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Night Swim

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The moon hung low above them, shining like a jewel in the night sky. The summer air was warm, the light breeze that had been keeping the heat at bay slowly dying down as dawn grew closer and closer. It was still cooler than it was during the height of day, when the sun beat down mercilessly on the world below, but not by much. Not now, at the height of summer, when even the blowing wind felt oppressively warm at times.

Very little changed between night and day at midsummer, when the moon shone as brightly as the sun at night. The only difference was that the world was bathed in the silver of moonlight rather than the gold of sunlight, giving the world below an almost otherworldly glow.

The air around the small pool they swam in was warm and muggy, seemingly as thick as the water itself at times. It clung to hair and skin, trapping moisture and keeping them from drying properly even when they left the water. Submerging themselves in the cool water of the pool was no hardship as it helped keep the worst of the heat at bay, at least for the time being.

It was almost peaceful. If there weren't quite so many of them gathered around to enjoy the pool, perhaps it would be.

Laughter and quiet talk sounded throughout the clearing, ringing like bells in the stillness of the night. It would be dawn soon enough and, with the coming of daylight, the forest they were in would once again come alive. Until then, it was theirs. The animals that normally roamed the darkness kept their distance, leaving the pool to the elves, as if they knew the importance of the night.

The youngest of their number looked upwards, his eyes focused on the ever-lightening sky above them. The moon was slipping lower and lower in the sky, a sign that the summer solstice had passed by for yet another year. Before long, the heat of summer would be but a memory, replaced with the cold bite of winter. And then in a blink it would be back again the next year, and the next decade, and the next century, hundreds and thousands of solstices blending together in memory just like all the ones that had come before.

He closed his eyes as a pang of something akin to grief suddenly made his chest throb with an intangible pain, an achingly familiar face appearing in his mind's eye for a moment before he pushed the memory away. It had been centuries since she had left, leaving her husband and their three children behind as she sailed for far away shores, yet sometimes it seemed as if it was yesterday.

That was the curse of having such a long life, he supposed. He felt both ancient and young at the same time, as old as the trees that towered over them and yet still a child who missed his mother.

She had loved the solstice. Once upon a time, she had been the one who had taught him to swim in a pool not so dissimilar from the one he was in now, holding him close and keeping him afloat until he was able to leave her side. Except once he had started to stray from her orbit, he had drifted further and further away until it was too late to ever truly return to it.

His gaze focused on the moon once more, its silvery light the same color as her hair had been. For a moment, he could almost pretend that the years had faded away. That he was a child again, straying from his mother's arms for the first time. Then he shook his head, forcing his mind back to what was, not what had once been.

There was no point in dwelling on the past. It was what it was, and no amount of regret or nostalgia would ever change it.

Besides, it was solstice. A time for remembering, yes, but also a night for looking forward at what the future held. It was an end and a beginning at the same time.

With a bittersweet smile, Legolas dove under the cool, shimmery surface of the water.