Ephemeros

Ch 7: No Price Too Dear

Elrond sighed despairingly as he discarded the last of the soiled bandages and put away the unused herbs and ointments. From one of the large medicine chests that lined the walls of his healing chambers, he picked out a selection of dried leaves to brew a draught for Estel. His son would not be particularly pleased with him, but Elrond knew Legolas would see to it that Estel finished every drop of it. Between Legolas and the twins, Estel had been mothered beyond comprehension, to Estel's way of thinking, since they had returned from the ill-fated hunting expedition. Legolas had been especially vexed by the injury, hovering about the young man as if the injuries were truly dire. In the end, Elrond, though touched by Legolas' concern, had taken pity on his son and assured Legolas with every confidence that Estel would be quite fine, and that the injuries would heal in due time with no consequence. Legolas had just smiled a sad smile and quietly left the room.

Elrond admitted to being slightly puzzled. Estel was equally baffled but had just shrugged his shoulders. They had not given it much thought after that.

That evening, the four of them had recounted their journey to him, they had spoken of the tranquility of the ride and the excitement of the hunt, and how Legolas had shown such valour when it had come down to it. He too had been touched by the young elf's actions. He recognized and admired the strength of character and respect for life that was firmly entrenched in one of so few years. It had been good for them to experience that ephemeral moment of grace, for of late, it was all too often that they found themselves in closer association with Death.

How he wished his children could have grown up in a world without shadow darkening their every footstep. And yet, he knew this time of waiting would soon be over. He had felt it in the very air like the stirrings of an immense storm. The fate of Middle Earth would be decided within the lifetime of this generation of Men.

But would it be Hope leading them? …or Despair…

Several nights later…

Itwas a clear, summer night with a sky full of stars twinkling above them like jewels set in a rich carpet of darkest blue velvet. The air was still and sweet and most of the household had retired to their beds. The Lord of the House decided to make the most of this precious peace to wander the grounds at leisure, enjoying the tranquil serenity of the late hours.

Coming up to the grand balcony overlooking the great falls and pleasure gardens, Elrond took the time to savour the beauty of his home, this haven of his own making, the fruit of his labours. Alone with only his thoughts for company, he wonders, when the time of reckoning arrived at last, would Imladris stand? Or would the Last Homely House fall under the wave after wave of unspeakable horrors that would pour forth from the bastions of shadow?

No. He would not give voice to the nameless fears that had haunted him for centuries. Everyone would look to him, then as now. He would be strong; he must be strong, so that they all might be too. This is he repeated to himself again and again. His promise he would keep, his people he would protect. There would be no surrender while he yet breathed.

A soft, silvery glow in the corner of his vision caught his eye at that moment. With elven sight piercing through the darkness, he could see that it is none other than young Legolas, perched up high in an old oak tree as he had been for several nights in a row, gazing desolately up at Ithil, who this time had all but hidden her countenance from them, leaving just the barest crescent of light.

Noiselessly, he makes his way down from the upper balcony, through the winding corridors of the house and out into the gardens. He navigates his way to the roots of the old oak with the experience of one who has spent many hours pacing these very same paths in summer and winter, in darkness or in light.

He looks up to see sapphire eyes gazing down at him from the branches, distress clearly swirling within them. He sensed this was not one of those times that called for a discrete departure. Gathering his billowing robes in hand, Elrond gracefully ascends the old oak, wordlessly thanking the tree upon reaching his destination with pride and person intact. He seats himself next to the younger elf high up in the ancient tree. It is one of the oldest in the Valley and probably the wisest. He knows why Legolas has chosen to come to this tree of all the trees in the garden this night.

They do not say anything at first, both of them content to let the silence linger. But the air of melancholy does not fade away and Elrond feels compelled to speak.

"For three nights you have come here, penneth. Even elves need their rest."

Another span of silence greets his unspoken question before it is broken by a weary whisper of response.

"I can find no rest abed, my lord."

He probes gently further. "Something troubles your thoughts?"

Legolas does not respond just yet, but brings his knees up to his chin and wraps slim arms around them. He looks forlornly over the slumbering valley bathed in starlight before slowly nodding his admission.

Elrond nods and waits with a patience borne of long centuries of listening, knowing that his young friend would speak when he was ready. He places a comforting hand on slender shoulders in encouragement.

The words do come, softly and uncertainly, as Legolas tries to give voice to his turbulent feelings.

"I… I have always known that Estel is one of the Edain…that he is… mortal. And yet, it has only recently come to me that… that…Estel will one day…die…and that we shall be sundered and we shall see each other nevermore."

Elrond's heart clenches within him, but Legolas continues.

"It is different from the death I may die as a warrior, or the death my naneth died. She has gone to Mando's keeping and perhaps, one day, I shall see her again in the Blessed Isle…but… Estel…"

At this his voice falters and Legolas turns to look at him, eyes bright with unshed tears, anguish written all over his young face, the pain of the realization crashing down upon them both like a mountain of stone.

Oh penneth, penneth, would that I could spare you this sorrow… the sorrow that is not unknown to the son of Eärendil who chose immortality, and who became the eternal guardian to all his brother's line of mortal sons.

"I, too, know this grief," Elrond whispers, once more looking out over the valley. "They say it is the consequence of loving mortals…and that it is the price we pay for a mere taste of the fleeting intensity of mortal lives."

