Legolas: The Black Gate
What should you do when death stares you in the face? When the odds are no odds at all but a certainty? When the end of your life rises up like a wall before you?
As we stand before the Black Gates—waiting, waiting—I think on this.
I will not see the end of tomorrow. I know that. There is no opportunity for us to survive what awaits us. We are here because of a fragile hope. A hope so unrealistic, so inconceivable it barely exists at all, but what else can we do?
And so we sacrifice ourselves—we throw our lives upon the fire of evil—to save the world.
I am here for my people. For those I left behind, those who fight their own battles far from here. For those I love.
I wish I could be with them. I always imagined if I met my end it would be surrounded by the ones who love me, bathed in their light, sent on my way to the Halls with their tender warmth beneath me.
Instead I stand alone.
There is not a one of them here. I have a dwarf beside me and a Man in front of me. Both of them love me and I love in return, but it is not the same. They are not mine, I cannot feel them, I cannot reach their light. Their fea are deaf to mine and so there is no light entwined with my own.
I face my death and I am lonely: and the sea roars in my ears.
"What do you think on Legolas?" The dwarf's voice sounds beside me, cutting its way through the crashing of the waves. "Why so grim? You look as if it is your own funeral you are planning."
"And is that not how it is?" I ask him, "But then what would be the point, if there is no one left to bury us?"
I think of my Father then. Of what it will do to him to hear of my death—to hear of my death here, in this place of all places. He has been here. He has stood where I stand, has spilled his blood, and the blood of others, on this ground. He lost his father here—my Grandfather. To lose his son here as well seems beyond cruel, but I would have him know I died a good death and thought of him as I did so.
And so I turn to Gimli,
"If you survive please tell my Father he was on my mind. Tell him I love him and that I died well. Tell him I was not afraid and I will meet him on the other side of the sea. Will you travel to the Greenwood for me and tell him that?" It is a lot to ask, for the Greenwood and my people are not comforting to Gimli.
"Enough of this, Legolas! Cease these morbid thoughts for they do not change what lies ahead of us. We will travel to your forest together when this is done, as we have promised."
If that is how he needs to see things. If that is what keeps him able to put one foot in front of the other then I will allow him his misplaced positivity. I know he will take my message to my Father if needs be, now that I have voiced it.
And so I give him a small smile to lighten his heart.
"Forgive me," I say, "The sea whispers temptations in my ears tonight and it is hard to ignore them." It is not a lie. The sea is new to me and on this night it overwhelms me but I am not sorry for it. It is, instead, a welcome distraction from the grimness of our situation and my loneliness, even amongst friends.
"Ah, lad. Do not listen to it, it tells you lies, Legolas."
Gimli does not like the sea.
"Come," he takes my hand then in his own small strong one. "Let us spend some time with Aragorn as a distraction for you. He looks miserable and we should try to cheer him—ease his load, for is that not our job here after all?"
Gimli has been badly at odds with Aragorn for much of our journey here, ever since Helm's Deep and I have been the cause. I am deeply sorry for that. It is good then, to see him now, wishing to help our friend, and so I acquiesce, even though I fear we will not be able to bring any peace to Aragorn this night.
He sits with his brothers and he looks weary, so very burdened, There are a legion of men here under his commmand. Men who look to him with adoring eyes and he leads them to their deaths. It does not sit well with him. It is obvious to me, whatever Gimli wishes, we will have no luck in relieving his burden.
I have come to love him as a brother. Almost as much as the brother I have lost. But I will lose him too—tomorrow. The thought leaves an aching hole inside my soul, for, as long as it might take, I will one day be reunited with my people from home. But Aragorn and Gimli will be lost to me forever. Will this be our last night in each other's company?
I am not used to battles. Oh I have fought, I have fought my whole life long. Skirmishes, confrontations, attacks from the trees, but battles? Organised death with row upon row of soldiers? That I am not used to. I fought one once at Erebor under my Father's command. But aside from that. . . The Hornburg is the only time I have truly experienced it. Pelennor we came upon in the midst of the chaos and it was much more what I am used to.
And so this waiting, this sitting silently as we expect our doom to come and meet us does not sit easily on me. I would far rather the surprise of an unexpected spider nest than this.
"Aragorn!" Gimli is determined not to let us mope. "I have bought you the elf so he can entertain you. You have been far too serious since those dour Dunedain arrived." He is right in that, the Dunedain are dour. Do they ever smile? If they do I have not seen it.
Aragorn lifts his head and give me a glance. His tiredness shows stark in his eyes.
"He does not look as if he wishes to entertain me Gimli," he says. "Still I am glad of your company." I think he is simply glad Gimli speaks to him civilly at all but I do not wish to point that out.
"Ah, the sea has him, Aragorn. It tells him falsehoods of a better life without us. You must set him straight." And Aragorn winces. He blames himself for my sea.
