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The Prisoner of Dol Guldur
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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10
Part 10

Author's Note:
For the duration of this chapter, the story switches to another member of the royal family of Mirkwood… who is neither blond, nor played by Orlando Bloom, as far as I am concerned.


~~~

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
“Upon the very Eve of Midsummer, when the sky was blue as a sapphire and white stars opened in the East, but the West was still golden, and the air was cool and fragrant, the riders came down the North-way to the gates of Minas Tirith. First rode Elrohir and Elladan with a banner of silvers, and then came Glorfindel and Erestor and all the household of Rivendell, and after them came the Lady Galadriel and Celeborn, Lord of Lothlórien, riding upon white steeds and with them many fair folk of their land, grey-cloaked with white gems in their hair; and last came Master Elrond, mighty among Elves and Men, bearing the sceptre of Annúminas, and beside him upon a grey palfrey rode Arwen, his daughter, Evenstar of her people.”

The Return of the King, Chapter 5 – The Steward and the King, pp. 303-304


* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
PART 10

When the royal wedding – the wedding of the Age – was over, at last the remaining members of the Fellowship of the Ring thought of returning to their own homes. They had dwelt together previously in a fair house with Gandalf, and they would go tho and fro as they wanted. Legolas was glad to be reunited with Lindir, his friend of old, who had only sailed back from Mithlond to sing on the wedding out of love to the Lady Arwen. The minstrel intended to return to the Havens by ship and sail to the West with his uncle, Gildor Inglorion. And indeed, he left for Edhellond with Erestor, without waiting for Elrond’s entourage, and Legolas was sad to see them off, for he could see that Lindir was fading swiftly, and seeing the young minstrel so damaged made his heart ache.

After Erestor and Lindir’s departure, a messenger came from the citadel and asked Legolas to meet the King and the Queen on the Place of the Fountain, for, as he said, they had important tidings for him.

“Strange,” he said to Gimli, who happened to be in his company, as so often. “If they had tidings for me, important ones as it seems, why have they not told me right upon their arrival?”

“Strange indeed,” grumbled the Dwarf, his deep eyes darkening with worry. “Mayhap they have heard news from our people; bad news they did not want to spoil their wedding with.”

But Legolas shook his head. “Nay, Gimli, they would never do such a thing. Aragorn has become almost as a brother to us both during this quest; and the Lady Arwen is a dear friend whom I have known for many hundred years. Nay, I hope they have good news for us. Joyous ones they did not want to go unnoticed among the merriment of their wedding.”

“Well,” said Gimli reasonably, “there is only one way to find out. You must do as you have been asked and go to the Place of the Fountain.”

“We must go to the Place of the Fountain,” corrected Legolas.

Gimli shifted from one foot to another uncomfortably. “I was not invited, Legolas!”

“Nonsense,” the Elf waved impatiently. “Have you not said once that wherever I go you will follow?”

“I was speaking of battle, Elf!” Gimli stared at him from under bristling eyebrows.

Legolas laughed merrily. “And I said that you would comfort me with your strong presence. Come now and support me! Who knows, I might need it!”

Gimli shook his head tolerantly but followed his Elven friend nonetheless. If Legolas wanted his presence, he would do the Elf the favour. Even if it might displease the King of Gondor. Dwarves were steadfast in their friendship.

They found Aragorn as he was sitting with the Lady Arwen by the fountain indeed, under the White Tree that had grown more than a foot since its planting already. Slender and shapely it was, its young leaves dark green above and silver beneath, and its seemingly fragile crown was covered with small clusters of white flowers that were shining like the sunlit snow.

For a moment, Legolas stood in awe, admiring the sapling, the late progeny of Telperion, the Eldest of Trees. For him, this wondrous little tree was the promise of something his heart longed for: the never-ending summer of the Blessed Realm. Then he turned his eyes to the Lady Arwen, whose beauty outshone even that of the White Tree, although she was wearing the simple, unadorned grey raiment of Lórien instead of robes worthy of a Queen, and he bowed.

