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The Blink of an Eye

Three things that never happened to Legolas.


Disclaimer: Tolkien’s, not mine.

Acknowledgment: Thanks to SugarRush for beta.

1. The Ring

Legolas had not moved for several hours. The Golden Wood of Lothlórien was well-protected by Haldir and many other guardians and watchers, so for once his attention was not turned outward to forest and sky, but inward toward the other members of the Fellowship, sleeping soundly under the pavilion Galadriel and her people had provided.

Children, he thought them all, the Fellowship and all their races alike, mortal beings whose fragile lives were over in the blink of an eye, messy and loud and voracious, always in a hurry, their grubby little hands on everything but truly touching nothing. How odd it seemed to him, watching them now, unconscious near to the point of death, that with so little life allotted to them, they should be fated to spend such a span of time departed from it. At least now they were still, and he could rest his mind in peace.

It had entered his mind to leave them now, with Mithrandir gone and he the only Immortal left among them. He might tarry a while in Lothlórien, enjoying the company of these tall, golden Elves, then make his way back to Mirkwood or down to the Anduin and out to the Sea. Their quest was of no real consequence to him. Let the mortals make their wars over trinkets. A single leaf of a mallorn tree was more precious and beautiful to him than any bauble crafted of earth and metal. He had joined the Fellowship as a favor to Elrond, having no desire yet to return to his father’s halls, and a curiosity to see more of Middle Earth while it remained to be seen. Perhaps he had seen enough.

Yet there was no need to make that decision hastily. There was still more of the world before him. And truly, he had developed some fondness for these children who had become his companions. Even the Dwarf had been less annoying of late, once he had become enamored of the Lady of the Wood. In any case, the Fellowship might break at any time, for Elrond had laid no bond or promise on them to go farther than they would. The Men already planned to turn aside towards Minas Tirith. The Halflings would no doubt all remain together, and who knew what plans Gimli held in his iron heart? The Dwarf would likely find some cave or hole to his liking and slip away like a rabbit into the night. Legolas might find the decision of which way to go thrust upon him sooner than he expected.

He was content to wait.

* * *

The Ringbearer shifted in his sleep, and the Ring on its chain slipped out of his shirt, to rest on the pillow where the Halfling laid his head. It glowed softly in the dark. Legolas inclined his head, the first movement his body had made since taking up this position at the entrance to the pavilion, and his attention focused on the small, bright object.

He could not say it was not a pretty thing. Its glow was the rich, deep yellow of a harvest moon, redolent of warm autumn nights, gentle breezes, the reflections of stars twinkling in the waters of laughing brooks. Legolas found his gaze sinking into the Ring, becoming lost in it.

A pity to destroy such a lovely thing. Or, at least, to try to destroy it. Legolas had no faith that this rag-tag of Halflings and Men and a Dwarf would succeed in their quest. Indeed, to his mind, it was most unlikely that they would. Taking the Ring into Mordor seemed to him the worst of folly. He was surprised that Lord Elrond would advocate such a course.

Unless Lord Elrond had another, secret intention in mind. The Elves of Rivendell were already leaving for the Havens in numbers. Perhaps Elrond’s true purpose was to get the Ring out of his realm, and the Eye of the enemy looking elsewhere, while his people fled to the safety of the Havens and escaped across the Sea. Whether the quest succeeded or failed then would matter to him not, only that it kept the enemy’s attention long enough to allow Rivendell to empty. Surely, if Elrond truly meant to keep the Ring out of the enemy’s hand, a better solution would have been to take it West, and carry it out of Middle Earth. Yet he had argued strenuously against that course, saying that the Eye could cause his servants to build ships also, and that even the Valar were not safe from his power. Thus, he argued against taking the Ring in the direction he wished his people to go.

The golden glow of the Ring filled Legolas’s sight, as the weight of Elrond’s deception filled his mind. He must be right. Elrond cared not that the Ring should be destroyed. The quest was doomed. The Ring grew brighter, larger, more splendid in his eyes. Flames seemed to lick at its edges, dancing like tiny butterflies of orange and red and yellow. He could feel the breath of their wings beating gently against his face. Faint rumbling voices called out to him, entreating him for his protection.

The Ring did not want to go South. It did not want to be strung around the neck of this helpless little creature. It wanted him to take it, to use it, to claim it as his right, as the only member of the Fellowship worthy of its power.

Legolas, it whispered to him, its voice a caress in his ear.

“Yes,” he replied, his voice the barest of whispers.

