The Awakening - Chapter 9 - Such Vivid Emptiness
Chapter 9 - Such Vivid Emptiness
"So, are you nervous any?" Kaanel asked the prince.
Legolas stared at his reflection in the carefully polished silver platter that served for a mirror. When he met Kaanel's eyes in the metal, the blond headed Elf nodded. "Yes, I am very nervous," he murmured. A grin broke through what had been a placid expression. "Yet I am incredibly sure of myself at the same time."
"Well, better you to be wed today than I." A look of slight horror came over the half-Elf's face. "I fear the day when a woman ensnares me to where I wish to no longer travel," he said in earnest.
"If you could ever find one," Legolas commented, straightening his collar on his tunic. That slur caused Kaanel to swat the prince on the arm.
"I could. As it is, I am having to ward off ten she-Elves daily, sometimes more." He was all ego and arrogance, a trait that Legolas always smirked at.
"Then they come to you in hopes of managing a piece of your fortune you long for," the prince stated. "Maybe for what poor looks you have."
Kaanel rolled his eyes. "Better than yours, at least." With that, the half-Elf turned to go towards the door, taking his step ahead to leave. "Oh, and your lady was still pale as a ghost when I visited her earlier," he threw over his shoulder. "I vow she will pass out again."
Legolas sighed loudly. He had advised Kaanel not to enter his lady's chamber. Obviously, his advice did not run well in the half-Elf's brain. But it was too late to do anything about it now. And it was probably true; he could see Hetaura, standing in the middle of the small room, staring at nothing, with her sweet visage ashen. The mere thought brought a smirk to the prince's face. How he wanted to go comfort her! But, he was not allowed to see her until the ceremony.
Looking about brought to the prince that the room was empty. The perfect time for him to put away his composed façade and be as nervous as he felt on the inside.
Hetaura paced back and forth, the skirt of her dress swishing about her ankles as she did so. When her newly appointed aide, Lasselanta, attempted to stop her, lest she step on the hem of the hand sewn gown, Hetaura shot her a withering look that caused the lady in waiting to quickly reconsider her action. The princess-to-be was too stressed to stand still, much less think. She was to be wed in a matter of minutes, and she felt as though a jar of butterflies had been set loose inside her stomach. The woman had never been so nervous and jittery in her life! Well, except for the previous eve.
But, she had to endure it. She would endure it. The wedding should take no more than twenty minutes, at the most, just as it had in the first successful rehearsal. Yet, the rehearsals seemed to far away. Hetaura suddenly didn't remember anything at all about the wedding. What if she tripped? What if she fainted again? What if she said the wrong thing, or didn't say anything at all? What if the rings were lost? What if...?
She shook her head, thinking it all nonsense and childish thoughts. Nothing would go wrong. Things would be just fine. She would be just fine. The wedding would be just fine. Nothing could--or would--go wrong.
"My lady?" a she-Elf murmured, tapping on Hetaura's shoulder.
She whipped round in surprise. "Y-Yes?" Her voice quivered, exposing her nervousness.
"They are ready for you, lady," the Elf said. "Are you all right?"
Hetaura nodded. "Yes," she declared strongly. "Yes, I am. Let us go." She took a long breath, and let it out slowly. Rubbing her arms over the soft sleeves of her wedding dress, she followed Lasselanta out of a small cabin built for the specific reason, many years ago, to be a bride room. She swallowed hard as they stepped outside.
There was a light chill in the air that nipped through the material for the sleeves. A breeze blew around the dress, ruffling slightly. When Hetaura caught sight of her husband-to-be in his white tunic and breeches, and the light crown adorning his head, her breath caught in her throat. He looked positively handsome. Anyone who denied it had to be blind or ignorant to the meaning of `handsome' and any related words.
And so was her wedding to happen, in her eighteenth spring, in the Greenwood of Eryn Lasgallen.
Looking around anxiously, Legolas willed time to quicken. He could nearly see the pendulum of life, swinging from side to side, ever so slowly. If he could only touch the timekeeper, to conduct his heartfelt wish, he would be, oh, so joyous. As these past years had gone by so fleetingly, these moments took so much longer to conduct than anything before.
