The first time I saw Minas Tirith was at the end of a battle with the sound of the gulls ringing in my ears. The spires of Valinor beckoned and dazzled me so I barely noticed the city of Men right in front of my eyes.
I have been there many times since and I must admit I do not like it much at all. There is too much stone—it is too cold. But it calls to the blood of those I love and so I visit often, not for any affection for the city itself but because of those who live there.
I have been away from home a long time, in Imladris for most of it, and I should go straight home to Ithilien, where Maewen and Erynion watch over my people for me. But at the sight of Minas Tirith I allow myself to be diverted. Just for one night, I tell myself . . . Or perhaps a couple. It has been so long since I spent any time with Aragorn.
And so I turn towards the city with the messengers from Rohan who ride with me. I have left Elrohir and Elladan behind there, with Eomer, soaking up the strangeness of the horsemen and indulging in political discussions. I was bored in the end and wished for more familiar things. Politics—especially Noldor politics, or those of Men—do not enthral me.
And here we are, the city rising up before us, and I am happy. I cannot wait to see my friend.
Daegal meets us at the gates, Aragorn’s captain of the guards. I know him and like him. He is trustworthy and honest and has the respect of his men. He smiles when he sees me.
“Lord Legolas!” He exclaims, “We were not told you were coming. Forgive our unpreparedness!”
“That is because I told no-one.” I laugh, as one of the boys come forward to take my horse from me. “A spur of the moment visit. Will Aragorn turn me away?”
I know he will not. He never would.
“You are always welcome here in Minas Tirith.” Daegal replies, but do I imagine it? Is he slightly more serious than he should be? His words somehow firmer? It is as if he lays down the law and does it loudly. I toss my head to shake the idea away. I must be tired for I imagine things. Since my accident here, despite it being long ago, my mind does play tricks on me occasionally.
“I will escort you to the palace,” Daegal says now. They are so formal these Men, always consumed with protocol, but I thought I had Daegal at least, trained. He knows me better than this.
“I do not need an escort! I will find my way through the streets and take Aragorn by surprise I think.” The idea of arriving unannounced at his study doors makes me chuckle.
“I will escort you regardless.” Why is he being so insistent?
“I do not need it or wish it, Daegal.” I can be imperious myself when I need to and his refusal to listen begins to annoy me. It is unlike him.
“The King would need it and the King would wish it.” He replies undaunted, “and I answer to the King, Lord Legolas. You know that. Do not ask me not to do my job.”
“Aragorn does not give two hoots whether I wander unaccompanied on his streets or not. You know that, Daegal.” I do not want to argue with him in front of his men but this is ridiculous.
“Today he does.”
“He does not even know I am coming!” This is tedious and wastes my time. Briefly I think about making a run for it but something about the way he stands there, arms folded, tells me he would simply send his men after me and that would cause a commotion Aragorn would never let me hear the end of.
“I have business at the Palace anyway, my Lord.” He says as I sigh heavily. “Perhaps we can just pretend we walk that way together?”
“You make me wish I had carried on to Ithilien, Daegal.” He simply raises one eyebrow at my petulance. Why must Aragorn have such a stubborn guard? “It as if you do not trust me. If I promise to stay well clear of the walls will it change things? Believe me I do not want to repeat that experience.”
Daegal was there that day, the day of the accident. I imagine it might haunt him almost as much as it haunts me.
“The walls are not the problem, my lord.” is all he says and I give up. He is immovable.
We walk in silence for a while. He is not a talkative man and I am sulking.
Usually the streets of Minas Tirith are full of noise, crowds of people jostle me but they are friendly. They may not understand me, they may stare at me, but most of them at least like me . . . And those who do not, respect me.
Today there is a strange atmosphere. I cannot put my finger on it. My back prickles with eyes upon it. I am used to being stared at in Minas Tirith but this is somehow different.
It is not until I hear the hiss of dislike behind me I realise it is more than my imagination.
When I spin around to stare down the perpetrator I see nothing unusual, just the crowds, several of whom who stare back at me with open curiosity. Did I mishear that?
Daegal beside me does not turn around to look. He keeps his eyes upon the path ahead but he has heard it too.
“Ignore it?” I ask him in surprise.
“Troublemakers. They do not deserve our attention.”
“You expected this? This is why you insist on accompanying me? I am not usually met with disdain on the streets of Minas Tirith. What goes on here Daegal?”
He walks on in silence for awhile and when he finally answers me it is with a heavy sigh.
“We are having are some problems here.”
