Easterling - Part Nine - The Elven Lord of Ithilien
When they had parted company, in some way Pallando knew it was a mistake and that his departure would come at a price. Alatar's dreams had made him irrational and had taken his mind away from the duty that they had sent here to accomplish. Pallando should have remained at his side and tried harder to sway him back to their proper course. However, he had not. He had chosen to leave and now he found himself in this terrible place in time, aware that all that had transpired could have been avoided if only he had chose to stay with Alatar.
Standing over the ruined and broken body of his friend, Pallando wanted to weep as much as Melia had wept in Legolas' arms at this instant. He lowered himself to his knees and brushed his hand against Alatar's hollowed cheeks, knowing that he was dead. Alatar had given him no choice but to act and with chaos ensuing around him, Pallando had been decisive in his attack. The Maiar, who was his best friend in the world, no longer lived. Pallando wondered if his death had come long before this because the Alatar he knew would not have been party to the nightmare they had seen inside this room.
"I am sorry old friend," Pallando whispered softly. "I should not have left you."
Unfortunately, Alatar was beyond hearing anything.
He would have like to have buried Alatar but there was no time for such rituals. The fire was stinging his eyes and the Prince was struggling valiantly to remain conscious but it was obvious it was a battle he was losing. The creatures attack upon him had been severe even for his Eldar metabolism. Pallando would have to aid him in his recovery or there was every possibility he may never recover. It was the least he could do for Thranduil's son after failing Alatar so utterly.
"Pallando," Melia called out when Legolas finally slumped into her arms. "We must get him out of here, now."
Pallando nodded and rose to his feet. The Ranger seemed more composed than previously but the wizard was sensing something rather disturbing from her. It was as if her heart had hardened against the pain of all that she had seen and she was allowing nothing to breach it again. Did this also mean the same of her love for her Prince? The wizard could not answer that question but he did not hesitate in reaching her to aid her with the unconscious elf that had endured as long as he was able considering the nature of the enemy's attack upon him. Melia fastened his bow across her back and replaced his weapons before she and Pallando dragged him to his feet.
Both of them were coughing intermittently now as they hurried out of the burning chamber, with Pallando being able to do nothing more for Alatar's dead form than to give him a farewell glance. They emerged from the chamber and hurried away from the fire. Whether or not it would spread through the rest of the city was uncertain but at this point none of them seemed to care. The darkness here needed purging and if it was a cleansing to be done by fire than none of them would argue the point.
"I am sorry about your friend," Melia said softly as they moved through the chamber where the drakes' had died with their hoard.
"Thank you," Pallando whispered. "I know it cannot be easy for you to say that after what he did."
"I do not forgive him for anything," Melia said icily, not about to deny that her feelings towards Alatar would ever be anything but bitter. There were no words for what he had done no justification to destroy life as completed as he had but she did see that his death had hurt Pallando deeply and the wizard who had saved her life and Legolas' had earned her sympathy. "I am sorry for your pain. I know that he meant a great deal to you."
"He did," Pallando nodded. "I would not be here in Middle earth if it was not for him. I was going to take the Straight Road home. I had hoped it was not too late for him."
"What will you do now?" Melia asked. "Will you leave?"
Pallando did not answer for a few seconds. It would have been easy to leave the world behind, to return to the Timeless Halls and forgot that this ever happened but he could not. He could not return home with the specter of Alatar's absence to remind him of his failure.
"No," he answered finally. "I am not ready to take the Straight Road yet. It may be a long time before I am ready to do that, not after all this."
Melia nodded somberly, feeling as if she was just as unprepared for the next step herself. Her heart felt burnt out and there was nothing left inside her that wanted to feel. Buried under all this grief was her love for Legolas but she could not see it for her grief. Pallando sensed this within the young woman and it alarmed him greatly for he believed that the Ranger was about to reach a heartbreaking decision because of her grief that was premature and ill advise.
"You are leaving him," Pallando stated. It was more of an accusation more than it was a question.
Melia looked up at him and did not answer but then she did not have to. Her eyes spoke for her.
Elves were not prone to such black sleep but when awareness finally came up Legolas almost three days after he had fallen, he was gripped with a great sense of lost time that left him uneasy upon awaking. His dreams had not been pleasant and when he awoke finally to find himself in the same cave that Pallando had first offered them refuge after Melia had been injured by goblins, he was unable to shake the sense of some foreboding evil lurking in the shadows. Fortunately, his return from the dreamscape assured him that he was on the road to recovery after his battles with the river women. Though he felt tired still, there was none of the fatigue and exhaustion that had threatened his life earlier.
Upon awaking, his first thought was to sit up and upon doing so, found Pallando staring at him across the small cave. A fire was burning in the middle of the space and outside Legolas saw that it was night for the star brought the twilight alive with its glimmer. Pallando's expression was sad and Legolas supposed that it was most likely because the wizard was still suffering the loss of his dear friend. Legolas had seen Alatar's state after their battle and he doubted that the disgrace Istar had survived the combat. However, something else soon dawned upon the Prince of Mirkwood, something that struck cold fear into his heart.
