19. Chapter Nineteen
Brand burns from brand
until it is burnt out;
fire is from fire quickened.
The trees blossomed green and fair, basking in warm sunlight and cold river water. The wind would sing, brushing the leaves until the trees could hold them no longer. Softly, the wind lifted them and they fell to the ground, no longer green. Red and yellow and brow they coloured the ground until life left them. Only the colour remained, until the snow would cover all and lull life to sleep. Until it woke again, to find that the leaves had become soft earth in which new life could now grow.
Thus passed the years, each season the same and yet not, for new life is different even when it springs from old.
And new life brought change, as it always did.
Middle-earth was not the same but the change was slow. So slow you could almost believe it was the same, as bit by bit greatness vanished. It had to be so, for to vanquish darkness, the light had been sacrificed.
Legolas sat by the quiet fire, staring calmly at the star-filled sky. He was waiting as always; at times it seemed to him his life was nothing but a wait. Waiting for friends to die, for his kindred to leave Middle-earth, for Gimli to step into the warmth of the camp. He had not seen the Dwarf for a while now, and it worried him.
It was their place, this. When no duties beckoned they met here, sometimes just speaking of things that had passed, sometimes speaking no words at all. A strange relationship for an Elf to be in, he reflected, but no stranger than a hobbit deciding the fate of Middle-earth.
He heard the Dwarf long before he saw him and he smiled briefly at the heaving breath.
"Legolas," Gimli said softly, sinking down by the fire. The Dwarf looked haggard, Legolas noted, and he felt a strange stab to his heart.
"I almost did not come," Gimli went on and there was a strange look in his eyes. "I thought of merely leaving and perhaps trusting a message to one of your kindred…"
"About Aragorn? I know," Legolas replied. "I went to Minas Tirith and saw his tomb. You were not there."
"I am dying, Legolas."
Legolas froze and his mind went blank. For a blissful moment he thought he had only heard it in his mind, then he saw Gimli's calm expression.
"No," the Elf whispered forcefully.
"And now you regret your choice, as I knew you would," Gimli said, tossing another log on the campfire. "I am leaving for the mountains to die. Better if you were told later. But my heart is weak as it always has been."
He looked up, eyes clear and longing. "One last embrace I desired and so I come, adding to your grief. Forgive me, Legolas."
Legolas stood up abruptly, his head pounding. He could feel Gimli's eyes on him, loving and pitying and above all else, filled with regret.
"Galadriel… Galadriel will do something."
"Lady Galadriel? She is in Valinor, Legolas."
"We will sail there. You will not die."
"You will NOT," Legolas said forcefully and something much like hate trickled through him. The Dwarf dared not die from him. No. "We will sail."
Gimli closed his eyes and Legolas fell to his knees, all the strength and resentment leaving him. Only sadness and fear remained. He sought Gimli's embrace without thinking, only now seeing the trace of white in his friend's hair and beard.
"We will sail to Valinor," he whispered again, clinging to Gimli with all the strength he had. "Long ago you promised you would come when I asked. I ask again. Will you come?"
"Of course," Gimli replied, but the sadness did not vanish from his face nor did the shadow of the raven's call. Death. Death was in his face.
They went to the Havens. First they sought Minas Tirith and saw the cold tomb where so many friends rested. They passed through Fangorn, but the forest felt cold and quiet. If the Ents were here, they slept.
It was a strange journey, for the land was quiet and colder than Legolas could remember. Gimli was quiet and slow and the Elf would find himself listening to each breath, relieved it came and fearful it would be the last.
Even the sea could not warm Legolas's heart, though the longing was fulfilled. He knew not if Gimli would even be allowed into Valinor, but he had to try. They had healers there, elves of great powers… There was a way, there had to be.
And so they sailed.
The sea too was quiet, a pale mirror of the sky as their boat left Middle-earth. Gimli slept when they set sail, and there was little objection left in the Dwarf. He seemed only tired and bent, a shadow of the fire that Legolas had fallen for. And even so, the starlight still shone in his dwarfish eyes.
To that Legolas clung to as he steered on, following the stars. They could not deny a star to come to Valinor, the birthplace of all light.
But on the fifth night, Gimli awoke and the shadow on his face had grown to block the light.
"Forgive me, Legolas. I… I am tired."
"I wanted to show you Valinor," Legolas whispered, sinking down near his friend and letting the boat drift. "Just a little longer. You must see Valinor."
"I have no need to see it, my friend. I have seen it in your eyes already." Gimli smiled, lifting a hand to touch Legolas's cheek. "Such a fire were you, the fire I was named after. Ildr. I am… sorry…. I loved you…"
The dwarf smiled, a strangely joyful and sad smile. "Farewell, Legolas. Till we meet again."
And the wind stirred the water ever so slightly, breaking the mirror. Only the stars in the sky remained, unchanging.
Over Valinor they burned, as one last ship came sailing in at night. Only one woman awaited it, her golden hair shining like fire. Galadriel, knowing as always. And above her, a raven circled. At long last, Legolas knew why it was there.
The raven did not sing of death. It sang of life, the whole of life. And the whole of life included death.
And he wept as he bore his friend's body ashore, while the raven circled above, softly singing of the tale of Legolas and Gimli.
The tale was over. But the song lingered on.
Author's Final Notes: Thank you, reader, for indulging me in my experiment. And thank you Norway, for your history and sea and mountains and fjords and forests that raised me to believe that life is precious and that love – in all the forms it may take – is the greatest tribute to life there is.
This is a work of fan fiction, written because the author has an abiding love for the works of J R R Tolkien. The characters, settings, places, and languages used in this work are the property of the Tolkien Estate, Tolkien Enterprises, and possibly New Line Cinema, except for certain original characters who belong to the author of the said work. The author will not receive any money or other remuneration for presenting the work on this archive site. The work is the intellectual property of the author, is available solely for the enjoyment of Henneth Annûn Story Archive readers, and may not be copied or redistributed by any means without the explicit written consent of the author.