The sound and smell of clear water came welcome to her ears as Lalaith stood beside her companions, between Legolas and Merry near the banks of the Silverlode, where they would depart Lothlorien. Great silver Mallyrn grew at the water’s edge, their roots jutting outward into the water like so many slender fingers, creating natural docks. Three lovely, gracefully carved boats sat between the roots of a near tree, riding the quiet ripples of the stream, waiting patiently, like gentle horses.
The morning was cool, almost cold. The steam of her breath was visible, and Lalaith was grateful for the warm gray cloak draped about her slender shoulders, attached at her throat with a delicate leaf shaped brooch. She remembered Lothriel’s smile in spite of worried eyes as her friend fastened the clasp at Lalaith’s throat, and stepped back.
“Never before have we clad strangers in the garb of our own people.” Celeborn had said, his calm voice weighted and even. “May these cloaks help shield you from unfriendly eyes.” He had said this, glancing at all the Fellowship, but as his eyes passed over Lalaith, she had seen a look in them that reminded her of her Uncle Elrond’s eyes the morning she had left Imladris. There had been fatherly concern for her in them, worry, and even fear, but he would not speak it. He would let her go for the same reasons Elrond had. It was what she had to do. Celeborn’s eyes also rested a moment on Legolas, and Lalaith could sense Celeborn’s thoughts, that his fears were eased a little, for she would not be alone. Legolas’ eyes met Celeborn’s and he inclined his head slightly, silently reaffirming the pledge he had made to Elrond, that he would watch over Lalaith.
Remembering this, Lalaith risked a glance sideward at Legolas, and though his eyes were focused forward, he must have sensed her gaze, for he turned toward her as well, and their eyes locked. So many times before in the last several days, he had glanced away when their eyes met, but this time, his eyes did not leave hers. Her heart thumped within her for a brief moment, and she felt a warm shiver trail along her flesh as his knuckles softly brushed hers and, instead of pulling away, remained, touching lightly, but warmly, against her own. And he gazed at her, sadly, pensively, but there was no doubting the emotion that lingered in his eyes.
“Legolas.” Lalaith murmured, almost inaudibly, but he heard, and the corner of his mouth twitched, slightly, in a vague whisper of a smile.
Below them, down on an edge of shoreline, Lady Galadriel’s swan carved boat ground gently ashore. Their eyes, at last, turned from each other to watch her arrival. Celeborn stood waiting near to offer a hand to his wife, helping her as she stepped gracefully out of the boat. The Lady of the Galadhrim dressed in a white gown, and a hooded cloak of shimmering white and silver covering her long, golden hair, lighted nimbly upon the ground, and turned her eyes toward the Fellowship where they stood, awaiting her approach. Her gaze rested on Lalaith as she pushed her hood back, and her eyes dropped to the space between the maiden and Legolas. And when she saw their hands lightly touching, a slim smile curved her lips upward, and her eyes sparkled with reserved delight. Two of her maidens stood nearby holding two cloth wrapped packages and followed silently behind her as Galadriel drew nearer to the Fellowship, coming first, to Legolas.
“My gift for you, Legolas,” Galadriel said gently, as she drew a finely carved bow from the hands of one of her maidens, “is a bow of the Galadhrim, worthy of the skill of our woodland kin.”
Legolas’ face glowed as he took the bow into his own hands, and ran his hands appreciatively along the firm curve of the wood. Lalaith watched as he drew back on the string, sighting down the bow.
“It is strung with Elven hair.” Galadriel added, speaking now in the soft flow of Elvish, and with a smile and a glance at Lalaith, she finished, “Lalaith’s hair.”
Legolas’ eyes went from his new bow to Lalaith, and back again, his fingers running lightly along his bowstring with a new appreciation. A smile, foreign to his face for the last several days, brightened his countenance.
“That is what you needed it for.” Lalaith murmured, speaking in Elvish as Galadriel had, and the Lady of the Galadhrim smiled, almost impishly, and nodded.
“I knew your own had been lost in Moria.” Galadriel explained. “The day you arrived, I had our craftsmen begin on this bow for Legolas. Knowing the nature of Legolas’ love for you, I knew he would eventually give you his own bow.”
Galadriel smiled as once again Lalaith ventured another glance at Legolas, her heart catching again on a beat at his eyes delved silently into hers.
“This is my gift for you, dear one.” Galadriel continued after a long moment, again breaking their eye contact as she handed to Lalaith a small knife in a smooth leather sheath.
