Lalaith Elerrina--Ward of Rivendell - Chapter 15
The soft glow of the lamps of Caras Galadhon flowed down across Lalaith in a cool, refreshing shower of silver light as Haldir guided them up the silver steps weaving around the massive trees of Lorien among the branches and the buildings perched among them, toward the throne room of the Lord and Lady of the Galadhrim.
Sound was muted to a soft hush as they stepped onto the talan that lay beneath the steps which flowed down from the thrones above them where Celeborn and Galadriel stood, a guard standing somberly at each side of their dais. Celeborn offered his hand to Galadriel as the two slowly, regally, descended the steps toward their waiting guests. All here seemed as light and soft music, and as Lalaith glanced at her companions, she could see the awe in their faces, and the light in their eyes, the hobbits, especially, seemed deeply impressed. Lalaith felt great reverence, and peace, but no unearthly awe as the others seemed to, for she had been here before, her first introduction to Celeborn and Galadriel when she was a tiny child, long before she could remember. She thought of them as her grandparents. She had seen them laugh. And even now, Lalaith restrained a smile, remembering the time as a child when she and Arwen had unwittingly stumbled upon the two of them alone, kissing like young lovers, and the incessant teasing that she and Arwen had plagued them with for years afterwards. She remembered screeching in delight when Lord Celeborn would catch her and tickle her, and she knew that Lady Galadriel, for all her regal demeanor, and the silver flowing robes she now wore, had not been above playing with her in flowering meadows, kneeling with her in the grass and gathering Lalaith into her lap when she was drowsy, singing her to sleep in the midst of the scent of flowers, and the droning buzz of bees.
Lady Galadriel surveyed the Fellowship before her with stately calm, smiling only briefly as her gaze passed over Lalaith.
"The enemy knows you have entered here." Lord Celeborn spoke at last, bringing Lalaith's thoughts back to the sobering weight of the present. "What hope you had in secrecy is now gone."
Lalaith drew in a heavy sigh, and glanced downward.
"Nine there are here, but ten there were, set out from Rivendell." Celeborn continued. "Tell me, where is Gandalf, for I much desire to speak with him. I can no longer see him from afar."
The very name caused a fresh pang of grief to pierce Lalaith's heart, and she drew in a quick breath of air at the sudden pain.
"Gandalf the Grey did not pass the borders of this land." The voice was Lady Galadriel's, but her lips did not move, and Lalaith realized she had heard Galadriel's thoughts.
"He has fallen into shadow." Galadriel spoke now, her voice quiet with sadness.
Celeborn turned and looked at his wife, his expression one of subdued disbelief.
"He was taken by both Shadow and flame." Lalaith offered quietly, the first to speak. But she found her voice suddenly choked, and she could speak no further.
"A Balrog of Morgoth." Legolas finished for her, a trace of bitterness in his otherwise smooth voice. "For we went needlessly into the net of Moria."
The expression that came upon Celeborn's face was enough to rend Lalaith's heart, and she glanced down, and would have begun to cry again herself, but for Legolas' hand that quickly found and enclosed her own.
"Needless were none of the deeds of Gandalf in life. We do not yet know his full purpose." Galadriel's smooth voice, gentle and firm at once, brought Lalaith's head up again. Galadriel's eyes rested on hers. You are more than what any of us know, my dear one. Galadriel's voice seemed to echo in Lalaith's mind as their eyes locked. Remain true to your course, and you will defeat the darkness that waits to lay claim on you.
Lalaith's breath caught in her throat as Galadriel smiled gently. Galadriel's eyes, youthful yet filled with the wisdom of ages surveyed the others of the Fellowship before her, and came to rest on Gimli who stood sighing in front of Lalaith and Legolas, with his head down.
"Do not let the emptiness of Khazad-Dum fill your heart, Gimli, son of Gloin." Galadriel said to the dwarf, her voice laden with infinite gentleness. "For the world has grown full of peril, and in all lands, love is now mingled with grief." As she finished her words, her eyes found Boromir, and though Lalaith could not turn her eyes to the Man, she could hear him stifle a sob, quiet, and muffled.
For what, for whom? Lalaith asked her mind. For his people? Probably. He loved them, and felt a great burden of duty to them. His love for them would indeed be mingled with grief, his fear of their fall. But could his emotion also be for her? She hoped not. But as she glanced at Haldir who stood silently to the side, she could see clearly by the way he glanced pityingly between her and the human, what he thought Boromir's secret thoughts might be.
