Lalaith’s first budding awareness, was of a cool, sweetly scented wind upon her face, the smooth touch of wrought silver beneath her hands, and then as if she were only drawing open her eyelids, a grand vista opened to her view, and she found herself standing upon a high balcony set atop a great mountain, the white slopes of which fell far and below her, down to where the gleaming white faded to the warm greys and browns of a mountain slope as the steep sides of the mountain eased into low rolling foothills of green and yellow before a strip of distant white sand met a vast, blue sea where the golden orb of the sun was only now rising in a glorious display into the sky.
Her eyes were fixedly drawn to the eastern horizon as if she had long been standing thusly, the wind in her hair, and catching in the soft white robes that enshrouded her slender form.
Lalaith drew in a long, slow breath, letting the cool wind fill her lungs as she gathered her bearings. There was no pain in her side, yet neither were the warm, secure arms of her husband about her.
Drawing away her hands from the silver balustrade at her fingertips, she hugged her arms to herself, and allowed herself a short, brief smile even as questions and subtle fears entered her heart. Had she not overcome her fear of heights during the War against Sauron, she thought to herself as she gazed down the vast slope below her, she would be cringing now, and sulking quickly away, seeking some sanctuary away from this marvelous view.
“She smiles,” a woman’s voice soft as a memory murmured from behind her. “Yet it does not fully reach her eyes. Dare I ask her what she is thinking?”
Lalaith’s breath stopped momentarily. She knew that voice. Well did she know it. And slowly she turned, her movements light and airy, to meet the gentle eyes of the woman and the man who stood behind her, watching her with such tenderness in their bright eyes, that even were she to not recall the vision she had beheld so many months before in Galadriel’s mirror, she would have known them.
“Naneth,” Lalaith breathed, gazing with eyes wide like a child’s upon the woman whose beauty shone from her face as the light of Ilúvatar himself. And the tresses of her hair glittered, as the light of the stars themselves even as a playful smirk danced upon the bright beauty of her face.
Her companion was no less her equal in masculine beauty, his lips drawing up in a smile as Lalaith turned her eyes upon him. Wise, yet eternally youthful was his face as Lalaith studied his dear, familiar features.
“Adar,” Lalaith breathed, and at the word, Manwë’s smile broadened, as did Varda’s.
“Lalaith Elerrina,” Manwë murmured, pronouncing each word with feeling, his tone warm and strong, and achingly tender.
“Our child,” Varda breathed in the voice Lalaith had known so well in her thoughts. She stepped forward, her arms drawing open and suddenly Lalaith found herself hurrying forward, her own arms outstretched like an eager child, and then she was in her arms. Her mother’s arms.
“My sweet child,” Varda breathed against her hair, her slender arms clutching Lalaith close.
“Though always we have watched thee from afar as thou hast grown, and listened to the brightness of thy laughter, it is a new and long awaited joy to have you again in our company,” Manwë offered, his tones deep and warm and rich as his hand touched against Lalaith’s hair. And though her face was turned against her mother’s neck, she could hear the gladness and indeed the joyful tears in her father’s voice.
“There were times when I almost envied her, when she held thee in her arms, when she stood beside thee as thou took thy first steps-,” Varda sighed, her eyes dancing as Lalaith at last drew back enough to look upon the soft beauty of the Star Kindler.
Lalaith furrowed her brow in quiet questioning, to which Varda smiled.
“Celebrian the child of Artanis,” Varda added with a soft laugh of merriment when Lalaith said nothing. “She who has been thy mother on earth, who raised thee to become a beautiful, and brave woman, though grief and wounds caused her to leave thee when thou wast still young. We have spoken on occasion of thee, she and I. And she is very proud of thee and of all thou hast achieved. Thy courage in adversity, thy victory over the servant of Morgoth, thy love of the son of the Firstborn and thy binding with him.”
“Legolas,” Lalaith breathed softly glancing away, toward the east where the sun’s tresses rested upon the water, and the horizon reached far and away-,
“She has healed well, here, little one,” Varda murmured gently. “Though she has missed her lord and the children born of her body. And thee, whom she has loved no less than them.”
“Shall I see her now?” Lalaith wondered, to which Varda and her lord again exchanged a look of bright merriment.
“In thy own time, thou shalt see her,” offered Manwë warmly as he and his lady traded a smile.
“Our Lord Namo, and Lady Vairë told us of thy sacrifice in the Halls of Mandos, for one of the sons of the Firstborn, that he might return to his beloved,” Varda murmured, drawing back enough to catch Lalaith’s hands in hers, and press a soft kiss to her brow.
“I-,” Lalaith murmured softly, searching her mother’s eyes filled with such memory-, the very scent of her recalled faint memories to the fore of her mind, of gentle arms cradling her, the soothing softness of a soft, silver blanket about her.