A moment later, he heard a door shut distantly. Obviously, the whole of Greenwood did as well, as their heads turned in the direction of the sound simultaneously. The cleric cleared his throat conspicuously, and the entire gathering looked forward once more, as though they hadn't heard the resonance from deeper in the forest.
In mere seconds, Hetaura and her ladies could be seen from a few feet away. Straightening his crown and smoothing his tunic once more, Legolas watched as his love approached. He felt an elbow in his ribs lightly.
"Are you anxious to have her as yours, young one?" the member of the Elven clergy asked, a wry grin on his face.
Legolas blinked, confused at first, until the older Elf's meaning came to mind. He returned the grin, faintly as he mopped at his brow with his sleeve. Perspiration had been beading there from his nerves all afternoon. It was unbelievable, at least to him that he was so nervous over speaking a few words, and being correctly married to the one he loved most.
All right, he thought, maybe the last part had something to do with his nervous tension. But he was not going to admit his anxiety to anyone else.
When Hetaura and her ladies came into full view, he stood, aghast at her beauty. Her hair was curling around her jaw line, with thick curls everywhere. A light blush was accenting her cheeks. Her lips were curved in a shy smile. This had to be the first time he had seen her acting shy in many years. The green orbs placed delicately in her face were dancing full of mirth and jollity as she lifted her gaze to his.
She looked astounding. Anyone who could say differently must have had his eyes gouged or had some affliction that impaired his thoughts to connect to his brain.
And so was his wedding to happen, after his scores of years, in the Greenwood of Eryn Lasgallen.
Gingerly, Hetaura stepped into the white gazebo, adorned with white rose vines. She looked up at her newly titled husband with a timid smile still. He bowed and offered his hand to her. There was not yet music, as the musicians were still setting up from moving, but they still were to dance.
Hetaura placed her hand in Legolas', their gazes still holding. He lifted her hand to his lips first, then to his shoulder. He positioned his hand on her mid-back, and took her other hand. Gently they began to sway, and a soft strumming sounded out from without the structure. Quiet laughter rang around the two newlyweds for a moment before a violin joined in with the melody. The two were very aware that all eyes of their friends and guests were upon them. A few short seconds after, a jingle was heard from a tambourine, sounding every few beats.
As the two danced, they soon forgot that there was a full congregation watching them. Some minutes into their dance, Legolas reached for Hetaura's small mask over her eyes. She shook her head softly.
"Not yet," she whispered. "Soon."
And they continued dancing throughout the song, and the next, then the next. It was well into nightfall when Hetaura finally consented her mask be removed and the two leave the party together.
Hetaura slowly opened her eyes and looked around. Panic immediately overtook her. Her entire body trembled with slow, morbid veracity as her surroundings came into place. How could this be? Where was she? Why was she in this place? What was this place? How did she come to this place? How? When? Where? Why?
She lifted a slender hand to her throat and tried to scream, but nothing came out as the cold, round room seemed to spin around her. The finely set stone became distorted and uneven suddenly. The chill in the chamber seeped into her skin and set place in her bones. She wanted to shiver, but couldn't. She couldn't feel anything except for the loneliness taking her mind hostage. There was something else...something else she felt.... She felt emptiness, as well. Dark, frigid emptiness was there with her loneliness. The emotions overtook her mind and sent her into a bleak depression. She could see no end as the depth came into view.
When would it end? Would it ever?
The stone door to the chamber opened and shut very audibly with a creak, a groan, and finally a snap as the door shut home. Hetaura whirled around to see who it was. She couldn't believe it; it was--!
She woke to the voice of her new husband. His voice was urgent as he pulled her from her revelation. When Hetaura looked up at him and tried to express her terror in words, nothing came out. As she had done in her dream, she lifted a hand to her throat in a new panic. Why couldn't she speak?
"Legolas," she finally managed and then gasped. She took his hand and held it tightly.
"Hetaura, your hands are like ice," he told her softly. There was an edge of fright in his voice when he spoke to her.
She sat up and held the sheets under her chin. "Legolas, I had another dream," she whispered. She began trembling violently. "I was so afraid. So afraid," she repeated as tears began to well up in her eyes.
