When Lalaith woke at last, it was to the soft sounds of morning, the merry song of birds upon the air, and the soft whisper of the unending waterfalls. The sun, already having climbed halfway up the sky, sent warm rays of golden light down through the window beside her, and she managed a small smile, and stirred slowly where she lay.
Legolas, she noted, with some disappointment, was no longer beside her. And Lalaith released a soft breath as she sat slowly up. Her side barely twinged at the movement, and encouraged by this, she drew herself fully up, and with a sigh, gazed about the room. The door beside her, leading out onto the portico beyond which, trees lush and thick with late spring leaves caught and danced in the warm morning sunlight. And beside her, set upon a bedside table, as if in the hope that she would awaken soon, was a dish of sliced apples, a thick slice of newly baked bread, steam still rising from the softness of it, with a thick pat of butter still melted down into the soft warmth of it. Upon a table at the end of the room, a gown of soft light blue had been lain out, awaiting her awakening.
Lalaith was terribly hungry, she realized as she slung her bare feet over the side of the bed, but rather than gathering the plate onto her lap, she rose, wavering for a moment to adjust herself, then scurried toward the table where the gown lay. Moving quickly, she drew off her night gown, and lay it haphazardly upon the table before swiftly casting on the light blue gown, soft against her skin before she turned toward the door, drew it open, and glided out onto the veranda.
The peaked roof of the Hall of Fire she could see before her, beyond a cluster of trees, green with leaves of late spring. Lalaith sighed, and set off down the portico. Doubtless, she would meet someone before she arrived at the Hall of Fire, and learn of the fates of her friends.
On she padded in her unshod feet, the cool of the gentle spring breeze that washed along the portico tangling playfully in her hair. But her own heart was weighted and worried as she strode along. Until at the last, around a small stand of young trees, down the steps off the portico where she trod, she saw someone. A small figure seated upon a stone bench in the garden below the high peeked roof of the Hall of Fire just beyond the arching footbridge that spanned the churning river as it poured toward the valley below. A book sat in his lap as he studied the pages, his tongue caught between his lips in an adorable expression of stern concentration as his furry feet swung a fraction above the ground.
“Sam!” Lalaith cried out scurrying across the bridge, and the little Hobbit lifted his head, startled at the sound of her voice, and his eyes went wide at the sight of her. He dropped the book he was holding to the stone seat as he leaped to his feet brushing his hands nervously upon his trousers as she dropped down a step into the garden, and started toward him.
“Lalaith!” he called out, and grinned as she scurried down the steps toward him, her eyes brightening all the more as the sound of padding feet of other small Pheriain met her ears, hurrying near from down the twining garden path where trees blocked her sight.
Lalaith smiled warmly at the delighted aspect upon Merry’s face as he drew near around the trunk of a tree, and noticed her. But her smile only grew fuller as three more Hobbits shuffled into view, Frodo, supporting Bilbo upon one side, while the aged Hobbit shuffled along with his cane in his other hand, and behind them, a fading purple bruise under one eye, came Pippin, grinning gleefully at the sight of her, though as Frodo and Bilbo came on, Pippin stopped still in the middle of the path, hooked his thumbs into the pockets of his breeches, and eyed Lalaith up and down, laughter in his eyes.
“It’s good to see awake at last, Lalaith!” he exclaimed, chuckled as at some secret joke, “What finally got you up? Did someone put frogs in your bed again?”
“Pippin!” Lalaith gasped at the sight of him, tears springing suddenly to her eyes that half of her anxiety was so mercifully relieved. Scurrying forward, she dropped to her knees before the suddenly surprised Hobbit, and threw her arms around him, pulling his dear, sturdy warmth close against her.
“Pippin, I was so worried about you!” she gasped against his cheek as Pippin’s own small, strong arms circled her comfortingly. “I have known nothing all this time-,”
“Lalaith,” Pippin murmured, humor fled from his voice, though the gentle tones that ever were his, still lingered there. Lalaith drawing in a ragged breath, sat back upon her heels, and Pippin smiled gently upon her and reached out a hand, brushing the tears from her eyes. “I was alright. Just a little bruised.”
“Just a little?” Sam scoffed merrily behind him, and Lalaith turned to glance smiling at Sam’s incredulous countenance as Frodo and Merry looked on with delight in their eyes while Bilbo sighed with the look of a long suffering parent, and offered Lalaith a shrug.
