Lalaith Elerrina--Ward of Rivendell - Chapter 4
In this story, I decided to follow the movie version of Lord of the Rings, more than the book (for example, in the first chapter of this story, it's Arwen who finds Aragon and the hobbits, not Glorfindel.) Also, there are some scenes that I quote, pretty much, word for word, that you will probably recognize from the movie.
"Good morning, Lady Lalaith!" A voice in the common tongue, gravelly with age caused her to lift her head from the book she was reading, to see Bilbo Baggins coming toward her, leaning heavily on a walking stick. His wavy silver hair surrounded his head like a halo, and his kind, honest smile warmed her heart. "You are looking radiantly beautiful, as always." The aged hobbit cheerfully said, as he stepped up onto the bench beside her with a grunt, his unshod feet hanging several inches off of the stone tiles beneath them.
"Good morning to you, Master Baggins. It is a pleasure to be so well met." Lalaith smiled, brushing a stray lock of golden hair back behind her pointed ear, and breathing in the scent of morning. A rain had passed in the night, leaving the air cool and fresh with a soft breeze wafting about her, catching at her long hair, and the folds of the gown she wore, dark blue, the color of the evening sky, after sunset. The smooth cloth clung softly to her shoulders with the neck scooped, and the sleeves were long, tapering tightly to her wrists. The cloth was tight about her waist, accentuating her lithe form, and the skirt was full around her legs. It was a dress, she thought with a heavy heart, that Legolas would have found especially attractive on her. But remembering Bilbo, she smiled through her sobering thoughts for the aged hobbit's sake. "Have you had your breakfast yet?"
"Ah, yes." Bilbo sighed, swinging his feet. "Sam fried up some sausages and tomatoes for me." He closed his eyes and sighed as with a well loved memory. "Oh, it was heavenly to eat hobbit food again."
Lalaith smiled, glad for him that he could find such happiness in the simplest of things. He opened his eyes and turned his attention on the book in her lap. "Oh." He said, in pleasant surprise. "You're reading my book."
"Do you mind?" Lalaith asked, smoothing a hand reverently over the page. "I think it's lovely. I found it here, and I could not put it down. I've never really known much about your race."
"What do you think?" Bilbo asked, his face shining.
"I think you're charming."
"And witty, and sweet." She smiled. "But I have gathered this from watching you and the younger hobbits, especially Pip and Merry, as well as from reading your book."
"Ah, you're a dear girl." Bilbo sighed, and patted her hand.
Lalaith smiled at him, and squeezed his hand before she stood, set the book down beside Bilbo, and walked away, not caring where she was going, only wanting to be alone in her thoughts. She could still feel Legolas' arms around her, could still taste his kiss, stirring her emotions and desires as powerfully as if she were there in Mirkwood again, in the shelter of his arms. How she longed to be with him, to be resting safely in his embrace, reveling in the adoring gaze of his blindingly blue eyes. If she had not rejected him, and left him standing there alone, they would be betrothed now. The thought made her shudder with grief. Everyone who cared about her wanted their union. Her Uncle Elrond, her cousins, the queen and king of Mirkwood. And above all that, she loved him! With all of her soul she loved him. And he loved her. Or once had, she reminded herself, flinching. Why had she refused him? She had been unsure of who she was, all her life, yes, but was it that? Something deep within her, something that lay dormant in forgotten memories whispered that it couldn't be all. If so she would not have had the power to leave the safety of his warm embrace, to walk away alone, and break his heart, as well as her own, especially after he had vowed that it was her he loved, and that nothing else mattered to him.
As she walked alone in her unhappy thoughts, she became unaware of how cold the air seemed to be growing, until something cold, almost tangible, brushed her skin.
The word hissed at her, as if out of the air, nothing more than a mocking whisper. A cold fear gripped her, unlike any fear she had ever experienced, even in the battle with the orcs on the borders of Loth Lorien. She glanced around wildly, looking for the source of the sound. It was close, almost in front of her, just around the bend of the path.
Ash nazg durbatuluk. The voice continued, mocking, unrelenting. It was the black speech of Mordor, Lalaith suddenly realized, and crushed her eyes closed as the voice continued tormenting her in a hissing, relentless whisper.
