“We need to speak about the Dead Marshes.”
He sits, leaning against the wall, almost buried amongst the greenery I have adorned his room with. Plants which send tendrils this way and that. He loves them and I love him, so I try to mask the cold hardness of the stone for him.
He looks tired.
It is the reply I expected but I have come prepared.
“Yes.” I will not give way on this.
“No. There is nothing to say. Please do not do this. We have only just found our way back to each other. Please, Elrohir.”
He rarely begs—it is not in his nature—and it almost undoes my reserve. Almost . . . But not quite.
“This shall do us harm if we do not speak on it, Legolas. It is a pain undealt with and now I know that I cannot ignore it.”
“It is no pain.” He frowns in frustration. “It is nothing. I was angry when I mentioned it. I wanted to hurt you. It is all in the past and it does not bother me.”
I sigh then for he is such a stubborn fool, and I sink down to sit beside him. He is all tension, he thrums with it.
“This is me you are speaking to, Legolas. You cannot fool me.”
And he is silent. The minutes tick by and he says nothing, but I give him this, this time to accept the inevitable. Eventually he will see sense.
“I do not want to speak of it, Elrohir. I do not want to.”
“I know that. To be honest I do not want to either, but we must. How many years is it now and we have never spoken of this?”
He matches my sigh and tilts his head back to rest against the wall.
“Tell me about it, Legolas. Tell me how it was for you. You said you sat broken in front of me while I trampled your heart in the mud. Tell me!” He turns his head to avoid my eyes, so I touch him.
My brother used to do this. I learnt it from him—my small brother, my mannish brother. Legolas is a sprite. His mind flys to the wind yet he has walls as high as the sky Earendil sails across when he wishes. When Aragorn needed to still him, when he needed to breach those walls he would touch him, softly, gently—it worked like magic and it works now. When my hand falls on his shoulder he begins to speak.
“There were so many of them,” he says. “ So many, Elrohir. Everywhere I looked. I did not know them but I knew their families, their friends, and they called out to me. Child of our King, they called, Save us! It was so loud.” He buries his head in his arms, covers his ears as if he can still hear them. “And I did not find my Grandfather,” he adds. “I wanted to, and yet I did not wish it either, for I would have succumbed had he called me.” He lifts his head then, to look up at me. “But you know this. You were there, looking for your own people. You know what it was like. You do not need me to tell you.”
“It was unpleasant,” I admit, “but I do not think it was as bad for me as it was for you. I am sorry . . . I am sorry when you were so distressed I only added to it. I am sorry I left you there.”
“It was my fault,” he replies. “All my fault. I deserved everything, all your scorn, for I did not see you truly, or if I did, I did not want to.”
“No!” I do not want him taking all this blame—all my blame upon himself.
But he is not listening, as Legolas is want to do.
“I could not understand it.” He continues as if I have not spoken at all. “I was so sure . . . So determined it was nothing—what passed between us. Why I thought that—now I look back—I do not know, for I burned for you like no one else. But it had to be nothing. You were so odd. So unlike yourself, after the Black Gate, but no one else noticed and I could not make sense of it. Where was your mocking scorn I had grown so used to? Then you touched me, you wiped away the tears I shed for the Dead, and it all became clear. I was such a fool.”
“Like this?” I say and I stroke a thumb across his cheek slowly, for he weeps still for those Dead in the marshes so far away.
“Like that . . . I am sorry, Elrohir, that I hurt you. I did not mean to but I did. I deserved your anger. I deserved to be left behind.”
But he never deserved that. It hurts my heart to remember him now, as he was, sitting tear-stained and grief-stricken in the mud as I walked away.
I take his face in my hands so I can be sure he looks at me.
I watched you all the way from Rohan,” I tell him. “I could not take my eyes off you.”
He laughs. I love his laugh.
“You scorned me all the way from Rohan! You remember it wrongly, Elrohir. You could not stand the sight of me.”
“No. I could not take my eyes off you, your light . . . You shine so brightly, Legolas. You have no idea.”
He never has known how that dancing light of his affects those of us around him.
