"Legolas, The world awaits you. The day is glorious. Why have you shut yourself away in here humming dirges?"
The dwarf sat down in the chair with a thump. The sun was in the sky, a gentle breeze brushed the leaves and he wished to be out in it. Why, today of all days, was the elf so melancholy? Could he not wait until it was raining to suddenly develop the need to shut himself away?
"What is the point of a day so glorious when you do not have the right people to share it with Gimli?"
Then Gimli frowned in disapproval and no small degree of hurt.
"I am not the right person then? Usually I am good enough but not today?"
But Legolas did not leap to mend his bruised feelings with apologies as he expected. Instead he dropped his head, a picture of misery.
"It is my Begetting Day, Gimli. Aside from our time in the Fellowship I have never spent it away from my people—my family. I make sure I am always in Ithilien this time of year. Have you not noticed? They will celebrate without me this year and I miss them. But Aragorn has called me here and he is my liege lord. I could hardly say no. I could hardly ask to leave when the meetings went on.....and on...and on," He ended with a sigh.
And instantly the dwarf felt ashamed. It was true, Legolas was always in Ithilien this time of year. How had he never noticed that? He knew well the lonely ache of distance from those you loved. Suddenly the elven misery was less strange and alien, more understandable.
"Come now lad," he patted the slumped shoulder gently. "You have people who care for you here. We will make you a fine Begetting Day if you would let us."
"I appreciate the thought, Gimli" but Legolas did not lift his head, did not slide a smile through the golden curtain of hair across his face. "But it would not be the same. It would never be the same amongst this stone." He waved a hand towards the shuttered window. "Go and enjoy the day without me. I would prefer to be alone. . . " He looked up at the dwarf then finally. "Tomorrow will be different. Come and see me then."
And so the dwarf went, he knew when he was beaten. But he had no intention of staying away. He went instead straight to the only one who could possibly help him. The King.
"Where is Legolas?" Aragorn asked in surprise as the dwarf entered his study unaccompanied. "He was not a breakfast either. Has he forgotten our plans to discuss the elven trade agreement today?"
"He will be discussing nothing today, Aragorn, I am afraid he is not in the mood for it."
"Flitted off to do something far more interesting in the trees I suppose. His attention span is truly appalling." The stern dark half elf in the corner joined in the conversation with biting words.
"Elrohir. . ." The King sighed then, "Do you always have to be so quick to find fault with him?"
"Where is he then, brother? He always lets you down."
"That is not true!"
The dwarf leapt between them then for he had not come here to be caught up in brotherly arguments and he did not have the time for this today.
"It is his Begetting Day today, Aragorn. Did you not know? He is missing his people and whatever they would have planned for him. He is quite miserable. I had hoped you could tell me what to do to make him feel more at home. I have no idea what those wild tree people would be doing for him."
Instantly the King looked as shamed as the dwarf himself had felt earlier.
"His Begetting Day? I had no idea. Why did he not warn me so I could have done something for him?"
"It is not too late, Aragorn. Tell me what they usually do. Surely we can come up with something similar here." The dwarf said eagerly.
"I have no idea what they do. I thought to have a celebration of our own for him."
"I have already offered him that and he refused. It is his family he yearns for and nothing different will do. He has never been away from them on this day, Aragorn. Never. Aside from the quest and likely our minds were elsewhere then."
"Then we are doomed, Gimli, for I have no clue," Aragorn pushed back his chair and went to stand. "I will go and see him. Perhaps I can change his mind, reduce his melancholy."
"Try by all means, Aragorn but I think you will fail for he-"
"I know what they do." The voice of the silent Noldor in the corner cut across their conversation and they both turned in surprise for they had almost forgotten he was there.
"What?" Aragorn stared at his brother in confusion.
"I know what they do in the wood. I have celebrated many Begetting Days in Lothlorien and I assume the Greenwood was similar. Many of my Grandfather's people are with Legolas in Ithilien after all. You forget, little brother. I have not spent all my days in Imladris."
"You know what they do? You will tell me?" The dwarf's voice was edged with a barely concealed excitment.
"I will do it myself." Elrohir launched himself from his chair suddenly. "Elladan will help me."
"Where are you going? Tell us what it is you do so we can assist you." Aragorn grabbed his arm.
"I go to get my twin and I need Arwen for this." Elrohir threw off his brother and strode towards the door. "This will take us all of the day and I need supplies. She will know where to find them in the city. Are you coming, dwarf?" The last was said over his shoulder as he stepped into the corridor and Gimli jumped with surprise before he scurried out of the room behind him, throwing a wide-eyed glance back to Aragorn as he did so.
"I will see you later then Aragorn," he cried, his voice fading as he disappeared down the corridor. "Let us just hope the Elf is worth this!"
The room was warm with a fire roaring in the grate and Aragorn was filled with contentment as he worked on the last of his paperwork for the day, the late afternoon sun shining a pale light across the room and his small son lying on the rug before the fire all his concentration on the line up of wooden soliders before him. He had been lucky enough to have Eldarion with him for nearly the entire day, since Arwen had deposited him in a rush as she swirled out of the study, eyes shining, to go and help her brothers with their party planning. What it was they planned exactly Aragorn did not know, but he had his orders and he would fulfil them.
