Her feet had been noiseless as she raced through the trees, and had they been tracking her with their ears, she would have eluded them. But she bled, and the red splashes that dotted the autumn leaves marked her trail clearly. She could not hold back the flowing stream of crimson running from her left side, though she tried, pressing her hand tightly against the wound as she fled. But at last her steps had faltered, her body unable to push itself any further as the shock of pain and fear sapped her strength.
She came to a stumbling halt beside a rocky outcropping, and she pressed her slim form against it, seeking somehow to force the deep crevices to widen and permit her entry. It did not yield, of course, and she flattened her back against it, her blue eyes wide, anxiously scanning her surroundings. Her breaths came in ragged gasps, and she leaned forward for a moment, resting her hands on her knees as she struggled for air.
Her companions were dead, brutally struck down as they fought to defend her. She alone remained of the small party of elves that had but a short hour ago been singing and laughing as they made their way toward home once more. And alone she was now, as she realized she must turn and face them. There was no other option. Her flight was ended.
Her head snapped to the left, and she lifted a shaking hand, blood-covered, to push back her tangled blonde tresses. The dagger clutched tightly in her grip gleamed dully in the sun, its blade coated with black gore, the fine hilt, inlaid with a delicate design of gold leaves, hidden by her battered fist.
A howling group of at least twenty of them came, their iron boots slamming heavily against the soft bed of Mirkwood's forest floor. The colorful leaves whimpered in distress as they were crushed underfoot. She inhaled sharply, her eyes widening as the cruel glance of the foremost creature locked onto her. He shouted, pointing, and the thunder in her ears increased as they rushed forward.
It was over. Her face turned up toward the autumn canopy far above her head, her gaze sweeping over the lovely shapes of the leaves, and she listened as they wept. Hickory, oak, beech… how she had loved them. Her mouth moved soundlessly, and a single tear slide toward her temple as she stood, head tilted back, bidding farewell to all she had known. She crouched then, eyes scanning the ground before her, and reached with her long fingers toward the fallen leaves. From the jumble of golds and reds she extracted a small green leaf and pressed it to her lips.
Her fingers closed firmly over the hilt of the knife as she rose to her full height. Eyes closed, she listened as the footsteps drew near and separated as they fanned out to surround her. Her feet shifted, the right one sliding forward and planted firmly, the left rotating slightly, and she balanced easily on them both as she steeled herself and raised her head. Waiting silently, her beautiful face grown hard as stone, she lifted her pure, shining eyes and fixed them onto the merciless glitter of the orc captain's cold orbs. For a brief moment time held its breath, and she could hear nothing but the booming of her own heart. And then, with a roar, they were upon her.
She made no sound as she fell.
* * * *
With a strangled gasp, Legolas threw himself clear of the piercing claws of the nightmare, coming half off the bed as he recoiled, his pulse amplified and rushing through his head. His mouth opened as a scream rose within his throat, demanding to be freed, but this time he caught it and forced it back, grating his teeth together painfully. He was determined not to wake Aragorn again. Not this time.
He sat, shuddering violently as the terrified racing of his thoughts pounded against his temples, and he crushed his lids closed as the pain swirled over him. A tear leaked from his eye, tickling him as it slid toward his nose, and with a flash of anger he struck it away. Fighting to control his breathing, he clutched at the blanket with shaking hands and drew it over his bare shoulders. He felt about for the cat but knew he would not find her. She always bolted when he came awake so violently, but usually returned once they both had regained their composure.
The nightmares had returned with the realization of the permanence of his blindness, and for the past week his sleep had been shattered by blurred, horrific images that assailed his mind and left him weeping in the darkness, empty and despairing. Why now, after four years, did the death of his mother come back to torment him so? It was over, it was done, and he thought he had managed to bury the anguish and self-loathing, and go on. Go on… go on to what? What sort of life waits for a blind elf? Perhaps I could take up embroidery…
He choked out a short laugh. It tasted bitter, like the food Aragorn pressed into his unwilling hands. Like the emotions that churned and throbbed in his heart and screamed for release… the lingering sourness of guilt, and a slowly building rage.