"Where is she?" Legolas demanded for he saw no presence of Melia in herself or her belonging throughout the cave.
Pallando drew in a long breath and Legolas felt his heart pounding because he knew that wizard's answer before the man spoke.
"She is gone," he answered softly, feeling for the elf and the sorrow that would soon envelope him.
"Gone," Legolas said mutely.
"She said you would understand," Pallando answered and could tell by the fading sparkle in his eyes, that Legolas did not understand at all. Not one bit. "She helped me bring you here and then she departed after she was certain you would recover. She said that she was returning to Angmar."
Legolas swallowed thickly, forcing down the bubble of frustration and anguish that was rising up his throat like bile. His mind screamed in betrayal and fury as her departure. He could not believe after all they had endured together, she still could not trust him and could leave him so easily, without so much as a word of farewell. Once again, he was forced to wonder how much of this had been planned before her departure. After all, she had refused to give him an answer to his proposal, using the quest for her mother as an excuse to deny him. Had she never planned on staying with him? Had everything she had said a lie? To ensure that he remained and helped her find Ninuie? Legolas refused to believe that Melia could be so calculated. He swore by his life that she had meant everything she said to him and yet, she was still gone. How was he supposed to believe anything else?
"Are you alright?" Pallando asked quietly, aware that he was anything but that. Nevertheless, the wizard felt compelled to inquire.
"Yes," Legolas spoke not quite his own. Considering that his soul was weeping inside him, Legolas acquitted himself rather well, showing little sign of grief or his anger at her actions as he stared at Pallando.
The pain that was coursing through him was beyond belief and he knew he should have expected this on some level but hope had blinded him from the reality of the situation. What had taken place with her mother was further proof of why they should be apart, the unbridgeable differences between mortal and elf. Knowing this, did not make it any easier to bear and the emotion that suffused him more than astonishment at her abandonment of him, was anger. He was angry that she would arbitrarily make this decision for them, yet again. Had he not learnt how accustomed she was to running after what had happened between them at Thranduil's court?
"She wished you well," Pallando offered, knowing that what words he offered would be cold comfort to the prince who was trying so hard to keep his emotions contained even though it was obvious that he was hurt badly by his lady's actions. "She said you fought bravely and that she would always love you but you know the reasons why she had to depart."
Legolas did not speak. He lay down on his bedding and rolled away from the wizard. His eyes were glistening despite his best efforts to conceal his sorrow and he wished to be spared the indignity of having all his emotions exposed to Pallando. With his back to the man, Legolas was grateful when the Istar did not try and console him with words and left him alone to his silent tears.
Despite the emotional pain he suffered at Melia's abrupt departure, Legolas recovered quickly and far sooner than Pallando gave the elven prince credit, they were ready to depart the Grey Mountains. Legolas had invited Pallando to return to the Woodland Realm with him and as the wizard had no present destination in mind for himself, the suggestion did not disagree with him. Pallando decided it would not be so terrible to visit with Thranduil again and a part of him felt protective towards the Prince who had saved Middle earth from an unimaginable peril by destroying the river women Alatar had twisted so irrevocably.
For one who had fought so bravely against such terrible odds, Pallando thought it was terribly unfair that Legolas would be rewarded by the loss of his love. While Pallando understood the reasons for Melia's departure, he did not condone it, not when it was bringing them both such heartache, he was certain. He was sure that much of her desire to leave had to do with the terrible ordeal of being the one to give the order for her mother's death. Even if Ninuie had asked for her life to end, it was no easy thing for any child to see dead the parent she had spent so much time attempting to find.
Once they had began the journey towards Mirkwood, Legolas spoke nothing of Melia and seemed to have purged all memory of her from his mind. Of course, Pallando knew that this discard was only surface deep and no doubt, in his heart, the lady was never far away. However, he respected Legolas' wishes and made no mention of the Ranger, knowing that such talk would only bring Legolas pain. Whatever route Melia had taken home to Angmar, there was no sign of her departure when Legolas and Pallando begin their own journey to Mirkwood. No doubt the lady had chosen to avoid the goblins they had encountered earlier by finding the vein of the Anduin and crossing it into the western shore.
The two travelling companions however, made for the Woodland Realm and thanks to Pallando's ability to generate light in the darkness, they were free from the plague of goblins until the entered the great wood of Eryn Lasgalen or Mirkwood as it was known to most. The Wood of the Greenleaves had changed a great deal since Pallando's last visit. In those days, the woods were a perilous place and the Silvan elves who held dominion fought to keep the passage through it open despite the evil things that Sauron had let loose into the forests from his fortress at Dol Goldur.
Of course much had changed since the War of the Ring and when Pallando entered the Woodland Realm once more and found himself soon in the court of Thranduil, he saw just how much the world had progressed during his travels in the east. The southern woods once a place of darkness had become the home of the elves of South Lorien and the space between were inhabited by the Northmen who aided Thranduil in the past to defend against Sauron's minions at Dol Goldur. The fortress itself was completely gutted and for the first time in so long, Mirkwood belonged to the true people Middle earth.
