Words. A haze of spoken words and images assailed his mind, breaking free of the pain and fear in their attempt to make themselves known to the stricken Elf. Like the lifting of boom-gates, the memories and feelings swept through, reeking utter havoc on his thoughts as they conveyed his mind and conscience far from his prone body. The world around him fogged, the darkness closing in and tightening its grip about his heart. The shifting sea of Orcs blurred out of recognition, fading from sight as new surroundings formed. The leering faces of the beasts mingled into one before being swept away by a blinding light as Legolas found himself honing in on a moment of a day just past…
He stood still and silent, his arms crossed and his head held high and yet his eyes downcast. It was easiest that way, to keep his eyes lowered as he knew that they were his own inner traitor. No matter how he forced his face into concealing his emotions, his eyes would tell his secrets, betray his need to keep his feelings hidden and his emotions unseen. It was too dangerous not to do so.
To feel in times like this was akin to being run through with a blade; for his heart to be pierced and left to bleed a river of pain to wash away all that had been lost. Death seemed to follow them, to cling to the company like a rain cloud, constantly hindering their way and attempting to slow their progress. To shed a single tear would see them destroyed – him especially. He would be forced into a world darker then the one that he currently walked, lost in a sea of despair that had neither shore nor a sandy bottom. Boromir, Haldir, Halbarad, Théoden… The list of the fallen grew horrifyingly longer with each and every step that they took. To even think upon it for a second was akin to having the air stolen from his lungs by a freezing black water and to ponder upon the thought of who may be the next to fall seemed to cause more pain then the entirety of the past. To think that one of those that he currently stood with could be the next struck down by the cruel hands of fate was something that he did not even want to recognize let along contemplate.
Aragorn positioned a short distance away and before the stairs, Gandalf in front of him. Gimli sitting to his right, pipe in hand and Éomer standing as if at ill ease to his left. All of them were vital to their cause and most close to his heart, no matter how hard he had tried to shut them out. To lose one of them would be to lose his will to go on, to fight on.
That was what they were discussing, at least in a way. Their next move against the Dark Lord and his mounting forces and whether or not it was worth the risk to take it.
“We cannot achieve victory through strength of arms.” Éomer exclaimed moving forward and away from the side of the still silent Elf. “They outnumber us ten to one.” He added, looking from Aragorn to Gandalf with worry in his eyes. Rohan had already taken a blow not easily overcome at the fort of Helm’s Deep; the warriors that his people had to offer were of a meager number at best and could never be foreseen as a great power of strength. Gondor, as he had observed, was in no better condition. Her armies had dwindled in the years of darkness and especially at the battle just passed. Even with the aide of Imrahil their army was noticeably smaller and weaker then that which the enemy sent marching forth. “We stand no likelihood of pulling through; of winning.”
“Not for ourselves, but we can give Frodo a chance.” Aragorn countered the despairing words.
For a moment the room’s occupants stilled, the only sound being that of the heavy breathing of Gimli which only Legolas could hear. Each seemed to the thinking the words over, weighing their worth and truthfulness within their minds while calculating what such a price would be. To risk themselves and those that fought along side of them for the sole purpose of keeping the Great Eye off the small hobbits which were, hopefully, within the ring of the great mountains of the Black Land.
It was a lot to do; to trust such a feeble hope.
“Aragorn is right,” Legolas finally spoke, his stance still tall and regal though he kept his eyes to the floor and his arms crossed. “The Fellowship was formed to protect Frodo. Even though we are split, we should not stray from our goal.” Finally lifting his eyes from the floor, he looked straight at Éomer, “even if you do not seek to continue, we who first set out should not halt due to mere uncertainty.”
“And how do you know if he still lives?” Éomer reasoned, his eyes wandering to the Elf that stood as still as a statue. “It has been nigh on a month since you last lay eyes on him, and well over a week since Faramir last parted his company. If what Gandalf speaks of this Gollum creature is true, and he truly is in the company of the Halflings, what are the real chances that they have prevailed?”