Legolas approached the Ringbearer with the silent tread of an Elf, and bent over the sleeping Halfling. The small mortal breathed shallowly, his face pale, even at rest revealing the strain his burden placed on him. Surely he would be glad to be relieved of it. Legolas reached out his hand toward the Ring. He could snatch it up and be gone into the wood before an alarm could be raised. Oh, how he would run! No longer would he be required to restrain his speed for these mortals. He held his breath, and his fingers bathed in the warmth of the Ring.

An axe sliced through the air between his hand and the Ring. “What are you doing, Master Elf?” The Dwarf’s voice was quiet, but full of menace.

Legolas froze. With the axe head hiding the Ring from him, Legolas’s vision seemed to recede and clear, and he saw Gimli crouched at the Halfling’s side, holding his weapon at the ready. He smiled. “Only putting this out of sight,” he said, gently moving Gimli’s axe aside to hook his finger under the chain around the Ringbearer’s neck, then lift it to let it and its burden fall back under Frodo’s shirt. “Even in the Golden Wood, such things are better kept hidden.”

Gimli nodded, and drew back, laying his axe at his side. But he did not take his hand from it. “You are right, my friend. Even the best of us can suffer temptation.”

“Ease yourself, friend Gimli.” Legolas spoke softly, almost crooning. “All is well now.”

“Aye,” Gimli agreed. He lay back on his bed. Yet there remained an alertness in his eye.

Legolas quietly returned to his position outside the pavilion, and resumed his watch of the Fellowship at rest. The failure of his endeavor did not trouble him. It would be better, after all, not to take the Ring in Lothlórien, where Galadriel’s warriors would pursue him. The companions would travel a while together, and there would be other opportunities.

He was an Elf, Immortal and patient. He was content to wait.

2. The Bow

Legolas stood motionless upon the hill, bow fully drawn, arrow aimed at a knot in a tree trunk half a mile beyond. It was a fine, powerful bow, perfectly balanced, elegantly carved. It was a pleasure to hold in his hands. He had stood thus for over an hour now, having taken the first watch while the rest of the Fellowship made camp below, bow at the ready, feeling its strength, waiting.

The great bow of Lothlórien was yet unblooded. Legolas did not think it would remain so for long. He could hear, under the sighing of the wind and the calls of night birds and the rustling of small animals in the undergrowth, the mutters and movements of orcs on the opposite bank of the river. An advance party, he thought, of three or four, currently no danger, but there would be more in the coming days.

In the camp below, someone stirred. Without moving or releasing his pull on the bow, Legolas shifted his glance downward. It was Boromir, walking carefully among the sleeping bodies of his companions in the dark. Legolas snapped his arrow around so that its point aimed at Boromir’s neck.

Legolas had never killed a Man. Orcs, goblins, wargs, and other foul creatures of the Dark Lord’s craft had fallen to his bow or his white knives. He had fought at the Battle of the Five Armies with his kin, and the toll of his weapons had been many. But never had his bow or his knife claimed one of the Free Peoples of Middle Earth. He wondered what it would be like to loose his arrow into the flesh of a Man. What sound would it make as the shaft slid in? How far would the body be thrown? What cries would issue from his mouth? He had seen Men die in battle, but he had not authored their deaths, nor heeded the details of their passing.

The point of his arrow followed Boromir as he made his way across the camp to the small bundle of blankets and curly hair that was the Ringbearer. The Man stood over the Halfling, his hands forming fists. Legolas could see that a great trouble was in his heart. Boromir wanted the Ring.

One small flick of his finger and the Man would die. Legolas pictured it in his mind: Boromir lying on the ground, eyes open and staring sightlessly, the shaft of the arrow driven clean through his neck.

A faint susurrus reached Legolas’s ear. Instantly, he shifted, turning toward the sound, lifting his bow to the sky.

A shadow blackened the night, hiding the stars, with a sound like the flapping of enormous bat wings. Its form was unclear, but Legolas could feel evil emanating from it like a foul odor. He did not hesitate, but took aim and released his arrow.

The beast’s flight stopped short, and its scream filled the air as it began to fall. Boromir was the first to stir, jumping away from the Ringbearer and staring wildly toward the sky, but soon the others were all leaping from their beds, shaken and confused. Legolas leapt lightly down to them, coming to stand by Frodo, who looked up at him with his face ashen pale, and eyes wide as teacups.

“What was it?” Frodo asked.

“I do not know,” Legolas replied grimly. “But it came from the Dark Land, of that I am sure. It reeked of evil.” He looked down at the Halfling, whose hand twisted nervously, unconsciously, at something inside his shirt. “But it will not return to its master tonight.”

