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Author's Note: This little character study was inspired by Fiondil's story Christmas at Edhellond: Elf Academy. I have truly enjoyed the Elf Academy series since it started. Last year's story inspired a little snippet, but I never did anything with it.
Seeing that Fiondil is continuing the story this year made me remember that little snippet, and so with his permission I have finished it for posting; it is dedicated to him. This is set in the world of his Elf Academy stories, so if you have yet to read them, please do. They are a lot of fun, and yet tell a deeper story than you'd think ahead of time.
What the Heart Knows
The northern sky above Wiseman was brilliant with stars; Legolas' breath came out in steamy wisps, and he looked down at his feet where he was concentrating on making footprints, as Elladan had once shown him how to do. He smiled wistfully as he recalled that long-ago day on Caradhras when he had annoyed all eight of his companions by failing to leave his mark as he ran lightly atop the snow. It had been partly a spirit of mischief on his part, showing off for the mortals, but back then he had failed to understand what the bitter cold had meant to them.
Why was he here? Surely he had been chosen to come back to Ennor for a reason. And more to the point, what would he decide to do while he was here? He had been keeping mostly to himself since they arrived, standing back, observing the others. A time or two he had been tempted to intervene when he had overheard remarks disparaging the mortals, but had kept silent. Few Elves knew so well as he the value of mortals. Those who had remained in Middle-earth, of course, and of those who had come from Aman, most certainly Finrod, who had his own worries. But those who had spent the whole of their lives in Valinor? How could they know the worth of mortals or the pain involved in befriending them?
He would never regret knowing his friends, and he would never cease mourning them. One by one his mortal friends had slipped the bonds of Arda and gone where he could not go.
Boromir was killed in battle and that had not seemed quite so dire, for battle seemed more natural to him than illness and age, but when Frodo sailed he knew that the hobbit would not be alive to greet him when his own time came to go West. Then he had lost other mortal friends. Sam sailed, an echo of his Master's loss; Éomer, Merry, Pippin, Éowyn, Faramir, Aragorn and many others he had come to know and love over the years, all lost to the mysterious Gift of the Secondborn.
Only Gimli had remained to him, and he had brought Gimli with him across the Sea, unable to bear leaving his last beloved friend behind.
He remembered Gimli's words as they had left Lothlórien: "But I would not have come had I known the danger of light and joy. Now I have taken my worst wound in this parting..."
When Gimli had said that, Legolas thought he already knew the meaning of losing and parting, but it wasn't until he sat by Gimli's bed, holding the withered hand, and watching him breath his last that he truly understood. Only two others had been present: the Lady Galadriel, who stood by with silent tears, and Olórin--who had once more put on the guise of Gandalf in which he had wandered Middle-earth--at the time of Legolas' and Gimli's arrival, to honour his friends as he had once done for Bilbo, Frodo and Sam.
Yes, Legolas had taken his own worst wound then.
Now he had returned, now he was once more among the world of mortals and would have to make a choice. Should he risk his heart once more, seeking acquaintance and friendship among these frail mortals of Wiseman? Or should he hold himself aloof and avoid entanglements, associating only with the Elves he had come with? Should he spare himself the pain he knew would be inevitable if he allowed his heart free rein?
He stopped and looked behind him; he had ceased to leave footprints as he had become more involved in his thoughts. He put his hands in the pockets of the jacket he wore--clever inventions, pockets--and looked up at the stars.
He was here, wasn't he? How could he do whatever it was he was needed to do if he held his heart back?
He felt lighter and freer now.
He gazed upward once more at the stars, and then turned back to Edhellond, making sure to leave his footprints this time.
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