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This is for a very dear friend of mine. She is brave, kind, loyal to a fault and always willing to help others. No matter what she has been though, no matter what is throw at her, her heart still remains open and kind. She always tries to see the best in people.
You have gone through so much and yet you are still able to push on. You are stronger than you believe, braver than you seem, smarter than you think and more loved than you will ever know! You are amazing-never doubt yourself for a single moment! You will see, life will not always be as it is now. There is light at the end of the tunnel, we may just have to walk a little further to reach it!
I am honoured and so glad that I had the opportunity to meet and get to know you.
Your 'old' friend.
The Bonds of Friendship
"Friendship." Aragorn let the word roll off his tongue as he mulled it over in his mind. What is friendship? How does it form? Why? And what does it take? These questions and more drifted around inside the ranger's mind. Out of the corner of his eye, he could see his companion and trusted friend walking alongside him, his keen elven eyes fixed on the path ahead that wound its way through the trees. There was no tension in the lithe body this day; the elf was free from the strain of war and was letting himself enjoy the returning beauty to the world around him.
"Friendship." He spoke the word out loud again. "When two or more people regard each other with affection, loyalty and respect."
"What are you muttering to yourself about?" Legolas' clear voice broke through his train of thought and made the ranger jump slightly.
"Nothing," Aragorn mumbled. He could feel the heat rising in his cheeks. He dipped his head, making the dark, shaggy strands of his hair fall over his shoulders to shield him from Legolas' scrutinizing gaze.
The elven prince stopped walking and turned to face the human. "Nothing? I cannot believe that something you have been talking to yourself for over an hour can be counted as nothing. No, it must be something of importance; otherwise, you would not mumble so."
Aragorn knew that Legolas was waiting for an answer. Instead of giving the elf what he wanted, he strode off, calling over his shoulder, "It was just something that someone said to me the other day. It made me think. Nothing to worry about."
Legolas shook his head and hurried to catch up with the man. "Who said it?" He caught hold of the ranger's arm and pulled him to a stop. "Estel, you have had that frown between your eyes ever since we set out. Now stop making excuses and tell me what is on your mind, mellon-nín."
Aragorn sighed deeply. "You are not going to give up until you get what you want, are you?"
Legolas' bright and easy laugh danced around them. "Surely you know me better than that, human." His taunt was not lost on Aragorn.
"Prissy elf!" An all-knowing smile was all he got in return. Glaring openly at the elf, the ranger turned and walked away again. "It is a personal matter. I am taking care of it."
"Elessar Telcontar, you will tell what is on your mind right the minute or I shall refuse to take another step with you!" Legolas folded his arms across his chest and stood firm, his cerulean blue eyes boring into the stormy gray ones that glared back at him.
Deep in his heart, Aragorn knew this was one battle he was going to lose, dispiete his mind telling him otherwise. With a sigh, he told the elf with more than a little reluctance, "Eldarion asked me what friendship was."
Legolas waited patiently before gently encouraging the man to continue.
"And when I went to answer him, I could not. I could not explain what friendship was, even after all these years." Aragorn ran a frustrated hand over his face. When he glanced up again, Legolas was still standing beside him, his head cocked to one side. His eyes twinkled with amusement and a smirk not unlike Thranduil's pulled at his lips. "What is so funny?" the ranger asked.
"You" was the simple reply from the golden-haired elf. He chuckled quietly for a moment before explaining further. "You, who over the many years have made the friendship of man, elf, and dwarf alike, cannot explain what it is to your five-year-old son."
Aragorn felt like tying the elf prince to a tree and leaving him there. "It is not a laughing matter," he growled.
"Oh, I am sure it is. Have you asked Arwen? I am sure she could offer you some excellent advice."
"So what did you do?"
Aragorn could feel his face getting warm again as he mumbled a reply.
"I am sorry, but I did not quite catch that!" Legolas leaned in towards the man with a mischievous grin.
