Lalaith Elerrina--Child of the Stars - Chapter 11
Legolas stood alone upon the high ledge of the stone terrace that edged the Golden Hall, his cloak folded against himself as he gazed contemplatively eastward. The darkness drawing across the stars seemed only thicker now, wafting across the sky like distant, sinister smoke, floating across the stars as it went. There was a blackness growing in the east, and beyond it, an unseeable hatred. Sauron was groping sightlessly for the ring, Legolas could sense. And, in his dark desperation, for any power he could harness to his black will to gain it.
He felt a presence behind him, a scuffing of boots approached.
Aragorn, he knew, before he even turned to look at the somber face of the mortal as the destined king of Gondor paused beside him, his own troubled eyes lifted to the darkening sky.
"The stars are veiled." Legolas murmured softly, to which Aragorn released a low breath. "Something stirs in the east. A sleepless malice." He turned to glance at the young mortal as he somberly murmured, "The eye of the enemy is moving."
To this, Aragorn tightened his jaw thoughtfully and said nothing. And the Elf and mortal remained in silence, side by side, gazing with silent unease, into the darkening east.
"Ah, my lady, I have never seen hair so fine in all my days!" sighed a young, smooth faced girl, light brown hair hanging loosely about her shoulders as she combed dreamily at Lalaith's tresses of silken gold. "It is smoother than the finest linen to the touch." The girl, only one of a flock of others, who were fawning and cooing over the Elf maiden knelt behind her on the cot that had been set up for Lalaith within the sleeping chamber of the maidens of the Golden Hall, Éowyn's servants, as well as daughters of the nobles who served the King.
"And your hands!" Breathed another girl settling near Lalaith, her white sleeping gown billowing about her as she seated herself, and took up one of Lalaith's fair slender hands turning it over, to examine it. "One could not believe that you have ever slain orcs with such hands as these! Why, they're as white and smooth as cream!"
A low murmur of pensive longing rippled through the group of maidens clad in their sleeping gowns, and flocked like so many white birds about Lalaith as they sadly surveyed the rough state of their own hands.
"I have a few calluses," Lalaith said, her voice somewhat tense as she ran her hands over the slightly rough parts, to show the girls, though, she did note with chagrine, that her hands were still finer and smoother than the hands of the mortal maidens.
Lalaith cast a glance at Éowyn who stood at a cot near the wall, slowly folding a coverlet. Like Lalaith, the king's niece had not yet changed her gown for her sleeping shift, and instead moved about the room, readying the cots of the others girls. Éowyn shot her a sympathetic smile, though she too, inadvertently dropped a glance to her own hands, and the rough calluses they bore.
"And you are so fair!" A dark haired maiden with misty, worshipful eyes, breathed, from where she lay flopped upon a cot before Lalaith, her chin propped into her hand. "What I would do to be as lovely as you."
"Are all the women of your race as pretty as you are?" The girl combing her hair behind her murmured dreamily.
At this, Éowyn dropped the coverlet upon the end of the nearest cot with a sigh, and glanced away, touching a hand to her face, lost in her own thoughts. A look of muted sorrow flitting across her expression, to which Lalaith gulped softly, feeling the strings of her heart tugged upon. Éowyn held a secret hurt over something, and Lalaith was sorry for her.
"Pah, I care not about the beauty of the women of her people!" Another girl, her bright, generous face liberally sprinkled with freckles, guffawed loudly, shaking her flaming red curls about her head as she laughed. "I want to know about the men! For we were cloistered away in the caves when your kinsfolk came to Helms Deep!"
A trill of eager laughter tittered through the group, and the girls as one leaned closer to Lalaith, their youthful faces growing suddenly eager. But Lalaith's face slowly began to fall at the thought.
"Yes, tell us," the dew eyed maiden pled, "for they were so brave and noble to come and save us in our need. Are the men of your people all as handsome as Lord Legolas?"
A giggle shot nervously through the group, and many silent exchanges passed between youthful eyes at the mention of his name.
"Come now, my friends." Éowyn said at last, striding near with the air of a patient mother as she flashed Lalaith a knowing, apologetic look. "Do you think such a question just? After all, Lady Lalaith is betrothed to Lord Legolas. She loves him." Éowyn's brow twitched with some hidden emotion but she smiled good-naturedly as she continued. "Surely in her eyes, none can compare to him."
A sigh moved over the girls at this, and heads nodded in sad acceptance of Éowyn's words.
"Come now," Éowyn added, shooing girls one way and the other. "Lady Lalaith is our guest, and doubtless is very weary. To your beds with you! The night has grown late."
