||[Jul. 1st, 2006|01:21 pm]
Twenty Rings Fanfic Community
Title: Continue Unsevered
Theme: Set #1, Theme #2, Stone
Pairings: None, really.
Summary: Legolas bids farewell to his grandmother as she prepares to leave the Greenwood.
It's been ages since I (or anyone, really) posted here, but I do want to finish this set =)
It was a small party that prepared to leave Eryn Galen in the pale dawn, for in the years following the great siege the people of Elrond's house and Thranduil's realm had not been idle: even in the mountains the dangers to travellers were now few. Thranduil's grey mare waited patiently for her master, while the spirited chestnut his mother had favoured for the past few years shifted more restlessly beneath a groom's gentle hands. A dozen soldiers of the king's own company, as well as a number from the guard of the elder queen, stood silently by their horses. They were travelling lightly; an observer might have supposed it to be a hunting party setting off to spend a few days in the forest, rather than a group planning to journey across half the known world. A couple of maidservants stood near the back of the party; as well as their own horses, they had the care of the only heavily burdened animal present. A few bags and a couple of small chests had been carefully loaded upon this horse, but one of the women still checked and anxiously re-checked the fastenings. Her face was pale and set, the apprehension that radiated from her forming a sharp contrast to the barely concealed excitement of her companion.
At length the king appeared, his mother following behind flanked by her daughter-in-law and grandson. Legolas watched as his grandmother kissed his mother one final time; saw the unshed tears shining in Eluial's eyes; recognised the pain in his father's, though they were dry. As his parents bid each other their temporary farewells, he stepped forward, reaching out towards his grandmother. She took his hands in hers, smiling a little at the contrast between his long, sun-browned fingers and her slim, pale ones. For a long moment he gazed into her face in silence, attempting to burn into his memory the familiar features and the smile that had, for him, been a rare blessing. He did not have to look up, now, to meet her eyes; but while he had taken gleeful delight in passing his mother's height, he wished now for the days when he had been a tiny ellon and Daernana had swung him easily into her arms, heedless of small sticky hands in her hair and small dusty feet on her gown.
"My beautiful boy," she murmured, brushing his face with her fingertips and sweeping a straying strand of hair into place. Echoing his own thought, she went on, "I had forgotten how swiftly children grow—soon you will be a boy no longer, with no need for childhood things."
Their eyes met, and Legolas blinked back tears of his own. "But I will always need you. What will we do without you, calen-naneth?" he asked hopelessly, clutching her hand as though to physically prevent her departure, though he was not yet strong enough for that. She shook her head gently. "You are young and joyful and surrounded by love: you do not need me here with you. But I—I am so old, Legolas, old and weary and sorrowful and alone."
For a moment he thought her eyes brightened, but then the light faded once more and she said quietly, "Believe me when I say that if I could stay here with those whom I love, I would. Someday you will understand why I cannot; why I need to go home and be healed."
"You said this before, but it does not make it easier," Legolas half-accused.
"I know. But this parting is not forever, Legolas; now is not your time, but one day you, too, will sail west, and we will meet again." He shook his head in emphatic denial. "No, Daernaneth. You know I will never leave our home and our people—we are of Ennor, Ada and Naneth and I."
"I know, muinben. But the longing for the Sea lies in the hearts of all the Eldar, I think, and within the circles of Arda all things must pass, slow though the fading may be."
Legolas frowned. "Have you also seen it, then—my sailing?"
His grandmother's eyes darkened, knowing of what it was that he thought.
"To me is given a measure of the foresight of my people." She gazed at him for a moment in silence, then continued, "I have seen much concerning you, my Legolas, but the future is uncertain…this, however, will I tell you that you may remember it if those things I have seen come to pass. Your life will be filled with more toil and greater struggle than you can now guess, but despite this you will always find joy.
He stared, awe and bewilderment clearly marked on his young face. "You saw that?"