"I looked it up in a dictionary."
This time the elf threw back his head and laughed with such mirth it was a surprise to the man that he didn't collapse onto the ground.
Aragorn, however, was not amused in the slightest. As the elf continued to laugh, the ranger realized how stupid his answer had sounded. Roughly pushing past the elf, he walked deeper into the forest, hoping to put some distance between himself and Legolas as quickly as possible.
Legolas, however, was not at all fazed. He easily caught up with the man and put a hand on his shoulder. "Estel, forgive me. It was wrong of me to laugh. You did not know something, and so you went searching for an answer. There is nothing wrong with that."
Aragorn swung around to face Legolas. "You don't understand, do you?" His voice rose in level. "I have had the honour of being friends with some of the most loyal, brave and trustworthy people I know. I have been blessed with the friendship of the likes of you, Gimli, Faramir, and many, many more, and yet I cannot explain to my own son what friendship is! How do you think that makes me feel?"
Legolas realised that his friend was truly upset over the whole issue. "Estel, it is alright not to be able to explain something so complex as friendship. It is a truly personal experience that only you can relate to. When Eldarion makes his own friends, he will experience the same and find it equally as hard to explain it."
Aragorn just stood there, listening to Legolas speak. The lilting voice had a soothing effect on his temper, which had been threatening to break. "Legolas, what is friendship? You have seen many more years than I; surely you know."
Legolas smiled. "Aye, you are right." He wrapped an arm around Aragorn's shoulders and guided him through the trees to a small clearing where a stream gurgled pleasantly. "My dear Estel, you have become so much and you have grown into great man, a leader, a king, a husband and a father."
"But I still can't explain friendship!" Aragorn exclaimed in annoyance.
"I was coming to that!" Legolas pushed the man down onto the ground, before folding his legs beneath him as he sat down beside him. "Listen to me Estel, there are many things in this world today that we cannot find answers for. But let us try and unravel the muddle you seem to have gotten yourself into!"
For a moment Legolas didn't speak, he just sat there, taking in the beauty of the forest around him. Then, in a low voice, he spoke. "If you look in the dictionary it will tell you that the definition of friendship is a state of being friends – friendly relation or attachment to a person or between persons. That it is an affection arising from mutual esteem and good will. That friendship is friendliness and amity. Am I correct in guessing that is what you found?"
Aragorn nodded. "Yes, but it did not tell me what true friendship is – the bond that has been created between us."
"No, it does not. It all sounds nice, but it doesn't cover the fact that a true friendship is a relationship that can survive the test of time and remain unconditional." Legolas tipped Aragorn's chin up. "Have we not been through thick and thin together? Protecting each other's backs? Always there for one another, even when we would rather be alone?"
A ghost of a smile tugged at Aragorn's lips. "Yes," he whispered, remembering the many times the two of them had found themselves in a life-or-death situation. "You were always there for me."
Legolas nodded. "As you were for me. Friendship for most people is a combination of affection, loyalty, love, respect, and trust. The general traits of a friendship include similar interests, mutual respect and an attachment to each other, and in order to experience friendship, you need to have true friends." The elf watched his friend closely. "The emotional safety provided by friendship means not having to weigh your thoughts and measure words. True friendship is when someone knows you better than yourself and takes a position in your best interests in a crisis. Friendship goes beyond just sharing time together, and it is long-lasting. You know this, Estel; deep in your heart, you know this."
The ranger played with a piece of grass sticking up between his leather boots. "But it is not always the same. It differs from person to person, does it not?"
"Yes," Legolas said. "Friendship can mean different things to different people. For some people, it is simply the trust that someone will not hurt you. For others it might be unconditional love or just normal companionship. Whatever your own definition is, friendship is often considered to be a mutual and agreeable relationship between two individuals, and that's a very good thing. As it has been said, a person who finds a true friend has found a priceless treasure."
