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A/N: Thanks again Ellynn for divining my meaning! ((hugs))
Ch. 19 - Still water and Reality
They left Grimbeorn’s holding the next day. Legolas looked around him. Autumn had fully arrived in the Misty Mountains. While Legolas had begun the process of recovering himself in both body and spirit within Grimbeorn’s longhouse, the last vestiges of summer had gone and fall had coloured the needles of the larch trees on either side of the path a rich orange. Intermingled with the evergreen pine and fir trees it made for a rich tapestry of autumnal colour. Legolas breathed in the rich scent on the air and at long last he was able to see these mountains for what they were. Still formidable and to be traveled with care, but the veil of shadows that had enshrouded his heart had been lifted; he felt able to breathe again. Late in the day’s travel Vivelle rode up next to him when space on the trail allowed two to ride abreast. She was quiet, but her quietude bore an expectancy. Legolas sighed and looked at her as the horses kept a walking pace.
“Vivelle, there is no need to worry. I am well.”
Vivelle heard the words, but as Legolas was indeed his father’s son, they were words she expected to hear regardless of their veracity. But as she looked into his eyes, she was able to see the truth in his words. With only the most cursory of brushes with his fëa she could feel that it was brighter somehow that a healing of sorts had begun. She smiled and the concerned look coalesced into one of mischief. “Good, because Erthion is enough of a handful. The two of you—”
“I hear my name being used in vain,” called a voice from behind. “What is that you say?” Erthion’s voice was thick with mock affrontery.
“Nothing, my love. Just commenting on the handful you can be!” Vivelle said brightly as she entered into the playful banter that marked their relationship. Legolas watched the two with something akin to a dispassionate eye and his thoughts traveled to Thiliriel, gone these three centuries. He waited for the pang of melancholy that always accompanied the thought of his betrothed, but curiously, the only emotion he felt was happiness at the memory of her. Legolas pondered this revelation. He thought about Grimbeorn’s wife, Dalaria, and wondered if she had imparted more than just wisdom in their time spent together. Feeling strangely blessed, Legolas smiled to himself as he listened to his friends’ banter.
Navedir rode up behind him shaking his head. “We truly cannot take them anywhere!”
Legolas looked at his old friend smiling. “That we cannot!” He sobered then and cast an eye about his surroundings. “Tell me, Navedir. What do your tracker’s eyes see?”
The dark blond elf surveyed his surroundings as they took the slightly downward slope of the mountains at a walk. “It doesn’t seem right. I would say that Orcs have blighted this area, but I do not sense a recent presence.”
Legolas sighed and said, “I have suspected something similar.” He looked forward to the two elves slightly down the trail. “Erthion! How much further is Imladris from here?”
Erthion paused and looked around for land markers he recalled from previous tours before he was set into Legolas’ close patrols. “I measure about three days given the different terrains we will be seeing on this side of the Mountains.”
“Three days,” Legolas repeated. “Hopefully we will be unhindered along the way.” He looked at the mountainous terrain they traveled through. Dalaria’s words came into his head. “But do not let the mountains bear down on you. Let it flow through you.” He took a deep breath and tried to heed her advice. After some effort he calmed his spirit. It was because of this calmness he felt their presence. In his mind’s eye he saw two bright souls. He opened his eyes and immediately looked forward down the road. Hearing the jingling of tack, he sprinted from the spot to greet the newcomers. Rounding the oncoming turn, two dark haired elves appeared.
“Elladan! Elrohir!” Legolas shouted with joy greeting the twin sons of Elrond. He had forged a bond with these two long ago when the twins were sent on embassies to Thranduil. There were a few times when they had not and only appeared at the edge of the forest and took the youngest prince of Mirkwood on adventures on the rim of the forest or visiting the Woodsmen who lived above the Narrows. It was the closest he came to a sense of freedom, though, ever the dutiful son he never strayed far at all from Mirkwood’s trees. “What brings you here?”
