The Choice of Friendship by Trinilee Greenleaf|
Title: The Choice of Friendship
Disclaimer: The lyrics to the song do not belong to me! They were written by Baker Knight! Though the copyright belongs to Elvis Presley! So yea, not mine!! The characters portrayed in this ficlet also do not belong to me. They are unmistakably the property of the great J.R.R.Tolkein. How you could ever mistake a genius such as him with me I shall never know! Lolzz
Summary: A look back over a deep friendship that could never be broken.
A/N: This fic was originally written for the June Teitho Contest ĎFriendshipí, but I didnít finish it on time and so added some stuff to make it fit this monthís contest. (My first ever by the way)
"You shall never be an elf! You shall never be accepted! You shall never be wanted! You are destined to die, how you could be so stupid as to think that any firstborn would want to love or even like a useless mortal such as you just proves my point! No-one wants you here, so take the hint and leave this place human!" The elf spat the last word at him as though just uttering it would bring down some deadly curse upon his household.
Through his tears, the young child could not bring himself to speak the words that briefly flitted across his mind. There was no point in arguing with the elflings for they were right, and always had been he had just been too blinded by the fake love of his foster family to realise.
They had never really loved him, he could see that now. They had just pretended out of pity for the small human who had lost his parents had such an early stage of his life. Elrond had taken him in only because he had known his parents and felt a responsibility to the child that he didnít really want.
This thought was too much for him and so, brushing angrily at his moistened eyes, the adan turned away from his jeering companions and ran blindly into the woods, not once looking back. He would run and run until his legs could move no more and then he would be far away enough from his phoney family that they would be happy because surely with him gone they would rejoice and live blissful lives.
Tears ran unbidden down his dirty features now that he was away from the other elflings, able to let the salty bitter liquid flow from his eyes, screening the blurs of the woods that he would call home no more. He was so blinded by them in fact that he did not notice the elf in front of him before he ran straight into him.
Surprised at what had just crashed into the back of his legs, the blond-haired elf stopped feeding the chestnut stallion he had ridden to the forests of Imladris on and turned to find, nothing. That was until he looked down at his feet where he saw something most unexpected.
The child looked up and his eyes widened. He untangled himself from the elf as quickly as he could, jumped to his feet and looked as though he would have bolted had a gentle hand not been placed around his arm.
"Estel dear child what is the matter? What are you doing out here alone? Your father has told you-Estel?!"
At the mention of his father, the adan childís emotions erupted and tears fell faster, cries grew louder and hands pounded at the strong chest in front of him as the elf had knelt down to his level.
Legolas was shocked to say the least at this outburst and did the only thing he thought would help. He gathered the boy in his arms, letting the small hands hit him, pulling the wavy brown lock-laden head to him, shushing him softly. He waited the childís anger out, waited until the fists unclenched only to do so again in the folds of his tunic, until the boy buried his head in his shoulder sobbing hysterically into his already sodden garments.
The woodland prince just sat there on his knees, making calming noises of comfort and rubbing a soothing hand slowly up and down the childís back. When Estel simply had run out of tears to cry, they sat there silently Legolasí hand still tenderly stroking the hiccupping human.
Legolas was unsure of whether he should break the silence this soon or whether to wait to out a little longer until Estel solved that problem for him.
Legolas turned his face towards the boy curled around him on his lap with shocked eyes. "What have you done that warrants an apology to me Estel? I take no shame in comforting an obviously hurt and upset child."
"No, not that. Well, yes that as well. But, Iím sorry for-forÖ" Estel stammered as he fought to find the words he couldnít think of to express what he was feeling. "Öfor being human!"
It was muttered so quietly that even though he was sitting right next to him, even with his heightened hearing, Legolas had to strain slightly to hear it, almost as though Estel had not really said the words at all. When he did work out what the boy had said, Legolas sighed. He knew now what had happened as it had happened before.
"What did they say Estel?"
