LOTR 2: Caran Annún: Red Sunset

Esse Lór: In Dreams

Limb-dhol cóon: fish-head prince!

"Caran Annún" (Red Sunset)

Chapter Four

Esse Lór (In Dreams)

Mary stood on the mountain, out on a red rock that jutted out into the air. Before her spread a vast mountain range, stretching high and far into the distance, red against the blue sky, their sides partially forested with deep green. About her sunlight shone down in golden ribbons, and a breeze blew through her hair and across her face, carrying up with it from the foot of the mountains spices and sweetness, and she smiled, closing her eyes, and she spread her arms wide.

"Cen-im le mel hin ered." See I (why) you love these mountains.

Mary turned, dropping her arms. Legolas stood behind her, his golden hair shining and blowing in the sunlit wind, and his blue eyes were clear and warm, a small smile on his face.

"Mal im ceri-ú-sinte hain." But I do not know them.

"Hain ered o nin bar." They (are) mountains from my home. Mary turned back to the view before her, and glanced down to see the earth dropping out from beneath her, and she thought she would feel dizzy– but she didn't. "E Ondren Ered n-hain eneth." The Rocky Mountains be their name. She laughed. "Ú–ava finwe, na-ha?" Not very creative, is it?

"Lothron-n- ú. Mal na-cerú-maer. " Maybe not. But it does fit.

Legolas came to her side, and breathed deep the fresh mountain air, feeling the sun warm his face.

"Ceri-le sinte vín thel-sí, sinome?" Do you know our purpose here, in this place?

He turned to her dark, amber eyes, looking up at him questioningly. "Im ceri-ú-sinte, meld er." I do not know, dear one.

"Mana brag?" What happened?

He looked back out across the mountain view before him, the giants rising before him and away from him, red and glowing like fire in the sunlight, green trees dotting their steep sides here and there. "Le beleth." You (were) dying. He finally said. "A im maquen-na eless-le." And I ask(ed) to heal you.

Mary glanced around them. "Ah. Im host-ha ú-glenn-sie man, huh?" Ah. I gather it (did) not go so good, huh?

Legolas chuckled at her matter-of-fact assessment. "Im ú-tanca. Im ceri-ú-sinte alhi na-menel." I (am) not sure. I do not know if this is heaven.

Mary looked around again, and her nose wrinkled. "What an interesting conundrum."

Legolas smiled.

Mary looked at him from the corner of her eye. "Why did you?"

Legolas looked at her in surprise, his blue eyes widening slightly, and for a moment he found himself at a loss for words. Why had he? The center of his chest started to burn, as with an ember, yet he ignored it, attributing it to the way her eyes were boring into his, afire with sunlight. "You died for me."

Her eyes held his for a while, and he had the distinct feeling that she was reading him. "Yes," she finally said quietly. "I did."

Suddenly there was a great pull, and Mary felt a sudden heat in her veins. There was another pull, and her blood came to life, pulsing through her like pounding drums. One glance at Legolas told her he felt it as well. He looked at her.

"He is calling us."

Aragorn sat beside the bed, eyes closed, hand upon his patient's pale forehead, his other upon the patient's white hand. Gandalf stood behind, face grim and eyes dark, his arms crossed before him. At last Aragorn sighed, and stirred as though awakening from some enchantment, and ran his hand over his face, grey and lined with weariness.

"Well?" Gandalf asked. Behind, in the doorway, two hobbits shifted nervously, and a dwarf peered over their curly heads.

Aragorn opened his eyes and looked at them. "It has been long and hard." He said. "And I do not have much strength left."

Gandalf frowned, and his gaze moved from the figure in the bed to a figure in the bed beside, covered with a white sheet.

"Frodo and Sam I have called back," Aragorn said. I expect they shall sleep a very long time."

Pippin swallowed, his eyes downcast and sorrowful. "Poor Mary." He whispered, looking at the figure covered in the sheet. "What did Legolas try to do?" he asked Gandalf meekly.

