“Hmm?” Lalaith murmured, lifting her head from the warm curve of Legolas’ shoulder and glanced up at his face where they stood together upon the wide veranda that surrounded the Hall of Meduseld.
She smiled as his eyes turned to gaze down into hers. Not even the bliss of Valinor could rival what she felt when she looked into his face, she mused.
Legolas returned her smile, squeezing her gently closer to him before his arms relaxed somewhat, and released her. “The stars in the east are darkening.” He said, with a nod at the eastern sky.
Turning within his loosened embrace, Lalaith saw that it was true. The stars were not so bright as before, especially in the eastern sky, as if a veil had been drawn across them.
“Evil is stirring in the east.” She sighed, finding comfort as his hands slid to her shoulders, and rested there.
Her hands lifted and brushed across his own, pausing when she felt the cool metal of her ring upon his smallest finger.
“How did you come to find this again?” She asked, running her thumb lightly over the sapphire within its center.
“Boromir had it.” Legolas breathed, his heart growing suddenly heavy once again. “He returned it to me before-,”
Within her, Lalaith’s heart sank, sensing his words that were coming. “Before he died?” She finished quietly.
He nodded somberly. “He told me to tell you that-, you are worth dying for.” Legolas finished in a low voice.
She shuddered at his words, and shrank closer to him, his chest warm against her back, seeking the comfort he willingly gave, circling his arms about her stomach, his jaw pressed warmly against her hair.
“I know he loved you, Lalaith,” Legolas continued as Lalaith listened quietly. His voice was bereft of any hint of jealousy, warming her heart. “But such a thing I could never fault him for. He died for you, and for that, I am in his debt, eternally.”
“Even though he-,” Lalaith gulped softly.
To her chagrin, Legolas laughed a soft, brief laugh. “Kissed you?” He finished, a hint of teasing in his tone as he touched gentle lips to her smooth brow. “Do not fear, Lalaith nin. I know that what favor you gave him, was out of friendship and pity. Nothing more.”
“Ai, how easily you trust me.” She sighed, her tone empty.
“Greta’s words cast a black web of doubts about your mind.” Legolas murmured gently. “Think no more on it, for you saw past her treachery in the end.”
“Greta spoke to you as well, didn’t she?” Lalaith asked gently.
“She-, did.” Legolas admitted with a sigh, his voice growing heavier as he spoke. “By some black gift of Saruman, she took on your appearance-, your face, your hair, your form, and yet she was not you-,”
“It is no matter.” Lalaith breathed, running her hands lightly over his arms curled tenderly about her waist, her soft touch gently silencing him. “You refused her, I know. A part of me always knew.”
“Though we were apart, I could hear your heart ever calling to mine.” Legolas murmured.
A smile grew across Lalaith’s face at this, and Legolas smiled as well until her next words brought a sad tremor once again to his heart.
“I felt you as well. And I saw you. Within the fortress against the cliff.” She sighed, studying the distant mountain peaks, and lifting a hand to touch the medallion that rested beneath the gown she wore. “And there were other-, Elves there also? I thought I saw Lothriel there.”
A long pause followed, while Lalaith at last sensed Legolas’ unease, and drew away from his embrace to turn and face him.
“Legolas, what is it?” She asked, her heart catching within her at his furrowed brow and his troubled eyes.
“Lalaith,” he began slowly, his reluctance now clear as he stepped forward, and grasped Lalaith gently by the elbows, gently tracing his fingers up and down her arms in a comforting gesture. “There were others,” he swallowed softly, “of Lórien, as well as Imladris.”
“My cousins?” She demanded, lifting her eyes suddenly.
“Elladan and Elrohir did not come.” Legolas soothed her gently, glad for that one comfort he could give her. “It was said by the Elves from Imladris that the sons of Elrond have gone with their sister on a far journey.”
He furrowed his brow, his throat constricting at his next words. “But Haldir-,” he swallowed softly, “fell at Helm’s Deep.”