Ash nazg gimbatul. Where was it coming from? How could she stop it? A pounding began in her head, and she wavered on her feet, pressing a hand to her forehead in a vain attempt to stop the pain.
"Lady Lalaith, are you all right?" Lalaith lifted her head to see Frodo standing before her, his eyes studying hers with concern. Without her noticing, he had just come around the corner of the path. With him before her, the voice seemed louder than before.
Ash nazg thakatuluk
"Do you not hear that?" She pleaded.
"I'm sorry, hear what?"
Agh burzum-ishi krimpatul.
Her eyes dropped to the front of his shirt, the first few buttons of which, lay casually open, as if he had only recently woken and dressed. And then she saw it, on a chain around his neck, against his skin, laying there shining and golden, flawless in its form, seemingly as innocent as a child.
"You are no free elf." The hissing, black-sounding voice came from the ring, speaking as clearly as if it had its own voice.
"Get it away from me!" She cried. "Get it away!"
"You are snaga of Mordor-,"
Frodo's expression grew fearful, and he clapped his hand over the ring. The voice instantly cut off.
"Frodo." She gasped, relief flooding over her with the cessation of the sinister voice. "The ring." She drew in a shaking breath. "I heard it. It was speaking."
"Oh." Frodo nodded, breathing easier. "I understand now. I've heard it, too."
"How can you endure it?" She gasped. "I thought it was near to killing me. I could barely stand! It made the very air as cold as ice."
Frodo gaped at her, and clutched the front of his shirt even tighter.
Lalaith shook herself. She was distressing him, and he was a guest here in Imladris.
"Frodo, I am so very sorry." She sighed finally, feeling the shame of her unseemly actions. "I have been terribly ungracious. I did not mean to frighten you."
"It was hardly your fault." Frodo offered understandingly. His hand relaxed a little, but still he kept it squarely over his heart, blocking the ring from her sight. "I've just never seen anyone as terrified of the ring."
"If you would be kind enough," she conceded, "I would be in your debt if you kept it concealed from me. I think that would-, help."
"Of course." Frodo said, and quickly pulling the chain from his neck, slipped the ring into the pocket of his hobbit trousers. With Frodo's hand withdrew, Lalaith flinched, wondering if the voice of the black speech would continue, but it did not, and she slowly relaxed.
"How-, how is your shoulder?" She managed at last as they continued in the direction Frodo had been walking.
"Still sore, but better." Frodo smiled as he fastened the buttons of his collar. He seemed to have gotten over his alarm, and Lalaith at last returned his smile.
Bright cheerful sounds of words spoken in the common tongue drew her attention, and she glanced ahead where the path ended. Sam, and the other two hobbits were together on a pillared terrace where the path opened up. Merry and Pip were slapping a small stone back and forth to each other through the air, apparently a little hobbit game, Lalaith guessed, while Sam bent over a pack set at the foot of a stone bench, loading it with his belongings.
Pip glanced over and saw the two standing together, and grinned brightly. "Hullo, Lady Lalaith! Look! Look what I can do!" He slapped at the stone as it came back from Merry, flipping it up into the air, higher than he expected, and it went hurtling over the edge of the terrace, disappearing below.
A hand flew to Lalaith's mouth. The voice was her cousin's, Elrohir's, and did not sound pleasant.
Pip and Merry glanced over the edge.
"Oh, hullo!" Pip called out cheerfully to someone below them, and waved.
"So sorry!" Merry added.
"Thaur pherian!" Elrohir cursed below. "Come down here!"
"Uh, `bye Lady Lalaith." Pip spouted and gave her a quick bow as he and Merry sprinted off down the terrace walkway.
"What's going to happen to them now?" Frodo asked sympathetically.
"I don't think he'll hurt them." Lalaith said, then added, "very much."
Frodo chuckled, and Lalaith smiled.
"I'm going to go see to Sam." Frodo said, his voice concerned again, but now with a different focus as he watched his friend packing.
"And I-," Lalaith paused. "I must go find my uncle, or Gandalf."
