Summary: One-shot. Legolas comforts his friends as they face the loss of loved ones. Mainly angst and friendship with a bit of humour. Characters: Legolas, Aragorn, Elladan and Elrohir, with brief appearances by Elrond, Glorfindel and Celebrían.

Many thanks to my wonderful beta, Calenlass, for advice, suggestions and patience with questions.

Rating: PG

Disclaimer: I own nothing.

The Darkest Hour

Imladris, Year 3007 of the Third Age

Elladan's eyes were bright with unshed tears as he looked from his father to his brother to his friend. Elrond's eyes were grave, although his voice was steady as he read. Elrohir and Legolas were sitting silently on a couch. Elrohir's face was oddly emotionless, but he seemed glad for the younger Elf's arm around his shoulders.

Elladan could not bring himself to sit; it seemed as though that would make the news somehow more real.

Elrond finished reading and folded up the letter. Elladan could have sworn that his father's hand shook as he replaced it on his desk and finally turned his full attention to the three Elves before him.

"We knew it was coming," Elrond said, getting to his feet. "She told Estel so herself."

"But so soon..." Legolas whispered.

"It had to be so," Elladan replied, astonished at how steady even his voice sounded. "She was mortal, Legolas. When the race of Men sense their time approaching, it usually means months, not years... even for one of the line of Númenor."

"Does he know?"

"He must be told," Elrond murmured. "They will have tried to get word to him, of course, but I doubt any of their scouts could have found him. I will send someone –"

"I will go," Legolas volunteered, in a tone that said he did not plan to allow himself to be dissuaded.

Elrond glanced at the young archer.

"I do not deny that that would ease my heart greatly, penneth. Your presence would bring him comfort, perhaps more so than even ours. But it will mean a longer journey home for you; I know roughly where Estel may be found, but you will still have a difficult search on your hands. I have no desire to deprive Thranduil of your services as a warrior."

"I was not planning to leave for a few days in any case, so if I leave now and ride hard, I shall not be delayed in returning home."

Elrond hesitated, and then nodded.

"Very well, then. I will tell you where to find him – but be careful. Remember that not all Men are like Estel and the Rangers. Many do not like Elves. I would send Elladan and Elrohir with you if I could, but they are needed here... I promised your father I would return you to him in one piece, and I have a reputation for being an Elf of my word. Please do not ruin it."

"You promised King Thranduil that?" Elladan asked in astonishment, as Elrohir chuckled despite himself. "Ada, how did you ever imagine you would be able to do it?"

Imladris, Year 2510 of the Third Age

For the first time in his life, Legolas felt the presence of some lingering malignancy as he rode through the gates of Imladris. The stars shone benignly overhead, Eärendil as bright as he always appeared when viewed from the Elven haven, but their silver light could not conceal the nearness of something unmistakably evil.

He shivered as he dismounted, resisting the impulse to draw his cloak tighter about his shoulders.

"So you have felt it as well."

Legolas turned in the direction of the voice, bowing formally when he saw the speaker.

"Lord Glorfindel."

"Especially in this hour of grief we do not stand on ceremony, penneth," the Elf-lord said gently, clasping Legolas' forearm in a warriors' greeting. "Your presence is welcome."

"I came as soon as I received your letter." Waving away the guard who ran up to them offering to take his horse, Legolas led Faelwen to the stables. Glorfindel followed, and the young prince of the woodland realm was conscious of his penetrating gaze. "I must confess, my lord, I do not know what I can do to help. I have little wisdom in these matters."

"Your gwedyr are in no need of wisdom," Glorfindel said wryly. "There are innumerable Elves willing to supply that, and in far greater measure than they want or require. They need a friend to stand by them now, Legolas, and your loyalty has ever been unparalleled."

Relieved that the darkness masked the reddening of his cheeks, Legolas inclined his head in acknowledgment of the older Elf's compliment.

"I hope this has not inconvenienced Thranduil too greatly," Glorfindel went on. "I know how beleaguered your realm has been since the end of the Watchful Peace, and I would not have deprived him of your services so abruptly had there not been need."

"Ada understands, my lord," Legolas said with the slightest hint of a smile. "He has known you for a very long time."

"I never imagined that we would come to this day," the Balrog-slayer commented. "If anyone should have been safe from attack by fell creatures, it should have been Celebrían. Who would ever have thought that such harm could befall one who divided her time between Imladris and Lothlórien? There are no safer havens this side of the Sea."