"He tried to do a thing that has not been done by any elf in my lifetime." Gandalf said, his face and eyes grim. "He gave his life to another, or tried to. To my understanding only one elf– long before, in the beginning of the world– ever attempted this."

Pippin waited as Gandalf grew silent. When the wizard did not speak again Pippin asked, "And– what happened?"

Gandalf's gaze darkened. "He died."

All were silent, staring in sadness at the two still figures on the beds, then the hobbits and Gimli turned and left to go to their own beds. Gandalf stayed for a moment longer, then he too left.

Aragorn stood, then, and glancing at the figure in the bed his gaze grew sorrowful, and he slowly reached down, and took hold of the white sheet lying at the foot of the bed, and gently he drew it across the still form.

Suddenly Mary's eyes opened and she gasped, her body arching up. Her awakening was so sudden that Aragorn was unprepared, and he jumped with a shout. As her hands flailed about, grasping for something, he recovered himself and caught them, holding them still upon the bed.

"Mary," he called. "Mary, look into my eyes."

Dark eyes wide with shock and confusion met his, and her mouth opened in a question.

"You have been in a deep sleep for a week now, lady." Aragorn said gently. "Be still. Let yourself fully waken."

For a moment she was still, staring at him. Then she surged up on the bed, pushing him aside, her eyes darting about the room. "Legolas…"

"He is here," Aragorn said, pointing to his right and the other bed.

Before he could catch her Mary had stumbled from her bed and over to Legolas', clambering onto the mattress to kneel beside his still form. Taking his hand in hers she saw how pale his skin was, and she pushed the golden hair back from his forehead, her eyes stricken. "Legolas, hlar-nin. Tul-at-ni galad. Tul-at-na nin!" Legolas, hear me. Come back to the light. Come back to me!

Aragorn watched her as she repeated the last words over again, in a whisper, and again, and again. Suddenly a great breath filled the elf's body, and eyes like blue sapphires opened and looked upon her fair face. "Mary." He whispered. "You have not died."

She laughed, her shoulders shaking even as tears filled her eyes. "No, you limb-dhol cóon!"

His eyes widened in surprise at her words.

"You're lucky you didn't die, either." She said, shaking her finger at him. "I swear, if you ever do…!"

Aragorn reached their side and took her shoulders, trying to contain his laughter at the bemused look on his elven friend's face. "Come now, Lady Mary." He said. "You and Legolas have both been through a great ordeal. Do not overtax yourself."

"How can I overtax myself?" Mary asked as she was helped off the bed and led to her own. "I was just talking."

"Indeed. And quite passionately, too." Aragorn helped her into her own bed and covered her with a blanket. "Lay there and rest a while, until I say otherwise." Pointing a warning finger at her, and smiling inwardly at the defiant gleam of her eyes, Aragorn returned to Legolas' side. "And how are you, mellon nin?" he asked quietly.

Legolas, who had been looking at the dark haired maiden in the bed next to his, looked up quickly. "I am well, Aragorn." He assured the man. "How long have we been asleep?"

"A week." Aragorn said. "We thought we had lost you. What were you thinking?"

Legolas closed his eyes. "I was not." He said, his voice a whisper.

Aragorn paused a moment. That was not the answer he had expected from his elven friend.

Late that night, while Legolas slept, Mary lay on her side in her own bed, watching him. She thought back to what she and Legolas had been through, and of their time on the mountain. She did not know where they had been, or what exactly had happened there. Perhaps, she mused, it was a place deep within their minds, or a place their spirits retreated to while their bodies healed. Her hand went to her chest; there was not even a scar.

Meld er. Dear one. A term of endearment. He had almost died, should have died, to save her. Gandalf had visited that day, and in quiet words had explained what Legolas had done. How it was not a thing anyone believed to be possible. How most thought it was only a legend that an elf had done so before. How the drain on his life should have killed him; and yet, for some reason, it did not. There had been a bemused look on Gandalf's face as he related this last part, and his eyes kept flickering between the elf and her.

