Disclaimer: This all belongs to J.R.R. Tolkien
Rating: K+ for some very mild swearing, and some adult themes
A/N: This was written for the Julie_Fianna Archives Challenge #13, the prompt was Autumn Solstice, which was to be no greater than 10,000 words, and a story constructed about the elves of Middle Earth. The parameters of the challenge were to involve a party setting for the elves of Lothlorien, gathering for a surprise party on the Autumn Solstice for an elf named Eladun and his kin, who is of half-elf, half-gypsy descent. There was to be a party that would be unforgettable, and I do believe that though it took me awhile to get around to my point, I did fulfill my challenge. We could use any elf, or make one up.
Word count: 7,074
Warnings: AU, Legolas, bad use of elftense(sorry, like ellon, ellith, elleth I just called them all elves)
He was bereft,rudderless.
He supposed they all were after the Ringwar, they even had a name for it. That feeling you get when you first return to real life and nothing is as bright as it should be. Adventurer's Bane. They all struggled with it, but eventually they managed to settle down into life, one by one. It took some of them longer than others, but then, the scars ran far deeper for those. Eventually, they all found peaceful lives.
Except, of course, Frodo. He knew what it felt like. He knew the feeling in the gut, like a twist of the blade. Legolas should have departed then, and not listened to Aragorn. What did men know of the minds and feelings of elves? Having lived among them, even for many years, did not make him one, Legolas thought bitterly. Yes, he should have listened to his instinct and taken the last ship to Valinor, and not be left with the grief he had now to face. It was worse than any sea longing. In truth, he was ready to fade.
Legolas wrapped his cloak around him and settled himself against the crag in the rock so that he may look more easily up into the stars and let his mind drift free. It seemed as though he did this more often now these days, let his mind become unmoored from the present and roam where it would. Usually it settled back to the days of old. This was not helpful or healthy, but Legolas was beyond caring. What was left to care about, after all?
Tonight his thoughts turned to the days after Aragorn was crowned King. The days were golden and full of splendor. Even though there was work enough in the world of men to last a lifetime, the hearts of many were joyous enough to bear the burden, and it seemed as though the skies had finally cleared after a long storm. Finally the sun shone upon the land. Aragorn was married. People rejoiced in their king and his queen. Things were right in the world at last, and things were as they should be.
Though marked by the struggle of their Quest, the members of the fellowship found their peace in their own ways, the horror never leaving, but finally fading over time. Legolas left the White City and went back to Mirkwood, the realm of the forest people from whence he came. He was a prince in his own right, and the Quest had been meant to strengthen his fortitude and bearing so that he may be ready to bear the burden of the rule when it was passed to him. He found himself changed, indeed, but perhaps not in the ways that his father, Thranduil, had intended.
The forests of Mirkwood were far removed and remote, and Legolas found himself wishing for the kinship of the men with whom he had bonded. He had known Aragorn previously, and going on this Quest had only made the fondness and respect for the man grow in his heart. Although Legolas did not want to repudiate his claim on the throne, he wanted to learn more about the world of men and the way that they did things and accomplished things, so different from the aloof and distant way of elves. This was a new era, and he wanted to be a part of it.
Thranduil was not happy to hear that his youngest son wanted to live amongst men, but Legolas was a changed elf after the war. Anyone could see it. He was silent, and commanding, where before he had been rash and prone to impulse. In the end, Legolas left to live in Minas Tirith and serve the King in any way he could.
Legolas smiled at the memory, briefly distracted by the thought of defying his father that day. It had been a first, but not the last. He had enjoyed his years living in Minas Tirith more than any other time of his life, becoming an ambassador, the years flowing past like water. He never thought that he would like government, or that he would find acquaintances in the foreign city of men, but that was, indeed, the case. He was useful, for once. He had friends. Many friends. And he had been foolish in his dreaming, become forgetful, and careless with himself. He was no better than a callow young elf, deserving of what was to come. His smile dimmed and faded, like the stars in the face of the coming dawn.