As she drew it carefully forth, Lalaith noted that the blade, though well burnished and engraven, was barely longer than her longest finger.
“And these,” Galadriel added, “are for both of you.” She handed to both Legolas and Lalaith, necklaces on long golden chains. The one she handed to Legolas was smaller, more finely wrought than the one she gave to Lalaith. Golden swirls looped like vines about three small gems, a diamond, sapphire and emerald, wrought together, forming a triangle, of which each gem was a point. The chain Galadriel gave to Lalaith was somewhat thicker, with gems set in the same design as the first necklace, but within the circled gold of a medallion. “For you,” she continued, “to give to each other on your wedding day.”
As her eyes focused upon the medallion in her hand, Lalaith heard Legolas. “My Lady,” he said, speaking softly, his eyes lowered before Galadriel, “the Lady Elerrina is of the blood of-,”
“Valar, yes.” Galadriel cut in, her voice infinitely gentle. She sighed demurely, her eyes fixed kindly upon Legolas who slowly raised his face to meet her eyes. “And her name is Lalaith Elerrina. Elerrina by her parents who loved her enough to allow her to remain in Arda,” Galadriel paused momentarily, her eyes searching Legolas’ face, “and Lalaith by a mortal woman who loved her enough to die for her. Do not dishonor Eolyn’s sacrifice by forgetting all that Lalaith is, for she is more than a Vala. Her father and mother would not leave their own child here unless she had a destiny to fulfill. The Valar are not so cruel as that, Legolas.”
Legolas’ brows knit together and he dropped his eyes, his countenance heavy with troubled guilt. “Do not listen to the doubts that trouble your mind. Sauron would have her be miserable, as he is. Do not allow him that satisfaction.” Galadriel put out a hand and gently lifted his chin up, and she smiled kindly. “You deny that you are worthy of her. You have claimed that there is no hope, that you and she can never be. Yet through all of this, you have not forgotten your love for her, and by so doing, you have foiled Sauron’s designs. Thus, there still is hope.”
Legolas said nothing to this as he drew in a deep breath and released it noiselessly, but his eyes showed clearly how much he wanted to believe Galadriel.
Galadriel’s smiling eyes traveled from Legolas to Lalaith and back again, before she moved wordlessly on to Merry and Pippin who had been watching the three Elves with great interest, though they had not understood anything, after Galadriel’s first words.
“These are the daggers of the Noldorin.” Galadriel said, now once again speaking the Common Tongue, that the Hobbits might understand as she placed two small daggers into the Hobbit’s hands. “They have already seen service in war.” Merry drew the blade of his own from its sheath, admiring it as a look of awe came upon his face. Pippin glanced from his own new dagger up into Galadriel’s gentle eyes. “Do not fear, young Peregrin Took.” Galadriel continued kindly. “You will find your courage.”
Galadriel gave the youngest hobbit one last smile before she stepped away, coming next to Sam. But Lalaith’s attention was quickly drawn away by a soft sound from Legolas.
She turned to him, and saw him striding away, into the shadows of the trees.
With a last glance at Galadriel who nodded to her with a soft smile, Lalaith turned and followed as he moved silently away from the banks of the stream. She continued to follow him on into the soft shadows of the trees, onward as the shadows deepened, until the sight of the stream through the trees was lost to them.
She stopped and stood silently beneath the quiet stillness of the Mallyrn as Legolas finally stopped, leaned his forearm heavily against a tree, and studied the leaf littered ground intently.
“I want to believe Lady Galadriel.” Legolas muttered at last, to himself.
There was sorrow in Legolas’ voice. Lalaith bit her lip hard, and drew ever closer. As she edged closer to him, to Lalaith’s utter astonishment, Legolas dropped to his knees, and buried his face in his hands. She watched all this in silence, bewildered that Legolas would be like this, powerless, miserable, her Legolas, so stalwart and unafraid, the one she had always depended upon for strength.
“Oh, Lalaith.” He muttered through his hands, choking on the words. “Lalaith. Why did I ever profess my love for you, and make you hope, only to cause this pain for you?”
“Legolas.” Lalaith answered, her voice soft beneath the quiet of the trees.
At the sound of her voice, he lifted his head, and turned to glance at her. His handsome, well loved face was written with pain and sorrow.