It seemed a great while before Frodo and Sam finally awoke, and when they did there was a great celebration and much honor bestowed upon them. A feast was prepared, and a minstrel sang of Frodo of the Nine Fingers and the Ring of Doom. Then all retired for a spell, to change and prepare for the evening feast, and then there was laughter and eating and wine and music, and Mary was requested to play upon a fiddle, and she did, and the melody she wrought from it was akin to some spirit's song, or the cries of the sea gulls, and it played upon the heart strings of all present.

It was late, and the moon rose in her sky and shone down on them with a soft light. Frodo, Sam, Merry, and Pippin, and Gandalf walked and talked under the trees of Ithilien, and presently Legolas and Gimli joined them. Stories were told and shared, each of his own adventures, and at the end of it all Frodo and Sam felt their heads were all a whirl.

It was only when they had told all there was to tell and basked for long hours in each others company that Mary finally joined them. Frodo stood as she approached, and bowed. "You are the Lady Mary?"

She returned his bow. "I am." She smiled at him. "We have not yet properly met, Master Frodo Baggins."

"No, we haven't." Frodo agreed, his eyes light with the merriment of the day. "Yet I have heard much of you, and the story my friends tell amazes me."

"As your story amazes me." Mary glanced at Sam, who was staring at her with wide eyes, and he blushed at being caught. "And you, Master Samwise Gamgee. I am honored to meet you."

"No more than I am to meet you, m'lady." Sam said, quickly bowing. "It's not every day a hobbit gets to meet a– a prophetess."

A slight blush crept into her cheeks. "Perhaps not. But it's not every day that a hobbit does what no man could, and becomes a hero of all Middle Earth."

Sam's cheeks grew pink, and he ducked his head, mumbling something about how it weren't him that carried the ring, yet it was clear he was pleased.

Gandalf rose. "The hands of the King are hands of healing, dear friends, but you went to the very brink of death ere he recalled you, putting forth all his power, and sent you into the sweet forgetfulness of sleep." He smiled kindly at Frodo and Sam, who looked at him reproachfully. "And though you have indeed slept long and blessedly, still it is now time to sleep again."

As the hobbit made to protest, Gimli interrupted them. "And not only Sam and Frodo here, but you too, Pippin." He pointed at the youngest hobbit, his face stern, yet his dark eyes twinkled. "I love you, if only because of the pains you have cost me, which I shall never forget! Nor shall I forget finding you on the hill of the last battle. But for Gimli the Dwarf you would have been lost then. But at least I know now the look of a hobbit's foot, though it be all that can be seen under a heap of bodies. And when I heaved that great carcass off you I made sure you were dead. I could have torn out my beard! And it is only a day yet since you were first up and abroad again. To bed now you go. And so shall I."

Pippin admitted defeat. "Very well, I shall go." He said. "But only if you walk with us, Gimli."

"That I shall do." The dwarf said, smiling warmly.

"And I shall walk in the woods of this fair land, which is rest enough." Legolas said. He looked around him at the trees. "In days to come, if my Elven-lord allows, some of our folk shall come; and when we come it shall be blessed, for a while. For a while. A month, a life, a hundred years of Men. But Anduin is near, and Anduin leads down to the Sea." A faraway look entered his eye. "The Sea." He whispered. In a quiet voice he began to sing, walking away through the trees.

"To the Sea, to the Sea! The white gulls are crying,

The wind is blowing, and the white foam is flying.

West, west away, the round sun is falling.

Grey ship, grey ship, do you hear them calling,

The voices of my people that have gone before me?"

As his voice faded away into the night air the companions became aware of another voice, picking up where his left off, so quiet they could almost not hear it:

"I will leave, I will leave the woods that bore me;

For our days are ending and our years failing.

I will pass the wide waters lonely sailing.

Long are the waves on the Last Shore falling,

Sweet are the voices in the Lost Isle calling,

In Eressëa, in Elvenhome that no man can discover,

Where the leaves fall not; land of my people for ever."

