Rowan was the only elf left. This normally didn’t bother her, but in these once again dark days she felt alone, there was no one left to talk to. The men had long since been the owners of Middle Earth, and all the elves had gone over the sea to the lands of Valinor. All save her. She was immersed in this world and in these lands, and in all that would ever happen to them. And she didn’t want to let it go; not yet, at least.
It was the fourth age, well into the later years of it, and Minas Tirith had blossomed into the center of the race of men. Rowan had few friends there, but she didn’t mind. She would rather spend her time in the fading light of Lorien than in the bustling city of men that claimed the south lands. Lorien had all but faded into a myth by these times, and she found a sense of security in the elven leaves, the ones that still grew on the silver trees.
Long had peace reigned in Middle Earth, since the fall of Sauron, and the War of the Ring, of which she had been a part of. She still remembered the faces of the brave young hobbits in Imladris, and of the fair faces of her cousin Arwen and King Aragorn in the days of the king. There was still a king in Gondor, but he was of lesser blood than Elessar had been, and she missed him terribly. There was another she missed as well, one that been a true friend to her, and had just recently sailed to the Undying Lands.
Rowan had known Legolas all her life, as long as she could remember, and he had always been like an older brother to her. A few decades ago, when he and a much older Gimli, were ready to sail across the sea, he had taken her by the hand and walked with her over the stone floors of the Gray Havens.
“Rowan,” He had said, looking deep into her blue eyes, “It is time for us to leave.” She had noted the sadness in his eyes, because he knew her heart was hardened against leaving Middle Earth. “I don’t want to leave you here,. We’ve been through so much, but our time is ended on these shores. . . don’t you think you should leave too?”
Rowan kept her eyes downcast, but when she spoke the was a hint of remorse that Legolas could not help but notice.
“I can’t, Legolas. My heart is with these lands- I can’t tear it away as easily as you can.” The elf maiden caught her breath, and after pausing a moment she lifted her gaze to Legolas standing before her. How handsome and tall he looked, she thought, realizing there was an aching in her heart that went deeper than she had ever thought. Tears came to her eyes, and she quickly wiped them away.
“My heart is here.” She whispered again, her voice straining as if every inch of her self was being tossed and turned. Why did she feel this way? Why was there a pounding in her heart as she looked at him, wanting with every thing that was in her to go with him forever. Legolas cast his eyes down at her words, as if trying to block the emotions that were also rising up in him.
“I understand.” He murmured. Kissing her hand, he looked once more into her fair face, and turning walked back to the ship that was waiting to carry him away. Rowan closed her eyes, not wanting to see him leave, and turned to run back into the safe havens of the buildings. As she darted into the structure, she heard Legolas fair voice rising up and over the roaring of the breakers, calling a farewell. Rowan paused, and stumbling back to the sea she caught sight of the ship sailing slowly away, farther and farther.
“Namarie, Legolas! Tenna’ ento lye omenta!” She cried, not caring if he had heard her or not. She had stood on that terrace long after the ship had sailed over the horizon, out of her sight.
The memory of it still made her heart ache. As she stood beside the silver and white trees of Lothlorien she could still hear his voice inside her head, as if in spirit he was still right beside her. Rowan shrugged the feeling off. She knew there was something in this land that she had yet to accomplish, and even though she knew not what it was, she couldn’t leave until it was done. Years before, after the departure of Legolas’s ship, she had thought she wanted to stay because she loved these lands. But she didn’t anymore. Not without Legolas here to go through everything with her. Now there was a sense of duty about her staying, and she knew she couldn’t leave. Not yet.
CHAPTER ONE: THE CITY OF MEN
“Seven stars and seven stones and one white tree.”
Rowan recited the poem to herself as she stood inside the gates of Minas Tirith. The hustle and bustle of the great city still managed to put her on edge, being so used to the solitude of the forest, but she somehow also found comfort in the comings and goings of the people of Gondor. Pushing away from the wall she wandered up the road, seeking a friend. The zephyr that blew through the city not only rustled the straw baskets sitting next to the walls, but also her straw colored hair, neatly braided behind her.
“Rowan! There you are. I’ve been out hunting the woods for you.”
Spinning around, the elf smiled and laughed gaily at the sight of the dashing young man running towards her.