"That I wasnít worth it and that my family didnít love me and that they were just doing it out of pity and that they were only pretending and thatÖthat Iím going to die anyway so nothing matters!" This one-breath speech had somehow forced his eyes to produce more tears and the young human was sobbing once more.
Legolas curled his arms protectively around him. "Oh Estel. You know that what they say is not the truth. You know that your family love you more than anything else in the world. That they treasure you more than the brightest star and think more of you than they do themselves. Those elflings are simply not used to being so close to a human. They have probably had no contact with them unless they have met with visiting rangers. To tell you the truth Estel, they are probably afraid of you."
The boy looked up startled and asked surprised, "Afraid? Why would they be afraid of me?"
Legolas looked Estel in the eyes as he spoke, "People have always been afraid of something different, something new. Elves especially are wary of things that they have had little or no contact with before. We do not fear change as such, but we are just used to the old ways. We live one way for so long that when something new comes along it shocks us somewhat. Donít worry Estel, they will eventually grow used to your presence and will come to know you as the bright, intelligent wild-child that charmed me the moment I saw him," the archer punctuated this last sentence with a tweak of Estelís nose that made the boy giggle and give the elf a watery smile.
"Well, now that this is all sorted may I suggest we head back for your family will be surely worried about your whereabouts."
Placing the child gently on the forest floor, Legolas stood and turned towards horse but a small voice stopped him from mounting him.
"Legolas, may I ask why youíre here?" Estel then blushed as though he had realised how rude that had sounded. "I-I mean ada said that you werenít coming for another month so I just didnít expect you to be here. Not that I donít want you here because I do!"
Legolas laughed, "I came here to see you Estel. I simply could not wait for another month to see you again. I have missed you since my last visit be that it may was only a few months ago. When people upset you Estel, and make you doubt yourself, never doubt that I love you more than I can ever say to you and I will always be there to help you in your times of need."
Estel jumped up into Legolasí arms as the prince finished and hugged him tightly around his neck.
"Hannon le," he whispered quietly into the elegantly pointed ear.
When no-one else can understand me
When everything I do is wrong
You give me hope and consolation
You give me strength to carry on
The loud shout startled him and he practically walked through a table that contained a large vase because he had turned to look behind him and had carried on walking instead of doing the sensible thing in stopping. He grabbed the vase before it could topple to the floor and placed it back on the table only to grab at it again moments later when a blur that reached to about his elbow rushed passed him, knocking him into the table again. This time however, his reflexes werenít so quick and the vase smashed into a thousand pieces on the floor.
"Estel look what youíve done now!" the shout came from behind him and Legolas turned to see Elladan and Elrohir running up to him. "Oh no, that vase was a gift to Erestor from a family from Lorien in thanks for tutoring their daughter! Heís going to kill the little rat!"
"Well heíll have to get in line because after what he did Iím going to make sure that he can barely walk to my bedroom let alone go in and break my bow!" fumed Elrohir.
Legolas stepped back from the incensed twins and held up his hands in what he hoped came across as a placating gesture, "Calm down ĎDan, ĎRo. Iíll go find him, donít worry about it. Iíll sort things out."
He knew that Estel must have done something to Elladan too but did not want to ask. He was worried about the young human. Estel had been feeling upset for a few weeks now. Everything he did seemed to get him in trouble. Everything he did was wrong. He knew that he needed to find him now because this must have added more heartache to the already depressed teenagerís pile of emotions.
The twins took deep breaths and nodded their heads in agreement. "Itís probably the best idea Legolas, tell him weíre not that angry anymore just annoyed. Weíll find him and apologise later on. Come and find us afterwards?" asked Elladan.
"Sure," replied Legolas, walking off in the direction that the blur, now known to be Estel, had run in.
He found him sitting by a fountain in one of the corners of the gardens. He was sitting on the widened rim with his legs dangling in the water, his leggings rolled up to his knees. Legolas quietly walked over, making enough noise however so as not to startle the boy. He sat down with his back to the fountain, not waiting for Estel to acknowledge him.
"Theyíre not angry you know."
Estel didnít move.
