Chapter Summary: Ithilien, May 120 of the Fourth Age. Aragorn has left, and Legolas is leaving, too.
Leaves of Gold
Chapter 5 - Across So Wide a Sea
By Lady E
Is it not time that lovingly we freed ourselves
from the beloved and, quivering, endured:
as the arrow endures the bow-string's tension,
and in this tense release becomes more than itself.
For staying is nowhere.
Rainer Maria Rilke, ‘Duino Elegies: the first elegy’
Translated by Albert Ernest Flemming
He has left.
And I am leaving, too. The world I have known has come to an end.
The day I turned my back on Aragorn and took to the silent vaults of Fangorn Forest, the image of him in his waving white cloak burned long behind my eyes. And with it burned away all words: those spoken and those never said. While all Middle-earth praised the great deeds of the Fellowship and sang of the King of the West, my heart was mute with grief, and songs turned into ashes on my tongue. A thicket of memories grew around me, casting its long shadows wherever I went. When I entered Eryn Lasgalen, every leaf turning in the wind, every movement of light on the green forest floor spoke to me of him. His footsteps followed mine relentlessly under the trees where we had once walked together, past the dark dells we had avoided on our journeys in unspoken agreement, to the chamber where he had stayed when visiting my father's palace.
When I came to the South, I hoped his shadow would pass from my side on the paths of Ithilien I had never shared with him. But I should have known my own heart better. Aragorn's echo dwelled in me, and I had no means of deadening it. His absence was so tangible it ripened into a presence – the presence of what could not be, yet could not be undone. Sometimes I would speak to him, as if he could hear me. I imagined his low voice and his answers; his brows knitting together as he concentrated on listening; and the twitch in the corners of his lips as a smile crept upon them. Sometimes I found myself touching him in my thoughts, and I ached inside and out, because I knew he could not feel or return the touch. I avoided the city of stone that enclosed him within its walls, but day after day I knew where it lay, like a tree knows evening after evening where the last distant light on the horizon will be caught in the heavy webs of night. He was ever there, yet ever out of reach.
Just like the sea.
Stalks withered down, rose and withered again. Years were washed into oblivion like trails on seashore sand. One by one the mortals I had tied myself to with bonds of friendship left the world like strangers who glance at an unknown land briefly in awe, then journey far away. But Aragorn had been granted a longer life, and he remained.
And so did I.
Three moons ago, when the month of Nínui was in half and the ground was numb with winter, Aragorn rode to meet me in the forests of Ithilien. He arrived in the blue and grey haze of the evening, when it was no longer day and not yet night. He travelled in a modest fashion like a ranger of old and had shed all recognisable tokens of a ruler. Only two trusted swordsmen from his court accompanied him as guardians. As he dismounted from his horse, gave the reins for his companion to hold and threw back his hood, my heart stirred. The shadows on his face were different and their shapes had grown sharper. Where once had been but a thin line, was now a web of furrows. There was not a sole empty and unmapped place in him. Light and twilight, present and past were resting on his brow. The world had written his story to an end.
"Hail, Legolas Thranduilion, Lord of the Elves of Ithilien," he said, bowing to me. His voice was deeper, older than I remembered.
"Hail, Aragorn Arathornion, King Elessar of the Men of Gondor and Arnor," I replied, bowing back. "This is an unexpected and rare pleasure."
He said nothing, but lifted a hand on his chest and nodded slightly, never taking his eyes off mine.
I gave orders to take his horse to be fed and rested. I proclaimed I would dine with the King, and his companions left us. We walked together towards a cluster of trees surrounding a dark, calm forest pond. The first stars had already been lit on the surface of the water. Around the pond tree branches sweeping the ground were bent to form walls among which my halls had been built. I led Aragorn to a room where I usually slept and ate when I did not join the company of my kinsfolk under the open skies. It was tightly veiled by walls of branches and tapestries woven of thin fabric. He sat down on a divan covered by animal skins. I took my seat opposite to him, on the other side of a low wooden table at the ends of which two lanterns were burning. Their light fell on Aragorn's grey hair like shreds of moonlight on sea. His hands were resting still on his lap, their skin thin as a moth's wing and pale against the deep blue of his tunic. I waited for him to speak.
