Inspired by the work of Legolass Q, including but not limited to the splendid 'For the Love of the Lord of the White Tree'
An Miluiel – guren glassui
(For Emily – thank you from my heart)
CHAPTER 1. THE WHITE CITY
Legolas watched the trees fly past him, the leaf-strewn forest floor a blur beneath his feet. The sounds of the Entwash flowing mingled with the constant, subtle hum of the Ents that had abided there since ancient times. The air was thick and humid, but the Elf was not discouraged: the forest pulsed with the welcoming energy of hundreds of creatures, hidden and unseen by even the keenest of elvish eyes.
He had reached the center of the forest now. The branches grew thicker here, the trunks closer together, little light penetrating the leaves above him. Legolas could feel the trees around him in a way he had never experienced before. They whispered to him, speaking tales of days long passed-
Legolas awoke sharply, thrown from his dreams by a noise outside his window. He sat bolt upright, his body tense as his sharp sapphire eyes scanned the room for signs of intruders. It took him a moment to realize there was no disturbance: he was still becoming accustomed once more with the idea of 'safety'.
The sounds of cheering and applause echoed out over the city of Minas Tirith, an exuberant sound the like of which could not be recalled in living memory by any Men of Gondor. The noise from the joyful celebrations carried up to the White Tower, where Legolas rested in his quarters which he had called home since the War of the Ring had ended some weeks ago.
Legolas could not bring himself to leave Minas Tirith once the battles had ended and the troops returned home. There were many ongoing celebrations to be had, tales to be told and be heard, and as a member of the original fellowship, the people of Gondor almost demanded his presence among them.
Yet his dreams were recurring, and none told of the tales of the city. No, his unconscious thoughts had been fixated for some time on a promise he had made to himself long ago - to revisit the Fangorn Forest. What with the rebuilding of the city and the settling of post-war matters, the opportunity had not yet arisen for him to complete the journey. But soon, Legolas assured himself, soon I will be enabled to complete the vow I so surely made, in a time that now seems centuries ago.
Bounding nimbly from his bed, he peered out of the window at the great city before him. As an Elf, Legolas had never thought he would find beauty in works of stone such as this, but after living temporarily in the White City he had changed his mind. Towers of white stone soared gracefully up to meet the pale-blue sky, and the walls of the city merged alongside rocky mountain slopes to form a perfect balance of nature, and the lasting testaments of Men.
"Finally up, are you?" growled a husky voice, as the door swung open with a clatter. "About time, too."
"Ah, Gimli. I thought as much." Legolas replied with a slight smile, as the Dwarf welcomed himself into the room. "Few others would have the nerve to burst into a prince's quarters unannounced, and without permission."
"So I need permission now, do I, my little Elvish princeling?" Gimli questioned, helping himself to the bowl of fruit on the mantelpiece.
"Of course not. Such rules do not apply to friends. If they did, by now you have certainly crossed the line of what is acceptable." mused Legolas, finally turning away from the window. "What is on the agenda for today?"
"Nothing, as of yet." Gimli replied, through a mouthful of apple. "I suppose Aragorn has his own plans for us."
"Elessar." Legolas corrected him. "He does not answer to the name of 'Aragorn' any longer."
"Old habits cannot be broken in the space of a mere few weeks." Gimli retorted, gulping down the last chunk of apple before stumbling towards the door and gesturing for Legolas to follow. "In any case, I do not think names and terms are an issue that has even crossed his mind."
"I agree entirely." Legolas replied, following the dwarf down the staircase to Aragorn's chambers. "I admit, I feel pity for him at the moment: there is still so much to be done, and he must lead the rebuild of an entire kingdom. It is not a light burden."
"No one could possibly be more capable of such a deed." Gimli pointed out, evidently unconcerned, but Legolas was uncomforted by his words.
"Mae govannen." greeted a familiar voice as the duo reached the main hall. Arwen appeared at the base of the spiral stairs, smiling warmly and dressed as elegantly as any queen, be they Elf or mortal.
"Mae govannen." Legolas replied, returning the Sindarin greeting, whilst Gimli settled with his usual brusque "Hello" in the Common Tongue. Arwen laughed lightly at that, before wordlessly leading them into the king's counseling chambers, where Aragorn sat in counsel with his Chief Steward.
"Ah, my friends, enter!" he said warmly, spotting them at the doorway and beckoning them into the room. "Faramir and I were just discussing the reconstruction of the city gates."
The dark-haired man nodded respectfully in welcome, smiling warmly at Legolas and Gimli. Being the king's highest ranking Steward meant that he spent a lot of time with Aragorn, and by extension, with his comrades. In recent weeks, Legolas had become quite fond of the man, despite his strained relationship with his late brother. Yet even now, he was instantly reminded of Boromir, to whom he bore so much resemblance. He shook away the thought - Faramir was far gentler, kinder, and in Legolas' opinion, far more admirable than his late brother had been.
"I will leave you three to yourselves." he stated, standing and turning to the king. "My lord, with your leave?"
"Of course, of course." Aragorn said, nodding, and the Steward exited the chamber, before Aragorn turned back to face Legolas and Gimli. "Let us walk. The morning is as good as any - we may as well appreciate it."
