Legolas listened with a wan smile as Aragorn launched into yet another retelling of the Corsair ships. Every year the story became more fantastic. In this latest version, Aragorn, Gimli, and he had sailed the fleet to the Pelargir, leapt off at the docks and taken on an army of orcs with the Dimholt dead rampaging through the Pelennor behind them. Oh, Eru! Now Legolas was taking on a Mûmak single-handed, scrambling up the leg of the enormous beast in the heat of battle, coolly shooting and disposing of the Southron riders, then killing the creature with a three arrow shot to the brain and sliding down its trunk to give the waiting Gimli a cocky little nod. Who did Aragorn think he was, Glorfindel or something?
He rolled his eyes and when they came back around he saw Arwen glaring at him with the look that had become so familiar to him of late. Ever since Aragorn, in his dotage, had begun telling tales of his peripatetic youth. . . and middle age. . . and his o’er topping of what Men called “the hill” Arwen wore a perpetual frown on her lovely face whenever Legolas was in the room. He made the mistake of telling her once that it was giving her wrinkles and barely escaped the heavy silver candlestick she hurled at him in reply.
How anyone could think a man who had traveled the world almost from the moment of his majority could remain celibate for nearly seventy years was beyond him, but clearly Arwen had harbored this delusion. Legolas had heard from Elrohir how she always bragged her dancing had enchanted Aragorn so much he fell madly in love with her at first sight, which had made them both laugh. Arwen was pretty enough but she possessed what the Sindar snickeringly referred to as “Noldor rhythm”.
At any rate, Legolas could take a hint. He told Aragorn he was going to have to cut his visit short and would be leaving on the morrow. Aragorn was disappointed but Arwen’s good humor returned at once. She laid a hand on the king’s arm and gave him a warm smile. As Legolas retreated he heard behind him a low snarl and a sharp little yelp and knew Aragorn was paying the price for checking out his ass as he walked away.
Every room in the palace had a great view, and the one from Legolas’s room was no exception. Even in the dark he could see the Anduin in the distance, snaking its way over the plain like a ribbon of silver. The Anduin, where he had first heard the call of the gulls and fallen prey to the sea longing that lay dormant in the blood of all full Elves. He didn’t envy Arwen much but he did envy her the mortality that allowed her to remain in comfort upon the shores of Middle-earth. All right, so “comfort” was a relative concept but at least she didn’t have to worry about sailing a sea that had a reputation for sundering. He put the whole thing from his mind and steeled himself to fight it another day. Arwen wasn’t going to get rid of him that easily.
The next morning he awoke to a raucous cry and opened his eyes to see a seagull sitting on his windowsill. The bird stood on the one leg it possessed and regarded him with a jaundiced, beady eye. While seagulls weren’t common in Gondor there were occasional sightings as they made their way up the river in search of food. Just his luck this straggler should find his window to perch on.
“Oh, crap,” Legolas muttered as tendrils of longing worked their way up from his belly, threatening to strangle him with the desire for the sea, “I need to go to the Havens.”
Fortunately, Aragorn’s memory had deteriorated to the point he wouldn’t know if he had been entertaining visitors the previous evening or “entertaining” a noble’s daughter in Ecthelion II’s court, so he was able to slip out of the palace without a long, strained farewell to the royal couple. Legolas stopped by the kitchens on his way to the stables and charmed the cook out of an egg and tomato sandwich and a few road rations before making his way to the stables. His horse seemed as restless as he felt, stamping and whinnying at his approach. Legolas gave him a handful of sugar cubes, saddled him up, and was soon on his way.
As he rode across the plains toward Rohan, the seagull swooped over his head, screeching and circling him. “What?” Legolas asked it as it came within inches of his head on one downward dive. “Shoo! Go back to the river!” But the bird continued to follow him for nearly an hour before giving up and winging back toward the White City.
“That’s pretty heavy handed, Manwë,” he muttered, “even for you.” His horse snorted in agreement.
