A/N: Sorry about the wait, guys. Just too busy for words, and then I couldn’t find the last chapter! Here it is, though, though I doubt anyone will read it.
When Legolas awoke, the first sounds to meet his ears were the soft chirping of birds, and the blatant snoring of Gimli. Upon opening his eyes, Legolas’ first thought was that he was back in Mirkwood. But, nay. Not in Mirkwood, but in Fangorn: a strange wilderness unlike any Legolas had before witnessed. He longed to explore it and was happy Gimli and his faithful horse, Arod, were there to share the experience before his return home.
Legolas would not have thought it so difficult to part with his good friends as they all made their farewells yesterday. Knowing the fragility and uncertainty of mortal lives only increased his sense of finality, sadness and loss. Legolas and Gimli had promised each other this one last adventure before returning, and each seemed heartily glad for the company.
Suddenly, a loud pounding approached which shook the earth, startling Gimli out of his sleep. He snorted loudly awake. “What is blazes is that?” Gimli shouted, now on his feet, axe dangerously ready.
“That would be our friend, Treebeard, I believe,” Legolas answered, staring with captivation at the mysterious looking weald.
“Hoom, hoom! You are awake, my little friends, I see,” Treebeard said when he had at last reached them.
“Aye, we are awake and well rested, thank you, Eldest,” Legolas replied.
“That is good,” said Treebeard, “for much is there to see today. The forest holds many secrets. Hoooom! Many secrets indeed. Some so old there are few who can remember them.”
A nearby tree suddenly grumbled in complaint. Gimli froze and glanced about him, nervously. “I have no wish to know any such secrets, thank you!” he said to whatever could be listening.
Legolas could not help but laugh at his friend’s discomfort, and even Treebeard stretched his bark-like face into a smile. “Fear not, little Dwarf. They shall not harm thee while I am near.”
“Think naught of it,” Gimli muttered, wholly unconvinced.
“You see,” the ent said, gently, “they are distrustful of strangers. It would be wise to lower your weapon. Now.”
Legolas was undoubtedly excited at the prospect of their day’s expedition, but Gimli less so. Forests were one of the least favourite haunts of Dwarves and these trees, with their moaning and groaning, seemed particularly malevolent. He longed to feel the smooth, leather handle of his axe for protection, but Legolas had insisted Arod carry it for their entire journey in Fangorn Forest.
* * *
It was unlike anything ever before seen in Fangorn. A company of an elf, a dwarf, a Rohan horse, and an ent. They wandered wide and deep, exploring and observing the strange wonders of the forest to the fullest. Legolas was in rapture, but as the days passed, grew less contented with remaining, and thought more and more of home. On the seventh day of their visit, Legolas announced to Treebeard their decision to depart.
At once the face of the ent grew sad. His leaves and limbs seemed to droop, and he said, “Hoom! Hoom! Homes you must have that are longed for, but cannot you stay a while longer with me? Plenty more is there to see, hoom, that is worth seeing for an elf and a dwarf.”
Legolas smiled gently, but was adamant. “I would dearly love to see these treasures, Eldest. The war has been waged, and forever are we, men, dwarves and elves, grateful for the part you and your kind have played in it. The time has come now, however, for our return. Our families have been waiting.”
Gimli gazed at Legolas with elation. They were to leave! They were to depart from this wretched, miserable forest forever! “Aye, we are very sorry to leave you, Treebeard,” Gimli said, nodding profusely, “but the elf is right. Home calls to us.”
“Fear not though, Eldest,” Legolas said swiftly. “This is not our last visit with you in this wondrous place. We shall return.”
Gimli looked suddenly panicked at the thought of returning, but yielded and nodded.
“Hoom! Doom!” Treebeard called. “You are hasty as Hobbits, but perhaps that is because you are so young. Very well! We shall not make our farewells now, however, but at the westmost Fangorn border.”
They reached the skirt of the forest by mid-afternoon, and even then, Treebeard had hopes that they would change their minds and remain for a few more days. Grateful but resolute, Legolas and Gimli insisted they could not, but again thanked their friend for his generous hospitality.
“Hoom! Think naught of it, my young friends. I am only saddened. The world has changed. Some for the better, some not so. The Elves, tree teachers, wisest and fairest, and oh! I shall not say their whole name for that would take a long time, indeed, are departing forever more. How very sad that it is so. Well, farewell, my friends, until we meet again.”
Climbing onto Arod, Legolas heaved Gimli up. They waved ans sped away across The Wold, following the Limlight River. Once had Gimli turned back for a last glance at Treebeard, only to find him vanished among the thick trees.