Bliss cannot last forever, and Legolas knew that as well the next elf. He had allowed himself to be deceived, however, because the days following the Ringwar were so busy. Then they were important. Then he was blind to the fact that had been staring him in the face for many years. He thought that somehow, they deserved better. Alas, time waits for no man. It may pause for elves, but it waits not for men. Therein lies the problem. Legolas pulled back his lips in a grimace at the first time he realized Aragorn was sick.
He was not in his usual place at the breakfast table. Legolas didn't need to eat, of course, but the three of them usually did, anyway, and it was the best part of the day. Legolas strode in, and when he saw the chair empty, his eyes cut questioningly to Arwen. He remembered the pity on her face, even now.
"Legolas. He is not well." Her blue eyes were full of pain, but her voice was calm, as always.
Legolas felt an immediate hatred flare in his breast, and tried to quell it. That surprised him, as he had always been very fond of Arwen. Next he felt panic. How long had Aragorn been ill? It must be bad; he rarely missed anything because of a cold. "What is wrong? Nothing serious, I hope?" He tried to match his voice to hers, polite and unconcerned.
Arwen studied him. "Oh, Legolas," she finally answered, pity showing on her flawless face. "You must surely know. You are aware? Of how...unwell...Aragorn has been, of late?"
Legolas could not help keeping the startled look off of his features. "Aragorn? Ill? Well, yes, now that you mention it, I suppose he has been looking rather haggard." His eyebrows drew together. "He must take a rest. He works too hard, I always tell him that. He must allow me to handle the next summit-"
"Legolas," Arwen approached him, laying her hand upon his arm, in a gesture that was so simple, it made him afraid. His heart was beating. He did not want to hear this. This could not be good, the way that she was looking at him. There was a roar in his ears, as if he could hear the tides of the ocean rushing towards him, and he felt himself swaying, the whole world stopping. The moment became surreal; her lips were moving, and he had a childish impulse to cover his ears and block out her words, as if by not hearing, he could belay the truth in them. He could not bear this, this feeling that was from the world of men. He didn't want to. He turned on his heel to forestall the...whatever it was that he wanted to forestall that he could not bear to hear.
The hand on his arm prevented him, and he looked into blue eyes brimming with tears. "...did you hear me, Legolas? He is so very old now. Too old. Surely you have noticed that. He is nearly 190 years old now."
Her words hit Legolas with all the scald of a fire, and he sucked the air in through his teeth like a drowning man would, the truth of it manifest before him like it never had been. How had he not seen the silver hair, the stooped back, the gnarled limbs? How, how had the plain thing before him remained so hidden? Yes, the others had fallen, years back. Eomer, Faramir. They had succumbed to various ailments like a candle snuffed in the breeze. Legolas had felt the pain like a razor across his flesh, a sharp sting that he pushed aside, deep in the recesses of his heart. Now all was laid bare, and there was no more veil to hide behind.
"...I do not think he will rise again, my dear friend. He had an attack last night, and though he still breathes, I believe this is the last sun he will see rise. Have you prepared yourself? He bade me tell you. Will you see him?" Arwen looked up at him, to gauge the effect of her words.
In truth, Legolas felt as though he was floating somewhere above himself. It was only because of the shock of it all that he got through the hardest days of his life, the passing of his best friend in all the world. Legolas was there as Aragorn, King of all that was good and beautiful and right in Middle Earth, took his last breath and died in his sleep. It was the most humbling moment he had ever borne witness to, and it was nearly his undoing. It seemed wrong, somehow, that there was not more ceremony, or fanfare, that the greatest presence that Legolas had been privileged to know just...slipped away.
All of the cliches were both true, and not. One moment he was here, the next he was just a husk, an empty shell. This was true. Legolas had seen it happen. There was no ball of light, nothing spectacular, and yet it was as if a mystery of life had occurred that had changed him forever. It was grander, far grander than anything that Legolas had seen or done, and he was humbled beyond being able to express it. And yet, it was just a death, like any other, and his friend was gone from the earth, as easily as if he had fallen asleep, or swallowed a drink of water. The world went on. Life went on. People went on being. The unfairness of it all was so sickening, it choked him.