Frodo gave her a half smile, and bowed politely before he headed in Sam's direction while Lalaith turned the other way, making her way to her uncle's study, hoping to find him there. She scurried up a circular set of steps, and strode down a long walkway with purposeful strides before the sound of two voices slowed her.
Gandalf and her uncle were both indeed in his study. She could hear their voices easily as she approached. Many of the rooms of her uncle's house were open to the air, having few walls, and most often, no doors. She had but to round the corner of the terrace, and she would see them both. They were not aware of her yet, she could tell, as their conversation did not wane.
"Gandalf, Sauron's forces are massing in the east." Elrond was saying, his voice tense. "His eye is fixed on Rivendell. And Saruman, you tell me, has betrayed us. Our list of allies grows thin."
Lalaith gnawed her lip, and stopped, not wishing to interrupt. What they were speaking of was of greater importance than the question she wished to pose to them.
"His treachery runs deeper than you know." Answered the deeper voice of Gandalf. "The foul craft of Saruman has crossed orcs with goblin-men. He's breeding an army in the caverns of Isengard. An army that can move in sunlight, and cover great distance at speed. Saruman is coming for the ring."
Lalaith shuddered. Her memory of orcs, even two hundred years old, was still frightening. That they could be coming here, to Imladris, was unthinkable.
"This evil cannot be concealed by the power of the elves." Elrond's voice hissed. "We do not have the strength to fight both Mordor and Isengard."
For a moment, there was silence, then Gandalf came with his shuffling stride Lalaith was so familiar with, onto the veranda. He leaned out over the railing, gazing at the courtyard below. He had but to turn, and he would see her.
"Gandalf." Her uncle's stern voice came from inside. "The ring cannot stay here."
For a time, there was silence as Gandalf looked down on a scene she could not see. Lalaith thought she could hear the whinny of horses down below her, strange horses, not of Imladris, beneath the arched stone gate. And almost in the same instant, more of them, farther north, as if they with their riders had just come through the wooded northern gate, and among them, was-,
Rana? Lalaith knew that whinny, she was certain. But what would Rana be doing here?
"This peril belongs to all middle earth. They must decide now how to end it." Elrond continued at last. "The time of the Elves is over. My people are leaving these shores. Who will you look to when we've gone? The dwarves?" Lalaith detected a sarcastic tone in her uncle's voice as he spoke. "They hide in their mountains seeking riches. They care nothing for the troubles of others."
Gandalf turned, and Lalaith half expected him to see her out of the corner of his eye, but he did not. "It is in men that we must place our hope." He said in a tired voice.
"Men." Her uncle said in consternation. "Men are weak." Elrond's voice grew father away as he moved away from Gandalf. Gandalf followed him, leaving the balcony.
"The race of men is failing." Elrond continued from deeper within the room. "The blood of Númenor is all but spent. Its pride and dignity forgotten. It is because of men the ring survives." Elrond's voice grew quiet. So quiet, that Lalaith moved around the corner to hear him. Her uncle stood with his back to her, Gandalf between him and Lalaith, listening, as she was, in silence.
"I was there, Gandalf." Elrond continued. "I was there, three thousand years ago when Isildur took the ring. I was there the day the strength of men failed."
Lalaith could tell that her uncle was struggling with his memories of that day, of which he spoke little to his children. But she knew enough from others of what had taken place. "I led Isildur into the heart of Mount Doom where the ring was forged. The one place it could be destroyed. It should have ended that day but evil was allowed to endure. Isildur kept the ring."
Elrond turned, but his eyes were so focused on Gandalf, that he did not notice Lalaith yet. "The line of kings is broken. There is no strength left in the world of men. They are scattered, divided, leaderless."
"There is one who could unite them." Gandalf said quietly.
Cousin Aragorn. Lalaith thought, nodding to herself. He could, if he chose to.
Elrond's jaw worked over that thought before he spoke with finality. "He turned from that path a long time ago."
Lalaith swallowed, and glanced down, forgetting now, why she had come to find her uncle.
"Lalaith!" Elrond's surprised voice caused her to lift her head. He had noticed her at last. His face, which had been a mask of staid concentration moments before, lighted into a smile.