“I loved you long before you ever confessed your love for me.” Lalaith murmured, snatching absently at a low hanging branch and stepping closer, her heart breaking at his unhappiness. “It was my choice. And I love you still. Willingly. With all of my heart, regretting nothing, even if you cannot, for now, see the hope that Lady Galadriel spoke of.”
Legolas released a deep breath, and rose slowly to his feet. “Why did you follow me?” He asked gently, turning to her.
“Oh, Legolas.” Lalaith sighed. “You know why. I love you. I am concerned about you.” Lalaith drew even closer, close enough that she could reach out and touch him if she wanted to.
Legolas’ blue eyes, once so warm and soft when they rested on her, glanced sadly away.
Tentatively, Lalaith reached a hand out, hesitating slightly as Legolas flinched, but still her hand continued to extend until she touched a portion of his golden hair where it rested on his heaving chest, lifted it, and held it lightly in her fingers.
“I do not know what thoughts possess your mind, why you feel you must do as you are doing.” Lalaith breathed almost to herself. “But I do know that I love you. I have all my life. I loved you from the first moment I saw you, even though I was only a baby. You stopped my crying. You stopped my pain. How I wish I could do the same for you now.”
“I was not born as you were. You were not born as I was.” Legolas muttered, and shook his head. “The realities of who we are cannot be changed.”
Oh, Elbereth. Mother! Lalaith cried in her mind, hoping to hear her mother’s voice once again, as she had the first night she woke in Lothlorien, upon the talan. What must I do? Legolas is not himself! I know he does not want to be this way, but something will not let him be otherwise. Help me know what I should do.
No words came to her mind, and she sighed inwardly.
“Legolas, do you remember the night before we left Imladris?” She asked suddenly, not sure why she had asked what she had.
“Yes.” He murmured heavily. “I remember every kiss you have ever given me as clearly as if it happened only moments ago.”
“Do you remember what we said?” She asked pleadingly.
Legolas answered slowly. “I told you I was afraid for you. That I wished you were not going on the Quest with the rest of us.”
“And I told you that I was afraid for you.” Lalaith continued. “But I also told you that the Valar were with us. That Evil was not the only power in the world.” She drew close, closing the distance between them to mere inches. The air between them seemed to shimmer with charged emotion, and though Legolas drew in a quick breath and stiffened, he did not move back. “I told you that Good is stronger than Evil. And that Love is much stronger.” Lalaith sighed brokenly. “Do you remember?”
“Yes.” He answered softly. “I remember it all.”
She could feel Legolas’ warm breath against her face, and knew he was looking down at her. Praying silently with all her heart that Legolas would not pull away, she let drop his hair against his chest once again, and gently placed her hand against his warm, smooth face. He flinched, but did not pull back.
“The Valar have not forgotten us.” She whispered.
She rose up lightly on her toes, and with lowered eyes, gently kissed his stiffened jaw, her lips lingering hungrily against the delicious warmth of his skin and murmured, “Nor would they give us hope only to snatch it away.”
Legolas did not pull away, but neither did he speak or respond to her touch. After a long moment, Lalaith sighed, and pulled back, still with lowered eyes, and without further words, she turned and moved away from him, making her way back to the banks of the stream.
Legolas watched Lalaith go, his head swimming, feeling as if he were immersed in an ocean of tumultuous light. When she had touched his face, and then when she had so lightly kissed him, her soft body almost brushing his-, he had almost forgotten such rapture existed. It had only been his utter shock that she would dare to do such a thing, after so many days of distance between them, that had kept him from responding.
And was it her soothing touch alone that had suddenly extinguished the angry, echoing voice that had been resounding within the distant recesses of his mind? However it had been accomplished, the touch of her hand against his face had been as cooling rain washing away the remnants of a smoldering, angry fire. The voice was gone. The doubts it had hissed and whispered at him for so many days, were gone.
Lalaith had disappeared with that graceful, fluid way of moving that she possessed, flitting between the trees as Legolas had stood there, dumbfounded, unable to put his thoughts into words, and now she was gone. He longed, more than anything now, to go after her, to take her into his arms and hold her again, but it had been so many days. How would she respond? Perhaps falling to his knees before her, and pleading for her to take him back, to forgive him for his foolish blindness would be more appropriate.
“Varda, Elbereth, what am I to do?” Legolas moaned, suddenly as nervous as he had been, the night he had first professed his love for Lalaith. He glanced upward, into the thickness of the branches of the Mallyrn, imagining the sky, bright and clear above the tops of the trees. “What am I to do?” He whispered again. “Please, answer me.”