When he reached Rohan he stopped off at Aglarond where he was greeted in royal fashion by Gimli. “So you have come to partake of the legendary hospitality of the Dwarves, old friend,” he said, clapping Legolas heartily on the butt. He always pretended it was as high as he could reach but Legolas had his doubts. He had seen Gimli play a popular Dwarven game that required the players to jump up and put a ball into a miner’s basket hung high on a cave wall and Gimli had game.
“I’m afraid not, Gimli,” Legolas said. He looked solemn. “It is time.”
Gimli looked surprised for a moment then nodded. “So you are going to sail at last.”
“Yes, but not alone. Come to the Havens with me.”
“Me? What would I do in Valinor? My home is here.”
“You could meet Aulë and chat about iron, or whatever metal you people are working these days, you could be the first to mine Taniquetil, you could go on a shopping spree on Rodyn Drive in Tirion and spend some of the money you’ve been hoarding. . .”
“Whatever you do, don’t try to sway me with flattery,” Gimli said sardonically.
“Come on. Please?” Legolas begged. “Don’t make me have to face my crazy grandparents alone.”
“Can’t you just avoid them?”
“Not a chance. Granddad has been sending me a savings bond from Valinor via Great Eagle every begetting day since I was born. I have to at least drop in and thank him.”
“Ah, Elves and their customs. Some things about your folk will always remain a mystery to me. Well, I suppose I’m quite ready for another adventure. Things have been pretty dull around here since we got rid of the Balrog.”
“What? There was a Balrog here?”
“We went a little too deep when delving the swimming pool and there he was, lying there asleep. He had missed the whole war and everything. We just rerouted the water we were going to use for the pool and doused him until he went out. Then we mopped him up and dumped him in the culvert out by Helm’s Deep. Never had to draw a single sword.”
“Dwarves. Always taking the easy way out.” Legolas shook his head.
“We may not have the theatricality of the Elves but we get the job done,” Gimli replied with a shrug. “So, when are you planning on making the journey to the Havens?”
“I have already begun. I just stopped by here first to get you to come with me, but I have time to stay a few days, take in a feast or two.”
“You’re in luck. You just happened to stop by in time for our feasting season.”
“And when is it not feasting season in Aglarond?”
“For a good three days during Cerweth,” Gimli laughed.
Legolas found the feast to be one of the best in recent memory and he was a bit tipsy when he fell into bed that night. He dreamed of gulls crying, waves crashing, and green, undying lands. When he awoke it was to a particularly harsh cry of a gull calling him home. Literally. For when he opened his eyes there at the foot of his bed perched the one-legged seagull. “Come home, Legolas,” it said, then flew up the chimney and was gone.
Shaken, Legolas leapt out of bed and ran to the chimney, looking up into the darkness. He couldn’t see a thing but he thought he heard, as though from a distance, laughter. But the bird had actually been there, he was sure of it. Legolas didn’t know how it was possible, but he knew what he had to do. He ran to Gimli’s room and pounded on his door. Gimli answered it looking a bit frayed at the edges from his part in the feasting the night before.
“Legolas. What in the name of Durin’s beard is going on?”
“Get your things together, we’ve got to go. Now!”
“Now? Are you out of your Elven mind?”
“It’s the gulls,” Legolas babbled, “they’re calling me home.”
“Gulls? In Aglarond? That’s impossible.”
“I’m telling you I saw one, just now, in my room.”
“In your room, under a mountain,” Gimli looked skeptical.
“It. . . it must have come down the chimney,” Legolas said.
“Of course it did,” Gimli said. “Perfectly reasonable.”
Legolas leaned his shoulder against the doorframe and sighed. “I did see it - and it talked.”
Gimli pursed his lips and said nothing.
“All right.” Legolas gave up. “It might have been a dream. But I’m telling you I saw this same gull in Gondor. It practically followed me here.”
