7. That's All We Shall Know For Truth
The trip home was blessedly uneventful. Radagast had dispatched a pigeon to Rivendell with a short message informing Elrond of Estel's safety and imminent return. Legolas felt grateful for a pigeon's lack of carrying capacity, although he realized that this meant a significant amount of explaining would be expected of him eventually. Estel proved to be a pleasant companion on the way back, remaining silent when silence was required, as during the trip through the Old Pass. When the boy did speak, his questions were not so irritating as they had been before, either because they were more intelligent or because Legolas had begun to enjoy the hero worship. He was not sure which. The boy became increasingly silent until they rode alongside the Bruinen, close to the spot where they had first met.
"Legolas, we need to stop for a moment."
"We stopped an hour ago. Can you not contain yourself until we reach Elrond's House? It is close now."
"It isn't that. I need to ask a favor of you."
"And what would you ask of me?" Legolas replied.
"Legolas . . . Please don't tell the Elves."
"Don't tell . . .? Estel, what do you think I am?"
"You are my friend."
"Of course. How silly of me not to have recognized! You see, I never had the sort of friend before who would pelt me with ripe berries, kick me in the gweth and hold my hair while I throw up."
"Legolas, don't make fun of me."
The voice sounded so sad and serious that Legolas immediately regretted his flippancy. "All right. Let us get down off this horse, sit upon the rocks and talk our terms, man to man, man to elf, elf to boy -- whatever you choose to call it. It seems we have come full circle."
They dismounted and sat staring into the river.
"What I meant, "Estel began, "is, do we have to tell them everything?"
"We certainly must tell them something. We were gone a long time, after all, and we must account for it."
"There are some things that I have apologized to you for. And others that I know to be foolish and I will never do them again. And yet others . . . of which I am deeply ashamed. Must Elrond know? And must my mother? For it would distress her greatly to learn how near I came to danger."
Legolas nodded gravely. "I do not enjoy looking the fool in front of Master Elrond, which I must, if some of this tale is told." He stopped to ponder. "How about this? You followed me over the pass without my noticing. I will be honest with you, that part alone is humiliating enough for me, and I doubt Elladan and Elrohir will ever let me hear the end of it. Eventually, we came to the house of Radagast, where we spent a pleasant week playing with the squirrels and then we came home. This is not precisely the truth, but there are no significant lies. I can live with it. How about you?"
Estel nodded and put out a hand to shake.
"Not so fast," Legolas said. "You must make me some promises in return. First, you must give up all foolishness such as what just happened. Second, you must agree to obey your mother, Master Elrond, and all the other elves of Imladris. They have much to teach you. Keep your eyes and ears open and you will learn it. This should not be a chore. I will also tell you that Elrond has a huge and wonderful library. Spend your free time there, reading."
"Reading?" The boy sounded dubious.
"Yes, reading." Legolas smiled, lost in memory. "I spent many an hour there in that library, while my father and Elrond spoke of important matters and Elladan and Elrohir had grown tired of me. There I learned the great tales of the First and Second Ages--of Beren and Luthien, of the drowning of Numenor, how Glorfindel fought the Balrog. I even learned of Legolas of Gondolin, a brave warrior. My father, Thranduil, wanted his own little Legolas to be a healer or a harpist, but that tale made me pester my father for my first bow. Let me tell you, there is far more fun and mischief to be had in books than in ripe berries."
The boy nodded. "You never answered my question, Legolas, back at the hut of Radagast. Why should I be saved? Why should I learn? What makes me special? And please, don't lie to me, because friends do not lie to one another."
Checkmate, thought Legolas, borrowing a term from a delightful strategy game of the Easterlings which his father had bought in a shipment of goods and taught him to play. This was indeed the heir of Elendil before him, although as yet but a child. Here he sat, centuries old and supposedly one of the wise First Born, maneuvered into a corner, neat as you please, by a child of seven years. This boy was the flower of a more vital race that would in time supplant his own, yet much of what was best in Estel came from the Elves. Legolas found it a bitter yet unique gift of fate that he, an Elf, would have a small role in the shaping of this man to come.
"I will never lie to you, Estel. But you must understand that I have made promises to others, which I must keep as well."
The boy nodded.
"To answer your question, every life is precious, no matter how small. I took you from the orcs because it was the decent thing to do. Every person counts and has a role to play, whether they be an orphan boy, a stable hand, a gardener, a serving girl, or the son of a king. Do not put too much stock in titles, for it is the worth of the individual that counts in the end. The humble may come to greatness, the great may come to ruin. Watch. Wait. Learn skill and wisdom. Be ready for whatever fate will send your way. Make me proud of you when next we meet."
"Some day, Legolas, if I do as you say and make you proud, will you wear your crown for me?"
Legolas grinned. "I suppose I shall have to. Hard work deserves a reward. But it will have to be a very special occasion indeed."
"One more thing, which I don't quite understand. When you were ill and drifting in your speech, you spoke my mother's name."
"Did I speak it with . . . respect?"