"What now becomes of this Fellowship?" Celeborn now added. "Without Gandalf, hope is now lost."
"The quest stands upon the edge of a knife." Galadriel spoke, her voice firm, her eyes flashing. "Stray but a little, and it will fail, to the ruin of all." As she said this again, her eyes turned back to Boromir, and now, Lalaith risked a glance at him to see his tormented expression. Lalaith could look no more, and turned away.
"Yet hope remains while the company is true." The heaviness of Galadriel's voice lifted as her glance rested on Sam, and her expression grew softer. "Do not let your hearts be troubled. Go now and rest for you are weary with sorrow and much toil. Tonight, you will sleep well." As she spoke these last words she glanced at Frodo with great interest, and Lalaith suddenly realized that Galadriel knew without question, the importance of the small hobbit's role in their Fellowship. With a quick glance at Frodo, Lalaith could tell that Frodo was deeply affected by Lady Galadriel's gaze, and guessed that he was hearing words from Galadriel's mind that no other could hear. What those words could be, though, Lalaith could not even begin to guess.
Lalaith lay upon her back upon a soft, downy bed placed within a tent of iridescent silk, nestled between the jutting roots of one of the great Mallorn trees of the forest. She was separated only by a short flight of steps and a single tree trunk from her companions, but she felt as if they were leagues away, having grown so used to having them all about her for so long. This, though, did give her a chance at privacy for once. She had been provided a bath, and had been able to wash herself thoroughly for the first time in uncounted weeks, to cleanse her skin and her hair from the grime of travel, and the stench of orc blood. She wore now a soft gown of shimmering white that Galadriel's maids had presented her with. Its neck was scooped, and its smooth, tapering sleeves hung delicately from the edges of her shapely shoulders, while the gown itself clung to her body in a way that flattered her slender form, and made her feel beautiful and feminine, a sensation she had not felt since she left Imladris. Still, she was sad. Her fingers were laced together behind her head as tear after tear rolled down her cheek, wetting the pillow beneath her head. She was alone now with her thoughts, and could focus now on her memories of Gandalf.
Her earliest memory of him, was when she was a child, little more than twenty or thirty, she guessed, when she met him for the first time. She had been playing in the gardens of Imladris. Legolas was with her on one of his many visits, she remembered, pushing her on a swing of flowering vines when Gandalf had approached them, and had begged permission to show the little Lady a small trick. Lalaith smiled at the memory. It was the first time in her life anyone had ever called her a lady. She had been shy of the grey clad, tall, bearded stranger in the funny hat at first, and had only approached him shyly at Legolas' gentle urging. And then, to her delight, in his bare hand, appeared the image of a flower, a lovely red flower with a green stem, and curling leaves, only it was made entirely of flames, and amazingly, was not hot to touch when he surrendered it into her own tiny hands. It felt fluid, she remembered, as if she were holding solid water. She had laughed gleefully, and had held it up for Legolas to see, and he had knelt at her side, his own face beaming, more at her childish delight, than at the flower. And then it sparked and fizzled away. But though the flower had lasted for only a few moments, Gandalf had succeeded in winning her unfaltering devotion, which had endured for the rest of his life. Little had she known, at their first meeting, that she would be there to witness the end of that long, noble life.
"My Lady?" The voice was quiet and soft, and Lalaith quickly sat up, recognizing Lothriel's polite voice coming from beyond her tent door.
"Come in, Lothriel." She said, quickly rubbing her hands beneath her eyes as the maiden entered, carrying a silver hairbrush in her hands. Lothriel had changed as well from tunic and breeches to a light gown of sky blue, setting off the color of her gentle eyes. Her hair, also, had been untwined, and rolled down her back in gentle waves of gold. Oh, if only Haldir were here to see her, as lovely as she looked right now.
"I came to see if there was anything more you needed, my Lady." She said, smiling shyly until she saw the tears upon Lalaith's cheeks, and her smile faded to a look of profound sympathy. "Why do you cry, my Lady?" She asked, coming to the bed and sitting beside Lalaith.
"I am remembering Mithrandir." She answered quietly. "Did you ever meet him?"