"Do not be frightened anymore, my love. I am here with you." He touched her cheek gently. "I will not leave you," he murmured.
As Hetaura lifted her hand to wrap her fingers around his wrist, she could hardly grasp him she was quaking so badly. She looked into Legolas' eyes and knew there was an intense fear in her orbs. She could see it mirrored on his face. With a deep breath, she wrapped her arms around herself in attempt to restore warmth.
It was still dark. Even though they were underground, she could tell as much from the way the air smelled. During the day, she could smell the sunlight and the grass. But at night, it was an entirely different smell. The scent of the dew tinged the air and the sweet fragrance of the night flowers carried into the room. It was raining. That smell accompanied the tang of the night air, and Hetaura heard it on the ground above her.
She lay down on the bed once more with her back towards the door. Legolas slid beside her and looked into her eyes. "Believe me when I tell you I will not leave you, Hetaura. I will be by your side always," he told her earnestly. "I will not let anything happen to you."
Hetaura said nothing. She wanted to tell him her fate was already sealed, that something would happen to her. But she didn't. She just shut her eyes and waited for sleep to claim her again.
It never did. Hetaura was still awake when Legolas rose at dawn, only a few hours afterwards. She feigned slumber when he left to bathe. As soon as the door to their chamber clucked shut, she jumped from the bed, slipped a silken night robe on, and rushed to the desk. She'd requested her journal be sent to their room so she could write down any thoughts she came across the felt worth remembering. She was glad, now she had asked that simple thing.
Hetaura had been recording her dreams, as well. There were some things about her dreams she hadn't told Legolas. She doubted even Kaanel didn't know about some of the darker facts. The only way anyone would know about some of the things she dreamed was either after her death, or she felt a need to share it.
My wedding night, I had another dream. This one was much more different than any other one. In the past, I had always dreamt of my death. In this one, it was before any of that. I was in the stone room, alone. I was just waking up. The panic was so real, the frigidness so vivid. I can remember the feeling of the frozen hay beneath my bare legs. The stone under it bit into my skin. Oh, that chill I will never forget, never. The cold in the room gnawed on my bones and took a place there.
Then the things I felt! I felt loneliness! I felt as though I was the only person left in the world. The feeling of never seeing anyone again, of never speaking to anyone again; it was one of the most horrible things. But the most terrible was the emptiness I felt. No one would save me. No one cared for me. No one loved me enough to risk their life to save mine. I would die there; I knew it then before it would happen. The feeling of being so bare was so awful...it is something I will never forget, either.
I saw him! I saw who it was! Every feature of his face is so clear now. His long dark hair, his tan skin. The look of hatred he gave me when he walked into the room. I cannot believe it was--
She scribbled something resembling a strange character as Legolas entered the chamber. He was looking at her, surprised.
"You are up already?" he asked softly. With a slight nod, she stood up and tried to roll her scrolls back up at the same time. "What is that?"
Hetaura was silent a moment. "My journal," she told him quietly. She didn't want to dispense any more information. The heavens help him should he pursue further questioning.
"Oh." She could picture him nodding thoughtfully. "Would you like to speak with me about it?" the prince asked. They both knew what he meant. He wanted to speak of her dreams.
"Not right now." After her many scrolls were put away safely, she remained standing with her back to him. She brought her hand to her mouth and pressed her fingers below her lips, staring at the wall. A shaky breath escaped her as she let things sink in more.
The vividness of her dreams shocked her. Never had anything else been so clear to her. Everyday life wasn't that clear all the time. She knew people had visions in their dreams, but this was pushing it. This was becoming too hard to keep to herself...
"Hetaura." Legolas came behind her and placed his hands on her shoulders. "Please do not worry so. Things will be all right," he whispered.
She whipped around to face him. "No, Legolas, they will not! I dream of my death! How many people see that more than once?" Tears stung her eyes and threatened to spill over her cheeks, but she didn't care. "And this morning, I saw the person doing this to me! Legolas, do you know who he is? He is living in this palace with us! I dare not tell you, though. I cannot." Her voice cracked on the words. "Just imagine yourself, dreaming these things so vividly...feeling the cold eating away at your skin, the emptiness tearing at your mind. I live with this day to day, and try to tell myself that they are things I can change." She stepped away from Legolas when he tried to comfort her. "But in my mind, in my heart, I know I cannot. Legolas, I am going to die sooner than later. Now I can live with that, as I have been doing, and pretend to believe things will be all right. Or I can...I can..." She couldn't finish as sobs wracked her body.
