An urgent knock on the study door tore Aragorn's attention away from his paperwork. It was more a pounding actually, rather than a knock, he thought. More someone desperately trying to get his attention as opposed to politely wishing to come in. He wondered why the first thought that floated through his head when he heard it was 'Legolas.'
"Come in," he called and put down his pen, preparing himself for whatever might ensue. Something told him it could not be good.
It was not Legolas as it happened but instead the Captain of the Guard. He looked terrible—pale, shaking, terrified. Was he that frightening to speak to? Aragorn wondered. He hadn't thought so . . . Maybe it was just a legacy left over from Denethor? He made a note to be extra gentle with his soldiers from now on. It wouldn't do to have them frightened of him. Not that frightened anyway.
"What is it?" He asked in his calmest, softest voice. Was it his imagination or did the Captain look at him rather oddly?
"My Lord...There is a problem." The Captain, for some reason, seemed very reluctant to speak to him.
"I gathered as much. What is it?" He wished when they came pounding on the door they could just spit out the issue and get on with it.
"The Elf Prince..."
So it was Legolas! Why was he not surprised?
"What has he done?" he sighed heavily. His life at the moment seemed to be an endless series of sorting out Legolas' errors and confusion. He had an extraordinary gift for leaving chaos in his wake and Aragorn was beginning to wonder if Thranduil's benevolence in allowing Legolas to move to Ithilien wasn't completely without personal benefit.
"He appears to be... He appears..." The Captain was stammering and Aragorn was impatient.
"Just tell me! He appears to be what?"
"He appears to be ...Unwell, my lord."
Well, this was obviously a misunderstanding. Legolas had been perfectly well at breakfast, on top of the world, in fact. The Men here knew little about Elves and even less about Wood-elves. He wondered just what Legolas was doing to upset them.
"I wouldn't worry. Elves do not sicken like we do...unless it is poison.” He leant forward suddenly in his chair with urgency: "Has he been poisoned?"
"I do not know, my lord." The Captain was looking more and more distressed by the minute, and it made Aragorn nervous. Very, very, nervous. If Legolas was involved in this then one thing was certain . . . It would not be straightforward. He pushed his work aside with a heavy sigh. It would not be getting done today.
"Where is he? Take me to him then."
This was not going to be solved without his direct intervention it seemed.
And so the Captain led him up into the highest circle through the narrow winding streets. As he went he could feel the tension in the air, people lining the streets watching him and whispering. It seemed more than just the usual deference. At one point, an old woman stepped out of the crowd in front of him.
"We are so sorry, my lord," she said, and it was heartfelt. Whatever did she mean?
"Sorry for what?" he asked, and the Captain shooed her away with a stern, angry look. So he turned to him instead.
"What is she sorry for?"
The Captain, quite obviously, and deliberately, pretended he hadn't heard him.
He began to get a horrible, creeping feeling of impending doom. Something was wrong . . .
Eventually they came to halt—a large, hushed crowd ahead of them parted as if by magic as he approached. All of them staring. The quiet was eerie and made his nerves tingle. He saw Legolas then, in front of them. Up on the walls, he leaned back against the parapet, one leg out in front of him, the other bent at the knee and dangling off the side. He looked perfectly healthy—if somewhat precarious—but Aragorn knew that no matter how dangerous his position might look he was quite safe.
Was that what was upsetting them? Were they all afraid he might fall? Aragorn hated watching Legolas when he danced across the heights himself, but was that discomfort really worth crowds and guards and calling the King?
He turned to the Captain then, intent on reassuring him.
"I know it looks as if he could fall, but he is quite safe,” he said. "What made you think he was unwell?"
The Captain placed a hand gently on his arm and spoke to him slowly, quietly, as if he were speaking to a child.
"My Lord, can you not see?” His eyes were full of pity, and his voice, tremulous. “He is dead."
Dead? Aragorn pushed he way through to the front of the crowd then to get a closer look.
"No." He said firmly with a smile, "He is sleeping. It is quite alright. I know it can look disconcerting, the open eyes thing."
The Captain shook his head sadly. "I do not think he is sleeping, my lord, and he has been that way for some time. He has not moved. We are sure.."
"He is asleep. I assure you." He heard murmurs behind him, someone mentioned grief and denial. For goodness sake, they did not believe him! They thought him mad. Really, this was the bitter end.
He clearly had no choice but to wake Legolas, but if he shouted he risked startling him and then he would fall. He had no option but to climb up and wake him gently himself. He was not that keen on the idea of climbing, but what choice did he have?
"Where are you going?" the Captain cried in alarm as he headed towards the wall. "My lord, it is dangerous and you put yourself at risk. It is too late to do anything for him." But Aragorn ignored his pleas shaking his head in annoyance. Getting these people to understand elves—especially wood-elves—was impossible!
"Shhh!" He hushed him urgently. "If you wake him with a loud noise he might actually fall."
"I cannot let you do this, my lord." The captain placed himself firmly between Aragorn and the wall. "Your grief is clouding your judgement. I will call for the queen, I think."
"Look," he was fast losing his patience. Just wait until he got hold of Legolas! "He is not dead!" A part of him—a large part of him—thought he should just walk away and leave Legolas to the ministrations of these people. That would teach him to take random naps which incited mass panic. He would not do that again when he woke up and found himself in a coffin!
