Lalaith Elerrina--Ward of Rivendell - Chapter 23

Chapter 23

Lalaith lifted her eyes to Celeborn and Galadriel who stood side by side, gazing once again, upon the Fellowship before she glanced away and down, her eyes focused on nothing. This was her last night in Lothlorien, and to Lalaith, it was a moment of both relief and dread. Relief that at last their Quest would be renewed. And dread, for she could not deny her fear of the dark and evil they were to soon inevitably face. She stood beneath the thrones of the Lord and Lady of the Galadhrim, beside her companions as she had the first day they had come to Caras Galadhon. Lalaith sighed softly to herself and studied the fabric of the gown she wore as it clung delicately to the soft curves of her body, a light, sparkling green, the color of new, young leaves. Tonight was the last night she would wear something soft and pretty, and she was already missing the lovely gowns Galadriel's maids had given her. They had been in Lothlorien for several days now, and tomorrow, was the day they would depart to continue their Quest. And in all that time, since the morning she had woken after peering into the Mirror, Legolas had barely spoken to her, and not once, had he so much as touched her. Was the pain as exquisite for him, as it was for her? She wondered, feeling the heat of him as he stood beside her, as real as if she stood beside a warm fire. Before they had peered into Galadriel's Mirror, she had not realized how dependant she was upon him, how a simple touch of his hand could give her strength, how his glance, and his smile could fill her with courage and light, and the feeling that nothing was unconquerable while he was near her.

Gimli and the hobbits, the Valar bless them, had treated her no differently. But they were not Elves. They did not entirely understand the reverence in which Elves held the Valar, most especially, Varda, Elbereth, the Star Queen. Aragorn understood the ways of Elves, but he still acknowledged Lalaith as an equal, which gave her some comfort. But Boromir-, Lalaith sighed again. Whenever he was in her company, she could feel his sad, boyish eyes following her every movement. She hoped against all reason that it was only because he was sad for her plight, as the others were. But no one else, save for Legolas, had ever looked at her as deeply and warmly. Even Haldir, before he realized how he truly felt for Lothriel, had never looked at her like Boromir did.

She was drawn back to the present when Legolas, standing beside her, shifted his weight slightly, and his knuckles inadvertently brushed her own. She instinctively, without even thinking, reached to grasp his hand, for that is how they had always been, whenever they had stood side by side, for as long as she could remember. Even when she had been a child, she could not be beside him without slipping her hand into his. But with a quick breath, Legolas jerked his hand away before their fingers could even touch.

Lalaith sighed softly, and Legolas heard, turning his head slightly to look briefly at her, but she could not return his gaze.

"Now is the time," Celeborn said, bringing Lalaith's eyes up to focus on the Lord of the Galadhrim, "when those who wish to continue the Quest must harden their hearts to leave this land. Those who no longer wish to go forward, may remain here for a while." At these words, Celeborn's eyes rested gently upon Lalaith, and she was reminded of Elrond's eyes, softened with worry as they had been, the day she had departed Imladris. She offered him a small smile, which he returned, before he continued to speak. "But whether they stay or go, none can be sure of peace. For we are come now to the edge of doom. Here those who wish may await the oncoming of the hour till either the ways of the world lie open again, or we summon them to the last need of Lorien. Then they may return to their own lands, or else go to the long home of those that fall in battle."

There was silence. For the smallest sliver of time, Lalaith felt the urge to remain, to stay here in the beauty and safety of Lorien, away from the pain the sight of Legolas' face, agonized, confused, and worshipful all at once, caused in her heart, as well as Boromir's sad gaze. But she knew that she could not. She had given her pledge to Frodo. She would stay with him on his way to Mordor, as long as she was able. And she could not shrink from her own quest. Sauron had bid his servants destroy her when she had been an infant, and now she knew the reason. She was a child of the Valar, with the blood of Elbereth and Manwe in her veins, and Sauron feared her, and hated her for that reason. She needed, for her own peace, to face those who had tried to destroy her, to show them that she was no longer a child, to prove to them, and to herself, to the Valar, and all of Arda, that she was no longer helpless under their power. She could not let another do it for her. Though, she reminded herself, she still had Legolas' pledge that he would stay beside her and help her face those she had feared, even if she had nothing else from him.

