“Legolas,” Aragorn said, trying to keep his voice even, though he could hear the stern hardness in it as he came around the trunk of a tree to see the Mirkwood Elf seated on a large rock, a handful of small pebbles in one hand, somberly tossing them with the other into a clear, sparkling stream. His posture was much like Boromir’s had been the night before when the two humans had talked. Boromir had spoken of his people, of his grief for his father’s failing rule, and his fear of his people’s ultimate fall. Aragorn had sensed that there was more troubling him, but Boromir had offered no more, and Aragorn had not pressured him.
Legolas looked up at him, his expression carefully checked. “Aragorn.” He greeted in return, and went back to flipping stones into the water.
Aragorn sat lightly on a nearby root, watching Legolas carefully. A long moment passed, and neither man said anything until Aragorn finally spoke quietly, “Lalaith told me.”
Legolas’ hand stopped mid toss, and the few pebbles left in his hand tumbled in a shower to the forest floor. With great effort Legolas looked up, and Aragorn flinched, seeing intense, wretched pain in his gaze.
“I hurt her.” Legolas said slowly, his words flat, though Aragorn could sense underlying turmoil beneath his words.
“Yes, you did.” Aragorn continued, forcing his voice to remain even.
“I did not wish to, but it is what needed to be done.” Legolas returned. Thoughtfully, he drew the ring she had given him from off his smallest finger, and held it, turning it over, watching how the light glanced off the surface of the blue stone set within the circle of delicately wrought gold. “She is no less than a goddess. And I am but an Elf. She is too good for me.”
Aragorn drew in a deep breath, and released it. Too well, he understood Legolas’ feelings. Arwen, his own love, was an immortal Elf, and he was but a mortal, doomed eventually, to die, and she with him, if she bound herself to him. For a moment, his hand went to his throat, and he fingered the delicate necklace of the Evenstar, the gift from Arwen, that hung there beneath his tunic.
“But what would you have done, had you looked into the Mirror, and learned that she was the daughter of the lowest of servants, or even if she was the unwanted child of a poor maiden, taken advantage of by some dishonorable rogue?” Aragorn demanded gently as his hand fell back.
Legolas’ gaze moved to Aragorn, his brows knitting together, the muscles of his smooth jaw working beneath his skin.
“You would love her, still.” Aragorn said quietly. “For I know you. It would not matter to you if she was of a lower birth than you. Why should it matter that her parents are Valar?”
“She is a Vala!” Legolas protested painfully. “What am I, compared to her?”
“Listen to what you are saying.” Aragorn answered smoothly, though there was intensity in his voice. “Did you not see all that she saw within the Mirror? She told me that her father spoke of her finding love among the Elves. Lord Manwe could have been speaking of no one else, for she could love no other.”
“Could one such as I be permitted to love her?” Legolas breathed quietly. “Yes. If not, I would have been struck dead by her father’s wrath by now. Protect her? Yes. I would die for her, if the Valar required me to.” Legolas focused his tormented gaze away. “But could I ever take her? It would be near blasphemy. She is the daughter of Elbereth and Manwe!”
“Her parents may be Valar, but she is no higher a being than you.” Aragorn insisted, reaching forward and clapping a hand on the Elf’s shoulder. “A goddess could not bleed, Legolas. She could not nearly die, as Lalaith almost did from the wound the orc gave her in Moria.”
“You are human, Aragorn. You could not understand.” Legolas shook Aragorn’s hand roughly from his shoulder, and stood to walk away.
“Legolas.” Aragorn ordered firmly, standing himself, and Legolas, his back stiff, obeyed, though reluctantly. “I understand that Lalaith is the nearest I have ever had to a sister, and that to see her suffering wrenches my own heart. Could a goddess feel such agony over the rejection of a mere Elf? By his betrayal of all the vows he ever made to her? By his casting her heart to the ground, and forgetting that he ever loved her at all?”
Legolas spun, turning back to face Aragorn. But for the agony written on his face, his expression would have been livid. “Have you heard nothing I have said, Aragorn?” He demanded, his jaw set. “I still love her! With every fiber of my being, I love her. And I will love her for all the ages of this world. I will never break the vows I made to her, though I know now, that I can never truly bind myself with her, as has been my hope for centuries.” He glanced sharply away, fighting for the control of his emotions. “That hope is now dead, forever, but I will always love her. I would die for her still, if it was required of me.”
“Have you not thought of Thingol who was but an Elf, and the Lady Melian, whom he took as his bride?” Aragorn demanded in a hissing whisper. “Melian was a Maia! Why should the union of a Sindarin Elf with the daughter of Valar be so forbidden?”