"Ah, Lalaith Elerrina." Gandalf said turning, seeming to be grateful to find something brighter to focus on. "Mir o Imladris." He shuffled forward, and took both of her hands in his in greeting.
"Mithrandir." She greeted, smiling at his complement. "I have not had the good fortune of being able to speak with you since your coming."
"Ah, but that has been my misfortune." He returned with a kindly wink.
"So, now." Elrond smiled, coming forward. "For what reason have we the pleasure of your company, Lalaith?"
Lalaith's smile waned. "I have a question. For both of you. It concerns the One Ring."
"Oh?" Her uncle asked, coming closer. He and Gandalf traded a sober glance.
"I heard it speaking."
Gandalf began to nod knowingly, before Lalaith again cut in, "For a time it used words I could not understand, frightening words. And then it spoke directly to me. In words I could understand, for a moment, and then it called me something. The word it uttered was in, I am certain, the Black Speech. I do not know what it meant."
Gandalf and Elrond once again traded a glance.
"What was the word?" Gandalf asked at last, his voice quiet.
Lalaith gulped, then whispered, "Snaga. Of Mordor."
Elrond drew in a sharp breath, and his mouth tightened into a hard, angry line. Gandalf pursed his lips, and looked thoughtful.
"Any word spoken in the Black Speech of Mordor, anything uttered from that vile tool of Sauron's is a lie." Elrond insisted angrily, spinning away and stalking to a desk, strewn with books and papers where he leaned heavily over onto his fists.
"But what does it mean?" Lalaith asked, alarmed, her eyes flashing to Gandalf's.
"It means slave." Gandalf answered gently. "It called you a slave of Mordor."
"As I said." Elrond fairly shouted, spinning around, and marching back to them. "It is a lie. She is not a slave of Mordor. She is-," Elrond gestured to her almost angrily, seeming to be near tears. "she is my charge, my child! Not a mindless slave of Sauron! As I said, and say again, Gandalf, the ring cannot stay here, more so now, when it dares to speak thus of my own children."
Elrond had taken on the livid appearance of an animal defending its young, and Lalaith was uncertain whether she should be shocked, or touched.
"You are right." Gandalf agreed with a slow nod. "She is no slave. The ring did indeed lie."
Gandalf's voice seemed to bring reason back, and Elrond grew visibly calmer, and an apologetic expression grew across his face as he looked in Lalaith's concerned eyes.
"Another question, Uncle." She added quickly. "When I stood out on the veranda, I thought I heard horses down below. Strange horses, not our own."
Gandalf nodded, and answered her question. "There are Men here. Men of the South, of Gondor, and Elves of Mirkwood, just arrived. I saw them from the porch, coming through different gates, almost in the same instant.
"Of Mirkwood?" Lalaith repeated in a gasp, looking to Elrond with a pleading expression on her face. "Uncle, why did you not tell me? For what purpose are they here?"
Elrond drew in a breath slowly. "I did not want to distress you, Lalaith. I summoned them here to counsel concerning the One Ring."
"But Legolas-," She turned to Gandalf. "Legolas Thranduilion. Was he among them?" She knew the answer, she had heard Rana's whinny, but needed to ask the question.
"The Prince of Mirkwood was the first through the gate." Gandalf said, glancing at Elrond with a question in his eyes. "In fact, he leaped off the back of his horse, rather quickly, and looked up toward the house, as if he were hoping to see something-," Gandalf's gaze traveled from Elrond to Lalaith and back again while an amused sparkle began to light his eyes. "Or someone."
"And?" She pleaded. "What was his appearance? Was he-," she hesitated, "angry, or-,"
"Well, no, rather anxious, I think, and-," Gandalf smirked beneath his beard. "Hopeful."
"Oh." Lalaith breathed, her heart pounding, and glanced down, twisting her ring around on her finger. She glanced up at her uncle to see the pained sympathy in his features. "After what I did, what could I possibly say to him?"
Elrond sighed, but before he could speak, a youthful, masculine voice came at them from around the corner, unexpectedly close. "Lord Elrond?"
Lalaith drew in a sharp breath. He sounded as if he were fairly running, and coming closer.
