Lalaith Elerrina--Ward of Rivendell - Chapter 21
Lalaith woke to the gentle sounds of night fading into early morning as she came slowly back to reality. She stretched contentedly, resting her arms on the pillow above her head. Though it was still long before dawn, the forest was beginning to stir, and here and there, Lalaith could make out a solitary bird's song. She lay on her side, her legs slightly curled, beneath the warm blankets of the bed Galadriel's maids had prepared for her, within the silky tent between the great jutting roots of the Mallorn tree. She had but to stir slightly to realize that she was still wearing the gown she had been the night before. She blinked sleepily, contentedly, certain that what she remembered, had been only a dream.
She sensed a nearby presence, and rolled slowly to her back and turned her head, smiling to see Legolas beside her, sleeping atop the blankets, his face turned toward hers, his body curled as hers was, almost, but not quite touching her. Her long, freely hanging hair was splayed luxuriously across her pillow, and his fingers were entwined in it, his face almost buried within it.
That was it, she decided, raising her eyes to the silken ceiling of her tent. She had fallen asleep in Legolas' arms, and he had carried her into her bed, covered her, and then fallen asleep, beside her. Lady Galadriel had not come, she had not seen all that she had in the Mirror. She had not met Osse the Maia, nor did she have a vision. She was not a Vala. It was all a dream. All of it. Relief washed over her and she smiled.
Her heart grew light. Lalaith eased closer to Legolas, and brushed his sleeping mouth with her lips. She smiled as he stirred and murmured appreciatively. She lowered one hand to his face softly stroking the strong line of his jaw, and sighed, resting her forehead against his, as she closed her eyes.
Legolas stirred again, more forcefully this time, and she could sense that he was fully awake.
"Legolas-," she murmured softly, her eyes still closed, not wishing to open them, and end the intimacy of the moment.
"My Lady-," Legolas gulped, fully awake. At the tone of his voice, her eyes shot open. In an instant, he had drawn away from her, and scrambled off of her bed, bursting to his feet, his face flushing deeply. He stared hard at her, his eyes wide in shock, before he glanced away quickly, as if embarrassed.
"Legolas, what is it?" She gasped, wondering for a moment at his strange actions before she guessed at them, and flushed herself.
"Oh, Legolas, I-," she glanced away. "I am sorry. I did not mean-, that is, I did not think. I meant nothing-,"
"Do not apologize, my Lady." Legolas said, his words strangely stiff and formal. He did not look at her as he spoke. "For it is I who is to blame. I should have left you, when I had the chance. But it was not so easy. I could not help myself. To touch, at least, your hair."
"Legolas?" Lalaith inquired. She sat up to get a better look at him, and though she was fully dressed, since Legolas was present, she drew the coverlet up as well, clutching it tightly to her breast. "It's me. I am only Lalaith." She laughed nervously. "Not Lady Galadriel, or, or Elbereth of the-," She drew in a breath. She could not finish as a chill feeling gripped her heart.
Legolas gulped, and shot a look at her, his eyes, in one quick movement, traveled over her, taking in all that he could, and she could sense the longing in his gaze. "No, but you are her daughter, Lady Elerrina of the Valar." He glanced away again, and his brow furrowed, his face taking on a look of extreme emotional pain. "I, a mere, unworthy Elf. I have given my love to a Vala."
Lalaith's heart dropped like a stone. Then it was true. It had all happened as she remembered.
"Legolas-," She pleaded, throwing back her covering, and leaping to her feet. She hurried around the bed, and reached for Legolas' hands, but pulled back as he flinched, almost as if he feared her touch. "You must understand. But for the knowledge of where I am from, nothing has changed between us." She gazed up pleadingly into his pain filled eyes. "Nothing."
"Lalaithamin." Legolas whispered, the word an agonized murmur from his lips. In his eyes, she could see a battle raging within his soul. "Everything has changed."
She shook her head helplessly. Her empty hands clasped over her heart as she pleaded, "How?"
Legolas could only shake his head sadly before he turned and left, almost staggering, out the door.
Lalaith darted after him as he stumbled heavily down the steps to the clearing where the rest of the Fellowship still slept as the light of the morning slowly grew to a brighter glow in the forest.
