Night's Pursuit
by Your Cruise Director

At Helm's Deep, Legolas watches Gimli sleep, wondering how it would feel to die.

How he envies the Dwarf's oblivion and wishes that he could slumber at Gimli's side. Yet he sits alert, more exhausted than he had thought possible for an Elf, as he tries to comprehend what has happened.

He would like to speak to Gandalf, for Gandalf is wise and has traveled among more Men during his aeons in Middle-earth than Legolas ever will. Gandalf thus understands grief as Legolas cannot, such as the recent death of Theoden's son. The King of Rohan had been shattered, yet King he had remained. When Theoden asked Legolas and Gimli to come back with him to the frail group of Men streaming toward Helm's Deep, Legolas saw no choice but to turn away from the cliff where Aragorn had fallen, back to the world that Aragorn had tried to save.

He would like to speak to Gandalf also because the White Wizard returned from his own fall into darkness. That gives Legolas hope, though he thinks it must be a false hope, for Aragorn could no more return from death than Boromir. Legolas recalls the dreadful alteration that overtook the fallen body as they cleaned it: the blood that grew black in wounds, the grayish pallor of the skin, the mottled eyes and lips that would not stay closed.

By the time they had finished dressing and arranging the corpse in the boat, it had already begun to stink of human waste and rot, though Aragorn seemed not to notice as he smoothed the soiled clothes and dropped defiant kisses on the cold forehead. It is the fate of all Men, and perhaps that knowledge makes it easier for them to look upon it. Or perhaps that knowledge makes it that much harder to witness the rapid decay. Legolas and Aragorn have never spoken of the belief that Men pass after death beyond the Halls of Mandos, outside the Circles of Arda. It is not for Elves to discern the doom of Men.

Yet Arwen would choose this mortal fate. Legolas pulls the Evenstar pendant from the pouch where he has put it for safekeeping, though in truth his hand has rarely relinquished its hold since he took the treasure from the dead orc. Whenever Legolas does not need to hold his bow or the reins of his horse, his fingers seek the sharp points of the jewel. He wonders whether they cut into Aragorn's skin as he wore it, and if so, whether that troubled Aragorn or reassured him. It comforts Legolas to feel pain as Aragorn must have felt it.

A few nights before, though it might as well have been centuries, Legolas had woken Aragorn from a nightmare that made him murmur in his sleep. He claimed that he had dreamed of Arwen, saying no more, though Legolas was surprised: he had expected Aragorn's visions to be of Frodo in Mordor, or the horrors of Moria, or Boromir's death.

Listening now to Gimli's steady snoring, the loud lively surge of each breath, he wonders at the Dwarf's fearlessness. The solid weight behind him on the horse had brought comfort to Legolas though Gimli had wept as they rode to Helm's Deep. Perhaps he sought solace in Gimli's tears as he now seeks peace in Gimli's slumber.

The Elves of Lothlórien would pour their grief into song, like the lament they sang for Gandalf when the Fellowship arrived, though Legolas can find neither words nor music within himself, not even the brittle comfort of the chant he spoke when they believed they had found proof of Merry and Pippin's deaths. Yet they had been wrong, recalls Legolas; they had been wrong about Gandalf as well. Aragorn would refuse to despair. He would smile to see Gimli resting so soundly, untouched by dejection or hopelessness, and he would meet Legolas' eyes with a wink and the faintest inclination of his head.

Legolas reaches out a hand to touch the Dwarf as he sleeps. The coarse, stained material of Gimli's clothing feels very different against his fingertips than the cool cruel edges of the Evenstar pendant; he tucks the jewel away. Someday Gimli, too, shall die, and Legolas shall ride alone once more. He does not wish to, no more than Arwen wishes to see the Undying Lands without Aragorn beside her.

The peaceful slumber of Dwarves and the unfathomable fate of Men may be outside Legolas' grasp, yet for a moment he is serene in understanding. To know loss is to see what is truly precious. Shifting nearer to the warm body, Legolas closes his eyes and imagines that he is not an Elf, but able to descend into such dreams as a mortal.


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