She smiled. "Yes. But it requires no gift to know that through every hardship your spirit will remain true and indomitable."
Still child enough to be embarrassed by her words he shyly looked away for a moment, before lifting his eyes again to meet hers. Such beautiful eyes they were, she reflected, Sindarin eyes, large and grey and fringed with black, bright and innocent and young, un-shadowed by sorrow or regret.
Vague as her words had been, they were dark enough for him, now, and even had she been able to bear the telling she would have said no more of what she had seen. The future would bring what it would, however Elves opposed it, and what could it profit Legolas to know that darkness lay ahead; darkness and anguish and partings more bitter than any she had seen since Doriath rang with laments for lost Lúthien.
She took his hands, face and voice burning with intensity. "Do not forget, Legolas—whatever befalls, I will be thinking of you, beseeching the Powers on your behalf, if indeed they still listen to one such as I." Over his protests, she continued, "And, Legolas, remember: after the night, the dawn must come."
He had not understood, then; had not known that by the time the shadows encroached upon their realm once more she would be long departed. Now, months later, he perhaps realised why she had chosen to speak, to tell him of things that lay so far ahead. That night, however, was past and future; this was the painful present.
"No," she answered at length. "No, I have not seen it. But I have seen many things within the world, Legolas, and I know—I who have watched so many homes destroyed behind me."
He bowed his head, whether in acceptance or defiance of her words she could not tell.
"My lady?" Imrath stood at her shoulder, his voice sympathetic but firm. "My lady, we must soon leave."
The queen turned to him, and her face suddenly reminded Legolas of that of her mother, known to him only by the marble statue that stood in the palace.
"Very well, Imrath. I need only a few moments more."
The lieutenant bowed and stepped back, leaving Legolas and his grandmother alone once more.
"I want you to have these," she said rapidly, reaching into the deep pocket of her riding habit and producing a small bag, embroidered in faded silks with what Legolas vaguely recognised as the emblems of the great house to which she had long ago belonged. Loosening the cords, she emptied the contents into Legolas' palm.
"They are…stones," he said blankly, staring at the little collection. Stones they were—but not the sharp, dark stones of the forest, nor even the grey river-washed pebbles that the children played with; every one was perfectly smooth, but each was a different shape, size and colour. His grandmother laughed softly. "I spoke a minute or two ago of childhood things…think, please, of Mithadan." Legolas flushed. "What of him?"
"Well, to most Elves, poor Mithadan is a ragged, shapeless lump of wool, worth nothing. That is because most Elves do not see the love that your mother put into him as she made him, nor do they recognise in him the companion of your childhood, as we do. Just as Mithadan possesses a value far beyond his intrinsic worth, so do these stones."
Legolas thought he began to comprehend. "What do the stones mean to you, Daernana?"
"For me, they are memories," she replied slowly. "For you…reminders of me, perhaps. Reminders that nothing material is eternal—yet that out of the greatest destruction, we can save something worth keeping. Reminders that life continues…"
She gazed at the stones, her fingers running over the familiar curved surfaces.
"Tell me, please?" he asked. "Tell me why?"
The first stone she picked up was small and white; perfectly round and filled with a milky cloudiness.
"This," she began quietly, "this one is childhood. This is running on the beaches with the Teleri. This is their songs. This is rock pools and steep cliffs and fine white sand. This is the crash and murmur of the sea on the shores of home. This is safety."
Replacing it carefully in the bag, she selected another, larger pebble, this one a flat black oval swirled with veins of white and grey.
"This comes from my youth, when everything was changed. This is a foreign land, filled with the promise of adventure. This is warmth after cold, comfort after pain. This is the rising of the sun…this is relief."
The third was pale, speckled granite, a sphere the size of a large chestnut.
"This was…coming of age. This is dancing under the stars, and a river through trees. This is doubt and exhilaration, fear and joy. This is the sound of a footstep, the gleam of shining hair, the tone of a voice… This is desire."
