A/N: I know this isn't strictly canon, since Aragorn did not receive the Elessar till they were leaving Lothlorien, but I needed it to work. Sorry Professor!! (No one else has been given their gifts.) The story starts out from the viewpoint of one of the members of the Fellowship; I'll leave it to you to discern which one.
The Nine, the Seven, and the Three, had each their proper gem. Not so the One. It was round and unadorned, as if it were one of the lesser rings; but it's maker set marks upon it that the skilled, maybe, could still see and read.
Tolkien: Fellowship of the Ring: Council of Elrond
Frodo said he could not read the fiery letters, but I can.
I see them now. I do not think any of my companions see them. The Ring has many methods of ensnarement, it has no need to use one method on many. Frodo does not even realize It has slipped out of his shirt. He dozes fitfully. I pity him; even here, in the fair land of Lothlorien, he cannot find relief.
"But you could help him!"
I hear It once again. It calls to me; telling me I could spare Frodo this trial. I could, should, take It! I could claim the throne of Gondor, drive Sauron from his fortress in Mordor, take Arwen as my wife...
But it is false. All the whispers, which wrap themselves so enticingly about me, are lies.
I am a fool.
The Fellowship sat beneath the Mallorns of Caras Galadhon.
Frodo sat at the foot of one great tree, his head bowed in uneasy slumber. Sam lay near his master's feet, dozing. Merry and Pippin sat together, sharing a sack of apples and talking quietly. Boromir stood to one side of the glade, watching the woods warily. Aragorn reclined languidly in the lush grass, watching his friends and occasionally reaching into his breast to touch a great green gem, set in a silver setting, skillfully wrought to resemble an eagle in flight. Whenever he touched it, a faint flash of green fire seemed to shoot out from the clear depths of the jewel. A trick of the eye? Gimli and Legolas were nowhere to be seen.
The Lady named me Elfstone. She gave me the Elessar. But I am afraid.
Why did Gandalf have to fall? Why did he leave me here to lead the Fellowship, alone? I fear I do not have the strength for this Quest.
"I could give you the strength!"
The whispers. Once more they slide into my mind. Like powerful poison they seek to infiltrate and overcome.
But, perhaps there is a grain of truth in their murmurings! Perhaps It could give me the strength I need! I could take it from Frodo, it would be a mercy to relieve him of it. Using it, I could defeat Sauron, destroy him forever. Then, Gondor would be mine! I could reclaim Arnor and at last take Arwen as my bride! The Ring should be mine anyway! Isildur took it as a weregild for his father, it should be mine. It WILL be mine!
Gimli and Legolas had walked long amongst the trees of Lothlorien. Gimli would never be as comfortable in a forest as deep in the earth, but even his Dwarvish sensibilities reveled in the serenity of the Golden Wood.
Legolas strode through the Mallorns surrounding the Fellowship's resting place. He paused, still in the shadow of the trees, to wait for Gimli to catch up with him.
"Well, friend Gimli, are you now ready to admit to the beauty of Lothlorien?" he asked with a slight smirk.
Gimli stomped up to Legolas's side.
"I will have you know, Elf, that I would never speak evil of anything of the Lady's; even if it is a forest."
"I," he began, but he never finished his sentence.
"'I,' what, ye daft Elf?" Gimli exclaimed.
"Silence," Legolas hissed, dropping to his knees beside Gimli. "Something is not right. The Enemy is here!"
Gimli's mouth dropped open in astonishment.
"But, how," he stammered.
Legolas silenced him with a motion of his hand.
"The Ring," he murmured.
They both turned toward Frodo. The Hobbit lay peacefully asleep at the foot of a Mallorn, Sam near his feet. For a moment, Gimli was confused. Then, he saw It. The Ring was no longer tucked neatly in Frodo's shirt, hidden away from all view. It had slid out and lay against Frodo's breast, in plain sight.
"Estel," Legolas suddenly moaned.
Gimli's head whipped around to find Aragorn. The man was crouched down, he looked ready to spring at Frodo.
"Aragorn," Gimli bellowed furiously.
For a moment, everyone froze. Boromir stared at Gimli in confusion. The Dwarf ran from where he stood beside Legolas and planted himself in front of Frodo and Sam.
"Estel! Daro!" Legolas threw himself at Aragorn, knocking the man to the ground.
Merry and Pippin had been attracted by the commotion and now ran over. Boromir noticed them and recovered enough to catch them both before they could reach Aragorn. He wrapped his great arms about them and dragged them back.