"They all resolved to go forward." Galadriel answered, her eyes sweeping over the Fellowship, though Lalaith did not dare to look up into her eyes.

"We will furnish your Company with boats." Celeborn continued. "They are small and light, and may make your journey less toilsome for a while."

Lalaith sighed softly. That was one small comfort. Whatever perils lay ahead of them now, the journey seemed less troublesome to float down the broad tide of the Anduin than to plod slowly forward along the shore.

"All shall be prepared for you and await you at the haven before noon tomorrow." Celeborn continued. "I will send my people to you in the morning to help you make ready for the journey. Now we will wish you all a fair night and untroubled sleep."

"Goodnight, my friends." Galadriel added to Celeborn's words. "Sleep in peace! Do not trouble your hearts overmuch with thought of the road tonight. Maybe the paths that you each shall tread are already laid before your feet, though you do not yet see them. Good night."

Lalaith turned to move away with the others, before Celeborn's voice called her back.

"A moment, young Lalaith." He said, and she turned, waiting with quiet expectancy as the others filed away. Legolas, she sensed, paused a moment and turned back, his eyes resting upon her for a long moment, before he too, turned away and followed after the others.

"Yes, my Lord?" Lalaith murmured, her eyes focused only on Celeborn.

Celeborn and Galadriel traded a silent glance, and then together, descended the steps to stand before her.

"My Lady has told me of what you saw and learned in the Mirror." Celeborn said quietly.

"Oh." Lalaith sighed, and lowered her eyes. She had thought Galadriel might tell Celeborn, if no one else. They kept nothing from each other.

Dear one, the words of Galadriel came into her mind, and Lalaith's eyes at last lifted to hers, she whom Lalaith had always thought of as a grandmother. Since she had looked into the Mirror, Lalaith had not had the courage to meet Galadriel's eyes, fearing to see the distance in them that she had seen in Legolas' face. Will your eyes not even meet mine? Galadriel's face looked sad, hardly worshipful as she expected, and Lalaith bit her lip softly.

"Do you not see me now, as Legolas does?" Lalaith answered aloud, though her voice was soft. "That I am suddenly too good to deserve a kind glance, or a touch?"

"You are no less loved now, than you were before, dear one." Galadriel returned kindly, and somewhat remorsefully. "If I hurt you when I bowed to you, I am sorry."

"Legolas says he still loves me." Lalaith returned mournfully. "He says he is sorry. Little good it does me."

Galadriel's deep wise eyes grew bright with sudden tears, and to Lalaith's astonishment, the Lady of the Galadhrim stepped away from her husband's side, and drew Lalaith into a gentle embrace.

"My dear one." Galadriel smiled, and pushed the maiden's freely hanging long hair aside, softly brushing away the wetness that had suddenly appeared on the girl's cheeks. "We could not care more for you, if you were of our own blood."

Lalaith clung to Galadriel childishly as more tears came. She sensed Celeborn draw close, and felt his large, warm hand brush gently against her brow, and her hair.

"You have always been as a granddaughter to us." Celeborn added warmly. "That has not changed."

Lalaith blinked her eyes hard. "Is it wise for you to feel as you do?" She pleaded. "The morning after I looked into your Mirror, I heard the One Ring speak again. It spoke to me once in Imladris, when it called me slave of Mordor in the black speech. This time, it said that Legolas did not love me. That he never had. And that my parents abandoned me, because I am a Vala in the body of an Elf, and did not want me. And Legolas did not want-,"

"Think not on anything the One Ring utters." Celeborn murmured in a firm voice. His hand rested upon her shoulder, and tightened gently. "You are no more unloved by the Valar than you are a slave of Mordor. All that the Ring utters is a lie. Never forget that."

Lalaith bit her lip. Those were near to the same words Elrond had spoken, when she had told him of what the Ring had said to her.