Still—no matter his annoyance, he could not quite bring himself to do that—and so he pushed his way past the captain and determinedly walked towards the wall. Did Legolas always have to choose such precarious places to sleep?
Aragorn could hear the kerfuffle behind him as the captain made a last ditch attempt to change his mind and then started shouting at the guards to fetch Arwen. He would be quite pleased if she arrived, Aragorn thought to himself, for then she could climb this wall—she was much better at it than he was. It was that elven balance that made the difference...nothing at all to do with his fear of heights...not at all.
Still, she was not there and it had to be done, and soon, before all this shouting and carrying on woke the dratted elf and sent him tumbling to the ground. Then he would have Gimli to answer to and that thought was not pleasant.
And it did take something as absolutely appalling as the idea of an enraged Gimli to force him towards that wall. As he approached it he imagined the dwarf; axe swinging, beard bristling, hollering his war cry as he charged in to dismember the King of Gondor when he heard his beloved elven friend had fallen to his death, and all because Aragorn had been afraid of a few vertical stones. The mental image propelled him forward and upwards before he could stop, catch himself, and have very many second thoughts.
The climb was not easy. Even if he had enjoyed it, it was not easy . . . It seemed Legolas had chosen the most difficult wall possible to perch himself on and heights were so not Aragorn's strong point. In fact he was beginning to feel rather ill, dizzy, as if he might very well simply fall off this wall himself and how embarrassing would that be? It was such a relief when he reached up, searching for another hand hold, and his fingers brushed against a slender elven foot where it dangled over the edge of the wall.
Then the foot disappeared and try as he might to stretch up and touch it, it was not there.
"What are you doing?"
A quizzical elven face peered down at him, and below him the crowds erupted into raucous cheers and applause.
"I am trying to wake you up!" He muttered through gritted teeth as Legolas laughed at him. Aragorn hung there precariously, glaring up at the laughing elf above him, swearing the few silvan expletives he knew under his breath. . . Or not so much under his breath as he definitely wanted Legolas to hear them.
"The lengths you go to, Aragorn, to disturb my peace." His friend reached down then and grasped his arms, hauling him up over the side to sit upon the top of the wall. "I thought you were not fond of heights?"
"I am not. What choice did I have? They all thought you dead!" Aragorn waved a frustrated hand across the cheering crowds below.
"Dead?" Legolas' face split in a wide grin and he waved, rather regally, creating even more joyous celebration from below. "They are quite pleased with you, Aragorn." The cries praising the King could be heard quite clearly.
"Elbereth!" Aragorn swore. "Now they think I have resuscitated you. This is a nightmare. They will think me some kind of necromancer."
He could see it now. Oh, they might all be cheering now, but then there would be rumours of magic and superstition. They would decide he was some agent of Sauron and it all would deteriorate into a horrible political mess.
"Could you not sleep in plain view of everyone in future?" he snapped at Legolas. "This is going to be a real headache to sort out now."
"There are so many rules you give me in this city of yours, Aragorn." Legolas threw his arms in the air in frustration, the crowd below exclaiming over his every move. "Now I am not allowed to nap as well? Next you will be ordering me not to glow!"
"That would be most desirable." Aragorn muttered under his breath. The glowing was problematic. People often became agitated when they saw it, especially at night.
But the look Legolas gave him when he heard that was a withering one....because of course he heard it, and Aragorn wondered if he could add ‘overly developed super-hearing’ to the list of things not allowed in Minas Tirith.
"I can no more cease glowing than you can cease breathing, as well you know, Aragorn!"
The crowd below had begun chanting his name and they were so far down....his stomach felt sick just looking at them....and he had to get back down there yet. It didn't bear thinking about. The climb up had been traumatic enough.
"We shall have to go down there and face the music," he said, glancing at Legolas. He was still angry at him over his completely inconsiderate sleeping arrangements but he had to ask a favour and so that enforced politeness upon him . . . "Will you go first? It will make the climb easier if I have you to follow." For of course Legolas could climb down from here with one arm tied behind his back. So unfair.
But Legolas only looked at him as if he had suddenly grown three heads, head tilted rather endearing to the side as he always did when puzzling over some strange mortal behaviour.
"You mean to climb down?"
It was the last straw. Obviously he did not want to climb down. It was the last thing he wanted, but what choice had he? It was just like Legolas to make fun of his problem with heights when he was the reason Aragorn had to climb up here in the first place!
"How else do you suggest I get down . . . Fly?" he said bitterly. "I cannot stay up here all day. Some of us have work to do, and now there is this chaos to deal with."
Too late he realised it had been genuine confusion upon Legolas' face—not mockery or teasing—and his heart sank as he remembered what he had so carelessly forgotten before, in his rush to wake Legolas. If he had realised just a moment sooner he may have been able to save face, but it was too late now . . .
Aragorn, you fool! he thought, just as his friend was indicating the heavy trapdoor in the floor behind him—a smile as sweet as sugar lighting his beautiful face. He would never live this down. Legolas would be writing to Gimli about it the moment they reached the ground.
"But Aragorn . . . Why do you not just use the stairs?"