The Golden Wood was one of the last safe havens in this world. Yet Legolas struggled with losing the feeling of unease that had settled in his gut. The home of Lady Galadriel and Lord Celeborn had never failed to comfort him during the few times he visited it. Today not even the warm light could make him forget that beyond these borders lurked evil in the shadows. A terrible, terrible evil only a few could claim to have fought and survived. Legolas shuddered as he recalled the Balrog looming over them. Gandalf's face before he was ripped away flashed before his eyes.
Not even Mithrandir had stood a chance against that foul beast. Mithrandir who had come from Aman in name of the Valar to help the Free Folk of Middles Earth.
"To think that such evil lived so close to our borders," Legolas murmured to himself.
He had climbed into the trees and searched for a spot where he could see the sky. Seeing the never changing stars usually gave him courage but today they reminded him of how ancient the Balrog was he had stared into the eyes. How many of his kin had this creature fought? Killed? Probably less than he thought for he wasn't a Noldor. Of all Elves living in the Golden Wood, Legolas tried not to imagine how Lady Galadriel must feel right now.
She lost so much more family than me, Legolas reflected as he climbed deeper into the forest where no soul would disturb him.
His companions were all sleeping so he wouldn't dare to disturb them. Although speaking with Estel about this would ease his troubled heart. For Estel was a wise man who accomplished that Legolas felt sympathy - and even pity - towards the Noldor. Before meeting the Dúnedain, Legolas couldn't claim to have fulfilled the image of a wise, patient Elf. Not in the way the Eldar drew their pride from. No, until recently Legolas admitted to have been just as petty and intolerant as the Dwarves of Erebor always accused the Woodelves to be.
I'll treat Gimli better from now on, Legolas promised to himself.
Strange how his view of the dwarf changed so fast. From all his close kin living in the Golden Wood, Legolas felt closer to the dwarf who faced a Balrog at his side. Though his distant uncle faced Morgoth Armies in the War of Wrath Lord Celeborn rarely talked about it. His own father wasn't forthcoming either.
I learned more about our history in Lord Elrond's house than in my own. Legolas grieved the fact that his kin kept their pain so close to their hearts. They couldn't even bring themselves to teach the younger generation properly. The Noldor were more open in that regard. No wonder, since they wish never to repeat past mistakes and are not above of admitting their own.
For Legolas had expected to someone at least mention Celebrimbor during the council. Yet no one had dared to accuse the last of Fëanor's stars for being responsible for Sauron's return. But not even at the dinner tables the discussing had come up. No word of how Celebrimbor should've been more careful with his secrets. Or that the Fëanorian should've seen through Sauron's disguise. Yet not a single word of accusation. Despite the fact an entire gallery of pictures illustrated the History of the Second Age. The Fall of Gil-galad and Celebrimbor's hideous death among it. Right next to how Isildur cut the Ring from Sauron's hand.
Legolas sighed, buried his face in his hands and wished for a person he could confide in.
"But who I should ask? My father is miles away, just as the rest of my family. My companions are fast asleep. I cannot possibly disturb the Lord and the Lady over such trivial matters," Legolas murmured to himself.
"Would the ear of a stranger suffice as well?" someone asked him.
When Legolas turned his head, he spotted a dark-haired elf who cloaked him in a strange half-light. Legolas assumed it came from the nature of the Golden Wood, mingling the starlight above them. The light sufficed enough to identify the other Elf as Noldor. Rather obvious with the hair so black as the night and it crowned the head with wild curls. Not to mention his eyes glowed in way that was typical for the Noldor. In his opinion that particular trait wasn't a remnamt of Valinor or having seen the Light of the Two Trees. Instead Legolas theorized: pain had drawn all color from eyes of the Noldor. For he met enough Noldorin Warriors who were born in Middle Earth and shared the same look as the Lady Galadriel. Determination bottled in pain.
Yet, in eyes of the stranger gleamed something that he had never seen before in a living being.
"I had no intention to disturbed you." Legolas apologized and climbed down from the branch to greet the Noldor. "Dark dreams haunt me lately and I desired to see the Stars."
"There's no reason to apologize," the dark-haired stranger said who offered no name for Legolas to use. "You laid eyes on an old enemy of our race. It doesn't surprise me that this has unsettled you, young as you are. Would you care to share a drink with me?"
Legolas agreed, nodding in silence because ... why not. He wouldn't find any rest tonight, rattled as he was. Unable to forget the Balrog's terrible presence weighting on his fëa. The beast was unlike anything he ever came across in his life. Despite the darkened Greenwood and its insubstantial dream like areas that birthed nightmares. So he followed the elf, moving over steps and branches high over the ground to a small Talan. He waited outside until the Noldor returned with wine. Together they sat on a bench which allowed a perfect view to the stars above them.