"Theyíre just annoyed and tired. Your fatherís had them working late into the night on that treaty with the men of the village by the river. They arenít cooperating and your father has roped them in to try and help him find some way to appease them before something happens. Tensions are rising and tempers are short," Legolas stared off into the distance, trying to gage Estelís reactions through the soft ripples of movements in the young manís body. "They donít blame you."
"Yes they do! They always do, everyone does!"
Legolas was taken aback at the sudden outburst, but said nothing, waiting his companion out. He knew from experience that this was the best way to deal with Estel when he was upset or angry. He would say something when he was ready; he just needed to know that there would be someone there to listen when he did.
"They always blame me when something goes wrong. They donít wait to listen to find out what happened they just assume I do it out of spite!"
Legolas nodded slowly, "I understand where you are coming from Estel, but I can see your brothersí point of view too. This kind of thing has occurred so much over the past few days that they are beginning to deny coincidence and think of it as intentional."
Estel turned enraged to his calm and collected friend, "But I didnít mean to! I didnít mean to ruin Elladanís favourite tunic! I didnít mean to break Elrohirís bow! I didnít mean to break that vase! I didnít mean to push Glorfindel into the pond last week! I didnít mean to knock over that ink onto adaís papers! I didnít mean to-"
Legolas held up his hand, "Estel stop. Listen to yourself. How many things did you not mean to do in the past few weeks?" Estel looked ready to protest but Legolas laid a calming hand upon his knee, "Look at it through their eyes. There have been so many accidents on your part Estel that they are beginning to question whether or not you truly mean to. Deep down they know that you are faultless, but in the heat of the moment it all adds up. You have to start being more careful. Think your actions through; be aware of your surroundings. How will you do in battle if you do not know where your opponents and where your allies are? How will you be able to command troops if you do not know how to organise yourself in a collected way let alone a whole band of men? Think Estel, start to think."
Legolas looked over at the boy and saw him staring back at him with a confused expression on his face. "How do you do it?" he asked quietly.
It was Legolas who was confused now, "Do what?"
"Be so wise and profound and ultimately full of wisdom with a comforting word for me whenever I need it?" he replied with a smile.
Legolas laughed loudly, "ĎUltimately full of wisdomí? Now you sound as though you comparing me to Gandalf!"
"Well, you are almost as old, and your hair has definitely started to look greyer over the past few monthsÖ"
Legolas stared in shock at his friend who was laughing hysterically at the elfís face. Well, laughing that is until he found himself spitting water out of his mouth after being shoved into the fountain he had previously been dangling his legs in.
He looked over to where Legolas had been sitting next to him mere moments before only to see, nothing. Then he heard a shout from the distance and saw Legolasí golden hair streaming out behind him as he raced back to the house before the human could catch up with him.
"Aware of your surroundings Estel!"
And youíre always there to lend a hand
In everything I do
Thatís the wonder
The wonder of you
His stomach clenched, and he leant towards the side, violently repelling the food he had eaten yesterday. He slid down the bathroom wall, entirely weak and shivering helplessly. He felt the cramps begin again but was unable to lift himself from the floor to lean over the basin. That was until he felt a soothing pair of hands encircle him from behind, and tenderly help him up. The hands stayed there whilst he was ill and rubbed his back gently to help ease the tension in his muscles.
He collapsed then, falling into the arms of his protector, gasping for breath, trembling from cold one minute and yet giving off heat as similar to that of a furnace the next.
"Letís get you to bed Estel," whispered a soft voice in his ear, and he was lifted off the floor, carried out of the bathroom and into his chambers beyond.
He was lovingly positioned on his bed and changed into his bedclothes. He was helped under the covers and tucked in warmly for he was going cold again. Extra blankets were placed on top of him and the fire was stoked, all the while his helper murmuring soft words of comfort to his confused and fevered mind.
The curtains were then closed and soon after his eyelids followed, slowly prying themselves open again when a cool hand rested on his forehead, "I shall be back in a minute Estel; I just need to fetch Lord Elrond."
