And the sky full of stars: Part X
by: Jen

As a child Legolas could hardly wait to grow-up and defend his people against enemies. For hours he and his young comrades would "defend" Mirkwood against imagined enemies. Throughout the day and many a night, they ran wild through the trees keeping a tally of the invisible orcs they killed. It was a great game, which always ended the same: with his father scolding him for wandering farther beyond the boundaries of the caverns than he should.

Though the consequences were much higher than being scolded by his father, Legolas still regarded battled as a game to be won. He never felt more at one with the universe than when his mind was focused on battle. His bow was an extension of himself, smooth and sleek and deadly was his aim. Battles he loved.

The first few hours after a battle he hated. The injured. The dead. Stumbling upon fallen comrades. Disposing of dead orcs. It was the brutal reality of battle seldom talked about in song. But Legolas had felt no dread such as the fear that filled him as he walked towards the splintered fallen gates of Entville.

The gates lay in ruins. Dead orcs littered the ground. The villagers were slowly dragging the orcs to a burn pile in front of where the gates once stood. Inside the gates, lay the dead.

Row upon row of bodies. The villagers tended to them, preparing them for burial. The majority were the young boys that Gimli had tried to prepare for battle.

Gimli saw them and wept. Row by row, he slowly went, saying the dwarvish words of the dead over each body.

Legolas walked through the village. His eyes scanned the villagers. Some were putting out fires while other tended the wounded. His eyes caught Elesia, but she did not see him. She walked through the scattered wreckage of the village to the broken gates and looked out at the wide green valley. The sun was rising.

Legolas followed her. To him, she seemed little wounded, except perhaps in spirit. He stood beside her and said nothing, knowing that the simple presence of another was often comfort enough. She looked up at him, her eyes held tears unshed.

"They look to me for guidance and I have none to give." She said. "I have failed my people."

"You have not." Legolas insisted. "You did as good as any in your position could hope. Look at all you achieved while you were here. You built a community."

"We cannot stay here any longer." She said.

"The orcs are gone. They will not be back." He said.

"It matters not at all. My people are too weak to rebuild. Most are old. The other half gave up on life long ago. And spend their time watching the horizon for the return of men who have been dead for a decade. They have held on for 10 years, they have not the strength to hold on any longer." She said. "Nor do I."

"Do not say that." Legolas said. "It would be pity indeed for so strong a people to give up when victory is so near."

"Victory?" she said, looking around at the destruction. "I see nothing victorious about this day."

"Because for you, the hurt is too new." He said. "But you have much to be thankful for. Many are still alive. Many have long years ahead of them. And they need not live it in a prison of their own making."

"But where shall we go?" she asked.

"The King would welcome you into Gondor. He would be honored to have such strong people within the walls of his city," Legolas said.

She was quiet for a long time, looking out at the valley.

"I thought I came here to think. But I already knew the decision was made. I came here to look at my future." She said. "I have never seen the opposite end of this valley."

"You will." He said.

She nodded.

| Part XI |
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