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51. To Minas Tirith
“Ain’t she a beauty? Look at ‘em pillars.” Gimli beamed proudly at the new Bridge of Osgiliath.
“Aye. Well done, Master Dwarf! And your workers, of course.” Legolas grinned at his friend’s enthusiasm. It was so good to be together again, he had missed the dwarf immensely.
They dismounted and crossed the beautiful stone structure on foot, guided by Gimli.
“Over here is yer plaque, Legolas. We all got one.”
The plaque was a rectangular bronze sign on one of the railing posts. It had Legolas name engraved, under the header ”Fellowship Hero”, and a crude drawing of a bow. It actually felt rather good to have a plaque. Hero. That had a nice ring to it.
“Mine’s bigger than yers,” said Gimli smugly. His was on the next post, similar, except for an axe-drawing instead. And yes, his actually looked slightly larger.
“You did not…!” Legolas tried to hold back his laughter, not sure if he was annoyed or amused. Then he straightened himself a little extra, standing close to the dwarf to emphasize their height difference. “I guess it is only fair that your sign should be big, when you are so little,” he sniggered.
“Hrmpf. Must be cold and windy for yer head up there,” the dwarf muttered, and stomped off on his high-soled boots.
“This is beautiful.” Thranduil stroked the decorative edgings of the white top rail. Legolas turned in surprise. His father had not spoken one word to him since they parted in the corridor yesterday.
“Aye,” he agreed, trying to think of something else to say. As usual, he failed. Instead he lingered, hoping the other might break the silence. They were alone, their friends already some way ahead.
“Ada?” He met his father’s eyes, and nearly gasped. They were open , that was the only way he could describe what he saw, Thranduil’s guard was completely down. His features were matted with pain and sadness, and it wrenched Legolas’ heart. “What is wrong?” He tentatively reached out to touch his father’s cheek.
“Am I really driving you away?”
Legolas hand dropped, a chill travelling down his spine. Those had been Wynne’s words. Had his father taken them so much to heart, as to be this hurt by them? He tried to come up with a good answer, something to smooth things out, but his mind was at blank. He settled for the truth.
“Not… not as such. But it is like…. as if you shut me out. You never show what you think. Or feel...”
Thranduil nodded, averting his eyes. “I wanted to be a better father than my own was,” he mumbled, looking out over the calm surface of the Anduin, while his fingers nervously rubbed Legolas’ plaque.
“You never talk of Oropher.”
“So… he was not a nice person?”
“I-uh… I think he was held in high esteem by many.” Thranduil drew a deep breath and turned to meet his son’s gaze again. “Do you know that I love you, Legolas?” He did not have to say it, this time it was written clearly in his eyes.
“Aye. I always knew you loved me,” he replied earnestly.
“Good. Good. That is something, at least.” He smiled briefly, clearly relieved. “And… I never intended to shut you out. That is just… who I am – who I became. And I cannot... ” He paused, apparently to think of how to continue.
It was unsettling to witness his father search for words, Thranduil always seemed to know what to say, and in an eloquent way too.
“Ye coming, or?” Gimli bellowed from the other side of the river.
“Aye, aye, we are coming,” Legolas called back, turning toward his father. “We can talk more later, maybe?” There was so much he wanted to ask. About his grandfather, about his mother, all those things his father never had wanted to tell him.
“Aye.” Thranduil’s face lit up. “And Legolas…” He pulled his son into a hug, a real one, not one of those half-hugs they normally shared. “Forgive me,” he mumbled, barely audibly.
Legolas knees were weak when he remounted Stelpa. His father had apologized! When had that ever happened? And they would talk more. Perhaps Ada would finally give his blessings to his and Wynne’s relationship? Much as he loved her, he did not want to lose his adar.
“Mee-ah!” The clear cry made the two elves turn their heads. A large bird had landed on the railing, almost where they had stood before. It looked right at them, its white head tilted like it was listening to something. It called a second time, the sound eerily resembling a word: “Mine!” Then it raised a pair of gray wings and soared to the sky, soon to become no more than a thin speck.
Legolas met his father’s gaze. So, now he had felt it too. The pull of the sea…
How long would his father stay in Middle-earth after this? When he went, he would be reunited with his wife. Legolas too wished to meet her, a mother he had never known. He had wanted to sail west ever since the War, when he heard seagulls for the first time. Now, since he met Wynne, his urge to go was much less overpowering.
After the bridge, they passed through the open gates of the perimeter wall surrounding the Pelennor Fields. Legolas moved his horse to ride next to Wynne. She gave him a questioning look, probably wondering what had passed between him and his father, but he did not want the others to overhear. He would find an opportunity to tell her later.