Legolas stayed for the burial, the coronation of Eldarion, and the celebration. It was clear from talking to Arwen that although she was grieving, she had accepted this fate and this path many years ago. She would need much time, many years, to come to terms with her great loss. She would prevail, though, in the end, over the specter of death, because she had life, her son, and because she had prepared for this. She would age gracefully, if slowly, and join her husband in whatever halls he now dwelled. Until then, she would find her place here.
Legolas had to leave. He was surrounded by memories, each one more painful than the last. Everywhere he went, he saw happy times turned to dust. He saw his loved ones bones, long rotting. The mistake he had made in residing with the humans came crashing down on him, like the fool he was. It had been inevitable that this would happen, he just had been charmed into a happy life. Now the good times had gone with his friend. The light of the world had died with Aragorn, and he couldn't stand the darkness. He fled Minas Tirith.
Legolas still had some pride left, and he could not imagine returning to Mirkwood. He tried to find a haven at Imladris, but the contingent of elves that had left for Valinor had greatly changed the society of the place. He stayed awhile, but in the intervening years since the Ringwar, though short by elf standards, he found that he was not generally fit for company. He was surly, and short tempered, and even at Imladris he found memories of Aragorn. That was a city that they had frequented often, being Arwen's birth city, and he ended up fleeing there after a relatively short stay.
Legolas bounced around from place to place, turning something of a nomad, becoming more and more ragged. He found that his anxiety and irritability increased when he was around people, and his mind stilled and cleared when he was free and roaming. He eventually abandoned towns altogether and became a wanderer. He kept to himself, a bitter, grief-stricken shadow of his former self. The ache in his bones, the stabbing in his heart never lessened with time. He felt hunted by it. His sleep was restless, his thoughts were always shadowed. He was so sad, he thought he might go mad with it. He didn't remember a time when his heart beat without the feeling of pierced glass through it.
Legolas opened his eyes. Dawn already. The night went fast, as it always did when he thought of times gone by. He got to his feet painfully. He was a ranger now, he thought ruefully. A ranger elf.
"There you are, Laddie. I thought you'd sleep the morning away. You must be getting old, now."
Legolas jumped, startled. He looked around the boulder and saw a dwarf sitting by a campfire, unconcernedly smoking a pipe. He must be getting old if he didn't notice that! "I...wasn't sleeping. Elves don't sleep," he protested, a little disbelievingly.
The dwarf turned, showing a long white beard. "Well, you were still enough to fool me. I could have slit you nuts to nose while you...sat there, and you wouldn't have even noticed! What do ye call that, if not sleeping?" he huffed.
Legolas had the urge to rub his eyes. "Gimli? Do mine eyes deceive me, or is that you?"
The dwarf grinned. "About time! You are getting old, and deaf, too! Come here, Laddie, and let me have a look at you!"
Legolas couldn't believe it. He hadn't seen Gimli in ages, and although he didn't welcome visitors these days, especially one that snuck up on him, he welcomed the sight of his old friend. He didn't know dwarves were this long lived.
As if he could read minds, Gimli looked up. "Ah, yes, I am still here to bedevil you, you tricky Elf! I had quite a time tracking you down! And I had thought my adventuring days behind me! You do not make yourself easy to find."
Legolas embraced his friend and sat down beside the fire. "Why did you make the effort to find me after all these long years, Gimli? Of course, it is good to see you, but I know that this had to be hard for a dwarf of your...advanced years." Legolas grinned at the indignant look his remark caused Gimli to affect.
"Impertinent Elf!" he spluttered. "I'll have you know that this gray hair is quite dapper looking with the dwarf maidens!"
Legolas hid a smile.
"Yes, well, that is neither here nor there," Gimli grumbled. "I am not here because of my hair, as you well know! I am here because I have heard tell of a certain young elvish princeling who needs my help."