“You should’ve seen the shiner he had, Lalaith!” Sam exclaimed, nodding toward Pippin. “Swollen big as an apple, it was, all purple and blue! Couldn’t open that eye for days!”
Pippin mumbled something inaudible to this, and rolled his eyes as Lalaith turned back to him, and smiled.
“But now,” Frodo grinned, his hands stuffed in his pockets as Lalaith’s gaze met those of the small ring bearer, “now he’s better.”
Lalaith’s smile fell then, as she drew in a breath. “And what-,” she turned from Pippin and met Frodo’s eyes, “What of Calassë?”
The voice above her brought her head up, and she lifted her face, her gaze alighting upon Elrohir where he stood upon the veranda, above the garden path. He had perhaps just come around the corner from the room she had only just left these past minutes. His eyes studied her with an unreadable look while in his hands he held a folded cloth. Silver and white it was, the light upon it shifting with every slight movement.
Lalaith’s heart caught upon a beat as she rose to her feet. For she recognized the tiny star woven blanket that had come with her from her birthplace, that Treebeard had kept faithfully for her, and that had been washed away in the flooding of Isengard, then taken away by Greta, only to fall into Burza’s hands, Calassë’s. What-, why did Elrohir carry it now?
“This-,” Elrohir’s eyes dropped to the square of starry cloth in his hands as Lalaith caught up the hem of her gown and quickly moved toward her dear brother, her feet patting softly upon the steps as she ascended from the path of the garden to the veranda where he stood.
“This,” he offered again, “is yours, Lalaith. Calassë said-,”
His voice caught softly, his eyes ever down upon the tiles at his feet, not meeting hers.
“Elrohir,” Lalaith breathed, and took another step forward, her hand tentatively reaching out to him, though she could not tell if he wished for the contact.
“In the first minutes after the mortal-, hurt her,” Elrohir murmured, “she sent immediately for this. She had brought it with her when she entered the Golden Wood, and kept it ever beside her, like a child’s favorite blanket when she slept. It brought her comfort-,”
Lalaith’s heart grew heavy within her as she listened to his softly spoken words.
“She told me that it was yours, that it must be returned to you, though she held it ever against her cheek until-,”
Lalaith shuddered at what her kinsman was saying, every word he spoke sinking into her heart like a bitter dart. Was Calassë truly-, truly gone, as his words seemed to say?
“Elrohir,” she murmured at last, leaning forward, and catching his arm in her own grip. “Until-?”
Long that word hung between them. The air itself held still as if Arda held its breath, while behind her, the Hobbits below them in the garden remained still and somber, like small, silent statues.
And then he lifted his face, and she found Elrohir’s eyes. Eyes that were wet with tears, though rather than the bitter pain she thought she would see, there was light. His emotion, she could see now, that though it brought him to the edge of weeping, was gladness at the sight of her well again, rather than misery for a slain love.
Lalaith drew in a swift breath, hardly daring to hope.
“Until I awakened at last, and drew out of the shadow, just as you have done, my friend,” a soft voice came from behind Elrohir, a dear voice that brought a sudden thrill of joy to Lalaith’s heart, and Elrohir, drawing in another ragged sigh, managed a grin as he turned and glanced back at Calassë, his beloved who had only just rounded the corner, beaming happily upon the brightening aspect of Lalaith’s face. Glorfindel and Ithilwen were strolling beside her, arm in arm, their faces shining with welcome as well, while behind them, Galadriel and Celeborn came silently, smiling with the pride of loving parents, upon Calassë’s gladness.
“Calassë!” Lalaith gasped, and with a laugh, the golden haired maiden darted forward, and Lalaith found herself in Calassë’s embrace, the two women laughing, even as they cried upon the shoulders of one another.
“I am so glad to see you, well!” Lalaith cried as they both pulled back, and gazed with tearful smiles one upon another.
“And I, you,” Calassë returned with ragged sigh. “I had hoped so very much that you would awaken and be well again before our wedding tonight. Though had you not, we all of us would have been glad to wait longer, so that you could share our joy.”
“Wedding-,” Lalaith breathed softly to herself, before she turned upon Elrohir with beaming eyes. He was grinning fully now, and Lalaith could not help but return his expression of merriment. “Tonight?”
“She has been healing since your battle with the servant of Saruman, and your victory over her, two weeks past,” Elrohir offered with a grin.