"I wish we could forget about titles and formalities tonight, and talk without the obstacles of years between us," he began. "I have come because the path of time is wearing narrow beneath my feet, and I did not know when I could hope for you to pay a visit."
"I am sorry I have not been to Minas Tirith more often, Aragorn," I said, but he raised his hand to silence me.
"There is no need for you to justify yourself. I would have done the same." A melancholy smile touched his lips. "I am grateful for the times you have been our guest, and Gimli has brought tidings of you often."
"I see he has carried the word both ways, then."
Aragorn responded to my smile, but then solemnity took over his face and he captured my gaze. Although he spoke in a calm voice, I felt something behind his words that he seemed to struggle to control.
"Legolas, I have never kept my purposes from you, and I will not do so now. My days are full. When the courtyard tree next blossoms in Gondor, I will no longer be there to see it."
"So you have come to bid a farewell." My words lingered in the air for a moment before turning dry and lifeless and rustling down to the ground.
"Yes, I have come to redeem the promise I once made, but that is not the only reason," Aragorn said. The shadows on his face grew darker. "I have no right to ask anything of you, but if you allow it, I would spend a few short hours with you. We may speak or remain quiet. It will suffice me to see you once more before my eyes, not only in fading dreams."
I stared at him and saw the restlessness that had crept into him. I understood he was not sure of my response. He was afraid I would deny him my presence.
I extended my arm towards him over the table. He looked at me, as if for a confirmation, and a glow was lit in his eyes when he understood my meaning. He took my hand, and I pulled him off his seat, to my side. It had been dozens of years since I had last been this close to him. I squeezed his hand in my own. The heat radiating from it seemed to burn a hole in the night air.
"Aragorn, I have cherished every moment with you I have been given," I said. I breathed in his scent, and my chest was both light and heavy. "If I can add one more to my hoard, I will be grateful for it."
"You are too good to me," he whispered and lifted his hand on my face. His fingers stopped for a moment on my unwrinkled brow and travelled over my cheekbone before retreating. His voice was lowered to nearly inaudible. "I have missed you."
His touch still sent a fiery shiver under my skin. I placed my hand on his arm, looking for words, but that was when we heard steps outside. Aragorn withdrew from me and moved back to his own seat.
"Lord Legolas? We have brought food," said a voice from behind the door curtain.
"Very well, Anorloth," I shouted in response. "You may enter."
Anorloth stepped in with two other Elves. They laid on the table three trays laden with bread, wine, fruits, freshly roasted meat and sweet cakes.
"Thank you, Anorloth," I said. "You may go. It is not necessary to collect the trays until tomorrow," I added while they were still standing at the door. They bowed and took their leave.
Aragorn observed this exchange thoughtfully.
"It is odd to see you in the position of a lord," he said when they had left. "You are worthy of your title, but to me you are still a warrior."
"Time changes us all," I replied.
"All, but not everything," Aragorn said and his gaze lingered on me. It was still the same gaze as years before.
We ate in silence. After the meal he rose, walked behind me and placed his hands on my shoulders.
"I must leave at dawn," he said, and his breath brushed my ear.
"I know," I replied. "You have more important farewells to bid."
Aragorn kneeled by my seat, cupped my chin gently in his hand and turned my face towards him. His eyes were blazing brightly. For a moment the lines left by years seemed to be smoothened on his face and the silver shed from his hair, as if he were again in the prime of his strength, the heir of kings I had followed even to darkest paths without hesitation.
"Not more important. Only different," he said.
This early in the year nights were still chilly. We wrapped the blankets around ourselves fully clad; I knew the bite of the cold air was crueller to him than to me. We lay facing each other on the bed made of animal skins and soft fabrics. Aragorn's arm rested around me.
"Is Gimli going with you?" he asked.
