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Roots: 9. The Turning of the Earth
"A sîlo dad, giliath! A sîlo am athrad dîn," Hithras murmured and opened Faladhros' eyes to the twilight that showed dim and far through the canopy of Mirkwood.
"A esteo vellon ammen an cho, gliro bennas dîn an Ilúvatar," Legolas finished softly, forcing himself to watch as the other Elf laid Faladhros' torn and bloodied cloak over him, covering the gaping wounds. The two Elves remained with their heads bowed for a moment as the first wave of grief flowed freely through them. Yet another , Legolas thought bitterly. And there may be more to follow!
Hithras raised his eyes then, staring with wordless grief and concern at his prince, and then let his gaze slip to where Aragorn knelt, still hunched protectively over Aradhil. With a sigh, Legolas signed minutely that Hithras should keep watch for a time, and the other gave a slight nod, acknowledging the order as he rose. The prince waited a moment until Hithras had taken up his post; then, bowing once to a fallen comrade, he turned and made determinedly for the Ranger and Warden despite the dread that came to sit upon his chest.
Though he naturally trod lightly, Legolas took care to make some noise this time so as not to startle his mortal friend into a violent and unfortunate reaction. But it seemed he might have spared himself the trouble, for Aragorn seemed not to hear him. Indeed, if he had moved at all since the maker had vanished, even elvish eyes could not discern the shift. Fear and shock radiated from him, to the point that Legolas began to feel vaguely nauseated. But after a few moments' silence, the young prince carefully knelt down beside the Dúnadan.
Leaning forward, he raised a hand and very gently laid it upon his friend's back, mindful of the torn flesh of the other's shoulders. Aragorn flinched violently nonetheless, but rather than striking out, he seemed to retreat still further into himself with a short, soft whimper; Legolas sucked in a sharp breath, beginning to feel truly alarmed. Licking his lips, he risked leaning closer, letting the Ranger feel him against the side of his body as he murmured quietly, "Aragorn, it is over. Come back to us now!" No response, unless it were a quickening of the Ranger's ragged breathing, a speeding of the heart that beat already swiftly beneath Legolas's hand. "Aragorn? Can you hear me? We will tend to you and Aradhil, but you must release him first! It is over, Aragorn. Let go!" Steeling himself, Legolas placed his left hand flat against the other's right cheek and forced him to turn his head towards him.
With a shiver, the Dúnadan's eyelids flew open at that, and Legolas was confronted with eyes like slate, and about as sighted as stone. The Ranger jerked against the prince's restraining arm and hand, and for a moment, Legolas expected the other to strike out of sheer, unthinking terror. But then Aragorn blinked, once, twice, and that look of staring horror seemed to ease somewhat, leaving him gazing rather confusedly at the prince. "Aragorn?" Valar, his skin is like ice!
Isildur's Heir opened his mouth slightly as if to speak, but the words seemed to catch painfully in his throat and after a moment, he simply shook his head. Another shudder rippled through him, and then another as the shivers came now in earnest. Legolas flinched slightly as he sensed the violence of the other's emotions, and Aragorn closed his eyes once more, releasing Aradhil to fold his arms across his chest as if to restrain himself.
Or else for warmth! Quickly, Legolas unclasped his cloak and laid the garment about the other's shoulders, hoping that perhaps that might help as he asked, "What happened, Aragorn?"
"I-I kn-know not..." the Ranger managed in a forced tone, and yet still could not control chattering teeth. "H-he was in m-my mind…."
"The maker," Legolas coaxed. "What said he?"
"I cannot… w-will not s-say!" Aragorn shook his head sharply and hissed ere he turned a fierce look on the Elf. His grey eyes flashed a tarnished silver in the ruddy light as he stared at Legolas almost as if in anger. Then, "Slap me!"
"I… beg your pardon?!" Legolas stiffened, taken aback by that unexpected request.
"D-do it! I cannot… ." The Ranger paused, closed his eyes once more and seemed to try to collect himself. "N-need to f-focus… he is in m-my head s-still and I can... cannot th-think past it…. Help me, L-legolas!"
"What do you mean, he is still in your head?" the prince demanded.
"He is th-there… I hear… hear him still… Nuilandar… l-like Nuilandar!" Aragorn clutched at his temples and hunched over somewhat again, seeming in pain. "Ash anazg durbatash… yashkâtul gûl na at… burzum-ishi krimpatul—"
Legolas slapped him. Hard. Twice. The others, save for Nuilandar, looked up, aghast, but Aragorn did not protest as the prince struck a third and then a fourth time for certainty. Legolas then paused, waiting anxiously. Mithrandir, in the mean time, murmured something to Dorothil, who sat cradling a still quite shocked and shivering Nuilandar in his arms, and then hurried to kneel opposite the Dúnadan, leaning over Aradhil's prone form.
