Legolas stumbled into the sunlight, dazed and shocked. The hobbits collapsed onto the stones, weeping, their hearts torn. Gimli fought against Boromir's grip, enraged to the point of pure foolishness.
Nithanien far from Edredhel, though they shared a look of disbelief and pain.
Merry tried to comfort his cousin, who clutched at his sword, his face a mask of pure sorrow. Boromir managed to calm Gimli, but his own grief seemed to catch up soon, and he sat, the intensity of the moment finally catching his mind.
"Legolas, get them up," Aragorn stood ready.
Reluctantly, Legolas went to Merry and reached out, taking the hobbit's small hand in his. The usually cheerful being's face was pure agony to his elvish soul. Watching the tears touch his cheek was almost unbearable.
"Give them a moment, for pity's sake!" Boromir cried, rising to his feet.
"By nightfall these hills will be swarming with orcs! We must reach the Woods of Lothlórien," Aragorn sheathed his dagger, "On your feet, Sam."
"I am sorry," Legolas whispered as he gently pulled Merry to his feet. The hobbit nodded as he, in turn, helped Pippin stand. The expression on Pippin's face tore to the very center of Legolas' immortal spirit, How could one feel so much sorrow and not become enraged, like Gimli? Surely these hobbits are far more special creatures that I first believed.
Soon, they were on their way, but their footsteps were laden heavy with agony and tears. Even Nithanien, the most light-footed of them, walked ploddingly, almost stumbling from time to time.
Nightfall began to encroach on the feet of the mountains, and their pace leapt from a slow walk to a gentle run. The Woods of Lothlórien stood before them, a beacon of hope in times of loss. Nithanien, Edredhel, and Legolas felt perfectly at home in the trees, but the others were less than cozy.
"Stay close, young hobbits," Gimli warned the awestruck beings, "They say a great sorceress lives in these woods, an elf-witch of terrible power. All who look upon her, fall under her spell...and are never seen again."
Nithanien stifled a grin, but his laugh touched his eyes. It comforted Legolas to see his friend able to smile after what had occurred on the bridge of Khazad-Dûm.
Suddenly, they were looking down the arrows of Lothlórien elves, which also, in turn, were looking down the arrows of the Tawar-Maethor. The beings that held back the strings stood solidly, their faces emotionless. Edredhel recognized one of the warriors, but said nothing, for fear of disturbing the peace.
"The dwarf breathes so loud; we could have shot him in the dark," An elf stood before them, his face well identifiable.
"Haldir o Lórien. Henion aníron, boe ammen i dulu lîn. Boe ammen veriad lîn," Aragorn entreated the elf, "Haldir of Lórien, we come here for help. We need your protection."
Legolas and the other elves were lead away from the others, by six elven guards, dressed in white and silver. No doubt the Lady of the Golden Wood had a different purpose for them. When Caras Galadhon came into view, the white tree-like structure of her reception room glittered like diamonds in the falling night.
"Legolas, son of my kin," Celeborn, the Lord of the Golden Wood stepped forward to greet them, clasping their wrists each in turn, "I heard of the events in Greenwood the Great. I feared for your lives as you rode out of that accursed place."
"It was not always that way, my lord," Nithanien bowed before his superior, "I fear only that it may be this way for longer than I care to believe."
"No, Mirkwood will be cleansed, son of Greenwood," Celeborn nodded, "Come, you have traveled through much grief and sorrow, for tell of the death of Mithrandir had been told us. I feel as you do, my friends."
The Lord of Lothlórien led them over a solid, beautiful bridge that spanned across the trees, elevating them so very far from the ground. Under them were the floor levels of the enchanting forest, above, the canopy.
"I grieve for you, my friends," Celeborn admitted as they were shown their rooms, "Mithrandir was a friend to me as well."
"Thank you, my lord," Legolas bowed as the Lord left the room.
"What do we do now?"
Legolas turned to Nithanien, "What do you mean?"
