Legolas reined his gray gelding to a halt, dismounting in one swift motion. He absently stroked the animal’s neck, which was gleaming with sweat. He had ridden hard from Mirkwood to Rivendell, and the horse deserved a long rest.
Legolas let a groom lead his mount away and hurried toward the house. When he reached the main foyer, his footsteps slowed. The room was brim full of persons from every race, bustling with preparations for the coming journey, but Legolas found whom he sought almost immediately. Antira’s back was to him as she stood laughing and talking with several elves, among them Galadriel. As he approached, a strange feeling began to grow in his stomach, joy mixed with dread. By Elbereth, she was beautiful, and he did not know if he would have the strength to leave her.
Antira stopped talking and turned, one eyebrow arched, to look over her shoulder. Her eyes fell on him, and a bright smile spread across her face. “Legolas!” she cried, and ran to him. For a moment, Legolas forgot both his dread and his unshakeable elvish calm. When she leapt into his arms, he held her close, alternately laughing and kissing her. Several passersby stopped and smiled at the pair. When Legolas finally set Antira down, she settled against his chest, sighing contentedly. “I missed you, elf lord. You were gone too long.”
“I nearly rode my horse to death getting here so quickly, my lady.” Legolas was smiling, but he felt worry beginning to return. The Lady send she did not ask what had kept him. He would tell her soon enough, but not now. Not yet.
To his relief, Antira only grinned back at him, smoothing his tunic. “Well, I suppose if the horse-lover went so far as that, he can be forgiven,” she said. She stepped back, taking his hand. “Come, lord. They’ve been waiting supper for you.”
Antira led him into a private banquet room, where Elrond and several others were already waiting. Galadriel followed them in, Celeborn joining her at the door. They took their seats, and Elrond said a prayer of thanks. As he finished, servants began bringing in trays of food.
Antira bubbled with excitement as the meal was served. “I have wonderful news, elf lord,” she told him, smiling. “Arwen has been declared the new Lady of Lothlorien, as you may have suspected, but as she is mortal now, she will need an heir like any other ruler. Galadriel believes that if I ask, I may receive the position.” Her eyes sparkled, and Legolas almost lost himself in them.
“Truly, Antira, that is wonderful news,” he said, hoping his discomfort did not show. His smile felt tight.
She did not seem to notice, however. “Can you believe it, princeling? To be forever among the elves of Lorien, to walk the secret paths of the Golden Wood and know that they were a part of you.” she trailed off, her excitement too much for mere words. After a moment, she glanced sideways at him. He applied himself to his food and pretended not to see that intense stare. “You know, of course, who I would choose to be my Lord,” she said, her tone still warm but beginning to sound a bit suspicious.
Legolas swallowed with some difficulty and tried to grin insolently at her. “You do me too much honor, lady. Surely no one is worthy of such a prize as you.” He kissed her cheek, hoping that the flattery would distract her. She smiled, but kept one eyebrow raised at him as if she suspected he was up to something.
“You are trouble, lord,” she murmured, the words for his ears only. “After supper, we must discover what kind of trouble you are.”
Legolas froze, his smile going crooked on his face. By the High Ancient Elves, he could not keep anything from the woman! His food suddenly tasted like ashes in his mouth.
Antira swept into the room ahead of him, leaving Legolas to hurry after her. He closed the door, then turned around to find that she had stopped just inside, leaving only about an inch between them. Her finger drove hard into his chest.
“You are hiding something, Legolas Greenleaf. Out with it now, or, Maker help me, you may find I have a rough side after all. Pedo! Speak!” Legolas stumbled back against the door. A rough side? The woman could make oak bark look smooth when she had a mind to. If she was already angry, what would she do when he told her? He let out a long breath and decided it was best to be brief.
“I am going with them, Antira.”
For a moment, her expression did not alter. She stood very still, as if carved from stone. Then, slowly, her eyebrows began to climb, and fury replaced shock.
“You are what? You are going to the Gray Havens as well?” She made a curious noise in her throat, half sigh, half irritated scream. “When were you planning on telling me this? As the ship bloody pulled out of the harbor? By the Maker, you are a fool of an elf.”
She continued her tirade, stalking about the room and throwing up her hands. “No wonder you were detained in Mirkwood! I can imagine your father had some choice words about his heir tramping off across the ocean like a bloody hero out of legends!”
She dropped into a chair, seemingly exhausted.
Legolas moved to her side, taking her hand. “I am not trying to be a hero, Antira.” His eyes sought hers, and his voice took on a pleading tone. “Galadriel warned me that if I heard the cry of the gull, my heart would forever belong to the sea. I must go. If I stay here, I will waste away with longing.”
