15. With Faith
Gimli sat behind Legolas, stifling yawns which became harder to stifle as the minutes passed, and making idle conversation to stave off sleep.
"You would go back on your word?" the elf asked.
"Of course not! A dwarf's word is as good as set in stone once he has uttered it. I said not so. I merely said that our journey should make more sense if we passed east along the White Mountains, through Edoras, visiting the Glittering Caves ere heading north to Fangorn once more."
"Count yourself lucky to be going to Fangorn with me at all, after the impression you made upon the Ents. If I bring you with me, you shall have to be bound and gagged. You were fortunate that Treebeard did not turn that axe of yours into fine kindling, my dear Dwarf, and you along with it!"
"....Mmm... yes. That sounds about right," Gimli murmured deeply, drowsily.
"That would be a fitting fate for a dwarf who ignores his common sense and insists upon keeping company with an elf... crushed to death by a giant, walking, talking tree. It would serve me right."
Gimli traded friendly insults with Legolas until they ran out of words, and those who rode near them began to run out of patience. With a chuckle, Gimli fell silent, lost in thought and listening to the wind rustling in the grass, the dull thud of Arod's hooves upon soft ground, the snatches of hushed conversation continuing around them, the low buzz of insects in the night air. Before long he was resting against the elf's back with heavy eyes. Legolas smiled and held the strong arms that encircled his waist to keep the exhausted dwarf from falling.
The elf sang gently, his voice becoming one with the light breeze, and he was content. Arod was thrusting his way through the tall grasses with pleasure, delighting in the feeling of the tickling foxtails about his fetlocks, the stiffer grass scratching across his belly. The horse picked his way easily over the gentle slope of the land and Legolas let him go as he would, allowing him to enjoy himself. Inevitably, Arod wandered his way closer to Shadowfax, and Legolas heard Gandalf and Merry speaking of Saruman, of tomorrow's plans, of the journey this night.
"... Peace, Meriadoc! A most unquenchable hobbit. All wizards should have a hobbit or two in their care -- to teach them the meaning of the word, and to correct them. If it eases your mind, I have given thought even to these simple matters. We will ride for a few hours until we come to the end of the valley and then halt for the evening."
Gandalf cast a look of long-suffering at Legolas. "You and Arod are at least blessed with a quiet companion," he said. "I should gladly trade you a curious hobbit, if you find yourself wanting for company."
Legolas laughed lightly. "Nay! Merry, I fear that you would find few answers from me to satisfy your curiosity. A wizard is the one to whom you must turn if you wish for intelligence, for all the complaining he may do, and not to a dull elf."
Merry rolled his eyes. "I give up. I should know better than to expect decent conversation from either one of you." He tossed a hand into the air dismissively, ignoring the amused smile exchanged between elf and wizard at his expense, and settled back to curl up in his cloak and get some rest himself.
Gandalf chuckled. After a moment he murmured to the elf, "I forget sometimes what it means to be young, to be so full of wonder about the world. I had feared their days with the orcs would have quelled the spirit in them, but I should know better by now than to underestimate them."
"If more could be as forgiving and gallant as the hobbits, or be granted hearts as large as those which belong to this smallest of races, we should find Middle-earth a haven indeed. I wish it were so," Legolas said quietly.
Gandalf heard the sadness in the elf's voice and studied him. "It was a terrible thing to see," he said gently, "to witness one so mighty now fallen. I grieve that so much that was good has been lost, but you did well, Legolas. Do not punish yourself for his decision. His corruption was too strong by the end, and there was nothing to be done for him. Put it from your mind, if you are able. It will not do to dwell upon it."
Legolas smiled and nodded. "Well do I know it, Mithrandir. And I thank you for your concern. But he was given a last choice and a fair one, and I accept this."
He fell silent for a moment, feeling the wind stir against his face, then he looked upon Gandalf with thoughtful eyes.
"It seems to me that fate is coldest in this turn of things. For all Saruman wrought, for the deeds he has done and the sorrow he has awakened, much good has sprung from the evil of his designs. We ride with a king and his men who have had courage stirred within who might not have found it to be so otherwise, a battle was won as a distant result of the abduction of our young companions, and...." The elf's fair voice faltered with sudden emotion as he twined his fingers with Gimli's, "... it is not easy that some must suffer so that others might find hope."
Merry remained very still, not quite yet asleep. He had heard Legolas's words and his throat tightened a little, remembering Boromir. He blinked back tears and listened to Gandalf's comforting voice near him.
"Ever has it been so, child. When darkness threatens that which we love most, some must give it up, some fall along the way so that others may keep it. No, it is not an easy thing to bear, but we must keep faith that there is meaning in all of it, though we may not see it. I wish with all my heart that we may see this all through to the end with as few sacrifices as can be."
The wizard drew in a deep breath and let it out slowly, and seemed to look far away.
Merry stirred and sighed, and Gandalf roused himself from contemplation to tuck the hobbit's cloak tighter about his shoulders, and the wizard laughed quietly once more. "We look too far ahead, Legolas. There is another lesson in life we would do well to heed, and that is to find happiness where and when we may, and not to miss the details in trying to see the larger picture. Darker days there shall be for us, and perhaps on the morrow, but this one night of respite we have earned. I shall sleep soundly, I believe."
"May gentle dreams ease all tonight," Legolas said softly.
Merry clutched the leaf-brooch at his throat, safe with Gandalf upon Shadowfax. His eyes closed, and once more he wandered peacefully along white paths beneath the golden boughs of mallorn trees.
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.