Frodo and Sam slept on, unaware of the chaos around them.
Legolas and Aragorn grappled fiercely together. Aragorn was a strong man, however his mortal strength was no match for Legolas's immortal furor.
Legolas quickly pinned the Ranger to the ground.
"Do not think, foolish mortal, that the Prince of Greenwood will allow your foolishness to destroy all of Arda!" The Elf's voice had lost its usual musical tone and become harsh, rasping out in terrible discord to the Song of nature sounding all about him. "The Lady named you Elessar. But in your blindness you would lose that name! By stretching out your hand after this thing, you would destroy all It pretends to offer! You would no longer be Elessar; the Elfstone. You would become Gurthmir; the Death-Jewel! Death would follow all your actions. You would become like Sauron in all ways but one. Instead of being the true master of the Ring, the Ring would be your master. Aragorn! You know these whispers are false! They are but lies, trying to entrap you and bend you to their will!"
"What would an Elvish prince know of what the Ring offers?"
Legolas's clear blue eyes filled with sudden tears.
"More than you think," he murmured. "More than you think!" Then, his voice grew harsh once more. "Do you think that you are the only person here to whom the Ring calls? Do not flatter yourself so! Aragorn, son of Arathorn. Who are you?" Legolas sat back on his heels, looking scornfully down on the man, pinned to the ground beneath him. "You are but the last of a long line of failed mortal kings."
The Elf's knee was pressing the air out of Aragorn's lungs, he felt the pressure must be relieved soon or he would suffocate. But the man's pride had been stung by the Prince's scornful words.
"And you? Do you think that YOU are somehow better than me?" Aragorn's voice was mocking, an ironically perfect match to Legolas's scorn.
"Me? Yes! Yes, I am better than you. You are merely Isildur's heir! Isildur! The mortal who's foolishness has led to this fool's errand! The man who was so weak he could not even cast the enemy's weapon away from him! I am heir to not only Greenwood the Great, but also the entire realm of Doriath! I was wed to the last daughter of the line of Thingol Greycloak!" (1)
"Doriath is no more! And neither is Greenwood! Greenwood? Ha! I doubt it was ever truly green! My mind believes that it was made black, not by the Shadow of the East, but from the very people who claimed to love the woods!"
As Aragorn spoke, Legolas's eyes grew dark, a fey light was in them, but Aragorn continued to speak, disregarding his enemy's anger.
"You are dark Elves! Is it any surprise that your home is shrouded in darkness and called Mirkwood? I think not!"
At last Legolas could take no more.
"Be silent, viper!" he cried, slapping Aragorn viciously across the cheek. Aragorn's head snapped to the side and he fell silent, dazed.
Slowly, he raised his head.
"Legolas?" he murmured in confusion, staring up at the Elf who knelt on his chest, pinning him to the ground.
Legolas ignored the man. "How dare you," he hissed. "You know nothing of what you speak!"
"Legolas, I don't understand!"
The Elf paused in his tirade, looking deep into the man's eyes. Legolas's own eyes filled suddenly with tears.
"Oh, Aragorn! Oh Aragorn, I'm sorry," he said, sliding off of his friend's chest onto the ground.
Aragorn pushed himself into a sitting position, grimacing as he did so. He shook his head.
"Sorry? For what? Legolas, what happened?"
"I, I, I don't know!" Legolas shook his head, as if trying to clear it. He blinked his eyes and stared at his friend. "You were sitting there with the others. Then, Gimli and I came back and the way you were looking at Frodo, it frightened me! I don't quite know why, but I think I attacked you. All I remember is feeling that if I did not stop you, you would, you would," Legolas stopped, bowing his head.
"I would what, Legolas?" Aragorn asked softly.
Legolas raised pain filled eyes. "You would take the Ring!"
For a moment, the two simply sat, staring at each other.
"So history repeats itself," Aragorn said quietly. "I would have stretched out my hand for this thing, like my ancestor Isildur did." He turned away his head and would not look at Legolas.
"Aragorn! You are not Isildur! You are but his heir and heir of only his bloodline, not his weakness!"
"How do you know?"
"Elrond was not the only Elf in the battle of the Last Alliance, mellon nξn! History never truly repeats itself. It may seem to, but actions happen only once, they can never be repeated. Circumstances may be similar, challenges identical, but hearts change. I do not understand men, I cannot begin to pretend to, but I know what is true! History is the same for all. What we choose to believe about history may be different, but the acts themselves remain the same!"
"But in this case, the challenge was the same and so was the action!"