“I tried to deny it. I tried to push you away, but it was a losing battle. I never despised you, and that night . . . Before the Black Gate . . . I could not stay away. But I was not clear. Our miscommunication was as much my fault as yours. And I was cruel upon the Dead Marshes. I am sorry.” I pull him towards me, wrap my arms tight around him as I wanted to do after the Battle of the Black Gate when he pushed me away so determinedly, when I was so alight with hope. . . . Before he crushed it all and I hurt him— and continued to hurt him. “I am sorry. . . I am so sorry.”
And he weeps. His tears wet my shirt and burn my skin. Tears for the dead in the Marshes I did not help him grieve, tears for the words I threw like arrows at him over so many years—so long ago. I can remember the insults, the bitterness I rained upon him.
Why have we not spoken of this before? We are cowards, both of us. And in our fear we hurt each other.
Had he not broken his silence in anger I would never know he carried this hurt still, deep in his heart.
Perhaps he did not know he still carried it himself?
“We are both fools,” I tell him. “But I love you despite your foolishness! You are my heart, my wild silvan heart.”
“You are my sanctuary.” He says, head laid upon my chest. “My shelter from the never-ending storms. My only safe place.”
I have not always been a safe place for him. Sometimes I have been the very cause of the storms themselves.
I wish it were not so. But I cannot change it.
I can only make it right.
“Do you understand you were wrong?” I say. “What you saw was bitterness, yes, but never hate. It is important to me you know that I loved you always. from when I first saw you in Imladris I loved you. You had a fight with the dwarf in the middle of the Great Hall. So fiery, so strange. I was entranced from that moment.”
“Then I have trapped you also,” he answers me sadly.
“Trapped? It is no trap Legolas.”
“Won your love under false pretences. I am sorry for that Elrohir.”
“No.” I lift up his head from my chest, tilt him back against the wall so I can see him. “What do you mean by that? There is nothing false about it”
“It is all false.” Does he mean he does not love me? I do not think that is true. “I am false, Elrohir, to everyone. I am not the son my father raised, not the one he needs. I am no longer the Legolas, Maewen fell in love with. That boy is gone, and now I am not that Legolas from Imladris either. If you fell in love with him, you have lost him. I am someone else.”
I know he struggles. I know he carries damage, has carried it for years. Now I know it is deeper . . . more extensive than I thought. It seems tonight I can see that damage written clear upon his face. Every minute he has borne it sits there in the open for me to see.
“You are not false to me, nor to Maewen neither. As for your father,” I cannot help but sigh then for his statement is so ridiculous, “you are exactly the son he needs. He would have no other. Tell me you truly do not think this!”
He draws up his knees, and drops his chin to rest upon them. He is curled up tight against the world and one hand fiddles with his tunic, twisting it in his fingers back and forth as he speaks.
“It is nice of you to deny it, Elrohir, but as hard as I try to be myself, to be the one you loved before, I am doomed to fail—I always fail.”
He has told me in a moment of openness, how challenging it is to be him and how hard he fights to be the person he used to be. I have to wonder if he should fight less for that because he is right. He will never achieve it.
I grasp that hand, that sign of his anxiety—the hand that twists and turns—and hold it still. I thread my fingers through his in a grip that will not be broken.
“The Legolas who entranced me fought with a dwarf in the midst of a place full of those who judged him. He was not cowed. He stood up to the great Glorfindel to defend his family. So much fire and strength, that fire and strength is still there.
“The Legolas I met upon the plains of Rohan followed my brother to the sea even though he thought it meant his death, he did not falter. Full of loyalty and steadfastness was he. That loyalty, that steadfastness is still there.
“The Legolas I saw upon the Pelennor fought bravely though he had recently been struck down to his knees by the sea-longing. He would not leave the battlefield, he refused to give in. That stubbornness, that courage, is still there. There is nothing false about you, Legolas. Yes, you have changed but so have I. We all change, but the Legolas I love is still the same. Your light that entrances me is still the same. You do not fail.
“Allow yourself to be who you are meant to be now. That is who I love. I think Maewen would say the same. Perhaps you should ask her.”
“I cannot ask her.” His voice is little more than a whisper. “I am afraid she will agree. I am afraid she will say, yes, I am no longer the Legolas she loved.”
