King Elessar of the reunited kingdoms of Gondor and Arnor stood on the balcony of the private apartment he shared with his queen in the Citadel high above the many levels of Minas Tirith. He had a pensive look on his face, as he looked past the Pelennor Fields to the horizon.
He hadn’t heard the approach of the love of his life but knew she had joined him. Her hand on his shoulder and a light kiss on his cheek confirmed it. So did her first words to him. “Good morning, my love.”
Aragorn smiled and reached up to pat Arwen’s hand. “It’s a far better one now that you have joined me.”
Standing next to her husband, the Queen of Gondor and Arnor slipped her arm under his and asked, “What occupies your mind so thoroughly?” When Aragorn turned to look at her questioningly, she explained. “You usually take great pleasure in greeting me before I reach you to let me know you heard my steps. Something has taken hold in you mind that has claimed your attention. Do you wish to share it?”
A somewhat cloudy expression crossed the king’s face. He gave a deep sigh before answering. “I often look out over the Fields, and usually only think of how lucky I am to have such beauty right beyond my door. I try not to think of the battle that took place here just three years ago, but it is still so vivid in my mind.”
Arwen frowned. “I was not here then, of course, but I have heard many stories of what horrors took place.”
“Those were two of the best and the worst of days. We won a great victory and saved this city, but we also lost many good men, including the King of Rohan.”
“Yes, but now Rohan has a new king, who is a good friend,” Arwen said, thinking of …omer. “And Gondor has a new king, as well.” She laughed. “One I love very dearly.” Another kiss followed those words.
“So you love the king, do you?” Aragorn asked teasingly.
“With all my heart,” the now-mortal elf replied.
“I believe I’m jealous.”
“Estel, you have the most outlandish sense of humor.” Arwen leaned over and placed a third kiss on her husband’s cheek. “But I would not change it for anything in all of Arda. It brightens even the darkest of moods.”
The king pulled his wife closer to him. “No, my love, it is you who brightens not just a dark mood but my very life.” He then wrapped Arwen in his arms, and the resulting kiss was long and passionate.
Unfortunately, a knock on the door interrupted the moment.
Aragorn was tempted to ignore it but knew he could not. Whoever it was would just keep knocking. “I fear that duty may be calling.”
Parting from his wife in resigned disappointment, Aragorn crossed the bedchamber and then walked through the sitting room. He closed the inner door and made his way along the short hallway, stopping at the door that led into the main corridor. “Who is it?” he called out, trying not to sound annoyed.
“Toldon, my lord.”
With a sigh, Aragorn pulled back the bolt
on the heavy oak door, which swung inward, revealing a tall man of about fifty, with graying hair and a short, trim beard. He was dressed in the livery of the newly established House of Telcontar with a white tree stitched across the chest.
The man was pragmatic and all business but he was neither arrogant nor argumentative, so it was easy for Aragorn to depend on his loyalty to the crown. He just wished the man had a sense of humor.
Toldon stood at the entrance to the private office just inside the outer door. He dutifully waited for his king to enter first.
Aragorn walked around behind his desk and stood beside the chair, resting his left hand on its high back. He smiled benignly but said nothing.
Clearing his throat, Toldon said, “There is an emissary from Ithilien here to see you, my lord.”
For an instant Aragorn’s face reflected joy at the thought that Legolas may have come for a visit. Then he quickly realized that Legolas would not have been announced. He would have come to Aragorn’s apartment and knocked on the door himself, as he always did when the king was in his residence.
Even now that the man Legolas had known for years was the ruler of a great kingdom, the elf did not like to make a big deal of being a prince. He knew when and how to show and receive the proper respect, but short of a formal affair, they were still just Legolas and Estel.
“Is it one of the colony elves?”
“No, my lord. It is a man looking for Lord Faramir, but since he is on his way to Rohan, the man requested an audience with you.”
When Aragorn thought about all the merchants, craftsmen, and such with complaints or requests he had foisted off on Faramir in the past, he thought it was only fair to see the man.
Suddenly, before he could utter a word, a stab of fear entered the king’s heart. He knew not why such a feeling of foreboding would strike him, but strike him it did.