Thranduil was happy to see the return of his old friend and even happier to see his son. They spoke nothing of Melia but it was plain to see that Thranduil knew about her by the tension in the air. This mood did not dissipate even after the king ordered a feast and celebration for the return of the Prince and to entertain his guests. At the event, Legolas played the part of the gracious prince, happy to be home again but the court was whispering about the absence of Melia and those who knew the Prince could see the sadness in his eyes of which he would not speak to anyone. Even Thranduil's expression seemed strained because he knew his child was in pain and could do little to ease it.
Legolas tried hard not to show the court his somber mood but he could not help it. The Prince of Mirkwood displayed an impassive front to all that saw him because a prince always kept his emotions well hidden, Thranduil had taught him that. On this occasion, it seemed to serve because it kept anyone from asking him any uncomfortable questions. He could see it burning in their eyes every time they gazed upon him, the intense curiosity to know what it was that had transpired between Melia and he. Especially after her last appearance at court had seen her wearing his mother's chain, a gesture that could only mean intimacy between them.
Since she had left him, Legolas had done nothing but rationalize her behavior, trying to see their relationship from her point of view. He knew she feared he would leave her, the way her mother had abandoned her father. Surely, he had proven himself to her by his love and his actions, that he would never do such a thing? How much more did he have to earn her trust? What was to say that she would not leave him? He bound himself to her already and he knew that until he passed from the land of the living, he would always yearn for her. The ache in his heart was more than he could stand; it gnawed away at him constantly, even when he tried to put her behind him.
For better or for worse, Melia was apart of him now and that was all there was to it.
The discussion that Legolas had returned home to have with Thranduil took place the next morning within the king's throne room. It was Thranduil's habit to rise early and look over his agenda of the day within the silence of his throne room, for that was one place that no one would dare enter without invitation or a very good reason. With everything that had occurred in the Grey Mountains, this was not an audience that Legolas' was looking forward to, unfortunately he had no choice in the matter. His father deserved an explanation and he deserved it face to face with his son.
"Father," Legolas announced himself.
"You are up early," the king rose his eyes to his son, lowering the scrolls in his hand.
"What I must say to you cannot wait," the prince replied.
Thranduil stiffened and his jaw set, "is this about the Ranger?"
Legolas felt himself infuse with anger at the mention of Melia's name, especially when it came from Thranduil. His father had been part of the reason why she had gone. If Thranduil had been more encouraging of their feelings for one another, it might not have led her to the decision she had made to abandon Legolas. She was already filled with enough doubt when they came to Mirkwood to have Thranduil's deepen her anxieties. Rather than led anger induce him into saying something he would regret, Legolas calmed his temper because he had not come here to argue with his father.
"No," he said with equal rigidity. "It is not. She has returned to Angmar. What there was between us is done."
Thranduil absorbed this but he was not about to let the matter go just yet, not when Legolas had finally deign to speak of it to him.
"You have bound yourself to her haven't you?" It was not a question but rather a statement of fact.
"That is none of your concern," Legolas replied tautly because it was obvious enough that he had. His father had the same senses he had and would know it.
"You bound yourself to a human who has left you," Thranduil shook his head in disapproval. "I warned you that this was ill advised. I know she loved you but she was far more sensible than you in her conduct. I know it will take a long time but you must try to forget her."
"Were you able to forget my mother?" Legolas accused.
"That is different," Thranduil returned shortly. "I have some chance of being reunited with your mother. When your Melia is dead, she will go beyond you and the only way that you will ever see her again is to die."
"Well that is not going to happen is it?" Legolas tone became viciously, what restraint he had been maintaining during this audience with his father was now lost completely. "She left me. Without a single word, like a thief in the night she left me! I did not even warrant a moment of her time to say farewell. She crept past me like a coward, not daring to even say it to my face!"
The hurt in his eyes made Thranduil's heart ache in his breast and the king wished that his son was a child again, when the pain the boy sustained was no more than a skinned knee and within Thranduil's power to take away by soothing words. This kind of anguish was different because the king could do nothing to ease his son's sorrow and he wanted to, badly. Thranduil's did not begrudge Melia her decision, aware that it was most likely the sensible thing to do but it had come to late and now his son was bound to love her forever and for an elf, that was a terribly long time.
"She loved you son," Thranduil finally spoke. "Whatever she did, she did because she loved you. Perhaps she wanted to spare you this pain or perhaps she believed a little cruelty now would be kinder for you in the future. I do not know for certain her reasoning but I know she loved you."
"Then how could she leave me!" Legolas exploded. "I did not care that she would die someday. I was prepared to face the emptiness that followed her passing. What more could I have done to prove to her that my love would not wane with time?"
"Because the Edain do not love as we do," Thranduil rose from his chair and went to his son who was trying not to remain composed but failing. He placed his hands upon Legolas' shoulders and bade the prince to meet his eyes when he resumed speaking. "For them, life is short and to bind themselves to one person for all time when it is so easy for them to die is folly. They fall in and out of love at a whim. I have no doubt that your Melia loves you but she can forget in time. You will not. There is nothing I can say to advise you in this except to say that you must try and do the same, hard as it is. Time does heal all wounds."