“And your eldest brother and Miriel had no wish to wed before you and Calassë were healed,” Ithilwen offered where she stood beaming at Glorfindel’s side. “And as tonight is to be our wedding,” she and Glorfindel traded a grin, “we thought it would be a joyous thing to share the ceremony.”
“A-,” Lalaith breathed, her heart bursting with such gladness, that she felt almost as if she would faint from the wave of joy that overcame her. “A triple wedding?”
“Indeed!” Calassë laughed girlishly, before giving Lalaith’s hands a final squeeze, then turning toward her betrothed, a gentle smile replacing the playful one at the brief look of worry in his eyes.
“Is all well, my love?” she murmured, her voice gentle as she drew back from Lalaith, and reached for the hand of her beloved, her eyes glowing with such light that Lalaith ached at the happiness she saw in both their faces. “Do not worry. All will be well for us, now.”
Elrohir grinned in self consternation at this, and shrugged. “It is difficult not to, having nearly lost you so many times before-,”
“You shall never lose me, Elrohir,” Calassë murmured, smiling up into the eyes of he who loved her. “Soon, we shall belong to each other, and I shall be yours, always. Even beyond time.”
Lalaith sighed happily at the tenderness between them even as her heart grew still and quiet as a sense of peace fell over her like a warm mantle, and she felt his presence behind her in the moment before she felt the soft scuff of a boot upon stone, and felt his hands, warm and soft, come to rest upon her shoulders, and the warmth of his firm chest against her back. He must been in the Hall of Fire, and come down to her. here. Lalaith drew in a long breath and turned in his embrace, meeting Legolas’ dearly familiar features as his eyes smiled down upon her, speaking more powerfully than words his gladness at seeing her well, and awake.
Beyond him, she saw Elrond, a tearful smile upon his face, drawing near along the stone paved portico that led from the steps that descended from the Hall of Fire. Gandalf strode along, a half step behind the Elven lord and at the wizard’s side, thumping along, a grin hidden beneath his beard, came Gimli while behind them, came Arwen and Aragorn, arm in arm. Lothriel upon Haldir’s arm glided behind the mortal king and his bride. Lothriel noted Lalaith’s eyes, and lifted a hand in greeting.
Lalaith smiled at this while beside them, a happy sigh broke past Pippin’s lips. She turned her head, and smiled upon the five Hobbits who were rising slowly up the steps.
Legolas’ arms squeezed her gently against himself, and Lalaith raised her eyes to meet his smiling gaze. Such a sense of completeness swelled in her heart, that Lalaith had to blink swiftly to hold back her tears. All was as it should be, and the Valar had truly blessed them.
Her husband seemed to sense her feelings, and Legolas’ grin only grew broader as gently, he bent and pressed a soft kiss to her brow.
The night winds were soft, and pleasantly cool, the music from the soft shadows lilting and merry as Lalaith danced within the arms of her husband, twirling about the glade with the other couples in time to the music.
Not far from them, the four young Hobbits, with Bilbo watching from a bench nearby, were dancing with a group of Elflings. Wilwarin and three other young maidens had claimed Pippin and the three other Hobbits as their partners, and were dancing with them in time to the music. Even Gimli had been coaxed into dancing with a bright eyed little girl who patiently guided the usually heavy footed Dwarf through the steps of the dance, smiling and nodding her encouragement as he followed the steps.
A soft chuckle at her ear brought Lalaith’s attention back to her husband, and her eyes turned toward his face.
Legolas’ eyes were bright, and a grin tugged at the corners of his lips as he studied something beyond her shoulder that seemed to humor him.
“Look,” he murmured softly drawing her briefly to a stop as other couples continued to dance about them, and Lalaith turned to follow his gaze, chuckling softly with him as Elrohir and his new bride Calassë, the last of the three couples who had wedded earlier, dancing together at the edge of the lamplight. They seemed thoroughly engrossed in each other, their steps slow and measured though the music that wafted across the glade was bright and sprightly. Then, as Elrohir, his face bright with joy whispered something in his new bride’s ear, Calassë, her eyes beaming, nodded eagerly, slipped her hand into his and together, the newly wedded pair hurried away hand in hand, their faces bright with joy as they faded into the shadows of the path that climbed up toward the cliff where they would be staying in the small cliffside cottage that had been gifted to them for a number of days.
