Disclaimer: I do not own LotR.
Alright. So I was originally planning on posting this on the 22nd since that was my tenth year on this site. I know, nuts right? I was trying hard to get something done for this. And I wanted a one-shot. I didn't necessarily care if it was LotR or not (although I wanted to do Supernatural). However, this was the only thing that would be written. Only thing. I tried at least two other fics for this, but they just were not happening. Made me super sad. It's a bit late, but… 10th year anniversary fic! xD
Oh well. Since ending this fic, though (even before posting), I have not been satisfied with it. I thought it was lacking, especially after a review left by DeepRootsAerNotReached (I already know what your thoughts are and I hope you like it anyway), which reminded me of something I left out. I did it somewhat intentionally since I couldn't find a spot to place it without it seeming completely out of place.
Anyway, I think it's kind of weird writing an epilogue to a fic that ended almost five months ago, but I hope you all enjoy it regardless. I thought about making it its own story, but I think it belongs here, especially for the people who only put this on their favs instead of following as well. Let me know what you think. I hope it isn't too random and that it ties some loose ends. :D
Epilogue: Mending the Loss
Things had continued to progress very well for Legolas over the next week. It had been perfect for his body and mind to be able to relax in the company of his friends and family. Every now and then something would come up that he hadn't remembered (like that elfling that his father had told him he'd helped protect when she had ventured too close to the darkening forest) but he was able to cope a lot easier with the loss of memories. He was confident that it was only a matter of time before they would return. It hurt occasionally but there was nothing he could do about it.
Thranduil and Legolas planned on returning to Mirkwood in another week. Thranduil wanted his son to get as much recovery time in and be able to remember as much as he could before heading back. However, he was getting restless about leaving his kingdom so long without her king and her prince had been absent for far too long.
The first time the older blonde had brought up returning, the archer had fallen silent; thoughtful and he knew it was not only out of anxiety about not completely remembering, but also about how he would get there. Everyone prayed that Elen would suddenly arrive alive and well despite how long she had been missing. The others held their tongues about their doubt as Legolas held tightly onto hope.
Elrond had even offered the use of Ithildin to the young woodland elf, but Legolas only shook his head and disappeared. No one saw him for a few hours after that, nor did anyone even try to find him. They knew that even he was having doubts about his beloved mare. Legolas had even talked about going on a search for her but hadn't wanted to impose on Elrond to borrow the proffered horse, and no one had even a hint of where she could be or could have gone. Thranduil hadn't seen her before leaving Mirkwood (or he definitely would have been to Imladris sooner!) and there had been no word since (concern for her prince would have sent a messenger).
Legolas tried to think about Elen as little as possible and had even avoided the stables for a couple days before he felt guilty about neglecting Ithildin. Even if she wasn't his, the prince still treated her very well.
Thranduil and Legolas were walking from the garden to the Hall of Fire, laughing about a story the king was telling of his son refusing to sleep in his own chambers because "lightning was going to bring the mountain down and he needed to stay with Ada and Nana."
As the two rounded the corner, their care-free demeanor immediately deflated. Elrond and Estel were talking to one of the Imladris' warriors, wearing tight expressions.
The Mirkwood royalty walked up to the trio, alarmed at the sight.
"What is it?" Legolas asked in concern.
Silence fell while Estel and Elrond exchanged a glance.
Legolas felt dread build up within, his heart pounding against his ribcage. As Estel's stormy eyes locked on to his, he felt the sudden, unexplainable urge to turn around and run back to the grand tree for comfort.
"Scouts found Elen, mellon-nin," the man finally answered softly, his eyes softening in sympathy.
All Legolas could do was stare at his friend, hoping that there would be more news; that he would say that they had brought her back—maybe worse for the wear but alive.
No hopeful words were forthcoming.
"Are they positive?" he asked slowly, careful not to stumble over his words and forced himself to stay steady on his feet. They couldn't tell just by looking at her that she was his, right? He latched onto the thought.
Estel nodded solemnly, "They came back with this."
Legolas' heart wrenched painfully at the sight of his pack hanging loosely from the man's fingers. Even with the loss of memories, he had seen flashes of it tied to Elen when not in use, and he knew without a doubt that his friend wouldn't have given him the news (even though he had interrupted the conversation) if he hadn't been sure.