With many groans, and reluctant looks, the girls at last began to depart, still whispering amongst themselves as they moved to their own cots scattered about the room. Here and there, girls snuffed out the lamps that were hanging upon the walls, and a warm cloak of darkness fell over the room, broken only by the muted starlight that filtered in through the single window in the outer wall.
Lalaith smirked as the other girls settled into their beds and she cast Éowyn a grateful look as the king's niece lowered herself to the cot beside Lalaith and smiled at her as she handed the Elven maiden a folded night gown.
"I am sorry." Éowyn sighed, with a shake of her head as she turned affectionate eyes on the other girls as they moved away. "They admire you. They do not mean to be so stifling."
"I do not mind." Lalaith agreed with a smile. "I am glad that I give them something to divert their thoughts away from the coming darkness."
"You and-, your companions have done our people a great service." Éowyn returned, then she turned her eyes down upon her hands which were folded in her lap, kneading each other nervously, before she lifted her eyes once again, and in a plaintive breath, murmured, "Lord Aragorn has brought hope to the men." Her brows twitched sadly as with an unreadable expression, Éowyn stood, and made her way to the window, gazing out into the darkened night.
"I envy you, Lalaith." Éowyn murmured softly, and almost to herself. "Would that I too, could fight beside the man I loved."
What was it Éowyn meant? Lalaith frowned softly at the mortal maiden's back. Éowyn stood stiffly, her stance rigid, her arms folded tightly, while her long unbound hair, the only part of her that moved, lifted softly in the small breeze that brushed through the window. Lalaith sensed the mortal maiden's desperate need for reassurance, but felt uncertain as to how to help her. She wracked her memory, struggling to recall what Aragorn had told her of this slender, fearless shieldmaiden on their return from Isengard. Éowyn was much like Lalaith, Aragorn had said, as skilled with a blade as any man, and bearing a heart of dauntless courage. Yet, Lalaith wondered, perhaps her uncle the king opposed her going to war as she wished. And that, Lalaith surmised, was the reason for her despondent words.
After a moment, the Elf maiden stood as well, leaving the nightgown forgotten beside her and slowly made her way across the room, past the other maidens, who, in spite of their earlier protests, were already fast asleep. She reached Éowyn's side at last, lifting her own eyes to the high domed sky, where a veil, as a grey curtain seemed to be drawn across the stars from out of the east.
"Whatever path your heart bids you to follow," Lalaith murmured softly, "take it. For though you cannot see the end, I do not doubt but that it will be far greater than what you now dream it to be."
The mortal maiden turned to glance at Lalaith as the Elf maid spoke, studying her eyes with quiet pleading as she drank in her words. And Lalaith wondered at the own surety she heard within her own voice, and felt within her heart.
"War is coming again, and soon." Lalaith continued softly, studying the faded stars, sensing the darkness that writhed like a great worm in the distant east. "The future is uncertain. But we cannot let our courage fail us." Lalaith sighed, her words tentative and slow as they came forth, for she realized she was speaking to herself as much as she was, the mortal maiden. "The eye of the enemy is seeking us out-,"
Her words stopped, choking in her throat as a great black weight, as of a heavy pall fell over her mind, and she gasped suddenly, clutching a hand hard at the windowsill.
"What?" Éowyn blurted, concern sharp within her voice. "Lalaith, are you alright?"
"He is here!" Lalaith gasped hard, regaining her strength at last as she pushed herself away from the window, and rushed through the dim room for the doorway, Éowyn following behind her, dodging sleeping cots as she struggled to follow the Elf maiden.
Through the heavy oaken door Lalaith plunged, and into the outer chamber where low burning torches cast wierd, mottled shadows along the walls. He senses beckoned her furtively to another door across the hall, and to this her feet swiftly carried her, barely aware of Éowyn scurrying behind her, or the swift pounding of boots as others, summoned by the same heavy forboding, drew near.
"You cannot go in there," Éowyn protested breathlessly scampering near as Lalaith wrenched on the door latch "that is where the men-,"
But Lalaith was already through the rough hewn door, half expecting to see a great orc, or a black robed Nazgûl standing ominously in the center of the room, in the midst of ruin, and death. Yet what she saw, tore at her heart as painfully as the vision of one of Sauron's minions could have.
A gasp came from Éowyn who caught herself in the doorway behind her at the sight before them, but Lalaith did not hear her.
"Pippin!" She screamed.
The young Hobbit was sprawled upon the floor, the palantir that had once been sheltered in Gandalf's cloak, was now a globe of burning flame clenched between his small hands as his dear little face contorted with an agony Lalaith could not fathom.
She did not think. She did not choose. She threw herself upon her knees beside the flailing Hobbit, and snatched the blazing ball from out of his rigid hands.