And while the Ranger struggled for control, the wizard gently caught his face in his gnarled hands, thumbs pressing against the other's temples, long fingers buried in the other's dark hair. "There now, no need for that, I hope," the old man murmured. "Easily, my friend. Look at me! Ah, look, and do not fight me! Else, you shall find me quite as bad as the maker, I fear!" That threat elicited something that might have been a short burst of laughter, but the Ranger obeyed, raising his eyes to meet the wizard's.
For a time, the two simply stared at each other, but then Aragorn's eyelids began to flutter, and he gave a soft gasp that was almost a sob as the tension went out of him all at once. Legolas hastily braced the other's weight against his body, and he felt Aragorn reach up to grab his shoulder tightly for support. At length, Mithrandir sighed and released him, though he laid a hand upon the Ranger's shoulder as he shook his head. "Well, my dear boy, you were fortunate indeed. Few are they who can say that they have denied a Nazgûl his intended prey and lived to tell of it with their wits intact!"
"Nazgûl?" Legolas asked sharply. He glanced back over his shoulder at Dorothil, who met his gaze with darkened eyes and nodded solemnly.
"Quite. The White Council has sought for some years now to discover the true nature of the Master of Dol Guldur, but never have we been able to lure him into a revelation. A pity that the price of certainty was so high!" Leaving Aragorn to lean wearily against Legolas, the wizard shifted his attention now to Aradhil, whose pallor and stillness seemed that of death, the rise and fall of his chest barely discernible even to elvish eyes. Laying a hand upon the Elf's brow, Mithrandir frowned and closed his eyes, lashes startlingly dark compared with the snowy locks and beard that framed his face. The silence of the woods seemed terribly loud as all waited for a pronouncement.
Aradhil…. Legolas found his own eyes closing, and after but a moment, he and Aragorn were supporting each other as the prince sought in his mind memories of the Warden. So very many there were, and something very like pain rippled through Thranduil's youngest son, remembering all that Aradhil had been to him. My father you are, in ways that my father is not. How could it come to this, that we could grow so far apart so swiftly? How, if you should die ere I learn the answer? Faladhros's face, bloodlessly pale, hung clearly in Legolas's mind, and the prince shivered slightly, quickly opening his eyes again ere he could picture Aradhil thus.
But that helped little, for Mithrandir remained as he had been, he and Aradhil locked in a silent communion that none could intrude upon, and Legolas sighed softly. Glancing at the Ranger, he noted that the other's head was bowed, and wondered if Aragorn, too, suffered now memories of friends irretrievably lost to the maw of death. And he wondered also that he would have been the one to rush to Aradhil's aid—certainly no one else had. But was it in vain that he put himself before a Nazgûl's fury? For Mithrandir still made no move, and as Legolas' fear began to wax once more, he felt Aragorn shiver again. "Aragorn?"
"Is there aught I may do for you?"
"Nay… nay, nothing," the Ranger replied, and though his voice gave the lie to those words, Legolas only nodded as the Man drew a deeper breath and made himself sit up straight. Glancing round the little glade, Aragorn took in the others, and his jaw clenched as he noted the shrouded body. Turning back to stare down at Aradhil, he added in a low voice, "Only one. We might have fared far worse."
"We still may," Legolas replied grimly, even as Mithrandir stirred at last. Raising his head, the wizard pinned the prince with a pair of darkly glittering eyes, and Legolas, returning that stare, felt his heart quail.
"Will he die?" the Ranger asked, voice oddly soft considering the bluntness of the question.
"'Tis difficult to say," Mithrandir responded, never taking his eyes from Legolas. "Certainly the shock of it would have killed many another, but he clings still to life, though I know not for how long."
"But he may recover?" Aragorn prodded.
"He may," at which announcement, Legolas let go the breath he realized that he had held. The wizard heard it, though, and held up a cautioning hand. "Understand, Prince of Mirkwood, he has been sorely wounded—to the point of death, perhaps. Indeed, he would have died, but that he has the strength that elvish years bring. Alas, that the years bring other things less desirable as well!" With that, the old man drew off his mantel and wrapped the warden in it, lifting the Elf in his arms as if he were but a feather.