“I’m sure you haven’t been that diligent, Jax,” She said, still laughing. Rowan knew Jax happened to have a large capacity for exaggeration.
“Oh come now, Rowan. I’d search the world for you! Especially since King Amrath himself wants you.”
Rowan started noticeably at his words, drawing a confused glance from Jax. The king had never liked the elf-maiden, tending to be cold and aloof, and Rowan knew why. She was an elf, an immortal being. Who wouldn’t be jealous, especially in these times of distrust. Jax picked up on her mood quickly.
“Don’t worry, Rowan. I’m sure he means no harm. You know, ever since queen Wynhym appointed you as her counselor you’ve been so antsy. Just relax. Breath.” He said, smiling crookedly. He could never understand her weird behavior. Maybe it was an elf-thing. Rowan tried to laugh it off, but as he led her up the many twists and turns of the stone fortress the butterflies in her stomach became more and more jittery. Jax didn’t notice this time, and he just talked about the court and how lucky Rowan was to be able to come and go as she pleased. Eventually she had to stop him.
“You’ll talk my ear off if I let you.” Rowan said, smiling as her interruption obviously annoyed Jax.
“Hey, at least I talk. If I didn’t, we’d never speak.” He joked, drawing another laugh from Rowan. She felt the nervousness lift a little, but when they reached the tall green courtyard hundreds of feet above the ground, the anxiety returned. Ever since the War she had never been able to shake the feeling of uncertainty, that at any corner she could see death staring her in the face. Rowan never understood where it came from, and Legolas had always been worried about her. But that was another time, another place. This was Gondor, the “Tower of Guard”; she didn’t have need to be nervous. Gulping the butterflies down, she pushed open the larger stone doors and took in the spacious stone columns.
“Every time I come in here it never ceases to amaze me.” Jax whispered beside her. Rowan didn’t say anything back, but she agreed anyway. Before she knew it she was before the king and she bowed.
“Greetings Rowan. I am glad you could come so quickly.” King Amrath stated, rather coldly, as the elf shifted uncomfortably. “I suppose you wonder why I called you?” He asked. Rowan did wonder, but she simply nodded in reply, waiting for the king to continue.
“There has been a large uprising in the southeast, against the city and Gondor. In the lands of Harad, to be exact. I have heard of your great skills in battle from many, and from the books of the Third Age. I realize I haven’t ever set this kind of mission upon the shoulders of one I know so little of, but I have the pledge of your friend Corin, my son, that you would be perfect as a warrior in my army.” The king finished, still sounding a bit miffed. Rowan was silent for a moment. First of all she was a woman, and she knew women weren’t allowed to join the king’s fleet. This remained a bit of a mystery to her, but she felt that this wasn’t the time to bring up such an issue. She heard a small gasp from Jax, next to her, and smiling she nodded to the king. What would it have mattered for her to say no anyway?
“Good. Speak to Corin about the details.” The king dismissed her with a slighted wave of his hand. Rowan gave Corin a confused glance, and bowing she hurried over to him.
“What just happened,?” She asked. The prince smiled at her disbelief.
“I pulled a few strings for you. Besides, you’ve told me countless times how bored you’ve been.” Corin said, smiling mischievously at her.
“I have not!” Rowan laughed, keeping her voice down as they exited the main hall. Jax remained silent beside her. The elf turned her attention to him, noticing his lack of constant chatter.
“Just a twinge of jealousy. I mean, you’re a woman, and how come you can be brought to such a high position before one as qualified as me?” He answered, drawing a hearty laugh from both elf and prince.
“I hardly count a 19 year old boy qualified. Besides, you’ve had no training!” The prince exclaimed. Jax crossed his arms in front of him, rather angrily.
“Rowan’s been training me.” Jax replied.
“Well, that makes me more qualified now, doesn’t it?” Rowan said, shoving Jax aside in a playful manner. The trio laughed again, although the joy they shared in each other’s company was going to much shorter then any of them had ever dreamed.
* * * * * * *
The next few weeks were a busy ones for Rowan. She was still in shock the Corin had managed to get her in favor of the king, and at the king’s consent! There were coronations, that had made her officially a Gondorian soldier (much to the other men’s surprise) and the preparations for battle. Corin often teased her whenever she walked about in her “Gondorian garb”.