Legolas let his pent up breath out slowly. "Then, please, Estel, do not ask me about this until you are older and can understand such things." 'And when you are old enough to understand,' he thought silently, 'I hope you will be friend enough never to speak of it again.'
They clasped hands, mounted the horse and rode on into Rivendell.
They were met by a welcoming committee far larger than before.
"I will speak to you later," said Elrond, pointedly to Legolas. "And you, young Estel, are to go under the tutelage of my son Elladan to learn the genealogy of the high kings of Numenor and the rudiments of Quenya grammar. This should take the next six months."
"I welcome the opportunity to learn," said Estel bravely as Elladan led him away. He gave a quick smile, and Legolas nodded in return.
"And then I get him to train him in the fine art of shoveling up after horses and polishing armor," said Elrohir. "That boy won't see leisurely daylight for at least three years. He is so, so very . . ."
"In for it," Legolas finished. "Watch him, though. I have discovered he has a way of turning the tables on you when you least expect it."
"Oh, I know it," said Elrohir. "Already I hear he has some skill at tracking. Although, following a horse's behind over the Old Pass seems simple enough to me."
Legolas cleared his throat and shot a look at Elrohir, who went away laughing.
He was left alone with Gilraen, who fixed him in her gaze and led him to the same gazebo in the trees where he had sat with the two sons of Elrond just weeks earlier.
"Legolas, tell me all of what happened."
"Nothing much." said Legolas innocently. "He followed me over the pass. We came, in time, to the home of Radagast, where we rested for a while and returned. Your son was a delight -- no trouble at all."
She looked at him sharply. "His nose is broken. I do not think you did that."
He stared off into the distance. "Of course I would not."
"Your sleeve is bulky. You wear a bandage. Which you did not wear when you left Rivendell."
"I really do not recall . . ."
"And you forget that Radagast the Brown has many pigeons."
Legolas stared down at his feet. "Ai, Rodyn! I am really . . . in for it."
Gilraen laughed. "Have no fear on that score. Elrond sees the truth as well as I do. And if he does not, I will put in a good word for a kind young elf who is so loyal to my boy. Once again, you have put yourself between my son and danger. If there is a boon I could grant you, I will do it."
He looked long into her eyes, saw the truth that lay there; that in her heart her husband still lived, leaving no room for any other. "There is nothing you can give me. All I want is to see you content."
"When my son is safe and happy, then I am happy."
"Then it is quite simple, really. When I am around, Estel will be as safe and as happy as he can be."
Legolas looked down at the white waters of the Bruinen, rushing past. How many measures of water had passed over those rocks since the day that he had pulled an annoying little boy from them? By now that water had made its way to the Greyflood, past Eriador down to the sea, and it might even be on its way to the Undying Lands of the West. Not even the Belair themselves could call it back, no more than he could change his life now.
"Gilraen, of late my spirit has walked in some dark places, and I have come to understand that I will have one of those strange fates that my people speak of. I fear that the joys of home, hearth and children are not to be mine. In these past weeks, I have come to love your son as a child of my own and as the brother that fate did not give to me. As the years pass, I will love him as a friend. It will be thus throughout our days together. This is my promise to you."
At this, she smiled. It pierced his heart.
Gilraen. What a fitting name for one who was to lure him away from the woods and the well-trodden paths of his sheltered Silvan existence. 'You gave Hope to Men and kept none for yourself, and by my life or death,' Legolas vowed silently, 'I will keep your hope alive. For the love of you, dear Wandering Star and for your boy -- to wherever it may lead . . .'
* * * * * * *
Author's notes: This story is movieverse. In due course, Legolas will volunteer for the Ring Quest rather than being chosen by Elrond, as happened in the book, Fellowship of the Ring. This story explains his motivation for doing so, along with the basis of his lifelong friendship with Aragorn. All my stories, before and after, stem from this point.
Some of the chapter titles are taken from the following poem by W. B. Yeats:
Wine comes in at the mouth
And love comes in at the eye;
That's all we shall know for truth
Before we grow old and die.
I lift the glass to my mouth,
I look at you, and I sigh.
W.B. Yeats, A Drinking Song 1910
For those who will insist that elves never use saddles, I cite the following example of an elf using both saddle and bridle. The horse is Asfaloth; the rider is Glorfindel:
"Suddenly into view below came a white horse, gleaming in the shadows, running swiftly. In the dusk its headstall flickered and flashed, as if it were studded with gems like living stars. ( . . .) the rider had reined in his horse and halted ( . . .)'You shall ride my horse,' said Glorfindel. 'I will shorten the stirrups up to the saddle skirts, and you must sit as tight as you can." Fellowship of the Ring, Chapter XII: Flight to the Ford
Legolas is an excellent horseman and can control a horse without the use of a saddle or bridle, but in this story he has chosen, while riding in state to Rivendell, to use a saddle for comfort, cleanliness, and practicality.
Translations from Sindarin:
Ai, Rodyn: Oh, gods!
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.