"I cannot forget her," Legolas confessed, "I carry her in my heart wherever I go but I will try to go on without her."
"That is all that can anyone can do," Thranduil replied with approval though he knew that gave Legolas little solace.
Legolas sucked in a deep and strained breath that managed to quell the churning emotions inside of him. He had almost broken down in front of his father and he was too old and too much the warrior to endure that exposure. Regaining his composure, he did not look up at Thranduil when he spoke again.
"Father I am leaving,"
"I know," Thranduil answered.
Legolas looked up in surprise at his father's revelation. "How did you....?"
"I know you my son," Thranduil replied, his eyes filling with emotion in a way a king was not supposed to show anyone. "You may be three thousand years old but I was there when you first entered this world. It was I who watched your first steps and heard your first word, I may be king and I may not have been there as much as I should have during your childhood but I was there. I know that your trips away from here is not because you have business elsewhere is because your heart is not here. You will always love our home but you have no desire to be king of this realm. Perhaps that is my fault, I ruled too long and should have relinquished the crown to journey to Undying Lands. It was not my wish to deny you what was rightfully yours."
"No," Legolas quickly countered, not wishing his father to think that for an instant. "For me, you will always be the King of Mirkwood. I cannot see myself as king because I cannot imagine Eryn Lasgalen without you. I do not want your throne nor do I want you to leave in order to acquire it. I want to find my own destiny father, just as you when you came here so long ago. My fortunes lie elsewhere but my love for the Wood of Greenleaves will always be, just as my love for you."
Father and son captured each other in a heartfelt embrace. For once, Legolas found that it was good to not be the one who was oldest, who should know everything and simply succumb to being the one who was in pain and resting in the comfort of the father who cherished him above all else. He wanted to weep, to tell his father that being without Melia was cleaving his heart in two with such pain he could not stand it. However, he knew what his father would say because in that one matter, they could not reconcile. Thus he remained content for a moment to feel Thranduil holding him as if he were a little boy again, stung by some little hurt, being soothed by the father who had tried to hard to make up for the absence of his mother.
"Where will you go?" Thranduil asked when they had parted and faced each other again.
"I am going to Ithilien. There is a great forest there. It survived through some miracle despite being in such close proximity to Mordor. Faramir, Lord of Ithilien has washed his hands of the southern lands and King Elessar believes that if an elven presence is established in the South Wood then it will drive what remaining orcs and evil lingering from Sauron's reign away for good. I would like to try and establish a colony in South Ithilien," Legolas explained.
"You have thought this out well," Thranduil commented.
"I have," Legolas smiled faintly, pleased that his father had approved his decision. "I have also been conversing with Elladan and Elrohir of Imladris. Since the departure of Lord Elrond, the elves that chose to remain do not feel that it is the same without him. I believe that if I were to offer them a place in South Ithilien, a good number of them may join me."
"Then you should take Nunaur with you as well," Thranduil offered.
"Nunaur?" Legolas exclaimed with some measure of surprise, "why?"
"I think he grows restless with his role here," Thranduil explained with a sigh. "Since the new lands have opened up southwards, he is displaying more and more a desire to see the world beyond Mirkwood. I think sending him with you will make it easier for him to leave since he believes himself bound to serve me."
"Are you sure?" Legolas looked at his father. He would be pleased to take his father's captain to South Ithilien. With the challenges there, an experienced elven captain was always an asset and Legolas was further ingratiated by his father's acceptance of his choice. "I know that he is dear to you."
Thranduil's expression became thoughtful and he gazed at his son in unbidden affection, "sometimes when you love something, it is necessary to let it go."
"Thank you father," Legolas said softly, knowing it was not Nunaur that he was speaking of.
"You are welcome my son," Thranduil smiled, "and you will always be welcome here."
Legolas remained in the Woodland Realm for another two weeks, using that time to prepared for his return to Minas Tirith where Aragorn's efforts on his behalf would be awaiting him. His father had ensured that he had everything he needed to set up his own kingdom in South Ithilien despite Legolas' protestations that he did not need the assistance. Still, Thranduil was ever the protective father, desiring to see to it that his son was well provided for the undertaking that he was about to take on by establishing a kingdom of his own. In the end, Legolas decided it was best not to argue with the king for Thranduil could be extremely obstinate about such matters when the mood took him.
Thank Eru he was nowhere that stubborn, Legolas thought to himself.
It also appeared that Thranduil was correct about Nunaur wishing to leave the boundaries of Mirkwood to explore the outside world. The captain of the Woodland Realm was initially reluctant to sever his links to Eryn Lasgalen but it did not take much convincing. Eventually, Nunaur even persuaded a few of his comrades to join him and thus when Legolas finally departed from the Woodland Realm, it was with a sizeable group of elves. He made his farewells to Thranduil who discarded any effort to remain kingly in the face of his loss and the king was most vocal in expressing his sadness as seeing his son go but said nothing to burden Legolas' heart. Pallando had opted to remain in Mirkwood for a time and of this Legolas was pleased because it appeared that he and Thranduil were good company for each other and in light of recent events, the companionship they provided each other would be good for both men.
