Tree and Stone
15: Farewell We Call
The days crept forward toward the hour of departure and yet seemed to
fly past, also. Too little time for those who had dear ones that would
be left behind; too short for they who were stepping blindly toward
darkness. Those named companions set themselves early to prepare, then
had to endure long anticipation, often feeling great loneliness even
amid the fellowship in the Hall of Fire.
Legolas was impatient. So long already had nothing been done and the
world seemed to deteriorate around him. He did not wish to rush the
venture, but he longed for action still. To move, to fight, even to run
would be a relief to him, rather than sitting and watching the fear
grow in faces around him, and the shadows lengthening.
The woodelf dwelled for long days on the practice ranges, spending
arrow after arrow, until his targets were utterly destroyed. His temper
became so short that he avoided speaking, and only appeared for the
evening meals to dine with the Companions. Aragorn noticed his mood,
but was involved in a struggle of his own and could offer no assistance
other than stalwart friendship.
The time crept by for Gimli as well, now alone in his chambers after
his father had departed, gone back to Erebor. To fill the endless hours
he honed his axes and sang in his echoing chamber the ballads and
histories of his people. The hobbits came often to keep him company and
he sat with them at mealtimes, enjoying their simple jests and
His respect for Frodo Baggins increased with every meeting. The hobbit
was very much as Glóin had described Bilbo, Frodo's uncle; he
was more like Bilbo than Bilbo was himself. He was quiet and attentive
when listening to song or conversation, mirthful and merry in voice and
manner, polite and correct and yet also honest and direct. He seemed to
know the words to every song played, and could tell a tale rousing or
hilarious upon asking. The Elves adored him and often drew him into the
Hall of Fire after meals, when he could be prized from Bilbo's side for
a few moments.
Yet he was also unlike Bilbo. He was more reserved in his storytelling,
especially involving himself and his companion's recent adventures. He
reduced his own valour or bravery and enlarged upon rather the
involvement of his kindred and the deeds of the Dúnadan, taking
as little credit to himself as possible for any accomplishments. He did
this subtly, so that no protest could be voiced and he took pleasure in
the proud glow in his friends' faces.
As merry and cavalier as he was, Gimli could still see that Frodo was
concerned about the journey ahead, and that he eagerly filled his
waking hours with cheer and pleasantries to avoid thinking about that
dark road. Gimli never saw Frodo when he wasn’t well attired and
presentable, but there was little Samwise could do to conceal his
master’s eyes, dark-smudged from troubled sleep. Nor could he quiet the
soft sound of pacing that whispered through the stone floors of
Imladris from the Ring-bearer’s chamber, as nightly he felt the growing
fear and danger that reared up from the East and spoke to him through
the chill winds of the hopelessness of his quest.
Gimli could hear the murmuring of the stones of Rivendell, which rang
with history and echoed with long years’ tales. Though it was not in
words that the speech of the Earth came to his understanding, the Dwarf
could tell where and which direction a given individual walked, if he
was familiar with their gait or location, so long as their feet brushed
the stone. He could hear the vibration of breath, smell the dampness
that spoke of morning. He felt the slow formation of crystals buried
deep within the granite; alive as no living beast or plant was alive,
and yet growing and possessing slow thought, containing hope for the
failing of the darkness.
At last, the day ordained arrived, and that evening they assembled in
the courtyard to take their leave. Legolas impatience now left him
feeling unprepared. He stood for long moments in his chambers, feeling
that he was forgetting something important, but he knew this fear for
what it was. He hurried out and down the steps of the House to find
that others had proceeded him.
Sam was already there, standing next to his sturdy pony. The hobbit was
stroking the little horse’s nose and speaking softly to him. Meriadoc
and Peregrin were also there, sitting on their packs and speaking with
Gimli. Boromir stood nearby, slightly apart from the others. Legolas
realized then he had seen little of this Man in the weeks since the
council, and in those few times he had noted him, he was ever in
Aragorn’s company. Since he had been gently reprimanded by Elrond for
winding his horn before the onset of their journey, he had been
obstinately silent and moody. He kept his eyes fixed on the ground
before his feet, closing and opening his hand over the hilt of his long
On the steps Legolas found the Ranger and the Ring-bearer. Frodo was
standing beside his uncle. Bilbo was wrapped in a blanket, for the
evening had grown very chill. Aragorn sat on the steps with his head
bowed. Of Gandalf there was no sign.