"He is. No Dwarf has ever sailed to the West, but he says Lady Galadriel granted him this grace long ago."
"I should have thanked Gimli for being by your side," he said. "I fear I may not be able to do it anymore myself."
"I promise to convey your gratitude."
Aragorn put his hand on my cheek. The sombre and abysmal gulf that had always been between us opened in his eyes.
"Legolas, have you known happiness in these years?" he asked.
"I have not been unhappy. I have rejoiced for you, at the birth of your children and the flourishing of your kingdom," I answered truthfully.
"But what of yourself?"
My heart clenched into a fist in my chest. I made no reply.
"I never wished to cause you this pain," he said in a hoarse voice. "I have grieved for you."
"Grief is in vain," I replied. "It does not change a thing. You must not regret, for I do not."
"I have not regretted," he said, but the grief in him did not pass.
I studied carefully his expression, every flashing reflection of what was simmering inside him. "Now that your time has come, do you worry because we once violated the unwritten laws of Men and Elves? Do you fear an unknown verdict may await us somewhere under all-seeing eyes?"
Aragorn gave a faint chuckle, but there was no laughter in his voice.
"I do not expect that kind of cruelty from the Lords of the West. We have bought these long years upon earth with relinquishment; that is verdict enough for us. I only fear one thing: the final parting, beyond which there is no return." His eyes were grey as winter skies.
"That parting we have always foreseen. And you have one comfort. The choice of the Evenstar joined her with the kin of Men, and your children bear the same heritage. Beyond the circles of the world there is more for you than a memory, and while the destination is unknown, your separation will not be infinite."
"But for you there is only a memory," Aragorn said quietly.
"Memories are more vivid for my people than for Men. The roots of sadness lie buried deep in them, but a great deal of our happiness is born of them also," I said. "And who knows what final end is hidden in the Great Music? Some of the Wise believe in a world remade, where the shadow of death has been swept away, all children of Ilúvatar walk together in great bliss, and what has been divided will become one."
Aragorn took my face between his hands and pierced me with his gaze. I felt then like I saw him fully for the first time. A touch of his youth I had never known was blended with the strength of adulthood and wisdom brought by age, and he was more beautiful than ever. Surprise visited his face, as if he also saw at that moment my whole life in me -- the Elf child that had run under beeches in days of old, the young warrior yet oblivious of his fate, and finally the creature who had seen trees grow and fall, to whom most mortals were but children.
"I do not know of such tales," he said, "but if there is anything that may last beyond the realms of this world, it is the love I feel for you. You are a part of my spirit, and I am not whole without you. I may be selfish in saying this; but even if it meant a separation beyond the end of the world for us, I would make the same choice again."
I placed my own hands on his face, and suddenly it was again the same face as before: a landscape the paths of which my fingers knew how to walk in sleep and waking.
"As would I, beloved," I whispered, and meant it.
We lay like this for a long time, only looking at each other. One of the lanterns burning on the table extinguished, and a thin wisp of smoke floated into the air. The dusk closed around us like a silk moth's cocoon. No sound came from outside. Not a leaf stirred, no animal walked on winter-crusted grass and no Elf sang. The world beyond the room ceased to exist. There was naught but the scent of smoke, wine and fruits in the cooling air, the silence of the words that had been left unspoken during our long separation, the night oozing quietly all over us.
I moved my hands along Aragorn's body and his hands responded with caresses. They were not demanding caresses, they lacked despair and hurry. We had already renounced what could not be and received what was. Desire slumbered in us still, but we had sealed that door behind us over a century ago, and we had no need to speak to know there was no going back. Yet our spirits seemed to merge and do what our bodies refrained from. A shining, endless and unbreakable connection flowed between our palms, our fingertips, our hearts, surrounding us in an invisible circle of light.
Nothing more was needed. All was there.
"I would stay awake until dawn only to look at you," Aragorn said, "but I fear the years are too heavy upon me, and I will not be able to fight the sleep."