Elladan shared a quizzical look with Elrohir and then said, “We might very well ask the same of you?” he said with a penetrating gaze.
Legolas drew a deep breath. “Come with me, there is much to tell.” He looked up and saw Erthion, Vivelle and Navedir rounding the bend rather quickly in search of their errant friend. Legolas saw the brothers again share a look to see so few attend the youngest Prince and Thranduil nowhere in attendance.
Erthion drew up next to the gathered three. “Sons of Elrond! It is good to see you again!”
Elrohir chimed in, “And you as well!” He spied Vivelle and smiled beguilingly as she rode up to his side. “And you, my lady! It is always a pleasure to see you.” He reached for one of her gloved hands and brought it to his lips.
Vivelle smiled, clearly enjoying the Noldorin elf’s cheeky behaviour. “The pleasure is all mine, my lord Elrohir!”
“All right, all right! Enough charming of my wife!” Erthion said in a humour-filled voice.
“Alas! Life on the road allows few pleasures. I must take them where I find them,” Elrohir stated with mock seriousness. And then added in a mercurial shift worthy of an elf, “Tell us what has brought you here to this lonely portion of trail and in such light numbers.” special emphasis was placed on the word, “numbers?”
Erthion looked Legolas; after all it was his story to tell. Legolas accepted the look and all the responsibility that went with it. He looked at the sky and saw that the sun was already low and heading for its nighttime berth. “Let us make camp and break bread together. There is much to tell, on both sides I suspect.”
They settled in around the campfire and Legolas revealed to the twin sons of Elrond what had become of Gollum and his unknown fate. Legolas did not stint on what he deemed his fault in this whole affair.
Elladan stated with a seriousness that Legolas did not often attribute to the Noldorin elf, “That is grievous news indeed. You are right to come to Imladris to relate what has happened to Adar. This business also informs why we are traveling through the Misty Mountains. Mithrandir came to us a few days ago to tell us what has been set in motion. Glorfindel has been sent west to seek Aragorn and we have been dispatched to Lothlorien. We go to seek an audience with Grandmama and Grandpapa to inform them of the happenings afoot and to seek their counsel in these matters. Adar says that knowledge is most important at this time. He senses that events move towards resolution, one way or another.”
Those words fell with the weight of prophecy upon Legolas’ spirit and a new urgency flared within. “Then we must hasten our pace and inform your Adar of this latest development in Gollum’s tale of ‘mischief’ and misdirection.”
The next morning, as the two parties were preparing for their divergent directions, Elladan took Vivelle aside with purpose. He looked at the Silvan elf with concern. “Legolas…” Elladan paused as if searching for the proper words. “He seems different somehow…”
Vivelle looked at the Noldorin elf who had known Legolas for a very long time. “More serious…More like his Adar?”
Elladan looked at her thoughtfully and then nodded his head.
Vivelle continued, “He has taken this whole situation with Gollum to heart. He feels responsible for it all.”
“But he isn’t. Surely Thranduil talked to him about Maethon and Eithediriel’s deaths, and from what you describe, nobody could have predicted Gollum’s behaviour.”
Vivelle shook her head ruefully. “They didn’t part well. You know how the King is, especially when it comes to Legolas. How protected he has always been. Words were spoken and they’ve not seen each other since. And in any event Legolas has just enough of his Adar’s stubbornness to make talking to him about any of this difficult. He has deemed it all his responsibility and he will not listen to any of us. It has been damaging to his spirit. He needs healing, more than I can provide.” Vivelle paused. “He does seem to be a little more at peace since leaving the bears at the High Pass, though.” She shook her head. “The Beornings have some simple magic about them. We all felt refreshed in both mind and spirit after a stay in their longhouse.”
Elladan knew of the bears and smiled at the truth of her words. “He will find more healing in my Adar’s house,” he spoke reassuringly. “Imladris is good for the soul.”
Vivelle smiled and nodded, though she had some doubts. Imladris was indeed a place of healing. Her doubts lay with Legolas. She did not know if he would open himself to Imladris’ healing given the royal family’s reticence and remembrance. She prayed to the Valar that he would be so.
