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Answering the Call: 4. Legolas
Taking up his watch, Legolas stepped out onto the rock that allowed him to see all the land about their camp. While he maintained vigilance of his surroundings, after a time, his mind meandered back to a thought that had been niggling at him throughout the day. Something had begun to surface before he was interrupted by duties to the Fellowship. Where had his thoughts been?
Oh, yes. Lórien. And Imladris. And Mirkwood. Mirkwood was the only realm of Elves so beset by darkness. How was it Elrond and Celeborn and Galadriel were able to protect their realms so effortlessly? He did not understand. His father was a powerful elf. What could he lack?
Ah, that was where his thoughts had been headed. Perhaps the lords of Imladris and Lothlórien were aided somehow. Could it be a special aspect of the land that enabled them to repel Orcs or shielded their land from the creatures? Was the land more powerful than that of the Greenwood?
No, Legolas knew it was far more likely that their aid came to them from another source: the Elven Rings. All were powerful enough to wield a Ring and not be controlled by It. He'd always been certain Mithrandir held one. Another he had surmised was in Elrond's possession. Of the third he had been less sure.
All that he had seen and felt while in Lothlórien now made sense, as parts of a puzzle he had only begun to try to solve suddenly fell into place. He was sure now how it was these elves maintained peace in their realms. They wore Rings of Power.
A flare of anger swept through him. How dare they? How dare they wear a Ring of Power, protecting their realms and their people from harm, while watching the elves of Mirkwood fight for their survival? All these centuries of struggle, so many lost lives. Why had not King Thranduil been given a Ring of Power? Surely he had a greater need for one than the others did. They had been stalked and killed by Orcs and deadly spiders for hundreds of years. And yet it did not have to be so!
A thought flitted across his mind then. Still taking shape, the nascent thought held an idea, a vision of possibility, for his land, for his people. And it held desire.
As Legolas stood on watch at the shores of the Anduin, his mind drifted to his homeland. Gradually, the vision in his mind changed. He saw his forest free of spiders, Orcs, and wargs. He saw his land flourishing and his palace shining as the jewel of the Wood. The trees no longer chanted a sorrowful song. Elves walked freely without fear; they were safe and at peace. They held feasts, where his friends and family were always by his side. The elves showed their gratitude towards Legolas for bringing this peace to the Greenwood by planting trees, bringing him gifts of metalwork and even jewels bought from the dwarves. His people pledged their loyalty to him, as did Elves of other realms. In return, he kept them all safe. He kept them all free. He kept them all.
Legolas was jolted from his reverie by those last thoughts, once again seeing the waters of the Anduin flowing past them as it made its way south. From where had such thoughts come? He held no desire to control the elves of Mirkwood or have the fealty of all Elves. He certainly had no desire for Dwarven jewels and trinkets. All that he desired was that Mirkwood be free. He would do anything to attain that. Anything. Perhaps taking control was necessary. At least then he could be sure they were all safe. No one would have to die.
As he toiled on the journey towards Mordor, his people might even now be falling to the pressing darkness of Dol Guldur. With the One Ring, he could make his land safe. Of course, he did not need the Ring; he did not desire It. But he could bring to his father the tool to free their land and recompense their years of battle. Bringing home the Ring would enable them to free their people. It was the most fitting course of action.
He was wrenched from his musings once more, this time seeing before him the hobbit Frodo looking back at him with fear-filled eyes. At first confused, horror gradually stole over him as he slowly realized what he was doing. Frodo's terror was for him - and his hands that were wrapped around Frodo's neck and the Ring. As his face slowly turned red then blue, Legolas suddenly felt a sharp pain to his head, and then he ceased to think of anything at all.
When he once again regained his senses, he found himself lying on the ground, looking up at Aragorn. Puzzled, he tried to rise, but Aragorn stopped him with a strong hand on his chest. "What happened?" the elf asked warily.
"What do you remember?" Aragorn replied somewhat sternly.
Legolas frowned in confusion. Aragorn looked at him with anxiety and anger, emotions he had not seen in his friend's eyes, not toward him. There was fear there, too, and perhaps a hint of disappointment. Wondering what he could have done to cause Aragorn's reaction, he became tense and felt a shiver of his own fear in response. He thought back... he was looking for something. He needed something - something for his father? It was important... it was precious. Suddenly his idle musings and what they propelled him to do came rushing back to him and he looked at Aragorn with a gasp. He swallowed before asking in no more than a whisper, "What have I done?"
"What do you remember?" Aragorn repeated firmly.
Legolas looked away in shame, afraid that his memories were all too accurate. He swallowed forcibly again, and murmured, "I tried to take It." Unable to confront the eyes of his friend, he shielded his face with an arm. "Did I hurt him?" he said more loudly, more anxious to know of Frodo's well-being than to discover whatever desire had previously gripped him. Hearing nothing, he turned back to face Aragorn.
Aragorn nodded slowly, confirming the elf's fears. Again Legolas tried to rise. "I must see him."
"No," Aragorn said, his unyielding hand holding him in place.
"Is he...?" Legolas could not finish the question for fear of the answer.
"I do not know yet. Boromir and Gimli are sitting with him. We will have to wait."
Legolas began panting, as full awareness of his actions came over him. "Like a snake It crept upon me, Aragorn, perfectly camouflaged in Its surroundings. I never saw that It had sunk Its teeth into me, until..." He faded off his defense, knowing it was useless.