"Nor has he stopped loving you, dear one." Galadriel added and drew back only far enough to gaze into her sad young eyes.

Lalaith murmured, "But why is it, my Lady, that things must be different now, between Legolas and me?"

Galadriel sighed. "For Prince Legolas to learn that you are greater than any of us ever imagined-, even more than I imagined, it is difficult to grasp."

"But why?" Lalaith pleaded. "I do not feel any different than before."

"But he does, dear one." Galadriel said gently. "For Prince Legolas to suddenly discover that he has given his heart to a Vala, not any Vala, but the daughter of Elbereth, it is somewhat disconcerting." Galadriel answered quietly. "He has loved you all your life. First as a friend, and in the past centuries, he has grown to love you even more, with the sweet devotion of a lover. Yet never has he seen you as greater or lesser than himself." Lalaith sighed, remembering the first time Legolas had kissed her. She had pulled back, insisting that she was unworthy of him, that as he was a Prince, she did not deserve his love. But still, he had forgiven her abruptness and her fear, and he had loved her anyway.

"In his mind he is no longer your equal, but utterly unworthy of you." Celeborn added, his words slow and measured. "And this goes beyond mere rank. You are not simply an Elf of a higher birth. You are a Vala, a higher creation even, than the Maiar. To him, he could never accomplish enough to be worthy of you."

Lalaith sighed, her heart aching with every beat. "Do you mean I will never get him back? That we could never-," She turned to Galadriel with pleading in her eyes, "never truly show each other our love? I am not a Vala in the way my mother is, or my father. I am as fallible as any other Elf. I could die as easily as Legolas, in battle, or if he were to forget his love for me altogether, I know I would die from the grief in my heart."

Neither the Lord nor Lady said anything, but both simply studied Lalaith's face with quiet sympathy as the maiden spoke. But when Lalaith had finished, Galadriel opened her mouth, and answered slowly, "Someday, dear one, he will understand. I cannot see all ends, but I can see, even now, how dearly he loves you. And how pure and unselfish that love is. Whatever thoughts are troubling his mind, he will in the end, prove stronger than them. He will overcome them, in time. Do not despair."

"I hope you are right." She sighed. "And that the words of Aragorn and Boromir will prove true."

"What have they said?" Celeborn asked.

"They have told me that he loves me too much to be lost to me. That he will come back to me." Lalaith smiled softly. "Perhaps it is because the race of Men does not entirely understand our devotion to the Valar-,"

"And perhaps it is because the Children of Iluvatar's Secondborn see and understand more than you might think." Answered Galadriel gently, and she touched a soft hand to Lalaith's cheek.

Lalaith felt wetness rising anew in her eyes. "I pray you are right." She sighed.

Galadriel touched a hand softly to Lalaith's long hair, her smooth, tapered fingers running gently over the golden locks, feeling the silken sheen beneath them. "So much like Celebrian's." She said quietly, and traded a quiet smile with Celeborn. "You are departing tomorrow, with Prince Legolas and the rest of your Company. When we will see you again, none can say." Galadriel smiled sadly, before her lips parted as if she had been struck with a sudden thought. "May I have a lock of your hair?"

"Of course." Lalaith agreed, supposing that Galadriel wanted a lock to remember her by.

From within the folds of his cloak, Celeborn produced a small silver knife, and with it, Galadriel easily, painlessly, clipped a small lock from the maiden's head.

"Strong enough, and long enough to string a bow. Do you agree?" Galadriel said with a smile, as she wrapped the glittering lock around a finger.

Lalaith's brows lifted in surprise at what Galadriel had said. "I suppose-,"

"Very well." Galadriel smiled playfully. "Sleep well, dear one." Once again, she embraced Lalaith warmly, pressing a kiss to the maiden's smooth brow as she drew back.
"Yes, grandmother. And grandfather." Lalaith managed a smile of farewell, as she turned away and descended the long circular steps winding from their throne room slowly down, round the great Mallorn to the forest floor below.

