Eternity is Such a Long Time by NextInLine
All characters and places belong to Tolkien.
Legolas stood on a hilltop, a silent, grey figure against the setting sun. Long ago, he had named it his hill; this was where he came to think. He had thought about many things in this spot… pondered love, gazed out at the sea, considered wisdom of friends. But now, as the gentle spring breeze tugged at the corners of his silver cloak, he thought of nothing. He had faded into what others had called his warrior pose, but what was simply a numbing of his mind to escape. Escape. That was all he wished he could do right now. But here, in Ithilien, there was no escaping. He numbed his mind from many things; horrors of war, fear, death…
The paper fell from his limp fingers. The sound of it hitting the ground made him blink, and turn his eyes slowly to the ground. Stooping, he took the paper once more, but could not make himself read it. Pushing it into an inner pocket in his cloak, he turned and made his way slowly down his hill. Wandering into the stables, he moved toward his grey horse. Rubbing her nose gently, he whispered soft elvish words in her ear and led her from her stall. Outside, his second in command ran toward him. “Sir, this is not a time to leave,” he berated his lord angrily. “Your father is coming within the week for a last farewell, you have meetings stacked up until Thursday, and—”
“Estel is dying.”
The elf blinked, taken aback. Words failed him as Legolas swung onto his horse. He knew Legolas was tired by the way his foot caught on his mare’s back before swinging over.
Legolas pulled his hood over his eyes and bowed his head, and the stable boy handed him his weapons. Slinging his quiver over his shoulder, he moved his horse into a gallop. Trees offered their sympathy to their lord as he rode swiftly past them, through their sheltering arms and into the wide open plain that served as a service road from his land to Minas Tirith.
This way, he could avoid the crowded road.
This way, he could reach Estel faster.
This way, no one would see the pain behind his blue eyes.
This way, not one would see the struggle not to cry.
Night fell over the land, morning came again, and then night fell. By this time Legolas had reached the White City. Giving his horse into the hands of the solemn stable hands on the top level, something he would never do on normal occasions, he sprinted through the courtyard, up the flight of stairs, and burst through the door.
Anyone who had caught a glimpse of the normally calm Elf would have known his distress. The inhabitants of Minas Tirith loved him for his life, his laughter, and his honesty. Now his eyes held absolutely no expressions, his face was grim, and blood seeped through his fingers from his palms.
Legolas stood in the middle of the throne room. It was empty, save for one figure; a red-bearded dwarf. Their eyes met, and Gimli opened his mouth to offer comfort, but finding nothing closed it again and shook his head. Legolas walked toward the door, placed his hand on it, then stepped back. He couldn’t go in. Turning his gaze to the rest of the room, he glared up at the stone kings staring with empty eyes. Walking across the marble floor, he paused in front of Aragorn’s image.
Gimli watched him. The Elf seemed almost made of stone himself as he stood, his silver tunic and cloak making him nearly the same color as the stone of the room.
Just then the door opened, and Arwen and Eldarion walked out, both with tear stains on their cheeks. Legolas turned, stepped toward her, then wrapped her in his arms as she again burst into tears on his shoulder.
Legolas clenched his eyes shut. “Is he…?”
“No,” she whispered, pulling away. “Please, I am sorry; go to him.”
“I… I can’t.”
Arwen took his hand and led him to the adjoining room, closing the door behind him.
Legolas stared at him. He was lying on a bed, his crown on a table next to him and his arms crossed over his chest. Raven hair was just beginning to grow silver. Legolas took a step forward, then hastily took two backward. Aragorn turned his head, smiling wearily. “Come, mellon nin,” he beckoned.
Legolas walked slowly toward him, then broke into a run and fell to his knees. “Please, Estel, no…”
Aragorn smiled as his friend stooped over him, brushing hair from his face. “Legolas,” he whispered, reaching a calloused hand up to cup his cheek. “You came.”
Legolas felt hot tears running down his cheek. “Of course I came.”
He grinned, and Legolas saw once again the boyish mischief that had gotten them both into trouble too many times to count. “I didn’t know that you knew how to cry.”