Silence reigned about him. A sudden breath filled Legolas’ chest at the sudden thrill of freedom this new silence brought. And then a voice, unlike the angry, spiteful voice that had tortured his mind before, came floating gently into his mind, softly, like the quiet fall of leaves to the forest floor. And it seemed to him now, as if the voice had been there for days trying to reach him, but he had not been able to hear it over the angry hiss of the other dark voice. It was soft and kind, a woman’s voice, gentle, yet strong at the same time, and Legolas straightened, his back rigid in surprise, for it sounded much like Lalaith’s soothing, well loved voice.
“We know of thee, dear Legolas, Son of Iluvatar’s Firstborn. We know of thy pain, and our daughter’s pain even before thou speakest of it, we know.” It was Elbereth’s voice, he knew, instinctively. It was calm, even happy. “We can see and hear thee. And we will never cease to watch over and love thee. Do not fear, dear lover of our child. In the end, all will come about as it should.”
“But what must I do?” Legolas pleaded aloud, glancing about, half expecting to see someone. “If I rush after her like some fool and sweep her back into my arms as if there had never been a rift between us, I could cause her such a shock, that she might very well strike me.” He finished, muttering, “Though surely I would deserve it.”
A light, kindly laugh echoed again in his mind, reminding him of Lalaith’s gentle laughter, soothing, like the splash of water falling over smooth stones. “Follow thy heart, dear Legolas, noble son of the Eldar. Listen to thyself, and thou wilt know what to do to regain her. She loves thee. It will take little effort if thou wilt simply act from thy heart. Trust thyself. Heed the threats of Sauron’s Ring no longer. It speaks only lies and fear. It spreads hatred, and needless guilt. Never doubt again that thou art worthy of her. Thou wast destined to love her before her birth. Even before thine. That is why she was born in the image of one of the Firstborn. That is why Iluvatar willed that she stay in Arda. Why thou wast the first of the Eldar ever to see her. Thou wast born for her, Legolas, and she for thee.”
A wind brushed through the trees, and all was silent.
By the time Lalaith returned to the misty banks of the Silverlode, the last of the gifts of Galadriel had been given, and Lalaith’s companions as well as the Lorien Elves were busily loading the three boats for their continued journey.
Along with packages of other supplies, Lalaith recognized bundles of lembas, wrapped in leaves, and a weak smile came to her lips as she noted that one of the leaf wrapped packages had already been tampered with. Pippin was perched on the edge of a Mallorn root, his feet hanging over the edge, down into one of the boats, while Merry sat beside him in the prow of the boat. Crumbs still clung to the sides of their mouths, betraying them as the culprits. Lalaith wondered how many they’d eaten, and hoped they knew not to eat too much, but from a look of concern and discomfort that was growing on Pippin’s face, she feared that he may have already eaten too many.
In spite of his obvious distress, Pippin smiled brightly in welcome as she approached, and nudged Merry who looked up, noticed her, and smiled as well, offering her a slight wave. Frodo sat some distance away from them, upon a low root, lost in his own private thoughts, seeming to be unaware of the presence of others.
“Auh, here she is!” Gimli called in a friendly tone. He, Sam and Boromir, had been helping load the boats, but as he noticed her, he left his task and came forward, gallantly sweeping one of her hands into his, and lightly kissed her knuckles with his bearded lips.
Lalaith smiled gratefully, knowing it was the Dwarf’s way of trying to cheer her.
Boromir had also looked up at her approach, and his eyes met her own over the Dwarf’s bowed head as Gimli released her hand, and gallantly bowed himself away, going back to his previous undertaking. She and Boromir exchanged a brief, but potent glance before he drew in a deep breath that swelled in his chest, and turned away, continuing with the task of loading the boats, his brow furrowing with confused, unreadable emotions.
Lalaith glanced away, biting her lip against the clutching fear that clenched her heart whenever Boromir looked at her like that. And as she did, her eyes rested on Aragorn, who stood some distance away, speaking with Galadriel, and though their voices were hushed, it took little thought to guess that they were speaking of Arwen, and her choice to love a mortal. Lalaith saw Galadriel touch lightly, the necklace of the Evenstar that Arwen had gifted to Aragorn where it hung about his neck.