A knock at the door disturbed the peace, startling both the King and his small son from their contemplations and when Aragorn called out in invitation it was a very miserable and forlorn wood-elf who sidled in to the room.
"Legolas!" Aragorn was pleased to see him. "We looked for you earlier and could not find you. Where have you been?"
"Will you play with my soliders, Legolas? Look I have them ready for battle!" Eldarion sat up, eyes bright, suddenly all attention with the entry of his favourite uncle to the room.
"Ah, not today little one." Legolas sighed heavily as he slipped into a chair, "I am not in the mood for soliders today, tomorrow I will." And Eldarion was crestfallen. Legolas was always keen to play soliders with him normally.
"Whatever is bothering you it cannot be that bad surely?" Aragorn frowned at the elf's listlessness. Gimli was right when he described his misery this morning.
"Gimli has abandoned me, and on today of all days. I know I told him I did not wish for company but I did not think he would take me at my word! I have been looking for him, and when I go to the stables I find he has gone riding with the Sons of Elrond. The Elrondionath, Aragorn! Of all people to leave me for he chooses them! He knows they think me beneath them."
"They think nothing of the sort, Legolas. I have told that you before. Perhaps Gimli simply wished for a break from the city and they took him with them? They will not be long, I assure you, for my brothers do not have the patience to ride far with a dwarf at their backs."
But Legolas would not be pacified.
"It is my Begetting Day, Aragorn. I told him and he has forsaken me."
"What is a Begetting Day, Legolas?" Eldarion could not resist joining the conversation. Eyes shining as he sidled slowly, inch by inch, closer to the adults.
"It is Legolas' birthday today, Eldarion." Aragorn moved to quieten him quickly for he did not think Legolas had the patience for one small boys questions today.
"It is not my birthday, Aragorn. What are you teaching him? You know better than that!" Legolas cried.
And Aragorn thought maybe he would just sit back and watch the elf handle this then, perhaps it would prove to be a distraction from the woes of Gimli and his perceived betrayal.
"Explain for me, if you will, Legolas. Tell Eldarion exactly what a Begetting Day is please." and he smiled widely for this should be fun.
And so the Elf launched into his explanation with gusto.
"It is the day that my. . . My parents. . . That is they. . . It is when. . ." And gradually he faded into silence as he realised, perhaps he did not wish to answer the questions that would result from a full explanation. Desperately he glanced at Aragorn for help but the King simply leaned back in his chair and slowly raised an eyebrow.
And Eldarion gazed up at him, face brimming with expectation.
"Your Father is right—" Legolas admitted defeat and his shoulders slumped, "It is my Birthday, an Elven birthday."
"Gimli left you on your birthday?" The boys face crumpled in confusion for why would Legolas' best friend desert him on his own special day?
It was then Aragorn decided enough was enough. He did not want to listen to a chorus of the unfairness of the world. Legolas and Eldarion together were a force to be reckoned with. Instead he pulled himself upright.
"I think we should go for a ride ourselves!" It was a bit early yet, but he could fill in the time somehow. "What do you say, Legolas. Come out with Eldarion and I. When Gimli returns he will find you have found a better friend to entertain you."
"Eldarion too?" Legolas frowned slightly, "That means a slightly different ride. Will Arwen not wish him to be eating his dinner or some such thing?"
"Mother has gone with Elrohir and Elladan!" The small boy was eager to contribute any and all information he could, "I have been with Father all day!"
"So you have been abandoned too!" For some reason that seemed to cheer Legolas no end. "Not content with stealing my dwarf the Noldor have taken your wife as well."
"They are her brothers, Legolas, and I am happy for her to be with them. Come now. . . Will you join us or will you not?"
Legolas already looked brighter, more himself, as he tilted his head in contemplation, hair drifting in the breeze floating through the open window.
"Please, Legolas!" It was Eldarion who won him over in the end. Eldarion to whom Legolas could refuse nothing. How could he say no to the small and eager face?
It was impossible, as Aragorn well knew.
As soon as they were outside the city walls Legolas deserted them. Galloping into the distance, wild and free, long hair floating behind him in the wind as he rode away with speed. Aragorn could only watch. He longed to join him, to do his best to compete and capture but a fraction of that freeness, but the small, warm body of his son sat securely in front him and so, this time, he could not.
"Legolas has left us, Father." Eldarion's voice was heavy with disappointment, "Why? I thought we would ride together. I wanted to ride with him."
"He will be back." He wrapped his arms tight around his son in comfort. "He is agitated, the ride will calm him. He will return to us a happier Legolas and so we must let him have his time with the wind. When you are older, Eldarion, he will take you with him on a wild ride."
"Agitated?" It was a word the child did not yet understand and yet Aragorn struggled to find a better one.