The room faded away, and the figure of Toldon went with it. In their place, Aragorn saw what he could only describe as a vision, as a forest began to materialize. Legolas, riding on his white stallion, Arod, moved into the idyllic picture.
The Mirkwood prince rode along a dirt path and all seemed at peace. The elf looked so happy. He was riding his beloved horse among his beloved trees. The scene made Aragorn smile. However, it didn’t last long before the man remembered the fear that had struck him just a moment ago. Something was not right, and in the scene, Legolas appeared to feel it, too.
The peace of the vision was shattered, when Legolas was suddenly beset by orcs, remnants of Sauron’s army who still roamed in small pockets across the southern lands. A band of the beasts surrounded the elf.
Arrows flew from several different directions, and to Aragorn’s horror, all found their mark.
Legolas fell forward over Arod’s neck. Orc claws grabbed for the prince, but Arod spun and kicked, trying desperately to protect his master and keep him from being pulled into the grasping arms of the foul creatures.
Hooves connected with flesh and the orcs that did not jump back out of the way were soon either lying on the ground or flying through the air. The rage in Arod’s screams left no room for doubt at the hatred the horse felt.
In short order, a gap appeared in the circle of orcs, and Arod , now with several arrows protruding from his white coat, bounded through it. The orcs were screaming their own rage at the fleeing horse and rider.
The last thing that Aragorn saw before the vision wavered was of a blood-drenched Legolas lying over Arod and disappearing into the dark forest.
The man staggered backward and would have fallen had he not bumped up against the book shelves behind his desk. As it was, he did slide down until he sat stunned on the office floor.
Toldon spared only a second to register shock before he rushed forward to see what had befallen his king. “My lord,” the man uttered in shock. “What has happened?” Was King Elessar having some kind of seizure? “Do you require a healer, my lord?”
Aragorn blinked several times before looking up into the confused and frantic eyes of Toldon.
The man’s words sank in, and Aragorn was able to shake his head in answer to the last question. He was not in the least able to answer the first one, because he didn’t have an answer.
Aragorn offered his arm to Toldon, who pulled the king to his feet and then over to the chair.
“Can I get you something, my lord?”
“My wife,” the king replied in a shaky voice.
Toldon hesitated a moment, torn between obeying the command of his sovereign and concern for him. Finally, he turned and reluctantly left King Elessar sitting in the office by himself.
Closing his eyes, Aragorn put his head in his hand and tried to make sense of what he had just seen.
Arwen’s worried voice drifted into the office, even before she had entered the room. “Are you all right, Estel? Toldon seemed shaken.”
The king’s troubled eyes met those of his wife, and she knew the answer even before he said a word. She pulled the chair that normally sat in front of the desk around to the side and lowered herself into it so that she was facing her husband. “Tell me what happened,” she said softly.
Aragorn began to relate all that had taken place both with Toldon and in the vision. By the time he had finished,, Arwen’s eyes were brimming with unshed tears.
“I cannot explain it, Arwen. I saw it so clearly, as if the scene were being played out right here in this very room. Legolas, Arod, the orcs - they all looked as if I could reach out and touch them.”
“So what do you believe it was.”
“A vision.” Aragorn shuddered. “I cannot forget the look of shock and pain on Legolas’s face, when he was shot. And all the blood,” he added. “I would give anything to believe it was some trick of the mind, but I know in my heart that it wasn’t.”
Arwen grasped Aragorn’s hand and brought it up to her lips, kissed it and then placed it in her lap. “I wish Ada was here to interpret what you saw.”
“What I saw was Legolas’s death!” Aragorn declared rather loudly. “He was attacked, and I wasn’t there. He’s lying somewhere in that forest. Why was I not there to help him?” The words were spoken with utter helplessness.
“You do not know for sure that this has happened,” the queen soothed, despite what Aragorn had said earlier.
Now taking both of Aragorn’s hands in hers, she continued. “You told me that Arod had an injured leg and could not be ridden for at least a month, did you not?”
“Yes, that’s what Faramir told me when he returned from seeing Legolas.”
“And that was two weeks ago,” Arwen said, trying to give her husband a mental nudge.