Despair continued to accompany the darkness, moving on stealthy feet that made no sound as it crept into his nights and his bed with the sick caresses of an unwelcome lover. Invading his thoughts as he lay awake long after Aragorn had fallen asleep, it stripped him of whatever threadbare mantle of courage he had managed to draw about himself that day. Fear of the dark, as real and palpable as when he was a child, pressed on him in those quiet hours when he was alone and sent him fleeing toward the refuge sleep offered. But there was no escape, for his blindness pursued him even there, mocking him as it forced wide the doors he had frantically closed, beckoning the nightmares to enter and laughing at his tears.
The days were little better. When he woke in the morning, if he had managed to sleep at all, his misery was increased by his exhaustion and a growing, smoldering resentment. His time was spent sitting in a chair before the hearth, wrapped in blankets and eating food that tasted like dust. He felt the heat of the fire on his face and the weakness of his limbs as he sat in the darkness, his hands clenched around the arms of the chair. Directing his unseeing gaze toward the burning logs, he would beg for something to come to him through the impenetrable film that shrouded his eyes, pleading for just one flash of yellow or orange flame to give him hope that his eyes still held some life. But the blackness would not lift. Instead it continued its domination, creeping over him and engulfing his heart just as ruthlessly as it had his vision, and his head would lower, his body bowing beneath the weight of his hopelessness. Why has this happened to me? Why?
He had attempted to walk around the cabin once when Aragorn had gone outside, and had been rewarded with weak, trembling legs that barely took him anywhere before he collided against some piece of furniture and was reprimanded by the angry man, his caretaker, who had come running back after hearing him fall.
"Do not attempt anything so foolish again, Legolas! You are not ready."
He felt empty and useless, a burden to Aragorn and a torment to himself. And so he sat. He ate. He behaved himself. And he listened to his friend moving freely around the cabin, the man's sure footsteps penetrating his ears with an easy, confident rhythm that taunted him as he dwelled in his prison of darkness and infirmity. And whenever Aragorn spoke to him, he answered in a voice seething with resentment and rage that neither friend could recognize, and that broke the hearts of them both.
* * * *
"Why will you not let me go outside?"
"I do not think it wise, Legolas. I would keep you in the cottage for a bit longer."
"You know I am better. And it is late afternoon now. I will be warm enough."
"Yes, but not strong enough. Your body is still weak, and you will tax yourself. I will not have you sicken again."
"I will sicken if I cannot get free of these walls, Aragorn. It is still autumn. You talk as if it is full winter out there. And if we must stay here until spring, you alone cannot possibly handle all of the work that needs doing to ensure our survival. I am no fool. We do not have enough food and firewood. I know this, though you choose not to tell me of these things."
"I did not want to worry you…"
"I worry more when I am left to guess at our situation. I am going outside."
Aragorn stared at the elf. True he was gaining weight again, and he walked around the cabin now with familiarity, having memorized the layout of the room and its sparse furnishings. But his face remained pale, his features tightly drawn, and he knew Legolas still did not feel well. His long fingers continued to seek out his temples, and his unseeing eyes, which had lost none of their inner light and beauty, would grow dark with pain. And the nightmares… Legolas refused to speak of them, but Aragorn knew they tormented the elf and robbed him of the sleep he so badly needed. He feared for his friend, knowing that the elf's frustration could well push him into attempting to take on more than he should.
"Going outside to do what, Legolas? Chop wood?" Aragorn demanded, harshly and without thought. Then he gasped, realizing immediately that the words had been cruel. The elf visibly flinched, and hurt shone in his eyes. His face grew hard, and his intake of breath was sharp. His voice came deliberately, coated with ice.
"An excellent suggestion. I assume the axe is in the barn?"
The elf stepped toward the door, but Aragorn grasped his shoulder and turned him. "Legolas, I am sorry. That was a terrible thing to say to you. I do not know why I said it. But you cannot do this. You will hurt yourself."
Legolas raised his head, and to the astonishment of the ranger, somehow he fixed his glittering eyes on Aragorn's. His voice rang with all the cold authority of an elven-prince. "Release me."
"I will not. You may not go outside, especially now that I know you intend to do something so utterly foolish," Aragorn said angrily as he tightened his grip, intending to steer the elf back to the chair set before the fire.
Legolas began to turn with him, as if in acquiescence, but suddenly he pivoted with a speed that astonished the ranger and attempted to shake off his grip. Aragorn twisted his body, following his friend's movement as the elf ducked under his arm, but Legolas shoved his shoulder against him then, and he found himself stumbling backward as he lost his footing. He fell against the table, his head striking the edge painfully, and landed on his backside, mouth agape, staring up in astonishment at his friend through a haze of red stars.