She didn't draw away this time when Legolas wrapped his arms around her. He pressed her head against his shoulder as she sobbed. He couldn't help the tears that slipped down his cheeks, either.
"Legolas, I am so scared," she whispered. "I want to stay with you..."
He held her tighter to him as though death dared to take her away then. "Hetaura, I love you. I will do everything I can to protect you and keep you with me as long as I can."
"Hopefully this will all turn out to be nothing, and we will live together for many years in happiness." But they both knew that wasn't true.
For the next few days, Hetaura and Legolas spent it as newly wedded couples do; stealing glances and kisses when they believed no one to be looking. They took hours from their day together in their chamber, exploring the new things marriage granted them, and speaking of their future. Both were careful to avoid Hetaura's dreams.
Even though she seemed happy, though, Hetaura felt a black depression drawing over her mind. Her thoughts continued to stray where she had tried to forbid them. She kept telling herself to forget her dreams; that they would soon go away. But every night, she dreamt more and more of her dark future. The visions wouldn't leave her. Time and again, she had woken in the middle of the night in a cold sweat to find Legolas there, looking deeply into her eyes. He would draw her in his arms and hold her until her trembles ceased and sleep took her once more.
He was losing sleep, as well. It was becoming increasingly obvious from the darkness under his eyes. It was no longer the time they spent together during the day in their chamber. It was the sleep he lost at night, as well, when he held her and soothed her. How could he love her so much when he knew it would break his heart? They both knew she was to die, whether it would be from what she dreamt or from old age. But the knowledge was in both their minds. Hetaura knew he would follow her very soon after her own death.
Knowing that pained her worse than anything else that she would be the cause of his death.
It was two weeks after their wedding when Legolas was going to visit his stepmother for counsel. It appeared, though, Hetaura was there already. He could hear her muffled sobs through the door. He knew that it wasn't endearing to eavesdrop, but he stood outside the door with his ear against the wood.
"Nana, I just feel so frightened. I believe Legolas when he tells me he won't let anything happen to me, but part of me cannot help but feel like he is wrong," Hetaura was saying. So it was her dreams that were bothering her so.
Legolas heard Sheelewen sigh. "Hetaura...it is Legolas' duty to protect you. It is what is expected of him. Even though you feel that way, love, he will do anything he can to keep him with you," she told Hetaura. There was a pause and then a loud clack. Legolas could only assume Hetaura had taken a long drink of water to replenish what her tear had depleted of her body fluids.
"That is what he tells me, but it is not often we speak of my dreams," Hetaura explained. "I do not wish to burden him with everything I feel in them." She hiccupped. "I feel I will only be a bother and a distraction to him if I tell him of these things."
The unmistakable sound of his stepmother growling in a feral manner made Legolas jump away from the door. He heard a swatting noise and guessed that Hetaura had received a cuffing of her ears.
"Hetaura! You will never think that again! As Legolas' wife, you are supposed to tell him these things! Never mind if you bother and distract him from other things; for this, he needs to be distracted from anything else!" Sheelewen said loudly. "Even if your marriage was an arranged ordeal, he would still listen to you and the things you worry about. But since he loves you so much, he will not think you a bother at all if you tell him. In fact, he will appreciate it greatly." There was another pause, and Sheelewen sighed again. It was exasperated, like the previous one, but it was a calming sigh. "Hetaura, my sweet, you have been like a daughter to me. To Legolas, he has always loved you and he would do anything for you. You have not been yourself lately, and it pains us all. Do everyone a favor, little one, and tell my son what has been ailing you. He will listen and comfort you. Let him."
Hetaura sniffled loudly, and Legolas knew that his stepmothers--nay, he could no longer think of her that way anymore. He knew his mother's words had brought another draught of tears to his wife. He had to admit that there were tears threatening him, as well.
"I thought you disapproved of eavesdropping," a voice said from beside Legolas.