Aragorn led the way from the hall to one of the nearby courtyards, where the morning sun shone done upon the white stone in a bright, cheerful manner. The city-dwellers could be seen down below, going about their day-to-day business with an air of euphoria.
"They are happy." Legolas observed, his sapphire eyes watching the movement below keenly. "They rejoice, even after all these weeks!"
"I do not wish to dishearten any by reminding them that we have much to rebuild before the city returns to its former glory." Aragorn stated softly, glancing out towards where the Great Gate stood, still in rubble from its destruction at the hands of the orcs. "And yet, I cannot blame them for their joy. Long have they suffered at the hands of Sauron, and the demise of his kingdom should be celebrated by all."
"Including you, I see." Gimli added, peering up at Aragorn's face.
Aragorn gave a small, slightly guilty smile.
It was true: he was far happier than Legolas had ever seen him before. His grey eyes shone with an irrepressible energy and enthusiasm. His once stern, pale features were now relaxed and joyful, and what with his royal attire and the noble blood that ran through his veins, he looked every bit the king he was.
Legolas was glad for his happiness, whatever the cause, for all had not been well for the king since the war had ended. Aragorn had a lot of weight resting on his shoulders, responsibility such as he had never had to experience before. He was constantly having to give counsel, settle matters amongst the people in his government, or else make public appearances in the city to show that all was well.
These duties, though they were performed without reproach, often angered or frustrated him, and Legolas had been the victim of many an unprovoked verbal attack due to this. Undue blame and criticism was often directed at him, but Legolas could not bring himself to argue with Aragorn, nor to make him accountable for it.
Even so, his mind flickered back to an incident recently during a visit with the king to the southern provinces of Gondor, in which the Elf had been accused of things particularly unjustly. Amongst them was a comment the king had shouted in anger, which had rung in the mind of the Elf in every waking hour since:
"You are naught but a hindrance here; go back to your own people, and burden them with your stupidity."
Even as he thought his, he felt a bitterness well up in the pit of his stomach. He is exceptionally busy, and there was much responsibility on his shoulders that day and every other, Legolas reasoned to himself. Any irritability from him was understandable. But even such logical reason could never entirely destroy the seed of doubt, once it had been implanted into a friendship already burdened by the complex lives of its participants.
"How could I possibly mask such joy as I feel?" Aragorn asked, snapping Legolas out of his thoughts. "The dark days are over, at last. And..."
"Yes?" Gimli questioned impatiently, never being one for subtle conversing.
"No, I shall not tell you." Aragorn decided, with a smirk. "It shall wait a while longer."
"What shall wait-" Gimli began angrily, frustrated at Aragorn for withholding information from them. Legolas too was curious, but he trusted Aragorn's judgement, and cut off the Dwarf's accusatory questioning with his own query: "So, what plans have you today for a loyal duo of Eld and Dwarf?"
"I expect nothing from you." Aragorn replied instantly. "I have no right to demand your service. I am not your king."
"You are as good as." Legolas retorted, just as surely.
"I am inexplicably happy to hear such words from you." Aragorn said, turning away from him and staring out over the city. "Yet you have done plenty for me and my people already. More than plenty."
The elf's bright blue eyes flashed angrily.
"Surely there is some assistance we can offer." he said forcefully. "There is still so very much to do."
"I will not deny, your presence here is more than welcome." Aragorn said, more warmly this time. "Arwen and I are glad that you have stayed for these last few weeks. I just do not wish for you to feel bound to Gondor. You have both done so much in the war, and you are more than deserving of a break from duty."
"You have done just as much in this war, if not more." Gimli scoffed. "And yet I see you doing work fit for ten men!"
Aragorn smiled gently. "It is a pleasure for a king to serve his people, no matter how large the task. And if the work of ten men must be done by one in order to maintain his kingdom's peace, then it shall be performed without the slightest of grudges."
Legolas and Gimli had no comment to reply with, such was their awe at his statement. Both were privately thinking of how well Aragorn had adjusted to the role of king: neither the dwarf nor the elf would ever have expected such noble, well-spoken words from one who had once been a Ranger of the North.
"But are you not pleased with this?" Aragorn exclaimed, breaking the silence. "I was under the impression that you had made a pact to be completed, as soon as peace was restored. Legolas, I know of your yearning to visit the Fangorn Forest once again; your dreams are occupied by it, and no doubt many of your conscious thoughts, also."
Legolas shot Aragorn a perplexed look. Never had he mentioned to the king his desires to again see the ancient forests of the Ents, and yet Aragorn spoke of it with utmost certainty.
"The guards patrolling the White Tower have often spoke of your mutterings whilst you are asleep, and they always, I am informed, describe your desire to return there." Aragorn explained, somewhat sheepishly.
"Aragorn son of Arathorn, you have become stealthy in your manner of acquiring information!" Legolas replied, in a tone of mock disapproval.
"I meant not to pry." he said innocently. "But is it not true? Is this not your wish?"
"It is." Legolas admitted, unwillingly. "But only if you are certain that you do not, for now, require our services. And, of course, if my companion is also willing."