"Legolas?" he croaked.
The blurry form standing over him moved, and Aragorn scooted back, unsure of what to expect. But Legolas spun away from him and collided with the wall. With a cry of rage he slammed his fist into it. Feeling his way along with his hands the elf paused, resting his forehead against the smooth wood of the door for a moment. Then he jerked it open and was gone.
Aragorn sighed and gingerly touched the back of his head, grimacing as his fingers came back bloody. Pulling a piece of cloth from his pocket, he pressed it against the injury and sat quietly as he collected himself. He leaned to his right, watching through the open doorway as the elf made his way tentatively across the greensward and halted beside the river. Once there, Legolas dropped to his knees and bowed his head.
The ranger climbed to his feet. Crossing to the hearth, he poured some water from a pot onto the cloth and set about cleaning the cut on his head. It was a trifle, not serious, but his thoughts still spun in surprise at what had just occurred. As shocked as he was by Legolas' reaction to his efforts to keep him inside, he was doubly horrified by the words he had thrown at the elf in his moment of anger, and sickened by the hurt he had seen flash across his friend's face. Ai, why did I say that to him? Why did I speak in anger?
He went outside, bearing two cups filled with wine. The fallen leaves crunched under his feet, and Legolas stood as he approached, turning toward him with a look of anguish such as Aragorn had never seen before. His face was streaked with tears. "Forgive me," the elf whispered, and held out his hands. One of them was bleeding, the knuckles torn and bruised. "Tell me I have not lost my friend."
"Never. It would take much more than knocking me on my rear to do that. But it does appear that I underestimated how much strength you have regained," Aragorn said, setting the wine down as he wrapped his friend in a tight embrace. The elf released his breath in a choking sob as he returned it. "Sit, Legolas. It is a fair day. I will not even require that you cover up in a blanket."
Legolas hiccupped slightly as he seated himself on the grass once more, smiling sadly. "Thank the Valar for that. Did I hurt you?"
"No," Aragorn lied. "But I think we must have looked like a pair of absolute fools back there," he said with a chuckle.
The elf's smile widened fractionally and he nodded his head. He ran his sleeve across his eyes. "I expect it will not be sung of by the bards of Imladris as one of our more elegant moments."
"Indeed not. Best they never find out. Such a song would be more suited for a tavern. Have some wine?"
The elf nodded quietly, accepting the cup Aragorn pressed into his hands. "After all you have done for me, it was a shabby way to repay your kindness. This can be no easier for you, Aragorn. I am sorry. I do not know what came over me."
"I must apologize as well, mellon-nin," the ranger said, his voice heavy with regret. "I spoke harshly to you, and my words caused you pain. We are both weary and our tempers are short. We have much to adjust to, and it is only to be expected that our path will not always be smooth." Aragorn gazed at the elf's profile, noting with concern the sorrow on his friend's face. "Legolas, I was wrong to keep you confined. I sought to protect you, but I see now that I have hurt you by not allowing you your freedom. I have feared that you might become injured or sicken again."
"And it is difficult for you to look at me, Aragorn. You have been protecting yourself as well," the elf stated quietly.
Aragorn opened his mouth in surprise as words of protest prepared to spill out, but then he thought past his emotions and clapped his jaw shut. He nodded sadly. "Aye. You still see much, even without the use of your eyes. It does pain me to watch you. It breaks my heart to observe your hesitation when you move, and to see you trip over something I left lying on the floor. When you cast about searching for something you cannot find because I have forgotten to put it back in exactly the right spot..."
"And this morning when I tried to prepare our breakfast I burned my hand," Legolas added.
"Yes. Whenever you have a mishap it grieves me. And angers you. I was trying to spare us both. I berate myself every time I see you falter."
Legolas turned toward the ranger with an expression of bewilderment. "Why?"
"Because I remember that night, though your own recollections of it are marred. I saw the orc watching you as you fought, and I could see that he intended something. I knew not what, but I started toward him. I was too late. Too late, Legolas," Aragorn said. The familiar feeling of guilt rose in his throat, and it sickened him. "Had I gotten there just a moment sooner, I might have been able to stop him before he struck you with the dart."
The elf shook his head, a look of dismay and sadness spreading over his face. "Ai, Aragorn, you should have spoken sooner of this. I never blamed you, and you must not blame yourself. Please…" Legolas reached, seeking the ranger's hand. "Please do not blame yourself. You did your best, and you saved my life. That is too much sorrow to bear, Aragorn. Cast it aside, please."
