39. Rebuilding Gondor
Chapter 39 – Rebuilding Gondor
Eventually, the group that set out for the Black Gate made their way back to Minas Tirith. Aragorn did not enter the City as they thought he would. He swore he would not until it was time for him to accept his rightful place as King, so a camp was set up just outside the gates where they remained until such day came.
Meanwhile, Legolas, Rhavaniel and Gimli took it upon themselves to explore the remains of Osgiliath. Long had that city been in ruins, taken over by the enemy. It would take great lengths to bring it back to the jewel it was once known for.
"Bring in an army of dwarves and we would rework this old stone in no time," Gimli said as they walked among the broken archways and walls of the desolate city.
"No doubt it would be more splendid than when it was first erected," Rhavaniel replied with a smile. She had gotten to know Gimli much better since their journey from Mordor and the two became fast friends.
"Legolas," she said capturing his attention. "What do you think will become of your fellowship after Aragorn becomes king? He will be thrown into a world of politics, much different from his Ranger life."
"I think it is agreed that Gimli and I will help advise him in any way he needs. For instance, as our dwarf friend has pointed out, the men of Gondor could use some help and direction for rebuilding Osgiliath. And no one has a mind better for stone than Gimli."
"And what about you?" she asked. "Do you plan on staying here and help with the rebuilding or will you go back to Mirkwood?" This was something that had been on her mind for a while now. Rhavaniel had recently started thinking about her home. Long had it been since she was there. "Your father would be most anxious to see you again."
Legolas stopped walking and turned to Rhavaniel, a crease in his brow. "What about you? Do you wish to go home?"
"It has crossed my mind several times. Don't you miss it Legolas? Don't you miss the smells and friends and family?" she said tucking a loose strand of hair behind Legolas' ear, slightly grazing the pointed tip with her fingers.
"I do meleth. I miss it dearly but I believe my place is here for now. Maybe someday soon we will travel back together."
"I don't know Legolas. I am not sure where I am supposed to be right now."
Legolas pulled her to him, cradling her head to his chest. "You are with me and that is all that matters now."
After they were done searching through the rubble of Osgiliath, they decided to ride north to Ithilien's gardens, once said to be the fairest of the land. Legolas jumped on his horse and held a hand out to Gimli.
"If you don't mind, and the lady does not either, I would prefer to ride with Rhavaniel for a while," he said in a gruff voice.
Legolas furrowed his brow and cocked his head. "After all our travels you would abandon me now?" he teased.
"After all of our travels, I would just prefer to accompany a different rider for a change. And besides, the lady thought to saddle her horse, and though I have become quite accustomed to riding without, I prefer to ride with." Gimli protested.
"Come Gimli," Rhavaniel called. "I would enjoy the company. You can tell me tales of your home while we ride."
Legolas eyed the dwarf, wondering what he could be up to. This did not go unnoticed by Gimli. "Why don't you be a good princeling and ride up ahead. Put those elf eyes to work. There may still be orcs about."
Legolas squint his eyes at the dwarf then looked at Rhavaniel who was smiling and trying to stifle a giggle. He looked back to Gimli who gave him a rare smile. "Go on now my pointy eared friend."
The thought of scouting ahead was legitimate. Gimli was right of course. So he went on setting his horse to a trot and finally disappearing over a small hill.
"Alright Gimli, you have managed to send Legolas off," Rhavaniel said.
"What? Well, you do not want to be caught off guard do you?" Gimli said unconvincingly.
They rode on, their horse going at a slow pace. Finally, Gimli spoke. "You know, he missed you greatly after we left for Dunharrow. He said nothing of it, but he did not have to speak for me to know what was on his mind. I am glad you have settled your differences."
Rhavaniel smiled to herself. "I missed him too. I was worried for you all after you left." She was quiet for a few more moments. "What happened to him, Gimli? What happened on the ships?"
