Return to Rivendell

by Varda

When they reached the crest of a steep rocky slope Fiain pointed and cried to Legolas;
‘There is it! Imladris….’

The son of King Thrandúil of Mirkwood gazed down at the home of Elrond Half-Elven and wondered….in all his long years roaming the woods and moors of the North, often in company with Elrond’s foster-son Aragorn, Legolas had never set foot in this haven made for the Elves at the end of the great wars. Ancient disputes had long been forgotten, but although Thrandúil was of a royal Sindarin lineage, he ruled a woodland people and Legolas found no peace for his heart except under the trees. Seeing the arches and terraces of shining white stone where great Elven lords such as Gildor and Glorfindel had made their home, Legolas wondered would he seem untutored and uncouth….

As their horses approached the arched gateway, however, two Elves clad in long blue robes embroidered with silver walked out and raised their hands in greeting. Legolas smiled at once in reply; these were Elrohir and Elladan, the sons of Elrond, and Legolas had often fought at their side against the forces of Sauron…

‘Welcome, Legolas, welcome!’ said Elladan. ‘The others have all arrived, and we are right glad you have come in time…’
Legolas leaped from his horse and embraced the two brothers, trying to hide his bewilderment. How did they know he was coming? And what was going on? The courtyard was full of horses and Elves and Men. Some great council, perhaps. But that was not why he had come to Rivendell…he walked in through the arch and almost collided with a low stocky figure.

‘My pardon, Master Dwarf….’ He said coolly, looking down at the short thick-set figure he had almost walked into. A face, broad and weatherbeaten but with deep-set amber eyes twinkling under bushy brows glared up at him.
‘Kindly watch where you are going!’ the dwarf snapped. ‘I did not come all this way to be trampled by an Elf…’
Legolas bowed and moved away with a smile. Dwarves had become the foes of many houses of the Elves, but King Thrandúil used them for his building and the making of arms, and Legolas was used to seeing them in his father’s halls…he glanced back at the sturdy shape as it stamped away; there was something distinctive about that dwarf….

But Legolas had no time to ponder it further. Nor had he time to speak to Elrond, busy with a houseful of guests. It was from his son Elrohir he learned that the Lord of Imladris had summoned a great council which would meet the next morning.

‘Do not fear, Legolas!’ said Elrohir. ‘He will hear all you have come to say then!’

Legolas felt his heart sink; what he had come to say was not for all ears and he would rather not reveal it before all the world. He looked around and saw Gandalf on the terrace overlooking the courtyard, in earnest conversation with Lord Elrond. Running through the leafy paths, chasing each other and shouting like the children of men, were tiny people he had never seen before, although he knew they were Periain, from descriptions he had heard of travellers. They had come far, from the extreme West. Some great business was afoot, and likely to swallow up his little errand….

The council was called the next day, and Legolas took a seat on the terrace before the Hall of Fire. Representatives of Men and Elves and Dwarves were all present, and then, from Elrond and from Bilbo and others, Legolas heard about the Ring…

As Bilbo told of his chance acquisition of the fateful trinket, and of Gollum, Legolas felt the blood drain from his face. Gandalf spoke about the creature and Frodo about the Ring, and then, when a sudden silence fell in the talking, Legolas rose to his feet and said as calmly as he could;
‘My lord Elrond, that is why I have come…..’

A deeper silence settled on the council. Legolas looked round; some he knew but others, like the tall fair-haired warlike Prince of Gondor, Boromir, he had never seen before. He was aware of all eyes upon him, some hostile. But then he caught a look from Aragorn, who winked. Encouraged, he blurted out;
‘Gollum has escaped…’
It was Gandalf who was most angry…
‘Gollum escaped!’ he said sharply. ‘That is ill news indeed, for he has great store of malice and can do us great harm…how did the Elves fail my trust?’

So then, standing in the warm autumn sunshine, the leaves blown whispering along the wide pavement by a light breeze, Legolas told the council of how Gollum, on a hot summer day of endless blue sky, had escaped. How he had been allowed to climb a tall beech tree by his Elven guards, and from there had signalled to the orcs of Dol Guldur, who attacked the Elves and rescued him….

‘…and his guards were taken or slain’ said Legolas simply, concealing in his terse account his grief for his lost friend Líofa, one of Gollum’s guards. As he spoke, too, Legolas looked at Frodo, still wan and thin after his wounding by the Nazgul, and he felt an overpowering desire to make good the harm his people might have unleashed on the hobbit and on the whole world by allowing Gollum to get away….