Without warning, he reached out and took the curry comb from Legolas.

"I will see to your horse, penneth. You go inside to your friends. If your company cannot lighten their spirits, I fear nothing ever will."

The Wilds of Middle-earth, Year 3007 of the Third Age

Faelwen snorted and tossed her head, clearly displeased at Legolas' restraining hand, which was currently preventing her from bursting out of the thicket and galloping across the plain in wild abandon. Legolas chuckled, knowing perfectly well what caused his horse's pique.

"Peace, my impatient friend," he murmured, running a soothing hand down her flank. "When we are in familiar territory you may have your head. But this land I know not at all, for all its proximity to our home. It would be unfortunate if we were to run into a group of humans with a prejudice against the Firstborn."

He hesitated and then held out one hand. At once, a bright blue bird fluttered down from an overhead branch to alight on his finger.

Legolas struggled to get his message across to the bird; he was far more comfortable communicating with trees.

Eventually, and after much effort, he managed to tell the bird what he was looking for. It flew off with what he hoped was a promise to find its fellows and ask if any of them had the information he sought.

He hoped fervently that Aragorn had not taken it into his head to visit a Mannish settlement. It would be hard enough to carry out his charge without the added complication of concealing his race while he located his friend. While Legolas could speak the tongue of Men with fair fluency, anyone hearing him would know at once that it was not his native language. He could only pray that they would assume that he was from some distant land, rather than guessing at the truth.

Several minutes later two birds, the blue one and another red one, emerged from the trees and perched on his knee. With some difficulty he understood that a human such as he described had been seen entering a village some leagues to the south, but that had been a few days ago. There were no more recent tidings to be had.

Thanking the birds, Legolas finally nudged Faelwen with his heels. The mare neighed her approval and ran out to the plain, although not with such speed as she would have done had they been on the Elf-road through Mirkwood.

Imladris, Year 2510 of the Third Age

Following Glorfindel's suggestion, Legolas slipped into the Last Homely House through a side door and made his way silently upstairs to the family's apartments. Instead of repairing to the room that was always kept for his use, he went onwards to the end of the corridor to find his friends.

He was startled by a hand on his shoulder as he crept past Elrond and Celebrían's door. Firmly quelling the warrior's reflex to reach for a weapon, he turned.

The Lady of Imladris was standing in the darkness of the passage, surveying him with gentle eyes that belied the tortures she had so recently undergone. For a moment Legolas stared at her in shock, then he remembered to bow.

"Forgive me, my lady," he said. "I did not intend to disturb you."

"It is no fault of yours that you did," she assured him. "I find my senses unnaturally acute of late. How else would I have heard the step of an Elven warrior who was trying to be quiet?"

Legolas hesitated, not quite knowing what to say. Celebrían had lavished him with affection since his own mother had died, to the extent that the twins griped good-naturedly about how even their Nana was partial to the woodland prince. He was as fond of her as he could be of any mother-figure who was not actually his mother, and it had distressed him to learn of her ordeal.

The elleth patted his cheek and said, "It was good of my kinsman to spare you, Legolas; I know his need for your support is great. But Elladan and Elrohir descend into grief and guilt that can only worsen when I leave."

"You have decided, then, my lady?"

"Yes, I have. There can be no peace for me on these shores." She sighed and turned to a window, looking out at the stars. "Take care of my sons, Legolas. They have spoken of the grief to none save each other, but it is my hope that they will unburden themselves to you."

"They have stood by me through my worst moments, my lady. I would hardly forsake them now."

"I did not mean to imply that you would," Celebrían said with a light laugh. After a brief pause, she said, "Yet I ask you again, will you stand by them as they have stood by you?"

Legolas frowned.

"Does something trouble you, my lady?"

The daughter of Galadriel turned luminous eyes on him. "I must cross the Sea, and quickly, if I am to be made whole again; yet my heart forebodes me. I have a feeling that once I leave, I will not see my family whole again. No!" She held up a hand to cut off whatever Legolas was going to say. "If the Powers have truly willed it, there is nothing you can do. But there is a chance that my foreboding is simply brought on by the evil I have known." She turned to face Legolas fully, reaching for his hands. "Will you stand by this house, son of Thranduil?"