“The sea longing is that bad is it?”
“I’ve fought it since the Pelargir. I don’t know how much longer I can hold out.”
Gimli looked him over and Legolas was sure he must look a fright. One of his hairs had escaped his braid when he’d jumped out of bed. He had never felt so scruffy and unkempt.
“Give me a couple of hours to get things in order here and we will go,” Gimli said. “And redo your braid. You look like a wild man.”
And so the two made ready and were soon riding at a swift pace toward Mithlond. When they stopped for the night they made a small fire. Legolas hunted up a couple of rabbits for their dinner while Gimli chopped some firewood with his axe. They spent the evening swapping stories and singing songs before Legolas bedded down by the fire and Gimli took the first watch. He woke Legolas for his turn and slept soundly until dawn when he was awakened by a strangled cry. He jumped up to see Legolas staring up at lightening sky, his face pale as a wraith and two hairs sticking out of his braid.
“What is it?” Gimli asked.
“It’s the gull again.” Legolas pointed up. “See!”
Gimli looked up at the sky. “Where?”
“It’s there! Right there!” Legolas was shouting and pointing.
“I see a bird,” Gimli said, “but it’s very small.”
“That’s because it’s so far away. Mortal eyes aren’t as good as Elf eyes. . .”
As he spoke, a bluebird descended and landed on Gimli’s shoulder.
“Is this your seagull?” Gimli asked with a grin.
Legolas sulked all the way to the Shire.
They stopped in Hobbiton on their way through the Shire and had lunch with Sam’s family. It took two days and by the time they continued on even Legolas had gained ten pounds.
When they reached Mithlond, and saw the towers and the big grey ships at anchor in the harbor, Legolas felt the sea longing shoot through him like a bolt of lightning. The very air was imbued with a sense of expectation and excitement that made him want to race up the gangplank of the first ship he saw. He might have done just that had a tall Elf with silver hair and a beard to match not accosted him as he approached the pier.
“I am Círdan, Lord of Mithlond. May I help you?” he asked.
“We’re here to sail on the next ship leaving the Havens,” Legolas replied.
Círdan pulled out a ledger and flipped it open. “Name?”
“Uh. . . Legolas.”
“Legolas of Gondolin? Welcome! I’ve been waiting ages for you. Just let me mark you down for the next ship out.”
“No, not Legolas of Gondolin. Legolas of Mirkwood. Legolas Greenleaf.”
“Greenleaf? But doesn’t the name Legolas . . .?”
“Look, that’s not important now. This is my friend Gimli and I, we, need to be on the next ship leaving. I don’t suppose Dwarves go for half fare?”
Círdan snapped the book shut with a thump and looked down at Gimli with disdain. “Dwarves do not go for half fare. Dwarves do not go at all.”
“Now see here!” Gimli and Legolas said in unison.
Círdan waved his hand “It doesn’t matter anyway. If you haven’t made previous arrangements we cannot accommodate you. We’re booked up until 1922 of the Fifth Age.”
“But you just said you were waiting for Legolas of Gondolin, couldn’t I just. . .”
“Certainly not!” Círdan broke in. “Suppose I gave you his reservation and he showed up tomorrow. Besides, all tickets are nontransferable.”
“There are tickets?” Legolas said. “You mean to say you actually sell tickets for the ships? Why has no one mentioned this before?”
“It’s in all the histories,” Círdan said.
“My father, King Thranduil, has a library full of histories and I’ve read them all. There’s not a single mention in any of them of buying a ticket for the grey ships.”
“I meant the Noldorin histories,” Círdan sniffed.
“Please, you don’t understand. I’ve been hearing the call of the gulls for years now. The sound of the sea haunts my dreams. I’ve been living in a forest as far from every body of water as I could get. I haven’t even had a bath in six years. I have to get on a ship, and soon, or I’ll go mad.”