He knew nothing then as even though his eyes stayed open slightly, his mind shut off, cutting off all sounds and thoughts as he drifted in and out of wakefulness. That was until he heard voices in his room, speaking quietly in the corner. A hand was again placed on his forehead and his wrist was lifted from the bed for the person to check his pulse he presumed.
More murmuring continued and then he heard the door open and close but not before he managed to catch the whisper, "I shall stay with him throughout the night."
It was then that he completely allowed himself to fade into the pleasant world of sleep, safe in the knowledge that someone would be watching over him.
As Estelís eyes finally closed, Legolas leant over and kissed him gently on the forehead, "Sleep well gwador nin."
And when you smile the world is brighter
You touch my hand and Iím a king
Your kiss to me is worth a fortune
Your love for me is everything
Sweeping a hand furiously at his eyes to wipe away the tears, Estel spurred his horse on for the final lengths of his five day journey. He had been riding practically non-stop, and his thoughts had been running for longer than that.
He couldnít stop thinking of the hurt, betrayal and most of all, the lie he had been living for the past twenty or so years of his life. How could they do that to him?! How could they have lied to him every single day of his life? Look into his eyes and call him ĎEstelí, Ďmuindorí orÖĎioní. He was none of them. He was not a part of their family and never had been!
His horse brought him back to the present when he stopped suddenly and began nervously stamping his feet and flaring his nostrils. His rider drew his sword and placed a comforting hand on the horseís neck. Rustling in the bushes to his left captured his attention and he was ready to cleave the strangerís head from their shoulders when he heard a familiar, "Estel?"
The human sighed and released all tension from his body, allowing his shoulders and head to droop.
"Legolas," he whispered.
The elf emerged from the bushes and frowned slightly at his friendís sunken demeanour, "I was afraid you would ride straight past me mellon nin which is why I made the noise. I did not want to frighten you for you seemed deeply lost in your own thoughts. What is it that has distracted you so?"
When Estel did not answer Legolas approached and lay a hand upon his friendís knee, "Come and sit with me back at my camp Estel, then you can tell me all about it over a hot bowl of stew."
Estel nodded wearily, glad to have caught up with the person he sought before he reached the Mirkwood Palace. He had not been excited at the thought of having to probably wake the entire Mirkwood household who were already wary of him in the middle of the night and ask to see their Prince. He was even gladder that he had by some miraculous chance come across his friend, for he was sure King Thranduil would not have appreciated his visit if his son had been at home let alone if he hadnít.
He dismounted and led his horse into the foliage after his friend until they came across the Princeís camp. A small fire lay burning to the side of the clearing, so small as not to attract any unwanted attention from the dark creatures that also unfortunately dwelled in these forests. A bed roll was placed near enough to the fire for it not to be in any danger of catching fire should the pot that hung over the burning wood accidentally spill. A set of bloody bandages could also be seen, thrown aside of the bed roll in an obvious hurry.
Estel looked to Legolas in question after releasing his horse to graze next to his friendís chestnut mare. Legolas saw the look and quickly smiled at his friend.
"Do not worry Estel, I was just returning to my patrol after having to deliver a message to my ada and ran across a wounded soldier from another patrol. I helped him change his bandages and gave him a bed to sleep in for the night. He left some time this morning for he also had an urgent message to deliver to the palace."
It was a convincing story yet there was something about it that made Estel a little suspicious. One, why would Legolas be this far North of the palace if he was returning to his patrol? He knew for a fact that Legolas had been commanding the troops on the southern borders because of increased spider activity. Legolas had told him so himself in his last letter, he had also told him of how there was probably no chance of him being placed in another patrol because practically all of the patrols were stretched to try and accommodate more troops for the southern patrols. The southern border was all that mattered at the moment apparently. So if he was heading back to his patrol, why was he heading North?
