Lalaith Elerrina--Ward of Rivendell - Chapter 25

recap: The Fellowship is just about to leave Lothlorien. Legolas and Lalaith are starting to make up.

Chapter 25

The One Ring lay in the black darkness of its thoughts, musing over its sudden loss. It could sense its hold on the male elf had suddenly been severed, by what, it knew not. Not that its hold had ever been a strong one, even when the elf had listened to its whisperings. The ring sighed within itself. It could never have truly possessed the elf's mind, anyway. There was a bond between the elf and the young, golden Vala that was too strong to rend. It was a link forged of something stronger than the One Ring could ever hope to fully understand. Their bond, the One Ring could only guess, was much like the union between itself and its master. But yet, so different, that the ring was left thoughtless, steeped in its unanswered frustrations.

Its one obsession was to return to its master's hand. It existed for no other purpose. True, it occasionally amused itself with the destruction of the minds of those to whom it came into possession, but its first thought was bent on nothing but becoming one again with its master, of gaining back the power it had once wielded, to bask in the intoxicating misery of the Men and Elves it had once almost dominated. If that one hope proved impossible, the One Ring would have no reason to exist, for it lived for no other purpose but to destroy and to drink in the chaos and misery it created, like a spider drinking the blood of its prey. And thus, it had believed that if it could convince these filthy, propagating beings that Eru seemed so foolishly fond of, that the physical bonding which they so longed for could never be, then the bond woven between their hearts would soon cease. And they would wither into nonexistence with the purposelessness of their lives. But this had not happened. If anything, that incomprehensible joining between their hearts had only grown stronger. And now the link from the ring to the mind of the elf was entirely destroyed. In fruitless desperation it had reached out, trying to snare the elf's mind again, but if he heard, he no longer heeded the ring's promptings. Surely, the ring mused within its darkness, it was because of the golden Vala maiden.

The Ring writhed within itself, steeped in its hatred for the maiden who was a Vala, and yet an elf also, whose very presence created an agony within the Ring. Though the Ring lived to hate all who came near it, and especially those whose fate became to bear it, its hatred of this golden presence was especially bitter. Her mind could not be possessed. All that the One Ring could hope to do was to breathe to her the lies its master wanted her to believe. It could never truly possess her thoughts as it had the sniveling little river hobbit, or the Man who had first cut it so cruelly from its master's hand. It could not reach inside her mind as it could the young Manling's whose thoughts the ring could sense now. And even he, the One Ring glowered to itself, was not yet fully possessed. The Man's heart and his intentions were of another sort than what the ring desired, and his mind was keener than the little river hobbit's mind had been. The ring had but to glimmer at the sniveling little creature, to wink and smile, and the mind of the once peaceful river hobbit was lost to it. Within moments, the ring had convinced the pathetic creature to kill for the possession of it, and once having done that, the little river hobbit was lost to the ring. The other, the Man who had first severed the ring's tie to its master had been only slightly more difficult to win over. But in the end, the One Ring had again been successful. It could be so again with this Manling, but there was something in his heart that was difficult to completely possess. The ring raged within its thoughts that perhaps a part of this filthy Manling's difficulty was that he too, felt an attachment to the young Vala, similar to what the elf felt. This attachment could have proven useful, had the Manling been like so many of the other fleshly creatures the ring had sensed within its long life; orcs, goblins, its own master, and even some Men and Elves, who lived for no others but themselves, taking what they wanted when they wanted it, giving no thought to the desires of others. If only the Manling was like them, and wanted the fair maiden for his own selfish purposes, that would be something the ring could use. But the foolish baby was too noble for that. It would be terribly delightful, the One Ring mused to itself within the dark shadows of its thoughts, if it could find a way to have the Manling and the elf destroy each other over the golden maiden. What tremendous misery that would create! But such was not to be. Every time the ring proposed such a thought to the Manling's mind, the suggestion would be rejected, forcefully. The Manling would not succumb to such pressures. And the ring knew not to press the thought, else it might lose its hold on the Manling forever. But how could such a thing be? Didn't the Manling want the maiden for himself? The ring could sense that he did. So why could the ring not use that desire to drive a wedge between him and the others who seemed bent on its destruction?