Behind Legolas’s back Gimli made a circle around his ear with one finger, stuck his tongue out the side of his mouth then pointed at Legolas. Círdan nodded.
He regarded Legolas and Gimli thoughtfully. “Well, I can’t let you go on one of the ships here, but I could teach you to build one of your own.”
“Build a ship? It’s not exactly what I had in mind,” Legolas hedged.
“And if you build your own ship, you can take your tiny friend with you.” Círdan was warming to the idea.
“If you’re going to insult me, we will take our business elsewhere,” Gimli huffed.
“Good luck finding a ship builder among the lot that’s left,” Círdan said.
“Wait, let’s all just take a breath here,” Legolas said. “Maybe we can work something out. How about if you stop insulting my friend and teach me how to build a ship? Do we have a deal?”
Círdan looked Gimli up and down. “Dwarves once cost me a very dear friend, so perhaps I’m being a bit harsh on Master Gimli. I apologize for my bad manners.” He gave a little bow and Gimli gave him a small nod.
“Apology accepted. And if you’re going to teach Legolas you may as well teach me too. Extra hands make short work.”
Círdan and Legolas both snorted reflexively. Gimli sighed and rolled his eyes. Elves!
“While I appreciate your eagerness to help, I’m afraid that won’t be possible. The only ships allowed to take the Straight Road are ones built with Elven hands. Something to do with a doom of Mandos and all that.”
“If I ever meet that guy I’m going to punch him in the nose,” Gimli grumbled.
“If your friend doesn’t learn his lessons well, you might do just that,” Círdan said.
“So when do we start?” Legolas asked. “As you can imagine I’m quite eager to be on my way.”
“Certainly. There’s only the matter of the fee.”
“Why doesn’t that surprise me?” Legolas said. “How much is it going to cost? Please keep in mind that, while my father is a King, a lot of the treasury has gone for exterminator bills this past Age.”
“There is one thing I’ve always wanted to do,” Círdan said.
He smiled at Legolas and Legolas steeled himself. ‘Here it comes,’ he thought. 'At least his beard looks softer than Aragorn’s.’
Círdan looked over Legolas’s shoulder and he followed the older Elf’s gaze to where it fell upon his horse. Legolas looked at him aghast. “That’s sick!”
Círdan looked at him in confusion. “Why? I’ve always wanted to learn to ride, but I have never found the time.”
“Oh, I thought. . . Never mind. I’ll be happy to give you riding lessons,” Legolas said quickly. “So we have a deal?”
“Yes, I believe we do.” Círdan beamed. Let me get you set up at the Tower Hotel and we can begin first thing in the morning.”
Legolas and Gimli checked into the hotel then went out into the city to sample the night life. While the Corsairs of Umbar were the drinking and wenching type, the pair soon found that the Falathrim were more the studying maps and star charts type. Within an hour they were both bored out of their minds and ready to return to the hotel. As they were going to their rooms, Legolas asked Gimli if he would be coming to the lessons tomorrow.
“No. I’ll let you have your fun,” Gimli said. “I want to find out where the Falathrim buy their gems. I know a guy who can get them wholesale.”
The next morning Legolas once again awakened to the cry of gulls but this time the air was filled with them. He sighed and opened his eyes just in time to see a one-legged gull winging toward his window. He stumbled out of bed and closed it quickly, gratified to hear the thump and squawk behind him as he returned to bed. He pulled his pillow over his head and slept for another hour before he got up and went down to the pier. Círdan was waiting for him, an expectant look on his face. As Legolas approached his look turned to one of disappointment.
“Where is the horse?” Círdan asked.
“I didn’t bring him. I thought you were going to teach me to build a ship.”
“Not before you teach me to ride a horse,” Círdan said.
“Oh, come on. It’s not like I’m going to build this ship and sail off without holding up my end of the bargain.”
“Even so, I would like to begin my lessons first. We can start our ship building this afternoon.”
“All right then. While I’m gone you change into some pants. Those robes are no good for riding, unless you want to learn sidesaddle.”