Legolas swallowed hard. “The Lady Elerrina is not of the Maiar. She is a Vala. I am not worthy of her.”
“You are wrong, my friend.” Aragorn breathed, keeping his voice even. Aragorn drew in a slow deep breath, his thoughts turning momentarily to Arwen, and his heart twinged as he spoke. “There is none better, for you are the one who owns her heart.”
“I cannot have her, but I will never stop loving her.” Legolas said slowly, feeling a heaviness building in his chest. He stopped turning the ring within his hands, and clutched it tightly in one fist. “And I will treat her heart as gently as I can while I possess it, though what she and I both want, cannot be.”
Aragorn released a frustrated sigh. “Were you not my friend, I think I would pummel you to the ground for your stubborn blindness.”
“And I would surely deserve it.” Legolas breathed. “It would only be just, after what I have done to her.”
“So you say you still love her.” Aragorn let out a heavy breath. “Go then, if you still love her and tell her as much, at the least.” He ordered, his eyes intense, indicating with one hand, back the way they had come. “That might bring her some peace.”
Legolas nodded slowly. He understood the wisdom of Aragorn’s words, though he did not relish facing her again after what he had done. Nor did he look forward to the memories that the sight of her face and her fair form would bring back. The warmth of her touch, the taste of her mouth joyfully returning his own passion, the supple feel of her in his arms, warming his blood, her softness pressing against him, and all the hopeful dreams and desires that had filled his mind when he held her.
He would not feel such agony now, if they had only remained friends, as they had been when she was little. It was his fault, he knew. No wonder she had been so afraid to love him back the first time he had kissed her, and professed his love to her. It was more than her fear of the evil in her past. A part of her also remembered who she was, and did not want to hurt him, or be hurt by him. But he had been too foolish to see that, his anxiety to protect her overshadowing the good that had created her, before the evil that had been there, had tried to destroy her.
But would it have been better if he had not loved her to begin with? He asked himself again. No. He admitted. Loving her, even now, gave his life meaning. And even if he had known who she was from the beginning, his learning to love her as he did now, would still have been inevitable. He was born to love none but her. And even if he could never truly express his love to her, he could not regret his feelings. His caring for her, had led him to vow his protection to her, and now, as he had seen in the Lady Galadriel’s Mirror, the evil of Mordor longed for Lalaith’s destruction with a thirst that was greater than Legolas had first realized. If it was necessary for her to face this evil and defeat it, she still needed him. And though now, his love for her was laced with pain, he would not trade it for all the jewels of Arda.
He felt a hand on his shoulder and looked up into Aragorn’s concerned eyes. Though many of Aragorn’s words had been harsh, Legolas still knew Isildur’s heir was his friend. He could see it in the concern of the human’s eyes. Aragorn offered him a half hearted smile, but though he tried, Legolas could not bring himself to return it. Wordlessly, he turned and started slowly back in the way Aragorn had indicated.
Lalaith felt weary beyond the fatigue in her body as she stumbled back into the clearing where the others of the fellowship were. The trees were brighter now, and the air filled with the morning calls of birds. Her other companions were awake now. Three of the hobbits, and Gimli were seated on the ground around a low table where a breakfast of fruit and fresh wine had been set out for them by the Lorien Elves.
Frodo was still struggling to wake up. He was sitting up, though still in the spot where he had slept, his blanket still covering most of him, rubbing his eyes, which were red and bleary as if he had gotten little sleep, and his clothes were rumpled, as if what sleep he did get, was spent tossing restlessly about. And Lalaith wondered if perhaps he too had peered into the Mirror at Galadriel’s bidding. It was highly probably that he had, being the bearer of the One Ring, and carrying so much responsibility as he did. Boromir had returned as Lalaith had been out on her wanderings, but he sat off by himself, barely glancing up as Lalaith drew close to the group. Aragorn and Legolas, however, were nowhere to be seen.
“Ah, here’s the elf-girl!” Gimli cried in an affable, friendly voice, raising his glass in his meaty fist as Lalaith came into view, and approached the group seated at the table, trying for their sakes, to paint a smile upon her face. In spite of her efforts, though, Gimli noticed something was wrong immediately.
“Come, sit down with us, Lalaith!” He offered generously, though there was concern now in his voice. “Tell us what’s wrong.”
Collapsing heavily to the ground between Pippin and Gimli, Lalaith rested her elbows on the table, and buried her face in her hands.
“Some wine, Lady Lalaith?” Pippin offered cheerily as he chomped on whatever it was he was eating, and Lalaith lifted her eyes to see the sweet, little face of the hobbit as he offered her a glass.
“Oh, Pippin. No thank you.” She said, her voice soft and weak as she waved his proffered glass away. “I do not feel like eating or drinking anything, for the moment.”
