Arwen hurried downstairs to where she had left Faramir the night before. He and Éowyn sat together by the window watching the dawn. It was obvious neither had slept all night.
She wasted no time in soft words or greetings. “Éowyn, Faramir, I need you to come with me. We’re making a terrible mistake, I must go to Aragorn at once.”
Hope flared in their faces. “You mean -.” began Faramir.
He face saddened. “No. Not that. I’m sorry, I should have thought. Come with me, I’ll explain when we meet Aragorn and Gimli.”
She led them through the streets of Minas Tirith. They were followed at a discreet distance by two guards. It was very early and only a few people were about. They stared and hurriedly bowed as they watched their Queen pass by. Behind her, Faramir and Éowyn were exchanging mystified looks. Overhead the sky was a clear blue, and the day was already warm. It was a beautiful morning.
The guards on duty saluted as they passed through the walls. At length they came again to Rath Dinen. At the end of the street was the House of the Kings. The door stood open. Arwen ascended the steps, then for the first time faltered. “Aragorn. Gimli.” She spoke quietly, but they both turned at her voice.
“What is it? Is anything wrong?”
“Nothing else. But I’ve realised there’s something I have to tell you, so you understand.”
Now all four looked mystified, but they followed Arwen back onto the steps where they sat down. Gimli cast a look over his shoulder at the still figure within. Aragorn could not suppress a sigh of relief after standing during the long night’s vigil.
Swiftly she told them of the incident deep under Lasgalen, so long ago. “I don’t think he talked to anyone about it, ever. You all know how stubborn he can be - could be” she corrected herself.
Aragorn picked at a loose thread on his tunic. “I see. It explains a lot. I knew he was uneasy when we travelled through Moria, but none of us was comfortable. Except Gimli. But he never said what was wrong.”
“He thought that his fear was a weakness. He would never admit to it.” Beside her, Gimli had listened in silence. She could feel a barely suppressed anger in him, which suddenly erupted into words.
“Why did he never say anything? All the way through Moria I tormented him about the mines. I teased him about cave-ins! And yesterday I laughed with you about our visit to Aglarond. Why did he never say anything? Blasted Elf!”
As his anger and grief ran out the last two words caught up with him. He stopped, horror struck, and tried to take them back. “Arwen - Aragorn - I’m sorry. I didn’t mean -.”
Arwen caught his hand. “It’s all right. We know what you mean.” From somewhere she found a small smile. “It’s what you always called him when he won an argument or you were exasperated with him.”
Now she addressed herself to the other three as well. “I didn’t say anything before, because it was not my secret, not my business to talk of his fears. But now - Aragorn, I know you mean to honour him. But the Tombs of the Kings are not the place for him. He - he would not want to be entombed in cold stone.” She stopped, exhausted by the vehemence of her words. She saw Aragorn, Gimli, Faramir and Éowyn all nodding in agreement as they pondered what she said.
“Yes. You are right, of course. I should have thought. But what do we do instead?”
Arwen paused then, shooting an apologetic look at Faramir. As she continued, Aragorn understood her hesitance.
“I think we should give him to the flames. Let the fire and smoke carry his spirit to the four winds. He was always a wanderer. Let him wander now.” She finally ran out of words, and stopped.
Faramir had tensed at this reminder of his father’s death and his own near immolation, but as he considered what she said he found it made more and more sense. Aragorn and Gimli, too, initially reluctant - it was how they disposed of orc carrion - found themselves approving. It was fitting. There was no shame in it, and it was truly a better tribute for Legolas than a dark tomb, or even the cold earth.
There was silence for a moment. All five were tired after the long sleepless night, and grief and strain were etched on their faces, even Éowyn, who perhaps knew him less well than the others. Then Faramir rose to his feet and pulled Éowyn to hers. “Aragorn, go home. Talk to your son. The guards can take the vigil, and I can do all that is necessary. I will see you later. Go.”
Gimli spoke his agreement. “Aragorn? He’s right. There’s nothing more we can do for now. And if the rites are to be officially observed, you need to be more formally dressed.”
Aragorn looked down at himself. His tunic was frayed at the edge, and his leggings had a muddy grass stain on one knee from when he had been playing with Ithilia. He sighed. “You’re right, Gimli. This has to be done properly. And I need to see Eldarion.”
When they returned to their tower the household was waking. Aragorn went to find Eldarion. His son was awake, listlessly staring out of the window and kicking the stone wall. He did not turn as his father approached and stood behind him. The window faced west over the city. Roofs, walls and towers fell away before them, down towards the Anduin. In the distance the first peaks of the Ered Nimrais shone in the early sun.
Eventually Eldarion spoke, his voice barely a whisper. “I’m sorry, father. I shouldn’t have gone up to the tower. I stayed too long, and the wind blew the door shut. I tried, but I couldn’t open it. It’s all my fault!”