Upon reaching the floor of the forest, Lalaith turned her steps in the direction of her tent, and the pavilion of her companions. The walk was not long, but it seemed that way by herself. She should have grown used to walking alone these past days, she berated herself inwardly, for she had spent much time alone.

The sound of a burbling brook drew close as the path she followed drew near a small stream. A gilded, arching footbridge spanned the small brook, and Lalaith paused as she crossed it to cast a glance into the crystal surface of the stream.

She gazed at her fair reflection in its surface, her eyes filled with sadness but still lovely, and the steady pulse beneath the pale skin of her throat. She was indeed beautiful. She remembered the beauty of her mother's face, and recognized the Star Queen's eyes in her own, and her hair, shining and golden, like both of her parents, especially her mother's.

"Little good it does me." She moaned as she turned away from her reflection and continued on. "What beauty I possess may never glow for the delight of my loved one." Her mind flew back to several nights before, wandering alone through the shadowed trees, when she had inadvertently stumbled upon Lothriel and Haldir, entwined in a passionate embrace. It had been more painful to see that shocking, for she had already learned how they felt about each other. It had only been the day after she looked into Galadriel's mirror, that the two of them had come to her, faces beaming, to give her the news. But she saw it in their eyes before any words came out. They had spoken, as she had bid them to do. They understood each other. They were in love, and betrothed now.

She did not grudge them their happiness, for she loved them both, dearly, and they deserved each other. They would be happy together, and Lothriel and Haldir would see her off in the morning, suspecting something, but not knowing fully what was wrong, and it was better that they did not know.

Lalaith's silken tent was coming into view. She could hear the voices of the hobbits below her as they prepared to settle for their last night in Lorien. Lalaith smiled softly to herself, hearing Pippin's cheery little voice muffled as he attempted to munch on something, and, at the same time, speak to Merry about the fluffiness of his own pillow compared to Merry's. She drew the curtain door aside, welcoming the softness of her bed and her cool sheets, knowing she would not have this luxury again for a long time.

"My Lady?" The voice, unexpectedly close, shook Lalaith, and she stopped in her doorway and dropped her eyes to the ground at her feet.

Legolas stood near, having approached silently, that she did not notice.

Lalaith gulped as Legolas slowly drew closer, and stopped near her, but not quite touching her.

Not knowing what else to do, Lalaith continued on into her tent, letting the flap fall shut behind her. She seated herself on her bed, and picked up a silver handled hairbrush from a carved wooden table beside her bed. She drew the length of her hair over one shoulder and began to comb through it slowly, half wondering if Legolas would follow, partly hoping he would not, even as another part of her ached to have him near.

In answer to her question, she heard the soft rustle of fabric as Legolas entered.

"Something troubles you, Lady Elerrina?" His soft warm voice came from behind her.

"Besides that the one I love is no longer mine?" Lalaith asked softly, blinking her eyes hard. His very presence was wonderful and painful at once. She turned away from him as he sat down beside her, hoping not to offend him, but knowing she must if she did not want to cry.

"You have not lost me." He returned, his own voice heavy. "I will remain ever at your side, your faithful servant as long as Arda endures."

"I do not want you as my servant." She murmured, glad that her voice did not grow harsh, for she did not want to hurt him. "I want you as my husband. As my lover. I want to fall asleep in your arms, beneath the stars, and wake to the sunlight with you beside me. I want to share everything I am, with you."

"Never more can we labor under that false hope, my Lady." Legolas answered sadly. "I am but an Elf, weak, imperfect. And you-,"

She held up a hand sharply, silencing him. "Was there something you wanted, my Lord?"

"I-," he stammered, "I wanted to give you this." He reached forward. She could feel his warm breath on her bare shoulder and neck, and slipped his own bow into her lap. Lalaith stopped in her methodical brushing, and set the brush beside her on the bed. "You lost your own in Moria."

"But then, you have none." She said. She picked it up, and ran her hand reverently along the rich, dark brown wood of the bow, knowing that only moments before, it had been in his own hands. It was smooth and solid, and still warm from his touch. She half way turned, not quite enough to see his face. "Now you have no bow."

"You are as capable with a bow as I." He assured her. "And I will manage with my knives."