He swallowed thickly, feeling sick.
Being around Ithildin and the stables had helped bring back more memories of Elen. He knew he was still missing plenty and now…
He had picked her out and raised her, trained her, ridden on her strong back into many battles. He remembered how she would knock the treat out of his hand to get to it faster only to sometimes knock it where she couldn't reach it, how she would know when he was injured (even if Estel hadn't learned yet) and would pick her path more carefully…
And he had forgotten her.
Tears welled up at the memories and the terrible thought.
He had left her to die alone; where scavengers could easily have gotten to her, and probably had. He couldn't bring himself to ask the state of his beloved mare when she had been found.
Legolas felt his legs to weak and would have fallen if not for his friend's supportive embrace. As he felt his face pressed into the crook of the man's neck he felt tears slip down his cheeks and didn't bother trying to stop them. Her loss felt like a chunk of his heart had been ripped out.
Estel had known what the news would do to his friend and he had been prepared. He hadn't been exactly sure if the reaction would be the same (Legolas wasn't completely Legolas quite yet) and had been slightly surprised at the strong reaction when he felt wetness against his skin.
He was immediately grateful to his father for sending the warrior away, knowing that, even if his distraught friend didn't care at the moment, he would feel self-conscious when he noticed and close himself off.
He knew how much Elen had meant to Legolas, for he had seen the affectionate way in which he cared for her every time he saw the blonde elf, and he felt tears of his own prick at the corner of his eyes.
Legolas wouldn't talk to anyone after the news and had retreated to the garden, his eyes still glistening with heartache. They didn't know how to help the young elf and had stayed behind to give him some space when he had wandered off, knowing that he needed some time alone to grieve.
Thranduil could only stare sadly after his son as he strode away from them and silence stretched between the three while they tried to think of ways to help their friend and son. After a couple of hours, Estel had gone in search of Legolas with Elrond and Thranduil's urging. He knew that his friend needed the time alone to mourn, but he also knew that he shouldn't be alone too long with his thoughts. The lack of memories upset the archer deeply sometimes and he feared that this would be such a case. It would make things harder for his despairing friend.
Therefore, the man headed straight for the garden and the grand tree, knowing how much comfort the wood-elf had always gained from the area.
Estel smiled sadly at the sight of Legolas sitting on a thick branch about half-way up, his leg dangling below while he stared up at the cloudy day. He said nothing as he lowered himself beneath the elf, back pressed against the trunk with his legs stretched out before him, crossed at the ankles.
He wished nothing more than to pull the blonde into a tight hug and speak comforting words to him. However, he would lend his quiet support for now until Legolas would open up to him. He knew the elf was aware of his presence.
The two stayed still for another hour before the prince finally broke the silence, and Estel winced at the raw emotion heard in Legolas' voice.
"I forgot about her," the distraught elf said softly, the words shaky with tears. "I left her to die alone."
Estel swallowed thickly, holding back tears of his own for his closest friend.
"You could not have known, mellon-nin," he immediately tried to soothe, knowing the words would do very little to help this hurt, this heart-wrenching loss. Thinking about Arien even passing, let alone forgetting about her… He couldn't imagine how Legolas felt, for he couldn't even finish the thought.
The young elf fell back into silence, his face upturned towards the darkening clouds.
Estel knew Legolas was closing himself off, trying to shut down so he wouldn't feel the pain. He couldn't let him bottle up his grief again.
"Please come down, Legolas." After a pause with no answer, he lightly threatened, "Or I shall come up."
After another moment, Legolas sighed heavily, for he knew his friend wouldn't leave him alone and would make good of his words.
Without a sound, he climbed down and stood before the man.
Estel smiled slightly, although it was forced and pained with the situation. "You know I'm here for you," he reassured, his eyes never breaking contact with the elf's.
Legolas merely nodded and looked away.
He couldn't help the thoughts of Elen, of her dying alone and afraid out in the forest.
Estel kneeled beside him, feeling the mare's swollen leg.
Legolas stroked the horse that lay before them and could barely keep calm while the man continued to examine Elen. He spoke soothing, senseless words to her when she flinched away from Estel's hands.