Legolas' grin died off his face.
Gimli continued. "Laddie, Aragorn's death hit us all hard, and you most of all. You have been wandering out here, lost, for far too long. You need to find your way back to the light before you fade away. Aragorn wouldn't have wanted that. Please, Laddie, don't do this any more. There are many who love you, many who would be just as hurt by your loss as you are hurt by his."
Legolas stared at the horizon, his eyes blurred. The truth of his loss was choking him. It was too big to talk around.
Gimli seemed to know that. "I have been asked to find you and issue you an invitation. There is to be a party in Lorien. To celebrate some elf there. You know I can't remember these silly elvish names. I have it written down somewhere. Hold a minute," he wrestled in his pack a moment, his brows drawn together fiercely.
Legolas couldn't help but feel a flicker of something when he watched Gimli try and find the name. His impatience with all things elvish, it was almost...amusing. He pressed his lips together.
"Ah, yes! Here!" He triumphantly brandished a paper and squinted down at it. "Uh, just one more moment," he fumbled around again.
Legolas' amusement grew. Was that a blush on Gimli? He felt the beginnings of a smile break out on his lips. What was this lighthearted feeling bubbling up inside of him? He didn't know what had come over him. He quickly schooled his features and looked at his short friend.
Gimli was three shades of red as he cleared his throat. Atop his big, bulbous nose were a pair of dainty reading glasses. He glared in Legolas' direction, fairly daring him to comment, and looked at the scrap of paper in his hand. Legolas tried his best to look saintly, and he smothered a laugh that threatened to burst forth.
"Ahem!" Gimli glared. "The name of the elf is Eladun. Do you know of him?"
Legolas cocked his head to the side, a dim memory filtering through. "Ah, yes, I believe I remember that name. It has been so long. I do not know him, but I know of him. He is half elf, half gypsy, if my memory serves me. How do you come to bear this name?"
Gimli harrumphed. "I have turned into nothing better than a messenger boy for you, you spoiled youngling! As I have said, you have been invited to this-" here he waved his paper around, but Legolas could tell that Gimli was not half as disgruntled as he was pretending to be, "-Eladun's birthday party. I can hardly credit how I, Gimli, a great warrior of Middle Earth, have been reduced to ferrying pithy messages across the plains between party-happy elves! I can hardly credit it!"
Legolas rolled his eyes. "Can you finish the message, at least, if you are to be a messenger? I assume there was more to it. That is a little vague, you must admit."
"Yes, yes, you have been asked to come to Lorien to attend a big swanky soiree for this Eladun fellow. Apparently there is some sort of surprise party being held in his honor, and the borders are being opened to his gypsy kin for the big Autumn Solstice. All of the elves from all of the regions are invited, but you most particularly, and it was my job to get you there. That I intend to do, my Boy. So resign yourself. We have just enough time to make it there. And there will be beer, I am told!" Gimli rubbed his palms together gleefully, as if this were a reason to travel across the length and breadth of the land to attend a mere party.
Legolas was surprised, and not a little dismayed. "You are granted access to Lothlorien? For a party? Who requested my presence? I have no kinsmen there! I mislike this. Has all of Middle Earth gone mad?"
Gimli snorted. "Oh, and why wouldn't I be allowed into the wood there? Am I not good enough for the elves? I did their bidding, and I will damn well go to the party! And you will go with me, Boy!"
Legolas took a breath. He did not want to go up against the dwarves' famed stubborness. He decided to take a different tack. "Okay," he held his hands up. "Who, exactly, asked you to fetch me?"
Gimli scowled. "The Lady of Light herself. So you are not going to argue with me on this one."
Legolas' mouth fell open in utter disbelief. He must have stood there, gaping like a fish for a moment, before the words would come out. "Galadriel? Galadriel asked you to come and find me and invite me to a gypsy birthday party on the Autumn Solstice?"
Gimli crossed his arms over his chest and nodded.
