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

For four days they rode through Mirkwood. Legolas rode quietly, his eyes trained not on the path before him, but the trees around them. He burned the images of those trees into his mind. As they left the trees behind them, a weight lifted from Legolas's heart. The open plains were all that lay between them and Fangorn. The sweeping tall grasses that rippled in the winds reminded Legolas of the sea.

The day was cool and fair. The strong winds of autumn had arrived and the few trees that littered the plains were changing colors. They rode at a leisurely pace, slower or faster depending on the lay of the land and the rate of their conversations.

Gimli was smoking his pipe, as they rode. Elesia watched the smoke drift in lazy circles around his head.

"I should like to try that." Elesia said.

"My pipe?" Gimli asked. "I have never seen a woman smoke a pipe."

"Then I will be the first. I have often wondered what pleasure could be had from lighting a leaf on fire." Elesia said.

"It is one of Middle-Earth's greatest mysteries." Gimli said.

He leaned from his horse and handed her the pipe. She looked at it and tentatively took a puff. She immediately regretted it. Coughs wracked her body. Gimli nearly fell off his horse from laughing. Even Legolas could not keep a smile from his lips.

"You children." Legolas said, smiling. "My father told me I should not have befriended so many mortals."

"Your father is a wise man." Elesia said.

Legolas looked over at her, surprised at her words. "You agree with him?" he asked.

She nodded. "It isn't fair for an elf to watch friends grow old and die and you stay the same." She said. "I would not be able to do it."

"Truly? But you have had to say goodbye to so many already." Legolas said.

"Yes, but one day I will die too and that is a comfort." Elesia said. "You. . . on the other hand, will have to live with their loss forever. I could not do it."

"It is worth it." Legolas said.

Elesia smiled at him sadly. "I would ask you that again in a 1,000 years but I will not be here to do it. Nor even in 100 years." She said.

Legolas froze. A look of horror crossed his face, as he realized the truth of her words. If Elesia saw this look, she said nothing, for her eyes lit-up remembering something long forgotten by Legolas.

"At 100 years old. . .you were . . ."

She looked to Legolas for permission to tell the story. He nodded, too consumed with his own thoughts to even pay attention.

"At 100 years old. . .Legolas was still mastering the art of the bow and arrow and avoiding the gaze of a certain young elvish maiden." Elesia said, her eyes twinkling.

"I should have loved to have seen that!" Gimli said.

Their laughter rang out across the plain. But Legolas gave no notice of it. 100 years. It was barely enough time for anything. He watched Elesia as if seeing her for the first time.

They stopped for the night beside a small lake, that was fed by a river who's origins began far within the Misty Mountains. Legolas walked the perimeter of their campsite. His footsteps took him to the edge of the lake. He look out at the crystal waters but he did not see them. His mind was a conflict of emotion.

For most elves, mortals were a harmless curiosity. But for the first time in his life, Legolas understood mortality. It's desperation and it's beauty. Constant battles with oneself to make the most of everymoment, knowing that time was slipping away.

Legolas realized that Thranduil was right, he did take the hardest road. And as he listened to Gimli and Elesia's voices on the wind, he knew that perhaps this would be the hardest road of all. For the first time in many years, he was genuinely afraid, because he knew their goodbyes would be forever. There would be no happy reunion in Valinor.

"Her words trouble you more than you let on." Gimli said, as he approached him.

"It is not enough time." Legolas said, his eyes staring out at the moonlight reflecting on the water.

"There is never enough time for one who is not an elf," Gimli said. "You knew I was mortal, yet you befriended me, and have become closer than my own brother. What has changed?"

"I did not understand." Legolas said. "I called you a child and yet, I did not even understand the meaning of goodbye until this very moment. Who is the child now?"

Gimli sighed as he look at his friend. "Long years do not guarantee wisdom. Be greatful to have lived in ignorance so long."

Legolas said nothing, but looked at his friend as if awaiting an explanation.

"I know there are caverns yet to be explored that I will never see, but I do not dwell over them. I am happy for every one that I did see." Gimli said. "Do not think of the years of goodbye before they have even arrived. There will be all eternity for that."

"And a great fear is rising in my heart for that day." Legolas said. "Heeding the call of the sea will be harder than I had expected."

"Affection grows in your heart for her." Gimli stated, not asked.

"Even I am not sure of the stirrings of my heart." Legolas said. "But it griefs me to think of leaving her or you alone upon the shores of Middle-Earth."

"Elves." Gimli said, shaking his head. "You are all the same. You even manage to make your sadness sound like song. Come my friend, come warm yourself at the fire."

Gimli took out his pipe and lit it.

"If Elves took more pleasure in the smallest things in life, they would be a happier lot. Look at me? I will not live forever. But do you see me crying about it?"

A small smile crept across Legolas lips as he followed Gimli back to the fire.