"I will, my lady."

The Wilds of Middle-earth, Year 3007 of the Third Age

Legolas realized that despite the twins' detailed instructions, he had very little idea how to glean information from Men without appearing suspicious or giving himself away. In his few forays into human habitations outside of his duties as Prince of Greenwood, either Aragorn or one of the twins, or all three, had been with him, and had firmly told him to wait quietly with his hood up while they did the talking.

He dismounted and approached the village warily, leading Faelwen by the bridle. It was the middle of the afternoon, and there were people about. More than one stopped to watch him. They did not seem surprised to see a stranger; Elrond had told him that this road was one frequented by travellers.

He glanced around discreetly until he saw a building that seemed to be an inn. Nearing it, the sight of men walking in and out and the sound of raucous music from its common-room confirmed that. Legolas led Faelwen through its gate and was immediately accosted by a stable boy who came running up to relieve him of the mare.

As he had seen Aragorn do, Legolas gave the boy a coin and promised him another if the horse was well looked after. Then, steeling himself, and carefully adjusting his hood so that it would not slip accidentally, he braved the noise and the reek of cheap ale and pipeweed to enter the inn.

The innkeeper, a tall man with uncommonly blue eyes, greeted him with neither friendliness nor rancour and asked if he wanted a room for the night. By the time he had sorted out his coins, mentally cursing Elladan for not have been clearer in his explanations of human currency, there was another man waiting to show him upstairs to his room.

As he followed his guide, Legolas wondered how to begin his enquiries. He had been advised to locate the least threatening-looking man in sight, start with casual conversation, and gradually lead up to what he wanted to know.

He decided to start with the man in front of him, who had now pushed open a door and was gesturing to the Elf to enter.

"Thank you... Forgive me, I do not know your name."

"Best we keep it that way," the man grunted. "These are dark times, and it doesn't pay to be too friendly with strangers."

Legolas, not having expected to be rebuffed, had no idea what to say next. Getting out of the way of a pair of men clearly intent on going downstairs and sampling the ale, he jerked his head in response to his guide's statement that he could go to the common room for dinner, retreated into his room and shut the door.

Imladris, Year 2510 of the Third Age

When he had no answer to his knock, Legolas risked pushing open the door to Elladan's apartments. The sitting room was in darkness, but he could just make out two dark shapes sitting on the railing of the balcony beyond.

As stealthily as if he were tracking orcs or spiders, Legolas crossed the room, pausing only to unstrap his quiver and drop it, along with his bow and knives, on a low table. At the open door to the balcony he hesitated; Elladan and Elrohir were deep in conversation, and he was not sure they would need or even want his presence.

As he was about to slip away, though, Elrohir said, without raising his head, "Come, Legolas. You know your company is always welcome."

Legolas responded to the invitation at once, striding across the balcony and taking the hand Elrohir held out to him. Only then did the younger twin finally raise his head and look at his friend. Something in his gaze made Legolas pull the Noldo to his feet and into a comforting hug.

Legolas thought he heard a muffled sob from Elrohir when the older Elf finally drew back, squeezing his hand and nodding in the direction of Elladan. The archer looked at the older twin, who still refused to meet his eyes.

"Elladan?" he said hesitantly, putting his hand on his friend's shoulder.

To Legolas' shock, Elladan seized the hand, turned it over and pushed up Legolas' sleeve to reveal a nearly-healed scar running the length of his forearm.

"Will you never learn to be careful?" Elladan demanded furiously. "No, I don't even want to hear how you came by this. I know without your telling me that you indulged in some unacceptable foolishness! If we had been orcs you would have been dead by now!"

Legolas refrained from pointing out that if Elladan and Elrohir had been orcs, he would not have divested himself of his weapons before joining them on the balcony.

"Elladan –"

"Don't even try to explain! Do you care in the least for any of us? For Ro and me? For your father? You know we all worry and yet you carry on running recklessly into danger just so you can be the warrior prince of the woodland realm. This is not a game, Legolas!"

Legolas hid his shock; Elladan had shouted at him before, but it had usually been after Legolas had done something to deserve it. That he was lashing out now was a sign of his distress.

"Dan –"

"And don't look at me like that, either of you!" Elladan glared from his friend to his brother and back. "I am fine."

