Miriel: Princess of Rohan - 8. A RING AND A PROMISE


A/N: In case you missed it!
Chapter One: A QUIET EVENING
http://www.theonering.com/docs/18584.html
Chapter Two: RED SUNSET
http://www.theonering.com/docs/18601.html
Chapter Three: THE GLITTERING CAVES OF AGLAROND
http://www.theonering.com/docs/18627.html
Chapter Four: THE BATTLE OF HELM'S DEEP
http://www.theonering.com/docs/18662.html
Chapter Five: FATE'S ARROW
http://www.theonering.com/docs/18729.html
Chapter Six: LEGOLAS
http://www.theonering.com/docs/19023.html
Chapter Seven: ON THE CAUSEWAY
http://www.theonering.com/docs/19066.html

A RING AND A PROMISE

Miriel had stopped crying at last, but now she sat with her head in her hands, disconsolate and sullen, staring unseeing out the window. Her heart was torn in two. She could not believe the ease with which the respect and wondrous awe she felt for him had turned into love, but it was as if they had always been together, always loved one another... that they were meant for each other. She knew these things with utter certainty. She wanted so badly to run down and tell Legolas that she would never leave his side. Yet concern for Legolas's own good held her back. It was too great a sacrifice for him to remain with her and die.

But she did not ask. It was Legolas who wanted to stay with her. Miriel knew she should refuse him. They would have seventy or eighty blissful, happy years together, if they were lucky. But after she died, what comfort then would there be for the Elf? There would be no escape across the Sea to the Undying Lands, and he would be doomed to suffer pain and lonliness until he, too, laid himself down beneath the trees and slept forever.

Miriel sighed and shook her head. This could not be. She and Legolas were from two different fates. He would live forever in a land beyond legend; she was destined to die.

Besides, Legolas would be fine without her. Later on he would forget that the girl Miriel had ever existed and find some ageless, beautiful, poetic, graceful Elven maiden, of which there were many, who would fill his heart with joy. And she, Miriel, would dwell in the world of Men, and perhaps one day she too would move on and marry some dashing knight.

But even as she thought these things, her heart felt heavy with hopelessness. How was it that she could know, beyond any shadow of doubt, that he was the only one for her? That anyone else could not begin to fill the void inside of her? There was only one explanation: She was out of her mind. Weariness and grief and impending disaster and staring death in the face must have gotten to her and caused her to suffer an emotional breakdown. The fact that she had drawn so quickly to a complete stranger was proof of that.

If only she could convince her heart of her insanity as easily as she persuaded her head.

She stood up and leaned out the window. The winds blew on her face and hair, and she felt as cold and sad as a winter night that comes without the light of a star, and as empty as a bottomless cavern that opened unexpectedly beneath one's feet somewhere in the twisting blind passages of the Glittering Caves of Aglarond.

As Miriel looked down upon the lands below, she saw a company of riders leaving Helm's Deep and trotting over the causeway. It was King Theoden and Aragorn, and Gandalf on his great white horse. A number of soldiers also accompanied them.

Her heart caught in her throat as she beheld one rider wearing a quiver full of arrows on his back. Sunlight sparkled in his flowing golden hair. His gray cloak streamed behind him as his white horse pranced along the stone bridge, tossing its beautiful head in eagerness to run, as if the wind called its name.

Miriel swallowed hard and drew herself up, tall and fair. She turned away from the window. Her mind was made up at last.

Theoden King rode down the causeway on a white horse, leading a small company of riders on the road to Isengard. At his side were Gamling and Aragorn, and Gandalf on Shadowfax. Gimli sat behind the wizard, riding Shadowfax and clinging tightly to Gandalf. His eyes were wide and prominent on his ruddy Dwarvish face, yet whether it was out of fear or awe of the great beast no one could rightly tell. If asked, Gimli would have insisted on the latter.

Behind them rode Legolas. His head was bowed, and he looked very sad and forlorn even though he bravely tried to hide it. Aragorn glanced back at him from time to time, and deep concern for the Elf creased his brow.

The silent company passed over the causeway. The horses were in good spirits and indeed seemed glad to leave behind the hard stone and sink their hooves into the soft green grasses. The sun was high in the sky and headed swiftly westward as the King led the way into the hills.

As they topped the ridge, Legolas halted and looked back at the tower, but he saw no one at the dark window. He stood silently a moment. His horse, Arod, moved impatiently under him, but still Legolas held him, waiting; hoping in vain for some sign or at least a final glimpse of Miriel.

But there was nothing. Sadly Legolas closed his eyes and bowed his head.

"Namarie, Miriel," he whispered softly into the breeze. Then he spun Arod and spurred him after the others. Heedless of its rider's heavy heart, the eager horse sprang away like a deer through the wild grasses.

Suddenly a shrill cry, high and desperate, burst forth from Helm's Deep.

"Wait!"

Legolas pulled up Arod abruptly, and the white horse reared upon the hills. Looking back, Legolas saw Miriel standing on the causeway, fair and desperate, clad all in white, with the dark cloak fluttering about her. Without a second thought Legolas sent his horse galloping back to Helm's Deep.

King Theoden moved forward impatiently as if to call the Elf back, for he wished to reach Isengard with all speed. But Aragorn stopped him.

Arod skidded to a halt at the edge of the causeway and Legolas leapt from his horse as Miriel came running. Elf and maiden flew toward each other and met in the middle of the bridge. Legolas caught Miriel in his arms.