Legolas gravitated toward the Hobbits and the Dwarf. Their conversation
was light and general, touching upon nothing of their eminent journey.
Though uncertainty and fear were in the faces of the halflings, they
set that aside. They would not remain in security while their cousin
walked open-eyed into danger. They greeted Legolas, now at ease in the
tall Elf’s company. He nodded in return and stood nearby, not joining
their speech but listening.
The evening deepened and the Hobbit’s chattering faded. Boromir
shuffled his feet. Though truly only minutes passed, it seemed a time
intolerably long before Gandalf finally appeared, coming out of the
House. Elrond was with him, and the Edain called them to come forward
out of the grey shadows and hear his final words.
“The Ring-bearer is setting out on the Quest of Mount Doom. On him
alone is any charge laid…”
Gimli listened to the Half-Elf’s words, and his pride was stirred when
Elrond spoke of strength of hearts and roads unforeseen. “Faithless is
he that says farewell when the road darkens,” he said.
“Maybe,” said Elrond, “but let him not vow to walk in the dark, who has
not seen the nightfall.” Elrond returned each of Gimli’s protests
gently and refused to bind the Fellowship with any word of his. He
blessed them and bade them farewell, and Bilbo stuttered with the cold,
his eyes on the pale face of his nephew.
Frodo bowed to Elrond and turned slowly away, his eyes seeming to
search over the House and the fair valley as if to commit it all to his
memory, before he took a step on the road he knew had no returning. He
was clad in his faded travel garments again, mended by the skill of the
elves and yet still stained from his previous adventure. At his side
hung a small sword of an Elvish design.
He walked slowly, the other companions falling in behind him. Voices
called soft words of farewell, but Frodo did not seem to hear them. His
eyes were downcast and he moved forward until he became a grey shadow,
lost in the twilight.
Legolas saluted Elrond before turning away, catching a vision of Arwen
standing in the open doorway of the house. Her fair face was full of
hope, even if her eyes were wet with tears. Seeing her in her sadness
caught his heart, and he, too, lowered his eyes and watched the path
that led them away.
The tardy winter seemed to arrive as they left the valley. The wind
blew from the east as if daring them to come forth, and the dark clouds
overhead were being snagged and shredded by its relentless fingers.
Behind them, the Valley of Imladris lay silent, its songs withheld as
if robbed of breath.
Chapter 16: Leaf in the Wind
They journeyed south and the wind seemed to wish to drive them backward
with its breath. None of the companions complained; they plodded onward
and, if at all, made the off-hand remark, ever in a whispered voice, of
a pleasure or comfort they missed. The halflings suffered the most,
though they did not slack their efforts nor fall behind until they were
very weary. They buoyed each other with cheerful words and jests, even
as they limped or tightened their belts. Legolas felt a great
admiration for them.
Especially for Frodo. He uttered no word of desire or need, but allowed
himself to be guided forward, putting all of his energy into keeping up
with the long stride of Aragorn and Mithrandir. His eyes were often
down-cast, watching the rough road, but on clear nights he looked up at
the stars, and to Legolas's eyes he seemed to shine faintly with that
light, even as one of his own people might.
What Legolas himself missed the most, once the journey began was not
hot food or smooth drink, but trees and the company of other Elves. He
had gone on ventures before; alone, stealful mission where he had
risked his life without aid for his King and father, as well as
dangerous errands in the company of the guard. But he had not traveled
with other races before, and never with such a mixed group. He became
aware quickly of their limitations, and it brought him worry at first.
And nowhere had he traveled before where there were no trees. Even the
desolation of the Dragon had offered small copses of worried shrubs and
wind-bitten pines, with the leafy sea of Mirkwood on the verdant
Like all Eldar, Legolas did not need to sleep, not as Men or Halflings
or Dwarves needed it. To lie helpless and without senses seemed a
dangerous and foolish pasttime to the elf. Legolas could rest even as
he walked the lands, his mind dwelling on peaceful things while his
eyes and ears and nose served him in vigilance. When the first day came
and lots were drawn for watches, Legolas drew first sleep.
He laughed. "I have no need to lay in the dust. Let another take such
rest as they need and I will watch instead."
