Is This Heaven? - Chapter Three

(Thanks to everyone who commented on the first two chapters, as well as the prologue! Here's the third chapter... Enjoy!)

Chapter Three: A long, sad story

"Laureli, most of this happened long ago in the reckoning of men, starting with the discovery of the One Ring years after it was lost. From the tales we have deduced in Mirkwood, Smeagol, now called Gollum, was with his friend when it was found.

"It was a good day for fishing, and his friend, whom he called Deagol, found the ring. From there, only Gollum knows what truly happened, but we know he killed the other for the corrupted ring. For five hundred years, he hid in a cave, hoarding his ring; his precious, as he calls it. The hobbit Bilbo Baggins came upon the creature and took the Ring, bringing it to his home in the Shire," he took a breath here, pausing, but before he could continue, Laureli questioned him.

"But what is he? Is he a hobbit, or a dwarf? What type of creature is he?"

"That, my sweet lady, is something that will never be known. I doubt anyone knows what he truly is, or what he was, save for a few who live in or around Mordor. He was sent out to find the Ring and fetch it for Sauron. Now that he's escaped, I fear for the Ring. If it falls into the wrong hands, it will mean disaster for us all. That's why I came, both to alert Elrond and to protect the ringbearer as I may. Your errand did us all good, Laureli."

She wished that night had fallen, now that her cheeks had gone scarlet. Praise from anyone would make her flush with pride, but this wasn't just anyone. No, this was a very handsome, charming, sweet-tempered prince that had managed to worm his way into her heart in a matter of hours. Swallowing her humility, she spoke softly, barely audible above the rustling of the leaves. "You speak as if I did something good, prince, yet you act as if my mission was more important than I knew. What did I do?"

"You came in the nick of time. I saw Glorfindel come through the gates with a wounded hobbit across his mount's back. There were other hobbits, but I know naught of them. If you hadn't run here, I beleive that the wounded one may have died. You saved his life unselfishly," his voice was still even, but it held a hint of reverance in it, something that was never given lightly. She smiled slowly, eyes locked with his.

"Then what of you? If you hadn't come, I never would have been able to find my way to the palace, making my errand useless."

"All too true, but, perhaps we met for a purpose. I for one am not sorry that you knocked me over in your haste, for I met a lady who's heart is as fair as her face. You are unselfish, Lady," he said it in the same tone Laureli had used; low and distinct. His eyes never left hers, so intent was he upon finding his way out of their azure depths.

She felt her blood heat instantly as he spoke so softly, his eyes looking so deeply into her own that she was sure he could see something that was hidden there, as if they shared some mutual secret. She wanted to nestle against him for comfort, but he heaved himself to his feet, offering her a hand and pulling her up beside him. They stood so close they were almost touching, and Laureli was powerless to move away.

*************

Her eyes were as deep as the sea, so vast that he found it easy to get lost in their depths. Even as he pulled her close, he couldn't bring himself to look away, nor to look anywhere but into those eyes. He was about to lean down to brush his lips against hers, but pulled back just in the nick of time. What in the world was he thinking? She'd given no sign that she'd be receptive to any such advance, or had she? She'd calmed down from their first meeting and seemed at ease around him, but he didn't want to scare her away. He took her hand and tugged at her gently.

"Come. I know that there are other hobbits who came with the wounded one, and they may ned someone to make them merry again. I believe you would do well at that, and it would be a pleasure to accompany you again." He started walking briskly, leaving her no choice but to follow.

*********************

Laureli could have sworn that Legolas was about to kiss her; the very air between them had become so charged that it was nearly impossible to breathe. What was he thinking? What did he see in her, besides a lost elf who had no way of finding anything she'd known? There was something there, she mused. Something that he didn't want her to know, but wanted her to know somehow. When he tugged her away, her mind returned to reality somewhat, and she followed him easliy. There was no time to think about falling for him, no time to ignore her feelings. Too much too soon. She followed him as though she weren't enjoying it, though in reality she would have followed him to the ends of the earth. They walked through the door and entered another small terrace, where three small figures sat, forlorn and scared. They looked so small and fragile, making Laureli's heart go out to them. She came closer, still holding Legolas' hand before she spoke.

"What's the matter, gentle friends? Come now, be merry! For you stand in safety at long last."

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