“What’s wrong?” Sam asked gently from across the table as Merry looked on with concern, swallowing what he’d been eating with a loud gulp.
“She and Legolas had a-,” Boromir offered from the root where he sat, his elbows propped wearily on his knees, “a disagreement. She will not speak of it.”
“Ohh. That’s too bad.” Merry offered sympathetically.
“Auh.” Gimli grunted with a knowing nod. “Lover’s quarrel.”
“I wish it was a mere lover’s quarrel.” Lalaith offered in a small voice, feeling her throat tightening into a hard knot. “But it could not be, since Legolas has taken back his love.”
“What?! No!!” Gimli insisted, his voice thick with genuine shock as the hobbits looked at each other in dismay. “What kind of nonsense are you talking, girl? That’s ridiculous!” Gimli finished.
“No.” Lalaith shook her head. “Last night I looked into Lady Galadriel’s mirror.”
Frodo was up now, though still weary, yawning and stretching, and listening with as much interest as he could muster.
“The truth of who I am was revealed.”
“And what does that have to do with anything between you and Legolas?” Gimli demanded impatiently.
“My parents are Manwe and Elbereth. Valar. I was kidnapped as a baby by Sauron’s servants, but rescued by a human woman who died saving me, and I was raised in Imladris, thinking all the while that I was of the race of Elves.”
Boromir lifted his head and looked at her, his face taking on a pained grimace, but Lalaith did not see this.
“You’re a Vala?!” Gimli gasped, and his lips, peeking through his beard, formed a small circle of astonishment for a short silent moment, before he released a short bark of a laugh, his round bearded face glowing with enthusiasm. “Are you? No jesting?” At Lalaith’s hesitant nod, he set his wine glass down, and punched her good naturedly on the shoulder. “By the Valar!” He crowed, before he settled back and coughed awkwardly, realizing what he had said. “Er, uh, begging your pardon, Lalaith.”
“So you’re not going to start bowing to me, or treating me any differently than before?” She asked wearily, her eyes traveling from Gimli to the hobbit’s faces, still frozen with expressions of surprise etched onto them.
“Is that what he’s doing?” Gimli asked, sobering quickly, his expression returning again to a look of sympathy. “That dolt. I always thought Elves were too serious for their own good. Can’t get passed his own stubborn pride.”
“It is not pride that has done this, but the opposite.” Lalaith muttered sadly. “Legolas is convinced that he is far too unworthy of me. He has taken his heart back, and cast my own aside.”
“No, Lady. He loves you still.” Boromir’s voice rose from the tree where he sat upon the jutting root, and Lalaith turned to see his eyes, sad and drawn. “He will never stop loving you. He is not a fool.”
Lalaith turned back to the table, dropping her head once again into her hands. Boromir, stop looking at me like that. Her mind cried. I could not bear it if something happened to you, because of me!
“Looks to me, like the blasted Elf’s acting like a fool.” Gimli’s brash voice cut in over the somber tones of Boromir’s. “You need me to take the flat of my ax to his head, Lalaith?” The dwarf growled, and thumped his ax that sat beside him against the ground to illustrate his meaning. “Or maybe turn him over my knee and paddle some sense into him?” The attempt at humor in Gimli’s tone warmed, a little, the broken shards of Lalaith’s heart, and she managed to offer him a sliver of a smile before her gaze trailed to Frodo who was drawing nearer, still yawning and rubbing his eyes.
“I could.” Gimli offered eagerly, only partly joking. “I may not be much of a gentleman, but I won’t stand around doing nothing, if that idiot’s gone and made you cry,”
But Lalaith hardly heard what Gimli said now, for she was staring hard at Frodo. His shirt had once again fallen open at the top, and she could see the glimmer of the ring where it lay against his chest.
Did you miss the sound of my voice, snaga?
Lalaith gasped, and leaped to her feet, nearly upsetting the table as she stumbled clumsily backward. She would have fallen altogether, but for Boromir who rose quickly, and caught hold of her arms from behind to steady her.
“What’s the matter with Lady Lalaith?” Pippin’s voice chirped somewhere in the background, but Lalaith barely heard him.
So your lover knows who you are now, does he, snaga? The ring’s voice hissed. And where is he now, with all his vows of love, and his promises to stay beside you always? He never loved you, snaga. You should have been flung into the fire long ago. A Vala in the body of an Elf. You are a blemish on nature. Is it any wonder your parents never came to claim you back? They didn’t want you because you are an Elf! And now he does not want you because you are a Vala-,
“It’s the ring.” Boromir barked, realization suddenly dawning. “For the sake of Eru, cover it, Frodo!”