Aragorn was the only one awake, seated on a jutting root, and sharpening his sword, slowly and thoughtfully. His eyes shot up though, in a questioning look as Legolas stumbled into view, and leaned his hands heavily onto the edge of the fountain.
"Legolas." Lalaith pleaded once again, reaching the bottom of the steps, and started toward him. She reached to touch his arm, but quickly withdrew her hand as he recoiled. "What have I done? Why are you doing this to me?"
"What's wrong?" Aragorn asked softly in the speech of the Elves. "What happened?"
"Nothing you need tell my uncle about." Lalaith returned tensely.
The human's shoulders lifted and fell, then he repeated his first question. "Then what's wrong?"
"She's a Vala." Legolas moaned, his head hanging as if in utter exhaustion as he leaned heavily on the edge of the fountain.
Lalaith's face dropped into her hands. Behind her, Pippin was mumbling something about fried tomatoes in his sleep, but it hardly registered in Lalaith's mind. It took all her effort to keep herself from bursting into tears.
"She's the daughter of Manwe, King of all of Arda, and Elbereth, the Star Queen." Legolas continued in a heavy voice. "She is one of the highest, holiest beings of Iluvatar's creation. Infinitely beyond the worthiness of a mere Elf."
"Oh." Aragorn said quietly, and he looked downward thoughtfully. Silence reigned for a long moment. "How did you learn this?" He ventured at last.
"Lady Galadriel's Mirror." Lalaith answered quietly, barely lifting her head as her hands fell heavily, helplessly to her sides. "Perhaps I should never have looked into it."
"No. It is what needed to be done." Legolas said, shaking his head. "You now know who you are. I hope now, that you have found the peace you have been seeking all your life." Legolas' shoulders drooped, and he turned, staggering away from both Aragorn and Lalaith into the forest, the thickness of the trees soon blocking him from sight.
Aragorn watched him go, his brows furrowed, confused, his jaw working beneath his beard. As the Elf disappeared, he turned toward the maiden, and contemplated her unhappy face as she gazed hopelessly after the disappearing figure of her lover, her eyes brimmed with tears.
"Lalaith." Aragorn's soothing voice cut through the tenseness in her mind, and Lalaith turned to see the human's eyes, filled with concern and empathy. Aragorn stood, and came closer to her, glancing again over his shoulder where Legolas had disappeared. "It had always been my hope that you would learn of your past, but I did not realize that-, this would happen."
"It is true, though. I was born to Elbereth and Manwe, so I suppose I am a Vala." Lalaith muttered, weakly lifting her hands, and then letting them fall back. There was a tone of bitter sarcasm in her voice as she continued, "Too holy to deserve the love of the Elven Prince to whom I have lost my heart. Too divine to need him to keep the vows he swore to me. He told me he would love me for eternity. That he would stay beside me, and fight the evil that has longed ever to destroy me. He told me he would love me, even if Sauron himself was my father. But Sauron is not my father. Manwe is. And since that is so," she sniffed angrily, "then perhaps Legolas is free to forget his vows, to take back his love as if I never possessed it, and trample my heart into the dust. It matters not that my father prophesied that I would find one to love among the Eldar. I am but an unfeeling Vala, now. I am left to my own strength. But perhaps he thinks that I do not need his help, all powerful being that I must be."
She ceased her pained ranting, and glanced up at Aragorn, grateful for his comforting presence, for his selfless concern. They had known each other for most of his adult life, and he loved her as dearly as a sister. She managed a weak smile, calmed by his silent strength, his eyes showing only concern for her, not anger or judgment at her harsh words.
"You're not going to start bowing, or calling me `Lady Elerrina', are you, Aragorn?" She pleaded.
Aragorn grimaced painfully. "Not unless you want me to."
"No." Lalaith shook her head quickly. "Never. I am no different than I was before."
Aragorn nodded gently. "Then I will do as you ask."
"Legolas never will." She choked, glancing down at the ground.
"He loves you too much, Lalaith, to be lost to you."
Lalaith shook her head sadly, wishing she could believe Aragorn's assuring words, but now, all she could see in her mind, was Legolas' back as he walked away from her.