They has rode long across the rolling hills of Rohan, but seemed to make little headway. Daylight was waning and they had just ridden to the spirited Anduin River. Legolas dismounted and plucked Gimli off Arod. “We should rest here tonight, Gimli, and be off at sunrise.”
Gimli grunted his approval and, glancing to his left, gasped with enthralled delight. “What forest lies yonder? I could not hope for it to be the fair Lothlórien.”
“Your eyes do not cheat you,” Legolas replied, amused. “The weald is, indeed, close.”
Gimli stared up at him, pleadingly. “Oh, could we not just stop for a visit, perhaps?”
“I am sorry, my friend, but it is not on our way. I fear that we would tarry there too long, and already I am troubled by a disturbing dream of home. I cannot help but feel that something is amiss.”
“You long to gaze into the face of your lady. Very well,” Gimli said, relenting. “That is something I can well understand,” he said, thinking of the fair Galadriel.
* * *
As the days passed, the three companions moved ever closer toward Mirkwood Forest. Legolas had noticed a peculiar alteration, however. Even at a distance, the weald seemed airy and cheerful, and had appeared to have lost its ominous gloom. “It is the Greenwood of my youth,” Legolas said, transfixed.
Gimli turned ferociously to Legolas. “You said there would be Orc necks to hew!”
“I thought there would be, and perhaps there are. I know not what has happened here. Come! Let us ride hard and attempt to solve this riddle.”
After an hour’s hard ride, the Mirkwood border had at last been reached. Jumping off Arod and placing Gimli on firm ground, they approached the entrance into the forest with extreme care. Nervous, Gimli readied his axe, and Legolas prepared his bow. “There are eyes. We are being watched,” Legolas said, though unsure of where the eyes were.
“Halt!” a clear voice, rang out. “Do not shoot!”
Turning, Legolas saw an elf known to him. He lowered his bow, aghast. “Friend, what do you do here?”
Haldir smiled, wryly, and other elves, clad with bows and arrows made themselves known. “Prince Legolas, Master Gimli,” Haldir said, bowing slightly. “We have been expecting you, and began to fear you may have gotten lost,” he said with a twinkle in his eye.
Gimli let out a disputing snort. “Lost? I think not, Master elf! Far and wide have we journeyed, including into Mordor itself. This Elf and Dwarf have never gotten lost!”
“I know,” Haldir said, softening. “Pray forgive my quip, Master Gimli.”
“What has happened here?” Legolas said gazing about the trees crowned with sun-filled leaves, birds twittering and soaring, and squirrels and rabbits foraging merrily in the grass.
Haldir stared at them. “You do not know?”
Legolas and Gimli shook their heads, and Haldir continued. “I would have thought my Lady would have told you. Did you not see her in Minas Tirith?”
“Aye, but Lady Galadriel and Lord Celeborn said nothing of Mirkwood. Their answers were always so enigmatic.”
Haldir smiled at that remark, saying, “Aye. Wise are they indeed. Perhaps wisest and fairest of all our kind here in Middle Earth. I am certain their reasons for not telling you were honourable.”
Gimli spoke up irritably, “But you have yet to tell us, Elf, what has happened here!”
“Have I not?” Haldir replied silkily. “My apologies. Mirkwood, my dear friends, is no more. Pray let me welcome you to Eryn Lasgalan!”
“The Wood of Greenleaves?” Legolas said, translating. “How has this happened?”
“It has been cleansed,” Haldir said.
“Cleansed?” Gimli repeated, confused.
“Cleansed,” Haldir repeated. “By Lady Galadriel herself. Dol Guldur is no more, and no orc remains in Mirkwood to tell the tale of its ruin.”
“But. . .how? When?” Legolas asked, hungrily.
“All will be answered, I swear to you, but now you must be hungry for good elven dinners,” he said and then that twinkle again appeared in his eye, “and starved for the superior company of the Elves!” Gimli sputtered and shot him a withering glance. “Everything is already prepared for you, and your cousins await and are anxious to hear of your adventures.”
It was some hours later, as Haldir sat with his guests at dinner, that he explained the whole of the destruction of Dol Guldur. Gimli, however, did not seem as impressed as Haldir would have liked.
“That is nothing!” Gimli said, burping. “Until you have seen with your own eyes, the black Tower of Barad-dûr fall, you have seen nothing, my friend.”
Haldir smiled, and cunningly changed the subject. “You have an intriguing wife, my cousin.”