They parted and the four riders found themselves on the downward side of the mountains. After having spoken with the twins, all felt a new urgency to arrive in Imladris and inform Lord Elrond of the misbegotten affair of Gollum’s escape. Vivelle still harbored a secondary concern, that as a healer she could not ignore – Legolas. She had engaged in gentle questing seeking out Legolas’ fëa. She needed to know that he was well. Normally her touch was light and imperceptible, but she was too close to Legolas. She cared too much and did not reach out as healer, but as worried friend. That had been her mistake.
The second day after they had left the twins, they were camped for the night and Legolas was tending the fire. Vivelle reached out gently seeking when words disturbed her efforts.
“Vivelle, my friend. I need you to stop… please.”
Vivelle opened her eyes and saw the insistent intense blue of Legolas’ eyes looking at her. She coloured immediately and stumbled out an apology for the gentle intrusion. “I’m sorry. My actions are unforgiveable. I should never have tried.”
Legolas left the small fire to sit next to her. “No, they are not unforgiveable. I know they were done out of love, out of concern for me. And I love you for it.” Legolas reached out and smoothed a stray lock of her auburn hair behind her ear. “But please try to understand I must find my way through myself, or it will hold no meaning.” Vivelle opened her mouth to speak, and Legolas moved to clasp her hands and belay the expected protestations. “My dear friend, I know your healer’s heart cannot understand this. You see pain; you try and heal it. It is your calling. But as my friend, I ask you to stop. Can you respect my wishes?”
Vivelle looked away from his searching eyes and stared into the fire instead. She had several things she wanted to say, several arguments she wanted to make, but the first edict of the healer was “Do no harm.” If she followed her calling, she would be doing harm to Legolas, to their friendship, perhaps irrevocably. She could not take that chance. She looked back at Legolas and saw a hopeful look on his face and a certain reticence in his eyes. She sighed. “Yes, I promise that I will not try to read your fëa without receiving your blessing first.” She added with more spirit, “But I am still going to worry about you! You can’t stop me from doing that!”
Legolas smiled, a relieved look inhabiting his eyes. “I would not try. I value my life too much!”
Vivelle thoughts returned to the trail they were on, and she looked at Legolas’ back as he rode in front of her talking with Navedir. He was becoming more like his father every day. She worried that his joy would leave him, and he would be forever changed.
“He will be fine my love,” said a soft voice. Vivelle looked to her side. Erthion was looking at her, a small comforting smile lighting his face.
“Will he, though.”
“Yes. And in any event, he is right. He does have to find his own way, or it won’t be his.”
“I know.” She sighed. “But I wish it wasn’t so!”
“I know, my love. But you can’t heal everyone.”
“Why does everyone keep telling me that?!”
“Because it is true!”
Vivelle gave her husband a feisty look. “Well, I don’t have to like it!”
Legolas heard their bickering and he smiled to himself. He knew that Vivelle was having a hard time accepting that there was something about her dear friend that she could not heal. It was in her soul to help. Her heart and her mind were in conflict. He felt very loved, but also, he felt very grateful that Erthion seemed to understand in a way that Vivelle could not. That he had to find his own way.
A day later they were descending the mountains into a lush and verdant ravine. The air was redolent with the smells of autumn. Leaves turning, pine needles dropping, the air smelled sweet, almost expectant in a way. Legolas breathed in the air of the ravine, and he felt an air of calm that he could not explain. There a faint sound drifting on the air. He could not be sure, but water made a similar sound. The rushing of the rivers that flowed through Mirkwood, but this faint sound had a hint of violence to it. He could not quite place it.