"The one often called Gandalf?" Lothriel asked, and Lalaith nodded. "No, but I have heard of him and his deeds." Lothriel looked downward. "I would have liked to meet him, but now, that will never be." Lothriel looked up at her, her own eyes now shimmering. "I am glad you knew him so well, but I am also sorry too, for now your grief is greater, for you were his friend." Lothriel reached out, and took Lalaith's hand. Lalaith squeezed gently, not realizing until now, how much she had missed the companionship of a fellow maiden.
Tears again began to start in Lalaith's eyes, and she turned to brush them away, and it was then that she felt the soft pull of the brush through her hair as Arwen used to do.
"Oh, Lothriel." Lalaith sighed. "I am so sorry."
"Sorry?" Lothriel asked, perplexed, her brushing pausing for a moment before resuming. "Whatever have you done, that you should be sorry?"
"It has been fifty years since I was here last." Lalaith returned. "I had hoped he would find someone else in that time."
"He, my Lady?" Lothriel murmured, her voice barely audible.
At the mention of his name, Lothriel's brushing immediately stopped.
Lalaith bit her lip softly and turned to face Lothriel. "Do you love Haldir, Lothriel?" She asked, her voice gentle but pointed.
Lothriel flushed deeply, giving her answer before she spoke. "More than my own life, my Lady." She murmured, dropping her eyes to her lap and setting the brush aside. "But I fear to speak to him. He already gave his heart to you."
"Lothriel!" Lalaith chided gently. "Do you think that because he once loved me, that he is doomed now to love no other? He is stronger than that! And you are so lovely, and kind and brave! Surely Haldir sees all this! Perhaps these last years he has been growing to love you, and just needs but some encouragement. There is still hope for you."
Lothriel looked up at Lalaith, tears shimmering in the rims of her eyes. "Is there indeed hope? He goes to pains to ignore me, as if my very presence were offensive to him in some way. I could never speak to him. I dare not-,"
Lalaith noted how Lothriel's face suddenly froze in an expression of mixed fear and longing at the voice outside the door. Haldir's.
"Perhaps I should go now, my Lady." She mumbled hurriedly, and stood up.
"No, Lothriel stay. Here is your chance to speak to him." Lalaith implored.
"No, no." Lothriel moaned quietly. "I must go."
She brushed hurriedly through the door of the tent, nearly colliding into Haldir's chest.
Haldir glanced in surprise at Lothriel, not having expected to see her, and then addressed Lalaith who came scurrying behind, "I came to see if there was anything more you needed."
"No, Haldir, but thank you for your thoughtfulness." Lalaith said with a slight bow, glancing quickly at Lothriel who was poised like a frightened deer, ready to flee.
Lothriel gulped, and at Lalaith's encouraging glance, ventured, "Are- are you well, Lord Haldir?"
Haldir glanced at Lothriel as if surprised, and he stammered a moment, before he answered. "Yes, thank you, Lothriel." He gulped and turned back to Lalaith. "Are you certain there is nothing more you need?"
"Oh," Lothriel sighed, and turned away, starting up the long flight of steps that led higher into the heart of Caras Galadhon, sighing brokenly as she went.
Lalaith scowled deeply into Haldir's eyes as the Lorien maiden hurried away. "Haldir," she said, her tone stiff.
"What?" He asked, perplexed.
"Oh, come in here." She said, and grabbed the front of his tunic, pulling him through her door, and letting it fall shut behind him.
"What is it, my Lady?" He repeated, confused. He had to bend slightly, to keep his head from scraping the ceiling. "Lalaith, have I offended you?" Haldir asked quietly.
"No, but-," Lalaith's voice grew silent. Having her grief at losing Gandalf renewed, and now feeling concern for Lothriel's unspoken love for Haldir, while noting how shreds of Haldir's old emotion yet lingered, was overwhelming, and she dropped onto her bed, putting her head in her hands.
"What is it?" Haldir repeated, sitting beside her in the same spot where Lothriel sat, and placing a hand gently on her shoulder.
Lalaith straightened, turned to look him fully in the face, and finally blurted, "Lothriel loves you."
Haldir's eyes shot open. "She does?" He straightened, pulling his hand back.
Lalaith nodded quickly. "She fairly worships you, Haldir."