"Gandalf has died. Only he had a glimpse of what ends this path might have," The younger elf sagged depressingly against the wall, tears beginning to well in the corners of his eyes, "He is gone now. The man who was as a friend to me."
"Nithanien, you cannot give in to a death of grief," Edredhel moved forward, "If you did, Mithrandir's death to save ours would have been wasted, and he slain for nothing. Could you accept that?"
"Ai, no," The elf wiped his eyes, "But I feel so weak. The poisoned arrow of the orcs tires me still, even after so long. I must rest, my friends, and regain what strength I have lost."
"Go then and rest," Legolas smiled, "You, Edredhel, take sleep as well, for I fear that we will not be here for long."
Once his friends were safely in their dream-trances, Legolas retreated into his room, his mind troubled. He worried for Nithanien. Not only the grievances, but the wound he still carried, a good six months old, yet still a hindrance.
Quickly, he shed his over-tunic and laid it upon the blanket on his bed. He looked at his reflection in the small pool of water that stood in a pedestal. The silken blue tunic that he had just revealed was slightly rumpled from continual traveling, but he did not feel as if he needed to wear his over-tunic any longer.
He exited the room, and began to find his way down to where the Fellowship would be. They were found quickly, and then noticed that their drinking water had shied. He drew water from a nearby spring and moved to fill the basin.
A haunting melody drifted through the trees, finding its way to their ears.
"A lament for Gandalf," Legolas said, tears touching his cheeks.
"What does it say?" Merry asked from his perch in the corner of their 'room.'
The elven prince hesitated, "I have not the heart to tell you. For me, the grief is still too near."
Retreating quickly, Legolas disappeared into the depths of Lothlórien, for he would not shed his tears in the presence of a dwarf. He strode quickly away, yet he heard heavy steps behind him. As sure as he was the prince of a torn nation, the dwarf had followed him, though he had shed his axe, helmet, and armor.
Legolas seemed slightly amused by the dwarf; as his clothes did not blend well with the environs, save for the brown tinges and dusty grey.
"I mean to speak with you, master elf," Gimli said gruffly.
"What about?" Legolas sighed.
"Were you there when my father and his friends were captured by your father, the Elf-King?" The dwarf searched the elf's face for the sign of his response.
"Aye, I was there. I watched from afar. Then returned I to Lake Town, where I was to assist with Bard's rebuilding of the mill," Legolas leaned against a tree then slid down to sit on the roots, "I was there when Smaug attacked, and I fought beside Thorin and Company during the Battle of the Five Armies."
"I see," Gimli sighed, "I would ask a favor of you, Master Elf."
Legolas was surprised by the dwarf's easy inquiry for help at the hands of an elf, but he recovered quickly, "Yes, I will help you. What is it that you need?"
"I wish to learn how to walk quietly," Gimli said gruffly, "I know that I shall always bend a blade of grass, and I shall always make sound, but, when I hunt, the prey always seems to know exactly where I am."
"Then it is not a matter of stealth, but of tracking," Legolas sighed and pointed to a tree across the way, "On the morrow, when the first light shines, meet me in the clearing at the foot of the great tree over there. Then we shall begin your training."
Gimli bristled slightly at the word 'training,' but he stepped away quickly, leaving Legolas to his thoughts.
Indeed, they spent the next few days in Lothlórien, finding supplies and resting. Legolas found Gimli to be a great hunter. Through they hunted nothing, Legolas stood in the center of a clearing while the dwarf prowled around the outside.
Even the elf found is slightly difficult to locate the dwarf sometimes.
On the fourth day, Legolas stood quietly in the center of the clearing. His ears heard nothing, and he saw no movement. Could it be that Gimli forgot about their last lesson this morning?
"Ayah!" Gimli leaped out of the bushes behind the elf, surprising him. He tackled Legolas around the legs, dropping him to the ground, "Ha! Master elf, you are a good teacher!"
Legolas began to laugh, "And it is a poor student who cannot pass his master in knowledge."