Gandalf came to him and spoke softly. "We must each become accustomed
to the needs and responsibilites of our companions. The young hobbits
look up to you. They will try to be as tireless and brave as we bigger
folk appear to them. I fear they will exhaust themselves trying to
match your example. Lay down and take a rest, though you need it not,
at least until they grow used to your differences."
"As you wish, Mithrandir." Legolas did lay down, and though his eyes
were unclosed and he listened sharply to every moment of the passing
hours, he also thought about what this journey would do to the hobbits.
A great change would be wrought upon each, even if they met no hardship
greater than distance. The thought of what might be encountered chilled
After that day he watched the hobbits closely, trying to learn more of
their ways. He noticed that the youngest one, Peregrin, fairly bubbled
with energy and curiosity, and needed more food than any of his
companions. Like a hummingbird he was, always fluttering. Legolas would
stealthfully slip small portions of his own rations to the hobbit,
unnoticed except by the sharp-eyed Aragorn, whom the Elf had noticed
was doing a similar thing to Frodo, by way of Samwise. Frodo's strength
had to be kept up, for his road would be the hardest.
Legolas could not even envison it. He knew the hobbit intended to carry
out his task, even as terrified as he was, but the Elf could not see
him going through with it. Deep in his heart, Legolas believed that the
journey would end the brave ring-bearer, and that another would take
his place. Why else send three more on this venture?
Legolas kept this defeatist feeling to himself. He had seen great
things done with no more magic than hope, and he would not deal a
wounding word to those who were still capable of faith. Yet, it tore at
his heart to watch them sitting around after a long march, their faces
pinched with weariness, laughing quietly at Pippin's antics, or as
Merry told a humourous tale. How long would they live, out here in the
wild lands, without Aragorn and himself to watch over them? And that
man from the South.
Legolas once thought that the greatest burden he would bear on this
joureny would be his endurance of a Dwarf's company, but it was Boromir
that gave Legolas the most annoyance. Proud, as if he had invented the
concept, never did he pass up the opportunity to tell the Companion
about his beloved city. White walls and white towers; silver, black,
and grey; Legolas was not impressed by such descriptions. Where was the
life, that which was protected, was watched over? Why did they fight in
Minas Tirith, if they had only stone and granite tombs kept there?
Never spoke he of a garden or a tree, until one night when the
inquisitive Took asked him about the design on his bracers.
"The White Tree of Gondor? Have you heard nothing of it in your small
contry? You are isolated, indeed!" Boromir began, and Legolas was
grateful that it was still too dark for his companions to see his
disgust at the condescending words. "It grows in the court of the
King... or grew, rather. It died the same year as Belecthor II, Steward
of the Citadel, and no sapling could be found to replace it. It still
stands in the court, bowed sadly over the pool, waiting for the return
of the King." Boromir's eyes flicked to the dark Ranger that sat some
feet away, watching the lightening sky.
"But why was no sapling found?" asked Peregrin, still curious. He had
bade the Man remove his armoured sleeve so that he could look at it
more closely. Placing it on his own arm, it looked ridiculously large.
Merry traced the embossed leather with a curious finger.
"Many years lie between the planting of that tree from its predecessor.
It is said that it came from a scion of the White Tree in Numenor.
Isildur brought a fruit from that sacred tree and planted it in Minas
Ithil. From that tree a seedling was brought to Minas Tirith, after the
Dark Lord captured that fair city and burned the tree. He planted it in
memory of his brother Anarion. It is the symbol of our people. It is
said," and here Boromir touched Aragorn again with his eyes briefly,
"that when the true King retuns to Gondor, the tree will bloom again."
"That will be a relief, I am sure!" remarked Pippin, yawning sleepily.
"I would much prefer a living symbol than a dead one! What?" Pippin
said as Merry punched him on the arm. "Oh! No offense, Lord Boromir!"
The halfling hastened to rise and bow, but Boromir just laughed.
"There is no offense taken, Pippin," the man said. "You speak in
weariness and innocence. When you look upon the Citadel and the Court
of the King, you will understand. May we all look upon it soon, and may
I dream of my White City tonight!" and Boromir rolled himself in his
blanket, taking first sleep as was his lot.
Legolas had nearly laughed aloud at the halfling's remark, so close to
his own thoughts. The conversations faded as each companion fell
asleep, except for Legolas and Gimli whose lots were to watch together