Aragorn nodded. "I never realised before how blessed and honoured I am to count you as one of my dearest friends. There were times I was sure I would never survive, were it not for you by my side."
Legolas smiled. "What would you do without me?" His eyes twinkled with merriment. Then he laughed as Aragorn shoved him, sobering once more. "But be warned – friendship is rarely one-sided, though, for it takes two individuals to negotiate the boundaries in a relationship. A friendship will not survive very long if only one person is making the effort to sustain the relationship without any help or recognition from other. Because it takes both positive and negative experiences to define a personality, it is essential to build your friendships with people who are compatible with you on an emotional basis."
Aragorn turned his head to look at the elf beside him. "I like to think we have accomplished that in our time together, don't you?"
Legolas leaned back on his wrists with a soft smile on his face as he gazed up into the canopy of branches above them. "Yes, I think we did."
For a while the two friends allowed themselves to be immersed in the natural world around them. At first it seemed that the forest was silent, but when their ears became used to the stillness, other sounds were awoken: the sound of the bubbling stream, birds singing their hearts out in the branches, leaves swaying in the light summer's breeze that drifted among the mighty trees.
Then Aragorn spoke again. "What made you want to be friends with me?"
"Well you literally threw yourself at my feet, did you not?" came the calm answer, although Aragorn was sure the prince was smirking. He had stretched out on the grass beside Legolas and didn't really feel bothered enough to sit up. He chuckled at the memory of his first encounter with the elf prince – how he had fallen off a cliff on the edge of Mirkwood and had landed almost on top of Legolas, unconscious. "In my defense, I was only twenty."
"You have no defense! Your father warned you to stay away from the wastelands at night, which you did not heed, instead deciding that you knew better."
Aragorn kicked out at Legolas. "Well I, for one, am very glad that I did. Otherwise I might have never have met you. Still, I am sure King Thranduil wasn't very happy about it at the start."
The prince rolled over onto his stomach. "No, he wasn't," he admitted. "My father was worried. He didn't want me getting hurt, and I can understand that...but he came to trust you in the end."
"After I saved your royal neck a few times!"
"Not as many times as I had to save your sorry behind! The stories I could tell your brothers!" Legolas then squawked in alarm as the solid mass of Aragorn pinned him down.
"You promised never to tell them!" the ranger hissed indignantly.
"Ugh, get off me, Aragorn!" Legolas easily pushed the man off him and sat up, brushing his tunic down. "No, I have never told them, and I never will. I just said that I had stories they would probably love to hear."
"Make sure you never do. If I ever hear of it...you'd better run, Legolas Thranduilion!"
Legolas chuckled as he scooted over to the nearest tree and rested his back against it. "Rest assured, Aragorn, your secrets are safe with me."
Aragorn harrumphed. The silence was broken when the ranger spoke again. "That still doesn't explain why you befriended me...a human and an elf. Or even how you and Gimli became friends, an elf and a dwarf. It was almost unheard of."
"Friendship is formed when people can come together, despite their different races or cultures and show respect and loyalty to others. To be able to encourage and love one another for whom they are on the inside, not just their outward appearance." Legolas took a deep breath before he spoke again. "Before the last battle at the Black Gates, when the Orcs had surrounded us, do you know what Gimli said to me?"
Aragorn propped himself up on one elbow, his curiosity sparked. "No."
Legolas smiled sadly. "He told to me that he never thought he would die fighting side by side with an elf." He glanced at Aragorn beside him. "I asked him, 'What about side by side with a friend'?"
"What did he say to that?" Aragorn asked.
Legolas smile grew wider. "He said he could do that. In that moment I knew I had found another true friend."
Aragorn smiled. "Aye, you had. That is some feat for a dwarf to overcome. Not many would have answered as he did, be he dwarf or man."
Legolas hummed quietly in response. A few moments later, he glanced over at the ranger turned king sitting beside him. Aragorn was toying with a blade of grass between his fingers, slowly shredding it to pieces. "What is it, Estel? There is more on your mind, mellon-nín. Come, tell me."