Lalaith glanced down at her own gifts, the small knife from Galadriel, and the medallion with the three gems set within its golden surface. There was nothing more to do with it now, but to place it around her neck. This she did, her fingers deftly fasting the golden links behind her neck, beneath the thick weight of her braid, before she let it drop down beneath the cloth of her tunic, the metal cool against her skin. And then, pausing to tuck the sheathed knife into her boot, for that is where she guessed it belonged, she started toward the dwindling pile of supplies to offer her part in loading the boats.
She had just lifted a bundle of lembas, when a figure out of the corner of her eye, made her glance up sharply. Legolas had returned. He seemed to have arrived without her noticing, for he was coming from the direction of the boats, as if he had already taken a load and was returning for more. His gaze was fixed shyly on her, his eyes endearing in their timidity. Snatching up two of the bundles himself, he offered her a boyish, bashful grin before he started back for the boats, and Lalaith found herself following him.
Legolas set his burden down on the root beside Pippin, before he hopped nimbly down into the empty boat nestled beside the one in which Pippin and Merry sat, his light feet barely creating a ripple beneath it, before he caught up the packages of lembas and deposited them in the bottom of the boat. Then lifting his head, he glanced up again at Lalaith who had come behind. Offered her a timid grin that seemed to her as warm as sunlight piercing the cold shadow of a cloud, he reached out for her own burden, and she surrendered it willingly into his capable hands before she turned and took several steps away, not sure of what to think about his behavior, but unable to deny the shaft of hope that was beginning to fill the shadows of her heart with light.
“Is all well, Pippin?” He asked the young hobbit as he leaped lightly out of the boat again.
“Oh, yes.” Pippin grinned readily where he sat beside Merry, even though Lalaith as she turned, could see one hand clutching tightly to his stomach.
“Pippin isn’t feeling well?” Lalaith murmured in Elvish as Legolas drew even with her as if to return to his task, but her question stopped him.
“I overheard them a moment ago. I told them how only one bite could fill a man’s stomach, but I fear I was too late with the warning.” Legolas grinned. “Pippin ate four.”
“Little Pippin ate four lembas?” Lalaith whispered.
“Four.” Legolas repeated.
“Oh.” Lalaith moaned in pity. “Poor little thing. He won’t be eating any more for a few days, at least.”
“Or for Pippin, a few hours.” Legolas returned, and chuckled softly.
At the sound, Lalaith beamed, and clasped Legolas’ arm gently, before she suddenly realized what she was doing, and moved to pull away.
“Oh, forgive me, I-,” her hasty stammered apology was cut off when Legolas reached over with his other hand, and covered hers where it rested upon his arm, preventing her from pulling away.
“You will come with me in the same boat, will you not?” He asked, as a playful smirk pulled at the corners of his mouth. “Gimli is none to pleased with me. He could very well tip me over the side if I have no one to protect me.”
“What do you have to fear?” Responded Lalaith, delighted with the touch of his warm fingers upon her own, and his shy, teasing banter. “You are not unskilled at swimming.”
“Nevertheless, I do not wish for a swim, today.” His eyes grew pleading, and Lalaith’s heart almost stopped, so brimming it was now, with hope. “Will you come with me, Lalaith?”
Lalaith drew in a quick but silent gasp before she responded. “I will.” She sighed, and smiled, hoping her eyes would not fill with the childish tears that threatened to spill into them. “If you say my name again.”
Legolas’ eyes seemed to darken, and the warm look within them deepened as he softly murmured, “Lalaithamin.“
“Then yes.” Lalaith answered softly in return. “I will come with you.”
Nearer to the banks, Gimli and Boromir had paused in their work, watching the whispered exchange between the two Elves. Because Lalaith and Legolas had spoken in Elvish, neither Dwarf nor Man understood their words, but the gentle looks exchanged between the two, and the touch of Legolas’ hand upon Lalaith’s, spoke clearly enough.
Gimli watched it all with an ever widening grin beneath his thick, reddish brown beard before he turned away with a small chuckle, mumbling to Boromir beside him, “Pah. Finally the idiot’s coming back to his senses. Any more of that other nonsense, and I’d a’ beaten the stupidity out of his thick skull with one of these ores.”
But Boromir said nothing. He only watched them with a mute look. At last he turned away, a smile, for Lalaith’s sake, twitching at the corners of his mouth, but his eyes were sad, deep and sad, and bereft of any hope for himself.