Lalaith sighed contentedly in her sleep, and turned over on her side, tucking her arm beneath her head, as her eyes slowly opened. From the moonlight streaming in through her open window, she could see that it was night, still many hours away from the coming of dawn. Then what had awakened her? She wondered sleepily.
Rubbing weariness from her eyes, she sat slowly up, pushing her coverlet down to her waist as she scanned the darkened interior of her room. When her eyes reached her high backed divan set against the wall, she smiled diffidently and softly bit her lower lip. There was her answer, sleeping with his arm tucked under his head, his legs curled so that he could fit onto the small space afforded him, his face as beautiful in the moonlight as that of a young god’s.
He stirred again, and a whisper breathed again through his lips, “Lalaith.” That was what had woken her.
“Legolas.” She murmured to herself, and slowly rose from her bed, her bare feet making no sound as she picked up an extra coverlet, folded at the end of her bed, and quietly approached him, so as not to wake him. He slept fully dressed, except for his boots which he had removed, and set side by side on the floor beside him.
“This will keep you warm, beloved.” She whispered to herself as she spread the covering over him, carefully tucking it about his firm shoulders, and making sure that it covered his bare feet.
Straightening, she touched his hair gently, and ran a finger slowly along the tiny braid just above his peaked ear, along the contour of his ear, then down the strong line of his jaw. Unable to resist, she smiled, and bent over him, softly brushing his warm, sweet lips with her own.
“I am counting the days until our wedding night.” She whispered against his mouth.
A hand came out from beneath the coverlet, and circled around her waist, pulling her closer. “As am I.” Legolas murmured and opened his eyes.
Lalaith started in surprise, and blushed furiously. She wore nothing more than her nightgown, and there was only the blanket between herself and Legolas.
“Forgive me for waking you.” She stammered. “I did not mean to.”
“Do not worry.” He smiled. “I only fell asleep in the last hour.”
“You’ve been awake all night?” She asked, worried. “Are the beds in the guestrooms so terribly uncomfortable?”
“The beds are not to blame, but my own dreams.” He smiled. “Which do not do you as much justice as the sight of you.”
“You’ve been watching me sleep?” She asked with a light laugh. “It must have been terribly dull. I hope I did not snore.”
“Oh, no.” He shook his head. “Watching you sleeping is anything but dull. And you did not snore,” he grinned, “though you did murmur my name a few times in your sleep.”
Lalaith smirked. “But-,” she glanced to her bedroom door. “How did you get in? Since I was little, and Elrohir and Elladan would sneak in and put frogs in my bed, I’ve always locked it.”
“Lord Elrond has a master key.”
“My uncle let you in?” She gaped in surprise.
“He was as unable to sleep as I. He’s been pacing the halls since sunset, thinking of the Counsel in the morning.” Legolas explained, then added, “And he knows I do not have dishonorable intentions.”
“Oh?” She asked pertly. “And what do you think he would say, were he to see us like this?”
Legolas furrowed his brow for a moment, then his eyes shot open in alarm. “Lalaith, forgive me!” He stammered, jerking his arm back, so that she could rise again to her feet. “I forgot myself.”
“It is easy to forgive you, my love.” She smiled, and bent over him, kissing him once again as her unbound hair cascaded over her shoulders, brushing his face. She smiled and caressed his jaw gently with her fingertips as she straightened. “Now go to sleep. You are needed at my uncle’s Counsel tomorrow.”
“Yes, my lady.” He smiled in meek obedience, and settled his head back onto his arm, shifting comfortably beneath the covering Lalaith had spread over him.
“Lalaith.” He murmured as she returned to her bed, and sat on the edge of it.
“Yes?” She asked, pulling up her feet, and pushing them beneath her warm coverlet. She pulled it up to her shoulders and leaned back against her pillow.
“I’m glad you kept it.” He answered sleepily. “The flower I gave you.”
She glanced at the table beside her bed and smiled. The silver flower he’d given her in Mirkwood was dried now, its leaves and petals crinkled as it rested in a silver cup Lalaith had placed it in. But here in the moonlight, its sheen was still as bright as the night Legolas had given it to her.