Frodo nodded, still troubled. His faithful companion, Sam, came to lead him back to his bed. Aragorn urged them all to take what rest they could before the morning light exposed them to their enemies.

Legolas turned to go back to his watch. As he did so, his eye caught Boromir’s, and for a long moment the Man and Elf held each other’s gaze.

Legolas had never killed a Man. But one day, perhaps, he would.

3. Smoke

Before the gate of Isengard, well-fed on Saruman’s stores and surrounded by his companions, Legolas lay across the rocks, looking up at the sky and singing softly to himself.

It was his nature, and indeed the nature of most Elves, to enjoy the solid heart of the earth, the beauty of living and growing things, and the freshness of the air, whenever a moment could be found to dwell in them, and not to weigh himself down with the troubles of the past, or the fears of tomorrow, no matter how near these things might be. To live for a thousand years, and then another thousand, and another, would become an unbearable torment if yesterday’s pains and injuries could not be put aside. Legolas was himself young for an Elf, although he did not feel so among these brief-lived mortals, and had known very little of pain and loss in his life, and so it was easier still for him to let all thought of war and death and the Ring of Power slip from his mind, and to think only of the clear blue sky, the warmth of the rock beneath his back, a full belly, safety and the company of comrades nearby.

It pleased him that Merry and Pippin were safe and whole, and more, it amused him to find them sitting at Saruman’s gate, well-fed and cheerful and full of tales. It gave him joy that Mithrandir was returned to life and back among them, now off with Théoden and Treebeard, making plans while the foot-soldiers took their ease. It pleased him that Gimli the Dwarf had become a dear friend, and that Aragorn, as near to Elf as mortal could be, was at his side.

It did not please him, however, to find his nostrils filled with the noxious smoke that these strange creatures liked to breathe. He stopped singing, wrinkled his nose, and waved the smoke away with his hand.

He heard Aragorn laugh. “I beg your pardon, Legolas. It was an errant breeze that caught my smoke and carried it to you.”

“Yes, blame the wind that you fill with these foul vapors,” Legolas replied tartly. “I do not understand why you indulge in this unclean habit.”

Aragorn smiled at the Elf. “It’s relaxing, and pleasant. You should try it, before you judge your friends foul and unclean.”

“Elves do not smoke. We find our relaxation in the purity of fresh air.”

“Nothing pure about the air around here,” Merry interrupted. “It’s all orc-stink and broken rock and burning, and if you don’t mind my saying so, needs a bit of good, wholesome pipeweed to clean it up.”

“Indeed, Master Elf,” now Gimli added, “There’s nothing like a good smoke to finish off a fine meal. But I suppose you’d rather eat leaves and breathe grass.”

“You really should try it,” Pippin urged. “You’ll never find finer pipeweed than this.”

“I see I am outnumbered,” Legolas laughed. He sat up and reached toward Aragorn. “Give me your pipe, then, and I shall try it.”

Aragorn handed him the pipe, saying, “Only a little, at first. It takes some getting used to.”

Legolas put the pipe stem in his mouth, and tasted the warm, faint tang of seasoned hardwood, the dark spice of burned pipeweed ash, and Aragorn. It was strange to him, but not entirely unpleasant. Then he drew cautiously upon the pipe. But as soon as the smoke reached his lungs, he began to cough, and his head grew light, as if he were falling from a high cliff. He held out the pipe to Aragorn. “No, I cannot,” he said.

“I told you, it takes getting used to,” Aragorn told him, smiling. “You should not give up so easily.”

It seemed a foolish thing to do, and yet doing foolish things on this fine day did not seem amiss. Legolas waited until his throat had eased, then slowly drew on the pipe again. This time, a little more of the smoke remained in his lungs, and he coughed a little less. Once again, he felt the strange falling sensation, and there were bright spots in his vision. He shook his head to clear it, and nearly lost his balance. He put one hand down on the rocky ground to steady himself, but could not stop the whirling in his head.


He became fascinated by the patterns the minerals formed in the rocks on which he sat. How intricate! How delicate they were! The more he stared, the deeper they seemed to go. He picked one up and held it, feeling the texture of it in his fingers, the warmth of the sun captured in it. He could almost hear it whispering to him. He wondered what it would taste like.


He dropped the rock, and nearly dropped the pipe as well. Then, remembering that he held it in his hand, he put the pipe to his lips and drew another lungful of smoke. He did not cough this time, and this pleased him, although the sensation was still strange to him. “Yes, Aragorn,” he finally replied, studying the creases in the palm of his hand, “What is it?”