"You have been so silent, Legolas. So angry. I feared that it was with me."
The elf sighed. "No, not with you, mellon-nin. Only at the restrictions that bind me. There is a part of me that wishes for nothing more than to sit in that chair before the fire and never move again. And it fills me with fear, because it means despair may yet win over my strength. So I try to fight this, though I do not know how." Legolas lowered his voice. "I hate it when I blunder into something and injure myself. Or when I spill water all over the table when all I sought was to fill my drinking cup. Without my eyesight, sometimes I cannot tell where I am, and I feel as though I am falling. I lose my balance. But if I do not get up and try to do things, I will never learn to live with this. I am a warrior no longer, but I do not want to be a burden, Aragorn. Let me contribute somehow, even if I fall a hundred times in the trying." The elf paused, flexing the fingers of his injured hand and sighing. He raised his head suddenly, tilting his face up as if searching the freedom of the skies. Aragorn followed his friend's action and spotted several songbirds, far above them, winging their way south toward warmer climes. Winging toward home. Legolas had heard them, then. He was not completely cut off from the natural world he loved so dearly. Not completely, but enough. What does he feel when he hears them?
"I feel badly, Aragorn," the elf's soft voice brought him back, sounding as if he had read Aragorn's thoughts. "We would be home now, but for my blindness. It has trapped us here, and winter will be upon us soon. I would make it up to you, for all you have done. I know that I will keep you from your beloved this winter… because you stayed with me." He leaned forward and reached toward the stream, resting his bleeding hand in the cool water, and his unbraided hair fell forward, curtaining his face from the man's startled gaze.
"Do you think that I should have abandoned you? What sort of talk is that?" Aragorn demanded. "Of course I chose to stay, my friend. And you would have done the same for me. Together we have always been, Legolas, and together we will go home, when spring returns. Arwen will understand, though I do have concerns that our friends and family will worry when we do not arrive as planned. There is no way to get word to them." Aragorn watched the elf's pale fingertips glide back and forth across the surface, the water parting and swirling around them. A large brown leaf floated against Legolas' hand and he plucked it, dripping, from the water. He rubbed his fingers over it, feeling the sharp edges.
"Oak. How I wish I could see it, Aragorn. The darkness is lonely."
"I know, Legolas. What I would not give to see your sight restored to you. Perhaps Lord Elrond can help…"
"And perhaps he cannot. I dare not trust to hope a second time."
"But you would be welcome in Imladris, as always. There would be a place for you."
"A place for the blind elf of Middle-earth?" Legolas asked, a hard edge creeping into his tone.
"No, not for him, but for Legolas of Mirkwood. The same place you have always occupied, as my friend and companion."
"It would not be the same."
"I know. But I will not permit your blindness to change our plans. I will not allow it to win. We made a vow that we would stand together, whatever the future brings."
"That was before," Legolas said sharply. "I would be a hindrance on your journeys, Aragorn. I cannot go with you now." He turned away and set the leaf back in the water. Aragorn watched it drift from them as it was caught up in the stream's current once more. He placed his hand on Legolas' shoulder.
"You can. Blind or sighted, in the years to come there is still no one else I would rather have by my side, Legolas. Nothing has changed that."
"You cannot be serious. The stealthy ranger - the future king - and his blind companion? I had intended to protect you, to help you in your fight against the Dark Lord. How can I fulfil my promise now? In times of danger, I would shoot you instead of the enemy."
Aragorn sighed, running his hands through his dark hair. He studied the elf, and the irritation mounting in Legolas' expressive face was not lost on him. But he decided to push. "How do you know that? Pick up your bow and find out."
The elf spun to face Aragorn, his eyes narrowing. "It is not lost?"
"No. I carried it when we fled the orcs. It is in the cottage, along with your quiver."
"It is yours now. I will not touch it. It is the weapon of a warrior," Legolas said stiffly, "and not for me."
"You are a still a warrior, Legolas. And your skills will be needed…"
"Leave it!" the elf hissed, a flush of anger spreading over his features. "There is no role for me in that fight now. I can be of no more use to you than I can to my family, even now that I remember…" he broke his words off abruptly and threw his hand up in a gesture of frustration.