Legolas tried to smile, but it turned into a desperate sob as he put his head on Aragorn’s chest. “Please don’t go.”
Aragorn lifted the Elf’s chin and stared into the large, blue grey eyes. “Shh,” he whispered as Legolas clenched his eyes shut and tears finally began to make their way from his heart. “Listen to me,” he breathed as Legolas buried his face in Aragorn’s hand. “This is not goodbye. This is farewell, for now. One day, all will be made right before the feet of Iluvatar. Our worlds will meet once more, and the meeting will be more joyful than any here on earth.”
Legolas looked up from his tears. “How do you know? How do you know we will see each other again?”
Aragorn smiled. “Because, I love you. And in a perfect eternity, I will not be able to be apart from those I have grown to love. Besides,” he laughed, which quickly turned to a cough, “Elladan and Elrohir will find a way for us all to be together in the end.”
Legolas gazed at his friend, smiling tiredly up at him. He burned the memory into his mind, then Aragorn took his hands in his own. “Listen, Legolas,” he whispered. “I… I love you…”
“And I love you,” Legolas said quietly.
The grip became looser.
Peace filled the King’s eyes.
The ranger’s hand fell from the Elf’s.
“No!” Legolas shouted. He put his hand on Aragorn’s head. Cold sweat met his touch. He jerked back, stumbling away as if stricken. Fear and anger filled his eyes. Turning, he pounded his fist into the wall, screaming, elvish curses escaping his lips. He fell to his knees, buried his face in his hands and wept.
Legolas stood on the shore. There was nothing left here. Aragorn was dead. Ithilien was in good hands. Eldarion was of an age to rule his father’s kingdom. Arwen was dead, gone to join her husband for eternity. His father and all his loved ones were waiting for him across the Sea. Pulling his hood over his head, he stepped onto the boat he had built. Pausing, he turned and held his hand out. “Are you coming, Gimli?”
The dwarf walked toward him, leaning heavily on a cane made of wood from Ithilien. White was tugging at the corner of his beard, though he would argue Legolas was the cause of it. “I can do it myself, Elf,” he grumbled, struggling to mount the plank.
Legolas smiled. “I have no doubt, Master Dwarf,” he said, grasping his hand and pulling him into the boat, “but I haven’t all day for you to do so.” He turned and untied the boat, put up the sails and cut the anchor. A breeze smelling of salt swept them into the water and away from the deserted shores. Gulls cried overhead, and Legolas closed his eyes. Years of longing, desperate fighting finally given into, filled his heart at that sound. He smiled and opened his eyes, seeing Gimli giving him a sidelong glance. Legolas grinned, the first true smile he had given for months. “Well, Master Dwarf, you are about to see that which many a mortal would give their souls for a mere glance.”
The dwarf raised an eyebrow as he looked away. “It better be worth it.”
Legolas sat in the boat and stared up into the darkening sky. Stars were beginning to twinkle into sight, Earendil the first to begin shining his bright light. Closing his eyes, Legolas laid his beloved bow and twin knives at his side and wrapped his cloak around him. “Gimli,” he murmured, “I wonder if my brother will know who I am.”
Gimli stared at him, confused. “Your brother?”
“Yes,” he yawned, feeling very tired. “He was very young when he had to sail… my mother was with him… I wonder…” That was the last thing he said before he succumbed to the sleep that claimed more than his limbs.
Gimli frowned, sitting stiffly opposite his friend. The elf looked old, as if the thousands of years spent upon Middle-earth were suddenly revealed. Deep creases of worry and sorrow crossed his face, and then… peace. A youthful smile blossomed over his features, and his clenched fists relaxed. His head lolled to the side, and he sighed through his sleep. Gimli sighed and looked out into the water.
Ulmo waited until the Elf slipped into the sweet, seductive sleep with which he blessed the firstborn to aid in the passage. The dwarf was another matter; let Aule deal with him if he saw fit. The Vala smiled fatherly at the Elf. He knew of the trials and hurt he kept locked inside. He knew of the long year of torture he spent, alone, bled nearly to death and scarred deeper than his flesh. Tears never shed still held meaning to the water-lord. Rising up out of the water, he spared a glance to the gawking Dwarf.