"You have my gratitude, stranger." Legolas said after a little while of sitting in comfortable silence, sipping his wine. He cradled the cup in his hands. "You have offered me no name so I assume you wish to remain unknown. But I fathom it's not a great difficulty for you to guess mine."
The Noldor smiled and Legolas noticed what seemed so strange to him. Unlike the other residents of the Golden Wood, this Elf was at ease. His heart was light as if he feared not the growing danger in the east that cast its shadow over the free world.
"I know your name, Laicolasse."
The prince blinked, not used to the unfamiliar translation of his name. Lord Elrond was the one who explained the word to him one day after his sons frequently used it and he had been reluctant to ask what it meant. By now he welcomed the Quenya version of his name. Mostly because it made him feel more welcome among the Noldor. Hearing it from a stranger was unexpected. Even though it made sense if the elf belong to the few Noldor who lived Lady Galadriel rather than in Imladris.
"It's been a while since someone called me that," Legolas mused quietly. Actually he had trouble to recall his last visit to Imladris that hadn't a dire and pressing concern behind it. "I hadn't the time to travel to Imladris as often as I'd have liked."
"Besides the Sons of Elrond have been defending the North in the last two decades. It's not like you had the time to meet often when they are just as seldom in Imladris as you," the Noldor said, revealing that he knew far more about Legolas than he let on at first.
"How do you know about that?" Legolas wanted to know, raising his eyes to stare at the Noldor.
There was little that he knew about the elf who laid open close guarded secrets so easily. Few were aware of the fact how Elladan and Elrohir fought brave and with bitterness to keep Angmar out of Sauron's hands. Again and again they drove Orc's from the former Kingdom that they had seen fall with their own eyes. Currently they had crossed blades with the Nazgûl more than anyone else in this world.
"I have a personal interest in keeping the Sons of Elrond safe," the Noldor answered. Voice low to reflect Legolas hidden accusation without offending him. "My son fights at their side and through his eyes I've learned to love Elladan and Elrohir. Though they don't speak of me and my son often."
"Oh," is Legolas quiet response, realizing he jumped to conclusions. In the past his father had the habit of spying on him whenever he left the borders his home. Mainly out of fear to loose his only son, yet it always rubbed Legolas wrong. Shoulders sacking, the Sindar said, "I must apologize. I'm not my usual self. The march through Moria and the loss of Mithrandir wear on my heart."
"No harm done." The Noldor refilled Legolas cup. It didn't seem to particular disturb him that his guest wasn't in a friendly mood.
He reminded Legolas of Lord Elrond. Less stern perhaps and with less worry lines in his face but in the way they tolerated each hateful word they were much alike. Legolas wondered where the elf would've acquired such behavior. The Golden Wood wasn't known for cultural exchange or carefree merrymaking. Not when it mainly consisted of refugees of Doriath and their descendants. The sight of a Noldor among these trees was a strange sight in the first place.
"Perhaps you should finally talk about what really troubles you, Laicolasse?" The Noldor asked as Legolas brooded in silence, lost in his thoughts and taking deep gulps from his wine. "Do you believe it hasn't gone unnoticed that the recent events have hit you hard? Use the short time in Lothlórien with wisdom and rest. Sing and grief for your fallen friend. You're going to need your strength."
Legolas hands started to tremble. Thus he put the cup of wine down before he let it fall and it shattered in thousand pieces.
"I know," he blurted out, not longer able to hold the thoughts back ever since he volunteered to be a member of the fellowship. "It's just that I think that I deserve to go through this. I lived a safe life despite the darkening of the Greenwood. Orcs and Spiders were all what we had to worry about. I've never cared much for the Noldor's history. Recently I learned that they suffered through so much loss than I ever suspected."
"And you feel you have to make up for that," the Noldor stated rather than phrasing it as a question because he saw the truth in Legolas eyes.
For a moment Legolas companion was quiet before he said. "You shouldn't feel ashamed if that's the emotion that troubles you so much, Laicolasse. The history between the Noldor and the Sindar is a difficult one. I cannot fault your grandfather for not wanting to deal with us after he left Beleriand behind. His caution wasn't unfounded. His people suffered in the war."
"But father turned that caution into an art," Legolas spat. That anger boiled inside him after he left it fester for years. "Erebor burned and he did nothing. The Greenwood got sick and pretended there's nothing what we could do. Had Mithrandir not supported Thorin Oakenshield in his quest, the dragon would still live in the mountain."