Whatever the reason, it was beyond the ring's understanding. The One Ring sighed within its darkness. It could do only what it could with the foolish youngling. He was of the race of Men. He craved power. The ring, so far, was successful in easily convincing him of his own strength, that he could wield the ring for the noble purposes which as yet, held greater sway in his mind than the dark thoughts the ring wished upon him. And above all, the One Ring knew, it must keep the Manling believing that the thoughts roiling in his mind were his own. Were he ever to realize that the thoughts were put there by the ring, and not of his own making, it would surely lose him, as it had the elf.

The One Ring settled in itself, content, for the moment, with its hold though not as strong as it wished, upon the Manling's mind.

It listened quietly to the steady murmur of the heart of its current carrier, a hobbit, a creature much like its previous bearer, but the ring was discontent with him, for the soul of this being was frustratingly more sturdy than the first little creature it had possessed, whose presence it sensed now, ever near, but still distant.

The ring laughed within its darkness, knowing how the first sniveling ruined thing still wanted it so desperately, but he would never get it back. The ring so enjoyed how it had created such a need in the filthy little creature, so that his every thought was connected to the ring, when the ring, for its own purposes had never really wanted the worthless fool for anything but his mind to play with, for the five hundred years it had allowed itself to be with him. It had partly wished the dirty little thing had been killed by some other creature, a Man or an Elf disgusted by his twisted form, or perhaps by an orc, or by some hungry beast, for the ring sensed something elusive and ominous in the continued existence of its old plaything. But the ruined little river hobbit still lived. And the slight fear his continued life brought to the ring was only as a distant memory of something that might, or might not happen in the future. So the ring did not worry, and left its thoughts and its intentions focused on the Manling, hoping that with time, it could fully possess him, and ruin his mind, turning him to darkness.

**********

Boromir, holding a wrapped bundle of extra hobbit sized tunics, bowed his head, aware of the teasing banter, and the soft looks, warm with promise that the two Elves were exchanging as the last of the supplies gifted to them by the Lorien Elves were loaded into the boats. True, they were not enveloped in each other's arms; they were barely touching as yet, but that would come with time. Legolas, clearly, had overcome his confusion over Lalaith being the daughter of Valar, and now he wanted her back. Boromir smiled weakly to himself with the renewed hope of their happiness. Lalaith was now smiling again, and it was not forced or pretend. She was happy, and that was, after all, what Boromir had wanted for her these last several days. But with that, came the renewed reminder that he was not the one who held her heart, but Legolas. A short flame of jealousy for Legolas' blessed fortune flared within Boromir's heart as it often did, but he crushed it back. She possessed her greatest happiness in her knowledge of Legolas' love for her. Such was the way it should be, he knew.

His hand went to his side, and he opened a small pouch attached to his new belt, the golden belt the Lady of the Galadhrim had gifted to him, and felt the solitary object sheltered within. Boromir ran his finger carefully around the circle, tracing the delicate twists winding about the single jewel set within the cool metal. It was his now. Legolas had made it clear he no longer wanted it, and Lalaith had not wished to take it back. So it was theirs no longer. It was Boromir's, the one thing from Lalaith that was his.

He glanced up, watching Lalaith's slim, narrow back as she said her farewells to Haldir, the March Warden who seemed less forbidding and arrogant now than he had at their first meeting. Perhaps it had something to do with the maiden Lothriel beside him, her hand sheltered within his own. Lalaith embraced Lothriel as well, and the friends exchanged low spoken words before Lalaith turned away toward the Lady of the Galadhrim who approached her. Galadriel's eyes were bright as she too embraced the maiden in farewell. The two were speaking softly, and Boromir could not hear their words, but they would be speaking in Elvish, so he would not understand anyway. As they spoke, Legolas approached the two, his new bow in hand, his fingers trailing tenderly along the bowstring, and the women greeted him, smiling. As Lalaith turned her head to welcome her love, Boromir saw the light bright in her soft face, and he imagined for a moment, Lalaith looking at him like that.