"Even now that you remember what?" Aragorn prodded. Legolas ignored him, tilting his head back and closing his eyes, and the ranger saw anew the deep shadows of exhaustion that clung to his friend. He frowned as he looked closely at the elf. "There is more than the blindness here, Legolas. You do not sleep. Your rest is broken by nightmares. Tell me what is wrong. Maybe I can help."
"I will not speak of my dreams, Aragorn," the elf stated, pressing his fingers against his brow.
"You dream of your mother's death."
Legolas exhaled sharply. "Can you not respect my privacy, Aragorn?"
The ranger looked searchingly at his friend. "It is not so private when you scream it in the middle of the night, Legolas," he said gently. "Your fever tore most of it away from you without your knowledge. You spoke of many things when your sickness was at its worst. I do not ask you this out of idle curiosity. You know I would not pry. But it torments you, and I fear for your recovery if you cannot find rest."
There was a sharp ripple on the air, and Aragorn watched the elf turn his face into the breeze, closing his eyes to the caress as it lifted his hair from his shoulders. The afternoon had warmed them, and now the sun began its slow shift into the west. Legolas had drawn back, as if holding his thoughts, and he breathed deeply. "What would you ask of me?" he murmured quietly after a time.
"Does your father blame you?"
The elf stiffened, and an expression of pain passed over his features, though he did not move, keeping his face open to the wind. Then he spoke heavily, each word weighted with sadness. "He grieves yet, and does not know what to do with it. He lost his dearest friend when she died, and there is no one he will talk to now. He is King, and feels as such that he must show no weakness. In his eyes, grief and sorrow are weaknesses. He stands strong, hoping to be impervious, but he dies a little each day. He will open himself to no one. And his wrath and feelings of helplessness grow rather than fade."
"He sounds like another elf I know," Aragorn said softly. "But you did not answer my question."
"We had words. He was hurting, and it is in his nature to lash out when enduring pain. For some people, there is comfort to be found in allotting blame. He did not mean to cause me harm."
"But he did."
The elf's head tilted in an almost imperceptible nod. "Aye, he did. He needed to vent his rage and torment. I was a convenient target, and I opened myself to it, so that his heartache might be eased."
"And because you think you deserved it?"
Legolas flinched, shifting uneasily, and Aragorn heard him swallow. "I should have been there," the elf whispered. "Had I been with her as I originally planned, perhaps I could have turned the orcs away. My presence might have made the difference."
"Had you been with her you would have been killed, Legolas," Aragorn said forcibly. "You told me it appeared that many orcs had attacked your mother's party. She was guarded by some of Mirkwood's most skilled warriors, but they were hopelessly outnumbered. You would have died, too."
Aragorn knitted his brow, reluctant to ask his next question, but needing to hear the answer. "You did not accompany your mother because of my unexpected arrival. You would have been with her but for me. Do… do you ever ponder on that?"
Turning abruptly, the elf set his cup down on the grass, an expression of shock on his face. He extended his hands and Aragorn caught them. "No, never Aragorn. Are you asking me if I blame you for what happened? No, mellon-nin. It was merely coincidence. A heartbreaking one, but none of us were able to foresee what was to come of our decision. You are without blame."
"As are you, Legolas. A short time ago you begged me to forgive myself for feeling I played a part in causing your blindness. You have forgiven your family, though they have caused you pain. But the hurt you bring to yourself is far greater, and far more damaging. I beg you now to forgive yourself. You did not cause your mother's death. And think on this: had you been there, you would have been struck down before her eyes. Had she seen that, her heart would have been torn with grief past bearing, my friend. She was spared that. She did not see her child die."
Legolas bowed his head, saying nothing, but his grip on Aragorn's hands tightened.
The ranger sighed. "Now I know why you drove yourself so hard to try to find the answers to her death. I scarcely saw you in the two years that followed. You were always seeking, on the hunt, though the trail had long since grown cold. You felt the need to make it right, somehow. To redeem yourself. Your family blames me as well, does it not?"
The elf nodded. His face grew clouded as he dropped his hands. He did not speak, but ran his fingertips along the blades of grass, and Aragorn waited quietly for him to resume. "My friendship with you has complicated things," Legolas said at last. "But they had no business turning their anger on you. It was not right, and I would not permit them to soil your name in Mirkwood." He sighed heavily. "It was unfortunate that things happened as they did, and you were there at that time. The last years have not been easy. Their grief is still fresh, but I have hopes that someday they will come to have a change of heart, and learn to see you as I do, as a friend. They are not bad people, Aragorn, nor are they bent on revenge. Sadness and anger still have the upper hand, but they are doing the best they can to continue and see to the needs of our people. It will be a long road. Aragorn…" the elf hesitated, and his expression changed, a look of confusion mingled with fear touching his face. The ranger looked at him with growing concern.