Aragorn's voice was muffled, his face buried in his hands. Legolas leaned forward and forced Aragorn to put down his hands and look at him.
"Foolish man!" he exclaimed. "You are not alone! That is the whole purpose of the Fellowship! One alone may be tempted by the Ring, but where there are many, we forge our strengths together and resist. We are weakened when we try to withstand on our own! Isildur was a weak fool. He was not alone, but he shut himself away, refusing the aid of his friends. And now, you shut yourself away, refusing the aid of your friends! You have great strength, but no man can withstand the whispers alone!"
Aragorn locked eyes with Legolas.
"No man, you say? What of an Elf?"
"Not alone," Legolas murmured. "Not alone."
"No. No one can stand alone. Not man, not Elf, not even wizard. Gandalf stood alone, and he, he, he fell."
The man's breath had grown short, ragged. Legolas gently pulled Aragorn's head against his shoulder.
"None could stand against that shadow," he murmured. "Not alone, but not aided either. If all the Wise had been assembled, perhaps. But we could not aid him. All we can do is ensure that his fall was not in vain!"
Aragorn raised his head to look at Legolas.
"Legolas, you say 'his fall.' You never say, 'his death.' Why?"
"He fell. He was taken by both Shadow and Flame. A Balrog of Morgoth." (2) Legolas's voice was distant, as if he had forgotten Aragorn was there and was speaking to himself, or perhaps to someone else that only Legolas could see.
Aragorn sat and watched in silent wonder as Legolas was slowly transformed.
The Elf's eyes grew dark, but they shone with a fierce blue fire. All the Fellowship had been gifted new clothes on entering Caras Galadhon, Legolas no exception. His robes were of a pale green, almost white, but not quite; with embroidery of silver and dark green swirling elaborately across the shimmering cloth. As Aragorn watched, the pale green robe grew even paler, till it was no longer green, but instead the purest white. The embroidery darkened, the green deepening to almost black, the silver shining like star-kissed mithril. The silver circlet circling his brow did not shine, instead it turned to black. His golden hair, loosed from it's warrior's braids for a time, grew pale like his robe. Legolas looked at once to be both venerable and majestic, as a king of old, and young, as a newborn babe. His face shone with a fey light.
Suddenly, he leapt to his feet and stood silently, with his eyes focused somewhere just above the treetops. His sky blue eyes flashed as he stared at something which only he could see and his lips curved into a delighted smile.
Then, high above the trees, a great light began to shine. It did not stay fixed in one place, but slowly descended towards the ground.
Legolas watched it, his face shining with joy. Merry and Pippin dropped to their knees, whimpering in fear. Gimli gasped and drew his axe. Aragorn and Boromir fell back, shielding their eyes. Legolas alone of the Fellowship seemed unafraid. He stood in front of the others, straight and proud. Like a young sapling, planted in the Eldar days and but lately burst into bloom. He murmured words in a strange tongue that none present could understand. It's words were long and rapid, like the glitter of swords, like the rush of leaves in a great wind, or the fall of stones in the mountains. (3) The light slowly converged on the forest floor, no one spoke or moved. At last, Legolas stepped forward. He swept a low bow and spoke more words of the strange tongue. A voice spoke out of the light. None but Legolas could understand the words, but the voice was one of incomprehensible beauty.
Slowly, the light diminished until they could look upon it once more. What they saw took their breath away.
A lady stood in the midst of the light, and indeed seemed to be the very source of the light. Her garments were white, shot through with shining silver. Black was her hair and pale her skin, her lips of ruby red. Her eyes danced, but in them was the light of ages uncounted.
Legolas ran forward and dropped to his knees in front of her, kissing her hand.
"Nienna!" (4) he cried.
"Pathβnezel! (5) You frighten your companions!"
"My apologies, my lady," he said, rising to his feet.
He gave Nienna his arm and led her toward his friends.
The rest of the Fellowship had regained their feet and stood silently as the Vala approached.
Nienna stopped in front of Aragorn."So, Elessar has come to Arda at last," she said, looking into his eyes.
Aragorn bravely met her gaze.
"The Elessar was lost to those east of the Sundering Seas when Earendil set forth on his voyage," he replied. (6)
"But a new Elessar has come," Nienna said, smiling.
"But this Elessar is, as you say, new. Who can say whether he shall suffer the trials of old and withstand, or not?"
Nienna laid her hand on the Elessar where it hung on Aragorn's breast.
"I can, and I say that he shall," she said.