Aragorn closed his eyes at the naked anguish in his son’s voice, and rubbed the boy’s back, soothing him the way he had done when Eldarion was very small. “No. It’s not. I said you could go, does that make it my fault?”
Startled, Eldarion turned to face him for the first time. “No. Of course not.”
“And instead of coming down immediately, Legolas stayed on the roof, to feel the rain and the wind. Is it his fault?”
“So what makes it your fault? It’s not, you know. There’s nothing anyone could have done.”
“That’s exactly what mother said.”
“And did you believe her?”
Eldarion shook his head. “No. Not really.”
Aragorn continued stroking his son’s back, holding him close. “And now? Do you believe me?”
Eldarion paused. “I’m - not sure.”
*At least he didn’t say no.* Aragorn thought. “Think about what I’ve said. And believe it. It’s true.” He moved away then, deciding not to pressure Eldarion any more at this time. “I’m going to see your mother and Gimli. We’ll be leaving for Rath Dinen soon, but I’ll see you before we leave.”
“Can’t I come?”
“No. NO” he repeated, as Eldarion looked at him rebelliously. “You’re too young. I’ll see you later. And don’t worry.” He left then, heavy hearted, afraid of the effect all this would have on his son.
When he returned to the main rooms downstairs, Faramir had come back. They ran over the details of the morning’s ceremony together, then Aragorn called Arwen and Gimli over. “I’ve arranged an escort to go with Faramir to Ithilien, and to Mirkwood with you, Gimli. Are there any other messengers to send? Anyone else who should be informed?”
“My brothers in Imladris. They’ve known Legolas since we were children. They will be greatly saddened by this news.”
Aragorn nodded. “Very well. Gimli?”
“Sam, Merry and Pippin. And there is a lady in Lothlorien. Alyssia. Legolas spent a great deal of time with her when we went to Lorien some years ago. And I know he has been back several times since then.”
Arwen looked amazed. “Alyssia? I had no idea! I knew her well when I lived in Lorien, but I didn’t know Legolas had seen her again.” She gave a sad smile. “I remember Elrohir was jealous, though.”
Aragorn dug in his mind for a clue to the name. It seemed somehow familiar, but he could not bring a face into view. He was saddened. It seemed there were several things he had never known about his friend, but in a lifetime of thousands of years he supposed he could never know everything there was. Now he never would. *Alyssia. I wish I could have known her.*
A door at the far end of the room opened, and Eldarion came towards them with a purposeful expression. “Mother? Father? I want to be there this morning when - when you bury him.”
Aragorn and Arwen exchanged worried glances. “No, Eldarion. I explained. And it is not to be a burial. There will be a funeral pyre instead.”
He looked at them speechlessly. “Burning? But why?”
“Legolas hated being enclosed, or underground. We think this is what he would want. But Eldarion, you cannot be there. You are too young, I think you would be too upset. Your father is right, you cannot come.”
There was a soft cough behind them “My Lord, my Lady - if I might talk to you - .”
It was Faramir, being formal. That meant they wouldn’t like what he was about to say. Aragorn gave a sigh of resignation. “Eldarion, see if Ithilia is awake yet. Bring her down if she’s ready.” Eldarion, with a dark look at his parents - he knew when he was being got rid of - turned and left with Gimli. “What is it, Faramir?”
“Aragorn, I was only five years old when my mother Finduilas died. I was not permitted to attend her funeral - they said I was too young. I never quite forgave my father for that, for not allowing me to say goodbye. I think you should allow Eldarion to come. In the circumstances, I think he needs to. He loved Legolas. He will bitterly resent it if he is prevented from going.”
Aragorn sank into a chair, his head in his hands. “Perhaps. Arwen, how can I be so wrong? I thought I knew Legolas, knew my son. Yet it takes others to point out what is best for both of them. All that I do goes amiss!”
Arwen sat on the arm of the chair and leaned against him. “Not wrong. Just overwhelmed. Trying to think of too many things at once. The vigil was your idea. Gimli was proud to do it. I think it helped both of you to sort out your thoughts and feelings.”
Aragorn gave a short laugh. “Yes. I was remembering the first time we met. We had some wild adventures!”
“Adventures, father? Can you tell me about them one day?”
Aragorn twisted round. Eldarion stood there, having returned silently. He had his mother’s gift of approaching noiselessly and startling him. “Yes. But not now. You’d better go and get ready if you’re coming with us.”
“I can come? You mean it? Thank you!” He turned and ran out of the room.
Arwen looked down at Aragorn, still slumped in the chair, still in the clothes he had been wearing the day before. “You’d better go and get ready too. If you’re coming with us,” she told him gently.