Ignoring the stifled chuckle from Elrohir, no doubt at the sight of Legolas having his own frequent assertion used against him, Elladan pushed past both of them and went indoors.

The Wilds of Middle-earth, Year 3007 of the Third Age

Legolas sniffed cautiously at the flagon that had been plonked down in front of him. He darted a quick look around the room, hoping nobody had noticed, and then took a cautious sip of the ale.

Just stopping himself from gagging, he put the flagon down and wondered if he could pour the ale away without anyone any the wiser.

His eyes went back to the bar, where he had spent some time earlier trying to question the barmaid without arousing undue curiosity. He had a feeling that if the twins or Aragorn had been able to observe his pathetic attempts at casually introducing the subject of strange travellers into conversation with a mortal maid who was trying quite shamelessly to flirt with him, they would have laughed themselves sick before forbidding him from ever attempting such a thing again.

He glanced around again. Nobody seemed to be watching him. Perhaps he could sneak up to his room and give up this wrongheaded attempt to glean information from Men. He had noticed a few trees lining one of the streets. One of them could surely supply him with the knowledge he needed without forcing him to make a fool of himself.

Suiting the action to the thought, he eased out of his chair and went upstairs. Before he could gain the safety of his room, however, he heard stealthy footsteps behind him. He whirled at once, wishing he had not left his knives in his room. Before he could draw the dagger concealed in his sleeve his wrist was seized and he was shoved hard against the wall. A moment later he felt a sharp blade pressing into his throat.

Oh, Valar, am I doomed to be on the wrong end of a sword every time one of the Mariner's descendants loses a dear one?

Imladris, Year 2510 of the Third Age

"I am sorry, Legolas," Elrohir murmured.

Legolas shook his head.

"Do not apologize. He is not himself." With a searching glance at his friend, he added, "Neither are you."

"Elladan is taking it harder. You know what he is like."

Legolas nodded; he did know what Elladan was like. The eldest of Lord Elrond's children, if only by a few minutes, Elladan had always looked upon it as his duty to ensure the safety of his siblings, among whose number Legolas was also counted.

"He thinks he has lost Nana," Elrohir went on. "And he cannot stand the thought of losing others whom he loves."

Legolas turned startled eyes on his friend.

"Lost her? She will be missed, but it will not be long before you see her again, Ro. A few centuries, at best. She will find healing in the Blessed Realm."

Elrohir let out a sound halfway between a laugh and a sob.

"She said almost the identical thing. I suppose it would be difficult for either of you to understand... Our mortal heritage makes us far more aware of time than any pure-blooded Elf. We do not tire of the seasons or grow weary with the years, but we mark their passage in a way that you do not. This matters little when our lives are filled with joy, but when they hold grief and longing instead..."

"Or fear for those we love," a soft voice murmured, and Elladan stepped from the room to join them on the balcony once more. "I am happy to see you, Elfling, although I know I did not entirely sound it."

Before Legolas could respond to the unspoken apology, Elladan kissed his brow in a manner so reminiscent of one of their fathers that the younger Elf was thoroughly alarmed. His friend could be, and frequently was, infuriatingly protective, but this was utterly unlike his usual fraternal greetings.

The Wilds of Middle-earth, Year 3007 of the Third Age

"Who are you?"

"A traveller," Legolas gasped. "I am passing through this land on my way to –"

"A traveller?" the man demanded without letting him finish. "Yet you have been asking questions... Such questions as a mere passerby would never ask."

"Out of curiosity only."

"Some might say you have too much curiosity."

Legolas made a tentative move to free his wrist. He could overpower the human easily, but he did not want to draw attention if he could avoid it. He found that the man's grip was surprisingly strong; he could throw his assailant off, but he would have to do considerable damage to him in the process.

"I seek a friend of mine," the Elf said, deciding that the truth could only help at this point.

That seemed to give the man pause. The sword left his throat, but a moment later he felt the tip brush his hair as it was slid under his hood. He kept very still, not wanting to startle the man into an unfortunate reaction.

The hood fell, and suddenly the man released him.


Imladris, Year 2510 of the Third Age

Legolas grunted as Elladan's weight behind the sword threw him off balance. He just managed to keep his grip on his knives and get out of the way of the Noldo's next thrust.

"You're losing concentration again," Elrohir chided. "You have to stay focused, Legolas."

