When I imagined being King—before I achieved it—there were many things I pictured, but being trapped by endless, monotonous, pointless debates between nobles was not one of them. And yet, at times, it seems as if this is all my life now consists of, and I wonder how that happened.
Today is no exception. This string of self-orientated, rich men—all informing me of their own importance—is boring me to tears.
Often I have Legolas sitting beside me to ease the boredom, whispering rude observations in my ear of the Nobles’ lack of grace, their bad choice of clothing, their rather tenuous grasp of their own language. He is the expert at withering commentary and he can entertain me through the most lengthy of meetings.
Today, however, he is not beside me. In fact, Legolas sits as far from me as possible, for he is angry with me and that anger burns a path across the very table and sears it's way into my heart.
It is most discomforting, the anger of a woodelf, and usually something I try to avoid. But sometimes I find it is inevitable. Today is one of those days, for I have dictated he must be here. Today—for this meeting—I need him to be seen to attend. I do not often force such things upon him. I let him show himself when he wishes, paying attention when he can be bothered and flitting to the trees when he cannot be. It is much pleasanter that way. Today, however, I have pulled rank and insisted on his attendance. . . And now I pay the price.
He sits across from me, and he glares . . When he bothers to look at me at all. And he writes. . .furious scrawls across the page. I can only guess it is his dissatisfaction at my pedigree he writes down there. It will not be pleasant reading.
"My Lord . . ." The youngish noble before us hesitates in his speech, startling both Legolas and I with his pause. It is Legolas he looks at. "My Lord . . ." Whatever it is he wants to say next he is too terrified to utter and I do not blame him, for Legolas fixes him with an elven look and— unless you are practiced at recieving them—one look from an elf can turn you to stone.
"Yes?" I wince when Legolas speaks for it is not soft at all. All his anger at me is rolled up in that one word and Faramir beside me hisses to me between his teeth.
"Oh he is not happy with you today, Aragorn."
As if I did not know that already.
"My Lord —" the boy finally stammers it out and I admire him his courage. "I wondered what you wrote about me . . . " He glances at the scrawl-filled pages lying on the table in front of Legolas.
"Oh!" Legolas is instantly charming, for he can change his demeanour in an instant, and he obviously realises this boy is not deserving of his displeasure. He is nothing if not completely fair . . . "Well, it will be long until I return to my people in Ithilien and I do not want to forget a word. Your viewpoint is so illuminating, you see."
It is nonsense of course. The young man is as tedious as all the others and even if that were not so, Legolas has an elven memory which never forgets a thing. He does not need to write so much as a single word down to remember every minute of this meeting!
I am tempted to laugh out loud at his obvious falsehood but that will get me nowhere.
The boy, of course, knows none of this, and Legolas looks at him so earnestly, he believes every word he says. As I watch, his chest puffs out with pride that the Elven prince thinks him so important as to need to document his every word.
And so I find myself instantly curious. Exactly what is Legolas writing there?
Try as I might I cannot see. I lean forward casually to catch a glimpse of elvish runes but he is on to me. He turns to the left blocking my view as he spreads his hands across the paper. Oh, he is so infuriating when he wants to be!
"My Lord Elessar?" It is me they address this time, and it takes me completely by surprise. So wrapped up in trying to decipher Legolas' writing have I been that I have lost all track of the conversation. When I look up they all sit there, quietly, waiting for my answer. But to what question?
The decidedly inelegant elven snort of smothered amusement from down the table does not amuse me.
"Yes, tell us your thoughts, Aragorn." He says sweetly, smiling his guileless smile. Legolas is enjoying my discomfort far too much.
It is Faramir who saves me. He always has my back. A stauncher steward a King could not have.
"I imagine you think the coin best shared between the two villages, do you not, Elessar?" he says smoothly, and eagerly I agree, though I will have to find out from him later just which villages and what coin it is I have agreed to. I know he will never have suggested something I would find unpalatable. No, being Faramir his solution will be utterly fair and lawful.
What would I do without him? At least he does not subject me to wild, unexpected fits of temper as does Legolas.
When the Nobles have finally had their say and there is nothing left we can possibly speak of— we have talked about it all five times over—Legolas is off. He gives me no time to accost him, but screws up his piece of paper and after throwing it in the corner is out the door in only two of his long strides.
My curiosity gets the best of me then and I cannot resist bending over before I exit to pick up his rubbish from the floor. But when I smooth it out gently on the table in front of me what I see is not what I expect. He has not been writing at all; instead it is a piece of art.
A forest crawls across the page, wild vines dangling from elegant beeches. It is so detailed I can almost smell the moss on the forest floor. It has been drawn in haste with seemingly no care at all. Lines scurry across the page haphazardly and yet together they form something marvellous. Something it would take me days to imitate—if I could at all. I did not know he could draw like this! But it is what creeps in from the other side that bothers me.