"Welcome to Imladris, Legolas Thranduilion." Elrond called out, casting a last, sympathetic glance at Lalaith before the Prince of Mirkwood appeared.
"Lord Elrond, forgive my unwarranted intrusion." Legolas implored, striding around the corner, and drawing to a stop. He was breathing hard as if he had been running. He had not even taken off his riding cloak yet. "But I am looking for the lady, Lalaith. Aragorn said you would know-,"
His eyes found hers, and his words cut off.
"Welcome, Legolas." She said quietly, clasping her hands in front of her to hide their trembling.
"Lalaith." He said simply, his eyes searching hers intently. "I had hoped to see you. There are things I have been wanting to speak of with you." He glanced at Gandalf and Elrond, then back at her. "Will you come walk with me?"
She glanced over at Elrond who gave her a terse smile, and a nod of encouragement. "Yes." She said with a nod, hoping that her demeanor was calm, though her nerves felt ragged.
Her heart was beating so rapidly within her, that she was certain he could hear it as she matched Legolas' step out of her uncle's study.
They walked in silence the length of the veranda, a near arm's length apart, and her mind was racing as to what thoughts could be going on in his mind. Surely he was angry with her. He had the right. Perhaps, to spite her for the pain she had caused him, he had even found another maiden to fill his heart in her absence. The thought filled her with agony, but again, it would not be unjustified, after what she had so cruelly done to him.
"Lalaith," he said at last, his voice reaching out to her, suddenly plaintive, making her heart wrench, "I am not used to walking this way with you. Can I be permitted to hold your hand?"
She stopped and turned toward him, her heart catching on a beat. Her eyes filled with questions, lifted to his, feeling hope as it seed of it took root inside of her.
"Being without you these past months, and now seeing you again has been a salve on my heart." Legolas continued, his eyes filled with as much pleading as his voice. "I beg of you, do not grudge me this one favor."
"Of course, Legolas." She breathed, reaching out her hand, and slipping it into his own, as comfortable now within his grasp as it had always been. They began walking again, Lalaith walking slightly ahead with Legolas willingly following her lead. They slowly descended circular steps into the garden, and Lalaith chose a secluded path through high, arching trees where nothing but the whisper of the wind in the leaves, and the distant calls of birds followed them.
"Are you not angry?" She ventured as they walked. "I thought you would be. You have the right." She could feel tears pushing into her eyes now, and glanced shamefully away.
Legolas once again drew her to a stop, and turned to her, his hand clasping hers. He looked down at the small hand resting in his own, and ran his fingers slowly over her soft, smooth knuckles. "I was." He admitted. "For days, weeks, I could not understand why you would do what you did, allowing me to kiss you, to kiss me back the way you did, to cause me to want you so much, and then telling me that you were not worthy of me, telling me to forget my love for you, and walking away as if I had never meant anything at all to you. Did you truly think that by telling me to stop loving you, that I would?"
His voice, filled with pain and pleading, did more to cause her to feel the heaviness of remorse than had he been angry, and railing at her. Lalaith crushed her eyelids shut, feeling the tears coming harder now.
"It hurt." Legolas admitted, his voice fighting emotion. "Like nothing ever has in my life."
"At least you did not cry like a child, as I did." She sighed brokenly as a tear drop fell, splashing against their joined hands.
"Not when you were looking." He murmured softly, gently caressing the softness of her hand.
"And yet you are here, standing before me, still loving me as if I had never wronged you, as if I had never caused you such pain?" Lalaith asked in disbelief.
"Yes." Legolas said with sudden conviction, catching her free hand, so that he held both of her own. "Because I realized something."
Lalaith lifted her eyes, and blinked through her tears to look at him.
"You did not leave because you do not love me in return. You never said you did not. Do you remember?"
Lalaith nodded, unable to speak.
"You left because there is something you fear. Something you do not wish to burden me with, and thus it has caused these unsettling feelings of unworthiness in you. You do not even know what it is you fear, but it is real. It is not of you, nor is it your fault. But it is real, and it is-," Legolas released a deep breath. "It is evil."
Lalaith's mind flashed back to the words she had heard emitting from the ring. "But how would you know all of this?" She whispered. "I do not even understand it myself. I am only beginning to comprehend-,"
"I remember when you were an infant." Legolas blurted urgently. "That night when the mortal woman brought you to me. The five orcs that were after you."
