Last chapter, my friends! Will he live? Let's find out, I'm not bothering you anymore here ;)
Elglor Stargold: Oh, believe me, this wasn't a cliffie :P It was a chapter with an open ending, but not a cliffie ;) If you read some other chapters, you'lle see ;)
Jasper6509: A little Luthien then? :P Let's hope it's not needed, I am told Mandos wasn't too happy about that :)
ShadowHawq35: Unfortunately, indeed, this story is over. I will start another though fairly soon - I have some time during the exams :) It will feature Kili, I think :) Anyway, thank you :)
SpiritArcher55: Thanks again! I hope you'll like this last one too :p
TheButterflyCurse996: Ooooh, am not! :P Good actually. I got to 16 pages about the mobility of prostitutues, and I have found they are usually the older children of a family, but not only of poor families (one father was the maire of a city). They were extremely mobile. One went from Chimay (South-East Belgium) to London to Ostende (West Belgium) to Brugges, another went from Ghent to Paris and back! It was interesting, really :)
xxxDrSpencerReidxxx: Oh thank you, you really made me smile. I am glad you like it! :)
Ynnealay: OMG you're right! Thank you so much for saying, I've fixed it! :) Thank you! :)
The elf knelt with a grateful smile, and bowed his head. Then he spread his hands, staying in the typical elven position when they were expressing deep gratitude and a promise to repay the debt.
"We thank you, Lord Estel. The people of Ithilien will forevermore be grateful to you. Speak only a word, and we will try to fulfill your wish." Aragorn forced a smile upon his face.
"I am honored by your kind words, master Nanhîr. I pray your journey home will be swift and uneventful." The elf understood he was given leave to go, bowed once more and strode out of the great hall, his wide clothes rustling quietly. Aragorn watched him disappear around the corner. Once the elf was out of sight, he sagged and covered his eyes with his hands. A soft weight was laid upon his shoulder.
"All of the sick elves have left the city, melleth nin. The plague is over."
"All but one." The hand was removed.
"Yes. All but one. Mithrandir says we need to give him some time." Abruptly, Aragorn rose.
"We have given him time! It has been three days, Arwen! All have healed! Why not him? Why does he still sleep? He is supposed to be healed!"
"He has fought the plague…"
"Aye, I know. He has fought it far longer than anyone else. But shouldn't we at least see some improvement?" Arwen bowed her head, taking his fingers and tracing them with the top of her nails.
"I am sorry, beloved." They were silent for a long time. Distracted, Aragorn followed the patterns Arwen was drawing on his hand, his mind with his best friend. It had been a hard few days, seeing the elves wake one after the other, healing, gaining strength, stepping out of bed. He had to see them off and accept their expressions of gratitude, but he couldn't feel truly relieved.
Legolas had shown no signs of waking yet.
Oh, he did understand. Usually, elves lived about a week with the plague, no longer. Legolas had almost survived three weeks. It was only normal he was weaker than the others. And yet, after so many sleepless nights, not a single sign indicated he was improving. It was as if his spirit had already drawn near to the Halls of Awaiting, though his body hadn't realized it yet.
"Go to him," Arwen said softly, but the king shook his head.
"There are things to do still. A delegation will come from Rohan, and there is a meeting this afternoon."
"Which you will not attend, for you will be sick," she answered calmly. "The queen and the steward will have to take over the rule for today, unfortunately." She became serious again. "Estel, melleth nin, you will not hear a single word that will be spoken in the council, for you are worrying about Legolas. Go to him. The realm will not fall apart if you are one day absent from the throne." She took his hand and pulled him up, pointing at the door.
"Go." Defeated, Aragorn raised his hands. As soon as he left the hall, his head felt clearer. Even though he knew better, his heart began to harbor hope again that perhaps, this time, Legolas' condition would have changed.
It was a vain hope. The elf was still lying pale and motionless on the bed, his eyes closed. Aragorn bowed his head and fought against his tears. How long still? When would he see those blue eyes again, smiling up to him? Would the elf ever wake, or was he doomed to linger in this sleeping death? He swallowed with difficulty, and took a seat near the elf.
"It's a shame you aren't awake yet, Legolas. It's a wonderful morning! I am sure you would have enjoyed it. There were some dark clouds at the horizon, and it looked as if they were burning in the night, announcing the birth of Anor." He tried his utmost to keep his voice light and merry, though it was very hard.
"It won't stay that beautiful the whole day though, I fear. It's very windy now. Yes, I know you love that, you always like rough weather, but the air has a scent of rain in it. We might get a storm this evening. Well, perhaps a little moisture will be good. The crops are rather dry lately." He looked at Legolas' face, and sighed.
"But you should be the one telling me that, my dear friend. You are always so sensitive in predicting the weather. Do you remember the time you warned me there would be a storm coming, and that we should return to Rivendell? I didn't believe you, for the day had been a radiant one." He chuckled. "We almost drowned in the pouring rain before we found shelter. Soon afterwards it inundated us. You had to carry me back as if I were a drenched cat, for I had been swept away by the water. I had a pneumonia for weeks!" He smiled down at the elf, his eyes sad.
"I remember you stayed with me day and night. You cooled my forehead when I was thrashing around in a fever, and you sang to me. You even slept in the chair for many nights! Oh Legolas, how I wish I could aid you know like you have aided me!" He closed his eyes, trying to regain his composure again. So focused he was on his breathing, and fighting his tears, that he almost missed it.