"On your feet, all of you! 'Tis past time we left this place! Be so good as to bring my staff, Legolas." In pairs and unsteadily, the patrol obeyed: Dorothil hauled Nuilandar up and flung an arm about his shoulders to guide him; Hithras, grimacing, raised Faladhros's body in his arms, for none would leave a comrade to the mercy of the carrion birds of southern Mirkwood; and Legolas offered Aragorn a hand up, which the Ranger accepted. But beyond that, Isildur's Heir refused any help, handing Legolas back his cloak with a nod ere he followed along after the others. For his part, Legolas stared at the other's back for a long, considerate moment ere he stooped to collect the wizard's staff. As he straightened, he threw his cloak over one shoulder and, with a last glance round at the carnage strewn about the glade, he struck out as well, last in the line as befit a prince's station.
They did not travel far. They could not have even had they wished, for even Elves have their limits. And though some among them had braved Mordor's very heart and seen a Dark Lord revealed in his fury, none had ever borne the full attention of a Nazgûl unveiled. Which was why Dorothil lay sleepless in spite of himself. In spite of torn muscles and flesh, in spite of a bone-deep exhaustion that stemmed less from injury than the strain of bearing up to the unseen eyes of a Ringwraith, in spite of a need for rest such as he had not known since the end of the Second Age—in spite of all these things, he lay in the darkness with his eyes closed and wondered if perhaps mortals slept the easier, unburdened by any responsibility for their dreams. Aragorn could perhaps have told him, but that he knew not how to approach the Ranger with such a question.
'Tis a trivial inquiry, after all. And I think me that for the first time since he came among us, he is not unhappy in his isolation! Dorothil thought. When Mithrandir had decreed a halt for the rest of the night, they had obeyed mutely. Between the two of them, Legolas and Hithras had seen to guard duty, and tended to the merely physical injuries of their companions. For his part, Dorothil had needed no gentle remonstrance from prince or friend to know that it would take more effort on his part to hold in check the pain that shot up his right leg with each step, but there were worse things. He had only to look to his comrades to be reminded of that.
For Nuilandar, ever a dreamer, had been forced from himself by the Ringwraith's cruel dominance, and likely it was only the fact that he had not been its intended victim that had saved him. As it was, his suffering was evident to any Elf, and Dorothil had had to fight himself to touch him, to support him as they had made their way out of that hateful valley. Perhaps had not he, too, been touched by the Nazgûl's deadly spite, he might have done better to control his own reaction to the dissonance that radiated from the other. Fortunately, Mithrandir had managed to pierce that veil of senseless remove and reach him, but it would take time for him to heal fully. For the moment, Nuilandar slept dreamlessly thanks to the wizard's aid, and all of them breathed the easier for that. As for Aradhil…. Dorothil grit his teeth, for the darkness that filled the space where once Aradhil had been was revolting, a violation and a desecration. Other than the wizard, Legolas seemed the only one among them able to bear to sit beside him for long, and Dorothil felt the prince's misery like a knife twisting in his gut.
Thus, although he knew not what Aragorn might be aware of as a Man, Dorothil suspected that, after his encounter with the Nazgûl, the Dúnadan craved escape from his new vulnerability to the quietly roiling emotions of the patrol. The Ranger had withdrawn to the opposite side of the clearing and sat there, alone and aching from the exertions of the night. Even now, as Aragorn lay curled up beneath his cloak and unconscious, Dorothil could feel him as a distinct yet discreet and disturbed presence, as if the Man sought vainly to conceal himself. Too late, son of Númenor. It needs time to efface a Nazgûl's mark, he thought grimly. I hope only that the wraith did not take your measure more thoroughly than you could wish! But surely it had not, for else, why would Aragorn live still? Had the Nazgûl realized the prize within its grasp, it would have struck to kill, not simply to wound. It would have ordered its few remaining werewolves to turn and rend the mortal rather than allow him to escape. It might have spared Aradhil. Dorothil winced. Not that I wish Aragorn any ill, but no being should be broken like that! Since Beren and Lúthien, Men can die but once, after all.
But what, then, would become of Legolas? With an inaudible sigh, Dorothil levered himself onto an elbow and sat up, careful not to disturb Nuilandar beside him. With his thoughts scattered over so wide and morbid a field, it was clear that he would find no peace tonight. Better to spend the hours on such reflections as rose within his mind, however dark, for perhaps then he might be free of them. Glancing round, he noted Legolas lying tucked within the protective embrace of a tree's gnarled roots, one arm cradling his fair head. Mithrandir was no where to be seen, and Dorothil frowned, rising to his feet in some concern…. The slightest of rustles alerted him to another's presence, and then Hithras stepped out from the shadows behind the tree where lay the prince. The other Elf's gaze flicked up and down Dorothil's person as Dorothil crept quietly to his side.