I stroked his hair. It mingled with mine on the bed, and only now I saw it still had dark streaks. My fingers knew its tangles, swirls and texture as if they had touched it only yesterday.
"Sleep," I said. "I will guard your dreams as I used to do."
The light of the still burning lantern spilled over us and painted an image of the past on the wall. The figures of the lovers we had once been, now faded featureless, were shifting in the shadows, melting together, until it was impossible to say where one ended and the other began.
"I would have abandoned all, had you asked for it," Aragorn whispered, and his voice failed.
"In that case I am glad I never did," I replied.
At that moment all sorrow and happiness of the world was written upon his face. I knew he saw the same on mine. I curled against him, fingers interlaced with his. Slowly sleep wrapped him in its cloak. Night knotted darkness for our cover and we breathed in each other for the last time, I through waking and he through dreams.
In the first light of the morning he readied himself to take leave. I walked him to the clearing where the road wound away among the trees still bare with winter. Sky and earth were silent. Nothing moved. We stood facing each other in the ring of mute trees, and there were no words.
For Men unexpected partings bring sorrow, but Elves think differently. For us, an unexpected parting is more merciful than one foreseen and inevitable. We have too often had to choose the words we know to be the last. We understand no words are sufficient in such a moment; a final farewell makes all of them flawed, any language coarse and clumsy.
Aragorn's companions appeared with the horses nearby at the edge of the clearing. He gave them a glance, made his decision and pulled me into his arms. He stopped to look at my face carefully, as if he had for the first time tried to memorise every feature, surprised at not having thought to do it before. Then he kissed me. It was a faint echo of another kiss, once shared in a different world, another time and place. His once fervent mouth was now soft and tender, hunger sated, all demands buried and faded away. My heart was beating in my chest as it only ever had for him, sore and joyous and sad.
When we finally pulled apart after a long embrace, I spoke his name once more, only once, to let myself taste it on my tongue, before it would be gone for ever, cold and thin and never more living.
"Nothing has changed, Legolas."
I knew it was true.
I turned my back and walked away. After a few dozen steps I looked behind and saw him standing still in the same place, his hair silver-grey in the sloped morning light, hand placed upon his heart. I halted and lifted a hand upon my heart. When I felt tears stream down my cheeks, I turned away and did not look back again. I wished to be alone, until I would have to step out into a world without him.
When the Queen's messenger arrived weeks later to bring word of the King's death, I sat for a long time by the pond's calm water. Earth did not tremble, sky did not crack and thickets were not filled by the wailing of beasts. The surrounding woods were quiet and the trees did not tell where he had gone. No stalks broken under his footsteps lay on the paths, the air did not carry the rhythm of his breathing into my ears. The rock I was sitting on was empty by my side and felt cold against my hand. Evening folded around me, weaving a dark veil between me and the world.
Through it I heard Anduin flowing to the sea more swiftly than ever before, demanding me to join it.
Someone stepped to the rock beside me. A hand was lowered onto my shoulder.
"Is it time?" Gimli asked.
What is in the end, when all has been said and done?
There is slow-running water, and on its surface the faint song of rain falling from the iron-coloured sky. There is the quiet creak of the mast and the whispering of waves against the grey sides of the ship, as it floats towards the sea. There is the passing landscape that is being left behind and dissipating like mist after night.
There is that which cannot be changed.
Gimli is sitting in the midst of the ship, his shoulders hunched, combing his grizzled beard with his fingers. At intervals he raises his gaze and studies me carefully, as I am steering the light vessel. I see the determination to speak grow in him slowly, and finally he opens his mouth.
"I know it has only been a short while," he says. "But has it crossed your mind that putting your grief into words might make it easier to bear?" The movement of his fingers has stopped, the hood of his cloak has slipped off his head. Small bright crystals of drizzle are gathering on his coarse hair.
"Or it might sharpen the edge of pain even more cutting," I reply. A few dark birds take wing from the reeds. They dart and bounce restlessly like insects on the rain-slivered sky.
Gimli shakes his head and sighs.