Legolas snapped his mouth shut. "I guess we are going to Lorien."
Legolas had not been in the company of his kind for many long years, but it had not been forever. They were granted access to Lorien with an ease that surprised him, by none other than Haldir himself, the Marchwarden. It was surprisingly good to see an old comrade who had fought in the war, and who knew a little something about how difficult it was to fit back in after combat. Haldir had been gravely wounded and left for dead after the Battle of Helm's Deep, and his wounds sustained in the Hornburg were visible even today. He had missed out on the entire Battle of Pelennor Fields, and had taken a few years to come back to health. It was good to see a familiar face, and Legolas detected a rare glimmer of something behind Haldir's usually stoic facade.
"Mae govannan, Legolas Greenleaf," Haldir murmured, looking him over carefully. "We have been expecting you. You are hearby granted access to our wood, and I wish you safe travel. Go in peace."
Legolas returned the greeting, but he saw a softening in Haldir's eyes before he turned away that he didn't like. Was that pity? Was he so obviously a miserable creature? Legolas blinked and looked down at Gimli. Perhaps he was, if his last friend in all the world was a dwarf! The stray thought brought an unexpected smile to his lips, and he strode forwards, ready to find his lodgings.
Gimli and Legolas were given rooms next to each other, and they were told that they had arrived just in time for the celebration. It would last over the course of two nights, beginning tonight with the birthday of the guest of honor, and ending tomorrow with the celebration of the fall season. They were welcome to partake in the hospitality of Lorien however they so chose.
Legolas did not want to go to a party of any kind. He did not want to be around others; he wanted to sequester himself and be alone in his misery. However, you did not ignore a summons from the Lady Galadriel when she issued one. He made himself presentable, washing the grime of his travels from his body, and then waited for the knock that he knew would be forthcoming. It wasn't long.
Gimli stood before him, freshly attired. You could not fault the generosity of the elves, they did know how to take care of guests. Gimli was excited to attend the party. "Let us go and make merry, Laddie! There will be sweetmeats and malted beer! All manner of foodstuffs, and I will meet a luscious gypsy wench for certain!" His eyes danced with the thought.
Legolas' earlier good mood had evaporated, and he politely bowed, but he had not the heart to enjoy the festivities. They wound their way to the forest floor and could hear the music that indicated the party was already in session. Gimli could barely be restrained, and when his eyes saw the enormous table laden with delicious fare, he patted Legolas' arm and made his excuses. Legolas couldn't have stopped him if he had tried.
Legolas was in the odd position of not wanting to be there, and feeling surly, but not wanting to appear pathetic and self-pitying. He looked around for elves he might know, and saw none. He didn't know if this was a relief or not. He cautiously took as stool in a corner and watched the interactions around him, at first with boredom, but becoming drawn into the subtleties of the many relationships taking place around him. It was soothing, in a way, if he just let it flow around him. He let the conversations lull him, and he felt at peace with people for the first time in a long time. This surprised him a little. He began to listen to what he had been hearing going on around him.
It seemed that there was a lot of boasting going on. Legolas listened to this with amusement. Both the elves and the gypsies were a prideful lot, and it seemed that they were highly suspicious of the claims of the other bunch. The women were bickering amongst themselves about dancing, whilst the menfolk were talking about weaponry. Legolas hid a smile. He was just listening, and not getting involved, so he could really hear how similar everyone sounded, although they themselves could not. Both sexes, gypsies and elves, were vigorously defending their own skills, nigh unto death, even. It was getting quite heated! Legolas had to hide a smirk behind the cup of punch he had poured himself. If only they could hear themselves! Elves were normally very even tempered, but these gypsies seemed to have gotten their goat, all right! The place was in a right turmoil. He smirked.
"Oh, you elves just think you are too good at everything!" one burly fellow shouted above the rest. "Look at that guy, in the corner, laughing at us, like we are a pack of fools!" He pointed his finger at Legolas, and the crowd of gypsies seemed to take this as an ultimate insult.