Overwhelmed with his horror and shame, Legolas tried to scurry back towards the woods. Aragorn grabbed him from behind and wrapped his arms around him to keep him from fleeing. "I must get away, Aragorn!" the elf cried out desperately. "I must get away from the voice..."
"No! You cannot run from It! Peace, Legolas! Be still!"
"No! Let me go! I cannot stay-"
Aragorn held him more securely and waited for his surrender. "You can run all the way to Mirkwood, but you will not be free of It," Aragorn said quietly. "You must master your desire. You must learn what weakness the Ring found and fortify against It."
Legolas struggled now with no intent of escape. When he finally sagged in defeat against Aragorn, the Ranger continued. "The Ring speaks to all of us, Legolas. Now, tell me. What did It say to you?"
Legolas squeezed his eyes tightly against the memory of the alluring words. He pulled away from Aragorn, but the man held him tighter, prompting him again to answer. "That... that it ought not to be," he whispered reluctantly. "It ought not to be that my father was never given a Ring to succor our lands. While so many of our people die to protect them, the Elves of Lothlórien and Imladris enjoy their freedom. If my father held a Ring of Power, our people would not have to die."
Aragorn was silent for a moment. Legolas was unaware of the indignation that crept into his voice as he returned to the seductive thoughts the Ring had aroused in him, revealing to Aragorn how the Ring had slipped under Legolas's defenses. "What did the Ring show you? Did It show you a peaceful Mirkwood? A picture of serenity in the Greenwood? What did you see?"
Quietly, in small bursts of words he forced from his mouth, Legolas described his vision. "I saw my father, victorious against the Orcs and spiders. I was - he... we had peace. All was good."
"I hear the words you do not say. You do not see, Legolas, that by the time you had reached Mirkwood with the Ring in your possession, you would have decided that you were more suited to wield It than your father was. Indeed, you would have sought to rule Mirkwood and perhaps beyond.
"And what would become of Mirkwood, if you brought the Ring to your father? Do you not think Sauron would pursue It? Once he learned where It resided, he would descend upon Mirkwood with a force she has yet to face. You might see your father standing among you victorious, but though he might vanquish Sauron, he would stand amidst the bodies of your people, for all would perish. And your father would stand among you, his face filled with love - as he gazed upon his Ring. For he would no longer be the father you knew. No one can wield a Ring and be unchanged by It.
"Hear me now, Legolas. What the voice of the Ring failed to remind you of was the price for the freedom that the Elves of Lothlórien and Rivendell now enjoy. What do you think will become of those lands once we complete our journey and the Ring is destroyed?"
Legolas looked up, his gaze wandering to the forest around them, contemplating that question for the first time. What did it matter what happened to their lands? He would save Mirkwood and not concern himself with them.
Aragorn's words interrupted his wandering thoughts. "How have the Elves of Mirkwood managed to survive thus far against the darkness from the South?"
He needed no time to consider his answer. "By fighting day after day! And dying each day. That is how we have survived!"
"Yes!" Aragorn interrupted. "Fighting each day, with your own strength. Now I ask again. What will happen to the lands of Imladris and Lothlórien when we succeed in our Quest?" Legolas looked at him questioningly. "They will no longer have the Rings of Power to safeguard them. The outer world will encroach upon them. The lands will not remain as they are. They will fade, Legolas, and many of the Elves will sail. Even if we succeed, Lothlórien will no longer be the tranquil sanctuary it now is, and Imladris will become as any other wood in the forest, because their strength will be destroyed with the One Ring.
"Now, what do you suppose will be the fate of Mirkwood when the Ring is destroyed?"
As he pondered the question, a new sense of determination came over Legolas. Their hard-won strength would still be theirs. "We will be free of the darkness of Dol Guldur. Mirkwood will flourish and earn its true name, Greenwood the Great, once more." He hoped that when Aragorn looked upon him now, he saw once again his friend.
"Precisely. Mirkwood will survive, and your people will continue, with nothing but your own strength to aid you. And that will be your salvation." He looked more closely at Legolas and released some of his hold on him. "It found the only crack in your armor, Legolas: your love of your people. Remember who you are and It cannot seduce you again." Aragorn tested the elf by easing his hold on him once more. Legolas only sagged further as if in exhaustion.
"What must I do now? I cannot remain. I threaten Frodo with my very presence."
"You must remain. We need you, your bow, and your strength. Furthermore, to release you does not assure anyone's safety, not even yours. And I would rather I knew where you were and how you fared in the near future."
Legolas's heart grieved the loss of his friend's trust. "If you wish it, I shall stay. The rest of the Company, however, may not stand with you."
"I would say that is a matter for Frodo to decide."
Legolas's eyes widened and he quickly looked back to Aragorn. "I cannot -" he closed his eyes. "I cannot ask his forgiveness."
"But it is his to give, if he wishes," Aragorn said.
"And if he will not?"
"Then we will both accept his decision and alter our plans accordingly. But I would hear Frodo's word on this first, so let us see how he fares."
Legolas allowed himself to be pulled to his feet. With shame and fear, he approached the Company. An echo of the Ring's palaver made him shiver as he pushed the memory away. He had truly believed he would have been taking the Ring to save his people. Instead, he would have brought ruin to Mirkwood. Through his weakness, Sauron would have spread Darkness over all of Middle-earth.
Frodo might forgive him as Aragorn believed, and perhaps in time so would the rest of the Company, but his own forgiveness would be much harder to earn.
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