall be renewed."

But Gimli only shook his head. "You should have been there," he had replied, "then you would understand."

I admit I was much troubled by what he had said but I gladly let the preoccupations of the day busy me. One of the younger elves was trying his hand at pruning with rather unexpected results, and he was staring red-faced at his little shrub while a few other elves tried to contain their laughter at the oddly shaped creation.

"Cuivir," I put an arm around him, "come, let's try to tidy this a little."

He gave me a grateful smile and retrieved his blade, poised to trim an unsightly edge.

"Not yet," I said, "there is something that must be done first." I leaned over, placing a hand gently on its tiny trunk, hearing its whispers, feeling its soft susurrus.

Cuivir frowned. "Will it tell us how we may proceed?"

I only smiled. "If you do not feel the entirety of the damage, how can you assess what needs be done?"

Cuivir became a better skilled gardener that day but I left with a heavy heart – haunted by the very advice I had given him.

A few days before they had set off, I had strolled up the hill just beyond the forest. It was aduial then and I had sat on the grass, watching the stars glow as the sun faded. Mithrandir had come and sat on a nearby stone, smoking some newly acquired pipeweed.

He blew a little ring into the air. "Will you not humour the young ones for this trip?"

I had leaned backwards. "What good shall come out of it?" I asked rather cynically.

"Fellowship," he had replied, his piercing gaze seemingly looking into my very soul, "sharing and closure."

"There is no need for my presence," I had said, "the Fellowship has long been dissolved."

"Has it?" Mithrandir asked.

I had turned away, unsure of what to say. When I looked over again, the Wizard had left.

And now, I cannot help wondering how much I had missed. Fellowship, sharing, closure. Was there no other way but this?

When they returned, Aragorn in his Ranger garb had grabbed Pippin and thrown him playfully on the grass over some remark while Merry laughed at how the younger Hobbit deserved it. Pippin had given a sort of pout and soon ended up tousling with Merry on the ground.

Then Aragorn had come over and we had embraced warmly.

"Greetings, Legolas," he said, the laughter still in his eyes, "It has been long since I have seen you."

I had smiled and nodded though I was sure we had barely been away for a month.

"How are things there?" I finally asked.

Aragorn had shrugged casually. "Still crumbled stone. There is more grass though and the skies above it are much clearer."

We did not speak further about this trip though we met almost daily but I would occasionally catch Aragorn giving the Hobbits pointed looks, after which Merry would chide Pippin for something which must have had happened along the way.

It was disconcerting being the only one who did not understand their jokes but eventually I thought little of it. I would rather hold that there was no purpose in the trip but to relive the agony and grief over the many losses we had suffered, over the many who had been tormented under its dark dominion – and to what end would this be? With Boromir's death, the Fellowship had gone three separate ways and though we had still been working towards the same goal, and were eventually reunited once more, the Fellowship had long served its purposes.

But even Frodo had decided to join their tour, and of course, Sam readily agreed to follow. The Ring-bearer still seemed burdened even though everything had ended and I was certain he would be reluctant to return to the land that caused him so much pain. But he had gone with a pensive gaze and returned with a smile.

"Having seen this, all the fear has passed," Frodo's smile was peaceful and content, "the struggle seems so distant and I can now celebrate with joy."

"It makes everything Mister Frodo has gone through worthwhile," Sam had added.

"And you too!" Pippin put in.

"All of us," Frodo had agreed, looking up at Aragorn with gratefulness and respect.

That night, in the privacy of my room, I had shed a tear. I did not know why, nor did I understand how it could have been so, but some part of me acknowledged that I had felt left out, some part of me forced me to admit that though I lived with those of my kind, I was still a part of the Fellowship.

That was a year ago.

Three days ago, Aragorn came and joined me on the balcony.

"We are leaving to Mordor once more," he said at last, "would you care to join in?"

I immediately nodded.

He only nodded and smiled but in that instant, I saw understanding, relief and joy. In that moment, I felt a strange sense of perfect understanding.

And so, today, I join the others to Mordor, thinking of how this fellowship of friends had risen when the Fellowship of the Ring faded.

We were the Fellowship, we still are and always will be.