As the days past, it seemed to Gimli that Legolas' took his advice. Instead of dwelling over the future, Legolas spent long hours within their company singing songs of the forest and recounting tales long since past. Gimli had never heard so many words come from the elf's mouth in all the years he had known him. He laughed more, sang more, and was generally more annoying that he had ever been. Gimli delighted in every moment.

They approached the forests of Fangorn well before noon. As they entered the dark and menacing woods, it seemed that the very trees stare down at them as they rode along the dirt path. The forest was quiet as the sun filtered through the branches of the trees. It had been decided they would camp at Treebeard's Hill, assuming it would be the easiest way to locate Treebeard.

Well before sundown, they arrived at Treebeard's Hill and climbed up the rocky embankment, where once long ago, they had been reunited with Gandalf. Even these years later, Gimli still wondered how they could not have recognized him.

Perched atop the rocks, Elesia, Legolas, and Gimli could look out over the forest canopy. But they saw nothing but trees as far as the eye could see. So they waited. And waited. The sunset. The moon rose.

As they sat around the campfire, they were careful to use only limbs that had fallen. In the chill autumn breeze, the trees seemed to lean in to warm their branches over it.

"I do not understand it." Gimli said. "We did not have such a time waiting for Treebeard the last time we were within these woods."

"These woods are large, perhaps he has yet to make it to us." Legolas said.

Gimli considered it. "Or perhaps he is with us already and we do not know it." He reached to his pack and grabbed the staff of wood which was wrapped in cloth. Gimli unwrapped it. "If he sees this, maybe he will make himself known."

With great respect, Gimli slowly unwrapped the wooden staff and held it in his hands.

"I bring you the Entwives." Gimli said, and bowed at the nearest tree.

The forest fell into a complete silence. Legolas, Gimli, and Elesia looked up at the trees. They exchanged worried glances and rose to their feet. A soft sound, like a gentle breeze, fluttered through the trees. But there was no wind. The gentle breeze quickly turned into a gale, as the trees whipped and shook, coming alive around them. Their horses bolted into the darkness.

"I think you should have waited for Treebeard." Elesia said.

"I think you may be right." Gimli said.

Legolas stood still, gazing up at the trees in wonder. His wonder turned to terror as he realized the seriousness of their predicament.

Legolas and Gimli had only heard tales from Merry and Pippin. of the furious wrath of the Huorns and Ents. The tales had always fascinated Legolas and he'd listened to story of the battle of Isengard several times. Merry and Pippin had always said, they were thankful they were on the side of the Ents for they would never want that kind of power turned against them. But now, Legolas realized that is exactly what happening.

The trees and branches closed in around them. The wide path they had been following through the forest was suddenly blocked by trees and thorny branches. The crackling of moving bark was deafening. It seemed as if the whole forest was moving in on their location. Roots pushed up the ground around them, grabbing at their clothes.

A long root wrapped around Elesia's cloak, pulling it from her, while another ripped Legolas bow and arrows from his back. Elesia struggled to keep the roots away from her. And she heard Gimli curse under his breath as limbs began raining down from the sky.

Branches swung wildly down towards them. They ducked and lay flat on the ground to avoid a large leafy branch as it raked over their backs.

"Treebeard's Hill!!" Gimli said.

They staggered to their feet and ran towards Treebeard's Hill. Gimli scrambled up first, he was half way up, when Legolas and Elesia made their run for the Hill. As Elesia climbed a few feet off the ground with Legolas just behind her, she could see Gimli scrambling to the top of the rocks high above her

Legolas watched in horror as a huge limb swung towards them. He grabbed Elesia by the back of the clothes and pulled her from the rock, as the limb swung passed, missing them by inches. She fell back against his chest, and they tumbled backwards from the rockface. Legolas braced himself for the fall, but they did not hit the ground. A thousand limbs surrounded them. Wrapped around them. Legolas had only enough time to put his arms around Elesia's waist before they were completely overtaken in darkness.

With their bodies pinned, they move little. They could see nothing but darkness. All sounds were muffled, except those of the rustling tree limbs surrounding them. Elesia could sense they were moving. They were jarred roughly and bounced around carelessly. Occasionally, they hit up against another branch with enough force to knock the breath out of them both. Elesia cringed and tried to calm her fears. She turned her thoughts to anything other than the horrible darkened tree-tomb. Elesia could feel the quick rise and fall of Legolas's chest against her back. His shifted his arms around her slightly and managed to move enough until his hands found hers. He intertwined his fingers around hers. She held onto them.

His head rested on her shoulder, she could feel his breath on her ear. He whispered softly, in Elvish:

"A! Elbereth Gilthoniel!
Silivren penna miriel
O menel aglar elenath,
Gilthoniel, A! Elbereth!
To the sea, to the sea! The white gulls are crying
The wind is blowing and the white foam is flying
Long are the wave on the Last Shore falling
Sweet are the voices in the Lost Isle calling."

