Author's note:

PeppyPower, this is not exactly what you asked for. I tried to describe the event from "King's Sword" from different POV, but I simply couldn't – it felt like repeating, which I didn't like, and words just didn't come. But another idea came – and I think you might like it. So, my friend, this one is for you. *hug*

-x-x-x-

The night descends upon the woods. The full moon shines brightly in the dark blue sky, shedding its light across the forest. The stars are but tiny, pale spots tonight, as if daunted by the splendid light of Telperion's last fruit. Silvery rays caress the treetops stretching far into the horizon like a ripplingsea.

A night in the woods. All is quiet and seemingly calm. But the forest does not sleep. It is traversed by many nocturnal animals, and the trees hearken and whisper in voices inaudible to anyone but those who are able to hear. But not all the creatures are harmless and innocuous, and the elf, keeping vigilant watch, is very well aware of that. Giant spiders have seized many a heedless wayfarer. Luckily, the elf and the man are now far away from their territory. Albeit, the spiders are just one of the enemies of Thranduil's people. In the area where they have set up camp, Orcs often pass through on their plundering, murderous raids. That is why the young elven prince is well on his guard, ready to react at every suspicious noise.

A gentle breeze sways the night air. It is cold. The elf keepspulling his cloak ever more tightly around him. The quivering dark shadows cast by the leaves play upon the ground. A few rays of moonlight pierce through the thick web made of treetops; gentle silver threads interweave with the trees and descend to the ground. One of them falls upon the face of the sleeping ranger, illuminating him with dim light and revealing the contours of his features.

He looks younger while he sleeps, his elven friend notices, observing him. The fine lines on his face, caused by the burden of long years of worry, seem magically smoothed out and vanished. He looks like the young man I met in Imladris many years ago. They have come a long, hard way since then. Both of them have seen a lot of blood and death, have fought many battles, have held dying friends by the hand, have come across burnt down houses and innocent victims. "Will I ever get used to this?" I remember the young ranger's question, as he stood above fresh graves of children murdered in the Orc attack. His teary eyes desperately searched for an answer, although he already knew what it would sound like. "No, you won't. Some things never stop hurting." I remember the shadow of sorrow deepening even more in those grey eyes. "But that is precisely how you know you have not lost yourself. For as long as it hurts, for as long as you can feel, it means that you are alive. You will find the strength to go on and keep on fighting."

You have never lost yourself, Estel, and you never will. For your spirit will always be full of compassion.

A night in the woods. Somewhere in the distance, a lonely owl's call breaks the silence. The elf turns around, listening intently, trying to hear a sound out of harmony with the usual nocturnal noises. But all is quiet. High up in the treetop above him, a squirrel walks along a thin branch, barely audible. Somewhere in the distance, a weasel prowls in search of unwary prey. The night progresses just like any other.

It was a hard, exhausting day, and they are both tired. His friend told him to wake him up so that he could keep guard for the other half of the night, but at the beginning of his sentry duty, the elf had decided not to do that. For my spirit is different, and I can rest with my eyes open. It is easier for me, and he needs some sleep. Eru himself knows how heavy a burden has been weighing upon him for years already and how precious every moment of rest is to him. He has watched over the others a myriad of times and has always been the last one to go to rest. And that will not change even when he becomes the king. His duties will be different then from those he has now, albeit even more demanding.

A soft smile appears on the young prince's face. No, he has not the slightest doubt that it will come to pass. He is unable to see when and how; he does not possess the gift to see the future. But he is certain of it. Gandalf is getting closer to finding the Ring; Gollum will soon be tracked down; the events which have started to unfold cannot be curbed. And Estel is the one who will lead the men and overcome the Enemy.

He told him this a number of times, trying to encourage him. For there were moments when he needed encouragement. The elf knows well his friend's deepest fears and doubts, those which he had voiced only a few times, in a tone so quiet it was as if he was scared that merely uttering them might lead to their fulfilment: what to do when they find the Enemy's weapon? What if he succumbs? What if he reaches for it and falls into the darkness? No you won't, Estel. You are not Isildur. You will conquer the Evil.

How does he know this? Because he knows his friend. Perhaps you are not aware of the strength that is in you, Estel. But those around you are, and I know that you are as strong as steel. You radiate tranquility and wisdom. Even your indecision is a sign of wisdom, for it keeps you from falling into the trap of excessive confidence. And when the time comes, in the moment of the greatest need, you will be the strongest one and you will defeat the Darkness.

A night in the woods. Rueful howling winds through the forest, a lonely wolf is seeking company. The breeze is gaining strength, the leaves begin to whisper more loudly, intertwining with the song of the wind. The westering stars retire, the new ones rise in the East, minutes blend into hours. But the elf does not go to sleep, guarding the little camp instead. This long sentry duty is not a burden for him; on the contrary, he does it gladly for he is happy to see his friend rest. As the Moon wheels slowly across the sky, Legolas casts another glance towards the sleeping man. Sleep peacefully, my friend.

-x-x-x-

P.S. Thanks to Irena for translating and to Dawn Felagund for beta-reading. *hug*