"You've given me this, so that I can better protect myself." She sighed. "Yet this would leave you with one less defense."

"My protection is of little importance. Frodo's safety, and your own safety are what matter to me."

"I would that I had something to give you in return." Lalaith sighed again, caressing the curving shaft of the bow, and added, "That you would keep."

"I am sorry I lost your ring." He murmured with a choke in his voice. He was near her, enough for her to feel the heat of him against her back, but he would not touch her.

"You lost it?" Lalaith shook her head softly. "I was the one who would not control my anger, and flung it away." She drew in a ragged breath. "But it was not mine. It was my gift to you. Yours to do with, as you would. You should have been the one to dispose of it, not me."

"I could never have done that." Legolas protested. "I know now, I should not have offered it back to you. I should never have taken it from my finger. Your distress and your anger were entirely justified, after what I had done. It was my fault entirely. I knew it, and so I went to search out where the ring was. I found where it landed, but it was already gone."

"Perhaps one of the little elflings of Lothlorien picked it up and carried it off." Lalaith sighed sadly. "In any case, it is because I behaved so unseemly, that it is gone."

"Do not distress yourself." Legolas protested gently. "Its loss was not your fault. Only mine. And-," he drew closer as if he wanted to touch her, but refrained, and drew back. "And the sight of you is enough of a gift."

"Is it enough?" She asked gently.

Legolas released a long sigh, and said nothing.

Lalaith wondered what expression his face carried right now, but she did not dare to look at him. A moment later, she shuddered and stiffened as she felt the touch of his hands against her hair, but slowly, she relaxed. His fingers began running slowly through it, weaving deep into the soft coolness of her golden tresses.

"You do not fear to touch my hair." She sighed as Legolas reached from behind, and plucked the brush from where it sat beside her, and began to pull it softly through her hair.

"You mean to plait it as before, and I will not see it long, hanging freely about your shoulders again." He murmured close to her ear. "Do you wish for me to stop, my Lady?"

"No. I do not." She whispered softly, feeling the weight of her heart. "What I wish is that you would not call me `Lady'. I wish I could make you believe you were worthy of me, as easily as you did for me the day we pledged our troth in Imladris. I wish you would touch me as you used to. I wish you still wore my ring." She continued, hearing the heaviness in her voice. "I wish I had a reason as I once did, to hold hope close to my heart that we would someday marry, and share together the happiness that we have both dreamed of, for so long."

Legolas said nothing, but offered a soft murmur of agreement through closed lips as he continued to brush her hair. And Lalaith closed her eyes, reverting to a well loved dream, herself draped in a splendid, shimmering wedding gown, Legolas standing before her, no less resplendent in his own robes as they spoke their wedding vows to each other beneath the cool, whispering leaves of the trees of Imladris.

Lalaith's eyes snapped open. Legolas continued to brush her hair, his free hand smoothing through her golden hair as he did.

"You are torturing us both, you know that, do you not?" She asked softly.

"Do you wish for me to stop?" He asked gently. "To leave?"

"No. I never want you to leave." She returned. "But what I wish for, cannot be. So you should go, unless you want to see me cry."

"Then I will go, my Lady." He murmured. He set down the brush, rose quietly then, and turned away, retreating as noiselessly as he had come.

With him gone, Lalaith shivered, suddenly cold, glancing about the small room of her tent. At the foot of her bed, someone had meticulously folded the clothing she had worn from Rivendell, freshly washed, and smelling of sweet herbs. The gash in the back of her sky blue jerkin and her tunic from the wound she had received in Moria, had even been carefully mended. Beside the bed rested her soft, twilight blue boots, and her quiver, sheathed with her knives, and laden with arrows of Lorien, though her bow was conspicuously absent, as it had been since it had been shot from her hand by an orcish arrow in Moria.

She slid from her bed, caught up her quiver by a belt strap, and slid Legolas' bow in where hers had once rested.