Legolas' smirk was wiped clean off, and he shot to his feet. "I am not involved-" he protested, but his clear voice didn't begin to cut through the crowd, which was beginning to get ugly.
"He looks like a girl, with that long blond hair," taunted the gypsy. "If you aren't man enough to do more than sit there and laugh, then go and dance on the women's side of camp!"
All of a sudden, Legolas saw red. "I challenge you!" He yelled.
The place got quiet. That was heard over the din.
Legolas was not sure what he was doing. This was supposed to be a party, and he was here as an allegedly invited guest. He couldn't go around issuing duels with the kin of the birthday Elf of Honor. How to salvage this? His mind raced. "A...challenge between all of the elves and the gypsies. To see who is the best..." he thought fast. If he said the obvious, archery, it would be totally unfair. Likewise, gypsies were notoriously good with their knives. What was neutral ground? "...arm wrestler. All in fun. Gypsies, you have met your match!" He tried to redeem his lame idea with a suave cock of his eyebrow. Several of the ladies, both elf and gypsy, swooned, he was pleased to note. After all, he was known for his amazing good looks.
The gypsy man burst out laughing. "And I suppose you are the one who is going to take me to school, right?" He winked broadly at the crowd, and raised his shirtsleeves, showing off an enormously muscled bicep. The crowd laughed, and there were many hoots, hollers, and general jeers.
Legolas swallowed. There were an awful lot of dark looks coming his way, mostly from his own camp. The elves were strong, but the gypsies were all sporting pretty impressive physiques, and there wasn't much you could do to beat raw power when it came to arm wrestling. Centuries of honing weapons skills didn't serve you well when your opponent chose a game that demanded little more than brute strength, and Legolas' mind blanked out when he chose that. He tried to sneak to the back of the groups that were forming, but a wall of angry elves with their arms crossed made certain he didn't go anywhere but directly up front. He sighed. His humiliation would have to be first.
There was a disturbance in the crowd, and eventually it was obvious that the person coming through was only knee high. Gimli pushed forth, shaking his head. "What have you done now? I only left you for five minutes. You have caused a riot. A riot."
Legolas managed a smile. "It seems I have issued a contest. An arm wrestling contest. With the gypsies."
Gimli burst out laughing. It was unfortunate that he was still gnawing on a turkey leg, but these things were not widely considered important in dwarvish social circles, and Legolas managed to kindly overlook the hanks of meat that spewed forth with the mirth. "Ah, Laddie, you never cease to amaze me! If you wanted to be beaten in a show of strength, why didn't you just ask me? I might have spared you your dignity, at least!" He continued to wheeze and chuckle.
"Yes, being the expert on dignity," Legolas muttered wryly. "Well, it is done. I have to take my place. My challenger awaits me."
"I thought you said you were the challenger."
"Well, then he took up the gauntlet. Now I am to be publicly pulverized for my brazenness." Legolas couldn't help but shudder at the huge fellow, as they set up the table.
Gimli's eyes got round. "I thought Gypsies were rather slight of stature. That guy is massive. Leave it to you to insult the biggest one they have!"
"It is ironic that you would comment on a man's height, Gimli." Legolas sighed. At least this would be over with quickly. "He is huge, indeed. I will go to my humiliation as a warrior: quick and without fear," he made to step towards the table.
"Wait!" Gimli grabbed him. "Legolas, there is a trick, an old trick for arm wrestling. It involves leverage. You can beat him if you just wait a little for the right time. If you let him have the upper hand, then so a snap-twist, like this-" he demonstrated a nifty move with his wrist "-then you can take down nearly any opponent. It works every time."
"What?" Legolas just stared. He worked it through his brain. It just might work, the physics of it were correct, why didn't he see it before? "How did you find out about this?"
Gimli just smiled. "I had a wild youth, Laddie. I will tell you about it sometime. Learned a lot of tricks of the trade. Mind you," he tapped his forearm, "it only works if you apply it at the right time. Don't do it too soon, or too late. Just at the right time."