The Elessar had continually shone with a soft green light, bringing peace and healing to those who saw it. As the Lady pulled her hand away, it shone out with a bright light, a light like to that which shone from the Lady.
"Ennas na estel!" (7) she whispered before turning away.
Then, Nienna turned to Boromir. To him she spoke not, but gazed on his face. As she looked at him, her face grew sad.
"Nae!" (8) she murmured, and moved on.
Then, she came to Merry and Pippin.
The cousins clung to each other in fear.
Nienna knelt down in front of them, laying a hand on each Hobbit's shoulder.
"Do not be afraid," she said kindly.
She leaned forward and whispered words into their ears, words which no one else could hear. Then, she stood back up.
Suddenly, Pippin let go of Merry and embraced Nienna, wrapping his arms tight about her. Nienna smiled and embraced him.
Then, she came to Gimli.
"Now, son of Gloin. What dost thou say?" she asked. "Am I fairer than thy Lady?"
"Thou art beautiful, Lady. And none I have seen can compare with thy beauty. But in my heart there is none fairer than the Lady Galadriel." Gimli replied.
"Fair words, spoken from a fairer heart. Be thee well, Child of Aule!"
At last, Nienna came to where Frodo lay asleep.
"Ah, little one," said the Vala, gently laying her hand on Frodo's cheek. "You have a mighty burden. You shall pass through many trials before thy task is done. But now, have peace for a time. And when thy task is accomplished, may you find eternal peace and unending joy!"
As she spoke, Frodo seemed to relax, his face smoothed, the lines of care and worry disappearing. He sighed contentedly, shifted once, and fell into a deep sleep.
Then, Nienna turned to Sam.
"And you, Wise-One. Half-Wise (9) you are called by many, but I say that by you are the Wise shamed and, though you be a servant, you hold Arda in your hand. May you find peace and joy when all has been done."
Then, she turned to the rest of the Fellowship. Slowly, she met each of their eyes.
"You will not remember me when I have gone, none but you, Pathβnezel," she said, meeting Legolas's eyes. He nodded in acknowledgement.
Silently, she moved away from them. For a moment, she stood; the dark trees stood about her, the stars shone down illuminating her alone. She raised her arms.
"Rest, for it is night. Have peace now, until morning. Heed no nightly noises!"
Merry's mouth dropped open and he stared at her in open astonishment. Nienna met his gaze and smiled, nodding once. (10)
"Farewell," she murmured to them all. Then, in a sudden explosion of searing light, she was gone.
For a moment, the Fellowship stood still, as if frozen. Then, they stirred. Yawns began to sound around the clearing. Without a word, they slowly settled to the ground and fell asleep.
Legolas alone did not sleep. He sat with his back against a Mallorn, listening to the Song.
Suddenly, he seemed to hear words in the Song! A beautiful voice speaking words in a strange tongue.
"Farewell, Pathβnezel. Until we meet again!"
The next morning in Lothlorien dawned clear and beautiful. The sun streamed through the trees and Elven song drifted in the air.
"Oh, what a lovely sleep I've had!" exclaimed Frodo, as he sat up, stretching his arms sleepily. "Wake up, Sam, you sleepy-head! Let's see if Merry and Pippin have left any food for the rest of us!"
(1) This is my own invention. In my 'verse, Luthien Tinuviel had a sister, who later went to live with the people of Elrond and eventually married Legolas. (But unfortunately was killed by orcs 100 years later. This for us would be the equivalent of about 4 years.)
(2) A quick nod to one of my favorite movie lines. :D
(3) This is Tolkien's description of Valarin, the language of the Valar.
(4) Nienna is one of the Valar. She dwells alone and is "acquainted with grief." My description of her is completely out of my own head and may be completely AU, but I gave it my best shot.
(5) Pathβnezel means Green Leaf in Valarin.
(6) The Elessar was a stone crafted in Gondolin in the First Age for Idril, the mother of Earendil. It was given to Earendil who took it with him when he departed Middle Earth. The Elessar of Galadriel was a copy of Earendil's made for Galadriel by Celbrimbor, (the smith who crafted the Three Rings.) When Galadriel was given Nenya she no longer needed the Elessar so she passed it on to Celebrian who gave it to Arwen who asked for it to be given to Aragorn. To learn more of the Elessar and the history of Galadriel in general, read Tolkien's "Unfinished Tales."
(7) "There is hope!"
(9) Sam's full name is Samwise Gamgee. It means "Half-wise."
(10) This is what Goldberry says in FotR. The implication is supposed to be that Goldberry is actually Nienna. This is totally AU, but I think it's fun...