Once again, Legolas set out from the Woodland Realm, this time making the journey by land instead of boat, owing to the horses and supplies that they had brought with them for their new colony. Most could be bought and acquired on the way but the rest could not be replaced or found anywhere else from Mirkwood and Legolas wanted his new kingdom to start on the right foot. For most of the days during their journey from Mirkwood to Minas Tirith, Legolas immersed himself in the welfare of his people and his plans once reaching South Ithilien. He forced himself not to think of Melia because it would only cause him pain and she had made the decision for both of them. Despite the anguish to his heart, he would abide by her choice because his father was right, sometimes if one loved something, they had to let it go. If Melia could not give herself to him then Legolas would not waste his time trying to convince her otherwise. He would let her go because he loved her and because that was what she wanted. No matter how
much it hurt him. However, he had known what danger he had placed his heart when he gave his affections to a mortal and now he would have to suffer the price of the choice.
There were still moments however, when he would look to the west, towards Angmar and wonder if she thought of him because he was never free of her.
Upon arriving at Minas Tirith, Aragorn and Arwen were there to greet the Prince of Mirkwood and the elves that had journeyed with him from the Woodland Realm. As always, his old friends were happy to see him and were glad that his audience with his father had ended so well, especially when they learnt that Thranduil had offered Legolas his blessing. Although Legolas was disappointed to hear that Gimli had returned home to the Glittering Caves shortly before his return to the White City, Legolas was gratified to learn that the dwarf would not be away from his life for too long. The work had yet to be completed on Aragorn's gates around the city and Gimli was too much the craftsman to let the work continue too long without his supervision.
Prior to his departure, Legolas had asked of Aragorn to send a message to Elladan and Elrohir at Imladris, to tell them of what he intended to do in South Ithilien and to invite them and as many of their people who desired it to join him. They had replied most enthusiastically to his offer and Aragorn was happy to show Legolas the return message from Imladris, indicating that they would meet Legolas in South Ithilien as soon as possible, if not on route. With this final matter finally taken care of, there was nothing left to stand in Legolas' way and he knew that he would not remain long in Minas Tirith before he would be required to set out again. Still, for the moment however, he intended to take some time with his dearest friends in all the world for who knew when their paths might cross again.
Once his people were settled for the evening, Legolas, Arwen and Aragorn finally gained the opportunity to talk in a more informal setting. Joining the king and queen in their private suite of rooms, the elf was happy to be with his friends again, although he wondered why neither had mentioned Melia or made any inquiry about the Ranger. Legolas wondered if Aragorn had learnt that Melia had returned to Angmar and ascertained something had precipitated that return after their urgent departure from Minas Tirith what seemed almost a lifetime ago now. Legolas explained as best he could the course of their journey after leaving the White City, omitting the more personal details involving himself and Melia.
"Are you certain they are all dead?" Arwen asked after Legolas had finished his tale and they stared across each other at the table where they dined.
"I am certain they are," Legolas confessed. "Though I must confess I was no condition to see for myself after the battle was done. However, Pallando said that the fire was raging within the hatchery and nothing could survive the heat. I trust his judgement."
"Well," Aragorn said lowering his cup of wine after taking a sip. "I am glad that you fought so bravely. It would not have bode well for Middle earth if those creatures were allowed to be unleashed upon as all."
"We did what was necessary," Legolas replied shortly, not wishing to dwell too much on the subject because inevitably, he would find himself thinking of Melia again.
"You did what you always do," Arwen smiled, reaching across the table to clasp his hand. "You fought with courage, with no thought to yourself."
"You give me too much credit," the elf said graciously. "Although I sense that there is something on your minds that neither of you have deign to bring to my attention. I will spare you the trouble of finding some way to bring up the subject with me. What is it that you wish to say."
Arwen and Aragorn exchanged a brief glance across the table before Arwen nodded at the king who sucked in his breath as if he were being forced into some unpleasant duty. "We have not asked you about Melia because we saw her."
"You saw her?" Legolas' eyes flew open. "When?"
"She came here for her horse Lomelindi," Arwen explained, her eyes full of sympathy. "Melia told mr what took place between you. Legolas, I am so sorry."
Legolas swallowed hard, having no wish for them to know and his gaze fell on the space before them. His jaw clenched as he tried to compose himself to keep from showing just how much it still hurt him. If it were anyone else but Arwen and Aragorn before him, he might have succeeded in concealing his sorrow. Unfortunately, both the King and Queen of Gondor had known him far too long and so his pain remained exposed before them, much to his chagrin.
"It was her game," he spoke after a moment. "I knew what I risked when I chose to play."