There were farms, orchards and fertile fields on both sides of the road. It was hard to picture this as it had been ten years ago; the fields swarming with orcs, trolls and oliphaunts. Legolas wondered how often the farmers plowed up pieces of weaponry or arrowheads. Or bones…
Soon they beheld the city ahead, and most of the company reacted the way people always did at the first sight of it; with awe.
“Ooh!” sighed Sidra.
“Ahh…” murmured Wynne.
“Sweet Elbereth!” breathed Galion.
“It is beautiful!” gasped Nodir.
“I second that,” his brother agreed.
“Impressive,” stated Thranduil.
And it was. Despite having seen it before, Legolas found the sight breathtaking. The city’s seven levels climbed the mountainside, one circle smaller than the other in a cone-like shape. The walls joined the mountain on each side so seamlessly that the city almost appeared to have grown out of it, rather than being constructed by man. On the uppermost wall, the tower of Ecthelion rose to the sky; a glimmering spike of pearl and silver.
Éowyn decided this was a good spot for a break, and soon her servants had unpacked and laid out a very elegant luncheon on the lush grass beside the road. Legolas sat close to Wynne, enjoying her relaxed and happy mood now that they were out of the city. She wore her tunic and hose again, and much as Legolas had enjoyed her bosom in those dresses, he found that this was the Wynne he preferred; natural and unkempt. Like a tree growing wild in the forest, rather than in a garden.
Thranduil came to sit by them, his features again fully composed, holding a silver goblet in his hand.
“I miss my wine cellar,” he sighed, breathing in the aroma of the dark red liquid before taking a small sip. He frowned slightly when he swallowed.
“So do I,” agreed Galion. His goblet was almost empty, however, so apparently he figured the inferior Gondorian variety to be better than nothing.
Wynne had stiffened visibly when Thranduil came, and now he reached out to touch her hand soothingly. “I thought about what you said. And… you were right.”
Wynne’s eyebrows flew up, and she seemed quite lost for words. Understandably.
Legolas wondered how much it had cost his father to admit something like that. A few weeks ago the would probably never even had considered it, but this journey had changed him. For so many millennia, Thranduil had locked himself inside his palace, almost like he were hiding. Now, after finally travelling through Arda again, he was opening up.
Come to think of it, those changes had actually begun earlier, during the Ring War. His father had helped Lady Galadriel and Lord Celeborn to conquer the fortress Dol Guldur in southern Mirkwood, and kill all Sauron’s minions there. Then, after Celeborn’s wife sailed west a few years ago, he had begun to visit Thranduil more and more frequently. It was when the king finally returned those visits and travelled to Lothlórien, that he had agreed to embark upon this quest.
And now, Lord Celeborn managed Thranduil’s kingdom while he was away, which spoke volumes of how much he had begun to trust his friend. In addition, Celeborn had assigned some of his subjects to rebuild Amon Lanc, the former capital of the Woodland Realm. Legolas’ grandfather had ruled from there, but when the forest turned dark and infested with spiders, Oropher, Thranduil and their people had been driven further east. And then Sauron had constructed his infamous fortress in the area.
Celeborn had asked Thranduil to move back, now that the fortress was demolished and the old city would be rebuilt, but he had declined. But maybe after this journey he would reconsider? If so, it would be a huge relief to leave their underground halls.
When everybody had rested and eaten their fill, they continued the last part of their trip. Soon they stood in the shadow of the city’s first wall, which towered up at least a hundred feet.
“Behold the Great Gate of Minas Tirith!” bellowed Gimli, again looking extremely proud. And he should be, the mithril- and steel structure was a wonder of beauty and clever mechanics, which the dwarf told them all about. He demonstrated thoroughly how smoothly it opened and closed, sliding on tracks in the street pavement, and how the controls worked.
He was just having the guards close the gate a fifth time, when a commotion drew the audience’s attention. King Aragorn II Elessar, with his queen and young prince in tow, came riding down the main street.
Love welled up inside Legolas when he galloped to meet his old friend. They dismounted almost simultaneously, and caught each other in a hard hug.
“Dear friend, am I glad to see you!” The king had spoken Sindarin Elvish to Legolas, as was his habit.
“I really missed you,” replied Legolas in the same language, taking a step back to regard the other. He looked just the same as when they had parted; becoming a king and a father seemed not to have changed the man at all.
”This is my son Eldarion.” The king had turned to a dark-haired toddler, who rode a fat, black- and white pony.
Legolas started with shock, his stomach churning when he saw the child and perceived his spirit.
The boy was mortal.
Darn, it would seem that half-elf children are not immortal after all! There goes that plan down the drain. :(
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