"How can there be so much hatred and cruelty in this world, Legolas?" Aragorn looked up at the elf, his grey eyes now filled with a deep sorrow. "What have innocent people done to deserve all…this…?" He swept his hand out, seeking a word his mind could not find.
"Resentment?" Legolas supplied thoughtfully.
Aragorn rubbed a hand over his face. "That's one way of putting it lightly, I suppose." He sighed. "Why are so many people criticized and condemned for the race they belong to? Most of them are peaceful folk who just want to live their lives in happiness and peace, and yet there are others who feel they must fight against everything."
Legolas became serious and sat up straighter. "This is not just about friendship, is it, Estel?"
The man shook his head. "No, it is not. I am sick and tired of all the racism that goes on – not just in Gondor, but the whole of Arda. The fighting, the arguing, the petty feelings and despicable attitudes. Why do you think I came to Ithilien for a break, Legolas? I had to get away from it all; I felt I was going to crack!" He balled his hands into fists and pounded them into the dirt. "Men who fought side by side during the War now feel they can start arguing with their comrades just because others are of a different race. They forget so easily what they fought for, why they fought! My own council would not stop passing snide remarks about the Haradrim officials and their customs, the way they dressed, celebrated, spoke. It was so unjust!"
Legolas placed a comforting hand on Aragorn's shoulder. The burdens of a king were tough. "It is hard and unfair, but the truth is all it takes is for one person or group to commit an offense or start an argument, and people feel they have the right to convict that whole race of being evil whether or not the rest of the people are like them." The elf felt his heart go out to the man. Estel looked so dejected, so worn out.
Aragorn sighed. "You are right, Legolas, as always." He cracked a small smile as the elf got to his feet and offered the man his hand.
"Come Estel, forgot your troubles. You are here to enjoy yourself for a while, not dwell on sadness and distrust. Let go of your burdens for now."
Aragorn gladly accepted the outstretched hand and allowed the prince to haul him to his feet. Together, the two friends set out back towards the prince's settlement.
"Always remember, Estel," Legolas said quietly, "that no matter what happens, as long as friendship exists, there will be people who will reach out towards others. Friendship is the wonderful gift of respecting and trusting others for who they are inside, not what they look like on the surface. Deep, deep down, each person, be it man, elf, dwarf, hobbit, or wizard, we all want the same thing. Peace and love for all. No more fighting. No more fear."
Aragorn clasped the elf's shoulder tightly. "Le hannon, Legolas. I mean it. For always being there for me, for teaching me about friendship and most importantly, for being my friend."
Legolas returned the embrace. "You are our Estel, our hope. I am glad to call you my friend."
They stepped around the base of a huge beech tree, and the sound of childish laughter reached their ears. Aragorn's face split into a huge grin and his eyes sparkled with joy as he leaned down to catch his young son. The boy was racing towards him, followed by Arwen, who was laughing happily. Her eyes met her husband's as he scooped Eldarion up and flung him up into the air. It elicited a shriek of laughter from the child, and in that moment Aragorn knew what true happiness was.
Legolas held back a bit, watching as Aragorn wrapped an arm around his wife and placed a gentle kiss on her lips, Eldarion still bouncing happily in his father's arms. Friendship came in all sorts of strange ways. He had met people he would never had dreamed of had Aragorn not persuaded him.
"Well now, laddie, tis a grand day to be alive," a gruff voice spoke from below his elbow. The elf turned to see Gimli approaching him, followed by Faramir and Éowyn, who was holding a bundle wrapped in a soft blanket in her arms. Legolas smiled at them. There was a deep friendship between himself and Faramir, a friendship he treasured. It was different from the friendship between himself and Aragorn, and different again from the friendship between himself and Gimli, but that was the beauty of it. Not one friendship was the same as another, nor should it be. Each was unique and very special to him.