The Sons of Elrond turn to bless me with their scrutiny then. Both suddenly stare and I am uncomfortable under their gaze.
"The sea is bad, Legolas?" It is Elladan who speaks. His voice soft and gentle. He is indeed a healer like his father and he alone truly understands the sea. I wonder if it calls to him too tonight? I should like to know but I must keep his secret to myself.
"It is there," I say casually, "but it is a distraction this evening. I almost welcome it." And I smile in the hope of minimising their worries. Their fear of the sea-longing suffocates me at times. It is what it is, I have it and I must deal with it. The constant concern in their eyes annoys me, and Aragorn agonises over it. I do not want that tonight.
It is then Elrohir leans across to me and lays a hand on my arm. It takes me by surprise for he despises me, I know that. We do not talk unless he throws barely veiled insults my way. We never touch.
"A distraction tonight may be welcome," he says, full of intensity as he always is, "but tomorrow, on the battlefield, it may be fatal. You must not listen to it!"
And I withdraw, I pull away in anger.
"I know that! I am not an imbecile nor a infant. I am a child of the wood and I have fought before...far more than those of you raised in the artificial softness of Imladris!"
But in truth it is not my irritation at his interference that causes me to lash out. It is to cover my confusion, for that touch upon my arm, it burns. Oh how it burns! It lights a fire within me. What is this?
I do not like him and I will not let my body betray me! It must be a symptom of the lonely grief that assails me and nothing more.
"Elrohir is right, Legolas." Elladan peacefully inserts himself between us, as he has done many times before now. "I understand the song of the sea is a comfort tonight but it will wind it's way into your soul and then tomorrow, when you need to, you will not be able to block it out. You must use the techniques I taught you to bury it out of earshot. Just for now."
"Well, I have bought him here for that very purpose!" Gimli cries beside me and I am relieved for it means I do not have to speak. My breath catches in my throat as I am consumed by the idea of that touch.
"Together we must keep him in the here and now and turn his thoughts from their traitorous ways."
At that I scowl.
"You expect me to be cheerful as I sit here in the place which claimed my Grandfather, Gimli?" I cry, voice freed at last, "My family do not fare well here! You forget that."
"Elendil died here also." Aragorn cuts across Gimli before he can reply to me. "I have been thinking about that...and other things."
I know those other things, I know what they will be for we have spoken of it together at length before and I would not have him worrying about that now.
"You are not Isildur!" I say to him. "You are not, Aragorn, and you have proved it."
"I have proved nothing yet."
I am about to argue with that for I do not want him dwelling on the weakness of his ancestor this evening—it will do him no good—when Elrohir reaches towards him and clasps his arm at the elbow so they sit arm to arm, as brothers.
"The woodelf is right," he says in a tone that will not be argued with. "You are not Isildur, and I am not Elrond! Should you stumble Brother, and it is not likely, but should that happen, I will not stand by and let you fall. I will not fail you! I am not my Father's son in this. Trust me to do right by you."
My Father has often raged about what he sees as Elrond's biggest error when he has been at his angriest with the White Council and the Noldor. His failure to ensure the destruction of the ring, his inability to act when he should have, his standing aside when Isildur doomed us with his weakness rankles in my Father's heart so badly. But to hear one of the Son's of Elrond refer to this mistake in the same way shocks me.
Much as I have no love for Elrohir, as I watch Aragorn relax at his words I am pleased he is there to watch my friend's back. He is strong and determined and despite myself I cannot help but admire that.
"It is funny," Aragorn smiles as he replies to his Brother then, "that the four of us should end up here, in this place which caused the downfall and spilled the blood of our ancestors."
"Elrond is not dead yet!" Elladan exclaims and for a moment I fear Aragorn has upset him, but then he smiles, "Though I can understand you forgetting that Estel, for surely sometimes it is hard to tell when trapped in the middle of one of his councils!"
Oh he is right there for surely that Council of Elrond was interminably dull!
And Aragorn laughs. He laughs! Bright, loud and hearty. His brothers laughing with him. It seems I was wrong and Gimli was right. Somehow we have managed to lighten his load after all.
In the early hours of the morning when dawn threatens it emergence I retreat. The waiting has become too much. It weighs me down and crushes me with its insistence on moving time.I cannot sleep and I cannot bear it a moment longer, nor the loneliness that encompasses me.
I find a spot, up a ridge which will probably entrap and defeat us when the battle starts, but for now it provides me shelter, a bolt hole, and some poor excuses for trees. These trees though hurt my heart. I cannot reach them, they do not sing to me. I can see across our assembled force here. I can see my friends and watch over them, but they cannnot see me.
It is here I sit and unwrap my most precious gift, the memory I keep closest to my heart, the one that moves my feet onwards when the light dims, the one I will save above all others.