The King and the Queen rose to greet the Elf and the Dwarf, whose unusual friendship they considered as stronger sign of upcoming peace than many other things that people might have found more important. And it was the Lady Arwen who spoke first, for she was the bearer of news.

“Legolas, my dear old friend, I ask your forgiveness in advance for not having told you this right upon my arrival,” she said. “Selfish it may seem, and mayhap it is selfish indeed that I wanted your undivided attention at my wedding. For had I told you what I am about to tell you now, even if you had stayed out of politeness, your heart would have been distant. And I wanted all my friends with me on that happiest of days. Do forgive, me, I beg you!”

“There is naught to forgive,” replied Legolas, smiling. “I have always valued your friendship, Lady Undómiel, and gladly did I attend the day of your great happiness. But pray tell what kind of tidings do you bear for me; for they seem strange indeed, if good or bad.”

“Mostly good, I daresay,” said Arwen. “For but a short time ago, the Lord Celeborn has come forth from Lórien and led a host of the Galadhrim over the Great River in many boats. At the feet of Dol Guldur, his host was united with the warriors of your father, coming from the North. Together, they took the Necromancer’s Tower, and with the help of Galadriel, they threw down its walls and laid bare its pits. In time, the forest around Amon Lanc will be cleansed.”

“That is joyous news indeed,” cried Legolas happily, for often enough had he scouted into Southern Mirkwood and saw with sorrow how the heart of the trees was turning darker and darker. ‘Twas good to know that there was hope for them to heal – even if he might not remain in Middle-earth long enough to see it.

Then he saw the grave face of the Lady Arwen and his heart grew cold amidst of its joy. Fear gripped him all of a sudden.

“But that is not all of it, is it?” he asked.

“Nay, it is not,” replied Arwen. “For while laying open the pits, they found maimed and horribly tortured prisoners, some of them only recently murdered, after hundreds of years of suffering. Haldir’s father was among them; and many of your people’s brave warriors.”

“That must have been a relief for the Lady Gwenethlin,” said Legolas, his fears somewhat calmed. “To finally learn about the fate of her husband. And I am certain that our people have received the proper last rites.”

“They have indeed,” Arwen nodded. “Yet by digging up the deepest pit under the Tower, they finally found one prisoner that was still alive – barely – after more than three thousand years.”

The enormity of the mere thought nearly put the Dwarf off-balance.

“That poor wretch,” he grumbled, hiding his shock behind his gruff manner; a tactic Legolas had noticed by him before. “He must look like Death itself.”

Arwen nodded, but her eyes lay upon Legolas’ face. “The sight nearly broke your father’s heart,” she said in compassion.

Legolas raised his head, his heart all but stopped.

“Was he one of us?” he asked, almost tonelessly. Arwen nodded.

“He is one of your people,” she answered. “Your second-born brother, Enadar,”

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
“So are you telling me the whole tale or not?” demanded Gimli.

They were sitting upon the wall of Minas Tirith, right above the Houses of Healing, for Legolas loved the gardens of the Houses. The sight of living, growing things among all the stone was comfort for his heart.

“There is little to tell,” Legolas shrugged. “During the Last Alliance, my Grandsire, King Oropher of the Greenwood, led a host against Mordor. My father and my three older brothers went with him. Only my father returned.”

“What about you? Or were you not even born at that time?” asked Gimli,

“Oh, I was a grown Elf already, and one of the best archers in the Greenwood,” Legolas laughed quietly. “Only my eldest brother, Dorothil, was better. I wanted to go with them, too, naturally. But father said I was too young. Besides, he wanted at least one of his sons at home.”

“I heart that your people suffered grievous losses in that war,” said Gimli tentatively.