Legolas shook his head. "A forty-one degree angle should be precisely the correct degree for the leverage needed, if I understand you."
"Um. Sure. Just not too soon, you hear me?"
Legolas looked at Gimli in the eye. "Thank you, Friend."
Gimli pushed him away. "Go, they are ready for you!" He waved him off.
Legolas stepped away, then turned back, with an imp of mischief. He hadn't felt like teasing in so long. "Gimli?"
"Shall I get you a box so you can see the fight?"
"Get out of here, you damn elf!" and the string of curses that followed made the tips of his ears turn red, but brought a little warmth to his frozen heart.
In the end, Legolas did indeed win the arm wrestling contest, to the amazement of his worthy opponent, and to the amazement of his brethren. He made quite a name for himself, as the one who bested Rudda, and as the one who chose the game that allowed the gypsies to gain the upper hand in showmanship over most of the elvish folk. Legolas felt that after that night, he may as well have had a sign tacked to him that read "Legolas, Friend to Gypsy", for indeed, they all seemed to sing his praises after that surprising turn of events. He could not have predicted a more unexpected turn of events, and when he returned to his talan, it was with a light heart for the first time in a very, very long time.
He awoke refreshed and renewed, but with the familiar cold stone in his chest. There was a note waiting for him. It was to see Galadriel.
He made his way to the garden, where the note mentioned she could be found. She was surrounded by her handmaidens, and there was a great general tittering when the elves caught sight of him. Galadriel smiled gently and dismissed the girls, and they shot him shy smiles as they passed. He kept a polite smile on, but did not make eye contact with any of them. Galadriel beckoned him to where she was seated on a bench.
He bowed at the waist. "Lady, you honor me with your invitation to your lovely home. I am humbled, and without words before your grace." He let himself fall silent. The courtliness was so familiar to him, it brought back an ache, and he did not wish to continue in the platitudes that were required. This was part of a different life, one that was gone now. He couldn't bear to make himself fit into that mold, not with so much missing. He realized that he had frozen for a long time, not saying a word. The silence was stretching out.
Galadriel did not say anything. Her face was tilted up to him, a kindly expression on her features. She seemed to be waiting, expecting something. They both were stuck patiently in that tableaux, her sitting, listening, him bent slightly at the waist. It seemed like someone had frozen a moment in time, but the minutes kept flowing by, and they both kept waiting.
Legolas let out his breath and just said "Thank you." He didn't know why he was thanking her, but it wasn't on the script, and he was glad he could say it, and not have to play the courtier.
She nodded slightly, the spell broken. "You are very welcome. Please, sit."
"Legolas Thranduil, it has been quite a long time since I have had the pleasure of your company." This was said as a statement. "You are not my subject, you do not reside here in the shelter of Lorien, but I would offer you a home in the woods here should you choose to seek haven here. Do you know that you can always find refuge here?"
Legolas looked at the toe of his boot and did not answer.
Galadriel sighed. "I can sense the sorrow in you. Indeed, you do not need to be a great seer to be aware of that. Legolas, I will speak plainly to you, as I do to few others. This is my gift to you, as you need the gift of clarity, and time is running short for you, my friend. You must put aside your grief if your are to stay present here. You are beginning to fade. You know of what I speak. You can feel it beginning already. There are many who can help you bear this burden. You are amongst friends here tonight."
Legolas could not understand the words, even though he could hear them. All he could see, all he could feel was a great wall of darkness and despair. A lump rose in his throat, and he was sorry that Galadriel had to see him reduced to such a state, but he could not hide it any more, and he didn't know if he cared to. "You don't know how hard it is, how strongly the grief has overtaken me. I was not prepared to lose a good friend. And now he is gone, in an in an instant. As if he never existed! I should never have known his friendship, then this wouldn't have happened! But if you can't have friendships like this, then what is the point of life, of living? If you must just lose everyone over and over, is it not better to fade? I can't stand this agony and more." His desolation ran too deep for tears.