"Lady Éowyn, you are looking as radiant as always!" Legolas called out when they drew close enough. He then turned to Faramir. "How is fatherhood suiting you?" the elf asked with a twinkle in his eyes.
The former ranger, now the Prince of Ithilien, shrugged awkwardly. "Not as bad as I thought it would be, but quite different from what I was expecting!"
Legolas laughed and ducked under the man's shoulder, peering down into the bundle in Éowyn's arms. "I see little Elboron is awake," he murmured softly stroking the baby's soft cheek with one finger.
Eowyn smiled at the elf. "He is growing so quickly."
"Children tend to do that, my dear," Faramir said absently as he watched Aragorn swing Eldarion around until the boy was dizzy, collapsing into his mother's lap. Éowyn stepped over to Arwen and sat down beside her. The queen immediately reached over and took Elboron, her eyes lighting up at the sight of the small baby.
"Are you enjoying yourself, Gimli?" Legolas asked pleasantly to the dwarf beside him.
Gimli huffed. "I would be, if your silly elves did not stay up half the night singing to the moon! Why anyone would wish to do such a daft thing is beyond me! Gah! Only this morning one asked me if I wanted to be friends! Friends!"
Legolas laughed. "And what did you say?" He crossed his arms over his chest and glanced down at the dwarf.
Gimli scowled. "I said I was already friends with one pointy-eared elvish princeling and that was enough for me. But that I…ah..wouldn't mind being acquainted with him…or was it a her? ...No, it was definitely a him, I'm sure of that! Gah! You can never tell with pionty eared creatures!"
Legolas shook his head fondly as Gimli wandered over to Aragorn. He sighed with content. Yes, it was a good day to be alive. Life was good once more, peace reigned over them once more, and the promise of more to come was eagerly awaited.
"Aragorn seems changed since this morning." Faramir stepped back over to the elf. "He does not seem as troubled as he was at breakfast." He raised a questioning eyebrow at Legolas. However, the elf just tapped his nose knowingly.
Faramir shook his head with a grin. "Keep your secrets, then, elf! I for one am glad our king is, at last enjoying himself. He was too burdened when he arrived. Now if you'll excuse me, I intend to go and enjoy my wife!"
"Please, do not let me keep you!" Legolas held up his hands, smirking.
Faramir rolled his eyes. "Wait until you are married elf with children of your own!"
As the man stepped away, Legolas smiled to himself. The bonds of friendship would keep them together, allow them to explore the world around them in peace, joy and happiness. The future generation, the children of his friends, friends he was honored to call his brothers, would ensure that the peace and friendship would remain.
"Come, mellon-nín!" Aragorn appeared beside him, still grinning. "Eldarion is asking for his favorite uncle!"
Legolas glanced at the king of men. "You know, Estel, despite everything, there are still people out there who love and respect one another, regardless of their cultural background or traditions. It is these people that, with a little pinch of willingness, a dash of friendship, a few drops of respect, a splash of understanding, a sprinkle of peace and a dribble of love, make the world go round in harmony."
Aragorn frowned. "Where did you hear that?"
Legolas just smiled. "You will see, Estel – things will get better someday. Maybe not tomorrow, maybe not the next day, next month or next year, but someday in the future, be it near or far, things will work out somehow. It will not always be like this. There is still hope."
Aragorn shook his head. "You are almost as bad as Mithrandir when he speaks in riddles, Legolas!"
Legolas laughed and allowed the man to pull his towards the circle of friends, bound together forever by the bonds of friendship, bonds that could never be broken.
True friendship multiplies the good in life and divides its evils. Strive to have friends, for life without friends is like life on a desert island... to find one real friend in a lifetime is good fortune; to keep him is a blessing. Remember that the most valuable antiques are dear old friends.
To my dear 'old' friend:
If one day you feel like crying,
I can't promise to make you laugh,
but I am willing to cry with you.
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