"You should rest," Hithras murmured, his tone mildly disapproving.
"So should you," Dorothil retorted. "Where is Mithrandir?"
"Who can say? He woke me some while ago and told me to stand watch until he returned," the other shrugged slightly. Whither Hithras thought the wizard had gone, he did not say, and Dorothil was not surprised. Even were he not a close-mouthed sort of person, Hithras was an Elf, and an Elf knew better than to say overmuch of a wizard's affairs.
Frowning thoughtfully, Dorothil leaned his back against the tree and stared out into the night. Soon, dawn would come and perhaps with it a measure of safety. Or perhaps not.For who would have guessed a Nazgûl would come hunting us, by day or by night? What are we to it? Of course, it had known something of them—they had felt that for days. And when at last it had revealed itself, it had been quick to strike, to find among them those who remembered it and its brethren and immobilize them. Mayhap even had Aragorn been slain, Aradhil would still have been maimed, Dorothil thought, turning the attack over in his mind once more. Noldorin blood was distinctive in its way, even as was Númenorean, and although Aradhil might be a lesser son of his people, still, he was more of a threat than Dorothil or even Legolas. He who speaks the name of Eru, after all, is not Sindarin! The rest of us…. Had not Aragorn intervened, mayhap he would have been overlooked entirely. That, however, rang false, and Dorothil pursed his lips thoughtfully. He was merely less of a threat than the rest of us, I suppose, but his turn would have come. Had not Mithrandir intervened when he had….
"Do your dreams trouble you?"
The abrupt question interrupted his grim speculation, and Dorothil shot a glance at Hithras, somewhat surprised that he should ask. The other Elf's eyes were hooded as he watched the darkness, and there was no expression on his face. But clearly, something troubled him, for Hithras was not one to pry in such matters. "Did I dare to dream, I fear that they would. What of yourself?" With a soft grunt, Hithras nodded. "Have you slept?"
"For a time."
"What dreamt you?"
For several heartbeats, Hithras said naught and Dorothil began to think that the other would keep his secret. Finally, though, "The siege." He glanced meaningfully at his friend, and Dorothil nodded slowly. "I could not move… not though it cost me my life. Or the life of a friend. Nor even to save my lord," that last admission came out in a rush, and as Hithras glanced down at the sleeping prince, Dorothil sensed more than saw the anguished doubt in his eyes. Mordor held painful, nearly paralyzing memories for both of them, and it seemed that the touch of the Nazgûl's mind had drawn them all to the surface, finding the worst of them and using them to assail the Elves afresh.
"I wonder… I wonder if that is why he was spared," Dorothil murmured, gazing down at Legolas intently as sudden insight struck.
"What mean you?"
"That he has no such memories," said he. "We who have seen too many tragedies are more vulnerable. We are," Dorothil said, lips twisting in a bitterly ironic smile, "the largest threat to ourselves." Hithras stared at him for several moments, then gave another grunt and tossed his head, brushing irritably at the dark strands of hair that hung forward in his face.
"Mayhap, but that does not account for Aragorn," he said after a few moments' contemplative silence.
"Aragorn is a Man," Dorothil shrugged, letting that pronouncement stand as both explanation and excuse.
"And Men are weak," Hithras retorted, cocking a brow, though his thin smile said otherwise. "And mayhap we do but cast about in circles, seeking the means to explain away the truth: we fade, Dorothil. Our strength has waned over the long centuries, and we have not the memory of the Eldar days to sustain us. No light of Aman to restore us in time of need, nothing to anchor our souls or our wills save Arda herself. And we know well that she is no safe harbor for our kind. Men use her, Sauron—may he be forever damned!—rapes her, and we abandon her. We are not made for this world, my friend; the Nazgûl but forces us to see that. It belongs now to our… inheritors," Hithras finished, jerking his chin at the Ranger.
Dorothil followed his friend's gaze, and for a long time, the two Elves simply stared at Aragorn. What thoughts spun through their minds, neither was willing to tell, but both were grateful, for once, for the concealing shade beneath the trees. All through the darkest part of the night, they waited and watched in silence and heeded little the passing hours. Above them, the glory of the stars was dimmed as the globe of the earth crept towards another dawn, and yet they cared not for that, awaiting the full day that might lighten such memories and words as came to their minds now. Grey was the sky over the trees, and the eastern horizon grew pale as the first rays of the rising sun stretched forth to caress the land.
