Valinor, F.A. 225
Legolas rested his forehead against the trunk of the oak tree that stood sentinel at the entrance to the grotto, waiting for his ragged breathing to calm.
At Thranduil’s urging he had agreed to join in with the Midsummer festivities, so he had reluctantly mingled with the crowd in the feasting glade. He had even attempted to exchange pleasantries with Lord Elrond, despite Legolas’ suspicion that he had been invited specifically to assess his condition. But as happened all too often of late, he had been struck by yet another wave of gut-wrenching grief so severe that he had been forced to flee the glade rather than shame himself by shedding tears before all assembled. He had fled, as ever, to the only place that could offer him some degree of solace and arrived blinded with tears, chest heaving with uncontrollable sobs. He had clung to the oak in desperation, letting the ancient tree’s song caress his wounded, withered spirit.
Finally lulled into some semblance of calm, he stooped down and stepped through the narrow opening into the small cave. Repeating an action he had performed many times over the past five years, he ran trembling fingers over the Dwarf runes carved into the slab of granite forming the lid of the tomb that took up most of the space in the grotto.
Here lies Gimli son of Glóin
At Gimli’s request his final resting place was located in the forest where Legolas had made his new home. It had been wrought by Aulë himself in honour of the Dwarf who had left his home and kin so that he could stay with his dear friend until parted by death. Not far from the Wood-Elves dwellings there was a steep, tree-crowned hill. Here the Vala had opened up a chamber in a huge vein of quartz, fashioning a cave that was lined with many multi-faceted crystals whose colour ranged from diamond-clear, through to a rosy pink and finally deep amethyst. Aulë’s masterstroke in the formation of the tomb had been to set undying lamps here and there deep into the glittering stone. The flickering flames reflected off the dazzling crystals, creating ever-changing patterns of light, the beauty of which had reduced Legolas to tears of awe and wonder the first time he had beheld the place.
Not that tears were ever far from Legolas’ eyes these days, but at least here in this jewelled nest he could feel close to his friend once more. He sighed deeply as he ran his hands over the polished granite. Would he remain this way from now on: just a hollow vessel, filled with bitter tears? He could see no hope for his future; there seemed to be no way to assuage this all-consuming anguish. He knew his family and friends were worried about him, but he just couldn’t rouse himself to join in with any of the activities they planned to try to distract him from his sorrow. The truth was, he didn’t want to be distracted, for Legolas felt that would be a betrayal of the great friendship he had shared with the Dwarf.
Listlessly, he traced out the letters of Gimli’s name once more. He supposed he should rejoin the feast before his father sent someone out looking for him.
It was then that his sluggish senses awoke to the warning the sentinel oak was singing to him: someone was watching him. Resisting the urge to spin round and see who dared to intrude on him here, he resolutely remained with his back to the entrance, unwilling to let anyone see his tear-streaked face.
“You miss him greatly, don't you?”
Legolas relaxed slightly as he recognised Elrohir’s voice. He had feared that Elrond might have followed him here and the thought of those soul-piercing eyes cataloguing each symptom was more than he could bear.
“Aye, more than ever.” His throat was so swollen from grief that he could only manage a hoarse whisper. He tensed again as an unwelcome notion occurred to him and clutched at the edges of the tomb, his knuckles whitening. “Did my father ask you to find me?”
“Nay. And before you ask, my father didn’t send me either.” With barely discernable footsteps, Elrohir approached the prince and laid a gentle hand on his shoulder. “Ai, Legolas! When I saw you leave the feast I knew I had to come after you. I hate to see you in such distress. Is there anything I can do to help?”
Legolas drew a shuddering breath. “I thank you for your concern, Elrohir, but I do not think there is anything you can do.” He paused while he impatiently swiped at the tears that were rolling down his cheeks despite his struggle to hold them back. Remaining steadily turned towards the tomb, he strove to master his voice before continuing, but the unforgiving echoes cruelly accentuated each tremor. “If it was another Elf who had been lost, even one as dear to me as my adar or naneth, I would be able to take some consolation from the hope that one day they would be released from the Halls of Waiting and we would be reunited.” A harsh sob escaped him as he choked out, “but Gimli is forever sundered from me and I do not think I can bear it.”