"Here, allow me to help you to your feet, for I have heard that two thousand year old bones break easily," Gimli reached out. Legolas, his eyebrow raised, took the dwarfs hand, then, at the last second, swiped his feet around, kicking the feet from under him.
Now it was Legolas' turn to stand over the other, smirking.
"Ah, I am younger in years, but not in body, my friend!" Gimli jested as he stood, "We must come to a truce else we kill each other in attempts to outdo."
"You call me friend, as I do you," Legolas shook his hand after pulling him to his feet, "I am your friend, dear dwarf."
"And I yours," Gimli grasped his hand tightly and laughed, deep and thunderous. Legolas' light elvish voice mixed with it, danced with it, and the two laughs rose to the canopy of trees.
"The first friendship of its kind for many years, my dear husband," Galadriel sighed, leaning over the edge of the railing, "And it will last forever, lest my powers lie."
"No, they will remain friends, of this, I am sure," Celeborn nodded, "An Elf and a Dwarf. This has not been seen since Durin's Day. We will see a new era grow."
Celeborn and Galadriel watched for a bit longer as the two new friends jested and joked, walking back to the place where the others rested and sharpened their sword. Boromir, the human, was sparring with the hobbits.
"Legolas, Gimli, how did lessons go this morn?" Boromir stopped long enough to smile widely.
"I could sneak up on even you now, human, for I have had an elf as a teacher," Gimli growled good-naturedly, "And a good teacher he was, for even now, he has trouble finding me. I urge you to me careful around me now."
Boromir laughed, and Aragorn chuckled in the background.
"Come, Boromir, let us show the hobbits how it is done," Aragorn drew his sword and faced off with his fellow human.
Cut, block, cut. The dance was slow at first, but if speeded up soon after the first few clangs were heard. Lunge, cut, block.
Boromir and Aragorn were evenly matched. Soon, the demonstration became something of an actual spar. Sweat stained the brows of the fighters as they moved quickly back and forth, side to side. The blades met, again and again.
When they finally broke apart, both were breathing hard. Boromir fell to his knees and laughed.
"That was invigorating," Aragorn laughed as well and sheathed his sword.
"When your breath returns, you should demonstrate what the best techniques against an elf," Legolas said quietly, not wanting to seem too eager. Truth was that it had been many a year since he had held an actual sword in his hand and wielded it.
"Aye, I will face you, Master Elf, though you must be kind in the sight of the little ones," Boromir stood and laughed, "For I am not as dexterous as I was as a young man."
Legolas laughed, "Take your rest, for I must find a sword of my own to wield."
"Here, mine may suffice," Aragorn offered is sword to him, But Legolas shook his head.
"With something of such length I cannot wield," He looked down as Frodo nudged him slightly on the leg.
"Sting is an elvish blade, and in your hands it may be at home," The Ringbearer smiled and handed the blade to the grateful elf.
"I am ready for you, son of Gondor," Legolas said, his smile wide. Frodo and the others backed away from them and the spar began.
Legolas moved swiftly, but the length of Boromir's sword compensated for that advantage. They were evenly matched, as Aragorn had been, and the fight became a dance. They were broken apart when Boromir stumbled and Legolas stretched out his hand to steady him.
"I concede, master elf, you have beaten me," Boromir laughed.
"Ai, no, my friend, for I am in the same condition as you," Legolas returned the smile and the sword to Frodo, "We three are evenly matched, yet that does not take into account the dwarf."
"I fight no one, for I rest for the road ahead," Gimli sat on his bed, "And you ninnies have forgotten that the Quest of the Fellowship continues yet again tomorrow, and your strength shall be numbered in hours."
Even the hobbits laughed heartily, for they knew how right the dwarf's words were.
The river was calm the next day, with Legolas guiding Gimli in one, Aragorn, Frodo, and Sam in another. Nithanien and Edredhel paddled one, and then Boromir, Merry, and Pippin rode in the last. Upon leaving Lothlórien and speeding onto the main channel of water, the light mood slowly changed to one of apprehension.