What will you do with him?
Ulmo laughed at the voice in his head. Mandos could not have this one. Dear brother, he is not for you. This one is special.
Soft, almost girlish laughter flooded his mind. Este and Vana finally said, Come, let him pass to us. He is weary; let him rest.
A dark gloom came from Mandos as Ulmo circled to ship, in order to be nearer the Elf. The last ship has reached our shores; none are now allowed.
Who are you to deny him passage? Nienna whispered.
Ah, children, do not argue, Lorien chided wisely, for who are we to decide the fate of those given into the hands of Manwe?
It is true, Yavanna said solemnly, before the group of goddesses broke into chiming laughter.
Ulmo smiled. You laugh.
We do, mixed voices replied. We have waited to comfort this one for many years.
A solemn pulse broke into their minds. And what of the dwarf? Aule asked quietly.
Ulmo shook his grey head. He will serve judgment before Manwe and Varda; they shall decide his fate. Reaching his hand down, he gently lifted the boat. The vessel still appeared to be sailing, water rushing past and spilling over his hand, and gulls still circled. Ulmo turned, striding down the only path that led to Valinor.
What are you doing? a simple voice commanded.
A smile pulled at the edges of his bearded lips. Vaire, if you oppose this, bring it before Manwe.
No, she muttered reluctantly, you simply alter my weavings, that’s all…
While this silent dialogue was passing through the Valar’s minds, Gimli, as soon as he had been broken of his trance, ran to the other side of the boat and began to shake Legolas. Upon receiving no response, he whispered urgently, “Wake, you led-laden, sorry excuse for an Elf!”
At hearing this, Ulmo turned amused eyes toward the dwarf. “And you, Master Dwarf,” he began questioningly. “It is your wish to pass to Valinor?”
Gimli hesitated. Legolas had told him enough stories to know this was Ulmo, Lord of the Waters, and also had heard enough to be terrified of the impressive water-being. “I-It is, my lord.”
“And tell me, Master Dwarf; what makes you think you can pass over to Valinor?”
“Sir, I-I was told by my companion that I would be allowed to pass over with him.”
Ulmo, he heard his lord’s voice say sternly in his mind. Judgment is mine; it is well.
Ulmo bowed his head. Yes, my lord; forgive me.
Gimli, hearing the Vala fall silent, turned as he saw a bright glimmer to his left, toward the prow of the ship. What he saw made his jaw drop and breath catch in his throat. There, before him not two hundred feet away, was a city. More than a city, a whole other world. A white castle much resembling Gondor stretched out over the island past where his eyes could see. Greenery, grass and flowers, blossomed everywhere he looked. Glorious, fragrant flowers and ivies climbed and swayed in the breeze. On the left side of the island was a tall, sparkling white spindle-like tower. A golden figure could be seen in the top window, holding her hand out to an approaching gull. Before he knew what he was seeing, she herself had formed into one of the birds and was flying toward what looked like a large ship in the sky above. Bits of light floated over the island, like fairies.
Ulmo set the ship down, and as he did so disappeared beneath the waves. A wind sprung up and bore them toward the island.
Legolas stirred. Opening his eyes, Gimli started as he saw the bright blue orbs. Something was there he had never seen; there was… peace.
Legolas smiled and looked up at the island. Far past what Gimli could see, he glimpsed green forests and mountains stretching far into the horizon, spreading out in every direction.
The ship washed gently onto the shore. Legolas stepped from the boat, closed his eyes, and took a deep breath. Opening them again, he took his quiver from the boat and laid it on the ground. His twin knives followed, standing up straight in the ground. For a moment, he held his bow close, then it too found its way to the sparkling sand. “There is no war here,” he responded to Gimli’s surprised glance. “There is no reason to hold the things that once caused so much pain. There is no hurt…” Taking a deep breath, Legolas stepped away from his weapons and crossed the shore. No walls prevented his passage into the lush, green meadow that beckoned him; only a small slope greeted him. As he reached the top, the first thing that met his eyes was a small boy, still a child, giggling and chasing a butterfly through the willows. Legolas took one glance and fell to his knees, breath caught in his throat. The boy turned, and with a squeal of delight began to run toward him. “’Las!” he shouted, flinging himself into Legolas’ arms.