Gimli fidgeted in the saddle and made some grumbling noises as if he wished to avoid the question. It was a sore subject for him, being he was there to see the sudden change in his elf friend. Finally he spoke. "All was well at first of course. Legolas was his usual elfy self. On the third day, he woke in the middle of the night and wandered out onto the deck in not more than his leggings, barefoot and bare chested. Aragorn gave us strict orders about going up top. We were to stay covered under cape or hood and not draw attention to ourselves should we pass any enemies on the shore. Legolas knew this and never broke the rules, but this particular evening he was changed. I heard him leave the cabin and climb the stairs so I followed him. He went to the railing and leaned out as far as he could, nose up in the air, eyes closed as if he was listening to something. Stayed like that for the longest time. Just when I was about to ask him what he was doing, he spoke to me. I didn't even think he knew I was there. He asked me if I heard them. 'Hear what?' I asked him. All I could hear was the distant cry of sea birds. I thought he might have been sleep walking, if there is such a thing for an elf, being that you already do something like that anyways. I had seen Legolas in reverie before, but this was different. Then he ran off to the front of the ship and climbed out as far as he could. Sat there with his legs straddling the bowsprit*, looking off into the distance. Like to give me a heart attack, he did. What if he fell? I shudder now just thinking about it. I was afraid to call to him so I let him be, but kept a close eye on him. And then, he started singing. Now singing is nothing unusual for him as you know, but it was what he sang. I didn't know the words for elvish is not my first language, but it was a haunting melody like something you would hear at a funeral. I'd never heard him sing like this before and I instantly knew something was wrong. He sat there all night and until the sunrise and I stayed close by watching with worry. I don't think he knew I was there. It was as if he were in a trance. I began to wonder if he had been affected by the enemy, the Great Eye himself. Never had I been so scared or worried for someone. And just as quickly as it came on, it was over. As I said, the sun came up over the horizon and Legolas got up and made his way back to the deck. I dashed around a corner, not wanting him to know I had been there watching all night. He just disappeared below deck like nothing happened."
Rhavaniel was mesmerized by Gimli's account of things and she patiently waited for him to take a break from his story. "It was the sea. That was what he heard."
"Aye, it was that there sea-longing that your kind speaks of. It took him it did, like a thief in the night. After that he was never quite right. I approached Aragorn about it. He told me all about this affliction. He said it was something every elf would experience in due time, but I can't help to feel that it altered him more than others. He did not come about it in his own good time. This longing was thrown upon him, as if he had no choice. I feared for him going into this war. He was distracted now. Legolas is never distracted when he knows he is going to fight. I thought for sure we'd have to leave him on the ship and I would have to fight alone."
"What brought him around? Obviously he did not stay behind," Rhavaniel asked curiously.
"Why, you did my lady," he said as if she should already know this. "We were very close to our destination when he fell into another trance, this one deeper than the others. I think it was those blasted birds. A large flock of them circled the ship. Legolas looked as if he would jump overboard and swim off to that point in the distance that he was always staring at. Aragorn and I discussed our plans once we reached port and what we would do with the elf. Just when we thought we'd have to leave him behind, we heard him whisper your name into the wind. He closed his eyes and for the first time turned his face away from the skies above. His hands went to his chest and he grasped at his heart, bowing his head as if in a silent prayer."
Rhavaniel suddenly remembered her time in confinement, locked away by Lord Denethor. Legolas had called to her then. He saved her from her despair. She remembered the taste of salt on her lips and the feel of wind in her face. Often times she wondered if it was just a dream. "He spoke to me Gimli. I too was in deep despair being imprisoned in Gondor. All hope escaped me and I thought all was lost. Then Legolas called to me. He pulled me from my nightmarish thoughts, gave me new hope, and strengthened me."
"Well it seems whatever you two tapped into it worked because after that moment, Legolas opened his eyes. He stopped staring into the distance. His mind cleared and he had a new purpose. He came around long enough to fight once we made shore. Still, whenever he had a moment of quiet, he got that faraway look in his eyes and I knew he was hearing the sea. I knew he would never be the same again." Gimli's voice seemed to quaver ever so slightly. "I thought I had lost my dearest friend."