“You have seen her?” asked Legolas incredulously.
“But of course,” Haldir said, amused. “I delivered a message to your father from my Lord, and was fortunate enough to be presented to her by your brother, Haldof.”
“So!” Gimli exclaimed boisterously. “She was not just a figment of your imagination! Tell me, Haldir. Is she as beautiful as our Legolas tells me?”
“I have little knowledge of beauty where mortals are concerned,” Haldir said. “However, I thought her enchanting.”
“Tell me,” Legolas said, “how was she when you saw her?”
Haldir thought carefully for a moment. “She appeared in the best of health,” he replied.
* * *
The next morning, Legolas, Gimli and Arod resumed their journey only now under the glistening shroud of trees which had once caused great trepidation to Legolas. The forest was, indeed, cleansed. No more dangers lurked behind boles, or laid in wait to attack passers by caught unawares. All evil had been purged, and Gimli strolled with Legolas who continued to examine the ancient trees, flittering birds, and merry light of the forest with ceaseless amazement.
A day had passed, and still the delighted smile could not be removed from Legolas’ face. Gimli, however, had ceased finding the forest delightful, and longed for more conversation from his friend that extended beyond, “It is just as the forest from my youth!”
“Yes! Yes! Yes!” Gimli exclaimed when Legolas had once again repeated the like. “I have heard you! Legolas, you are obviously very merry at this event, but you cannot allow it to transform you into a tedious friend!”
“I am sorry, Gimli,” Legolas said, laughing at his own expense. “Perhaps I have been a trifle dull.”
“Think naught of it. I can see home means much to you. Though, how you Elves can live with so much green around you, I shall never live to understand. Give me the cold grey of the mountain and a deep, plentiful mine and I am happy!”
“But that is because. . .” but Legolas stopped short, staring with a curious expression on his face.
“What is it? Orcs?!” Gimli swung up his axe quickly in eager desperation, yet Legolas shook his head.
“Nay, Gimli. No orcs. I recognize this place.”
Gimli lowered his axe, disappointed. “You had me thinking we would be having some fun on this journey home!”
“I am sorry, Gimli,” Legolas said, steering off of their path.
“Legolas! This is not our path! Where does that old trail lead?”
Legolas, however, did not answer, but merely followed the thin, winding little path onwards as high hills towered on each side of him. They came to a glade, and Legolas’ breath caught in his mouth.
Walking fast to keep up, Gimli at last joined Legolas and stared into the opening of the forest. A broken down cabin sat at the foot of a towering willow tree and a glittering pond. “A broken down old cottage? This is what you wished to show me?”
Legolas smiled, his heart filling with warmth. “This is where I met Mithryn,” he explained. He strode nearer to the small hut which had once offered him so much warmth and delight. Its doors had fallen off its hinges, and lay collapsed on the grassy earth. Windswept leaves lay about a deserted kitchen, and an over-grown herb garden grew at its rear. He bent down and plucked a stem filled with clusters of snow white flowers. The scent of almonds filled his nose as he sniffed the bloom. “Ulmaria. . .” he whispered in private ecstasy.
“Perhaps I should leave you two alone?” Gimli said roguishly.
“Mithryn. . .” Legolas began before being interrupted by an impatient Gimli.
“Mithryn! Mithryn! I swear, elf, you think of naught else! May I offer you a suggestion?”
“You know this place. How far are we from your home?”
Legolas thought a moment. “I believe it took us three days.”
“Three days with a lady, perhaps. Do you recall also how quickly we followed those Uruk-hai that captured the young Hobbits?”
“I do,” Legolas replied, smiling.
“That was on foot. We have a horse! Though I cannot believe I am saying this, we could make it to your father’s home in little more than a day’s hard ride.”
“What’s this, Gimli? You are asking for a ride on Arod?”
“Yes, yes, it is just that I am sick of your constant moaning for your wife!”
“Thank you, Gimli, and you are right! Arod is swift, indeed, and we could surely make it there in a day.”
“Or maybe less!” Gimli added.
“Come then, Gimli! Legolas said, tucking the willowy flower safely into his doublet. “Let us ride! Too long has she waited for my return.”
Legolas picked Gimli up and set him on Arod, who seemed ready for a vigorous ride. With a spring in his step, Legolas jumped on, and they rode off, taking the very same rode Legolas, Mithryn and Anfalas had taken but a year before. Legolas smiled as the trees whipped past him. “I am coming, Mithryn,” he whispered to himself. “I am coming.”
End of Chapter 35