Legolas nodded. “Two-third of the archers who followed King Oropher to war were slain on the slopes of Orodruin. Dorothil and my third-born brother, Orchal, fell on Grandsire’s side. Father and Enadar survived and fought in the Last Battle upon the plain of Dagorlad. When that battle was over and the war was won – or so it seemed – Enadar could no-where be found among the dead. But the destruction caused by Sauron’s fana falling apart buried many of the fallen. We all believed Enadar dead… until now.”

"It would have been a blessing, I deem,” said Gimli, “more so as you Elves can come back from death, they say. Or is that just a legend?”

“Nay, we can be rehoused into new flesh, after a while in Mandos’ Halls,” replied the Elf. “But no-one returns unchanged, at least according to Glorfindel. And he of all people ought to know.”

They remained silent for a while, Gimli contemplating the loss of so many loved ones, and that by a people that had been meant to live ‘til the end of Arda. He had only lost his uncle Óin, which had been bad enough, but Dwarves were mortal. They all knew that they would die sooner or later. Elves, though… Elves were not meant to know death. How did they cope with people – family, friends and allies – dying around them, all the time?

If that was the price of immortality, Gimli was very glad to be mortal.

“What was he like? He finally asked. “Your brother, I mean. Enadar.”

“Strangely enough, he was the brother I knew the least,” replied Legolas thoughtfully. “Dorothil was the one I was closest to. He used to carry me on his shoulders when I was little – all my older siblings were grown adults when I was born – and he was the one who taught me how to handle a bow. He was,” he added with a sad little smile, “my hero. Orchal was funny, and he always had great patience with us, little ones. But Enadar… he was a lonely one. He often roamed the forest all by himself, understood the trees better than the rest of us… and he played the harp. He was very good at it. Our grandsire tutored him personally.”

“The harp, hmmm?” That seemed to give Gimli ideas. “Are you good at it, too?”

“I am… acceptable, at best,” admitted Legolas. “Although I prefer the flute, myself, just like my father. Not that I could even come close to his talent, mind you. Father is truly gifted, and so was Enadar. I have just learned how to play.”

“Oh,” Gimli’s face fell, “what a pity. I can play the fiddle a bit. I hoped we might make music together one day.”

“We can,” said Legolas, “as long as you do not expect too much from me. My hands are more skilled with the string of the bow than that of the harp.”

They smiled at each other in sad understanding. Indeed, the recent times had more encouraged both Dwarves and Elves to perfect their fighting skills instead of their artistic gifts.

“Enadar is a strange-sounding name,” Gimli then said. “Where does it come from?”

“’Tis Nandorin and comes from the tongue of Green-Elves in Ossiriand that now lies beneath the Sea,” answered Legolas. “They say it was one of the names of Denethor son of Lenwë, lord of the Nandor Elves. Our grandmother came from his family, and Enadar was named after him in her honour.”

“Did you know her? Any of you?”

“Nay; she was slain during the sack of Doriath, when father and aunt Nelladel were still barely more than young elflings.”

“Doriath, hm?” said Gimli. Legolas nodded.

“Father is related to Elu Thingol, the King of Doriath. He and the Lord Celeborn are first grade cousins.”

That surprised Gimli greatly, and he pondered over this new piece of knowledge for a while.

“Well,” he finally said, “that explains a lot about your father and Dwarves.”

Legolas laughed. “It does, does it not? And yet I would like to ask you to accompany me on this most bittersweet of all journeys, friend Dwarf. For I know not what I shall find or what I should expect, and having you on my side would mean great comfort to me.”

“Then I shall come with you,” said the Dwarf promptly. “Even though I have hoped that our first journey together would lead us to the wonders of the Glittering Caves.”

“That still can be accomplished,” said Legolas, “for in three days now Éomer of Rohan will return home to bear Théoden-King back to rest in home soil, and we are supposed to ride with him, we and the entire court, to honour the fallen. We can visit both the Caves and Fangorn, and then continue on to Lothlórien with Lord Celeborn’s people. For even though the war is over, there are still dark places in these lands, therefore we should use the safety of a big travelling company as long as we can.”