"Excuse me if I cannot match the champion swordsmen of Imladris," Legolas said dryly, ducking another cut. "I would remind you that I am an archer and I only agreed to this because Elladan looked like he needed the mental satisfaction of sparring with an opponent he could defeat without being touched even once!"

The slight lapse in concentration as he replied to Elrohir cost him; Legolas let out a gasp as Elladan's sword grazed his hand, drawing the slightest trickle of blood and making him drop one of the knives, before coming to rest at his throat.

"I yield," Legolas said promptly, not even waiting for Elladan to ask the question.

Elladan, looking like he was restraining himself with difficulty from launching into a diatribe on Legolas' clumsiness, sheathed his sword and made a formal bow, which the younger Elf returned.

"And now maybe you'll tell us what's troubling you?" Legolas said, sheathing his own blades.

The Wilds of Middle-earth, Year 3007 of the Third Age

"You nearly had my ear off, Estel," Legolas hissed reproachfully. "I thought Rangers had better manners than to attack harmless travellers!"

"I thought Ada had better sense than to send you among Men to look for me."

"I was most discreet!" Legolas protested.

"Discreet? Have you any idea how many people were whispering about you in the common-room?" Legolas could practically sense his friend rolling his eyes. "Trust an Elven-prince to draw every eye in the vicinity and think he was being discreet." He sheathed his sword and pulled Legolas into his own room. "What brings you here, gwador nîn?"

Reminded of the nature of his errand, which he had forgotten in his attempts to locate his friend, Legolas' eyes clouded over.

"I fear you will not welcome me when you hear the tidings I bear, Estel."

"What is it, Elfling?" Aragorn asked, taking off his cloak and tossing it over a chair.

Legolas found that he could not speak. This was not the first time he had had to break such news; his duties in Greenwood frequently entailed telling the families of warriors that their loved one had been killed or, worse, taken by orcs. But now, standing a few feet away from his best friend, who was watching him with a mixture of curiosity and concern that was rapidly turning into alarm, he could find no words.

"Legolas?" Aragorn prompted as he undid his sword-belt.

"Estel..." Legolas drew in a deep breath. "Estel, your mother... Lady Gilraen..."

Aragorn dropped the sword.

"Legolas – is she – has she – passed?"

Legolas nodded, and had a moment's glimpse of his friend's face crumpling into grief and shock before Aragorn turned away. He put one hand on the human's shoulder and squeezed it comfortingly, but said nothing.



"Why did Ada send you?"

"He thought I might be able to bring you some measure of comfort. Does my presence displease you?" Estel said nothing, shrugging off Legolas' hand as he moved away. The Elf frowned. "It is no shame to admit that you are grieving, Estel."

Aragorn laughed bitterly.

"I am no edhel, to sing mournful songs to the stars."

"No," Legolas agreed. "You are a man, and if you started to sing songs to the stars, mournful or otherwise, I would think you had taken a fever. But you need not hold in your feelings, Estel."

"What would an Elf understand of my feelings?"

Startled by the unwonted bitterness in his friend's voice, Legolas said, "I am not as wise as your father, but I would try to understand, Estel. Will you help me?"

Imladris, Year 2510 of the Third Age

The moon shone brightly on the three ellyn by the stream. Legolas was sitting with his back to an apple tree and his knees drawn up, Elrohir was sprawled full-length on the ground, and Elladan was standing with his back to both of them, looking at the water.

"Dan, you know this was not your fault?" Legolas asked, when several minutes had gone by without the older twin saying anything.

"Yes, I know." Elladan sounded as though he had heard that far too often over the past days. "I was not to know that her company would be attacked or that she would be taken, and my decision not to accompany her to Lórien is therefore not to be blamed for subsequent events." He glanced back over his shoulder at Legolas. "Satisfied, Elfling?"

When Legolas said nothing, Elladan threw himself to the grass between his friend and his brother and whispered, "I am afraid."

"Of what, muindor?" Elrohir asked gently.

"I have seen both of you injured, more than once, and more severely than I would like," Elladan said softly, glancing from Legolas to Elrohir. "That has grieved me, for I would spare you pain if I could, but I can accept it. We chose to take up arms knowing fully well the risks we ran. I would not hold either of you back from your duty. But Nana... She is not a warrior, nor has she ever expressed any desire to wield sword or bow. It was to keep those such as her and Arwen safe that we decided to forgo our own safety and take the path of warriors. If we have not succeeded in that, then why do we fight?"