"He is sad, Eldarion, and lonely. It is his birthday and none of his people are here to be with him, none of his family."
"But we are his family, Father. He is my family."
And Aragorn could not help but smile when he heard that.
"You are right, Eldarion. He is our family. When he comes back we must show him that."
Legolas did come back. He was not long away. And when he returned he was calmer, more himself, more agreeable. He took Eldarion to sit on the horse in front of him and cantered for a spell, as Aragorn rode alongside and the boy's shouts of laughter cascaded around them. But when Aragorn turned them towards the forest, then Legolas hesitated.
"It gets dark, Aragorn. We should be returning."
"A short time only. . . A wood-elf should not be away from the trees on his Begetting Day."
Then Legolas stared at him in disbelief.
"That is all well and good but we have the boy with us. It is not safe."
"It is safe enough. We are only a stones throw from the city and you and I are here. No evil dares come this close. There is nothing to fear in these woods."
"Arwen will string us up alive for riding with Eldarion this late. We will never hear the end of it!"
Aragorn wondered as he listened, when, exactly, Legolas managed to become so responsible. It was most out of character.
"Arwen is my problem. . . And she forgives you anything Legolas! I will take Eldarion, you go ahead. For a few minutes we can afford you to have a run in the trees. Go!"
He could not remember it ever being so difficult to get Legolas into the woods before.
When they caught up to him, some way along the path that wound its way through the trees he was still upon his horse, still sitting, head back, gazing at the canopy above his head and he turned when he heard them.
"When did you do this Aragorn?"
And his eyes were alight with a barely contained excitment as he spoke, for above their head lay a trail of lights, sparkling silver amongst the trees.
"I have done nothing, save getting you here." Aragorn smiled. "This is Elrohir's doing."
"Keep on going. . . " the King prodded his friend, "See where they lead us."
And so on they went, leaving their horses behind they wandered down the path following the meandering chain of light until the trees opened up into a glade, and everywhere they looked was all of a sudden festooned in light, the tree tops a sea of stars. It was beautiful.
"Look Father!" Eldarion clasped his small hands together in glee. " The sky has fallen into the trees."
And then, finally, Legolas smiled. A smile bright enough to match those very stars.
"The stars that shone at Lake Cuiviénen, when the first of my people awoke." He said softly to the boy. "That is what these are, shining for me tonight. This used to be the only light they had, until the Noldor bought them the sun."
In the centre of the glade was a picnic, a banquet, it seemed, and there were the Children of Elrond, their heads adorned with garlands of leaves, berries, and flowers, looking, strangely, more silvan than Noldor, and also one very impatient dwarf. It was the child who saw them first, for Legolas' eyes were on the trees and the stars and Aragorn's, upon his friend.
"Mother!" Eldarion cried as he struggled to be free from his father's grip. "You have made a party for Legolas."
It was only then, Legolas turned and saw them, and the look of astonishment on his face was almost comical.
"Well, do you like it, lad?" Gimli's impatience got the better of him. "Have we managed to get it near enough to how things are in your home?"
"It is perfect, Gimli. How did you do this?" Legolas breathed out in amazement for he still could not believe his eyes.
"Ah, well, I had some help... Come and have some food. It is quite safe to eat, it is all Arwen's doing. I have had no hand in that."
Aragorn placed a hand gently on the elf's shoulder then,
"I know your people are not here. I cannot do a thing about that, you gave me no time! But we are here. A poor substitute, but know that we love you also."
"Oh you are no poor subsitute, Aragorn! How did you get this so exactly right? I could not have imagined it, even in my dreams. . .How did Elrohir know this?"
"My brothers are not just the Noldor you see, Legolas. They have almost as much Sindar blood as yourself, and you forget, their Mother's heart lay in the woods."
Then Legolas' smile, if possible, became even wider.
"I have always said they could not climb a tree if they tried. Perhaps I was wrong!"
"Of course we can climb trees!" The deep voice took them both by surprise. "How do you think we got all these lights up there? We did not send the dwarf up, I can tell you."
"Elrohir," Legolas turned slowly towards the twin who had approached them. "Why did you do this? It would have taken you all day, and we are not friends, have never been friends."
"Do you think we do not know the yearning for a family far away? The pain of special days passed alone? The longing for home? Why would I not try to ease that for another if I could? We are not so different when you look at it closely, Legolas. No, we are not friends...
"But perhaps we should be."
And with that he turned away, back towards his sister, his brother, his small nephew sat upon the grass.
"But I will tell you one thing," he said back over his shoulder. "I do not know how you manage riding with that dwarf. He will not sit still. Have you given him no training?"
And Legolas laughed. An explosion of bright, happy joy.
"He is untrainable! Do you not think I have tried?" And he skipped towards the group on the grass, light gold hair swinging around his face, eyes alive with delight. He was a vision of light and radiance. The light of those myriad of stars in the trees shone through him.
And only Aragorn heard the murmer, the whisper, said low beneath the elf's breath as he took his first steps toward the gathering awaiting him.
"Perhaps we should be," he said, "Perhaps we should be."