Everyone started talking at once, and Legolas sat down, his shoulders sagging and his heart empty. He took little interest in what they were all saying until suddenly a stunned silence fell and he looked up and before him was the dwarf whom he had almost knocked down the day before. He was glaring at him and the deep-set eyes were blazing with anger. He declared;
‘I will be dead before I see the Ring in the hands of an Elf! Never trust an Elf!’

Legolas sprang to his feet, not to attack Gimli but to hold back the Elves, who leaped to their feet and surged forward with angry shouts. Chaos at once broke out, everyone talking and shouting at once. Only Aragorn and Elrond kept their seats, staring sadly at the confusion. Suddenly Legolas heard, with his keen Elvish senses, a voice speaking quietly. He looked down and there in the midst was Frodo, holding the Ring again.
‘I will take it. I will take the Ring, though I do not know the way...’ His voice was clear and only shook a little. Gandalf looked at him with utmost relief and moving to him placed a hand on his shoulder and said;
‘I will help you bear this burden, Frodo, as long as it is yours to bear…’

And then Aragorn got to his feet and crossed the council floor and knelt before Frodo and said;
‘You have my sword…’ and without thinking, without even having to think, Legolas also bowed to Frodo and said;
‘You have my bow….’
And before any could speak or move the dwarf who had confronted Legolas stepped up and said to Frodo with a dangerous gleam in his eye;
‘You have my axe…..’

When the council was over and the delegates were leaving the terrace, Legolas felt only a great joy; whatever occurred now he had at least, by his vow of service to Frodo, made good in some part the harm done by the escape of Gollum. He was aware of curious and even disappproving stares from the other Elves but he did not care…he moved swiftly up the steps to the Hall of Fire and opened the door to enter… Gimli took hold of the other ringed handle…

At once Gimli drew back, but so did Legolas. The Dwarf made an exaggerated bow and said with a mock flourish;
‘Pardon me, Prince Legolas. Your royal rank takes precedence over a humble dwarf. I pray you enter before me…’
Legolas went red with embarrassment and anger. He never insisted on his royal status, not even telling strangers who he was. He said abruptly;
‘No, pray do not trouble yourself. You go first….’
‘But I insist!’ growled Gimli bowing again.
‘I will not let you!’ said Legolas, but his courtesy was wearing thin. They both stopped and stared at each other but did not move. After a long wait both started forward together and walked into each other in the doorway. They stepped back again, and Legolas stole a look at the dwarf. To his surprise the eyes were twinkling with amusement under the bushy brows. Suddenly Gimli said to Legolas;
‘That took a lot of courage, my lad.’

Legolas looked down at the dwarf, fighting back amusement at being called a lad by someone centuries younger than himself. But what he saw in the Dwarf’s eyes stilled his laughter. Gimli was gazing at him with sympathy.
‘To come all this way to stand up in front of all those great folks and tell them you have let this creature escape, perhaps to our ruin, took courage, my lad. And even in an Elf we dwarves recognise true steel….’

The peaks that overlooked Imladris were covered with a thick mantle of snow, but at least the valley was clear as Legolas rode through it in haste towards the Last Homely House. The wind blowing under a steel-coloured sky was bitter and cut to the bone, but Legolas had thrown back his hood and urged his horse on as if afraid of being late. As he went he could not help remembering that bright winter day so long ago…

He turned his horse’s head and entered the wide courtyard, looking about him. Gone were the many flowering trees and shrubs from the gardens, now only sombre evergreens sheltered the empty walks and groves. No music spilled out of the empty rooms or leaf-strewn terraces nor was there any brightly-clad Elves in the yard to greet Legolas except for Elladan and Elrohir, clad in heavy unadorned black robes.

‘Thank heaven you are here!’ said Elladan, grasping the bridle
‘We were afraid you would be too late….’
Legolas dismounted hastily and asked;
‘When did he come, and why did you not send me word before?’ He began to walk quickly towards the arched doorway of the house but Elladan and Elrohir did not move. Legolas came back and said quietly;
‘What is the matter?’