“I tell you she will not.”
He is silent yet he clings to my hand with a death grip. If he will not fight for himself then I must fight for him. He needs to do this, to clear these worries from his head, to stop trying to be someone he can no longer be for our sakes and rejoice instead in who it is he is now.
“I do not think Maewen is the same girl you fell in love with either, but do you love her any less?” He does not have to answer that for me to know he does, he does deeply.
“I have never done this before, Legolas but I feel I must, for you need to speak with her about this. You need to give her the chance to answer you herself. I do not interfere between the two of you, it is not my place but this time I will. I give you two weeks—two weeks when you return to speak to her, then I will write to her and tell her myself this is what floats its way through your brain. Know that I will write regardless, no matter what you tell me you have done. Either she hears it from you or she will hear it from me. I understand you fear her answer but you need not.”
I hold my breath. This could go very badly. He resents any attempts Maewen and I make to work together to keep him safe.
“That is not fair,” he says in the end. “ I would never write to Maewen telling her what goes on in your head.”
And I cannot help but laugh.
“Why would you! I am not involved with Maewen. I am not in love with her. A bad example, Legolas. Try harder!”
And despite himself he chuckles too. But then he lifts head to stare at me and his eyes flash with a challenge. That fiery spirit dances within him. How can he say he is not what he was?
“Then I will write to Elladan,” he says his chin stuck out determinedly. He looks so like his small son then—that stubborn, wilful child. “I will write to Elladan and tell him of your healing talent. The talent I know you have. I will tell him Olorin’s thoughts on it. I will tell him to ensure you get training, if you do not tell him yourself.”
And I laugh louder.
“Too late, Legolas! He already knows. Your boy told him!”
The surprise that splits his face is so amusing.
“Your boy who loves you has already done your dirty work for you.” I am triumphant. It is not often I best Legolas.
“My boy . . .” He is astonished but then he drops his head. “He is so courageous, never bowed, and I fail him also. He is the worst of it.”
“You will never fail him, Legolas. You fight so hard because of him and he knows that. But you need to speak with him about Arda, about the accident, about why you are the way you are. He has questions and he will not give up. He will search until he gets his answers. He should hear them from you.”
“So many people you want me to speak to, Elrohir. Where will I find the time? I suppose you will write Estel a letter too if I do not get around to it?”
Sometimes he can be so childish; and I know that is nothing new.
“Of course not! It is your story to tell, yours and Maewen’s and I have told him so already. I will not tell him my part in it until you are done.”
“Sometimes I think I will never be done, Elrohir.” There is dejection in his voice. “This fight will never be over.”
“I think you are fighting the wrong fight.”
“You would have me give up?” He cries in horror. “You would have me not try at all?”
“Not give up, never that. But do not fight to be someone you were in the past. Someone you will not recapture. Let him go . . . That Legolas. Trust me when I say he is not that far away anyway. Fight to be the best you can be now; this new you. Fight for that Legolas. And you need reinforcements. Aragorn could not win the war against Sauron without us at his back. Let us in, Maewen and I, the others. Let Laerion take the burden of paperwork you cannot do. It will give you time with your boy and put your energy into writing longer letters to me so you continue your improvement with the written word. When you wake up to find your mind jumbled and chaotic tell me so I can help you; tell Maewen!”
“The thing is, Elrohir. When I wake up to a day like that I cannot find the words to tell you.”
“Then tell me that! And I will know. Then on a better day when the words return you can explain the details.”
“You do not miss the Legolas I was?” He asks quietly.
“I love the Legolas you are,” I say. “We all do.”
We sit then, he and I, against the wall, amongst the leaves. It is the perfect place for us. He can gain sustinence from the greenery he loves. I can feel the thrum of the stone, with it’s reassuring cool against my back.
We are different and yet the same, he and I. A world apart and yet bound together. He understands me like no other . . . Even my brother in some things, yet he is an enigma also. A strange silvan beauty. Just as he was when he arrived in Imladris.
But he is also stronger, more open, wiser. He sees only his damage but he is in fact a better version of himself.
And for the first time I realise; knowing him, being with him, loving him,
makes me a better version of myself too.