“Are you well?”

Legolas looked sharply at the Man, about to make some quick retort, but lost his train of thought as he noticed the perfect blending of the blue of the sky and the grey of the rock in Aragorn’s eyes. “I am quite well. This is….” Had Aragorn’s chin always had that cleft? Or his brow that exact firmness?

“Perhaps you have had enough pipeweed,” Aragorn said, smiling, holding out his hand for his pipe.

Legolas gave it back to him, still distracted by the lines and contours of his companion’s face. Surely, he had seen this Man in all his complexity often enough before? Why now did he suddenly seem so bright and vital? “Enough, indeed. It is foul, as I expected.” As he said this, he became aware that his mouth did reek of ashes, and he grimaced in distaste. “I will drink some wine to rid myself of the taste.” He stood up in order to find the bottle the companions had brought with them.

Then, almost immediately, he found himself sitting again, with Aragorn at his side, holding him by the arm. “I think you had better leave the wine,” Aragorn said. “Here, have some water instead.”

Before he could protest that he knew quite well what he wanted, the first taste of the water Aragorn held to his lips had hit his tongue, and Legolas found himself gulping it down. The waterskin had last been filled from a freshet in Fangorn, and it echoed with memories of that ancient forest, venerable trees and rich earth and deep dark springs, delicious and cool. It tasted as well of the Man who had drunk from it last, and Aragorn had a complicated flavor, strong and noble like fine wine, but with a bitter aftertaste, smoke and meat and mortality.

Losing his thirst, he pushed the waterskin away. It was not fitting that his lips should taste a Man’s; no Elf should mingle so intimately with mortals. Yet one Elf did, one Elf had betrothed herself to this Man, and no doubt knew his mouth more intimately than sharing a wineskin would tell.

“Arwen,” he breathed the name, unaware that he had spoken aloud.

Aragorn looked at him strangely. “What of her?”

Legolas drew back a little, and looked around, puzzled. How had he come to be sitting so close to Aragorn on this rock? Why did his vision refuse to settle, his thoughts jump so quickly from place to place? He found himself staring at Aragorn’s mouth, the redness of his lips. “How can she bear the taste?”

Aragorn’s eyes flashed, and he waited a moment before answering, but when he did, his voice was even. “Of me, you mean? As far as I can tell, she bears it quite well.”

“But you taste of smoke,” Legolas said. Without meaning to, he leaned forward, and sought Aragorn’s lips with his own.

Complicated, he had thought of this Man, and ever more so now that their lips were joined, and Aragorn’s mouth open to his tongue. Legolas drank him in, overwhelmed by the impressions flooding his senses, strength and gentleness, grimness and good-humor, nobility and homeliness, all together like leaves tumbling over the rocks in the waters of a rushing stream. So *quick* he was, this Mortal, his life speeding by him as he greedily sucked at it, so rich with needs and duties and frailties, that he felt almost to be burning up in Legolas’s grasp. Although that was perhaps Legolas’s own heart beating like a bird’s, his own face enflamed. But he must know more, he must have more, before it was too late, and he felt himself tearing at Aragorn’s clothing, desperate to have him.

But Aragorn was pushing him away, with determination but without anger, and there were other hands at his back: Gimli had come around, and was helping Aragorn to subdue him. Confused and shamed, he let go of Aragorn, and allowed himself to be laid back on the rock. Gimli held him by the arm, and stroked his hair, muttering nonsense that must have seemed soothing to a Dwarf, while Aragorn, flushed and shaken, straightened his jerkin.

Then Aragorn offered him a wan but reassuring smile. “Legolas, my friend, you’re drunk on pipeweed. I’m sorry now that I asked you to try it. Please rest, and forgive me my foolishness.”

Legolas heard the words, and understood their meaning, but they seemed not to touch him. “You will die,” he said. He looked at Gimli, but the Dwarf too was mortal, and could not help him. “You will all die.”

“Yes,” Gimli replied simply. “But not for a while, Master Elf. Not today.”

Mortals all around him. He felt that if he closed his eyes, when he opened them they would all be dead. “Too soon,” Legolas said.

“It will wear off, won’t it?” he heard one of the Halflings ask, small voice trembling with apprehension.

“Yes, I’m sure it will,” was Aragorn’s reply. “An hour or two, perhaps.”

Legolas folded his hands across his breast, and let his breathing slow and relax. It would be no trouble for him to lie still for an hour or two.

But he did not close his eyes.


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