"We fight because we have hope," Legolas said quietly. "Your father can still guarantee the safety of those who dwell in Imladris, but elsewhere Middle-earth is beset. The roads are not safe; the mountains, we now know, are swarming with fell creatures; the ancient forests are falling into shadow. We cannot bring back that which is already lost, but we can try to end this darkness that the world might grow fair again."

"We are nowhere near ending any darkness," Elladan snapped. "Look around you, Legolas. Even Imladris is not as fair as it seems. The strength of the shadow is growing, and we have no means to defeat it."

"Not now," Legolas said. "Not yet. It may be centuries before our victory comes, but the one thing we do not lack is time. We will see the shadow defeated no matter how long it takes."

Elladan laughed despite himself.

"When did you grow so wise, Elfling?"

"You spend a few months buoying the spirits of young warriors who are all but ready to put down their bows and give in to despair, and we will see if you manage to avoid sounding like Mithrandir at his worst."

The Wilds of Middle-earth, Year 3007 of the Third Age

"I will miss her," Aragorn said, "but that is not the all of it... Legolas, what remains now of the man I was born?" Legolas squeezed his friend's hand, and Aragorn looked at him with a hint of amusement. "You have no idea what I mean, have you?"

"No," Legolas admitted. "But perhaps you can tell me."

"I know you all love me," the human murmured. "You, Dan, Ro, Ada... Yet you are all Elves. You cannot truly know what it is like to be mortal."

"Estel, Elves are not infallible."

"How old are you Legolas? In years, not centuries." Thrown by the unexpected question, Legolas had to pause for a moment. He just managed not to ask aloud which year it was, did some mental subtraction and opened his mouth to reply. Aragorn held up a hand to stop him. "No, don't tell me. I know how old you are. But do you realize how ridiculous it would seem to a human that you had to think about that?"

Legolas nodded, finally beginning to understand.

"I am sorry, Estel... I did not realize Elven company could be difficult."

"Not difficult," Aragorn said fiercely, eyes flashing. "Your company is a gift of the Valar, Legolas, and I would not have you, any of you, any different. But in my earliest years, when I knew only the company of Elves, Nana was the one who taught me what it was to be human. Had I grown up without her I might have learnt to scorn Men, as many of the Firstborn do – I know you don't; don't argue – and I would then have been wholly unworthy of my lineage." Aragorn let out a ragged sob. "And now she is gone."

Without a word, Legolas gathered his gwador into his arms.

Imladris, Year 2510 of the Third Age

Morning found the three young Elves still awake, although during the night they had returned to the house, climbing up to Legolas' balcony by one of a pair of oaks that grew beside it to avoid rousing Celebrían again.

"Never again will I laugh at you for ensuring that there is always a climbable tree leading to your room," Elladan had whispered as they did so, with Elrohir nodding fervent agreement. They were sprawled now on the floor, Elladan and Elrohir playing a game of chess while Legolas offered advice that both twins completely disregarded.

"There is something you should know, Elfling," Elladan said suddenly, glancing up from the red and white pieces.


"Ro and I are going to go after them – after the yrch."

Legolas nodded. "I expected no less."

"Not after the ones who held Nana," Elrohir clarified. "Those we have already finished, may Eru have no mercy on their souls. We plan to seek out and fight the minions of the Enemy wherever we find them." As Legolas continued to refrain from protesting, the dark-haired Elf added, "You are calm about this."

"Why should I not be? I knew that if you ever felt that your home was threatened, as now it has been, you would want to fight to defend it."

Elladan and Elrohir exchanged a glance.

"You are remarkably calm about this," Elladan said finally. "Would you not seek to deter us, then?"

Legolas shrugged.

"I have been sent to seek out and destroy orcs and spiders more times than I can count, especially since the end of the Peace. I can hardly berate you for doing that which I do myself."

"Then you do not think that it is unwise to seek vengeance, Elfling?"

"Were vengeance your only cause, I would have thought it unwise. It is natural for you to feel anger towards the creatures that have harmed what you hold dear. So long as that anger does not consume you or blind you, there is nothing to fear from it."

"I wish Ada thought as you do," Elrohir growled. "All he has done since we told him of our intent has been to argue against it."