Círdan gave him a withering look but went to do as he was told.
Legolas went back to the stables and got his horse, Arod XII. Though he was a good rider, Legolas was not very imaginative when it came to naming things. He once had a pet kitten named Mortal Cat. The poor creature had lived up to its name when eaten by a spider two months later. Since then Legolas had not been much on pets, but he had kept Arod and had ridden his children and his children’s children. Éomer once wrote to tell him the horse had been a loaner and would he please return it, but Legolas never wrote him back.
When he returned, Círdan was waiting for him, now properly attired in a worn purple tunic and leather riding breeches. Without his robes Círdan looked a thousand years younger and surprisingly hale and handsome. Seeing him made Legolas forget the sea longing that had had him in its grip for so long.
Círdan had never been on a horse; that much was clear when he mounted facing Arod’s rear. Legolas got him turned around and told him how to hold the reins. “Now, just give him a little kick in the ribs,” Legolas said. Círdan gave the horse a sharp kick and it took off like it was shot from a catapult. Círdan tumbled off and fell face first into a tide pool. He lifted his head, sputtering, a couple of crabs stuck to his beard. It was all Legolas could do to stifle his burst of laughter.
“Perhaps a little more gently next time,” he advised.
All morning Círdan rode while Legolas gave instructions and corrections. Círdan was a quick study and by noon he was able to walk the horse around without falling off. When he slid to the ground at last he rubbed his thighs and moaned. “Is it always like this the first time?”
“It’s like that every time depending on how long you ride,” Legolas said.
“Maybe I should stick to sea travel after all,” Círdan said.
“You’ll get the hang of it in time,” Legolas encouraged. “All it takes is a little practice.
“Look, I want to apologize for my behavior yesterday,” Círdan said. “I’m afraid I treated you and your friend rather poorly. Would the two of you consider having dinner with me this evening, give me a chance to make it up to you?”
“We would be honored,” Legolas said. “I feel like I owe you an apology as well. I’m afraid I’ve been a little desperate lately. There’s this gull that’s been following me. I know that sounds crazy but it’s true. I think it’s Manwë punishing me for not sailing sooner.”
“That doesn’t sound like the Manwë I know. That guy has zero sense of humor. But if you say you’re seeing this gull I believe you. Although I don’t know how you could pick out just one with the number of them we have around here.”
“This one only has one leg. He’s been following me since Gondor.”
“Gondor? That is very unusual. Once you build your ship you can leave whenever you like though.”
“How long do you think it will take?”
“A year, perhaps two.”
Legolas looked into Círdan’s eyes. He had not noticed before but they were the most bewitching shade of grey green. “That sounds just fine,” he said.
When Gimli discovered how long the ship was going to take to build he decided to go back to Aglarond, promising to meet Legolas back on the shores of Mithlond two years hence. Círdan and Gimli made up and Gimli set up a trade route for the Dwarves of Aglarond to sell their gems and metalwork in Mithlond for a price that pleased them both.
Legolas and Círdan spent the next two years in a state of utter bliss. They rode horses, went sailing, rubbed suntan oil on each other’s backs, had picnics on the beach and built one of the finest grey ships Círdan had ever put hammer to. Once it was completed, Legolas found himself almost melancholy to leave. It was hard to believe he had been so frantic when he first came to these shores. And while he saw many seagulls in his time in Mithlond he never saw the one-legged gull again, much to his relief.
Then, one day, he received a message from Gondor saying that Aragorn had died. He had walked to the Street of Kings, laid himself down, and surrendered his mortal life. Legolas remembered their time together with fondness and had paid tribute to the fallen king by taking to the woods for a few weeks to mourn the best friend and mortal ass he had ever had the pleasure of knowing.
