Lalaith sat alone in the airy, open chamber, empty but for the high posted bed of dark polished wood, reflecting, almost as brilliantly as polished metal, the muted light of night that it caught and cast back in its smooth, burnished surface. The bed, set upon an oval dais of white stone, descending in three tiers to the white stone floor of polished marble, was the chief feature of the room, and now its only ornament, the only hint that this room had once been occupied, for any other trace of habitation in the room had been removed long ago.
The once delicate, shimmering veils that hung from its banisters and fanned in the gentle night wind, were now a dull grey, and ragged at the edges, showing the inevitable wear that time greedily claimed, even upon elven cloth.
Lalaith sat upon the bare floor, swept clean by the ever blowing breezes that plucked at her hair and nightgown, her legs folded beneath her as she gazed contemplatively out over the vale of Imladris through the gauzy curtains that hung before the balcony, and were dull and ragged, catching tiredly at the soft wind, hanging in the same aged state as the veils surrounding the bed. No one but she had been in this room for over three centuries, Lalaith realized, sighing gloomily to herself, for this had been the bed chamber of Elrond and Celebrian before her aunt had sailed to Valinor.
She traced a long, tapered finger over the marbled patterns in the white translucent stone upon which she sat, remembering Celebrian’s face as if it were yesterday. How could she forget, when Celebrian had so perfectly filled the place of the mother Lalaith could not remember, even in her deepest dreams?
But the details of Celebrian’s departure, were faded, and muted in her memory. Lalaith remembered her stark terror when she learned of her aunt’s abduction at the hands of orcs, and her fear, and waiting, chafing as the hours and days dragged, when Elladan and Elrohir went to seek out their mother. And she would never forget the wave of relief that had nearly overcome her, when her cousins had brought Celebrian home, alive, and Lalaith wondering in her youthful, innocent mind, why all was not suddenly well again. Celebrian was home, and safe, lovingly healed her of her outward wounds, so why then, did she still seem broken, and sad?
Lalaith drew in a deep sigh as she remembered weeping for days after the journey to the Grey Havens, where Celebrian had bidden them all farewell, boarded the ship, and had sailed away from them. Their return had been somber, for a light had gone out of the elven realm of Imladris that could not be ignited again. Elrond had been of somber mood for months after, his eyes empty, his voice hushed, and quiet. And he had walked long at night, pacing upon the portico, unable to sleep, and refusing entirely, to return to the chambers he had shared with his beloved. At last, he had ordered that his things be moved to a smaller room in the house, far away from the rooms that had once been his and Celebrian’s. Yet still, his mood was not lightened. Lalaith had begun to wonder if ever Elrond would be the uncle she had known through childhood, for it seemed he was lost in a grief in which he was doomed to remain.
Yet one day, his mood at last, unexpectedly lightened. It was a sunny day, and warm but not overly so, when she had been in his study, reading a book of the largely unknown little people, the pheriannath, with their quaint, child-like ways, and thinking she was alone. She had found a passage which had humored her, and she had laughed aloud suddenly, surprising a pair of birds perched in the lattice that edged the eaves of the porch beyond where she sat. Twittering in surprise, they had flown away, but they had not been the only ones to hear her.
A moment later, her head still bent over her book, she had felt a presence, and had looked up to see her uncle, a smile, long absent from his face, curving the corners of his lips.
“Thank you, my little Lalaith.” He had murmured, leaning down to kiss her brow.
“What for, uncle?” She had returned, confused, yet pleased to see him smiling at last.
“For your laughter.” He had returned, his smile growing. “You were well named, my little maiden with stars in her hair. Seeing you happy, returns in part, my own happiness. Because of you, I remember now, that I have not lost all.”
After that, Elrond’s mood had begun to change for the better. But she knew it was not due to her, surely. Elrond’s life was not better because of her. But rather, it was because of his generous heart that her life was as blessed as it was.
Lalaith glanced down at her hand, studying the golden band set with a sapphire embossed with the crest of Elrond’s house. It was slightly loose upon her long tapered finger, and she twisted it about absently. Why had Elrond taken her in, when she was not truly his kin? He had borne her no obligation. She could easily have dwelt in Mirkwood instead as the ward of Thranduilion, for that was where she had been found. But at the thought, Lalaith narrowed her eyes, and banished it immediately. Imladris was where she belonged, where she had been meant to dwell ere long before her infant eyes had lifted to the high, sloping roofs of the Last Homely House, or her tiny ears had heard the comforting echo of the misty falls. She knew it somehow, as if the Valar had decreed it. And Legolas-, she loved him well, but she had never been meant to be as his sister.