“Glorfindel and Ithilwen were the first to scurry away to his dwelling,” Lalaith murmured softly to herself as she turned back, and met her husband’s eyes, unconsciously matching the slow swaying of his steps as he resumed their dance though now, their steps too, were slower than before. “Then Elladan and Miriel managed to escaped, and now at last, Elrohir and Calassë have fled away.”
“Indeed, as we did, three weeks ago at our wedding,” Legolas said, his strong arm scooping about her waist, and drawing her mischievously against himself. His strength attested to his skill as a warrior, and as Lalaith’s heart quickened within her, she turned her eyes to find her husband’s. A spark danced in his eyes, and a roguish grin tugged at the corners of his lips that only served to stirred her blood all the more.
“Three weeks,” she echoed softly, aware now, that he too, was slowly guiding her toward the border of the shadows. As she glanced about, she noted now, that even Arwen and Aragorn had vanished. “And I have lain wounded and sleeping for two of them.”
She sighed and glanced up, meeting Legolas’ eyes, his playful grin fading slightly at the somber look upon her face.
“What is wrong?” he queried gently, to which she sighed.
“These past weeks should have been a time of delight and joy for us,” she breathed. “Forgive me-,”
“For what?” he protested softly. “You did no wrong. You have been wounded and healing. You could not help that! I have wished for nothing these past days, but for you to rest well. Your happiness and joy matter more to me than all other things that I value.”
Lalaith’s heart grew warm at the light within her husband’s eyes at these words.
“Indeed?” she queried, softly biting her lip girlishly.
Legolas grinned at this, and as the music trilled brightly, spun her about in a merry circle.
“Indeed,” he echoed, adoring her with a tender grin. “In truth, if it is your wish, we would remain here all night, dancing together in this glade beneath the moonlight, rather than-,”
His words cut off, but Lalaith understood the meaning of his unspoken thoughts and her eyes met her husband’s as his gaze sparked and danced.
“Queen Aseaiel and Arwen told me that our things have been moved to a small cottage down near the river, where you and I shall stay until our departure for Eryn Lasgalen-,”
Legolas nodded at this.
Lalaith smiled teasingly, and leaned near, feeling through the cloth between them, the sudden quickened pace of her husband’s heart beneath the firm muscles of his chest. “I know the cottage of which they were speaking,” she whispered softly, her eyes furtively studying her husband’s. “A quaint little dwelling with small, cozy chambers alone in a hidden grotto by the river’s edge, yes?”
“And doubtless a warm fire has been already been stoked in the hearth, and the bed awaits us, soft with down pillows, and warm coverings,” she guessed softly.
A warm breath washed from Legolas’ mouth as these words sank into his heart, and slowly, his steps drew her to a halt where they stood half in shadow, half in torchlight.
“I should like to go there now,” she breathed, to which his lips parted softly in an eager smile. “With you.”
“Then it shall be so,” he murmured his voice soft and warm, his fingers weaving tenderly though her own.
“Come,” he urged her softly.
And Lalaith smiled, tightening her fingers trustingly within his grip as she followed his lead away from the lights and the music, on a different path than that which they took, the night of their wedding. Well she knew it, as it wended down and away into the silence of the night through the trees and toward the river that broke at last through the trees, tumbling away down the valley as Legolas guided her along the silver shoreline toward the promised cottage that sat back from the river framed in a small bay of young trees. A welcoming light flickered beyond the lattice of the doorway and the windows as Legolas drew her to a halt upon the stoop, and lifted the latch with a soft clatter, drawing the door open, where a warm, welcoming glow emitted. Yet he did not immediately go in, but rather turned to his wife, a timid, boyish smile upon his face.
As they stood together for a long delicious moment, Lalaith studied her husband’s eyes, deep and warm, and dancing with adoration. And though she was not fully certain, as the lamplight flickered within the eyes of her lover, Lalaith thought she could see the figure of a dancing child reflected there. A girl, golden haired, and merry faced.
Lalaith smiled at this, and followed his gentle lead as he guided her across the threshold into the warmth of the little river cottage. He squeezed her hand briefly before he turned to the door and drew it shut with a soft click behind them. Lalaith smiled as he turned to her then, his gaze grown warm and dark. And with a sigh, she melted into the gentle strength of his welcoming embrace.
Beyond the door, the soft whisper of the river continued on into the night, the bright stars washing the world below in joyful, silver light.