She closed her eyes and as she listened to his quiet half-singing voice, she could see the sea before her. She forgot where she was, and time seemed to stand still, as she imagined they stood on the shore staring at the endless expanse of blue waves.

How far they traveled, Legolas could not guess. When just as quickly and abruptly as the journey began, it ended. The trees were still. Elesia jarred out of her day-dream, gripped Legolas' hands tightly.

The branches loosened from around them and they fell to the ground with a thud. They opened their eyes to find themselves well beyond the boundaries of the forest. Fangorn was a line of trees, small in the distance.

"Are you all right?" Legolas asked Elesia as she stiffly got up from the ground. She nodded. They both were covered in bark and twigs, tangled in their hair and their clothes.

"Yes, I think so." before Elesia could finish her sentence, Legolas rose to his feet and marched towards the tree line in the distance.

"Stop, Legolas." She said, running along beside him. He continued running purposely towards the trees. His eyes never wavered, or scarcely bothering to look in her direction.

She rushed to get in front of him and stopped, putting her hands on his chest as if she could physically keep him from going. She took a few staggering steps backwards until he stopped. He kept his eyes fixed on the trees in the distance.

"No matter your strength, you cannot take on an entire forest," Elesia said.

Legolas froze, silent determination on his face.

"I must find him." He said. "I will not leave this forest without him."

From his statement, Elesia decided that Legolas knew more than he had said.

"You saw Gimli, before the roots overtook us?" she asked.

Only then did Legolas tear his gaze from the trees and look down at her. His eyes were filled with tears.

"What did you see?" she said, afraid of what his answer would be.

Legolas said nothing and looked back towards the trees. His jaws clenched in grief and rage. She reached a hand up to his face, gently forcing him to look down at her and asked, "What did you see?"

"I saw him take such a hit from the top of Treebeard's Hill, that no man nor dwarf could escape without being seriously wounded.. or worse." Legolas said.

Without saying a word, Elesia wrapped her arms around him. He instinctively pulled her in close. His arms tightened around her. She could feel the tension running through his body and knew he was fighting the urge to rush into those woods. But slowly he sighed and relaxed against her, resting his chin atop her head. He took a deep breath. His hands drifted down her back and rested on her waist. He loosened his grip enough to stare down at her, but he did not let her go.

"I must find Treebeard." Legolas said, before she could protest he added. "If I travel along the boundaries of the forest I may be able to find him."


He looked at her confused.

"We must find Treebeard." She corrected.

He nodded.

They spent the rest of the day, gathering together what little was left of their supplies. They found their horses, waiting beyond the forest, grazing in the tall grasses of the wide plains. Legolas called to them and they returned, though Elesia's lacked her saddle bags that it had before. All of their provisions for the trip were lost, except for a single bag of lembas they found near the edge of the forest. Legolas spent hours walking along the plains searching for his bow, but it was nowhere to be found. He had only his knives for protection and though he could use them well, he did not feel comfortable without a bow within easy reach.

By sunset they were exhausted. They sat together eating lembas and watching the sun sink low into the horizon.

After having taken care of important matters, both turned their attention to the simply annoying ones. Each began pulling out twigs from their hair. It was not an easy task and both were wincing at the efforts. Elesia quickly untangled her own, pulling it back into a tight braid, lest the trees should get angry again.

"I would not believe that something so small, could cause such a problem." Elesia said, as she stare at the small pile of twigs she had pulled from her hair.

"You would be surprised. I have found the smaller the thing, the more dangerous it may be." Legolas said, as he worked at untangling his own hair.

"Then let us hope that our small friend, is as dangerous as may be in the company of trees." Elesia said.

"I hope you are right." He said, and then grimaced, giving up on his hair completely.

Elesia smile and walk over to him. "You may be an elf, but I am a girl, and we grow up knowing how to take care of such things." Elesia said, as she sat down behind him. With gentle hands she began to untangle his hair.

"Truth be told, I would sooner have my hair in hobbit fashion, though I would be the disgrace of my kind if I did so." Legolas said. "Orcs are forever grabbing at it in battle."

She laughed and the sound echoed into the forest.

"You find my confessions amusing?" Legolas asked, glancing over his shoulder at her.

"Very. I would not have guessed an elf would give much thought to hair." Elesia said.

"For elves, who have all the time of eternity, every subject has been thoroughly pondered. Including hair." Legolas said.

And so they spent the evening in light-hearted conversation, for neither had the heart to speak of any more. The cares and worries that concerned them both, did not need to be spoken, but could easily be seen in the gazes between them.


Notes: The elvish and song of the sea that Legolas sings is from Return of the King.


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