"But-," Haldir murmured, releasing a soft breath, "she has never spoken to me of such things-,"
"She is shy!" Lalaith moaned. "She dares not speak to you. You deliberately ignore her, Haldir. You have never given her a reason to believe you would not reject her."
Haldir sat back, and drew in a deep breath, held it for a moment, then released it. "Ohh," he murmured, and it almost sounded like a moan of pain. "It was never my intent to hurt her. Lothriel is a maid one cannot help but admire. She is amazingly lovely, and also brave. Softness and strength mixed appealingly into one woman." He smiled thoughtfully at nothing, before he shook his head and released another deep breath. "I have noticed the eyes of others on her, and she has never given me any sign that she feels anything for me, and so I dared not-," He looked at Lalaith with a grimace of consternation. "I have ignored her, deliberately, and retained instead, my memories of you." He sighed sadly. "A memory can't hurt you again."
"You admire her," Lalaith asked carefully, "and-, nothing more?"
"No, I-!" Haldir spouted, almost vehemently, then added in a thoughtful murmur, without looking at Lalaith, "I have known her since we were children, before I ever met you. I considered her a friend for thousands of years, but it was not until after you rejected my offer of marriage and left Lothlórien that I realized as I slowly regained my heart, that-," Haldir sighed, and began upon another vein, "When I think of her now, I feel more than friendship." He looked up at Lalaith, his jaw tightening. "I have feared to admit it, though. That is why I have taken pains to avoid her. I fear my heart turned to her years ago, but why would she take someone as stern and serious as me, with all those others admiring her? Her rejection would hurt me more than yours did."
"Haldir, Lothriel would sooner die than hurt you." Lalaith said softly, even as hope leaped in her heart. She reached out, gently touching the back of Haldir's hand. "She told me from her own lips that she loved you more than her own life."
"She did?" Haldir asked, his voice pained.
"Those were her very words." Lalaith smiled softly. "You hold her heart in your hands, melon nin, and you did not even notice it. And you have no other in your heart, as I did."
"Oh, what a fool I've been." Haldir moaned, rising to his feet and beginning to pace back and forth before Lalaith. "It- It is my fault, my folly, not hers. I know not where to start. What should I do?"
"Go speak to her." Lalaith urged. "Before another moment is wasted."
"What should I say to her?" He asked helpless, drawing to a stop.
"Anything. It does not matter." Lalaith insisted. "Whatever is in your heart."
"Very well." Haldir said. He strode to the door, and drew it aside, then turned to face Lalaith who had followed behind him.
"My Lady, you remember when we were in the Naith, the night you awoke? Do you remember how I told you that there was none who equaled your beauty?"
Lalaith gulped and nodded. She had been embarrassed and perplexed, and sorry for Lothriel, who had overheard their conversation.
"I was right." Haldir gulped. "You have your own beauty, as your Prince Legolas would certainly agree. But-," his brows knitted thoughtfully, "but in my eyes, in her own way, Lothriel is far more beautiful." He furrowed his brow. "My saying that does not hurt you, does it?"
Lalaith's lips parted in a smile, and she reached up, placing a hand gently against Haldir's cheek. "You do not know how comforting it is, to hear you say that." She sighed. She turned and glanced up the steps to see Lothriel's figure still visible, taking the steps slowly, without enthusiasm. "Now, go to her, before any more time passes."
Haldir grinned like a child, took Lalaith by both of her shoulders and kissed her cheek soundly before he released her, and darted up the steps after Lothriel's departing figure.
Lalaith smiled after him, but her smile faded as soft singing came to her ears, drifting down from the reaches above her, at once both beautiful and melancholy. Lalaith's head drooped wearily, and she made her way to the strong trunk of the nearest tree, leaned her forehead against its cool, smooth bark and let the tears and the memories come again, heedless of them as she listened to the lovely, yet poignant words of a song the Lorien elves were singing that mourned Gandalf's loss as they echoed quietly through the trees.
"A lament for Gandalf." Legolas said quietly, his voice coming from below her, down the steps, accompanied by the soft musical splash of a fountain.
"What do they say about him?" Merry's voice, usually cheery and bright, was little more than a restrained murmur now.
"I have not the heart to tell you." Legolas said in a subdued voice that wrenched at Lalaith's heart. "For me, the grief is still too near."