He leaned down to Elen's face, holding her gently and whispered, "You're doing great, mellon-nin. Just a bit longer."
"It's only a sprain," Estel confirmed with a smile, sitting back up. "She will be well soon."
Legolas' face twisted at the memory, at the relief that had flooded through it to the reality that she was gone. It wasn't just a sprain.
She was gone.
He fell into Estel's waiting arms, clutching the back of the man's tunic as sobs wracked his frame.
The man said nothing as he rubbed comforting circles on his back. Whenever the memories came back to the elf they were obvious and he cursed the timing, knowing it had deepened the fresh wound. He had seen the look on his friend's face as the memory finished, the despair and loss.
Eventually, Estel moved Legolas to sit below the grand tree, to receive the extra support by leaning against its trunk. He then sat beside him, wrapped his arm around his shoulder and pulled the elf close.
Over the next couple days, Legolas only spoke when necessary and stayed inside besides visiting the garden. He had refused to go to the stables or even the archery range and the others were worried. They tried to pull him out of his anguish but nothing they did cheered him up; not that they could blame him, for they each had a close bond with their horses as well.
Estel had trouble falling asleep, thinking about the pain his friend was in and on the third night he had decided to wander, pulling on his robe and shoes. Slipping out of his chambers, he frowned at the open door across from his. Legolas' door was wide open and, when he peaked his head through, he could clearly see that said elf was missing.
He wondered where his friend could have gone and if he should go in search for him…
He sighed heavily as he decided to continue on his own path and if he happened to run into Legolas… He certainly wasn't searching for him.
The man walked leisurely through the halls until he came upon the garden and, as he continued, he absentmindedly kept an eye out for the golden head.
The stroll through the garden soon changed into an actual search when Estel failed to spot Legolas after nearly ten minutes. At first he had thought that he was just hiding up in a tree, but he had checked…
His worry mounted when he was positive that there was no one else in the garden.
Estel glanced up at the almost-full moon covered mostly by clouds, and wondered again where Legolas could have gone at this time of night.
The man frowned at the next place he thought of, for he wasn't sure if it was a good or bad thing if the wood-elf was actually there. He took off at a quick pace, not paying attention to his surroundings as he thought about his distressed—missing!—friend. He knew he wouldn't do anything too foolish…
Nonetheless, he let out a sigh of relief when he found the blonde elf brushing Ithildin's coat, singing softly to her.
"I could not neglect her any longer. It is not her fault."
Estel jumped at the sudden words, unaware of the fact that Legolas had even noticed he had entered the stables. The man moved beside his friend and placed a hand on his shoulder, squeezing gently. Even though the horse was not Legolas', he still took care of her like she was. He knew that part of that had been because Elen had gone missing.
Legolas went back to brushing the mare and singing.
It brought a smile to Estel's lips and he pulled the wooden chair from the corner near the two, giving Legolas company while he continued his task.
The man closed his eyes as he listened to the blonde, enjoying the peaceful moment.
When the next song came to an end, he expected another to follow. When none did, he opened his eyes to find that Legolas had even stopped brushing Ithildin mid-stroke.
"The memories are making it worse. They are more frequent when I visit her," Legolas said quietly, the limp hand at his side clenching into a fist. "I just… Why could they not have come back sooner? When I could have done something about it, when I could have gone after her?"
He fell forward onto Ithildin and pressed his forehead to her back, her soft whinny raising a bitter smile on the fair features.
Estel shot up off the chair and over to his friend's side, grateful that he had stayed. He knew that Legolas felt guilty about leaving Elen, but he hadn't known how deeply he felt it, exactly what had been going on in his mind. He was relieved at this opportunity.
"Legolas," the man stated firmly, trying to get the archer to turn his attention towards him.
When his friend didn't move, he grabbed his shoulder and spun him around. He was slightly surprised to see no tears on his pale face but only anger, and he knew the anger was focused inward.
"Mellon-nin, you know that this is not your fault," Estel reassured firmly, holding Legolas tightly to keep him facing him.
Blue eyes flicked off to the side, away from the man's fierce gaze. "Legolas, this is not your fault. And Elen knew how much you loved her," he finished gently.