“I know,” Elrohir replied softly. “I was just so when Arwen passed.”
Legolas felt as though he had been punched in the stomach, so great was his shock at his own thoughtlessness. The teary eyes that he abruptly turned towards his friend were full of remorse. “Ai, Elrohir, I am sorry! I do not know what I was thinking. Forgive me!”
Elrohir wrapped an arm around his shoulders and pulled him into a comforting embrace. Resting his cheek against the prince’s golden crown he spoke soothingly. “Nay, Legolas, do not reproach yourself. It is natural for you to forget yourself in your grief. Your words brought me no hurt.” At first Legolas stiffened at Elrohir’s touch, but his gentle sympathy was such that it completely overcame Legolas’ fragile hold on his emotions. In the end he all but collapsed in the Elf-Knight’s arms as his slight frame was wracked with convulsive sobs. He was vaguely aware of Elrohir murmuring calming words, hardly aware of what was said, but finding unexpected ease just by listening to those soothing tones. Outside, the trees were humming their own consoling song, doing their part to bring a measure of peace to their beloved one.
Eventually Legolas regained some control and he pulled back from Elrohir’s arms, giving him an embarrassed smile as he did so. “I am sorry,” he sighed, “you no doubt came here for feasting and merriment and instead find yourself saddled with an overwrought Wood-Elf who weeps like a maiden at the slightest provocation.”
Elrohir shook his head and fishing in the pocket in his tunic, located a clean handkerchief, which he gave to Legolas. “As I said, I was just the same after Arwen’s passing. The least thing would set me off. And at first my bond with Elladan only made matters worse, for as well as having to contend with our own pain, we were constantly being assailed by each other’s as well. In the end we agreed that we would have to block our emotions from each other entirely until we were able to gain more control.” He shuddered at the memory. “I have never felt so alone.”
“So how did you learn to cope? You both seem happier now.”
A pensive light appeared in the silvery depths of Elrohir’s eyes as he pondered his next words. Finally, looking intently into the archer’s own gaze, he spoke slowly as though weighing each word before letting it pass his lips. “Do not mistake me, the sorrow has not lessened and will never pass. I still miss her as much as ever. But -” Here he looked away briefly and cast his eyes around the glimmering cave as though seeking inspiration before locking eyes with the archer once more. Legolas shivered with a sudden thrill at the intensity of that gaze. It seemed to him that the scintillating crystals of the cave were all brought together in those glowing, ardent eyes as the Elf-Knight continued. “But I eventually came to learn that Arwen would not want me to spend my immortal life forever in mourning. And I have gradually come to see that I should not close myself off from joy, but that I can best honour her memory if I live as she did: by embracing life and wholeheartedly loving the family and friends with whom I have been blessed. And I have since found – ” Here Elrohir broke off once more and focussed on his hands which were tightly clasped in front of him.
“Found what?” Legolas urged, wondering what could be causing the normally imperturbable warrior such difficulty.
In a move that was so sudden that it took Legolas completely unawares, Elrohir leaned in, cupped the nape of his neck and pressed a kiss to his lips. It was over almost before it had begun, but there was no mistaking the barely restrained passion behind his touch or the light that flared in the Elf-Knight’s argent eyes as he stepped back and regarded the prince steadily: Elrohir had declared himself most decidedly.
“Elrohir, I –,” started Legolas, although he had no idea what he would say next. His thoughts were in such a turmoil that he found he really had no idea what he was feeling. He raised his fingers to his lips, which seemed to burn in the aftermath of that heated kiss.
Fortunately Elrohir saved him with a shake of his head before he was obliged to say anything else. “Nay, Legolas, I know I startled you. I do not want you to answer me now. You need time to think and sort out your feelings. All I ask is that you consider this and be open to the promptings of your heart.” Finally, taking Legolas’ hand, he squeezed it gently. “Whatever you decide, I will always be there for you.”
With that, he turned and silently walked away without looking back, leaving behind him one very stunned Wood-Elf whose eyes had suddenly been opened to a dizzying vista of new possibilities.
To be continued