"He is your father, Ro," Legolas said mildly. "He came very close to losing your mother and he probably fears to lose you if you embark on a quest to destroy yrch. You remember how Ada was after Nana died... Lord Elrond will come around if you give him time."

"Then we fight," Elrohir said, and if Legolas felt any misgivings at the sight of the odd, feral gleam in his friends' eyes, he kept them to himself.

"Yes, gwedyr," he said. "You fight... We fight. Whether the battles are fought in the passes of the Hithaeglir or beneath the trees of Eryn Galen, the war is the same, and each orc felled is a blow, however minor, against the Enemy. We fight."

As he spoke, the first light of the rising sun shone through the open balcony door, casting its bright golden light on the three young Elves.

The Wilds of Middle-earth, Year 3007 of the Third Age

His tears spent, it was several minutes before Aragorn moved, and even then all he did was to settle himself more comfortably into the Elf-prince's arms.



"How long will you stay in Middle-earth after I have passed?"

The Elf hesitated, sensing some unknown intent to the question. At last he said honestly, "I do not know, Estel. I have not felt the Sea-longing, and I love the trees of my home. I would like to linger here, where I may have comfort from the forest and from the memories of our time together. I cannot say how many years it will be before I can bring myself to leave. But all this may change if ever I feel the call of the Sea."

"Yet the time of the Elves is ending."

"So it is."

"Ada will sail before you do... I doubt he will wait out my years."

"He longs to be with Lady Celebrían. I believe he only stays here for your sake, and because he believes he has yet some part to play in the fate of Middle-earth. But he has waited for centuries; mayhap when you have claimed the throne of Men he will be persuaded to wait long enough to see your days of glory."

"I would not ask that of him," Aragorn said softly. "For if I claim the throne of Men, Arwen will choose the Doom of Men to cleave to me. I would not have him stay to see her die." Legolas ran one hand gently over his friend's head. "I had hoped Nana would live to see light restored to the world."

"Perhaps she will know and rejoice, wherever she is."

"What would happen if I failed, Legolas?"

"Darkness would grow," the Elf said softly. "The Elves would die, or be taken, or pass into the West. One by one the kingdoms of Men would fall until all Middle-earth was in thrall to Sauron."

"Yet those whom I love would still be safe. Nana is safe now, as I would be; Ada and Dan and Ro and Arwen would have gone to the Blessed Realm; you might linger, you say, but eventually you would take ship and leave these shores."

"What of your people?"

"There will be another to fight for them."

"There may be another," Legolas agreed. "There may be twenty others. But these others are all unknown and in the future. Today there is you, Estel."

"Hope," Aragorn almost growled. "Aye, the Hope of Men. How did that help Nana, Legolas? I was not at her side when she passed, nor was I present to see that she was buried with honour. In doing my duty to the race of Men I forsook my duty to my mother. And now... What if I should be busy waging war in some forsaken corner of Middle-earth and suddenly receive word that Dan or Ro had been killed while out with the Rangers, or you had taken some mortal wound from a spider?"

"Then you will grieve for us and go on."

"You value my friendship little if you think I would forget you so easily," Aragorn snapped, pulling away from the Elf.

"Sîdh, mellon nîn... Forgive me; that was not what I meant. We are all warriors, Estel, and we are called upon to make sacrifices, of which our own lives are usually the least. But I will not speak to you now of your duty or your ancestors. Think, instead, that a time may come when you and I can walk freely into a village, in a world not marred by the Shadow, sit in an inn without hiding our faces and partake of that foul beverage of which you are so fond. Is the chance of that not worth the risks we take?"

"The chance of seeing you 'partake of that foul beverage'?" Aragorn asked, unable to repress a grin. "I would pay in gold to see it, Sinda." He bent forward to wrap his arms around his friend in a strong, brotherly embrace. "When did you grow so wise, Elfling?"

"You spend a few months buoying the spirits of young warriors who are all but ready to put down their bows and give in to despair," Legolas responded, forcing himself not to laugh. "We will see if you manage to avoid sounding like Mithrandir at his worst."

Sindarin Translations

Penneth – Young one

Ada – Dad/Daddy

Gwador (plural gwedyr) – (Sworn) brother

Elleth – Female Elf

Edhel – Elf

Muindor – Brother

Sîdh, mellon nîn. – Peace, my friend.

Good? Bad? Too dreadful for words?