"I do not believe it was a game to her," Arwen tried to speak in Melia's defense but it was difficult to do so when Legolas' eyes were filled with such pain. Since his arrival, he had worn that tough mask over his emotions, hiding his anguish from all that saw him. However, now in the privacy of this room before his dear friends, that mask had lowered and they saw the prince's true feelings behind his impassive demeanor. "She loves you Legolas but her heart is still wounded from what happened in the mountain."
Aragorn had remained silent, allowing Arwen to speak about Melia to Legolas because the king did not feel comfortable about discussing so private a subject with the elf, even with the best intentions. In truth, he understood Legolas' pain and his anger. He did not think well of Melia for simply leaving as she had. If it were Arwen who had done that to him, it was quite possible that Aragorn would behave with less restraint then Legolas was comporting himself. The elf had wisely chosen to let Melia make her own choice, even though it wounded him greatly.
"Legolas," Aragorn found his voice at last. "You do not have to speak of this if you do not wish it. We just want you to know that we are here if you need us. You are dear to us both and should you decide not to confide in us, then we will understand that too."
"Estel..." Arwen started to say but Aragorn cut her off abruptly.
"I have spoken Undomiel," Aragorn said firmly in that voice of his that tolerated no argument, even from her. "This is a private matter between Legolas and Melia. We will say nothing more."
Legolas cast Aragorn a grateful look even though the king was being treated to a frown from his wife. Legolas had the distinct impression that Aragorn would be hearing from his wife about the matter before the night's end. However, for the present, Legolas was glad that it was at his discretion whether or not the subject should be discussed. Not wishing to be spur Arwen's desire to help completely, Legolas found himself turning to the Evenstar.
"I know you wish to help but this matter can only be resolved by Melia and myself. She had made her choice clear and though it pains me more than I can say, I have to abide by her decision. I cannot hold her to me if she does not wish it."
"But she loves you!" Arwen cried out in frustration, hating to think that it should end so tragically between two people who were so obviously meant to be together. It pained her that Legolas should give his heart to someone after so many years alone, only to have it broken in this way. She had seen Melia's eyes when the Ranger had told her what transpired between herself and the Prince of Mirkwood. Arwen was certain that what difficulties between them would be resolved if only they met each other face to face.
"Undomiel!" Aragorn rolled his eyes in exasperation at his wife stubbornness in this matter. "I am certain Legolas knows that."
"Evenstar," Legolas declared, "I know you mean well and you are right, I do not doubt that Melia feels something for me but she does not trust me and until that can be overcome, nothing between us is possible."
Arwen frowned, realizing that Legolas was right. Trust was vital in any relationship, even one without the complications that existed in Legolas's and Melia's. Arwen trusted Aragorn with her heart and soul to never betray her. She could look into his eyes and know without doubt or hesitation that he loved her and would never do anything to break her heart. It was quite a thing to have that assurance because it made everything else easy. Arwen was convinced Melia loved Legolas that much but she could not give herself to him because of her doubt. However, the Queen of Gondor was certain that Legolas was wrong about being unable to trust him.
Arwen believed that it was herself that Melia did not trust.
Legolas did not remain long in Minas Tirith and shortly after receiving blessings from Aragorn as well as a few documents from the king making his claim to south Ithilien a legitimate enterprise, the elves departed from Gondor. Journeying down the Anduin in ship large enough to carry horses and all their supplies, Legolas and his elves soon arrived at Pelargir. For the elf, returning to Pelargir brought back the memories of the past as he recalled that it was at Pelargir that Aragorn truly defined himself as King of Gondor. With the dead of Dunharrow at his side, Aragorn had defeated the Corsairs, Sauron's minions who had brought Gondor to the brink of collapse. At Pelennor Fields, the last battle had been fought and Legolas remembered standing at Aragorn's side in that conflict seeing the forces rallied against them and perfectly willing to die to win the day.
The world had changed that day in more ways then they knew. They had changed with it too and as Legolas and his band of elves rode through the streets of Pelargir, now a bustling sea port with the frantic excitement of people of all races coming and going about their business, he saw how much it had changed. It did not take the group of elves long to reach the woods of South Ithilien and it was indeed as magnificent as it was claimed to be. How the wood had managed to remain unspoiled by Sauron and his minions was truly and miracle and as Legolas and his elves found themselves the ideal spot in which to build their new home. Situated by the banks of the River Poros, the new elven city of Eden Ardhon meaning 'New World' in the Sindarian tongue, would be built in the spirit of the elven kingdoms of past ages past..
Of course claiming the land and making it theirs was nowhere as easy as it appeared. Even with the arrival of Arwen's brothers, Elladan and Elrohir who brought with them, elven smiths who were master craftsmen in the number who had departed Imladris, they were still plagued with difficulties of weather, land and of course the inevitable attack by Orcs. Still Legolas enjoyed the challenge of taming a new land and his attention was busy enough during the day that there was little time to notice the emptiness in his heart where Melia should have been. At night however, he was not so fortunate as to be able to forget and in those silent moments in the night, when he peered at the stars unable to sleep, he dreamed of her.