"What is it, Legolas?"
"The night we were attacked… I cannot remember much of it. I think my eyes were failing even then… but we fled, yes? I sickened, and you were helping me."
"Yes," Aragorn said. "What of it?"
"Did you carry a blade in your hand? A strange blade, not your own?"
"My own sword was lost. I carried an orc weapon."
"Do you still have it?"
"Aye. It is inside the house."
"Would you bring it to me?" the elf asked.
"Of course, if you wish." Aragorn rose, feeling confused, and made his way to the cottage. Shortly after their arrival he had cleaned the gore from the weapon, wrapped it in an old rag and set it in a corner, where it had promptly been forgotten. He carried the sword now to Legolas, who sat cross-legged on the grass, waiting for him, and laid it across his knees. The elf carefully unwrapped it, setting the cloth aside, and ran his sensitive fingertips over the weapon. He inhaled deeply and his eyes squeezed shut.
"Aye, this is it. Straight blade, very long, single-edged, and designs are etched into the flat. They are not words, but images. Images of death… the faces are twisted in agony," the elf murmured as Aragorn stared at him in astonishment. A rush of apprehension crept down the ranger's spine as he leaned closer to gaze at the weapon. "The hilt is heavily ornamented," Legolas continued, bending his head over it as his hands swept along the pommel. "But not with jewels or anything of real value… only stones of black, set deep, and a blood-red line twines around them."
Aragorn gasped. "How do you know this? Do you remember that I carried it?"
"Only recently have I thought that you might have carried such a blade when we fled. But I have seen its like before. In my dreams."
Aragorn's heart began pounding with a strange dread, and he glanced at his friend in sudden fear. "Why do you dream of this sword, Legolas?" he asked in a low voice.
"In my dreams I have seen it raised, glittering against a sun-drenched sky, and, with a flash, descend to strike me down." The elf shuddered, and his hands tightened on the weapon lying across his lap. He drew a long, quivering breath. "The images were so confusing, so blurred… but gradually they became clearer, Aragorn. For the past number of nights, rather than felling me, this blade has struck down my mother."
"I think, because I have been sick with fever and my head has been hurting me so, it… it had taken me a long time to separate dream from reality. The nightmares were so terrifying, and I tried to push it all away from me. I have dreamt of orcs, and I pursued them, but they always escaped me. I have dreamt of my mother again and again..." Legolas flexed his shoulders, moving restlessly as if a heavy weight had come to settle on him. He continued slowly, his voice laced with pain. "She was found a considerable distance from the other elves in her party. We do not know if she had been singled out, or had somehow managed to flee. At the spot where our warriors had fallen the ground told the story of a terrible struggle. They fought hard to defend her, and paid with their lives. In the end she was alone. They ran her down, Aragorn. The orcs ran her down like an animal. She found herself against a wall of rock, and there she was forced to make her final stand."
Aragorn sat silently, his eyes brimming as horrifying images of the elf-queen, alone and fighting for her life, seared their way into his mind. Legolas had told him none of this before, and he had never dared ask. He listened, wrapped in misery as his friend continued.
"When my brothers found her, a blade exactly like this one had been left in… in her chest. We sought them, and their trail seemed to go north, but then it broke apart and we could find no trace after that. We directed our attention toward the south, from where trouble had always come before. It would appear we were looking in the wrong place. It never occurred to us to turn our eyes toward the Grey Mountains." Legolas picked the blade up and held it high. Its killing edge burned with red fire in the dying rays of the sun, and to Aragorn's tear-dazzled eyes it seemed as though blood had suddenly and horribly spread along its length. The elf's voice hardened, and the fingers gripping the weapon grew white. "Now I understand the meaning of my dreams. At last I have a clue. And I am blind," he laughed bitterly. "I cannot get home to tell my father, nor can I seek the orcs on my own. But they are here. They are here, Aragorn. My mother's killers came from the Northlands. And I can do nothing."
Legolas rose to his feet. Long he stood, pale and silent as
the autumn moon, clutching the blade in his hands. Then he spun and
drove it with all his force into the ground. Without a word, he turned
away and started toward the cottage.