Too occupied with her thoughts to notice the flush that had coloured Legolas' cheeks, she chose another stone; of a rock whose name Legolas could not guess, it was deep pink, long and narrow.
"This one came later, when I was no longer who I once was. This one is weariness and grief and loss. This is red swords, and Telerin songs—songs of mourning, now. This is sorrow."
Again her fingers moved without hesitation; the fifth pebble was pale yellow sandstone, washed almost to nothing.
"This is later still. This is loneliness and apprehension and thunder in the sky. This is the march of many boots, the glint on many spears, the terror of the overwhelming waves. This is anger."
Only one stone remained in Legolas' palm: it was dark blue grey, long and tapering.
"This one came from a new age," his grandmother said softly, picking it up. "This is life beyond expectation. This is forgotten humiliation and a second chance. This is activity and growth and sunlight. This is a new world. This is hope."
The final stone dropped back into the bag, and the queen looked up. Legolas' eyes were wide and thoughtful as he lifted his gaze to meet hers, and she knew that he had followed her words, matched the significance of the stones to what he knew of the events and places of the past and her part within them.
"I…think I understand," he said quietly. "But how can you give them to me now, Daernana? How can you part with them?"
"I have held onto them for years beyond count, muinben, but now I think it is time to leave them behind, to let go of many things."
She placed the little bag carefully in his hand, and his fingers closed tightly about it.
"I will take care of them."
His grandmother nodded, and he thought that perhaps her lips curved up a little. "I know you will. But take greater care to remember what they represent, to remember that hope is the last stone. After all has passed, hope yet remains."
Without speaking Legolas put the bag carefully in the pocket of his own tunic, but something heavy already lay in the bottom. Absently, he curled his hand about the object, before suddenly remembering what it was and how it had come to be there.
He was angry, bitter, sad; neither understanding nor wishing to understand. Fleeing the palace and the inescapable preparations for departure, he ran for the river, stood on its banks and alternately pleaded and demanded that the Belain prevent his grandmother from leaving. He bent, gathered a handful of stones and skipped them furiously across the water, tears blinding him. Then someone approached, and he abandoned the river, dropping the rest of the stones he knew not where.
Withdrawing his hand from his pocket in turn, Legolas shook his head.
"Hope is not the last stone, Daernana."
She frowned, her face now displaying confusion.
"You are giving me your memories, but I think you should take one with you, across the Sea—one you did not speak of."
He extended his hand, and dropped what he held into hers.
This stone was familiar: grey as rain and smooth as silk, taken from the hills of his home and washed by the rivers that flowed through their realm.
"You can tell your family over there what it means, if you like," he added, a little awkwardly.
"And what does it mean, Legolas?"
For a moment, he did not reply. Instead, his eyes flicked around the courtyard; took in the palace, the trees, the guards and servants and subdued courtiers who now stood in the shadows, watching the departure of the queen; saw the clasped hands of his parents and the sadness in their faces. Legolas returned his gaze finally to his grandmother, who had sung him to sleep when he was tired and smacked him when he was naughty, who had told him stories and played games; who had turned her back on everything that had once been familiar and come to this distant forest, only because she would not leave the Elf she had married, and who left it now because she could not remain in Middle-earth without him.
"This stone," he said firmly, "is Eryn Galen. This stone is love."
This time, he knew that she smiled.
Translations and author's notes
ellon—young male Elf
calen-naneth—Legolas' pet name for his grandmother, literally golden-mother. I chose it because in my fanverse, Thranduil's golden hair was inherited from his mother, while Legolas' mother did not have it.
Ennor—Elves' name for Middle-earth
I hope the significance of the stones is clear, at least to people who have read The Silmarillion. Every time I visit the sea, I gather some of the beautiful stones from the beach—I could see no reason why Legolas' grandmother couldn't have done the same, keeping a stone from every place where she had lived.