“Problems? Problems that mean you feel the Lord of Ithilien is not safe walking through your streets? Please elucidate, Daegal,”
“Lord Aderthron,” He says, as if that makes sense to me, as if that one name explains it all. It does not.
“Lord who?” I have never been able to bother keeping track of the names of all the multitudes of Lords Aragorn is burdened with and Daegal laughs out loud.
“He would hate to hear you say that!” He exclaims, “ . . . That you do not even know him.”
“Fill me in then, since he is obviously someone I should know.”
“Lord Aderthron, His Father was close with Denethor. His family has lost much prestige since the arrival of King Elessar. He has always been an agitator, a complainer., never happy and difficult to manage and personally I find him . . . Distasteful.”
“Distasteful in what way?” It is not like Daegal to be so transparent, to have so strong an opinion.
“Cruel.” He says bluntly. “He treats his staff badly. He speaks to my men rudely. He has no respect for others. I do not like him.”
“And he causes problems now?” Why has Aragorn never told me of this man? Have I met him, I wonder, in one of those interminable meetings he forces upon me?
“He has recently arrived for a visit, energised and vocal. He has . . . Supporters in high places which add weight to his words. He spreads hateful rhetoric which some have taken up . . . Only some, my lord, not all by a long shot. It creates unrest . . . Bad feeling . . . The King struggles to control it at present.”
“Hateful rhetoric . . . And we are at the centre of that are we? Elves?”
“You . . And others . . . But yes.”
It is not the first time I have been on the receiving end of prejudice in Minas Tirith and I am sure it will not be the last.
“Ah well,” I try to reassure him, “I will accept your company then, Daegal, if it makes you feel better, but Aragorn has dealt with worse than this. He is a delft handler of others. You should not worry, and we Elves . . . We are stronger than we appear.” His concern is quite amusing really. A man would struggle to overpower me. Even Aragorn could not if it came to it, and words and stares . . They do not bother me particularly. I will not bring Maewen here until Aragorn has it under better control though, I will not do that. I wonder what this Lord Aderthron will make of the arrival of Elrohir and Elladan when they eventually get here? I wonder what they will make of him?
“How is the Queen?” I ask him then. For Arwen is an elf alone in this city. “Is she safe? Is she happy?”
“The Queen is safe.” He is definite in his confirmation. “I have set an extra guard . . . As for happy . . .” He hesitates then ever so slightly, “It is not for me to say. I mean, I do not know, my Lord.”
Of course he does not know. He is a guard, not a confidante.
“How is Eldarion?” My mind drifts away from troublesome Lords who do not understand us. I have missed Eldarion. Every time I see him he is taller. He is nearly a Man now—he thinks he is one—He is still close to my heart. I know Aragorn has his struggles with him as he grows. They are at loggerheads often, but with me Eldarion is always the same sweet boy. Bigger, taller, older, but still the boy who loves me.
Daegal does not answer me.
“How is Eldarion?” I repeat my question louder. The noise of the street must have meant he has not heard. “I am looking forward to spending some time with him. It has been too long.”
“Eldarion is well.” His reply is curt, short, to the point. He leaves me thinking Eldarion is not his favourite Prince at the moment. I know what that is like. My father’s guards often were not particularly happy with me.
“What has he done?” I ask with a smile.”Why such displeasure? Does he lead Aragorn a merry dance? Does he have his own mind?”
“You could say that.”
He will tell me nothing else. I almost feel sorry for Eldarion whatever his misdemeanour. It is hard growing up a Prince surrounded by high expectations and watching eyes.
I head to my rooms when we reach the Palace. There are no more distrusting glances, no more hateful whispers in the corridors there, just wide smiles or bashful curtsies. It is as it always is. Whatever poison that might be swirling on the streets does not reach in here it seems.
I am eager to see Aragorn, to get to the bottom of these troubles he has . . . And to surprise him, but first a bath I think, is needed to wash off the grime of the road.
My rooms are as I left them. Arwen always keeps them ready for me, she has learnt to expect a woodelf at any moment. She knows me well.
I have been there only a matter of minutes when it happens. Barely enough time to put down my bags and locate a clean shirt from within them. The shattering of the glass makes me jump and the rock skids across the floor, landing at my feet.
I am at the window in seconds, elven reflexes are often useful, but below me the streets are filled with ordinary people going about their ordinary business. I can see no-one suspicious. I have no idea where it came from.
But the truth remains; I have been in my rooms only moments, no-one knew I was coming, and yet a rock has sailed through my window and it cannot have been a mistake.
The sooner I see Aragorn the better.