I open my heart and there is Maewen. Safe where I have enfolded her, the memory of her held close and buried deep for I want to protect her. I do not wish to taint her with so much of a hint of darkness. She is a memory only for my quiet times, away from the chaos I exist in. She is why I go on. She is what I fight for. I will not let her be taken by the dark. I will not let it claim her.
And so, as the sunrise creeps ever closer on the day of my death while I am here alone with mortals I think on her and love her.
Our parting was not a pleasant one. She wished to accompany me to Imladris but she had been injured in Gollum's escape and my Father would not allow it. How she raged at me in frustration but what could I do? I knew it was fear that drove her. Fear for me. I received a letter from her in Imladris, while we waited to depart, in answer to my news of being chosen for the Fellowship. It was not a happy one.
She was angry. Angry with me, angry with the world and terrified she would lose me. I hope, when she hears of my death, she does not dwell on that for I do not. I hope she remembers our love and not the unhappiness between us when I left. I hope she does not blame herself for those words. I understand them, I understand why she said them.
I do not hear the Son of Elrond when he approaches me. I do not sense him, so entangled in memory am I. But when I do see him an anger flashes through me, sharp and brutal. Why is he here? Why does he spoil this, my last time with Maewen? What can he possibly want?
I know he detests me and pours scorn upon me. Can he not just leave me alone.
But he does not. Instead he sits beside me.
"The sunrise nears," he says as if it is quite normal for us to speak when I know it is not. "I wonder if it will be the last one we see?"
That takes me by surprise for is it not exactly what I was thinking myself just a short time before?
"The sun will rise in Valinor surely," I say with a scowl upon my face. I do not need to discuss these things with him.
"If we choose to go there."
I had forgotten, until this very moment, the fact his path to Valinor is not a foregone conclusion. But still, I do not want him here and I resent every moment he takes my thoughts away from Maewen.
"Why are you here, Elrohir?" I ask bitterly, "I know you do not like me. Do I have to spend my last hours listening to your low opinion of me, for I have better things to think of."
He does not look at me, instead he gazes across the men assembled below us and I almost miss his next words.
"You fascinate me."
"What?" I must have misheard him surely.
"I find that you fascinate me. I have never met one like you before."
And I laugh for that is nonsense.
"Have you not been to Lothlorien? There are plenty of my silvan people there."
It is then he turns to look at me.
"I have been, many times. They are not like you."
"Then you need to broaden your horizons Son of Elrond, and come to the Greenwood. I am very ordinary there, I assure you."
"I have not been to Mirkwood, that is true," he sighs, "but I doubt very much you are in any way ordinary there."
And inside me the rage spills over.
"Do not call it that," I hiss it at him for I hate that name they give my home and I will not speak it.
"It is the Greenwood and ever will be. Do not insult my people or my home any longer for I have had enough of it and I have had enough of you!"
He blinks at me in surprise at the viciousness of my words but he does not flinch and nor does he retaliate in kind.
"Forgive me." The words are said quickly. "That was careless on my part, and rude also. I have erred much in my dealing with you and I do regret that."
It is my turn then to be taken aback for I did not expect this. Is that why he is here...to apologise?
"I have promised myself," he goes on, eyes boring in to mine, "that I will not go to my death holding on to regret. I will regret nothing when I stand before Mandos, Nothing! And if I did not follow you here, Legolas and act on this, oh I would regret it bitterly. I needed to take this chance. I need to see what your answer will be."
"My answer to what?" I cannot remember him asking me a question at all.
He reaches out then, fingers brushing across my cheek. There it is again. That touch that ignites me. It sears with fire across my soul, and I know, suddenly what it is he offers.
"Your answer to this. What say you Legolas?"
And his fea dances towards me. It is bright, sharp silver like a sword. Full of danger and excitement. I am lonely, oh so lonely, like a dying man in the desert, so long has it been since I felt an Elven touch such as this. I cannot resist it. I do not want to.
It is not uncommon amongst my people to seek comfort from others in times of despair when the way ahead is dire and those you love are far away. It is different, this physical comfort, from the entwining of fea that love is. Maewen would understand this, she would know it for what it was. A beacon of light to give flight to my wings when life is at it's darkest.
But Elrohir confuses me for the Noldor are not as we are. They bind their love within rules and customs. They cannot separate the physical from the heart. They love once and once only and they may not stray—though we would not even call it straying—I know this, I have been taught it. He should not be able to offer me what he does, a warriors respite, comfort simply for comforts sake.
I remember then Aragorn complaining at length about the way I see his Brothers.
"They are more than just the Noldor you see," he says. "You forget their Mother came from the woods, they have Sindar blood. You judge them to be something they are not."
It is obvious now he is right for Elrohir has taken me by surprise and his offer is entirely Silvan.
I have no more time to think on it then for his hand winds itself through the hair at the nape of my neck. He pulls me forward, breath hot against my cheek.
"What say you, Legolas?"
The fire engulfs me. The sea roars in my ears.
His spirit drowns me.
And I am lost.