Stars in Their Eyes.
As the relentless pursuit of the band of orcs that had taken Merry and Pippin continued, the dense forest through which the three hunters were lead gradually thinned into a light scattering of trees that bordered the fringes of the grassland. Soon after, the trees disappeared completely, leaving nothing but an open expanse of grassland with the occasional rocky outcrop to provide poor, but necessary cover from the prying eyes of the airborne spies of Saruman. It was beneath one of these that the Dwarf, the Man and, even the Elf sought refuge and a resting place for a much needed respite from the constant running.
The darkness of night settled over the open plains bringing with it a silence unfamiliar to an Elf of the Woodland Realm. In this naked vastness there were no trees whispering sweet lullabies, neither distant hooting of owls nor scrabbling sounds of the search for food by the creatures of the night. Like a blanket of silence, the eerie quietness descended on the camp, yet any strangeness Legolas felt in this unnatural setting paled in comparison to the wonderment that engulfed his senses.
The Elf stood apart from the others, arms stretched upwards as he slowly turned in a circle and gazed into the cloudless night sky. For the first time in his life, his view of the stars was totally unhindered by the thick canopy of his beloved trees. Of course he had seen the stars from the foothills of the mountains as the fellowship journeyed south, but never before had they travelled on such a wide open plain where the horizon met the land in every direction as far as his keen elven eyes could see. No matter which way he looked, the black night sky held nothing but stars glittering brightly, almost as if winking with indulgence at the Elf’s childlike display of delight.
Aragorn watched his friend, bemused as ever by the innocent wonder in eyes bright with curiosity. Even for one brought up amongst immortal beings, it was difficult for him to believe that there were still new experiences awaiting an Elf of Legolas’s age.
“It is an impressive sight, is it not?” Aragorn spoke barely above a whisper, not wishing to awaken the tired and loudly snoring Dwarf who was sleeping nearby. Although his footsteps had not been silent, his approach nonetheless startled the seemingly mesmerised Elf. Legolas nodded and reluctantly turned his eyes from the spectacle to face his friend.
“‘Tis wondrous to behold, just as it must have been in the land of our Awakening, in the time before Anor and Ithil graced the sky,” he said, putting words to the vague stirring he felt in his spirit of a distant memory that was part of him, but not his own. There was such elation and reverence in Legolas’s voice that Aragorn looked upwards as if also seeing the stars for the first time.
“I wonder how many there are?” he mused. Silvery laughter floated softly through the night.
“More than I can count,” replied Legolas with a secret smile playing on his lips. Sensing his friend’s joviality, the ranger inclined his head and, with an eyebrow raised in query much in the manner of Elrond, he silently requested an explanation.
“That is what Adar told me once when I was very young and asked him the same question.” Legolas explained as he lay on a patch of soft grass, the better to see the whole sky.
“I doubt that was sufficient answer for one as inquisitive as you, mellon nin. What was your reply?” Aragorn was intrigued with this small glimpse into his friend’s past and wanted to hear more. He lay down beside the Elf as the tale continued.
“As I recall, I was reluctant to go to bed that particular evening, and declared that before reverie overtook me I would be able to count them all, even if Adar could not,” he answered without taking his eyes from the glorious sight above.
“How did the King react to that little act of defiance?” Aragorn chuckled to himself and Legolas turned to face his friend, a small smile playing on his lips as if intimating that he understood the source of amusement.
“Not by locking me in the dungeon, as you imagine,” he answered dryly, causing Aragorn to laugh heartily. Gimli chose that moment to emit a particularly loud snore, and both Man and Elf lowered their voices a little more so as not to awaken their friend.
“Adar simply asked how I would avoid counting each one more than once, since they all looked the same. I explained that problem would not arise for I saw every one differently, as if each had their own face.”
“Like Eärendil, you mean?”
“Do you still see the stars the way you did as a child?” asked Aragorn turning his gaze skyward, intrigued by the Elf’s revelation.
“Of course, but I have yet to learn all their names,” replied Legolas in a tone of voice that could have been serious or spoken in jest but was definitely laced with Elvish mysteriousness, Aragorn decided.
“Surely a task too formidable, even for you, mellon nin,” commented Aragorn.
“But one that gives me great pleasure,” admitted Legolas.
“And you do have quite a long time to complete it,” said the Man as he stifled a yawn. Legolas merely nodded his head in agreement.
“You need sleep, mellon nin. I do not. I will take the watch tonight.”
Aragorn could not deny that he was weary, but sleep eluded a heart filled with concern for the hobbits, the two they were seeking no less than the two who were braving the darkness of Mordor.
“Aye, I do need rest, but I think I prefer to sit with you a while longer and count the stars. Let us hope that even as they watched over your forefathers so long ago, that they will now lend their grace to our missing companions,” said Aragorn, briefly clasping Legolas’ shoulder in a gesture of both friendship and comfort that was returned in kind.
Rather than offer words of consolation for the anguish they both shared, Legolas turned his eyes back to the night sky and ever so softly he began to sing a song of praise to the kind faces of the glittering night lights, beseeching their protection for the hobbits.