Mary looked up from where she had leaned against the trunk of a tree, her hands behind, her eyes staring through the shadows to follow the figure of the elf disappearing through the trees. Frodo tipped his head, his eyes curious. Yet when she looked at him he bowed, extending his hand in a wide arc before him. "My lady," he said. "I take my leave for the night. Shall we see each other tomorrow?"

Mary smiled. "We shall, Master Frodo."

Then Merry and Pippin left with Gimli, and then Frodo and Sam with Gandalf, who paused a moment at her side. "You too should get some rest," he said, his eyes kind as they gazed down at her.

Mary glanced up at him, and nodded. "I will. But I would like to walk a while, first."

Gandalf nodded, and smiled. Then he left with the hobbits.

Mary wandered through the trees, hearing the music of a night bird high among the leaves, and a gentle wind– its scent sweet from the scarlet flowers of the trees– wound its way around and about her. She could smell the waters of the Anduin the further she walked, and as she walked she began to sing.

"When the cold of winter comes

Starless night will cover day

In the veiling of the sun

We will walk in bitter rain

But in dreams

I can hear your name

And in dreams

We will meet again."

Soon the trees parted before her, and she stood upon the bank of the great river, sparkling and glittering in the moon and starlight. It stretched on endlessly, flowing ever constant southwest towards the sea. As she stood upon the bank, gazing out across it, a gull flew overhead– strange though it was for a gull to be flying so late at night– and it gave a lonely call that echoed through the air, flying high above the trees, haunting and strange. Mary stared at it, and suddenly a terrible pain flared within her heart, and great longing and desire, and she found her gaze pulled and held southwest, towards the sea, and the sound of the river grew loud in her ears, and within it and within the gull's cry she almost heard voices, beckoning her, urging her on, pulling her in. She felt not the cold of the water as her bare foot dipped into it, nor did she feel the current reach up and wrap about her legs as she stepped, drawing her deeper.

"When the seas and mountains fall

And we come to end of days

In the dark I hear a call

Calling me there

I will go there

And back again…"

The gull circled above her, its cries growing in her ears– they were more urgent, more insistent, almost in warning, becoming loud and sharp. Still the music of the water filled her mind and her ears, and Mary followed it, not hearing her name called behind her.

Suddenly strong arms encircled her like iron bands, and she was drawn out of the river, and she could hear nothing but the water calling to her. In vain she struggled against the arms that held her. She was laid upon the bank, and above her wheeled the gull in circles. Something covered her ears and a shadow obscured the night sky from her vision. All became silent.

As though waking from a dream Mary blinked. Legolas crouched over her, his slanted elven eyes mere slits with worry, and his hands covered her ears, blocking out all sound. His golden hair hung down about his face, and brushed against hers.

How long Legolas held her there, with her ears covered, she did not know. After what seemed like forever he glanced up at the sky, as though searching for something, and seeming satisfied he removed his hands from her ears. Mary heard the water yet again, but it was only the sound of it rushing by, and the gull was gone. Her chest no longer burned, but it ached, and she sat up slowly.

"What happened?"

His face was grim. "The sea-longing." He said.

Mary's brows drew together in confusion. "I don't understand."

"Nor do I." Legolas held out his hand. "Come. Let us find Gandalf."

Gandalf woke instantly when they found his tent, and his eyes gazed at her curiously as Legolas explained what had happened, and then as Mary told her side. "Most interesting." He murmured, pulling out his pipe and tobacco.

"Gandalf, how can this be?" Mary asked, sitting cross-legged on the floor. "I'm not an elf."

Gandalf took several puffs on his pipe as he lit it, eyeing her. "Ah," he said, "But you were given the life of an elf, were you not?"

Mary's eyes widened, and Legolas turned to him in surprise. "Surely you don't think…?" he exclaimed.

Gandalf lifted his shoulders, blowing out some smoke. "I do not know. This has never happened before." He looked at them. "You gave her your own life and strength to heal her. Anything is possible."