Almost. A small tug on his hand. Aragorn's eyes flew open, and he looked at the slender fingers of the prince. He had felt something? Could it be possible? It was not just his imagination… was it? Carefully, the king bowed forward. He licked his lips nervously.
"Legolas? Legolas, if you can hear me, please squeeze my hand again. Please, as hard as you can." The elf remained motionless. Disappointed, Aragorn leant back. Just before he wanted to break his contact with the prince, Legolas' fingers trembled again. It was so feebly, so weak, so unlike the strong, proud Nando-prince he knew that Aragorn could have cried, if he had not been overwhelmed by relief. His voice was thick and trembling with emotion.
"Very good, Legolas. Now, try to open your eyes," he pleaded, staring intently at Legolas' face. Were his eyelids fluttering? "Please, my friend. It is time to wake up. It has been such a long time." He didn't know whether it was because he sounded so desperate, or because it was time for Legolas to wake up, or because the Valar had looked down on him with mercy, but whatever the cause was, Aragorn would thank anyone who would listen for the small miracle, when two hazy, confused eyes focused on the king's face. Smiling broadly, Aragorn bent forward.
"Welcome back my friend." The elf stared at him in wonder for a few seconds, and for a moment, the king was worried the plague had caused lingering damage, before Legolas cracked a smile.
"Estel," he whispered, rough and croaky, but to Aragorn, it was the most beautiful sound ever. He grinned.
"It's good to see you again, my friend." The elf returned the smile, even though his eyelids were dropping again. Aragorn felt a pang of panic. He couldn't fall into sleep again, not so soon after he had woken up. And yet, his healer instincts told him it was the best advice for the elf. It would be a healthy sleep now, not a deathlike one. Aragorn nodded to himself and stroked Legolas' face.
"Go to sleep, my friend. I will be here when you wake up." He had to force the words out of his mouth, but it worked. The elf closed his eyes. Within a minute, his steady breathing indicated he was asleep again. Only when he was certain Legolas was sleeping peacefully, Aragorn leant back, for the first time in months truly relieved. Finally, the nightmare had ended.
"Legolas, I'm warning you, if you try to get out of the bed, I'll strap you down to it, so help me the Valar!"
"But I'm healed!"
"It has only been four days since you opened your eyes, Legolas. You're anything but healed!"
"It has been a whole four days!"
"Four days is nothing!"
"Says the human."
"Says the healer. And the healer is in command at this moment, so get your legs back in the bed or I swear I am going to get a rope right now!" A few silent seconds, Legolas just looked at him, trying to gauge whether the threat was serious or not. When he found nothing reassuring in the flushed cheeks and burning eyes, he pouted.
"Fine then." Discontent, he threw his legs in the bed again and crossed his arms angrily. He refused to look at the king. Aragorn didn't react to it. He sighed and nodded.
"Good, thank you for your cooperation. And for that, I have brought you a book, one of your favorite." The elf snorted, but didn't look at it. Breathing in deeply, Aragorn laid it on a little table near Legolas' bed and sat down.
"Eowyn will come this afternoon, and if he finds the time, Faramir will join her. You have seen Arwen this morning already." Silence.
"I have made sure your favorite meal will be prepared tonight." Silence. Angrily, Aragorn rose and made ready to leave, slamming the door behind him, but a soft voice stopped.
"I am sorry, Estel." Aragorn inhaled deeply.
"You are most ungrateful, do you know that?"
"Yes." To his surprise, a soft voice answered. "I know. It's just… Estel, I'm becoming crazy between these walls! Please, please let me out." Seldom had Aragorn heard the elf pleading like this. He slowly turned around, looking at Legolas. The prince stared back, a desperate and savage look in his eyes. He truly looked like a caged animal now. Aragorn began to doubt whether his commandment to stay in bed had been a good idea after all.
"In Rivendell, you often stayed in bed for weeks after you had been injured."
"But in Rivendell, I could hear the trees outside. Here, there is only stone! I have heard only echoes of the Song for days. Please, Estel, just one hour in the garden, and I'll stay in bed as long as you want, but please, let me go outside for one moment!" The frustration was evident. Slowly, Aragorn nodded.
"Fine then. But I will carry you. You can't afford to lose any energy, not yet." To his utmost amazement, Legolas didn't even protest. Eagerly, he stretched his arms to the man, and allowed Aragorn to carry him outside. The king made sure to use abandoned roads, so that none would see them. Smiling, Legolas bent forward.
"Thank you, Estel."
"You're welcome." Carefully, Aragorn opened a small gate and strode inside the garden. When he had found a fairly secluded space with a little cascades and some bushes, and where the wind could play freely, he helped Legolas down. Immediately, the elf closed his eyes and laid his hands of the grass, taking in the scent of the wind and the song of the garden. The trees seemed to bend towards him, stretching their branches to caress his hair and face.
Aragorn stayed for a few minutes, then, he sneaked away smiling. At the door, he threw a last glance at the prince. Legolas seemed to be fine. He didn't think the elf would mind staying her throughout the night – not at all, he would guess. Silently, he closed the door.
"I am glad you are back, my friend."
And we're at the end of the story. I truly hope you enjoyed it, and I am glad you stayed with me even though it took quite some time to update these last chapters. I'm not quiting writing though, the planning of the university was quite hard this semester, that's all. I've been thinking about a story with Kili and Lindir. I'll start working on it as soon as I can, and I hope I can welcome you there again :) As always, any reviews will be answered in the new chapter :)
Namarië, and thank you for your wonderful reviews and words of encouragement!