Deep the faith and pure the light
That shines inside and guides your people
Oh I do believe
Dust will turn the seed
Dust. C. McDonald.
When Faramir, Prince of Ithilien, Steward of Gondor, died it sent a shiver through the heart of Legolas. When Boromir, Prince of Ithilien, Steward of Gondor, followed his father beyond the circles of the world, having also attained a life-span that showed his Númenórean bloodline, it sent more than a shiver through the heart of the Lord of Eryn Ithil.
For almost a fortnight, after his return from the funeral, Legolas spent much of his time sitting, silently, amongst the topmost branches of his beloved trees in this land he had come to love as much as his forest of birth. In his head he heard the cry of the gulls – ugly, harsh, yet so enticing – the sound of the sea-longing deep in his fëa. How he had wished, through this past century and more, that he had filled his ears with beeswax ‘ere he had neared those accursed ships – that he had never heard the tuneless, heartless, love-call of the West.
But, as always, when the picture of a warrior, made deaf from choice, came to him he knew it was also the picture of a warrior who would not have survived the battle. And, though it would have been a quick way to the West, he knew he regretted nothing of the time spent since, fighting the longing to leave, fearing the time when he would no longer have reason to fight it.
Gimli was spending time in his second home, here in the heart of Eryn Ithil, planted solidly, foursquare, beneath the trees that sheltered Legolas’ own home. Yet not even the knowledge that the dwarf could not reach him here in the high canopy, but had to wait his return to the ground as a bird waiting for crumbs, could tempt Legolas’ down for long. In fact it made his heart ache more.
He had always said that he would stay here, would not sail, whilst Aragorn lived and reigned in Minas Tirith. And now Aragorn was reigning with his third Steward – his own grandson. Princess Gilraen, whose naming ceremony seemed, to the elf, to be hardly more than a season or two past, was widowed; sorrowing for ‘young’ Boromir who had loved her since her cradle days.
It made the idea of Aragorn’s death seem… more real. And Legolas was torn; he did not want to think of life without the man who had become a brother of the heart, nor did he want to leave these trees that he had nurtured. Yet, when Aragorn was gone, Legolas thought he would no longer have to resist the cry of the gulls.
But Gimli? How could he leave Gimli, if he still lived then? The dwarf as close a heart-brother as the man, if not closer. Yet how could he cope if Gimli died before Aragorn? Could he resist the gulls then? Each time the dwarf came to Eryn Ithil, or Legolas visited Gimli in his mine of Aglarond, the elf surreptitiously observed the dwarf for signs of aging. Now it was difficult to avoid them; the dark russet hair glinted with broad veins of silver when the moonlight caught it and, at the recent funeral, Gimli had complained that his knees ached now when he was above ground in the rain.
Even the trees could not bring any ease to the turmoil in Legolas heart and mind. He asked the Valar for their help – but he knew not if they heard the voices of Elves in Middle Earth any more.
When he had spent much of twelve days alone, unwelcoming, he heard the familiar sound of Tindómë approaching. The trees were not her natural habitat, as they were his, but they must think she was right to come as they were helping her, not hindering her, to reach him.
He did not turn as she felt her way carefully towards him. Perhaps she would take the hint and leave…
A hand touched his arm and then she was sitting beside him, her arm around his waist, and her head on his shoulder.
“Atheg,” she said, “I know what is frightening you. Every one who dies hurts us, even if they were not dear to our hearts. Every one reminds us that there will be others. But it isn’t going to make anything any better sitting up here and sulking like an elfling.”
He still did not acknowledge her words. He was not sulking like an elfling.
“You so are,” Tindómë said, even though he had said nothing.
“Anyway,” she continued, “it’s about time that you put your big boy pants on, got yourself down from here, and made the most of the time we still have with some of them – like, you know, Gimli who’s stuck down at ground-level harrumphing and worrying about you.”
“Big boy pants?” he couldn’t resist asking. She probably knew that – she knew him remarkably well, this ‘not-quite-an-elf’ who was a sister of his heart.
“Big boy pants. Stop behaving as if you should still be in diapers.
“I’ve got a coming-of-age celebration to finish organising,” she continued, “and you are both the Lord of Eryn Ithil, and my gwador. Ithilienne and I expect you to be down at ground level, ‘Lording’ for it, and carrying out your duties, and if you stay up here neither of us will ever, ever, speak to you again.”
Aye, thought Legolas, and ‘Lording’ at the coming-of-age party of his heart-sister’s daughter was going to have its own problems… Staying up the trees had its attractions for more reasons than the pull of the sea-longing.
He had come down from the trees and got on with life. The gulls faded into their usual faint echo heard only as he walked the dream-paths. Gimli said nothing – just clapped him on the back and nodded with satisfaction as Legolas played his part at the celebration. And if Rumil had looked at him slightly quizzically, the day after Ithilienne’s coming-of-age, he had said nothing…
As if in answer to his prayers to the Valar, or possibly as reward for coming down from the canopy and playing his part at Ithilienne’s celebration, within a week Legolas found his feet walking a very strange dream path. He was not surprised, when he returned to wakefulness, to find Tindómë seeking him out within the hour.
“We did walk together last night, didn’t we?” she asked with no preamble.
“Yes. If you remember too, then we most surely did,” he answered her as he felt a great weight lift from his heart.
“So, then,” she said, a smile lighting her features, “are you going to ask him on your own, or shall I come with?”
In the end he broached the subject to Gimli alone. The dwarf looked at him with frank disbelief when Legolas told him what both he and Tindómë had seen.
“Don’t be silly, elf; they would never let a ship into the Undying Lands carrying a dwarf!” Gimli declared.
“Well,” Legolas retorted, “not only have they let in ships bearing hobbits, but they could hardly keep out a ship that carried their Key!”
Gimli did not answer straight away but was clearly thinking. “And you both dreamed this?” he finally asked, still sounding suspicious.
“We both found ourselves, together, on an Elven ship,” Legolas confirmed. “We were sailing down the Anduin, we both recognised it, we were not sailing from the Havens and, as we stood together at the bow, you stood with us.”
“Harrumph!” Gimli sounded almost triumphant, “that only tells you that I might still be alive when you go – and I might sail a little way down the river with you. It doesn’t mean I’m going to make the whole journey!”
“Tindómë and I both knew we were sailing to Valinor,” Legolas said, for the second or third time. “We could hear the gulls, see the open sea ahead, feel the breeze behind us, and we knew where we were going. And we both saw you, with your keepsake of the Lady Galadriel held in your hand, as you looked with us towards the West. If you come with us, Elvellon, you would see her again…”
Within days of that conversation Legolas sent a long letter to Círdan the Shipwright. Before the year was out one of the Teleri arrived at Eryn Ithil and, in a quiet corner of the woodland, the elves began to put more wood to season.