Legolas wrapped his arms around the boy, deep breath coming is rasps. “Dairin,” he choked, his hand clutching the boy’s blond, curly hair. Tears streamed from his eyes as he held his brother close to his heart. Suddenly his gaze caught on a figure in a silver dress moving toward them. His heart stopped, and he found strength failed him as he tried to whisper, “Naneth?” He stumbled to his feet, holding Dairin with one arm and grasping his mother in the other. He buried his face in her neck, and she covered his cheek with kisses. “Naneth,” he whispered, tears pouring from his eyes. He felt strong arms around his shoulder, and the familiar scent of pine and oak caught him by surprise. His father was here. They were together. They were safe.
He was home.
Gimli watched the reunion with mixed feelings. He was glad for his friend, he admitted, but lonely. No one was here to greet him with open arms; no one was here for him to reclaim after so many years.
The dwarf turned in confusion, only to see two hobbits running toward him.
Legolas didn’t know how long he held his family close, for time had no meaning anymore. He only knew they had all fallen to the ground and were now laughing. Just then they looked up to see a man walking toward them. Man was the wrong word; god was more like it. He was tall, with dark hair and piercing blue eyes. Silver and brown robes fell around him as he reached out his hand, smiling. “Come, Legolas; walk with me.”
Legolas looked up at him, then took his hand and stood. They walked into a forest, though it was different than any in which the elf had before been. No spiders; no poisonous weeds grasping at your feet; no darkness enshrouding each move you made. Respectfully, Legolas waited for the Vala he knew to be Manwe to begin.
“You brought a dwarf.”
Legolas couldn’t help it. He laughed at the Vala’s words. “I’m sorry,” he managed between breaths, but found that Manwe was smiling at him. He cleared his throat. “Sorry,” he managed again, keeping his face straight this time.
Manwe laughed. “It is well. If you were not laughing, this place would not be paradise.”
Legolas pondered the words for a few moments before saying, “Yes, I did bring a dwarf; Gimli, son of Gloin. I have named him elf-friend; he is dear to me.”
“Yes, but now is not the time to speak of him. I will spare you sitting before the seat of judgment, son of Thranduil, because you sailed after the last ship reached our shores, but will not spare speaking of your life.”
Legolas nodded solemnly. “I know. I must admit I have been dreading this; I have messed up so many times…” He stopped, blushing. Biting his cheek, he admitted, “I swore by your name once; forgive me. I was not thinking.”
Manwe smiled. “It is well you seek forgiveness. Let me recall; this was when Aragorn was thought to be dying; yes, I remember.”
Legolas turned even redder. If this Vala knew his entre life, his mind… he blushed.
Manwe smiled. “Child, do not fear me. It is forgiveness and grace only that bring you here; there is nothing you can do to bring you close to that which is perfect.”
As if of the same mind, both sat on a wooden bench set against a cherry willow.
“I am afraid to tell you of all I have done.”
Manwe waited, smiling at the child’s innocence and trust. If only all the elves in Middle-earth were like this one.
Legolas took a breath beginning to relate his sins to the Vala. “I broke your commandments, and insulted you by swearing by your name. I was afraid, and my best friend was dying. I have lusted after a woman; I can never reverse that. I lied to my father on several occasions. I have doubted and run from you.”
Manwe listened as he recounted his tales. Finally, when he could tell the elf was nearing a close, he thought to himself, His list seems shorter than the rest. Out loud, he said, “Let me recount some deeds you have forgotten.”
Legolas paled. “Forgive me if I have left anything out.”