The water passed quickly by, as did time.
Suddenly, around the bend, two statues of enormous stature loomed over them. Their hands were outstretched to them, as if to ward off evil.
"The Argonath," Legolas whispered to Gimli, as if in reverence of the spirits of the two human kings of the past. Many moments passed in silence as they passed the statues. Legolas felt a cold chill was over him.
Evil was here, or had passed by recently. Or perhaps, was coming.
They landed the boat just before the falls. Once they landed, Legolas immediately shied from the forest.
"Aragorn, we cannot stay here," He hissed, a black feeling falling over him, "A shadow and a threat have been growing in my mind. We cannot stay, for evil is here."
"Orcs patrol the eastern shore. We must wait for nightfall," Aragorn said simply.
"It is not the shore that worries me," Legolas admitted, turning to face the prince, trying to put his endangered feelings into words. He merely kept his ear to the woods as they set up their camp. Frodo had seemed worried by his words and stayed close to Sam, who was napping by a piece of stone ruin.
Boromir returned soon from gathering wood, and soon, a good fire was burning. Legolas looked to the stars and wondered why he could not shake this feeling of darkness and shame. It seemed to be driven away by the warmth of the fire and the closeness of friends.
"My prince, I must talk with you," Nithanien approached him as he stood, shielded from the heat of the fire by leaning against the dark side of a tree. The young elf's light blue eyes followed those of his prince to the small patch of sky that shone through the trees.
"Can you feel it, Nithanien?" Legolas said quietly.
The elf scout looked at him, then back at the sky and the twinkling stars.
"Can you feel the evil that was here?"
"Aye, and it is that which I wish to speak to you of," He paused for a moment, as if time seemed to whisper to him, "I fear that we may not survive the night."
"If it is willed to be so, then may it be," Legolas nearly collapsed, but instead, slid down the length of the tree trunk, coming to rest on a root. Nithanien crouched next to him, concern written on his face.
"You are overwhelmed by this, my prince," He said, sympathizing with his lord and friend. His light blonde hair seemed to glow in the firelight, "I, too, have felt the whispers in the depths of my heart, foretelling of evil that may yet come to pass. They tell of the evil that the Ringbearer must destroy."
"I listen to them, but I cannot hear what they say," Legolas sighed and covered his face with his hands, "Their tones are dark, and they try to push me where I cannot go. They warn me, yet I cannot heed their words."
"What can you hear, my prince?" The scout was worried.
"I hear the tales of Mirkwood, the cries of the dying as the orcs first attacked," The prince wiped away the tears that welled up in his eyes, "The sounds cover that of the voice, and I cannot strain to hear."
"I know what I hear, my prince, but I hesitate to share the word of my heart," Nithanien looked at the pine-needle and leaf strewn ground below him, "But I feel that I must, for Edredhel feels the same, though I believe his heart-cry is far more ominous in its words than mine."
"Then say what you must, dear friend, and we will brave the deep of foretelling together," The prince composed himself and looked at the elf.
Nithanien paused, as he did before, but his eyes were averted from Legolas' gaze, "Our hearts tell us of our deaths."
"What!" Legolas straightened suddenly at the mention of their deaths.
"They also bespoke of our salvation," The other elf said quickly, "How to come on this Quest was wrong for us, that we should not have agreed to pledge our skills, how it was a foolish thing to do. We must return to Rivendell and attempt to return to Mirkwood."
The son of Thranduil sagged back, his soul dreading the next words to be spoken.
"It was wrong for us to try and reintegrate with other elves!" Nithanien said quickly, "Edredhel believes it so! We know nothing of their ways anymore. We are the Tawar-Maethor! Not Rivendell, not Lórien. We do not wage war as they do."
Legolas was broken. He had felt so strongly about this quest, about what it stood for. Now his closest friends spoke against him, against his feelings. And he had wanted so badly to become as he once was, to become as his father was…
The screams of the dying, the tears of the oppressed, and the pleadings of the captured, all faded into a mist, becoming memory. What had been so vivid since their happenings became so vague, as though worn by the years.
