Choices of a Mirkwood Prince

by WindSinger

Legolas ran his hands slowly down the trunk of a massive Mallorn tree, his fingers lightly caressing every detail of the warm bark, tracing small ridges and folds. As the surface under his hands smoothed to that of rich silk he stilled them, reviling in the rich, wholesome surge of life just under his fingertips. Slowly he pressed his palms flat and opened himself to the entire symphony of the magnificent giant; an ancient symphony whose deep tones of wisdom were sprinkled with bright, joyful melodies of the here and now.

A symphony that sang of the beautiful, exquisite unity of all life; from the depths of the rich, nourshing soil to the endless vault of sky:
Of teasing breezes, refreshing drops of rain and warm caresses of
light; the quiet of winter and the bursting vitality of spring.
Of flashing wings of birds, the buzz of bees and the soft patter of
delicate squirrel feet.
Of quiet, nimble hoof falls of deer and the sinuous, controlled
strength of big cats that prowled under its spreading branches.
Of soft, black velvet nights alive with the ethereal song of multitudes
of twinkling stars.
Of men and elves.
Of orcs, axes and fire.
Of the very rhythm of life; joy, light and birth; pain, destruction and
death.

The fair elf spread his arms to embrace the tree, leaning the length of his body against the massive trunk, his cheek against the smooth, warm bark. To a casual observer he was just resting; in truth he had slowed the rhythm of his breathing and heart beat to resonate with the Mallorn's symphony. He had become, as much as physically, mentally and spiritually possible, one with the ancient forest monarch.

The sun was sliding toward the far horizon when Legolas finally took a deep breath and stood away from the trunk. As he slowly detached himself from the symhony his eyes traveled up to the magnificent canopy, spreading a protective cover of dancing leaves, shimmering in the late afternoon sun. He closed his eyes as the last caressing strain of melody faded away, longing for a moment to immerse himself in its life song once again. But he did not heed the instinct buried deep in his very soul; a sense of pressing events was slowly reasserting its hold on him, leading him fully into the almost harsh, uncompromising world of the here and now.

Sometime before he left his home in Mirkwood to carry the grim news to Lord Elrond of the creature Gollum's escape, Legolas had become aware of a faint whisper speaking to him of an enormous evil gathering strength somewhere in Middle Earth. He was being called to help with - something, he knew not what. He knew only that an inevitable confrontation of that insidious evil with the forces of good was fast approaching. He needed to be at the forefront of that battle, somehow, somewhere beyond the borders of Mirkwood.

That whisper had become a continuous cord, pulsing through him as he came ever closer to Rivendell. The cord had become a full blown melody during Lord Elrond's council and had reached a crescendo when he had offered himself as a protector of the ring bearer. It was what he needed to do, what he wanted to do, what he was meant to do. So he gently detached himself from the great Mallorn's life song, accepting its parting gift of a sense of renewed strength, peace of mind and enhanced spirit as he came fully back into himself.

The fair elf knew interaction with his quest companions or even his own kind would seem harsh until he had a chance to readjust to his immediate surroundings. He lowered himself in one graceful, fluid motion to sit corss legged on the soft grass beneath the Mallorn and allowed his mind to wander back over the events and decisions that had led him to what he knew would be the most challenging, as well as perhaps the most enlightening, journey he had ever taken. The One Ring, Sauron's center of power, must be destroyed in the fires of Mt. Doom, in the very heart of his vile empire. The magnitude of evil to be faced and conquered on this quest was probably beyond anything he could imagine. And to have no elvan companions, only men, hobbits and --- a DWARF! --- would be a trial of a different kind; perhaps an even greater one than facing whatever evil Sauron could throw at them.

A faint rustle not quite consistent with the movements of any creature of the forest demanded part of his attention. Someone had moved close and stopped. The foot fall, which was stealthy and almost escaped even his acute hearing, was not quite that of a fellow elf. He smiled to himself, it had to be Aragorn. As the only living mortal raised by elves he had learned well their woodland skills. Legolas welcomed his friend softly, "Na vedui I Dundadan, mellon."

"Yes n aim, vana edhel." The tall ranger strode under the spreading branches and sat beside the elf. "I do not mean to intrude but thought you might not mind some company. I have just come from a meeting with Elrond and Mithrandir and was looking for a bit of quiet."

"You had quiet before you found me. Would you prefer I remain mute?"

The ranger gave the elf a withering look, "Quiet is relative. I find this very quiet and relaxing as compared to the mission that has demanded my attention since the moon was new."

The man and the elf fell silent, letting the golden rays of the dying sun warm their faces and their souls. Finally Legolas broke the comfortable, healing quiet, "I understand the other teams have returned with no news of the Nazgul and now it seems they have also eluded you and Lord Elrond's sons.

"And you know this - how?"

Legolas gave the ranger a searching look, "If you had even come near one of those undead creatures you would yet carry a tint of their evil."

Aragorn laughed. "I know not why I tell you anything. You seem to know my mind with no prompting on my part. But no, we saw no sign of Sauron's henchmen." He stretched his long legs out and leaned back to rest against the Mallorn. "As we are the last team to return, I am sure Elrond and Mithrandir will agree the fellowship should leave well within the fortnight. I understand Frodo has recovered and I fear we have tarried as long as we dare."

Quiet descended again as man and elf became lost once more in their own thoughts.

The soft grey of early evening had started to chase the lingering glow of the sun's farewell caress up the Mallorn's trunk to a final blaze of glory among its shimmering crown and the first star had just winked into view when Aragorn leaned forward, resting his arms on his knees.