Lalaith. Her name resounded in his head. He could not deny that he loved her. Perhaps his love was not as great as that which Legolas felt for her, for Boromir had not the gift of years, nor the true, unfaltering heart of an Elf. And he certainly did not deserve her as Legolas did. But still, he loved her. He drew in a long breath, and closed his eyes for a few delicious moments, remembering those few seconds when she had allowed him to hold her. So warm she had been, so small and seemingly frail, though he knew she wasn't. And he imagined her looking up at him, her face free of tears, and her eyes shining for him alone, content in the comfort of his embrace. And he could almost feel her small slender arms slip about his neck, her soft warm mouth beneath his own as he lowered his head and kissed her, exulting in the joy of her returned kiss.

Boromir jerked himself away from the thought, knowing he was only torturing himself to imagine it. She never would look at him as she looked at Legolas. The two Elves were born to love each other. And Boromir-, Boromir was only in the way in his affection for Lalaith. Boromir shook his head and turned abruptly away, colliding suddenly with Pippin who was coming from behind, and almost spilled the poor Hobbit over the sharp ledge of the bank, and into the water below.

"Oi, Boromir, watch it!" Merry shrieked, still seated in the boat behind him as Pippin's arms flailed helplessly.

Boromir clapped a hand onto the shoulder of the dangerously tipping Hobbit and righted him. "Forgive me, Pippin. I'm sorry." He muttered penitently. "Are you all right?"

"Uh," Pippin muttered. "I'm fine." The poor little hobbit's face was a positive shade of green, as he waved off Boromir's apology, and darted for the privacy of the woods, bent nearly double, his hand clutching his stomach.

"Pah, Boromir, watch yourself." Muttered Gimli as the Dwarf strode past burdened with several leaf wrapped bundles of lembas. "You damaged Pippin."

"I'm sorry." Boromir mutter again.

"It's not his fault." Merry chirped in Boromir's defense from his place in the boat. "Pip was already like that. He's been getting greener and greener. He ate four of those lembas. I think he's finally found something his stomach can't take too much of."

Gimli placed his fists on his stout hips. "Oh ho! Indeed?" He chuckled back, answered by Merry's enthusiastic nod.

But Boromir hardly heard the exchange between Dwarf and Hobbit. He glanced up to see many eyes, most of them deep, penetrating elven eyes, now focused on him. Lalaith was one of those watching him, and her eyes seemed suddenly distant, even frightened, almost, as his eyes met her own. The expressions of her face when she looked at him, compared to the way she looked at Legolas, were as night and day.

What about him frightened her so? He wondered helplessly, as he turned awkwardly away. Did she see something dark in him, that even he could not see? The memory of their first morning in Lorien still stung, even now. He had begged her to tell him the nature of the trouble between herself and Legolas. He had been willing to listen. But she had refused, gently, as was her way, but still, she had refused. She had left him kneeling there, alone. But yet without their even requesting it, she had confessed all to Gimli and the Hobbits.

Worse than her seeing something dark in him, was the possibility that she feared him because she had somehow guessed his feelings. He groaned inwardly at that possibility, as he wearily dropped his bundle down into one of the boats. The idea made his heart cringe. Her knowing of his feelings could do no one any good. She should never know, though he could not deny them to himself. He glanced back at Lalaith to see her eyes turned once again to the Lady of the Galadhrim as she and Legolas conversed softly with Galadriel.

Aragorn stood some distance away with Celeborn, their conversation of an entirely different sort than the one in which Lalaith was engaged, for the Lord of Lorien was speaking in low, tense tones to the human, the expressions of both, urgent and insistent, and it required little imagination for Boromir to guess why they would appear so concerned, especially when Celeborn held out his hands, cradling within them, a long sheathed knife, which he offered into Aragorn's hands. The danger, from which they had enjoyed a long respite, was soon to resume. And strangely enough, it brought a measure of comfort to Boromir. This was what he understood best. This was what brought meaning to his life, for this was the one way in which he knew he could serve Lalaith.

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

"We will miss you, Lalaith." Lothriel sighed, giving one last squeeze to her friend as she and Haldir stepped back, studying Lalaith's face with unanswered questions in their eyes.

"And I you." Lalaith smiled, glancing between her two dear friends. "I am sorry I will not be here when you are married."