"No, I will not leave, though you are released," Legolas shook his head, "I can hear my soul's voice now."
Nithanien looked at him strangely.
"I was right to come, but I was wrong to bring you, for I wanted for companions that I could share with," He shivered, "I see now."
"What do you see, my prince?" The blue eyed elf pleaded, "I do so want to know. Please tell me, for I am torn beyond staying with you."
Legolas stopped and looked at the stars. Could it have been just him, or did the stars seem to form a face?
"I see that I was selfish, wanting only for friends to stay," The face shed a tear, "I see you and Edredhel, but you must return to Rivendell, and stay there, for returning to Mirkwood would most certainly bring your death."
"But we cannot leave our home to ruin!"
"It is already ruin! All that can be done now is the cleansing and the driving out of evils, beginning with our own!" Legolas snapped, "Our souls are not Tawar-Maethor, only our minds! You must be safe, for if death came to either of you, my life in Middle-earth would end as surely as yours."
Nithanien sat in silence. His prince was telling them to give up the fight, at least for now. What would Edredhel think?
His question was answered when the strong elf approached them from the fire.
"Listened have I to the conversation," He said quietly.
"And what say you?" Legolas asked.
"I say we obey our prince's command," Edredhel said quietly, "And return to Rivendell."
The three elves relaxed suddenly, as all their wills were in communion, and the voices in their souls spoke as one, with one voice.
So it shall be done.
The next morning was a slightly strange one at that. Though they had planned to cross at nightfall, no one moved after darkness had fallen, as if something more was holding them back. It was good that they did not, though they did not know, but the Uruk-Hai from Orthanc passed there upon the nightfall.
Early, far in the morning, Legolas waved Edredhel and Nithanien off in their boat. Their strong arms quickly propelled them out of sight, deep into the morning mist. The prince of Mirkwood just gazed after them, praying for their safety.
Suddenly, he cried out an alarm as dark, shadowed figures marched, ran, through the morning mist. He could see the black skin, marked on by red and white paint, their sheen bright with morning moisture.
"Yrch!" He cried, falling into his native Sindarin tongue, "Tiro!"
Aragorn was immediately up, his sword in hand. The hobbits were swept into the center of a loose, protective circle, though they had their swords out as well.
Legolas dove to the side, out of sight of the approaching orcs. They passed him by, under the branch on which he crouched. He dropped behind them as the battle commenced, releasing arrow upon arrow, letting loose the deadly shafts of Lórien.
Orcs fell around him, keeping his feet and mind moving. He couldn't slow, or the deadly blades that cut the air around him would catch him. So much confusion surrounded him, but he kept his footing, aiding Aragorn when he needed help.
The dwarf also seemed to require his help every so often.
The battle whirled around him, confusing him constantly.
Then, the horn of Gondor broke through the morning air. Legolas realized that the morning mists had long since been burned away by the rising of the sun. So long had passed…
"The Horn of Gondor!"
They ran, dodging orc after orc. Legolas was eventually slowed, the creatures around him preying in on every side. Gimli cried out in rage as three orcs began to converge in, cutting off his escape, behind him, a large tree with gnarled roots, and to his right, a steep ravine.
He had no chance of escape.
Legolas aimed and shot, two orcs coming almost too close. The blade actually skimmed his head before he ducked swiftly. The next shaft flew into the back of one of the orcs who now stood evilly over the dwarf.
"Elf! Get over here!"
Legolas finally sighed and stepped over a body, moving to help Gimli. Soon, the two remaining attackers fell. Gimli growled something in Dwarvish, something that the elven prince, in his long life, had heard expressed many a time.
And usually, it was uttered in his direction.
Gimli's eyes widened as Legolas reached down to help him to his feet. Legolas whirled just in time to see the flat of an orcish sword come at him.
It contacted hard with his forehead, smashing him back. His feet struggled for footing and found none. Less than a second later, his back had impacted with the slope of the ravine. Above him, as he rolled roughly down the slope, he heard Gimli's axe sing.