He turns to face Legolas again.

"It is a dear price, Legolas, but so many times have I willingly paid it."

"But how do you do it? How do you live with knowing your friend will one day go where you cannot follow?"

Desperation tinges the trembling voice.

Elrond looks sorrowfully from tear-bright blue eyes to his father's star shining high up above them. Eärendil shimmers just a little brighter, with the all radiance of the last of the Silmarils.

Give me strength, give me the right words, Ada…what can I say to this child of the Eldar?

He draws a deep breath then covers twisting hands clenched so tightly with his own.

"We, the Firstborn of Illúvatar, may be tied to the circles of this world and to Arda itself, while our mortal brethren go elsewhere, to a place prepared for them by the great Father. This is what the ancients have handed down to us from the first days."

He pauses, grasping at words to convey his own tumultuous thoughts.

"Even the wisest do not know the will of the Father in this matter, but I believe …I believe that at the end of all things, we must have hope that Illúvatar will reunite his children, for I cannot see how he could be so cruel, to sunder such love for all eternity..."

He raises a gentle hand to cup one pale cheek, summoning a calm he did not have into his voice.

"You need not despair, my child. The brevity of Estel's life need not take away from, or lessen your love for him."

He swallowed hard as pain-filled eyes turn to look at him, a flicker of hope kindled within them.

"Instead, cherish every second you have with him, savour every short moment he has upon this Middle Earth for in their paucity are they all the more precious... And when that dread day comes, you will think on him and not see the grim, cold spectre of death… but you will look into yourself and remember his Life... You will remember the wonderful, noble person that he was and the beauty of your unwavering friendship through every joy and every sadness. Those treasured memories will warm your heart and soothe the very anguish of your soul... In this way, he will live forever in the fond remembrance of those who remain..."

"He will never leave your side..."

Blue and silver eyes welled up with tears they could no longer hold and Elrond takes the younger elf into his embrace, gently running a soothing hand over soft golden tresses till both their sorrows had run their course.

Epilogue:

With the rising of the sun did Legolas resolve to stay ever by Aragorn's side, come rain or shine, joys and sorrows all.

The years passed by and it was said that never had there been a greater friendship than there was between the two. When the time came to choose an elf to accompany the Fellowship of the Ring, Elrond knew just the one who would go willingly and unhesitatingly with Aragorn to fulfill his destiny, be it to Mordor and back.

After the war, Legolas was never far from his most beloved friend, denying the longing in his heart to sail oversea for one hundred and twenty years for love of Estel Elrondion. Variously may Estel have been known as Aragorn of the Dunedain, Elessar Telcontar, and King of Gondor, but most cherished of all was the title he bore to the end of his days; that being the dear and most beloved friend of Legolas Greenleaf, an elf of the Woodland Realm.

The End

A/N: A massive thank you to all who took the time to send me reviews of this story: starchild867, SmilingDragonGirl, alibigirl, theodarkstar, Keji, Imaginigma, QueenofFlarmphgal, Ceriadara, Athena, Slayer3, IwishChan, LegolasQ, KawaiiWhiteWolf, Etharei, grumpy, Evergreene, KeshieShimmer, Inwe Nolatari, Alanna, midknightdragonz, AmethystPrincess, Hel5gen, viggomaniac, DracoAmora, BansheeQueen, DarkStarofMirkWood, Deana, Faith, Shaan Lien, an exquisite elfling, eliza61, Angelelf, Galimeril, Larner.

Hope I got everyone there…

I would just like to take a little time to explain how this story came about. I was thinking, how crushing it is for us, mere mortals, when the realization of death's finality actually dawns upon our consciousness, and then again, how much more so it would be for an immortal youth such as Legolas. I dedicate this story to my grandparents, though they will probably never read it…I love you, and I miss you…

Thank you to all the readers for coming this far…

Namárië

Glossary:

Adar, Ada: Father, Daddy.

Anor: The sun.

Edain: Mortal Men.

Ephemeros: Greek root word of Ephemeral; lasting for a short time, transient.

Ethuil: Spring.

Gwador nin:My brother; spoken of one who is not related by blood.

Hithaeglir: The Misty Mountains.

Ion nin: My son.

Imladris: Elvish name for Rivendell.

Ithil: The moon.

Mae Govannen: Well met.

Mellon: Friend.

Naneth: Mother.

Oromë: The Huntsman of the Valar, the brother of Nessa and one of the eight Aratar. In ancient times, he rode often in the forests of Middle-earth, and it was he who first discovered the Eldar at Cuiviénen. (source: Encyclopaedia of Arda)

Penneth: Young one.

Sceptre of Annúminas: A silver rod that served as symbol of office for the Lords of Andúnië in Númenor and their heirs. (source: Encyclopaedia of Arda)

Taur-e-Ndaedelos: Forest of the Great Fear. The Elvish name for Mirkwood, after the Necromancer appeared there about a thousand years into the Third Age. (source: Encyclopaedia of Arda)

Tithen Las: Little Leaf.

Tinnu: Twilight

Yavanna: Called the 'Giver of Fruits', Yavanna was the Vala whose province was all growing things upon the earth. She was the spouse of Aulë the Smith. (source: Encyclopaedia of Arda)