"We understand." Haldir assured her gently.

"This is what you must do." Lothriel murmured, indicating toward the boats where they waited on the gentle tide of the Silverlode.

Lalaith smiled, and blinked back more tears that threatened to come to her eyes. She could see in their eyes the questions she still had not answered. And though they wondered still, they had not pressed her to reveal anything, and she loved them for it.

"Lalaith." Galadriel's soft voice came from behind, and Lalaith turned at the voice.

Haldir and Lothriel, at this, stepped deferentially back as the Lady of Lorien approached.

"Grandmother." Lalaith said with a smile as Galadriel stepped forward and embraced her. "I will miss you terribly."

"And I you, dear one." Galadriel returned, drawing back and pressing her soft hand against Lalaith's cheek. "But my heart is warm with hope, for we will see each other again, one day."

"Shall we?" Lalaith pleaded hopefully.

Galadriel smiled, and laughed lightly. "Oh, my dear one. The blessings of the Valar go with you. If you stay true to your course, you will succeed. Though Legolas has endured much more than he ever expected, his love for you has not waned. He is ever true to you, Lalaith."

"He is." Lalaith agreed, her face once again growing into a smile as she sensed her love's approach, and turned, her face warm with welcome as Legolas approached her and Galadriel, his bow in one hand, while the fingers of the other ran lightly along the bow's string.

"Prince Legolas." Galadriel smiled warmly in welcome.

"My Lady." Legolas returned with a slight bow.

Lalaith smiled, grateful that the term was not used on her.

Through the open neck of his tunic, Lalaith's eyes caught on the glint of the necklace Galadriel had given him for her. His eyes caught hers, and smiled into them.

The blue and the green of the sapphire and emerald twisted within the glimmering vines of gold, shimmered and blended, while the diamond cast a rainbow of glowing colors from its many polished facets.

"Grandmother," Lalaith asked, turning once again to Galadriel, and drawing the golden medallion from beneath the cloth of her tunic to examine it, shaped in its design after the pattern of the necklace Legolas wore, someday meant for her. "I wonder why it is that you chose these three jewels. They must mean something?"

Galadriel smiled wisely, and lowered her eyes a moment, before she lifted them, shining, to gaze on Lalaith. "I had them made for the both of you, long ago. Long before you were fully grown, my dear one, for I knew what would eventually come of what was then, only friendship." She smiled playfully. "It was not through my Mirror that I saw this, but with my own eyes, for what was to be, was clear to many then, though perhaps you did not see it yourselves."

Galadriel smiled again as Legolas and Lalaith traded a glance, their eyes dancing with light as they smiled to each other.

"The sapphire represents Imladris, where you were raised and loved, and grew to womanhood." Galadriel continued as their eyes turned back to hers. "And the emerald represents Greenwood the Great. Your home, Legolas." Galadriel reached out, and lifted the medallion Lalaith wore, lightly in two fingers, tracing over the jewels softly with her thumb. "And the diamond-, when it was formed, I meant for it to represent Lothlorien. For Lalaith has spent many years of her life here, and she is well known and well loved here, as in Imladris. But now-," Galadriel smiled again, and the light was bright in her ageless eyes. "Now, I believe it stands for the Blessed Realm. For the ever white peak of Oiolosse. For that is where Lalaith was born."

Galadriel turned to Legolas and gazed long into the young Elf's eyes. "Do you see how the beauty of each jewel blends to the others, and complements them? They are as one, though each adds its own beauty. As you are one, your hearts and your souls intertwined and inseparable."

"Yes, my Lady." Legolas agreed softly. His eyes met Lalaith's and his glance was warm.

The Lady of Lorien sighed sympathetically as she reached for, and took their hands into her own. "Remember that, in the difficulties you have yet to face. Those that you face together, and those that you will face," Galadriel sighed and finished slowly, "apart."