He hit a rock, hard, and all his breath was knocked from him. He laid there for a few seconds, waiting for the world around him to stop spinning, and then turned onto his stomach. He waited again, for the ground seemed to heave mightily.
"Legolas! Do you breathe?" Gimli slid down near him, bracing one foot against the rock which had so mercilessly been thrown into the elf's side.
"Tancave, in cuinar," Legolas fell into a mix of Quenya and Sindarin, so muddled was his mind.
"I will take your response as a yes," Gimli reached down and unceremoniously hauled the elf into a sitting position, "That bruise may take a while to heal."
"You are not helping," Legolas shakily pulled himself to his feet and struggled to reach the root that his bow had snagged on. He pulled himself up, grabbed the bow, and then slid back down on his feet, coming to a rest near Gimli.
"Let us hurry, for it has been long since I have heard the sounds of battle," Gimli grunted and began to make his way back up the side of the ravine.
Once they had made their way to the top, Legolas did not hesitate to run, making his way quickly to where the scent of death was all too strong, and the stench of blood and orc was all too thick. Gimli fell behind him as he raced through the trees.
Legolas' eyes fell upon a scene that tore his heart. Aragorn was bent over a deathly still warrior, who the elven prince reluctantly identified as Boromir.
As it had with his friends' deaths, Legolas' heart broke. Even as a Tawar-Maethor, he had held back his feelings, fearing the weakness it brought. With Gandalf's death, it was all he could do to hold back from collapsing.
Now was the time that he wondered, what did humans feel? It was known to a select few that elves felt emotions like grief and sorrow to the furthest extent, and their minds needed to be ready to hold back the flood of sensations that threatened to break the dam of their carefully built pretenses.
Gimli soon approached behind him, his silence enough.
Legolas held back when the remaining two of the Fellowship carried Boromir's body back to the camp. He gathered arrows from the bodies of orcs, or Uruk-Hai, as the scarred letters on one's arm told him. It took him a few minutes to clean them to the point that he could use them…
The three black arrows that had plagued his human friend's body lay side by side on the ground, as he noticed. Once he finished reloading his quiver, he bent and picked up each arrow, slowly, deliberately.
In a sudden flash of anger, the elven prince took two of the three and smashed them into the ground. The shafts shattered under his force.
He looked down at the one remaining shaft.
He swore that this arrow would find its mark in the body of one of the Uruk-Hai. His promise resounded in his mind as he carefully walked back to the shore.
Once there, his quick eye caught a glimpse of Frodo and Sam, already reaching the far side of the lake. He swiftly took hold of the bow of a Lothlorien boat, "Hurry! Frodo and Sam have reached the eastern shore!"
Aragorn did not move. Instead, he looked forlornly at the bracers which he now wore. They were Boromir's…
"You mean not to follow them," How could he have not seen it? The far-away look that both humans had gotten whenever the One Ring was in the open, the flare of fire in Frodo's hand when Galadriel had looked into his mind…
The One Ring was doom to them.
"Frodo's fate is no longer in our hands," The human warrior finally said.
"Then it has all been in vain! The Fellowship has failed," Gimli approached, his voice revealing his readiness for blood, orc blood.
"Not if we hold true to each other," Aragorn reached out and rested his hands on his friend's shoulders, "We will not abandon Merry and Pippin to torment and death. Not while we have strength left."
He moved away, slipping his dagger back into his sheath.
"Leave all that can be spared behind. We travel light," He turned away and smirked slightly, through the bruises and cuts on his face, "Let's hunt some orc."
A swell of power rushed through Legolas' body and he nearly laughed. A quick glance at the dwarf relieved him of his worries of showing anything in front of the diminutive being.
"Yes!" He whooped and ran off after Aragorn.
Legolas smiled, no, he actually grinned slightly and ran after his friends, the black arrow of his promise slipped safely into his quiver.
To be continued…
December 18th, 2002…