The Elves of Ithilien needed no reason to spend an evening feasting and merrymaking, for such came naturally to their carefree nature, so it was in this fashion that they welcomed the unexpected arrival of the King of Gondor. Aragorn exchanged greetings and news with his many friends until the one he had really come to see returned from a hunting trip. As soon as Legolas arrived, he warmly greeted his friend and then instructed that it was time for the fire to be lit and the festivities to begin.
As the evening wore on and his guest broke his usual habit and refrained from taking part in the singing and dancing, Legolas sensed that something serious was amiss, and to Aragorn’s relief, the elf indicated with a slight incline of his head that they should move away from the gaiety to a more private location in a small grove of trees just beyond the reach of the firelight. After he had settled against the trunk of one of the trees, Legolas simply gazed up at the stars and waited silently for Aragorn to speak his mind. A slight movement caught his eye and upon seeing his friend take his pipe and pouch of weed from his pocket the elf shook his head in resignation. He had never been able to convince Aragorn to do away with his pipe and even after almost a century to become accustomed to his friend’s habit, Legolas still found the unpleasant odour of burning pipeweed to be distasteful although he gratefully accepted the thoughtful gesture Aragorn made by choosing to sit beneath a tree that was not too close.
“Siting here like this reminds me of the many nights we kept watch together as part of the Fellowship all those years ago,” Aragorn mused, ignoring his friend’s glare of disapproval as he enjoyed a few puffs of his pipe. The way the light of Ithil’s fullness illuminated the wisps of grey coloured smoke that rose lazily from Aragorn’s pipe into the cool night air had a beauty of its own and the elf watched in fascination as the tendrils at first spiralled upwards, losing form as the smoke slowly dissipated until finally nothing was left but the vague irritation to his sensitive sense of smell.
“Aye and it was during those times that our friendship flourished. It has been far too long since we last spent time together,” Legolas replied, his attention now captured by the softly spoken words. Aragorn cast a sidelong glance at his companion, smiling with amusement at the crinkled nose on the fair face, his smile quickly changing to a confused frown as a melancholy sigh escaped from the elf’s lips.
“What saddens you, Legolas?” Aragorn asked with concern.
“Do you realise that the pipe smoke is the same colour as your hair, and its existence is just as fleeting as yours,” he replied with immense sorrow, sensing through the bond of their friendship that just as the smoke was fading into nothing as it was carried on the slight breeze, so too was his friend’s will to live.
“Aye, age has finally caught up with me, my hair is grey, my skin wrinkled and my body is weary,” Aragorn agreed refraining from further denigrating himself, even in jest, when grey eyes met shining ones begging him to say no more. Legolas did not need to hear the heartbreaking words he knew Aragorn had come to say, for he could easily see into the heart of the Man he loved as a brother, but Aragorn shook his head sadly and continued speaking.
“Are you not curious as to why I have travelled alone to Ithilien?” he asked. The flicker of pain that cast a shadow across his friend’s fair face was answer enough.
“You have come to bid me farewell.” Legolas acknowledged, the brightness in his eyes having nothing to do with the reflected starlight that normally filled them. Aragorn put his pipe aside and moved to sit beside his friend.
“Aye, but I have also come to ask your forgiveness,” the King replied as he reached up to wipe away the single tear that trailed down the elegant cheek. It was an intimately affectionate gesture given and accepted in friendship.
“For claiming Ilúvatar’s gift as is your right?” Aragorn felt a lump form in his throat as he heard the understanding and reluctant acceptance in the whispered words. Words spoken by a true friend who offered love and support unconditionally.
“Nay, for being selfish enough to want you to stay in Arda all these years even though I knew the anguish you were suffering. Once we achieved victory in the war I should have insisted you answer the call of the sea.” Legolas smiled at this presumption and then proceeded to ease his friend’s misplaced guilt.
“My heart would not let me leave and although I am no longer content to live in my forest, I would not have found peace in Valinor knowing our parting would cause you sorrow. Besides, my arrogant Númenorean, there is nothing to forgive. Do you really believe that I would have sailed at your command when it pleased me to stay?” he teased trying to lighten the melancholy that had descended around them like a blanket.
Aragorn raised his eyebrow in surprise at the very elvish response and the unbidden thought that crossed his mind. In all their years of friendship it had never occurred to him that perhaps the shared history and the close kinship of Man and Elf before the fall of Númenor was the basis of their longstanding friendship.
“Gimli would have assisted me in tying you up and throwing you aboard one of Cirdan’s ships if necessary.” Aragorn replied with certainty.
“Only if you were able to catch me!” Legolas laughed, highly amused at the unlikelihood of that occurring.
“I concede your point and can see now that I would have been wasting my breath, my stubborn Firstborn friend, just as you would be in your efforts to dissuade me from my chosen path,” he replied
“I would not presume to do so, but I will say that there is still much you have to live for… your children and your grandchildren… Arwen,” the elf reminded him. Aragorn shook his head.
“Eldarion is more than ready to rule in my stead, and our grandchildren will ease Arwen’s pain at my passing,” he said sounding as unconvinced by his own words as Legolas was, judging by the single eyebrow raised in disbelief.
“You know enough of the elvish heart to know that for Arwen that is not true. Your love was born under the mellryn of Lothlorien, in the heart of Elvendom and from that moment on she was destined to follow you, even unto death whether she be mortal or not.”
“You speak a bittersweet truth, yet it eases the pain to know that she will be at my side for all eternity,” whispered Aragorn, his voice choked with tears of grief for the days of sorrow that lay ahead for his and Arwen’s children. Legolas moved swiftly to enfold the distraught King in a comforting embrace.
“You will always have a place in my heart, mellon nin,” the elf vowed as he tenderly stroked the greying hair on the head that now rested on his shoulder.
“I know my friend, as you have in mine.” Aragorn replied. “Will you grant me a request?” Legolas nodded, hearing the unspoken ‘final’ as Aragorn intended.
“What would you have me do?” Legolas asked, knowing he would deny his friend nothing.
“We will not see each other again once I leave your forest so please sing your lament for me now so that I may seek comfort and the courage to do as I must from the sound of your sweet voice.” Legolas stared in disbelief at the nature of the request and he struggled in vain to regain enough composure to voice more than the simplest of replies.
“As you wish,” the elf managed to say, not even attempting to prevent his to tears from flowing freely as he drew his arm a little tighter around Aragorn’s too thin shoulders.
“Hannon le, mellon nin,” whispered the aged King as he closed his eyes and allowed the haunting melody of the song of sorrow to soothe his roiling emotional turmoil. In a few minutes he had fallen into a peaceful sleep and so did not feel the brief touch of soft lips on his cheek, nor hear the sadly whispered,