Manwe laughed. “I saw you when you did these things. I saw when you thought you would break if you did not claim the elleth. I know also you begged for my forgiveness, and I granted you that. Let me tell you what I also have seen; I was there in the wilderness when you were taken and tortured. I saw you give yourself away selflessly to save the ones you love. I see the selfless acts, Legolas, and I reward them. I know your heart better than you do yourself.” Standing, he took the elf’s hand and pulled him into an embrace. “And remember, dear child,” he whispered, “I love you.”
Legolas pulled back, and for some reason, he didn’t feel shame; he didn’t feel embarrassed at all he had just related. He simply felt… loved. Manwe, as if knowing his thoughts, laughed, “Dear child, all shame has been erased. You can be at peace.”
Legolas bowed, but when he looked up, he was gone. He looked around, puzzled, then turned back to find his family. They had so much to tell each other.
“Legolas!” two voices suddenly shouted. Legolas looked around, confused, before he saw two forms running toward him. He stared, open-mouthed, then held his arms out as twin forms crashed into him and knocked him to the ground. Laughing, he sat up and wrapped his arms around their necks as they hugged him so tightly he thought he would not be able to breathe. As they pulled back, they both began talking excitedly. Legolas tried to listen to both at once, but finally threw up his hands. “Elladan, Elrohir, how am I supposed to listen to you both?”
They laughed, and Legolas found that was all they needed to do. Finally Elrohir broke out, “It’s about time you got here! We haven’t been able to get into any trouble without you.”
Legolas raised one eyebrow, a trait passed down from Oropher himself. It had been used for many things in his lifetime; intimidating enemies, silencing out-spoken warriors, bartering with over-greedy ambassadors, but mostly amusement. “Can you get into trouble here?”
“We haven’t tried,” Elladan admitted.
Legolas laughed, standing and helping the twins to their feet. “Tell me about Valinor.”
Both began speaking so fast that Legolas couldn’t keep track of the words, and simply rested in the sounds of the voices he had missed for so long.
Greetings and meetings seemed to last forever; in fact, it literally was forever. Old and dear friends, and legends. Haldir and his brothers; Elrond and Celebrian; so many faces he knew, so many arms he found himself in, crying joyfully on each other’s shoulders. The meetings with the Valar; introducing Gimli to his friends and enjoying constant banter with the dwarf. He and the twins explored many forests and mountains together, underwater caverns, and chased each other through the trees. That was the thing about Valinor; there was no danger, yet excitement was found behind every corner. Stories were exchanged, friends introduced, and loved ones met again. Legolas spent much time with his family, telling of all that had happened since they had parted. Erestor were there as well, still his grumpy, usual self, but without the anger and depression; he was even seen laughing at times, as if a great load had been lifted. Glorfindel had been taken by Mandos; he had gone to him once, and now that his time was used, he had returned.
The loss still stung at times. While it was distant, almost untouchable, Legolas would find himself turning to affirm an inside joke with Aragorn and frown with disappointment when he found the ranger was not at his side, as he should be. He and the twins would speak much of him, mostly things they would never tell when he was there to defend himself.
One day, Legolas found himself sitting on the shore, alone. His weapons and ship were gone; he did not know where they were, nor did he care. He simply stared, the sound of the gulls lulling him into a waking sleep.
“You long for something.”
Legolas looked up as Nienna sat down beside him. He nodded. He had taken a deep love to this Vala. “I miss my friend, Estel.”
She looked at him with large, grey eyes. “You knew you would. That is why you avoided the friendship for so many years.”
Legolas gave a small laugh, looking back at the piece of grass in his hands. “Yes. I miss him terribly. Will… will we ever see him again?” he asked hesitantly, fearing the answer, yet lusting for it all the same.
She looked away, the breeze pulling her brown hair from his eyes and ruffling her grey dress. “That is not permitted for me to know.”
Legolas stared at her.
She smiled at him. “Manwe knows many things we will never know. You may ask him,” she said, rising, “but do not look for answers.” She smiled sadly at him, leaning down to kiss his forehead. “I understand, dear one. I know.”
He looked into her eyes, sighing deeply. As she left, Legolas pondered her words. Shaking his head, he let a fistful of sand falls through his fingers.