The morning was half gone, the golden light of dawn warming to the glow of mid-day as Lalaith and Legolas hand in hand, dropped lightly from the last step that descended from the portico into the garden where Arwen’s message had bidden them to come. The sweet scent of flowers filling the air about Lalaith with a heady fragrance, the ending of spring, and the coming now, of summer.
Arwen, beneath the light of the sun, sat upon one of the stone benches lining the garden path, and Aragorn stood beside his queen, his hand upon her shoulder as she sang a song of Valinor. A sad sweet lilting song that brought both joy and sorrow to Lalaith’s heart as she heard it, and gazed upon the fair queen, the sunlight upon her dark hair.
Aragorn was clad in a woven robe of light colors, his crown upon his head, while his wife was adorned in a flowing gown of royal blue, the cloth catching lightly in the soft breeze that brushed about her.
“Did the message Wilwarin brought say why Arwen sent for you?” Legolas asked gently as the two Elves strode toward the king and queen of Gondor who lifted their eyes at their approach, and smiled.
“Only that they both wished to speak to us this morning,” Lalaith returned.
“My friends,” Aragorn greeted, noting the Elves’ approach at last, and he left his wife’s side coming forward and embraced Lalaith first, before he released her, and turned to Legolas. He clasped the Elf’s arm as his queen rose, came behind her husband, and caught Lalaith to her, a smile of greeting upon her face, though Lalaith could feel her kinswoman trembling a little, her smile faltering as Arwen pushed her back.
“It has been a week since Elrohir and Elladan and our Lord Glorfindel were wedded to their ladies. And now, you are to leave today for Eryn Lasgalen, and we to Gondor,” Arwen murmured, gazing between the two as Aragorn moved to his wife’s side, and slipped his arm about her shoulders.
“We will,” Legolas answered, as his hand found Lalaith’s back, his hand trailing lightly over the curve of her spine, to which she could not help but smile a little as warm trails of sunlight trickled over her skin.
“We will come to Minas Tirith as often as we may,” Lalaith promised.
“And we to you when duty permits,” Arwen smiled as she squeezed Lalaith’s free hand. “As well as to our brothers, here.”
Lalaith smiled at the easy way Arwen spoke of Elladan and Elrohir as brothers to them both, but her smile swiftly faded as Arwen turned to Aragorn, glanced meaningfully to him, and softly murmured, “It is time now.”
“Ah,” Aragorn nodded with a slow sigh, and with movement that spoke of reluctance, he removed from around his neck, the white gem of the Evenstar that Arwen had gifted to him before the beginning of the Fellowship’s journey.
“This is to be yours now, Lalaith,” Arwen murmured, her soft voice quavering briefly as Aragorn with a small, trembling smile, fastened it gently around Lalaith’s neck as she glanced to Arwen, stunned.
“But-,” Lalaith’s heart caught upon a beat as she glanced down, seeing the white of the gem resting against the silver cloth of the gown she wore. As long as she had known, Arwen had worn it, and it had been given as a sign of love and promise to Aragorn. “It was a gift from you to Aragorn-,”
“And now a gift to you, from us both,” Aragorn finished softly.
“It is fitting that it be gifted to one who will-,” Arwen’s words faltered, and Aragorn’s hand quickly found her own, his glance one of attentive concern.
“To one who will indeed sail to the Blessed Realm,” Arwen continued as she rallied at Aragorn’s touch, and smiled again at Lalaith. “And most fitting that it should go to the younger of Elrond’s daughters. I shall not go with him now, for mine is the choice of Lúthien, and as she so have I chosen, both the sweet and the bitter.”
“Arwen,” Lalaith breathed, her heart wrenching as a sudden jagged rift tore through her soul at realization of Arwen’s words.
“Lalaith,” Arwen returned, her eyes growing warm with pained sweetness as she drew from her husband’s side, and took Lalaith’s hands again in her own. “You must do something for me.”
“Anything,” Lalaith returned, feeling the tight trembling in her throat.
“You must tell mother-, our mother, that I love her, that wherever I go, I will always love her,” Arwen commanded softly. “Will you tell her that?”
“I will,” Lalaith returned, her throat tight. And at these words, Arwen once again drew her into her arms.
“I have always been proud to have you as my dearest sister. Remember me, always,” Arwen whispered against her hair.
And at this, Lalaith lost the battle with her tears.