“I remember now,” she continued. “I was there, for a time. Lord Namo spoke to me, as did Lady Vairë, and Haldir and-,” she gulped softly. “And Boromir, my friend, the Man of Gondor-, he was there as well-,”
Varda and her lord traded a brief smile.
“Indeed,” Varda murmured softly, placing a hand against Lalaith’s cheek. “He died for thee, and has gained a reward unique to most other mortals. The mortal woman who gave her life for thee as well could have remained in the Halls of Mandos, but she wished to journey on to the Place of Awaiting beyond the stars with her lord. Yet young Boromir-,”
Varda’s words and smile faded as she gazed over Lalaith’s somber face as she turned her eyes down and studied her hands. Whole they seemed to her, unfaulted, yet she felt unfinished. She was here in fëa only, once again.
“What is it, my dear one?” she breathed gently.
“What is to become of me?” Lalaith queried softly.
“Ai, glad we are that thou art here with us, little one,” Manwë’s warm, rich tones warmed Lalaith to the core of her being as his hand came to rest against her hair. “So long we have been parted from thee, and would that thy mission were completed that thou couldst stay with us-,”
Lalaith drew in a shuddering breath as the Lord of all Arda smiled gently upon her, her father, his form and raiment as the sun itself, even the gentle kindness in his countenance reminded her so of Elrond. It should be a blessing to her, to be at last returned now, here in the West to this high palace upon Oiolossë where her life began. Yet within her, her heart was incomplete, and even bathed in the glory of these might Valar, she felt lonely-,
“But that is not thy wish,” he finished, his words a warm breath, and his eyes seeking her own. “Is it?”
Lalaith’s heart caught in her throat, and she quickly glanced away.
“We hear his prayers, little one,” Varda murmured reassuringly. “Even the quiet pleadings of his heart are known to us. As are the prayers of your kindred, both of the First and Second born, and of the goodly son of Aulë, who has become thy friend. And we know the desires of thy heart.”
Lalaith released a deep breath. “But not always are such pleadings answered as is wished,” she murmured softly.
“Indeed,” Varda murmured with a sad smile. “For always is the will of our All Father obeyed.”
Lalaith dropped her eyes. “And I shall trust in His will.”
“As shall we,” Manwë added with a warm, gentle laugh, to which Lalaith could not withhold a tentative smile. “For we also, are subject to his dictates, and will follow them, and take comfort in the promise that thou art ever our daughter, wherever thou art.”
Lalaith’s eyes lifted quickly at this, to which the countenances of Varda and her lord glowed with warmth and joy to see the sudden light in her eyes.
“He who is thy father upon earth possesses great skills of healing,” Manwë murmured, joy glowing within his eyes. “His skill is surpassed only by his love for thee, our daughter. And his daughter, also. When we see thee again, then shall be cause for even greater joy than this, for then thou shalt truly be complete, your fëa and hröa one, so that you might have the fullness of joy that comes with completeness of being, and your beloved also, will then be at your side.”
Lalaith smiled at this, and sweet hope rose suddenly in her heart.
“And though thy soul hast as before, traveled upon the pathway between life and death, thou art once again, being drawn back across the sea,” Varda added, her hands squeezing Lalaith’s softly.
“Soon enough we shall see thee again, and he who for his love of thee, is now kinsman to us!” Manwë added with a deep laugh that rolled over her in warm waves. “And we will await that day with joy.”
“Thou hast time yet with thy noble prince in the East,” Varda breathed softly. “There is much good that you both shall yet render there before the last of the Firstborn have all departed. And there are children that shall come to thee and thy beloved, children who shall first draw breath in that marred, yet still beautiful land.”
“Children?” Lalaith wondered softly, drawing in a breath of joy before another thought smote at her heart.
“But what of my friends?” she demanded suddenly. “Dear Calassë, and sweet Pippin of the Pheriannath? What of their fates?”
Varda only smiled at this, her fingertips again brushing against Lalaith’s cheek.
“I love you, Lalaith Elerrina, my daughter,” Varda breathed softly.
“As do I love you, my little one,” Manwë added, his tones warm and quavering.
“Nana?” Lalaith gasped out.
The scene about her was already fading in a white mist, even as she felt Varda’s hand squeeze her own and withdraw, and voices, distant, seeming to echo in her ears from out of the distant east became clearer now.
“Ada?” she cried out as her mind grew warm and sleepy, and the feel of soft linens brushed against her skin even as a soft pang of discomfort pulsed in her side.
Lalaith felt a man’s sturdy gentle hand brush gently against her face. She drew in a quick breath, the air warm with the scent of late spring flowers. She lay upon a soft bed, a pillow beneath her head, and linens tucked about her, the soft touch of a thin nightgown clad about her form. Soft whispering voices echoed about her, Arwen’s and Miriel’s voices, and the quiet pressure of gentle hands upon her side where the knife wound still pulsed and ached as if someone were changing a bandage with deft and gentle care. Lalaith’s eyes were closed, but she could hear movement about her, and with her face turned to the side, she could feel warm sunlight upon her brow, the soft glow of it against her eyelids. And at her side, she felt a presence, and the soft pressure of a hand upon her own. Legolas’ hand, she knew, for she could sense the quiet music of his soul whispering ever to her own. And slowly, slowly, she opened her eyes.