"Her name was Eolyn, Aragorn." Lalaith stammered, sighing brokenly, grasping vainly for anything to focus on besides her pain of Legolas' rejection. "The woman who died saving me."
"All your life you have wanted to know who she was." Aragorn said, a sad smile coming to his face. "Why is it that she thought your parents were dead? That Elrond was your kinsman?"
"The orcs of Mordor lied. What they did not speak in lies, they lied with their silence." Lalaith sighed wearily. "That is their way. It is not surprising."
"No, it is not." Aragorn murmured, and then he was quiet.
She grew silent as well, having nothing more to say, her mind unwillingly wandering back to Legolas, the pain in his eyes, and the sight of him turning and leaving her. She glanced at the spot where he had disappeared within the trees, and started with a small gasp to see Boromir standing there, his eyes moving back and forth between herself and Aragorn, waiting awkwardly for a chance to speak. In her distress, she had not heard him awaken, and draw near. She blushed, embarrassed.
"Boromir." She gulped, changing her speech to the Common Tongue, so that he would understand. "How long have you been awake?"
"Long enough to see that all is not well between you and Legolas. And that your heart is grieved." He said, and his brows furrowed in sympathy. "Is there anything I can do?"
"No." She blurted, more forcefully than she wished, and turned, scurrying away in the opposite direction Legolas had gone, with a sudden fear of Boromir's nearness, and of the tender look in his eyes as he studied her face. Not that she was afraid of him, for she knew that the intentions of his heart were good and honorable. He had saved Legolas' life in Moria, and at the same time, had helped to slay the orc that had tried to kill her. But she was afraid for him, remembering Sauron's curse, and the fate of Eolyn who had loved her like her own child, and had died for that love. She could not let Eolyn's fate be Boromir's.
She walked blindly, crookedly, following no path through the trees, her heart heavy within her, her brain pounding incessantly, the image of Legolas' back as he turned and left her, ever before her eyes. Her mind lost track of time, how far she had gone, how long she had walked, before she came to a small stream, clear and sparkling as crystal, stones as bright as jewels littering the bottom.
"Oh, Lord Osse." Lalaith cried, dropping heavily to her knees, and studying the softly rippling water, her face reflected in its dancing surface. "Why? Why did my parents have you show me all that you did, if this is the outcome? Because I am of the Valar, Legolas no longer sees me as he once did! He thinks himself unworthy of me. He will barely look at me. He will not even touch me. Why must it be this way? Have I lost him?"
The stream spoke nothing in return, nothing she could understand, and continued to make its quiet patient way through the trees, burbling as it went.
"Osse, answer me!" Lalaith cried, almost angrily, striking a fist angrily at the surface of the water that splashed and rocked, and then went back sedately to the way it had been.
She did not lift her head when she heard a twig crackle behind her, and felt a presence. She heard him lower himself to the ground behind her, and felt large warm hands resting comfortingly on her slender shoulders.
Aragorn. She thought in her mind, and with the gentle touch of her friend's hands, Lalaith at last gave into the heaviness and grief in her heart, and burst into tears, weeping with sudden abandon as wetness blinded her eyes. She turned then, and fell against his chest where she continued to sob. In her distress, she failed to note that the Man holding her was larger, more muscular, lacking Aragorn's elf-like leanness. She did not care. She only knew her misery.
"Why did I ever look into the mirror?" She cried, sobbing in her own tongue as his arms circled around her, and pulled her close, and she buried her face against his chest, inhaling the musky, Mannish scent of him. "Why? Why could I not be content with my ignorance? Had I never looked, he would love me still."
"Hush, Lalaith. I am here. All will be well." Murmured a warm, deep voice, speaking in the Common Tongue as a hand gently began to stroke her hair.
Lalaith started, and pulled back away from his chest, but not completely from the shelter of his arms. It was not Aragorn's voice that spoke, but Boromir's.
Catching a broken sob in her throat, she looked up into the Man's face. Boromir's eyes gazed down into hers, his own sympathy and the pain he felt for her, deeper even, than Aragorn's had been. She cast a quick glance over his shoulder, but no one else was to be seen. They were alone. Aragorn had not followed her, but Boromir.