"I am entirely without doubt." said Aragorn immediately.
"And I, too, still wish to see the Glittering Caves, as was also planned." Gimli agreed.
"Then there shall be no further questioning." Aragorn declared firmly. "You shall prepare for your travels. Anything you may need will be supplied. You are free to complete your pact, as soon as you deem yourselves ready."
Gimli nodded firmly.
"I will prepare our supplies." he grunted. "The Elf can organize the horse. Animals do not appeal to me on the whole, but that beast of his is particularly uncontrollable."
"Never have you been in favor of Arod." Legolas said, shaking his head. "Yet I do not see why. Rarely in all my years have I found a steed as intelligent."
"The creature may be wiser than the Valar for all I care! I would just prefer not to feel like I am about to be thrown off its back when I am riding, if it is not too much to ask. But nevertheless, horses are far from my area of expertise, so I will put faith in your judgement in this occasion."
And with that the Dwarf hobbled off to the White Tower, watched on by an amused Aragorn.
Legolas gazed up at the king, the Elf's sparkling blue eyes meeting his warm brown ones.
"Hannon le, Aragorn." Legolas uttered quietly in his native language, his tone warm as he thanked his friend.
"It is no trouble." he replied humbly. "But I would appreciate if you and Gimli could join me for dinner this evening. Arwen and I have some exciting news, and she would be furious if she were not there when I told you, to see your reaction."
Legolas smiled with dawning understanding, and nodded. This news, he assumed, was what Aragorn had refused to tell Gimli and himself earlier (in spite of the Dwarf's eager questioning). As for what the news itself was, he was completely unaware.
"Well, you have much to prepare." Aragorn remarked finally.
"Yes, you are quite right." Legolas agreed quickly, nodding. "And again, Aragorn... thank you."
The king smiled gladly, and watched as his Elvish friend turned away and exited the courtyard.
Such was their eagerness that it took Gimli and Legolas only a few hours to prepare their things for the journey. They each readied a pack, in which they placed food for their travels, as well as some basic herbal medicines (in the unlikely case that they might need such items). They also packed clothing for all climates (the weather in the Fangorn Forest being rather unpredictable), including their cloaks of elven make that they had been given by Lady Galadriel at Lothlórien.
By the time their plans were finalized, it had grown into night, and Legolas bathed quickly before heading downstairs to the king's dining hall. Here he found Gimli, Arwen and Aragorn already seated, chatting pleasantly.
"Ah, Legolas, my friend, I thought you had abandoned us!" Aragorn laughed as he spotted the elf at the door. "Come, sit! We have much to discuss."
The four of them talked of Legolas and Gimli's plans over an informal dinner. Arwen was very curious about where they were visiting, being the only one who had never seen the Fangorn Forest or the Glittering Caves.
"Legolas, you have travelled through much of Middle Earth. What is it about the Fangorn Forest that makes you yearn to see it once more?" Arwen asked, puzzled. "I do not think I properly understand your desire."
"The Forest is unique. It has an ancient air about it; a sort of darkness and mystery, quite unlike anywhere else I have travelled." explained Legolas thoughtfully. "In a way, it reminds me of Mirkwood. Travelers often find the forests of my homeland dark and foreboding - but we of Elven kind know that the secrets of the trees are not to be feared. The Fangorn Forest is alike it, in that sense."
"It sounds intriguing." Arwen said in awe.
"Intriguing? The Forest is nothing compared to the Glittering Caves, I assure you!" Gimli scoffed. "Filled with precious jewels, it is, and more mithril than all the dwarves in Middle Earth could ever mine!"
"I will approach these Caves with an open mind, but I do not see how they could even compare to the Fangorn Forest." Legolas disagreed, shaking his head in disregard.
"You Elves are too absorbed with your trees to see the beauty of the mountains!" boomed Gimli fiercely.
"It is not merely trees that draw me back, dear Gimli." Legolas said, laughing softly. "How about the Ents?"
"The Ents are impressive folk." admitted the dwarf unwillingly. "Huge, towering tree-folk, slow and steadier even than hobbits in their progression!"
"They sound like something to behold!" Arwen marveled. "It is a pity indeed that their numbers are dwindling; soon they truly will be no more than the creatures of legend."
"Our histories are doomed to be lost in the veil of time. Tales have been and will be forgotten that ought never to have been." Legolas shrugged. "Such is the way of the world."
"Never a truer word has been spoken. Try as we might to preserve our histories, they do have a tendency of slipping through the cracks of living memory. But, though you speak naught but the truth, let us tarry no longer over such forlorn matters." Aragorn requested. "For we have joyful news that should be heard by two such close friends before they set out on their journey."
Arwen's face lit up, and Aragorn mirrored her beaming smile.
"Under ideal circumstances, we would have liked to have the others here - but the hobbits were eager to return to the Shire, and Gandalf is hard enough to keep in one place at the best of times, let alone when there is so much to be done in restoration." Arwen explained. "They will hear soon enough, no doubt, as news travels fast. But seeing as you two may be gone for some weeks..."
She gazed across at Aragorn, who nodded, smiling.
"Arwen is with child." he stated happily. "We are having a baby."