And that still caused him nightmares sometimes. No matter how much bad blood soaked the earth at the Battle of Five Armies. Without Thorin Oakenshield they wouldn't have lasted this long after Sauron's return. Instead they could rely on Erebor and Dale to aid them now, in case the orc armies returned. The sole reason why Legolas had been able to leave his home in the first place. It was well defended and his presence wouldn't make such a difference there.
Here, among the walkers of the fellowship he could do more.
Yet it is such a selfish reason in the end. A part of Legolas felt uncomfortable. His desire to support the fellowship steamed from a conflict with his father. Their argument how to handle the growing shadow in the work brought a lot of heated discussions in the the halls of the King. One hundred years ago Legolas would've supported his father and fallen in line. Though with much doubt and unease in his heart.
I wonder if father blames Lord Elrond for my disobedience.
For to volunteer for a quest like the one that placed on Frodo's shoulders would be the worst kind of rebellion in Thranduil's eyes. He had lost his own father Oropher in Mordor. Even in Mirkwood a few voices questioned if King Oropher's death could've been avoided. Yet these discussions happened around camp fires. In the night during border patrols far away from the hall of the king and never in the Thranduil's presence.
"Take a deep breath," the Noldor spoke up again and Legolas became aware of a strong hand on his shoulder, offering warmth and comfort. "Dry your tears. There's no need for them. While the shadow darkens the east, we can still hope. Especially with such fine young warriors like you."
Despite his urge to protest Legolas found himself following the Noldor's advice. He swiped the tears away that had rolled down his cheeks, unbidden and unnoticed by himself. Despite the long years he lived Legolas had never faced such a threat in his life. Never before the world around him grew so dark that the monsters and enemies of old came alive before his eyes. The sight of the Balrog of Morgoth was something he could never forget. So he was glad to have someone beside him who must have encountered such a beast himself. For no doubt, the Noldor without a name had seen the image of Morgoth's servant ruling his thoughts.
"Thank you," Legolas rasped, his voice betraying the state of his mind. But a weight had been taken off chest and he could breath again. "Thank you, I ... I guess I needed someone to talk to."
The Noldor smiled as he stood up, now towering over Legolas. "It was just a small aid I could give but I'm glad that my words eased your heart. I'm not usually one for patient words but I couldn't ignore your plight. Not when it reminded me of my own long ago."
"You faced the Balrogath as well." By now Legolas was sure of it.
Lips twitched upwards while the black haired elf snorted. "Unsuccessful I'm afraid, but yes. That's why I'm pleased to know that this last one will find it's end through Olórin."
The Noldor turned to leave, deeming this conversation as over. Clearly he intended to give no name so the identity of his friend would forever remain a mystery. Legolas watched the elf disappear between the trees though there was no clear path in the direction where he was going. Right before the frame of the old Noldor who offered Legolas advice and a friendly ear vanished completely, he twisted his neck to look at Legolas one last time.
"In case you find yourself in doubt again, look east and remember that beyond Sauron's tower Arien rises everyday to give light to the world," were the Noldor's words.
There was a kindness in them that warmed Legolas soul though he could not say why. Perhaps because it seemed that in the Noldor's eyes danced the same ancient light he just spoke of.
Perhaps he witnessed that the hour the sun first rose over the horizon, Legolas thought. A little flame of hope flickered in his heart, growing fast as he made his way back down his companions. Late into the night as it was, Legolas looked forward to going to sleep. When he woke the sun would greet him by breaking through the golden leaves.
His friend without a name had been right. The horizon didn't end with Mordor. His kin folk from the First Age fought far worse battles than he could've imagined himself. For they had not known if Morgoth 'd fall one day. They hadn't known how to remove the shadow from their homes. Yet theystill picked up their blades and their bows to defend their kin. At the height of the War of Wrath they hadn't even cared any longer if the elf next to them was a Fëanorian or not. Or so Legolas liked to think as he settled down between his sleeping friends. When he closed his eyes dreamless sleep welcomed him.
Unseen by Thranduil's son Galadriel ended their watch and retreated into the forest again. In her hands rested a vial. She cradled it carefully for it was precious, priceless and shining in a light the world had not seen up close since two Ages. It had the same shade as her hair.Soft footsteps coming out of the shadows made Galadriel look up. She didn't seem surprised to see her uncle. His face was now more serious than it had been with his conversation with Legolas but Galadriel remembered Fëanor well. His eyes lacked the anger and the grief he carried with him in life.
"I admit I'm surprised that you showed yourself tonight," Galadriel offered her opinion. Speaking in Quenya was something she hadn't done in a while yet the skill hadn't been forgotten and the old familiarity brought a smile on her face. "To a stranger nonetheless."
"Well, I doubt that he will remember me in the morning," Fëanor said. "For him I'm just one of many and he won't question a Noldor living on Lothlórien. And there are no pictures of me left which could leave him raising questions."