Beyond our time we linger, as does the night of Mirkwood! Dorothil let his senses drink in the signs of the stirring of day—the lightening of the air, the cautious sounds of the forest's creatures as they stretched within their hollows, the quickening of the pulse of the earth. And when he felt that dawn had settled itself comfortably upon the land, he said softly, "Will you take the western roads when we return, then?"
"If not now, then soon, for in truth, I grow weary, Dorothil," Hithras sighed softly, and a note of pain entered his voice. "Weary, though none see it, perhaps. I could never tire of these trees, but to see them die… to see them dying and know that their fading is but the echo of myself …. I cannot. And… I cannot see Legolas leave. He shall follow Aragorn, I doubt it not, nor that Aragorn will prove a faithful guide, but…."
"'Twill be a wrench," Dorothil admitted, turning his head to gaze steadily at Hithras, who would not meet his eyes. "Will you go with him?"
"I know not, for I know not whither he shall go. Nor when, for mayhap he shall not leave in time for me."
"Hmm…." Dorothil responded, and was grateful that it was Hithras with whom he spoke, for Hithras asked nothing more of him. An isolated finch chirped, seeming quite loud, and all over the glade, bodies stirred. Aragorn came awake quite suddenly, as if jerked from his dreams by that sound. But he calmed quickly when he saw the two Elves standing watchful, offering a wordless nod of good morning. Hithras gravely inclined his head, and Dorothil smiled slightly, glancing up to track the bird's progress. Meanwhile, Legolas sighed softly and blinked, uncurling from his makeshift bed and rising into a stretch.
"My prince," Hithras murmured, and Legolas nodded courteously to the two of them, though he gave them each a long look, wary before the concerted thoughtful gazes of his elders.
"Good morrow," he replied at last, and moved away to tend to his needs. He paused by Nuilandar, who lay still in unblinking slumber, glanced sorrowfully at Aradhil, who was simply unconscious, and then continued on his path. And as Aragorn rose to see to the fire, which had begun to gutter pitifully, Hithras glanced at Dorothil.
"I know not when Mithrandir shall return, but best we wake Nuilandar now. He may need some time."
"Hithras," Dorothil quickly extended a hand to touch his elbow ere he passed out of reach, and the other paused. And when the other glanced back, brows raised in silent inquiry, he said simply, "You will be missed."
For a split second, Hithras said naught, absorbing that comment. Then a slight smile graced his lips, and he replied softly, "For a time." And then he turned away, going to kneel besides Nuilandar, while Dorothil turned to face Aragorn's probing regard. The Man could not have failed to overhear that exchange, and his was a darkly thoughtful look. But Dorothil merely gazed back, face readable as stone, and came to prod at the fire as well.
"Slept you well?" he inquired politely.
"Better than some, it would seem," the Ranger replied, eyeing him speculatively. The Elf smiled inscrutably, and after a moment, Aragorn gave a soft snort and surrendered, apparently recognizing that expression. But then his eyes cut quickly to one side, fixing on Aradhil's still form for a telling moment ere he repeated softly, "Aye… better than some."
Mithrandir returned shortly after Hithras at last succeeded in rousing a quite groggy Nuilandar, and if his mood was not improved, neither was it worse, which seemed cause for cautious hope. Or so it seemed to Legolas. The old man drifted into their midst with a bare 'good morrow' for the lot of them and came straight to the prince, who sat quietly by Aradhil, keeping watch. "Has he stirred?" the wizard asked.
"Nay. His breathing is easier, but beyond that naught seems to have changed," Legolas replied in a low tone. Mithrandir grunted at that and touched the warden's brow, face expressionless, as all about the camp, others listened carefully, even as they continued with their tasks. In any other situation, it would have been comical, how very diligently three Elves and a Man could mimic utter unconcern, yet Legolas felt no urge to smile this morning.
"Well," the wizard said, withdrawing his hand after several moments, "it is early to expect any change in any case," he said after a few moments. "If you would, Legolas, go fetch yourself and the warden breakfast. None of us can afford to collapse, for I mean to move more quickly today."
"Of course, Mithrandir," the prince replied, rising smoothly to join the others around the campfire. Dorothil handed him two mugs of broth and rose himself with a third, following the younger Elf back to Aradhil's side.