“But it would slow us down greatly, while riding light, just the two of us, would take you to your brother days earlier,” pointed out Gimli.

“True,” said Legolas solemnly. “But we must honour Théoden-King as well as the promises given to each other. And what is more, I need this delay. I need a little time to get used to the thought of having my brother back. ‘Tis not easy. For I have grieved for him, and made my peace with the loss, and all was shut away safely among my memories of times past. Now I have to bring all that forth again, dust those memories and relieve them – it will be hard and painful in the beginning. We Elves do not take changes well.”

“That,” said Gimli with emphasis, “is an understatement. Fortunate are you to have a Dwarf with you who can shake you out of these strange moods.”

“Fortunate, indeed,” Legolas agreed with a soft smile, “to have such a stout-hearted friend who is even willing to face the Elvenking of Mirkwood for the sake of his friend.”

They laughed again, and Legolas felt as if a terrible burden had been lifted off his heart. He still feared what he would find. He had seen prisoners – few and far between though they had been – who had managed to escape the Necromancer’s Tower, and knew some of the things that had been done to them. But knowing that his own brother had to endure such pains, and that for more than three thousand years, was almost more than he could bear. He knew he would need Gimli’s comforting presence to root him, should his feelings overwhelm him. Even if his father would not like it.

“Come, friend Dwarf,” he said, hopping off the wall, “let us walk in the gardens one more time. For I want to study the healing herbs ere we leave. To see if they have here aught that we lack in the North. And I wish to say farewell to the trees that dwell here.”

Gimli shook his head and grumbled something about tree-huggers who would never grow up, despite having lived for thousands of years, but he climbed down readily enough, following the slightly agitated Elf into the garden. He knew that Legolas was upset about the news he had received – which was more than understandable – and was willing to give the Elf all the support he could.

Was that not what friends were for?

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Seven days later, as King Elessar had said, the entire royal court made ready to ride forth from Minas Tirith. Aside from Queen Arwen and the King himself, with them rode Lord Celeborn and Lady Galadriel, with their folk, and Elrond and his sons; and Imrahil of Dol Amroth and Prince Faramir of Ithilien, and many great captains and knights of Gondor. The remaining members of the Fellowship joined them to pay Théoden-King the last honours properly.

Legolas and Gimli rode together upon Arod as before, but others tan in earlier times, Legolas was strangely quiet during the long, slow ride across Anórien. Neither did he sing all the time, his entire mannerism unusually distant. Finally, just as they reached the outskirts of Edoras, Gimli had enough.

“Legolas, talk to me!” he demanded. “What ails you?”

It was the fifteenth day of their journey, and the wain of Théoden-King had just passed the green fields of Rohan, so that the King would finally return to his ancestors; and the Men of the Mark were already preparing his final resting place. Legolas watched their work with veiled eyes for a while, ere turning to his friend.

“I was thinking about my promise to visit the Glittering Caves with you,” he replied softly, that unsettling, distant look still in his otherwise so bright eyes.

The Dwarf frowned. “Are you going to go back on your word?”

Legolas shook his head. “Nay, my friend. A promise is a promise, and it must be honoured. ‘Tis just… after what I have learned of my brother’s fate, the thought of going under the earth fills my mind with unease.”

“You are afraid?” asked Gimli in surprise. “You who entered the Path of the Dead without hesitation?”

“At that time, I did not think of the possibility of being trapped there,” admitted the Elf. “I thought they would either kill me or let me pass, for Aragorn’s sake. Yet now… I keep thinking of my brother and an entire Age spent in a deep dungeon, without feeling the wind or the warmth of sunlight upon his face, without hearing the whispered thoughts of trees… and I fear for him. How is he supposed to heal from that?”

“Well, the Lady Arwen said that his mind was not wholly damaged,” said the Dwarf uncertainly. Legolas nodded.

“I know. But she also said that the damage was very great. It might take hundreds of years to heal… if ever.”