For once Legolas had no answer. How could he inform one that he hardly knew of what was in his heart? He could never hope for Éomer to understand that somewhere deep within, locked safely away in the part of his heart that needed to be closed – that needed to push aside all the suffering and pain in order to keep beating – that he simply knew. He would feel it if Frodo had fallen, he was sure of it. It was through no second sight nor did there existed some profound connection with the Hobbit in question but with everything that he was, Legolas knew that if the Ring-bearer had fallen, he would know.
It was a matter of hope. One of the sole feelings that he would allow to show, to be worn on his sleeve for all to see. Hope still remained within him just as it remained in the world and not until all such feelings came crashing about his ankles would he believe that Frodo had failed.
That which he thought lost at the Battle of the Hornburg had returned with a fateful sound. A cry. The soft and yet profound song of the seagulls at the fields of Pelargir; that which he had dreaded since the inauspicious message relayed by Gandalf foretelling of what Legolas was sure was his death. As soon as his eyes fell upon the great white birds Legolas began to understand. To comprehend that he was not set to die, not there and not like that, and that hope still existed within the world. The birds still flew, the trees still grew and the people still breathed – as long as at least one of those great forces continued, hope could never truly fade.
But how could he tell of all that to a man that was ready to admit defeat.
“Look into your heart,” Aragorn supplemented for the silent Elf, drawing Éomer’s attention back to him, “Do you think that he has fallen?”
At the ranger’s words, Legolas’ eyes travel up and locked onto Aragorn’s. Offering the smallest incline of his head in thanks, Legolas shifted his weight slightly while once again casting his gaze down.
He was not used to this. All this talk that seemed to take place before every battle which involved humans. It was so different from his kind. It was not that they were rash in their actions, only that they already seemed to know what to do. One merely had to yell for a charge and every Elf would know exactly what needed to happen without so much as a spoken word. In truth, all this waiting and planning made him nervous. He had already proven what the hours of anxious delay could do to him at Helm’s Deep when he had spoken in despair of lost hope, and he had no intention of doing so again. The last thing that any of them needed at this point in time was the distressed and catastrophic words of an Elf.
“Then we ride forth and face the challenge!” Gimli exclaimed boisterously with his pipe held inches from his mouth as he spoke.
“The Fellowship shall not fail, nor shall our new companions,” Legolas ended, his voice low and soft yet still musical in its tones. “Not while at least one of us still stands shall we render.”
White faded, darkened and transgressed into a grey streaked sky lined with wispy clouds of gold and crimson. In the far distance thunder rolled and lightening cracked the heavens in two with a boisterous roar.
“I see in your eyes the same fear that would take the heart of me.” Aragorn shouted for all to hear as he rode before the front lines of the assembled army. “A day may come when the courage of men fails, when we forsake our friends and break all bonds of fellowship, but it is not this day! This day we fight!”
A great cheer carried through the ranks of the soldiers as weapons were raised and waved in the air. Courage would not fail, not when they had a strong leader and a cause to fight.
As Aragorn came riding back to his place, Legolas looked the man over. He remembered a time when the great King that he saw before him were merely a young lad; a frightened and confused boy trying to make sense of all that had happened and was to happen to him. That was so long ago, back when the world held only rumors of a growing darkness and yet paid no need to it.
Reaching back and pulling his hood over his head, Legolas leaned forward and over his horses’ neck, bring his face close to Aragorn’s. A soft smile playing at the corners of his lips, Legolas allowed the twinkle in his eyes to speak the words that he could not formulate. He knew that Aragorn understood; the way in which the human’s eyes seemed to answer his own thoughts was all the proof that he would ever need. Yet still, in an act that was somewhat uncharacteristic, Legolas felt the need to voice at least something.
“The Fellowship shall not fail, Estel.” He whispered, fondly using the name of the child that he had once known.
Pain, it kept bringing him back. His mind shifting from the relative calm to the raging sounds of the battle. It confused him, the switch in both time and place, as the memories came so clearly, so focused and so incredibly intense that the pain would all but melt away. Then to come crashing back to the present, to that which he knew to be happening and yet that which he could not fully grasp with such ill-defined chaos was like a game of the mind; a sickly torture created to make the inevitable more painful.