Antira snatched her hand out of his grasp. The hand twitched in midair before she took hold of herself and placed it firmly in her lap. Had she really been about to slap him?
“Waste away with longing, my lord?” she said, her voice dangerously soft.
“And what, pray, are you expecting me to do? Go on happily without you?”
Legolas’s eyes softened, and he reached to brush her hair out of her face. She shifted in the chair to avoid his touch. Sighing, he pulled his hand back. Then he ventured a suggestion.
“Come with me.”
Antira turned to stare at him, her eyes wide.
Legolas pressed on, “Think of it, Antira. We could be together. Galadriel is going, and I know you are close to her, so there’s another friend for you. Even the Ringbearer is going, so they say, along with his ancient cousin.”
Her mouth worked silently for a moment, and Legolas felt his hopes rise up within him. Perhaps it could all work out after all. Then her eyes narrowed, and his heart sank.
“How can you ask such a thing of me?” she hissed. “This is my home! Everything I have ever known or wanted to know is here, in Middle Earth. And to ask this now.”
She stood up abruptly and walked to the window. When she spoke again, deep sorrow had replaced the anger in her voice.
“I have everything within my reach, Legolas. The Golden Wood, a life among the elves.” She turned to face him, and her eyes were full of tears. “This is all I ever dreamed of.”
Legolas moved toward her, but an edge entered her voice and brought him up short.
“I had hoped,” she said, “to share that dream with you.” She turned back to the window. “You told me once that I was better than a thousand seas.” Legolas’s voice was soft with pity and sadness. “You are, my lady. But the sea longing is a part of my people. Its call is too strong to ignore, once it is heard. If I remain here, I will die.” His eyes looked pained. “I could not do that to you.”
Antira was silent for a moment, head bowed and eyes closed. Then, slowly, her chin lifted, and she stared out the window as she spoke.
“Then you must go. And I must stay.”
The words hung in the still air, and Legolas felt his heart break within him. He crossed the room in three quick strides and took her in his arms.
Antira looked up into his dry eyes. “Do you have no tears, even now?” she asked softly. Then she pushed back from him, looking out the window again. He reached for her, and she wrenched away from his grasp. Legolas floundered, feeling lost.
“Antira, I love you.”
She was silent. Slowly, reluctantly, Legolas turned and walked out of the room. As the door clicked shut behind him, Antira fell to the floor and wept.
Celeborn reached for the door handle to his chambers, but before he could touch it, the door opened form the inside. Antira slipped out, jumping slightly when she saw him. Her eyes were red and swollen and strangely clear, as if she had been crying. She quickly dropped a small curtsy and muttered, “My lord,” before dashing off. Celeborn watched her go, puzzled, until his wife’s voice drew his attention back to the door.
“Leave her be, husband. She has much on her mind.”
Galadriel was watching the girl disappear around the corner. Celeborn moved past her, stepping into the rooms they were sharing during their stay in Rivendell.
“You are close to the human child, my queen. I trust it was not your words that put those tear stains on her face.”
Galadriel followed him, closing the door again behind her.
“I love her, as I loved her grandsire before her. She has an elven heart, even if she was born human. I do not make her cry, lord, at least not in this. This is that elven heart causing trouble.”
Celeborn frowned thoughtfully. “The Prince, then?”
The Lady smiled, a slow, mysterious smile, and for a moment she looked young, as young as an elf may.
“In some ways, husband, I am every bit the meddling sorceress they name me.” Ignoring Celeborn’s confusion, she added, “Still, she suits the Prince of Mirkwood better than he knows, and I will not see them on opposite sides of the earth. If that is meddling, so be it.”
The next morning they set out for the Havens. Elrond rode in the lead, with Bilbo and Gandalf beside him. Galadriel rode behind with Celeborn, several handmaidens trailing after her with the gray hoods of their Lorien cloaks pulled up against the morning chill. Legolas brought up the rear, ignoring the other elves that had come to see them off. He glanced continually over his shoulder at the Last Homely House until it disappeared behind a ridge. Even then he strained, keen elvish eyes hoping to catch some glimpse of Antira. Finally, with a sigh, he turned to face the road ahead of him. Galadriel fell back to ride at his side. Nenya, the Ring of Adamant, flashed in the weak sunlight as she laid a hand on Legolas’s shoulder.
“Come, Prince of Mirkwood. The dark days are behind us, and the way ahead a road for lighter hearts.”
“Event the bright promise of the sea cannot lessen the heaviness in my heart. I fear my own dark days are far from over.” Galadriel shook her head, replying, “Perhaps there are things yet ahead to make you forget your darkness.”
Now Legolas moved his horse away from her, his voice suddenly and uncharacteristically bitter.