When Elrond went over the Sea many of his household and the great Elven lords who had made Imladris their home went too. But his sons stayed, and kept a simple household for those Elves who like them did not wish to go, or at least not yet. The great Hall of Fire stood empty and dark and cold, its mirrored columns reflecting no light and its high beamed roof no longer echoing to any song. But still in the rooms there were warm cheerful fires for those who dwelt there, and into one of these spacious but bare rooms the twin sons of Elrond led Legolas, shaking the snow from his Elven cloak.
‘Please, sit’ said Elladan ‘There is yet time….’

Legolas looked at the sons of Elrond, noting the silver threads in their long glossy black hair. He saw too lines on their fine pale faces and around their Elven grey eyes. He remembered what he had heard, that they too like their sister Arwen had chosen to die in Middle Earth. Legolas wondered at their love for this land over that home beyond the Sea…but then Elrohir spoke;

‘Gimli bore the news of the death of King Ellessar very hard, as we all did. He was away in the North, visiting the Dwarvish realm of Erebor, called by them the Lonely Mountain, when he learned of it. Already it was winter, and next news we had was he had been stricken by a fever, and was coming West again. How he got across the mountains in winter I cannot guess, but he became even more ill, and we sent messengers to find him and bring him here. We knew you would be in your Elven realm of North Ithilien and asked leave to send for you. But …’ and here Elrohir smiled an exasperated smile
‘You know Gimli…’
‘I do’ said Legolas grimly. ‘Stubborn Dwarvish necks….’Elrohir smiled sadly and went on;
‘Even Elrond my father, had he been here, could not do any more for him than our Elvish healers, but it is hopeless. I think his heart broke when he heard of the death of his Aragorn..’
Legolas turned away to hide the tears he felt spring into his eyes. Elrohir said gently;
‘But at least you are here now….’

The Elves had laid the old dwarf in the room that had been set aside for Frodo when he had been brought wounded by the Witch King’s morghul knife into Rivendell. The many candles that blazed from the walls then had been taken away and only a small silver lamp burned on a low table beside the bed. Gone too were the mirror and the statues of Elf-maidens that had stood in the alcoves. Now the room was bare and plain, dark except for the warm glow from a brazier set in the middle of the floor.

Legolas entered quietly, but not quietly enough….

‘Dratted Elf, waking everyone up!’ a voice, grumpy as ever but now dangerously raw and hoarse spoke up from the pile of warm coverlets and furs piled on the bed to ward off the bitter cold. Legolas smiled and closed the door behind him and walked softly over to the bed and sat down beside his old friend.

Dwarves are a long-lived race and show little signs of age beyond a silvering of the hair and a slowing and stiffening of their gait. So the familiar face turned to Legolas was at first reassuringly hale and cheerful and the dark amber eyes twinkled like starlight on a winter lake. But the hand on the coverlet was only bones without flesh, even under the callouses left by ages handling an axe, and the skin was yellow under the silver-shot beard. In the eyes too there was the fever that Legolas knew would not go away, for all the lore still known to Elves. He yearned suddenly for the healing hands of the King, but knew with a pain like a blade in his heart that Aragorn was gone for ever, and that was the cause of Gimli’s sickness….

‘Mellon!’ said Legolas and he took the protesting dwarf in his arms and lifted him from the bed, holding him tight even as he struggled to be let go.
‘Elvish nonsense!’ muttered the Dwarf, but when he put him back down Legolas saw that there were tears in his eyes.
‘I have no idea why they sent for you, I am quite all right!’ grumbled Gimli, but the hollow rasp in his chest alone belied his words. As if aware of it himself he added;
‘But I am right glad you came, my friend.….’
They looked for a while at each other, smiling, then Gimli said self-consciously;
‘They have put me in the bed where Frodo lay while he was nursed back to health by Elrond. It is too good for an old dwarf!’
‘No!’ said Legolas, almost fiercely. ‘It is fitting you should have it….’

Only talking for a short while tired Gimli, so Legolas sat down by the bed and there was silence for some time. Then Gimli said;
‘It was my dream to return to Lothlórien…’ he smiled and shook his head;
‘But to go back to the Golden Wood when the Lady is not there, what would be the point? I do not love trees for their own sake, as you do my friend. To see that blessed Queen again was my only wish…but now….’ And his voice trailed off. Legolas saw that in one wasted hand Gimli held something tightly, and he knew it was the strand of the Lady’s hair, set in crystal.