“What?” She breathed, her eyes widening in numb disbelief. Boromir’s death she had expected, but Haldir? No, it did not feel right. Something was amiss with what Legolas was saying.
“And orc’s blade found him, while he fought upon the Deeping Wall.” He explained softly, tightening his hands about hers as she flinched.
“But he cannot be-, dead,” Lalaith moaned softly.
Legolas sighed, his brow softly furrowing. Lalaith must be in shock, he realized. Haldir had always been a dear and trusted friend to her. He lifted his hands, lightly cupping her face, his eyes gazing steadily into her own.
“He is gone, Lalaith.” He repeated gently. “We buried him with the others who had fallen.”
Lalaith released a long, drawn out sigh, feeling a strange calm steal over her heavy heart, whispering a quiet peace to her as Legolas drew his hands from her face. “What of Lothriel?” She asked.
“She yet lives, though unwillingly.” Legolas returned. “She has returned to the Golden Wood for the sake of their child.”
“Ai,” Lalaith sighed, lifting her head. “She carries his child?”
Legolas nodded wordlessly.
“Then she has not lost all-,” Lalaith murmured, wondering why her heart was not grieving, but rather seemed to whisper some hope beyond her memory.
“Ah, Lalaith.” Legolas murmured, his voice suddenly thick with emotion as he once again drew her to him, his arms tightening as if he fear to lose her again. “How I had despaired that I would ever see you again. After all this grief and death-, How blessed we are, to be given these moments together, before the hand of Sauron reaches out once more.”
Lalaith relaxed against him as her eyes sought his through the softened night shadows.
“Do not leave me again.” He pleaded, and her heart ached at the sudden vulnerability she saw in his eyes. “I would rather that you stayed in safety, but if you must face Sauron’s minions, stay with me, that we might meet the peril together.”
Of course she would stay. How could she not? She had thirsted for this moment for days that seemed ages since the battle on Amon Hen. She could not bear being parted from him another time. Whatever perils were yet to come, she would surely be at his side. Or-, a chilling shadow passed across her heart, would she?
The creaking groan of the door opening startled Lalaith, stilling any words she wished to utter. And then a voice spoke.
“My lady?” Tentative tones, spoken in the speech of Men, met her ears.
Drawing slowly back from Legolas’ embrace, Lalaith turned to face the maiden Éowyn who stood in the doorway, light filtering from behind her. The mortal maiden’s hands were clasped as she glanced away, an embarrassed smile twitching at the corners of her mouth as she realized her untimely intrusion.
“Lady Éowyn.” Lalaith smiled reassuringly as the slender, golden haired Rohan maiden lifted her eyes and offered Lalaith an apologetic glance. “You know you may call me Lalaith.”
“Very well.” Éowyn returned, a smile slowly coming to her face as she nodded her accord. “Then to you, I am also simply Éowyn.” Her eyes darted between the two Elves, and a warm flush touched softly upon her fair, freckled face as she glanced away, secret thoughts flitting behind her eyes. “As the night has grown late, a bed has been prepared for you in the maidens’ chambers.”
The very word from Éowyn’s lips caused Lalaith to realize how weary she truly was. The last many days had been exhausting, to her soul as well as her body, and the thought of a proper bed after so long, seemed a blissful dream come true. Yet-, she turned back to Legolas, seeking his eyes.
“Go on.” He urged with a smile, nodding toward the king’s niece. “I will remain here for a moment, before I seek out Aragorn, and the others.”
A cool wind brushed across the stone porch, catching at his cloak and his hair, and Lalaith smiled.
“Very well.” She complied, playfully reaching out and drawing the hood of his cloak over his hair. “But will you be warm alone?”
“With thoughts of you, I will be.” He smirked and reached out playfully, to brush his thumb over her chin. “Sleep well.”
Lalaith smiled at the tender touch and felt her face warming. “And you.” She whispered, catching his hand and giving it a farewell squeeze.
And with a final glance at the muted sparks of veiled stars, she turned away from him, moving at last toward Éowyn and the open doorway.