The second thing that made Estel suspect something was wrong was that Legolas didnít look like he had just come from the palace. His clothes were tattered and dirty with what looked like orc blood and his hair was matted and untidy which was very unlike Legolas who would have taken the chance to freshen up from patrol before leaving his home to return to his troops. It looked to him as though Legolas was coming from his patrol to return to the palace. But perhaps it was just Estelís tired and confused mind jumping to far too many conclusions. He nodded his affirmation to Legolas and smiled wearily at his friend before taking a seat by the fire.
Legolas inwardly breathed a sigh of relief once his friend had past him. He felt bad for lying to Estel, but he couldnít tell him that he had actually been sent from his patrol to return home because he had taken a grievous injury three days ago. He had been travelling North in the hope of finding another patrol to provide him with more supplies so that his wound could heal and he could go back to patrol for his troops had run out of medical supplied nearly a week ago which is why he had been sent home. He didnít want his father to know he had been wounded and he knew that travelling to a northern patrol and back again would take far less time than going home and getting back again for the healers would surely have him in bed for at least two weeks. He also didnít want to burden his friend anymore who looked as though he had enough troubles on his mind without him telling of a stupid stab wound.
Legolas sat himself down beside his friend and took a bowl from under his bed roll. Passing it to Estel he filled it with the contents of the simmering pot and watched with a small smile as his friend tucked in. While Estel ate, he picked up the soiled bandages and threw them into the fire, being careful not to let the fire get any bigger for he was really not in the mood to face any orcs or spiders tonight. Patrol had been tough over the past few weeks with attacks nearly every other day. He had already lost twelve members of his patrol in the past week. The death toll was getting higher and the attacks more frequent. But that did not bother him at the moment. All Legolas wanted to do was help his friend who was clearly distressed about something.
"Now that you are finished, mayhap you can explain to me what brought you to me at this hour of the night in such a hurry with no word of warning of your impending arrival?" Legolas asked once his friend had put the now empty bowl down by his feet.
Estel sighed again. He looked up at his friend and saw nothing but love and concern in his eyes. "I ran away from home."
Legolasí eyes now shone with surprise and worry, "And what on Middle Earth made you do that gwador?"
"Lord Elrond told me of his, Elladanís and Elrohirís life-long betrayal."
Legolas was confused now and said nothing, knowing that Estelís pause was merely to find the words to explain to him what he meant. But he also wondered why Estel had referred to Elrond thus, and not as ada as he usually did.
The human bowed his head again, unable to carry on looking into Legolasí expressive blue orbs whilst they shone with only with love. He knew that once Legolas knew, he would hate him for it.
"I am not who you think I am Legolas," he whispered.
The elf-prince was confused for a moment longer before it clicked. He knew what had happened and cursed inwardly for not thinking of it sooner. A week ago it had been Estelís twenty first birthday. He had sent him a letter and gift and his deepest apologies at his not being able to be there for he was tied up with patrol. In his haste, he had forgotten something Lord Elrond had told him nearly nineteen years ago now.
ĎOn the day when he should turn twenty one, an adult by human standards, I shall tell him of who he really is. But until then you must keep it a secret from him so that he can grow up without that shadow hanging over him.í
Legolas had agreed as had the twins. The four of them were the only ones who knew apart from Lady Galadriel, but there was not a lot that could be kept from the Lady of Lorien.
"You are exactly who I think you are Aragorn," Legolas replied.
Aragornís head snapped up and he stared accusingly at Legolas, "You knew?!"
It was Legolasí turn to sigh, "Of course I knew. Your brothers and I took an oath of silence when we first learnt of your heritage. We have spoken of it to no-one and shall continue to do so until the time is right. It was for you own good Estel you know that."
Aragorn jumped to his feet, "Donít call me by that name! That is not who I am anymore!"
Legolas also stood and tried to placate his friend before he got any angrier. "Why ever not? Estel is all you have ever been to your family and friends. And will all you ever will be to them! You havenít changed gwador; you are still the same person on the inside and the outside! The same boy that captured my heart when he was but two years old and inspired in me a fierce love and protection for him that has only grown with time. You are still Estel!"