But no, there was something vital, something that he had to remember no matter what the costs. How had this come about? Why?
He could recall Aragorn’s words, the conversation where they decided that they must go on and trust to hope, but how had *this* happened.
As if carried by the wings of a great eagle, he could feel his mind floating away without him again, leaving his body trapped in that split moment of terror fueled recognition of what was occurring.
He had kept his hood pulled forward during the ride to the Black Gates, once again hiding his features and eyes from the sight of others. He had no definite clue as to why he did it – to hide his emotions? Perhaps his Elven light? Either way, it was something that he had done on impulse, not wasting the time to question his own motives. He knew that he was riding into a battle which would be filled with agents of the Dark Lord; Orcs, Wraiths, Wargs – all forms of vile creatures that tended to hate Elves as much as Legolas’ kin hated them. Perhaps that was the true reason.
Again he felt that strange pulse of fear in his veins, his heart pumping that tiny bit faster as his mind tried to prepare for what he would find when they came upon the Black Gate. Until the fateful fight of the Hornburg, he had not believed that he could feel fear. It had seemed something reserved for humans and hobbits alone, something that Gimli would never show and that he could never feel. And yet he had felt it, he had experienced that cold hand of terror clutch at his heart when he looked upon the minute numbers of actual soldiers that the people of Rohan had to offer. That time he had panicked, but now, now Legolas was almost certain that he was familiar with the feeling and that, with the right amount of concentration, he could keep it under control.
It was with that sense of confidence that he looked out upon the army gathered before the Black Gates of Mordor. To say that they were outnumbered was to understate the situation entirely. Legolas had always known that there existed a great number of fell beasts in the world, but to this extent – this was something that even his worst of thoughts could not conjure up.
As usual, Legolas had kept his peace throughout the conversation with the Mouth of Sauron, not finding it his place to intervene even as Gandalf rejected the terms that the messenger offered. Knowing that he would have done the same if in that position, Legolas merely kept his head bowed and covered; though again he did not know to what purpose.
As soon as the messenger had retreated, his offer scattered into the wind by the words of the Istari, the surging sea of Sauron’s minions moved forward, their weapons brandished high as they broke upon the first lines of the Company of the West.
The Orcs charged the Captains, aiming for the leaders in hopes of making the battle quick and yet ruthless. Legolas saw all this; saw the relentless drive to kill that flashed in pupils of green and yellow as jaws opened in a great, bloodthirsty battle cry. The captains would be swarmed, beaten down by the sheer number of the fell beasts in such a way that would deem the war over before it even began.
The leaders of their company had been fighting where they stood, staying in the view of all those that battled on as a form of reassurance and encouragement. The only problem with that was that in doing so, they had completely cut themselves off from any form of escape whilst surrounding themselves entirely within the legions of the enemy.
Intent on causing a distraction in hopes of giving Aragorn and the others at least a moment to prepare, Legolas leapt from his horse and flipped his hood back, revealing his Elven features and light in the midst of the dark battle. As if the agents of the Dark Lord had a sensing beacon, the moment that Legolas allowed his hood to fall back, a score of sharp teethed Orcs turned their heads in his direction, their eyes flickering with a shared craving for blood. The Orcs approached, their weapons raised and their mouths open in anticipation, each desperate to make the kill of the sole Elf in the battle.
Unfazed, Legolas reached for his bow, easily slinging it from his shoulder and to the front of his body. He moved faster then the eye could truly define, his actions blurring against the moving backdrop of fighters. Orcs fell one by one, Legolas’ next arrow well in the midst of its flight before the last Orc hit even had the time to fall lifelessly to the ground.
Pulling another arrow from his quiver, Legolas fitted it to the string with ease. Hands steady even when faced with the coming tide of opponents, Legolas held his bow to the side, the curved wood almost parallel with the ground. His arrow slid easily between the knuckles of his middle and ring finger, holding the shaft safely and staidly in place as he took small steps backwards. Pulling his arm back, stretching the string and feeling the smooth wood of the arrow run along the top of his hand, Legolas neither waited nor aimed, knowing that to wait was to risk being overcome and that, with the sheer mass of Orcs, the chances of him not hitting anything was absurd.