"Even now the elven heart remains a mystery to me," he says. "You carry your memories like a curse. I myself would have been grateful through the years, if I could have revived in my mind that which is most beautiful."
His fingers brush a lovingly carved small mithril case he carries on a chain around his neck. One golden hair is set in it; I know two more remain in a crystal in the Glittering Caves, honoured as an heirloom of his house and token of friendship between Elves and Dwarves.
"I have forgotten too much of it, for Dwarves remember grudge and old malice longer than gentleness," he continues.
"And yet you were driven to this journey by the memory of unexpected gentleness you once encountered," I remind him. "Perhaps you understand the Elven-folk better than you know."
"Not only a faded memory, but a promise," Gimli responds, and his expression softens. He wipes water off his hair and pulls the hood over his head. "You know what Lady Galadriel offered me a long time ago. I could have stayed in the Golden Wood, yet I followed the Fellowship, with no consolation but her words I would see her again once more beyond the sea, if the Shadow passed."
"You are lucky, for the fulfilment of your wish is still ahead of you," I say. "The promises of the Lady are double-edged." I look into the horizon, where different hues of grey veil the border of the sky and sea. Somewhere behind them is brightness, but I do not see it, not yet.
Gimli pricks up his ears and fixes me with an examining gaze.
"It is odd you should use those very words," he states. "Aragorn said the exact same thing to me once."
Hearing Aragorn's name twists a knife inside me, but I do not let it show on my face.
"Is that so?"
"But he also said he would remain ever grateful for the day when the Lady first sent him to Mirkwood," Gimli continues without taking his eyes off me.
Surprise floods into me. I feel it invade my expression through the calm as I ask,
"Did Lady Galadriel send Aragorn to Mirkwood?"
Gimli's eyebrows rise and his mouth curves amusedly.
"I would not have thought I can still amaze you even in my old age," he replies. "I reckoned you had always known."
Laughter springs from me unexpectedly, taking us both by surprise.
"Now that is music to my weary ears, although I do not see the reason," Gimli says, perplexed.
"Dear friend, you have just added a missing piece to a puzzle I had thought long solved."
"Do not strain an old Dwarf with the riddles of Elves, but speak directly."
"I have a tale to tell, if you will listen," I say. "It has slumbered inside me too long. It may be time I leave it behind with these shores, like nearly everything else."
Gimli looks at me questioningly, spreading his hands in expectation.
"You have cherished your memory of Lothlórien beyond any other through the years," I begin. "So have I cherished mine, but for a different reason." Gimli remains quiet, but throws a meaningful glance at me. "You know Aragorn and I stepped into the Golden Wood as friends, but left it as lovers. Have you never wondered what caused the change?"
He strokes his beard and shrugs.
"I always thought it was because of Gandalf's fall in Moria and the grief that cast you into each other's arms. But I cannot say it was entirely unexpected," he replies. "Sometimes friendship and love are separated by but a subtle line."
Even now I marvel at his insight. Who would have thought that he, of all the Fellowship, would understand best?
"You were right," I admit. "But something else happened, too. I also was tried by the Lady as the Fellowship entered Lothlórien. When we were standing before her eyes, I heard her voice in my mind. 'Legolas son of Thranduil,' she said, 'it is no coincidence that you are on this journey. Your fate is bound to the Ringbearer, Elfstone and through them all of Middle-earth. Something will soon be requested of you that will not ease your part.'
"I did not lower my eyes, but responded to her, 'My Lady, if you see my heart the way I believe you do, you know I will protect them with my life. Is there something more you would ask of me?'
"I could hear the seriousness in her voice as she spoke. 'The request is not within my power to make, but will spring from what you and Isildur's heir have planted between the two of you long ago. Aragorn will come to you before you leave this country behind. What he offers you is both a gift and a burden, for allegiance of the heart between Elves and Men has seldom brought but pain to those who have bound themselves to it. And yet, how would Beren One-hand have passed his trials without Lúthien Tinúviel and Finrod Felagund by his side, and the Enemy's brow been deprived of the Silmaril? How would Mordor have been defeated on the Second Age, had not Gil-Galad and Elendil stood side by side, Elrond and Isildur as each other's protection? How would Eärendil have sailed to Valinor and the grace of the Valar been cast upon Elven-folk without a union of Elf and Man? Sometimes one must suffer a loss so others would gain. And perhaps a joy is hidden inside the sorrow, brief but all the brighter.'