Angry waves crash and swirl amongst the roots of his trees, gulls circle in the sky so beautifully drawn they leap off the page. It feels as if they fly right to me. The dark lines which form the rushing waves have been made with such force I can feel their indentations as I brush my fingers across the page. There is real fury here.
The gulls, in stark contrast, are fine-lined, delicate—creatures of exotic grace and I can almost hear their calls.
"Ah." It is Faramir, leaning over my shoulder inspecting the picture before us. "So that is the state of his mind at the moment. I did wonder."
And I look at him in surprise.
"You expected this?"
"He has been volatile of late," he shrugs. "It is usually a bad sign."
And of course he is right.
Legolas has the sea-longing. It has torn him from his home and his father. It tosses him mercilessly amongst the waves. It blinds him to the trees and that is not the worst of it. He wanted to return to the Greenwood after the war; he wanted that with all his heart but when he went there— joyous, happy to have returned to the home he loved—he found all was changed. The sea roared and his peace was gone.
He wrote me a letter then, asking me—begging me—to find him a home somewhere else, somewhere he could perhaps have some semblance of peace, for in the Greenwood none was left for him. It was the cruelest cut of all.
And of course I obliged and, I have to confess, that was not completely selfless.
He lives here now, a stones throw away, a day's ride, in Ithilien, where there is still forest but it is not his own, where I can watch him, keep an wary eye on his wellbeing, and Faramir is there. He is my eyes when I am gone.
And me? I am blessed with Legolas' elven company. I must confess that is the best of it.
Here—in front of me, I see the evidence the sea encroaches on his good health once again, and it is up to me to stop it if I can. There is more to this temper today than elven moodiness.
I fold Legolas' picture carefully, placing it in my pocket before I leave.
"You will follow him then?" Faramir calls out behind me. "Be prepared for a storm!"
"I am always prepared," I toss back over my shoulder, but it is not entirely the truth.
I know where Legolas will have gone. His safe place, his sanctuary. So I head for the gardens. He is nowhere in sight when I get there, but I know where he is. I am not completley devoid of elvish understanding. He has a favourite tree to disappear into and I sit myself beneath it. The breeze ruffles my hair and the leaves brush my face. It is calming. A good place to recharge after the tedium of the day.
It is not long before the nuts begin to fall with unerring accuracy on to my head and they hurt. He does not want me here.
Still I am made of sterner stuff and I ignore them. He will have to try harder than that.
I pull his picture from my pocket and spread it upon my knees. Truly it is glorious, so real. I can almost touch the leaves and smell the sea salt—if only the sea was not there at all. It is a symbol of all that hurts him.
"That is mine!"
His voice floats down from the branches above me full of indignation.
"It is beautiful, Legolas. Why did you not tell me you could draw like this?"
"It is rubbish, an amusement to pass the time in that meeting you insisted I attend. It is nothing."
"Oh, it is not nothing," I tell him, and I stroke my fingers across the waves and the gulls. He will see me and he will know what it is that concerns me. It is better to approach it this way for if I ask him directly he will simply deny it. It is so hard to help a stubborn, prideful, woodelf.
"I think—" I murmer, "I think I will show this to Arwen. She will love this."
"No!" His voice as he snaps at me is forceful and adamant. "No, Aragorn.” He sighs then, I hear it rustle through the leaves. A breath of despair. “She will search through my mind and ask questions. She will never let it go. It will not help. . . It will not help."
It is the admission I was searching for, that he needs help. I could push on now stubbornly and ask him why, why did he not let me know? Why did he feel he had to draw a picture to tell me this? For obviously he knew I would look at it. We are friends—the best of friends—and I have the right to be hurt at this, but it will not gain me anything to question him . . . That way leads only to anger and bad feeling. I will ask later, when he is all stillness and calm once again. For despite his volatility Legolas usually has more self control than he demonstrates today. There is a tranquil, deepness to him that soothes me. He will be able to listen to me when it returns. Years of trial and error in the ways of communicating with a wood-elf have taught me the patience to wait . . . mostly.
Instead it is with softness I reply, and try to place all the love I have for him in my voice.
“Then what will help, Legolas? What can I do?"
There is silence above me. But it is not a silence filled with anger and resentment. He simply filters through his words before he says them. Perhaps he tries to pinpoint exactly what will help. Perhaps he does not know?
In the end I hear him begin to descend. Leaves rustle above me and I know he is on his way down. His anger has burnt itself out and we are back on an even keel, for if he still raged at me he would not let me know he came my way. Instead he would drop to the ground in front of me unannounced and scare me half to death.