As Gimli spoke, Rhavaniel heard horses hooves from behind. Someone was following at a safe distance and she knew right away that it was Legolas. He must have doubled back and was now watching them from behind. She lowered her voice now when she spoke, sure Gimli would not want the Prince to hear his distraught. "Never have I seen two beings so different yet so alike. Legolas thinks the world of you. I never felt so secure for his safety as when I discovered the close friendship you both developed. Thank you Gimli Gloin's son for watching over him, for setting aside your differences and the quarrels of your people to befriend this elf, my elf . . . my Prince."
Gimli made a groaning sound as if he was avoiding speaking anymore. Dare she think he was even a little choked up? "Oh . . . It was nothing, nothing I would not have done for my own kin," he said in a bashful tone.
Rhavaniel smiled. "Then I am glad you think of him as such. And I think it is time to change the subject to something less emotional for is seems a certain elf now follows us."
"Do you think heard us?" Gimli said panicked.
"No, for we were speaking in hushed tones, but he closes in on us and I am sure he is listening now."
With that, Gimli said no more on the subject. Now he spoke a little louder and with more confidence. "So, did I ever tell you about our journey through the haunted mountain?" he began. The dwarf started telling his account of their travels, exaggerating as any good storyteller would. Rhavaniel laughed aloud and was enjoying his descriptions of it all.
"And did he also tell you how we practically had to drag him into the mountain with us?" said a smooth voice. Legolas had caught up to them now.
"Nobody dragged me anywhere and you know it," Gimli countered. "And I suppose you did not mention how I bested you by one orc back in Rohan." Gimli laughed in a way that he knew would get under Legolas' skin. "Oh now, don't you worry my princeling friend. There will come a day when you will be able to beat me. You just keep practicing on that there pretty elf weapon or would you like me to teach you how to swing an ax?"
Legolas did not like Gimli having the upper hand in their bickering. He was about to respond when Rhavaniel interrupted. "I suppose the path ahead is clear of danger."
He recollected himself and gave the dwarf one last glare before turning his attention to his beloved. "All is quiet, but I must warn you. The gardens are in ruins. It is not an easy thing to gaze upon."
Rhavaniel's lighthearted mood instantly turned to concern and she edged her horse into a gallop. Gimli grabbed her quickly to not fall off. As she reached the top of the hill, her eyes fell upon the devastation. She gasped as her heart instantly felt as if an arrow had pierced it. Legolas slowly came up behind her.
"Oh no, Legolas," she whispered. "Why? Why did they do this?"
The land was absolutely demolished. Broken trees and giant scorched areas where grass once grew covered the ground. Statues were defiled, some beheaded and others chipped into obscene shapes. All had the mark of Sauron painted on them, a red eye.
Rhavaniel slid from her horse and joined Legolas who already dismounted. Gimli did the same and all three gazed upon the land with disbelief.
"This land was once known as the jewel of Gondor's crown." Gimli said sadly. "And now look at it. Ruined. Absolutely ruined."
"What did they gain by doing this?" Rhavaniel said.
"They did not need a reason. It was theirs for the taking and so they did with the land as they saw fit," Legolas responded, staring out over the land.
They walked further into the area. Everywhere they looked was destruction. There was nothing left. Ivy archways had been chopped down. Rose bushes were burned. Rhavaniel came to a spot where there was a mound of dirt. The charred remains of a plant was all that remained now. She pushed the dirt and ashes with her booted foot. "Alfirin," she said. "That's what this was. It should have golden bell shaped flowers on it at this time of year." Then she walked to a tree lying on the ground, hewn down and burned. "This was a Culumalda tree. It had leaves of golden red, a most beautiful tree as one could ever find. It only grows in North Ithilien, but now it is gone."
"We will have to report our findings Legolas," Gimli said. "Aragorn will want to know what he has inherited and what has happened to it."
Suddenly, Legolas looked to Rhavaniel as if he had an idea. "Wait here," he said and ran back to where the horses waited. When he came back, he held in his hand a purple pouch. "I almost forgot I had this."