"The Lady trailed off, and then continued, 'Whichever choice you make together, a relinquishment is bound to be the other side of it. You may travel by his side, but at the end of the path your roads must part. No one has the power to change that. It is no small thing you are being asked; the journey may still claim the lives of you both. A ring of grey mists is tightening around us, and the invisible power of the Shadow reaches unexpectedly far. You must grant or deny the request of your own will, and once the choice has been made, it cannot be undone. These words may hold but part of the truth, but I will still say them to you: receive for a fleeting while what you most desire, and your heart will ever be but a bruise in your chest; or save your heart, abandon the short bliss and watch the world fall.'
"I understood our trial was different from that of the rest of the Fellowship. The others she tempted with allurements that would seem to offer an escape from the dangers lying ahead; our allurement would be a weapon against those dangers, but would leave an eternal scar. And she was right. Aragorn came to me only two days later. The rest of the story you know," I finish my tale.
Gimli remains silent for a long while. Years have fallen upon his face, and his expression is contemplative. The ship rocks slowly beneath our feet and the greenness of early summer thickens on the shores of the stream. Eventually he breaks the silence, pondering each of his words carefully.
"Do you mean the Lady planned it all from the beginning and sent Aragorn to Mirkwood years before the war, because she knew what kind of a bond would be formed between you? Did she use you to secure Aragorn's survival?"
"I do not know, Gimli." I let out a deep sigh and close my eyes, letting the dull and heavy pain in my chest settle until it seems sufferable. "Perhaps she had foreseen something; perhaps not. I only know what I have seen to happen."
"The most beautiful is indeed the wisest also." Gimli straightens his crooked back and his eyes are bright. "I am no smith of shiny sentences, and I have no better comfort to offer you than what words you once said to me: I count you blessed, Legolas Greenleaf, for your loss you suffered of your own free will, and you might have chosen otherwise."
I recall how I had tried to lighten his grief for the wound of parting with Lady Galadriel, as we had left the Golden Wood.
"How wrong and inconsiderately chosen my own words seem now," I reply.
Gimli's gaze sharpens. He rises from his seat, steps to me and seizes my arm.
"No," he says firmly. "Those were wise and true words, and even more so for you than for me. You are lucky, for you have experienced such love as has not been granted to all. I hold your memories not a curse but blessing. Your story is made of them, and without that story you would not be you, but somebody else." He falls silent, then adds more quietly, "I would not want you to be somebody else."
His words move me. I kneel down on one knee, bringing our faces to the same level.
"Gimli, even without the Lady's promise I would have asked you to come with me, and not only to avoid journeying alone."
A smile spreads on his aged face.
"And I would have asked to go with you anyhow, and not only to see the Lady again."
We look in the eye this friendship the years have forged persistent. A little clumsily he embraces me.
"Grief takes its time," Gimli says as he pulls away. "But we both still have eyes to see, a tongue to taste and a heart to dream, cry and laugh. I do not know what you intend to do with yours, but I plan to enjoy mine while I still can. Which is not long," he adds, but there is not despair or bitterness in his tone. It is a simple statement, a confirmation of what we both know to be true.
He wipes rain off his beard and stands still for a while, as if to say something more, but then seems to drop the thought and goes back to his seat. A companionable silence falls between us. I see his head begin to nod towards his chest, as tiredness takes him over.
He starts and his head quirks up.
"Did you say something?"
He smiles and wraps the grey cloak around him more tightly.
"You are welcome," he replies. "Will you let an old Dwarf sleep now?"