He stood, making his way subconsciously up the hill. He had seen Manwe’s house before, from a distance.
Deep in his heart, he knew why he ached. He had no idea how many years had passed; he was unsure if it had been only one, or one hundred; he also knew it no longer mattered. But he also knew, back in Middle-earth, it was March first; the anniversary of not only Aragorn’s birth, but death. Today, unlike any other day, his heart felt like it would break. He had not felt like this since he had left Middle-earth; why was he feeling what should not be felt in this place?
“Because you love, young elf.”
Legolas turned to see Vana walking toward him. He smiled. “Do you then know what I seek?”
She smiled, taking his hand and leading him further into the woods, up a steep slope. “I know, young elf. You have loved a mortal; love does not die easily, especially for the pure of heart. You wish to see him again?”
Legolas sighed. “More than anything I wish to be with him, if only for a short time.”
“Can you tell me,” he asked hesitantly, stepping around a lush, green bush covered with pink tassels, “if I shall see him again?”
She stopped, taking both his hands as she stood in front of him. “Dear child,” she said, “this is paradise; tell me truly, are you happy? Now, in this moment?”
Legolas hesitated. “No,” he admitted. “It feels wrong without Estel here to make me laugh.” For me to protect, he almost added. “And so many people I have longed to meet; Beleg, Turin, all the great heroes… family.” He took a deep breath. “Will I see them? Will I see… him, again?”
She smiled, rubbing his hands with her thumbs. “The end is meant to be a paradise; paradise can never be without the ones you love.”
He gave her a confused look. “So… do we see each other in the end?”
She smiled, then turned and walked away, leaving Legolas confused and deeply saddened.
Time, if it could be called that, passed. Friendships were started and made stronger, if that were possible. Gimli had found the mountains gloriously carved, and sat for hours with Aule, who was equally pleased to be with the kind he had created. There seemed no dispute between the elves with the dwarf, and he fashioned many gems for the Lady Galadriel.
And then one day it happened. Legolas was enjoying a walk with Gimli and the twins, when lighting flashed in the sky. Of course, it rained in Valinor, but only in light drizzles that the elves danced in. Thunder shook the ground, and a white mist began to seep from the ground. The earth rumbled as the group fell on each other for support, and then a white light covered all.
The first thing Legolas felt was panic. For a split instant, his warrior instincts flared to life and he reached for his knife – but the relapse was brief, and the desire gone in an instant. The second thing he felt was peace; indescribable, perfect peace. He heard harps and flutes, festive music. Blinking, he tried to clear the fog away. And then everything went silent. He was alone with Gimli and the twins, who stood before him. Blinking, he looked around, but he could barely see six feet in any direction.
Come, a voice said inside his head. It is well. All is fulfilled, and as it should be. It is well.
Just then he was jolted, and found himself back in Valinor. Only, it wasn’t Valinor. He could never put it into words; it seemed… larger, if that was at all possible, and more filled. Larger in every sense of the word.
He was alone, on the shores of the sea, his back toward the water. He felt a presence behind him, and a soft, shaking whisper, “Well, are you going to stand there all day, elf, or not?”
Legolas’ breath caught in his throat. His eyes widened. That voice… It couldn’t be.
“Turn around, Legolas; let me see your face.”
Legolas closed his eyes. He felt strong hands grasp his shoulders and turn him, and the next thing he knew he was grasping his friend’s body, and found his own nearly lifted off the ground. “Estel,” he whispered, then buried his face in his shoulder. Tears spilled from his eyes as he heard him laugh. Oh, how he had longed for this sound, this moment. Tearing away, he gazed at his friend’s face. He was young again, not the pale, grey-haired man he had left. He was youthful, and the spark of life that had lit his eyes now alighted over his entire face. Tears fell from his grey eyes as he pulled Legolas back, and both suddenly began laughing. Now that the moment had finally come, neither could find any words to say. Suddenly, Legolas found himself on the ground, and Aragorn was racing away. “Catch me if you can, prissy elf!”
Legolas grinned, leaping up and sprinting after him. “Filthy human!”