Pushing away from the trunk of the great Mallorn tree, Lalaith turned, and started slowly down the steps, suddenly wanting the comfort of Legolas' presence, and that of her other companions. Gimli's company, or even Boromir's would be welcome now.
"I bet they don't mention his fireworks." Sam muttered. "There should be a verse about them."
Lalaith reached the bottom of the steps, and stepped lightly toward the glittering, splashing fountain, thoughtfully running her hand beneath the softly clattering water. As quiet as her tred was, not even Legolas turned. Boromir was the only one who noticed her approach. He was seated apart from the others, his chin in his hand, a troubled expression on his face. As she watched the cool water running through her fingers, he glanced up at her, eyed her visage up and down, his eyes traveling slowly as he did, before he stood, drew in a deep breath, and turned away, tromping down a soft slope of earth, and seated himself heavily on a jutting root, almost hidden by the trunk of the tree under which he sat, and turned his face away from her to be alone in his own private musings. Lalaith was aware of his gaze, and his abrupt exit, but did not dare to so much as look up at him.
Sam, not noticing either Lalaith's approach, or Boromir's departure, stood beneath the silken pavilion under which his bed and those of the others had been lain, straightening his small frame up as high as he could, and began to recite:
"The finest rockets ever seen.
They burst in stars of blue and green.
Or after thunder, silver showers,
came falling like a rain of flowers.
"Oh, that doesn't do them justice by a long road." He moaned, flopping back down again.
"I think it was beautiful, Sam." Lalaith said quietly, turning all of their heads, except for Gimli, who was already asleep, snoring noisily, as was his way.
Aragorn smiled softly in agreement to Lalaith's words, then stood slowly up, and made his way in Boromir's direction, an expression of concern on his face. But Lalaith barely noticed him leaving as Legolas approached her, his expression still somber, though there was the hint of a smile on his lips that showed her he was glad she had come down to them. He had changed as she had, donning a silver gray tunic, stitched with intricate embroidery, and breeches of only a slightly darker color. Most captivating to her, though, were his eyes, sorrowful, and vulnerable, giving him an endearing, childlike look.
"Lalaith." He murmured simply, as he slid his hands into hers, weaving his fingers through hers as he leaned toward her, and rested his forehead lightly against her own, closing his eyes, and drawing in a deep breath while the fountain continued its melody behind them, and the melancholy tones of the sweet song mourning Gandalf continued, unceasing from above.
How long they stood like this, Lalaith could not tell. Only that, when the last strains of the song floated away through the trees, and she looked up, she suddenly felt the heat of eyes on her, and glanced around. Gimli was still asleep, snoring, as always, and the hobbits were all sleeping now as well. Aragorn had returned, Boromir with him, and the two humans were settling quietly in for the night. But while Aragorn had turned his gaze away from the two lovers, Boromir was watching them, his countenance shaded, and rather sad, glancing away from the elves now and again only to look back, as if the sight caused him pain, but he could not help but look.
Lalaith shut her eyes tightly and turned once again to Legolas, sighing as she drew back from him. "Oh, Legolas, I am sorry. We must both take our rest. I am keeping you from yours."
Straining up on her toes, she brushed his cheek softly with her own, then gently releasing his hands, turned away. Lightly catching up the hem of her skirt, she glided back up the steps, only to stop outside her door when she heard the light tred of Legolas coming behind her.
"Something, more than Gandalf's death, troubles you, Lalaith." He said simply, coming to her, and stopping behind her. "If you wish to speak your heart, I am willing to listen." He sat down upon one of the jutting roots that encircled her tent and watched her silently.
Drawing in a deep breath, Lalaith nodded and took the spot beside him, without looking at him. "I pity Boromir." She murmured. "He seems so sad. He loves his people so, Legolas, and he fears their fall. He is so young, and unlearned, and I am afraid for him. He feels the power of the One Ring, and I fear he will do something rash. Nothing deliberately evil or dishonorable, for his heart is still good. But he is weak."
"I know another whose heart is good." He said quietly, drawing near and resting his hands gently on her shoulders, his thumbs softly caressing her smooth skin. "Good enough to feel the pains of mortals when others of the Eldar would think them unworthy of their notice."
Lalaith turned her head half way to see his hand, her ring on his smallest finger. "You know I love none but you, Legolas, do you not?"