“I could never bear to part with it.” She murmured. “Im melin le, Legolas.”
“Im melin le, Lalaith.”
She sighed and snuggled into her pillow, her eyes slowly closing as sweet dreams filled her mind.
“Lalaith? Lalaith, dear, wake up.”
Lalaith opened sleepy eyes to see her cousin Arwen bending over her, and shaking her gently.
“Arwen? What is it?” She sat up, yawning and stretching, her glance going instinctively to her divan where Legolas had slept. He was no longer there, which did not surprise her. He would have to leave early to prepare for the counsel. The covering she had given him had been folded neatly, and set again at the end of her bed. She smiled softly, remembering vaguely now, the gentle touch of his hand against her sleeping face, and the soft press of his mouth against her brow in farewell when he had left in the early dawn.
“Father wishes for you to attend the Counsel.” Arwen said, turning away, gliding to Lalaith’s wardrobe, and opening it to examine its contents.
“What?” Lalaith gaped, cut off in the middle of a yawn. “But-, for what purpose?”
Arwen smirked and turned back to her. “Is it such a terrible chore to be in the presence of your beloved intended?”
“Well, yes!” Lalaith exclaimed, with a laugh. “When there is a gaggle of dwarves and humans looking on, and I cannot so much as touch him, it is a chore!” Then she suddenly understood the last words Arwen had spoken, and complained, “Arwen, have you learned already? I wanted to be the one to tell you!”
Arwen laughed lightly, and came back to her bed, settling on it, and catching up her younger cousin’s hands. “You must forgive Father. He has surely told everyone by now. It is the one bright thing he has to focus on after all, with the burden of the One Ring being here.” Arwen laughed again delightedly, and joyfully reached forward to embrace Lalaith. “How happy I am, for you!” She giggled girlishly and pulled back to look her in the eye again. “I must say, I had expected a betrothal in Mirkwood. But I knew that it would happen soon.”
Lalaith returned her cousin’s bright smile, remembering the agony she had felt after returning home from Mirkwood, thinking that she had lost Legolas forever. How wrong she had been!
“Prince Legolas has always loved you. All your life he has loved you.” Arwen laughed, her eyes filled with happy tears. “He will make you so happy.” She laughed again. “You will make each other happy.” She smiled. “Father is so pleased.” A sudden cloud covered her face, and she looked away, stood, and moved back to Lalaith’s wardrobe. “I wish Father was as pleased with my choice.”
Lalaith’s own smile faded as well with that thought, and she stood, going up to stand behind her cousin. Arwen reached and took Lalaith’s offered hand, then sighed, turning and looking into Lalaith’s eyes with a troubled expression.
As long as Lalaith could remember, Arwen had been her protector, her teacher and guide, the older and wiser one who had taught her and led her through girlhood and maidenhood, always the stronger one, but now, she seemed suddenly so vulnerable, so small and sad.
Lalaith guessed her sudden despondency; it concerned Aragorn. Lalaith knew well of Arwen’s desire to wed Aragorn, and of Aragorn’s love for her. And because she loved them both, it grieved her, for if they married, Arwen would become a mortal like Luthien Tinuviel of old. Lalaith wanted their happiness, and it hurt her to see the inevitable pain that would come of their love.
“Oh, Arwen, melonamin.” She sighed, not knowing what to say, and embraced her cousin who clung tightly to her for a moment, seeming to need a fellow maiden’s comfort.
“How happy I am for you, to have found love within our own people.” Arwen breathed, and then drawing in a quick sigh, planted a kiss against Lalaith’s cheek, and stepped back, brushing a hand quickly under her own eyes. “Now, come.” She smiled, rallying herself. “Father wants you at the Counsel because of your encounter with the One Ring yesterday. He needs your wisdom. There will be others there, Father is sure, who will not see the One Ring for what it is. You, however, know for yourself how evil it truly is.”