Soon he received the answer to the mystery of sound. They came around a bend in the mountain path and came upon a scene of breathtaking beauty. Water falling from the cliffs high above the ravine crashing down into the flowing river below. Nestled in and among the myriad waterfalls were buildings of white soaring stone. The unexpected beauty of the place quite took Legolas’ breath away. Drawn by unknown forces Legolas spurred Llegrin to go as fast as he dared along the mountain trail. The others quickened their horses to keep pace. As Legolas moved forward upon the trail leading down, a sense of déjà vu began to flow within him. He approached an archway and two elves stood sentinel at the gateway. They were dark haired and dressed in much the same way as Elladan and Elrohir. One stood forward and held up his hand to stay their progress. The four elves slowed to a walk and then a halt.
“Hail! What business do you have here in Imladris?”
Legolas spoke clearly and with dignity, “I am Legolas, the youngest son of Thranduil, King of Mirkwood. I come as an ambassage from my Adar to speak with Lord Elrond with news of great import. Can we be allowed to pass?”
The one who spoke looked them over with an inquiring eye and Legolas realized that they came in no great state, looking little more than itinerant travelers. He had never placed much store in appearance. At home it was unnecessary. Everyone knew who he was and accorded him the courtesy due his rank and birth. Now, perhaps too late, he was realizing the value of appearance. He did not have the small coronet he wore for state occasions nor did he have the broach that signified his place in the royal family. He thought, Does our appearance detract from our message?! Ay Elbereth! I have never understood such things. Moments seemed like hours as he and his companions awaited the dark-haired Elf’s decision.
“You are granted entry. Take this.” He handed Legolas a thin scroll with a green tassel hanging from one end. Legolas received the scroll and inclined his head as he placed his hand over his heart. “Seek out the main hall and give that scroll to Elmiran, he will see to your needs from there.”
Legolas inclined his head again. “Hannon le….” He paused expectant of the elf’s name.
“Diovan! At your service! And this is Cefzil, we serve here together as guard.”
Legolas intoned the formal greeting among Silvan Elves, “Gîl síla erin lû e-govaded vín. Allow me to introduce my honor guard, Erthion.” Erthion inclined his head, giving Legolas the strangest look. “Vivelle.” Vivelle nodded trying desperately hard to not smile. “And Navedir!” Navedir inclined his head giving Erthion a side glance.
Diovan inclined his head, not quite knowing what to make of these woodland elves. He did not have a large experience with them as their king Thranduil tended to be rather insular. Woodland elves tended to stick to themselves.
Legolas and the other three rode onwards to seek the Main Hall and commence to the dispatching their long-travelled errand. When they were far enough away from the guard crossing Erthion rode up along-side Legolas and looked at him with one eyebrow cocked. “Guard of honour?”
“Yes, well. These Imladris elves look down on us. They think we are country bumpkins. And they did not respect Adar when he tried to warn them that the Deceiver had returned to Mirkwood. So, I thought to show them that we are not as they perceive.”
And Erthion saw an expression cross Legolas’ face that could only be described as Thranduil at his most supercilious, but it almost immediately left and Legolas’ earnest and open look returned to inhabit his princely features once more.
Almost as if Legolas had read his mind, he smiled sheepishly and said in an abashed away, “I really sounded like Adar just now, didn’t I?”
Erthion shrugged and shared the smiled. “Just a bit.”
Legolas laughed in a self-conscious way. “Who knew I was listening all these centuries?”
Navedir rode up behind them. “While this self-revelatory introspection is all well and good, I see a bed not covered in leaves and pine needles in my immediate future, so let’s step it up, shall we?”
Legolas laughed and gave a small salute, “Yes, sir! Would not want to keep you from a nice soft mattress.”
“Youngling! After three thousand years on the trail, then you can tell me if you do not desire a soft bed after a long tour!”
“Come, let us ride!” Erthion called, “lest the ‘Old One’ continue to lecture us!”
Residual merriment resided in Legolas’ thoughts as they approached Imladris, but it was quickly subsumed by a feeling of imminent reckoning as he rode under an archway to be overwhelmed by soaring beauty in stone. Looking around at such wonder he dismounted with joy singing in his heart. The moment his booted feet touched the earth of Imladris his vision in still water and reality collided, and his life would be forever changed.
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