Golden morning light filtered through the twining lattice upon the window beyond the sleeping form of her beloved, seated in a chair even as he leaned against the headboard of the bed where she lay, his hand covering her own where it lay palm up upon her pillow. Legolas’ eyes were half closed in weary sleep. His face even as he dreamed, was taut with worry.
Beyond Legolas’ sleeping form, Aragorn and Elladan were slowly pacing, dark silhouettes in the morning light. Aragorn’s arms were folded across his chest, his face written with quiet worry while Elladan’s right hand, balled in a fist, was pressed into his left palm, his eyes filled with helpless anxiety. At the far end of the room, Queen Aseaiel sat in a carven chair, her elbow upon the chair’s arm, while her hand covered her face.
Arwen, her forearms bare, sleeves rolled to her elbows, stood behind the Queen of Eryn Lasgalen, folding white linens upon a board against the wall. And Miriel, her sleeves rolled as Arwen’s, was bending over the queen, a hand upon her shoulder as she questioned Aseaiel softly. Thranduil’s queen glanced up at the maiden and smiled wearily, returning a soft answer, though Lalaith could not hear it.
Lalaith stirred slightly, And standing behind her, a presence moved.
“Lalaith-,” a voice warm and familiar whispered near her hear, deep and soft, yet cracking with emotion as she gazed upward into Elrond’s well loved face as he stood above her.
His face was written with lines of exhaustion, and as her eyes met his, his eyes grew wet with sudden tears.
“I had feared you would not return to us!” he choked softly, a hand touching her cheek. “Long you lay in shadow!”
“Ada,” she breathed again, and at the soft word, all eyes in the room, turned upon her.
“Lalaith!” Legolas’ hand tightened beside her as he started awake, and she turned her head, her eyes now finding his, meeting his beloved gaze as he dropped to his knees from the chair beside her bed so that he might embrace her as he threw his strong arm about her head, and wept quiet tears of relief into her shoulder.
The soft approach of feet echoed upon the stones of the floor as faces dear and familiar came into her view, filled with relief, and many quiet tears of gladness.
“Arwen, Miriel,” Lalaith sighed, struggling to lift a hand to reach out to them, though she could not, for her limbs felt heavy.
“Lalaith,” Elrond’s gentle voice sounded at her shoulder, and his hand, so gently, brushed her brow.
“Here, drink this,” he murmured, lifting her head gently as he pressed a cup to her lips.
“It will bring sleep,” he offered while she sipped at the bitter warmth of the tea, “but it will bring healing as well.”
Indeed, no sooner did the warmth of the tea he offered her slip down her throat, but a heavy drowsiness entered her mind, made all the more difficult to resist as he released her head, and let it sink down into the warm softness of the pillow.
“But Ada, Legolas,” she breathed as fog clouded her mind, “What of Calassë and Pippin?”
But her healing dreams had already claimed her, and she did not hear their reply.
Lalaith’s eyes fluttered and blinked, and slowly the light of the waking world seeped into them where she lay between the cool sheets of the bed where she had last faded into sleep.
But now the room was bathed in shadows, pearlescent spears of moonlight trailing in through the high arching windows beside the bed, soft night wind stirring the gossamer curtains that hung there. The pain in her side had faded to a barely perceptible ache, and Lalaith stirred slightly, turning to gaze into the sleeping countenance of her beloved who lay atop the sheets, upon the bed beside her as if he had been sitting at her side, and had succumbed at last, to sleep.
“Legolas,” Lalaith cooed softly, reaching out and brushing her fingers against the warmth of his firm jaw. She hoped, though he slept, that he would awaken at her touch. But he merely sighed in his sleep, and smiled, easing nearer her, and tucking his head against her neck.
How long she had slept, she could not tell. Days? A week? The sleeping gown she had worn when she had first woken, had been changed, so surely it had been longer than a day. And how long before her earlier waking had first been wounded? A simple bandage now covered the wound upon her side, the pain nearly gone. So some time surely had past.
What had become of Calassë, and Pippin?
“Legolas?” she pleaded again. But though he smiled at the sound of her voice, his eyes, glazed in contented sleep, did not lightened with awareness.
Were he not so very weary, Lalaith knew, he would have awakened at her touch. Long had he remained awake then, she surmised, before he succumbed to sleep at her side. And with that, Lalaith sighed, and turned her cheek against her lover’s soft hair, her eyes studying the fluted beams of the ceiling above her head, awaiting the coming of dawn, and of the answers she sought, that would come at last.