“Yes, but I do not want to be anywhere near that thing.” Lalaith protested, finally remembering the present. “It is horrible and vile. It frightens me.”
Arwen nodded sympathetically. “Father understands that, but he will be there, and Mithrandir.” She smiled slightly. “And Prince Legolas.” She looked steadily into Lalaith’s eyes. “Father does not think the One Ring’s effect on you will be so difficult to bear with these others near you.”
Lalaith pursed her lips, and nodded slowly. “If Uncle Elrond truly thinks I can help him, then I will try.”
Arwen smiled, kissed her cheek again, and turned once again to her wardrobe. “Now.” She smiled, tapping a finger against her lips thoughtfully. “Let us find something for you. Something regal, and noble, as Father will have foreign guests at this counsel. Yet feminine, also,” she glanced at Lalaith, and her nose wrinkled playfully, “for the sake of Prince Legolas.”
Lalaith smiled, returning Arwen’s teasing glance, and moved up to stand beside her to begin sorting through her dresses.
Lalaith glided along the sheltered portico, her soft sandaled feet barely making a sound as she moved over the stone tiles. The silver dress she wore, woven throughout with threads of mithril that caught and sparkled in the light, rustled about her legs as she walked. She wore a woven belt of the same material, bound loosely about her slender hips, the free ends hanging long down the front of her skirt. Her sleeves hung delicately from her small shoulders, draping down in swathes of sparkling cloth to her elbows, whispering with every movement of her arms. Her forearms and hands were bare, even of the sapphire ring she had grown used to wearing on the longest finger of her right hand over the last five hundred years. Though her finger felt bereft without it, she was not unhappy with its absence, for she knew that the one who now wore it, cherished it well.
Her hair had been brushed back from her smooth, fair forehead, two twisted plaits, woven through with threaded jewels, joined at the back of her head, forming a single, sparkling twist of hair that hung long, resting against her hair that Arwen had left unbound, hanging freely down her back.
She had tried to return the favor to Arwen, but her older cousin had insisted that she go, once she was adorned for the Counsel, and had shooed her out her door. She worried for Arwen, for while her cousin smiled and spoke lightly of trivial things as she helped Lalaith dressed and prepared for Lord Elrond’s Counsel, Lalaith had remembered her earlier unhappiness, and it reminded her of her own, before her reunion with Legolas, when she had smiled and had been brave for others’ sakes, but had felt empty inside.
Her mind was so focused on Arwen’s trouble, that at first she did not hear the footsteps coming from behind, though when she became aware of them, she knew instantly that they belonged to a human, for the loud tromping coming toward her, could belong to none but one of the race of Men, compared to the soft, almost inaudible tred of Elven feet she was accustomed to.
“Hold!” A voice in the common tongue called from behind her. “Hold for a moment, maid of Rivendell.”
She stopped and turned, startled slightly. “Hail, Man of Gondor.” She said politely.
The man approaching her, tall, bearded, clad in the usual garb of a nobleman of Gondor, suddenly stopped, several paces from her, as if startled himself, and a look of surprise came over his countenance as he studied her face. “Forgive me, my Lady.” He said, his voice now taking on a more respectful tone as he bowed politely to her. “I did not know your identity at first. But looking upon your face now, I can guess that you are one of the two daughters of Elrond, Half-Elven, Elf maidens renown even in Gondor, for their great beauty. You are-,” he narrowed his eyes thoughtfully, “Lalaith Elerrina, I would guess. The maiden with the crown of stars in her hair.”
“You have guessed rightly, Sir.” She said with a nod, choosing not to correct the man on her relation to her uncle. “But you have the advantage of me. Your name, I do not know, nor could I ever hope to guess.”
“Forgive me.” He said with a smile of slight consternation. “I am Boromir, son of the ruling Steward of Gondor.”
“Ah, yes.” She said with a nod. “Tell me then, Sir-,”
“You may call me Boromir.” He interrupted.
“How may I assist you?” She finished.