"I do." Legolas murmured, circling his arms around her waist, and pressing a kiss against her neck through the blanket of her hair. By his tone, Lalaith understood that Legolas too, had noticed Boromir's affection. But there was no animosity in his voice, no desire to put the mortal in his place, and remind him to whom Lalaith truly belonged. Legolas, like Lalaith, pitied him as well.
Folding her own hands over his, Lalaith surrendering to his gentle touch, and leaned back against his chest with a sigh, resting her head against his shoulder, content in his embrace.
After long moments, Legolas drew in a deep breath, and began to sing softly, his voice low and sweet, in words and melody Lalaith had never heard before. Her eyes closed, and her breathing softened as Legolas' words enveloped and embraced her like a warm mantle.
"Im melin le, lalaith nin.
Le na ithilamin,
le na anoramin,
run a annun.
Im melin le, lalaith nin.
Le na oreamin,
le na elenamin,
arda a menel.
An le na coiamin,
Im melin le." *
Lalaith sighed and snuggled ever closer into his arms, and in the companionable silence that passed between them following his song, neither was aware of the slim, solitary figure who approached them, slowly descending the steps, her bare feet beneath her shimmering silver gown making not the slightest noise as the soft breeze in the trees gently caught at her long, golden hair.
"Lalaith, my dear." Galadriel called softly, gently rousing the young lovers who opened their eyes to see her.
"My Lady." Lalaith murmured, drawing herself to her feet, and dropping in a small curtsy.
Legolas followed suit, and rose, bending his head in reverence before the Lady of the Galadhrim.
"Will you look into the mirror, Lalaith?" Galadriel asked quietly, her eyes kindly but intently fixed on the maiden.
"I have looked so many times before, my Lady." Lalaith answered humbly. "It has never shown me any more than I already know. Would it be different this time?"
"I have formless premonitions that portend to something, but as to the answer you seek, not even I know it, dear one." Galadriel smiled. "The mirror shows many things. Perhaps now you are ready to learn more. To see who you really are, and to learn the answers to your many questions."
Lalaith drew in a long sigh. "Then I will look again." She said with a soft bow of her head. She turned then, to Legolas, and with sudden, childlike need, held out her hand to him. "Will you stay with me?" She pleaded. "I need you."
Legolas caught her hand within his, glancing into her eyes, then at Lady Galadriel, his own gaze uncertain, but hopeful.
"Your life, Prince Legolas, is already inseparably entwined with hers." Galadriel said gently, answering his unspoken question. "Not only are you worthy to see what is it she will see, but as difficult as it may be for you, it is necessary, if you wish for her to someday be your own."
An expression of humbled awe came over his face as Legolas inclined his head. "Thank you, my Lady." He said, his warm fingers weaving through Lalaith's, and tightening gently.
Lalaith looked into his eyes and tried to smile in spite of the troubled feelings beginning to turn in her heart at what Galadriel had told him. Difficult? How would it be difficult for her to see her past? But no, Galadriel had already made it clear, or seemed to, that it would be difficult only for Legolas. But then it would ultimately be so for Lalaith, as well.
"Do not be afraid." Legolas murmured, guessing her thoughts and gently guiding Lalaith forward as Galadriel turned and led them slowly down the steps, near enough for them to follow her, but far enough ahead that she could lend them a portion of solitude. "I made a vow to you in Imladris, Lalaith. Do you remember?" He asked, his thumb gently caressing the back of her hand. "The day you gave me this." He lifted his left hand and showed her, the ring she'd given him. "They day we promised ourselves to each other."
Lalaith nodded shyly, remembering the kiss they'd shared, unlike the first time he'd kissed her when she had broken away, her heart heavy with feelings of unworthiness. It had been their second kiss, the sweetest, and warm with promise.
"I meant what I said then, and I meant it now, as I sang to you." Legolas vowed, lifting her chin gently with a finger and fixing his eyes steadily on hers, a gentle smile coming to his lips "You are my world, Lalaith. I will stay beside you, no matter what difficulty we face together."
Lalaith returned his smile, the last shreds of her concern vanishing like traces of spider-web on the wind.
*I love you, my laughter,
You are my moon,
You are my sun,
Sunrise and sunset
I love you my laughter,
You are my heart,
You are my star,
Earth and heaven.
For you are my life
And my laughter.
I love you.
(It would have a double meaning, since her name means laughter.)