"I will waken you when we reach the white shores," I say, and his grunt tells me he considers my estimation of his gift for sleep highly exaggerated.
We have come to the mouth of the river. The sea is near; the foam is resting on the waves thin as a moth's wing and pale against the deep blue of the water. The flight of white birds slashes the sky where clouds are rolling in an eternal, ceaseless transformation. The rain is withdrawing; shreds of sunlight are falling from among the clouds to the sea. I look at the shores I am leaving, and I feel I sense them fully for the first time. I see each sharp blade of grass, the edges and pores of each stone; I hear the growth of each tree and the peaceful stirrings of their roots in the darkness of the ground. I absorb the beauty of it all with hunger and longing, knowing it will pass and never return.
When Anduin opens into the sea and wind claims the sails, I let my mind float back to Eryn Lasgalen, where the last of my people still walk under the stars, hidden from the world of Men. I linger for a moment in the cold-grown halls of Imladris and roam among the trees of Lothlórien, where no one else wanders anymore, the abandoned huts built on boughs crumble under moss and winter has muted the earth. That is when the memory returns, and this time I do not yield, but open myself to it. Lanterns are lit in the dusk and a quiet song drifts from among the trees, the grass is green again and leaves are rustling in the current of air. Aragorn's warm skin is glowing against my own, we are entwining like vines and living breathlessly the miracle we are together. There are words that belong only to the two of us and that nobody else will ever hear.
"If there is still life somewhere beyond the Shadow, will you take this love with you to the Undying Lands? Will you keep this moment alive in your memory, when I am gone and all others have forgotten?"
I will, beloved. This and every other moment I have been granted to live: the dance of light on forest floor, the web of shadows on stone walls, leaves of gold whispering in the wind just before they fade away.
For the only meaning is written in this very moment, and small is the value of eternal life without this understanding.
A wind rises and sweeps over the water, shaking the surface of the waves. Although the world is different from the one I was once born into, some things will never change: those that songs are made and stories written of, those that are remembered in the solitude of deep dark night hours, those that leave a mark that will never heal entirely away from the red flesh of the heart. They will remain as long as the empty, yet full sky arches above the earth.
And I am grateful for them.
I leave behind Middle-earth as I have known it.
I let it go.
~ The End ~
(1) Eryn Lasgalen was the name given to Mirkwood by Celeborn and Thranduil after the War of the Ring. It translates as 'the Wood of Greenleaves'. (LotR, Appendix B: 'The Tale of Years')
(2) Nínui: the Sindarin name for the second month of the year, or February.
(3) Thranduilion: Sindarin for 'son of Thranduil'. In his formal greeting Legolas replies to Aragorn accordingly, addressing him as Arathornion, son of Arathorn.
(4) Lords of the West = the Valar, angelic spirits that look over the world and serve Ilúvatar.
(5) And who knows what final end is hidden in the Great Music?
'The Great Music' refers to the creation myth of the Elves, which tells of Ilúvatar creating music that patterns the fate of Middle-earth in its entirety.
Some of the Wise believe in a world remade, where the shadow of death has been swept away, all children of Ilúvatar walk together in great bliss, and what has been divided will become one.
This notion, while vague, still has its roots in canon. 'Laws and Customs among the Eldar' and 'Athrabeth Finrod Ah Andreth' (both in Morgoth's Ring, HoMe vol. 10) hint at the idea of a pure and 'healed' world beyond the end of Arda as Elves and Men know it, where death may not separate them anymore - a kind of paradise regained, to use a Judeo-Christian analogy.
(6) And yet, how would Beren One-hand have passed his trials without Lúthien Tinúviel and Finrod Felagund by his side, and the Enemy's brow been deprived of the Silmaril? How would Mordor have been defeated on the Second Age, had not Gil-Galad and Elendil stood side by side, Elrond and Isildur as each other's protection? How would Eärendil have sailed to Valinor and the grace of the Valar been cast upon Elven-folk without a union of Elf and Man?
These events are hinted at in LotR, but the actual tales are told in The Silmarillion.
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