“What do you know of darkness, Lady of the Golden Wood? You who’ve lived in beauty all your life, taking time only to cloud the hearts of others.” It was unfair and childish, and Legolas knew it, but for the moment, he did not care. Galadriel looked slightly taken aback, but she gathered herself quickly.
“Is this anger born from my prophecy for you, or your lady-friend’s love of Lothlorien, gentle elf? I only speak what I see. I have not the power to bring anything to pass.”
Legolas shrugged. “All this I know,” he said, looking over his shoulder one last time, “but I leave the sun behind to follow my soul to the sea.” That night, as the third watch was being set, the elf woke with a cry. Sitting up, he looked around him, eyes wide and startled. Nearby, one of Galadriel’s handmaidens woke to the cry also, and sat watching him, her face hidden deep in her hood. She seemed to gaze at him until she was sure he was all right, then lay down again. A night wind stung the Legolas’s cheeks, and he raised a hand to his face. It came away damp with tears.
It was nearly a week later when they reached the Havens. The morning was cold and gray, but the sun was already trying to crawl out from behind the clouds. Gandalf had disappeared during the night on some unknown errand, but Elrond ordered preparations for departure to begin at once.
There was not much to do. The elves that lived in the Havens had the ship ready to sail with the tide, and the travelers had brought little with them to load aboard. The group made what preparations they could then settled back to wait for Gandalf.
Legolas stood at the edge of the dock, his sadness temporarily forgotten as he drank in the sight of the sea. The waves were small and quiet here, but his keen sight could almost make out the beaches at the edge of the bay where water crashed and foamed. He closed his eyes and breathed in the salt of the air, tasting it in his throat. For a moment, he felt complete. There was a commotion behind him, and Legolas turned to see Sam and Frodo standing just beside the dock. Sam looked confused and slightly hurt, and Frodo looked resigned. Gandalf emerged from the trees on Shadowfax, and with him came Pippin and Merry on their ponies.
Legolas made his way over to the party, and saw that Sam’s poor face was crumpled in sorrow at his master’s departure. Seeing that reminded him all over again of Antira. Slowly, he turned from the hobbits and boarded the ship.
He stood at the bow, facing out to sea. Behind him, the sun began to overcome the mists, and the water broke apart its light and cast it back in a myriad of colors. The beauty was lost on the proud elf, who stood silently and wept for the first time in a long while. He had hoped to be alone with his grief, but one of Galadriel’s handmaidens noticed him. He was not sure, but he thought it was the same maiden who he had awakened during the night with his cry. She came and stood next to him, still with her cloak tight about her face and shoulders in the morning breeze. “What is here, master elf? Tears?” she asked. “I had thought the Silvan folk were without that fault.” To Legolas’s ears, her voice was so like Antira’s that his heart broke anew, and he wept harder still.
“Some tears are not folly. Some silence is,” he replied.
The maiden nodded, her head moving deep inside her hood. “Wise words, elf lord. But they say all grief is fleeting, and surely here, on the Sea, it is twice as true.”
Legolas shook his head. “The Sea fills a part of me that has long lain empty. But it empties another part that was only lately filled.” She regarded him for a long moment out of the depths of the gray hood, then abruptly laughed and clapped her hands.
“Come, lord, I will sing you something to cheer you.”
Legolas turned away from her, agitated. “I thank you, lady, but I do not wish for song. Tears still suit my grief.”
The woman ignored him completely and began to sing, and when she did, Legolas felt his heart freeze for several beats. Her voice was not the clear tones of his people, but the voice of a human girl, and the tuneless song was one he knew well, one that had so often made him laugh.
All these things am I,
Up with ye,
Escape with me,
Into the boundless sky.
The girl turned to him, and throwing back her hood, laughed up at him.
“Come, princeling, are you not cheered?”
Legolas could only stare as he beheld Antira’s face. She was breathtakingly beautiful in the gray morning, with the first sunlight catching in her hair, and he did not at first think she was real. Before he could think of anything to say, a horse whinnied from the dock. Antira looked over his shoulder and laughed again, waving down.
“Mae govannen, Idhor!” she called to her mount. Then, turning back to
Legolas, she grinned and said, “Shadowfax had more than one errand in the night.”
Legolas finally found his voice. “How?” he asked.
“Galadriel is resourceful, my lord, and seems to think she knows what is best for most people. In this case, I trust her judgment better than my own.”
The elf shook his head. “I did not mean that, as I had guessed so much already, but how did you change your mind? How did you leave all your dreams, your home?”
Antira grew serious, though her eyes still sparkled. ” I will tell you a secret, elf lord.” She drew his head down to hers and whispered in his ear.
“You are my home.”