Lalaith nodded quickly searching his eyes, wondering at the earnestness in them.
"Have you never wondered why five mounted orcs would be pursuing one woman with a mere infant so close to Elven lands, and so far away from Mordor? Had it been any other child, they would have given up the chase long before they came to the Mirkwood."
"What is it you are saying, Legolas?"
"There is something about you that causes evil to fear you." Legolas explained. "Sauron, for reasons I do not know, sent his orcs to kill you. They would surely have succeeded, but for that mortal woman who intervened." Legolas' eyes were intense. "You may not remember what happened, not on the surface of your mind, but deep within your memory, you do remember, and that is why you are so afraid of whatever nameless evil sought to kill you as an infant. And you do not want to bring others to the same harm. That is why you felt unworthy. That is why you were reluctant to give your love to me."
Lalaith glanced away, her eyes searching the ground, thinking over the words Legolas had spoken. Her mouth worked silently, unable to make words come out. Though she did not understand how, she knew Legolas was right.
"Earlier today, I saw the One Ring." She finally managed quietly. "It spoke." Legolas' hands tightened around hers. "It spoke directly to me. It told me I was a-, a slave of Mordor."
"You are no slave. You are a free elf." Legolas' voice was gentle, yet intense.
"So Uncle Elrond said." She agreed, then smiled and finished, "Rather emphatically."
"He is protective of you, is he not?" Legolas chuckled.
Lalaith's smile grew, her heart brightening to see him light hearted once again.
Legolas noted her smile, and his eyes grew shiny with wetness as a hand came up and cupped her face. "Understand this, Lalaith Elerrina." He said, his own smile growing serious once again. "Whatever it is you fear, I vow to you that it will not hurt you again. If I must, I will stand between you and the thing you fear, and defend you from it, even if it be the whole host of Mordor."
Lalaith's heart caught on a beat as she studied his eyes, captivatingly blue, their intense gaze fixed adoringly on her, and knew he meant all that he said. He would ride to the very gates of Mordor, to the very slopes of Mount Doom, if it was required of him to protect her.
"Then understand this, Legolas Thranduilion." She returned. "If that time comes, I will stand beside you, and we will defend each other. For I will not let the warrior I have given my heart to, fight alone."
Legolas' brow furrowed as she said this, and as the last words came out of her mouth, his own opened slightly as if he wished to speak, and could think of nothing to say.
"I could not say this in Mirkwood, though I wanted to." Lalaith sighed, her eyes drooping as she spoke, "but now, with all that you have said, you have freed my heart, and I no longer fear to speak." She lifted her eyes shyly to his, as they gazed into her own with hope and expectancy. "Im melin le, Legolas Thranduilion." Her voice grew soft. "Prince of Mirkwood, and of my heart."
"Im melin le, Lalaith Elerrina." He returned, his words gentle, yet at the same time, impassioned. "I could love no other, but you. Tell me you will be my bride. That we will spend all the ages of this world together."
"Yes." She returned eagerly, pressing her gold banded sapphire ring, etched with the crest of Elrond's house, into the palm of his hand. His fist tightened around it. "I will gladly bind myself to you, for all of eternity." She smiled blissfully up into his eyes, and drew a step back from him.
"Come." She implored. "Let us go speak to my uncle." She turned to lead him back to the house, but he did not move to follow after her. His hand caught hers, and he pulled her back to him, catching her firmly against his chest.
"Not yet." He murmured with a mischievous smirk.
Lalaith smiled, knowing what he wanted, and drew close, slipping her arms up around his neck, feeling the silken gold of his hair between her fingers. Her eyes closed as his face lowered to hers, and when their lips met, she kissed him joyfully, with no hesitation or reluctance. He sensed her willing response, and pulled her even closer, nearly lifting her off of her feet as he kissed her with more passion and longing than she had felt from him before, and leaving her breathless and exhilarated when he finally released her, and set her back on her feet.
"Now my beloved," he said, playfully kissing the tip of her nose. "Now we can go speak to Lord Elrond."