Rhavaniel and Gimli looked at it. "What is in there Legolas?" asked the dwarf.
"Dirt," he said simply.
"Oh dirt, yes, dirt is very useful." Gimli said and rolled his eyes. "Especially since we are standing in it and looking at it for as far as we can see."
Legolas went to Gimli and laid a hand on his shoulder. He gave the dwarf an impish grin. "Ai, my stout friend, this is not just any dirt. The Lady Galadriel gave me this as I was loading supplies in the boats back in Lothlorien. She said I would know what to do with it if the time should come. Let us see if my assumptions are correct."
"Legolas, what the--" Rhavaniel said, cut off by Legolas as he offered the opened pouch to her.
"Take some. Not too much, only a little is needed," he said excitedly.
Rhavaniel looked to Gimli who only harrumphed and shook his head. Then she looked back to Legolas.
"Go on meleth. Just a pinch is all it should take. Sprinkle it around the plant."
Rhavaniel did as he said. She took a little Lorien dirt and sprinkled it in a circle at the base of the dead Alfirin plant. All three stood around staring at the ground.
"Nothing is happening," Gimli grumbled.
They waited a little longer. "Maybe it doesn't work right away," Rhavaniel said.
After what seemed like forever to Gimli, he turned to walk away. "You two can stand here and wait for something to happen. I am going back and waiting with the horses." He took a few steps when he heard a gasp.
"It's coming to life," Rhavaniel said amazed at the new growth suddenly popping from the dirt and ash.
Gimli rushed back. "Well, I'll be an orcs rotted uncle. Would you look at that?"
Three more sprouts broke through the surface of the ground. They did not get any bigger, but were already far ahead of their normal growing rate. Rhavaniel looked at the pouch in Legolas' hand. "If just a small pinch can to this, then there is enough to regenerate all of North Ithilien. This is truly the most precious gift the Lady has bestowed upon anyone."
"I know what it is I must do now. I will offer to rebuild these lands once Aragorn claims the throne," Legolas said.
Rhavaniel wrapped her arms around him. "It will once again be the most beautiful place in all of Middle Earth." She was of course happy that Legolas had his vision. He would be quite busy rebuilding Ithilien. It also saddened her a bit for she still did not know what the future held for her. Though she loved the forest and growing things, she was restless and could not sit still long. She could not see where she fit into all of this.
That night, they decided to set camp instead of riding back to the city. As they sat around their fire, Legolas and Gimli spoke of how they would do to contribute their time, talent and treasure to rebuilding Gondor. Gimli would help with the stonework in the City and of course, anything that needed work in Ithilien also. Legolas already had ideas for building gardens in Minas Tirith, at least one on every level. Rhavaniel sat quietly by and listened to the excitement in their voices. How wonderful it was to see these two collaborate their projects. They were very lucky to have each other. Still, she wondered where she was needed in all of this. Legolas was already talking of traveling back to Mirkwood and asking his father permission to take some of his kin back to Ithilien and establish his very own colony. Now she considered her options. She could go back to Mirkwood and stay there for a while, but that would mean separating from Legolas again. No, that would not do. She could stay in Ithilien and help rebuild the gardens. Not a bad idea, and she looked forward to being amongst the trees again. However, it would be a few years before such time. The special soil from Lady Galadriel's land would speed up the process of growth, but not overnight. Even Legolas would live in the White City until buildings were erected and the colony established. She looked across the fire and watched how Legolas' face lit up as he spoke of his plans to Gimli. He was so handsome, so generous and loving to all he cared about. She thought back to the time he asked her to bind to him. Back then, it seemed preposterous, but as she studied his masculine features and his maturity it seemed like something she would consider though the thought of being his princess still scared her. He was and would always be Prince of Mirkwood and now, should Aragorn accept his offer, he would be Lord of his own land and people. Again, the vision of sitting in his newly built palace, wearing fancy dresses and making tapestries made her stomach churn, but her love for Legolas was stronger than anything else. The war was over. Her warrior talents would be needed less. The thought saddened her a bit, but there was nothing for it. Middle-earth was changing. The Age of Men was fast approaching and soon she would not be needed. At least Legolas knew where his future lead.