It didn’t take long for Aragorn to understand the point that Arwen was making. The bright smile from her husband told Arwen that he did indeed understand her point.
“What I saw hasn’t happened yet!” The change in Aragorn’s demeanor was dramatic, as new hope burst out of the man’s heart. “I still have time to save Legolas!”
“I will help you prepare for your journey to Ithilien,” was all the comment the queen made. It was all she needed to make.
Aragorn had been exceedingly impatient while waiting for the Royal Guard to get ready to ride with him to Ithilien. It seemed to him that they were taking forever. In truth, they were ready in almost record time, but to Aragorn, each second seemed to pass with all the speed of an Age.
He was tempted to leave without them, but he had tried that once before, and the resulting uproar, most of it coming from Arwen and Faramir, made him vow that he would never do that again.
Still, he knew just seeing Legolas, even standing whole and hardy in front of him, would not be enough. He had seen him in the vision and believed it to be real. No, he had to touch Legolas, to actually feel the elf’s solid form under his fingers. Then and only then would his pounding heart return to normal.
As soon as the Captain of the Guard told him the six soldiers that were to accompany him were ready, Aragorn mounted Brego and headed down the city streets at a fast trot, only slowing to avoid running down any of the citizens of Minas Tirith.
The Guard rushed off to catch up to King Elessar before he left the city.
Aragorn passed through the main gates and urged Brego into a gallop. If he hadn’t had so far to go, he would have been moving at a full run.
By traveling as fast as they dared and stopping to rest and eat only sparingly, Aragorn and his Guard finally reached the elven colony in Ithilien that Legolas now called home.
The king dismounted and looked around. The first elf he saw was Balliel, an old friend of Legolas’s, who had followed the prince from Mirkwood to settle here.
“Lord Elessar,” the elf called out in greeting, as the two approached each other. There was a broad smile on his face.
Ignoring the greeting and the smile, Aragorn said rather anxiously, “Where is Legolas?” He all but stopped breathing until he heard the elf reply.
“He took Arod out for a ride in the forest. The horse had a bad leg and...” He got no further, because the groan that escaped Aragorn’s lips was far more than just disappointment. When Aragorn grabbed Balliel’s arm, he felt the man trembling.
“Which way did he go?” Aragorn didn’t even try to hide the desperation he felt.
Balliel pointed in the direction he had seen Legolas riding earlier that day.
“How long has he been gone?”
“About two hours.”
Aragorn whirled around, mounted Brego and rode off without another word, followed closely by his still-mounted Guard.
Balliel was left staring with his mouth open. However, he didn’t stay that way for long. If the King of Gondor was worried enough about Legolas that he was displaying this very uncharacteristic behavior, then there was definitely something to be worried about. He ran to his horse, gathered two other elves nearby and headed after the contingent of men.
They found Legolas less than half an hour later. His blood-soaked body lay sprawled beside the dirt path. Lying beside the elf was Arod, his head resting on his master’s right hip. They were both dead.
Aragorn was distraught beyond consoling. He sat and held the elf’s body in his arms, as he rocked back and forth. The other elves were likewise in a shocked state that left them shaken and bereft.
The Guard, who had known Legolas from his many visits to the White City, were experiencing their own sorrow for the loss of the elven prince they had all come to admire and for their grief-stricken king.
It fell to the Captain to finally allow reason and practicality to take over. With a heavy heart, he approached Aragorn. “My lord, forgive me, but...” He paused and began again. “We must take the prince back to the colony.” When the king did not answer or show any sign that he was heard, the Captain began yet again. “We cannot remain here, my lord.”
It wasn’t until Balliel put his hand on Aragorn’s shoulder, that the man looked up from staring at Legolas’s pale, lifeless face.
Balliel’s voice was soft, and his eyes, still filled with tears, were beseeching. “Elessar, he is right. We must take Legolas home.”
Aragorn nodded, but he allowed no one else to take Legolas’s body from him. He knew that once they reached the colony, he would have to relinquish his best friend, and he intended to see to it that it didn’t happen a moment before he was ready. No, that was not right. He would never be ready to let Legolas go.