Heart of the Forest by Michelle|
Summary: The beauty of Mirkwood hides from mortal eyes.
Disclaimer: Aragorn, Legolas and Mirkwood are Tolkien’s creation. Pity.
Aragorn’s eyes were closed and he was not moving, but Legolas could not shake the impression that he was slowly waking. There, one eyelid was twitching and that was definitely a sign of waking in the elf’s experience.
“Estel, are you awake?”
There was no reaction. Legolas watched the man’s impassive face intently, impatiently waiting for another indication that Aragorn was finally rejoining the land of the living.
Aragorn’s breath hitched. A moment later there was a groan. Though, that was quite a big word for the sound Aragorn was making. If Legolas was honest with himself, it sounded more like a whimper. A really pitiful whimper.
“Estel!” A pause. “Are you awake?” He repeated his earlier question and this time it was thankfully answered.
“No.” Aragorn’s voice sounded like sandpaper, scratchy and deep, and his annoyance was evident even in that one word.
Legolas breathed a sigh of relief. “Tell me, human, how can you be talking with me when you are not awake?” He hoped his banter would coax Aragorn into opening his eyes. It worked partially.
Aragorn blinked one eye open experimentally, but did not seem to be pleased with the result. “Oh Valar, I hurt all over.” He opened the other eye as well. “Am I still alive? Because this does not look like I would have imagined the Halls of Mandos.”
Legolas actually chuckled. “You are still alive. Which is a surprise, after the way in which that orc threw you around.”
“Don’t remind me,” Aragorn answered while he moved his arms, his legs, his head and his fingers to determine where he hurt the most. “What happened? I remember that orc charging me, but after that things get a little hazy.”
“Well, he gave you quite a few bruises. Your left side is black and blue at the moment. And he managed to get through your defences and give you a long cut on your forearm. Thankfully, he missed the artery, but it was bleeding heavily nonetheless. I suppose none of your injuries are life-threatening, but I would still recommend we not travel further today. It is too dark for that anyway. We can continue our journey to my father’s hall tomorrow after you have rested.”
“Mhm.” Aragorn’s reply was non-commital, but Legolas could see that he was actually not opposed to the thought of resting some more.
Aragorn looked around and a shiver went through his body. Legolas tried to look at their surroundings with Aragorn’s eyes and could understand the man’s reaction. It still hurt, though.
Legolas had made a small fire, more to heat some water to clean Aragorn’s wounds than to provide warmth. It was not recommended to build large campfires in the forest of Mirkwood, because the flames tended to attract inhabitants of the woods one would rather not encounter.
They found themselves in a small clearing, no more than fifteen feet in diameter. The trees around them seemed to encroach onto the free space, their gnarled branches hanging low. The touch of evil could be seen everywhere in Mirkwood, though it became worse the further south a traveller went. The trees appeared wicked and their canopy of leaves had grown so thick that the sun stood no chance of penetrating their cover. Mirkwood was draped in a contast dusk, even during the day. But now, at night, the darkness was so all-consuming, so unpenetrable, that only an elf was able to see his surroundings. A mortal like Aragorn would probably be unable to see the hand in front of his eyes if not for the light the small fire was giving off.
“There is no other way than to stay here for the night?” Aragorn asked with hope in his voice, but Legolas was determined not to try further travel tonight.
“I’m afraid not. I will take watch tonight; you need not fear that anything will disrupt your sleep.”
“I...” Aragorn interrupted himself and looked at his surroundings once again, his trepidation growing. In the end, he decided not to say anything.
“I know you never felt comfortable in these woods, Estel.”
Aragorn had the decency to look startled, but he did not argue Legolas’ statement. “I am sorry. I know it is your home and that you love Mirkwood dearly. But I cannot see its beauty. All I see is a forest twisted by the influence of Dol Guldur. I can never shake the feeling that someone – something – is watching me in these woods and is only waiting for a chance to do away with my life. I find it hard to breathe here, with all this darkness around me.”
Legolas had known Aragorn was feeling this way, even if he had never put the sentiment into so many words. The elf had seen it in Aragorn’s reluctance to travel to Mirkwood, to explore its hidden treasures. Aragorn was a cherished friend, and it was Legolas’ hope that he could see Mirkwood with the elf’s eyes. He wanted Aragorn to be able to love Mirkwood.
“It must be hard to imagine the splendour of Greenwood as it once was. When I was your age, young and reckless, there was no danger of riding through these woods. I would do so, at a breakneck-pace, and the trees would rush past me, a blur of bright green. Their branches would sway to let me pass and from time to time the wind would shower my path with petals of their blossoms. It was magnificent, beautiful, serene. I would stop in the heart of the forest and would sit there, just enjoying the peace and tranquility of my surroundings.
“To you, that must seem like a long time ago, but to me it feels like yesterday. I can still see the beauty beneath the darkness and I know that one day it will again be safe to ride through Mirkwood like I did in my youth.”
Aragorn looked thoughtful. “I would love to see your home with your eyes. Do you think I will one day?”
Legolas’ answer was immediate and heartfelt. “I know you will. I do not have your father’s far-seeing eyes, nor Lady Galadriel’s knowledge of things to come. But I have hope and I have dreams. Whenever I think of you riding through Mirkwood, I see the forest returned to its past splendour. I see the trees around you grow straight and tall and a group of sparrows taking flight when you pass under an old oak. I see your face gladdened by the beauty around you. You might think this is nothing but the fancy of a silly elf, but I know it is more than that. You will see Greenwood one day, I am sure of it.”
“I would like that.” The mood between them had turned somber and the unspoken hopes and fears of things to come hung heavily between them. For a while, both were silent and only the ominous sounds of the forest around them could be heard. A bird screeched and a branch cracked not far from their camp. Aragorn’s eyes searched the darkness wearily.
“I just hope I will not get eaten by spiders before it happens,” Aragorn added as an afterthought.
Legolas laughed and the somber mood between them dissipated. “I will try my best to keep the spiders off your back. Just try to rest. I promise to keep watch.”
Aragorn nodded and was asleep only moments later. And while Legolas walked the perimeter of their small camp, gnarled trees lining his way, Aragorn dreamed of tall oaks and the sun filtering through the canopy of leaves, warming his face.