"Oh, Legolas, why must it be this way?" She murmured softly, running her thumb slowly along the smooth wood of his bow. "Was it as painful for you, when I rejected you in Mirkwood, as it is now, for me? Were you completely bereft of hope, as I am now? And will you someday come to your senses as I did, at last? " Lalaith lifted her eyes as if to look at the sky, though all she could see were the walls and ceiling of her tent.

"Please, bring him back to me." She moaned, her voice pleading. "I am sorry for whatever it is I have done, to deserve this! Let me have him again, else I will go mad with longing! I cannot live like this for all the ages of the world!"

Lalaith drew in a breath, and dropped her quiver back where it had been, and rose again to her feet. A soft white night gown had been folded and rested waiting on her pillow. Lalaith drew off her soft green gown, folded it upon the table by her bed, and pulled the night dress over her head gratefully, feeling her weariness pulling at her. She drew the coverlet down, and climbed into the soft warmth of her bed and pulled the covers up to her chin, willing sleep to claim her.

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

Legolas choked on a sharp breath as he lay on his back, his fingers laced beneath his head, staring up into the silver branches above him. It was a calm, silver night, like all the nights in Lorien. The great Mallyrn rose silently above him, ageless sentinels of ages before even he had been born. The cloth of the pavilion that sheltered his comrades fluttered softly in a cool, night breeze. His companions were all sleeping, Gimli snoring raucously, as was his way. He drew in another deep breath, and turned his eyes to the steps leading upward toward the silken tent wherein Lalaith lay sleeping. He pictured her in his mind, her hair splayed across her pillow, silver light spilling over her fair face, the delicate rise and fall of her soft breathing.

Legolas released a deep breath and sat up. Trying to sleep tonight would prove futile, he knew. He hopped lightly to his feet, and began to pace restlessly.

Worthless, unworthy elf.

Legolas shook his head at the thought that echoed at the back of his mind. The quiet voice that echoed in his thoughts, almost with a life of its own, had been troubling him since the night he had discovered Lalaith was a daughter of the Valar.

Filthy creature of flesh. Selfish, carnal. Worthless. Unworthy of an undying Vala. You have never wanted her for anything more than to take her to your bed!

"No. That is not true." Legolas protested beneath his breath to the silver darkness about him, not pausing to think how strange it was that he would answer his doubting thoughts aloud. "Yes, I love her, I want her, but that has never been my only thought. Her happiness has always been what matters to me most, more than my own."

Stay away from her, if you want her happiness, unworthy elf. She would be miserable with you. The greatness that is in her, would be stifled and crushed by one so worthless as you.

Nearby, Legolas heard a soft rustle, and a mumbled groan. He turned to glance at the source of the noise, and saw Frodo. The poor young hobbit was tossing restlessly about on his pillow as if troubled by dreams as disturbing as Legolas' thoughts were now. Legolas could see the gleam of the One Ring peeking from beneath the hobbit's shirt, winking and glinting at him mockingly.

"She is miserable now. Because of me!" Legolas muttered, not realizing he was speaking half to himself, and half to the ring. He dropped his head into his hands and began again to pace before the fountain, its soft, ceaseless clatter lending him small comfort.

Stubborn, foolish elf, you will never listen to the counsel of others even in your misery, not even to the pleadings of your sweet lover. Legolas almost imagined cruel laughter echoing in his mind. Elves, like Men, indeed have their weaknesses to be used against them. Men can be taken by their desire for power. And Elves-, pride is your weakness.

"Weakness?" Legolas ground out to himself, lifting his head from his hands. What were these thoughts crowding his mind? Was he wrong to ignore Aragorn's counsel? Was he wrong to resist the desire to take her into his arms, when he saw Lalaith's sad eyes, swollen with unshed tears?

Prideful elf, thinking you could keep all your vows to her. More words tumbled quickly into his mind. You promised that you would love her for eternity. That you would marry her. That you would stay beside her always, and protect her from evil. One promise you have already broken. You know now you are not worthy to take her as your bride. How can you promise her that all your other vows you will keep? Can you protect her from all the host of Mordor? The orcs of Sauron will ravish and despoiled her tender maidenly innocence. Her blood will be wet on their hands, her sweet young body torn and devoured by them!