Boromir reached up with one hand, and cupped her cheek. His hand, larger and more calloused than Legolas', though still gentle as his thumb softly smoothed away her tears.
"I love him, Boromir." She murmured, her eyes darting away from the human's. "And I will love him forever. Only him."
"And he loves you. He will never stop loving you." Boromir assured her, with a sigh that spoke of reluctant acceptance, and Lalaith looked up at him, his eyes delving deeply into her own. "But tell me what has happened between you. It is clear to me that your heart is pained."
"No, you would not understand, Boromir." Lalaith sighed, and pulled away from him. Boromir let her go, her hands sliding slowly through his as she sat back on her feet, and dropped her hands helplessly into her lap.
"I understand more than you may think." Boromir said drawing in a broken breath, a hurt look flashing over his countenance. "Your heart is his, for eternity. For that is the way of Elves, is it not?" He gulped hard, and his eyes took on a look of pain. "If so, then his heart is still yours. He is only-, confused." His own look of confusion flashed across Boromir's face as he said this, and Lalaith felt a fleeting, but distinct impression that he might be thinking, for a moment, of himself, not Legolas. But then it faded as quickly as it had come. "Legolas will come back to you."
Lalaith sighed. "You and Aragorn are so sure that all will come to happiness between Legolas and me."
"Why should we not be?" Boromir asked, a catch in his voice even as he struggled to sound cheerful. "I have never seen greater love than there is between you and Legolas." He smiled bravely into Lalaith's eyes, but Lalaith could see sadness behind his smile.
"Boromir, tell me truthfully, for I must know. You are my friend, are you not?" Lalaith asked gently, reaching out and placing a hand lightly on his own where it rested in a fist upon his knee, "I think of you as a friend. And I have no wish to be the cause of pain for you or-," Lalaith stammered, "or to cause your death."
Boromir gulped hard as if the question seared his heart, but he managed a nod, accompanied by a rough, short chuckle. "Of course we are friends. Who would not be, after all that we have been through, together? But I would endure pain for you, Lalaith, even death, willingly, if it was required to save your life, my-," he choked and glanced away, "my friend."
His eyes turned back and studied her, his gaze intense, yet tender at the same time. Lalaith's heart clenched hard at the look in his gaze, and at the tone of his words that had not even begun to reassure her that he was safe from Sauron's curse.
"Tell me what happened. I will listen." He said, turning his hand so that he caught hers within his grasp.
Lalaith dropped her eyes to his hand, trembling slightly as it held hers. Boromir, she feared, her heart growing cold, was in terrible danger. She needed to leave him. She could not allow him to love her.
"I must go, Boromir." She said softly. She pulled her hand out of his, rose and turned away, preparing to follow the path of the stream as it meandered away. "Forgive me, but I must be alone."
She glanced over her shoulder to see Boromir, still kneeling where he had dropped to the ground beside the stream. He was watching her go with a wistful gaze. He smiled briefly, and nodded, giving her leave, though there was sorrow in his eyes. She turned, and walked slowly away.
Boromir watched Lalaith walking away, her movements calm and sedate, wishing that the pain she was bearing, he could take away, that he could somehow give her comfort. His gaze did not leave her, his eyes watching her as she moved, her gown accentuating the lithe beauty of her feminine form, her long, star sparkling hair unbound, cascading down her back, the sight causing the blood to pound thickly in his throat. And as he watched her go, moving with the graceful silence that marked her race, his mind moved back in time to the first moment he had ever seen her in Rivendell, when he had called to her, and she had turned, and he had been struck so suddenly with her almost unearthly beauty. He knew he had loved her from that moment, but it was more than her outward beauty that had so quickly ensnared him. There was something within her, something wonderful yet elusive, beyond her beauty and her goodness, her courage, and the grace of her spirit. It seemed to him almost, as if he had been born for naught but for the purpose of serving her, of loving her, even if only from afar. And if such love required him to die for her, for her happiness, he knew even now, as he watched the sparkle of her gown flit away amidst the silver and gold of the forest, that he was more than willing to do it, without fear, or hesitation. He had held her for a moment, a brief moment. And for an instant, he had held eternity within his arms.