Gandalf's Passing - The night after Moria

It was little less than an hour before dawn. Legolas rose from where he lay in sleepless sorrow, walking over to where Aragorn stood on guard. The Ranger turned swiftly, hearing the light footfalls, and sighed when he saw Legolas approaching.
"What is it, Legolas?" Legolas sighed as well, and looked swiftly back towards the eastern Door of Moria.
"I could not sleep. It is nearly time for my watch. I will take what remains of yours as well." Aragorn saw the direction of the Elf's glance, and knew the undisclosed reason behind his sleeplessness.
"I thank you, my friend, but I cannot sleep either. I, too, miss him sorely." Legolas looked startled at the man's insight, but concealed it quickly. A shadow of grief clouded his keen grey eyes and he looked down.
"The burden of his passing falls on you more heavily; for as well as your grief, all now look to you as the leader of the Company." Aragorn nodded soberly.
"I wonder, what would have become of out Fellowship if he had not fallen. What if I had been able to persuade him not to take the road through Moria? Things very well may have turned out differently."
"Nay, Aragorn," Legolas insisted. "There was no other road to take. He willingly took the road through Moria. There was naught you or I could have done to prevent his death. Mithrandir would not have us dwell on might-have-beens."
"I know, and yet...." Aragorn lowered his head and began to weep. Legolas wrapped his arm about the Man's shaking form, and Aragorn fully spent his grief in the silent comfort of the Elf's soothing touch. "It is not long until dawn now, Legolas, and we must think of our course. I know Gandalf planned to lead us through Lothlorien, and that is the first part of our journey, but where to go after that?"
Legolas stood, shaking his head. "I cannot help you there, except with my own opinion. I knew less of his mind than you. But I believe you should speak with Frodo. He is very distraught over the fact that it was his decision to enter the Mines. He bears the Burden silently, but now that his heart is heavy as well, the strain is swiftly telling on him." Aragorn rose and stood a moment, mulling over the Elf's words in his mind.
"I will. Yours is the last watch, so I will speak with him now. At dawn we will move. Sam will have to prepare a walking breakfast." The tall Númenorean strode over to where the Ringbearer slept fitfully. Legolas watched him go, slightly amazed at Aragorn's courage and strength. To go through what he had gone through, and still lead the Company, showing his grief to none but Legolas, although all hope had fallen in Moria with Gandalf. Truly was Aragorn an heir to the kings of yore.
Frodo woke with a start. Aragorn knelt beside him, his grey eyes troubled.
"What is it," Frodo asked, sitting up amid his blankets. "It is not yet dawn."
"No, but I wished to speak with you," Aragorn said, seating himself beside the hobbit. "I have seen your distress. You carry a heavy Burden, Frodo. Do not also carry the weight of the dead. Gandalf knew that Moria was the only road to take. It was his thought alone, and he would not wish you to think that you had caused his death. Nor do I.
"You must understand this, Frodo: it was through no fault of yours that he fell. Gandalf stayed upon the Bridge alone so that the Quest would not be in vain. Do you not recall Elrond's words? 'With you and your faithful servant, Gandalf shall go; for this shall be his great task, and maybe the end of his labors.'" Frodo sighed.
"I know, and yet it is so hard to bear. He was like a father to me, gentle and wise. And to think that he gave his life that I might go on...I wish the Ring had never been made!"
"We all wish that," Aragorn said gently. "He was ever a father to me as well. I was his companion on many a long and perilous journey. Ever was he calm, even when all those around him panicked or fled. He taught me much of what I know. Indeed, Gandalf was the image of the Maiar, the forgotten Istari.
"It was, verily, a great loss that Gandalf fell, and so much lore and wisdom was lost from the world. But needless were none of the deeds of Gandalf in life, nor was his perishing needless. He fell defending us-even to the death."
Frodo stood, nodding.
"Thank you, Aragorn. You have given me fresh heart to continue on the Quest. Will we rech Lothlorien today?"
Aragorn slowly rose from the damp ground, his face and voice somewhat lightened from their former grimness.
"Yes. There we will find healing of mind and body, and perhaps we shall be able to lay aside our grief for a time."
The Ranger left Frodo gazing back towards Khazad-dum and went softly over to where Legolas sat watching the growing dawn. The Elf wheeled, his sharp ears catching the soft steps. He half-smiled sadly and motioned Aragorn to seat himself on a large boulder beside him. Aragorn sat down and waited.
"How went the talk with Frodo?"
"As well as most things I do now go," he replied. "I think I succeeded in convincing him that he was not the cause of Mithrandir's death, but he still grieves heavily."
"As do we all," Legolas asssured him. "You can do somewhat to lessen his guilt, but it is beyond you or me to assuage his grief more than a little. He loved Mithrandir like a father, and losing him-in the face of imminent danger-is a grievous blow. Perhaps he will be healed when we reach Lorien."
Aragorn sighed heavily. "Perhaps, my friend. Perhaps. Nothing is sure now that Gandalf is gone, and my mind least of all. But it is dawn. I will rouse the others, and we must begin our weary march again."
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