A hard, hot breath swelled in Legolas' chest, and his eyes grew fierce and sharp as he tightened his jaw. "Never in life or death will I allow that to happen." He hissed softly. "Nor will Lord Manwe, her father. She is surrounded by the protection of the Valar. She will witness the downfall of Sauron when the One Ring is cast into the fire, and destroyed."

The ring will return to its master's hand, elf. Your quest is in vain.

With a groan of helplessness, Legolas sank onto the bottommost stone step, his weary head falling into his hands. "It is not vain." He insisted, fighting the thoughts of doubt that leered at him in his mind. "Evil will be defeated."

"Legolas." The voice, sweet and clear as the soft clean laughter of a waterfall came to his ear, and he jerked his head up, looking toward the sound of the voice. "Were you talking to-, someone?"

Lalaith stood above him on the steps, her feet bare, her long white night gown and her unbound hair catching softly in the cool night breeze. The soft silver light of the night seemed to gather around her, casting a silver nimbus about her gown and her hair. And in this light, she appeared as the child of Valar that she truly was. "Well, no matter." She said with a slight shrug, and a slender smile. "I could not sleep." Her tiny smiled faded, and she glanced away. "Am I troubling you by being here?"

A pang of love gripped him then, only to be followed by an agonizing shaft of misery. "Lalaith." His lips murmured, almost against his bidding.

At the sound of her name, she smiled joyfully, and came scampering childishly down the steps to seat herself beside him, beaming hopefully into his eyes.

"Say it again." She demanded eagerly. "Say my name again, Legolas." In the soft silver light, the blush that rose on her fair cheeks was easy to see.

Reaching out tentatively, he caught a lock of stray hair between two of his fingers, and rubbed it softly, feeling the cool silken smoothness of it before he let it drop and rose to his feet. He took several steps away, before turning and facing her.

"I'm sorry, my Lady. But I cannot do that." He ground out, his jaw trembling as he turned his eyes and glanced away.

"But Legolas, you just said-," She pleaded from where she sat on the step, gazing up at him now, her eyes confused and hurt before she bit her lip and glanced away. Legolas bowed his head, clenching his eyes tight against the pain that seared through him.

She sighed sadly, and the sound pressed the salt of guilt into the already aching wounds of his heart. "I am sorry-, my Lord. I was mistaken. I misunderstood." She rose and turned away, lightly catching up the hem of her nightgown as her small bare feet ascended the stone steps.

"My Lady?" He murmured to her back.

She turned her head, studying him with soft sadness in her eyes. "Yes?"

"Do you think our quest is in vain?" He asked in a hollow, pleading voice.

At his query, she turned completely around, surprise and pity etched on her softened features. "Oh, Legolas-," she gulped, "my Lord, why would you ask such a thing? It is not in vain. We will conquer Sauron's evil." Her eyes grew large, shining in the soft light of the Lorien night. "Forget what we once shared if you must, but do not forget that the powers of the Valar are with us." Slowly she descended the steps, seeming to float as she came, until she stood before him. "With you, and all of our Fellowship, as well as me." She lifted her hand as if to touch his face, but withdrew it quickly, glanced away embarrassed, and dropped it at her side.

Legolas studied her troubled face, wishing he could reach out to her and draw her into his arms, to hold her softness and her warmth against him, and give her his comfort, and strength. But the doubting thoughts that plagued his mind would not allow him to believe he deserved to. But she deserved what comfort he could give her, didn't she?

"Try to sleep." Lalaith whispered, turning her back to him. "Our journey continues tomorrow. We must find what rest we can."

"Promise me you will take your sleep, also." He pleaded.

"I will try." She returned gently, partly turning her head, but not enough to see him. "Goodnight. My Lord."

"Goodnight." He whispered softly to her back, watching her glide slowly up the steps, and disappear silently into the shadowed interior of her shimmering silken tent. "My-, love." he murmured to the silence around him, and shut his eyes hard as he sank wearily onto the stone steps, and once again buried his face in his hands.


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