“You know how ridiculous you look in that?” Corin told her, laughing as she made her way through the white halls. She had tailored the outfit to fit her, but the sides of the black and silver pants still hung off her legs.
“Hey, don’t push your luck, prince.” Rowan replied, a twinkle in her dark eyes. Corin fell in line beside her.
“Is that a threat?” He grinned. Rowan shrugged her shoulders, and simply smiled in reply. “Don’t go mute on me, Rowan. You know I hate it.”
“Exactly.” She said. But even through all of this, it was the day before they left for Harad that the biggest surprise came her way.
“Aren’t you nervous?”
Jax and her were standing on the walls of the lowest wall, staring over the vast plains of Pelennor. Rowan shrugged at his comment. She wasn’t surprised at her serenity. She had been through countless battles in the Third Age, and though each one of them had brought an anxiety to her, this one didn’t. She figured she had gotten used to it by now.
The elf suddenly squinted into the distance.
“What?” Jax asked, following her gaze. His eyes didn’t see anything, but he remembered that the elf’s were much stronger. Rowan didn’t answer, but ran down the stair way beside her, her hear pounding in her chest. Could it be?
Jax raced after her, calling out questions, but the elf just quickened her pace. Soon the soldiers started calling out that there was someone on the plains, and Rowan stood beside the gate, waiting. It seemed like ages before the doors slowly creaked open, to reveal three grey horses, and three cloaked figures upon them, shining as if there was a glow of etherealness to them.
“Rowan!” The foremost elf bounded off the stallion, and threw back his hood, revealing fair immortal features, ones that had so long been absent to her eyes. Rowan jumped forward, and embraced Legolas, tears coming to her eyes as her heart jumped inside of her. But then she felt his lips against her, and her sharp elven ears picked up a gasp from her friend behind her. Pulling herself away finally, she took in every inch of his face, and laughed through her tears.
“How are you here?” She managed to say, ignoring the gathering people behind and around the elves. Legolas smiled.
“By magic.” He said, winking. Rowan kept in her questions until they were alone, and bent her gaze upon the two other elves with them. As they uncloaked, she looked in wonder upon the two men that sat before her.
“Elladan? Elrohir?” Rowan said, recognizing the sons of Elrond as they sat upon the horses. She couldn’t contain her joy, and she embraced both of her cousins as the dismounted, almost smothering them.
“Who?” Jax asked, remaining quiet until now. He seemed to ask the question for all the Gondorians who were standing around her.
“They are friends of mine from the-” She caught herself quickly. “From the west.” The elf maiden finished. No one said anything. Turning back to Legolas she grabbed his hand, feeling it as if she had never known the feeling before.
“Perhaps you would like to see the king.” Rowan said, loudly, cuing the guards to speak. There was a slight confusion as the soldiers composed their disbelief at seeing more of Rowan’s kindred, and two of them led the way up to the citadel. As they went, many heads turned, and they gathered a following of greater than a hundred before they reached the top. All the way, Rowan held Legolas’ hand in hers, not wanting to let go, and Legolas couldn’t help looking at her. His eyes had been deprived for too long of her beautiful face, and her gentle spirit, and now he couldn’t get enough of her. He also noticed a sadness in her eyes, as if she was finally realizing that her time here was ending. Even though it had been so long since his had.
The king was even more surprised than Rowan was when the procession made their way down the great hall. Memories of Aragorn flooded into Legolas’s head as his eyes glanced over the marble pillars. Sighing, he let them sink back down as the king stood and walked slowly down the stairs towards them.
“Who are these strangely clad travelers?” King Amrath asked, but he already guessed the answer. Legolas and his companions stepped forward, and bowing, Elladan spoke.
“We come from the west, and have been sent to bring you aid and wise counsel. We come in peace, and wish that you would hear our words without the remorse that you have felt towards our kinswoman.” Elladan said, motioning to Rowan, who was slightly surprised that the elf knew about that. He ignored her questioning glance and kept his clear blue eyes upon the king. Amarth thought a moment before he answered the immortals.
“I will listen.” He stated simply. Somehow the coldness had slipped out of his voice, and he seemed open, for once, to the elves words. Elladan bowed again, and Amarth and his guards led the three into a council room. Rowan longed to follow and hear what they were saying, but she knew their words were not for her. Maybe she would be able to get answers from Legolas afterwards. Turning, she quickly walked out of the citadel with a light heart.