When he returned, Círdan was waiting for him. He told Legolas that he understood one part of his life had closed and another was about to begin. He said he could let Legolas go with a full heart because they would have all the time in the world once he sailed to Aman, and with the stream of Elves that had come through the Havens in the past few weeks he was certain he would be ahead of schedule. Legolas thanked him for his wisdom and the two of them embraced with love in their hearts and tears in their eyes.
As they were talking, Celeborn walked up wearing a big straw hat, a tunic with a hibiscus print, short pants. He had a sketch pad hanging around his neck and he pulled it off and made a quick sketch of Haldir struggling along behind him with four suitcases and a steamer trunk.
"This is one for the scrapbook," Celeborn said jovially. He turned to Círdan. "We’re here for the cruise. That’s one luxury stateroom and one steerage.”
Haldir glared at him as Círdan shook Celeborn’s hand. “Yes, I remember. Your arrangements have all been made. May I see your tickets please?”
Celeborn began to pat down his clothing, looking chagrined. “I don’t seem to have it. Haldir, did you bring out tickets.”
“I did, my lord,” Haldir said smoothly, pulling the tickets from his pocket.
“Hmm, this says Master Haldir has the luxury suite and you are the one in steerage,” Círdan said.
“What?” sputtered Celeborn. “Let me see those!” He snatched the tickets out of Círdan’s hand and looked at them, turning paler by the moment. “This isn’t right,” he said. “We’ll have to switch.”
“Sorry, all tickets are nontransferable,” Círdan said.
Celeborn began to plead with Haldir to switch accommodations with him as Círdan and Legolas walked away. “I guess he shouldn’t have let Galadriel make his reservations,” Círdan said with a smile.
Legolas sent word to Gimli and in a few days Gimli arrived in Mithlond.
"Have you gained weight?" Legolas asked.
"I stopped by the Shire on my way," Gimli admitted with a satisfied burp.
They discussed Aragorn’s passing and Gimli said he now felt his time had come to leave Middle-earth as well.
“There is nothing left for me here,” he had said. “And from the sound of it Galadriel may be single soon, so I’m ready to take my chances in Aman.”
The night before he and Gimli sailed, Legolas went to Círdan’s rooms and they had a last drink and shag. They made plans to meet in Aman when Círdan was ready to sail: where they would live, who they would seek out. It turned out Círdan had been carrying a torch for Thingol for many years until Legolas showed up. Legolas felt a pang of jealousy that made him realize a little what Arwen must have gone through, but in the end he decided to let it go. Thingol most certainly was happy with Melian and he knew Círdan had the patience to be faithful if there had been no one between Thingol and himself.
The next day Círdan met Legolas and Gimli at the dock to see them off. Legolas had Arod XII with him and he gave the reins to Círdan. “Take good care of him, he’s yours now.”
“Every time I ride him or have sore thighs, I will think of you,” Círdan promised.
Legolas and Gimli laughed, then they boarded the ship and waved goodbye.
As they made their way into the open sea, Legolas reached inside his jacket and pulled up the collar of the purple tunic he wore, inhaling its scent like rare perfume. It was Círdan’s and he had given it to him the night before as a token to keep until they could be together again.
And so Legolas and Gimli sailed out of Middle-earth and out of the histories. Legolas was later said to have accomplished the least of the Fellowship, but he had found love and that was all the accomplishment he needed.
When word reached Arwen that Legolas had sailed at last, she rejoiced. That blasted Elf had ruined her marriage and she was glad he was gone. She only wished she had thought of the seagull sooner. She was also sorry the trap had taken one of its legs, but the bird never really missed it, and it took to the training like a . . . well, like a seagull to water. The farspeaking ventriloquism lessons had paid off as well.
She sat by the fire the night after Aragorn died and burned the dummy of Legolas she had used to train the bird. The likeness of the effigy to her nemesis was uncanny, but then she had always been very crafty. And when one’s grandmother was an Elf witch of terrible power, there was no end to the concoctions one could brew, some of which left a man with the strength to walk several miles before he succumbed to its effects.