* * *
A few weeks passed now. Aragorn accepted his rite as Isildur's heir and was crowned King of Men. Arwen, his beloved, returned to him and they married. Gondor had its queen. There was a lot of work to be done in the city and Legolas and Gimli set off to work. Aragorn appointed Faramir as Lord and ruler of Osgiliath and said it was up to him to decide if Legolas could rebuild North Ithilien. Of course, he agreed and Legolas started right away. He traveled back to Mirkwood as he said he would, Rhavaniel by his side. It seemed like ages since she had been back to her home. She saw many old friends and was glad to know they survived the wars. Not all was cheerful though. Gondien, her father, decided to sail in her absence. This broke her heart for she knew she was the reason he left for Valinor. King Thranduil told her that Gondien constantly heard of her accomplishments and was very proud even though he was in constant worry for her well-being. Then he handed her a sealed parchment, a farewell note from her father. He apologized for not supporting her when she needed it most. He could never have asked for a better daughter and he was proud. Still, his grief for the loss of his beloved wife, Rhavaniel's mother Faelwen, was too strong. Gondien finally gave in to this and decided it was time to sail to the West. He knew his legacy would go on, as Rhavaniel became a strong warrior. He only wished he could have told her in person. Now, Gondien waited for the day he would see her again in the Undying Lands. Rhavaniel accepted this and moved on. She would see her father again someday, and they would finally get to say what they could not say in the past.
Legolas announced his plans for Ithilien and it was Antien and Glandur who volunteered first. Rhavaniel was thrilled to know her best friend would be close to her again. And so, after a brief stay, the new colony for North Ithilien made their way to their new home.
* * *
Life was getting along and Legolas was working hard rebuilding Ithilien. He had not officially moved there yet and was living in Minas Tirith, though his work often meant camping in his soon to be home. Rhavaniel stayed in the City and took over the rebuilding of the gardens, something Legolas started but could not find the time to do now. Anyone interested in learning this new talent was surely welcomed and she found herself training in a different way. It would do for now, though she missed practicing with her sword and bow. There was not much need for that now, and she went where she was needed.
Legolas was staying in Ithilien after a rather difficult and strenuous day. The palace was in the beginning stages of being built and there were many decisions to be made. He was sitting by the fire, looking over some plans Gimli had drawn up when Antien joined him. He and Glandur were a great help in the rebuilding of Ithilien. Antien was looking over Legolas' shoulder, reading the drawings.
"It will be most beautiful when it is done, my lord," he said.
Legolas laughed. "Please do not call me that Antien. It sounds rather odd coming from a friend."
Antien sat down next to Legolas. "And how is Rhavaniel? I have hardly seen her lately."
"She is fine and just as feisty as ever. The City gardens are coming along nicely," Legolas answered.
"You know, there is something I have been meaning to return to you." Antien said reaching into a hidden pocket inside his tunic. He pulled out something silver and placed it in Legolas' hand.
The elf lord looked down and smiled. "My mother's brooch, I had all but forgotten about it."
"I told you I would keep it safe until I could return it to you. Now you should give it to Rhavaniel yourself."
Legolas gazed at the silver piece carved with a beech tree. "You think it is time I asked her again, don't you? As if there is not enough on my plate as it is."
"There is no better time than the present. What are you waiting for Legolas? You love her, she loves you and that should be enough."
"I don't know Antien. She turned me down once before. I don't know if my heart can take that rejection again, especially since hearing the sea. I fear what despair awaits me if she rejects my offer," Legolas said worriedly.
"I do not think it will come to that. I have seen how she looks at you when she thinks you are not watching. She yearns for you, and I have no doubt that she will say yes this time."
Legolas, feeling quite confident, patted Antien on the shoulder and stood up. "Tomorrow then, I will ask her tomorrow."
