Part of the Undying Friendship Series
Warning: Character death. I've been told a Tissue Alert is needed.
Summary: Legolas faces the darkest night of his life – and the death of a close friend.
Written for the Tolkien Tango #20: Night
Nominated for the 2009 Middle-earth Fanfiction Awards
"You can only come to the morning through the shadows."
- - JRR Tolkien
Follow the Sun
By Nieriel Raina
Bells tolled over the city, drifting out over the Pelennor, the peals ringing long into the night.
Every night, no matter how dark, is followed by dawn. Or so Legolas had always been told, always believed, and always imparted to those facing the shadows. But nothing had prepared him for such a night as this. And for once, he doubted the truth in the saying.
He sat on the high turret of the Tower of Ecthelion. No one would follow him here; they were all otherwise occupied with their own grief, and they would not be concerned with him – not now. Even Gimli could not reach him in this spot. Not that the Dwarf would try. He also dealt with grief.
Grief. It was not as if he were unfamiliar with the emotion. He had lost his mother before he had come of age. Friends had died in battle or more recently, mortal comrades had succumbed to death… He gulped. Remembering those he had lost in the last hundred years only brought to mind the most recent. He tried to focus on the others instead, but failed. The deaths of Merry, Pippin, Eomer, even Faramir and Eowyn had not prepared him for this loss. Nothing could have, he supposed.
The king had died, had given his life back to the one who created life, and nothing could make Legolas understand it. Death was something to be accepted, even among his kind, but this? Not death in battle, not even the body failing from mortal old age, but relinquishing life! It made him angry, for a moment, until he remembered.
"Promise me something?"
"I will not promise to not grieve!"
Estel smiled, the lines on his face becoming more noticeable to Legolas's eyes. "I would not ask that of you. You need to grieve. Nay, I would ask you to just accept - not try to understand, just accept that this is what I need to do. My family will not, not even Arwen will accept it. But I need someone to do so. Will you?"
Legolas looked away, blinking hard. "I do not understand."
"You do not need to understand. Just say goodbye and accept it."
"I do not wish to say goodbye." The words were barely a whisper, but the man must have heard him.
"I know. But I would not have you leave without hearing the words. Or having your promise. Please Legolas, give me that?"
Legolas felt shaken to his very core, but he turned and met those piercing blue-grey eyes. And in them he saw a hope of peace – a longing for something other than life. It confused him, but he could not deny that his dear friend, this brother of his heart, needed something life could not give. "I promise. I will probably be angry, and long will I grieve your death, and never will I understand it. But I accept your decision."
Walking over to take Estel's hand was the hardest thing Legolas had ever done. But he did it with dignity befitting a prince of the Greenwood. Strength still remained in the hand he held, though the man lay on his deathbed. Forcing a smile, he held Estel's gaze.
"All the fun you will miss. I will still hear your teasing in my head, I think."
Estel laughed. "Good. I would hate to think you would forget me."
His smile faded. "Never that, Estel. Never will I forget you. If one day I am blessed with a son, he will bear your name." And he grinned at the ridiculousness of the comment.
Estel laughed." I would love to see that. It is the one thing I think I will miss the most. Watching you trip over yourself, trying to impress some maid who catches your eye. It is bound to happen one day. When it does, remember I am laughing at you!"
Legolas found himself blinking again. "And when she asks who I am shaking my fist at, she will think I am insane and never speak to me again."
Estel snorted. "You would be a fool to chase her off. If you find one who will have you, marry her quickly so she does not get away!"
Legolas found himself laughing despite the pain in his chest. Of all the conversations to be having on this day of all days. "It will never happen," he assured. "But if it should, I will tell her all about you. Ai! Estel, I am going to miss you!"
Legolas found himself in Estel's embrace without remembering moving, and he held on tight. Only one thing else needed saying, but he was not ready to say it. Not yet, just a few more minutes.
A knock sounded, announcing his time was up. There were others who needed to say their farewells. He pulled back, though Estel's arms stayed around him, and looked him in the eye. "Goodbye Estel. May your journey be swift and may you find what you seek." And he placed a kiss on Estel's forehead.
"Goodbye Legolas. May your paths be green, and you also find what you seek."
They separated, their hands dropping and Legolas turned and walked away. He did not look back.
Something warm ran down his face, and Legolas lifted a hand to brush it away. It surprised him to find a steady stream. He had not realized he was crying. But they were only tears, silent tears. He could bear those. But he would not give in to the ache inside him, the desire to let loose the sobs from deep within his soul.
A scraping sound alerted Legolas that despite his believing himself safe from discovery, someone had found him. He looked up and gasped to see the man standing there. Estel! How often had the man found him when he wished to hide? But it was impossible. Estel was…
The voice shook him. Not Estel, though the man resembled him greatly. "Eldarion." And from the look of the man, Legolas had surprised him by being here. No doubt, Eldarion also sought a place of solace from mourning friends and family.
Without being invited, Eldarion lowered himself beside Legolas. "I cannot believe he is gone. I am ready to be king, but… I know it is silly, but I wanted him to watch me do it!"
Against his will, Legolas felt his lips twitching. So like Estel; Eldarion always had reminded him of a younger version of Aragorn. "You will be a good king."
"Ah, I will probably muck something up, no doubt. But I only realized a short time ago, for the first time, he will not be here to get me out of it. Nor will you – will you?"
Legolas swallowed hard. "I cannot stay anymore. I should have left long ago, and would have if I had not promised your father I would stay."
"I think he regretted that – holding you here."
That hurt. He had never considered Estel thinking that. Could it have had anything to do with the man's decision to die? "I never did. I should have told him that."
"He knew." For a moment they sat in silence, then, "Legolas?"
He turned his head to look at the new king, marveling that the boy had grown into a man so quickly. "Yes?"
"He told me to tell you something. He said it would not have mattered if he had told you himself. That you would need to hear it tonight."
Legolas glanced away. "Do not tell me, Eldarion. I do not believe it anymore."
The man sighed, but placed a hand on his shoulder. "Dawn always follows. It will come. Look for the light, Legolas. Stop gazing at the shadows."
The sobs started, and he could no longer hold them back. Eldarion put an arm around his shoulders, and they cried together, until there were no more tears. They sat facing the eastern horizon.
And finally, the sun rose, glistening on the River Anduin. And with the first rays, the gulls rose, their piercing cries stabbing through him. Looking over his shoulder, Legolas gazed West. He could not escape the shadows of his heart, so he would follow the sun, and go to the land of Light. And maybe there, night would pass.
A/N - A recurrent theme throughout the Undying Friendship Series has been: "Look to the Sun and the Shadows fall behind you." - a parable Legolas first told Estel as a young adolescent, and one Aragorn reminded Legolas of after the elves of the Greenwood sailed. I couldn't imagine anything more fitting to end such a friendship, though if you've read The End, you know it's far from it.
Thank you for reading.