"No! I am no longer that boy Legolas. I am a grown man!"
"You are still but a child to me Aragorn, if that is what you would prefer to have me call you."
"Nay, I am not Aragorn either. And I am not a child Legolas! By human standards I was a man almost three years ago! I am not an elf!"
"You think I donít know that? You think that I didnít know that every time we have fought with orcs? That I didnít worry because you were human and not as quick or as strong as elves? That I have not thought of how you are mortal and could be taken away from me at any time every day since I met you?"
"Then you have thought my being a human a burden to you all this time?"
"Being human has made you who you are! You have become as good with a sword as most elves couldnít boast. Your reflexes are as sharp as any elf and your tracking skills surpass even me sometimes! Not to mention your healing abilities! Human you may be, but I do not love you any less. It has had no effect on my friendship with you and I have started to think less and less of your mortality for it is but one flaw in an otherwise flawless companion."
Aragorn snorted. "Yeah right!"
Legolas looked hurt at this and his eyes misted slightly with emotion, "You have never doubted me before," he whispered.
Aragorn glanced over at his friend and instantly regretted what he had said.
"You know what," Legolas interrupted, "when I first heard of your heritage, that you were Isildurís distant kin, I admit I was shocked to say the least. But it never changed what I thought about you. In fact, it only served to strengthen my resolve to protect you. What Isildur did was wrong for sure, but that wasnít you Estel."
Aragorn didnít even notice the use of his elven name in his haste to object to his friendís words, "But it could be me! I could do what he did when given the choice. His weakness runs in my veins."
"Never have I heard of such folly!"
Aragorn was shocked at the vehemence in Legolasí voice.
"No such weakness resides in you Estel! None whatsoever and if you ever think so again I will tie you to your bed and feed you your fatherís tea until you see otherwise! You have never been anything but strong Estel, never!" Legolas walked over to stand in front of his friend, and looked him in the eye, placing his hands on Estelís shoulders. "You are the strongest person I know Estel, and I know that when the time comes, you will make the right choice."
The both smiled at each other and Legolas knew that he had gotten through to his friend and was glad for it. "But there is one more thing."
The human looked at his friend quizzically. Legolas merely smiled at him.
"If I am not to call you Estel, and I am not to call you Aragorn. Who shall I know you as?"
Estel, or Aragorn, laughed. "I will always be Estel in my heart but I feel as though it is the name I shall refer to for my younger days. My childhood was a happy one but I feel as though it has finally come to a close. I am unwilling to be known as Aragorn though, for a number of reasons. A new chapter in my life may be starting but I donít think I have quite reached that part yet. Perhaps a new name is in order."
Legolas nodded at him, understanding his need for a seemingly new identity. A new era deserved a few changes.
"Perhaps I can assist you there gwador? I have always thought you suited the name, Strider."
His friend looked at him, "Strider?" he whispered, testing the name in his head. "Aye! Strider it is!" And with that he laughed and embraced his friend tightly. But pulled back when he heard Legolas hiss at the contact. "I knew you are lying to me! Off with that shirt whilst I burn some athelas. Honestly if you donít start taking better care of yourself Legolas Valar knows what will happen! Now sit down and you can tell me all about it."
Legolas sighed. This was another reason why he had not wanted to tell Estel-, I mean, Strider about his wound. For he had known that he would fuss over him endlessly until there was not so much as a scratch adorning his body.
"Strider, perhaps with the discarding of your old name, you could do the same with some of your old and annoying habits?" he asked with a smile.
"If you are talking about my mollycoddling then not on your life!" Strider laughed.
Legolas laughed as well but stopped when he heard his friend softly call his name, "Yes Strider?"
"Legolas did you mean what you said about doing anything to protect me and stuff?"
"If you had the choice-"
"I would always choose to protect you, no matter what the danger. I will always choose you, over everything else even my own life."
"Hannon le Legolas, for everything."
"Donít mention itÖ.Estel."
Iíll guess Iíll never know the reason why
You love me like you do
Thatís the wonder
The wonder of you