Why? She wondered, continuing to twist the ring thoughtful about. She cared deeply for Legolas, but not as she cared for Elladan and Elrohir. Though she had loved him with sisterly affection when she had been small, there had always been something there that had always been different from her affection for her cousins. It had lain within her heart as a seed for as long as her memory could delve, and in the past centuries, it had begun to swell and grow, like a sprouting vine, that was beginning to show forth its first buds, soon to burst forth into flower, the beauty of which she could not yet foresee.
“Lalaith, dear?” The voice, feminine, and slightly distraught, came to her through the doorway which she had left open. “What are you doing in here?” Arwen asked, coming into view, clad in her sleeping gown with a white robe thrown hurriedly about her shoulders, as Lalaith turned her head, and offered her a half hearted smile.
“I suppose so.” Arwen agreed with a twisted smirk, glancing about at the bare floors, the barren walls, and the smaller empty rooms bathed in cool purple shadows that branched away from the main bedchamber. “There’s little else you could do.” She smiled down at her younger cousin, and sat down beside her, her eyes sparkling ruefully. “You weren’t in your bed. I looked everywhere for you. I was near to panicking, and waking the whole household! But then I thought to come up here.”
“Forgive me.” Lalaith muttered humbly, though not without a slim smile. “Why were you looking for me? I did not think my absence would be noticed.”
“Legolas sent one of the maids with a message for you.” Arwen said, a tiny smirk curving her lips. “When you did not answer her knocking, she came to wake me. Legolas wished for you to know that he is leaving at first light. I think-,” Arwen’s smirk grew slightly, “he is hoping that though it will be early, you will be there, to see him off.”
At the mention of his name, Lalaith glanced downward at the ring upon her hand, feeling a warmth rising in her cheeks. She could not see the growing smile upon Arwen’s face, fading as she once again looked up.
“Arwen, I’ve been thinking-,” Lalaith whispered in a terse voice. “Of Alcarion, and his wife, Brethiliel.”
Arwen shifted her position, and with a taut edge to her voice, began, “Lalaith, the fault was not yours-,”
“I know.” Lalaith sighed, softly biting her lip as she slowly twisted her ring about her finger. “But still, I find myself thinking almost constantly of them. They loved each other so much, that Brethiliel chose to give up her life, rather than remain here.” Lalaith whispered. “Have you ever felt strongly enough for a man, that you would be willing to die for him?”
Arwen paused, and her eyes grew deep. The question sinking deep into her heart as she studied over it within her mind. After a long moment, the dark haired maiden stood slowly, and made her way toward the pillars that stood spaced before the balcony, and leaned thoughtfully against one, drawing the graying veil aside to have a better view of the moonlit valley below them.
“There is something in me,” Arwen said, her voice wistful as Lalaith too rose, and moved into the light that washed the balcony to join her cousin, “a silent voice, or a feeling-,” Arwen drew in a breath and held it a moment before slowly releasing it. “I feel-,” Arwen hugged her arms to herself, and sighed deeply. “I feel incomplete, Lalaith. As if the one meant for me, is not yet-,”
She glanced at Lalaith, an expression of mild confusion on her face as she sighed, “Have you ever felt as if you missed someone you have never met?” Arwen’s voice was a whisper so soft, that Lalaith wondered at first if Arwen had meant it only as a thought spoken aloud.
“I-,” Lalaith began, but stopped suddenly. For in truth, she had no idea what Arwen meant.
“No, you wouldn’t.” Arwen said softly, and glanced at Lalaith with a wistful smile. “Legolas completes you.”
Lalaith blushed, and opened her mouth, wishing to protest against what Arwen was so blatantly hinting at, but quickly she closed her mouth again, for that is indeed how she felt when she was with him. Complete. As if she could not want for anyone or anything else. As if the Valar themselves had fashioned them for each other. And, she admitted, if she were called upon to do so, she knew she would willingly die for him.
“I suppose he does complete me.” Lalaith said, her own voice now a soft murmur. “That is what good friends do, after all.”
Arwen gave a soft smile, and said nothing to this. And in place of any words she could have said, she stepped closer to her younger cousin, and slipped her arm around her shoulders, giving it a comforting squeeze.
Lalaith turned, and cast a smiling glance at her older cousin before they turned again and gazed out over the slumbering, moonlit valley.