“Ah, look at that.” Pippin cooed where he sat beside Merry at the edge of the clearing as he turned to look at Lalaith where she sat half inclined against an old gnarled tree’s roots. Her little blanket was wrapped snuggly about her shoulders, her breath was slow and deep, and her eyes stared straight ahead, unfocused. “She’s sleeping!”
“How can you tell?” Merry asked, turning away from the low melodic conversation of the Ents in the middle of the clearing, to glance at the sleeping Elf maiden.
“Like this!” Pippin grinned, then cupping his hands around his mouth, he shouted, “Lalaith!!”
“Good gracious, Pippin!” Merry scolded fiercely, but Lalaith did no more than stir a little and grin in her sleep. The conversation of the Ents did not seem to waver either, though Pippin’s near shriek still echoed through the trees; they were all chanting together in a long rising and falling rhythm, now louder on one side of the ring, now dying away there and rising to a great boom on the other side. The sound was very pleasant and melodic, Pippin decided. It was no wonder Lalaith had fallen asleep, even though it was still mid-day. Especially if she was still healing from that arrow wound. Of course, he shrugged to himself, with Gandalf’s power, and her own elven healing, it was probably all better already. It probably wouldn’t even leave a scar.
“I wonder where Isengard is?” Yawned Pippin.
“I don’t know quite where we are,” said Merry, “but that peak,” he pointed to a high white peak they could see jutting above the towering green trees about them, “is probably Methedras, and as far as I can remember the ring of Isengard lies in a fork or deep cleft at the end of the mountains. It is probably down behind this great ridge. There still seems to be a smoke or haze over there, left of the peak, don’t you think?”
“What is Isengard like?” Asked Pippin. “I wonder what Ents can do about it anyway.”
“So do I.” Said Merry. “Isengard is a sort of ring of rocks, I think, with a flat space inside and a tower in the middle, called Orthanc. It does not seem the sort of place that Ents would want to tackle. But I have an odd feeling about these Ents. They seem slow and queer and patient, almost sad; and yet I believe they could be roused.”
“Yes.” Said Pippin. “I know what you mean. There might be all the difference between an old cow sitting and thoughtfully chewing, and a bull charging; and the change might come suddenly.”
Before them, the voices of the Ents were still rising and falling in their conclave. The sun had now risen high enough to look down into the clearing, and lit the northward side of the clearing with a cool yellow light.
Lalaith was dreaming, she knew she was, for she had fallen asleep thinking of Legolas, against an old gnarled tree to the low soothing hum of the Ents’ speech. Even now, she could hear the rolling rumble of their talk at the edge of her mind. But it did not feel like a dream. It seemed real.
She stood upon a high hill overlooking a clear lake below, very much like Nen Hithoel in shape, though its size was much smaller. A stand of thick green trees marched down the slope away from her toward the water’s edge, and at her feet, leading down and away through the trees, was a narrow beaten path. Glancing down, she noticed that she wore a long ankle length sky blue gown, its scooped sleeves open at her elbows, and her feet were bare. Her hair hung loose about her shoulders, with a garland of new spring flowers resting upon her head.
She could feel a soft breeze as it stirred about her, and she shivered slightly in it, feeling the tingle as her skin prickled against the cool brush of air. Not knowing what else to do, she started down the path that lay at her feet, toward the edge of the water, her eyes gazing about her at the marvelous detail her dream was taking. She could hear the wash of the wind through the leaves overhead, and could see the dappled change in light as the sunlight danced through the fluttering leaves.
The path wore onward, weaving through the trees, ever downward, its slope easing at last as it came near to the edge of the water, and at last, the trees broke suddenly at a wide stretch of sandy shore. The sand was cool and dry between her bare toes here at the edge of the trees, and the water, cool and clear enough to see to the sandy bottom, lapped happily at the shore. Across the small lake, she could see a stony, pebble strewn shore, where more trees fanned up the side of a hill, giving the little lake a distinctive bowl shape. And further down the shoreline, seated just at the edge of the water, was an Elf, clothed in the greens and browns of the forest; the hair that lay against his back was smooth and golden. He sat with his arms resting on his knees, gazing contemplatively out over the water, flinging an occasional stone outward where it danced rapidly across the surface of the water.
Lalaith’s heart leapt into her throat and she snatched up the hem of her gown, dashing toward him, joyfully screaming, “Legolas!” as she ran.
At the sound of his name, his gaze shot up and he leapt to his feet. “Lalaith?!” He cried, his eyes wide with wonder as she came flying toward him across the sand.
“Oh, Legolas, I’ve missed you!” She exclaimed, throwing herself against his chest.
“And I, you.” Legolas returned, catching her in his arms and clutching her close.
“I had hoped I would find you here.” He choked, his emotions threatening to spill out as he held her against him. The feel of her soft warmth against him was too real to deny, though he knew it was a dream. “We are-,” he tore his eyes from her and glanced around, “both asleep, I guess.”
