CH. 3- SILENT NIGHT
The next morning dawned fair and bright; the sky was a deep, crystal blue above, and all the way to the eastern horizon over the Pelennor there wasn’t a cloud in sight. But not all was well. . .
The minute Rowan awoke she felt a dark corner in her mind start gnawing it’s way to her spirit. She shuddered. Her eyes snapped open, and the ceiling above her head seemed to close in on her. She blinked a few times; the ceiling now looked the same as it always had. Rowan frowned: something was different. Rolling over, she felt Arwen’s Evenstar touch her neck. She lifted the jewel, and it looked as bright as it had when Queen Wynhym had handed it to her the day before. Her frown deepened. What was it that made her so on edge?
Frustrated, she stood up and threw on her elvish gear, ignoring the Gondorian garb that Corin had given her. He had seemed very anxious to march. . .
But at this moment she remembered Legolas had never told her what the king had said.
“Legolas?” Rowan called as she stepped outside, and glanced over the heads of the crowd for the familiar blonde head. She sighed, her eyes taking in the 5 levels above her head, that led up to the citadel- today they looked exceedingly daunting.
“Rowan? Rowan, I’ve been looking everywhere for you.”
The elf maiden turned, and saw Elladan striding towards her.
“What is it?” She said, her grin melting as she saw his serious countenance.
“We need to talk,” He said, and pulled her to the side. “You need to come back with us. You cannot stay here.” Rowan blinked a moment, confused.
“What do you mean? I’m supposed to be here; didn’t you understand why I stayed?” She asked, annoyed at the elf. Elladan set his jaw, trying to find some sort of connection with his cousin.
“Listen, there is something that you do not know about,” He paused a moment as if thinking over his words. “It is dangerous for you to be here-”
“I must be here. You don’t understand, Elladan! Legolas told me, and I know in my heart. Why are you trying to persuade me to leave the very place that I’m am trying to save?” Rowan’s eyes were hard and cold.
“You may try, Rowan, but you cannot save this city. It is too late.” The elf met her gaze with one of wisdom, but Rowan didn’t want to believe him. What did he know about this Middle Earth?
“You don’t understand-” She began.
“Yes I do. I understand more than you ever can, Rowan. Don’t you trust me?” asked Elladan. Rowan tried to sort his words.
“If there was no place for me here I wouldn’t have stayed. But I am here, and I won’t leave. Not for you, or anyone, Elladan. Not until my heart is at peace.” She replied, and turned, leaving her cousin by the stone walls.
“Ta naa detholalle*.” Elladan sighed.
* * * * * * *
As soon as Elladan’s form had been hidden from her, Rowan sagged against the hard stone wall. The fear that she had felt when she first awoke was back, and it weighed even heavier on her heart. And yet she didn’t understand what Elladan had tried to say. There was always danger, always losses, but she had hardened her wavering spirit and was going to continue. But the choices were so hard! Rowan sunk down, her blonde hair tangling as she sat beside the wall. She knew in her heart. . . but what did she know?
“Nothing.” She murmured, wrapping her arms around her legs. Before the elves had come she was so sure of herself- now she was sinking in a mire that she couldn’t pull herself out of. She trusted Elladan, and respected him, but could she believe him? She knew she should. Her mind was so torn, between Elladan’s wisdom and her own heart. Sighing, Rowan stood again, her mind still fixed on Elladan’s eyes. There was something more there than just the words. . .
“Legolas,” She whispered; how she needed him now, to uplift her. Out of everyone here, he was the only one who seemed to understand.
“What’s wrong, Rowan?” Legolas said as soon as he saw her come up the stairs before the citadel.
“I don’t know anymore,” She replied and leaned against him, his arm wrapped around her. “Elladan tried to tell me to leave, but I can’t. You know I can’t.”
“Yes, I know.” He said softly, and there was sorrow in his voice. Rowan slipped out of his grasp and looked up at him.
“What is it, Legolas? What do you know?” She asked with a frown. Legolas hesitated before he spoke.
“Right now I don’t know anything.” said the elf, and he turned slightly away from her, looking over the vast fields of the Pelennor. Rowan stood a moment where she was, watching Legolas. She didn’t understand all that was going on; it seemed sudden, that he was acting so strangely. Why, just yesterday he had talked to her as if everything was fine, but today there was something odd in the air, something that Rowan was also feeling. But what? All these questions, and Rowan had no answers. Just a feeling. The elf maiden let a ragged sigh loose, and she slowly walked away from where Legolas stood. Ever since he arrived they had shared something special; was love too strong a word? Her heart ached, but he was right there, so close. And yet it felt as though he was shutting her out- letting her stay on the borders of his emotions. But yesterday. . . Rowan rubbed a hand over her brow.