His feet do not make a sound when he lands. The grass beneath them does not even bend, and he sinks down to sit beside me, always graceful, leaning against me, his shoulder touching mine. He has forgiven me, then, for when Legolas is angry he will not let you touch him. This is an apology of a sort, this closeness.
"Just be Aragorn," he finally says with a sigh.
"Well, I can try," I say with a smile. That is—after all—an easy request.
"Aragorn," he replies with a frown, "not Elessar!"
I do know that at times he does not like Elessar. He chafes at direction and longs for the ranger I used to be. Court life depresses him for he does not understand the necessity of a lot of it. He says it is pointless and sometimes I think he is right.
The breeze catches his hair and it drifts across my face, pale gold in the light of the sun. He tosses his head to send that recalcitrant hair sliding back into place. It is—at the same time—a gesture of defiance also, a glimpse of his dissatisfaction with all that my Kingship forces between us.
"I know you do not like Elessar, Legolas, but sometimes I have no choice. If it were up to me I would be the ranger all the time, but I am a King, as you are a prince. We cannot escape that."
He does not answer me but as I watch he plucks a piece of grass from the ground and spins it between his fingers before he asks casually, too casually. . .
"Will they allow you any time to yourself tomorrow?"
"The morning is a string of negotiations, but the afternoon . . . There is some time there to be had." It is a lie, I am so busy that giving up my afternoon will mean I am working until the early hours, if not the crack of dawn. But he needs this of me.
As I watch, the blade of grass he is spinning moves faster and faster until I cannot even see it. I know this sign, I have seen it often; he is tense and anxious.
"A ride then?" It is a throwaway comment, as if it does not matter at all when I know it does.
"A ride would be glorious!" I stretch out my legs and lean back against the tree. This is the truth! At this moment there is nothing I can think of I would rather do. Legolas is an expert horseman. I try to keep up but I always fail, and yet I do not mind for watching him ride in his wildness is beauty in itself.
And instantly he relaxes.
"I am feeling caged here," he confesses, flicking the blade of grass away across the lawn as he speaks, "and I do not dare ride alone at the moment . . . " He does not have to elaborate, I know. I know if he went riding while the sea calls—well, who knows when we would next see him.
His smile is worth every moment I will spend working after dark to achieve this.
"The delegation leaves in a week," I tell him, eager to do more. "And Faramir is here to watch the city for me. I will be free then. What say you and I go wild? For a few days anyway."
"With your guards trailing behind us." It may sound as if he rejects my offer but I can tell he is pleased. We get so little time, just the two of us.
"We can lose them! We have done it before . . . Unless that is too great a challenge for a simple wood-elf?" I am confident now, in his better mood, to gently mock his heritage, and I am rewarded with his gentle laughter spilling across the garden, lightening the heart of everyone who hears it.
"When have mortals ever been a challenge for me!"
I fold up his picture then, carefully, and place it in my pocket.
"You do not need that, Aragorn." He reaches out in alarm. "I told you it is nothing—"
"And I told you it was not nothing. I will not show Arwen, I promise, but I need this to remember. " And I pat the pocket I have placed it in. I need it to remember to look below the surface, to remember there are other things that may lie beneath his elven misery and bad temper when it flares.
I look to the sky where the sun is low. There is maybe an hour perhaps until we are forced in to dinner and because there are dignitaries in attendance it will be in the hall—which he hates—where we are all on show. I think of letting him off that agony this evening, telling him he is not needed, that Arwen will bring food to his room and I will make his excuses. But before I can voice it he beats me to it, following my gaze to the sky.
"We do not have long before they force us into those ridiculous clothes, before they parade us all in the dining hall." He says with a scowl.
"You do not have to go this evening, Legolas—"
"It is alright." He shrugs his shoulders and dismisses my protests, tilting his head and bestowing on me the smallest of smiles as he glances for the first time in my direction. “I will tolerate it."
He leaps to his feet as if he has not a care in the world, reaching out his hand to haul me after him. He is back, my bright and brilliant friend!
"How about some time with the bow? What say you, Aragorn? Before we must go and eat. I have energy to burn . . . I will even use one of your Mannish bows to give you an advantage!"
As if anything will give me an advantage against him when he uses the bow! He could have both hands bound behind his back and still beat me and I tell him so.
"Ah well, if you are scared?" He laughs as he throws an arm across my shoulder.
It is good, his friendship. He shines a light upon me that takes the burdens of the day and dissipates them into the ether.
This is why I am glad he is here. This is why I will move mountains to help him.
He gives me far more than I can ever give him.
And so we walk, the sun on our backs, the wind in our hair. We are Aragorn and Legolas and that is all.
No Kings, no Princes—just a man and an elf.
And our friendship.