Frodo’s hand quickly clapped over the ring, and its hideous voice was hushed. But it had done its damage. Lalaith cried, hearing a wretched sob tear from her lungs.
Boromir turned her to him, and held her against his shoulder as she sobbed, and for the moment, she could not pull away. “She’s not strong enough to handle it, as some others of us are.” Boromir scolded Frodo who gulped and quickly buttoned his shirt to cover the ring.
“I-, I’m sorry, Lalaith.” Frodo gulped. “It’s just been so long since the ring has done this to you. I forgot-,”
“No, Frodo.” Lalaith choked, finally wrenching herself from Boromir’s grasp. She turned away, avoiding the hurt look in the human’s eyes to face the large, frightened eyes of the small hobbit. “It is not your fault. But-,” she waved a hand at him dismissively. “Keep it away from me.”
She turned to walk away, and nearly collided into Legolas’ chest as he emerged from the trees, Aragorn trailing several steps behind.
Lalaith gasped, and stumbled back, taking in his own agonized face, not missing that he was holding, within his palm, the ring she had given him the day they had pledged their troth to each other.
Lalaith’s eyes dropped to the ring in his hand, and then lifted up to his soft blue eyes, which before had always brightened when they looked upon her, but were now dull with misery.
“There is a reason, Legolas, that you are not wearing my ring?” She asked, surprised at how calm her voice sounded. She kept her words in the Common Tongue, not caring that the others understood.
Legolas’ eyes dropped to the ring resting in his palm, and answered in the same tongue, “I thought I should return it since-,”
“It was a gift, Prince.” Lalaith shot back. Her voice was sharp, though she had not meant for it to be. “I do not want it back.”
Legolas gulped, “I do not feel worthy-,”
“Very well.” Lalaith snapped, and snatched the ring from his palm. Legolas flinched, but Lalaith hardly noticed as she tossed the ring into the trees, the glimmer of the shining blue stone catching the rising light that filtered from overhead before it fell somewhere amidst the growth of the forest floor. She smiled sardonically. “After all, I am not a member of Elrond’s kinship anyway, am I? That we could rid Middle Earth of the One Ring as easily!”
Legolas’ hand that had held the ring trembled, and closed in, empty, upon itself. He glanced helplessly at Aragorn, but the human only tightened his jaw, and dropped his eyes downward, saying nothing.
Legolas gulped hard, and blinked back the tears that were forming in his eyes. “Please.” He said softly. “My Lady-,”
“Don’t call me that!” Lalaith cried. Her voice was suddenly harsh, but she could not stop herself. “I am not your Lady, Legolas! I am your lover! Your life! Your lalaith! Do you remember nothing that happened between us, before you looked with me into the Mirror?”
Legolas opened his mouth. “I am sorry that I have hurt you.” He managed to murmur through the choking in his throat.
“Indeed, my Lord?” She asked, sniffling, clasping her hands in front of her, and forcing her voice to return to the sedate tone it had held before. “And I suppose that you think that the mere utterance of such words will heal the wounds upon my heart?”
“You hoped wrong, Prince.” She gulped, smiling bitterly. She stepped back from him, watching as a single tear streamed down his face. The urge to reach a hand out, and brush it away, was almost overwhelming. But she remembered his reaction to her earlier, when she had tried to touch him, and refrained.
A breath swelled in Legolas’ chest, and he spoke softly, now in the soft flow of Elvish, “I will fight for you, and destroy those who would hurt you, my Lady. For I will not forget what I promised you.” His eyes studied her, tender yet intense at once. “Though all the ages of this world pass, never will I stop loving you, Lady Elerrina, of the Valar.”
Lalaith gulped. At the tone of his voice, her bottom lip trembled, and against her will, she felt a single tear fall from her lashes, leaving a wet trail down her smooth cheek.
“It would be better to have you near, than to lose you completely.” She answered. “For never will I cease to love you, Prince Legolas. Keeper of my heart.”
She heard a soft grunt of a sigh behind Legolas, and noticed Aragorn, still glancing downward, as he rubbed a hand thoughtfully across his mouth.
She gulped hard herself, and dropped in a slight curtsey, returning to the choppy tones of the Common Speech. “If you would be kind enough to excuse me, my Lord, Legolas. I wish to go, and be alone for a while.” She turned away from him and started for the stone steps that led upward toward her tent, but paused, and glanced quickly at Boromir who was watching after her with pain in his eyes as if he wanted to follow. “Please, Lord Boromir. Do not follow me this time.” She glanced at Gimli and the hobbits, who sat frozen, where they had been watching the exchange between her and Legolas with wide eyes and gaping mouths.
She smiled at them sadly, then turned and walked quietly away.