"Legolas, arat mellon, I understand to be away from your kind for the length of this quest will be an extra burden for you to carry. I know not what I can do but be assured that I will give whatever aid I can to help ease your isolation."

For a span of heartbeats there was no response. Then the fair elf sighed, "I thank you for your concern but I do not think mine will be as great a burden as it would for another of the first born."

"Oh? And why would that be?"

Again there was no response while the familiar sounds of the forest filled the quiet, then Legolas turned to face Aragorn, "You were raised in the very heart of Lord Elrond's seculded enclave by elves who have, for the most part, enjoyed the freedom to explore the depths of their creative abilities and to pursue any interest as long and as deeply as they desire; to loose themselves in contemplation of the stars, the rhythm of the earth or the nature of any living thing."

"Many of my people have not had that luxury for a grat number of years. Since the end of the Second Age much of our skill and might have been focused on fighting the evil forces that attack our boarders. Which is why, as you are aware, I have no great talent with a musical instrument, no enlightened understanding of any of life's mysteries or extraordinary healing powers. The only skills I have had the opportunity to hone are those needed to fight the viscous spawn of evil, to protect my home and my people."

He paused and looked away, his eyes resting on another Mallorn raising its branches to blaze in the glory of the dying day. "As one who has never known peace I am afraid my abilities will be more useful on this quest then they would be were I to spend the next year in Rivendell."

The ranger studied his friend's profile. He was well aware of the elf's almost unbelievable skill with bow and sword, having been saved from injury and death more times than he could count by these very skills. But he also knew the young prince drew strength and peace of mind and spirit from the life force pulsing through Middle Earth in a way he, as a mortal, could never hope to completely understand. And lately he had found himself wondering if Legolas had denied an important part of his very nature by refusing to fully surrender to its call; to delve into all the unimaginable mysteries, intricacies and beauty of its song. The ranger was beginning to suspect he had not yet the privilege of understanding an important part of who his friend was, or at least had the potential to be.

Aragorn also knew that he and Legolas had become close, in large part, because of their shared focus on the physical aspects of the battle against darkness, the pursuit and destruction of the flesh and blood spawn of evil; a way of life which may also have lent the elf his more spontaneous, emotional nature. To how great an extent this warrior lifestyle had molded his friend he was not sure, but he was starting to fear Legolas had suppressed an integral part of his elvish soul that, perhaps, needed nurturing.

From a distance Aragorn had observed the fair elf's brief bond with the Mallorn and knew he had broken the flow of communication before it was complete. He had seen elves remain immersed for days in whatever they heard and felt when bonded to one of the mighty giants. Just how much did his friend miss the opportunity to explore his ability to become one with this - this life force, leading to an understanding of the world in a way, and to a depth, that mortals were denied? Just how much was he sacrificing?

Maybe he would probe just a bit. "Ah, but would you not choose to give yourself over to comtemplating the nature of..." Aragorn paused, casting about for inspiration, his eyes falling on the delicate, yellow star flowers scattered through the meadow. He carefully picked one single, perfect bloom and held it up to the last light of the dying day, "...of this single Elanor bloom, for instance, if that choice were given you?"

Legolas gently took the flower from his friend, holding it almost reverently as he twirled it slowly between his fingers, marveling at its delicate, perfect beauty and the vibrant life evident in even so small a bloom. Finally he sighed as he began to weave the stem into his tunic lacings, "I think not. There are times my soul is sickened by the evil I have seen and the things I have done, but I also feel what I do is necessary." He gave a soft, low laugh "If I survive this quest and find myself longing for peace and quiet so I can delve into the mysteries of Elanor blooms I will still have before me the choice of sailing over the sea to Valinor, where neither peace, quiet nor time will ever be lacking. And I think, my friend, that decision will be upon me before I will it - do what I might."

He stood up and looked down in the growing dark at the ranger. "Until that time I am more than content to offer my skills where they will do the most good. This is the most important task in Middle Earth the forces of good have faced since my birth and I am honored to be among those chosen to accompany the ring bearer."

Aragorn came to his feet and rested a strong, calloused hand on his friend's shoulder, "For the quest to succeed it will need your keen eye, sharp hearing and deadly fighting skills." Adding, his voice ringing with conviction as his grip tightened, "We must succeed!" And, although the conviction was in no way lessened, his next statement was tempered with warmth, "And together we will, my friend, one way or the other." His intent, clear gray eyes arrested the elf's deep, sky blue gaze, "And I am forever grateful for your company and friendship - as well as your continued presence in Middle Earth." He gave the elf's shoulder a firm squeeze and added, his quiet voice conveying a sincerity and warmth rooted in the very depths of his soul, "Legolas, mellon."

The two friends stood, unmoving, the warmth of simple physical contact merging with the unwavering dedication reflected in their eyes to silently re-affirm their bond of friendship. Aragorn suddenly gave a low chuckle, releasing the elf's gaze and dropping his hand to clap him on the back, "This actually may be quite an interesting journey. We have spent our whole lives learning how to overcome the evil of Sauron but I think we are not quite prepared for the hobbits. They will, I am afraid, more than keep us on our toes!"

Legolas reached over to give his friend's shoulder a final squeeze and as they strode off side by side toward the Last Homely House he muttered, "Not to mention that confounded Dwarf!"

Aragorn smiled to himself - 'Yes, this will be an interesting journey.'