13. Chapter Thirteen
should each one be, but never over-wise.
His destiny let know
no man beforehand;
his mind will be freest from care.
How different the world seemed, Legolas noted, taking in the world as they rode. The distant mountains stood steeper, the grass grew greener and the trees… Tall and strong they stood, old and filled with the spirit of a fairer and darker Middle-earth.
It was not that the world had suddenly changed. The world changed slowly, not overnight. It was him who was different. It was a strange feeling, as if he had been dreaming his life and had only now woken up.
Or perhaps this was the dream that he had finally wandered into.
Legolas smiled briefly. They were riding towards Isengard and Saruman's evil, yet he could not recall having felt this light of heart since leaving Rivendell.
Gimli leaned against his back for a moment, and Legolas closed his eyes at the contact. Having the dwarf behind him on the horse seemed only natural, but it had certain distractions. A desire to ride the horse into the forest and find a secluded spot arose, but that would surely raise eyebrows.
Not that they did not raise eyebrows already, the dwarf and the elf riding together. There would surely be many of those yet to come as well. And grief and pain and death, but it did not matter today. He was alive. They were going into death, but he was finally alive.
And yet, fear was gripping him.
"You are quiet," Gimli observed.
"You are too, my friend," Legolas replied. "I do not mind the silence. Your presence comforts me, Gimli. I feel that the path before us is swirled by mists and I cannot see ahead."
"Gandalf will guide us," Gimli said confidently.
"On this path he will. But if hope does not fail and Sauron falls, what then of the path? Where will it lead?"
"To the Glittering Caves, my friend. Or have you forgotten our agreement?"
"I know what you are asking," the Dwarf interrupted. "À màtt sìn ok megin, Legolas."
"I do not speak Dwarfish," the Elf pointed out.
"Perhaps you should learn, if you plan for our paths to be as one."
An answer and not yet an answer. Legolas furrowed his brow, wondering. It had seemed so clear in the sunlight, resting on the soft grass, arms and legs intertwined. Gimli was his opposite, yet his mirror. A desire for something more than their kindred offered and a search for something neither could name.
And how was it possible to feel such fear and pain, but at the same time happiness beyond any words elves knew?
The path led into uncertainty, and what was there to guide them?
A thought occurred to him.
"It means to have faith," he said, not really asking. Faith guided in the uncertainty.
"Yes," Gimli replied. "To have faith in yourself and your own power. The path will take us where it wills, be it darkness or light. I fear you will regret binding yourself to a mortal such as I, but you are as stubborn as any elf. When age claims me, remember the words of Gimli the Dwarf."
"I will remember far more than your words," Legolas said softly. "I have bound myself to you, but have you bound yourself to me? You have said nothing."
"I thought elves had keen eyes and were not as blind as trolls in sunlight. Dwarves do not kiss elves merely to establish friendship, Legolas. I bound myself to you long ago."
Legolas suddenly laughed, a rich laughter that caused more than a few to send glances in their direction.
Perhaps they had both found what they were searching for in the most unlikely of places. As all elves he loved the light and trees, but had found beauty in the dark. Dwarves loved the dark underground, but Gimli had found light to be desirable.
"I doubt Saruman is expecting a laughing elf," Gimli said, his voice filled with barely contained merriment.
"Saruman is not expecting Gandalf, I think. Not the Gandalf we have now, fairer and far more dangerous. More and more changed he seems to me as we ride on."
"We have all changed."
"Yes. The world is changing, Gimli. My people is fading and the beauty we created with it."
"Not all beauty fades, Legolas," Gimli said softly, and the elf could feel the warm glance of his friend on him. "It simply is shrouded in lost memories until it is found again. Moria's beauty is not faded for my people still remember it."
"But the age of Men is coming. Men will not remember."
"Perhaps not. Perhaps they will yet in tales and dreams where the echoes can be heard. The past never dies or is forgotten. It merely echoes in the present. You do not see it because to you the past is still a part of you. You live forever. We hear the echoes and the whispers of the dead because one day we will join them."
"Not yet," Legolas whispered fervently, clasping the hand that rested on his hip for a moment. "Not yet, nîn meleth."
Realisation dawned on him. He was feeling more alive because at last he had seen the preciousness of life. Among elves life was always life, never-ending, always there. That had changed. He could not love a mortal and not embrace every precious moment of living.
Gimli said nothing, merely leaned against Legolas's back again as the horse trotted on, following the path into the unknown.
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