As the arrow left the safety of his string, Legolas felt his back bump into something hard. Whirling around, he had a mere moment to lash out with the end of his bow to in order to catch an attacking Orc in the side of the head. With the creature stunned, Legolas sent his clenched knuckles into the throat of the beast, crushing its windpipe and seeing to it that it fell dead to the ground.
The Elven Prince was about to grasp another arrow and turn back to the onslaught when a pair of hands wrapped firmly around the end of his bow, yanking it forward. Clutching the wood as tightly as he possibly could, Legolas kept his grip as he balanced his weight on his left foot, sending his right lashing out at the stomach of the Orc. The creature stumbled momentarily, but most of the force of the blow was lost due to the heavy armor that protected any weak spots of its body. Attempting to yank his bow free of the others grasp, Legolas found that the clawed hands and scaly fingers were wrapped around the wood tighter then Legolas cared to admit.
With the precious moments ticking by, Legolas found himself swamped by the disgusting beasts, the Orcs closing in on all sides. Already another had its filthy hands scratching at the opposite end of his bow and, as one, both the Orcs shoved backwards, sending the Elf reeling into the sea of the enemy’s creatures that spread out before him.
Pain ripped through his back, opening a burning tear through both the fine Elven fabric and his skin. Instantaneously he could feel the warm trickle of blood running down his back, soaking into his tunic and causing small tingles to run up his spine as the liquid slid down on its path. The sheer impact of the well aimed thrust saw Legolas lunging forward, doubling over his restrained bow and emitting a cry of agony into the already scream filled plains.
His right hand moved on its own, involuntarily dropping his hold on his weapon and moving in an attempt to cover the bleeding wound in his back…
But it was too late. Already he could see his vision blur, hear the sounds of the battle fade from his ears, and his recognition of pain subdued, even as another sword tore into his side, forcing his eyes to widen and a gasp to pass his lips.
Amidst the raging fight, he was but a mere causality, a single soul overpowered and overwhelmed while fighting for the greater good. A cause had been set down, defined and acknowledged by everyone that was to take part in what was to hopefully be the final battle of good and evil. That cause had been freedom, but like everything in life, freedom demanded a high price.
“Not while at least one of us still stands shall we render.”
He had known it when he said it; had understood the words with clarity as they escaped his mouth. Had he not been thinking of the sorrow that another’s death would cause only moments before his delectation? That was the point: he could not handle seeing another life lost, stolen before their time while he had something that he could give. Aragorn stood to distract the powers of Sauron from Frodo while Legolas stood to take the eye of the Dark Lord’s minions from the future King and the one that held hope. The one that was Hope.
Freedom demanded a price – Legolas was there to pay it so that others may have a taste of what he had during his immortal life.
His perception of time sped up, as if the seconds were scrambling to catch up with the mere moment that it had taken him to recall such facts. For an instant the world seemed to race past his eyes, each and every action becoming a rushed frenzy until it felt like the rest of the world had caught up with the falling Elf.
He had not even known that he was slowly collapsing to his knees, his head plunging forward as his body slackened. The ground rushed up to meet him in a dizzying swirl, a dance that enticed him in with its rhythmic and yet utterly chaotic moves while sucking all thoughts from his almost non-responsive mind.
As he fell, the Orcs fleeing the hillock in a desperate scramble, Legolas heard the only words that could put his panicked heart at peace, followed by a cheer of a voice that he knew all too well.
“The realm of Sauron has ended!” said Gandalf. “The Ring-bearer has fulfilled his quest.” His statement was followed closely by a cry of victory, led by no other then Aragorn himself.
The Ring-bearer had succeeded as had Legolas…
The pain gone and his mind at rest, Legolas finally ceased to resist the unavoidable and allowed himself to slump to the ground. In a last show of strength and resolve, he pulled his discarded bow to his chest and turned his open and searching eyes to the West and towards the sea that he would have loved had he had the chance.
Middle-earth was free; the grip of the Dark Lord abolished and forced into submission, and, what’s more, she now had a great King to lead her people. Frodo had saved the world, Legolas had saved their Hope.