"You elves are a peculiar lot," Gimli remarked as he observed closely the construction of Legolas' dwelling, the prince did not wish to call it a palace for it seemed to vulgar for a place he wanted to call his home. Unfortunately, he was the only one who seemed to think that way since everyone else considered it a palace, since nothing else would do for the elven Lord of Ithilien.
"How so?" Legolas replied as he and Nunaur studied the parchment spread across the table before them. Gimli had arrived only a few days ago, having claiming that an elf was unable to build anything that would stand the test of time unless there was a dwarf to help him. It had taken a bit of convincing, before Legolas was able to convince all the elves in the colony that the dwarf had not meant any offense and that Gimli was just being Gimli.
"All this trouble to built around the tree when you could build inside of it," Gimli retorted, staring at the huge trees who trunk was so thick that if anyone chose to carve out its innards, it would be enough space to house the entire colony. Instead the elf had chose to build his home among the loft branches of the tree, an enterprise that required steps that coiled around its thick trunk like a serpent.
"You dwarfs would destroy anything," Legolas grumbled, wondering how many times he had to have this discussion before the dwarf understood that an elf would consider it an act of murder to butcher a tree that had lived as long as the one he had chosen to support his home.
"It's just a tree," Gimli teased and saw Nunaur smiling because the captain knew that the dwarf often amused himself by baiting the elven lord.
"Like you are just a dwarf but you do not see us trying to build around you." Legolas drawled, his eyes still fixed on the plans before him. "Probably because the noise would drive us to distraction."
Gimli gave Legolas a look just as Nunaur started to chuckle.
"You can tell the smiths that this is fine," Legolas straightened up as Nunaur rolled up the parchment and made a hasty retreat before the dwarf and his lord launched into one of their infamous ideological 'discussions. Usually this ended with either axe or arrow being drawn.
Gimli was glad to see Legolas was showing some measure of contentment. Even though there was occasionally a glimmer of sadness in his eyes, for most part, Legolas seemed recovered from his heartbreak. Part of the reason why he had come to South Ithilien was at the request of Arwen who was worried about her old friend and though Aragorn did not say it out loud, Gimli could tell the king too was concerned about the elf's welfare. Fortunately, Legolas seemed to have moved on with his life, immersing himself in the business of building himself a new home in the Southern Wood. Judging by all the building he saw around him, it would not be long before Eden Ardhon would be as enchanting to behold as Lothlorien or even Imladris.
"See what you have done," Legolas turned to Gimli. "You have frightened away the captain of my guard."
"Elves scare easily," Gimli said smugly.
"Why are you here?" Legolas retorted. "I have enough difficulty in establishing this colony, I do not need further vexation by your company."
"Well I had to see the Elven Lord of Ithilien," the dwarf replied.
"You have ridden all this way to call me that, have you not?" Legolas stared at him through narrowed eyes.
"Yes," Gimli grinned remembering how much Legolas had relished addressing him as Lord of the Glittering Caves and inspiring his ire to no end with that exalted title. It was good to know that he was able to do the same.
Suddenly, the expression on the elf's face changed from annoyance to that of astonishment. For an instant, the color drained from his face and his jaw set hard as if he were going into battle. Gimli looked over his shoulder and saw what he was staring at with such surprise. In some ways he was Gimli thought as he saw the lady walking across the grass towards them both. She was clad in the dress she had worn when they had celebrated the elven new year at Minas Tirith, her dark hair worn loose over her shoulder. In her hand she held a bundle of clothes and a crossbow.
When she stopped walking, Melia and Legolas stood before each other, the space between them felt like a great chasm that was kept them beyond each other's reach. Neither said a word as they basked in the sight of each other even though much needed to be said between them. Legolas looked like a statue carved out of marble as he stared at Melia, his expression unfathomable. Melia's expression was equally cryptic. Time seemed to stretch into an eternity as neither said anything and the waiting drove Gimli mad with impatience. Finally, the dwarf could endure no more.
"Well if you're both just going to stand there, I'm going to leave! But before I go, let me be the first to say that its about time you both grew up and just get on with things!"
With that the dwarf made a less than discreet exit, hoping that his words would spur either one of them into resolving the matter between them. Legolas threw Gimli a little glance at the dwarf left but he made no effort to speak and after a moment, his eyes returned to Melia, boring into her mercilessly. Were his gaze a dagger, he would have drawn blood by now.
Melia dropped the belongings in her hand at his feet before raising her eyes to meet his, waiting for him to say something. He did nothing of the kind and continued to stare.
"I am sorry," Melia whispered softly when she realized that he was going to say nothing unless she did so first. Melia supposed that it was fair considering her actions at their last encounter. She behaved badly and she knew it. Though he remained as impassive as stone at this instance, she knew what she had done had hurt him badly and there was no adequate apology that would ever make up for it. However she had to try. Melia had to try because she loved him and this time, it was her turn to fight to make Legolas hers again.