A sudden commotion, unexpected in the quiet of the cool morning, brought Lalaith's head around. Boromir, several steps away, near the waiting boats, had unwittingly bumped Pippin, who had climbed out of his boat, and now seemed near to toppling over the jutting bank, and into the river below. But fortunately for the hobbit, Boromir snatched his shoulder and righted him on time. Pippin, his little face shaded green and clearly in torment, perhaps from the too many lembas he had eaten, dashed away, and into the privacy of the forest. Lalaith's eyes met Boromir's now, and she saw, once again, the sad look of hopelessness that filled his eyes. After a moment, Boromir turned abruptly away, and Lalaith returned her gaze to Galadriel.

"Apart?" Lalaith queried softly.

Galadriel smiled gently upon Legolas, as if she had not heard Lalaith's soft whisper. "Watch over my grandchild." She said, a pleading tone in her voice. "Keep her in your heart, and in your thoughts and dreams."

"I will, my Lady." Legolas answered in a tone of one making a solemn promise. "Though," he grinned, "you need not ask me, for me to dream of her."

Galadriel smiled gently as Lalaith flushed pink and glanced downward. Gently she squeezed their hands, still within her own. "The blessings of the Valar will go with you, my dear ones."

She glanced away, toward her husband Celeborn who was coming now toward them, with Aragorn at his side. Aragorn's eyes were focused thoughtfully on a sheathed knife, with a thick curving blade that he held within his hands.

With a sigh that spoke of reluctance, Galadriel glanced back at the two young Elves. "It is time." She murmured, and released their hands.

Pippin had once again emerged from the trees, wiping a sleeve slowly across his mouth as he trotted toward the boat Merry was still seated in. He pounced down into the boat, then sat quickly, as his movement made the vessel rock upon the water.

Sam was more careful in getting into his own boat, though the boat still rocked as he got in, and the little hobbit had to grasp the boat's sides until it was once again resting quietly upon the waves of the river.

Legolas was the first in the boat Lalaith was to share with him and Gimli, and as the Dwarf drew close, Legolas offered him a grin and a friendly arm. Gimli, clearly, harbored no more ill feelings for the Elf, for the Dwarf returned Legolas' grin, and offered him a friendly thump to his arm as he hopped down into the boat, which Legolas returned good naturedly.

But when Lalaith drew near, and glanced down into Legolas' eyes, his smile softened, and he reached both hands up, clasping her with infinite gentleness by the waist. Lalaith, more than willingly, rested her hands lightly upon his firm shoulders as he lifted her slowly down into the boat beside him. Aside from the touch of his hands at her waist, and hers upon his shoulders, they touched not at all. But there was something soft and warm that seemed to pulse in the air between them as her feet came lightly to rest upon the wooden bottom of the boat.

"Thank you, Legolas." She whispered.

"It was my pleasure, Lalaith." Legolas breathed, his warm blue eyes searching hers deeply, sparkling with an inner fire.

"Ack, don't mind me! I'll not get in the way of anything!" Gimli muttered loudly from behind them. But there was a rosy glow on his face, and his bearded lips curled upward in a smile of contented approval.

Glancing around, Lalaith saw similar expressions of the other faces of the Fellowship. Aragorn had a lopsided grin on his rugged, bearded face where he sat with an oar across his lap, watching the two Elves, and all the Hobbits had similar expressions. Pippin seemed to have fully recovered from his past ordeal, for his face had returned to its healthy, cheery color, and he was grinning immensely and trading elbow nudges with Merry as he watched the Elves. But Boromir-,

Lalaith sighed, and glanced downward, letting her hands slip slowly away from Legolas' shoulders. Boromir's face was bent downward focused upon the oar in his large sturdy hands, and his eyes, as always, were heavy with sadness. Lalaith turned and sat quietly as she took up the paddle meant for her. Gimli settled himself behind her, and Legolas at the stern, took up the second oar, and as one, four paddles dipped into the water, propelling the Fellowship away from the bank, and into the current of the stream.

Lalaith glanced back toward the shore as she rowed, to see Galadriel watching them. The wise deep eyes of the Lady of Lorien seemed to take in each of the Fellowship in one glance.

Do not fear the future, dear one. Lalaith heard Galadriel's thoughts echoing in her mind as the current caught them, carrying them ever more swiftly away from the golden Mallyrn, and from Galadriel's sight. For love goes with you wherever you are. And with love, though there will be grief also, there is no need to be afraid.

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