"I… left her," the elf continued, barely restraining the tears that threatened to fall once again at the memories and guilt that consumed him. "She must have been hurt when the orcs attacked. While I was going for a swim she was—"
"No, stop. Legolas," Estel practically pleaded with his troubled friend. "You most certainly did not abandon her, nor did you 'forget' her. It was the foul affects of the lake. If you are to be blamed than so is Ithildin; so am I."
Legolas pulled back with an expression of shock on his face, glancing at the man in front of him to the mare beside him. "But that's—"
"Ridiculous. Right," Estel finished sternly.
Legolas looked again at the beautiful mare he had come to know and appreciate. He gave a small smile as he stared; then moved over to her, placing a hand on her back gently—more to comfort himself than her. He knew that she had sensed his agitated mood.
Estel could only let his friend move away and hope that some of his words had gotten through to the stubborn prince.
The next day Legolas had gone to the stables to take care of Ithildin. It lightened his mood, even if being around the horses reminded him of his loss, he felt a sense of purpose; almost like he was making up for the time he had forgotten his own, how he had neglected her—
He cut the thought short.
Estel was right. If he had been able to, he would have dropped everything—no matter where he was—and gone straight to Elen.
Estel soon joined him but the two said nothing at all while he sang to the horses surrounding him and the mare he lovingly petted.
Another day passed much the same and then on the following Elrond, his father, the twins were already there when Legolas and Estel arrived. The archer knew something was going on as soon as he entered but he continued on to Ithildin to give her affection; the mare already excited at his presence.
Thranduil and Elrond exchanged a knowing glance before turning back to the young elf.
With an encouraging nod from the king, the healer moved closer to Legolas, Estel and Ithildin. He could tell that his son was just as nervous as everyone else when he double-checked for the go-ahead with him as well. If the prince had been in a sour mood, they were going to save it for another day, regrettably.
At Estel's positive expression, Elrond moved closer, placing a soothing hand on Ithildin's nose, murmuring, "How would you like to go on a ride with your master? It's been awhile."
As if knowing exactly what the elf-lord had in mind, Ithildin turned her head to Legolas, big eyes pleading.
"Oh no, he does not speak of me, girl," he said gently, a touch of sorrow and regret seeping into his words as he raised his hands in protest.
When silence met his words, he turned to Elrond, his eyes wide.
The elder elf swallowed thickly, seeing the fear and uncertainty hidden behind the blue depths, but also the hope mingled within.
"Aye," Elrond urged, nodding at the awaiting mare. "You."
"But… I cannot…" Legolas stuttered, Elen's death and abandonment was still too fresh.
"You can, penneth. She shall not have another master," the healer continued, his voice soft, encouraging. "She has not responded to anyone here as well as you, thus she has been without master. Now I know why."
He forced Legolas to make eye contact with him, forced himself to keep his words calm with the elf's heart-breaking expression. "She is yours."
Legolas choked on a sob.
Looking back over at Ithildin, he could feel his resolve breaking. A horse was a great gift indeed, and he knew Elrond wouldn't lie to him, nor would he give away someone's horse. The bond he had built with this mare… She was helping him mend his broken heart; even before they had known Elen was lost to them. She had kneeled for him without command during those terrible headaches when the first memories had come to him, had still been there even after he had refused to go near the stables…
Legolas smiled, and it showed in his eyes for the first time since the news of Elen's death. He rubbed his hands along Ithildin as if feeling her for the first time.
The young elf had no idea who had done it, but the stall was already open and he led the horse out, not giving it another thought. It would be the first time he had ridden since they had returned.
He exchanged glances with his friends and family, smiling almost nervously before jumping onto Ithildin and taking off at a full gallop.
He smiled widely at the feel of Ithildin beneath him and the wind playing with his hair.
He had missed this.
As if sensing Legolas' good mood, Ithildin put on a burst of speed and took a corner sharply, knowing that her master would never fall; that she'd never allow it.
"Mellon-nin," the wood-elf said into the mare's ear, his voice full of excitement and content.
He was far from over Elen's death and his lost memories, but he would love Ithildin as his own and try his hardest to show his gratitude to those around him who had helped him through such hard times.