"It was cowardly and unfair to leave you as I did. I was wrong," she continued to speak, never believing an apology could be so hard to make. "I used my mother's death as an excuse for why we could not be together when in truth, I was afraid. I was afraid that I would fail you. You said you loved me and that you would never hurt me. I believed you all too well but I did not know if I could be trusted to feel the same for you when the years began to age my body. I did not wish to see my love for you become hatred when you were spared all the things I would endure when I grow old."
Tears were running down her cheeks and she wiped them away, looking for some assurance in his eyes that her plea had not been made in vain. He offered her no such comfort all Melia could think to do was to keep speaking. "I went home to Angmar thinking I could forget you but my heart felt as if it were torn apart beneath my breast. I could not stop thinking about you and I yearned to hear your voice, to feel your touch for every second of every day that we were apart. I am sorry I made you suffer Prince, I am sorry I made a choice for both of us without even consulting you."
Legolas' silence remained and Melia found herself weeping before him. She wished he would speak. She did not care if he even screamed at her. She just needed to hear him say something.
"Please," she begged. "Please say something."
"What would you have me say?" Legolas finally spoke, his voice low.
"Tell me you understand, tell me how you feel, anything!" She exclaimed.
"Understand what?" He demanded, the anger that he had been holding back for months finally escaping him. "Understand that you left me there, without a word of explanation! Not even to say farewell! After everything we had endured together, you could find it so easy to discard me?"
"I was confused and afraid," she stammered.
"THAT'S NO EXCUSE!" He roared. "You broke my heart when you left! Do you know that? I thought I would die when I heard you had gone! And you are here now, for what purpose? To play with my affections again? For me to give you my heart and soul only to have you toss it aside at a moment's notice when you begin to doubt me again? I am three thousand years old but I am not strong enough to cope with that pain again!"
"I am sorry!" She wept harder. "I have no right to expect anything of you but I know that I love you and if we are bound for tragedy then it is something I swear to you we will face together. I have disappointed you Prince but no more, I promise!"
Legolas stared at her, feeling his anger give way to the effect of her tears upon his heart. He had given up hope these long months that she would ever be with him and he had not arisen a single day without wanting her in his arms, they were they had been when they journeyed to Ered Mithrin together. If it had not been the goal he had set himself with the establishment of the colony here in South Ithilien, there was every possibility he would have died of grief. Sorrow did have that power over the heart of an elf though most did not know of it. However, he had forced himself to heed his father's advice, to go on without her. Now she was here and she was the one begging him to trust her with his heart. How could he refuse?
He could not. He loved her too much for that.
"I will hold you to that promise Mia," he swallowed thickly, his heart melting as he stepped towards her and threw caution to the winds.
Their mouths met in a passionate kiss as her hands wrapped around his neck and his arms enveloped her body, pulling against his son. For a few seconds, there was nothing else in the world as they tasted each other again, tongues dueling in heat as they relished the pleasure of being with each other again. Time seemed to have frozen as they basked in each other's scent and touch, revisiting the sensations of their passion once more. When Legolas and Melia finally parted, it was only their lips that pulled away for the Prince was not willing to let her go, not after waiting so long to feel her in his arms again.
"So Lord of Ithilien," Melia asked, happiness apparent in each word she spoke. "What now?
"Well," he returned with a teasing smile. "How about showing me the fruits of human pleasure again?"
"Not until we are wed," she declared.
"Oh so now you want to wed?" Legolas retorted. "I do not know if I want to marry you. My father warned me about you mortal women you know."
"You are impossible," she pointed out.
"I am not the only one," he grinned before kissing her again and this time he knew it would be forever.
With the Grey Mountains behind her, she walked towards the forest, her senses seeking out, with the accuracy of a wolf tracking a bleeding stag, the life she could sense in the wood. Above her, the moon shone its full light upon her bare body and the coldness of the air could be seen by each breath of warmth that condensed it into vapor. She felt did not feel the cold that would reduce most to shivering ruin by now. She felt nothing of the kind as she walked across the land, seeking out sustenance after her enforced hunger. Her primary concern was to feed herself even though she was consumed with another need that would not be as easy to satisfy.
Memories of fire branded her thoughts and the cries of her sisters who had all perished in the flame, accompanied her solitary journey aware from Ered Mithrin. When she had emerged from her shell, her intelligence had overridden her instinct to attack when she saw the fire. In the chaos of smoke and flame, she had chosen to leave her sisters and the battlefield, opting for survival. She had walked out of the cave and hidden herself away, hoping that the others would do the same. She had waited until the smell of smoke had died and when she returned to the birthing chamber, the enemy had already gone but the results of their handiwork had been left behind.
She did not know how to feel grief for she was not constructed to feel the gentler emotions. The dead bodies of her sisters, some who had never even emerged from their cocoons lay before her in mass of charred and blackened flesh. Even the body of the creator was among the dead and she could only stare as growing rage suffused her soul and made her understand that she was alone. The enemy's face was in her mind and like the fire that had branded itself upon her consciousness, so had his face upon her memory. What had the River Daughter called him with the bow and arrows carrying fiery death?
She would find him. Someday, she would find him.
And then she would destroy him.