“So what?” the Dwarf shrugged. “You are Elves. You do have hundreds of years.”

“Not all of us do,” replied Legolas softly, “not on this side of the Sea anyway.”

“Oh,” Gimli suddenly understood. “’Tis about the Longing, is it not? You fear that you would not be able to stay in Middle-earth ‘til he recovers, right?”

Legolas sighed. “Elrond has fought the Longing for five hundred years. I am half his age and do not have half the powers he can call his own. Also the power of Vilya helped him fight the effects, ‘til the One was destroyed. I have no such aid.”

“You have your friends, your father and now your brother to keep you rooted,” said Gimli quietly. “Surely, those are bonds strong enough to keep you on these shores for a while yet?”

“I have already promised Aragorn to stay as long as the Fellowship lasts,” replied Legolas. “Yet for us, that is but a wink of an eye. Even Aragorn is but a mortal Man, however long a life the undiluted blood of Númenor might allow him. One generation of Men – one lifetime of those who will be born shortly – and he, too, will grow old and die. And then, friend Dwarf, there shall only be you and me. And even you will leave me after a while, young as you might be for a Dwarf still.”

“You will still have your father and brother,” said Gimli.

“True,” answered Legolas sadly, “yet that may not be enough. For the adventures we have faced together as the companions of the Ring have forged a strange kind of kinship among us, one that may prove stronger than the ties of blood. I already feel the loss of Boromir keenly, for he was a valiant and honourable man, and even if tragically mislead, he was one of us. Part of me died at Parth Galen with him, and with each of you leaving this world, that empty place within me shall grow, ‘til it swallows me entirely – or ‘til I flee to the West. I feel as if I have become estranged from my own kind during my travels with you mortals.”

Gimli remained silent for a long while, pondering over what he had just heard. Then he looked up from beneath his bushy eyebrows, directly into the Elf’s eyes.

“I believe what you are experiencing right now are the pains of growing,” he said. “You might be older than Gondor itself, yet you have been the only child of your father for an Age. Now that he has another son again, and one that needs him more than you have needed him since a very young age, you are afraid to let go.”

“Mayhap,” admitted Legolas, “although it was more my father who relied on me for support than the other way round.”

“Of course,” Gimli nodded. “You were his Heir. You still are, I deem, for your brother will not be able to take on any responsibilities for a long time yet… if ever. Still, your lash will be loosened a bit in the future, and that frightens you – does it not?”

“It does,” said Legolas. “I have rebelled against my short leash time and again; against a life filled with duty and obligations, of which the Quest was a welcome distraction. Yet it also gave my life structure and safety. I fear that once my mortal comrades are gone, the Longing will sweep me away, now that I am but the younger son again.”

“Then you should seek out new obligations,” said the Dwarf simply. “Have you not planned to bring some of your people south, to found a new settlement of Elves in Ithilien and heal those lands from the damage the Orcs and other beasts of Mordor have caused?”

“I have, and I still do,” said Legolas, “and now that he has another son to worry about, my father might even allow me to do so. Ithilien is much closer to the Sea… the Longing would be easier to bear there. And Prince Imrahil gave me a standing invitation to visit Dol Amroth any time I want. From there, Edhellond, the South Haven of the Elves, is but a short travel across the Bay.”

“But we still are going to visit the Glittering Caves, are we not?” asked the Dwarf.

Legolas laughed. “We are, friend Gimli; and the Fangorn Forest, and many beautiful places Middle-earth still has to offer.”

“Good,” grumbled the Dwarf. “Now, stop brooding; ‘tis unbecoming of an Elf. Ere we can begin our journey together, there will be a burial feast of royal magnitude, and I intend to enjoy the fare of the Rohirrim – and their excellent ale – fully.”

With that, he stomped away and began to climb the path that led up to the golden hall of Meduseld. Legolas laughed quietly, his heart strangely consoled by the words of his friends, and followed Gimli with light steps, singing under his breath for the first time since they had left Minas Tirith.

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