He put his hand over the vail to aid his niece as she collected the light of the Silmaril. It wasn't an easy task. Almost impossible without his presence which was why Galadriel never protested against his presence. Fëanor suspected she had let go of her own arrogance and her pain a long time ago. Forgiveness he would not ask for but it was unnecessary. They both saw the need to throw whatever power they possessed to bring Sauron down.
Galadriel grimaced as the process of gathering the light she intended to give Frodo tucked at her own fëa. But she bore it without complain. She faced worse in her life. The loss of her beloved daugther for one. In the next moment the pulling sensation vanished.
"You don't have to do this," she told her uncle. He flickered for a moment before the light behind his eyes increased again, forcing the vial to use his own strength.
"I'm a capable of doing so," Fëanor answered without looking at her. Instead he stared into the light, an expression of concentration and determination in his ghostly features. "Little what I'm able to do, I'll. Better yet if it allows you to safe some strength, Artanis. This war isn't over yet and neither of us will rest until Sauron is vanquished. So please allow me to aid you, in whatever way I can."
Had she not needed all her strength to uphold the connection Galadriel would've stumbled under the sheer weight of Fëanor's words. Her old and brittle body was long used to obey her commands no matter how taxing the task. Or else Fëanor's support would've effected her more visible than just a little tremble forming in her fingers.
Yet Fëanor had always been observant.
"Easy, Artanis," he murmured.
In a voice he probably used on his children a long time ago. In a voice he used on her on a view occasions when she had been a little bright girl admiring her uncle's brillant mind. Galadriel nearly cracked as warmth flood her body, supporting her in a way not even her husband managed anymore.
Just as her knees threatened to give out under her, Fëanor cut off the process and closed the vial. It now shone with the light of the Silmaril. Although it was just a little amount. Only few eyes would be able to distinguish it from regular starlight. Yet it would be worth the pain and the effort. For Frodo who had to carry the ring because no one with common sense and knowledge of history would do the same. If Frodo had to be the ugly sacrifice for the peace of the world, she could do at least this much. Ease his pain a little, give him a light in the dark to endure what no elf in Middle Earth trusted himself to do.
Galadriel admitted herself that she would fail as well, if had she been confronted with the same task. The ring whispered offers in to her ear even now. Promised to fulfill her desires no matter how unlikely it seemed to see them come to pass.
Suddenly Galadriel was glad for Fëanor's presence. Though even he could just be a vision, caused by Nenya's powers and her fatigue.
"It'll be over soon," Fëanor told her and closed Galadriel's fingers around the vial. "I promise you that this war will end. This time, you're not alone."
At this moment Galadriel felt the same gratitude that had taken hold of Legolas not so long ago. She pressed the glass filled with light of Eärendil against her chest and thanked Eru that the Valar hadn't abandoned the free folk of Middle Earth. Not this time. So she could care less about the unlikely messenger they sent. Since the song of power that connected the realm of Lothlórien with the Vingilot above began to dissipate, Fëanor started to fade as well.
Before her uncle could vanish before her eyes, Galadriel dared to ask, "Why you, uncle? As thankful as I'm for you help, I need to know. This experiment would've failed without you and your knowledge. Why did you come, after all this time? Why did the Valar send you? You never agreed with anything they said. Yet you wouldn't have waited so long had you been able to reveal yourself using your own strength."
For this argument was older than the earth she was standing on. Fëanor's name stood for the refusal to forgive the Valar who had let the citizens of Beleriand suffer rather than fighting against Morgoth. A sin that had always rested on the Noldor's shoulders. Just like the question of the Noldor's coming to Beleriand had ultimately delayed the Valar's decision to help.
Mithrandir had never answered the question outright. Yet she blocked any attempts on his side to discuss the First Age further than necessary.
He is my friend. My shieldbrother against the servants of Morgoth, Galadriel always thought, Yet I can't forgive him. For he too, agreed with the Valar to Doom us all.
Only now Mithrandir had fallen into the shadow as well. Leaving Galadriel to fend of the darkness alone. Her harsh words once again brought only regret she wished to take back.
Fëanor's final answer surprised her, before he became one with the night. "Death changes you, Artanis. When Morgoth was thrown beyond the borders of this world, I found peace and enough patience to see past my suffering."
At Galadriel's surprised expression, he laughed. "I'm capable of learning."
In the next moment the clearing was empty. Pale cold light of the moon replaced the white star that had descend from the sky to part with a bit of its power. Galadriel was alone again. Yet the vial pulsed with life as she pressed against her chest. Above her the Silmaril shone. It didn't travel through the sky like usual. Instead it basked Lothlórien it its light until the rays of the sun broke through the canopy of the trees in the morning.