"Miriel, Miriel," cried Legolas again and again, holding her tightly.

"Legolas," whispered Miriel breathlessly. "I was so worried I would be too late!"

She pulled back and looked deep into the sparkling blue eyes of the Elf. Legolas looked so happy it nearly burst her heart.

"I wanted to give you this," Miriel said. She quickly pulled from her own finger the jewelless curved silver ring and placed it in the hand of Legolas.

"This ring was my mother's," explained Miriel. "She gave it to me on the day she died, and now I give it to you. It is said that this ring is a work of Westernesse, and that the wearer would be protected from the dark shadows of Mordor. It is a legend, and whether it is true or not, I do not know. But I did survive the battle of Helm's Deep while I wore it, so perhaps it is not without some virtue.

"I no longer have any need of it, Legolas, but you will walk many dark paths ere the end. May whatever grace it carries pass to you and serve you well."

"Rather would I have this ring than all the jewels of fair Lothlorien," Legolas declared, slipping the star-shaped ring onto his finger.

Miriel sighed peacefully then, and said:

"I know not what doom awaits you, Legolas of the Elves, but I will be here in Rohan waiting for you, and I will look to the day of your coming with great joy. But even if the Shadow should prevail, and all the world is plunged into darkness, at least I will have gotten to see you again, one last time."

Miriel stopped as words failed her. Her chin trembled as she looked at him, and her eyes filled with tears. Legolas lifted Miriel's hand to his lips and tenderly kissed it. Miriel's constraints over her emotions slipped and gave way.

"Lin ind nin, Miriel," whispered the Elf as Miriel broke down and buried her face in Legolas's warm shoulder, sobbing. "My heart is yours, Sparkling Like Jewels."

"I love you," whispered Miriel as Legolas stroked her long dark hair. They stood silently until Miriel's sniffles quieted, and then died away altogether. Time stopped as they held one another. Wind whipped around them, snapping at their cloaks. Long golden grasses rustled and bent beneath the fresh breeze. From far away came the scream of a lonely eagle. The great mountains of stone stood tall and cold as they looked dispassionately down on the Elf and the princess, who seemed suddenly very small and forlorn in the huge world of Middle-earth.

At last Miriel pulled away. Legolas took her gently by the shoulders.

"We shall meet again on this earth," Legolas promised.

Their eyes met, and it seemed to Miriel that for a brief instant they could read one another's thoughts. She could not blink or look away, nor put into words what she felt from him, but what she saw comforted her greatly.

Miriel gazed steadily at Legolas. A new fire kindled in her misty eyes.

"Then ride," she urged, her voice rising. "Ride on and don't look back. Fight for the freedom of all the peoples of Middle-earth."

Suddenly Legolas sprang away and leapt onto the back of his waiting horse. Arod turned to run, but Legolas held him and stood a moment, reluctant to leave her.

"Go," whispered Miriel thickly, smiling bravely through her tears, and she touched a kiss to her trembling fingers and sent it after him.

"Namarie, Lady Miriel," cried Legolas, raising his hand in farewell, and with a great whinny Arod broke into a run and bore him away like the wind. True to his word, he did not look back. The company saw him coming and spurred their horses onward. Legolas galloped into their midst as they faded away into the far hills and vanished, leaving Miriel standing alone on the causeway of Helm's Deep.

Legolas was gone.

Miriel gave in to the tears and let them fall like rain. She sobbed silently as sharp pain pierced her deepest being. She closed her eyes. She clutched her hand to her paralyzed and hollow chest. The agony was so unbearable that Miriel sought to shut off her emotions, to feel nothing; and yet she could not stop crying. Her face twisted in agony. A great darkness descended over her. Her cloak blew about her and running tears shimmered on her cheeks before dropping unheeded into the stones beneath her.

"Don't cry, my sister. We shall see them again."

Miriel turned to find the Lady Eowyn at her side, dressed somberly in black and gold, also staring after the riders with the light of longing in her sad gray eyes. Miriel's lips parted in a single pain-filled gasp, and Eowyn's sadness for herself changed to pity for one whos feelings were akin to her own.

"We shall comfort each other until that day comes," Eowyn added.

Miriel looked at Eowyn and smiled gratefully as the sun sank deep into the western sky. The two princesses of Rohan were silent as they stood in the last rays of the dying sunlight, and then Eowyn took Miriel by the hand and led her back into the fortress.

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There are some cliffhanger chapters coming up, and if you don't want to wait for me to get around to posting it all, then go to www.talesofmiddleearth.com and download the free ebook: Miriel: Princess of Rohan.

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A/N: In case you missed it!
Chapter One: A QUIET EVENING
http://www.theonering.com/docs/18584.html
Chapter Two: RED SUNSET
http://www.theonering.com/docs/18601.html
Chapter Three: THE GLITTERING CAVES OF AGLAROND
http://www.theonering.com/docs/18627.html
Chapter Four: THE BATTLE OF HELM'S DEEP
http://www.theonering.com/docs/18662.html
Chapter Five: FATE'S ARROW
http://www.theonering.com/docs/18729.html
Chapter Six: LEGOLAS
http://www.theonering.com/docs/19023.html
Chapter Seven: ON THE CAUSEWAY
http://www.theonering.com/docs/19066.html

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