“Yes, we are.” She smiled, as her hand strayed to the chain of the medallion that disappeared beneath the scooped neck of her gown, resting cool against the flesh between her young breasts. Strange that the medallion was here, in the dream with her. She bit her lip, and ran a finger thoughtfully along the chain that encircled her neck. “I have been able to sense you ever since we were parted. Sometimes only vaguely, and at other times, I have seen you, clearly in my mind.”
“Yes. It has been so, for me as well.” Legolas said, his words spoken almost sadly. He touched a hand to the spot on his chest where her necklace rested. “Whether it is the power of the Lady of the Wood, or by some gift of the Valar, I do not know. But I am glad for it, as I am glad that I was allowed to see you like this, once more. When they come, we will not hold them back long-,”
Lalaith wondered at these last unfinished words, but as Legolas turned his eyes upon her, the love that she saw in his gaze made her forget everything but that she was here, with him. They had not been parted many days, but in truth, it seemed as if an age had passed since she had seen him last.
“Legolas, I saw you in my mind, in a great fortress against a high cliff. Where is it?” She asked, her voice suddenly plaintive. “Are you safe? When will I see you again?”
At these words Legolas bowed his head, and sighed deeply. “The king of Rohan says that no enemy has ever breached the wall.”
“You are in Rohan, then?” She muttered worriedly. “We saw uruk-hai, thousands of them marching toward-,”
“Hush,” Legolas murmured, running his thumb over her lips, “hush, Lalaith nin.” He wished to say more, but his constricted throat would not allow it. Instead, he drew close, gathered her face between his hands, and pressed his lips against hers. His mouth was soft, and endearingly shy, yet lingering, giving both of them the chance to explore the sweetness of the kiss together. Legolas’ hands moved to her shoulders, then circled around her and pulled her against him, while her own hands slid up his chest and around his neck.
It was an effort for Lalaith to think through her muddled thoughts. She barely had the will to turn her head aside enough to breath, “Legolas, I am afraid for you.”
“Don’t be.” He whispered softly as his mouth, displaced from her own, trailed then, from her cheek to her throat.
Lalaith shivered as a tremulous sigh escaped her. The warmth of his breath, and his lips nuzzling the soft flesh of her throat were intoxicating. Why was he making it so difficult for her to think?
“Legolas.” She complained, forcing herself at long last, to step reluctantly back, away from the warmth of his embrace. “Where are you? Are you in danger? What of Gimli and Aragorn? And Frodo and Sam? Tell me of them.”
Legolas blinked hard for a moment as he looked hard at her as he mulled over her question in his mind. “Frodo and Sam crossed Nen Hithoel the day we were separated.” He said after a long pause, then added, “Aragorn and Gimli are with me.”
“And?” She pressed impatiently. “The fortress I saw. It is in Rohan? Will it hold back all the uruks?”
His eyes trailed over her face, brimming with love and longing as he murmured, “You are safe?”
“Yes, I am safe enough.” She gulped and nodded. “Merry and Pippin are with me. And-, an old friend. Honest hearted, and trustworthy. He has taken good care of us.”
Legolas nodded. It was Treebeard she was speaking of.
“But what of you?” She demanded, returning to her own question, and catching his hands in a grip that was surprisingly strong for her small slender fingers. “Tell me! Where are you? Are you with the Rohirrim? Do they have sufficient numbers to hold back the uruks? Tell me!”
“The horse lords are a proud people.” Legolas said quietly, almost to himself. “They will not fall easily.”
Lalaith sighed unhappily and shook her head. Why was he skirting her questions?
“Oh Legolas, why-,” she began, intending to demand that he answer her inquiries, but instead, her words fell away and her breath caught in her throat as Legolas lifted her hands to his face, and gently kissed her knuckles and lifted his eyes to hers.
“I love you.” He murmured, his gaze filled with such love and longing, that she could not speak. “But I cannot stay. I should go, now. They will have need of my bow, soon.” With these words, Legolas drew back from her, and his image wavered and began to fade, as if he were suddenly no longer solid.
“Wait, no! Can you tell me nothing?” She pleaded, suddenly desperate. She added with a faint, hopeful smile, “At least promise me you will kiss me like that, when we meet again in the waking world.”
Legolas sighed, and spoke, his voice fading, “I love you, Lalaith.”
And then he was gone, like a faint mist on a puff of wind, leaving her alone beside the cool lake, lapping unceasing at her feet.
Somehow, the scene looked not so beautiful as it had before, when he was in it. Lalaith sighed unhappily to herself, aware, once again, of the faint chanting of the Ents in the back of her mind. Merry and Pippin were with them, perhaps engaged once again, in a deep discussion over her sightless sleep.
A sad smile played at the corners of her lips. Thank the Valar for Merry and Pippin. And with that thought, she sighed, and willed herself awake.