The prince nearly fell over in surprise. When he regained his breath, he glared at Kaanel. "I do. But this was a conversation worth hearing," he growled.
Kaanel raised his eyebrows. "Indeed, it was." He was silent and listened inside the room. "Quickly. Your wife is about to exit."
The two ran behind a corner and prayed Hetaura wouldn't come that way. Legolas knew they both looked guilty as a young Elf caught filching food from the kitchen between meals. When they were both sure the young woman had gone the opposite direction in search of Legolas, the prince turned to Kaanel.
"What do you know of her dreams, Kaanel?" he asked.
The half-Elf shook his head. "Strangely, no more than you. I know there is much she is not telling us, but I have not been able to figure it out. She writes things in her scrolls, so I could only assume they hold much of what she feels and speaks naught of," he said regretfully.
"And you have never read them?" Legolas looked incredulously at his friend.
Kaanel gave Legolas an expression that spoke of shock. "And risk what a woman would write in her diary? Legolas you are a good friend with a good heart, but I do not desire to know anymore about you than I could ask you." For good measure, the dark-skinned half-breed shuddered.
"Skip those parts then!" Legolas hissed.
"You encourage me to read your wife's diary? Oh, she would have a fit if I told her," Kaanel drawled in his strange accent. Legolas gave him a look again that Kaanel interpreted as death. "It is in her trunk, which is locked, all right? My skill with filching things from drawers while people sleep is supreme, but I have never had to pick locks very often. I take a long time to do those. Especially the locks you Greenwood Elves have."
Legolas sighed. "Well, I suppose it all has worked out well enough in the end...as you already know, my mother told her to speak with me. I will go seek her out." He patted his friend's shoulder and started off after his wife.
"Oh, Legolas?" He turned and saw the impish grin on the half-Elf's face. "At least try to accomplish some talking, will you?"
A blush tainted the prince's cheeks. "Stay out of the passageways, my friend, and you will stay out of harm's way," he stated.
"I stay out of the passageways, Legolas, and I still can tell what goes on with you both." Kaanel shuddered and disappeared.
Legolas continued blushing as he set off on his search once more.
Later that evening, Hetaura was lying in bed, in Legolas' arms. She willed sleep to come to her, to claim her mind and body. She willed a peaceful slumber to overtake her, just this once. Just one night of peaceful sleep and she would be the most grateful person alive. She nestled herself more comfortably in her husband's arms and breathed in his scent. It was something she would never forget and something she would cherish always.
Suddenly, an urge to relieve herself hit her. She blinked at the unexpectedness of it before realizing she had to do something about it. So she struggled to slip from Legolas' arms. He merely tightened his grip around her waist. That caused her to wince.
"Legolas," she whispered. He stirred and looked at her sleepily. "Let go of me. I have a need to take care of." She ignored the fact that there was a chamber pot at hand. Embarrassment wasn't one of the things she dealt with smoothly.
It took a moment for him to digest her words, but he let her go and then drifted off to sleep. Hetaura sighed. "You are so adorable," she told him as she slipped on her robe. "At least, when you sleep." The young woman sped from the room and to the privy closet. * It was amazing that, when the need to go was so great it took such a long time to reach the garderobe. **
Once she reached the closet, relieved herself, and stepped out into the hall, Hetaura stopped in her tracks of walking back to her chamber. She felt eyes on her. While she knew Kaanel never slept and spent his time either emptying the larder or watching those who went through the halls at night, this gaze did not feel like Kaanel's. It felt like a glare, like someone had her death on his or her mind.
Her breath caught in her throat as things pieced together. Her chamber was a fair sprint away. There were no chambers between where she was now and where she wanted to be. If anything were to happen, no one would hear her...
She shook her head and convinced herself to walk as calmly as she could back to her room. It was just her imagination. It was late, was it not? And she had spent her evening in her study, reading manuscripts of frightening legends to see if anything struck a bell in her mind. Yes, it was just her mind playing tricks on her.
Then why was her heart racing and about to fair pound out of her chest?
Hetaura quickened her pace to a very fast walk when she turned a corner. A loud clatter behind her made her yelp and break into a run. She didn't know if it was the echo of her own footsteps or someone was actually after her, but she heard something behind her. She was going to die now, she could feel it.