"Thank you," Mithrandir nodded at him, accepting the offering. "Go on then, leave him to us!"
"As you wish, Herdîr Ithron," Dorothil replied, bowing ere he retreated back to the others.
"Drink, Legolas," the wizard added, setting the example by taking a goodly swallow of his own.
"To his health, then," Legolas replied, smiling faintly when Mithrandir's bristling brows shot up. But he obeyed, retreating for a brief while into his own thoughts. If the wizard intended to press on today, then if they were fortunate, they would come to his father's halls in two days' time for they would not need to go round about in search of aught. Or so I hope! I doubt whether we could pursue anything we found in any case, or else its numbers would need to be few enough for Hithras and I to deal with alone. Of course, now that Mithrandir travels with us, we may have some better luck. And mayhap I shall finally learn some answers to questions that have long troubled me! the prince thought, turning a discreet but considerate eye upon the wizard.
Many days ago, now, when Aragorn had so unexpectedly walked out of the woods to hail his unseen watchers in their native tongue, he had reminded Legolas of the wizard's request some years ago. And although the Ranger had refused to say aught of his errand, lest he inadvertently disclose more than Mithrandir would have preferred, Legolas found his curiosity stirring once more when confronted with the source of the mystery.
Aragorn would deny that the enemy knows aught of him, and perhaps he is right. But now I have a chance to inquire after the other idea: what is Gollum, that he should concern an ithron and Isildur's Heir? The prince regarded the seamed face of the wizard over the rim of his mug, watching him through the curling tendrils of steam. And when Mithrandir raised his dark eyes, feeling Legolas's gaze, something like a smile seemed to hover in them, though his expression did not change. "If you are finished, my prince, then let us see to your friend." Obediently, Legolas drained his mug and set it aside, then moved to kneel besides Aradhil's head. Gently, he slipped his hands beneath the warden's shoulders and then lifted, shifting him slightly so that he braced Aradhil's back against his chest, and he could steady the other's head with his right hand. Mithrandir, meanwhile, brought the third mug to the warden's lips and carefully poured the liquid into the other's mouth. At least no damage had been done to his throat, for Aradhil swallowed reflexively, and the wizard, encouraged, continued by small sips to force-feed the unconscious Elf while Legolas looked on, doing his best to conceal his fear… and his pain.
I never wanted to see him like this! Legolas had seen too many Elves die before, victims of the evil that haunted Mirkwood, and he had wrought death himself on the field of battle more times than even an Elf could count. From Erebor to the Misty Mountains, he knew well that none were immune to the Shadow of the East. But though he knew that Men and Dwarves sickened, and that poison could fell an Elf, never had he seen anyone reduced to so helpless a state. Weaker than a babe, and more fragile.
Indeed, he felt Aradhil's heart beat frantic and shallow, refusing to find a common rhythm with Legolas's, as was usual when Elves touched closely. There was an emptiness where Aradhil ought to be—a cold, shattered sense of a spirit utterly dissipated, and Legolas, sifting through the ruin, could find nothing. Nothing at all of him. The prince shivered slightly, and felt the heavy silence of his companions. When he glanced over at them, he caught Hithras turning swiftly away. Aragorn was staring sightlessly into the flames, and Nuilandar had his back to him. Only Dorothil dared meet his gaze, and the older Elf's sorrow struck Legolas as a physical thing.
When, after what seemed even to an Elf an eternity, Mithrandir finished and rose to return the mugs to their packs, Legolas remained as he was, holding Aradhil close until at length Hithras came to help settle him in the travois that the two of them had crafted ere they had slept. Yet they did not set out immediately, for they had one other task to accomplish ere the journey began again. Faladhros they laid to rest, there in that clearing, with Mithrandir's blessing upon him and, in a gesture not unfitting for one who would lie far from his fellows, with such brief rites as Aragorn was familiar with: for most Rangers went to their rest in holdless Eriador, with but a token white stone laid upon the plains of the Angle to mark their passing.
"Come now," Mithrandir said at length, rousing them all from somber reflection. "Let us leave him in peace, for he, like we, must travel light now upon our appointed paths. Come! We have far to walk today!" And so, one by one, in single file and silence, the survivors followed the wizard, and the forest swallowed them once again.
A sîlo dad, giliath! A sîlo am athrad dîn-- O shine down, host of stars! O shine upon his way.
A esteo vellon ammen an cho, gliro bennas dîn an Ilúvatar-- O name our friend to him, sing his tale to Ilúvatar.
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