“What is happening to me?” She murmured, knowing no one heard her but the wind. And there was no answer. She walked up to the citadel, and the doors swung open before her; inside it was dark, but the marble floors reflected the sudden sunlight with immense strength. Rowan entered quietly, slipping between the columns. Even the air inside seemed foreboding; a black cloud around the elf’s form. Shuddering she turned down the hallway, and caught sight of Corin not far ahead. He was talking to someone; who was it? But then he was alone.
“Corin?” She called. The prince spun around, and his face broke into a smile.
“Hello Rowan.” He said, but noted her strange expression, and his own countenance clouded over.
“What’s the matter?” He asked. Rowan stopped and stared at him a moment, lost for words. Corin raised an eyebrow at her doubtful expression.
“Are you alright?” repeated the prince. The elf maiden started to speak, but then she stopped again and frowned.
“I’m sorry. Uh, I’ll be fine.” She stepped backwards.
“. . .Are you sure?” He asked, wondering why she was acting so strange. Rowan smiled quickly and nodded, but didn’t say anything more- she just turned and walked away.
When Rowan had left the prince she placed a hand on her forehead; was she alright? She didn’t know anymore- but she did know Corin wasn’t himself. She could see it in his eyes. She had never noticed it before, how long had he been like that? Like what, she questioned, half stumbling out of the citadel. Legolas was gone by this time. It wasn’t possible for elves to get sick, but Rowan felt close to it. She grabbed the edge of the stone wall beside the citadel and the whole city swam before her eyes, and then she fell to her knees and everything went black.
* * * * * * *
Once Rowan left, Legolas made his way down the level, feeling guilty about what he had said- and not said. Could Elladan be right? Should she leave? He was worried for her, and he didn’t want to lose her again. The first time had been hard enough, at the Grey Havens, especially since all these feelings sprang up inside of him as he said goodbye. Feelings he hadn’t known were there- or at least he had tried to hide them. But now they were overwhelming him. He knew he loved her, and yet. . . did she love him back? Legolas sighed, there were just too many questions. Why did he come?
‘For Rowan,’ a voice whispered.
Legolas stopped, listening. The noise of the crowd seemed to dim around him as he paused in the streets.
‘Stay with her. . .’
Legolas frowned and shook the voices from his head, continuing down the road. He hoped Elladan was wrong about this, but why did he wait this long to tell him?
All these thoughts churned like an angry sea inside of him. Sighing again, the elf glanced back towards the citadel towering above him. What if she thinks I don’t care. . .? Legolas thought, and grimaced. Rowan knew he supported her- their conversation just yesterday was enough to prove that. And yet. . .
Why was this fear gnawing into him? Legolas pounded a fist against the stone wall, drawing stares from the Gondorian crowds. He leaned against the cold stone, trying to calm himself. But Elladan’s earlier words peppered his brain like poisoned arrows.
“She cannot stay here!”His friend had said, his voice rising despite all effort to control it. Legolas had been angry, uncommon to himself.
“Why can’t you let her be? We came to be counselors, not leaders, Elladan. Why can’t you accept that and let her do what she must?”
“I can’t do that, Legolas. There’s to much at stake.”
“Yes, the city is at stake- I know,” Legolas had a grim light in his eyes. “And yet you’re taking desperate measures to stop the one who may have the power to change the fate of Gondor, for the better. Why are you doing this to her?” Elladan was silent. Legolas could see the torment in his eyes, as they stood facing each other. “Let her be, Elladan-“
“No! I can’t do that. She could. . .” Elladan choked on his words, unbidden emotion escaping in his voice. “Die.”
Legolas lost his voice. The words rang in his ears. Elladan sought understanding in the elf’s face, his own becoming a mask again, his eyes regaining their wisdom.
“She could die. Don’t you understand?”
Legolas couldn’t speak, couldn’t answer.
“You don’t know that-” He said quietly. And yet, there was a look in Elladan’s eyes that Legolas couldn’t shake, one that told him everything was true- but Legolas didn’t believe it, couldn’t believe it.
And he still couldn’t, even now. . .
But just then a shadow passed over his brow, shaking him out of his reverie. Legolas suddenly looked up to the citadel, a burning pain surging through him and awakening his nerves. Bounding up the stairs, he pushed the guards out of his way, drawn to a cry that hadn’t been heard. Then he saw her- crumpled by the wall.
“Rowan?!” Legolas called and in a moment was by her side, and he lifted her in his arms. She didn’t respond. Gently he placed a hand on her forehead, but he withdrew it just as suddenly: it was icy cold.
* It is your choice