As she turned another corner, Hetaura came in contact with a hard form. She shrieked and held up her hands before her face in self-defense. When nothing happened, she dared to look at who was in front of her. A very alarmed Legolas stood there.
"Legolas," she breathed and wrapped her arms around him. "I thought..."
"Where were you?" he asked.
Hetaura rolled her eyes inwardly. "I had a need to attend," she told him. "A very urgent one. Now if we could return to our room, please, I would--"
"You had me worried, Hetaura! I thought someone had taken you while I slept!" he scolded.
"Legolas," she said desperately. "Please, can we go back to our chamber? I thought I heard--"
He put his hand over her mouth. "Just a moment. I've the same need to attend as well," he told her and started past her.
"Legolas, no!" She feared the worst when he rounded the corner.
But, curse him, he poked his head around and gave her a strange look. "What?"
Hetaura searched for words as she felt a blush taint her cheeks. "I, ah...I thought I heard..." She tried to look past his impatient look. "Nothing, never mind. I'll be in our room."
After a moment or two of hesitation, Legolas nodded and disappeared down the corridor. He could take care of himself, should anything have been more than her imagination. On the other hand, Hetaura just wished that Kaanel were stalking her at the moment. She sprinted back to the chamber.
"Kaanel?" she whispered, just for her sanity's sake. When she heard his familiar chuckle and a curt response, she felt a little more reassured. "I want to speak with you." A moment later, he stepped out of the shadows. It never ceased to amaze Hetaura how he could appear and disappear when he chose.
"Yes, my lady?" He bowed.
"Was I...was I just imagining things earlier, before I ran into Legolas?" she asked sheepishly.
He shrugged. "I know not. I was in the kitchens when I heard you scream. I rushed to you and saw Legolas," he said.
Hetaura rolled her eyes. "A lot of help you are to me. But why did you follow me?" she asked. "If I am with Legolas, things must be fine then." She gave him a suspicious look.
"You seemed uneasy standing there, and you said you had heard something. Even though I consider you only a friend, I can readily admit that I would grieve if anything happened to you," Kaanel told her. He sounded truthful enough.
Hetaura nodded a little. "Thank you," she murmured.
They stood in silence for a moment. "Just what did you think you heard?" he asked.
She looked up at him and swallowed. "I thought that someone was following me," she said. "And I felt a gaze on me. Unlike yours," she compared. "It scared me."
He laughed a little. "You are easily scared, my friend. Would you like me to patrol the halls and see if those amateur guards missed anything?" he asked.
"Yes, please," Hetaura replied quickly. "Good night, Kaanel."
He bowed and disappeared again just as Legolas returned. He smiled at her. "You waited for me?" he asked. He wore a look of being supremely flattered.
"You're arrogant," she told him. "Come. I am tired." She held out her hand for him.
Maybe it had only been her imagination. What else could it have been? Surely no one was stalking her with ill intent. Were they?
* Privy closet, ** Garderobe; they both mean toilet. I can't believe my computer didn't accept "garderobe"!
Woo hoo! Chapter nine written in only a few hours' time! Spread over many days, of course. The entire time it took TORC to update my last chapter. But, I finally wrote it! I was feeling like a jerk Thursday (4/15) night so I fueled that and wrote from the part after the wedding until the end. Go me! Oh, if writing styles/reading atmospheres seem off or different, it's because I actually wrote the wedding part last summer, shortly after the movie "A Cinderella Story" came out. ,_, So, the music I was imagining was "I'll Be" by Edwin McCain. Such a pretty song! But anyway...okay, no Nandin. I'm sorry. I promised he would be in this chapter. I had no use for him, though! I had thought of something, but it didn't happen. Will it ever? Dun, dun, dun! I have so many ideas for the future, and so many other parts written that I wonder if they will ever be inserted in chapters.
Did your opinion of Kaanel change at all? And don't you guys go assuming that just because he was nice here doesn't mean he's a nice guy in reality. One word for you all: Masks.
Okay, I'm going to stop now before I rewrite the entire 9 pages (yay!) of this chapter in an author's note! This is by far the longest chapter I've written so far. ,_, I hope you guys liked it! LadyRiona