The next day Legolas rode to Minas Tirith. He met Rhavaniel who anxiously awaited his arrival. "First let me show you what we have done with the second level gardens. Gimli has built some of the most wonderful playthings for the children. And swings, Legolas, he has built swings." She went on and on about the improvements, showing him each one as they made their way up to her quarters. Rhavaniel had her own apartment in the City, something she had not had in a very long time. Above the mantel hung the bow Legolas gave her back in Mirkwood, the one that belonged to his mother. As he looked at it, his hand went inside his tunic and he touched the silver brooch hidden inside. He was going to ask Rhavaniel to bind to him and it took everything he had not to let himself become too nervous.
Rhavaniel was so proud and excited of all the work she had done that Legolas hardly got a word in edgewise. He finally poured them each a glass of wine and hoped she would slow down a bit. Still, he loved seeing her so committed and inspired about her work. When the wine started to take effect, Legolas sat down on the divan, pulling Rhavaniel down to sit on his lap. He kissed her long and passionately, and then came to look into her eyes. "I love you so much Rhavaniel."
"I love you too Legolas," she answered. It was all she could say before he captured her lips once more. He was acting rather strange, she thought. He almost seemed nervous. She thought it was because they hadn't seen much of each other lately. Actually, she was a bit nervous herself. There was something she wanted to tell Legolas.
Legolas slipped his hand inside his tunic again and felt the brooch, ready to bring it out. "Rhavaniel, you are so beautiful and I. . ."
"Legolas, there is something I want to share with you. I am just so excited I cannot wait another moment," she interrupted.
"Go on, my love. What is it?" he asked. He would let her share her news before he proposed. It was time. There was no turning back now. This was why he came here.
Rhavaniel smiled from ear to ear. "You know I love helping with the gardens and now there are many women and even children who know enough to continue the work."
"Yes," he said furrowing his brow.
"Legolas--" she said and paused, absolutely bursting at the seams. "I have been offered a job as royal guard, just like my mother."
Legolas was stunned. "Royal guard? To whom?"
"To the Queen, of course. Arwen herself asked this of me. There have been some outbreaks on the borders and threats against the royal family. Legolas--" she paused again. "Arwen is pregnant with their first child. She feels she needs someone who will be with her at all times until these threats come to pass."
"And what is your answer?" he asked as he slowly removed his hand from his tunic, leaving the brooch hidden inside the pocket.
"I accepted, of course. It is a dream come true for me. You know I have always wanted this position since I was an elfling. Well, now is my chance. I am proud to serve the Queen."
Legolas was dealt a double blow. First, Arwen and Aragorn were going to be parents. Secondly, Rhavaniel was offered the job she had always had her heart set on since he could remember. This meant she would permanently live in Minas Tirith, in the highest level of the towering city, where she would be close to the Queen at all times. It would also mean they would not see much of each other. Legolas was moving to Ithilien just as soon as the palace was finished. He was lord of this land. There was nowhere else he could live and it was no way to start a marriage. When an elvish couple bonded, they could not be separated in the first year. Their draw to each other was extremely intense during this time. Her new job as royal guard and his position as Lord of Ithilien meant they could not be together. Although he was overjoyed with the news of the pregnancy and Rhavaniel's offer, he was also heartbroken. Today was to be the day he asked her to bind to him and she would say yes. Now it seemed this would never happen.
He put on his best smile. "I am so happy for you. Of course, you know this means we will see less of each other."
"I know. I was torn also, but I cannot pass up this remarkable opportunity. And you will visit won't you?" she asked.
He pulled her close, touching his forehead to hers and rubbing noses. His dream to bind was slowly slipping away. "I will come as often as I can spare. You know I could never leave you completely."
"I know this and I know it will be difficult for us both, but you will see. Once Ithilien is built and I am settled, we will find more time for each other." She let her fingers caress the tip of his ear. "And we have some time right now," she whispered seductively.
As disappointed as Legolas was, he could not deny her when she was like this. It did not take long before they were making love and promising always to be there for each other no matter what the future held. There was no doubt in either of their minds that they loved each other and that was enough, for now anyways.
* A bowsprit is a pole (or spar) that extends from the front (or prow) of a vessel.
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.