Over the next few days Mary thought over Gandalf's words, and focused on herself, to see if she could sense any kind of– difference in her. Yet she felt none, save for the longing she now felt to go to sea.

When they returned to Minas Tirith, Mary stood in the back and watched as Aragorn was welcomed by the people of Gondor, and crowned king. In the days that followed she settled herself in the women's wing of the palace, and she helped where she could in the people's efforts to restore their city. It was many days, long and weary days, before she saw Legolas again. One night she stood out on the wall, leaning against it, and gazing out across the plains, and out towards Anduin. After a long while she felt a presence beside her, and a warmth filled her, and she smiled.

"Veduí, Héri Mary." He said. Greetings, Lady Mary.

"Veduí, Haryon Legolas." Greetings, Prince Legolas.

There was silence then, as each rested in the others company.

"Manen nalyë?" he asked. How are you?

"Im maer." She replied. I'm well.

She felt his eyes upon her. "Sanda?" he whispered. Truly?

Mary glanced down, hiding a smile at his concern, and then looked up to meet his gaze. "Sanda." Truly.

He tipped his chin, his face relaxed and quiet, and he looked out across the plains. "Aragorn na man aran." Aragorn is a good king.

"É" Indeed.

"Ananta ho darth-an qua." But yet he waits for something.

Mary did not bother to hide this smile, and bit her bottom lip, leaning forward against the wall.

"Le sinte mana ha na." You know what it is.

"Im ceri." I do.

Legolas glanced at her from the corner of his eye, carefully keeping his face and his voice indifferent. "Anír na nar-meldir?" Wish to tell a friend?

Mary shook her head, her eyes dancing. "Nope."

"The war is over. There is no more danger."

"Yet now there is the pleasure of surprise!"

Legolas tried to hide his exasperation at her teasing tone. The lady enjoyed playing games far too much, he thought, a touch of a smile curving his mouth.

As the days, and then the weeks, continued Legolas and Mary continued to meet upon the wall, or walk through the gardens. Their time together was filled with laughter and talk, and it was most enjoyable, and both were at peace, and both wondered at the bond of friendship that had formed. Many times Gimli would join them, and sometimes the hobbits, or Gandalf, or even Aragorn. Yet there were those few precious times when it was just the two of them, and they could speak together, or else be silent and know that the silence was alright.

Then one night, as Mary entered the dining hall for the evening meal, she saw Legolas at his place at the high table, with Aragorn and Gandalf, and Gimli beside, and the four hobbits. Now that there was no more war Legolas dressed as his royal title allowed, with a circlet of mithril upon his head, and he looked every bit the prince that he was. And suddenly Mary felt a hand clench her heart, and her joy dimmed. For suddenly she realized that she could never be a part of that world. All that she had was given to her by the grace of the Fellowship and Aragorn alone; by herself she had nothing, and was nothing. With a heavy heart and downcast face she then approached the table, where they had set aside a seat for her. Legolas noticed her coming, and turned to greet her with a smile, but his smile was halted by the shadow in her eyes. When she sat down she smiled at him, and laughed and talked merrily with all those around as she was wont to do, but he noticed that the light never reached her eyes, and he wondered what had happened.

As soon as the meal was over Mary excused herself, and when she had gained the halls and was out of sight she fled to her room, and locked the door, and sat on her bed and pondered. She struggled within herself, with her desire to stay, and with the reality that she could not. Yes, Aragorn could allow her to live in the palace, could make her a lady of the court. Yet Mary knew that Legolas would soon enough come to live in Ithilien, and be always around. Mary hugged herself, cursing against fate, that she should find love only to have it torn away. She knew she could not bear it to be so close to him if they were to be apart. Dressing for bed she pulled back the covers and slid beneath them, rolling to her side.

The hand on her chest fisted, crushing the cloth of her nightgown in her fingers. She had known her own feelings for a long time, but had never thought of the gaping difference in their social status. Her eyes welled with tears, and she turned her face into the pillow. She had loved him before ever they had met, and since then her love had grown.

Yet it could never be.

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