"Legolas," He was aware that he was sobbing, though, sobbing as though the breaking of the world was about him. He didn't know how this had happened! He had never cried for Aragorn, and now he was sitting here in Galadriel's garden, crying on her shoulder! He was mightily embarrassed,but he couldn't seem to stop anyway. The unshed tears poured out from eyes that had remained dry, and his voice cried out, rough and broken. He cried in great gulping sobs, for the king of the world, for a man , for his friend, and finally, for himself and his loss. And then he was done.
"Legolas," Galadriel touched his face gently, and Legolas should have been embarrassed,but he was not. "You are lucky to have been part of a life that you could share. For good, for bad, you had a good relationship there. That is what life is. You cannot go through life only making things to keep on conditions. That friendship was a winner, not a loser, even if it didn't end up the way you wanted it to. It doesn't mean it wasn't worth having. If you go through your life determined to only have things end up happy, you will always be alone. And you will not have the good memories. Your friend is gone, and there is nothing that hurts worse. You have to get up now, and honor him by living. This is not my rule, it just is how it goes."
Legolas managed to look at her, struck by the simple truth of that.
Galadriel continued. "Grief does not go away. Your pain will always be with you. I will not lie. I hope that, with time, you will find a way to bear it, and a way to live with it. You will be able to breathe again, slowly. To do things that you used to. But it takes work. You must try. Was Aragorn worth a little pain? Would you have done anything for him?"
Legolas thought a moment, his eyes narrowing.
"Then knowing him an entire life was surely worth the pain of losing him, and the pain of having to pick up the pieces of your life. He would not want this for you, this end. You will fade, and soon, if you do not grab your life with both hands and fight for it. This darkness and mourning in your soul is as terrible as any foe you have fought, Legolas. Do not mistake me." Galadriel sat a moment with her hand over his, and then quietly got up and left him to his thoughts.
Legolas looked around at the beauty in the garden. Tears blurred his eyes, and he knew it was time to say goodbye. He had to let go now, let go of this great weight he was carrying around. He didn't want to live, but it wasn't time to die, either. He took in the moment, saw the sun hitting the dew on the petals of all the flowers, and he wished that the pain would just go away. Maybe in time, it would. He stood up. He had other things to do, though. Tonight there was a party. He breathed in and out on last time. He was here. He was alive. Goodbye, Aragorn.
The Autumn Solstice was always a big event for the elves, and Galadriel was pleased to note that this year's celebration was no exception; in fact, it was made even more special by the dovetailing of events that some of the members of her staff had planned. She had a seat of honor at the Bounty Harvest banquet, and she and Celeborn were able to look out over the beautiful decorations, and even more importantly, the attendees. It appeared that there was a good natured dance contest going on between the gypsies and the elves, and the elves were doing their best to win. Celeborn raised his eyebrows in her direction suggestively and nodded his head towards the dance floor.
Galadriel had to laugh. Not many people knew what a great dancer Celeborn was. She, however, had two left feet, and politely declined his request. He was unsurprised, and went back to his conversation with the Marchwarden, who had shown up a few moments ago from an extended border patrol.
As Galadriel gazed out over the crowd, she caught sight of a handsome blond elf. He was on the fringes of the crowd, standing alone, and a gypsy girl came up to him. It appeared that they were talking about the dance, and much to Galadriel's surprise, Legolas led her out onto the floor, and very tenderly began to dance. It seemed the young elf had taken her advice, and she was glad to see it. He may not be happy yet, but he was headed in the right direction.
This year's party was the best she had seen in a long time. Not only did it bring together two cultures, but she knew that a life had been saved, and that was the best Autumn Solstice you could ask for. As they celebrated a birth, and the season of bounty, she could be glad that they had another life coming into it's own new season after such a drought. Galadriel directed her gaze upward, and managed to catch the twinkle of a lone star in the sky. She smiled, reassured, and reached over to hold Celeborn's hand as she watched the revelers dance long into the night.