“As you have surely guessed, your father summoned me and my companions here for the Counsel of the One Ring. I am on my way to his Counsel now, and-,” he paused, and Lalaith fought the urge to smile. She knew well of the pride of the race of Men. He did not want to admit to her that he had become lost.
“Then we are fortunately met, Lord Boromir. For Lord Elrond wishes for me to attend the Counsel as well. It would be an honor if you would allow me to show you the way.”
“That would be my honor.” Boromir’s voice took on a tone of suppressed relief as she began to walk, him following a half step behind her. “For you must be a maid of extraordinary wisdom to be asked to attend such an important counsel as this.”
Lalaith smiled and nodded her thanks, choosing not to respond verbally to his complement as she turned to descend a long row of stone steps, with Boromir following behind.
Reaching the bottom of the steps, she turned her steps toward the terrace where the Counsel would be held. They were passing several massive pillars now, festooned with the natural growth of vines and flowers, and she vaguely sensed that Boromir paused momentarily before hurrying to match her pace again.
“Wait a moment, my Lady.”
Lalaith slowed to a stop, and turned to him, wondering again, what it was he wanted of her, when she had to stifle her need to gape. He was smiling hopefully, holding out a slender pink blossom for her.
“Consider this but a token of my appreciation for your great beauty. For I have never seen the likes of you in all my days.” He said with a slight bow.
Not knowing what else to do, she took the flower from his hand with a polite nod. “I thank you, Lord Boromir.” She said, fighting a smile. “But while such flattery may beguile a human maid, the favor of an elven maid is not so easily won.”
“Oh, but is it flattery when the words spoken are the truth?” Boromir answered easily.
“Perhaps it may be taken as such, when the elf maid in question has already pledged her love and her troth to another.”
“And as your intended would certainly agree,” Boromir deftly returned, “the giving of your pledge to him has not detracted from your beauty in the least degree.”
At this, Lalaith could think of nothing to say, so she merely offered him a terse smile, and continued walking.
“May I be so bold, my Lady,” Boromir continued, “as to ask the name of the one who has been fortunate enough to win your hand?”
“His name is Legolas.” Lalaith answered, smiling to herself. “He is the son of Thranduil, the elven king of Mirkwood.” The tenseness of her body began to relax at the thought of him, and her heart caught on a beat, remembering his face in the moonlight, the touch of his arm around her waist, and the taste of his kiss, when Boromir spoke again.
“Ah, a prince of the elven kingdom of Mirkwood?” He nodded impressed. “And you are a princess of Rivendell.” He paused a moment, then ventured, “Is it an arranged marriage, then?”
Lalaith stopped so quickly, that Boromir nearly collided with her from behind. She spun on him, her eyes livid, furious that a mere mortal would even dare suggest such a thing. “Boromir, Lord of Gondor,” she seethed, caring no longer for decorum, “I have loved Legolas for more than a millennium, and in spite of my faults, he loves me in return, more deeply than such a one as yourself could begin to comprehend, having not yet lived even fifty years.” Lalaith bit her tongue then, and turned away, not for Boromir’s sake, but for Aragorn’s, for she knew that though her cousin’s beloved was also of the race of Men, he was not so ignorant as this mindless cur.
“My Lady,” Boromir’s voice came from behind her, to his credit, laden with remorse. “Forgive me. It was not my intent to offend you.”
“If you do not with to offend, Lord of Gondor,” Lalaith spat, shooting him a withering look, “then it would be wise of you to hold your tongue, rather than letting it run away with you, for I fear that if you follow your every whim, you will unwittingly erode the trust and respect of your fellows.”
Boromir dropped his eyes to the ground. “Wise words, spoken from a wise maiden.” He said softly. He seemed ashamed, and truly remorseful, and Lalaith’s posture slowly relaxed.
“I too, should apologize for my rash words, Lord Boromir.” She said quietly. “I should not have lashed at you as I did.”
Boromir looked up, self reproach still written on his face, and silently nodded his humble acceptance of her apology.
“Come then, Lord Boromir.” She said, and began to walk again. “We are expected at Lord Elrond’s Counsel.”