Legolas said quietly;
‘Do not despair of seeing Galadriel again. I believe you very well might….’
Gimli went to laugh then looked curiously at Legolas and said.
‘Perhaps, indeed….’

There was another silence, and Legolas heard the snow brushing softly against the window panes. Then Gimli abruptly asked;
‘Do you remember Balin’s tomb?’

Legolas nodded, and into his mind’s eye rushed the great burial chamber of Khazad-Dum, strewn with the skeletons of orcs and dwarves, where the Fellowship had made its stand, and defeated the cave Troll….Gimli interrupted him with a chuckle;
‘We made such a fight as the songs will tell of in every age…’

Legolas was nodding vigorously.
‘....and I saw a thing of such beauty as I never beheld in my life before or since’ said Gimli
’…Frodo’s mithril coat, gleaming bright in the dust of that ancient hall.’
Legolas nodded again, picturing the shining coat of Elven mail illuminating the burial chamber.
‘But Legolas…’ said Gimli, and now his voice was little more than a husky whisper
‘ has often haunted me, that tomb lying dark and forgotten, in a hall deep within the earth.’
Legolas looked intently at him and he went on;
‘How I scolded poor Pippin for calling it a hole in the ground, but what else was it?’
‘Great was the art of the Dwarfish smiths of that time’ said Legolas but Gimli cut him off impatiently;
‘Yes I know, greatly skilled in delving and awaking Balrogs….but what I meant was…’
And here he paused as if searching for words. ‘..I have been haunted by the thought of Balin, laid in a tomb far below ground, where he can not feel the wind on his cheek or the sun on his face, nor hear the leaves whisper above him. Legolas….I do not wish to lie entombed in rock, even in the halls of my forefathers. I want to lie under the sky and the stars of the Elves…’

Legolas looked at Gimli in astonishment, but did not argue. He merely said;
‘As you wish it, it will be done….’

In the cold dawn Elrohir and Elladan found Legolas sitting in the gallery where once the shards of Narsil had been kept before their reforging as Anduril. He was looking out over the snowy woods, in silence. The Elven twins hurried over and Legolas looked up and they realised that in his bright hair were streaks of silver, and on the fair face were lines that had not been there before and shadows under his eyes. The cheeks were hollow and the lips pale. They feared the worst but Legolas said;
‘Do not fear, he is only sleeping. However….’ And Legolas looked away as if he could not hide the grief in his eyes.
‘He does not have much time….’

Elrohir and Elladan bowed their heads, but then Legolas said suddenly;
‘So for that reason I want you to get our horses ready, we leave as soon as possible….’

The twins stared at Legolas and he added more gently;
‘As I said, we do not have much time….’

‘But where are you going?’ burst out Elrohir. ‘he is too sick to be moved….’
‘I know.’ Said Legolas ‘but he must endure this one last journey. I am taking him with me to the Sea….’

‘To the Sea?’ stammered Elrohir. ‘You mean to bid him farewell as you leave the shores of Middle Earth’.
‘No’ said Legolas with a faint smile ‘I mean to take him with me…’
‘To Elvenhome?’
‘Dwarves are not permitted to go to Elvenhome…..’ said Elladan.
‘Now..’ said Legolas ‘at the end of this Age, with the death of Elessar, all things are for a short while permitted….’

He got to his feet and walked slowly to the balcony. The snow clouds had parted to reveal scores of stars, brilliant in the icy winter sky. He spoke in a low quiet voice, as if to himself;
‘Queen Galadriel warned me, ‘Legolas Greenleaf, beware the crying of the gulls’ and that sound I heard while I fought for Aragorn and the cause of good. After that unrest was sown in my heart, and I began to yearn for the Sea, to cross beyond it. But I learned something else in the war too. Home is not for me across the sea, or even this side of the Sea. It is in that place where dwell those we love, and even in the places we love….’ And he waved a hand around him at Rivendell and added;

‘Your sister Arwen made the right choice; to live one lifetime with love and not an eternity without it. My lords…’ Legolas walked over to stand before Elrohir and Elladan and said in a ringing voice;

‘You see before you the last of the Fellowship of The Ring….’

..and it is stated at the end of the Red Book of Westmarch that in the year 120 of the Fourth Age Gimli elf-friend and Legolas Greenleaf sailed West over the Sea. Yet the chronicler of this event is unsure of its truth and merely reports the tale….